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Is Football Manager A Game Of Opposites?


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Hello everyone

 

Ive played lots of versions of football manager and i would never class myself as a great tactician. However, i have managed at a lot of levels, and along the way noticed a lot of, what seem to be, trends.

 

And the trends i notice tend to be the opposite of what youd instinctively think to be true.

 

Im preparing myself to be laughed at here, but heres my thoughts

 

Heres some examples:

 

1) Say you want to build a team that focuses on counter attacking the opposition. In real life, you would assosciate this team with being primarily a defensive team. A team like Leicester for example in the title win were relying on maintaining a compact low block, absorbing pressure and exploiting the space left in the oppositions final third with direct balls for Vardy to run onto.

But i wouldnt be creating a team LIKE this on football manager, by emphasising a defensive set up and then altering the passing to direct and into space.

What id most likely be doing, is using team instructions to sit them deep, but using an ATTACKING team mentality, so the team looks for the direct pass and opportunities to break forward.

 

2) If it was the opposite, if i wanted a team that was going to dominate the ball, like a Barca of old or Man City, you would associate these teams with being attacking teams. But the key thing they do is keep possession for long spells and probe the opposition waiting to make good quality chances.

So again, in football manager terms, this team would be, broadly speaking, a DEFENSIVE team. Sure, you might have team instructions in there on certain players to take more risk, or to be more expressive. And im sure people can achieve high possession with attacking mentalities.

But primarily, ive seen a defensive mentality most effective in achieving this.

 

Next, when it comes to pressing:

 

3) I notice, particularly as the game is nearing the end, a team in real life would most likely be more careful with pressing. They wouldnt want to be opened up. PARTICULARLY if they are holding a lead.

And for a long time, i (what i thought logically) would do, is go to a more passive pressing style later in the game, and drop slightly deeper, drop the mentality down a notch to say, cautious, and look to grind out the win through being careful and pragmatic.

But get frustrated when the team wouldnt do this. And one thing i particularly noticed, was the amount of goals from long range shots that were going in.

Now, to hold onto a lead, i actually get on the front foot. Getting players to mark tighter, close down more, and get stuck in.

This approach seems far more suitable for holding onto a lead, even though youd think that it would be the opposite. (Or at least i would).

This approach also seems to work far better for weaker teams, carrying the game to the opposition.

 

4) Which leads me to point 4, which is that, as a big team, youd think relentlessly pressing the opposition and forcing mistakes out of them would be the best way to go about this. Ive seen Liverpool do this under Klopp and the same school of thought at Dortmund. I even saw very recently, a game between Leicester vs Atalanta, and the pressing intensity of Atalanta was absolutely unbelieveable for a friendly.

But.......

Ive seemed to notice a bad trend. To perform this style of pressing, you want to be high up the pitch, pressing from the front.

This seems to encourage a behaviour in the AI, where they will look to clear with balls over the top and long diagonals. Those balls, no matter WHAT level you manage at, seem to be super dangerous and lead to many goals, particularly if the striker is shooting from the edges  of the box (not so much from the middle of the goal).

So as a big team, or a team that wants to press high, i actually think youre contributing to your own downfall in giving the opposition a route to goal.

So in terms of points 3 and 4, i feel like you would broadly assume in real life, the weaker team would be the more passive presser, the stronger team playing more on the front foot pressing wise. I think in football manager, in my experience i see better results when this is reversed.

 

then, i have some other clear trends id like to discuss.

 

5) Taking penalties. Your "penalty" takers as defined by their penalty taking attribute never seem to be the most proficient players at taking penalties. The standout attribute that seems to make players bag, is COMPOSURE. so even if their ability to take penalties is low, they bag far more (for me) than guys who have high penalty taking numbers.

I often find, a good player to take a penalty, if not someone highly composed, is actually your goalkeeper. They always seem very proficient. Is there a pattern for this? possibly not. but it does seem a trend.

Likewise, if your player is slightly injured, with a bruised knee or something very minor, DO NOT let him take a penalty. He will always miss. Constantly. Seen it hundreds of times.

 

6) i call this phenomenon "The Red Room" amongst mates. let me explain.

"The Red Room" is saying the WRONG thing in a pre match team talk.

If you get a red dressing room, Youre almost certainly on the way to defeat.

But if you at this point, totally change your tactics, press like a mad man, and generally do everything you shouldnt do, you somehow "overcome" the red room that when left to your well thought out tactic, you would almost definitely lose.

 

Ill leave it at that for now, but theres 6 distinct examples where directly going AGAINST normal instinct seems to produce results within the game. (For me).

 

Would be interested in peoples opinions on these

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There is more than one way to skin a cat, as the saying goes (and if anyone knows the origin of that one, please let me know. 

18 minutes ago, FMunderachiever said:

1) Say you want to build a team that focuses on counter attacking the opposition. In real life, you would assosciate this team with being primarily a defensive team. A team like Leicester for example in the title win were relying on maintaining a compact low block, absorbing pressure and exploiting the space left in the oppositions final third with direct balls for Vardy to run onto.

