Out of possession is just as important as in possession. Whilst people tend to focus a lot on what their team does with the ball, a lot of success also comes from what your players do off the ball as that gives you the base to go and succeed
When it comes to applying a certain block, there isn't really a better or worse system though the high block is most used in Football Manager because people have found the system for it to work and that doesn't mean other defensive systems can't work
The low block is seen as an defensive approach. Teams that tend to use this approach are the less technically gifted teams in the league but that isn't a rule. Just like all blocking systems, they can be suited for different situations in 90mins, so it's possible a fairly defensive coach maybe have to adopt a higher block and you will have coaches who play adventurous football apply the low block in certain situations.
Applying a low block means you are now defending closer towards your goal and generally your whole team will defend inside their own half. The aim is to make life difficult for the attacking team by not giving them space to break you down although you are conceding time on the ball. This is also handy against sides that like to attack the space between the defensive and midfield and the space should now be under control by the defending team.
Advantages and disadvantages of the low block
Advantages are that you are reducing space meaning you can become more difficult to break down specially against possession based teams. Also this system can be perfect for counter-attacks. As the attacking team looks to pressure, this can leave them light in defence which can be exploited if the counter-attack is created.
Disadvantages is that you are defending a lot closer to your goal meaning you the attacking team have a bigger chance of scoring a goal and you can be under immense pressure. This would require very high levels of concentration. Another disadvantage would be not having enough attacking outlets. When defending and you win the ball, you may find it hard to get the ball closer to the opponents goal when you have many players in deeper positions.
Player Profiles while implementing a low block in the 4-4-2
Central Defenders - In Football Manager, your central defenders will need to be good in the air with good bravery and a bit off aggression, have good concentration levels, good at marking and anticipation to read the game. Tackling is also a must.
Wide Players - Will be important in stopping or trying to minimize the amount of crosses coming in to the box so for your full backs, ideally, you'd want them to have good concentration and marking. Attacking attributes may not be important as they won't be doing much attacking but it's always a bonus. Your wingers will need to have good teamwork, work rate, stamina and pace. They will be doing a lot of defensive work with your full backs but they can also be vital for your counter attacks so pace is key
Central Midfielders - Your central midfielders will be workhorses. But also will need to be okay technically. But, most importantly is their defensive awareness and positioning so positioning, anticipation, decisions and again, concentration will be key. As they will be shielding and protecting space, they need to always be in the right position to win the ball for team and relieve pressure
Attackers - Generally in a low block system, the two strikers would be similar. Both would be physical players who are not shy when it comes to physical balance. Doesn't mean both have to be target men type players, one would or could be more a static striker, looks to hold up the ball to play pass whilst the other will be more technically gifted, more agile and/or more dynamic. This can be a headache for opponents defence
Standard, or mid block, sounds pretty simple when in fact, it's a lot more difficult than you may assume. In a low block or high block system, you tend to have support so in a high block if one person presses then another will in support. In a low block, you will have plenty of bodies behind you if you lose the ball or lose a battle. If one player makes a wrong move in the mid block then the system can fall apart. This system will look to defend in the middle of the pitch. The defence will have a decent space between them and their goal whilst the attackers will not be too far away from the opponents goal either. Though it sounds basic, when the opponent is building, this system allows them to have time on the ball but then a trap would be set blocking passing lanes into midfield. This can also give space for attackers to counter.
Advantages and disadvantages of the standard block
Advantages of the standard block is that your the team is not too far forward or back which suits adventurous teams who want to keep an defensive shape. When winning the ball back, you also may have a lot of numbers in the midfield area that can help you launch counters or hold possession.
Disadvantages of this system is that you are giving your opponents time on the ball and they can build from that so if one player loses the shape, specially in midfield where the block or trap is, it will affect the whole unit. Your players need to be very disciplined.
Player Profile of a standard block in a 4-2-3-1
Central Defenders – The defenders, like in the low block, would need to be good in the air to deal with crosses that may be coming into the box. Also not bad on the ball, most teams using this defensive system like to play from the back and, for a example, using a double pivot in midfield helps that build up
Full Backs – The full backs will need to be good decision makers. Know when to get forward and also know when to press or mark the opponents wingers. The flanks could actually be a weakness so it's important for them to be switch on and not the worse defenders
Double Pivot – In this position, what you are asking for is near the complete midfielders. Both players to be good defensively and on the ball alongside good decision makers. They need to tackle once players enter the trap, they need to have good positioning but also on the ball they need to distribute and can be key iniating counter attacks
Attacking Midfielder - This player tends to be the creative player in the team, the main source for magic. But on the ball, he can help close down the opponents deeper playmaking midfielders causing disruption to their build up
Wingers - Good work rate will be key as usually, they would be positioned a little high but would need to track back to help out with your full backs but also not leaving your double pivot players exposed by being too far out of position. The willingness to get back into position when out of possession is important
Striker – Your main goal scorer. He will need to have excellent ability in front of goal. But also decent physical presence would be a huge bonus but someone that can score goals, good off the ball movement and agile
The high block is most commonly used on Football Manager but is also very risky. In the modern day, the best form of defence seems to be attack which is why a lot of people would be familiar with this defensive system.
This is where typically, you would apply immense pressure on your opponents in attempt to make the pitch small and force opposition mistakes. This can put your team on the front foot and set the tempo for the rest of the game but to have an effective high block system, your team would need to have very good teamwork and stamina at least and this system would require a lot of movement. You will be doing most of your defending higher up the pitch or at least supposed to. This is where you aim to trap the opponent, far away from your goal and a lot closer to theirs.
However, it is a big risk.
Advantages and disadvantages of the high block
One advantage is that you are defending far away from your goal so in an effective pressing system, their are very small moments where the opponent will spend a length of time near your goal. Another advantage is that you have the opportunity to continuously attack and put on pressure. If the opponents decide to kick it long, your defenders can collect and start a new attack
Disadvantages and can be pretty alarming if your defence line become exposed, it can be devastating. There usually would be a huge gap between your defence line and goalkeeper which can be exploited by a simple direct ball if defence lose concentration
Also another disadvantage is that it requires very high levels on stamina and people willing to put in a shift.
Player Profile of a high block in a 4-3-3
Central Defenders - The defenders can be very good in the air, this can help with direct balls from the opponent attempting to beat your press OR defenders to be agile and have very good positioning and anticipation to read situations and also the speed to cover
Full Backs - Full backs should also have pace to be able to cover the themselves when they push further ahead. They tend to mainly support the wingers and/or attack them as they would rarely be in defensive positions
Midfield Trio – You can find the perfect balance here. One creative type, one ball winning and one box to box. Though that's not the rule, you will have a nice balance. All midfielders though, like the rest of the team, should have high stamina. But good concentration and anticipation will also be key
Wingers - A lot of times your wingers are your attacking threat in this system and often enough will play narrowly to link-up with the striker. Dribbling with the ball is almost a given alongside pace, this is what makes the attack devastating. They also play a part in the first line of press
Striker – Because you are playing a high block with high line of engagement, your striker is actually the most important when it comes to defending. He usually is the very first person to press therefore setting the tempo. Off the ball movement will be key when it comes too attacks because he is still an attacker who will need to be technically gifted in order to create for the wingers or score chances