Jump to content

[FM18] Les Dragons and Tactical Evolution from LLM

Recommended Posts

Hey, I have never done a thread before and I know I am using a very old version, so the thread will have limited interest, but I had been asked for my tactical evolution in this save. 

My reason for still using FM18 is I am very nerdy about the tactical side of football, and I find the newer tactics creator to be inadequate in replicating real world tactics and not in depth enough. I have found the pieces on this forum by many to be very interesting, and have definitely helped and inform my understanding of how to play the game and utilise the tactics creator in this regard. I'll be focussing on the tactical side in this career thread, obvs. Many thanks all.

Introducing AS Cannes

I have always loved LLM saves and usually try to take a team from the Conference North or Conference, right the way to CL final. I also enjoy random saves, such as taking a second tier Austrian team to domestic domination, CL final and Austria to the World Cup semis (I was very gutted not to get further with either). However, this is definitely my lowest ever starting point! French football does not have the depth of the English game, by any stretch of the imagination. 

I have a little bit of love for AS Cannes. It's a small town in Provence on the Mediterranean coast, surrounded by much bigger clubs, such as Monaco, Marseille and Nice. They produced Zidane, Micoud, Vieira, Sebastian Frey & Clichy in the early to mid 90s, which was the last time they were any good. They finished a very respectable 4th in 1991/92 with Zidane in the team, and although they failed in both Europe and the league the following season, they were back in Ligue 1 from 93/94 until 97/98. After this glory period, they fell back into Ligue 2 and then the National, until they were booted out of the professional game in 2014/15 for financial irregularities. 

This is exactly the sort of story I love, returning 'Les Dragons' to former glories, with a club renowned for producing youth talent.

Season 2017/18 - National 3 - Corse-Méditerranée (T5) - The 433

So... Amateur football in FM is tough. I have experienced the semi-professional standard before, but at this level there are no contracts, not even pay as you play, which means if you have a decent player, another team of higher reputation can pinch them at any time - this means that there is no chance of you getting a really good player for the league and holding onto them. Something I found out very early...

We are tipped for a 4th place finish and in comparison to the rest of the league we look decent - not top stuff but decent. Tactically we set up accordingly:

  • we expect to be as good as the top teams and better than the worse teams
  • we don't have great legs (stamina, pace and general fitness even in comparison to the very poor league)
  • Our biggest weakness is defence
  • Our biggest strength is Central midfield

Looking at all of this you can hopefully see why we set up as we did. I like 433/451 - it has good coverage for those ageing legs in defence and can be tweaked in attack to suit your players - in this case our best player according to my AM is by far and away our left back and whilst we don't have a natural Left winger, I'm hoping that playing a right footed player there with the left back overlapping will confuse the opposition defence and stretch the play. 

I want to control the game and the players are technically and mentally good for the league, so I think they can cope with a flexible approach. TIs are minimal as you can see and PIs are similar, i think the RW has get forward whenever possible and the CM has move into channels. We don't want to over complicate things for these players - trust me!


Sorry there are no players, I didn't save screenshots at the time so I'm having to dig back through the archives.

After a few friendlies, my best player and the man I've built this tactic around - the left back (Kenny Gillet) is poached and I'm left wondering if I should change things, but with only a couple of friendlies left and things going well I persevere - although I never really get that left side going or the 5 in attack.


You can see that the midfield rocked this. Lopez-Peralta at 36, showed age is just a number and was the heartbeat of the team and alongside Anziani in CM really dominated games. Barkallah was good on the RW and I picked up Chabaud who was unattached and he went on to storm the scoring charts. 


Promotion achieved and with a respectable performance in the Coupe de France getting to the 9th round and losing to Marseille - see below a link to a superb thread. I consider this a very good season. Amateur football is tough - squads are very transient.

Season 2018/19 - Championnat National C (T4) - The 442 diamond

Formerly known as the Championnat de France Amateur (or CFA) this is the top level of Amateur football in France and tier 4 in the pyramid. It's split regionally into 4, but is a very odd division, because you have completely Amateur teams like ourselves, semi-pro teams who actually pay wages (not just pay as you play) and then some of the B teams of the big boys. For example OL B had players playing for them who were on £20k+ p/w and (spoiler alert) I now manage in the French National side!

We are predicted a 14th place finish (relegation) and given that we are the only side not giving players any money at all (all the others have at least given their players a pay as you play on non-contract terms) I'm surprised the prediction isn't to finish rock-bottom. 

Tactically we are hit by the retirement of Anthony Lopez-Peralta, who could not be convinced otherwise. I was not happy with the lhs last season and I expect to be out-classed in almost every game so I opt to pack the midfield and make teams play around us. I drop the mentality to standard and the shape to structured - for obvious reasons. The TIs of Drop deeper but press higher are to combat the fact our CBs have no pace but equally I don't want us to be playing a low block and inviting pressure. A lowish-mid block is fine. 


