Sparta | A Tactical Identity Journey – Part II: integrating youth development & tactic design

After 6 years of using the 3-5-2/3-4-3 system described in the previous article in this series, as well as molding through specialized training the very young squad at our disposal to reach the desired attributes that are required by our philosophy, I decide to change the system based on a few key issues:

1.we only have two defenders good enough for a starting spot, with the next best option being hugely inferior, thus, playing a back three would be problematic

2. We have a number of talented young players (5* potential) that have come through the past few years intakes that could really use some game time. Now this being a youth-only save, it is only natural that the way I develop my youngsters would go to play a huge part in the quality of the players available to us and subsequently….results on the pitch. Therefore, the tactics I develop have to be coordinated with two key points:

  • the long-term vision of the attributes I’m looking to develop in my players
  • the roles that make my players perform at their best abilities

In this particular scenario, our long-term strategy entails that we will probably have to employ a number of ‘football styles’ in order to get the best out of our team, so I’m more inclined to having a number of more ‘generic’ attributes like work-rate, teamwork, stamina that allow me to be flexible with my playing style, however still fitting the overall club identity outlined in the previous post.

The majority of our current starting 11 have reached their potential already and ‘investing’ further game time in them doesn’t make sense if we’re looking to improve the overall quality of the squad. While the young ones are currently not as good as our elder players, they have the potential to exceed their ability by miles, so taking the risk in playing them could help us finally make that step up in quality. 

the new generation


Constantin Ivan                                                                                                        


  Cezar Dobre 


Ciprian Kereszy                                                                                                               


Tiberiu Vlădilă


The system:

the concept behind the new system is to exploit the strengths of the current squad while being slightly more adventurous in our style of play given the increased technical ability of the players that have come through the latest generation of youth intakes.

– a more fluid type of football that aims to heavily involve the midfield (our most promising department) in the attacking phase and relies on the physicality of the defensive minded players at the other end of the pitch:

Sparta defense vs. league average defense 


Sparta midfield vs. league average midfield


As you can see from these pictures, our strongest departments are in high contrast with our weakest, which are, in fact, the worst in the league by some mile, so a system that would emphasize our use of our strongest areas as well as minimizing the situations where we’d have to rely on our worst areas is the main strategic concept in designing the tactic.


5791a9eab70a9b8db91bd326b7871f58.png c170c6a80b7352f6483999b850bf5d6a.png

– player movement designed to help the team position itself in a number of shapes during different phases of play as well as pull opposition players out of position through asymmetry 

– a more balanced approach than the more rigid 3-5-2, who was over-reliant on wing-backs and had a limited number of ways of attacking space

– allows us to field a really strong block of defensive players in their best roles/positions


– two playmaking roles in Vlădilă(AML) and Ivan(DM) who are the two players in our squad with superior technical ability and potential. Assigning creative responsibility to these two helps us achieve a balance of play in a number of ways:

  •  reduces the number of errors committed by technically limited players trying complex actions above their ability (i.e. risky passes, dribbles, incisive movement)  
  • one player taking control of the game at the back to help us ‘play out of defense with more stability’ and one who makes the important decisions upfront, in the attacking build-up


this is how the team looks to move from a defensive shape        


the most usual player positioning when in attacking shape


in-match example of defensive shape (white kits)


in-match example of attacking shape(brown kits) – Kereszy played as the AP(A) in this match


The decision has paid off as we start the season with a dream run, including a sweet derby win, to place us top of the table for the first time in Sparta’s history 🙂


While we’re doing really well in attacking space and creating chances, I’m worried we’ll encounter a few problems defensively, as the season unfolds. The above system is a fairly complex one and we don’t have enough squad depth to make it work with any first 11 that we field. Additionally, it’s a riskier type of football and we could see it backfire more often than our tried and trusted 3-5-2. Still, I’m happier winning one game and losing two rather than drawing three times in a row, and I’m happier playing youngsters with 5* PA and giving them a chance to develop rather than more mature players that are stuck at 2*. Overall, we show really good balance so far, and are doing a great job in exploiting the passing, vision and decision-making of the young attacking options in our team, as well as covering space well and conceding very little to the opposition, so the key goals I have set out earlier seem to be successfully implemented thus far 🙂

Author: LPQR

founder & main content/rant producer at

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