Right then, with the approach I’ve taken to FM14 and my desire to develop a greater understanding of tactics (hence my blog and FM-specific Twitter account) this ought to be right up my street.
Here’s my first run at it, based solely on the PKM file, and having read none of the doubtless excellent input from the guys in the parent thread (rest assured I’ll be off there as soon as I’ve posted this). Expect this to be Savage-esque at best :o. The good news is that I know little or nothing about the Mexican game, and also the match has been played in 2021, so I’m not likely to be led by any real-life assumptions here.
Finally I should say that I’ll likely be posting an analysis that – for me at least – raises more questions than answers. I’ll try to stick to those things that I believe can be directly addressed in FM, or will specifically state when this isn’t the case. For all that I enjoy the game, and the depth in which some people analyse these things, there are plenty of little nuances which I don’t think we can ever hope to really influence, and there are plenty that I’m sure we can but I have little idea as to how.
My first stop is the Match Stats summary, and it looks like it ought to have been a fairly evenly matched game. The only standout is the differential in terms of Clear Cut Chances and Half Chances (but we’ve all been in a situation where we created a bucket-load of these and still only scored one, so it’s not a massive factor for me).
In terms of formations Cruz’s lack of meaningful chances suggests that either their wide men have been unable to find recipients, or have been nullified themselves. Perhaps their central pairing in midfield have both sat to deep and left the strikers isolated against a defensive triangle (DCx2 and DM). As for Chivas, their AM is likely to have caused additional problems for the Cruz defensive pairing, drawing one or other out of position to make space for the strikers.
That’s all so much speculation though, and I guess that this isn’t what the thread’s about, so let’s jump into the action.
Early on, and I get that it might be too early to be really representative, I’m already seeing that idea that the Cruz wide men have no meaningful targets – at least not for building attacking play.
Rivera has driven inside from the left wing, and has nothing on as such. Cruz’s strikers are more than covered by the Chivas back line, and there’s no signs of the fullbacks providing width on the overlap – to the extent that Chivas’ DR is free to stay with Rivera and double up with his MC-R and apply pressure if he wants. I’ve highlighted some of the coverage zones that Chivas players are providing here, but by no means all of them. What I have shown is more than enough to restrict Rivera’s options.
I’d be looking for Cruz’s left fullback to be pushing into the acres of space ahead of him here, where he either gets a ton of room to receive the ball or he draws one of the two men away from Rivera to give him a bit of breathing room. I’d also be looking at the more advanced of Cruz’s two MCs and wanting him a little further over to the right – it would be a risky pass between two Chivas players, but could be played with more pace which would help. Alternatively the MC could sit a little deeper (still more to the right) and one of Cruz’s right flank players could be offering that ball – ideally the fullback pushing on and maybe coming inside a little. Finally that Cruz defensive line seems a little on the deep side too.
Ultimately Rivera does thread a pass through to his striker, but by the time he receives the ball he’s surrounded by three red shirts and has nowhere to go when the tackle comes.
At 2m 16s Rivera makes a good run out wide, but again there’s no-one in support of the two strikers. Salgado, on the right wing, is an option at the far side of the box but realistically it’s four against seven Chivas players plus the keeper.
Chivas 0 – Cruz Azul 1
Of course, for all that I’ve knocked them, Cruz go and get the first goal – typical. There is a decent Chivas move before that (4m 10s) but I have a feeling that I’ll get more opportunities to talk about their attacking play.
At 4m 33s Fuentes (Chivas striker) makes a mistake in not playing the ball into the path of Fabian, and instead looking like he’s trying for a ball into feet – it was a first-time pass though, having received a 25-yard pass on the half-volley, so I’ll give him some leeway for the error there. Clearly he had time to take a touch; without knowing the Team and Player instructions it’s hard to pass judgement, maybe I’d be looking to discourage him from playing risky passes but it is an isolated incident.
When Quintero recovers the ball for Cruz (4m 35s) he has Cárdenas available inside his own half, so I’m assuming that he’s playing as the ‘support’ striker of the pair. I was expecting him to drive at the Chivas defence, rather than lay the ball out to the wing so quickly, but Salgado handles himself well and takes on his man before checking back to deliver a pass back to Quintero (4m 47s)
Quintero has at least shown some desire to push up from midfield, and has somehow remained unmarked in the process, but even knowing that there’s a goal coming I’d be concerned that (i) the Cruz left fullback is again leaving acres of open space that he could move into, and (ii) with Quintero pushed up Rodriguez needs to be shifting across to his left to provide some cover.
