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49 "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn"



  • Biography
    Full time father, aspiring writer, mental health avenger.

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    Sutton via Hastings


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    Writing, football, wrestling, gaming

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  1. Man, I seem to have made a bit of a problem for myself. After last season's form, I stuck with the 4231 shape going in to season 4 with Yousoufa Moukoko expected to duel with Pietro Pellegri for back up to Haaland. As it turned out, Pellegri wasn't up to the task and I'm now looking to move him on, however Moukoko has quickly developed into a superstar. Based on his current rating and performances, he arguably warrants a place in the side ahead of Salah or Mane, but with those two still at the peak of their powers (and on big money contracts), it is difficult to fit him in. Clearly one option is two switch to a 2 up top, perhaps going back to an updated version of Hammer Time from FM20. That of course pushes Curtis jones out of his AMC slot, although in fairness his form hasn't exactly been stellar. That may be more to do with the role than anything as I haven't managed to pull dominating performances out of anyone there. In terms of form and progress, we would finally end our unbeaten run with a drab 0-1 loss at Arsenal. As these things so typically do, that was followed by a home defeat by Man City and a Champions League group game loss. As so often in these situations, I started tinkering, going back to 433 at one point, before ultimately concluding that a blip of this nature does not mean that the tactic no longer works. After those defeats, we slumped to 4th but powered our way back to 1st, helped by an important 3-2 win at Old Trafford. This was an interesting test. After the UCL final defeat, I had learned my lesson. Having survived an early penalty scare, I switched to a Cautious mentality and left the game running whilst making dinner (form a queue, ladies) and was rewarded by a half time lead of 3-0. United would claw 2 goals back in the second half but we held out for an important Boxing Day win. With steady progress in all other competitions, we are looking in decent shape at the halfway point.
  2. Season 3 Wrap Up More frustration in the Champions League as we lose the final on pens to United. Disappointingly this is, by my count, our 3rd penalty shootout and we have lost them all. I can't recall Alisson making a single save in any of them. We started well enough, Mane opening the scoring after just 4 minutes. Rashford hit back almost immediately and it stayed that way for the rest of the half. Early in the second half, the pattern repeated, Camavinga netting a lovely finish, only for Greenwood to equalize minutes later. Looking at the stats, we totally dominated the game; I have to ask myself then, how did we lose this game? Our XG is good, we got a number of shots on target. From an attacking perspective, perhaps I simply need to accept that De Gea had an excellent game. Defensively, it is troubling to have conceded two goals from just 6 shots on target. Of course it may simply be down to my game management as we stubbornly stuck to a Positive mentality throughout, despite my Assistant wanging on all season about how we should play with more caution. I have to be careful though not to throw the baby out with the bath water. I've just gone undefeated with a record points total, clearly I'm doing something right. Tweaks and improvements can always be made but wholesale change without due thought or purpose will not be helpful. Mid-season, I tweaked the width. Having stuck with a narrow Genepress-style approach, I pushed us a bit wider to allow the wingers more room but I wonder if in so doing I might risk isolating the two central attacking roles. I'm not entirely happy with my midfield triangle either; I was initially using Camavinga as a DLP and Henderson as BBM, with Jones in the AM role. With Henderson ageing and Camavinga's physical stats improving, I switched them round but I've never been completely satisfied with BBM performance. In FM20, I rarely found players that were naturals at it, most preferring to operate as either a playmaker or mezzala. Similarly at AM, most players are natural advanced playmakers but in a support role, I find they can drift too much into midfield. I could swap the duties of the striker and AMC of course, perhaps playing a DLF or complete striker up top, but that in turn brings the striker deeper, which doesn't sit naturally with a more static AMC and wingers staying wider. One consideration I had was moving the AMC up to add a second striker but I'm nervous of disrupting a successful shape. Some food for thought then and perhaps room for some trial and error in pre-season. Next year, retaining the league is a given but I am determined to win a domestic cup.
