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Rethinking my approach to Football Manager - A Direct Attacking 4-4-2


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Posted (edited)

ORIGINALLY POSTED AT MY BLOG

======================================

Monaco came knocking just before the winter transfer window of the second season. We were doing okay at Arminia, and Monaco were abysmal, and needed someone to save their season. It was a perfect chance for me to continue my save, and further improve my tactic.

I won't talk much about my first half season at Monaco. It was more of a testing ground for tactics, as I had lots of second thought about how I should proceed, especially that my 4-4-2 with two out and out strikers seemed to be unsuitable at higher level. We finally managed a 3rd place finish, winning the cup in the process, mainly using a deep 4-2-3-1 as that seemed the best option for the current players.

To be completely honest, I wanted to build the squad for a deep 4-2-3-1 for the third season, but after some games, I decided that I will remain true to my original style, which got me so far in the first place. However, it was obvious I shouldn't use the route one approach which was very one-dimensional and started to look out of place at higher levels. In short, I saw the following problems in my deep 4-4-2:

  1. Very deep midfield, that allowed the opposition to win second balls making us concede lots from long shots and through balls.

  2. Zero support from strikers, seeing us become one-dimensional and easily nullified.

  3. Deep block doesn't allow overlapping fullbacks to be involved in direct play.

Therefore, I wanted to tweak the 4-4-2 to be better suited to better teams. To remedy the above 3 points these were the changes I made:

  1. DMs are changed to CMs. I realized that in a 4-4-2, I don't want a deep holding double pivot, instead I want them to be more aggressive and hold a higher positioning.

  2. Learning from Gerardo Seoane's tactics at Young Boys, I changed the dual strikers to a supporting one and an attacking one, whilst still maintaining the same overall play from them. The supporting one should act like a supporting target man, receiving the ball, holding it, and playing in his partner.

  3. I wanted to maintain vertical compactness, so I changed our base DL to Higher and LOE to Standard. Playing this on a Balanced mentality, this makes us defend in a compact mid-block. A deep block (Standard DL and Lower LOE) is used against tougher opponents.

At the same time, I retained the direct, quick, cross based approach that was so prominent in the original formation.

jvy3iS6.jpeg

It is quite similar to the original one. As noted above the DL and LOE, along with Regroup, are all situational shouts that are used to counter specific threats. Against lower teams, I use the mid-block, with Counter press on. Against better teams, I tend to sit deeper and use Regroup. Of course, this is not all set in stone, but that's the main idea I tend to do.

Lets see how we play:

Against Liverpool in the UCL (4-2 win)

For this game I started with a low block (Low LOE, Standard DL and Regroup - Balanced Mentality)

ZI1jypA.jpeg

Our defensive shape is so much better, with the strikers a bit deeper. Lenglet plays the ball to Virgil, while our stirkers cuts off the passing lanes to Henderson and Keita (#14 and #8). Our strikers press the CBs, and Keita opens to receive a pass from Virgil, but is pressed by Zaniolo (# 24)
7CqPajc.jpeg

Zaniolo manages to nick the ball off Keita and dribbles, laying the ball to Milik to score from a nice move.

OfbSmiQ.jpeg

G7D49gC.jpeg

Another a couple of goals from games against weaker teams in the league shows how lethal we can be on the break, with our strikers pressing particularly well and winning the ball in the second one:

nKqV0S1.gif


pGYm0VP.gif

Finally, our attacking shape normally looks like that:

pg3sid7.jpeg

Our wingers (Henry and Gelson) are tucked deep inside, forcing the opponent to be narrow, and opening lots of spaces for our wingbacks. Our four forwards could then combine together to create all sorts of overloads in the center, while our wingbacks could rampage forward and pick their passes or cross.
So far, since using this final version of the tactic, this has been our results:

j2hnSzD.jpeg

 

 

Edited by engamohd
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This is great stuff. I have been preparing a thread which is very similar in style to this one, mostly inspired by Conte's Inter. Funny to see you've used an extremely similar setup to me but of course a different formation.

It's also my favorite style to watch and great to see you having a vision up front before you start making something in game, something I'm a big advocate for!

Look forward to the rest.

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Please show your progress here, first year is easy with a well designed quick transition system but second year teams will start playing deeper and you need to find solutions on the ball while your players aren't really that great yet.

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8 hours ago, Craigus89 said:

This is great stuff. I have been preparing a thread which is very similar in style to this one, mostly inspired by Conte's Inter. Funny to see you've used an extremely similar setup to me but of course a different formation.

It's also my favorite style to watch and great to see you having a vision up front before you start making something in game, something I'm a big advocate for!

Look forward to the rest.

Good luck with your experiment!

