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  1. The colours have remained the same; green, yellow, red. Do you have a custom skin or other graphics files, that may be what is affecting your view.
  2. No. Ajax begin with £49m in the accounts, so the sales of De Jong and Wober aren't reflected from the start, and it isn't added at the end of the first season either.
  3. Interesting to see the development of your 'WM' @Cleon - you are well ahead of me now, I am barely halfway through my second season. What was the reason for seven different mezzala's in consecutive seasons? Were you upgrading players as you go, having your players poached or using the 'no attribute' model to see if you could gain consistency/enhanced performance across a range of players in that role? The IWB vs CWB comparison shows exactly how just simply watching how roles perform can inform changes that can have a significant impact in the level of threat and performance a tactic offers. I decided early that I wanted tucked-in WB(s) rather than IWB(s) and I've also started to consider whether or not to upgrade to a CWB. The RPM is an interesting role for me; I have been firmly on the fence with it for half a season and a CM is one of the few options I hadn't yet tested. I can see a lot of logic in that. @mdougal - there are numerous ways you could approach your 'Hungarian' formation. We all play the game differently of course and there is no right or wrong way, but for me there is much more satisfaction in bringing something unorthodox to life and testing the boundaries - whether successfully or not - than another identikit 4231 etc. Good luck with it.
  4. Persevere with that. Inter unsettled Ziyech with repeated offers of £300k per month on loan, which I flatly rejected. They had sold Icardi for £99m and were flush with cash. After deciding to allow him to leave, I offered him out and Southampton came in with a £36m offer and that prompted Inter to stump up £37.5m.
  5. I sold Onana to Spurs for £22m after they unsettled him and went for David Raya as his replacement, after narrowing it down to Raya and Jonas Omlin. Raya's rushing out, agility and distribution was ideal for what I needed using the 'WM'.
  6. It seems like you've got your head screwed on with what you are hoping to achieve. Based on my personal preferences and possibly dependant on what overall mentality you intend to play on, I would contemplate: Changing the IWB(d) to a different role offering more width and also on a different mentality. With two players in deep midfield, I don't think the IWB brings anything to the party here. I'm also not overly keen on a (d) and (a) split on the wings, it doesn't hugely promote combinations (granted, counterattacking is your aim, but I'd want my fullback to be involved in this phase and also combining with the winger when you do have phases of ball possession). Having one of the fullbacks on an (a) duty. Personally, I like the stratification it brings. I'd then place the HB on the side that has the fullback on (a) duty. CF(a) to CF(s). With one-up top its always tempting to maximise his mentality to give him more threat over the top/in behind, but he's isolated there. I'd want a support duty to ensure the forward is working back, leaving less gapping to the midfield for opponents to exploit out of possession and is closer at hand to get involved in the transition phase of a counterattack. Particularly with two adventurous (a) duties behind him. Other roles are not necessarily what I'd choose, but those are my opening suggestions based on what you've got.
  7. Ajax: The ‘WM’, a nod to the elders. Part 2. Combo Play When it clicks, it can be glorious. Here you see a back to front move involving the ‘wingdeuter’. Image 1: Onana in a normal distribution phase, spreads it wide to Kristensen (off camera). Image 2: Kristensen is about to triangulate with the supporting RPM(s) and the W(s). Image 3: further into the move, the triangle has led to the first W(s) Kaastrup drifting inside into space. At this point I was cursing that he couldn’t see the pass to the other W(s) – perhaps his low decision-making counting against him. Instead he dumped it back to the advancing half back who, in turn, is about to swing it back into the path of Kristensen (image 4) who is again about to make the trademark diagonal run. In possession (image 5), Kristensen is now attacking the box. Well-marked, seemingly little danger? However, he takes the available pass into the W(s) Kaastrup, sidesteps the defender to the rleft, receives the one-two from Kaastrup and rifles it left-footed into the corner of the net. Ajax 2.0 I mentioned previously the talents in the Ajax academy that I split into tiers. So how did they fare across the season? Between them, they made 90 appearances all told. The ‘under the radar’ gem Ekkelenkamp was given the most game-time and he did reasonably, although currently lacks some aspects that I’d want (those PPMs I’ll talk about soon) Ekkelenkamp – 18 + 16 apps Gravenberch - 8 + 13 apps Van Gelderen – 6 + 4 apps Schuurs – 22 + 3 apps In tier 2, El Maach played backup to Onana but is developing slowly and looks like being usurped by other talents. J.Timber, Sint and Brobbey all made nominal appearances – but featured. As expected, tier 3 were mostly developmental. Musampa is developing acceptably, but Q.Timber, Kuhn, Taylor and Traore may all fall by the wayside. But the tiering did demonstrate not to write off players too early. Eros Maddy