Hi there, excited for my first post here on the forum! I'm afraid it might be awfully long and don't want to bore people, so feel free to skip a little introduction I give and focus upon my new approach to creating a successful tactic with my side predicted to finish bottom of Serie A. I hope you enjoy!
Before I get started I wanted to acknowledge that this is my first forum post here. I have dipped in and out of reading threads and articles over the years but I feel inspired to share my recent approach that I formed from reading, watching and trying out a lot of ideas to find something that worked for me. I'm not sure exactly where this will take me, but I've recently learned a lot about the game and have always struggled making my own successful tactics and system. I usually stumble upon a successful save by copying popular user tactics and just gathering a good squad. I felt the quality of the team was what was working, mixed with tactics created by other people, and not me being involved that much in a strange way. I felt as though I understood the game at an okay level, but I didn't feel as though I had really accomplished anything. Whenever I tried to create my own tactic it usually ended in disaster, with no aims, ideas or inspiration behind my systems, they almost always failed.
I then decided to get back into FM19 after the winter update, previously having a fairly casual save with Doncaster that never went anywhere. This time I wanted to make my own tactics, and play like an actual manager, rather than sitting back and using someone else's work. I wanted a fairly challenging save, so I picked Catania in Serie C, to try and re-establish the club in Italy's top flight after a few years out. It wasn't until we reached our second season back in Serie A that I can say I fully implemented my ideas into the team and created my first tactic, but the results speak for themselves. I coasted through Serie C and Serie B, as my squad had enough quality, but again as I tried to give the club an identity, something would fail and I would throw everything out the window and try again. I started using an Atalanta influenced 343 system and wanted to utilise Alessandro Cortinovis in the Alejandro Gomez role, but it didn't work that well so I panicked and copied a tactic to coast through the rest of Serie C. I then wanted to use a Simeone influenced style, as he was a former manager of Catania and this saw us through Serie B fairly comfortably but again I didn't see the tactic as my own. 1st year in Serie A I changed again and decided I wanted to try a Total Football influenced game, which failed miserably. I then tried a possession tactic that saw us get some good results but I wasn't happy with certain games only creating 1 or 2 chances and not having a shot on target. This was again mostly taken from other user's tactics and I still didn't feel the work was fully my own and we had a moderately successful 1st season back in Serie A, finish 12th after being predicted 20th. I was reading and watching a lot of content but I couldn't translate what I thought I learned into the game. I then re-read everything with a different mindset. I thought I should give some sort of background but I digress and don't want to bore in my first post.
Cleon's thread regarding a step by step guide to creating a tactic gave me a lot of ideas and things to try.
I also took a lot of inspiration and idea's from Herne's thread on his Tiki-Taka based system.
tLdR: Struggled finding an identity for the club and constantly changed ideas and direction when things went wrong, resorting to using community tactics, when I wanted to make my own.
However, the one thing that didn't change during my tactical identity crisis was my transfer policy and squad building. I had gathered a fairly decent side, focusing on attributes influenced by a post I read on total football, the attributes I targeted were:
Good on the ball/Technical - (Technique, Passing and First Touch)
Intelligent players - (Vision, Anticipation, Composure, Concentration, Decisions, Off the Ball and Teamwork)
Fit and hard working players - (Determination, Work Rate, Stamina, Natural Fitness)
Specialised positional attributes - (e.g Jumping Reach for a defender, dribbling for a wide man, Flair for attackers etc.)
My inspiration for this policy was taken from Ozil to the Arsenal's Total Football series of threads.
Over the seasons I gathered players (with very limited funds) who fit these attributes and only signed those with a majority of those attributes that I wanted, there were some exceptions but I have reasoning for choosing these players. I will go into more detail on each player I brought into the club maybe not in this post though depending on it's length. But I do think it's important to show the team I assembled which lead to decision making when it came to the tactic itself. I just wanted to state the consolidation over several years of my transfer policy which left me with players that could play a lot of different systems and tactics.