Personally, I struggle to create something without having a prior vision, since that lack of reference make me chop and change quite a bit, it is always better to have that reference point.

2 hours ago, MessiMessiMessi said:

Please show your progress here, first year is easy with a well designed quick transition system but second year teams will start playing deeper and you need to find solutions on the ball while your players aren't really that great yet.

I never do plug and play, but rather you have to continuously adapt. In my other Forest and Standard Liege saves, I used a similar quick transition system for 4+ seasons, with great success. The key is to adapt to different teams, and to the match as it unfolds. 

Surely, I will post my updates here as the season(s) progress.

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spacer.png

A great goal showing the Pass into Space instruction at work, along with the long GK kick that bypasses the entire midfield of Gladbach.

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Great post mate, love to see underdog-suited tactics that involve logical thinking and pragmatism rather than just higher LOD/LOE and urgent pressing.

Hope you've recovered well from covid :thup:

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On 07/07/2021 at 00:28, LHurlz said:

Great post mate, love to see underdog-suited tactics that involve logical thinking and pragmatism rather than just higher LOD/LOE and urgent pressing.

Hope you've recovered well from covid :thup:

Thank you, glad you appreciate this kind of play stlye.

Covid was a bit difficult, and has some annoying lingering issues, but I am much better now, thank you!

On 08/07/2021 at 01:18, halfspace3000 said:

Amazing Read!

 

Cheers!

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Update

We finished the season in the 3rd place a record high for our club.

We went to weather a very difficult February period, when AI started to treat us as contenders and throw different kind of challange at us. Moreover, players had their form dipping so it was quite hard. During this period, I discovered the need for a "system", rather than trying to remain true to only one tactic with minor tweaks. I initially had a backup 4-2-3-1 deep as a more attacking tactic, but I wasn't impressed with it, in addition to the fact that it had us dropping to only one striker.

After hours of tinkering, I resolved to having 3 tactics, our normal style, which is a slight amend on the original 4-4-2 deep above, a defensive version of it, which is basically an aggressive long ball approach, plus an attacking 4-2-4, used to grab a goal, before quickly getting back to one of the other two formations.

4R6dlyH.jpeg

MXd4Tph.jpeg


6xc0JOn.jpeg

I did not have a lot of time to test the defensive tactic, but the idea behind it is to remain solid, waste time, and give creative freedom to specific players (GK, BPD, WM and of course, both strikers)

With this system in place, we managed to secure a CL spot at the end of the season:

oQ9sdyg.jpeg


iYFmQ76.jpeg


kDEX69I.jpeg

And here are some stats from our first season:
 

Spoiler


IG2Yajc.jpeg


6LCv0ku.jpeg


UaJAHqt.jpeg


26qcayI.jpeg


FozuF0y.jpeg


8nFAmZV.jpeg


358IxLe.jpeg


xQsMZMh.jpeg


DK2fW0k.jpeg

 

We made a quite few transfers, to solidify and help us play our style even better next season:

NxTPxT5.jpeg

I leave you with 3 sweet goals from our final 3 games:
 

Spoiler

 


dvGGuru.gif


i9x4VLw.gif


qcmGXSL.gif


 

I feel am already very close to what I have in mind, and I will be making sure to post progress and more detailed analysis on this system when I feel it is complete.

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God I’m hanging out for part 2 of this. 
 

looking at your players it looks like you used winger-type players at MR/ML, is that correct?  Would their PI’s and preference to be wider be what lead to your strikers scoring so heavily?

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On 17/07/2021 at 01:49, nick1408 said:

God I’m hanging out for part 2 of this. 
 

looking at your players it looks like you used winger-type players at MR/ML, is that correct?  Would their PI’s and preference to be wider be what lead to your strikers scoring so heavily?

I just written the part 2.

I look for technical and creative players for these roles, since they become our main creators in the team.

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Posted (edited)

A fine goal against Real Madrid, demonstrating our verticality:

SzsnyLZ.gif

EDIT: Another MASSIVE counter attacking goal against Real Madrid:

hHNCifv.gif

EDIT: A third goal against Real Madrid, in a real long ball style, Allardyce would be proud of:

Mt4FSwR.gif

 

Edited by engamohd
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2 hours ago, engamohd said:

I just written the part 2.

I look for technical and creative players for these roles, since they become our main creators in the team.

Just read - I like your updated version better. To me, it makes a lot more sense.

On 06/07/2021 at 09:29, engamohd said:

At the same time, I retained the direct, quick, cross based approach that was so prominent in the original formation.

jvy3iS6.jpeg

It is quite similar to the original one. As noted above the DL and LOE, along with Regroup, are all situational shouts that are used to counter specific threats. Against lower teams, I use the mid-block, with Counter press on. Against better teams, I tend to sit deeper and use Regroup. Of course, this is not all set in stone, but that's the main idea I tend to do.

