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[FM22] The Anxiety Diaries - Liverpool


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Outrunning the Black Dog

Oh go on then, let's have another round.

It was peer pressure, you understand. I was all set to continue my relentlessly unhealthy obsession with starting FM21 over and over again, maybe even at some point forgetting it all and going back to my world famous (well, to me) FM20 save. Then my brother had to go and get himself FM22 for Christmas and, well, temptation is a lady I simply cannot resist.

So here we are then. Let's not beat around the bush; this will be an exclusively Liverpool based save. I'll update the usual fare of results, achievements, player stats and the like but as those souls kind enough to have followed along before will attest, I like to focus on a darker underbelly of my FM life too. For all the many hours of joy it brings me, FM also acts as an anxiety trigger, bringing to the fore some of my unhealthiest mental habits and thinking errors. These traits include overthinking issues of often trivial importance, catastrophising one-off incidents and engaging in black or white thinking, whereby life is boiled down to binary choices; either right or wrong.

But hey, we'll try and have a little fun along the way too.

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Sticking with the One Who brought You to the Dance

Now a quick confession to kick things off; this is not my first save. I had fully intended to repeat the trick of FM20, whereby my first attempt at a career was my only one. Sadly, I discovered that despite employing the same database parameters as FM21, a couple of my usual signing options were missing (Marco Kana and Maartem Vandevoordt, fact fans) and so after some tweaking, and the addition of a couple of thousand of extra players just for the sake of adding two specific players who I may never actually sign, we were off and running.

Except that we weren't. As usual, it is in this first part of my save that triggers if identity and self worth kick in. Effectively the conundrum I have whenever I start with Liverpool is this; the squad is designed for a 433 built in Klopp's image. But if I play that, then what is the point in me being manager instead of the man himself? What am I adding? And so I lurch to an extreme the other way, seeking to employ a 442 or an ultra aggressive 424. These often work well, especially in pre-season as the use of a 2-man strike force plunders a hatful of goals. Problem is, it doesn't really suit the team. Fabinho,  a natural DM, is shunted out of position whilst a number of both current and (potentially) future first teamers vie for a reduced number of positions in central midfield, a sub optimal scenario.

No problem though, surely. After all, my FM21 main run was relatively brief but we swept the board with a 4231. Fabinho still requires some shunting but it suits most of the squad, utilises an AM role that so many players seem comfortable in and I have a proven track record with it. What's not to love? Well...

A couple of things, which again speak to those mental traps. I have touched on this in a previous thread but despite my own success, I keep looking to the forums for advice, seeking validation of a tactical concept from others before being willing to implement it myself. Case in point; my 4231 utilised short passing with play out of defence and work ball into the box. I sought to offset this with the pass into space instruction, figuring that it would ensure we retain the option of unpredictability, allowing a quick ball over the top where the situation merits it. And it seemed to work. Then of course I go to the forums and whilst plenty of others walk a similar path, a number of posters talk of using pass into space contextually, citing the inherent contradiction with a shorter passing game. So I turned it off, only to find that my tactic was now a snooze fest, so much so that I restarted the save with a 433, then a 424, then a...well, you get the picture.

These contradictions continue. My midfield of a BBM and and DLP Support has no defensive cover; my use of two inside forwards and two supporting wingbacks offers no variety of attack. On the other end of the spectrum, I am using counter-press, a standard option for the modern FM manager, but I don't know that I really embrace it as a manager. I just use it because. I look for the thoughts of those who have taken it off but all I see are posts on counter press vs regroup, very few people commenting on the third option of selecting nothing at all. Well if no one talks about it then it surely can't work. I guess I had better stick with counter press. Except there was that time I didn't, when I played attacking wingers in a 424 and won the league by a country mile, the positively 3-star Diogo Jota helping himself to almost 50 goals.

Here then lies the crux of my problem with FM, this constant need for validation and the fear of failure from trying something of my own and getting it wrong. My mind insists on thinking the worst and ignoring the positive that is before my eyes. To humble brag for a moment; I have achieved multiple points tallies of 100+, including two seasons where we hit 110 points. My teams have gone through half a dozen unbeaten league season across FM20 and FM21. We have scored 100+ goals more times than I can recall, including two seasons of 135 and 136 goals. We once went through a league season conceding just 9 goals. I have won every single club trophy available to Liverpool. I have built, dismantled and rebuilt teams across a single 40 year save, winning the league in all but a handful of those seasons.

I know what I'm doing. Don't I?

For the sake of argument then, let's say yes. Once everyone is back from injury and holiday, this is how we will line up, utilising my most consistent FM21 shape, roles and instructions.

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Posted (edited)

Goals and Objectives

Going all the way back to FM14, one of the comments that stood out to me from a fellow forum user was the importance of setting goals to keep the save interesting. At the time I was Sutton United manager, seeking promotion to the Premier League but as Liverpool manager, where success is both probable and expected, the goals are a little different. Frankly, I expect to win the league pretty much every year and will consider it a failure if I don't add a healthy number of Champions League trophies to the cupboard too.

Taking competition success as a given then, these are the things I will be looking for;

  • Promotion of youth players
  • Undefeated seasons
  • Records for goals scored and conceded
  • Record unbeaten streaks
  • Being offered (and probably refusing) the England job
  • Longevity
  • Tactical consistency
  • Tactical flexibility

Promotion of Youth Players

This was a feature of my FM20 save I really enjoyed however in most cases, my youth projects were players I sourced from elsewhere. Very rarely did a genuine home grown academy product break through, with a number of the existing Liverpool youth team allowed to move on. Similarly on FM21, I had modest success with Leighton Clarkson, Tyler Morton and James Balagizi but I often reached for the quick fix of a transfer, rather than trying to mould a potential 3.5-4 star talent into a first teamer.

Undefeated Season

One of my calling cards, much to my brother's chagrin.

Records for Goals Scored and Conceded

I know, it's a little greedy looking for both. This is another of those inherent contradictions though; despite a chronic lack of self belief I still place this expectation of success on myself. It won't matter to me how many trophies we win if it isn't done the right way, which means lots of goals and mean defence both in the same package.

Record Unbeaten Streaks

Going somewhat hand in hand with undefeated season, my record from FM20 was something like 86 games and I would like to beat that.

Being offered (and probably refusing) the England Job

It bothered me greatly that despite being the best manager in the (in-game) world, I was never offered the England job in FM20, until I realised that my reputation probably meant that they thought it was beneath me and so never approached. Eventually I did apply and landed the job, however on both FM20 and FM21, I resigned before even playing a game because I found the whole international management process a chore. This then falls into the category of validation where I want the offer to be made solely so that I can refuse it.

Longevity

FM20 set my own personal record at just over 40 seasons, a wonderful background companion to working from home. I would like to enjoy a similar run with FM22.

Tactical Consistency / Tactical Flexibility

I have listed these two clear contradictions to illustrate what I suspect will be a lingering issue. As touched on, at the start of any new save I seek to define my management 'style' with the unrealistic expectation that whatever formation I pick on day one will be the only set up I ever use through the entirety of the save, so much so that the slightest deviation can often result in a restart, speaking somewhat to my obsessive and rigid mindset. 

Going into this save, I am using a tactic that I know works, or at least did on FM21. In some respects then, for very sensible reasons I want to stick with it and try to avoid change for the sake of change, instead trusting my own judgement and record. Conversely, one of the hallmarks of my FM20 run was rebuilding and reshaping my squad, moving from a 433 to a 424, a 352, a 4231 and a 442, each formation offering its own benefits and drawbacks and each representing a particular period of my management life.

Edited by dirkgently1066
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You have no idea how much I relate to the first posts. The only difference is my need to always play the same style Liverpool do in real life.

Anyway, I don't reply much but I will definitely follow this. Good luck!

Edited by TheJanitor
Grammar
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Let's Try That Again

Bit of a public service announcement. Any newbies to my thread might be expecting a detailed breakdown of my latest exploits, showing off trophies and results etc. They'll be some of that to be sure but there will also be lots of posts where nothing has really happened, for various reasons.

Case in point; see that post up there? The one where I confidently proclaimed how I was going to go with my FM21-dominating 4231? Yeah, that lasted about two pre-season games before I restarted the save. And to be clear, I do mean restarted from scratch. None of this changing formation and carrying on malarkey like normal people, no siree. When I say restart I mean deleting any record of the save and going right back to the start, redoing my scouting, staff etc.

