Jump to content

The Anxious Gamer - A Liverpool Story


Recommended Posts

How We Got Here

I've had a strange relationship with FM down the years. As anyone who has read my earlier threads will know, I have played the series since the very first Championship Manager back in 1992 and yet, save for the occasional burst of excitement, have consistently failed to achieve any real success.

Not through poor play. Well, not as such. In fact, despite the hours I have spent in-game, it is more down to no play. Instead I fell into a trap of perfectionism where I would constantly strive to achieve an undefinable, unachievable goal. It was never enough to win. I had to win well, I had to play well, I had to score the most, Steven Gerrard would have to get the best ratings, Robbie Fowler would have to get the most goals, Nii Lamptey would have to have stamina above 10, and on and on it went.

Finally with FM14, I hit the jackpot. Stepping away from Liverpool, I embarked on one of my greatest FM saves, taking Sutton United from the Conference South all the way to the Premier League. It was immense and taught me more about FM than any other save.

I had no plans to pick up another version but then, having skipped 15 and 16, I went back in with 17. I thought I could carry my FM14 lessons over but alas, my attempts to start a Liverpool save ended, as they so often did, in failure. Attempts to recreate my Sutton experience proved somewhat more fruitful as I took Eastbourne up a division but I soon found myself anxious over the thought of squad building and, almost inevitably, rage quit.

For FM18, all my worst traits came to the fore. I chopped and changed between Liverpool and Eastbourne save games. Funnily enough, I did actually win the league with Liverpool before going on a mighty unbeaten run but I eventually tired of my style of play and so started again. And so began a lockdown full of FM restarts. Over and over and over and over...

I though about buying FM19 but couldn't face learning anything new, another of my inherent gaming fears. FM20 was similarly off the table. I was doomed to FM18 perfectionist restart territory forever more...

A Gift From the Gaming Gods

And then, out of the blue, I was lucky enough to be given a Steam code for FM20. It took me a couple of days to even risk booting it up, and then only after spending hours trawling through various sites for the best logos and kits. Even here, my anxiety came to the fore; is this the right kit design? Are these logos right? Have I got all the right player names.

Eventually I began my save but again, an anxiety persisted. I was Liverpool. I had to get it right. But more than that, for the first time in my FM life, real life Liverpool had already won the league. I was behind the curve. If I didn't win the league in the first season, I was already worse than real life. I would have failed. I would therefore be a failure.That would mean an immediate restart.

After a tense first season though, we did it. We were champions, by just 3 points. We added the Super Cup and Club World Cup too, ensuring parity with Klopp. We had done it. I had done it.

And then something strange happened; we did it again. Only this time we walked the league, hitting 104 points and going unbeaten in the league. With 116 scored and just 14 conceded, our goal difference of 102 was more than any other team even scored.

Further league success followed in 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026, together with a slew of FA Cups, League Cups and Champions Leagues, the 2023 season seeing us once again undefeated, this time racking up 106 points from 34 wins and 4 draws.

I started to dream and set myself higher targets; winning all trophies in a season; going undefeated in all comps; winning every game.

2024 and 2025 by contrast though saw our form dip sharply as, for the first time, I was forced to reshape the first team. We lost 4 and 5 times respectively, at one point falling 10 points behind the leaders, only to roar back and win. Had the magic worn off?

20201018202301_1.thumb.jpg.f9dfc782c135ca1c750af159a08ace5a.jpg

Hammer Time

Finding myself, for the second season running, 10 points off the lead, I decided to go big and signed Kyllian Mbappe to join in January 2025. Whilst I struggled to find his best role in that half season, his 15 goals in 23 games helped us win the league again.

Keen to get the best out of him though, as well as fellow defence-spanker Erling Haaland, I decided it was time to be bold. My Klopp-inspired 433 formation had served me well but now that a number of the current real world team had moved on, I felt free to try something of my own.

Given that I had two of the best strikers on the game, I thought I would try for two up top. A bog standard 442 was ruled out based on previous experience. Looking at the rest of my team, Curtis Jones could work well as an inverted winger from the left with Harvey Elliott well placed to perform a similar role from the right. Jude Bellingham's versatility allows him to be played pretty much anywhere so I paired him as a box to box midfielder with a supporting playmaker. With Alexander-Arnold in the squad, wing backs are a must and so a 424 was looking like a possibility.

20201018202740_1.thumb.jpg.007dc0770995482482f82903500ca88e.jpg

Still though, this was a big change, especially for me. Usually at this point a fear of failure would kick in, preventing me from even trying anything different. I discussed it with my brother, himself a life-long FM fanatic, although somewhat more relaxed in his approach than I. He cautioned me against it, rightly pointing out that if it failed, I would rage quit with serious regret.

Taking inspiration from @GR3NDALand his exploits in the Liverpool team thread, I decided to go for it. Not the best timing perhaps as the season started with the revamped Club World Cup but a record 14-0 thumping of world renowned Highlands Park gave me confidence. Subsequently being eliminated 1-0 by Real Madrid was decidedly less impressive but I had seen enough to warrant continuing.

The league season soon provided vindication as I bashed up Man United 3-6 on their own patch. But reality bit as I stumbled in winnable games, first at Villa, then Leeds as we ultimately lost 5 games that season.

The thing is though, it was bloody brilliant. Aside from the League Cup, and the aforementioned Club World Cup, we swept the board, winning the League, FA Cup and Champions League. We scored a mighty 124 league goals, Haaland helping himself to 39 on the way to a frankly ridiculous 56 in all competitions.20201018202939_1.thumb.jpg.64ea15e8c8b1866a7cabb33ebbca17fa.jpg

Sure, there had been bumps along the way. I was never convinced about us defensively, although to be fair that may be down to an ageing Alisson and Van Dijk as much as anything. But despite my doubts, we were once again a winning machine. And more to the point, it was my machine. This was no longer Klopp's team or Klopp's tactic. Sure, I kept his Gegenpressing ethos but everything else was mine.

Chasing That Perch

So what did I do next season? Reverted back to 433 of course! Until I found myself 0-1 down at home to Arsenal and struggling for chances, a half time switch to 424 seeing us run out 3-1 winners. Still I tinkered, trying a 4132, before ultimately coming to the conclusion that, despite some kinks to iron out, 424 was delivering the goods.

And that is where I think I will stay, tactically. At least for now. Tweaks continue as I play around with some roles and duties but the basic shape seems to work and creates some really fun football.

Attention then turns to some of my other common anxieties, such as squad building, replacing ageing players and having the confidence to buy and sell. But we'll get to that next time.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Talking Tactics

Before we get into too much detail about season specifics, it's worth looping all they way back to the beginning to discuss that perennial bugbear; tactics

A lot of my issues with FM have stemmed from an intangible need to define my tactical style. What did I stand for? What was my philosophy? I struggled to place myself, instead just mindlessly flitting between a Rafa inspired 4231 and a plain as vanilla 442.

With the arrival of Jurgen Klopp, a new option was introduced to haunt me as he favoured a 433 and had clearly built a team around it. I never wanted to use it though, in part because of stubbornness and in part because I still had this obsession of 'where would (the long since departed) Steven Gerrard play?'

For FM18, I finally managed to shift to a 433, going so far as winning the league. But it still felt wrong and so my restart cycle became a laughable switchfest between 433 and 442, and then of course the age old debate around whether to go with Fluid or Balanced or AARRGH!

I knew coming in to FM20 that I would play 433. I had a title winning team and I had to put my players in the best positions to maximise their performance. What I hadn't appreciated was how user friendly and simple the new tactics screen was. Having been an avid reader of the forums, I had seen discussions around line of engagement, transitions and other terms I only vaguely understood and felt overwhelmed. Could I learn this? Did I really have the mental space for it.

To my surprise then, it was simple. Aside from a brief pause for crippling doubt around whether I should gegenpress or vertically tiki taka, the game effectively built my system for me, allowing me to focus on picking players and their roles, rather than having to micro manage every detail. Plus, using a pre-defined tactical style allowed me the chance to do things I would never have chosen to do independently. Gegenpressing came loaded with maximum pressing and tempo, which I would never have been brave enough to do. My tactics by contrast were inherently safer, no doubt a further manifestation of my fear of failure.

My 433 (or 4141) would last me over 6 season before I even contemplated a change of shape, and we'll get into the specifics of how it worked in due course. Even still, I tried tweaking, convinced that switching either to or from a complete to a standard wing back could make or break my system whilst adjustments and reversions to tempo and pressing came and went.

Ultimately I concluded that the game knew more about some of these settings than I did. I didn't know enough to second guess team settings so why not leave them as they are. Instead, I would focus my efforts on shape, roles and duties.

Ch, ch, changes

When change did come, gegenpress was imbedded in my tactical make up. I can't pretend that I identify with it particularly. I wouldn't say it defined my footballing philosophy. But, perhaps more importantly, I simply stopped caring. I liked it and it worked, and that was enough.

Despite this being my most successful ever save (honestly, I will go into that at some point), I wasn't satisfied. And more to the point, my team had started to change (more on that in the next instalment). Fundamentally, I had two of the world's best centre forwards and wanted to get the best out of them.

The switch to 424 was a bold one for me but it paid immediate dividends (more on that...oh, forget it). My strikers were on fire, my wide midfielders were contributing both goals and assists and the general style of football was great.

Still, I had reservations. If I'm playing 424, why not just 442? Should both my strikers really be on attack? Should they have the same role? Do I need a holding midfielder? Should my full backs be more attacking?

Theory aside, from watching games, I became concerned that I had no midfield cover for the defence, the lack of a DM leaving us exposed. We started to concede more goals and I struggled to reconcile if it was due to system or ageing personnel.

Again, despite success, I looked to change. I switched back to my 4141. It felt right, it looked right. But results went downhill.

I moved to a 352, something I have always had a fascination with. I began to think that perhaps my philosophy, my thing, could be that I do not have a fixed tactic but rather reinvent myself every few years. But again, results weren't there.

Ultimately then, I switched back to 424. I still wrestle with some doubts around roles. Jude Bellingham would surely suit a Mezalla rather than the box-to-box role I have shoehorned him in to. My world class DM is now confined to the bench. But against my better judgement, the thing just works.

I tried watching some games back to understand why. Looking at the 4141 again, I could see how my striker would often be in the box by himself, the wide attackers staying too wide to be a regular threat. 424 by contrast packed the box and the use of inverted wingers and overlapping fullbacks ensured both a wide threat as well as a presence in the middle of the park.

Perhaps the main thing I like about it though is that its mine. I played 4141 because it suited the team I inherited. I used to play 4231 because I respected Rafa. I used to try and make a 442 work because I grew up watching football in the 1980s. But none of them were mine, developed from my own experiences and observations.

I don't rule out further change but for now, I'm settled.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Changing of the Seasons

I have mentioned it before but it is worth repeating; starting as Liverpool, with the real life season now completed, brought a pressure to perform. In my mind,  I simply had to at least match what Klopp had achieved, or else I would have failed. That meant winning the league, Club World Cup and Super Cup, with anything else a bonus. As much as I may have pretended otherwise to myself, I knew full well that failure to achieve any of those goals would result in rage quit and, potentially, entering a new spiral of restarting.