Inspired by articles and threads, and really wanting to improve my understanding and skill at the game, I made the decision to stick to only making my own tactics and if they fail, they fail. This was my process into creating my first successful tactic for my Catania side. I wanted to pick a few ideas on how I wanted to play and base the rest of the tactic off of that, keeping it as simple as I could.
Looking at my squad, it lacked depth and quality, as we used a lot of loans to make enough money to work in our second Serie A campaign. One of those loans was Adrien Bongiovanni, a young Belgian (how is that name not Italian???) winger and midfielder from Monaco. He played well for us and he was available to buy for a cheap £4.3mil so I decided I wanted to build the team around him. He was quick, had a great mind, excellent passing ability and worked hard. Deciding to build the side around Bongiovanni was my first step in creating my tactic.
Aim One: Build the side around young Adrien Bongiovanni in the play-maker role.
With my first idea in place, I then came up with a second idea/target that I wanted to accomplish playing in Italy; Having the fewest goals conceded over a season. Known for it's defending, I took influence from the Italian league and wanted my side to be the meanest defence in the land. There were two ways I came up with to accomplish this:
-Play a very defensive style of football, which might limit creativity from the player I wanted to build the side around.
-Play a possession style of football to keep teams off the ball and away from my goal.
I went with the latter but I didn't want to stifle my final third with having too much useless possession and not doing anything with it. I would use it when I needed it, not going overkill and picking a couple of TI's to help us keep the ball away from our goal. but still having a threat in the final third.
Reading about a possession philosophy, I was inspired to try a high press/block to keep the opposition pinned back and win the ball high up the pitch, thus seeing more possession of the ball but in better areas. This meant using a Much Higher Defensive Line and Line of Engagement, counter-pressing and closing down like animals. So that was another thing already decided for me which became the second step in my creation. Just by setting myself an in game target, and the aim of building a team around a creative threat in midfield, things were decided for me and made logical sense. We obviously needed the players required to play such a risky high line who were always switched on and quick enough to react to fast striker/ ball over the top.
Aim Two: Try to conceded the fewest goals in the Serie A by employing possession tactics with a high press.
With these elements in place the tactic began coming together like a puzzle, it was quite surprising to me. I finally understood how being simple and having a few ideas can make decisions for you in the tactical creator as things came together logically. For example, playing a high press game, it made sense to try a Pressing Forward. We already had Bongiovanni selected as an advanced play-maker, and to allow him to get up the pitch I needed a man to screen the back. This lead me to a Defensive Midfielder/Anchor Man/Half Back at DM. The role ended up changing depending on in game situations but usually started as a DM-Su. To be more solid at the back and to allow a DM, I opted for a 4-1-4-1 formation. Since I had a very high line, it made sense to add a Sweeper Keeper. The inspiration to use a 4-1-4-1 came from reading posts from this thread:
I liked the idea of players making space for our to CM's to operate as it essentially fit will with my idea to get the most out of Bongiovanni and build the side around him, specifically this post with in the thread: (originally from the Pep Guardiola thread but was also quoted in this one.)
This is what the tactic looked like at this point:`
WM(a) CM(s) AP(a) WM(a)
FB(s) CD(d) CD(d) FB(s)
Play out of Defence (for possession)
Distribute to CB's, Counter-Press, Counter
Much Higher Defensive Line, Much Higher Line of Engagement, Extremely Urgent Closing Down, Use Tighter Marking (High Press)
I then began looking at the players I had that could fit into this system. I then had an epiphany about a player I had bought in January. Vlad Dragomir, a young Romanian Midfielder and Winger reminded me a lot of one of my favourite players of all time, Steven Gerrard. Dragomir had all good to great attributes that I wanted, but it was his traits that led me to the comparison.
