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Reviving a lost season - going game to game tactically


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Long time since i posted anything in here of substance, last years game most passed me by and this year ive barely dabled, but its still a game that draws me in, and the tactical side of FM is always something i feel i want to invest more time into. I started to dable recently with creating some wild, asymetric, strikerless madness at RBL, which was designed to embrace JDP principles. All good fun, but also things lots of other people are doing, i guess. 

Instead, i decided to look at a slightly different scenario. One more common in real world football than in FM saves, granted, but something like:

- You come into a club in Feb 
- You are in the relegation zone, not cut adrift, but 4pts from safety and the team has not had any consistency all season
- The squad is a mess, frankly. There is mish mash of player types, very little sign of a cohesive plan, generally pretty poor quality
- The transfer window has been and gone, and the club has not really used it wisely, hence the above point
- In reality ,the overall quality of the squad is bottom 6 at best, and close to bottom 3

So what do you? Tactically, and in team management terms. Do you analyse what you have, see what you think best suits them, and hope you can simple do bette than before by getting a little more out of the same players. Or do you stick to your own footballing approach, making "Best fits" where possible into a system you believe in, and hoping that over time, the team will form into your character and start to play as you hope.

Well, it just so happens, i have a save where i find myself in this very situation (albeit with a slight twist!)

The Save

So uh, the slight twist here, is that i do not truley "come into a club" in Feb. This is actually a save I started months ago. I started out at West Bromich Albion (i have no personal connection as such, but  a close friend is WBA mad, so i kinda get drawn in a little). But at the time i started this save, i was not really "Into" FM if i am honest. I sleep walked my way through the first 3 months - few random buys in the first window, slap a 4231 in, struggle quite a bit. Slap a 433 on, pick up the odd win, then struggle again. Jan comes, i get a bit interested again, think "right, its time to rebuild this squad", but i am only half interested really , so instead i sell off what i can, and i make a serious of somewhat random signings.......we continue to struggle.

Then, i decide i want to do "this" - this thread and approach. So the scenario, as it were ,starts here on 12 Feb 2021, with 14 league game remaining in the season (and we are out of the cup, so that is the lot) 

The current situation

League Table

24ab7b1a3396e7f24c996cd1045f8ac7.png

Remaining Fixtures

d94eae08e6c9e8ba70495c3f7ce092ac.png


The Squad

f64cfbf6f383cf93b5e017c78f14d8df.png

 

The Tactical Approach

So, i went back and forth quite a lot around how to approach this situation, and indeed how to even make it thread worthy. I thought about looking at an approach of "can you attack your way up from the bottom" or "can you impliment JDP in a rubbish squad at the bottom of the league" and a few other similar things. In the end, i felt like all of these things would be simply folly. It would also be a little bit boring to be honest.

What i landed on, eventually, is to look to see if i can evolve something here over time. There is the short term, and the long term. In this situation, we need to react differently to each. In the short team, we face a number of issues:
 

1) Our remaining fixture list will give us different types of opponents, in comparison to us, and in play styles. We are not good enough really to simply dictate our own style onto games against better teams

2) The squad is a mess, and, crucially, has key injuries, which would impact our ability to play a specific structure 

3) Tactically, i am not that clued up this year, and dont really have an underlying system that i know works that i would "port across" onto WBA

So, where that lead me to, is that the best thing to do is to take it "game by game" - Obviously not drastic changes, but adapt our tactical approach each game to reflect both our opponent, and also the personell available to us at that moment im time. In real life, its a pretty  basic aspect of football management. For many FM players, Its almost alien. We plug n play, right? Even if we create our own systems, so many of us just uniformly apply our system and make small tweaks based on intuituion rather than the actual situation - Now i should caveat this by saying, that is not the way everyone plays FM, and there are a shed load of brilliant threads and content on here showing people "managing" the tactical side of it into incredible levels of detail. 

So what is our formation and tactical approach? Well, we will need to see game by game .As it happens, our first match is against Leicester away. Its not quite a "medium difficulty" match, with Leicester in 7th in the league and we know having a strong squad, but they sit outside the true "big 6" so i feel like we can use that game to establish somewhat of a base, and adjust up or down when we face big 6 sides, or sides around us. 

