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Defensive football, is it even playable in FM20?

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3 minutes ago, Bluebird123 said:

There's your problem again, taking the mentality names at face value rather than understanding what it actually does, I'd argue it's a problem SI need to clear up in future versions but you've been told a few times now what it actually does and you still ignore it. 


About your part in bold, this is exactly what the positive mentality does, players will take more risks in their passes and your transitions are quicker, nothing about Mourinho's Real side would be on the cautious mentality, I'd even argue for that specific team they would be on the attacking mentality with two DMs and much lower LOE/DL, seriously, watch some goals from that side and their transitions were rapid, you will struggle to achieve that on cautious/defensive. 

Also my title winning tactic used regroup, but I'm sure you'll find another way to shift the goalposts and why it's not a true replication of Mourinho or whatever


:applause:Well said sir

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I rarely post here, but I have recently bought FM20 after a year off, and started a save with exciting Cagliari in Serie A, for a couple of reasons. They want to sign young players, play defensive football and they want to recruit locally and Uruguayans. First, I wanted to replicate Uruguay in World Cup 2018, but ended up with a similar system to Diego Simeones Atletico Madrid. I will break my four year save down for you, maybe to gain some inspiration to do something similar.

I took over after the 19/20-season, where Cagliari ended fifth and qualified for the Euro Cup. It was a tough gig, with. high expectations and some league rules that tied my hands behind my back. For example, the board wants me to sign Uruguayans, but only one non EU player is able to be registered each season. That resulted in some grumpy board members. However...

Season 20/21 (1st season): I sold some players, and brought in Uruguayan Manuel Ugarte, goalkeeper Esteban Andrada, young striker Sebastian Esposito and young centre back Christian Romero. Due to registration in Juventus, Romero could play right away despite the league limitations. I implemented a 4-4-2 system, that was about sitting back and countering. But it was more a transition period. We practiced hard: defensive positioning, direct play and set pieces. It was a disappointing season; finishing 13th in the league. We had a young squad, but we had a long way to go. It was not a short term project though.

Season 21/22 (2nd season): Some depth players was brought in, as well as Barcelona reject, right wingback Emerson. I got the amazing opportunity to buy Sandro Tonali before his contract ran out. We were still young, and transitioned from a squad that didn't bring what I needed to the table, to something more in my taste. We started off strong, but a bad trend in the second half had us end up 11th. Another season below expectations. Thanks to some smooth talk, I got a new deal and some more time to build the club anyway. 

Season 22/23 (3rd season): Transfers in were Andrea Pinamonti from a relegated Genoa, Roberto Gagliardini to anchor my midfield and Ludovit Reis on loan from Barcelona. Diego Godin was signed by Christmas on a free transfer to give my young defensemen some leadership. We finished 4th, and for the first time only conceded less goals than matches played. We qualified for the Champions League, and the defensive structure was finally starting to show off.

Season 23/24 (4th season): Luca Pellegrini was permanently bought from Juventus, and Manuel Locatelli was added from Lazio. Other signings were prospects for the future, some regular U21-national team players etc. Currently holding 1st spot in Serie A, eleven games in to the season, with a goal difference of 22-2. We beat Juventus away 2-0, played 0-0 against Milan and easily shut down middle- and bottom teams. That by still being a small little club from an island. I don't think we'll hold our spot for the entire season, but we want to disturb the giants and give everyone a match! We are predicted to finish 8th...


So, what have I done?

- Spent a ton of money on upgrading facilities and signing great staff. We have the best personell in Serie A, both coaches and scouts. Personality is important: the have to be professional and determined. Steven Gerrard, Sami Hyppia and Ivan Cordoba are some coaches I've brought in during my time.

- Team cohesion has been a priority. I don't want to see players leave for newcomers all the time. I knew that to build a structured team that work hard for each other, I needed players with team spirit and continuity. I had a vision to create a strong partnership in the back, like Godin and Gimenez. Actually, I want to own the middle of the pitch.

- I practice a lot of Cagliari DNA-sessions. Defensive positioning, direct counters and set pieces. But also to play out from the back etc. I want the players to know exactly how to play with and without the ball.

- Two tactics: one when I'm the favourite, and one when I am the underdog.

- Huge focus on some specific things when I recruit or resign players. They need to be hard working, athletic and brave. I look at technical attributes as well, but a player with low work rate, bravery, teamwork, aggression or koncentration are not considered.