It's really annoying, especially after the 10th or so time. So why do it? It is something I have done since way back on Champ 93/94. I don't know if it is a compulsive behaviour or some form of self flagellation but it is a rite that I convince myself I need to do. A punishment for a perceived bad behaviour.

The driver this time was the football being played. We won the friendlies but it was just so boring. And so I started again, this time going back even further and using the 433 from FM20 that gave me initial success. And it worked! We bashed up teams left right and centre, going unbeaten in our first 10 or so games.

Then I deleted the save and restarted.

What the hell was wrong now? Well, I've had a hang up about this tactic for a while. It started out great on FM20 and was the formation of choice for our 80-odd game unbeaten run. It was so dominant that I thought I had beaten the game. Then it collapsed, was replaced by my outrageous 424 'Hammer Time' tactic and from then on became an unreliable crutch, an ex that I knew was no good for me but that I couldn't resist. Going in to FM22, my fear was that it wouldn't generate enough goals but the evidence of my eyes belied that, not least sticking 9 past Arsenal in our first game. After a couple of duff draws though, I started tinkering to the point that I lost track of what the tactic was originally meant to be. Regardless, another reminder that my restart behaviour is so rarely a results-driven rage quit, but more an intangible sense of identity and style.

Starting again (again), I decided that I wanted to carve my own path. 433 Gegenpress is very much a Klopp idea and so I went with something I liked, a 424 with attacking wingers and no counter press. It lasted 1 game before I decided I didn't like it so much after all. Another restart beckoned.

Phoenix From the Flames

Given that it seemed to be working then, I decided to have another crack at a 433. Of course at this point I bitterly regretted that last save I switched off but no matter, it's not like I am a stranger to starting over. Roles and instructions are lifted directly from my FM20 tactic;

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I expected it to be a little frugal in front of goal, especially given some of the noise I have read about inside forwards not working properly. To my surprise then, we have been scoring for fun, goals coming from across the front line, a 6-0 whacking of Chelsea the early highlight. As ever, I don't necessarily 'identify' with Gegenpress, and I am wary of jaded players as the season progresses, but I don't trust myself to make balanced tactical choices and would rather trust in the base template set up by, I assume, people who know better than me.

6 league games into the season then and we have won them all, with 23 scored and just 1 conceded. A promising start but challenges to come, both on pitch and in my own mind.

The journey continues.

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You should try a a midfield of 

 

CM (S)      Carrilero (S)

          DM (S)

 

Works a charm somehow. Let’s you attack heavily with front 3 and fullbacks with a solid midfield like in real life. 

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  • 1 month later...

Well my friends, this has been a painful experience.

Much like with FM21, my time with FM22 has been marked by a series of ever more ridiculous restarts. I became common place for me to start, abandon and restart anything up to 4 times a day, each time convincing myself that this was the one, this was the save that I would stick with. Only to ditch the thing barely a couple of games into pre-season.

Not only is it frustrating but it's embarrassing. I hate that I do it and yet in the moment, I can't resist. As ever, this is not a restart driven by rage quit over results. I simply decide I want to play 442 or 4231 or 433 or 424 and some compulsive part of my brain forces me to restart from scratch.

Finally then, I think I have got somewhere. And let's park the mental wrangles for a second and look through the tactical lens. I kept trying a 424 because I really liked the idea of an advanced forward. I also favoured playing wingers over inside forwards but each time I tried it I found us too open at the back. Accordingly, I switched to 433 but my instructions in the tactic above never quite hit the mark. We would usually be successful playing it but I knew that I wouldn't use this combination of roles, duties and instructions long-term and this thought amplified any doubts I had when something went against us.

I also felt that I couldn't use an advanced forward. Why? Because I clicked on that little tactical analysis button and it showed the area between my midfield and striker as red. That just wouldn't do and so by default I had to employ a role that dropped in. This in turn though reduced our presence in the opposition box, despite the use of inside forwards, my compromise being a pressing forward, a role very much unsuited to the more technical players I was likely to use there.

This then formed the basis of my indecision from a purely tactical perspective and after much procrastination, I eventually landed on a solution I liked.

I ignored the little tactical detail button.

My goodness, it was a moment of liberation. By using an AF up top, I felt comfortable also switching my wide roles from inside forwards to inverted wingers. This had been another niggle in my mind, driven purely by the game layout. Salah's stats favour an inside forward role, the attributes required for a winger not making use of his finishing. This fact alone kept me from using the role, even though it offered the type of movement I wanted. I Googled furiously (there's a euphemism if I ever heard one) to try and understand the difference between an inside forward and inverted winger on attack duty but deep down, I knew; the winger would come inside with the ball, the inside forward without. Put everything else aside then and I had to answer one simple question; what movement did I want to see? And thus, I switched to the inverted winger.

Again, it has been a revelation. Firmino as AF naturally struggles but Origi has been a regular scorer. Approaching Christmas in the first season, Salah has 11 goals and 9 assists in 15 league games but most pleasing of all, Mane has 15 goals in 16 games. Whatever role I have given him in the past, he has routinely struggled, often incurring ratings in the low 6s and barely scraping into a 7 over the course of the season. This time round he is leading the scoring charts and positing consistently strong ratings.

Still a long way to go but I feel better about this save than I have any others. Not in terms of results. They've been fine, a couple of UCL losses notwithstanding. It's more they way the team is playing, the sense that this looks and feels like what I want.

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Season 1 Review

And just like that, we finally get to the end of our first FM22 season.

Having led the pack for most of the season, that last 10 or so games saw our form tail off a little. After delaying it earlier in the season, the big showdown was our trip to 2nd place Man Utd at Old Trafford, the league game coming hot on the heels of a Champions League quarter final. We bested them handily in Europe but alas went down 1-2 in the league. The 2-2 home draw with Spurs that followed - having gone 0-2 down - saw us lose top spot for the first time but with 3 games in hand, and a pretty generous run in, the title was secured with a 7-0 thumping of Brighton. Not perfect by any means but just a single defeat across the campaign.

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Success would also come by way of the League Cup, Man City dispatched with an efficient 3-0 win. They would get their revenge in the FA Cup though, dumping us out in the quarter final stage, the 1-4 defeat our worst of the season. Further disappointment would follow in the Champions League. After squeaking past PSG (thanks to a thunderous drive from Andy Robertson), Porto seemed like easy pickings in the final. Alas, despite taking an early lead and dominating the game, we went down 1-2.

Still, there was another tournament to go. Apparently the Club World Cup was scheduled for the end of the season, the traditional 'pick whoever is fit enough to actually run on to the pitch' occasion. We made hard work of the quarter final, going down to 9 men through injury but somehow surviving to best Palmeiras on penalties. Our old friends Man City awaited in the Semi and were cast back with a 1-0 win, leaving an all English affair with Chelsea in the final. It, went pretty well.

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Black Dog Watch

The eagle eyed amongst you will notice a certain Norwegian super man up top. Yes, we started season 2 with our usual purchase of the guaranteed goal machine for £116m, wiping out our transfer budget and destroying the wage bill. Oh well.

This though leads to the first anxiety, that of squad building and management. It is a recurring theme of my FM journeys whereby I convince myself that every player bought is a waste of money and every player sold is the one that got away. This in turn leads me to assume that the squad I end up with is weaker than the one I started with and all because of my (mis)management. 

Demonstrably this is poppycock of course but the thought persists each year regardless. This time round, I opted to move Oxlade-Chamberlain on for £50m to Spurs. He was a useful squad option but I felt it was decent money. Milner wasn't getting the game time he wanted and so he opted to leave at the end of the season, meaning two big wages were freed up. In their place, I brought in Devyne Rensch from Ajax and Boubacar Kamara from Marseille. I don't expect much from Kamara but if nothing else, I can move him on for a fee. Rensch on the other hand looks like a useful prospect across defence and midfield. Finally our other signing was Matias Arezo, a perennial pick up ever since FM20.

There's more though. Having stuck rigidly to 433 all season, moving in to season 2 I decided to switch up to a 4231. You can see the irony, can't you. Almost all of my restarts were driven by this thought that I must design a forever tactic on day one and any variation thereof must (MUST I SAY) result in a full restart. Indeed the thought did cross my mind as to whether I should do so here but I am pleased to confirm, this was just as quickly dispatched.

