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Horrendous downturn in form. Please help!


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I have no prior FM experience. I started FM 19 with a level 7 (regional premier) club which was expected to finish mid-table. After experimenting with tactics I settled on a control possession 442 and won the league by a point. I did face downturns of form in that season and found that with some team talks and a game or two with different tactic, we recovered.

Upon promotion to the National League South I decided to play with the same tactic and formation as I didn't see any reason to change just yet. We were expected to battle against relegation. I used my vastly increased wage budget to bring in a few players and the first half of the season was a dream, reaching 11th in the league and making it through to the 1st round of the FA cup. Here's where everything goes wrong.

We get knocked out of the FA cup 2-1 by a League 2 team, which is a thoroughly acceptable result. I may have been too hard on the players in the team talk and would have accepted this as an explanation of perhaps a 3 game bad spell. However, since that loss we have suffered a further 11 losses, with 2 wins and a draw from the proceeding 14 league games. There have been no changes in tactic or formation, except in desperation after about 6 or 7 losses and some minor instruction tweaks. A couple of players have been brought in during the season but they've been theoretically improvements to the squad.

My main issue is that the players look like they've completely forgotten how to play football. My best striker can no longer hit the target, every player is playing long aimless balls, every player makes strange short passes to no one which are abruptly intercepted, when pressing they just follow the opposition player around not putting in any tackles, the opposition can just run at us freely while we leave players off the ball unmarked and unseen. This wasn't happening before, we were making very good attacking plays seemingly obeying the tactic.

It honestly feels like my game is bugged, nothing makes sense and I have no idea what to do.

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Thanks, I can provide any information you require.

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If team cohesion is good, tactical familiarity is good, and morale is good, then go to tactics.

Your morale needs to be better, so try to regularly praise/warn them for training performances, praise for conduct, and that will help.

So, tactics: First look at your instructions, and pick a player. Imagine how your instructions would work for them, what teammates they would have nearby, and such. Imagine you being that player.

For example, your Left Winger, Clark: Let's say he's given the ball from the defenders, and wants to move forward towards the opposition goal. A winger dribbles, attacks the defenders, and surges into the final third. But you tell him "Pass shorter, don't dribble much, keep the ball and work it into the box, focus on playing in the middle, and go slower." Well, the other team is closing him down and putting him under pressure, he's trying to follow your instructions, and Keefe(CM-A) has gone forward, Cotter(CM-De) is sitting back on the other side of the pitch, not supporting him, Knight(P-A) is sitting on the line waiting for a ball to hit at goal...so what does Clark do? Either punt the ball long or lose the ball to the opposition.

That fits with what you are seeing: "every player is playing long aimless balls, every player makes strange short passes to no one which are abruptly intercepted".

Keep doing that with the other players, and see if you can change your tactical instructions. 

Then, take a look at the goals you conceded in the past. Why did they happen? Are your defenders under too much constant pressure? They're in wrong starting positions? They have poor composure or aren't consistent? Maybe you can change roles and/or train certain attributes to help them perform better.

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1 hour ago, Warrio1010 said:

the first half of the season was a dream, reaching 11th in the league... Here's where everything goes wrong.... There have been no changes in tactic or formation, except in desperation after about 6 or 7 losses and some minor instruction tweaks.

Likely to be your problem. First half of the season, you're the newly-promoted dogmeat. Everyone thinks you're going to be a pushover. By Christmas, you're massively over-achieving so other teams stop taking you for granted, play a little tighter or a little more defensive and now your tactic doesn't work quite so well. And you haven't adapted.

Note that two of your three wins this year are away from home, where teams are likely to be a bit more adventurous. At first glance, your tactic looks like something that might work if you're among the best teams in the division, but you're not. The fact that you're shipping so many goals proves that. You need another tactic, one that is more sound in defence. Remember: you're predicted to fight against relegation, you need to play like that.

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Welcome to the forum :).

Agree with everything @warlock says.

I'll add one other point as well which is that you're falling into the very common trap of your own over expectations.  You're only expected to fight against relegation, but you've had a great first half of the season which has lulled you into a false sense of security and you think you should be able to carry on in the same manner to the point where you even start to wonder whether your game is somehow bugged.