After working through the tactical anxieties noted above, I plumped for a 4141 Gegenpress, effectively modelling my game on our real world team. My first piece of business was a goalie though. With Alisson injured, and given Adrian's horrendous real-world form, I went into the loan market, picking up some fella called Gatito Fernandez on loan from Botafogo. Our only other signing in the first season was to bring in Kostas Tsimikas, again mirroring Klopp and giving some much needed cover at left back.

After a comfortable if unspectacular pre-season, Season 1 did not get off to the most auspicious of starts, losing the Community Shield 2-3 to Man City. Still, it's just a glorified friendly. More importantly, our league campaign started brightly, an opening day 3-0 win over Bournemouth the first of 6 straight wins. We also picked up the Super Cup, ticking one item off my to-do list.

Overall, our form was good but punctuated by disappointing reversals. After losing to RB Leipzig in the Champions League, we lost our first league game to Everton in a 0-2 collapse. Despite a couple of wobbles in Europe though, this would be our only league defeat until May when we went down to title chasing Chelsea and then Arsenal. So 3 league defeats across the season, which isn't too bad. Unfortunately though, our 9 draws meant that the title fight would go to the final game, with us being crowned champions with a 3 point advantage following victory over Norwich. In between, we won the Club World Cup and the League Cup but were denied in both the FA Cup and Champions League finals.

A steady campaign then, and my minimum targets achieved. And that meant that, unbelievably, this would be my first save in CM/FM history where I had completed the first season without restarting. Bizarrely, our star performer was Divock Origi, who contributed a very handy 27 goals across all competitions. Mo Salah meanwhile spent most of the season injured, managing just 8 league goals, the same as Sadio Mane.

With Roberto Firmino also struggling, not least because of my insistence on playing a Pressing Forward role, I knew that changes were required going into Season 2. And so in came goal machine Erling Haaland for a bargain £65m and who went on to plunder 30 league goals as we comfortably retained our title. More than that though, we went unbeaten, dropping points in only 5 draws and racking up 104 points. It was ridiculous. I felt like I had broken the game, our 116 goals scored and 14 conceded giving a goal difference of 102. We couldn't quite manage to avoid defeat in all competitions, the League and FA Cups going by the wayside, but we did manage to add the Champions League before falling to defeat in the bizarrely scheduled Club World Cup.

Riding high on a wave of victories, I fully expected to canter to the title in Season 3. Having added Milinkovic-Savic and Jude Bellingham to our ranks, as well as a handful of other squad players, we had a strong team. Sadly though, Barcelona came calling for Sadio Mane and at his age, I decided £138m was too good to turn down. This allowed me funds to purchase Leon Bailey and Houssem Aouar but something was amiss. Whilst we won the Community Shield and Super Cup again, we lost 3 of our first 6 league games, including a 0-5 thumping at Man City as we fell 10 points behind the leaders. Our form did eventually stabilise and our 90 point haul was enough to secure another title but the warning shots had been fired. The loss of Sadio Mane had hit us harder than expected, compounded by the fact that I thought Leon Bailey was right footed and would be a direct replacement, only to discover that he was left footed. Houssem Aouar failed to deliver as well and again, I felt at fault. As a playmaker, he didn't neatly fit into my team and despite being a high earner, regularly found himself shunted into other roles or dropped entirely.

On to Season 4 then and for some reason, Ismaila Sarr was made available for free by Watford so I added him and Gabriel Jesus, as well as grabbing Alphonso Davies. To balance the books, we said goodbye to Firmino for £72m and Wijnaldum for £36m as for the first time, the squad started to really feel like mine. After our hit and miss third season, I wasn't sure what to expect. To my surprise then, we embarked on another unbeaten league season, our goal output slightly down but win only 4 draws, we reached 106 points. In fact our only defeat across the season was in the FA Cup.

Carrying this confidence into Season 5 I fully expected another stonking season. And whilst we did win the league again, we fell to 4 defeats as well as missing out on the Champions League following a disappointing 1st round exit to Inter. 

Season 6 brought further mixed fortunes. For the second time, I found myself 10 points off the lead. Panicking, I put a deal together to bring in Mbappe in January, despite not having a clear idea of how and where I would play him. Our form remained patchy throughout as we lost (gasp!) 6 league games but our 109 goals scored carried us to a title-winning 90 points.

For Season 7, I knew that something had to change. I had started to have doubts about my 4141 set up as we seemed to consistently struggle against weaker teams that seemed able to ride out my aggressive press. Keen to also get the best out of both Haaland and Mbappe, I switched to the 424 mentioned above. It wasn't a perfect season by any means, as our 5 league defeats showed, but we racked up an impressive 124 league goals and secured another Champions League, Haaland scoring a career best 56 in 53 games.

Entering Season 8 on a high, we embarked on an impressive winning run, eventually reaching  tally of 107 points in the league. We lost 2 games all season - a Champions League group game to Sassulo and our penultimate league game to Chelsea as we completed a clean sweep of all competitions. I had achieved one of my dreams - to win the lot. Only those two pesky defeats and a couple of stubborn draws blotting my copy book.

The thing is, that Chelsea defeat was my fault. Despite its success, I tried to move away from 424. It just felt bonkers and I was determined to play a system more grounded in reality. And so towards the end of the campaign, I switched back to 4141. It's not as if it was a disaster. We thumped Bayern 6-0 in the Champions League final. But still, why? What anxious thinking explained this need to constantly assume that whatever I was doing, it was never enough? That I could (or perhaps should) do better?

Into Season 9 then and an early 1-4 defeat by Spurs saw me ditch 4141 and flirt with 352 before reluctantly going back to 424. Despite some serious worries early on, another impressive league campaign ultimately unfolded as we notched up 92 points and grabbed the FA Cup with a ludicrous 7-4 win over Man City before falling to a frustrating 0-1 Champions League final defeat at the hands of Arsenal.

So what did I do going into Season 10? Switched back to 4141 of course! Before once again giving it up as a bad job and finally ( I think) gaining contentment that 424 is both mine and really effective. Plus the Community Shield win confirmed me officially as the greatest manager of all time. Not bad for a perennial rage quitter.

20201025103908_1.thumb.jpg.acb7e7486a11fc927c13f413f1848765.jpg

But it's not over yet. I'm having great fun with this save and finding new ways to challenge myself. And of course, those pesky mental health demons keep circling, trying to drag me down with them, not least around my ability to build a squad, manage finances and plan for the future.

But we'll get to that next time.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ten of the Best

Do you remember the copy protection on Championship Manager '93? You used to have to find a score taken from a specified page and result number. For some reason though, as well as functioning as copy protection, each answer would also be tied to a certain database, meaning that with one answer certain players could have really crappy stats and on another, they would be world beaters. My brother and I used to think that it also affected your results too. Certain scores seemed to result in a more difficult save than others. 

I mention this because, having lost 3 games all season up until February, I booted my save back up and lost 4 of the next 5 games, getting dumped out of two cups in the process.

In fact Season 10 is one of the craziest I have ever experienced. Because I apparently never learn from my mistakes, I once again started the season in our 4141 shape. I know, I know. I can't seem to help it (a mental health excuse if ever there was one. Of course I can help it. No one forced me to do it. I made a choice, one I must own). Once again, I had this desire to shift to a more real world (in my head) formation, at the same time eliminating what I saw as the weakness of 424, that being the absence of a DM.

To be fair, we had won all our games to that point but a 1-0 home defeat of Brighton was dreary nonetheless. The switch brought a 6-0 thumping of Leicester before a frustrating 0-0 at West Brom, not helped by half my team being knackered from international duty. Aside from a stupid 3-3 draw at Newcastle, we went on a winning rampage in the league, sticking 5 past Fulham, 7 past Watford, 8 past Bristol City and a whopping 10 past Blackburn, Sporting also copping some in the Champions League after being on the wrong end of a 7-1 thrashing.

Then those defeats came. First a crazy 3-5 reversal at Bayern in the UCL. We were 0-3 down within 20 minutes and I had mentally already started to write off that year's campaign. Then followed a dispiriting 0-1 loss to Man City in the EFL final before a shock 1-2 defeat by West Ham in the FA Cup. 3 defeats in 3 separate competitions in 3 consecutive games after reloading. Grr.

A 4-0 win at Southampton made me think we had turned the corner before a 1-3 humbling by Spurs, followed by another poor showing in the UCL, going down 1-3 again, to Chelsea. This time it was the second leg and we scraped through by the skin of our teeth thanks to a 5-2 victory in the first leg.

This would be our final defeat of the season, however I had once again decided that, despite its success, the 424 was just too open. For the last 7 games of the campaign then, I reverted to 4141. Thumpings continued, dispatching Real Madrid home and away in the UCL whilst sticking 4 and 5 past Brighton and Leicester respectively, before a drab 1-1 with Everton on the final day. The season would end with a tight, cagey UCL final against Arsenal, with ex-Spurs man Troy Parrott netting us the injury time winner.

And so wrapped up my tenth season and tenth consecutive league title, and fifth Champions League.

As we enter Season 11, I added a second Club World Cup, my first since the introduction of the expanded format.

Tactically, I persisted with the 4141. I wrestled with the best way forward, my mind conflicted between two equally valid schools of thought. 4141 brought less goals and often struggled against weaker teams, however it had brought me two undefeated league seasons and was the formation of choice during my mighty 70+ game unbeaten run. It also suited my squad as well as my overall vision of how I thought I wanted to play.

On the other hand, 424 had brought me ridiculous goal tallies and absolute hammerings. The football was great to watch too, full of slick interchanges and great goals. Plus, it brought me my only season where I won every trophy going. On the red side of the ledger, it had its leaky moments and when I used it, despite all the evidence of its success in front of me, I was constantly in fear of it going wrong. It just looked too open, all the time.

Deciding on pragmatism then, I once again opted for 4141. The CWC win seemed to justify my choice, as did subsequent Charity Shield and Super Cup wins. A 1-1 draw at Arsenal was hardly a disaster and was in any event soon followed by a 6-2 win against Barcelona. But then we went to West Ham, they of the dumping me out of the FA Cup fame, and we once again found ourselves on the losing side, going down 2-3.

In many ways, I don't want to switch back to 424. I want consistency and something that resembles real life. On the other hand, I cannot deny that in 4141, at least the way I'm trying to play it, we give up too much possession and our striker is often isolated. And whilst I have this fanciful notion that it is at least more secure, that simply isn't true, a fact borne out by my results. 424 may let a few in from time to time, but who's counting when you're already 6 goals up?

So it is back to 424. For good? Who knows. Part of me fancies 4231 but again, I think that is due to an intangible yearning to play something that seems realistic. But what the hell does that mean? That's perhaps the problem, I couldn't tell you.

Anyway, we just smashed Cardiff 7-1 so I think I'll stick with this for now.

Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, Deisler26 said:

I wonder if you should use 4-2-4 in games where you have struggled (West Ham etc) ??

Must admit, I'm coming round to a similar way of thinking. 424 can be great but I think I'm finding out that if you don't have world class players in every position, you can come unstuck. When we won everything, my squad was just ridiculous. Now the quality has tapered off a bit as I try to manage my finances, I think I need to strike a balance between the two formations; 433 (perhaps with some modifications) where I need more midfield support and 424 where I think I can steamroller the opposition.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Tower Critical

Hoo boy, I certainly like making things hard for myself.

After bringing up a perfect 10 of league titles, and after a brief dalliance with the WHY DO I KEEP USING IT 433, we manged to add an 11th straight league title. However, it was anything but plain sailing.

