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Cautious / Low Block Football


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I think there is a significant difference between playing with a low block and playing defensive football.

Playing with a low block can still have the intention to send (many) players forward to score after winning possession. Or to build up slowly with also players moving forward. And eventhough im not an expert for spanish football, i think thats actually what Atletico is doing most of the time.

I've went to youtube and looked up all laliga goals from last season for atletico and i noticed, that there are quite often 6-8 players around the box / in the final third whenever they score. And like 4 players inside the box.

Playing defensive football on the other hand (at least from my point of view) has the intention to primarily defend and maybe take the game into a later stage or maybe take away 1 point from a big team or luckily score some random goal from whatever. And thats also why it makes completely sense to increase the number of defend duties if your really wanna shut your goal down.

 

Edited by CARRERA
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Good post Jack and subject to tackle.  Too many things to mention that I agree with.  Just a couple of points I'd query (not challenge) is that a lower DL on a defensive mentality seems to invite long shots and in FM land one of those has a tendency to fly in late on and stun you.  Also I get the principle you outline about lateral compactness, but again in FM land, I find that if it isn't standard then wide players aren't engaged properly and a pinpoint accurate cross sooner or later ends up on someone's bonce.  You could make a case for those type of things being match engine flaws though both seem to me to have been around for many versions.

Anyway I hope you get some great feedback from this thread.

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3 hours ago, CARRERA said:

I think there is a significant difference between playing with a low block and playing defensive football.

Yeah I think defensive football can even be played with a high press. I've seen Manchester City do this a number of times. When they win the ball back, they just pass it around.. No one really makes any forward runs, and players stay back to provide defensive security and safe pass options. It can really demoralise any opposition, who end up exhausting themselves chasing shadows since they really get forced to come out of their defensive shape.

3 hours ago, CARRERA said:

Playing with a low block can still have the intention to send (many) players forward to score after winning possession. Or to build up slowly with also players moving forward. And eventhough im not an expert for spanish football, i think thats actually what Atletico is doing most of the time.

I've went to youtube and looked up all laliga goals from last season for atletico and i noticed, that there are quite often 6-8 players around the box / in the final third whenever they score. And like 4 players inside the box.

Since out of possession and in possession are seperate, this is of course completely viable, but i'd question why you'd want this. I can't think of any times off the top of my head when a team has used a 'pure' low block while still actively trying to push forward when on the ball in search of a goal. Even playing on the counter with this tactic is difficult because your players are often pushed so far back that they have multiple players to beat as well as 3/4 of a football pitch to run before being able to shoot, especially with tactical fouls nowadays. 

IMO when I see Atletico play, they more often use a mid block or a mid to low block instead of a pure low block, unless they're looking to see out a game, when they might go to a low block.

2067162361_LowPressing.PNG.1a671041bb8c23fe09cd6ff0133a1445.PNG1483153288_midlowpressing.PNG.2265f2a31ba284b78b3b97e02f9f43ce.PNG2083826748_standardpressing.PNG.d88d289fabc41c863a93c88a013d3609.PNG

I see the left image as a low block (Much lower loe, lower dline,less pressing) the middle image as a mid/low block (lower loe, less pressing) and the right image as a mid block (blank instructions)

 

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37 minutes ago, Robson 07 said:

Good post Jack and subject to tackle.  Too many things to mention that I agree with.  Just a couple of points I'd query (not challenge) is that a lower DL on a defensive mentality seems to invite long shots and in FM land one of those has a tendency to fly in late on and stun you.  Also I get the principle you outline about lateral compactness, but again in FM land, I find that if it isn't standard then wide players aren't engaged properly and a pinpoint accurate cross sooner or later ends up on someone's bonce.  You could make a case for those type of things being match engine flaws though both seem to me to have been around for many versions.

Anyway I hope you get some great feedback from this thread.

Understand your points. The far post crosses can be a killer at times, but the long shots aren't really a problem. I remember back in FM20(?) Every long shot was basically a cannon into the top corner, but it feels more balanced now in this engine.

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First of all great thread. Open post well writing. 

I have some questions :

Do you use these roles for something or is it just because your players fit in these roles. Do you use some players instructions and oppositions instructions to enhance your theory?

You said that the 433 leave too much gap but what about the classic 442?