  3. Season 3 review Ah man, we almost did it! With 31 games played, we had notched up 31 straight wins. Despite the cup wobbles, our league form was simply imperious and it really looked like I might achieve a 100% winning league record, my first since destroying the third division with Gillingham on CM 93/94. Aided by our exit from the domestic cups, we only had the league and UCL to prepare for. Still, after a disappointing 0-1 defeat in the QF 1st leg at Dortmund, I had little choice other then rest Haaland for the next league game, rather than risk him picking up an injury. We took the lead in just the 7th minute through Salah but in the 33rd minute, Son hit an equalizer and despite pushing forward as far as we dared, there was no way through. 32 played, 31 wins and 1 draw. To some extent, vindication came with the 2nd leg against Dortmund, thrashing them 7-0 but a further frustration awaited as Leicester held us 2-2 at home, the point only rescued by a late Sadio Mane equaliser. With 3 away games to end the season, including going to City and Chelsea, I knew that our chances of seeing out the season undefeated were slim. First up was Wolves, who were efficiently dispatched. Our trip to the Etihad then turned out to be something of a walkover as we smashed them 3-0. Unbeaten records aside, this win also took us to 107 points, the record I set myself on FM20 in a season where we drew twice and lost just once. On the final day. To Chelsea. Next up, Stamford Bridge. In the 8th minute, TAA swung in a corner and that man Haaland was there to sweep it in. A few minutes later he tried to repeat the trick from a Salah cross, only to see his effort blocked but we were firmly in control. An injury to Mane saw the Ox come on at right wing and then early in the second half, Van Dijk rose highest to steer a header home. A mistake by Alisson let Chelsea in to make it 2-1 but TAA wasn't finished, swinging in another dead ball, Gomez this time meeting it at the far post. And that's how it finished, a 3-1 victory seeing us to our first unbeaten league season of the save and a new record points total of 110. In a way, I'm happy that we only drew that Leicester game. 2 draws feels like perfection was a bridge too far whereas with just a single draw, I would no doubt be cursing myself with the what ifs. This would in fact be our best league season all around so far, the 118 scored and 15 conceded our best totals, despite Haaland's heroics in season 2. He would end the season with 33 league goals, Salah and Mane chipping in with 19 and 15 each respectively. Haaland also secured the competition's highest rating, his 7.65 just edging out TAA on 7.63, our wonder wing back topping the assist chart with 16. Perhaps most pleasing has been the development of Curtis Jones. As the season went on he began to edge Firmino out of the starting line up, becoming my first choice at AMC and at 22, has already racked up 19 England caps. Harvey Elliott is a little way behind him, partly as I kept changing our wide roles. This season has convinced me though to stick with attacking wingers and so Elliott will be understudy to Salah and I fully expect him to take over that role in the next season or two. A great save so far then and still a Champions League final to come this season. I'll update that in the next post, and perhaps take a look at some of the prospects stacking up in our youth teams.
  4. Tactical Anxiety An interesting observation I noticed with tactics is that still, after all this time, I convince myself that I don't have the answers. Despite winning 40+ leagues, changing shape and building teams on multiple occasions, the Tactics thread on this forum is still my go-to whenever I hit a funk of form or hit on a potential tactical idea. My first assumption is that others will no better. Case in point, this 4231. I had in mind how I wanted to play; an attacking striker, support roles around him and overlapping wing backs. Then I go to the forums and see most of the Mods recommending a split of roles and duties, perhaps playing a winger one side and inside forward the other, not playing your striker on attack if his is the only attacking role in the front 4, giving one of the full backs an attack duty. Basically, recommending everything I wasn't doing. And so I go back to my own tactics screen and wonder, have I got it wrong? Then I look at the league table and think; apparently not. Somewhat linked to this, my other anxiety is around team fluidity. Appreciating that it doesn't really mean or control anything, my preference when using inside forwards is to have the whole midfield on support duties, together with the wing backs and keeper, leaving the centre backs on defend and the striker on attack. But this makes the team fluidity 'very fluid' and I don't like it. From my FM18 days, I prefer Fluid or Flexible and despite the fact that the terms are not interchangeable between the two versions of the game, I become unable to sit with it and force myself to drop my DLP into a defend role so that I achieve a Fluid shape. It is something I am yet to overcome, giving in to the discomfort of something unfamiliar.
