First off, despite the fact that I make a large amount of suggested amendments, I would like to say that I enjoy the Football Manager series of games, and apreciate the effort that is put into making them. It is for this reason that I have written such a lengthy post of potential improvements, since I care about the game being as good as is concivable. Mods, feel free to delete the post or separate it into many posts if this is too long, I thought it would be better to have one thread, since all the suggestions are basically about the tactical interface and how it influences the ME.
1. The modification of several team instructions and player instructions.
I grant, this may be an absence of understanding of the tactics engine in Football Manager on my part. I also appreciate that no player or team instruction operates in a vaccuum, and how the instruction manifests itself depends on the overall tactical set up of a team, and the characteristics of players at your disposal (rightly). Even accepting this, I think there is room for improvement here. To state the problem generally, I think that many of the instructions that appear to have a fairly straightforward definition are in fact ambiguous.
To give some examples.
a) 'Focus Play …': In one sense, this is as self explanatory as it gets, it means as it says in game 'a more intense attacking focus' in the relevant area of the pitch. In another sense, it is not especially informative. Does it mean passing is directed to attacking players on that that side of the pitch? Does it mean that there are more forward runs made from players on that side of the pitch. Does it mean that more players in your team gravitate towards the left to create overloads. Does it mean some combination of all of these things, or none of these things.. Obvioiusly, it to some extent depends on the general team set up (rightly). I think the solution is to introduce new separate team instructions (for example, 'overload …' (whereby the team will shift towards that flank and players who are in the vicinity will move wider to try to cause overloads) and perhaps 'direct passes towards … (which would simply instruct the team to direct passes towards attackers situated on the relevant side).
b) 'Pass into space':
Similarly, in one sense self explanatory, as the game says it 'instructs players to look to make passes into open spaces for their team mates to run onto'. Again, it seems to me, in another, it is considerably more ambiguous than this. Does this mean simply that players should not make passes into feet, and instead play balls in front of their team mate. Does it mean, play more through balls. Does it mean, play to the team mate that is in presently in space rather than somebody who is covered or marked, etc. Does it mean any one of these things, something different, or some combination of all of these things. Again, I am aware that other aspects of your tactical setup determines how this instruction manifests itself in game (rightly).I think that game would be better served by having separate instructions for two of these components- look to play more/fewer through balls and some instruction that gives you the option to play play passes to open players, as opposed to marked players/players in tight spaces (I accept this isn't exactly precise-but there is an intuitive notion here I think is important). I wouldn't have any instructions for simply playing the ball ahead of ones teammates since it doesn't seem to me to be a tactical instruction that is widely used, but simply an aaspect of football that is like pass weight, and ought to be determined by the players attributes.
Take more risks/takes less risks:
These two instructions have a more intuitive definition, and my main qualm is the fact that it puts together things that one may want to control separately. Take more risks 'encourages players to play more low perceptage passes and through balls in the hope that one or two of them will unlock the opposition defence in a potentially decisive manner'. Take fewer risks 'asks players to retain possession first and foremost, playing a sensible and patient passing game without unnecesssarily conceding possession to the opposition'. In the case of 'take more risks', I think putting both playing more through balls and more low percentage passes in the same category is a mistake. One may well want to encourage your defenders to to play more line breaking passes when available, without ever wanting them to hit a through ball or diagnoal switch of play, and vice versa. Take fewer risks seems to me to be a bit out of date in description. I struggle to think of many coaches more orientated on possession of the ball than Guardiola, but I wouldn't dream of saying that his defenders don't take substantive risks on the ball, which by and large, his players manage to carry out with effectiveness. But if I were to give defenders 'take more risks' I would be committing them potentially, to play a fair number of low probability switches of play and through balls, which would not be what I wanted (I know one could mitigate this with having a other instructions-but this doesn't leave seems satisfying to me).. One possible solution to this would be to have a separate encourage to play through balls (or at least something more specific than 'takes more risks') and a new PI/TI, look to play line breaking passes (and obviously, some converse PI/TI that obviously, still means your players will play line breaking passes when it is obviously on and risk free, but will not attempt marginal attempts to do so where the risk of doing so is significant). It has the added advantage of aligning with lots of modern coaching speak, and has a fairly intuitive definition.