-Gets forward whenever possible
-Tries Killer Balls often
-Shoots from distance
-Likes to switch ball to other flank
He possessed great energy and work rate to get up and down the pitch, and had the ability to pull off a trademark long pass or long shot just like Gerrard. So I thought it would be interesting to add a Gerrard-esque role to my system, next to my play-maker. I didn't want to use a Box to Box Midfielder, as I had established I wanted to play far away from my goal line so why would he need to run up and down? (even though he could) I wanted something with more attacking flair, so I tried the Mezzala on support and it worked well. He would drift wide like Gerrard tended to do and burst through to the box to finish off moves, unlock a defence or blast a shot into the net. After this decision, I was afraid I could become exposed in the middle, so I added an Inverted Wing-Back on the left to in theory compensate for the two CM's to cause havoc. I also thought about changing the DM to Defend but I thought that it could be a change I would make in game.
Aim 3: Create a Gerrard-influenced role for Vlad Dragomir.
The roles and duties now formed this:
WM(a) MEZ(s) AP(a) WM(a)
IWB(s) CD(d) CD(d) FB(s)
Suddenly I had found that my roles and duties chose themselves logically, as my idea developed. It made sense to me that one thing influenced another decision and so on. I was left with the two WM roles and the RB to decide on. I kept it fairly simple and took influence from Guardiola's use of wide men staying wide, with players either playing with their strong foot towards the touch-line or the middle. This would change based on opposition and game plan, but usually defaulted at a right footed player on the right, and a left footed player on the left. I looked at my wide-men's attributes and found one of them lacked good enough work rate, which is why I didn't choose the winger or inverted winger roles. I was afraid that they wouldn't put the work in that the role of a Wide Midfielder would. The WM also allowed me to click stay wider, and depending on personnel, run wide or cut inside with the ball. I then decided to switch the DM to an anchor man, to compensate for some fairly aggressive roles in-front of him and to his sides. I still wanted him to support attacks though and be an option in build up but it was something that I could tweak depending on the game. I had this inspiration from reading the Pep Guardiola thread -
Aim 4: Use the idea of Guardiola's wingers staying wide
tLdR; I came up with four aims/ideas of how I wanted my side to play; 1-Build around Bongiovanni, 2-Concede the fewest goals in the Serie A, 3-Use a Gerrard-esque role in midfield & 4-Use idea of Guardiola's wingers staying wide.
It now became an almost complete system and I had a good idea on how it would work in theory, but in practice is another story. This is essentially what I wanted/expected from each position. (Changed depending on game-plan and opposition.)
GK- Mop up behind our defensive line if a long ball comes over or our offside trap is broken. Become a passing option in possession with the ability to start attacking moves. If we were getting pressed high up the pitch I asked him to kick the ball wide to our WM's.
RB)- Work hard to support attacking moves and in transition to keep our defensive shape at the back. He could support a wide player by being a deeper option to deliver a cross or overlap when playing with a left-footer at RM. Good positional awareness and concentration required to play our high defensive line. Would sometimes add get further forward PI in certain situations. eg. to overlap RM or to add further support to be an extra man in attack.
CBs- Very basic and standard. No PIs but players who are quick enough and smart enough to play a High Line and offside trap were needed. Ability to jump is also important to nullify aerial threats and keep our sheets clean.
LB- A player to in theory take up the position of the MCL who has more attacking freedom. Would be in line with the DM in possession but I was afraid we could be taken advantage of on our left flank. He should recycle possession and be an extra man available for a pass.
DM- Very good positional awareness needed here. To be able to cover holes left by our midfield and LB, whilst being solid defensively and being another passing option in midfield.
MCR- Our key player and the initial muse for our system. He would start attacks with his excellent passing, or could dribble through the middle, drawing markers and unleashing a runner into space. Should contribute a lot of goals and assists. Work hard in our high press to win the ball high up the pitch.
MCL- Gerrard inspired role. Be able to carry the ball through the middle and half spaces, switch the play and hit accurate passes to advance us up the pitch.Link with the ML to create overloads on the left wing and arrive in the box to finish off attacks. Utilise hard working player in the high press to hassle opponents high up the pitch. Be a threat from long shots.
MR/L- Players that should stay wide and offer a switch of play to stretch a side to allow our CM's to play. Possess enough dribbling and flair to cause trouble in a 1v1 and be on the end of crosses from the opposite wing. Work hard in our high press and drop into a 4 when defending. PI's are Stay Wider and depending on the foot, run wide or cut inside.