Your system isn't working quite so well because of reasons explained by warlock above and your success has led to you expecting too much.

You're probably still using many of the same players which got you promotion.  The trouble is they may not be quite up to the task in a higher division with the same tactic.  As you improve your squad over time you may be able to get back to using the same system again but perhaps in the short term you may need to ease things off a little.  For example you are using a pretty aggressive Mentality which asks your team to take a few risks.  Perhaps take that down a notch or two and see how that works out. 

The real problem (for us) however is the sheer number of team instructions you are using.  It's a little hard to see how you want your team to play with all those instructions.  For now and as you seem to be shipping a lot of goals, perhaps focus on adjusting the defensive TIs and maybe a role or two as well.  A high defensive line could see your defence getting caught out high up the pitch.  Playing the offside trap with a stopper/cover combo can be tricky to pull off as they aren't in a line.  An attacking central midfielder may not provide enough defensive cover.  Are your defenders good enough at marking to be able to effectively mark tighter?  That's just some examples to give you some food for thought - I'm not saying change all of those things but it's perhaps something to look out for when playing matches.

Better yet, don't play any more matches until you've gone back and reviewed some of the matches you've already played.  Watch them back over, is there anything you notice?

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3 minutes ago, herne79 said:

Watch them back over, is there anything you notice?

In particular, I'd be looking at how you're conceding. Are you getting caught on the counter, or simply forced back and can't hold out? Are you conceding from crosses, or from sheer weight of numbers in the middle? Typically, at any level, I'd be worried if I conceded more than two goals more than two or three times in a season. That's a clear red flag that your tactic has major problems.

I'd also look at what happens out of possession. At lower-league level you're unlikely to have players who can both mark tighter and counter-press (they're kind of mutually exclusive). The strength of the 442 is the two banks of four that are hard to play through, so you might want to just drop off and challenge the AI to do that.

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Thanks everyone for your input. 

I will reply to your suggestions individually when I'm on PC. 

I have tried to use my trained direct counter attack system on very defensive to no avail but from what you all have said I suspect I've gone a bit mad on setting TIs and there are some contradictions. 

What are some basic suggestions to start off? From what I've learned here I think I should use my counter attack tactic on the default TIs with a cautious/defensive mentality and chill out a bit with the individual roles (defenders on defend, midfielders on support???). 

Any better suggestions for tactic considering my players are generally among the worst in the league and assuming I am restricted to 442 by squad depth? 

Thanks again. 

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12 hours ago, majesticeternity said:

So, tactics: First look at your instructions, and pick a player. Imagine how your instructions would work for them, what teammates they would have nearby, and such. Imagine you being that player.

For example, your Left Winger, Clark: Let's say he's given the ball from the defenders, and wants to move forward towards the opposition goal. A winger dribbles, attacks the defenders, and surges into the final third. But you tell him "Pass shorter, don't dribble much, keep the ball and work it into the box, focus on playing in the middle, and go slower." Well, the other team is closing him down and putting him under pressure, he's trying to follow your instructions, and Keefe(CM-A) has gone forward, Cotter(CM-De) is sitting back on the other side of the pitch, not supporting him, Knight(P-A) is sitting on the line waiting for a ball to hit at goal...so what does Clark do? Either punt the ball long or lose the ball to the opposition.

That fits with what you are seeing: "every player is playing long aimless balls, every player makes strange short passes to no one which are abruptly intercepted".

Yeah I understand what you're saying. So is the best way to change TIs to more direct or run at defense etc? Or to adjust roles so that all defense/midfield players are close to one another? Sometimes a player will be in possession and just slowly wander around with the ball until an opposing player tackles him, no attempt to run or pass anywhere.

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10 hours ago, RookieFm said:

i dont understand why you are trying to play through the middle while using a 442 which is weak in middle and strong out wide.

Because I don't know what I'm doing!

Thanks though I will implement your suggestion.

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10 hours ago, herne79 said:

Welcome to the forum :).

 

Thanks!

 

10 hours ago, herne79 said:

I'll add one other point as well which is that you're falling into the very common trap of your own over expectations.  You're only expected to fight against relegation, but you've had a great first half of the season which has lulled you into a false sense of security and you think you should be able to carry on in the same manner to the point where you even start to wonder whether your game is somehow bugged.

