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(You can skip the story and go straight to the questions).

So, as a seasoned ever-since-CM3 player, few years ago I gave up on FM, considering it way too complicated and not fun anymore. I have no patience for training routines, team talks, media management: I want fun, realistic, yes, but fun. FM wasn’t giving it anymore. I tuned out.

”Try FMC/FMT”, they said. „It’s simpler and more to the point”. I did: it wasn’t. Press conferences again, team talks again, no option to train a new position (too fun, I guess) and still the ridiculous fluidity/philosophy concept, which I NEVER got. I gave up again.

This year I gave it a go: it’s WAY better. I’m impressed: the fluidity setting is (finally) gone, I can give most of the secondary task - such us transfers, I just pick a target and let the director do the rest; realistic, no? - and concentrate on next match.

Sadly, again I fail to understand the game. It’s kind of funny so many years in, but still I have very little idea what I’m doing. And it seems simple enough: covering all areas of the pitch, enough runs in, some holding, adjusting to the opponent.

I recall two very influential FM reads: one by @Rashidi about covering areas and defensive screens (EDIT: I think it was this one: http://www.addictedtofm.com/working-title-tactical-design-i-player-roles/), and other one about winning possession: https://www.passion4fm.com/win-possession-adapting-match-tactic/ These make you think: oh, so THAT’S what it’s about! and jump back to it, but then reality kicks in and you lose the match.

Couple questions:

1. DEFENSIVE SHAPE: the width option is clear: expose flanks, middle or standard. I’m lost at pressing and the d-line. The passion4fm read would instruct me to press players in vulnerable, excluded zones, like a lonely wing back, a CM or CB if facing more numbers in my respective line (3 CMs would overpower and press 2 CMs, or at least one, a winger would press a wing back, having own FB behind to cover the line). I probably did it wrong, but sometime it worked. In FMT19 it doesn’t. Which opponent players to press? And does it influence the...

...line of engagement? I have no clue. I noticed that pushing it creates a gap between defence and midfield, and since there’s no DM there it’s huge. Still, the opponent doesn’t use any AMs. So, a problem or not?

Where do I start to press? Which block do I choose? There are many texts and videos on HOW to implement stuff, but rarely any on WHY and WHEN do it. When push high, when stay low? When leave the gap, when not to?

2. Covering areas: two CMd’s cover the pocket, but not the enemy pocket. CMd + CMs cover own pocket (if the supporting one has right stats), but again there’s not enough pressure on the enemy pocket. I need to make a forward press more. Right or wrong?

A line consists of: ML MC MC AMR, so there’s a gap on under the AMR. Would a BWM in the right MC spot cover it? Speaking of BWM, would it also cover other areas around him, like both pockets?

3. An AF and winger on the same side: they’d both make runs down the same flank, no?

4. The opponent has 4 defenders and 5 midfielders in flat lines. I’m playing 442, which leaves me at 2 vs 3 in the middle and 1 vs 1 on both wings. I set the attacking width to more narrow to reduce their advantage. Right or wrong?

5. Accordingly, since I’ve narrowed the attack formation, players are closer to each other, making shorter passing more natural, right or wrong?

6. However, my idea for the game is not to retain possession, but score goals, being firm favorites. Therefore, I leave the passing option at “standard”, ready to switch it down once I score one or two, maybe during the second half. Right or wrong?

7. It’s the 70th minute, and I still haven’t scored, time is running out. I need to go direct. Should I leave the „more narrow” on, or go “standard” or “more wide”, since the players should be fuhrer apart from each other?

See, it’s stuff like that. I know what stuff means, but have no idea how to use it and when.

Please don’t tell me to go read @Cleon‘s in-depth analysis of options, I really have no time to go through all this, despite it being an amazing read. I really don’t want to dig that much in, hence why I consider FMT the only option for me these days.

Thanks for the replies and patience.

 

EDIT 2 - my current setup 1:

 

False 9 (s) Adv Fwd (a)

Winger (s) Cm (s) Cm (d) Winger (s)

FB (s) CB (d) CB (d) FB (s)

Swp GK (d)

 

and 2, the experimental one:

 

Pressing Fwd (s) Adv Fwd (a)

Wide Pmk (a) Cm (s) Cm (d) Wide Mf (s)

Fb (s) Cb (d) Cb (d) Fb (a)

Swp Gk (d)

Edited by goalash
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You seem to be looking at tactical elements in isolation (from one another), but the problem is that they work together. But okay, I'll try to explain you some basic (general) principles...

