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I can't read the other teams tactics and I'm getting frustrated


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Dived back into FM 21 last weekend having not played one for about five years. I'm getting the grasp of tactics and keeping things balanced throughout my team (not leaving striker stranded up front on their own etc.), but I just cannot read the other teams tactics at all.

I'm playing as Spennymoor and had a tough home fixture against Chorley who my Assistant told me likes to play wide attacking football. Ok cool, so I set my flat 4-4-2 formation to force the players inside, and counter. Works a treat and I'm up 3-0 at half-time with 12 shots to 1 and xG around 1.2-0.2 in my favour. Perfect. Come out the second half and I decide to lower my lines of engagement to try and soak up the pressure a little bit (along with time-wasting, shorter passing etc.) and change my mentality to Cautious in the hopes of getting them on the breakaway. Final score 3-5.

The AI changes their tactics and I watch the games on Comprehensive, but the biggest frustration with this game is I can't read the oppositions tactics to see what they've done. Sometimes it's obvious because they change to 4-2-4 or something, but other times their formation doesn't change so they are obviously pushing up a little higher, or going more direct or whatever but I just cannot see it in the match engine. People suggest watching YouTube and there's some great videos out there that explain tactics, but they are of no help to me because they explain building a balanced tactic or what all the Roles do, not how to read the matches and what is or isn't working.

I'm not expecting a magical answer here because I know I need to watch hours and hours of gameplay and study the analytical data, but I just don't have time to do those sort of things when I only get a few hours a week to play and I don't even understand what I'm looking at in the first place. The heatmaps show me the average positioning of all the players on the field; great, what do I do with that information? My Poacher is sitting higher up the field on average than my DLF, as expected. My WBs are on average a little higher up the field than my CBs, yeah and? As another example, the opposition are also using WBs by the looks of things on the data, so how do I counter that? The only thing I can definitively see is when my GK is hoofing it long and that's causing me to lose possession too much. I'll tell him to throw it out or aim for the Target Man and I *can* see a difference there. Everything else is just impossible to see.

Sorry for the rant, but I try so hard to learn this game and end up turning it off in frustration most of the time for this very reason.

EDIT: I guess I'm asking is there a way to understand the analytical data either in-game or on YouTube so I can better understand what I keep doing wrong. Obviously I got the tactic wrong with the Chorley game, but I don't know what I did wrong other than "getting the tactic wrong". Did they change their approach at all or was it all me etc.?

Edited by Paris Hilton's Lover
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Why do you change your tactics when it made you lead the game 3:0?

If the AI wants to score, they do the same adjustments you do. Aggressive formation, higher mentality, higher pressing, vertical/diagonal passing on a higher tempo. They also tend to overload the box with more attack duties.

your defensive solidity depends most likely on how many players you keep behind the ball (defend duties) and what your defensive shape looks like (4-1-4-1 e.g.). Not so much about your Lines and your mentality. 

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As the thread title says, you can't read the other team's tactics and yeh that can absolutely be difficult to do.  So stop trying to.  Sounds mad right?  A perfectly viable way of playing the game (not the only way of course) is to focus on your own players rather than the opposition.

ie., watch what your team are up to and ask yourself if they are broadly playing in the way you expect.  Not necessarily down to the minutae of detail, but rather is each player doing what they should according to their roles?  For example, is your attacking wingback aggressively pushing forward providing overlaps?  Is your DLP the focus of attention and pinging the ball around nicely?  Is your Inside Forward scaring the life out of the opposition defence?  Is your B2B midfielder making nice late runs into the box and getting back well to help defend?  You can also check some stats such as pass completion rates and possession if you happen to play a possession based game.  Likewise you can watch to see if your players are closing down the opposition aggressively and in the relevant areas of the pitch you expect if that's your style of play.  The number of shots and shots on target can also be a giveaway as to the effectiveness of your attack and your defence.