 

I agree completely, but on the other hand the players themselves have not been playing the same as they were, that's my main issue. I wouldn't mind losing if we were playing well but just being out-classed. The wildly inaccurate passing/finishing is absurd. But I'm willing to accept that it's my tactics that are the issue and that my opponents have adjusted theirs to counter mine and forcing errors etc.

 

10 hours ago, herne79 said:

You're probably still using many of the same players which got you promotion.  The trouble is they may not be quite up to the task in a higher division with the same tactic.  As you improve your squad over time you may be able to get back to using the same system again but perhaps in the short term you may need to ease things off a little.  For example you are using a pretty aggressive Mentality which asks your team to take a few risks.  Perhaps take that down a notch or two and see how that works out. 

 

I'm planning on switching to my trained direct counter attack with a cautious mentality and using the default TIs.

 

10 hours ago, herne79 said:

 The real problem (for us) however is the sheer number of team instructions you are using.  It's a little hard to see how you want your team to play with all those instructions.  For now and as you seem to be shipping a lot of goals, perhaps focus on adjusting the defensive TIs and maybe a role or two as well.  A high defensive line could see your defence getting caught out high up the pitch.  Playing the offside trap with a stopper/cover combo can be tricky to pull off as they aren't in a line.  An attacking central midfielder may not provide enough defensive cover.  Are your defenders good enough at marking to be able to effectively mark tighter?  That's just some examples to give you some food for thought - I'm not saying change all of those things but it's perhaps something to look out for when playing matches.

 

Thanks for the ideas. I'm going to simplify the roles making all defense defend and all the midfield support and see what happens. Also up to now I haven't been paying attention to attributes but I'll have a look. What are some key attributes I should be looking for in the defense, midfield and attacking positions?

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10 hours ago, warlock said:

In particular, I'd be looking at how you're conceding. Are you getting caught on the counter, or simply forced back and can't hold out? Are you conceding from crosses, or from sheer weight of numbers in the middle? Typically, at any level, I'd be worried if I conceded more than two goals more than two or three times in a season. That's a clear red flag that your tactic has major problems.

 

I know it sounds flippant but, all of the above. We concede on the counter over the top centrally, down the wings, sometimes they just pass the ball around outside our box and score from range, if a ball goes loose in the box from a set piece or whatever, we're bound to concede.

 

10 hours ago, warlock said:

 I'd also look at what happens out of possession. At lower-league level you're unlikely to have players who can both mark tighter and counter-press (they're kind of mutually exclusive). The strength of the 442 is the two banks of four that are hard to play through, so you might want to just drop off and challenge the AI to do that.

Thanks, I'm going to try that. For this to work is it best to set all defense to defend and all midfield to support?

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You have four wide players, so focusing the play through the middle is playing to your weakness. You have a target man, so playing shorter passing and working the ball into the box doesn't make sense. Dribbling less in a 4-4-2 really handcuffs your players' options for attack. What do wingers do if they don't dribble? You have a stopper/cover duty on your central defenders, so playing the offside trap might be problematic (the cover duty plays people onside, specifically any attackers the stopper duty is trying to force offside). The wingers and fullbacks are all on support or defend duty, and I think you should consider giving at least one of them a more attacking role to facilitate your offensive moves.

I would start by reassessing the target man role. If you want to use a target man then your tactic should become higher tempo and more direct, with dribbling, crossing, and long passes the order of the day. Your wingers would be relied upon to attack the flanks, dribble out wide, and cross to the two forwards in the box. At the back, decide if you want an offside trap and then position your defenders accordingly. In short, you don't have to use all of the instructions. Less can be more, especially if you want to avoid conflicting instructions.

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Okay so I just played two games using a direct counter attack with the default TIs and roles. The difference was shocking. I think I had frozen the players with two many TIs and the wrong roles or something. We were actually defending; blocking, tackling, tracking runs. We didn't create too many chances but I played a cautious mentality in the first game which we won 1-0 albeit to a team around our position in the league, and very defensive in the second game as we were playing the team in 3rd. We lost the second game 2-0 but we played with 10 men for 60 mins (turning off get stuck in) and one goal was a pen.