Del Rio (boxed in red) probably gets the blame for the goal. At this point I don’t think that he’s in a poor position per se (although he is in danger of playing Alvarado on side), but as Quintero advances he decides to close in on Cárdenas, having initially allowed the striker to gain a yard of space by checking his run. Given that he’s facing play, a through-ball is going to cause him difficulties unless he can directly intercept it – in that case all well and good, but otherwise he’s got to recover and spin a 180 whilst the (presumably) quicker striker can judge the path of the ball and ‘just’ run onto it.
This is one of those situation I mentioned, where I’m not sure how much we can expect to directly influence that level of minutiae?
Cárdenas has the advantage and manages to get goal-side of his man, and that’s the root cause of the goal for me. Yes the Chivas defence recovers quickly but now they’re disorganised – not what you’d expect from the earlier action – and the ball is pinging around the area. Alavarado makes a great tackle (4m 53s) and Cárdenas has time to carve out a speculative effort.
It's a slightly fortunate goal for me, and the result of the sort of momentary lapse that is difficult to legislate against even for world class players. On a side note, as is often the case, I have no idea where the Chivas players are coming from with their offside appeals.
CHIVAS BEGIN TO RECOVER
For a couple of minutes Chivas appear shaken, and there are some fairly poor direct balls played. I’ve no idea if the AI manager has tweaked things as a result of the goal, or is about to, but they don’t look particularly well disciplined at this point. There are a couple of Hollywood passes attempted, which would look great if they came off, but as it is just deliver the ball right back to Cruz. Personally, given the lack of pressure that the Cruz back line have been applying, I would be looking at a shorter passing game at this point, probably playing with a Counter mentality to allow for patient build-up.
I’ve seen little to suggest that Chivas shouldn’t be able to retain possession and pick holes in their opponents, and given that Cruz appear reliant on their wide men, when Chivas turn it over they’re likely to have numerical superiority through the middle of the park with their compact diamond and a striker dropping deep. Their diamond is doing a good job of shifting laterally to follow the run of play, meaning that their wingbacks always have options to play the ball inside rather than be reliant on the cross – just what Cruz seem to be missing in advanced positions. Chivas should be looking at rapid short-ish vertical passes to pressure the Cruz back line, with two strikers and an AM running up against a pair of central defenders. The Cruz fullbacks are left covering attacking wingbacks from Chivas, or maybe doubling up with their wingers if they also pick up those threats – if that happens, then Chivas have an overload elsewhere – result.
One notable point during this passage of play, Andrade (MC-R Chivas) looks happy closing down Rivera (ML Cruz). On paper it may appear that Cruz’s adherence to width should be offering them an advantage down the flanks, on their left – at least – that doesn’t appear to be the case.
At this point, watching Chivas playing very much as a unit, and Cruz in more fixed banks, I’m suspecting that the former are close to the Fluid end of the spectrum, and the latter are far more Rigid. Fabian (AM-C Chivas) is the man dropping all the way back to receive the second ball after a Cruz cross into the box (12m 6s)
9m 38s “Eng-land, it’s just like watching Eng-land”...
Cruz Azul launch a long aerial ball into the corner for a striker to chase. Cold sweats and flashbacks to England in Brazil. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Even if he had beaten the (Sweeper?) Keeper to it, he had one man in support against three defenders.
Called It (Chivas 1 – Cruz Azul 1)
Okay so it doesn’t pan out exactly as I suggested, but it’s pretty close. 13m 45s and a Cruz throw has resulted in the ball being lofted into the Chivas box where the defence outnumbers the attacking players by at least two bodies. The clearing header comes out to Riojas on the edge of the area, Riojas is one of Chivas’ strikers – everyone is back except his strike partner and Cruz have four men between the ball and the halfway line, simple right? But here comes the counter attack.
By the time Riojas releases the ball, five seconds later, he has Fabian (AM-C) racing through the middle and numerous men about to run past him.
