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From Rafa to McLaren in 5 games - What Happened?!

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I setup a 4-3-3 wide formation with counter and control options and it work well through pre-season and the first set of results where good with my Newcastle team:

Huddersfield - H - 4 - 0 - W - Control
Arsenal  - A - 3 - 0 - L (my fault messing about with tactics)
Fleetwood - A - 1 - 0 W - Control
Tottenham - H - 3 - 0 W - Counter
West Brom - A - 2 - 0 W - Counter

I thought thats it I cracked it, next game aware Stoke 4 - 0 down by half time and lost 5 - 0 in the end, then went on a 8 game unable to win for toffee run with a mix of draws and defeats.

So I have couple of questions:

1. Did the AI learn my tactic and I need to make tweaks before each game rather than reacting to just the game? I currently play through the middle as I play with 2 x IF and a F9, so I could change and use the flanks and my 2 x WB - S if the opposition are stronger in the middle of the park, but I am unsure if over tweaking the tactic causes more issues than not, although I play FMT.

2. Has anyone got a link to a help guide for the analysis tab or can anyone answer this: When I click the analysis tab behind two of my CMs I have two red'ish squares, so does that mean my tactic is exposed as they wont track back into that area of the pitch?

Any help would be great, please dont let me end up like Steve McLaren...  I dont even have an umbrella!!!

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3 minutes ago, edhdurham said:

Did the AI learn my tactic and I need to make tweaks before each game rather than reacting to just the game?

Nope, the AI is incapable of doing that.  What probably happened is you were a bit misled by the pre-season friendly results.  In friendlies, players don't try as hard as they would during competitive matches so you can get an inaccurate or incomplete view of how things work.  Pre-season is generally about getting your players match fit and improving team cohesion, morale & tactic familiarity.  As you only played 5 matches you perhaps didn't achieve all of that and so your team suffered as a result when the season started.

However, if you've gone on an 8 match run without a win it sounds like your tactic(s) may need some tweaking.  Post the full detail of them (screen shots will help) and somebody might be able to give you some ideas.

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OK, the 5 results I posted where not the pre-season games but my first 5 games of the season, with Fleetwood being in the cup, I played 6 pre-season games winning 5 and drawing 1...  so its like 9 wins 1 draw in total, before the Stoke disaster!

My tactic is:

GK - D

WB - S
CD - D
CD - D
WB - S

CM - D

IF - A
IF - A
F9 - S

General instructions are:

Drop Deeper
Get Stuck In
Retain Possession
Stick to Positions
Exploit the Middle
Work Ball Into The Box

The rest are the defaults, so Mixed passing (for my counter tactic I untick the Retain Possession option)


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Can you explain your rationale for a few things? Namely, your team instructions, and what you're generally trying to achieve.

A few questions to generate discussion.

Who is creating your chances?

Who is finishing them off?

What are you doing to prevent counter attacks?

What does your attacking transition and build up play look like?

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Well I would say:

Who is creating your chances? - My DLP, F9 and WB are creating a load of chances and so far my IFs and CAR (for some reason) are scoring the most goals.

Who is finishing them off? - IFs with Richie hitting a hatrick against Huddersfield.

What are you doing to prevent counter attacks? - I am using my CM-D to sit and curb counter attacking as per the role description, but also leaving closing down as some times in the hope that they team regain shape and dont run around trying to close leaving gaps.

What does your attacking transition and build up play look like? - I dont watch the match, but I seem to have three phases:

1. DLP-S providing forward passes to the F9 who then feeds either the WB or IF
2. All 3 in midfield seem to feed my WBs who either cross or most often pick out my CARR-S who feeds wither IF or shoots
3. IFs crossing to the F9

I dont think I have an issue with CDs as I think they may be launching the ball, so I could try playing from the defence.

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I'd urge you to watch the match to see if things are happening as you think/hope they are. You don't need to watch the whole thing, but I'd say extended highlights as a bare minimum when you're trying to get a tactic to work properly. 

Let's start defensively. You're leaving three players up the field. Can you afford to do that? If you are doing that, you might want to get the ball to them quickly, but by telling your team to retain possession, you're hindering that as an option.