The move to 4231 was born out of frustration with the roles I was trying to combine in a 433. The tactic was moving ever further from where it started and just didn't feel right. 4231 on the other hand seemed a decent fit for what I was trying to achieve moving forward. More importantly though, it reminds me that I can be flexible and adjust my tactical approach as required.

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Edited by dirkgently1066
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Just a further thought on that opening season. Winning the league, scoring over 100 goals, only losing once. All pretty good.

And yet, I am disappointed. Because I've done better in the past. My mind then seeks to judge and to grade, to already start writing this save off as not as good as this or that one. Incredibly, that part of my brain wants to restart, to this time 'get it right' as if there is some kind of perfection that can be achieved, anything less than that equating to failure. Black or white thinking. All or nothing.

 I resist then, but it is harder to do so than I care to admit.

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Nice work in your first season! 

The Porto loss was a tough one I bet.

Pretty good in the league, with nearly an invincible season. It had to be Man Utd though eh! Almost 100 points too. I’m assuming top scorer and assists with scoring 120 goals.

Cups always need a little bit of luck to get by, where a one off good performance or just not putting the goals away can be the difference. Chelsea paid the price of disappointment because of Porto by the looks of things.

I see you’ve started shuffling the squad. Will be interesting to see the comings and goings that occur, and if youth players are deemed good enough :thup:

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Approaching November in Season 2 as we break for the stupidly scheduled World Cup, it has been a perplexing start to the season.

Despite all my bold proclamations about change, I began the league campaign with my old 433 shape but we didn't make the most auspicious of starts, drawing at home to Arsenal and then lucky to salvage a point away at Brighton. I had ruminated on my tactical plans long into the night, keeping me up far later than was healthy ahead of a day's work. Whatever I concluded, it went out of the window after those first two games and I quickly switched back to a 4231 shape.

The next dilemma ("great cars, those Dilemmas" - copyright Amiga Power) was around instructions. I had started to become frustrated with our more possession based style as we just didn't seem to be creating enough chances. I made adjustments but it became so close to gegenpress that I thought, why not just play gegenpress? After all, it was my tactical style of choice in FM20. For some reason I had convinced myself that it was too extreme, that it led to too many turnovers of the ball and wouldn't suit a more technical side. On the other hand, it seemed to achieve the most important aim of sticking the ball in the opposition net.

I persevered with my own style for most of the season, reaching out to gegenpress when chasing a goal. On the whole, it was a success. After 14 league games we have 9 wins, 3 draws and just a single defeat, good enough for second, a point behind United with a game in hand.

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Star of the show has been Erling Haaland but I'll wait for season's end to share more of his stats. With 14 conceded we are already 4 behind last year's total but 40 scored augers well for the rest of the campaign. Indeed a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford could (and perhaps should) have been a victory but with that game out of the way and City thumped on their own patch, the second half of the season should theoretically be in our favour.

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In terms of personnel and squad movements that @Sonic Youthmentions, Haaland is so far the only major change to Klopp's squad. One of the difficulties I always find with a Liverpool save is that the squad has a number of similar ability players, all around the same age and so all of them either want pay rises or to complain about their playing time. I have the core of my first team locked in but players like Thiago, Keita and Matip remain valuable, if perhaps slightly overpaid, back up.

Looking further ahead, our youth intake from season one looks like it may throw out some real quality. Pick of the bunch is perhaps winger Graeme Nevitt, at least once I have retrained him to play off the left. He joins a batch of other 4 - 4.5 star potential players, including a goalie, centre back and striker, so a nice spread of player roles. I am also mindful of some of the excellent real world prospects in the youth set up. Kaide Gordon made an appearance towards the end of last season, grabbing himself a debut goal whilst Balagizi, Clark, Morton and Clarkson remain long-term projects. I am in no rush with any of them but the hope is that they mature just as I am ready to start easing out Thiago et al, becoming a more cost effective back up option and perhaps even challenging for starting roles in some cases. Throw in Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott, already well established in my matchday squads, and the future looks bright.

Still, it remains a looming anxiety, that moment of decision to put your faith in youth and move on an older but safer pair of hands. My FM20 save, for all its success, was tinged with the disappointment of failed academy projects, driven in part by a transfer panic of signing good players just because they are available. This time, I intend to be more patient and buy players through need, not just desire. Plus I have to be realistic. Many a youth prospect turn out to be no more than a dependable squad option, it is a rarity to find a Trent, Stevie or Carra that makes it all the way through.

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Thanks for writing up your second season so far. Looking very promising for topping the table at the end of the season. Youth/squad transition looks well in hand, with Haaland solving one area and I’d imagine the next post and pre season likely to rejuvenate the squad further. Your youth intake sounds like you got at least some depth or better there too :thup:

Onwards to the end of the season! :D

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Season 2

A second season down and another league title makes its way to Anfield and yet I am left with some regrets and ruminations.

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As in the first season, we would lose only one league game, this time at Spurs. The additional draw however meant that it was a slightly worse season overall. It is very frustrating as Haaland racked up a mighty 41 goals and yet as a team, we scored just 109, 11 down from the prior year whilst 25 went in our end versus 18.

In some respects it is no great surprise, given we went through far more tactical changes. The 4231 didn't last past Christmas after I looked at our form and decided it offered no material benefit over the 433. With the switch complete, we racked up an impressive run of form, regularly scoring 3 per game. With the FA Cup secured for the first time, the only big disappointment was again in the Champions League where we crashed out at the semis. With the first leg at home, a 3-2 win over Bayern was always slightly precarious and so it would prove as we lost the second leg 2-1. 

Still though, I continued to get frustrated by the relative lack of chances created and wide players drifting out of games. In particular it feels that we are often overrun in big matches. Despite my tactics being consistent over the course of a season, in individual matches we can look disjointed, the other team appearing to have much more cohesion and their roles seeming to get the best of their players. Partly this is negative bias I guess; I am looking for the bad in my own team and discounting the good whilst at the same time, have no context in which to put the performance. How have the other team performed over the course of the season, for instance. Perhaps this is an outlier for them.

With all these things in mind, and with the league secured, I opted to finish the season with a twist and set out with an aggressive 424, utilising attacking wingers. It seemed to work as bottom of the pile Sheffield United were sent packing for 8 but whilst we won subsequent matches, including the FA Cup final, it didn't exactly blow my socks off.

Some tactical food for through then. I have grown to quite like the 433 and the inverted winger (attack) role but I'm not convinced by it. A couple of season in, I feel more comfortable trying new things, long gone is that 'this must be my forever tactic' mindset. I'm tempted then to try again with my FM21 4231; it is another of those tactics that can occasionally look drab but it was ultra consistent.

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On another note, ending the season without a European trophy always leaves me feeling somewhat empty, regardless of what else is achieved. Plus of course I constantly compare my (under)achievements to past saves, my FM21 run in particular marked by successive Champions League victories.

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Nice, consecutive league titles, and an FA Cup.

ECL is tough, as it only takes a second to be eliminated. What, there was some other cup? Oh yeah, that one, the league cup.

I noticed Mane only scored 11 in the Premier League last season. That’s could explain part of the lower goals scored…?

Are you thinking about a couple of younger legs for this window? Though the players in question are pretty good at keeping themselves in tip-top health and fitness.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Let's Try That Again

Yeah, so I deleted that save.

Despite dominating the league, performances weren't quite where I wanted them and in an effort to correct course, I started making changes to my tactics that took me so far away from where I started that I lost sight of where I was going. Reluctantly then, I threw in the towel.

And so began another few weeks of relentless start / stop saves as I once again found myself paralysed by the indecision of how to approach the game. Without rehashing too much old ground, it ultimately boils down to this sense of identity; who am I, what type of manager do I want to be and how does that reflect in my tactics? The fact that I could not answer that question probably says it all.

Ultimately then, I decided on one step back for two steps forward and went with my old FM20 system; I Klopp-inspired 433 with Gegenpress. The very first inbox item almost caused a wobble though as the board welcomed me to the club and I immediately though, 'Why am I here instead of Klopp if I'm just using his tactics and formation?' It is of course not quite that black and white.

Those doubts started to disappear after the opening day of the season as Man United were dispatched in bonkers fashion with an 8-1 victory at Anfield. This would be the start of an impressive run as we went unbeaten until Boxing Day and a disappointing 0-1 loss at Brentford. Further defeats at Man City and the return fixture at Old Trafford were a little more palatable, although a home defeat to Watford in early April was less so. Our final game away at West Ham would also end in defeat, giving 5 in total but enough to see us across the line, winning the league with 91 points.