Thanks for all your suggestions and hopefully I can avoid relegation and improve next season!

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15 hours ago, Warrio1010 said:

My main issue is that the players look like they've completely forgotten how to play football. My best striker can no longer hit the target, every player is playing long aimless balls, every player makes strange short passes to no one which are abruptly intercepted, when pressing they just follow the opposition player around not putting in any tackles, the opposition can just run at us freely while we leave players off the ball unmarked and unseen.

You are describing the tactics the program uses to put a team into bad form: passes go directly to the opposition, shots go wide or frequently hit the post/cross bar, and deflections off your defenders go directly to the opposition. It’s built into the program and happens to every team to some extent. 

It sounds like the program hit you particularly hard by forcing you into a long losing streak. There isn’t really anything you can do about it because it isn’t a result of anything you’ve done. You just have to wait it out. It will eventually end and your players will suddenly remember how to play football again.

The forced run of bad form is a good time to give playing time to your backups and young prospects. At least your first team will be rested and healthy when the program releases you from the bad form.

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So my 3rd game since I posted here I used exactly the same tactic with cautious mentality. We were 3-0 up at half time......and lost 4-3. WTF!!!

When we went 1-0 up I changed to very defensive mentality and put time wasting to max, still we scored another 2, but was this my mistake? I subbed two defenders so I don't see how concentration or fatigue could have been an issue.

I didn't make any other changes.

 

 

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34 minutes ago, 3runhomer said:

You are describing the tactics the program uses to put a team into bad form: passes go directly to the opposition, shots go wide or frequently hit the post/cross bar, and deflections off your defenders go directly to the opposition. It’s built into the program and happens to every team to some extent. 

 

I'm aware that some people hold this view and I'm not refuting it, but to accept it would mean it's pointless to play the game and you can't take any credit for your success. Also I've heard of people doing very well in the game getting promoted 3 division etc etc.

But I admit I did almost buy into it because I was totally lost.

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Tactical principles for lower leagues are somewhat different than on a top level competition. You received really great pieces of advice from both warlock and herne, so I'm not going to repeat what they already told you. 

For now, I'll only tell you how I approach tactics in lower leagues:

- being either too defensive or too attacking is not advisable. The former because LL defenders are not good enough to deal constantly with pressure coming from the opposition. The latter because when you lose the ball, you are likely to get hit quickly on the counter with your defense being caught out of position

- trying to play possession-based football is something that can hardly work in lower leagues, unless you use possession for rather defensive purposes and only occasionally, i.e. when you want to preserve a result you are satisfied with. Your original tactic (from the screenshot in the OP) suggested that you were trying to play a rather possession game, even though a number of other instructions and - particularly - player roles were pointing to a different style, which to me is a sign that you yourself weren't quite sure as to how exactly you want your guys to play

- keeping it as simple as possible tactically is usually the best starting point (approach) when it comes to LLM

Btw, 442 is IMO a very good choice of formation for LL football in general, so that's something I definitely would not change.

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27 minutes ago, Warrio1010 said:

I'm aware that some people hold this view and I'm not refuting it

I'll refute it... it's nonsense.

As for going very defensive and using max time-wasting, you can do that for the last 10 minutes of a game if you must, but you're inviting a huge amount of pressure - even the best teams will struggle to pull that off for an hour or more. I'd stick to a cautious mentality, defenders and one central midfielder on defend, and look to score on the counter or from a set-piece. Accept that you're going to lose more than you'll win, but all you need to do is avoid relegation.

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1 hour ago, 3runhomer said:

You are describing the tactics the program uses to put a team into bad form: passes go directly to the opposition, shots go wide or frequently hit the post/cross bar, and deflections off your defenders go directly to the opposition. It’s built into the program and happens to every team to some extent. 

It sounds like the program hit you particularly hard by forcing you into a long losing streak. There isn’t really anything you can do about it because it isn’t a result of anything you’ve done. You just have to wait it out. It will eventually end and your players will suddenly remember how to play football again.

The forced run of bad form is a good time to give playing time to your backups and young prospects. At least your first team will be rested and healthy when the program releases you from the bad form.

If you hold this view then fair enough.