But first, we need to look at the squad we have inherited in some more detail. I will do that in the next post. 

I would really like to get feedback as i go here - i am years out of date in my FM tactical knowledge in some ways, so i will get it wrong and it would be great to see people looking at the tactical decisions i make game to game and giving me pointers and feedback. 

 

 

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So time for a bit more of a detailed look at what we have at our disposal here, spoiler alert.... it aint much.  But our tactical approach will have to focus a lot on how we best make use of the strengths that these players do have, both individually and as a collective. 

I wont clog up the thread with screenshots to every player, will use hyperlinks to keep it neat. 

Goalkeepers

Sam Johnstone - The clear number 1. Not top notch but probably is good enough to hold his own in the bottom half of the prem 

Backups - I wont bore you with details, Sam is basically the only keeper we use. We have Jon Bond and David Button in the club as well but neither are more than bench fodder

Centrebacks

Anel Ahmedhozic - A popular signing amongst FM'ers im sure, ideally he would have a year more to develop before being a prem starter, but he is the best we have. Has some good ball playing qualities 

Denis Vavro - A Jan signing from Lazio, he is a more powerful and solid "old school" defender. Strong, good in the air and not dog slow at least

Backups - We have Cedric Kipre and Dara O'Shea as our backup CBs, but neither are close to being as good as the two above so its not really a decision here in terms of who wil start, and playing with a back 3 is largely impossible

Fullbacks

Left back

Jordan Amavi - A Jan signing to replace the ageing and frankly rubbish Gibbs. He is an attacking type of LB for sure, his defensive qualities are suspect at best but he looks like he could perform ok in some attacking fullback type roles or as a wing back at WBL if we made something work in that shape. He is also injured for 3 weeks 

Connor Townsend - Basically, a Championship level Amavi.......below the level needed for the prem but has some attacking qualities, if not the traits of Amavi

Right back

Miguel Layun - Another very attack minded fullback and Jan signing, he has more defensive quality than Amavi on the other side, but still has bomb on type traits, wcould influence how we set up. He is injured for 10 days

Darnell Furlong - A more defensive fullback, only slightly, but also not a very good one, to be quite frank. 

Central Midfield

Oriol Busquets - A loanee from barca, and well suited to a variety of roles from the CDM strata, or a defensive duty in the CM strata

Pedro Sa - Also probably best suited to a deeper role, less playmaking traits than Busquets but somewhat similar profile

Sam Field  - Somewhat versatile looking, if not exactly prem class in a few areas of his game 

Jordan Ferri - Hard working, good mentals and physicals and might be well suite to some form of support role or B2B, although the low finishing is not ideal for such a role

Rekeem Harper - more one for the future, his technicals are a bit lacking. Probably a more attacking CM type maybe if we need to change and go more attacking, could also potentially be a sub at CAM

Jack Wilshire - What to make of him really.....Clearly still has some qualities, but its hard to say for sure what his best role is really, and how he might dovetail with some of the other options above and below

Carlos Alena - Another Barca Loanee, probably a CAM only, with some lovely technicals and mental abilities and traits. Also injured for 2 weeks currently 

Filip Kronovic - Yet another loan, can play multiple positions, but is a bit lazy and lacking in a few areas which mean i would probably not choose to start him in an ideal world

Wingers

Grady Diangana - Pacey, but his mentals and technicals are probably below what you need in the prem. Can play either side, and given we are quite short of wide options, we may need to make use of him

Alex Collado - Continuing our attempt to be a Barca feeder team, another loanee. Has some obvious holes in his game but was brough in because he ticks some basic boxes in specific technical and mental attributes. Interestin mix of traits and can play off either side

Karlam Grant - Could also be considered a striker, but given the rest of our options is likely to be used from wide. Looks a very good player amongs our other options

Strikers

Daniel Sturridge - Has unfortunately lost the pace which was his trademark, and has a mix of good and bad traits. Still clearly has the ability in front of goal, but can be a bit of an enigma

Jermaine Defoe -  Yes, really.... he is about 100 years old, but he can still play on the shoulder and bang in the goals. Feels like a pure poacher / AF type 

Kenneth Zahore - If this guy makes an appearance, we are in trouble.... just there because ive been unable to shift him tbh 

 

So that is the squad we have. I am now building up a couple of options for my first game, away to Leicester - looking at how best to use those those players in a cohesive system, which is suited to an underdog team. Morale is not great, and little i can do about that in the few days before the game, so we will try to focus on opponent scouting and tactical approach. 