The Cruz players are in full retreat too, but facing their own goal which means that they have two realistic choices – they either have to get far enough ahead of their men that they can turn and face, or they risk committing a foul to take the ball if their man receives it.
Fuentes runs diagonally with the ball, allowing Fabian (AM-C) and Garcia (MCL) to overtake him, but more importantly dragging Fregoso (DR Cruz) with him. Cue acres of space and a clever little change of direction from Fabian.
Fuentes sticks a through ball into a huge gap and Fabian has time to take a touch and slot it home. By this time Riojas (the striker who started the move) has just about caught up with his partner, and everyone in blue is still facing their own goal trying to get back. Two quick, short(ish) vertical passes separated by a short dribble. Simple and effective.
This is where I probably come unstuck though, as I’m not sure what I could’ve done as Cruz manager to mitigate that one. The play was all in and around the Chivas box, and at the time that the throw was taken there were five Cruz players back around the halfway mark to cover two red shirts – four once Rivera (ML) made a late run to the back stick. (13m 44s). Maybe therein lies the issue, too many back? That guaranteed Chivas numerical superiority in the box and made it unlikely that Cruz would profit – perhaps 3vs2 would be a better number, so a tweak of the Set Piece Creator maybe?
Once the ball was turned over, of course, it was a footrace. Cruz had a lot of players high up the pitch, but still had numbers back as Riojas released that first pass. One has to assume that Chivas just has quicker players, given the outcome of the footrace(?)
It also didn’t help that at least two of the Cruz defence were presumably looking to play for offside – check the raised arms at 13m 58s, one of them being the culprit playing Fabian on.
Immediately following the goal we can see why the possession stats looked reasonably even, slightly in Cruz’s favour in fact. They have plenty of the ball but, once again, there’s little or no support for the strikers and wingers. In attack their formation looks to become largely a 4-2-4, and even when the fullbacks do push on they’re rarely moving beyond the central midfield line to offer any sort of overlap/underlap. Cruz are left hitting hopeful crosses into a well organised defence, or speculative efforts from 20-odd yards out.
Even when they do get the chance to counter (17m 45s) there’s nobody busting a gut to make up ground as there was for the Chivas equaliser. Quintero is left with one option going forward – a ball to Alvarado who has a pair of defenders between him and the box. By the time the wingers appear on the scene, and the ball is worked wide, Chivas have men back. Better examples do follow, but rarely do I see a counter that would worry me if I was playing the match as the Chivas manager.
Are Cruz playing a Defensive mentality? Even then I’d expect to see more commitment to the break. I’m beginning to feel like the visitors arrived with a target of just avoiding a big defeat. Not that it’s going to work out for them.
Another observation during this period is that the Chivas central defensive pairing appear to be fairly comfortable to just sit goal-side of the Cruz strikers and let them pass the ball back to what support they do have. I’m not seeing a lot of diving in to tackles so I’m assuming some combination of DC-D and DC-C with instructions that encourage cautious and organised play.
Large passages of Cruz possession go by with little happening (see 22m 9s) other than their possession stat ticking upwards until someone tries an overly-adventurous pass. By contrast (and perhaps my knowledge of the end result is colouring this), Chivas’ possession seems characterised by recycling the ball in advanced positions, and looking for proper penetration.
Chivas 2 – Cruz Azul 1 – Comedy Hour
It all starts with another Cruz throw-in (26m 47s) and, once again, the team in blue should have plenty of bodies back to cover the counterattack. Again I wonder if it’s too many, making a turnover of possession more likely, when Salgado (MR – Cruz) runs the ball into the box he comes up against THREE defenders, and Chivas still have bodies left over to cover their six yard box 4-to-2.
Salgado is short of options because, once again, his central midfielders are sitting far too deep to offer a realistic ball. His attempt to find Quintero is foolish, given that Chivas have a man covering, and when that man (again it’s a Chivas striker, Fuentes) flicks a header over Quintero there’s no attempt to get back by the Cruz midfielder. Riojas has so much time to collect the ball that it’s painful, and as with the equaliser there are red shirts on the charge.