ST- Hassle defenders and lead our press. Work hard for the team and link up play between midfielders, whilst being a goal threat himself. Score, create, press. I added roam from position to allow him to easily receive the ball and pull around markers, making space for the midfield to attack.
Sounds and looks good in theory, I tested it out in pre-season and the first three games of the season, watching in 10 minute intervals to see what was happening. This was the first time I had ever done some on field analysis so I'm not sure on all the things to look out for but here are some examples of my ideas being translated onto the pitch. Please give feedback on how to be more informative with this, as sometimes it's hard to see what is happening or choose good examples of what I want to show.
On The Ball-
Here is an image of one of the first games of the season vs our rivals Palermo. They set up in a 4-4-2 and this is early in the game. I am pausing the game at random points to see if what I want to happen is happening. Not an amazing example but this was my first attempt.
You can see my CD Demiral on the ball after receiving it from a goal kick. This is where I want to see us build from the back. Demiral has 3 passing options, being 1 which is our IWB, 2 our DM and 3 our MEZ. 2 would be a safe option if he got closed down, allowing an easy pass into our AP in the middle of the pitch, although he is marked he has some space to receive the ball. A pass to our MEZ(3) might be risky as the striker is cutting off the lane, but he is facing square so could play a great pass to 4 our WM who has a lot of space to his left and behind him. The final option is number 1, our IWB. This is a risk free pass as he is completely unmarked, and the easiest option for Demiral, but notice the amount of space our IWB has to move into if he receives the ball. Yes he could be closed down by the RM, but a quick ball to number 4 and we are behind their midfield with a pacey winger carrying the ball forward. Either of these options is a good one, but he opts for 1, who ends up being closed down and we recycle around the back.
This is the same move but further advanced, our WB started at the red dot and played a ball into Castrovilli. I switched the WM's so Castrovilli was cutting inside, and our LB acted more like a WB rather than an IWB. Castrovilli plays an easy ball into Dragomir who is on the ball. We managed to move Palermo around, bringing their RB high and their CM across which allowed a one touch pass into our AP in the centre circle followed by another one touch pass into the space where our WB is making a run. We are in behind their RB and essentially have a 3v3 on their back line with our WB, ST and MR vs 2 CB's and LB. Patient play leading to an opening which we exploited. The move continued and ended with a blocked cross from our WB. We swapped wings later again turning LB back to IWB.
I was a bit worried here, after popping the ball around the back I noticed how close my IWB was to my MEZ. They are practically holding hands. A bit too deep for my liking here but Palermo's strikers were pressing us high. I wasn't sure how to separate the IWB and MEZ here, however a long ball over the top from Owusu on the ball led to our ST being clean through and winning a penalty to put us 1-0. Not my preferred way to goal but having the ability to do this is nice.
Here is a more advanced move. We played our way nicely into midfield and found Owusu in a great area after switching him to a DM on support. After thinking about changing the IWB role my thoughts were consolidated here. 1 is our IWB on support, very high in our attack and tucked in, being an extra man in midfield. We could easily give him the ball and recycle, or do what actually happens and play in 2.
Dragomir receives the ball and draws 3 players toward him, opening up a great opportunity for our IWB to drive into the box or shoot. Ends up getting to him and he curls one in from range to put us 2-0 against our rivals. The IWB is acting more aggressive than intended, but he does have 'Gets further forward' so it might become a balancing act or a risk factor allowing him to travel far or asking him to stay deeper.
This image is from a 5-0 thrashing of Sassuolo away. This the build up to our second goal and let me know my plan to unleash Bongiovanni was working here. We moved the ball around nicely, dragging Sassuolo's midfield to the left, leaving acres of space for Bongiovanni to explode into and pick his pass. Another key pass from Owusu here, getting the initial ball into Bongiovanni, informing my decision to let him play with a support duty. As you can see 4 players numbered being our other four attacking players, 1 is our WM, 2 our PF, 3 our MEZ and 4 our other WM, all bursting into the area to get on the end of the pass. Bongiovanni dribbled forward before choosing our Striker as his pass and assisting our second goal with a perfect through ball. Our other goals came from a set piece, a great utilisation of the high press to catch a defender in possession leaving our ST 1on1 with the keeper, an own goal and a great shot from our DM outside the box.
