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  1. 12-13 composure is quite good for defenders, unless you're looking at late-stage CL clubs, or even really good in weaker leagues. Without the context of your relative standing it's hard to say if its a matter of poor players, but my initial reaction is that it is probably not. There are some things to consider for playing out the back, even before tinkering with GK distribution. What is the defender's mentality? On a very low mentality, defenders will look to "play it safe", which often means just getting the ball away from dangerous areas. It can be really difficult to play from the back on low mentalities because of this, as even a little bit of pressure can make your defenders think "ooh, this is too risky for what the gaffer's asking, let's just boot it". What is the defender's role? I see a lot of people making tactics where they want to play out of the back, with both central defenders as ball-playing defenders. BPD can be a bit of a trap in a possession system with a slow build-up, as their propensity to take risks means they will often look for a progressive pass, such as a longer ball to your forwards, rather than ping it around at the back. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the unsexy, simple roles, like CB and FB, can be better choices if you want them to make simple, short passes. How do you intend to progress the ball? The most important question when your defenders are just booting it, to my mind, is what else should they be doing? Who should they be passing the ball to? In my opinion, this is much more important to consider than GK distribution. There are several ways of making the GK pass to your defenders. The question is what happens next. What players are dropping deep to make themselves available? What players are making forward runs to stretch the opponent? When I make tactics where I want to play out from the back, I usually only have two team instructions to facilitate this: take short kicks and play out from defence. The latter will make the CBs drop into the penalty area, and any DM drop to the edge of the area. The former will make the GK prefer these three passing alternatives, though sometimes make a medium pass to the FBs if they are free. What I really pay attention to though, is what happens next. Who are the CBs supposed to pass to? And in particular, who are they supposed to pass to if they are put under pressure? This is one of the main things I write about in this thread, if you are interested.
  2. Essential traits? As in attributes or PPMs? For PPMs, none. I prefer making tactics where as long as a player is good enough, he will work, rather than needing this or that specific trait. It's easier to, say, find a defensive midfielder with excellent passing, first touch and composure and tell him to hold position, than finding one who has those stats, but also has stays deep at all times. That said, traits that accentuate the desired behaviours are always welcome. Plays one-twos is really good on the players involved in the attacking phase. Killer balls and switches play on the midfielders, dictates tempo on the DLP and so on. I suspect switches play would be quite good on the right IWB too (ref the pattern I showed earlier with build-up on the right and then a switch to the mez in the left channel), although I haven't had the chance to test it. Basically, think common sense and don't over do it: What prefered moves will increase the chance the players move dynamically, make neat passing triangles and then pierce the defence with a through ball? At the same time, I am a bit wary of getting too many PPMs, and particularly ones that impact on movement. I don't want hugs line for my IWBs. I want them to occasionally make overlaps, when there is space. However, I generally want them to make up a stable midfield three together with the DLP. That way, I should always have an option for recycling the ball and changing the angle of attack, allowing more risk-taking for the front five. As for which attributes, well, I want the players to be press-resistance, and capable of a good passing game. That means good passing, first touch, technique, anticipation, composure, decisions and off the ball, agility and balance. I also want them to press high, which means good work rate, stamina, and at least adequate bravery, tackling and aggression (though the latter need not be particularly high). I want them to actually do what the tactic says, which means high team work. Then you have dribbling, vision and flair for creative players, positioning and concentration for defensive players (IWBs in particular, because they are prone to being caught out). I like fast players and... well, you see the list getting long? What I really look for is passing, first touch, composure and team work. Without those, there's no point in telling your players to play neat passing triangles under pressure, because either they can't, or they won't. Those four stats were the only one's I was around or above average on both in my one season in the Championship and now in the Premier League (in fact, I was bottom or close to bottom in almost everything else when in my first PL-season). And that was, incredibly, just about enough. I don't have the game in front of my now, so I am not 100 % on the F9 instructions. I do not have move into channels, because I have the Mez, CM-A and the IWs doing that. I want the F9 to be involved in central build-up play, and to make things difficult for the CDs, rather than overcrowding the channels - I am already doing that just fine! As for roaming, I think I ended up leaving it off after some experimentation, though I will have to check to be sure. With be more expressive, there will be some roaming anyway, but I mainly want the Mez and CM-A to be the "free roles", while the F9 along with the IWs have more defined areas of responsibility (my experience is that it works better with some players roaming, some holding position, and some being inbetween to ensure there is a structure to your play, since there's no way in game to tell the players "there should always be an attacker in this zone, but it doesn't matter who"). Fair point! =) I will try writing it up at some point, although it will probably be a little while before I have the time.