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Ok game 1, as shown above, is  away to high flying Leicester. They currently sit 7th in the table, Goals for and against are pretty much equal, so to be expected for a mid table side. In preperation for this, i split it into 2 stages:

Stage 1 - what can we realistically do with the players available?

so looking at the set of players we have, there is a little bit of versatility there Realistically, there are maybe 14 players max that i would want to choose from to start, but some can play many roles. So i think realistically we could go 433 (the CDM / AMR / AML thing), 4141, 442, 4411.  

With where we are, i dont see any logic in trying anything more exotic, we are probably not suited to a narrow formation, and 3 at the back is also not really something we have the personel for. In terms of style, we again have a bit of variety. We dont have the quality, pace or player types for a full on gegen press, we might have some players suited to a counter style. There are options here , they are jjust more narrow than they would be if i was managing Liverpool.

 

Stage 2 - Oppposition scouting 

Our scout reports can tell us a lot, and at this stage it would be easy to get caught up and lost in the detail, i looked at a couple of main aspects. Firstly, it shows us the formation, including roles (is this new? is it because i have the editor enabled or something?) which they are most likely to use:

9eca3c29f775c4cdc6d278fbe8e0b779.png

It also tells us they like to play a tiki-taka style. To validate this, i took the time to watch around 30 in game minutes of the last game they played and it is very apparent. Lots of quick passing, short passes, interchanges between the central players in particular. 

How will we setup?

So, i scibbled down a lot of ideas here, but i also watched back most of our last 2 games before this. The last defeat against spurs, i had played a cautious mentality with a counter attacking set of instructions. Watching it back, we were just simply not in the game. by standing off, we let them totally dominate us. It was a good idea to watch this, because until that point my head was in the space of "lets be tight, hard to beat, and counter attack". After that, i started to delve a bit deeper. 

I decided, that we simply could not afford to go full stand off against such a proficient tiki-taka side. It would be folly for us to go full high press, or an overy attaking formation or set of duties, but i decided we would not simply go full on "Big Sam at anfield". I settled on a partial press. I wanted to set up to press the central midfield area, which is where Leicester tend to focus passing. I also wanted to mitigate how much of the ball the CDM would get. So i came up with this:

 

686fd522a6554c7423887e55f1c1246f.png

 

Disclaimer - there are some errors in the player selection in that screenshot. i had been messign with multiple systems. The roles and duties are all as i intended, but Busquets should be the DLP, Ferri the CM(a) and Wilshire the AMC. Also the CBs should swap roles - Ahmedh should be the BPD More to come on this....

So we go with Balanced mentality - makes sense to start like that. We go with a partial press - more urgent, but a standard depth of Dline, combined with a lower line of engagement to try and keep the midfield compressed. Also narrow defending to force them round thee sides. In attack. I have gone for shorter passing -we do not have many great passers and i dont want to needlessly give the ball back to a team who play tiki taka. We also want to stay disciplined -we need to keep some shape despite the press. We have also set a counter, but not counter press, in the transition section, reflecting that i do want to offer some threat on the counter, as with our attacking setup its one of our best routes to scoring. 

The roles and duties are not too complex .Down the left, we want to utilise Grants attacking qualities to get foward and be a threat alongside Defoe. To compliment that , we want Townsend to go foward, but double attack duties down that side might be too risky, and Townsend is low on quality so full on Roberto carlos might not be the way to go. On the right, i am fond of using a fullback as IWB(D) to create a double pivot. This is also somewhat driven by the personel - i probably would not with Layun but Furlong is limited, so lets give him a limited ask. Keep it narrow ,and help protect the CBs. Infront, a W(s) is conservative but with the central roles, we need to not be over attacking

In the middle ,ive gone for a DLP(d) which suits Busquets perfectly, gives us our ball recycling outlet as well as a defensively stable presence. Next to him i have taken a slight risk. I absolutely love the CM(a) role on this game with how it can break the lines. So i am going with that, but using a player type who is also very defensively capable in Ferri. I also manually increased his pressing, and that of the AMC to help create our central press. The AMC(s) is a choice to try to create a partnership with the 2 behind and to leave room for Grant to  cut inside. Finally, defoe really has to be an AF(a). 

