I'm in the 2nd season with Bolton with two friends in a network game. I stayed up the first season on 50 points playing a solid, rigid 4-4-1-1 that frustrated most teams. I did a bit of an overhaul in the summer and practiced a 5-3-2 setup in 7-8 pre season games and a high focus on fitness, team cohesion, and tactics. This is version 18.3.0.
My signings are: Todd Kane, Gwion Edwards, Byron Webster, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Luke Leahy, Jacob Davenport, Jon Nolan, Richie Towell, Jayden Stockley, and Karlan Ahearne-Grant. Obviously not the most talented bunch for a Championship side, but one I figured could do the job at that level to stay up. Finances are tight, after all.
I kept Mark Howard, Mark Little, David Wheater, Mark Beevers, Andrew Taylor, Josh Vela, Craig Noone, Sammy Ameobi, and Darren Pratley from the original squad. Billy Sharp and Rok Vodisek (GK) were added in January of the previous season.
Pre-season results were good. Beat Celtic 2-0 and won every game of a three-game tour of Belgium (Charleroi, Bercham, and Roaselare). Also beat Cheltenham and Blackpool, albeit lost to Charlton and now League One Burton.
My usual starting XI is:
Webster Wheater Vickers
Edwards Davenport Noone
My three defenders are pure centre backs. My wing backs are set to attack with Davenport as a defensive midfielder on defend duty. I have a central midfielder on support and ball winning-midfielder that I rotate from defend to support based on opposition. On rare occasions I will remove the DM, set the wing backs to support, and have an attacking midfielder in the support/attack duty. But generally I keep the shape above.
Stockley is set as a target man on support to hold up the ball. Ameobi is an advanced forward. I focus attacks on the wings with looking for the overlap. Crosses are set to low/drill crosses, with the occasional change to float if Sharp is on.
Players are instructed to stay on feet, close down less than usual, play it short or mixed, and have a structured or flexible shape, and have a control mentality to work the ball into the box.
Opposition instructions are dependent on the opponent, but I tend to tightly mark the lone man and close down their most potent midfielders and go hard on them. If they have two forwards I tend to mark the support forward and close down the main man.
We've started scoring more, but also conceding more. For some reason long throws have become a threat. Middlesbrough scored one with Bamford flicking one in from a Barragan throw in, and Blackburn scored one which Wheater flicked in into its own net. Defending has been generally poor with a lot of mistakes and unmarked players (despite instructing them to mark said player at all times). We're creating a lot of chances but players are missing clear cut chances (notably Sharp) and being weak in defensive situations.
Our results thus far have been a 0-3 lost to Sunderland, a 2-0 win over Forest, a 4-0 win over Blackpool in the League Cup, a 2-0 lost to Middlesbrough, a 4-2 win over Huddersfield in the League Cup, a 3-1 win over Palace, and then a 5-2 defeat to Blackburn after leading twice.
Despite tweaking training focus, roles, some tactics, and using shouts I couldn't figure it out. I'm usually a pragmatist (we only lost by more than one goal three times last season!) so this new experiment is spooky. I want some second and third opinions!