But i wouldnt be creating a team LIKE this on football manager, by emphasising a defensive set up and then altering the passing to direct and into space.

 What id most likely be doing, is using team instructions to sit them deep, but using an ATTACKING team mentality, so the team looks for the direct pass and opportunities to break forward.

I use a counter version of my normal tactic (which is balanced and patient) that I use in away games where I cannot trust I will control the ball, and where I am being attacked. I use a cautious mentality. All I do to make it attacking is change a few roles and a few instructions. I change a DLF(S) to DLF(A) so he is always up front when we clear the ball. I play pacy players up front (I play with a AMR, STC and AML). I stop pressing so hard - no counter press, reduce the pressing settings for MC back. I change an attacking fullback to a defensive fullback for extra defensive stability. I remove play from defence (but still distribute the ball to centre backs). I Have more direct passing and faster tempo. This is often extremely deadly and can get some devastating away wins.

The point here is that the method you describe and the one I describe do the same things from opposite directions. Attacking mentalities are direct and fast, and you would add elements to shore them up defensively. Cautious mentalities are slower and solid, and I add things to speed them up. My method is the one you describe from real life. So it is entirely possible.

23 minutes ago, FMunderachiever said:

So again, in football manager terms, this team would be, broadly speaking, a DEFENSIVE team. Sure, you might have team instructions in there on certain players to take more risk, or to be more expressive. And im sure people can achieve high possession with attacking mentalities.

Depends what you are using possession for. If you want to create high possession and passing numbers, low mentalities are great. Slow and low risk. Anyway possession is a defensive tool. TIki Taka is primarily designed to defend with the ball. The opposition cannot score when you possess the ball, so you try to possess it for as long as possible. In that respect making a defensive tactic makes sense. Where Guardiola separates himself from other people who use this tactic is the ability to get pressing from his players, and very good use of space. You cannot really replicate this in FM at the moment, so I will not pretend you can. 

25 minutes ago, FMunderachiever said:

3) I notice, particularly as the game is nearing the end, a team in real life would most likely be more careful with pressing. They wouldnt want to be opened up. PARTICULARLY if they are holding a lead.

And for a long time, i (what i thought logically) would do, is go to a more passive pressing style later in the game, and drop slightly deeper, drop the mentality down a notch to say, cautious, and look to grind out the win through being careful and pragmatic.

But get frustrated when the team wouldnt do this. And one thing i particularly noticed, was the amount of goals from long range shots that were going in.

Now, to hold onto a lead, i actually get on the front foot. Getting players to mark tighter, close down more, and get stuck in.

This approach seems far more suitable for holding onto a lead, even though youd think that it would be the opposite. (Or at least i would).

This approach also seems to work far better for weaker teams, carrying the game to the opposition

I'm not sure what you are doing, but something is off here. The defensive tactics you describe mostly aim to force the opposition to have long shots. The vast majority of the time they will not go in. Sometimes they will. I think if you see lots of long shots going in, you are not packing the defensive lines very well, and players have too much space and time. I frequently stop pressing to preserve leads or against good sides (see the counter attack part). You then just have to manage space, and to make sure you have a proper outlet. Parking the bus without an outlet up front is inviting relentless pressure, and usually is a last resort.

 

28 minutes ago, FMunderachiever said:

4) Which leads me to point 4, which is that, as a big team, youd think relentlessly pressing the opposition and forcing mistakes out of them would be the best way to go about this. Ive seen Liverpool do this under Klopp and the same school of thought at Dortmund. I even saw very recently, a game between Leicester vs Atalanta, and the pressing intensity of Atalanta was absolutely unbelieveable for a friendly.

But.......

Ive seemed to notice a bad trend. To perform this style of pressing, you want to be high up the pitch, pressing from the front.

This seems to encourage a behaviour in the AI, where they will look to clear with balls over the top and long diagonals. Those balls, no matter WHAT level you manage at, seem to be super dangerous and lead to many goals, particularly if the striker is shooting from the edges  of the box (not so much from the middle of the goal).

So as a big team, or a team that wants to press high, i actually think youre contributing to your own downfall in giving the opposition a route to goal.

So in terms of points 3 and 4, i feel like you would broadly assume in real life, the weaker team would be the more passive presser, the stronger team playing more on the front foot pressing wise. I think in football manager, in my experience i see better results when this is reversed.

A high press is a high risk for this reason. You are taking the risk of pushing your team out of shape, and if it does not work you can get caught over the top. The best way to beat a press is either a ball over the top, or have some players between the midfield and defensive lines out wide as an outlet to get the ball beyond 3-5 players in a single pass. You can deal with this by playing an offside trap, having fast defenders (or defenders with good anticipation). Having a midfield screen to help out in defence. Or a sweeper keeper to rush out and cut those balls over the top. High pressing is very successful on this game.

 

30 minutes ago, FMunderachiever said:

5) Taking penalties. Your "penalty" takers as defined by their penalty taking attribute never seem to be the most proficient players at taking penalties. The standout attribute that seems to make players bag, is COMPOSURE. so even if their ability to take penalties is low, they bag far more (for me) than guys who have high penalty taking numbers.