More pressing means your players will move out of their defensive position earlier and more aggressively to press the opponent with the ball as soon as he enters their "zone of (defensive) responsibility". The risk is obvious- it tends to disrupt your overall defensive shape and thus allow an extra space that the opposition may exploit. The opposite goes for less urgent press. But does it mean that more urgent pressing is inherently wrong? No. It's neither right nor wrong. It depends on whether your players are capable of effectively executing that type of pressing style and also on how you manage other relevant settings.

Defensive line defines how high (or deep) up the pitch your defenders will position themselves (within your own half) when you are in possession. The higher the line - the more close to the half-line they'll be. And vice versa. But this positioning is relative and will also depend on what's happening on the pitch at the moment. When you comfortably camp in the oppo half, defenders may feel it's safe enough to move a bit higher. D-line - just as any other setting - is affected with team mentality as well. And when your team lose possession, defenders will look to get back in the most favorable defensive positions possible. However, this is in part affected by pressing levels. If you play with more urgent pressing, they will tend to press earlier and may be drawn out of position under certain circumstances.

LOE is where your forwards start pressing the opposition. How aggressively they will press depends on both team pressing intensity and their own pressing instructions. Important: the lesser the distance between DL and LOE - the more vertically compact your team is. And vice versa. More vertical compactness basically means less playable space for the opposition between the lines of your team. But on the other hand, if you achieve vertical compactness by using a higher D-line, you'll be potentially exposed to balls over the top (so you'll need not only fast but also intelligent defenders). So you need to make the right balance.

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Thank you very much for the effort, but you didn’t tell me anything new. I know the basics, all you’ve written is clear to me. Remember I’m not new to the series, quite the opposite, but I’ve lost the thread since the game turned into more and more complicated simulator.

I know what pressing is, what the d-line and the loe do, how closing down disrupts shape. I’m just unable to put it together and tell what and when to do. I need examples, practical and technical. I know that regarding FM the answer is most of the time “it depends”. Maybe it does, but it doesn’t bring me any closer to grasping the game.

I need to understand when and who to press and why, when go wider or narrower and why, stuff like that.

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If you posted a screenshot of your tactic, it would be easier for us to spot potential weaknesses and flaws, and then we could be able to explain you why something is wrong and give you suggestions as to what you could do to improve it through more concrete examples. That way it would (hopefully) be easier for you to understand tactics better.

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I came up with a formula of sorts, a train if thought morelike:

1. Mentality: that’s where I start from. I used to be really careful with this, but I learned that there’s no point in going into an away game against a team 8 league spots lower than you with “standard”. “Positive” right from the start. If I score - I go “standard” in the second half.

2. Focus passing: depends on 1) enemy numbers, 2) my players. If they have stacked up the middle, I go flanks. If I have lonely wide guys against a winger and full back, I go middle. If my wide men are creative, and the CMs are there only to defend, I go flanks. Accordingly, if some of my outputs play like ass, or an enemy output does, I react.

3. Attacking width: the wider, the riskier regarding counter attacks. I might go positive/narrow at home against the league leaders or standard/wide away against a similar team.

4. Passing: shorter means possession>chances, direct means the opposite. Another risk/reward tool, however influenced by weather, enemy pressing. Also, it’s easier to play short when narrow, and which ich also true for the opposite. Usually it’s standard with 1-2 players told to go „more direct”

5. Tempo: I struggle with this one a bit, however if enemy stands off, I might go „slower” to drag them out.

6. D-Line: if enemy strikers/wingers are slow, I might go „higher”, if fast - „lower”.

7. Line of engagement: if the enemy doesn’t use players in AM strata, I might go „higher” and create a gap, since only runs are to exploit it. Also, if I’m heavily overnumbered in the final third, it makes no sense to press there - „lower”. If I choose to press the defensers, maybe late in the game - „higher”. Yeah, most of the time it’s standard.

8. Defensive width: if I’m overnumbered in the middle: „narrow”. If otherwise: „wide”. Depends on where the threat is.

9. GK distribute: depends on his throwing/kicking stats, which areas are free of enemy player and if I have good technique/first touch there.

10. Transitions, counter/regroup etc: more risk and reward. Maybe if the strikers/wingers are slow, refrain from countering.