When Riojas turns and launches an aerial through ball (27m 2s) Chivas are 3-on-3 against Cruz’s two central defenders and their right fullback. Farina (DL) is racing back, but the play is moving towards the other side of the pitch so he’s somewhat redundant at this point.
What follows is one of those moments that has you tearing your hair out if you’re managing Cruz. At first things look OK, Monroy (DCR) and Fregoso (DR) track the two runners chasing the ball and, even though they don’t win the header, Henrique (DCL) looks to have Fabian (AMC Chivas) covered. To me it looks like Monroy is the one who books an appointment with the hair-dryer, and I can’t work out what he’s trying to do – I assume it’s a weak attempt at a backpass to the keeper? At this point (27m 7s) Farina (DL) is the last hope but there’s no attempt to track back any further as he presumably thinks that the backpass is safe, I have to assume that’s the reason why he stops and watches as TWO Chivas players run into the box and leave the keeper with no chance at all.
2-1 up, from being behind, and it’s two quick counters through the middle of the pitch that have done the damage.
The thing I’m finding difficult to understand is how Cruz are committing so many men forward at set pieces, but rarely seem to have those numbers up there when they’re building up the flanks in open play. Here they are a couple of minutes later, with the banks of their 4-4-2 highlighted. The fullback on the attacking side is now starting to show more intent, but there’s still little support in the middle of the park with midfield and defence both sitting relatively deep.
Any second ball dropping into the highlighted area is almost certainly going to come for a Chivas player, and the speed at which they transition from defence to attack means that Cruz are going to be on the back foot despite their numbers. I’d prefer to see Quintero closer to level with the red shirt to his immediate right, and the Cruz defensive line at least up to half way in this picture - the D-line is simply far too deep, especially when it's creating room for an AMC to roam around.
Shortly after this Cruz get another throw, again have five men covering two, and again turn the ball over. Chivas break but not as quickly as before (28m 58s), and on this occasion Henrique picks off the pass. Had the Chivas players shown the same hunger as n the first two goals, then I think they’d have been looking at a two goal cushion inside 30 minutes.
Despite their early goal, things do not bode well for Cruz Azul.
Rest of the First Half...
NOTE: I need to speed things up at this point, so far I’ve spent about 2 hours watching and making notes on the first half!
Much like the above, lack of support in the middle of the park (AM areas) for Cruz going forward, outnumbered at set pieces, and struggling to cover the combination of two strikers and an attacking midfielder at the back. Chivas continue to look threatening, but perhaps have slowed things down a little and are happy to settle for their lead at the break?
Second Half – Early Doors
Chivas continuing to play a patient game, happy in possession and looking to unlock the killer ball (chance at 47m 10s is a good example). The early penalty is a bonus that I’m not sure I would attribute to anything tactical so much as to the mental traits of the Cruz defender – I’m assuming that he was probably somewhat wound up by then, and lashed out.
There's a chance for a Cruz counter at 50m, but again Chivas are just that much quicker in the transitions. I guess that this is, to some degree, affected by your choice of tempo but they seem to be playing quite a slow one otherwise so I’m not sure – maybe it’s more the Mentality or the balance of Fluidity/Rigidness?
At 3-1 up, and Chivas clearly in control, things starting to get a bit niggly at the back for Cruz – a bit of discipline slipping, which will again be primarily down to the players’ mental traits. When they are on the attack, there’s still little or no intent from the Cruz fullbacks. I’m suspecting that they’re both set to either FB-D or FB-S.
I’d be looking to make at least one of them a wingback (still in the D-line) at WB-S or WB-A and, given the lack of attacking intent from the central midfielders, encourage them to come inside (especially if we’ve got a left-footer on the right, or vice-versa) whilst the MR and ML maintain the width. Cruz need someone to contest the second balls dropping to Cid (DMC Chivas).
For Chivas the interplay between their two strikers is great, and I’m suspecting that at least one of them has been asked to ‘Move into the Channels’ which makes some sense with an AMC also pushing into the front line. There’s a great example here at 60m 17s...