With my unmanaged wage budget spiralling ever more out of control, finances had taken a mighty hit, severely restricting our ability to bring in quality new recruits to refresh a gradually ageing squad. So out went high earner Alphonso Davies, together with a handful of other squad players, and in came a new young centre half and a sub goalie. The core of the team though was unchanged and our points tally of 90 was reasonable enough.

The thing is though, we only secured the title on the final day, having drawn 6 and lost 4. Our goals tally was decent at 103, as was our conceded rate of 23. The real disappointments came with the defeats we took in the cups, being knocked out of all competitions.

Going into Season 12 then, there was only one thing to do - go back to 433! Seriously, I really did. And it looked good as we hammered a couple of low life teams in pre-season, first 22-0 and then 17-0. The first crack appeared on the opening day as we dropped a lead to Brighton, drawing 3-3 at home. Worse, defeat came at Everton a few games later, followed by reversals against Arsenal and Man Utd. Eventually we fell 10 points behind. Again.

For the first time, I genuinely believed that we would not win the league and I had to be honest with myself about what that would mean. It may sound ridiculous but failure to secure the league would likely mean save over. I would find it hard to pick myself up again, no doubt feeling that I had failed having taken the best team in the world and made them worse.

Indeed this was a theme I kept coming back to, that my team was weaker. I used to have Alisson, Van Dijk and Salah and whilst their replacements were decent, perhaps that just weren't up to the same standard.

And this in turn brings another anxiety. Being so far into the game, these players are all regens. I have scouted and chosen them, which means that if they are no good, it must be my fault.

Having fallen so far behind, I lost any sense of tactical discipline. I switched back to 424 obviously but whereas I would usually employ a degree of game management, I was so wary of dropping points that every game was played with a Positive or Attacking mentality. It led to some heavy defeats, notably against Man City and Chelsea whilst we also exited all cup competitions early for the second year running. Games slowly trickled away as Arsenal maintained a strong pace and Chelsea refused to go away. I had one eye on my fixture list, knowing that I had Arsenal at home and Chelsea away in 2 of my last 3 games, so if I could get within striking distance, I had a chance.

A hard fought 3-2 victory over Arsenal took us top whilst a 3-0 thumping of Fulham left us clear. Final day defeat to Chelsea brought them level on 91 points but our superior goal difference took us to a 12th straight championship.

Not a vintage season by any means then. But we had done it, my save was secured. At least for now.

What was that?

Man, this season made me angry. But more than that, it made me incredibly frustrated and anxious, in ways that I recognise as not being healthy.

First the positive. I love Football Manager. The fact that I have racked up 12 seasons in a row is evidence of that, as is the fact that I'm constantly thinking about my save. It's good to have something in our lives that we enjoy, in these times of lockdown ever more so.

But it comes with a negative, and a pretty large one at that. It's almost all I think about. When I wake up. When I'm working. When I'm eating. When I'm supposed to be listening to one of the kids.

This season in particular was especially bad. I noticed that I felt a high level of stress during the working day and at first put it down to some additional pressures at work, exacerbated by having the previous week off and playing catch up. But the truth was, I was stressed about my save. I was terrified that we wouldn't win the league and just had to get to the end of the season to see if we could make it. I became neglectful, of both myself and others, going to bed well past midnight, determined to know my fate before I felt able to switch off.

It has been this way before. I had to walk away from FM14 for a time because I became so obsessive. I don't propose to stop playing, given how much I enjoy it, but I do need to find a better balance.

But if I am honest with myself, the only antidote I will realistically accept is winning.

Link to post
Share on other sites

End of an Era

Season 13 would turn out to be much like Season 12, to the extent that we ended up on exactly the same points total of 91. This time though, the nearest competitor was 10 points back, gifting us a 13th straight PL title.

Going in to Season 14, I could sense the tide was turning. In a desperate bid to stem financial losses, I had let Mbappe's contract rundown and also shipped out a couple of other players, hoping to utilise my youth team instead. But things started out poorly as we lost the Charity Shield to Man City, then fell to defeats against Everton, Man Utd and Man City again before the year was out.

With a number of winning positions disappointingly dropped to draws, we fell 8 points behind. Our form remained patchy through the rest of the season but somehow we dragged ourselves back into contention, eventually landing on top of the pile. But it wouldn't last, as Man City once again moved ahead. But the final outcome remained in our hands. Victory at home against Arsenal in our penultimate game would seal the title!

We lost 0-2. There was still hope though. Man City were also faltering and so a final day win at Chelsea would still get us over the line!

We lost 1-3. And we had lost the league, by 2 points.

It had been coming for a while. The team had got progressively weaker and my attempts to stem the flow with tactical tweaks had failed to have the desired effect. The last couple of title victories had been hard earned but it had come down to the wire often enough that I had started to dread the moment that we lost out, knowing it would likely mean end of save. Well now it had happened. We were no longer champions. Save over.

Or so I thought...

Baby Got (Wing)Back

Where had this mindset come from that meant not winning the league would result in no longer playing? I think from way back on CM 93/94, where I once racked up a mighty 25 leagues in a row before my disks crashed. I had got it into my head that FM should become easier the longer I played, that I would be stacking money up sideways and simply be able to buy my way to victory. And by extension therefore, failure to do so meant failure of self as manager.

But this isn't Championship Manager. And unless Eurotrash and The Word have made a comeback without me noticing, this ain't 1994 either. Different rules apply.

Let's look at the money situation first. At one point I was paying both Mbappe and Haaland £500k per week, my wage bill rocketing up to £6.5m, way above anyone else in the league. I didn't worry about it at the time, assuming that we would make plenty of money. But a closer inspection of league income shows that our revenues are way down on the likes of Man City. Even when I did reduce the wage bill and bring in some transfer income, we continued to lose money. Sure, I was hardly fiscally responsible, but I was also not wholly the cause of our money pit.

I decided then to forget about money. If the board gave me budgets then I would use them. It was up to them to worry about the bank balance. But if I wasn't going to carry on playing, what did it matter?

Going into Season 15, I had fully intended to switch back to 433. I had rationalised it all in my head. This was the formation that brought me my only undefeated seasons. Of course it had stopped working so well and I came to the conclusion that our improved reputation, becoming the best team in the world, may have contributed as teams began to sit back further, nullifying our single striker press. The 424 by contrast did away with this problem but perhaps relied on a Galacticos approach, our form after some of our best players aged out dropping off.

I have to admit though, I had no enthusiasm for 433 again. Deep down I knew it was a fools errand, that it would ultimately leave me unfulfilled. And then, as I browsed the forums, inspiration struck.

For some time, I have been intrigued by the idea of a 352 formation. Funnily enough in real life, I have no great love for it, beyond fond memories of the brilliant-but-flawed 1995-96 Roy Evans side. I dabbled with it briefly earlier in this save but my team (and the one I inherited from Klopp) was not really set up for it. But looking at my team now, it was a real possibility. It would mean a couple of regulars making way but Harvey Elliott at 30 was approaching the end anyway whilst the likes of Curtis Jones and a couple of regen wingers would be necessary casualties.

I stumbled across a post by @engamohd( this one below, in fact), where he explored his own experience of a 352. The circumstances were very different, and I would have a different take on roles and duties, but it was enough to get the juices flowing once more. I had so often struggled to figure out what my footballing style or vision was. The thought had occurred to me before but now maybe I could realise it; not a manager wedded to one formation or style but rather a manager who changes with circumstances, creating new eras. First was the Klopp 433 era, then the Galactico 424 era. Now would come the creative, possession era.

To start though, I didn't really have a firm idea of what I wanted to achieve and so persevered with our Gegenpress approach, simply changing up positions on the tactics grid. Our first game with it would be a disappointment as we went down 1-3 to City again in the Charity Shield. But as the league began, victories started racking up. 12 of them in fact, all in a row, putting us (currently) 4 points clear with a perfect record.

Ironically though, the tactic itself is anything but. Our goal output is considerably down on previous years, most games being won by just 1 or 2 goals, a world away from the 5 and 6 goal shellackings we became used to dishing out. I'm not sure where to place our attacking emphasis, with the wing backs, in midfield or up top. Roles and duties have been constantly switched as I seek to add more potency whilst not reducing our defensive resolve.

It is a learning process though, and one I am enjoying. With the basic shape looking good, I have decided to try and move away from gegenpress, instead adopting a custom Control Possession, retaining a high (albeit reduced) press but seeking to have more of the ball to work higher quality scoring opportunities.20201112202425_1.thumb.jpg.41934f18ba8bcf12238ca43d369bf1a9.jpg

This may not last. Perhaps, at the first sign of a wobble of form, I'll throw my toys out the pram and switch off. But for now, I'm happy and motivated to reinvent myself.

Still to come...

I've touched on it a few times but I'll finally get round to exploring the mental road blocks of squad building.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, dirkgently1066 said:

End of an Era

Season 13 would turn out to be much like Season 12, to the extent that we ended up on exactly the same points total of 91. This time though, the nearest competitor was 10 points back, gifting us a 13th straight PL title.

Going in to Season 14, I could sense the tide was turning. In a desperate bid to stem financial losses, I had let Mbappe's contract rundown and also shipped out a couple of other players, hoping to utilise my youth team instead. But things started out poorly as we lost the Charity Shield to Man City, then fell to defeats against Everton, Man Utd and Man City again before the year was out.

With a number of winning positions disappointingly dropped to draws, we fell 8 points behind. Our form remained patchy through the rest of the season but somehow we dragged ourselves back into contention, eventually landing on top of the pile. But it wouldn't last, as Man City once again moved ahead. But the final outcome remained in our hands. Victory at home against Arsenal in our penultimate game would seal the title!

We lost 0-2. There was still hope though. Man City were also faltering and so a final day win at Chelsea would still get us over the line!

We lost 1-3. And we had lost the league, by 2 points.

It had been coming for a while. The team had got progressively weaker and my attempts to stem the flow with tactical tweaks had failed to have the desired effect. The last couple of title victories had been hard earned but it had come down to the wire often enough that I had started to dread the moment that we lost out, knowing it would likely mean end of save. Well now it had happened. We were no longer champions. Save over.

Or so I thought...

Baby Got (Wing)Back

Where had this mindset come from that meant not winning the league would result in no longer playing? I think from way back on CM 93/94, where I once racked up a mighty 25 leagues in a row before my disks crashed. I had got it into my head that FM should become easier the longer I played, that I would be stacking money up sideways and simply be able to buy my way to victory. And by extension therefore, failure to do so meant failure of self as manager.

But this isn't Championship Manager. And unless Eurotrash and The Word have made a comeback without me noticing, this ain't 1994 either. Different rules apply.

Let's look at the money situation first. At one point I was paying both Mbappe and Haaland £500k per week, my wage bill rocketing up to £6.5m, way above anyone else in the league. I didn't worry about it at the time, assuming that we would make plenty of money. But a closer inspection of league income shows that our revenues are way down on the likes of Man City. Even when I did reduce the wage bill and bring in some transfer income, we continued to lose money. Sure, I was hardly fiscally responsible, but I was also not wholly the cause of our money pit.

I decided then to forget about money. If the board gave me budgets then I would use them. It was up to them to worry about the bank balance. But if I wasn't going to carry on playing, what did it matter?