wasn’t even on my radar, but has developed quicker than Sint and could now easily be a tier 2 talent – needs work but has potential. That brings me on to the PPMs. I like to develop these sparingly, it is easy to overdo it. And I didn’t touch them for the first half of the season until I had a full idea of what I wanted. Then the training began in earnest. There were four areas in particular I wanted to focus on: Desired: likes to switch ball to other flank Option: dictates tempo, stays on feet Undesired: dives into tackles I mentioned earlier about slowly transforming the halfbacks into proto-playmakers. That’s something I really wanted to explore; a halfback that retains its defensive nous but can act in the transition game. Likes to switch ball to other flank is my key PPM here; we’ve already seen how space can be exploited crossfield, and this trait helps get the play from side to side before the opponent can shift position. Dictates tempo is an option, although I am cautious to see how it may pull the halfback out of a natural position and I have trained a lesser player in this as a test. I also want the halfbacks on their feet, winning possession through position and not coughing up chances through careless play. I loathe the dives into tackles PPM; it brings disorder where there should be order. Desired: tries long range passes Option: runs with ball through centre Undesired: slows play down, comes deep The RPM I want to bring a dynamic element to the offensive play. I don’t want him slowing play down, certainly not coming deep and sitting in the halfback space, and quite possibly not even dictating tempo. He should be a dynamic quarterback figure that can either exploit the space the two wingers move into or can break the lines and draw opponents. Desired: gets forward whenever possible, get further forward Option: tries first time shots Undesired: arrives late in box, shoots from distance The MEZ, an easy one. Either of the traits that will see him get further forward are desired – and this is where Ekkelenkamp lacks currently. Given the space he gets into, an option for a quick shot against an unset keeper is also appealing. But I don’t necessarily want him arriving late in the box and the combination game isn’t helped by players taking potshots from range (another trait I loathe). Desired: tries killer balls Option: n/a Undesired: comes deep The CF is another simple one for me. With two often aggressive wingers and the CF on support, there is a real opportunity to use this advanced player as a creative force. Tries killer balls fits the technical quality of a Dolberg. But I don’t want this player deep, inhibiting the space ahead of the central midfield. If I want the player to drop deep, I want to be able to control that by roles and duties. There are a number of other potential options for PPMs, but these are some of the key ones that I want to develop the academy players around. The work continues. Ajax 3.0 The academy is the pivotal feature of an Ajax save and I looked forward to intake day, but oh woe: That is one of the worst intakes I have ever had, and a surprising one. In fact, it was so bad: I think that's the first occasion in 20+ years where the DoF hasn't recommended signing everyone. There was one solid talent, although ironically even he wasn't Dutch (well, half-Dutch), and one other possible. Ljuma is a 'tier 2' talent in my eyes, but has a good PPM for a potential MEZ role. Schilder is tier 3 at best. All in all, hard to get excited by this year's crop and my scouts will be on double-duty locating a few more bodies for the U19s (I have a rule here, no signing top players or cherry-picking youth from the top Dutch clubs, to keep the league structure more competitive). Ajax 4.0 Ajax 4.0 is the future squad. That is, how can I improve it and where do I need to improve? I have built an extensive shortlist but the need for quite specialist players – the right players – limits targets. What I want to do first is to strip the squad back. Ajax have a large squad and some of the chaff needs to be removed for the young wheat to prosper, particularly those that don’t fit the system. I am aiming to move on: Magallan, Van Der Weil, Mazraoui, Sinkgraven, Bande and possibly Cerny and Huntelaar. Targets: WB(s) – Kenny Tete, Kevin Mbabu HB(d) - Kristoffer Ajer RPM(s) – Xaver Schlager (potential PPM issue) CF(s) – Artem Besedin, Hwang Hee-Chan There are a few others, but these most closely fit what I need from a ‘WM’-ready player. The hole left by De Jong will need to be filled and I have been toying between bringing in a quality replacement or going with a stopgap ageing Schone as Gravenberch develops. Ajax-old-boy Tete’s aggression fits the remit for a fullback as I really want to shift the negative personality of Van Der Weil. Recruitment is also going to be driven heavily by… Developing the ‘WM’ Next, I want to develop the structure further; that is, bring in some ‘WM’ option tactics to use in certain circumstances. I haven’t fully formulated this yet – for a future post maybe – but one example is a strikerless structure where the CF(s) is dropped back into the attacking midfield strata as a SS(a), the wingers operate on support only, and I look to overload the centre with the support network behind the SS(s). I have a few options that I am mulling over and the options really are endless. Pre-season testing will give me a better idea where I want to go with this. So that is where I'll leave it for now.