It is however completely incorrect, so please don't try to mislead others like this.  There is nothing programmed which forces us into losing streaks, just how teams react and adapt to our own performance.  And as other teams adapt to us, we are perfectly capable of adapting ourselves, so there is plenty we can do about it.

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3 hours ago, Experienced Defender said:

Tactical principles for lower leagues are somewhat different than on a top level competition. You received really great pieces of advice from both warlock and herne, so I'm not going to repeat what they already told you. 

For now, I'll only tell you how I approach tactics in lower leagues:

- being either too defensive or too attacking is not advisable. The former because LL defenders are not good enough to deal constantly with pressure coming from the opposition. The latter because when you lose the ball, you are likely to get hit quickly on the counter with your defense being caught out of position

- trying to play possession-based football is something that can hardly work in lower leagues, unless you use possession for rather defensive purposes and only occasionally, i.e. when you want to preserve a result you are satisfied with. Your original tactic (from the screenshot in the OP) suggested that you were trying to play a rather possession game, even though a number of other instructions and - particularly - player roles were pointing to a different style, which to me is a sign that you yourself weren't quite sure as to how exactly you want your guys to play

- keeping it as simple as possible tactically is usually the best starting point (approach) when it comes to LLM

Btw, 442 is IMO a very good choice of formation for LL football in general, so that's something I definitely would not change.

Thanks for the advice. I used only cautious-positive recently and saw better results. You're right that I don't really understand the consequences of TIs etc, I was just blindly spamming them and following advice of my Assistant Manager. I'm definitely going to stick with the default tactics as much as possible from now. If you could chose a tactic to play with a 442 as one of the worst teams in the Vanarama National League what would it be?

 

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hace 9 horas, herne79 dijo:

If you hold this view then fair enough.

It is however completely incorrect, so please don't try to mislead others like this.  There is nothing programmed which forces us into losing streaks, just how teams react and adapt to our own performance.  And as other teams adapt to us, we are perfectly capable of adapting ourselves, so there is plenty we can do about it.

There is a big problem on how bad runs are represented and what causes them. Most of the times doing nothing is the best you can do. Just wait, what worked before Will work again, unless you have a tactic with obvious mistakes, which is the case of the OP.

Now, You can claim on the contrary as much as you want, but he is partially right and dismissive answers like this just cause more and more confusion.

More and more myths and theories can be created like AI playing more defensive causes collapse. There is no correlation among bad runs and AI playing more defensive. There is no correlation at all, in fact. Nothing causes nothing. At best, random chance. It simply happens and the same it came it leaves and results are back to normality then.

I'm not saying there is something programmed that forces us into losing streaks. I'm saying there is something in the game that triggers a bad run (which is fine, there are bad runs IRL) that is not well represented, or not represented at all. It could be random chance. It could be tactical. it could be anything. The game offers no info, hence @3runhomer answer.

You can't expect an average user to find out what's tactically wrong if  all the info you have is players shot from ankward positions while there are 2 teammates all alone inside the box. Passing insted of shoting, shoting instead of passing, not tackling, passing the ball to the opponent, missing any aerial duel… If it is the game trying to represent a tactical (or any other kind) mistake, I strongly believe there is a lot of room for improvement, to say it politely.

 

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14 minutes ago, mrgoal100 said:

There is a big problem on how bad runs are represented and what causes them. Most of the times doing nothing is the best you can do. Just wait, what worked before Will work again, unless you have a tactic with obvious mistakes, which is the case of the OP.

Now, You can claim on the contrary as much as you want, but he is partially right and dismissive answers like this just cause more and more confusion.

He isn't "partially right" at all, and the point of a tactics forum is to fix people's tactics, not to indulge the conspiracy theories of people who are making excuses for being totally inept at playing the game.

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hace 5 minutos, enigmatic dijo:

He isn't "partially right" at all, and the point of a tactics forum is to fix people's tactics, not to indulge the conspiracy theories of people who are making excuses for being totally inept at playing the game.

Fixing tactics won't stop bad runs. Random chance is what causes bad runs, unless the tactic includes obvious mistakes.

This fórum can fix obvious mistakes, but can't stop bad runs.

With that said, you can use dowloaded tactics or constant tweaking like Rashidi but at that point you are not playing football anymore.