  5. Half way through season 3 and once again, it is something of a mixed bag. Let's get the disappointments out of the way first. Although Champions League group progress was ensured, defeats at home to RB Salzburg and away at Barcelona marked an inconsistent run. Sandwiched in between was a 0-1 reverse at Leeds, a result that was actually to our credit given that most of the team was on international duty, meaning that I had to field reserves and youth players whilst Leeds were able to call on a number of senior players. Then defeat on penalties at Brentford meant that we were out of the FA Cup in our first game, leading the press to ask if I could meet the expectations of the board and players coming to me to complain about a lack of domestic cup success. Finally, with Southgate leaving his post, I thought I would apply for the England job, only to be turned down by the FA bigwigs, with Carlo Ancelotti favoured. Tactically we were also inconsistent. We stuck with a 4231 shape but I just couldn't decide on roles and duties. I had come to favour an advanced forward up top, with two supporting inside forwards and a supporting AMC. This seemed to suit Haaland fine, whilst Salah is also putting in a decent goal return but both Mane and Firmino are really struggling. For one game I switched to attacking wingers, flipping Mane to the right and Salah to the left, and was rewarded with an 8-1 demolition of Southampton, Salah helping himself to a 10/10 rating and 5 assists. Still, with one eye on the future, I kept coming back to the inside forwards, this tweaking at least partially to blame for that FA Cup defeat. Against this backdrop then, this has happened; Yes, that's 20 league games played and 20 wins (and make that 22 out of 22 since that screenshot was taken). Whilst down on last year, Haaland has hit 20 league goals with Salah on 13. At one point we had a stretch of games where we won 3-0 4 games on the trot. It is an incredible level of consistency, despite the fact that I have some very real reservations about certain elements of the tactic. I also made some further transfer moves, grabbing Eduardo Camavinga for £72m. He was a star performer on FM20 but I was never able to sign him and so I snapped him up this time around. His early form was a little patchy but he seems to have found his feet. With Moukoko completing his move at the turn of the year and Elliott and Jones developing nicely, I look to have the core of a side in place for many years to come. Looking the other way, I let Keita go to Villa for £56m. He wasn't a regular starter and I couldn't justify his wage. Tsimikas faced a similar fate, somehow securing a move to PSG and I am now looking at trying to ship Thiago, Ox, Jota and Orgi over the next couple of seasons. We're doing okay financially but the wage bill of £4.9m is almost double what we started with.
  6. Season 2 Review Despite some record breaking antics, season 2 will ultimately go down as a bit of a disappointment. First, the positives. A Charity Shield win was followed up with a comfortable 3-1 Super Cup victory over RB Leipzig. Most importantly, we retained the PL, racking up 102 points and scoring 115 goals along the way; The star performer was undoubtedly Erling Haaland. He topped the scoring charts with 46 league goals and an average rating of 7.78. His total record was 63 goals in 45 games, by some distance the best single season goalscoring performance I have managed in modern FM. Not far behind his was TAA. Naturally he couldn't match Haaland's goal output but his league average rating of 7.75 put him second as he notched up 12 assists. Elswhere, Salah had a decent season, scoring 20 goals in all comps, however Mane and Firmino were somewhat disappointing. Mane in particular frustrates. I played him mainly as a supportive inside forward and he would often drop to a 6.4ish rating, Origi as sub often providing more of a goal threat. I struggled to pin down a consistent role for Firmino but either way, just 6 goals and 4 assists represented a pretty average return. Disappointments? Early exits from both the League Cup and UCL stung, as did a final defeat to Leeds in the FA Cup. Our only primary trophy then was the league, and that won with 2 frustrating defeats. Am I right to be disappointed? One could argue I am seeking perfection but bear in mind that with 40+ years and 5 unbeaten season under my belt, I have been to the top of the mountain and the view was good. Still, this time I am attempting to do things my own way with my own style and some slips are perhaps inevitable. Tactically, I stuck with 4231 for the most part, our main changes based around tactical style more than shape. At points I wasn't convinced that my custom style was creating enough and switched out to gegenpress but ultimately kept coming back to a shorter passing, slightly calmer approach. I intend to stick with it, tweaking rather than revolutionising. Looking Ahead With eyes on development projects, I have lined up a number of signings for the end of the season. The headline grabbers are undoubtedly Youssoufa Moukoko from Dortmund and Pietro Pellegri from Monaco. both have signed on frees and will offer real competition at the top end whilst also allowing me to tinker with the shape, should I choose. Based on some promising scout reports, I also signed up a handful of Czech, Solvak, German and other prospects, either free or with minimal compensation. They may be duffers but at 16/17 years old, I figured they were decent investments that may either become squad players or rake in future fees. From my existing youth team, a number of exciting prospects will hopefully break out in the next couple of years. Real world talents such as Balagizi, Frauendorf, Pitaluga, Cain and Morton all look to be solid prospects whilst my first season youth prospects are also developing nicely. If I can manage these players correctly - and I take confidence from FM20 that I can - then I have the chance to develop some really special talents. One small gripe - the board insist on adding to their vision that I sign high-reputation players and keep moaning when I don't. Dudes, I go this, yeah. I don't sign high-profile players, I make 'em!