  8. Ajax: The ‘WM’, a nod to the elders. Part 1. So, after a couple of weeks I have finally reached the end of season 2018-19. This is not solely a season or club review, but rather an indication of how I have implemented Herbert Chapman’s ‘WM’ into the modern-day and touching on some of the quirks of the system – positive and negative - and a little bit of club development. It, therefore, is an extension of previous posts on @Cleon's 'create a tactic' series, and also a reflection of some of the collective ideas expressed there. As this will be a long post and I'll hit the image upload limits I'll break it down into a mini series. If it can give even one manager an idea for their own save, or is just an informative read, it will have done it's job. Eredivisie To start with the domestic campaign though, the aim was to develop a potent balanced tactic. I touched on how I saw my set-up working in the previous post(s). Moving away from two IWB(s) and instead using two tucked-in WB(s) for additional penetration in the final third. The lone defender augmented by two halfbacks who, in time, I aimed to develop into proto-playmakers. IF(s) were soon replaced by W(a) to add an explosive element in behind adventurous opponents, although in practice these roles toggled between (s) and (a) duty across the campaign. The MEZ(a) was viewed as a major source of goals here, supporting the lone frontman. Although the midfield quad and some of the Tis shown (in base set-up) would lead you to suspect that possession was a key focus of the tactic, that is not the case. Yes, I wanted to move the ball carefully and 'working the ball into the box' to ensure we weren’t counterattacked easily, but again in practice the approach was flexible – I quite often toggled this to a 'pass into space' mentality. Situation, situation, situation. At the basic level, the ‘WM’ performed admirably. A league win is not surprising of course, but a headline stat is the goals conceded column. Until late I had hoped to keep this in the single digits. The single-back set-up proved very stable throughout the campaign. In fact, we conceded more than one goal in only two Eredivisie games all season – one of which was a late collapse when down to 10-men. Drilling down into the stats, you begin to see some of the reasons for the solidity. Fouls made: The success of the 'WM' is in the control of space in a controlled manner and not overcommitting or allowing easy space by launching into tackles. This controlled aggression led to: Only one penalty conceded all season, and that was a shove in the box. A key focus is ensuring areas are covered, time on the ball is limited and that wherever possible the decision-making capabilities of the defensive players are not called into question. Contrast that stat with the threat the intricate play caused opponents. I was also hoping to be able to get some stats for offsides too; the ‘WM’ often gives a team shape similar to what you see here, where the centreback is acting as a sweeper behind a bank of four, offering both a natural sweeper system and a very effective offside trap. The Hidden Dangers The widths of the pitch. I touched on this in the previous posts as an obvious potential problem area. It’s why I feel the wingbacks are the pivotal players in this set-up. In the NFL you will often hear commentators talk of ‘shutdown corners’ – cornerbacks that can match up against the most explosive wide receivers and take them out of the game and cornerbacks ‘being on an island’ (i.e. able to be left in man v man coverage without support). The principle is the same here. The wingbacks have to be able to shut down the best opponents and do it quickly and aggressively enough that the opposing winger doesn’t have the time to play a quick crossfield pass – another potential danger of the ‘WM’ structure. However, the ‘hidden’ aspect comes from a particular problem I had to set about solving: opponents who double-down and combine both a winger with a very attack focused wingback. I came across this early in the season against PSV. Check this out: fifteen seconds into the game and the raiding fullback has already raced clean through the space between the Ajax WB and the left-sided HB. The ballplayer is being pressed and can’t get the ball to the winger in order to make a quick pass. However, fast-forward another twenty-five seconds and the ballplayer (Hendrix) is in position to make a pass before the press can close him down. The winger is being marked by the Ajax wingback, but the PSV fullback is in an ocean of space. He received the pass, raced away and we nearly conceded instantly. This was only one of several instances I could show in the early part of this fixture. Here you have two choices: risk v reward. Do you adjust or do you accept the danger and turn it to your advantage? Here I adjusted, dropped the entire engagement lines backwards, pulled off the ‘prevent GK distribution’ TI, but kept