 

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11 hours ago, Warrio1010 said:

. I used only cautious-positive recently and saw better results. You're right that I don't really understand the consequences of TIs etc, I was just blindly spamming them and following advice of my Assistant Manager. I'm definitely going to stick with the default tactics as much as possible from now. If you could chose a tactic to play with a 442 as one of the worst teams in the Vanarama National League what would it be?

Tactical instructions are something that add to the style of your team. The style itself will come from your roles and duties. Then mentality itself affects 8 elements in the game. 

Now if you can understand that Mentality affects: Passing Directness, Width, DL, LOE, Tempo, Timewasting etc, then you can actually use TIs to offset some of these. For example at the moment you want to play counter attacking football, which is frankly a misnomer. Most sides in modern football will not tell you they are sitting back and cautiously trying to hit on the break. They will either say we are going to be defensively tight and when we have the chance to counter we want to drive it down the flanks quickly and try and get behind times. If they can avoid sitting back they will. 

So mentality in itself serves to influence risk. You can make any tactical system include counter attacking elements. A very attacking mentality can have counter attacking elements if you know what the mentality actually affects. So if you wanted to make a ask yourself how the goals are going to come.

Now if you are going to sit back and soak, which is viable, then ask yourself where do you want to shunt the opposition to. Afterall they are attacking you. So you want to direct these attacks. This is where you think of defensive width. Now ask yourself the other question how good is your backline? If they aren't good, can they at least protect the Golden Zone in front of the defenders without a DM? Hitzfiled used to call this the hotzone, but football has evolved, I tend to build up play or my counter attacks on the edge of the hotzone so I can move players away thus making really good chances. How do I do that?
 

Its your roles and duties now. So take a look at them, which are the players you expect to control space, and who will attack the space. If you are playing on the counter and soaking most of the time, then we can expect you to be playing on a standard line of engagement. However can you stop long shots? Your defensive line does not need to be deep if you want to hit on the break. All you need is to draw teams in that's your LOE. Most people make the mistake of thinking to soak = deep defensive line. THis is wrong, to soak = low LOE.

Now you have teams attacking you. Well do you have players or at least one attacking space? if your defensive width is narrow, then you will have space to attack them down the flanks. Its like water flowing in a an area, it feels the space where there is no water. So if you go defensive narrow the flanks are where they will be drawn in. So how the Hit Early Cross becomes useful.

I had a game where I sat back for 80 mins, to sit and soak, playing on a very attacking mentality. I know it makes absolutely no sense to some, but I had adjusted and influenced all the instructions in the game. Then in the 80 min when the opposition had picked up 4 yellow cards, I went hit early crosses and pass into space, we scored a goal and won the game.

4 hours ago, mrgoal100 said:

With that said, you can use dowloaded tactics or constant tweaking like Rashidi but at that point you are not playing football anymore.

Hmm? constant tweaking? I react to ingame changes. You can manage the way you want. I like to think I am an active manager seeing areas that I need to change. FYI the AI is tweaking more than me.  People who stick the tactic and make no changes are the ones who are playing like it was 1966

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2 hours ago, Rashidi said:

Tactical instructions are something that add to the style of your team. The style itself will come from your roles and duties. Then mentality itself affects 8 elements in the game.

Roles and duties is something I vastly underestimated. I just need to learn what they all mean really. 

Thanks for your other info as well. The reason I hated playing defensive was because I would use a deep defensive line and the ball would just be played around on the edge of my box and conceding was inevitable. I realised I was inviting that by playing that deep line but thought that's just what defensive playing was lol. What you said about line of engagement makes sense though and I'll see what it looks like. 

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I was going through a sudden drop in form as well. what I did was try to play players with higher morale and higher determination & better personality. these players tend to fight better when things are going south. I decided to take full control of training and added for trainings that enhanced team cohesion and happiness and also team bonding. you can see i'm starting to turn the corner now.

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21 hours ago, Warrio1010 said:

If you could chose a tactic to play with a 442 as one of the worst teams in the Vanarama National League what would it be?

If you mean a preset tactic, I never use them. But if I had to pick from presets for a LL team, it would be most close to hoofball or direct counter-attack, or some "hybrid" of these two styles. Of course, hoofball would be considered only in case I had a real old-school target man :brock:

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