Going into Season 15, I had fully intended to switch back to 433. I had rationalised it all in my head. This was the formation that brought me my only undefeated seasons. Of course it had stopped working so well and I came to the conclusion that our improved reputation, becoming the best team in the world, may have contributed as teams began to sit back further, nullifying our single striker press. The 424 by contrast did away with this problem but perhaps relied on a Galacticos approach, our form after some of our best players aged out dropping off.

I have to admit though, I had no enthusiasm for 433 again. Deep down I knew it was a fools errand, that it would ultimately leave me unfulfilled. And then, as I browsed the forums, inspiration struck.

For some time, I have been intrigued by the idea of a 352 formation. Funnily enough in real life, I have no great love for it, beyond fond memories of the brilliant-but-flawed 1995-96 Roy Evans side. I dabbled with it briefly earlier in this save but my team (and the one I inherited from Klopp) was not really set up for it. But looking at my team now, it was a real possibility. It would mean a couple of regulars making way but Harvey Elliott at 30 was approaching the end anyway whilst the likes of Curtis Jones and a couple of regen wingers would be necessary casualties.

I stumbled across a post by @engamohd( this one below, in fact), where he explored his own experience of a 352. The circumstances were very different, and I would have a different take on roles and duties, but it was enough to get the juices flowing once more. I had so often struggled to figure out what my footballing style or vision was. The thought had occurred to me before but now maybe I could realise it; not a manager wedded to one formation or style but rather a manager who changes with circumstances, creating new eras. First was the Klopp 433 era, then the Galactico 424 era. Now would come the creative, possession era.

To start though, I didn't really have a firm idea of what I wanted to achieve and so persevered with our Gegenpress approach, simply changing up positions on the tactics grid. Our first game with it would be a disappointment as we went down 1-3 to City again in the Charity Shield. But as the league began, victories started racking up. 12 of them in fact, all in a row, putting us (currently) 4 points clear with a perfect record.

Ironically though, the tactic itself is anything but. Our goal output is considerably down on previous years, most games being won by just 1 or 2 goals, a world away from the 5 and 6 goal shellackings we became used to dishing out. I'm not sure where to place our attacking emphasis, with the wing backs, in midfield or up top. Roles and duties have been constantly switched as I seek to add more potency whilst not reducing our defensive resolve.

It is a learning process though, and one I am enjoying. With the basic shape looking good, I have decided to try and move away from gegenpress, instead adopting a custom Control Possession, retaining a high (albeit reduced) press but seeking to have more of the ball to work higher quality scoring opportunities.20201112202425_1.thumb.jpg.41934f18ba8bcf12238ca43d369bf1a9.jpg

This may not last. Perhaps, at the first sign of a wobble of form, I'll throw my toys out the pram and switch off. But for now, I'm happy and motivated to reinvent myself.

Still to come...

I've touched on it a few times but I'll finally get round to exploring the mental road blocks of squad building.

 

This is a very interesting  and inspiring read, glad you are doing so well with Liverpool <3. You actually touched upon a part I struggle with, the definition of one's philosophy. Having the fear of failure and striving for perfection makes things very hard to define just one style. I am currently writing about this issue, thanks to you :D

 

You will never walk alone ;)

Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, engamohd said:

@dirkgently1066 I have completed a post regarding developing a playstyle, inspired by you. Would like to hear your opinion.

 

Super thread, and touched on a couple of my own tactical insecurities. Plus I'm a big fan of any post that includes the phrase 'shithousery.'

Will post a more detailed reply in your thread.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Back On Our Perch

Well, what a strange old season.

Having wondered if we would even start it, then determined that we would go back to the beginning and revert to our 433 shape, we saw out Season 15 with a 352 and had our most successful season in 3 years. With one great big but...

Thinking that I was reverting to using a DM, my first act was to lash out £70m on a Danish regen from Brentford who showed enormous promise. Our subsequent switch to 3 at the back was not too problematic as he could also play centre back however a cruciate injury to our main defender was decidedly more troublesome, ruling him out for most of the season. A quick dive into the loan market saw two decent options brought in, one of which would prove effective enough that I converted his loan to a permanent deal in January.

After losing the Charity Shield, we then went unbeaten in the league until mid-December, winning our first 12 games and opening an 8 point lead. What was strange though, and here is where that 'but' comes in, is that we were never convincing. Oh sure, there were a couple of nice wins along the way but generally we were winning 1 or 2 nil, rarely creating chances but conversely rarely under threat. At 32 (and soon to turn 33), Haaland remained our main source of goals, player ratings across the board well down on previous seasons.

As the year turned to 2034, so our form fluctuated and I chopped and changed roles and duties to try and solve the puzzle. But try as I might, we fell off the top, our lead squandered, as the two Manchester clubs launched their own title challenges. Another 'but' here though; our form may have been patchy but we kept going, besting City to win the League Cup, overturning deficits against Barcelona and Chelsea to reach the UCL semi (where City would take their revenge on penalties) and reaching the FA Cup final, where we were disappointingly thumped by Chelsea 1-7. But, most importantly, winning the league again, our 14th in 15 years.

By any measure then, a successful season. And yet I find myself disappointed. Points wise, at 82 this is our worst campaign, punctuated by 7 draws and 6 defeats. Whilst our goals conceded at 27 was the lowest in the league, it is some way off our record of 10. More alarmingly though, we scored just 64 goals, more than half of some of our most glittering campaigns.

Of course this is our first season playing this shape. Perhaps it needs time to develop. But then the intangible factors kick it. @engamohdexplores some of his own self-imposed tactical constraints in the excellent thread noted above and after 27 years of CM / FM, I sure as hell have plenty of my own. As silly is it might sound, the way 352 played just didn't feel right. Defenders weren't in positions I expected them to be. Passing patterns were different, midfield runs and attacking movement were all different. It may go against all the advice of the tactical experts on these forums but I have always like visual symmetry in my tactics, meaning that wide roles would mirror each other, striker roles would go on whichever side my mind had long since decided on regardless of the players foot or suitability, certain player roles would be discounted because I didn't like their name, roles and duties would be crowbarred in because 'that's how I've always done it' despite the complete absence of evidence that this had led to any measurable success down the years.

Indeed with FM20 and the introduction of off-the-shelf playing styles (I skipped FM19), a lot of these hang ups were made redundant, my team settings pre-defined, allowing me to step back and just accept, even though I would never have reached the same conclusion by myself.

The Next Step

If I had any lingering thoughts about continuing with 352, the FA Cup final dismissed them. So what next? True to form, my first instinct was to go back to something I had done before, switching to a simple 442 using wingers and a poacher. Been there, done that though, so what else?

4231 is of course of of the most common shapes around and one I used to use when trying to replicate Rafa's teams. I have since moved away from it, partly because everyone else seems to use it but also because of another of my hang ups; that being, what do I do with the AMC? In the Rafa era, we had Gerrard here, with Mascherano and Alonso in CM. I would therefore deploy Mascherano as a BWM on defend and Alonso as a DLP support. Struggling to find the best role for Gerrard, I usually went with an AM attack, with Torres then forced into a CF support. I was never really satisfied with it though and never achieved any real success.

With my team now something of a blank canvass, I am free to choose. The default Gegenpress set up offers up a BWM defend and BBM in the middle, with an AP support at AMC. I can get comfortable with the AP and BBM but the BWM midfielder has always seemed something of a headless chicken to me, not to mention a card magnet. My inclination would be to swap it out for a CLP defend. But then I have 2 playmaker roles, which just seems daft to me. And so begins the mental gymnastics of attempting to find a balance of roles that fits my own vision.

I'm not there yet, although will happily take advice. One monkey I have been able to shake off my back though is the need for symmetrical roles. Traditionally I would have placed both full backs on support and wide wide players (either IF or Winger) on attack, together with the striker. As I visualised this change though, I readily embraced the idea of splitting my duties, using an attacking player at AML with a supporting player behind and a supporting player at AMR with an attacking one behind (or vice versa). Not exactly earth shattering I appreciate, but a big deal to me.

Of course one slight problem; in the move to 352, I ditched some of the players who would now so easily fit into this shape. And given our crappy finances, bringing in new faces will be difficult.

Oh and one other thing. I feared that missing out on that title to Man City would mean end of save and end of thread. What a delight then to discover that it instead acted as a stimulus. I would never have dared tried a 352 otherwise. I was able to watch it dispassionately, knowing that I was prepared to walk away, thus removing a lot of my stress when results took a downturn. Similarly, I feel enthused moving to 4231 and feel ready to embark on another era of dominance. My plans to move to a possession heavy system have fallen by the wayside, at least for now, but I still feel as though the tactical world is mine to explore.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, dirkgently1066 said:

Back On Our Perch

Well, what a strange old season.

Having wondered if we would even start it, then determined that we would go back to the beginning and revert to our 433 shape, we saw out Season 15 with a 352 and had our most successful season in 3 years. With one great big but...

Thinking that I was reverting to using a DM, my first act was to lash out £70m on a Danish regen from Brentford who showed enormous promise. Our subsequent switch to 3 at the back was not too problematic as he could also play centre back however a cruciate injury to our main defender was decidedly more troublesome, ruling him out for most of the season. A quick dive into the loan market saw two decent options brought in, one of which would prove effective enough that I converted his loan to a permanent deal in January.

After losing the Charity Shield, we then went unbeaten in the league until mid-December, winning our first 12 games and opening an 8 point lead. What was strange though, and here is where that 'but' comes in, is that we were never convincing. Oh sure, there were a couple of nice wins along the way but generally we were winning 1 or 2 nil, rarely creating chances but conversely rarely under threat. At 32 (and soon to turn 33), Haaland remained our main source of goals, player ratings across the board well down on previous seasons.

As the year turned to 2034, so our form fluctuated and I chopped and changed roles and duties to try and solve the puzzle. But try as I might, we fell off the top, our lead squandered, as the two Manchester clubs launched their own title challenges. Another 'but' here though; our form may have been patchy but we kept going, besting City to win the League Cup, overturning deficits against Barcelona and Chelsea to reach the UCL semi (where City would take their revenge on penalties) and reaching the FA Cup final, where we were disappointingly thumped by Chelsea 1-7. But, most importantly, winning the league again, our 14th in 15 years.

By any measure then, a successful season. And yet I find myself disappointed. Points wise, at 82 this is our worst campaign, punctuated by 7 draws and 6 defeats. Whilst our goals conceded at 27 was the lowest in the league, it is some way off our record of 10. More alarmingly though, we scored just 64 goals, more than half of some of our most glittering campaigns.

Of course this is our first season playing this shape. Perhaps it needs time to develop. But then the intangible factors kick it. @engamohdexplores some of his own self-imposed tactical constraints in the excellent thread noted above and after 27 years of CM / FM, I sure as hell have plenty of my own. As silly is it might sound, the way 352 played just didn't feel right. Defenders weren't in positions I expected them to be. Passing patterns were different, midfield runs and attacking movement were all different. It may go against all the advice of the tactical experts on these forums but I have always like visual symmetry in my tactics, meaning that wide roles would mirror each other, striker roles would go on whichever side my mind had long since decided on regardless of the players foot or suitability, certain player roles would be discounted because I didn't like their name, roles and duties would be crowbarred in because 'that's how I've always done it' despite the complete absence of evidence that this had led to any measurable success down the years.

Indeed with FM20 and the introduction of off-the-shelf playing styles (I skipped FM19), a lot of these hang ups were made redundant, my team settings pre-defined, allowing me to step back and just accept, even though I would never have reached the same conclusion by myself.