  7. Bobby is still on the scene! This is my usual starting 11; I'm still trying to finalise the roles of Haaland and Jones but it is working well so far. Looking ahead, I may ease Firmino out and put Jones there, although he is also an option at AML. Haaland is currently on 40 league goals in 26 games, with 53 in 34 starts in all comps. The most interesting thing for me has been my evolution of the wide roles. I usually stick rigidly to playing them on attacking duties, you know, because they are Salah and Mane. Actually though they have performed much better in support roles, combining nicely with the striker and AMC whilst still chipping in a decent goals return.
  8. Well after my aborted start to life on FM21, we are quickly making up ground. Going in to season 2 I knew I wanted to make some changes but I wasn't sure exactly what. I toyed with the idea of a 442 again but ultimately settled on trying to get a 4231 to work. It was my go-to system on earlier versions but one I have avoided in recent years. It fit my team though and with plenty of AMCs on the game, it was something I was keen to make work. Despite settling on a formation, it took longer to settle on roles and duties. My wide forwards often seemed to play better as wingers but with only one up top, I wanted them to cut in and make space for the full backs. I tinkered with a number of roles across the first couple of months, only really settling on something by the turn of the year. But more on that in a moment. The Charity Shield was won at a canter, sticking 3 past Man City. We then had to visit Maine Road for our first league game where we were disappointingly held to a draw. 6 straight wins banished that memory before another frustrating draw, this time 2-2 at home to Wolves. A penalty shootout defeat at Everton in the Milk Cup followed but that result, on 22nd September, would be the only game we didn't win up to and including 8th January. We're currently on a 23 game winning streak in all comps, including a trip to Japan to win the World Club Championship. We top the league by 15 points, with 72 goals scored and 7 conceded in 21 games. All of this was powered by the signing of Erling Haaland for an initial £86m. Honestly, it's like a cheat code. Look at this and remind yourselves, we are only halfway through the season; And here are the remnants of the league that we seem to have accidentally destroyed (screenshot taken just before the City game); Haaland aside, Curtis Jones is showing really pleasing progress, picking up the Golden Boy award; Our other star man is TAA. I have played him in midfield a few times, and might yet come back to that but for now, he is content to be the world's best wing back; Now, about those tactics. Carrying on from last season, I stuck with my 'Be Elite' style, which sought to shorten passing, overlap down the flanks and generally taper the more extreme edges of Gegenpress. Results were clearly excellent but I had a couple of niggles. The inside forwards were the main problem. Playing Salah and Mane as left and right wingers respectively was ok but their goal output suffered. I wanted to get them into the game as inside forwards but whatever I tried within the bounds of my Elite style, nothing seemed to work. Bizarrely though, a switch back to gegenpress seemed to make the difference, as a 7-0 drubbing of Man City in our last match can attest. More tweaking is likely but I feel that I am doing so from a position of strength, fine tuning rather than formulating. Finally for now, the irony is not lost on me that my delayed start to FM21 was caused by an anxiety of indecision, this sense that my day one tactic had to be my forever tactic that could never be changed. Utter nonsense of course, I have become the very definition of a tinker man.
  9. Henderson was a regular starter but Jones made a real impression through a combination of sub and deputising appearances. Robertson went down with a broken leg after just ten league games and so Tsimikas ended up playing most of the season. Despite showing no interest at the start of the season, I managed to renew Gini's contract. I did think about letting him go but thought it sensible to keep an experienced head around the place. Similarly Origi was retained on a new contract having impressed in numerous sub appearances. Both Man City and Chelsea were really poor, Arsenal emerging as surprise contenders. In terms of promotion, Preston, Bournemouth and Watford came up and can look forward to a solid drubbing at the earliest opportunity.
