Dejan Stankovic‘s Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) are an aggressive team who recover the ball quickly, although they mostly prefer to build actions with short passes from the back. There is also a lot of skip play from the second line and positional rotation, especially in the ball handling phase, with the key position of the “Classic 10” enjoying freedom of movement in the offfensive third to find and exploit space.
Without the ball Zvezda press very high and aggressively. They focus on protecting the center of the field, but when the ball moves wide, the wide midfielders assist. The offensive three stay very close together to prevent central progression of the ball.
Stankovic prefers a 1-4-2-3-1 formation with a transition into a 1-4-4-2 diamond, but he does not hesitate to use a 1-4-3-3 formation transitioning into a 1-4-1-4-1 as well. A constant element of his tactics is his preference for one central midfielder in a double rotation in a 1-4-2-3-1 system or a naturally defensive midfielder in a 1-4-1-4-1 system, who goes deep – just in front of the two central defenders who then usually position themselves quite wide – forming a defensive back three.
When building up the action the team uses the goalkeeper and central defenders to start the action, which however is to be played by the central midfielder with plenty of freedom of movement. They use a lot of short progressive passes, but when it is difficult to force the second line they do not hesitate to use long balls bypassing the midfielders.
Zvezda look for overloading in the central zone to win second balls, so they adopt a compact narrow structure in defence. In defence the players are positioned very close together and in the high-pressing phase they approach as one team and press aggressively.
This, by the way, is a characteristic of Stankovic. He overload the center and forces the opponents to play wide, where he in turn benefits from the support of the side defenders. When they recover the ball on the wing, Stankovic relies on a quick pass to the middle creating a numerical advantage there and vice versa: when they recover the ball in the center they quickly pass it to the wing looking for a numerical advantage there using the side defenders.
Under Stankovic Zvezda dominate through ball possession and a large number of progressive passes.