And if you take a goal first, do you adapt your strategy but in the opposite way you write about it?

Thanks for your work. 

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2 hours ago, coach vahid said:

Do you use these roles for something or is it just because your players fit in these roles. Do you use some players instructions and oppositions instructions to enhance your theory?

There's not particular reason why I use these roles. What's more Important is the duties. For example in the defensive tactic, I don't need overlapping fullbacks, whereas in the positive tactic I want Cresswell to get to the byline and pump in crosses. And again there's no particular reason for it, just that he's got good dribbling and crossing and sending a fullback forward can be an easy way to create overloads and break down defences when we want to play on the front foot. 

My CAM easily could've been an AP, or my striker is sometimes a TMa depending on who plays there. Lots of other roles could've been different as well.

My choice between the reason I had my left side as WB and right as FB is purely because Cresswell has better crossing and dribbling. The WB stays wider and actively tries to cross and dribble more than the FB, who tends to play more simple passes and is only really looking to cross when in open space.

And no extra instructions.

2 hours ago, coach vahid said:

You said that the 433 leave too much gap but what about the classic 442?

Irl lots of teams switch to a 442 when defending deep and compact, even if their on ball system is completely different. It's one of the more solid shapes so is easily doable. Imo the 442, 532 and 541 are probably the best formations to use for this style. My rule of thumb is to avoid formations with > 2 players in the AM / ST strata. 

At the beginning of the save, I tried the same instructions as the defensive tactic but used a 4231DM, and while we scored a decent amount of goals, we conceded a tonne, which went completely against my philosophy. Against lesser teams we'd win 3-2 while Against the big boys we'd get thrashed (lost 6-0 to liverpool). After switching the cautious and defensive tactics to the 4411, we've been grinding out 1-0 wins, and keeping it tight against the top teams. Last two games in a row we lost 2-1 away to Chelsea then 2-1 away to PSG. Despite the losses I was very happy with the performances, we can't expect to be getting anything from these types of games anyway.

2 hours ago, coach vahid said:

nd if you take a goal first, do you adapt your strategy but in the opposite way you write about it?

I regularly switch between the three tactics previously mentioned, the positive , cautious and defensive. In home games against the bottom half, I regularly start with the positive tactic before switching to more defensive after scoring first.

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13 hours ago, coach vahid said:

Hi, 

Do you still play this save? 

Any update? 

I try your settings but It was not so satisfied... Surely it's my team... But if you have any tips, i'll take it. 

Don't think i've played too many more games than shown in the screenshot. 

I don't like providing specific tactical advice in these forums and have avoided it for a long time, since I believe tactics are secondary to recruitment, training and man management. It's even more difficult since this isn't really a single tactic, and more a selection of 'match plans'. 

Although feel free to post what you've been trying and your results. Maybe myself or someone else can take a look.

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On 04/04/2022 at 22:16, Jack722 said:

I can't think of any times off the top of my head when a team has used a 'pure' low block while still actively trying to push forward when on the ball in search of a goal.

I think that is what Mourinho did at inter especially against big teams. There an excellent video on coaches voice YouTube page where he explained one of his wins in the champions league against Barcelona

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I don't think there is enough coverage on defensive tactics which play differently and I noticed one of your settings was press less, which is something I have encouraged others to do whenever they want to play a disciplined block. When players press less it doesnt meant they don't press, it just means that these players hold their position and press when it is necessary. So if one were playing a disciplined low block that could be something some coaches might want to see happen. Your roles and duties are important. When I set up like that I usually have  a pair of AFs ready to bolt and attack the defensive line. In a lot of situations we usually get a 2v2 from deeper positions.

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Finally someone who actually goes into -Defensive- football, without resorting to an attacking mentality + a lowered LOE. Thank you!

I was already beginning to wonder if anyone else did that, with so many videos on Youtube warning FM players to "never ever go below Cautious mentality" or "never lower the defensive line".

Defensive mentality with lots of Defend duties and less pressing is a very powerful combination to stifle games and frustrate opponents. It's considered anti-football for a reason: dont expect any nice, smooth counter-attacking plays from such a system.