  10. Back On Our Perch Our first season finally played to completion and once again, we run out as Champions. Technically it went down to the last couple of games but in reality, we were always in control as our winning margin of 9 points would attest. We lost just 2 games all season - a strange defeat at Sheffield United and a drubbing at second place Arsenal, coming in the midst of a particularly busy patch of games. Strangely, despite our dominance there were no individual standout performers. Sadio Mane finished as our top scorer on 19 goals, 5 shy of golden boot winner Callum Wilson, whilst TAA's 7.56 rating was only enough for second, although did see him crowned young player of the year. Instead, our 94 league goals were shared across the team, Salah chipping in with 15 (having only played 20 games due to injury), Firmino 14 and the rest coming from various players including Origi (8), Jota (10) and sundry others. Elsewhere, further glory would be found in the Community Shield and League Cup, only a final defeat to Man City in the FA Cup ruining what would otherwise have been a domestic clean sweep. Not content with dominating at home, we also set out to put Europe in its place. We set our stall out early with a 10-0 drubbing of Atalanta and proceeded to go on a mighty run, going 10 UCL games without conceding a goal. That run ended with a surprise 0-2 defeat at Real Madrid, a result quickly avenged by a 4-0 win at Anfield to take us through to the final. Bayern Munich would await and we got off to a flying start courtesy of Mane before being pegged back. Not to be denied, a triple substitution turned the game as they combined to give us a 3-1 win, adding another Champions League to the trophy cabinet. All in all, not a bad season's work. Tactically it was an interesting season. After my 442 woes, we stuck with some variation of 433 through the season, tweaking roles, duties and instructions to try and squeeze out every drip of performance. Clearly it was a success and yet I still feel like we haven't fully realised our potential and I remain convinced that a 2 man strike force will eventually deliver the kind of performance I am looking for. Looking Ahead With plans for next season still to be finalised, the future at least looks bright with a couple of really promising recruits coming through the system. Neither of these lads look like much at the moment but Charlie Pirrie, who at just 16 already has 1.5 star ability, was touted by our head of Youth Development as potentially 'one of the finest players of his generation.' High praise indeed. Clearly ones to watch, my biggest challenge might be in finding the right roles for them, both players being natural at AMC, a position I don't currently use. Away from the youngsters, David Alaba joins on a free next season. I don't normally like to sign players of his age but as free transfer, I couldn't say no. West Ham were relegated and so I am also taking a keen interest in Declan Rice, although any move for him will be dictated in part by what tactical set up we choose next season. As ever, I am also looking at the feasibility of signing Haaland to add a proven goalscorer up front but in the main, I intend to try and bring through as many youngsters as possible. Curtis Jones has already made an impact this year whilst Harvey Elliott will return from loan. Midfielders Jake Cain and Tyler Morton are showing promise, with a raft of 3ish star potential players behind them who should provide adequate back up. Speaking of which, it was noticeable playing with our real life team how much of a challenge it can be to meet home grown criteria. It hadn't really dawned on me but in hindsight, it was a sign of how many of my own players I developed in FM20 that we routinely exceeded home grown quotas by some distance, never having to worry about who might need to be excluded. As much as anything, it is this element of squad building that I am looking forward to repeating on FM21.
  11. Qapla! Well it took about 50 restarts but finally, we've made it to the New Year! And all it took was a detour to the south coast... After reaching a peak level of frustration with my continually aborted Liverpool saves, I decided to switch things up and start a journeyman save with Eastbourne. This would allow me the freedom to explore the formation and roles of my choosing without the overhang of real life. Disrupted by Covid, the non-league season doesn't start until September and so with the save starting in July, I had a good couple of months of friendlies to ease myself in. As above, I started out with a 442, switching out the advanced forward to a poacher to better suit the limited players at my disposal. Results were good, the only defeats coming at the hands of higher league opposition. Once the first game of the season rolled around, we showed a ruthless edge against our peers too, our early form promising a good season to come. And so I switched it off! You see the strange this is, the more I played this 442, the less I enjoyed it. Results were fine but watching the highlights, I didn't like the spacing and positioning of players. I yearned for a DM and overlapping runs down the wide areas. Bizarrely, I craved a 433. I could've simply changed of course but having reached this conclusion I was now resolved to having another crack at getting a Liverpool save off the ground. Starting out with my base 433, we won our first pre-season game 2-0, a less than auspicious start. A 6-0 win followed against pretty shabby opposition and the doubts started to flood back, however this time I resolved to change course, rather than return to shore. My base instructions use a pressing forward on attack with two attacking inside forwards and all with Gegenpress instructions. Too often though I found my inside forwards getting into good positions only to blast the ball high or wide. I wanted them to consider their options, perhaps pass or cross instead of always opting to open fire. I also found the pace of the game too quick, possession lost too easily. And so I