This does mean no place for one of our top performers last season Right Winger Sami Barkallah but I can't find a good Left winger for love nor money (not that we have any of that anyway) I settle for the 4312. I realise that the full backs won't offer much going forward, but given we have an extra striker to bolster the forward line, I believe this is the best option I have available. We occasionally switch to the 433 depending on game state and how the match is playing out.


I would class this season as a relative success without going over-board. We stay up, but are knocked out in the 5th round (our first match) of the Coupe de France. The formation and style aren't quite cutting the mustard. The full backs offer even less than I expected with LB being a huge issue - neither Ousfane or Vilar look remotely competent. Beaulieu was signed part way through the season and is a superb replacement for the retired lopez-peralta.


Season 2019/20 - Championnat National C (T4) -Perfecting the diamond

We go again in this league and are predicted a 12th place finish. In better news, although still an amateur club, I can offer non-contract terms to players. We are unfortunately losing money hand over fist - despite the wage bill of £0, so I opt not to do this and only when an offer comes in for one of my better players do I offer that player these terms. By the end of the season 3 players have a pay as you play contract but we are over £1m in debt! I'm not holding out hope for training or youth facility improvements any time soon.

Tactically we are in a similar situation. I can't find a left winger, however I have signed Oumar Diop and I'm retraining him and Barkallah as Left wing inside forwards - but we are an amateur club, we barely train and the facilities are poor. This is a slow process. On the plus side, I've got a very good RB (Behe) and a decent LB (Martinez) and I'm hoping this unlocks the diamond formation. 


I've dropped our AM Leca who has flattered to deceive and pulled the midfield closer to the defence. Beaulieu is our creator at AP(a) and with 3 destroyers (2x BWM and a DM(d)) I'm more confident in a mid block in-spite of my still very slow and now older CBs. Our strikers are small hence the play out of defence and work ball into box. The play much wider TI came in because I wanted more distance between the 2 BWMs. I noticed that when narrower, they often decided to close down the same player :seagull: but it does also help the WBs in attack. I enjoyed this season a lot. You can see the attempt to transition into a 2-3-5 in attack (although my lb rarely made it tbh). With better players, I'd use a Half back, more pressing and a higher mentality to create a 325 for further stability and help the transitions.


This was a mightily successful season a 4th place finish and ahead of 2 B teams is not to be sniffed at, and although Promotion looks close between Cannes and Lusitanos, we were effectively promoted with 8 games to go (of which we only won 2 having had 5 B teams to play and I did some experimentation with formation). Diop had a superb season and is a Right winger so regularly played up top or in a 433 (when we changed). He never once played as a BWM! His form is likely to prompt a switch of formation next season. Honourable mentions to Beaulieu (9 goals as an AP(a) is no mean feat) and Behe at RB. But this all just clicked. Everyone loves the diamond.


Season 20/21 - Championnat National (T3) - My big error

After a very pleasing season, we move up to the Championnat National supposedly the lowest tier of professional football - but most sides are semi-pro like us. We can now sign players to proper contract terms, however, we continue to haemorrhage money at an alarming rate. Our income is very low and the ground, Stade Pierre de Coubertin is a 12,000 seater monster which has significant costs and we rarely get above 1,000 fans. This means I have refrained to offer contracts unless necessary (new players and tying down decent current players).

We are tipped to finished 12th which seems overly optimistic by the AI given we still have players on completely amateur contracts and are a newly promoted side, however, I look at the comparisons and we look under average but decent. I guess the jump from T4 where you have the B teams to T3 where the B teams aren't allowed is very small. This gives me confidence and along with the brilliant form of Oumar Diop (Right wing) in the previous season and the fact I finally managed to sign a left Winger (N'Gakoutou) who was right footed and perfect for the IF role I opt to revert to the 433. I have confidence my full backs Behe and Martinez, which hasn't been the case before, so I'm confident in our return to our original formation and the increase in mentality and shape.


This confidence in my team and there abilities was completely and totally misplaced. We won a couple of matches early on, but we just couldn't stop conceding. I stuck with it, because the squad had quite a few new players and the team cohesion was low, but after conceding 5 then 6 in subsequent matches, followed by being dumped out of the Coupe de France at the first possible opportunity by a team 2 divisions below, I knew changes were needed.


You can see that we were creating chances and scoring goals, but the defence just wasn't up to it, we were also giving the ball away far too often. I reverted to the previous seasons 4132, but the results only improved slightly.

At this time I was reading lots about Bielsa's tactics and how he always has a man extra at CB. Having noticed our results weren't improving vs 2 man striker formations, I started to experiment with a 3 man defence dropping the DM into the back line and pushing the full backs to wing backs a 352 / 532. I didn't add in Bielsa's man marking or pressing, that was way beyond our capabilities. 