  3. Thank you! You raise some very interesting questions as well. I have not found not found sterile possession to be a particular issue with this tactic. I think an important lesson (certainly for me, at least!) is that to make a possession tactic work offensively, the focus should paradoxally not be primarily about retaining possession. Rather, the focus should be on how to progress the ball effectively, and when, where and why to take risks. As such, we have the setup to score goals, even in the PL. We were arguably the worst team in the PL in our first season (passing and first touch were just over average, while just about every other stat was towards the very bottom), but still managed about 1,5 goals a game. If I were noticing an issue with sterile possession, the way I adapted would depend on what I was seeing unfolding in the match. My likeliest course of action would be subbing one of my attacking players, to see if some fresh legs and a slightly different type of player would open the match up. If one of the IWs is having a poor game, that could blunt the attack both through stupid turnovers (from poor dribbles or misplaced passes) or through a lack of movement. It is better then to try a different player, than messing with the structure of the team. If the issue was not with (a) particular player(s), I would consider upping the tempo, mentality, or doing something with the focus of attack, depending on what I saw in the match. I would generally not touch roles, unless there was something very striking going on, and I had a clear idea of how a role might solve that, because even small adjustments to roles can fundamentally change the team's structure. As for being defensively fragile... yes and no. Direct, high-tempo attacking is very strong in FM21 (some would argue a little bit too strong), and a rapid strike down the wing can certainly leave the IWBs out of position. This is moreso an issue down the right, where both the IWB and the CM will usually be a bit more advanced. We struggled a lot with that the first season in PL, though Championship-level full backs are always going to struggle when up against the likes of Mbappe. In our season in the Championship, when we had defenders closer in skill to the typical attacker, we did not particularly struggle, however. This is something I will monitor as the quality of our defence is upgraded. However, I would not change the DLP to deal with this. The DLP is the hub of the team, and I want that player to be a ball magnet. On defence duty, he will stay deep in just the position I want, covering the centre. I much prefer using opposition/team/player instructions to deal with specific threats in a particular match, than touching roles and thus the team's structure. In terms of progressing into the current tactic, there was a slow evolution going from the Wessex league until League One, and then a revolution as I experimented in a few late-season dead rubbers and started with the current setup in the Championship. If there is interest for it, I can try to make a more comprehensive write-up (though I don't have much in terms of replays and screenshots laying around to illustrate). However, the short of it is that in the lower leagues, physical attributes are king. The basic principle was to build a team just about capable of pinging it around the back enough to drag the opponents in, and then make a progressive pass to some lightning fast wingers, who would then just literally run through the defence.
  4. Wide players in the attacking midfield strata will move infield in the final third. Inverted wingers will cut inside with the ball. Inverted wingers on attack duty in the attacking midfield strata will often make runs into the channel and may even take up positions similar to an advanced forward. On top of this, you are playing narrowly. All of which is to say is that it is not completely bizarre for your IW-A to end up with an average position that is closer to an attacking midfielder than a winger. That there is a difference from match to match may be due to the circumstances of that particular match, and it may be most instructive to simply look through some extended highlights from that match. Are the opponent focusing heavily on the left IW and constantly forcing him inside? What stands out to me is not so much the difference from match to match, though, but the difference between the positioning of your left and right IW in that particular match. Your tactic is, as far as I can tell, completely symetrical, which means you would expect identical behaviour (before taking opposition behaviour into account). On top of that your left IW prefers hugging the line. So why is he narrower than the right IW? What are happening when you are attacking down the right versus down the left?
  5. Attacking the left channel Until now my focus has primarily been on the right side. However, it is the left that tends to produce most goals and assists, with the Mez being my main assister, while the left IW, with an attack duty, tends to be the main goal threat (although, our manager Thomas prefers having the goals spread out, and this tactic is no different – the F9, both IWs and the CM-A are all expected to reach double digits from open play). The emphasis on the left side in the final third is in part a function of the players. Augustín Palavecino (Mez) and Tim Walter (IW) are the team’s two star men, and were so by a wide margin during our season in the Championship. However, as we will see, their effectiveness is not merely a matter of their personal skill, but a tactical setup built to create patterns that harness it. First though, we need a tiny bit of theory as a point of departure to understand where the patterns are coming from, how they may be a little bit different from the “typical” patterns, and how the setup of roles and instructions help accomplish that. Illustrated above is an attacking M-W-shape. A lot of modern sides (and indeed some very old ones), particularly those with a more possession-oriented playstyle, tend towards a shape similar to this. That is, there are five relatively deeper players who offer defensive cover and recycle the ball, and five attacking players engaging the opposing defensive line. There are some notable advantages to this. With five players in attacking areas, there can be one player in each horizontal space (wide left, left channel/half-space, centrally, right channel, wide right). A typical four-man defence is then outnumbered, and the midfield is forced deeper. Meanwhile, the covering five (whether an M, that is a 3-2, or a W, a 2-3) can also cover the horizontal spaces, thus there always being one deeper player available to receive the ball, or to halt a turnover. Typically, there is also some rotational movement between the front five, especially inside the triangles they naturally create, while the deeper five is more structured. The particular shape shown above has become increasingly common in recent years. Pep’s Man City tend to look like this in the attack phase, though with a lot of rotational movement. Mancini’s Italy also tends to attack like this, with the left CB going wide to cover for a very adventurous LWB, which in turn allow the left IF to cut inside. Both usually have a 4-3-3 as their starting point (though increasingly Man City has started lining up in sort of a 4-4-2). The re-emergence of 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 variants is also notable here, as they very easily become 3-2-5s in attack. The base idea, of a deeper, more structured five, and a more advanced, fluid five, are retained by my Ceriswood side. However, the actual shape and horizontal spaces covered are a bit different in the attacking