Will that all work? lets find out..............

 

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Game 1 - Leicester City v WBA 

Ok so the way i dealt with this, is that i took verbatim notes as the game progressed and i will just paste these here......to try and show a bit of the changes i made, i will stick some screenshots of things i looked at as well:

One thing - Specifically set our CAM to man mark the Leicester CDM - the formation clash allows for this (Leicester will play 433 CDM) 

First 10 - started ok, couple of chances on the break forced a couple of corners. not letting them play too much. Under looks dangerous against Townsend.  - No tweaks

12mins - goal kicks are being taken long which is making us lose the ball. Check settings. - change distribution to "take short kicks"

14mins - erm, put the players in the right spots.... (Like an idiot, i started the team like the screenshot above, with 3 players in the wrong position!!) 

16mins - our 4th corner, but all being easily cleared, check corner setup and vary

18mins - Grant gets in the channel great chance 1 v 1 on the angle but saved. 

25mins - analysis check 

257a1939ea7612e8f191c0f05c4f52b6.png

26mins - Slighty scrappy, but its a goal. Long clearance headed by Townsend, then by Busquest, to grant, first time header through ball to Defoe, just clips it over the keeper. 

26mins - mentality to cautious for 5mins

28mis  - My RB is taking a thwo in on the left hand side. WHY. check throw in takers and amend. 

31mins - back to balanced mentality

36mins - Vavro tries a long pass - terrible. Switch his role with that of Ahmedhozic

39mins - great chance, 2 v 1 with Defoe and Grant but Grant dwells and kills the move. 

HT - stats review 

dee5a5aa96116832a35f0e51841b2ce4.png

2b754c664b139f81d9e5d7f699d0a641.png

7565464fffe81d10cfbc66c0fba13165.png

Ok so overall, its looking ok for us.  Its surprisingly even. We are in the game. Our team shape looks good. I always like to look at the opposing passing stats - its interesting that we are limiting the opposing Midfield and the majority of those passes are coming from the fullbacks - i am ok with that. More of the same hopefully. 

51mins - Half started with them attakcing a bit more, but wait...Ferri plays in defo with a lovely ball in behind, Defoe finish.......GAH, VAR disallow it for offside. 

63mins - game is pretty stale at the moment but we are holding the ball well and not inviting pressure. 

68mins - TIMe to look at subs.  Diangana for Collado - later has not played well and has not been in the game much and is tiring. Sa for Ferri for fresh legs in a crucial position. No tactical changes

74min - still holding out fairly well, they have gone more attacking but same formation. Final change - Kronovic for Grant who is knackerd. Set him to WM (s)

81 mins - mentality to cautious, time waste to max 

85mins - CM(a) to CM(s) 

88mins - we have an attack going. Diangana has it in a good place to hold it. Tries a shot from distance, goes about 4 miles wide. Idiot. 

91mins - half chance for Vardy header from a deep cross, over the bar. 

92mins - we have it again Diangana again in space wide. He runs into a defender and loses it. Remind me to fire him. 

92mis - immediatel fom this, Barnes breaks and takes a pot shot from 20 yards, pushed round the post by Sam

94mins - in those last 120 secs we had the ball FOUR times and gave it away immediately. But the whilstle goes

Final Stats:

94ed7239ca54f3efe5d5cb40f0c4748e.png

So overall Leicester ended up on top in terms of shots / xG, but much of that was the last 5-10mins. We performed very well in possession stats and pass completion - very pleased by that. 

Takeways

1) The overall gameplan worked. Leicest had the better of the stats, but they created nothing clear cut, we didnt let them get into the Tiki- Taka and we also carried a theat. Away to a top 7 side those are big things

2) Some absolute basic rookie management errors that cant happen

3) we really need a "Hold out" tactic which is more effective than the simple changes i was making. 

4) Collado was the only real "poor performer" - Need to consider his role and duty, alternative players are not plentful

5) Defoe will score goals. 