If the answer to all that is "yes" and - assuming your tactic is decent for your players in the first place - the betting is you'll have a good match.  If the answer is "no" in any area, that's when to make an adjustment.  So if, for example, you notice your fullback is getting caught upfield too often you may need to consider toning down his aggression; or if you can't find a way through in the final 3rd you'll need to examine why and adjust accordingly.

@Cleon always used to say "watch the first 10 minutes of a match in full before switching to highlights and if your players are doing what you expect you should be ok.  If not make a tweak".  That's as true today as it was then.

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Standard or narrower width works better if you want to keep possession with IF/IW. They would thereby tend to pass it more around the areas where you outnumber the opposition.

You can try specifically and tightly mark the opposition fullbacks with your wingers. If you have done this, then you'd also have to do the same with your own fullbacks specifically and tightly marking the opposition wingers, or else it would create an imbalance. They have to work in tandem to collectively nullify the threat from opposition team's overlaps.

To reduce keeper mindless maneuvers, tell him to slow pace down.

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On 18/07/2021 at 09:34, herne79 said:

As the thread title says, you can't read the other team's tactics and yeh that can absolutely be difficult to do.  So stop trying to.  Sounds mad right?  A perfectly viable way of playing the game (not the only way of course) is to focus on your own players rather than the opposition.

ie., watch what your team are up to and ask yourself if they are broadly playing in the way you expect.  Not necessarily down to the minutae of detail, but rather is each player doing what they should according to their roles?  For example, is your attacking wingback aggressively pushing forward providing overlaps?  Is your DLP the focus of attention and pinging the ball around nicely?  Is your Inside Forward scaring the life out of the opposition defence?  Is your B2B midfielder making nice late runs into the box and getting back well to help defend?  You can also check some stats such as pass completion rates and possession if you happen to play a possession based game.  Likewise you can watch to see if your players are closing down the opposition aggressively and in the relevant areas of the pitch you expect if that's your style of play.  The number of shots and shots on target can also be a giveaway as to the effectiveness of your attack and your defence.

If the answer to all that is "yes" and - assuming your tactic is decent for your players in the first place - the betting is you'll have a good match.  If the answer is "no" in any area, that's when to make an adjustment.  So if, for example, you notice your fullback is getting caught upfield too often you may need to consider toning down his aggression; or if you can't find a way through in the final 3rd you'll need to examine why and adjust accordingly.

@Cleon always used to say "watch the first 10 minutes of a match in full before switching to highlights and if your players are doing what you expect you should be ok.  If not make a tweak".  That's as true today as it was then.

Sorry for this but I really miss the great @Cleon tactical insight of the game. It was truly an eye opener plus it helped me learn so much about the game as well.

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I think one thing that I don't think has been mentioned but is really important to cover is in low league football to be polite your players aren't the brightest. Switching tactics mid game especially if they aren't trained in that tactic is unlikely to yield good results.

Looking at the tactical changes for me you are stressing 2 key mental attribute decisions and concentration do you really want your players making lots of decisions and concentrating for long periods of time? Especially when they are tired? I would be surprised if your squad averages a 10 or above in either of the attributes.

In terms of breaking it down when I'm rebuilding a team I will keep track of goals conceeded in a spreadsheet with details about the goals such as position of the goal scorer who should have marked them, minute etc you'll quickly spot trends.

In terms of the analytics use the time bar to break games down. I would focus on average positions, Possesion lost, and possesion heat maps

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@herne79 gives good advice here, as usual. You can figure out most things purely by looking at your players. Presumably in this game in the first half your players were all doing what you expected and everything was working well. You can figure out what changed by continuing to look at your own players. Maybe your central midfielders aren't getting as much space any more, or you're being exposed down the flanks by more aggressive opposition fullbacks. In all cases you should be able to relate that back to your team and individual performances. Midfielders not getting on the ball as much? Maybe you need to go for a more direct approach and bypass midfield. Too much space on your flanks? Tweak the role/duty of your wide players.

I tend not to look too much at stats in-game unless there are some really weird outliers. It's much better to observe what's happening on the pitch. The stats might say you're not getting as much possession, for example, but if that's because the opposition are pointlessly passing it around at the back you're probably not too bothered.

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