my aggressive press and took my chances that defensive structure and quality would be enough to dull the wide threat. End result: a 0-0 shutdown. Soon after, I have the same issue v NAC Breda. Again, the wide 4231, but a lower-quality opposition. This time I accepted the risk, allowed the overloads to develop, trusting in the recovery potential to be able to recycle possession and for my own aggressive wingers to be able to exploit the spaces left by the opposing fullback. There are likely better screenshots available, but I’m working retrospectively from notes: this will give you the picture. The Breda winger and fullback on a dangerous overload and the Ajax winger set aggressively and not overly tasked to track back, but where a turnover would set up a prime counterattacking opportunity. The approach is risky but there are times where you have to turn a weakness into a strength. Did it work? Yes, insofar as a 0-1 win, but we actually couldn’t make the most of opportunities with some poor play on the counter in this game. However, in the second image you see an example of a counter in action: Breda have been robbed of possession on the right, one ball into Ziyech sees two players running clear with four in support; almost a 2v6 overload developing towards the right flank. This formation is very adept at generating a lot of bodies streaming forwards on the counter and this is one of a multitude of images that could be shown here. Sometimes, though, there are times where anything you try seems fruitless. This is the CL knockout against Barca. After a frantic 4-3 win at the Johan Cruijff ArenA, I dialled it back for the away game. Moved away from the high line, toned down the press, played it safe. I couldn’t get it going against a perfect storm of Suarez’s settings seeing him move wide and drag the centreback out of position, Messi’s legion PIs that sees him drop deep, and then Sergi Roberto at wingback playing like he is Carlos Alberto reincarnated. Here is a sample of it all going wrong: In the first image, my wingback is facing up Messi but not attached as Rakitic plays in the short pass, and the W(a) is sleeping as Roberto marauds in behind. It has danger written all over it. Messi receives, plays in Roberto. By then, the winger has woken up but it’s far too late. Roberto steams to the box and faces the ball across for a tap in. I tried everything in this game, perhaps too much, but that marauding fullback killed me dead. In games like this, you can learn as much in 90 minutes as you can in endless easier fixtures. That moves me neatly to the next point. I mentioned the wingbacks as being the key players. But you need the right personnel. That should be true in any system of course, but I feel more so here, in a very specialised structure. I give you here two players for comparison. And I chose them because they are directly comparable: same position in the squad, similar no. of games, no set piece duties to boost ratings or stats, and atts not vastly different. In the base stats, that is a heck of a difference in Kristensen’s favour in terms of productivity. And where you see two of Kristensen’s PPMs come into play (gets forward whenever possible, knock ball past opponent) in addition to his raw strength, aggression and work rate. Van Der Weil gets into opposition area, but that was rarely seen. I'll talk more of PPMs later. Drilling into their stats sheets, the difference is even more marked. That sees Kristensen attempting nearly double the amount of crosses, approx. treble the shots, an extra 50% dribbles per game and with a vastly superior win percentage (77% v 55%) – that one is an interesting stat as Kristensen largely played more difficult games across the season. Each stat is small in isolation, but the whole demonstrates a far more effective player. Where having the right player gives you the edge (equally it shows one potential weakness where his dives into tackles PPM sees him commit a higher percentage of fouls per 90mins). Kristensen actually led the league in rating: The ‘Wingdeuter’ Having the right player also opens up possibilities. One of my favourite ‘option’ tactics is to set a WB(a) role. I use this sparingly to preserve the defensive integrity of the ‘WM’, but in the right circumstances it adds a dimension and stratification to the attack. In combination with the switching of the point of attacks and overloading the centre with an IF(s) you can quite easily generate situations where the WB(a) is aggressively exploring a lot of space on the edge of the opponent’s box – acting almost as a wingback version of the raumdeuter. Again, there are better images available if I had more time to search, but this is a sample: I captured the shot just before Kristensen attacked from the diagonal. With play developing on the opposite flank and opponents drawn to an IF(s) on this occasion, the space for an aggressive WB(a) can be significant. To be continued...