 

So, onwards we go.....only the small matter of Man Utd, who are 6pts clear at the top next up.......

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43 minutes ago, Jambo98 said:

Game 1 - Leicester City v WBA 

Ok so the way i dealt with this, is that i took verbatim notes as the game progressed and i will just paste these here......to try and show a bit of the changes i made, i will stick some screenshots of things i looked at as well:

One thing - Specifically set our CAM to man mark the Leicester CDM - the formation clash allows for this (Leicester will play 433 CDM) 

First 10 - started ok, couple of chances on the break forced a couple of corners. not letting them play too much. Under looks dangerous against Townsend.  - No tweaks

12mins - goal kicks are being taken long which is making us lose the ball. Check settings. - change distribution to "take short kicks"

14mins - erm, put the players in the right spots.... (Like an idiot, i started the team like the screenshot above, with 3 players in the wrong position!!) 

16mins - our 4th corner, but all being easily cleared, check corner setup and vary

18mins - Grant gets in the channel great chance 1 v 1 on the angle but saved. 

25mins - analysis check 

257a1939ea7612e8f191c0f05c4f52b6.png

26mins - Slighty scrappy, but its a goal. Long clearance headed by Townsend, then by Busquest, to grant, first time header through ball to Defoe, just clips it over the keeper. 

26mins - mentality to cautious for 5mins

28mis  - My RB is taking a thwo in on the left hand side. WHY. check throw in takers and amend. 

31mins - back to balanced mentality

36mins - Vavro tries a long pass - terrible. Switch his role with that of Ahmedhozic

39mins - great chance, 2 v 1 with Defoe and Grant but Grant dwells and kills the move. 

HT - stats review 

dee5a5aa96116832a35f0e51841b2ce4.png

2b754c664b139f81d9e5d7f699d0a641.png

7565464fffe81d10cfbc66c0fba13165.png

Ok so overall, its looking ok for us.  Its surprisingly even. We are in the game. Our team shape looks good. I always like to look at the opposing passing stats - its interesting that we are limiting the opposing Midfield and the majority of those passes are coming from the fullbacks - i am ok with that. More of the same hopefully. 

51mins - Half started with them attakcing a bit more, but wait...Ferri plays in defo with a lovely ball in behind, Defoe finish.......GAH, VAR disallow it for offside. 

63mins - game is pretty stale at the moment but we are holding the ball well and not inviting pressure. 

68mins - TIMe to look at subs.  Diangana for Collado - later has not played well and has not been in the game much and is tiring. Sa for Ferri for fresh legs in a crucial position. No tactical changes

74min - still holding out fairly well, they have gone more attacking but same formation. Final change - Kronovic for Grant who is knackerd. Set him to WM (s)

81 mins - mentality to cautious, time waste to max 

85mins - CM(a) to CM(s) 

88mins - we have an attack going. Diangana has it in a good place to hold it. Tries a shot from distance, goes about 4 miles wide. Idiot. 

91mins - half chance for Vardy header from a deep cross, over the bar. 

92mins - we have it again Diangana again in space wide. He runs into a defender and loses it. Remind me to fire him. 

92mis - immediatel fom this, Barnes breaks and takes a pot shot from 20 yards, pushed round the post by Sam

94mins - in those last 120 secs we had the ball FOUR times and gave it away immediately. But the whilstle goes

Final Stats:

94ed7239ca54f3efe5d5cb40f0c4748e.png

So overall Leicester ended up on top in terms of shots / xG, but much of that was the last 5-10mins. We performed very well in possession stats and pass completion - very pleased by that. 

Takeways

1) The overall gameplan worked. Leicest had the better of the stats, but they created nothing clear cut, we didnt let them get into the Tiki- Taka and we also carried a theat. Away to a top 7 side those are big things

2) Some absolute basic rookie management errors that cant happen

3) we really need a "Hold out" tactic which is more effective than the simple changes i was making. 

4) Collado was the only real "poor performer" - Need to consider his role and duty, alternative players are not plentful

5) Defoe will score goals. 

 

So, onwards we go.....only the small matter of Man Utd, who are 6pts clear at the top next up.......

Jambo, keep it up!:applause:A really nice post! Keeping it simple really helps when it comes to tactics.

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