So we ended the season playing predominantly the 4132 of the 19/20 season with the occasional 352. The results started to improve and towards the end of the season we were looking good, but not taking our chances and drawing too many games.


We just needed to win a couple of those games at the end of the season, and we were 2-0 up vs Chateauroux and winning vs Vitre and Grenoble. Alas, it was too little too late - we had started terribly and were relegated despite getting more than a point per game. A very disappointing season but what I wasn't to know was it had lit the tactical torch for something truly remarkable!


You'll notice below that Oumar Diop was so very poor this season he couldn't even make the squad for the team of the year. He barely saw game time again, as my annoyance for this dreadful season was (probably completely irrationally) placed on his shoulders. I did make this seasons tactical changes for him and felt severely let down. Beaulieu was once again the bright spark in an otherwise very poor looking set of stats. Bryan Constant was brought in to replace Diop, but despite his very good ratings and goals, he was sacrificed for defensive solidity. (He really wasn't as good as these stats suggest).

Other things to note, we have 3 youth products in the squad - Douay, Diarra-Duval and Maire. Very exciting and they should get more game time in the division below next year.


So tbh, If I was reading this, I wouldn't exactly be impressed so far. There's plenty of LLM threads and plenty of people better at writing than I am but hopefully those first 4 seasons can act as a bit of background for what comes next. The above is how I used to play FM, idealistic, fairly cavalier not really relating the tactics used to real life - although I would claim that the first tactic looks rather similar to how Mancini's Italy will play at the EUROs in a few days.

From the next season onwards, I had started to read threads on here  and elsewhere from some of my favourite contributors @Ö-zil to the Arsenal!, @Cleon, @LPQR, @Rashidi, @Guimy, @fmFutbolManager to name a few and was inspired to go deeper into tactics and relate things back to real life tactics, tactical development and philosophies. It's given me so much more enjoyment in the game. This is a thank you to all of you.

Edited by woodyy2r
Link to post
Share on other sites

Season 2021/22 - Championnat National C (T4) - The 352 counter

After what has to go down as one of my poorest ever FM seasons - being far too idealistic (I often push to get fluid, possession based football as early as possible) and not really thinking about how I want the team to transition or indeed what they are capable of - we go into the 5th season in a malaise of our own making. Still results and performances towards the end of the last season were promising and with the feeling that one extra man at CB to combat the fact our CBs are poor was the beginning of something.

We are tipped to finish 8th – sounds poor, however the 7 teams tipped to finish ahead of us are all B teams, meaning of the teams who can be promoted we are supposedly the best. 

On the tactical side, given that there is no way I could go full Bielsa in the pressing and fluidity, I’m going to pick the best bits from various coaches currently using 3 at the back, as we are clearly suited to the formation. I’m also going to change from my usual ideas of possession based football. We are going to be most threatening on the counter, not patiently keeping the ball and waiting for an opening. Yet, given we are expected to be better than the non-B teams I want to have positive mentalities and some creative freedom.


Everything about this tactic is built to exploit transitions, and is set up perfectly for our players. A mid-block with some pressing but not overexerting - limited PIs - CM run wide with ball (Mezzala would be the perfect role, but let's not put too much on these limited players) and forwards move into channels - no fancy roles, keep it simple and direct with clear obvious threats. We can easily change to a 4132 from this base, pushing a CB forward to DM, the DM forward to CM and the WBs back to FBs. All Tis and PIs stay the same. I had put a lot of thought and reading into this tactic and was apprehensive to say the least.


I needn't have been. We went unbeaten in our first 16 matches winning 11. Beating OL B who were still playing their two £20K p/w players from 2 seasons ago was particularly pleasing and put us top. We slowed a little in the 2nd half of the season - no drop in performance, but perhaps a regression to the mean from the initial results. A 9th Round CdF exit vs Lg2 Grenoble was a decent run as well.


Notable performances from Behe (RWB), Beaulieu (CM(a)), Mze Ali (BWM) and with Douay, Diarra-Duval, Hernandez and Tambon all from the Cannes youth setup it was a great year all round.



Season 2022/23 - Championnat National (T3) - 3412, Wilder & The 'Duffy' Role

Following the resounded success of the previous season, I change nothing to start the season. We are predicted 16th (relegation) and tbh it showed in the first 4 matches.


No goals at all was worrying, but more so was the lack of chances created. I wasn't going to make the same mistake of waiting to long as I did 2 seasons ago. Something had to change.

Given I have said I have taken my inspiration from current Managers using 3 at the back formations, there was an obvious role-model close to home for me. I had never tried to replicate Wilder's tactics at the Blades, given the in-ability of the tactics creator to utilise overlapping CBs (something that FM2021 still can't do)! I am, however, currently picking the best bits of all managers and ignoring what I can't achieve with these players, surely looking to a manager who has squeezed every ounce of potential from fairly limited players was just the ticket.