Somehow, we also managed to win the League Cup, FA Cup and Champions League, completing an utterly unlikely quadruple.

I truly never saw it coming. Our end of season form was solid but far from flawless. I had started to see gaps in the tactic that I wanted to address but decided to leave the core instructions in place and tinker in pre-season. Frankly, I expected this inflexibility to cost us and yet we romped home. Wowzers.

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Heading into season 2 I decided to stick with Gegenpress but made some alterations to the individual roles. Crucially, I also signed Haaland to give us a more consistent goal threat. Once again the season started in bonkers fashion, Bournemouth copping 4 on their patch before Leeds were dished 8-2 at Anfield. A frustrating home draw with United would follow before we were rudely beaten on penalties by Brighton in the League cup. Still, we remained consistent in the league, going unbeaten until February when we were turned over by City, with just 2 further defeats following. Our goals tally of 125 was pretty impressive, however 6 draws meant that we would only reach 93 points, falling someway short of my best campaigns. The title would somehow end up going down to the last day too. City pushed us all the way, actually ending up on the same points tally but our goal difference of 104 was enough to see us take the title. Phew.

Disappoint also followed in the FA Cup and Champions League, not really compensated for by a fairly pointless UEFA Super Cup win. Going into season 3 then I knew I wanted to make some changes. Out when Gegenpress and in came a more considered passing approach, with overlapping and more patient attacks. I didn't want to ditch everything that came before but I was keen to exert more control over games. Things started brightly as we raced out to 8 straight wins before a couple of frustrating draws and a 1-3 loss at Leeds. We certainly seemed to have more control but I was troubled by the relative lack of goals, the team needing a frequent half time rollicking (and occasional switch back to Gegenpress) to get us going for the second half and secure the victory. Nonetheless, this would see our best league performance to date, 5 draws and 2 losses getting us to 98 points, 17 clear of City in 3rd place.

Alas, the Champions League would elude us again as we crashed out at the first knockout stage to Dortmund, not helped by Van Dijk getting red carded early in the first leg. The League Cup would return to our trophy cabinet but the FA Cup would end up at Stamford Bridge.

Looking ahead to next season, I'm not quite sure where to go. I intend to stick with 433 as I like the general shape and the balance of player roles it allows. It may sound churlish but I'm disappointed with our overall form. By season 3, I would have expected to have achieved at least one 100 point league season and also an unbeaten campaign. Unrealistic expectations? Especially when also demanding attacking football, goals and clean sheets all at the same time? Perhaps but I'm judging myself against my own achievements and for now, coming up short.

New Recruits

Haaland has been in fine form, as one might expect. His first season was the best, scoring 63 in 44 games (43 in 32 league games) compared to 'just' 43 in 44 for season 2.

From our original squad list, Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott are coming along ok. I have tried to turn them into starters but have struggled to pin down their best roles, especially Elliott. Still, they both remain at least 3.5 star prospects and so I remain confident of maintaining them at a high level.

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The star of the show though has undoubtedly been Andy Robertson. Somehow managing to outperform Trent on the other side, he has racked up assists for fun and leads the PL ratings with 7.82 across the season.

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A number of other prospects are in the pipeline and it is a struggle to bring them all through. Kaide Gordon is hanging around the fringes of the first team whilst Musialowski and Balagizi look to have benefitted from loan moves. Signings Angelo, Wilfried Gononto and Karim Adeyemi are all pushing for starting places whilst the academy has also churned out a couple of really handy looking prospects. I'll share more on some of these guys as we go.

Finally then I feel in a good place. To revisit the word of the day, it is frustrating that it has taken me so long to get to this point and the irony is not lost on me that the save I have stuck it out with has, in some respects, been one of my least successful. I also cannot shake the sense of failure at having ditched saves that others took the time to read and comment on. I hope to make up for that with another marathon save, maybe see if we can challenge the 40+ season of FM20.

One step at a time though. For now, I finally feel a sense of contentment with my formation and tactics, even though I'm still yet to land on a final resting place.

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The new save feels more organically played, where dilemmas are sorted out when they raise their head. That first season was definitely a wowzer of a season :D

Declan Rice (?) would actually be an interesting signing for Liverpool in RL, maybe in the Henderson style role…?

Looking good for season 4. I’s there much of a rejuvenating job still needed what with some players ages?

Also, I don’t mind your restarts at all as whenever you decide to post about your adventures, something interesting has usually happened :D

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20 hours ago, Sonic Youth said:

The new save feels more organically played, where dilemmas are sorted out when they raise their head. That first season was definitely a wowzer of a season :D

Declan Rice (?) would actually be an interesting signing for Liverpool in RL, maybe in the Henderson style role…?

Looking good for season 4. I’s there much of a rejuvenating job still needed what with some players ages?

Also, I don’t mind your restarts at all as whenever you decide to post about your adventures, something interesting has usually happened :D

Thanks man, appreciate it.

Yes, squad is certainly undergoing something of a revamp. I had intended to push Fabinho back to centre back, hence brining in Rice but going into season 4 I decided instead to bring in Forfana from Leicester to partner Van Dijk. Fabinho then will go back to DM with Rice pushing out Henderson in the BBM role.

This very much feels like the start of a shake up. Van Dijk probably has 2 years left as a guaranteed starter and so in addition to Forfana, I brought in Gvardiol. It's a little more outlay than I would like but sets us up for the future. In midfield, Rice will line up alongside Curtis Jones, with Harvey Elliott and Ox as back up. From the front 3, Mane has now been moved on to Inter, meaning that Luis Diaz or Jota can stake a claim for a starting berth. On the right, Salah is still going strong, frustrating Adeyemi queueing up behind him whilst Haaland extended his contract and will be ably supported by a combination of Diaz, Jota, Gonoto and Adeyemi. Mane's exit joins that of Minamino (season1), Keita (season 2), Origi, Thiago, Matip, Firmino and Neco Williams (season 3) and Kelleher (season 4).

Beyond the first team squad, Angelo has been sent on loan to save his agitating for games, together with Musialowski and Gordon. I am slightly worried that I will miss the boat on these guys, especially the latter two and so am keen to ensure that we don't spend big on first teamers at their expense. At 21, Layton Stewart will get some chances this year. He will hopefully fare better than Leighton Clarkson who, despite playing well, was moved on in pre-season.

Looking further ahead, academy regens are bolstering our youth ranks. Look out for the names of Tom Nugent, David Gray and Zafer Erdogan amongst others in future updates.

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Season 4

Something of a mixed bag and potentially the end of the first era of our tactic.

After an 8-match winning start to the league season, Brighton would bring us down to earth with a 0-2 loss. It was completely out of pattern with the games both before and immediately after but would represent something of a recurring theme. Much as our tactics had brought success, they would often falter against a well organised defence that didn't allow any space.

Still, having won the quadruple in the first season I was reluctant to change and so stuck with it. For most of the season this was fine but towards the end, we started dropping points. Defeat to Man City was justifiable but going down to Norwich very much wasn't. Further defeats at Everton and Arsenal meant that the title would again go down to the final day, a 6-0 thrashing of Leicester seeing us over the line.

Brighton would rear their heads again in the league cup, somehow coming from behind to turn us over 1-2. Similar disappointment awaited in Europe, this time reaching the semi's but again going down to Dortmund, a 0-1 first leg defeat at Anfield our undoing. An FA Cup win over City restored some respectability to an inconsistent campaign.

Some positives then but some persistent issues. Looking to season 5, I considered a switch to 4231 but I still like the 433 shape. Instead then, I'm going to try and move away from Gegenpress. It offers a quick win but I crave the control that a shorter passing style offers and it also encourages me to employ more technical player roles. I must be patient though, there will undoubtedly be bumps in the development road.

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One of the key drivers in our loss of form was likely the sale of Haaland in January. Those who followed my FM21 story will remember the issues I had after denying him a move and so this time round, I resolved to cash in and move him on. The £202m received from Bayern was a decent bid although I did wonder if I could've held out for more. Whilst we have a few handy prospects across the squad, I was conscious of the huge gap he leaves and so going into the new season, I have lined up Moukoko from Dortmund. hey, at least this way he can't score against us.

Not quite at Haaland's level, my star of the campaign was otherwise academy regen Zafer Erdogan. A natural striker, I retrained him at AML and whilst his finishing stats need some work, he quickly became starter and regular scorer. An England cap is surely imminent.