phase. The observant reader will immediately notice two things: I attack as a W-W (rather than M-W or W-M, which are both more common in real life), and do so more narrowly than the theoretical example. As a result, the wide areas are barely occupied, if at all. In part, this is down to wrangling with the Match Engine. I think the ME, overall, is an excellent achievement for simulating football and allowing various tactics to shine, but it is difficult to reliably transition into a back three in attack the way some modern sides do, and it is difficult to get rotational attacking movement while also retaining width. Actually, rotational movements are hard to create full stop. However, rather than fighting these limitations, I have tried to set the team up to create patterns that both makes sense on paper, and can also be implemented in game. As you can see from the illustrations, my left side is narrower than the idealised M-W. Rather than two players in each horizontal space, the wide left is vacant, while the left channel has three to four players in it. This means we are already starting to see something akin to an overload of the channel, before adding any movements. It should also be little surprise that building from the back down the right (drawing the opponent across), can create real danger down the left channel, as was one of the things illustrated last time. However, the issue becomes to create danger against an established defence. With three players in the same vertical space, and no one truly keeping the width, it seems very simple to defend against my left side: Simply have the right back tuck in, perhaps supported by a deep midfielder, and close the channel! We can’t have any of that, so we need some sort of movement to unsettle the right back. Variant 1 The first two variants are deceptively simple, but really effective. The ball starts relatively deep in the opponent’s half, either with the DLP or the IWB. Their deep position usually means they draw out the midfield (especially in a flat formation, such as a 4-4-2) a little bit. Meanwhile, the Mez moves into the channel between the lines. This is a movement and positioning that is very typical for the Mezzala on support. On an attack duty, the mezzala has a very high mentality and will occupy a more advanced position and threaten the box. On support, however, the mezzala will try to find space between the lines, and look to thread killer balls, which is exactly what we are looking for here. Meanwhile, some very important movement is happening up front. The F9 and CM on attack duty are both in advanced, central positions and occupy an opposing CB each. This makes it much harder for the defence to shift horizontally as they risk leaving a gap for the CM-A. At the same time, the left IW, on an attacking duty, is looking to get into the box from a wide position (stay wider personal instruction). An inverted winger is generally a bit more of a midfielder than an attacker (as opposed to an inside forward), and thus look to get involved deeper. However, on an attack duty, and especially when played in the attacking midfield strata, the IW is happy to make direct runs into the box. At this point, the DLP or IWB makes the line-breaking pass to find the Mez in space. This leaves the opposing full back with a difficult decision: Follow the IW’s run, or press the Mez. If the Mez is left alone, he will have time to carefully thread a pass before the midfielders get back in position. If the IW is left alone, well, he’s alone! As it turns out, the 2v1 this simple combination creates often means it does not matter what the full back does, as we will create an excellent chance either way. Variant 2 The same type of pattern can also be initiated through a switch of play from the right to the left. Here the ball starts with either the right IWB or the right IW. Our right IWB is on a support duty, and should have a strong right foot, as previously discussed. This means he will cut inside and roam through midfield, and then have a good angle for a raking ball towards the left channel. Likewise, the right IW is on support duty, which also means he is looking to cut inside into an advanced midfield position, although from a wider (stay wider personal instruction) rather than deeper position. These movements can serve to draw the opposing midfield to towards our right side, while the F9 and CM look to occupy the central defence, which again opens space for the Mez between the lines and the 2v1 is on! As we won the Championship on our first try, a lot of our goals came through permutations of these two variants. A couple of examples: The goal against Sheffield is, I think, especially notable. I was playing a severely weakened side, with 18-year-old John Beya as Mez and 19-year-old Giorgios Vapokarakis as left IW. Yet, even without our star men we still won 2-1 after scoring through our typical combinations. However, sometimes the opposing defence is simply too compact, and the IW can’t be found with a through ball. Variant 3 It is tempting to suggest that the Premier League clubs had taken notice of how we consistently set up 2v1s against Championship fullbacks, because it has been a bit more difficult to set it up in the Premier League. Part of it is of course that the opponents are much better (both absolutely and relatively), so are defending better against all of our combinations. However, so far I have found Premier League defences to often be that bit more compact and effective at covering the IW’s movement. That is fine, though, because we have another deceptively simple variant for such situations. With the opposing fullback tucked in, and a midfielder dropping deep, the IW’s initial run is well covered, and a permutation of the first two variants is not on. However, given such positioning from the opponent’s RB and RCM/DM, their wide player on the right suddenly has a lot of ground to cover. This means there will be a lot of space open wide, and even in the channel. Remember that the Mez on support will stay a bit deeper, so he can run into that area, while still having the instructions to move into channels and run wide with the ball. In other words, he will be happy to pick the ball up in the half-space and then advance into wide spaces, switching places with the IW, horizontally speaking. Moving the ball into a deep position on the left, which is where the IWB on defend is sitting, holding position, can draw out the opposing wide man, which opens that exact space for the Mez. Meanwhile, we have four players looking to get into the box: Both IWs (remember, they are played in the attacking midfield strata, so even the right-sided one on support they will attack the box), the F9 and the CM-A. Even with such pressure on the box, the IWB will usually prefer the ball to the Mez rather than punting it forward, since we work ball into the box. This can be very awkward to defend against, as the right-sided central midfielder may not come across to cover the Mez in time, whereas the fullback has a 2v1 dilemma in terms of following the IW or picking up the Mez. As such, we may be able to hammer in a low cross from inside the area (low crosses) while having equal numbers with the defenders. However, against some teams either of these combinations are hard to pull off because they have a central midfielder on the Mez, and maybe a defensive midfielder covering too, while a wide or attacking midfielder is responsible for the IWB. Thus, the channel is closed. Variant 4 Our fourth variant deals with this exact problem, and illustrates the importance of dummy runs and second ball runs when unlocking tight defences. A dummy run is a run meant to pull opposing defenders out of position, without expecting