11. Opposition instructions: I follow guidelines on this one, with one exception - I never press more than 2 enemies in the same line to avoid disruption of my formation. If I have 2 CMs against enemy 3/4 MCs/AMCs, I don’t press them. If the numbers are equal, I press one of them. Most of the time it’s a single CM with no support in front and one wide player. I tend to hunt down guys with poor technique/first touch or compisure/concentration stars, those I consider „offensive presses”. Sometimes I encounter an enemy player with vision/passing/long shots stats so good, that he just must be pressed. In those cases, I have only 1 „offensive” press left. Oh, and, playing with two strikers, I always press one CB. Sometimes, when overpowered in the middle, I tell one of the strikers to mark one of the problematic MCs.

That’s how I try to go about it...

Edited by goalash
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And here goes the current setup:

MR has the „get further forward” trait,

DL has the „get further forward” instruction on; used to be a FB(a), but there would be no defender with the support duty for transitions then,

AF has the „press more” instruction on,

both CMs have „dribble less” instructions on.

576C0C5E-4111-4A87-B9E5-E0C52722FB77.jpeg

Edited by goalash
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You get most of the theorical oncepts, nice point for you but nowI think you have to think the football and the game as a 3 dimensional game. there are no really rules due to the fact that opposition is always changing. the first point is do you see your match in at least comprehensive ? ( sorry for my bad english  im french....). then you have to make what i call a "diagnostic" --> what is wrong with my transition and why --> try to adapt --> observe the result --> readapt --> observe the result again. that's the way u have to think. but to achieve that, u have to know what are the effects of each of your instructions (TI and PI). That's the better way to improve, to my humble opinion.

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13 minutes ago, Abandex said:

You get most of the theorical oncepts, nice point for you but nowI think you have to think the football and the game as a 3 dimensional game. there are no really rules due to the fact that opposition is always changing. the first point is do you see your match in at least comprehensive ? ( sorry for my bad english  im french....). then you have to make what i call a "diagnostic" --> what is wrong with my transition and why --> try to adapt --> observe the result --> readapt --> observe the result again. that's the way u have to think. but to achieve that, u have to know what are the effects of each of your instructions (TI and PI). That's the better way to improve, to my humble opinion.

I always watch in the comprehensive mode.

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51 minutes ago, goalash said:

And here goes the current setup:

MR has the „get further forward” trait,

DL has the „get further forward” instruction on; used to be a FB(a), but there would be no defender with the support duty for transitions then,

AF has the „press more” instruction on,

both CMs have „dribble less” instructions on.

576C0C5E-4111-4A87-B9E5-E0C52722FB77.jpeg

What I first see based on this tactical setup is a lack of tactical identity, meaning you don't have a clear idea of what style of football your team should play (or is able to play). It's neither possession-based, nor counter-attacking, nor an aggressive and fast attacking style. So before anything else, you need to decide what you want to achieve in terms of playing style. Once you clearly define that, it will be way much easier to move on to the next step - tactics creation in a more detailed manner.

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23 minutes ago, Experienced Defender said:

What I first see based on this tactical setup is a lack of tactical identity, meaning you don't have a clear idea of what style of football your team should play (or is able to play). It's neither possession-based, nor counter-attacking, nor an aggressive and fast attacking style. So before anything else, you need to decide what you want to achieve in terms of playing style. Once you clearly define that, it will be way much easier to move on to the next step - tactics creation in a more detailed manner.

What I always try to do is to identify 2, maybe 3 best players in the squad and build the tactics around them. This is the second tier of Ukrainian football, so these are not world beaters. The best two by far are the ML (good as a casual winger too, but way better in terms of creativity than the rest of the midfield) and STCL, nominally a right winger, but lacking technique; perfect as a Pressing Striker though. I’ve built the rest of the concept around these two.

What is a “clear idea”? Against some opponents I want to counter, some I can and want to dominate. On lower tiers players mostly suck, they are neither a technical nor physical lot; they’re all over the place.

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11 minutes ago, goalash said:

On lower tiers players mostly suck, they are neither a technical nor physical lot; they’re all over the place

Quality of players is relative to the league they play in. Have you ever gone through the Team comparison section of the Team report, to see where your team generally stands compared to the rest of the league in terms of different aspects of game (defense, midfield, attack, mental, technical, physical attributes)? 

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16 minutes ago, Experienced Defender said:

Quality of players is relative to the league they play in. Have you ever gone through the Team comparison section of the Team report, to see where your team generally stands compared to the rest of the league in terms of different aspects of game (defense, midfield, attack, mental, technical, physical attributes)? 

Let’s try something else: why don’t you just tell me how and where is the presented setup lacking tactical identity and what on-pitch problems is it causing?