As Riojas prepares to receive the ball Fuentes, his strike partner, drops wide off his marker whilst staying the right side of the Cruz DR (out of shot just below him). Somehow the two Cruz DCs had got switched over, and when Riojas makes the pass Henrique is going to open the door even further by trying to move back towards the DCL slot. It’s a ridiculous move, and my assumption is that it’s got to be a combination of poor mental traits (Decision Making) and a Rigid outlook (his primary focus is to regain his allotted position). He will recover once Fuentes is through, and may do enough to force him to maintain his width – which contributes to Borrego making the save, but I’d still be furious.
Even when Cruz recover possession from the ensuing corner, there’s no apparent desire to get forward and they end up passing the ball around for too long.
INTERESTING NOTE: Cruz corner at 64m 30s and they have better numbers forward to contest the ball in, whilst still having three back to cover Chivas’ lone man – has the Chivas AI manager tweaked Set Pieces mid-game to push less men forward? It's a better approach for Cruz, than for their earlier throw-ins in advanced positions, as they’re closer to parity in the box and have a better chance of winning the ball. They have to transition quickly if they lose the ball though, although it’s not an issue in this case as the Chivas Keeper holds it for a while.
Chivas definitely looking much happier to just soak up the ‘pressure’ such as it is, and to push forward slowly, but there's no lack of movement when they’re in the last third. AMC definitely very much part of the attack, likely an AM-A or Treq rather than an AP or Enganche? (not shy about getting ahead of the strikers).
If there’s a ‘playmaker' role in the Chivas midfield, then I suspect that it’s Cid (DMC) with one of the central guys focusing on a more defensive duty (covering across to pick up Cruz’s wide man) and one pushing on to add yet more support to attacks – looks like that might be Castillo now (on for Garcia).
Cruz Azul seem to have gone into damage limitation mode, defensive line appears deep and midfield sitting close to them – their strikers are somewhat isolated until Cruz push into the final third.
Chivas 4 – Cruz Azul 1 – The Coup de Grace
My assumptions about Castillo look like they may be confirmed as the Chivas midfield diamond play a blinder for their fourth. Cid (DMC) to Fabian (AMC), touch wide to Castillo (MCL) and a run into the box that takes FIVE! men with him (73m 17s).
If you watch the PKM you’ll note that Fuentes, the deeper lying of the Chivas strikers (DLF-S I suspect?), drops off as Castillo drives into the box. Whilst it won’t be necessary, with Riojas banging it home, Fuentes is now one of three red shirts in place to pick up any loose clearances.
Cruz Azul are sitting ever deeper and deeper, with Alvarado dropping beyond Cid (DMC Chivas) to try and offer a ball to the midfield.
Chivas 5 – Cruz Azul 1 – Overkill
Not a lot to say about this one, it’s a well delivered deep cross to the far post with Castillo on the end of it. The Cruz defence are guilty of breaking out too quickly following the free-kick moments before, and only three of the back four are in the area when the ball comes in – trying to cover five Chivas players.
Game. Set. Match.
Cruz Azul’s 4-4-2 looks to have been very rigid, and played with a deep defensive line. They were overly reliant on wide play from their midfield, which was rarely supported by fullbacks or the midfield. I suspect a Support and Defend combination for the MCs. Their defence was particularly vulnerable to Chivas’ man in the hole. They must have been very fearful of their hosts, and set out with a very cautious gameplan that backfired. Generally speaking, when I've got nothing to lose, I'll look to be a bit more adventurous and rely on making the opposition defence do some work.
Chivas looked to be playing a more Fluid game, and their diamond midfield shifted well as a unit to cover for their lack of width. Wide play came courtesy of deep-starting wingbacks, with the defensive triangle of DCx2 and DLP(?) at DMC holding the line. I suspect that Chivas were odds-on favourites from the off, and played a patient game on the counter during the first half – confident that they’d get their chances.
The second half saw a much more possession based game from Chivas (I'd be interested to see the possession share at the break, my guess would be even more in the visitors' favour), and Cruz Azul were getting frustrated at the back. Chivas were free to pick the visitors apart as and when they wanted to.
Throughout the game Cruz gave Chivas far too much time and space to dominate in midfield and their compact diamond took full advantage.
So that’s my reading of it. As I said at the start I’ve probably raised more questions than answers, in terms of FM tactical management, but I do feel like I’m getting a decent reading of games as a whole.
Feel free to chip in and point out all of the places where I'm talking codswallop