Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Fluminense’s tight 5v5 overloads

May 21, 2023 — Fluminense’s possession play is unique due to way they overload tight spaces. Yesterday against Botafogo, they consistently forced 5v5 situations to capitalize on their superior dribbling and ball control.

Figure 1.1 - The ball is played to Jhon Arias.
Figure 1.2 - Jhon Arias turns and immediately passes up the line.
Figure 1.3 - One-two pass back to Jhon Arias.

On every possession, Fluminense would choose one side of the pitch, and at least four to five players would venture over to one side, no matter what “position” they would traditionally be labeled as.

Figure 1.4 - Jhon Arias runs out of the 5v5 into space.

Fluminense excels at dribbling and performing one-twos, while Botafogo does not. The plan was clear:

  1. Work the ball into a 5v5 situation, drawing Botafogo in.
  2. Play out of the 5v5 into open space.
  3. Switch the play to the isolated Fluminense forward.
Figure 1.5 - Jhon Arias passes to his left to find the free man on the far side.
Figure 1.6 - The ball is played to the free man.

Overload-to-isolate. Overload the right-wing, isolate a forward on the far side, and then switch the play. Simple straightforward football that embraces imagination.

It’s not rigid, and there are no automations. All outfield players are free to be expressive.

Figure 2.1 - 4-4-2 out of possession Fluminense shape.

Out of possession, Fluminense didn’t use anything too exotic. A simple 4-4-2 allowed them to wait for Botafogo to make a mistake rather than press and attempt to force a turnover.

An advantage of favoring one side in possession was that if Fluminense lost the ball, they could quickly regain possession because they had the numbers to overwhelm the ball carrier.

Figure 3.1 - Fluminense loses the ball in the corner.
Figure 3.2 - Fluminense keeps their five men close to the ball to surround the ball carrier and win back the ball.

A disadvantage of favoring one side in possession is that Fluminense would sometimes not have an outlet on the far side. Once they broke out of the ball-side overload, it became a one-man show.

There was no one to pass to, and the play ended there.

Figure 4.1 - Unoccupied space on the far side for Fluminense on the break.

Botafogo’s numerical superiority meant that it was impossible for Fluminense to retain possession once they attempted to progress the ball. The rest of Fluminense’s forwards were behind the ball carrier when that player progressed the ball out of the overload.

Fernando Diniz, Fluminense’s manager, is drawing a lot of attention because of this unique system, but I see a lot of similarities to Liverpool when I watched Fluminense play today.

Figure 5.1 - (17 April 2023 - Leeds vs Liverpool) Liverpool's in possession structure favoring one half of the pitch.

Fluminense is much more conservative in the way they allocate their players. Liverpool commits all ten outfield players to one side of the pitch, while Fluminense only commits five. The rest spread across the pitch.

Figure 6.1 - Fluminense's in possession shape.

Both teams’ style of play is entertaining, free-flowing, and unpredictable. I look forward to watching their future matches.

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