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24 minutes ago, goalash said:

Let’s try something else: why don’t you just tell me how and where is the presented setup lacking tactical identity and what on-pitch problems is it causing?

I already told you that:

 

1 hour ago, Experienced Defender said:

you don't have a clear idea of what style of football your team should play (or is able to play). It's neither possession-based, nor counter-attacking, nor an aggressive and fast attacking style

Neither player roles nor team instructions suggest that you know what you want from your team in terms of playing style. What's the idea with focusing play down flanks? Why low crosses, and not some other? Why a WP, and why on attack duty? WP on attack duty can be a good idea for a counter-attacking style, but the rest of the tactic isn't quite counter-attacking. After all, why 442? I don't say 442 is wrong, just asking to learn what's your reason to select that particular system and not some other? Each formation has its strengths and weaknesses, and therefore requires certain type of players. In 442, the absence of a DM (position) means that your midfielders need relatively good tackling, positioning and at least some speed (acceleration), along with work rate, teamwork, stamina... Because they need to be able to perform both attacking and defensive duties in a competent manner.

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6 minutes ago, Experienced Defender said:

I already told you that:

 

Neither player roles nor team instructions suggest that you know what you want from your team in terms of playing style. What's the idea with focusing play down flanks? Why low crosses, and not some other? Why a WP, and why on attack duty? WP on attack duty can be a good idea for a counter-attacking style, but the rest of the tactic isn't quite counter-attacking. After all, why 442? I don't say 442 is wrong, just asking to learn what's your reason to select that particular system and not some other? Each formation has its strengths and weaknesses, and therefore requires certain type of players. In 442, the absence of a DM (position) means that your midfielders need relatively good tackling, positioning and at least some speed (acceleration), along with work rate, teamwork, stamina... Because they need to be able to perform both attacking and defensive duties in a competent manner.

Low crosses, as both strikers lack height, but are quite pacey. WP, because he’s the most creative player in the team and I want most of the play to go through him. The attack duty. because this way he moves to the AMC strata, where nominally I have no players. Down the flanks, because both MCs are there mostly to hold and tackle, they’re not the best in terms of going forward.

I’m sorry, but again you haven’t told me anything specific. You have just repeated that the proposed setup is neither a counter attacking one or a possession based one. OK, I do ackowledge that. My question is: so?

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Just now, goalash said:

Low crosses, as both strikers lack height, but are quite pacey

Well, then a counter-attacking style makes a lot of sense.

 

1 minute ago, goalash said:

WP, because he’s the most creative player in the team and I want most of the play to go through him. The attack duty. because this way he moves to the AMC strata, where nominally I have no players

Okay, makes sense, though you can also make up for the lack of AMC with an F9 or DLF on support. Or you can simply use a system that employs an AMC (like 4411).

 

3 minutes ago, goalash said:

Down the flanks, because both MCs are there mostly to hold and tackle, they’re not the best in terms of going forward.

You don't have to focus play down flanks because of that. The left flank already has a playmaker (WP), so the play will be naturally focused there. You need to know that the focus play down a flank increases the mentality of the fullback/wing-back on that flank (and down the middle does the same for CBs, DMs and defend-duty CMs). 

 

8 minutes ago, goalash said:

I’m sorry, but again you haven’t told me anything specific. You have just repeated that the proposed setup is neither a counter attacking one or a possession based one. OK, I do ackowledge that. My question is: so?

So... I can only give you a an example of how you may set up the tactic based on the info you've provided so far about your team. I would go with a counter-attacking style, which means tight and disciplined defense coupled with fast attacking transitions. In a 442, that may be something like this:

DLFat     AFat

 

WPat      CMsu     CMde     IWsu

 

WBde     CDde     NCBde     FBsu

SKde

Since I don't know your players, I would start with Balanced mentality before assessing whether I could go with Positive. Generally, team instructions need to provide compact defensive shape and allow for fast attacking transitions. An example:

- slightly more direct passing, higher tempo, (slightly) narrower att width, overlap left, hit early crosses, low (or mixed) crosses

- counter, regroup

- standard DL, lower LOE, get stuck in 

All 4 midfielders to mark tighter (player instructions). AF to stay wider. RM (IWsu) to get further forward. 

Now, you can ask me why this or that role or instruction... and whatever you may find confusing.

 

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1 hour ago, Experienced Defender said:

You don't have to focus play down flanks because of that. The left flank already has a playmaker (WP), so the play will be naturally focused there.

 

Great insight, thanks for that!

1 hour ago, Experienced Defender said:

Okay, makes sense, though you can also make up for the lack of AMC with an F9 or DLF on support. Or you can simply use a system that employs an AMC (like 4411).