to receive the ball. A second ball run (I’m not sure what else to call it in English) is a run that is not intended to be targeted for the next pass, but the pass after that. In order to unlock the left channel, the left IW makes a dummy run inside in order to drag the fullback with him, narrowing the defensive line. Attacking IWs are quite happy to make these sort of runs. Meanwhile, the IWB on defend usually prefers to stay hold a deep position, but when neither the IW or the Mez take up a wide position, the IWB is happy to run down the touchline and become a target for the DLP. This movement can be hard to defend against. The wide midfielder can be an effective presser of the IWB, but has a tendency to lose his man in the final third (I don’t know, but I suspect this may be as much a quirk of the ME as lacking defensive stats). This, in turn, draws attention from the central midfielder covering the Mez, or gives the fullback his, by now, usual dilemma. All of this serves to open up space in the previously closed left channel. The IWB crosses less often, which combined with work into box and shorter passing means he will look to combine with a player in close proximity rather than launching the ball into the box. This is why the second ball run is imperative. Knowing the IWB running on the outside is the best option for a progressive pass from the DLP, we need a second player making a run for the IWB to pass to. Here, once again, the Mez is key. Being on a support duty, he starts deeper, but he still has the instruction to get further forward in addition to the beforementioned run into channels. As such, he will be inclined to make a forward run into the channel, anticipating the square ball or cutback (depending on timing) from the IWB. With different players (possibly with slightly different roles, to arrive earlier in the box) we could eschew such complicated movements and simply have a WB who lofts a cross in when free down the flank. However, we have built around team around nimble, technical attackers who are good in close spaces and with the ball on the ground, rather than fighting with tough central defenders for crosses. As such, we want deliver low crosses after working the ball into the box, because that creates situations that are not only awkward to defend against, but are particularly favourable to our players! Finally, there are often situations where it's not quite straightforward to make one of the variants happen. Since we have a very stable platform with five players generally staying deep, we can afford to give our players more creative freedom (be more expressive) and try to get the breakthrough with more roaming movement, dribbling, tricks and quick combinations. Creative freedom combined with work ball into box and roles that work closely together, as I’m sure you have noticed the Mez and IW do, will encourage players to play one-twos like these to unlock even the most stubborn defenses: You can't really work on specific patterns of play in FM, as you can on the real-life training field. However, I hope I am managing to illustrate how I try to use the roles, duties, team instructions and personal instructions available in the tactic creator to increase the likelihood of certain patterns.
  6. Do you mean their duty or the kind of players? The IWB on the left is a defend duty, the one on the right is a support duty. In terms of players, ideally they are press resistant, hard-working, capable of progressing the ball and able defenders. Which is asking a lot! Basically, if you find a box-to-box midfielder who is a bit better than usual on the defensive side, but can't shoot, he's your guy. I also prefer to play them on their "strong" side. That is, a right-footed player as right IWB, which is the opposite of what the game tells you.
  7. I don't think I have had any players with the places shots and rounds keeper combination, but I am not sure why these would even be in conflict. Rounds keeper probably conflicts with likes to lob keeper, and perhaps with tries first time shots. However, rounds keeper means the player likes to (but won't always) dribble in a one-on-one, as opposed to shooting. Places shots means when that when the player decises to shoot (which may be before or after rounding the keeper), the player likes to (but won't always) use his technique and finishing skill to put the ball somewhere with a high chance of goal, as opposed to just smashing it home. For player prefered moves related to finishing (places shots, shoots with power, tries first time shots), I find the imporant thing to consider is the player's stats. For example, shoots with power is really nice for someone with high finishing, but perhaps lacking in composure. Places shots, on the other hand, is really great on players with good mix of composure, finishing and technique. Looking at your striker, he has 14 in both finishing and composure. Those are solid stats for a player in the Norwegian league. His technique is 17, which is exceptional at that level. In other words, stats-wise he seems very capable of placing his shots. His decision-making is also good for his level. His strength is alright, and his agility and balance is off the charts for a player based in Norway, so I wouldn't expect him to have any trouble shielding the ball if he's taking a moment to pick his target either. Based on his stats places shots seems potentially quite useful! There could be any number of reasons why your striker is in a rut, but I would be surprised if picking up places shots was the main, or even an important reason. Without knowing anything else than what you have shared, a simpler explanation could be that his and your (the club) reputation has caught up with him. Are teams are playing more defensively against you, and in particular are they paying extra attention to your dangerman up front?
  8. Thanks again for the kind comments! Haha, it's only going to get worse once I get around to discussing what you have labelled the second and third phases of attack =) It would be interesting to hear your experiences with trying an attacking mentality or positive + wider. Yes, I definitely agree that finding the right IWBs are essential!
  9. Uhh... ok. So if you are overloading the flank against an isolated fullback, e.g. in a narrow 4-1-2-1-2, does that count as an exploit or not? The terms do not seem mutually exclusive. Exploits, as you define them, would very often be done precisely through overloads, no?
  10. Yes, it can be exploited, and it can be exploited regardless of the role and duty of the opposing defender. An IW-Mez-combination works very well, though be vary that they should be on opposite duties (e.g. IW-A means Mez-S or the other way around). Both Mez-S and Mez-A are happy to overlap a wide forward (IF/IW) that cuts inside. If you are specifically looking for the IW to drag the fullback inside to create room for the Mez to overlap and get into a crossing position, I would expect an IW-A/Mez-S combination to work better, as a Mez-A has a very high mentality and may bomb down the channel and into the box rather than waiting for the opportunity to overlap. Having a fullback (FB-A, WB-S or WB-A) that likes to get forward and overlap and IW is the "classic" way of overloading the opposing fullback. The option of two forwards is less likely to work, however. Forwards rarely move wider than the channels, especially in the attacking phase (some roles come wide to pick up the ball during transitions). Such movement in combination with an IW could overload the channel, however, and give the closest CB problems. This, in itself, is not really what you are asking for, but can work really well in combination with the overlapping fullback.