  9. Some thoughts (not all necessarily applicable at once): It's too safe. The shape is basically ten men behind the ball which is then paired with a defensive midfielder and a deep-lying playmaker. Not sure midfield role distribution helps - presume on a heat map the four end up in an almost parallelogram shape? Is gapping causing an issue? Playing standard width with both widemen coming inside but not really able to exploit space to the full with supporting wingback/fullback. Lacks stratification. Lower tempo gives opponents time to get back into position, the lack of width makes it difficult for you to stretch them. In this way it seems you will have to rely on passing through the lines to break a team down. The 'hold position' PF isn't moving opponents about either, with the two attacking mids essentially wanting to come into/towards his space too. There doesn't seem to be many obvious passing lanes to break an opponent down. I see where you are going with the WP(s); it's a role I use often, but I pair that with a very aggressive wingback or fullback. WP will/can draw opponents out of position - exploit it. I'd ratchet up your ability to stretch the opposition. Potentially give yourself a deep threat with a wingback raiding heavily, play wider, or give yourself an out and out winger. Or even a wide midfielder. Something that can offer the ability to pull a tight opposition backline further apart and/or allow you to exploit natural spaces. I'd also consider changing the central midfield combinations; DLP (d) or (s) at the back if you want a playmaker, and have the current DLP(s) as something that will offer more in the offensive phase and sit closer to your two attacking midfielders (if you keep those roles)? Or keep the BWM and give the current DLP(s) more freedom? Or use the naturally defensive aspect of your shape to your advantage and go much more aggressive in the centre with a REG and a different combo ahead? Just a couple of ideas without being able to see any analysis, but there are many options.
  10. I recently started as Ajax too. A club I am always drawn to for their history but, on this occasion, because I specifically aimed to go old-school with a modern take on Herbert Chapman's 'WM' formation. I won't duplicate my tactics here now, but an idea of what I am doing was posted on Cleon's create a tactic thread yesterday if anyone is interested. As always with Ajax, I started with a sweep of the coaching set-up to remove some of the less desirable personalities and bring in 'Ajax men', such as Dennis Bergkamp. Beaten to the services of Bernhard Peters, my go-to man Kristjaan Speakman was employed as the HOYD. With the coaching corps up and running, I turned to the squad. I don't have any specific remits with this save - I am not aiming for a homegrown-only or Dutch-only game, but I do like to keep to a certain set of philosophies; that is, to follow the Ajax tradition and promote as many able academy-developed talents as feasible, prioritise young(er) level signings in the main, and also take from Ajax's traditional markets, such as Scandinavia and Belgium. And also play in the spirit of Ajax - i.e. keeping players where possible but not 'gaming the game' to keep world level players forever, when they have outgrown the club. I always split Jong Ajax and the U19s personnel into four groups; Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 and Tier X: Tier 1 - players with the ability to easily transition to first team level and who I will prioritise the development of. Tier 2 - players with the ability to transition and who will be developed if the opportunity arises. Tier 3 - players I am unsure of, but who could be viable to develop to squad level. Tier X - those with no chance of reaching the standard required and who are retained only until a better intake or signings replace them, or who act as positional cover in the youth teams. Minusing any player already in the first team squad, this year I am going with these as the main prospects: Tier 1 Ryan Gravenberch Liam Van Gelderen Perr Schuurs Tier 2 Issam El Maach Jurrien Timber Venitchio Sint Brian Brobbey Tier 3 Nordin Musampa Nicolas Kuhn Kenneth Taylor Lassina Traore Quinten Timber Playing the 'WM' requires a certain set of players with certain skill sets. Gravenberch is clearly the marquee player in the academy and no more needs said, but I really like the prospect of Van Gelderen as one of the HBs. In Tier 2, El Maach was an instant promote to Onana's understudy and Sint has the ingredients to succeed. J.Timber may be the surprise name, but I see a lot of potential in his all-round game. The Tier 3's could be hit or miss - none are ideal for what I want and may need a good deal of coaching. The surprise could again be the second twin, Q.Timber. Despite being the lowest rated player in the U19 squad, I see potential - if I can work on that determination stat. However, there is one player I haven't mentioned, my favourite prospect in the academy. Enter Jurgen Ekkelenkamp: Not the most glamorous player, but there is no better fit for a specific role in the 'WM' than Ekkelenkamp: MEZ(a). High rating for finishing, potentially exceptional in the air and able to match up against centrebacks. Work a little on his movement, bulk him up in a few atts and