The Next Step

If I had any lingering thoughts about continuing with 352, the FA Cup final dismissed them. So what next? True to form, my first instinct was to go back to something I had done before, switching to a simple 442 using wingers and a poacher. Been there, done that though, so what else?

4231 is of course of of the most common shapes around and one I used to use when trying to replicate Rafa's teams. I have since moved away from it, partly because everyone else seems to use it but also because of another of my hang ups; that being, what do I do with the AMC? In the Rafa era, we had Gerrard here, with Mascherano and Alonso in CM. I would therefore deploy Mascherano as a BWM on defend and Alonso as a DLP support. Struggling to find the best role for Gerrard, I usually went with an AM attack, with Torres then forced into a CF support. I was never really satisfied with it though and never achieved any real success.

With my team now something of a blank canvass, I am free to choose. The default Gegenpress set up offers up a BWM defend and BBM in the middle, with an AP support at AMC. I can get comfortable with the AP and BBM but the BWM midfielder has always seemed something of a headless chicken to me, not to mention a card magnet. My inclination would be to swap it out for a CLP defend. But then I have 2 playmaker roles, which just seems daft to me. And so begins the mental gymnastics of attempting to find a balance of roles that fits my own vision.

I'm not there yet, although will happily take advice. One monkey I have been able to shake off my back though is the need for symmetrical roles. Traditionally I would have placed both full backs on support and wide wide players (either IF or Winger) on attack, together with the striker. As I visualised this change though, I readily embraced the idea of splitting my duties, using an attacking player at AML with a supporting player behind and a supporting player at AMR with an attacking one behind (or vice versa). Not exactly earth shattering I appreciate, but a big deal to me.

Of course one slight problem; in the move to 352, I ditched some of the players who would now so easily fit into this shape. And given our crappy finances, bringing in new faces will be difficult.

Oh and one other thing. I feared that missing out on that title to Man City would mean end of save and end of thread. What a delight then to discover that it instead acted as a stimulus. I would never have dared tried a 352 otherwise. I was able to watch it dispassionately, knowing that I was prepared to walk away, thus removing a lot of my stress when results took a downturn. Similarly, I feel enthused moving to 4231 and feel ready to embark on another era of dominance. My plans to move to a possession heavy system have fallen by the wayside, at least for now, but I still feel as though the tactical world is mine to explore.

 

I love this thread, you literally write down my thought process every other save. A good thing that you still have the drive to continue the Liverpool dominance, I personally would have started a new save (or three) by now!

 

Mind sharing any interesting league tables and stats from your Liverpool side? Am particularly curious about Curtis Jones and Elliott, how do they fare for you?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sure thing. I'll drop some of these in a few posts, rather than spamming them all in one go.

Here is Curtis Jones, one of the last stalwarts of the Klopp era. He was a little inconsistent but a really useful squad player and came up trumps one season as my top scorer. He usually operated as an inside forward or inverted winger from AML but was pretty versatile.

20201114155509_1.thumb.jpg.081b7dea44feda9ba90d97e7331a8e20.jpg20201114155517_1.thumb.jpg.f25a6aafdea74b03417da4ff4fae73a1.jpg

Edited by dirkgently1066
Link to post
Share on other sites

Mid Season Update - Season 16

Best laid plans and all that. Having intended to employ a split duty system, the first few games of pre season were distinctly underwhelming. It wasn't long therefore before I ditched those plans, keeping the 4231 shape but putting attack duties on my striker and AMC, with support across the rest of midfield. Sa basically, my 424 tactic but with a striker withdrawn to AMC.

Despite an early loss away at Chelsea, the set up was looking good, taking us to the top of the league by the mid-way point, with Manchester's United and City in hot pursuit. But then came a couple of disappointing results. a 1-2 defeat at Southampton was disappointing, as was a 3-3 draw with Fulham. A 1.-2 defeat at Blackburn was the last straw and I decided to have a rethink.

Apart from the odd dabble, I have used gegenpress throughout this save. But why? I have no great affinity with it, it is simply what Klopp uses and so seem the ideal starting point. I can't honestly say that I was ever 100% happy with it though. Sure, results across the last 15 seasons have obviously been favourable however we rarely controlled possession and would squander chance after chance.

Time for a change then, but to what? It needs to be attacking and it needs to generate goals. Tiki Taka is out. Despite their plaudits down the years, I have always found Barcelona about as fun to watch as the proverbial wall covered in drying emulsion. Control Posession seemed to fit the bill, keeping a high press but looking to keep the ball more. But what's this? Low tempo? I can't play that. I'm English! I watch the Premier League! We play hard and fast all the time!

Yeah yeah, whatevs. Ultimately I decided, as with gegenpress, that whoever designed this tactical template probably knows more than me. So I resisted the urge to increase the tempo and simply went off the shelf, only the roles and duties amended to suit my own taste.

First game in the new set up saw us despatch Bournemouth 5-0. More than the result though, we played how I wanted, the lower tempo not, as I feared, resulting in boring walkball but instead affording players a little more time to work a quality opening. Promising early signs then and whilst our next game saw us go down 1-3 to Man City, I am not disheartened and will persevere with this set up.

20201116183653_1.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

As we close the door on another year, Season 16 offered the usual mixed bag but points towards a potentially bright future.

20201118193432_1.thumb.jpg.f294001e2b86756e15fe36acaf31aa78.jpg

In the end, we secured the title, our 15th in 16 years, by a single point from Man Utd. Form wise we were up and down, drawing and losing 5 times each whilst our goals scored at 90 remained below our peak years. Results generally were okay, as were performances, however the worst result by far was a 0-6 thrashing at Old Trafford towards the end of the season. We were just never at it and the goals they scored were tap ins or simple runs in behind my full backs. It came at a crucial time too, with us having a game in hand and slight points advantage but United pushing hard. A subsequent home draw against Aston Villa was, in its own way, equally disappointing however a 7-1 beating of West Brom on the final day was enough to secure the league.

Chuck in League and FA cup final wins and we secured ourselves a very satisfying treble, a UCL exit on penalties to Dortmund the only blot on our trophy book.

20201118181628_1.jpg.707ecbb9d92fd13a17240519e423ff7d.jpg

Signings wise, I made a few moves at the start of the season to bolster our attacking options. With Haaland now 34, Felix Schmidt arrived from Man City, together with two really promising young prospects and another back up option. Schmidt would reward us with 27 goals in all comps, a fine return for his first season and a solid investment at £50m. With my defensive options strengthened in the previous season, I'm looking well placed moving into the next season, with just a couple of smart additions needed to round the squad out.

20201118181551_1.jpg.93bba48ab0f1455f7815d5cbfaf69d30.jpg

Formation Failure

Tactically, things were a little more changeable than I anticipated. Having started out with a 4231, about halfway through the season I decided to push my AMC up to a striker position and revert to my old 424 Hammer Time shape. 4231 did offer some advantages, principally giving us an extra body in the middle which helped with counter attacks however I felt we lost too much in attack.

As noted above, I always started tinkering with our instructions, first trying a Control Possession, then trying to implement a more medium block, as suggested by @engamohd. The final nail was hammered into the coffin of that experiment by the 0-6 humiliation at Old Trafford. With perseverance and a commitment to trial and error testing, I have little doubt that I could craft something effective. For now though, gegenpress gives me consistent (over?) performance, its shortcomings I believe compensated for by its many benefits.

20201118193252_1.thumb.jpg.271d3d255156dc379a6ce665e6cc9c83.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites
33 minutes ago, dirkgently1066 said:

As noted above, I always started tinkering with our instructions, first trying a Control Possession, then trying to implement a more medium block, as suggested by @engamohd. The final nail was hammered into the coffin of that experiment by the 0-6 humiliation at Old Trafford. With perseverance and a commitment to trial and error testing, I have little doubt that I could craft something effective. For now though, gegenpress gives me consistent (over?) performance, its shortcomings I believe compensated for by its many benefits.

Damn, I'd rage quit rather than accepting (let alone writing about) a 6-0 hammering at Old Trafford :'(

I wonder if you tried a medium block with the 424? No doubt it is going to fail. Your widemen are too far ahead to hold their position effectively. 424, 4231 and similar top heavy formations, in my humble opinion, suits a more aggressive approach.

Link to post
Share on other sites

International Dishonours

One real bugbear from my game; I'm now a 15 time Premier League champion, the most successful English manager of all time and yet I haven't been offered the England job. Or another international job. Or, you know, any job ever.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't want it. I have made that mistake before on FM and find myself getting distracted, signing players for my club based on what the national team might need. I have enough to deal with managing Liverpool. 

But seriously, it's beyond a joke. Somehow, Gareth Southgate managed to win the World Cup 2022  and to be honest, that killed any lingering desire I may have had for the job. What's the point unless you can be the first, or at least the first in however many years? So fine, he stayed for 7 years and resigned in 2004, replaced by Ernesto Valverde, who had left Chelsea. He won the World Cup again in 2026 and left the role in 2028, to be replaced by...Graham Potter! He lasted just under 2 years before getting sacked and was followed by Nuno Espirito Santo then Antonio Conte and now Juan Carlos Unzue.

All decent managers I'm sure but, you know...20201118200854_1.thumb.jpg.b98e692630fc5bf337dc6ad501bc74d8.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, engamohd said:

Damn, I'd rage quit rather than accepting (let alone writing about) a 6-0 hammering at Old Trafford :'(

Mate, it was proper savage, one of those games when you're desperate for the final whistle!

The 1-7 Cup final defeat to Chelsea was worse for me, but it was at least at the end of a season of experimentation. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Monster Squad

I've been putting this off because I didn't know if I could quite explain myself properly, but let's just whack some words on the proverbial page and see what comes out.

Squad building has always been something of an anxiety trigger for me. Transfer dealings hit on a fundamental part of my mental struggles; decision making. From what to have for dinner to what clothes to wear, what time to leave the house to whether that small thing I said in that conversation that one time that no one else even remembers was slightly too harsh. Decisions are the anxious man's worst nightmare but they are an inherent part of buying and selling players.

Starting off in 2019, the Liverpool squad is pretty well balanced. Most of the best players - Alexander Arnold, Salah, Alisson, Fabinho, Mane etc - are either coming into or already in their prime. With promising prospects coming through - Jones, Elliott, Williams, Brewster - it could be argued that there is little to do.

Of course even this brings its own anxieties. If the players I start with are so good and yet I don't win, surely that means I'm a bad manager? And those prospects, that are can't miss, sure to get to the top world beaters? What if they don't make it? What if they just become squad players and not top players? It must be my fault.

As we can see, a fine example of black and white, all or nothing thinking, with a side helping of catastrophising chucked in for good measure.

Of course a lot of these anxieties were put to bed when we started winning leagues and other competitions. I proved to myself that I could manage the top players to success. There was one element of lingering doubt. In older versions, the success of any tactic or save was predicated on how well Steven Gerrard performed. He was our best player, a global star, and so if he played badly then my tactic must be broken. With the current Liverpool side, I don't have quite the same connection or reliance on a single player. To an extent, there is self-judgement around getting goals out of Salah in line with his real world performance but beyond that, I am happy to take the overall success of the tactic over any individual performance.