  11. You are looking to narrowly play through the middle, but have no one in the middle actually making forward runs. Who are you actually expecting to create and score the chances? No one in your midfield is looking to make an impact by making vertical runs. The DLP will sit relatively deep and recycle possession and play the occasional killer ball when it is on. The BWM will move up in support and offer himself as a short-passing option for the IW, but will rarely make a penetrative run to actually pressure the defense. The CAR will look to shuffle laterally and offer support wide, but you already have a WB getting forward to cover that space, so that doesn't seem necessary. Your forward runs are coming mainly from your IF and AF, who will end up isolated, and can be neutered by a deep, narrow defence (and you're playing into this with narrow play through the middle). Your wingbacks, the right one in particular, will also make forward runs, but typically to get around the side for a cross. You will have the IF and AF and maybe the IW in the box, which doesn't sound like a target rich environment for crosses. Using an AF as a lone striker in a 4-3-3 is a bit awkward, as he will often end up isolated regardless. Especially in a possession-system, where you usually want a striker that drops deep to overload midfield and open lanes of attack for the wide forwards. An AF can work in a possession-system, by pushing back the defensive line to open space in the hole (this is especially useful in a 4-2-3-1 where the 10 is your main creator), but you have no one really looking to occupy that space. You have both central defenders set to BDP, and a SK on attack, all of which are happy to take more risks. I would be unsurprised if this means a fair bit of your ball progression is long balls to the IF and AF. That's fine in and of itself, but with no vertical runners in midfield, they will be isolated and either dribble themselves into trouble, or stop play waiting for someone to pass back to. Your players are also given more creative freedom (be more expressive). I find this to work very well when combined with work into box and a dynamic midfield. However, I suspect that with your set-up it simply allows your IF and AF to dribble even more into trouble, while the midfield becomes more inclined to take potshots from range. It is unsurprising that you manage 60 % possession and 90 % passing accuracy with shorter passing, lower tempo, fairly narrow and play out of defence, hold shape, an entirely support-minded midfield, as well as aggressive pressing. You are basically asking your players to work super-hard to win the ball, and then just slowly pass it around in midfield. Honestly, my humble advice would be to start with a fresh pallet, and think about how you want your players to move and combine. Leave team instructions at a minimum, and focus on the player roles and how they interact. Think about how you want to create chances, rather than how high your possession % is.
  12. Inverted wingbacks and switching play The attentive reader may have noticed that the IWB played an important role in both the goals against Sporting that I showed last time, either by helping progress the ball, or by occupying space to drag defenders away from where the actual danger was. This is a key feature of how Ceriswood is currently set up to play. As the team progressed through the lower leagues, Thomas had to make do with more limited and traditional full backs and wingbacks. However, with sufficiently intelligent and skilful players, IWBs can combine with other roles to create intricate patterns that are hard to defend against. An important point to make is that the game advices you to use players who are strong with the “opposite” foot as IWB. In many situations, this is clever, as a left-footed player cutting in from the right will have a better posture and angle for a killer ball or a shot. However, Thomas is generally not looking for his IWBs to do either of those things. Instead, he wants them to mainly to three things, with one added bonus: 1. Help progress the ball from the back, as previously discussed, 2. Maintain a deep midfield-position to recycle possession, and 3. Overlap and provide with in the final third when the IW goes inside, 4. Bend it like Beckham switch play from deep, wide positions. An IWB will naturally do all these things in the right setup, but I find that they do so more effectively when they are played on the same side as their strongest foot. Last time, I did not have an example on hand of how playing out of the back can be used to bypass the press before I dig deeper into how the IWB plays in advanced positions, I want to revisit that situation. Here we see the first goal in a recent hard-fought and late 3-1 comeback against Middlesbrough. A fair note to make is that Boro is playing into my hands here, by pressing high with a bottom-heavy formation (usually I’d call it a 3-4-1-2, but their wingbacks are so deep it really is a 5-2-1-2). From the goalkick, we see a variant of the pattern I described in the original post. The ball is moved to right-sided diamond which stays close together and pulls the Boro midfield in. Space opens for a line-breaking pass to the dropping F9. The opposing midfield is now desperate to get back in defence, and the ball is switched to the left while they are still unbalanced. Mez puts IW through (we will be talking more about that particular combination in a later post!) and the comeback is on! Here we very clearly see the advantage of the relatively compact diamonds I have set up. My IWB and DLP can combine to bypass the initial press, and