FM20 Pep Guardiola Tactic: Midfield Overload

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In this post, we highlight the tactic mostly used by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. This tactic happens to work really well with the FM20 Man City squad. However, the Spaniard behind the City’s recent success in the English football needs no introduction – well known for his beautiful tiki-taka philosophy at Barcelona. So, let’s dive into this FM20 Pep Guardiola tactic I created.

Some of you might be wondering if this tactic is actually an FM20 tiki-taka tactic? Well, in all honesty, this is not technically a tiki-taka tactic. Man City’s Guardiola don’t actually play the classical tiki-taka – at least not to the extent Barcelona’s Guardiola played it back then. The simple fact is, Man City play a high possession-based football style.

FM20 Pep Guardiola Tactic in 4-3-3 Formation

Build Up

Players’ positioning during the build-up phase

During the build-up, City’s main aim in overwhelming the opposition is to overload the midfield. With Pep’s influence, Man City build from the back – sometimes through the midfield or the flanks. However, the overloading starts when the fullbacks move towards the central areas, instead of the wide areas.

In the in-possession screenshot above, you can see that I didn’t select any area of focus. I only selected play out of defence. This means that they build from the back but have a wide option to focus play any area they want, which is actually how Man City build up play.

In the Final Third

The attacking width of Man City is always wide. As Pep once said, he prefers to stretch his play as wide as possible to take full advantage of the whole pitch. The wider the pitch, the better. This is where he instructs his wingers to hug the touchline while the midfield is overloaded.

Creating overload on the left side, leaving the right winger free in space.

Not only do Guardiola’s men create an overload in the midfield, but they also create overloads on both sides of the pitch. With the central midfielders instructed to stay wide, they assist the wingers and fullbacks create these overloads. This is just how Man City attack. Another strategy Man City use in the final third is switching play. This usually happens when they overload one side of the pitch and the opponent proves resistant on that side, they immediately switch play to the other side and attack from there.


Man City use a high man-oriented press to suffocate their opponent’s play – forcing them to make mistakes. This is why I raised the LOE and defensive line higher (they suppose to stay much higher but opponents were finding it easier to counter-attack us in FM20 – version 20.4.0) However, City usually press in a 4-4-2 structure, with one midfield or winger stepping out to join the striker in the pressing.

Pressing: De Bruyne joining Agüero in the pressing

When City lose the ball, they counter-press. The counter-pressing system has been in Guardiola’s tactical philosophy since his coaching career. Furthermore, Pep uses the offside trap while keeping a somewhat standard defensive width. Therefore, I used both instructions in this FM20 tactic.

FM20 Man City: Pep Guardiola Role Selections

Sweeper Keeper (attack)

Nothing much to talk about here. Having an attacking sweeper keeper is why Guardiola signed both Edison and Bravo.

Ball Carrying Defenders

These are ball-playing defenders in football manager terminology. They are defenders who exceptionally play with the ball at their feet. They control the ball like midfielders. Also, just like midfielders, they have a certain passing range. At Man City, Aymeric Laporte, Nicolás Otamendi, Stones, and even Fernandinho all play as ball-carrying defenders.

Furthermore, these types of defenders play a vital role in Pep’s build-up; because playing out from the back requires some certain techniques and confidence.

Inverted wingbacks

Technically, Pep Guardiola’s fullbacks are extra midfielders. And this absolutely makes sense especially for Zinchenko who was once a natural midfielder. As instructed by their Spanish gaffer, they move towards the half-spaces and central areas. However, they don’t only move towards the central zone, they can also operate in the wide areas (when it’s necessary) by overlapping towards that wide space. Once they receive the ball, they will cross. Just as both fullbacks operate in real life under Pep, they also operate the same way in FM20.

Holding Midfielder

This position is the heart of Guardiola’s tactic. The player playing in this position acts as the team’s conductor. And he’s supposedly the master game dictator. Back then, Fernandinho was handling this position. But, the young Rodri is doing a good job at City, even in FM20.

Defensively, the holding midfield (as deep-lying playmaker) has to intercept passes, close down an opponent, and pick up lose balls.

Central Midfielders: AP and MEZ

These positions usually features David Silva and the sensational Kevin De Bruyne. David Silva is usually the advanced player controlling the midfield while Kelvin offers more in the attacking phase. Both midfielders operate mainly in the half-spaces (that’s why I enabled Stay Wider for the AP) and tend to move in channels oftentimes (the mezzala does this more). However, Kevin acts like the mezzala who has to drift wide to help overload the side area of the pitch (the AP does this too since Stay Wider is instructed). In addition, the Belgium midfielder can drift wide to put in deadly crosses into the box.

Inverted Wingers

Both Sterling and Bernardo Silva are Pep Guardiola’s first choice in the wings. They play as inverted wingers but they stay wider. This is just how Pep wants them to position themselves, so I set up the same positioning in FM20.

However, when any of them receives the ball, they cut inside to overload a retreating defender. Now, depending on the situation, the fullback may exploit the wide space opened by the winger who drifted inside. Or, stay in the midfield or half-space to recycle possession.

Complete Forward

This position kept me guessing because it comes with different characters. Sometimes it seems like Pep wants his striker to act as a false nine; like a striker who frequently drops in between the lines to receive vertical passes or draw opposition defenders out of position. But sometimes, Pep demands his striker to make more forward runs and roam side by side. Thus, I had to pick out the supporting complete forward role since it’s the only role that can showcase most of those actions. And in FM20, both Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus do really well as a CF.


The balanced mentality is the most suitable mentality for this tactic in FM20 while using Man City, it works on both Home and Away games. However, when facing tougher teams like Liverpool, Real Madrid, Man United, etc, I tend to use positive or attacking mentality (especially at home). Though, you must have to select wisely anyway. You can also follow the advice given here in Marco Rose tactic.

When Facing Back-3 Formations

Formations like 3-5-2/5-3-2, 3-4-3/5-2-3, etc. can be tricky to play against, especially in the new version 20.4.0 match engine. So, you must have to engage in specific marking. This means you need to mark the wingbacks, which prevents giving them dangerous spaces to operate.

Use your wingers to mark the opposition wingbacks specifically. An example is shown in the screenshot below.

Results and Statistics

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