The kind of lethal effectiveness demonstrated by Mourinho's Inter Milan or Simeone's Atletico did not occur in Defensive-tier mentalities, those were aggressive teams, using a perfect mixture of convicted criminals, mercenaries and uniquely talented artists. Only in those big games that everyone remembers, yes, they would resort to anti-football to defend a spectacular result.

Thank you for setting that straight.

Defensive football in FM is really as straightforward as it is. And Ive even used it in games from the kick-off where I was expected to win. It just takes patience to wait and trust that your players will score. If the clock hits the 75th minute and its still 0-0, I begin to make adjustments, such as additional creative freedom for the forwards, or tell a full-back to go forward. In many cases, I noticed that can be enough to bring that late goal.

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Can you share your set up? 

I, personally use a 442 DM with a Wm on left, a Winger on right and two advanced forward... With the same instructions. When I play on positive, it's pretty cool, but when I change on cautious or defend, I always take the goal. Obviously, it was not the objective.

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@Jack722a valid question here: we know that it is very hard to win trophies based on a defensive strategy. And after being 5th on the league with West Ham, the team is going to Europe next season, the reputation will probably increase and you will not be predicted for 9th place again, I suppose. So next season you would probably be the favourite team in more matches - so as this happen I guess you would start more matches with the attacking tactic and would use less the defensive one as the starting strategy as team goes up on European/English pyramid? Are you considering this reputation/expectations increase as part of your overall strategy?

Thank you for your effort on this very interesting tactical guide.

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3 hours ago, Tsuru said:

we know that it is very hard to win trophies based on a defensive strategy.

I used to think like that too but since I've switched to a primarily defensive tactic in my save even if I'm the favourite to win the league, I still have no problem winning games. So I think it could still work long term

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Posted (edited)
On 21/04/2022 at 15:32, Tsuru said:

@Jack722a valid question here: we know that it is very hard to win trophies based on a defensive strategy. And after being 5th on the league with West Ham, the team is going to Europe next season, the reputation will probably increase and you will not be predicted for 9th place again, I suppose. So next season you would probably be the favourite team in more matches - so as this happen I guess you would start more matches with the attacking tactic and would use less the defensive one as the starting strategy as team goes up on European/English pyramid? Are you considering this reputation/expectations increase as part of your overall strategy?

Thank you for your effort on this very interesting tactical guide.

Exactly this. 

The FM online community seems to forget far too often that teams in the real world adjust their tactics all the time. They might not do big formation changes, but all the time you'll see adjustments to tempo, pressing and creative freedom. In an even game, a lot of the time you'll see the winning team make slight adjustments. You'll see fullbacks and central midfielders staying back and holding their position more, and you'll less likely see them pressing right up to the keeper. Whereas the losing team, especially late on, will throw everything at the opposition. Forwards won't really track back so much and midfielders will be making late runs in the box while fullbacks are staying high and wide looking to pump in crosses.

This is partly why I find it useless most of the time when users post their tactics asking for help. Because they way I play, I'd be making slight adjustments all the time based on whether I think I should be able to win, wheather we're being outplayed, whether we're looking tired etc.. And theyre never complex adjustments related to exploiting weaknesses or laying a 'trap' or whatever, It's just a matter or how attacking or defensive I want to be. Am I willing to send my fullback forward to 'unluck' a defense? Or do I think it's too risky and the other team are good enough to exploit this on the counter? Ultimately this won't matter if we're losing with 5 minutes to go, because in these situations we can't afford not to take the risk.

Edited by Jack722
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We need to translate football theory into FM language。

14 小时前, Jack722说:

Exactly this. 

The FM online community seems to forget far too often that teams in the real world adjust their tactics all the time. They might not do big formation changes, but all the time you'll see adjustments to tempo, pressing and creative freedom. In an even game, a lot of the time you'll see the winning team make slight adjustments. You'll see fullbacks and central midfielders staying back and holding their position more, and you'll less likely see them pressing right up to the keeper. Whereas the losing team, especially late on, will throw everything at the opposition. Forwards won't really track back so much and midfielders will be making late runs in the box while fullbacks are staying high and wide looking to pump in crosses.

