First of all, a quick intro. So I took up a save with Schalke 04 as my first serious attempt at getting into FM19. Initially I did not have a particular style of play or tactic in mind, but a quick look at the squad (lots of midfielders and good CBs, no proper wingers, great physical and Work Rate/Aggression stats) made me decide to play a 3-5-2 with intense pressing and an ambition to play offensive football. Surprisingly, I ended up winning the Bundesliga in the first season, partly because Bayern were pretty poor, and am now in my second season fighting it out for another title. I now also have a more clear idea of the style of play I want to achieve. However, despite the results, I am not very happy with what I am generally seeing on the pitch and I was hoping to maybe get some input on how to get there.
Here is what I am looking for:
- Controlled build-up play from the back. The GK, the three CBs and a deeper-lying midfielder should aim to pass it between them to work the ball upfield in a controlled manner before trying to get into the opponent's half with a pass, preferably to a player positioned in the central space or one of the half-spaces. Facing an aggressive side with a high line, the occasional ball over the top for one of the forwards to run onto is fine.
- Quick circulation of the ball and penetration through overloads and combination play in order to create chances. Once in the opponent's half I would like my midfielders to try to link up with each other and the forwards, playing quick combinations and moving around to disrupt the opponents shape before finding the opportunity for a through ball or space to shoot. The three-man midfield, CBs comfortable on the ball and two forwards dropping or moving into channels should in theory allow for dominating the central area and half spaces. The wing-backs should generally only be more of a wide outlet when the central areas gets congested and used as a secondary option for getting the ball into the box rather than the focus of attacks.
- Counter-pressing, disrupting opponents build-up through pressing and minimizing space, and the opportunity for quick turnovers and counters. Once possession is lost I would like to immediately press the opponent in possession in order to force a turnover or a clearance. If they manage to play out of the initial press the high line and the three midfielders with a back 5 behind should make us hard to play through and leave the opponent to attempt high-risk balls over the top or to move play wide where the WB and the LCM/RCM should be able to press their wide player efficiently.
That's the idea atleast. A lot if it, although not the high press, is based on Allegri's early years with Juventus before moving to a back four, especially the build-up phase and the midfield constellation (Pogba-Marchisio-Khedira) so there is a real world precedent for this working. Unfortunately, this is not at all what is happening in matches. Instead this is what seems to happen:
- Endless, infuriating crossing. The ball always, unless someone tries to play it long for a striker to run onto, seem to end up on one of the flanks, either through the wingback overlapping when the ball is on their side, or the player in possession hitting these absolutely stunning, pinpoint crossfield through balls to the far side wingback who then, inevitably, proceeds to cross it onto the the first defender for a deflection resulting in a corner. This is by far the most common type of attack I am seeing. As a side note, both me and opponents often reach numbers of crosses attempted far, far higher than the Premier League average.
- Stale, inefficient midfield. The above is most likely a result of this. Despite having three midfielders, with a forward dropping to combine and being backed up by three CBs who allow for circulation, we generally get dominated in midfield. We have a hard time keeping possession while opponents seem to very good at playing the ball around and through us. The players seem unwilling to try combinations or moving into space and stubbornly opposed to try any other final passes other than to the wingbacks. The DLP tend to have decent passing stats but the Mezz(A)/CM(A) and the BBM/BWM(S) more often than not look like passengers in the games and receive appropriate low ratings. To me, this seems to be the central problem. My strikers, unless scoring from a long ball/cross, can also get pretty poor ratings, but I believe this is due mostly to poor service originating in a dysfunctional midfield and passing style.
Defensively I feel we are pretty sound and we do score goals but they seem to come only in one of three varieties, 1) quick, long, through balls into space, 2) one of the billions of crosses attempted finally connecting with a forward or 3) a set-piece, likely due to the high amount of corners I get. I would really like a greater variety of goals (combination passing, long shots, midfielders moving into the box, carving the opponent open etc.) because right now, even if I am successful on paper, the game is honestly really boring.
The tricky thing is that I think my setup looks good on paper, especially in my perhaps misguided attempt to emulate Juventus. I have tried different small changes to try to get it where I want it, like slowing down the tempo, adding "work ball into box" or "be more expressive" and some player role changes for the midfielders and strikers but none of that seem to get us consistently closer to where I want to be. All this being said, I would be very happy and appreciative if anyone has the patience to read through this and give me some new input!