adjusted. The pressing forward was switched out for a false 9. Passing was shortened, pressing brought down a notch and tempo reduced. I also added work into box and overlaps down both sides. The impact was immediate, involving the wingbacks in play and reducing the number of wayward efforts. Further tweaking would ensue, pushing passing back to standard to ensure variability of play and results started to back up our approach. We won our first 9 league games, conceding just once, as part of a 15 game winning streak in all comps. The crowning result was undoubtedly a 10-0 demolition of Atalanta in the Champions League. Our run came to a crashing halt with a 1-3 reversal at Sheffield United whilst a home 0-0 draw with Brighton was equally disappointing. Still, we were on the right track. Ironically, I had actually brought my tactics closer to Klopp's real world setup by giving in to certain changes I had been resisting. Still, I wasn't 100% satisfied, particularly in midfield. I had defaulted to my usual DLP, Mez, BBM combo but soon shifted to a double Mez in the centre. Still, I wondered if Henderson would be better as a DLP, which would mean changing Fab's role to something like a standard DM. To be honest, I haven't quite figured it out, But guess what? I love it! This was the thrill of my FM20 save, trying new things, not settling back into mind ruts or assumptions. Plus, formations are far more flexible than just playing them one way. As @engamohdquite rightly notes above, a 442 can easily morph into a 4231, whilst 433 can quickly become 235 or 541. Somewhere between FM20 and FM21, I had allowed rigid thinking to creep back into my tactics and it was that as much as anything else that had held me back. Moving into January 2021, this is my current set up; I don't have a lot of natural DMs and actually by bringing the DM up into CM, it better links my DLP with the 2x Mez and the Mez better link with my false 9. This won't be the final product (if there ever becomes such a thing) but I'm having fun. In 15 league games, we have scored 38 and conceded just 6. We don't have any single standout for goals (Salah my top scorer with 8) but the team is functioning well. The only disappointment so far is Sadio Mane, who seems to have entered a rut of form. I'm not sure at this stage whether I need a tactical or positional tweak. But then the fun was always in finding out.
  12. You might be wondering why there haven't been any updates on this thread since we completed pre-season. Had I given up? Moved on? Got so busy winning the league that I forgot to write up the experience? No, no and no. The truth is that I haven't gone anywhere. Well, that's not strictly true. technically I have actually gone backwards. Circling back to the above post, I started my season with a win and was all set to embark on my 442 journey. Only then I turned it off. Despite this thread intending to be some form of self imposed regulator on restarts, I switched off. It was the same old story. Once again I felt that the 442 was wrong but having made such a song and dance of starting with it, what was I to do now? Could I delete this thread to hide my shame? Could I start again and play catch up, pretending nothing had happened? I thought about starting as another team and renaming this thread. Then I started with a 433. Then a 442 again. Then 433, 442, 433, 442. Then, for some reason, 4231. Literally, about 20-25 restarts. Playing 442, I started to feel that I wasn't truly playing as Liverpool. The whole point of buying FM21 after 40+ seasons of FM20 was to get back to using real players but if I played a 442, I wasn't using the Liverpool team in their real life roles (conveniently ignoring the fact that I had magically become Liverpool manager and that my very presence in the game world is an immediate departure from reality). I started to feel that my FM20 self was imposing on my FM21 self, taking the flexibility of playing in a totally (re)generated environment and trying to stamp it on the real world. "Play 433 then!" I told myself. Only, I didn't like it. The results were okay, including a mighty whooping of Wolves on the opening day. Still, I couldn't get into it. Partly it's because I still keep thinking down the line to the day when I have Harvey Elliott, maybe Mbappe, maybe Haaland and convince myself that they wouldn't fit this set up, so therefore I can't use it in the here and now. Today, I have restarted twice, each time going through the full rigmarole of scouting, staff changes etc. The second time (my current save), I started out intending to go back on the 442 journey. Then, just before the opening intra-squad friendly, I changed my mind again. Now, its back to 433. Here's another thing though. Despite only being on day 2 in-game, some part of my brain says, "Dude, you didn't start this save with a 442. You just changed it. You can't do that, you have to delete the save and start again from scratch." Nonsense of course, perfectionism, obsession and no doubt a bunch of other mental demons that like to resurface when I least expect it. But that was it. No more changes. Let's power through with this 433 and...what was that? Restarted? Ah, nuts. I had this whole piece written too, about some tweaks I had made to the 433. I held off on posting it whilst I played the intra squad game. You know, just in case. As usual we won but created just 13 chances. Against our own youth team. I couldn't help it, the thought was in my brain before I could resist; "It wouldn't have been like this with a 442." So where the hell do we go from here? I've paid real world money for this game, I have to play it. Dammit, I want to play it. But starting and restarting isn't playing. I thought I had beaten away all this nonsense. Did I learn nothing from FM20? Is my mind really that fragile? To be honest, at this stage this thread feels like a pretentious, self indulgent load of old waffle. Who on earth wants to read about an FM career that never starts? With that in mind, I'll go radio silent until I have made some meaningful progress.