I also have a fear of selling players. What if I let go of someone who was actually brilliant and I just didn't see it? This become paralysing, meaning that the squad gets clogged with players. I convince myself that everyone could be the next superstar and if I sell them, it was too early or I didn't get enough for them.

With that in mind, there were no outgoings in Season 1 beyond a couple of loans whilst only a reserve left back and loan goalie came in. Season 2 saw far more movement, and easy ones too. Adrian, Clyne and Lovren were all sold, my real life opinion of them erasing any anxieties. On the other side of the ledger we spent big, £283m of talent coming in. Haaland filled a goal scoring gap I thought we had with Firmino up front whilst Jude Bellingham, Marco Kana and Matias Arezo were all brought in with the future in mind. My FOMO anxiety kicked in again though. With Lovren gone, I wanted a new back up centre half and couldn't decide between Ben White and Dayot Upamecano. So I did the only reasonable thing...I bought them both! Now as it goes, both players would go on to play big roles in our development but they were bought less as a strategic call and more through indecision. Plus, it marked an era of inbuilt squad redundancies, whereby I would effectively look to create two first teams within my squad. It was a strategy that would prove successful but at a cost. More to come on that later.

Our final signing of the season was an extravagant £105m splashed on Milinkovic-Savic. Again, he would go on to be a faithful servant but his signing was something of a January panic as I struggled to get a consistent tune out of Keita and Wijnaldum. Still, I had built myself a mighty side that would go unbeaten not once but twice. But challenges awaited on the horizon.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Into Season 3 and the first big changes to the team start to take shape. Sadio Mane has his head turned by Barcelona and £138m seemed just too good to turn down. His intended replacement was Leon Bailey before I realised he was left footed, whilst Houssem Aour would start another new theme, this time my habit of panic buying expensive players without due thought to whether they fitted into the style and tactic that I wanted to play.

In other sales, Marko Grujic, Harry Wilson and Sheyi Ojo were all released. This was my first wave of disappointments as I had expected each to be a development project. Perhaps they were never good enough but I rather suspect that my panic buying, through an underlying sense and fear of failure, meant that I never gave these fringe players the opportunity to develop into anything more.

Whilst we remained successful though, I could justify these failures. Season 4 then brought more squad building, Alphonso Davies brought in as cover (and immediately loaned out) whilst Ismaila Sarr provided a useful back up. Gabriel Jesus meanwhile came in as a direct replacement for the departing Firmno. As good a player as Firmino was, I accepted that he never truly fit into my tactic and it was interesting that because of my success on this save, with a proven goalscorer in the number 9 role, I began to sour on our Bobby in real life too. The £72m we secured from Juventus seemed a fair fee, as was the £36m they gave us for Wijnaldum, their departures added to Matip and Minamino, each of which had been surplus to requirements.

Season 5 saw decidedly less activity. Rodrygo joined for £65m as I struggled to settle on my wide left player. Rodrygo would regularly switch places with Curtis Jones and Aouar but he would go on to become one of my misses. At the time, I was still trying to play 433 and I couldn't quite get him to perform. He would stay with us for around 4 seasons, and the £84m we received from Inter seemed fair, but his subsequent form in Italy suggested that I never managed to get the best out of him.

Season 6 would mark the beginning of the end of our regular use of the 433 shape. It was also the first year that I feared we wouldn't win the league and so a £160m bid for Kylian Mbappe was something of a hail Mary. I bought him with no great consideration of where he would play. Haaland was settled up front and Salah still performing wide right. I tried Mbappe wide left, something I would frequently come back to, but he never quite settled there. Ultimately though, his signing was pivotal in us switching to a 424 in order to get the best out of my two star assets.

The other arrival that year was another example of my 'buy him because I can' attitude. Ryan Gravenberch at £35m from Ajax was a good player, and would actually go on to play an important role for us, but at the time, he was another expensive squad player. Mbappe's arrival saw a number of exists. Leon Bailey never managed to oust Salah from the team and so £65m from Juventus took him on his way whilst we made a £41.5m profit on Ismaila Sarr to China. Naby Keita would also move on, a steady and reliable midfield option but at his age, and with other options available, £61m was too good to turn down.

Another disappointment this year though. Whilst he had by this time been sold in real life, I had high hopes for Rhian Brewster. Another casualty of our one up front formation, he was frequently loaned out or left to play in the reserves and this lack of rhythm probably contributed to him never quite developing. He would ultimately move to Ajax for £32.5m where he had a successful career but the fact that he never secured international honours probably speaks volumes.

By this point, we had amassed a mighty squad and the deal to sign Mbappbe was starting to hit home. On field, our switch to 424, despite my repeated attempts to undermine it, was paying dividends but it came at a quite literal cost. He was raking in £500k per week and Haaland was soon knocking on my door for similar. For the first time I realised how much we were spending, well above our rivals despite having less income. As a result, no players arrived in Season 7, the sales of Gabriel Jesus, Divock Origi, Kostas Tsimakas and Auoar (at a whopping loss) helping to bring in some income.

As we moved into Season 8, I turned my thoughts to eventually replacing Alisson, one of our star performers. His chosen replacement was Daniel James of RB Leipzig who we brought in for £99m. This was extravagance of the highest order. Alisson was not ready to be replaced and so for the next two season we had two world class goalkeepers on the books, both earning world class wages. I struggled with when to replace Alisson, chopping and changing between the two. The trouble was that Alisson was clearly in decline but James was not quite good enough. This wasn't helped once again by the fact that he wasn't suitable for the role I insisted on playing him in. He was a goalkeeper pure and simple, yet I insisted in crowbarring him into a sweeper keeper role, because that's what I wanted to play.

The aforementioned departure of Rodrgo in Season 9 was accompanied by the sale of Isaac Lihadj, another developmental disappointment having signed him for peanuts several seasons back. Our only transfer that year was a £15m prospect from Blackburn but he annoyed me when, in one of those stupid 'rally the troops' team meetings you have towards the end of the season, I told the players I expected them to win the league and he was all like, 'hey, too much pressure, man.' After a couple of reasonable loan outings, I sold him a couple of years later, pretty much washing my face on the transfer fee.

Season 10 saw far more movement. For really the first time this save, I opted to use the Bosman rule to bring in some free agents, figuring that they would either work out or be sold for a profit. Hilariously I signed Ki-Jana Hoever on a free, having sold him for £7.5m two years earlier and would cash in again a year later, this time for £14m. Thanks, Ki-jana! Fabio Silva and Martim Neto would also join on frees, both of which would be sold on in the next couple fo years. South African full back Sifiso Matona would join this year for a bargain £725k whilst I also looked to strtengthen at left back by signing a regen from Newcastle for £41.5m. Ben Hocket would go on to have moderate success but again, he was a signing made based on value, rather than attributes, his preference for playing as a traditional full back at odds with my requirement for him to play wing back.

This was also the year the club was sold and the new owners gave us the gift of Troy Parrot and Jose Luis Mohamed for £131m and £109m respectively. Thoughtful of them, until they criticised me for the transfer fees paid. Plus, Mohamed was a traditional left winger, a role I didn't play, and would only be of use to me once I had retrained him on the right. Plus it added two more big contracts and with no other meaningful capital injection, and no new stadium in sight, money was once again tight.

Link to post
Share on other sites

As we headed into Season 11 I sought to reinforce my back line. We had looked decidedly shaky at the back, in part I believed to never really replacing Van Dijk after he retired. So in came Denis Monteiro, a young German prospect who I hoped would go on to be an important player. At the same time I grabbed a new goalie for £29.5m from Burnley. This was something of a panic buy as I had half expected (and half hoped) that Daniel James would move to Bayern after they came in for him, both giving me a much needed boost in funds and moving on a player I wasn't 100% happy with. As it turned out, he would stay and so Janowski would occupy the bench instead.

Our outgoings saw Alphonso Davies sold on for £45.5m as well as some good business on a couple of regens who were never going to break into my first team. It was clear though that the era of lavish spending was over, I simply couldn't compete with the big(ger) boys when it came to transfer fees and wages and so would have to work smarter.

With that in mind, Season 12 brought in another young defensive prospect and a Paul Warhurst wannabe from Wolves, Dean Gilbert able to play comfrtably at centre back, centre mid, AMC or upfront. Decent money was recouped with the sale of Bosman signing Martim Neto but the big controversy came with the sale of Ben Hockett, our left back, to Chelsea. The entire squad was unhappy at selling a first teamer, Alexander Arnold in particular refusing to discuss a new contract until I strengthened at left back. Thing is, I new I had Sifiso Matona from a couple of windows back and although he was only cheap, I had high hopes that he would develop well.

Still, I couldn't afford to lose Alexander Arnold, especially when Arsenal were sniffing around him. And so at the start of Season 13 I grabbed Brazilian left back Jander for £75m. He was another of those players that didn't really fit my style. He was a more defensive minded full back, not a wing back, but eventually his signing (and relative success) was sufficient to keep the squad happy. He was joined by midfielder Alberto Alonso, very much a utility signing, whilst I also broke with convention by signing 33 year old Frenkie de Jong on a free. I had signed him with the expectation of playing 433 (yeah yeah, I know) before switching back to 424 but either way, his experience would prove beneficial that season.

This was a big season though as Kylian Mbappe left on a free after his contract expired. I could have renewed him and he was certainly keen to stay, but I was determined to remove the £400k+ wages from the books and so reluctantly allowed him to go. The other big move was finally allowing Daniel James to move to Bayern, the £85m we go for him a loss on his original £99m fee but by the time he left us, he had given years of high quality service. It would now be time for Janowski to step up.

Alas, Season 14 would see the end of our league winning streak. In truth, Janowski was too young to take over the reigns but with one eye on finances, I did not feel I could turn down the bid for James and would ride out the rough seas of Janowski's learning period. Incomings saw yet another young defender added to the ranks as well as a young German forward / winger. I also splashed £80m on a new right back. Unbelievably, Alexander Arnold was by this time approaching the end. He had been an absolute stalwart for us and would be hard to replace so I made the decision to go big and go early, giving plenty of time for Daniel Jesus Lesarte to settle in. 

These moves were financed through a number of big outgoings. Neco Williams, a dependable and loyal back up to Alexander Arnold, was finally moved on, together with Troy Parrott, Marco Kana and Dayot Upamecano. I also cashed in to the tune of £45m on one of my home grown regens. The lad was decent but his best position was at AMC, a role I was not using, and so it made sense to take the money.

After our title disappointment, Season 15 saw our 352 experiment. To be honest, I could've done with not having sold Marco Kana the year before but Brentford lad Michael Kitoko was able to slot in whilst the surfeit of centre backs I had accumulated would finally become useful. I also completed the singing of a midfield prospect, Josip Simunovic, having allowed him an extra year at Zagreb to develop. Our outgoings included another home grown player, Tyler McPherson a decent left winger but netting me £57m from Spurs.

Having secured an unexpected title triumph, Season 16 saw a switch to 4231, at least initially. This allowed Dean Gilbert, our Paulo Warhurst doppleganger from a couple of season back, to play in his natural role. I was struggling to find a consistent centre forward to replace an ageing Haaland though and so splashed £50m on Schmidt from Man City and a further £30m on 3 other prospects. There were no major outgoings this season, Matias Arezo allowed to leave for a small fee whilst Alphonso Davies was again moved on.