This change was hugely inspired by @Ö-zil to the Arsenal!'s Benfica Thread and his discussion regarding the Highly Structured team shape & Juego de Posicion (Van Gaal). Also taking ideas from Positional Play (Mourinho) and Conte's Juve, Chelsea and Inter teams.

The 3412 (and subsequent 352 in the premier league) Chris WIlder and Alan Knill created were revolutionary in there use of CBs but were highly structured - limiting the freedom players have to deviate from there roles (bar a few key players) and playing with low creative freedom. This allowed players who had often been regarded as lower league journeymen to thrive. We at AS Cannes needed some of this. What's more IRL the Blades were starting to falter and there was a huge clamour the revive the 'Duffy' role behind the front 2 in order for us to actually create chances. 

We had signed a good AM (Roman Faivre) and I felt it was time to unleash him. So for the 5th match we lined up in a 3412


We invert the diamonds from last season and drag the team up the pitch. 532 in defence transitioning to 325 or more like 3232 in attack. This was about as close as I could get to the Sheffield United tactics of 2016/17 100pt League One campaign. The results were immediate, winning 11 of the next 14.


Although I never really got the 'Duffy' role singing, we smashed the league. CdF was less impressive but we rotated for 4 matches vs lower league opposition losing the 4th.


Another lovely thing is that all season the starting WBs (Maire and Hernandez) were from our academy - Cannes born and bred. They were limited, but fit perfectly within the system. Across the board great performances.



Season 2023/24 - Ligue 2 (T2) - 352, Return to the Counter

The promotion to Ligue 2 came with the added bonus of forcing the club to turn professional - I looked forward to reaping the rewards but I was given a wage budget of £12k p/w (up from £5k) and no transfer budget - it's not quite the EFL Championship funding here! I understand we are in £1.7m of debt, but TV revenue of £5m will wipe that out. The board tell me to jog on and that's the end of it. Selling my 'keeper for £250k gives me a total of £125k to spend - I put the vast majority onto the wage budget.


So with the smallest professional budget I have ever seen it is no surprise we are predicted to finish last (20th) and looking at the attribute comparison, we are rock bottom in almost every area. Clearly we weren't going to change from the super successful 'highly structured' 3 at the back. But we do revert a little, I remove the 'Duffy' role for a DM and we go back to our counter attacking instructions.


532 in defence, transitioning to the 3232 in attack. All about winning the ball in a mid-block and getting forward quickly before the team has a chance to get back in shape. The Signing of Koté (RWB), Sitti (CM/AM) and Guenouche (LWB), in theory, gave us the legs to make this work.


We started poorly, taking only 8 points from the first 10 games, but after winning the next 2 we were never in trouble. A flourish at the end of the season, winning 6 and drawing 4 of the last 12 gave me hope for the next season and a very good cup run to the 10th round, only being knocked out by high flying in Ligue 1 Toulouse was another good performance.

To add some perspective, our first 2 matches were vs Lille (League and Coupe de la Ligue) they had a player called Nicolas Pepe on £25K p/w who scored 5 in those 2 matches. Now he not quite the level as IRL, but he was considerably better than anybody in my team and paid more than the lot of them!

As for players, again good performances across the board, with all the back 3 and Molinatti in DM, coming from the academy.



Edited by woodyy2r
Link to post
Share on other sites

Wonderful post, thank you for sharing :applause:

Do you mind if I ask you what kind of output you're getting out of the MEZ (A) on the right and what kind of player you're using?

I used to love 3-5-2 variants but have moved away lately in favour of 3-4-3 (ish) variants because I get more attacking output out of a front three plus wingbacks but I still feel there's untapped potential in there somewhere.

Another question, if I may, is how did you do in the league? and - something I'm becoming increasingly interested in - how did you get on in the league above?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great write-up and thanks for the mention! :) Disappointed not to see some asymmetric variations though :lol: 


On 10/06/2021 at 17:08, woodyy2r said:

inspired to go deeper into tactics and relate things back to real life tactics, tactical development and philosophies. It's given me so much more enjoyment in the game.

Jokes aside, this still remains the only way of playing FM that brings me enough joy not to quit a save after 1 season. Keep at it! :applause:

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

Great write-up and thanks for the mention! :) Disappointed not to see some asymmetric variations though :lol: 

We'll get there! ;) The trick with this team has been to keep thing unbelievably simple - at least until I have players who are half decent for the league they are in!

It's an unusual save because the players have always had decent mental attributes, but terrible technical ones - it comes from prioritising personality, determination, work rate and teamwork when signing players (Club DNA). This has meant highly structured - low creative freedom tactics. It started to get really interesting from 23/24 and I've got more screenshots saved so hopefully I can show a bit more of what I was working with!

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...