2. Removing Mentality:
Mentality, as represented in game seems problematic. My problem with mentality is that mentality influences all other team and player instructions. It seems to me there is no need for mentality in the game, since whether a team is attacking or defensive ought to be constituted simply by that sum total of the team and player instructions and duties one has selected, and the players characteristics, rather than being some tactical choice in itself that influences all of these other choices. I know that in real life managers sometimes talk in press junkets and so on about being attacking, or liking to control games, or being on the front foot, or being safety first and secure, but I think that this a description of the totality of their tactical choices, not a tactical choice in itself (which is how I would say the mentality mechanic in football manager presently works).
However, Mentality is obviously structurally important in the game, since it affects everything about your tactic, so to remove it without rebalancing the rest of the tactical engine would be problematic. I think the solution is basically to have more specific TIs and PIs that in combination with duties, allow you to manually control what one has to rely on mentalities at the moment to do (in this sense, the suggestions I make above do quite a lot of the work of making mentality redundant). So if one wishes to play what the game presently describes as attacking, one would look to up the tempo and passing, have TI to play more through balls, have more attacking duties that ensure more players arrive in the box or are situated higher to receive dangerous passes, and instruct the team to recover the ball high (in other words you do things that are paradigmatic of attacking football). Obviously, this comes with all the concurrent tactical risks and downsides. If one wanted to play as if one had a positive mentality, one may instead emphasize ball retention, creating overloads rather than committing as many players forward at once, etc.
3. Modifications to defensive out of possession and in transition instructions.
Before making some suggestions that may improve the depth of the system I would like to say that I think SI have done a really good job in incorporating this stuff into the game, which I appreciate is ar really hard task due to the massively complex nature of pressing traps and marking systems that real teams use (to even represent it in the M.E is a challenge, and one I think that stilll has lots of improvements to be made, e.g - https://community.sigames.com/forums/topic/556238-organisation-in-defensive-shape-strikers-tracking-back-and-midfield-positioning/), and that they have created an intuitive system that aligns with modern fotball terminology and is easy to understand. I do think that the systems could be made more detailed, how to do so while making the ME work, and without being daunting to casual players is the big question, but one that can be done, in my opinion.
a) Make a bigger deal out of marking systems.
I know that in set pieces you can choose to defend by man or zonally, and I also understand that you can, in principle, create a man for man system in game by matching systems and/or manually specifying for each player to mark a specific opponent. I also think it would be unwise to simply reintroduce the mark man to man or zonal choice of earlier games, since these are broad terms that don't really reflect how teams are coached now. However, I think players could be given more choices on how they wish their teams to press and counterpress their opponent that fit broadly within the broadly zonal approaches, and broadly man marking approaches.. I have minimal understanding of this myself, but I think that this series of posts (https://spielverlagerung.com/2014/07/29/man-coverage-man-to-man-marking/, https://spielverlagerung.com/2014/07/01/zonal-marking-zonal-coverage/,
https://spielverlagerung.com/2014/07/07/counterpressing-variations/) is illuminating. I can certainly see scope, over time, for there to be at least positional orientated zonal marking and man orientated zonal marking (the first keeps you by and large compact but is worse for pressing high up the pitch, and a man orientated one which is more susceptible to being out off shape, but allows for greater pressing capability. I'd also love to a passing lane orientated zonal pressing. I don't see any reason why you also couldn't have two variants of man marking. And similarly, I don't see any reason why you couldn't have 2-3 counterpressing variants in game. How precisely you incorporate them is an important question.You could do it by having it them as TI options (I think this is the best option), you could perhaps incorporate it into the ME more directly (if you have a higher line of engagement and a higher pressing intensity, but a zonal marking variant, the team will move out of a defensive shape to presss and risk getting bypassed). Personally, I think that this reduces tactical flexibility too much (I would want the Line of Engagement to control how early my man oriented pressing scheme comes into effect, not whether I use a man orientated scheme of a more positionally orientated one). Whatever the precise way of being implemented ., I think it would be beneficial, and possible, over the medium to long term, to add this into the game.
I have all sorts of other minor qualms, such as the fact that duties sometimes come with obligatory instructions that don't seem to me to be necessarily part of the position on that duty (for examples, all attacking wing backs being automatically instructed to dribble more frequently, which seems confused to me. More generally, I think duties ought to be first and foremost a designation of how advanced in the field they play, and the kinds of off the ball movements that are made.
Anyway, I appreciate this is a long post, so I'll stop there.
Any suggestions or feedback or suggestions would be most welcome. If I have been in any way unclear, please say, and I will attempt to make myself more clear.