The change of the WM-Su to WP-At is an excellent choice. This is similar to the setup I used for FM20 but I had more aggressive instructions:

image.png.f8dd1f3b19467efb8fc1d9040c744844.png

It's actually surprisingly similar.... anyway, not to take this away from you.

 

I assume you didn't change the PI's as the wingers still look to be sitting narrower but by having someone like Gelson Martins on the right would really allow some cool ball movement and to have Henry Onyekuru to act as a pseudo inside forward (although two goals in seven matches probably doesn't seem like that yet) seems to have made you a lot less one dimensional. You have had a lot of different goal scorers from all over the field now which would make you hard to play against.

 

How did you find the DLP and WP being on the same side? It does seem to work but my first thought was that there is a lack of cover for having so much ball out there (especially coupled with the focus right instruction). 

 

Do you ask the wide players and AF-At to close down more or not? I know you didn't in your main tactic but with the pushing up of the DM's to CM's I thought it may be a natural change to try and hurry the opponent into a mistake (especially against weaker teams). 

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, nick1408 said:

Just read - I like your updated version better. To me, it makes a lot more sense.

It does make sense, and it is the sort of roles that I'd naturally do, but the main idea of the first one is to be direct and sort of route one football. Sadly, I realized this model isn't sustainable on the long term, and is completely reliant on the TM.

4 hours ago, nick1408 said:

I assume you didn't change the PI's as the wingers still look to be sitting narrower but by having someone like Gelson Martins on the right would really allow some cool ball movement and to have Henry Onyekuru to act as a pseudo inside forward (although two goals in seven matches probably doesn't seem like that yet) seems to have made you a lot less one dimensional. You have had a lot of different goal scorers from all over the field now which would make you hard to play against.

In the final version, I use zero PIs, since the natural movement of the wingers cutting inside and narrower is enough for me, and is compensated by the wide WBs. They do combine with the forwards beautifully, providing lots of different weapons in our attacking arsenal.

Henry isn't my first choice, I usually go with Almada as the IW and Zaniolo as the WP. I look for flair and creativity for both these role rather than pace, since our pace up top is more than enough.

4 hours ago, nick1408 said:

How did you find the DLP and WP being on the same side? It does seem to work but my first thought was that there is a lack of cover for having so much ball out there (especially coupled with the focus right instruction). 

I initially had some concerns about them, but as you can in the attacking shape, they do not get into each other's way. However, they actually do a very good job, with the DLP controlling the ball from deep, doing Pirlo-esque passes, while the WP roams freely creating overloads in different areas. Also the presence of two playmakers allow the play not get rushed, which is what I want.

4 hours ago, nick1408 said:

Do you ask the wide players and AF-At to close down more or not? I know you didn't in your main tactic but with the pushing up of the DM's to CM's I thought it may be a natural change to try and hurry the opponent into a mistake (especially against weaker teams). 

No I don't. I find the more urgent pressing along with the compact shape quite sufficient. Against weaker teams I expect to dominate, I use the Counter Press TI to force the mistakes as you say.

Edited by engamohd
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On 15/07/2021 at 14:44, halfspace3000 said:

what do you think of my setup and how do i get goals out off my striker?

Screenshot 2021-07-15 at 1.43.49 pm.png

I'd initially use a PF-A and a WB-S at left back.

I'd also move the DL one notch higher with Offside trap, to get your strong team closer to goal.

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3 hours ago, engamohd said:

I'd initially use a PF-A and a WB-S at left back.

I'd also move the DL one notch higher with Offside trap, to get your strong team closer to goal.

Thanks for replying, ill give it a try

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Great read, thanks much for this!

I have a question: WM usually have otb and pos as necessary skills but I have more otb creators in MR/ML which are not the best in supporting defence. Which are the skills you see important for your WM in your Bielefeld tactic?

i am Braunschweig btw..

Best wishes and good recovery from Covid

 

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Finally got around to using this and it was brilliant. Guided my Bristol City side who were predicted to finish somewhere around 14th to a 4th place finish and an FA Cup victory. Next season started woefully however, what would you recommend doing once teams start to treat you with a bit more respect? 

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On 27/07/2021 at 00:52, HanziZoloman said:

Great read, thanks much for this!

I have a question: WM usually have otb and pos as necessary skills but I have more otb creators in MR/ML which are not the best in supporting defence. Which are the skills you see important for your WM in your Bielefeld tactic?

i am Braunschweig btw..

Best wishes and good recovery from Covid

 

Thank you, I am glad you like this!