progress the ball to the triangle of attackers in front of them, who are now overloading the right channel. The Boro defence moves across, and the midfield scrambles back, and try to force us into a less dangerous wide position. Exactly like we want them to, as this pretty much opens the entire centre and left of the pitch for us! Having used an overload to pull in the disorganised Boro-players, we switch play and it’s a fairly easy goal from there. The build-up and especially switch off play is enabled by using right-footed players as IWB and IW down the right. For a right-footer like Popovic (IWB), both the short pass to Cabrera (DLP) and the longer ball to James (F9) are natural. Later on, José Felipe (IW) can use his stronger right foot to quickly switch play, rather than spending a beat to cut in on his left before the pass to Palavecino (mez). Another reason why I want my IWBs to play on their “strong” side is that they can then more effectively overlap. IWBs will generally look to cut inside and join midfield, which I do want them to, but will also make overlapping runs. This is especially the case if the wide areas are vacated, usually by inside forward or inverted wingers moving inside. And though I instruct my IWs to stay wider, to stretch the opposition during build-up, I also want them to come inside, make combinations on the edge of the box and attack the goal. This leaves space the IWBs can overlap into, and thus give opposing fullbacks a dilemma: Pick up the overlapping IWB, follow the IW inside, or perhaps the mez/CM-A moving into the channel? There are several things I do to encourage this sort of play. Firstly, having the IWs vacate the space to begin with. Secondly, playing the IWBs on their “strong” side to make them both more comfortable, but also more effective on the outside. And thirdly, a positive mentality and extra creative freedom from be more expressive is meant to nudge them into making more runs. This is especially helpful for the left IWB, on defence, who has ha cautious mentality (even on positive team mentality) and the hold position instruction. Despite this, we still get the left IWB doing things like this: Here our left IWB, Adams, wins the ball in our own half and passes to Walter, our IW. As Walter takes a few steps inside, Adams casually moves up along the left touchline, with no one picking him up. Two quick short passes, and then Cabrera (DLP) finds Adams with a through ball. The IWB has the left side pretty much to himself, and can carry it forward until James (F9) is free to receive a square ball (note how this is a simple pass with the left foot!) in the hole. Meanwhile, Walter has moved up in the central forward position to receive the killer pass, but the goal is correctly disallowed for offside. However, it is generally the right IWB who is the more proactive one, looking to get involved in the final third. We have already seen the right IWB’s involvement in build up play, so let us see how the IWB can make very different involvements leading to goals: Both goals are from a 3-2 win over Sunderland last season, when we were in the Championship. For the first goal, Popovic (IWB) is moving up along the right touchline with the ball. José Felipe (IW) had moved into the channel earlier, pulling a player to open the space. So there’s no one really picking up Popovic, especially as the opposing LB is retreating and moving in more narrowly, no doubt worried about José Felipe making a run from deep through the channel. Eventually, as an opposing midfielder is rushing back to close Popovic down, he makes the switch of play, finding Palavecino in the hole, with plenty of space and time. One killer pass later, Jack Phillips (F9) has scored. A minor point here is that IWBs have the PI cross less often hard-coded. I really don’t want my players running to the goalline to lump a cross in. Square balls and cut-backs from players attacking the box through the channels are super (hence low crosses and work ball into box. I will maybe include some examples of this in a later post), but the team is really not equipped to take advantage of crosses from wide. Non-inverted wingbacks and attacking fullbacks are more prone to that sort of undesirable behaviour, even if they do a good job stretching defences in the final third. However, the real reason for using an IWB over other roles is evident in the second goal showcased from the Sunderland-match. Here the ball starts out on the left and nothing dangerous is happening, with the opposing defence in full control. However, Popovic is positioned centrally, as a double pivot together with DLP Tosic. This enables a quick switch of play along the ground from Adams to Tosic to Popovic. There are two advantages to having a double pivot in this situation. First, shorter passes along the ground are more difficult to intercept for outrushing defenders. Second, Tosic is in a better position to receive the first ball, while Popovic is in a better position to initiate the next attacking thrust, than Tosic would have been as a lone pivot. We see this as Popovic only need to play a simple forward pass. Mols (CM-A) and Alessi (right IW) then perform a quick one-two before putting Phillips through on goal. The striker scores to complete his hattrick and give us a late, but well-deserved win! IWB is, I think, a really interesting and potent role. It is also a role I have struggled a fair bit to get the best out of. However, I think it is fair to say the IWB is a key component to how Thomas Norton sets up his Ceriswood side, and I hope the examples I have shown in this post have given some illustration of why they work.