This came from a big game at home vs Lazio. Bongiovanni again receives the ball from our DM and enough space has been opened for him to dribble through the middle toward the box. He chose to attack the space, and unleashed a shot outside the box scoring a huge goal in a 1-0 win. This is enough to show me he is operating exactly how I want.
Probably our best performance of the season was away at Roma. We absolutely dominated the heavy favourites at their own ground in a 3-0 win for Catania. This is our second goal. I noticed how narrow Roma were playing, again we used patient build up to move their midfield across. Our LM is on the ball a has a good amount of space in front to dribble and our RM is in so much space on the wide right. Our LM ends up dribbling and crossing the ball into our RM for an easy second goal.
Demolished in Rome- 3-0 and 3pts to Catania.
These are two screenshots of a game against Juventus at home. Bongiovanni receives the ball initially from our IWB(1) and begins his dribble into space and beginning to play-make. He passes to our MEZ who dwells on the ball before playing to our LM who is right footed cutting inside. Notice where our IWB starts and where he ends up when our LM Castrovilli gets the ball. The movement of our striker is key here, as he has opened the space for our IWB (1) and Bongiovanni (2) to attack. An excellent curled pass into our on-running IWB saw us score the opening goal against Juve. Some great team understanding here, I absolutely love this move as it began with Juve clearing the ball and us pinning them in their half. The move started with our IWB allowing our play-maker to dribble, linking up with our Mezzala who played an easy ball to our winger, whilst our Striker pulled away the CB's, we had two runners surging onto the through ball. An excellent team move here.
Another top side dominated, as Juve never threatened us at all and their only goal came from a penalty. A 3-1 win for us at home with our two other goals being started by the high press, both ending in through balls to our surging midfielders.
This comes from our final game of the season vs Juventus away. Bongiovanni had been moved upfront in the dying minutes as our striker wasn't effective. He ran onto a ball over the top from our centre back and controlled the ball here. This goal highlights how I wanted my Gerrard-role to work, as you can see him in the D bursting into the box. An easy cutback here and we score our second goal in the 90th minute to win 2-1 away at Juve. Beautiful!
I think I have provided some okay examples on how my CM's played, both scoring and creating in the manner I wanted them too. Bongiovanni being our play-maker and making daring runs and splitting open backlines, whilst our Gerrard role linked play up and got on the end of moves to smash them home. I could show many more examples of this but I would be here all night. The goal against Juventus at home is one of my favourite goals and highlights perfectly how the tactic can create space for our forward running midfielders to attack, and shows a great sense of teamwork as many parts were key in this move.
So I managed to achieve (atleast I myself believe it) what I wanted from my midfielders, allowing to drive my side forward and be the prime suppliers and scorers. I also utilised possession when needed to move teams around and create space for our midfield to operate. One image also shows how we implemented the idea of Peps wide players staying wide, being able to allow more space inside and become narrower in the penalty area to get on the end of crosses or through balls. My LM ended up contributing 15 assists whilst scoring 5, and my RM scoring 8 and assisting 10. It let me know we had more than one route to goal and more than one player who could finish off a chance. But how did I do defensively? Did we reach our target of conceding the fewest goals in a season?
22 goals conceded in 38 matches, with 24 clean sheets.
Extremely happy we managed to achieve this, especially with my very average side which lacked great quality in depth. Our high line and high press has been greatly effective, only occasionally falling asleep to a ball over the top.
I felt a great sense of achievement, outperforming big European clubs with an average and very young squad. We were tipped for relegation and predicted to finish rock bottom of the table, so how did we do in the league?