attempt to develop one or two certain traits, this could be a very potent player. And he has a rocket shot too. With the youths appraised, I then made my moves. I settled for bringing Van Der Wiel into the first team on a free as the sole experienced signing. Ex-Ajax youth product, easily capable of spelling for Kristensen at wingback and covering the left if needed. One issue I did see with the squad is the preponderance of left-footed players in key attacking areas. Not ideal for what I want to achieve, so I made two moves to bring in two-footed versatile youths as squad options and for development: Antonio Marin (£2.2m) and Magnus Kaastrup (£1.5m). I then added in Mattia Viviani (£1m). I don't usually return for players in past saves, but I only reached two seasons at Brescia before the lure of the 'WM' took over, and this guy will be my halfback extraordinaire of the future. And quite possibly the De Jong replacement when he leaves for Barca. Last up, Herman Geelmuyden for £30k finished my shopping - something a little more dynamic than Brobbey as an alternative forward to develop. I'm not interested in signing lots of players, so the £9m remaining can sit in the bank for now. I have a number of options for potential first-team level players, but the only one that has really caught my attention is Mykola Matvienko. He is ideal for what I want from a 'WM' wingback, albeit I really like Tagliafico in that role. Currently 12 games into the Eredivisie season and a couple of points clear at the top, and have picked up 9pts in 4 games in a god-awful Champions League group with PSG, Dortmund and Inter. I'll post a proper update at the end of the season with a review of how things are progressing.
  11. Penetration in the final third. The IWB(s) is not reluctant to overlap, but tends not to put balls into the box; rather, cutting back and playing inside. That could be exacerbated also by the 'work ball into box' TI, but it was leading to quite insipid play. However, the WB(s) is much more inclined to get wider in possession and deliver the ball into more dangerous areas. Combined with the 'sit narrower' PI in the defensive phase, I was able to replicate some of the possibilities of the IWB(s) whilst enhancing attacking prowess. The WB(d) is a role I use either when protecting a lead against a stronger opponent or sometimes later in the game when the players' legs have gone and they would struggle to cover the pitch. More generally, the WB(d) stunts attacking potency. Bearing in mind I am playing a high line and that pitch depth is condensed, the WB(s) is a very effective tool to stretch the opponent (as seen in the previous screenshots) and often roams into threatening positions unannounced (particularly when using IFs that force the opposing backline to retract). WB(d) sits deeper and is more reticent to get involved. With two defensive halfbacks protecting the lone central defender, I don't feel the balance benefits from what would be five defensive roles. RPM I am flexible on. I am equally happy with a second MEZ. However, with a MEZ(a) in the line-up and two W(a), that represents a very forward-thinking triumvirate. The RPM gives enhanced possibility to spot the forward-runs and brings a slightly more creative edge. The role would also depend on the personnel available too, but I have a few players suited nicely to RPM with 'dictates tempo' and/or 'tries killer balls often' PPMs.
  12. Somewhat surprised this thread hasn't generated more activity. It came in a timely fashion for myself, as I had started to experiment with a double IWB combination in a 3-man defence and, an Arsenal fan with knowledge of Herbert Chapman, the 'WM' is something I'd wanted to try in FM for a number of iterations, but had never gotten around to doing so. At that point I stopped reading and started to build my own set-up prior to moving on to post two. I decided to play as Ajax; almost a default club for me, and if there is one club in European football that embodies an innovative approach, it is Ajax. That most of the players are multi-functional also appealed. My own WM ended up in a relatively similar structure. The four differences were: SK(s) rather than GK BPD rather than NCB One wingback an IWB(s) and one a tucked-in WB(s) - here I was wanting to see how effective they were against each other, before deciding my overall approach. B2B rather than RPM I also settled on vertical tiki taka and left the instructions default. The high press and high defensive line were a key for me, to help mitigate the issues in the widths of the pitch. Immediately, it became apparent this is a set-up exceptional at hiding the ball from the opposition. The central quadrangle move with a fluidity that plays decisive patterns through the lines, and the off-pattern formation really causes difficulty for a lot of standard opposition approaches, particularly if the opposition is pressing heavily and can't get close enough to the ball, opening up inviting gaps. A successful pre-season did make me rethink a number of elements though. Some of the questions posed: Wide combinations. This is clearly not a focus of a tactic with two inverted wingbacks and two inside forwards and where the vertical tiki taka instructions are to focus through the middle, but the lack of intent