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Closer to real life, Curtis Jones is now firmly established as a starting midfielder. Like in FM21, I am struggling a little more with Harvey Elliott as he doesn't neatly fit into any role I want to play. He has reduced to a 3 star player in the eyes of the coaches but shows flashes of quality and I have faith that he can still improve.

Other academy products continue to bubble under the surface and the challenge will be to integrate them over the next few seasons. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Having disgraced myself with a further restart I wasn't planning on any more updates to this thread but things have gone so bonkers that I couldn't resist. One last time then...

Despite some successes, I felt like the previous save had, once again, got away from me. I had lost my tactical direction and was lurching in different directions. Basically, we were getting worse and I had no idea how to fix it.

Several restarts later then and I found myself making ground again. After somehow signing Haaland in the first season, and sticking with a 433 Gegenpress, we blasted out the traps with 7 straight league wins before coming to a crashing halt in a 0-1 defeat at Wolves. This would be the turning point of this new save. 

I knew from the previous go round that my base 433 set up was effective but had limitations. it would often grind to a halt against lowly opposition who sat back and nullified our quick passing into space but I had always been afraid of the failure that would come with change. Armed with that prior experience, I opted to employ some tweaks based on what I was actually seeing and not on what I wanted to be. Tempo reduced, a controlling playmaker was introduced and we began to dominate games. So much so that we repeated our prior save success, once again managing to win the quadruple in the first season.

Still, I wanted more. I still didn't really feel in control of games, even though we were winning. Starting season 2 then, I decided to be bold and switched off pass into space. This was a big shift to me as it is an instruction I have used almost as a default but I knew that I wanted to increase our possession. My fear was always that it would blunt our attack and lead to less chances but I needn't have worried. The 107 goals scored in the league was 4 done on the first season but having gone unbeaten throughout the campaign, our 106 points accrued was a new best. Of course it didn't hurt that I managed to get Mbappe on a free to play alongside Haaland and Salah.

That unbeaten run would continue into season 3. In fact that defeat at Wolves - on 23rd October 2021 - would be our only league defeat until a 0-2 reversal at Chelsea on 23rd March 2024. A whopping 98 games unbeaten across 3 seasons, just two shy of a milestone 100 and just 8 shy of going consecutive seasons without defeat. Not knowing how long it would last I grabbed screenshots where I could. This was grabbed a couple of games beforehand.

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The downside to such a run is that I started making compromises elsewhere to keep it going. We were losing finalists on the Champions League in season 2 but in season 3, with games against Bayern sandwiched between consecutive away games against Man City and Man United and then Barcelona on the horizon, we slumped to defeat in Spain, ending our UCL hopes at the quarter final stage. With a solitary FA Cup to add in season 2, our trophy haul would end up a little down given our otherwise imperious form.

Anyway, this is the team as at the start of season 4.

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Curtis Jones had a wobble but has rebounded to become a starter, edging out Thiago for the playmaker spot. Similarly Joe Gomez has forced his way back in after being out of the side, although his absence was more to do with injuries than form. Elsewhere, Trent has been a beast at right back whilst Haaland has been a revelation as a DLF on attack. I know it goes against his natural attributes to run in behind and smash goals in but 42 in 33 last season - with an average league rating of 8.11 - tells me that it is working. Mbappe has been a little disappointing, again perhaps because he is not playing to his natural strengths, but has provided a strong contribution of goals and assists.

Learning from previous experience, I opted to treat Harvey Elliott a little differently. Instead of trying to shoehorn him in and wondering why he turned out crap, I opted to loan him out, first to Fenerbahce and then to Benfica, where he enjoyed a really productive spell. he has come back a solid 3 star player and retains 5 star potential. I'm still a little uncertain of where to play him; Adeyemi and Angelo are in his way at AML (not to mention Salah) and whilst I did try him as a DLF, I don't think the role plays to his strengths. For now then, he'll act as back up to Curtis Jones and we'll see what evolves as the team reshapes itself in the next few years.

Plenty of other promising young players to update on but I'll do that when I can be sure that this save has really taken off.

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Looks like a fun couple of saves :thup:

98 games unbeaten is bonkers, and arguably is two seasons plus unbeaten (just not consecutive seasons) :eek: :cool:

Not too much change considering all the names new in three seasons played.

On 14/04/2022 at 03:55, dirkgently1066 said:

and we'll see what evolves as the team reshapes itself in the next few years.

Plenty of other promising young players to update on but I'll do that when I can be sure that this save has really taken off.

Looking forward to this :thup:

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Season 4

Another successful campaign as we secure our 4th straight league title whilst also adding an FA Cup and Champions League to the trophy cabinet whilst a Club World Cup was added in the crossover to season 5.

It was an interesting campaign. 3 straight wins were followed by a disappointing 1-3 loss at Everton, ending any hopes of an unbeaten campaign by September. This would be the first of 2 defeats, the second a bizarre game at Sheffield United. We went  3-0 up after just 8 minutes and so I sat back expecting an easy victory. To my surprise then, Utd fought back, taking an unlikely lead late in the second half. Despite my subsequent desperate changes, we could not haul it back.

Added to 2 draws, I found myself disappointed with the season and started to question my tactics and it is here that we see the perfectionism  creeping in. For context, we have won 4 leagues in a row, losing just 4 games across those seasons. Each year has seen us score over 100 goals and over 100 points. By any measure, this is domination and the type of results most tactical 'gurus' would salivate over.

I though question why we didn't go unbeaten. Sure, there are some coals to pick over with each of the defeats but I think I too easily lose sight of the achievement. In mental health terms, I am discounting any positives and only acknowledging negatives. Or to put it another way, finding the cloud in every silver lining.

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Tactics

After moving away from Gegenpress we have stuck with the 433 shape noted above. I don't normally go into much detail of these things but I'll step through my thinking behind each component.

Player Roles

  • Sweeper Keeper (S) - steps out of the box to act as an extra defender without being too aggressive
  • Wing Backs (S) - crucial players at both ends. I opted for WB over FB to ensure they get forward enough but my concern with the role has always been whether they cross often enough. I did consider CWB, especially as it would suit TAA but whenever trying it I found player ratings would suffer. So long as the role continues to get the best out of TAA, I'll stick with it
  • BPD (D) - again, I considered just using the standard CD role, especially as we are looking to keep possession. BPD's also have a worrying tendency to play themselves into trouble and their player rating can suffer as a result. On the other hand, they assist the attack by bringing the ball out and will ping a long pass every so often
  • DM (S) - a role I struggled to pin down. After starting with a DLP I soon pivoted to a DM with a defensive mentality, used for no reason other than I also had 3 attacking roles at the time and some obsessive  part of my brain sought to balance this with 3 defensive roles. From season 2, we switched to 2 defensive roles and so the defend role had to change to support to avoid an imbalance. This also pushed us to Fluid and the role appeared to better suit our squad. Tactically, with the roles ahead of him, it also made sense as Fabinho would step into the midfield and close off any gaps as opposed to a defend role that would drift closer to the centre backs
  • AP (A) - In some ways the key role in the side. I had started with a supporting mezzala but was never comfortable that it was creative enough but also, and perhaps more importantly, it just didn't feel right. It was a role I used because it was there and popular, not because it made sense in my tactic. I also wanted to create a dynamic, attacking role that would create going forward without breaking into the box too often and disrupting the shape. Most of the squad seem to favour playing the role in support but the attacking role has been successful and brought the best out of Thiago before he moved on.
  • BBM (S) - another role I have struggled with. I switched out to a CM support at one stage but having moved from mezzala to AP, I felt a role that broke into the box would be a better fit. With Bellingham having joined us in January, he also fits the role perfectly and has already made a big contribution
  • IF (S) - Despite allowing some variance of roles in midfield, my self imposed rules insist that my wide roles must be symmetrical. These started out as attacking roles but I often found that they got the byline and then ran out of space to do anything, or simply hit the box and disrupted our shape. With the AP becoming an attacking role, it made sense to move then to supporting roles. Goal output has actually remained broadly similar but they are more involved with assists.
  • DLF (A) - the most difficult role to pin down. I started with a Pressing Forward, partly because it seemed logical for Gegenpress but partly because it suited Haaland. Being slightly less attack minded than an AF, the PF would drop back into space but still, I found him too often drifting upfield and away from the play such that the only option was a longer pass that resulted in either lost possession or the striker isolated. Conversely, I didn't want a False 9 or other support role as I found that they drifted back too far and too often, somewhat neutering the attack. A DLF attack role then seemed to offer the best of both worlds, ensuring my striker stays close to the midfield to link play whilst also breaking forwards regularly. It certainly seems to have suited Haaland, who has rewarded us with a rating of 8+ in 3 out of 4 seasons and a total of 134 goals across 116 appearances