A very successful overachieving campaign with a cup final defeat to Juventus on pens (We got our revenge in the end) and I finally felt like I have understood the game better from trying things from simple ideas I wanted to see play out, with help from other ideas that people had suggested in other threads and bringing together aspects to make it work for me. The knowledge I gained from reading threads and watching videos massively helped and it has really given me a good sense of accomplishment finally in this game that I had been looking for. Don't get me wrong, I still learned and recognised where to change things and make tweaks to counter teams or to get back into a game or close a game out, and I also acknowledge that this is definitely not a revolutionary tactic and is fairly similar to ones I took inspiration from, but this is more about my process getting there, trying different things and choosing things that fitted my idea and what I liked. Now finally it's time for the tactic. What I will present is more of a baseline that allows me to make changes when required, however with the chosen roles and duties, allows the team to play how I wanted them to play as outlined above and backed up by examples. A few things changed during the season so this was our final tactic going into face Juventus away to secure the title. The whole point of this post was to explain what I wanted to do, how I did it and the results with examples, but the initial idea for what I wanted to create could of been entirely different I would be here with a very different tactic for it. This post is aiming to present how I finally had a light-bulb moment and how I allowed myself to learn, adapt and understand the game better after years of stumbling around.
Not too many changes, but the attack duties became support if we ever went positive/attacking. The changes I made most often were asking my wide-midfielders to either cut inside or run wide, alter mentality, tempo and passing range to the circumstances. I used be more expressive when faced with a hard defence to break down, which sometimes came with play wider. My DLine dropped to higher but often moved around as we gradually shifted pressing styles throughout the match. My MEZ could also become a DLP and my AP could also become a CM(a). My DM also moved between an Anchor-Man, a Half-Back and a Defensive Midfielder. I chose balanced on this occasion as we were up against Juventus on the final day of the season, and I didn't want to be too cautious or too aggressive. Shorter Passing and play out of defence is there too help with keeping the ball away from the other team, but our passing length and tempo was something I changed a lot depending on how the game was going. I picked pass into space as the tactic basically aims to make space by moving teams around, allowing space for my CM's to attack, so passing the ball into that space would help with that. It was also useful to hit balls over the top for my striker which usually led to goals.
Distribute to CB was used to help build from the back, and whilst we start with Counter & Counter-Press these would often get switched on and off throughout games depending on the circumstances.
Higher Defensive Line and Much Higher Line of Engagement, mixed with Extremely Urgent Closing Down and Tighter Marking was there for my high press, but again we weren't afraid to drop to mid or low blocks when we needed too. Offside Trap is there to help with our high line and use the intelligence of our back line effectively.
WM- Stay Wider and Run Wide with Ball or Cut Inside
AP- Roam from Position
PF- Roam from Position
Situational PI's -
FB- Get Further Forward, Take Fewer Risks, Sit Narrower
CD's- Take Fewer Risks
IWB- Take Fewer Risks
AP- Remove Roam from Position
Like I said, this is not any revolutionary tactic and definitely took loads of inspiration from others. I'm not claiming it to be a fully self thought out tactic but it's my first one that I haven't directly taken from one source like for like, but added loads of ideas together to fit me and what I wanted to do, which started with a few basic ideas that I came up with, and as it moved on took inspiration from other ideas I had seen and wanted to try. It has been a real enjoyable learning process. I tried everything and kept aspects of things I liked, things that worked and things that fit my ideas.
I would be very grateful for peoples feedback on how they view this tactic and how it can be improved, but I will add another post after this one highlighting my squad building process and picking certain players for certain scenarios, which informed my tactic heavily.
Could this work with another team? Maybe, it's definitely one where you need to assess the game and make correct changes when necessary, and one that demands a certain type of player.
I think my next post will explain how I built my squad, the reason for choosing those players and how they worked within the system. Alongside this would be how the players, especially the front 5, could all inter-change and offer something different to each role.
I know it's a long one and I may of bored a lot, but showing my process is what this is all about. I felt the next logical step would be to get feedback from others and see how we can become better and adapt it. My target for next season is to concede the fewest goals again and also to remain unbeaten at home. I would also love feedback on the style and format of the post and how I can improve, considering this being my very first attempt.
Thanks for reading and I hope to see some discussion and feedback below!