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An in-depth look at the Engineer’s well constructed 4-2-2-2 philosophy

Manuel Pellegrini, the engineer, is publicly acknowledged for being one of the most respected and tactically astute professionals in world football currently. The Chilean over the course of his managerial career has managed many many sides, the majority of which have been in Argentina, Spain and his homeland Chile.

The nickname, ‘The Engineer’ was given to the Chilean after achieving a degree in engineering way back in the late 1970s. After a prosperous career as a footballer for Universidad de Chile, the one-club man Pellegrini decided to delve into football management with his first managerial crack being at the club he racked up 400 appearances. After spells in Argentina and Chile with Universidad de Chile, Palestino, O’Higgins, Universidad Catolica, LDU Quito, San Lorenzo and the most successful team in Argentina, River Plate, Manuel Pellegrini decided to have a go at European football and on the 1st of July 2004 he officially took charge of Spanish football club, Villarreal. During his time at Villarreal, the yellow submarines achieved a third place finish in La Liga in 2004/05, Champions League semi-final in 2005/06 and separated the big two by securing a second place finish in La Liga in 2007/08.

TACTICS 4-2-2-2.

He initially begun his Villarreal career with a 4-3-1-2 philosophy with the main aim of this system intended to make mileage out of Riquelme’s attributes who in his prime was the best attacking midfielder in Europe. As time went on, the engineer switched to a 4-2-2-2 philosophy; often misconstrued as a 4-4-2, his 4-2-2-2 system caught the eyes of many football enthusiasts and tactical observers.

At Villarreal – Cazorla and Borja Valero, the wide players were used somewhat as trequartistas rather than more traditional #7?s and #11?s with a double-pivot of Senna and Bruno sited in midfield to provide stability. The man who transformed both Villarreal and Malaga from average la liga sides into top-four outfits also had a stint at the Spanish capital, managing the greatest European side, Real Madrid, leading the club to second place after amassing an astonishing 99 points.

Manuel Pellegrini plays a very free-flowing attacking 4-2-2-2 system which is fixated on width. Full backs are normally situated very high up the pitch, bombarding forward at any given chance where as the wingers, normally interiors would cut inside to support the attack. A major element in Pellegrini’s system is the utilization of the fullbacks and during his time at Villarreal there were no better fullbacks than Capdevilla, Javi Venta and Angel, who mastered the act of marauding forward while staying defensively rigid. As the fullbacks bombarded forward the defensive midfielders, whether Marcos Senna, Toulalan or Gago will cover for them making it a solid back four at times, while also performing the primary roles in midfield of course. Manuel Pellegrini has over the years preferred interiors to traditional wingers. At Villarreal it was Santi Cazorla and Borja, Madrid being deployed in this role. At Madrid it was Ricardo Kaka. Malaga, it was their gem, Isco playing this role. In attack, the engineer prefers mobile forwards who drift to the wings and run all over the forward lines rather than the old-fashioned #9 while the interiors come inside.

PELLEGRINI’S 4-2-2-2.                                                                            


Manuel Pellegrini, one of the shrewdest tacticians to ever grace the football landscape, is a rather flexible customer. Constant variations and tactics are deployed by the engineer in 90-minute games to get the best out of his team. When his team lines up against possession-oriented teams, he switches tactics from an attacking 4-2-2-2 to a more conservative 4-2-3-1 or a 4-5-1 with either one of his forwards dropping deeper to help the midfielders out. Against Barcelona, arguable the greatest team ever, Manuel Pellegrini managed more wins than defeats, a feat not many managers have achieved – mainly due to his genius improvisation and variation of tactics.

In Pellegrini’s first English Premier League game, we were treated with some of the best attacking football we will witness all season. The blues run riot, putting 4 past Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal. City started the game with plenty of intent and bossed the opening minutes of the game, dominating proceedings and possession right from the go – an early testament to Manuel Pellegrini’s philosophy at City (?). The fluency and brilliance of City’s play earned the blues rave reviews from all sections of football analysts and viewers.


Over at Pellegrini’s Manchester City it is expected that Joe Hart remains the #1 – a solid back four consisting of Pablo Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic and Clichy will be used; a system in which fullbacks Zabaleta and Clichy will maraud forward at any given chance with holding midfielders Yaya Toure or Fernandinho filling in for them as they bombard forward – Any two of David Silva/Jovetic/Jesus Navas/Samir Nasri will be used as interiors with a front-duo of Edin Dzeko/Alvaro Negredo and Aguero doing the business in front of goal.


The pith of Pellegrini’s tactics is to maintain possession and play free-flowing breathtaking attacking football, as evident in his time in Europe

Visit Vincent De-Pauls’ original article on his personal blog: Football Territory 

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