The  Starting XI

The most physically strong squad in the Serie A. Highest pace, strongest in the air, and best vision. Best stamina and balance. Best decisions as well, and yeah: even positioning, marking and tackling are #1 in the league. Not super technical, but we are among the top teams in those categories as well... I play centre mids on the wings, and I am strongly influenced by Diego Simeone.


SKd - Esteban Andrada - 32 years old, was bought from Boca Juniors. Tall, aggressive and quite allround. Recently been promoted to be the starting gk in Argentina. He plays out from the back when I want him to, but mostly kick long.


FBa - Emerson - 24 years old, this guy is a gem. Physical and mentally strong, he attacks down the wing all game long. All the big teams want him, and I am really happy I decided to sign him instead of Khellven. Been one of my best players for three years now.

BPDd - Christian Romero - 25 years old, was brought in from Juventus in my first season. He is developing for each year, and is now a beast. Recently gotten some interest from top clubs.

CDd - Filippo Romagna - 26 years old. Yeah he's still there. Not amazing, but he is getting better and better. His positioning is good. A no nonsense centre back with 150+ matches for the club.

FBa - Luca Pelegrini - 24 years old. Similar to Emerson, he's running and running, and he's super aggressive. Made his national team debut recently. Another Juventus product, been on loan for years but was finally bought. 


WPMs - Manuel Locatelli - 25 years old, bought from Lazio when cry baby Nikola Moro only complained about stuff all the time. Locatelli is a defensive centre mid with good character and good passing ability. He attacks the centre and give space to Emerson to run into. Locatelli is not only a good playmaker, he's also a pain in the ass without the ball.

B2Bs - Sandro Tonali - 23 years old, probably one of the best CMs in the world right now. Fantastic mental attributes, and a great playmaking allround midfielder. Can't believe I got him. I have him signed until 2028, without a release clause, which is amazing.

CMd - Roberto Gagliardini - 29 years old, tackling and sweeping up in the middle. Hard working and physical, and some national caps under his belt. Bought from Inter.

IWs - Manuel Ugarte - 22 years old, and like Emerson a real gem. I am an Ice Hockey guy, working as a full time coach in that sport, so I don't know of a lot of football players. I got this guy for basically nothing when he was 18, and he's a stud.  He is loyal, and one of my absolute favourites. Recently became a starter on the Uruguayan national team as well.


DLFs - Giovanni Simeone - 28 years old. Diegos son. Hard working, pretty allround but nothing special really. I just like him. He's been great earlier, but not been good enough this year so far.

PFs - Andrea Pinamonti - 24 years old. Not very aggressive, to be honest, but he's working hard and is physical enough. Pinamonti switch position with Simeone constantly during the match, and is playing really well at the moment.


Alternatives are wonderkid Sebastiano Esposito and Nahitan Nandez (who is the perfect mould of a Cagliari player. His mental are out of this world for a team of this size).


If we are expected to win, Simeone and Pinamonti are on attacking duty instead. But as you can see: a lot of support roles. I want the team to be a unit!



One very important note here: I scout the opposition, and I tweak. A lot. Prior to matches, during matches, counter weaknesses and make sure to eliminate the oppositions strengths.  Just like Simeone probably would have done. If I have the lead, I hold on to that lead.

Here are the regular, starting tactic when I'm expected to be the underdog.

Mentality: Positive (I want to attack quickly)

With the ball: More direct passes, Extremely high tempo, Fairly narrow, Waste time (sometimes), Pass into space, Play for set pieces.

Transitions: Counter Press, Counters, Quick distribution behind opposition back line (We regroup if we want to defend our lead or if the counter press is not working, for example)

Without the ball: Lower Line of engagement + Standard defensive line (we play pretty low anyway, in my opinion), Tighter marking, More urgent pressing

If we are expected to win, we play from the back, Andrada is playing my centre back, the line of engagement is higher, as is the defensive line (but only slightly). 

It's pretty sweet to finally see everything paying off. Against weaker opponents, we play fantastic football, with pace, quick passes and great pressing. Against stronger opponents, we sit back, let them have the ball in the back and set up pressing traps on the wings. We might sit back, but when they are getting closer, we hound after them, pushing the play backwards or to the flanks where we can go harder and try to win the ball or force crosses. 