  13. Thanks for all the positive replies! =) I'll attach the current version. Note that I never designed this to be plug-and-play. The tactic does the things I want it to (even with a relatively low quality side compared to the opposition), but it is also the culmination of eight seasons of squad building and tactical development. I haven't tested it with any other clubs/squads, so can't guarantee it will work as well for you. There are also some inherent weaknesses to the set-up, which I will touch upon later. That's very interesting to see the similarities, but also subtle differences between your set-up and the one I've used. For example, yours is a little bit adventourous in roles and duties, and ups width specifically, whereas I get a similar effect from a higher mentality. I also definitely agree that the DLP is a key to such a tactic (which should be unsurprising - consider the importance of players like Busquets, Xabi Alonso and Fernandinho), both for recycling possession, shielding defence, and providing line-breaking passes. 4-3-3 Blue Knights.fmf
  14. Hi everyone Occasional lurker, first-time poster, and long time FM addict enthusiast here. In my sporadic lurking, I have noticed certain topics and questions showing up with some regularity. A lot of people want to play an eye-catching, attacking possession style, often specifically in the mould of Pep Guardiola. I get it. I want to do that too! This thread isn’t going to be an exercise in Pep tactic recreation, however. Others have done that far better than I could do! Instead, I want to discuss what exactly it is I try to accomplish when I set up possession-based tactics in FM, with the tactic I am currently using in an ongoing save as a point of departure. In particular, I want to discuss how I use combinations of roles and instructions to create certain patterns of play. I want to focus on this, because when talking about possession-based play – at least if you want to avoid sterile, sideways passing between your defensive players – is often about constructing complex patterns of play that pull the opposition out of position, or overload key areas of the pitch. So, let’s meet our manager. He’s a young, idealistic Brit named Thomas Norton. Born in the mid-90ies he’s just old enough to remember to Arsene Wenger’s incredible invincible team, with their fluid attacking football. In his teens he watched Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona dismantling Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man Utd in not one Champions League final, but two, and he thought “I want to create something like that”. Like that, because Thomas was always his own man, wanting to create something of his own rather than simply copying. And so, Thomas set about building his philosophy. Its main tenets are rather simple: · Attacking with flair and skill, using dribbling and quick combination play to break through defences. · Defending on the front foot, by retaining possession and pressing to denying the opposition time on the ball Well, everything sounds simple when summed up like that. As we will see, there is a lot going into setting up a tactic to achieve Thomas’ apparently simple philosophy. Before we get to that, let me just briefly set the scene. Thomas is the manager of (fictional club) Ceriswood Football Club, the largest club of the mid-sized (fictional) Welsh city of Ceriswood. He took over the club when they were playing in the Wessex League Premier Division. Which is in the ninth tier of the English footballing pyramid. At first glance, it seemed like a good deal. A professional club with a 20 000 capacity stadium that the club could expect to fill on special nights, Ceriswood had far more resources than any other club that side of the Football League. On the downside, there was the crippling £60 million of debt and a fan-controlled board adamant the club had to play possession-based football using home-grown talents. A good fit for Thomas’ philosophy, but a difficult proposition in the ninth tier. Thomas, however, is bequeathed with the magical powers of being the player-manager. On the face of it, this is just another lower league challenge (I have a passion for those), with just a few particular unique circumstances that adds some challenges, but in sum makes it a fair bit easier than usual. As such, I had no intention of doing a write-up based on my save, but in season eight something very special happened to make me reconsider. It was my first season in the Championship. I was clear favourite for the drop and based on the team comparison it was hard to disagree. Even my best stats, such as passing, first touch and decisions barely broke the league average. I did have a few stars in the first team I was confident would carry me through the campaign, and so thought the season would be something of a “free hit” to experiment a bit tactically. I had an experimental set-up I had used a bit in dead-rubbers at the end of the season before, and wanted to see what I could make out of it. Well, it just clicked. Everything Thomas wanted it to do, it did, and Ceriswood kept winning even when having to field players who weren’t quite up to it in the lower leagues. Ceriswood ended the season with well-deserved Championship and League Cup titles, and a very, very lucky FA Cup win too. Now, I realise this probably comes off pretty braggy. But I am setting the scene to show why I was inspired to, for the first time, post here and share my ideas and how I try to make them come alive in the game. And so, I will try to do just that. I will try to illustrate with pictures and video clips as best as I can, though bear with me since I have never done this before and am struggling a bit with recording examples. Also, since this is based on my work in a save I play for fun, rather than having planned to write up, I won’t always have good examples to show right on hand. There will be several things I write about where I know there was a good example in a recent match, but then I either could not find it again, or failed in my inexperienced efforts to record it. I have rambled enough. Sorry for that. Let’s get into the actual tactic, and then break down what Thomas is looking to achieve on the field! Some of this may be recognisable if you have dabbled with possession-based tactics before. The 4-3-3. Pass out of defence. Shorter passing. Work the ball into the box. Inverted wingers. Thomas has not come up with something completely insane meant to blow your mind. That’s not the point. I am not here to show you a ground-breaking, revolutionary plug-and-play, but rather to discuss what the set-up is meant to accomplish (and indeed, for Thomas and Ceriswood, often does accomplish). To do this, I guess the most logical place to start is how Ceriswood builds up from the back. Build-up from the back and progression down the right When discussing how Ceriswood builds their play, it is pertinent to stop for a moment a consider why they build up from the back. The simple answer is to create space, or time. By passing the ball from the back, the opponent is enticed to press higher. If this first line of pressure can be by-passed, space opens up in the middle of the field for more advanced, creative players to break into and overload a retreating defence. The ideal situation is when the bypassing opponents that commit a lot of people (e.g. the entire front four of a 4-2-3-1) to this press. In such a situation, the advanced players will usually find themselves in plenty of space to receive the ball and then accelerate, allowing them to run at and unbalance to defence. Note that playing out of defence to invite pressure is inherently risky. A misplaced pass or poor first touch can mean a turnover close to the Ceriswood goal. The way Thomas sets up his team shape in the early build-up phase is meant to mitigate this risk by creating diamonds that are hard for the opposition to cover. The keeper, central defenders and deep-lying playmaker make a diamond, and with the