Team Instructions

  • Positive Mentality - attacking without being gung-ho. I find that this allows to control games, batter weak teams and still leave us with gears we can move up to as required
  • Mixed passing - I have tended to use shorter passing when creating my own style but this can sometimes result in tippy-tappy stuff that goes nowhere. Given that we are using WBIB and POD, going even shorter seemed like overkill
  • Play out of defence - combined with BPD's this can cause issues on occasion but on balance, I favour the control of possession
  • Work ball into box - simply to avoid wasteful long shots
  • Be More Expressive - hey, why not?
  • Overlap / left / right - I did question if this was necessary when I am playing support duties across all wide roles. This stems from when we were playing attacking roles at AML and AMR and I wanted to ensure that the wide forwards were pulled back a little and did not become isolated. I kept it with the support roles and whilst it might make play a little slower in places and potentially blunt the output of the wide attackers, the doubling up with the player behind helps to overwhelm the opposing defenders. Besides, the inside forwards remain fruitful with Salah contributing up to 30 goals a season
  • Higher tempo - a Premier League standard, no?
  • Fairly narrow - to keep players closer together and aid passing moves

The other big in possession instructing worth talking about is pass into space. I have almost always used it in my tactics as I felt it essential to allow through balls and to mix up a shorter passing game. However, I often found that it simply resulted in lost possession and frankly, it wasn't an instruction that I especially identified with. I took it off then and our passing game improved immeasurably whilst the football we play is very easy on the eye. it still has its place but I have tended to use it situationally, for instance away at Barcelona where I felt we would have the space to attack into.

The out of possession and transition instructions are largely a hangover from Gegenpress, just dialled down a little.

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Stick or Twist

Still though, I find myself wondering if I should change.

  • Should Haaland really be a DLF? Wouldn't he be better as a PF or AF?
  • You're wasting Mbappe
  • The attacking playmaker leaves gaps in midfield
  • TAA should be a CWB

And yet...it works. Haaland performs really well, combining and creating whilst also continuing to be our main goal threat. In fact player ratings across the board have consistently been the best I have ever achieved. We play the type of football I want to see, controlling games but also bashing up rubbish teams. The 'Fluid' label feels appropriate too; the AP attack was designed to become a number 10 in possession with the DM support stepping into midfield such that the shape almost becomes a 4231. 

There might come a point where I opt to change. PSG were sniffing around Haaland and although he rebuffed them, I am conscious that his particular attributes may be part of the reason that the role performs so well. Equally, should our form continue, there may simply come a time where it feels right to try something new, perhaps moving to a 3 at the back to challenging myself to get that old school 442 working. That is all for another day though.20220415210943_1.thumb.jpg.64a61f5215c5df9bff7dbb5b02c743d9.jpg

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Top post. I like your thoughts about your ideas on positions, mentalities, how this fits with the players and sits in the team’s tactics and TIs. I like how you’ve got runners from all positions and depths with efficiencies and effectiveness considered. It all resulted in a continuation of your form, perhaps that little bit better than the previous seasons.

And also in VVD becoming a long shot specialist?! :D

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3 hours ago, Sonic Youth said:

Top post. I like your thoughts about your ideas on positions, mentalities, how this fits with the players and sits in the team’s tactics and TIs. I like how you’ve got runners from all positions and depths with efficiencies and effectiveness considered. It all resulted in a continuation of your form, perhaps that little bit better than the previous seasons.

And also in VVD becoming a long shot specialist?! :D

VVD has been a beast! I haven't consciously employed any corner exploit (if there even are any) but he has consistently hit double figures just through towering headers from set pieces. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Season 5

A strange season and one that throws up plenty of triggers.

The Premier League was secured for a 5th straight year but this was our worst campaign by some distance. 5 draws and 4 defeats meant that for the first time in this save, our points tally fell below 100. Despite this, our goal output remained strong at 109, helped by smashing 12 past hapless Watford. Performances generally though were just  notch off our best, reflected in Haaland's rating of 7.67, his 21 league goals a disappointment, in relative terms.

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Still, it would prove to be a fruitful season overall. Having already secured the Club World Cup in pre-season, we added the Community Shield and Super Cup in August whilst the FA Cup and Champions League also found their way back home, meaning just a League Cup final defeat to Arsenal would prevent us from completing a clean sweep.

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Black Dog Watch - Tactics

With a few seasons of success under our belt, I had very much settled in to our possession-based 433 but this season would cause me to wobble. This brought it's own anxiety though.

For the first time ever, I decided to share my tactic in the Tactics section of the forum. I mean after all, why not when you can boast unbeaten seasons and quadruples? At the same time though, I kept telling myself that the tactic wasn't any good at all and that it only looked good because of the confluence of team and personnel at my disposal. Indeed as we floundered to draws against Newcastle and Brighton or fell to defeat at the hands of Chelsea and Arsenal, I began to regret sharing the tactic. I told myself, it wasn't good enough.

To compound matters, I started to wonder if it was time to change, perhaps to move Haaland to an Advanced Forward role or even to try and engineer a two striker formation. This though would mean moving away from the tactic that I had proudly shared with the community. What did that say about it? That it was no good after all? That I had wasted people's time by sharing it and encouraging others to try it?

This question has paralysed my thinking such that I didn't feel ready to load the save back up until I knew what direction to move in.

Clearly some context is required. The tactic has been successful, of that there is no doubt. Others are free to try it and reject it, their results should have no bearing on perception of my own save.

Equally, I must feel free to change and evolve, although that of course brings its own anxiety around the fear of change. After all, what if I make a change and it doesn't work?

Well, so what? This is catastrophising, seeking out the worst possible scenario to justify not implementing change. Sure, any changes might not work, in which case I can revert back. They might also be the best thing I have ever done though, sending me off on a new journey. Or perhaps they'll fall somewhere in between this black and white or all or nothing thinking.

Edited by dirkgently1066
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After an early stutter, Season 5 has started to take shape nicely.

As noted above, I knew that I wanted to do something slightly different with our tactics but I wasn't sure what. Not feeling quite ready to abandon the shape, I settled for minor tweaks; the DLF became and advanced forward, passing came down one notch to shorter and to compensate, we added pass into space.

It is this last instruction that gave me the most pause for thought. Despite using it in our quadruple winning season I had steered clear of it since, preferring the control that closer passing offered. Still, I had come to feel that we needed some variety to our game, as much as anything to unlock some of the tighter games that we had drawn without scoring. 

Things started well as our first two games returned two trophies in the shape of the Community Shield and the Super Cup, secured 3-0 and 5-1 respectively. A 3-0 win at Norwich followed before a really frustrating 1-1 at home to Arsenal. We had created plenty - 27 shots compared to 8 - but failed to add to our one goal. Haaland in particular, whom I assumed would be set loose in an AF role, was playing poorly. Inevitably then I moved back to my previous tactic, 3 successive wins hinting that it was the tactic to stick with. Further frustration would follow though, this time a 0-0 at promoted Nottingham Forest.

After a bit of soul searching and a bit more back and forth, I ended up settling on the version 2 tactic, figuring as much as anything that I owed it the chance over a string of games. Besides, I knew I wanted to evolve version 1 and so there was little value in stubbornly reverting to it.

Ten wins would follow, including a 15-1 aggregate win against Qarabag across the two UCL group games. Again though, we hit the buffers with a frustrating draw, this time 2-2 at Wolves. That we scored twice at least reassures me that the tactic is fine going forward but two late goals conceded is a cause for concern.

End of an Era

Of course there comes a natural challenge with results; the team is ageing out. Alisson is 34, van Dijk 35, Henderson 36, Fabinho and Robertson 32 and Salah 34. Great servants all but their time is coming to a close.

We have replacements for each but there is a period of transition. Adeyemi has already forced Salah into a sub role having developed into a world class forward. Konate and Gomez remain solid, if not world beating, options at centre back and Gvardiol is an able deputy, plus we seem to have a plethora of decent young defenders coming through. Similarly at left back, a combination of academy graduates and wonderkid signings see us well placed for the future whilst Belligham and Camavinga will ensure our midfield is well looked after.