I might, but I don’t have suitable players. This one, however, is perfect for that - regarding the tier, of course.

1 hour ago, Experienced Defender said:

                 DLFat     AFat

 

WPat      CMsu     CMde     IWsu

 

WBde     CDde     NCBde     FBsu

SKde

- slightly more direct passing, higher tempo, (slightly) narrower att width, overlap left, hit early crosses, low (or mixed) crosses

- counter, regroup

- standard DL, lower LOE, get stuck in 

All 4 midfielders to mark tighter (player instructions). AF to stay wider. RM (IWsu) to get further forward.

OK, why:

- DLF(a)

- IW(s)

- Wb(d)

- the tight marking?

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52 minutes ago, goalash said:

OK, why:

- DLF(a)

It's not just about DLF on attack, but about having both strikers on attack duty who are ready to attack space in attacking transitions, but in different ways. In a possession-based tactic, having both on attack duty wouldn't make sense. But in a counter-attacking 442, it makes perfect sense because the idea is to try and pass the ball quickly forward to exploit the space left by the opposition. So, depending on where the opposition attack is intercepted, the ball can be passed into space for the AF who can then run past defense and either try to score or assist to the DLF or any of teammates arriving in support. Or if the DLF gets the ball, he can play a killer pass for the AF or - if that's not an option at the moment - wait for support from the midfield. You said your strikers are fast, so they should be able to exploit at least some of those passes from deep when there is an opportunity for a quick counter-attack. Of course, it does not have to be a DLF/AF combo (I opted for that one because you already use AF). There are other good combos of two strikers on attack - DLFat/PO or PFat/PO, or even AF/PO (which Rashidi used with Stalybridge in a lower league). What would be the best combo depends - as always - on the type of your strikers. It can also be CFat/PO or TMat/AF or TMat/CFat (but I guess you don't have the right player for TM).

 

1 hour ago, goalash said:

- IW(s)

Because an IW is a more logical choice than a standard winger in this particular case. You have fast strikers, so passes into space are generally a better attacking weapon than crosses, and IW is in a good position to provide them (though he can also cross when needed). And he is on support because the other wide MF is on attack. It could be too risky to have attacking players on both flanks in a 442 with a team that is not so good overall.

 

1 hour ago, goalash said:

- Wb(d)

WBde is on the left flank where you have a WP on attack in front of him, so it's quite logical that he needs to be more defensive and stay back to protect the flank. But the Overlap left makes him a bit less "defensive" (by slightly increasing his mentality), so that he could offer some support in attack when needed (by being closer to midfield and to the WP as well).

 

1 hour ago, goalash said:

- the tight marking?

Tight marking as a player - not team - instruction, and only for the midfielders. Because it's a safer way of putting pressure on opposition when they build up their attacks than more urgent pressing. And given that the combo of lower LOE and standard DL makes your team reasonably compact, your players are closer to each other when defending, so they can support one another when trying to win the ball and launch a counter.

All these instructions, roles and duties need to be seen in the context of the whole tactic. In a different type of tactic (playing style), a number of them would be modified or even entirely removed/replaced by others.

I hope this was at least minimally helpful.

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This was helpful and thank you for the effort and going into such detail over this. I’m removing the passing focus instantly and going with a wing back on defend. Thanks!

Still, if there’s an WPatt on the left, surrounded with a CMdef to the right and a DCcov behind, wouldn’t that be enough of a cover for the flank? Even with the WB on support?

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37 minutes ago, goalash said:

Still, if there’s an WPatt on the left, surrounded with a CMdef to the right and a DCcov behind, wouldn’t that be enough of a cover for the flank? Even with the WB on support?

Always depends on what your players are capable of. Better teams can afford to play (a lot) more riskily than average and weak ones. If you feel your defensive-minded players in a certain area of the pitch are good enough to cover for the attacking teammates, you can try and see whether that's enough cover or not. If you notice you are too vulnerable, then use a more conservative role (FB instead of WB for example) or change the player's duty to a lower one (support to defend, or attack to support). If I knew your team (players), I would be able to give you a more specific suggestion.

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3 minutes ago, goalash said:

Would you say that it makes sense to use DC on the “cover” duty in such instances, like a full back going far forward, even without playing a high/higher d-line?

I personally use one CB on cover sometimes (but when I do, I don't use offside trap). Having the covering CB on the side of the more attacking fullback/wing-back can be a good idea, but don't rely solely on that.

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