Which brings us all the way up to Season 17. With the January transfer window still to come, we have been busy and yet frugal. Having reverted to 424, I was reliant on Jude Bellingham and Harvey Elliott in the two wide roles, who by this stage were 31 and 32 respectively. I started to look around for a big money replacement, taking my time to ensure I found a player who was capable of fulfilling the specific role I had in mind for him. A couple of options were close to getting over the line but then I had a rethink. A big fee didn't necessarily mean a good player and so rather than lash my whole budget on one hope, I looked for bargains. Graham Knox arrived from Barnsley for £15m (rising to £20m) to give me a really strong back up at right back. I also grabbed a young Danish midfielder from £2.7m as well as a right sided Spanish prospect from £7.75m. Given our success with Mo Salah, I also thought I would take a £205k punt on a young Egyptian winger but by far my proudest bit of business was nabbing Samba Ba for £220k. A young Senegalese left back, his value soon shot up to £6m and he has quickly established himself as first choice. This also allowed me to sell Jander, freeing up a big wage and a squad place for another of those players I was never really happy with.

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

So there we are, a potted history of my transfer dealings. But what have I learned?

The main lesson has been to keep an eye on both finances and suitability for the role. I often do other things whilst playing FM and so it can become easy to take your eye of detail as you lazily click through screens. This is the kind of attitude that results in signing big money players for a position and then expecting them to play in a role they cannot cope with

I've also learned that I'm actually pretty good at bringing players through. From the starting squad, Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott and Neco Williams would go on to be integral to our success whilst other Klopp prospects - Kelleher, Brewster, Koumetio et al - would generate decent income from sales. Looking at my own signings or regens, Tom Johnson came through the ranks as a midfielder and has developed into a world class player and now captain whilst Matias Arazo, Marco Kana, Jude Bellingham and a host of regens have either grown into important players or been sold on for decent money. Buying and developing young players into starts is immensely satisfying but it takes time, planning and patience. Only since getting so far into my save, shedding the monkey from who back who kept telling me that I needed to catch up up with some self invented target, have I felt comfortable just stopping, taking my time and making sure that I'm going in the direction that I want to go in.

At the same time, I've also been able to keep a solid core together. Whilst the likes of Mane would leave, Fabinho, Van Dijk and others stayed until retirement and whilst Mbappe, Salah, Haaland and others did move on, they did so only at the end of their careers when I had already had the benefit of their best years.

As things stand now, I am very happy with my squad. It has just the right blend of experience and youth whilst the wage bill is finally under control. I actually have a £90m transfer budget but have no reason to use it at the moment. Perhaps finally we can finish a season without being in the red.

As with all things mental health then, perhaps my greatest lesson has been the value of mindfulness, that is the act of being in the present. Sure, there is a element of forward thinking in signing young players. But if I lose a game or go out of a competition, it is important not to rush through games, desperately trying to recover ground at the expense of proper analysis and reflection. By properly taking stock and understanding what has gone wrong and what I can do to fix it, I can begin to make the changes required, in turn giving me the breathing room to build for the longer term.

Phew, heavy stuff for a Friday night. So let's get back to it.

The journey continues.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great read! I struggle a lot with fm, played it for years and I never really understand why I have succes. Or mostly don't understand how to get that succes. I too keep changing formations, roles, duties and instructions and it was refreshing to read your story. 

Good luck with your save('s)! 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Season 17 comes to a close and it is a season of frustration.

For the first time in a long time, I went into it knowing that I would play 424, with no plans to deviate from it. Things started well as we stormed to a commanding lead in the league, our only defeats coming in the UCL group stage and a disappointing EFL cup exit to Chelsea. In the league with our strongest side, we were utterly dominant, swatting teams aside left right and centre. Not without good cause, I started to wonder if this would be another unbeaten season.

And then we lost to Brighton. And then to Barcelona. Then Everton, Man City and Southampton, all in a row. 5 straight defeats. I had never known form like it.

Our malaise was halted with a nice win against United before we overturned the Barcelona defeat, turning them over 3-1 on their own patch to qualify for the QF. Similar miracles were required against City as they thumped us 3-0 in the first leg. Back at Anfield, our 4 goals put us in prime position but their 1 goal saw them progress on away goals, ending our dream of a first UCL in in more than 7 years.

Frustrated by our (perceived) defensive shortcomings, I closed out the season with my usual desperation switch to 433, which resulted in 3 consecutive 0-0 draws before a final day 0-2 loss to Arsenal. But it was good enough to be champions for the 16th time, 9 points clear of Chelsea.

Those defensive lapses though. Sure, we got battered in individual games but actually only conceded 22 across the whole season. Clearly then by any objective measure, the 424, however ridiculously attacking it looks, is actually quite robust. In fact part of the reason for our disappointing form was that our star striker, Felix Schmidt, forgot how to score for pretty much the entire second half of the season. If not for that lack of goals, we may well have found ourselves with more silverware.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Keeper

I picked up Janowski for £29.5m from Burnley. He was a 4ish star prospect when I got him but has emerged as a world class keeper. Not infallible by any means, and not quite up to Alisson's high standards, but a reliable shot stopper and especially useful in penalty shootouts.

 

20201125194136_1.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

My regular back 4 are a real mixture. Samba Ba I picked up from Generation Foot in Senegal for just £220k and he has evolved into a quality left wing back. At just 21, and valued at £12.25m, he could be a regular fixture. 

20201125194735_1.jpg.a9cada79883fb218dcaf8a19c96144f4.jpg

Costing a little bit more at £8.5m, Adrian Basioli is another development success. Emerging as a quality centre back aged just 23, he is rock solid and a threat from corners. Plus he's left footed, something of a rarity.

20201125194739_1.jpg.d2c93ad658b012fb4c6d53c05e5b0469.jpg

His partner Monteiro was one I decided to splash the cash on for £66m. A rock and decent on the ball.

20201125194744_1.jpg.03d0e2f6e67a53cba36ddcf877bab5dc.jpg

And finally at right back, another extravagance. At £80m, I probably overpaid for Lasarte but I needed a genuine quality replacement for the ageing Alexander Arnold and whilst this guy is nowhere near that quality, he is another capable hand who's versatility is a big plus.

20201125194752_1.jpg.f924838e654c61c029e02c522e239b46.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

My midfield is home to one of our very onw home grown superstars. Tom Johnson came through the academy, showing 5-star potential right from the start. Used initially as a box to box midfielder, he would emerge ultimately as our deep lying playmaker. Now 30, he has had a stellar career both domestically and internationally.

20201125195639_1.jpg.fbe9b48ea43b25071937a4103927e6fe.jpg

His regular partner is Alberto Alonso, signed as a 'well I might as well' signing for £60m. A natural box to box player, he scores big goals and can capably move to right back, centre back or even up front if required.

20201125195806_1.jpg.7d8c4342dfaf219cc9d85039b22eef96.jpg

But breathing down both of their necks is this guy. I picked him up as a prospect for £13.5m and he has turned into a world beater. I have already knocked back bids of close to £100m and it is highly likely that he will oust one of Alonso or Johnson this season to definitively claim a starting berth.

20201125200039_1.thumb.jpg.b2d8aff6e109fad4c47d57790f3553e7.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Unbelievably at 33, Jude Bellingham is still my best option as an inverted winger at AML. A regular goal threat, he has been a key player across various midfield roles, from box to box to mezzala to winger and now, what I think is his best position. This is probably his last year as a first team stalwart but I'll have a hard time replacing him.

20201125200109_1.thumb.jpg.7094595b0990a2d9db67b8101d543029.jpg

In a similar vein at AMR, Harvey Elliott has only just relinquished his own status as first choice. It took time for him to break through, what with Mo Salah in the way, but he is another player who has consistently delivered goals and assists.

20201125200359_1.thumb.jpg.0af2cd9194defe05255e72cca1e6e0af.jpg

His replacement is Italian winger Kingsley Ofosu. I really like the look of this guy and at £55m, think he was something of a bargain. It's early days but his direct running and intelligent movement have already shown what a threat he will be in season to come and at just 23, he has years to develop.

20201125200450_1.thumb.jpg.a42d1cb53f568cc764135c08e63c8eae.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

My other big close-season signing was Carlos Bastos from Villa. I had signed a few young striking prospects the season before but none of them could (yet) hope to match the finishing of Haaland or Mbappe. Having notched against us a couple of times, I splashed out £56m to land Bastos after he agitated for a move, tempted by his finishing stat of 17. He was rewarded us so far with 16 league goals in 11 games, an excellent return and hopefully the missing ingredient.

20201125201147_1.thumb.jpg.e71f57c45cb0de84c014b30cb5a01025.jpg

His regular strike partner so far this season has been one of those prospects I mentioned earlier. Signed for just £6m, and after a less than spectacular season long loan at Stade Rennais, Dario Bosco has the potential to go all the way. He isn't as natural a finisher as Bastos but his physical stats, combined with his vision and technique, make him a great striker partner, brining a bit of guile to go alongside the more direct thrust of our main goalscorer.

20201125201225_1.thumb.jpg.b155eac4f500ea53b427770423759f8c.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

I won't spam images of the rest of the squad but we have a number of promising young players. Hoping to join home-grown Tom Johnson in the starting line up are winger Matt Page, keeper Craig Harvey, defender Pat Cullen and midfielder Kyle Pugh, whilst Welsh defender Gwyn Trow is more of a long term development project and already looks like a potential player.

Looking further afield, I have two really good striking prospects that we brought in cheaply, as well as decent cover in midfield and full back. The squad on the whole feels well balanced with only Bellingham's spot at AML a doubt, although I remain hopeful that Matt Page can develop enough to at least be a quality stand in until I find a long term solution.

Link to post
Share on other sites

So, What Now?

17 seasons in and with FM21 now out, it is reasonable to ask what is left to achieve. 

I still have some very specific targets in mind. With 16 league titles and 14 domestic cups, I am the most successful club manager in the world but still 1 league title short of Alex Ferguson's record. So I'll have that for starters, then see if we can't round it out to a nice 20. In fact while we're at it, my record back on CM 93/94 was 25 leagues, so let's aim to beat that too.

I've only had one season where we did a clean sweep of trophies available so I would like to repeat that feat. Plus we haven't won the UCL for a while, our best record winning it twice in a row, so let's try for 3 in a row. My two unbeaten league seasons were glorious but I want to have a completely unbeaten season across all competitions. Then, when I've done that, I want to not only be unbeaten but win every single game.

I'd still like to move into a new stadium. And I've never been offered another job, so it would be nice to turn down Barcelona or Real Madrid. I'd also like the opportunity to manage internationally, even if I ultimately decline the invitation.

The main thing for me though is that I'm still really enjoying it. I had feared that the transition from known players to regens would prove either too hard or create a disconnect but I have weathered that storm and am now keen to build a new legacy.

Let the journey continue.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The end of another season and it would prove to be another successful and yet frustrating one.

Season 18 again saw us finish as champions. With 92 points, we are 8 points clear of City in 2nd, racking up a pretty decent 98 goals and letting just 26 in at the other end. With the EFL cup also in the trophy cabinet, I extend my own personal tally to 17 leagues, 15 cups and 13 other trophies. And yet...

20201128153651_1.jpg.c7aed74b81497188e7b8060761717889.jpg

First, let's get the nonsense out of the way. After our end of season collapse last year, and then having lost the Community Shield to Arsenal, I once again dipped back into a 433, again convincing myself, AGAINST ALL EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY, that it would be more defensively stable than my 424. But it wasn't, because it isn't and thankfully this folly lasted no more than a couple of games.