Alisson is perhaps the hardest to replace. I opted to go big and spend £74m on Diogo Costa. He is a 3.5 star player and so a clear notch below Alisson at his best but a marked improvement over Kelleher and Vandevoort who otherwise would need to step in.

Academy Watch

Lots of good prospects worth keeping an eye on in this save. This guy is perhaps my favourite, a young Turkish striker who I am developing at AML;

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In defence, I like the look of this guy. The game lists him as a centre back but I like the look of him as a potential wing back;

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And finally for now, this young midfielder looks like he could go all the way. Signed for £15.5m, I let him stay at Sao Paulo on loan to develop and at 19, is already considered Premier League standard. Given that PSG are sniffing round Bellingham, he may be needed sooner rather than later;

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I’ve been enjoying the tactical breakdown from your last few posts. It illuminates how much you’ve got to consider how your players play together, whether to attack space or play to feet for instance.

Thanks for sharing your best prospects from your academy. One thing I find I continually have to do is stop looking at players with my CM01/02 biased glasses on as the player skill profiles are different and how they play is not the same :D

Now I’ve said that, I like your prospects. They blend the physical with technical abilities. Each though look like you’re working on them with the added option of being able to use them in rotation. As much as I like Everson, I do wish his passing was about 5 points higher. He’d almost be Gerrard like then :lock:

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In the end, Season 5 would turn out to be, if not a complete dumpster fire, then certainly some smouldering embers. 

After that draw with Wolves that I noted above, we would win our next 4 league games before a dispiriting 1-2 reversal at Leicester. These are the types of results that have punctuated our form recently, losses against much lesser opposition where we fail to create anything of substance. We then entered a really difficult period that saw my first heavy tactical tinkering. That 1-2 loss was followed by a 2-2 home draw in the EFL semi against Chelsea and we then went on to lose the second leg, dumping us out. Beginning to feel frustrated, I switched to a 424 for a home game with Blackburn, whacking them for 7, before reverting to our usual shape for the next home game against Southampton. Again we lost, going down 0-1, all of my in-game changes of shape, duties and instructions failing to elicit a positive response. A draw at United and a loss at Arsenal compounded a drab run.

By this time, we had fallen behind Chelsea in the league and with 8 games remaining, I started to fear the worst. I made the switch back to our regular 433 shape but continued to tinker with specific instructions, looking for that one tactical innovation that would unlock everything. It never came but we did rally enough to overhaul Chelsea, a tough run in seeing us secure wins at City and Everton, whilst a final day drubbing of Forest would ensure that our record of scoring at least 100 league goals a season remained intact.

An FA Cup was also added but the UCL evaded us. At the quarter final stage, we took a 3-1 home first leg lead against PSG and I feared that we would rue that conceded goal. As it turned out, that was the least of our problems. Trent got himself sent off in the first half and we could not muster a response to the PSG onslaught, in the end going down 0-4 and ending our hopes of a 3rd consecutive Champions League.

Heading into Season 6 then, I was again at a bit of a tactical crossroads. Part of me is pushing for a change, thinking that perhaps the game has adjusted to my club's increased stature, rendering my original tactics less effective. Another part of me looks at the results and performances, not to mention that crazy 98-game unbeaten run, and thinks that I need to show some patience and stick with what brought me to the dance.

it was the latter mindset that won out. A nervy penalty shootout win of the Charity Shield raised some early questions but these were soon dispelled by good wins against City (4-1), Arsenal (3-2) and West Ham (3-1). Things really came to a head though in a home tie against Leeds. The game started slowly and with few chances created, those doubts started to seep through. However, after Gravenberch scored in the 18th minute, it seemed to open the floodgates and we would run out 8-0 victors. A similarly dominant, although less goal heavy, performance would see us best second placed United at home, smashing them 3-0, although the ship ran aground a little in the next game with a dishwater-dull 0-0 against Real Madrid.

As ever then, some food for thought. I must now walk that thin tactical line as my mind carries out a tug of war; on the one hand, stick with a successful tactic. On the other, make small changes based on observable reality and don't get stubborn.20220501190926_1.thumb.jpg.5d09dbf3067533a01796384bba5c58f7.jpg

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One real positive this season has been the form of Harvey Elliott. I took a different path to usual on this save and loaned him out a number of times. When he has been around, I have struggled to find the best role for him. He is of course a natural at AMR but probably better suits a playmaker or inverted winger role as opposed to the inside forward role I use. I retrained him so that he is comfortable playing as playmaker in centre mid or as our deep lying forward but his best performances this year have been at AMR.

He has also struggled for regular game time. Salah remains a class operator, even aged 35, whilst Karim Adeyemi has pretty much made the position his own. This season thought looks to be a tussle between the two, with Kaide Gordon likely to get a further loan spell as he simply can't get any game time.

In recent saves, Elliott has struggled to become much more than a 3 star player and so I am thrilled with his development this time around.

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In some respects, I will look back on Season 6 as the one that got away.

In the league, we would reach game 30 before tasting our first defeat, going down 0-1 at Chelsea. I had started to believe we could notch another unbeaten season, potential defeats at Wolves and Arsenal turned into creditable draws after some mid-match tweaks. It wasn't to be, the loss at Chelsea continuing the theme of dispiriting defeats where we seem to lose all control of the ball and the ability to create chances. A similar defeat would follow at Old Trafford, our tally of 98 points an improvement versus prior year but some way shy of our best.

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Elsewhere, the League Cup would elude us again. I sent a second 11 to Arsenal and we did reasonably well. The game finished 2-2 but annoyingly, Arsenal's goals came after changes I had made in an attempt to make us more solid. Ultimately they would best us on penalties. The FA Cup however came back to Anfield for a 4th straight season, helped greatly by Laporte getting a red after 6 minutes.

The Champions League would again end in frustration and again at the hands of pesky PSG. Much like the defeats to Chelsea and Man United, it was a drab affair and raises some question marks around our tactics.

One Step Forward, Five Seasons Back

As noted above, I had deliberately reverted to our established 433 set up for this season and clearly it is a winner. I appreciate that I am incredibly demanding of myself, effectively expecting perfection and so it is worth taking a step back and reminding myself that 6 straight league titles, over 100 goals every season and never more than 4 defeats across a campaign is pretty ruddy good. But I still want more.

Successful as it is though, my best season arguably remains the first, which implemented some tweaks. After an early loss, we had moved from Gegenpress to my own custom style but retained attacking roles on the flanks, with Haaland playing as a pressing forward. As we went into season 2 and beyond, I deliberately moved to a DLF up top and supporting wide roles, as well as removing the pass into space instruction. It gave me greater control but perhaps at the expense of a bit of daring. 

As a reminder, that first season saw us win a quadruple, the sole loss coming before this tactical style was implemented. There were a couple of drab draws along the way but no more so that with my current tactic.

With this in mind, I am tempted to change going into season 7. I had considered ditching my tactic all together and perhaps moving to a 4231 but I like the basic shape. I think it is tinkering required here as I try to marry up what I want to see on the highlights with the results we see on the league table and in my trophy cabinet. Perhaps a reversion to a more aggressive centre forward will push teams back. Perhaps giving my wide players attacking roles and encouraging passes into space will create more variety of play.

Much as I discovered to my joy in my FM20 save, there is no right answer and, perhaps even more importantly, no permanent answer. Just because I employ a tactical idea now doesn't mean it has to remain in place forever. I do not need to define myself, I am allowed to be flexible and adaptable.

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Posted (edited)
On 05/05/2022 at 05:12, dirkgently1066 said:

Much as I discovered to my joy in my FM20 save, there is no right answer and, perhaps even more importantly, no permanent answer. Just because I employ a tactical idea now doesn't mean it has to remain in place forever. I do not need to define myself, I am allowed to be flexible and adaptable.

I like this. I’d expand on it by adding: the deeper you play into a game, the amount of unknown players and managers introduce by the AI changes the challenge from what you expect to see from the start. Accepting a little bit of chaos (Klopp calls it heavy metal rock ‘n roll I think) accepts it can happen to the best laid plans. The recent semi finals of the ECL showed that with Liverpool progressing while Man City succumbed.

Looking at the league table and stats highlights West Ham’s stats for players in clean sheets/assists/goals, as well as their league position. Aston Villan only 11th with having second best goalscorer sounds like underachieving.