This is partly why I find it useless most of the time when users post their tactics asking for help. Because they way I play, I'd be making slight adjustments all the time based on whether I think I should be able to win, wheather we're being outplayed, whether we're looking tired etc.. And theyre never complex adjustments related to exploiting weaknesses or laying a 'trap' or whatever, It's just a matter or how attacking or defensive I want to be. Am I willing to send my fullback forward to 'unluck' a defense? Or do I think it's too risky and the other team are good enough to exploit this on the counter? Ultimately this won't matter if we're losing with 5 minutes to go, because in these situations we can't afford to take the risk.

 

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Posted (edited)
On 20/04/2022 at 10:18, coach vahid said:

Can you share your set up? 

I, personally use a 442 DM with a Wm on left, a Winger on right and two advanced forward... With the same instructions. When I play on positive, it's pretty cool, but when I change on cautious or defend, I always take the goal. Obviously, it was not the objective.

I'm not surprised. A good rule of thumb is to use a maximum of one attack duty when using Cautious or below.

If you read the cautious description, you're not even really trying to attack, only push players forward when you have an opportunity to counter. You don't need two attacking focal points for this. What's more important is that you have players tracking back and offering safe passing options when in possession. When a counter is triggered, almost everyone bolts forward anyway regardless of duty.

The same way you wouldn't use 3 centrebacks + an anchor man when you're on very attacking looking for a last minute goal, don't use a poacher if your looking to defend for 95% of the match. You're not going to be able to provide him with any chances and he won't end up doing much. An AF is slightly better than a poacher, but two is unecessary imo for this style.

Edited by Jack722
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End of Season Update:

image.png.806397f87ddabbf014a61ddafb5a5ced.png

We manage a very respectful 6th place finish, while everything has largely stayed the same. The gameplan, tactics and overall stats remain unchanged:

1271182194_WestHamDataHub.PNG.4d35956906d47c3d2feb356bd30f8fbd.PNG

Being one of the teams with the most blocks and clearances shows that we're set up well defensively, with lots of bodies back to get in the way of shots, while also taking the low risk approach of clearing the ball instead of trying to play out. A busy / impenetrable defence shows that we're happy to allow lots of low risk shots that can easily be saved or blocked. Finally, fewer and innacurate passes demonstrates how we don't really care about keeping possession.

The game that showed what we're all about the most was a home victory against Manchester United:

698481096_WestHamvManU.PNG.77d7f682ce3a5044fdc9883d19728437.PNGimage.png.6a8e115418738d0e9ac8fe14f68de2e4.png

Since I would've been happy with a draw in this game, we played the full 90 with a cautious low block. It's really satisfying to see how we restricted them to 0 chances and less than a 25% shot on target ratio, despite having conceded 17 shots. You can see how deep we were using average positions:

image.png.33d82a95e87cdee6e9ca7357c3ec4f39.png

 

A nice video of the low block in action can be seen below. The forward and CAM work hard together to prevent vertical progression through the middle, then our two defensive DM's completely shut out their most creative player (B. fernandes, #18). Man United then have to rely on the flanks and high risk switches of play to progress forward, and the result is a low quality cross where our two CB's easily outnumber the forward.

image.gif.61e973f97f9065f05e6c5af282efc698.gif

Spoiler

Tactic for above game:

image.png.a71c21ca726d687925934944197ceb59.png

 

Like I've tried to mention before, we don't and likely couldn't play defensive football for the full 90 every game. If I think it's sensible to set up to dominate possession and attack, I'll do it. For example, at home to 16th placed Norwich, I played a simple, fairly high pressing, positive 4231:

image.png.de02b0f017eb27dde0d41e3c2c5d9fbb.png

The result was a routine 2-0 victory... If we're good enough, we may aswell let our creative players off the leash a little bit.

image.png.19e2cee14f2ac73252756a9ad12bb40f.png

 

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  • 4 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

You see @Jack722, I have been facing some troubles to develop a tactic and play it exact the same way on FM 21 against every team. Maybe I am more suited to an adaptative style like yours, however I have never tried it.

I developed here a system based on our ideas and I will start testing it.

You see, I added a more complex layer here as I moved the DMs up on the counter tactic, and also the Positive one is a two CM 4231. I also left the more attacking tactic just on Positive, this way I can add instructions to our attacking strategy if it is really necessary.

I will let you know how this is working/developing.
 

image.png.13fb322af785fd63a9ebfdcc775fe482.png

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image.png.20df58500948eed80b1e3b08b977013d.png

Edited by Tsuru
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