20201128153659_1.jpg.4d9c9316e28ad12116c86c3c4f256ca5.jpg

With normal order restored, we embarked on a 20 game winning run across all comps. This felt the closest I had been to my glory years, the team seeming unbeatable. Sadly this fallacy was proven false as we went down 0-2 to bottom of the table Cardiff. Similar frustration was felt with defeat at Blackburn before we were knocked out of the FA Cup at Villa. We responded positively, but then something nuts happened.

Having drawn 1-1 in the league, we went to Old Trafford for the first leg of the UCL quarter final, where they proceeded to thump us 1-5. Dang. Back to Anfield and after 30 minutes we were 4-0 up. Yay! They scored again to make it 4-1 but we soon added a 5th, making it 5-1 on the night, levelling the aggregate score. Yay again! Until they scored a late 2nd, sending us out 7-6. Dang. Again.

This was a crucial point in the season for me personally. I was on course to win the league comfortably but this would mark the 8th consecutive season without European success and it sparked some soul searching. Immediately, my mind raced to catastrophise and focus on the negative. Perhaps I was a fraud. Was the only reason for my initial success because I had the benefit of Klopp's superb team? Or because I vastly overspent on Haaland and Mbappe? Now that I stood alone, with a team built almost entirely of self-scouted regens, perhaps I was beginning to show that I could not judge talent. Perhaps my tactical shortcomings, previously so magnificently covered for by my star striking pair, had been laid bare. Perhaps.

But perhaps not. Let us instead strive for balance. Of course Haaland and Mbappe helped achieve an unprecedented level of success. They are magnificent footballers. Of course Klopp's squad set up the foundations for long term success, his squad is well balanced and full of quality. Yet it was me who chose the house to build on those foundations. It was me who switched to a bold 424 to make the use of my star assets, sacrificing an element of defensive stability for a boost in attacking threat. It was me who won 13 leagues in a row. It was me who managed 2 undefeated league campaigns. It was me who won all available trophies in the same season. And it is me who has built a new team, one full of promising wonderkids and supported by influential elder statesmen, a team that has the potential to grow together having been recruited and / developed under my stewardship.

So no, let's park those negative thoughts for they are skewed. Have I made mistakes? Sure? But then who the hell hasn't. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes but the key is to learn from them, hopefully never making the same one again.

My repeated attempts to transition to a 433, as well as a nagging voice that tries to move me to a more possession orientated system, are symptoms of the same illness. I have recognised that there are games when my in your face 424 is not fit for purpose. At one end of the table, we come up against that proverbial parked bus and our attacking waves cannot penetrate, leaving us to be picked off on the counter. At the other end, against some of the big boys, our aggressive pressing sees us caught out, leaving gaps for a quality team, who are also playing aggressively, to exploit. The answer to both conundrums is not to throw out all that we have done. This is all or nothing or black and white thinking; this tells me that if all is not perfect then all must be useless, not allowing space for the shades of grey that exist in life.

So I reject this mode of thinking and look for balance. My tactic works for 90%+ of the time. There are very specific games where it may make sense to regroup rather than counter, to stick rather than twist. This is not failure, it is flexibility.

Plus I really like my 424. I like that it's mine, that I came to it despite unprecedented success with another system. I like the football it plays. I like how attacking it is. And I like that it conforms to none of the traditional tactical wisdom that you'll find littered throughout these forums.

And besides, I just signed this guy.

20201128183743_1.thumb.jpg.ecd60074e27f233cf1c44fba68a4e710.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

They Think It's All Over...And It Very Nearly Was

My friends, something happened. Something bad. And I need to tell you about it.

Going into Season 19 I felt fairly bullish. After our title challenge the previous season I knew that this was a talented squad, packed with wonderkids. From the start though, something was off. After defeat to Chelsea in the semi of the Club World Cup, our 3rd place finish was a disappointment. Pre-season went well though however Chelsea would again come back to haunt us, besting us on penalties in the charity shield. Worse was to come. In a strange twist, we would play all the big sides away from home in the first half of the season, meaning that if we could secure some positive results, the back end of the season could potentially be much easier. Alas, we went down to Spurs 1-3, then Man City 0-3, in between drawing at home to Leeds. A 1-1 at the Emirates was credible enough but our form remained patchy. We went down again to Chelsea, then Man Utd, the real kick in the guts a 1-2 reverse at Burnley. We were all at sea. Our title challenge was faltering.

You know what I did, don't you? I switched to 433! And it worked, as we went on a 14 game winning streak. I tweaked the instructions from my earlier 433, the striker moving into a supporting role and the full backs encouraged to push on a bit more. By this stage, I figured the trade off of more security versus a reduced goal output was worth it. And with all the big sides still to come to Anfield, and having smashed United 5-1, we remained in with a realistic shout of the title still. Right up until Chlesea, again, shot us down in flames. A series of disappointing draws added to the frustration before we lost at home to Man City, got dumped out of the Champions League and then lost at Bournemouth. We would finish 4th, our worst season ever.

Rumours swirled in the press about my imminent sacking. Having survived scares despite the City and Bournemouth defeats, the press were convinced that defeat in the FA Cup final to Arsenal would signal the end of my reign.

We were 0-2 down with 5 minutes left when I quit the game, jumping before I could be pushed. After 19 seasons, it was over.

So over in fact that I deleted the entire game from my hard drive. Not out of anger. Strangely, I was quite serene. I had achieved more than I thought possible and was happy to look back on the positives of the save, rather than dwell on how it ended.

A couple of weeks later though, I reinstalled, deciding to have another crack. Not with this save though, instead I would start again as Liverpool, this time focusing on developing the existing youth team, many of which I glossed over in my pursuit of glory. But. But, but, but...

I still had that itch to scratch. I liked the team I had built, I was proud of my career. I didn't want to consign it to history. Lucky then that when deleting the game, I deliberately left my save on the cloud. You know, just in case.

Today then I booted it back up and replayed the cup final. We lost on penalties, although I didn't get sacked. Ha!

Having restarted once, I decided I would replay the cup final again. This time we won 3-0, absolutely dominating the game.

And so that's where we are. 19 seasons down, I'm ready to try again with this career. The purity of it has gone. I have effectively cheated to achieve this latest trophy, doing so as a means to buy myself more time with the board. It doesn't invalidate everything that came before but is something of an asterix in the record books. But I'll take it, if it means the save continues.

 

20201213203820_1.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

I felt guilty about that cup win. Like I was cheating the save, and anyone who has persevered long enough through my diatribe to get this far. So I played the game again. I won 3-1.

Maybe that 0-2 was the outlier. Either way, time to move on. I've got a title to reclaim.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, dirkgently1066 said:

I felt guilty about that cup win. Like I was cheating the save, and anyone who has persevered long enough through my diatribe to get this far. So I played the game again. I won 3-1.

Maybe that 0-2 was the outlier. Either way, time to move on. I've got a title to reclaim.

 

I feel your pain, I have faced this situation countless times where the team is suddenly so poor without any reason, that I rage quit after conceding 3 in 10 minutes. By poor I mean that top class players can't pass, tackle or hit a freaking barn door with a shot.

Replaying this *outlier* game usually do end up with a better performance, regardless of the final outcome.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't beat yourself over that restart. In the end it's a computer game and its there to have a little fun. Some people exploit the ME, some people use preset tactics, some people use scouting tools (like me) and some people use occasionally restart (like me). 

Having read many blogs and many threads here I think in the end everyone that plays this game somewhere down the line uses a potential option to "cheat" the game. That includes all the big names floating around these forums. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 14/12/2020 at 15:37, Feddo said:

Don't beat yourself over that restart. In the end it's a computer game and its there to have a little fun. Some people exploit the ME, some people use preset tactics, some people use scouting tools (like me) and some people use occasionally restart (like me). 

Having read many blogs and many threads here I think in the end everyone that plays this game somewhere down the line uses a potential option to "cheat" the game. That includes all the big names floating around these forums. 

Thanks, appreciate that.

I used to get really hung up on this sort of thing, it was a real anxiety that the save must be 'pure' and that any restart totally invalidated anything that came after. But then, we don't switch off Uncharted or Doom just because we get killed, or Mario when Bowser gets one over on us. So I'm treating that Cup Final like an end of level boss. it took me a couple of goes but I figured out how to beat it and now we move on.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah I know, I've been there myself. I always want to be tactical mastermind and if I'm not then I'm no good. I wish there was an option to differentiate in level like you can do at fifa. I'm not really interested in a really tough game. I just want to win some matches, find and or develop young talent and that's it. 

Lately though I've taken a more relaxed approach to this part. I can get furious if I see my players "standing" and watching the other team play the ball around or simply walk through my defense. Or when I'm superior and they score from an impossible angle or free kick by someone who's never scored before. 

My usual response to that now is to let my assistant finish that game (I play touch). Whatever the result is I take it. Sometimes I continue after sometimes I quit and get back when I'm calm. 

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

After our near disaster the pervious term, Season 20 would turn out to be one of our best yet.

A good pre-season saw us settle back into our regular 424 shape and whilst a 0-1 defeat in the Charity Shield was a disappointment, I remained upbeat. Right up until we were sunk 1-4 at Elland Road.

What on earth was going on? Well my friends, I did the only thing I could think of. Yep, I went back to 433. And next game up was Man United at home. An early goal set up on our way but 10 minutes later, they were level before netting a second just before half time. Honestly, I thought this was game over. Again. I couldn't keep chopping and changing. Had I simply run out of ideas? Braced to quit, I started the second half and to my immense relief, we ran out 4-2 winners.

This would be the start of 6 successive wins in all competitions before we fell to a respectable, albeit disappointing, 1-2 defeat at Man City and a 0-1 write off in the group stage of the UCL at Marseille. But in the league, we were up and running. In fact after that Marseille reverse, we would win another 8 straight on all comps, only a 1-1 at Stamford Bridge blotting the copybook. However a 1-0 win at home to Portsmouth gave me pause for thought. They had been the whipping boys of the division following promotion and yet I just scraped a victory. This had been a recurring theme in my previous 433 adventures as I would blitz some teams but look toothless against others, usually where they packed the defence. A change was needed.

I was settled on my shape though. As I had realised some season back, 424 was great when I had the best team in the world but with this squad something of a work in progress, I needed a bit more security. In looking back, I had simply replicated my day one tactics, which meant an attacking pressing forward up top flanked by two attacking inside forwards. behind them came a supporting mezalla and B2B with a DLP on defend, two BPDs on defend, two wing backs on support and a  supporting sweeper keeper. Watching the games though, I was frustrated by the way my wing backs would get into good positions, only to pass it backwards. My pressing forward meanwhile, whilst effective, would occasionally be isolated and besides, his limited instructions did a disservice to my creative attackers.

And so the pressing forward became a complete forward and the wing backs became complete. We wouldn't drop a single point in the entire rest of the league campaign, ending the season with a 1-0 win at Old Trafford to equal our best run of 23 consecutive league wins (made 24 with a win in our first game of the next season).

20201217233009_1.thumb.jpg.1813ac8920e530ea131207c569e5479a.jpg

With the League Cup also secured, it was a successful season, although a QF exit in the Champions League and final defeat to Man Utd in the FA Cup left a bitter taste. Still, I had found a new way forward and the future looks bright. Speaking of which...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...