  13. Pre Season Things don't get off to the most auspicious of starts as we fall behind after just 6 minutes to the under 23 side in an intra-squad friendly. After manfully resisting the urge to rage quit (it has been known...), we rebound with a 7-1 victory before going on to hammer all and sundry for the best part of a month. Leading the line, Mo Salah ends with 17 goals across 7 matches whilst chief grumpypants himself, Sadio Mane, racks up 7 goals and 5 assists. These games are meaningless of course and soon the big one comes around - the Charity Shield! Ok, maybe not. Again though, it is a match that has often been a rage quit prompt, defeat here signalling to the black and white, all or nothing part of my brain that it spells disaster, that my tactics are a failure, that I'm a failure, that my kids hate me and my wife is leaving. Luckily then, we steamroller them 6-1 with Mo Salah recording a perfect hattrick. A promising start ahead of the season opener at home to Wolves. Which reminds me... Rules, We Got Rules Around Here Whilst I would like to claim that I embarked on this save without looking back the moment I committed to this thread, that is not exactly true. You see, the first thing I do is look at the fixture list and if I have a tricky opening match, I restart. I cannot face the prospect of defeat in my first game and so I engineer a position where we are either at home or away to a side against whom I expect to win comfortably. Pre season is also a time for transfers and staff recruitment of course, and those rules come back into play. No players are allowed to leave, unless it is on loan however I don't mind signing people (Francisco Trincao joining on loan from Barcelona). Staff should be English (or British) wherever possible and under absolutely no circumstances must they be procured from another team and thus incur a compensation fee; all staff must be free agents. Finally, every single player across the first team, under 23s and under 18s must be assigned individual training for the position in the first team tactic they are either playing, are back up to or might-one-day-play-but-probably-won't-because-they-aren't-good-enough. Then of course there is scouting. Now whilst I won't necessarily buy anyone, I like to get my scouts out to generate reviews of anyone I might be interested in. And I mean anyone. Every new save starts with a trawl through the entire Premier League, a handful of Championship clubs, all the top clubs around Europe, all the top nations and all of their youth teams. Anyone that looks promising, that I encountered on my last save, that I have heard of from the Euro's or have just heard of ever, gets scouted. It takes about an hour. Yeah. Imagine doing that 20-30 times each time you restart. Still, we have somehow made it to the start of the season. Strap yourselves in, folks.