Edited by Sonic Youth
Table and Stats
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Season 8

Yes, I lost track and it turns out that I had already racked up 7 season. Whoops. Still, another year, another league title but this season would throw up more questions than answers.

After tossing a few different ideas round my mind, we would start the season with our now established 433. An opening day 2-2 draw at Southampton was disappointing, not least because we had been 2-0 up but consecutive 4-0, 3-0 and 5-0 victories Man United, Brighton and Bournemouth restored some calm. Somehow then we conspired to lose 0-1 at APOEL in the UCL before also losing 0-2 at Lille. Defeats in the League Cup and a couple of poor away defeats in the league compounded a pretty indifferent patch of form.

Changing things up a bit, I removed the overlap and let the players pass into space. It seemed to rejuvenate us, exemplified by a 9-0 thrashing of Rangers , 5-0 against Wolves, 7-0 against Brighton and, perhaps most pleasing of all, a 6-0 drubbing of Barcelona in the second leg of the UCL quarter final, having lost 0-2 in Spain.

Ultimately, our record of 29 wins, 5 draws and 4 defeats was enough to secure the league with 92 points, our 7th successive season of scoring 100+ league goals. 

The end of the season was just crazy though. First we faced Arsenal in the FA Cup final. We absolutely battered them, creating 28 chances for an xG of 3.30 however after 90 minutes, it remained goalless. Arsenal would then strike first in extra time in the 118th minute however we somehow rallied and managed a last gasp equalizer, taking the tie to penalties. It wasn't to be though and we lost the shootout, bringing our 4 year winning run to an end.

On to the Champions League final then and Inter. Again we dominated, with 11 shots on target but had to wait until the 69th minute to score. Inter though struck back and after a tense extra time, it would be on to another shootout. With the first 10 penalties successfully converted, Bastoni would miss the vital quick, Camavinga slotting his home and securing our 4th UCL of the save.

On to the Club World Cup then, often my chosen scene to debut a new tactical approach. This time I opted to stick rather than twist, figuring that any changes could wait until proper pre-season. The early round games were navigated easily enough but having drawn Chelsea at the quarter final stage, another penalty shootout would loom large and for the second time in three attempts, we were down and out.

Entering season 9 then, and with the Community Shield and Super Cup secured, I can boast a pretty might record of 8 leagues and 23 trophies with an 81% win percentage.

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Still, I wanted more. I had become particularly frustrated with games where we seemed toothless, especially away from home. Coinciding with this, we managed to secure the signature of Youssoufa Moukoko on a free and so I now had a pretty fearsome foursome of Moukoko, Haaland, Adeyemi and Mbappe. Harking back to my success on FM20, I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to go for a 424 and reintroduce Gegenpressing. This way, I could field all four at once, although the removal of a midfielder would require a reshuffling elsewhere, Camavinga being asked to become a centre back.

3 league wins out of 3 suggested promise but I quickly tired of the chaotic football. As @Sonic Youth rightly notes above, this style certainly has its place and indeed I have used it extensively in my FM saves. Now though, I had come to favour a more controlled approach, dominating games with our possession and seeking to outplay the opposition rather then bulldoze them. With this in mind then, I switched back to our old 433 shape detailed in my tactical post above. It has some flaws - most notably tough away games - but on balance, I prefer what I see on the pitch playing this way.

In some ways, the move to 424 was a case of allowing the players available to me to dictate the shape whereas I've always been a manager who likes to pick a shape and style and fit players in to it. Undoubtedly I will end up with some disappointed stars but on the other hand, I can now boast incredible depth in key positions.

Hot Prospects

One of those strong back ups is academy star Emrah Inci. Having consistently given him minutes, he has developed into a real talent and under other circumstances, would likely be a regular starter. Sadly for him, we have Mbappe. Still, he is a versatile option in any of the front 3 roles and a reliable choice should form or fitness knock one of the regular starters out.

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Everson is also developing nicely. He is now a natural at right back and, after getting a run of games, saw his rating nudge up to 4.5 stars. Again, he would be a starter if not for Trent still being in his prime and I will have to manage his game time carefully to keep him happy. Like with Inci though, his versatility means he will find opportunities to play various roles across the pitch.

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Last oen for now is Gavin Jones, who has the distinction of sharing a name with a kid I grew up with. Signed for £78m from Villa, he was an instant starter, replacing the hole left by van Dijk's departure. He is competent at left full back and during our brief flirtation with 424, I moved him there permanently to accommodate Camavinga. In our 433, I have restored him to centre back and expect him to lead our back line for years to come.

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One quick note on this save; a real bugbear I had on FM20 was that, despite being the best manager in the history of the game, I was never offered the England job, only getting it late in the save when I decided to apply.

Now admittedly, this was a little like holding out for an invitation for a party you have no intention of going to, given that I jacked it in without playing a match but still, it's nice to be asked, right?

To my surprise then, I have now been offered the national job twice and have twice declined it. I used to always seek out an international role but in recent saves, I've found it all too much hassle. I guess it is the same mentality that puts me off a journeyman save. Playing as Liverpool, I get to build my own squad of players that I know and have specifically chosen. Taking a different role, be it national or international, steps me into a world of the unknown. The net is cast too wide for me to feel comfortable that I have ever made the right catch. It just feels too much.

Taking a step back from FM, it is the same mentality that puts me off playing RPGs or similar, those games with open worlds and options galore. I find the choice overwhelming and much prefer the tightly controlled and guided narrative of, say, an Uncharted. I like to know that I have completed the game in the 'right' way, my underlying fear of a more open game that I may make the 'wrong' choice.

A firm no from me then, this will be strictly a Liverpool-only save.

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Season 9

A really strange one this.

Our 9th season would see a 9th straight league title and, after settling back into our tactical groove, it would be a season of domination. 33 wins, 4 draws and just 1 defeat saw us hit 103 points, our best performance in 5 years. Haaland led the way, his 32 goals in 32 games contributing to 120 league goals scored.

Elsewhere though, we would be frustrated at almost every turn. After securing the Community Shield and Super Cup, a home penalty defeat against Leeds would see us dumped out of the League Cup in round 3. In the FA Cup, we only managed to go one round further, succumbing to Arsenal in round 4 and prompting half my squad to get on my case for not winning a domestic cup, the 6 FA Cups won to date apparently not enough for them.

Even more disappointing though was the Champions League. We successfully navigated past Ajax, Barcelona and Inter and would face Bayern in the final. They took the lead in the 8th minute and shut up shop from there on. We created a few chances but no matter what I tried, we could not break them down.

It's a strange feeling, knowing the team is that good and yet coming away with so little. Still, our league form convinces me that we remain on the right track but reinforces the idea that I need a back-up tactic for tough away / neutral venue games where we are not guaranteed to dominate possession and break teams down.

Squad

Looking over the squad generally, we look in decent shape. My under 23s and Under 18s have started to thin out as I become pickier about the development players I hold on to, pushing me to sign a couple of prospects from elsewhere for reasonable fees.

In the first team, Trent is now 31 and Everson is a world class option at right back. I have decided then to try pushing Trent up to DMC and move Camavinga back to centre back. At the same time, Gavin Jones moves across to left back, giving a promising youngster a little more time to develop, the longer term plan being to move Jones back into the centre as Konate (now 31) ages out.

Curtis Jones at 29 has been a useful squad option in this save but never pinned down a consistent starting role and is now angling for a move. Similarly Adeyemi predictably does not like sharing the AMR position with Moukoko and is pushing for a move but no one appears ready to meet my £120m asking price.

Haaland and Mbappe continue to be start players but at 30 and 31 respectively, their time is also drawing to a close. I reckon I've got another 3-4 seasons of them at their peak and so there is no rush to sign replacements but I have my eye on some promising youngsters nonetheless.

England Calling

Yes, they approached me again! With Frank Lampard failing to deliver World Cup glory, the FA once again asked to take over. I remain adamant that it will be too much and may compromise my enjoyment of the save and so for the third time, I have rejected.

And that really is the key. I am really enjoying this save, it has all the hallmarks of that bonkers FM20 run and I don't want to risk anything ruining that. In fact this is more settled than that save ever was. By this point in FM20, I had ditched the 433 and gone full-on 424. It was a system that delivered big results but, like the variation of 433 I had been using, had flaws that stopped it from being consistent. My current 433 isn't flawless by any means but it is something that I have put thought into and tried to build logically and in that sense, it is consistently delivering.

Edited by dirkgently1066
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