For my WMs, I were looking for creativity and pace. I want them to act like Wide Playmakers, so I look for similar stats.

Cheers! :)

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9 hours ago, LHurlz said:

Finally got around to using this and it was brilliant. Guided my Bristol City side who were predicted to finish somewhere around 14th to a 4th place finish and an FA Cup victory. Next season started woefully however, what would you recommend doing once teams start to treat you with a bit more respect? 

That's great, glad you are enjoying your save!

Normally, the AI will be a lot more cautious against you, and the system will be exposed by time. When this happens, I'd go with something similar to the system in the second reply above, giving your team more attacking options, while still retaining the direct style. Good luck!

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On 05/07/2021 at 19:29, engamohd said:

ORIGINALLY POSTED AT MY BLOG

======================================

Monaco came knocking just before the winter transfer window of the second season. We were doing okay at Arminia, and Monaco were abysmal, and needed someone to save their season. It was a perfect chance for me to continue my save, and further improve my tactic.

I won't talk much about my first half season at Monaco. It was more of a testing ground for tactics, as I had lots of second thought about how I should proceed, especially that my 4-4-2 with two out and out strikers seemed to be unsuitable at higher level. We finally managed a 3rd place finish, winning the cup in the process, mainly using a deep 4-2-3-1 as that seemed the best option for the current players.

To be completely honest, I wanted to build the squad for a deep 4-2-3-1 for the third season, but after some games, I decided that I will remain true to my original style, which got me so far in the first place. However, it was obvious I shouldn't use the route one approach which was very one-dimensional and started to look out of place at higher levels. In short, I saw the following problems in my deep 4-4-2:

  1. Very deep midfield, that allowed the opposition to win second balls making us concede lots from long shots and through balls.

  2. Zero support from strikers, seeing us become one-dimensional and easily nullified.

  3. Deep block doesn't allow overlapping fullbacks to be involved in direct play.

Therefore, I wanted to tweak the 4-4-2 to be better suited to better teams. To remedy the above 3 points these were the changes I made:

  1. DMs are changed to CMs. I realized that in a 4-4-2, I don't want a deep holding double pivot, instead I want them to be more aggressive and hold a higher positioning.

  2. Learning from Gerardo Seoane's tactics at Young Boys, I changed the dual strikers to a supporting one and an attacking one, whilst still maintaining the same overall play from them. The supporting one should act like a supporting target man, receiving the ball, holding it, and playing in his partner.

  3. I wanted to maintain vertical compactness, so I changed our base DL to Higher and LOE to Standard. Playing this on a Balanced mentality, this makes us defend in a compact mid-block. A deep block (Standard DL and Lower LOE) is used against tougher opponents.

At the same time, I retained the direct, quick, cross based approach that was so prominent in the original formation.

jvy3iS6.jpeg

It is quite similar to the original one. As noted above the DL and LOE, along with Regroup, are all situational shouts that are used to counter specific threats. Against lower teams, I use the mid-block, with Counter press on. Against better teams, I tend to sit deeper and use Regroup. Of course, this is not all set in stone, but that's the main idea I tend to do.

Lets see how we play:

Against Liverpool in the UCL (4-2 win)

For this game I started with a low block (Low LOE, Standard DL and Regroup - Balanced Mentality)

ZI1jypA.jpeg

Our defensive shape is so much better, with the strikers a bit deeper. Lenglet plays the ball to Virgil, while our stirkers cuts off the passing lanes to Henderson and Keita (#14 and #8). Our strikers press the CBs, and Keita opens to receive a pass from Virgil, but is pressed by Zaniolo (# 24)
7CqPajc.jpeg

Zaniolo manages to nick the ball off Keita and dribbles, laying the ball to Milik to score from a nice move.

OfbSmiQ.jpeg

G7D49gC.jpeg

Another a couple of goals from games against weaker teams in the league shows how lethal we can be on the break, with our strikers pressing particularly well and winning the ball in the second one:

nKqV0S1.gif


pGYm0VP.gif

Finally, our attacking shape normally looks like that:

pg3sid7.jpeg

Our wingers (Henry and Gelson) are tucked deep inside, forcing the opponent to be narrow, and opening lots of spaces for our wingbacks. Our four forwards could then combine together to create all sorts of overloads in the center, while our wingbacks could rampage forward and pick their passes or cross.
So far, since using this final version of the tactic, this has been our results:

j2hnSzD.jpeg

 

 

Great post man I was wondering if you have any PI's???

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4 hours ago, Djeon36 said:

Great post man I was wondering if you have any PI's???

 

Thank you!

I don't use PIs in the second formation, the IW and WP naturally cut inside, so I didn't find the need to any further PIs.

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