on the wings led to too much of the play being forced inside and a significant amount of long-range efforts. Some combination play was evident, with the wingbacks overlapping and putting in a low ball, but all too often the wingbacks would stop, retreat, and play inside. Front 3 relationship. This should be a strength as nigh on all Ajax's wingers have a 'cut inside' trait, but while the drifting inside of the inside forward overloaded the centre, the lack of intent out wide had more of an effect of stunting the forward progress of the two most advanced central midfielders and further congesting an already-cramped and narrow approach. And it also rendered.... Complete forward. Nigh on redundant. I actually had a little more success dropping the forward into the attacking midfield strata as an AM(s) and pairing that with the more attacking version IF(a). As I worked through pre-season, I slowly began fine-tuning the TIs. Removed: Underlap right. No evidence of this, and by then I had changed the B2B to an RPM. Focus play through the middle. With a central quad, there is a natural focus here anyway. I removed this in combination with changes elsewhere. Very narrow width. Overkill. Changed to a normal width. Alterations to personnel: IWB(s) > both wingbacks became WB(s), tucked-in narrower. I need the width in the system that a WB(s) gives, but sitting narrower helps to keep the defensive game straight. B2B > to an RPM with occasional use of a MEZ(s). As above. IF(s) > both of these became W(a). This again gave a better balance between the dictation of the central midfield and actually being able to penetrate in a meaningful manner. A winger on the left does free up some space for the MEZ(a) to his right, which has made this role more effective. It may prove to be too much having two wingbacks and two wingers. Potentially, the right-sided winger may revert to an inside forward. Weaknesses: Long balls over the top. Ever a danger with a high line, but this hasn't been as problematic as thought. One central defender helps to form quite a natural offside trap without even having that TI set. With wingbacks pushed slightly up and halfbacks dropping deep but still largely acting as midfielders, the BPD is basically often a sweeper behind a four-man shield. Quick ball out to wide areas. This is dangerous. With the two wingers assisting the forward to stop the opponent playing short, occasionally a quick ball to a flat winger will see the front of the team turned around and the option for a direct ball in behind. Less of a problem if the defence are picking up a lone attacker, but problematic if they are in multiple. Balls into the channels. The gap between the BPD and the WBs can be exposed by vertical balls into the channels. Usually, the defence can recover to block off the attack, but every now and again a black hole will suddenly become apparent. Multiple opposing strikers. This is both a great strength and a weakness of the 'WM'. One defender picking up two central strikers has danger written all over it; I dread to think what may occur when coming up against a three-man attack. However... The 'WM' is the ultimate 'risk vs reward' tactical approach. Whilst a solitary defender up against multiple attackers is a nerve-jangling sight, you can turn it firmly to your advantage. See this passage of play from a game against Groningen: note, Groningen are playing a flat 442 and pressing. If possession is lost, there is danger. But in possession they are outnumbered 4-2 in the midfield, with their wides struggling to get near to the play as it circulates around the central areas, but tucking inside. This also frees up space for the two wingbacks moving forward and gives virtually a 6-2 advantage. In the first image, we had built slowly out from the back. Ziyech, the MEZ(a) is in possession and the two Groningen central midfielders are hunting the ball and outnumbered. Ziyech has multiple options to pass; either to the forward about to move through the lines, or back to the two halfbacks, with an easy out ball to the RPM in oceans of space. The WB(s) hugging the touchline is another option if he can get it vertical. In the second screenshot, the move has progressed. Playing at a lower tempo, Groningen have had time to shuffle back and shut off the central midfield area. But with the three advanced players now tightly bunched centrally, their backline has had to contract, leaving oceans of space for Tagliafico as the left-sided WB(s). Kristensen, the right-sided WB(s) is running off the back of his marker. If De Jong can get the ball wide, we are in great shape. And he does. Now Tagliafico is homing in on the defence. The left-sided W(a) isn't in a greatly threatening position, but is available for a short ball for a potential combination. The right-sided W(a) is well marked and unlikely to threaten. However, there is a world of space for the onrushing CF(s) or RPM to exploit here, with Groningen's backline having been forced deep. Nothing came of this move (I couldn't locate the better example I wished to show), but the results were devastating: we were already 3-0 up within 17mins by this point. The 2 v 1 at the back looks horrific, but in reality this has given us a big numerical advantage as the play progressed, able to pass around the