The ex-Porto winger, Sérgio Conceição, took control over F.C Porto in June 2018 following Nuno Espírito Santo departure who had been unable to win the Portuguese league as Benfica went on to win their 4th league title in a row. Things weren't exactly running smoothly at the time for F.C Porto, who had received a fine for failing to comply with the FFP rules. Though this seemed to not affect Sérgio Conceição in the slightest and his first season in control, he went on to win the league ending their 5-year wait. His success didn't just stop there. The following season, he won the national double (league title and nation cup). Fast-forward to the 2020/21 season, Sérgio Conceição continues to impress nationally and on the club football's biggest stage, the Champions League. Though they are currently 2nd in the Premier Liga, behind an awe-inspiring Sporting side, they are still in the UEFA Champions League and progressed to the Quarter Finals after knocking out 2-time champions, Juventus. Porto, under Sérgio Conceição, have played 206 games, winning 147 with an impressive 71.36% win rate. Here's a tactical analysis of how that has been achieved.
Sérgio Conceição frequently shapes up in a 4-4-2 system, an aggressive system where he expects his team to be direct with their approach and transition with a high tempo. Like most modern coaches, Sérgio Conceição uses a high and intense press which proves to be effective in a 4-4-2 as Porto can remain compact vertically, making it difficult for their opponents to play through, often forcing backwards passes.
The press is well oiled, and often, the two strikers will trigger the press by closing down opponents' defenders on the ball if they opt to play out from the defence. This would then be followed by a central midfield who could also block the route for the opponents' number 6 collecting the ball, and the wingers will also begin their press when the ball is worked out wide. To avoid gaps appearing, as the 5-man press, the rest of the team would move forward to make sure they stay condensed vertically, and this also helps prevent Porto's pressing from being bypassed by a more direct ball. With this pressing setup, FC Porto tend to dominate games by making it hard for the opponents to play but also when on the ball, Sérgio Conceição encourages quick short passing. In the Premier Liga, Porto currently has the 2nd most average possession (57.0%) and the 2nd best pass completion percentage (82.1%). They also face the 3rd least shots at goal with 8.8 shots conceded per game, demonstrating how difficult it is to create shooting chances against this FC Porto side. Their narrow defensive shape also helps the side keep possession after the ball is won as now players are position closer to each other for a passing option.
Going forward, FC Porto have been one of the positive teams, if not the most, in the Premier Liga. They have 14.4 shots at goal per game, which is the most whilst also having the most shots on target per 90 (5.6), getting 1.63 xG per 90. Attempting the 2nd most dribbles in the league (21.4 per 90) indicates they don't want to keep possession for its sake and all about finding ways to create chances.
Their 4-4-2 shape then looks more like a 4-2-4 as FC Porto advance, or even 4-1-3-2 with Sérgio Oliveira being effective getting forward and now is currently the sides top scorer, the central midfielder scoring 11 in 22 matches. However, what remains is a holding midfielder in front of the two central defenders attempting to win the ball and protect the team against counter-attacks. Against the better sides, Sérgio Oliveira would often also sit to help protect. The opponent's wide players often have a tough time against FC Porto due to Porto's wing movements. As the full-back advance further up the pitch, the two wingers then tuck inside to create that 4-2-4 shape, making any marking or tracking very difficult. The wingers move into a half-space that then forces the opponent's wingers to tuck inside, which opens up the flanks for Porto's full-backs. If the opponent's full-backs then decide to press or engage in Porto's full-backs, this can open space for either striker to move into the channels, stretching the defence.
This also allowed FC Porto to gain superiority in wider areas effectively. The CBs are less likely to leave their defensive positions to track a Porto striker as that'll leave a gaping hole in central defence.
The central midfielders are key to this system, they have to cover a lot of ground for Porto to make sure they can both protect and prevent counter-attacks, but they, or at least one, will also need to support the attacking players and be the link from midfield to attack. The strikers also need to be physical players who can work for the team during the 90mins as they are key to setting Porto's pressing tempo. So it's clear to recognise that all players need to have great physical attributes for this system to work to great effect, but communication is also key. With the high pressing and fluid movements, players need to be in constant communication to avoid situations where FC Porto can be caught out. Matias Uribe has been the sides ball-winner and is important in disrupting up play, winning 2.4 tackles per 90 and completing 1.7 interceptions. His midfield partner Sergio Oliviera also plays an important role in winning the ball, completing 2 tackles per 90. The wingers on the ball are all very capable dribbles. Right-back Manafa completes the most in a game with 2.3 dribbles per game, closely followed by Otavio, Jesus Corona and Luis Diaz. Jesus Corona, Otavio and Sérgio Oliveira are responsible for injecting creativity in the side with their passing. Often choosing to play risky passes to unlock defences, no surprise collectively, they have 14 assists between them, with Jesus Corona completing 2.5 passes per game on average. Lastly, it's the two central defenders (Mbema and Pepe) who have a lot of the possession during a game, indicating they're instructed to build from the back, with both completing 89.2% of their passes, with Otavio also being key in the sides build-up averaging 50.9 passes a game with ranks him 3rd, behind the two central defenders. But that wraps up my tactical analysis, looking at Sérgio Conceição's FC Porto, hoping they can put on a spectacle in their Champions League quarter-final tie with Chelsea.