Aggressive and organised pressing is the most important characteristic of Benfica‘s game under Roger Schmidt. Their starting formation is 1-4-2-3-1, but on the pitch they mostly take the shape of 1-4-1-3-2. Their greatest strength is the intensity of both possession and ball recovery. They like to play one-twos in overloaded space without forcing progressive play without need.
In defense they hold narrow compact formation trying to push the opponent outside, maintaining a high block and aggressive pressing leaps at all times. They create a constant numerical advantage in the zone of rivals’ possession with the active participation of the forwards and wingers. As soon as the opponent is pushed outside they move into tight marking. If this fails and the opponent wins a position in the middle of the field, they change the way they press, keeping the compact formation, blocking the passing channels and limiting the space to play. The aim is to force the opponent to play backwards or move again to the wing. The defensive task of the two central midfielders (Chiquinho, Florentino) is vital to Roger Schmidt‘s side.
When pushed into the lower block they do not give up high pressing and aggressive attempts to push back their rivals with the active participation of all midfielders. Once they have recovered the ball the main intention of Schmidt‘s team is to counterattack intensely, as fast and as riskily as possible, even at the cost of losing possession again. If this doesn’t work they move on to the build-up phase which usually makes use of the free movement of the wingers between the lines or the vertical entrance between the defenders of the central offensive miedfielder (Rafa). In this variant the task of the sole striker is to maintain the deep position of the rival’s central defenders, hence a frequent scheme is for the striker to run diagonally, which further creates open space for diagonal passes and space for the wingers coming inside.
In the opponent’s offensive third it is the side defenders who come up high, while the central midfielders maintain deeper central positions in an attempt to exploit the overload between the lines. Once space is found for progressive play there is a sequence of fast several passes to force through the line and out to the free position of the striker, wingers or dribbling wing-backs (Grimaldo, Bah) into the centre.