outnumbered Groningen centre and pull their structure out of kilter. And the front two are so detached from the rest of the team, it will take an accurate long ball to put them on the front foot, which is often like picking candy to a capable centreback. Or the halfbacks who do a stellar job of snuffing out attacks before they get going. Impact To date, 10 games into the Eredivisie season and unbeaten, with only two league goals conceded and clean sheets on the road to PSV among the notable moments. At a higher level, the 'WM' has so far proven its mettle and durability. A 1-2 underdog loss at PSG in a game where their attacking trio were shut down to nothing and both goals came from taking advantage of personnel distribution at corners. And then a 4-1 win against Inter; 0-0 at halftime and Ajax down to 10-men, took off the forward and went with two IF(a) and put four past them. It is a formation where appearances are deceptive as it is actually very stable defensively, given the right circumstances. In attack, it is one of the most versatile set-ups I've used. There are so many combinations possible to achieve whatever ends you wish, and it offers a goal threat across the board in quite an even fashion. Taking away goals from set pieces, this currently stands as: 9x - MEZ(a) 7x - W(a) - right 5x - CF(s) 5x - RPM 5x - W(a) - left 2x - HB 1x - WB(s) - right Overall results, though, are less important. It is the development of an unconventional approach that is the enjoyment and I would encourage more managers to go down this route: if not the 'WM', your own take on a classic play style. I look forward to reading your next update(s) Cleon, to see how you are developing your approach. Thanks for the thread and the inspiration to finally get around to trying this.
  13. I haven't yet been able to use him myself, but Marco Varnier would be my pick.
  14. Only (or mostly) when the ball is with the keeper. Like the BPD/DM, the two strata of wingbacks sit virtually on top of each other. The 'play out' TI could indeed be an issue here, which is a shame as it is one of my stock instructions. I have one friendly left to play in the current set, I'll remove it for the next game and see how that impacts. In general, I am happy enough with the start made here. It will remain on the chalkboard as the option tactic and I'll look to continue developing it during mid-season friendlies and perhaps the early rounds of the cup.
  15. Currently only in the early stages. but this is an idea of what I am aiming towards: The genesis of the tactic came via two routes: Roman frontier systems such as Hadrian's Wall/Antonine Wall where there would/could be a triple defensive layer; a primary forward layer as the first defence (such ditches or lilia), then the main obstacle (rampart) and a further control zone behind (i.e. vallum). It was also sparked by a nod towards Hitler's Atlantic Wall and the notion of 'defence in layers'. So, in this situation the lone attacker and first midfield strata act as the notional primary obstacle to press, constrict or offer resistance, the inside wing backs and defensive midfield act as the main barrier to contain the opposition (being surrounded on all sides in a controlled compact shape), whilst the backline is the control zone if the opening layers are penetrated. Although I have used formations with triplicate defence, this is more aimed at controlling zones across the pitch and, by placing multiple players on the flanks, taking away what can be a powerful overlap effect in FM. The TIs and some of the roles are still to be defined. Points: IWB(d) as I want players who would cover the flanks defensively and play wider than a traditional CD, but still support the BPD BPD as I want to play out from the back. IWB(s) - these were initially IWB(a) in combination with DW(s) as I had a desire for the main support to the striker to come from roaming fullbacks cutting in from the flank and an underlap TI, a gentle nod to Catenaccio. And therefore with wingers who were responsible defensively. However, early play tests saw a real constriction of space between players, minimal impact from the inverted wingbacks, and I don't have players that I like in the system. So, temporarily at least, I've moved to supporting IWBs to stiffen the centre and allow very attacking wingers to roam forward. Currently I am set on six roles; SK(s), IWB(d) x2, BPD(d), DM(d), PF(s). The rest are up for grabs. Currently five games in; four wins with three clean sheets and latterly a 1-2 loss against KRC Genk. Eight scored, three conceded. Defensively, I like what I see. Opposition wingplay is minimal at best, the lone centreback has been very rarely left exposed (although when the middle opens up, it does so spectacularly - but the two IWB(d) usually manage to cover). And the combination of three layers of defence makes it very compact and difficult to play through. Attack, less content. Although this has been hampered by a few tweaks I have been making in-game. Generally though, clear chances have been hard to come by and more work needs to be done. A couple of negatives: When ball is with the keeper, the DM practically sits on top of the BPD. And the spacing between the two layers of IWB is poor.
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