Bartosz Grzelak, a Swedish coach with Polish roots, preferred AIK to play in a 1-4-4-2 set-up with few matches in which he experimented with 1-4-2-3-1 or even 1-3-5-2. Grzelak’s style is characterised by direct play with a longer ball and good organisation in formations, but above all by avoiding positional play, limiting players’ individual freedom and simplifying passing combinations.
In defense they press high and aggressively moving through the zone in an organised manner. In the high block they always set up 1-4-3-3 with a large distance between the lines pressing the opponent’s central defenders and compacting the middle, but leaving plenty of space to play between the lines. An important role with such a pressing scheme is played by central midfielders whose horizontal mobility is guaranteed to provide good covering and pushing the rivals outside. The close proximity between the side defenders and the wingers ensures that the team is well protected in the wide areas.
In the middle and low block the team switches to a 1-4-4-2 formation keeping a more compact shape with closer lines forcing opponents to play in small spaces. The defenders then line up quite wide and the midfielders are given the additional task of defending half-spaces.
The conscious and planned avoidance of positional play in the offensive forces more frequent play in wide areas. A key element of AIK’s attacking scheme is to rely on a lot of fast direct passes in the centre of the pitch.
In the first phase of building up the attack they move from a 2-2 to a 3-1 shape moving the central midfielders to play in the half-spaces. The side defenders position themselves wide and come up higher taking over the role of the wingers, while the two wingers usually drop into the half-spaces.
Grzelak‘s preferred approach was to bypass the defensive block not by building up the action, but by direct passes to the offensive players. The wingers go inside opening up wide areas for the side defenders. To provide passing options all offensive players are very mobile looking for free spaces. Also one of the central midfielders then enters from deep into the rivals’ box looking for progressive passes going from the wings.