instructions play out of defence and take shorter kicks they will drop all the way down to the penalty area to initiate play. If the opponent does not press, the keeper can play to the ball-playing defender or the playmaker, who can both use their passing range to initiate attacks. If the opponent does press, they need to commit three players to deal with this initial diamond. However, even with a top-heavy formation such as a 4-2-3-1, that still leaves options. By pushing up a front three or four, the opposition still leaves the inverted wing-backs free. They can either be reached by a chipped ball from the keeper, or a quick, risky exchange through the DLP or closest CB. They form a diamond with those two players, as well as the closest central midfielder. Since the IWBs stay narrower, the diamonds are relatively compact, making it easier to play simple passes back and forth even against a pressing opponent. The DLP is the hub between the three diamonds, and as such a key player both to resist the press and progress the ball. However, it is important that he is not alone in looking to play progressively. As such, the diamonds are set up so that there is always one other player that takes more risks. The BDP to the right, and the Mez to the left. A further key element to making the diamonds a source of ball progression is the movement ahead of the ball. Therefore, both the players at the tip look to get further forward, roam from position and move into channels. These all come hard-coded to the Mez, while the latter two are added as additional personal instructions for the CM on attack. The dynamic movement of the Mez and CM-A potentially opens new passing lanes that bypass the initial press. Thus, the opponent also has to commit their midfield screen, which opens up a large gap between the lines. The inverted wingers, with the personal instruction stay wider is already occupying this space and stretching the defensive line, while the false nine is happy to drop into this space. Thus, the opponent has a difficult choice to make: Either they need to drop off, giving my BPD, DLP and mezzala space and time to play. Or, they have to hope their high press prevents the progressive pass, knowing a failure will have my dynamic front three running with the ball against a stretched, unsupported defence. Unfortunately, I wasn’t successful in making a recording of such a by-pass-the-press-situation, but I will perhaps elaborate on this in a later post. So what then if the opponent does not press high? This is when build-up becomes about creating time. If the opponent stands off, it means they are playing a mid- or low block and are crowding that very midfield area we previously looked at opening. Just lumping the ball forward in such a situation means needing to win some tough duels and competing for second balls. Which you can, with the right players and set-up, but that’s not really an option for Thomas and Ceriswood. So, they need clever movement to open passing lanes, and a combination of creative players who can progress the ball through line-splitting passes or dribbling, and runners who can open up space for those progressive actions. Consider this situation against a 4-4-2 in a midblock. With no one stopping the short ball from kick-off, the BPD is on the ball with time to pick a pass. However, the opposing strikers are in a position to intercept passes into midfield, while the opposing midfield is denying space in midfield. However, because of our BPD-DLP-IWB-CM-diamond, we already have two options open. The opposing striker can only cover one of these. Additionally, we have everyone except the CD moving dynamically off the ball to create angles (white arrows are potential off the ball movement, black arrows are avenues of ball progression). The DLP and F9 will naturally drop into space to receive the ball. The Mez and CM-A will, as previously described, roam from position and move into channels. Both will get further forward, but the Mez on support stays a bit deeper in build-up to give the DLP a short, progressive option. With the BDP on the ball, the CM-A runs ahead to put pressure on the defensive positioning of the opponent, which both opens more space for the right IWB to move into and distracts from the movement of the F9. On a support duty, the IWB is happy to roam into the channel and make a progressive play, by combining with the IW or the F9 dropping into space. We can see some of these movements, and the role of the BPD in initiating attacks through progressive passes in my recent 2-0 away win over Sporting. It was Ceriswood’s first ever European appearance, and a match I expected to lose. However, we won deservedly in part because my BPD, Goncalo Cardoso, was afforded time on the ball. We score the first goal from a goal kick. Carlos Alberto in goal passes short to DLP Agustín Cabrera, who lays it off to Cardoso. Sporting is playing a mid-block, so Cardoso is allowed to advance with the ball, before finding IWB Julijan Popovic, who has moved into the channel. At this point, Sporting wants to start engaging their press, but Popovic has time to pick out our F9, Matt James, who has made a lateral run, pulling a midfielder. James picks up the ball, and dribbles towards the right. This isn’t particularly dangerous in itself, but he pulls three players towards him (left CM, LM and LB). James lays it off to our IW, José Felipe, who suddenly has a lot of space to cut into. Which he does. Meanwhile, the opposite IW, Tim Walter, has taken up a position as striker, and runs into the through-ball José Felipe eventually releases and is one-on-one! The goalkeeper is alert and stops Walter, but James has followed play up the field and appears to strike home the rebound. For the second goal, we see Cardoso intercept a long-ball. Being a BDP, he is comfortable advancing with the ball at his feet (and Sporting is initially obliging in this case!). This time, both Popovic and José Felipe stay wide on the right to occupy the opposing LM and LB, meaning a CM must come over to cover Cardoso’s advance. This leaves space in the middle, where James drops deep to receive the ball. Meanwhile, our CM-A, Stefan Mols (who joined us for free in the Southern League Premier South. He’s come a long way!) has moved into the hole and receives the lay-off, lingers on the ball for just a moment and then puts James through on goal with a well-timed pass. So here we have two examples of how the ball can be progressed up the right side of the field, starting with the BPD. On this right side, the diamond (BPD, DLP, IWB-s and CM-a) is a bit more expansive than the left, with the deeper players being more willing to play risky, progressive passes, and the forward players being free to take up more advanced positions. One thing to note here is that the role of the BPD is not to retain possession, but to progress play. The rest of the right side is, in part, set up to facilitate this progression. In order to keep this post at a readable length, I think I will stop there. I hope it has been interesting so far, and hopefully given at least one reader a new idea they want to try. In the future, I intend to cover several more topics relating to how Thomas Norton sets up his Ceriswood-team to play. At the very least, I have plans for the following topics, possibly with more to come: - How the IWB facilitates variation on the right in advanced positions - Combination play through the middle, and how the DLP controls it - How the left side functions in attack, and particularly how the Mez unlocks established defences Edit: Second post about inverted wingbacks and switching play: https://community.sigames.com/forums/topic/557047-patterns-of-progression-and-attack-in-a-possession-tactic/?do=findComment&comment=13254887 Third post about attacking the left channel: https://community.sigames.com/forums/topic/557047-patterns-of-progression-and-attack-in-a-possession-tactic/?do=findComment&comment=13259160
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