I often find, a good player to take a penalty, if not someone highly composed, is actually your goalkeeper. They always seem very proficient. Is there a pattern for this? possibly not. but it does seem a trend.

Likewise, if your player is slightly injured, with a bruised knee or something very minor, DO NOT let him take a penalty. He will always miss. Constantly. Seen it hundreds of times.

It makes sense that penalty takers need good composure. They are high pressure moments, and composure is how well they handle it. You want a balance between penalty taking and composure for a taker. The second part sounds like confirmation bias. Without actual numbers it is impossible to comment, but I am unconvinced. 

 

32 minutes ago, FMunderachiever said:

6) i call this phenomenon "The Red Room" amongst mates. let me explain.

"The Red Room" is saying the WRONG thing in a pre match team talk.

If you get a red dressing room, Youre almost certainly on the way to defeat.

But if you at this point, totally change your tactics, press like a mad man, and generally do everything you shouldnt do, you somehow "overcome" the red room that when left to your well thought out tactic, you would almost definitely lose.

I cannot imagine how you could get a team talk so wrong you get a red room. Team talks are so easy to handle. I do not see what changing your entire tactic has to do with this. 

Honestly, nothing is terribly counter intuitive in FM. The ideas we use are quite simple. Knowing how to apply them in game is much more complicated though.

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On 16/08/2019 at 21:53, sporadicsmiles said:

The point here is that the method you describe and the one I describe do the same things from opposite directions. Attacking mentalities are direct and fast, and you would add elements to shore them up defensively. Cautious mentalities are slower and solid, and I add things to speed them up. My method is the one you describe from real life. So it is entirely possible.

Personally, I think the Team Mentalities' descriptions can be quite deceptive (still, despite this year's changes). For someone new at the game, managing an underdog for example, it would be very easy to think that the Counter or Defensive mentalities are the only way to go. Positive's and Attacking's descriptions clearly suggest that they are better suited for sides expected to dominate, so naturally they wouldn't be the first choice.

I look at like this:

Formation = defensive positioning

If your main concern is being defensively solid, start with your formation first. Clearly picking a 4-2-3-1 with 4 players in advanced positions, would make no sense, even if you were to use a Very Defensive mentality. In that case you would be asking your team to take no risks at all, but attacking midfielder is still an attacking midfielder. If you expect to spend majority of the time behind the ball, a bottom-heavy formation (4-1-4-1, 4-4-2) should be a safer choice.

Duties = offensive positioning

Attack duties are early runners, players you expect to run into space as soon as your team gets the ball. Defend duties will stay behind in the defensive line or act as pivots in midfield, recycling possession. Support duties are a bit of both, usually carrying the ball from defence to attack.

Specific roles and instructions then tailor players' behaviours further.

Team Mentality = team's outlook/intentions

Lower the mentality, more cautious the play. In my opinion, if you want to build a counter-attacking system, you should be thinking about positive mentalities. Surely you would tell your team to look to hit the opposition immediately, before they get a chance to return to their defensive positions, rather than telling them to be cautious with the ball? If I'm trying to play on the counter, I want my players to only have one thing in their minds, once we win the ball—look to transition into attack immediately. No pussyfooting around and looking for safe passes, which would be the better choice if we were looking to dominate possession and break the opponent down slowly, move the ball immediately and decisively. Sure, the worse my team, the more balls will go to waste, but how else are we expected to score, if we're already behind the ball for most of the time? All that space behind the opposition is going to waste, if we're not exploiting it.

I'm not sure the Cautious + Direct Passes and Higher Tempo would produce the same results as Positive or Attacking, when it comes to a counter-attacking system. Essentially you're still asking your team to take little risks, but while looking for longer passes.

Personally, I prefer using lower mentalities to close the game down safely, once we've already scored, or against much better teams (e.g. teams a few divisions higher than us), where I'm only looking to not concede too many and destroy the morale.

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OP I feel your pain....I like these trend type threads i think they are observable in real life as well except the gk one.

The gk never missing a pk is gold, I never realized that. I've never seen a miss from a gk!

Most of the other points I always thought was Bc my players cannot execute the style I'm asking them to perform. Real life managers seem to be dealing with similar issues so I still think the game is a v good simulation of modern football. Even the current Barcelona team seems all over the place with opposite and contradiction galore...perhaps Liverpool is one example of a team built strictly for a particular winning strategy where the players are so selflessly executing in most games.

1 eg of using opposites to win is zidane in one of real Madrids cl victory runs frequently made attacking subs and aggressive formation changes when ahead in the tie. I think it is Bc he had 0 confidence in Ramos and varane carvajal and Marcelo working together to defend solidly...it just isn't in their nature. Their nature is to defend with aggression with an attacking frame of mind...(but a defensive block with Maldini costacurta, Nesta etc can or even, have to Bc it is their nature to gracefully deflect every attack with impeccable concentration for 90+minutes). He played to his players strengths even though we are programmed to think a lead is supposed to be defended with 100% defence. Marcelo and carvajal continuously bombing forward kept most sides on the back foot. So too in fm19 it clearly works.

Anyway there's a million contradictions in the real life game as well.

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