In transition, you're leaving three players back, and they're all narrow. Fine if you're facing a 4-1-4-1, but what if you're facing a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3? If your WBs don't get back in on time, you're easy to hit on the counter in wide areas.

Your central midfield carries no attacking threat. You've offset that with 'Exploit the Middle' to some degree, but then cancelled it out with 'Stick to Positions'. Similarly, asking your IFs to cut inside and get on the end of things would seem counter-intuitive to 'Stick to Positions'. If you want certain players to hold position, use PIs to get that effect.

Work Ball Into Box also reduces crossing, but can stymie the flow of an attack if there are no good options ahead.

I imagine your team passes the ball around in midfield an awful lot. If the ball gets turned over, you're open to the counter. If you come under sustained pressure, you're only defending with seven outfield players.

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8 minutes ago, edhdurham said:

OK I will look at the match...  still not sure how I managed such good results in my first 5 games and then it failed, would it just not work from game 1, especially the 3-0 win over Spurs.

No, sadly not the way it works. If there are issues with it, you'll get picked apart sooner rather than later. Don't be surprised if you make changes and it doesn't work straight away. If morale is low, it can take a while to turn things around.

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Well there is no 'best' combination - it depends on what you're trying to do with your tactic as a whole because it has to link to what you're doing in defence, up front and down the flanks.

The good news is that in this version of FM, you have lots of options!

Lots of questions again, I'm afraid.

Do you want a playmaker? If so, who is feeding him and who is he feeding in turn?

Who is protecting the back four?

Do you want someone offering a goal threat from central midfield?

Who is winning the ball back, and where are they winning it back?

Do you want neat, tidy, patient interplay, or do you want to move the ball quickly from back to front?

When you win the ball, who sits and who doesn't?

Who is taking risks, and who isn't? Do you have a nice balance in terms of risk and reward?

Does your midfield supplement the rest of your tactic? Are you creating passing options for others? Do your midfielders have passing options when they receive the ball?

Something I try to do in my head, or sometimes on a piece of paper, is to imagine what will happen next in each of the following three situations.

1. Your keeper just rolled it out to one of your defenders.

2. You just won the ball back in midfield.

3. Your striker has just collected the ball from a long kick.

Try and plot how the play will build up over the next three to six passes and who is making what runs. Think about what can go wrong, and look for situations where the man in possession might not have any easy options. Then try to fix them.

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After reading a guide a while ago I always go with a runner / ball winner / creator in midfield, although last time I played I had a triangle rather than being flat...  so I have a CD - D (ball winner) Carriero-S (runner) and DLP-S (creator) with the DLP-S it also gives me more defensive support to cater. 

With a F9-S I am basically playing with an AM so that another link to the midfield without leaving to much of a gap between lines, and then with IF - A x 2 I have two central striker types arriving late, so the plan is to have lots of movement without having a striker being marked out of the game...  kinda like a strikerless formation.

I tried again last night and removed the stick to positions option (I must admin I thought that really meant stick to assigned roles so my IFs would still make runs), tried the passing on short and direct and the latter did not really work, when I went back to mix it seem to work better, also removed retain possession and changed work into box for look for overlap.

The biggest thing that seemed to work was changed the width from balanced to narrow, it seemed to reduce the number of goals against without hampering my attack...  so beat Southampton at home and Burnley away,

But defo still a work in progress.

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Good that you're trying things. A couple of points:

The Carriero is really a workmanlike midfielder that will cover the wings/half spaces. So yes, he's a runner, but he moves more laterally than backwards/forwards. My worry is that your midfield is pretty flat and doesn't offer good passing options.

Same as your front three. The theory works, but I'd be looking at the match to make sure it plays how you expect. Again, my worry would be that it will play like a 4-3-3- with wingers for most of the time. The IFs will only make that run if it's on, if you know what I mean. They're still wide forwards, so they won't be central all the time. The same as your F9. He only acts like an AM sometimes. Most of the time he will be in the same positions as a regular centre forward.

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I have thought about using a DLF-S rather than the F9-S I watched some highlights and the F9 seems to be wide quite often...  so the DLF should sit deeper to link the midfield, but stay more central for the IFs to run past him...  but I will give it ago tonight, other thought was a CF-S as well, but they look to go wide sometimes as well.

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