49% possession (can be as low as 30-40% against some teams). I don't care f they have the ball. I now know we can handle the situation...
83% pass accuracy (can be as low as 70% against teams like Juventus). It's what we do with the ball that matters...
Most won headers in Serie A
Only 16 yellow cards in 11 games (17th in the league)
17 consecutive games without a loss as of now
22 goals in 11 games, 2 goals against (two corners... 1x Roma, 1x Sassuolo)
7 goals scored on set pieces
25% succeeded crosses (1st in the league)
117 successful crosses (1st in the league) - yeah, we focus a ton of our attacks down the flanks where Emerson and Pellegrini exploit space)
28 created chances in 11 games (5th in the league)
98 shots on goal (3rd in the league)
14 dribbles per match (15th in the league) - quit that nonsense!
230 won tackles (17th in the league), but 88% of them won (2nd in the league) - we don't lunge, we pick our moments


Summary: Practice hard on the things you want to succeed with, make some attributes necessary for defensive football a priority and focus on team cohesion and have patience. I may not win in a year or two, but I'm building an identity. It takes time. I have never succeeded short term with a defensive system...

I got some inspiration from Youtube and this forum. I suppose some of it is 'stolen', the player roles was from a guide I think. I've tweaked it to suit my players and the system though, and I always make changes depending on situations, how the match is going and who I'm playing.


Edit: I forgot to say that I try to communicate with my players as often as possible. I give them credit when they have been working hard in practice, and I give them dirt when they have been slacking. The more communication, the better. I have several players that have me as favourite person.

Edit 2: Sorry for wall of text, but yes, my opinion is that its possible to play defensive football. It takes a lot of time and patience though!

Edited by Experienced Defender
use of inappropriate words (and too many times at that)
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11 hours ago, crusadertsar said:

:applause:Well said sir

thanks mate. It's frustrating this has to be said over and over, it feels as if the OP doesn't want help, he wants to argue. This thread is a complete waste of time until the OP provides proof of him taking the information provided in this thread and applying it to a team then reporting back what he's found. Rather than arguing about the mentality and whether or not Mouirnho would use play out of defence :lol:

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29 minutes ago, Bluebird123 said:

thanks mate. It's frustrating this has to be said over and over, it feels as if the OP doesn't want help, he wants to argue. This thread is a complete waste of time until the OP provides proof of him taking the information provided in this thread and applying it to a team then reporting back what he's found. Rather than arguing about the mentality and whether or not Mouirnho would use play out of defence :lol:

I for one found this useful just because of seeing your set up with Napoli. It inspired me to make a few alterations to my own counter-attacking Spurs inspired tactic :)

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14 hours ago, MrGlenn1337 said:


You're gonna prove me wrong by playing Benfica of all teams?  The only team that's a threat to you are Porto, and from what I've seen they tend to finish second or third most of the time.

So he's won the Europa League, an international competition, and you're knocking him for using a team that doesn't have competition domestically? I'd argue that makes the win even better since the other teams in the competition most likely have better players. Also the irony is palpable that you're saying he can't he use a team that's expected to dominate the league then go on to talk about Mourinho's Real Madrid. I'm convinced this post is just a wind up :lol:

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15 hours ago, MrGlenn1337 said:

And you play "positive" when you said you would play like Mourinho. Talk about contradicting yourself

Team mentality and style of play are not the same thing. You can play defensive football even on the most attacking team mentality. The opposite is considerably more difficult to do though, but still not impossible.

What matters a lot more than the mentality is how you set up the defensive line and LOE along with roles and duties of course. The mentality is of secondary importance in this particular regard, although it does have an important role in any tactic due to its automatic impact on all other instructions. 

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While this has developed into a very useful tactical discussion, I am unfortunately forced to lock the thread, simply because the OP obviously started the topic not with an intention to learn something that could help him create a successful tactic but rather for the sake of argument and attempting to prove his (pointless) point at all costs. Basically along the lines of what @Bluebird123 correctly noted: 

4 hours ago, Bluebird123 said:

it feels as if the OP doesn't want help, he wants to argue

As a mod, I just want to thank all who have taken part in this discussion in a constructive manner and to apologize to them for locking the thread, but I am sure you can understand why I had to make such a tough decision at this point :kriss:


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