  14. I wasn't planning on starting a new thread for FM21. Having played a bonkers 40+ seasons on FM20, racking up 39 league titles and numerous other trophies, I felt I didn't have much left to learn. Picking up FM21 in the half price sale, I knew from experience what I would do and looked forward to once again conquering all before me and bringing through the next crop of talent. But something went wrong. Oh, not in the results. They've been fine. No, something in my mind. Long story short, I'm about to start my game for, at a rough count, the 20th time in 3 weeks. So what is going on? What is so different from FM20? Let's get to the bottom of things. A Walk Down Memory Lane First, let's remind ourselves of what happened. After unexpectedly being gifted a copy of FM20, I dove straight in with a replica of Klopp's 433 system. Our first season delivered a close league victory but we very quickly wracked up two unbeaten campaigns before the cracks started to appear. A switch to an aggressive 424 brought the best out of Haaland and Mbappe, culminating in a record 107 points haul, although at the quite literal expense of sending the club into the red. Still, save for a handful of seasons there on, we dominated the Premier League, switching up between 433, 424 and 442, with the occasional 4231 or even 352 thrown in for good measure. I had cemented my legacy, brushed aside the mental shackles that had haunted so many of my earlier FM games. I was tactically flexible, tied only to results and style, not bound by formations or philosophies. Starting Over With this in mind, I thought FM21 would be easy. I had intended to start with 424. It can be opened up quite easily but when on song, it absolutely batters teams and would allow me to play two up front and also utilise Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones in inverted winger roles in later seasons, roles I think they are well suited to. First save started then, we smashed Arsenal 4-0 in the Charity Shield. Here we go! Then we lost to Chelsea in the league and I switched it off. A moment of weakness, I thought. I was trying to change too much too early. So I set out again, this time going 433 with the mindset that, as in FM20, I would use this for now and then change up in later seasons. We did ok, scraping a victory in the Charity Shield this time and grabbing a couple of early league wins. It was boring though, certainly compared to the 424. And there was another bugbear, one I thought I had laid to rest; wide players cutting in. I'll be honest, I just don't like it. In a 424, it was ok as the wide players were on support and feeding the strikers. In a 433, the wide players essentially are the strikers but too often they would either shoot from ridiculous distances or get into a position to cross, which they would then do with their weaker foot. Well what's the point in that? May as well play them as wingers on their stronger side. But surely that reduces their goal output and infringes on the wing-back and... So I ditched that too. Next up then, a 442. Whilst in real life it is often seen as a more simplistic tactical option, I have found it to be effective in FM. Two forwards works well and whilst it lacks the bombast of the 424, it offers greater stability. For the first time, we made serious headway, racking up 6 wins on the bounce in an unbeaten 7 game streak, Mo Salah up front helping himself to about 14 goals. This was it. I had found the way forward! I went to bed that night happy that I had nailed it. I woke up the next morning and deleted the save. What on earth was wrong now? Well, Klopp's side isn't ideally suited to a 442. With no DM, there is no natural place for Fabinho and so he needs to slot in at either centre back or full back. In doing so though, he nudges out Gomez or Trent. Well Trent ain't going anywhere and so Gomez has to make way and as petty as it sounds, I didn't want to. There are other challenges too of course. Mane is not a natural right winger and so needs to be retrained, causing him to grumble every game despite racking up goals and assists for fun. Trent retains his position but in a more restricted full back role. Am I getting the best out of one of world footballs most exciting players? And what about the rest of the midfield? With just 2 roles, there isn't space for everybody. Players need to either lose out or retrain. And Salah scores a bunch up front, but he's really a wide player. Are then any decent ML and MR players around? Who plays this way anymore? Am I a dinosaur? Breaking The Chains Around Me This then is where I find myself, stuck in a loop of starting, quitting, changing plans, restarting, quitting etc. With perhaps only one exception, none of the restarts have been rage quits. Results have either been good (very good in the case of that 442 example above) or not even cleared pre-season. Instead, these restarts are simply down to mental blockages, convincing me to change direction. Keen to break this unhealthy and unfulfilling cycle, I figured there was only one thing left to do; return to the forums and commit myself to a path in writing. That way, should I quit out of a perfectly successful save because of a mental demon, I'll feel like I'm letting down anyone who has taken the time to read along, which will hopefully force me to carry on and work through and slay the beast, rather than running away from it. No pressure, people! Rules Help Control The Fun As both @engamohdand I touched on in our respective threads last year, however much I try to demonstrate flexibility of thinking, there are certain constraints that I force myself to work within. These aren't anything logical, like stringent LLM rules or positional or formation challenges and the like. These are far, far pettier. First, let's set the base parameters. We'll be setting out with a 442. Given my success on FM20, we will use the Gegenpress tactical style. There it is in all it's glory. Now, those rules; There must be 3 attacking duties Harking back to the days of WWFan, I still consider there to be standard roles and specialist roles Standard roles are GK, FB, CB, CM, W, AF and DLF None of the lines of the formation may be comprised of all standard or all specialist roles The defensive unit, including the keeper, can have a combination of 2 standard and 1 specialist or 1 standard and 2 specialist The midfield must have a DLP support If we have an Advanced Forward, the second striker role cannot be a Deep Lying Forward The attacking forward must be on the right All roles and the tactical style are left at their default settings See, I told you they were petty. What drives them though? Partly it is from a sense of ownership and control. A part of my brain says that if I use all 'standard' roles, then I haven't created anything. I'm not really affecting the tactic in any way. On the other hand, switching to all' specialist' roles is overkill and might make my PC blow up, or something. There is also a certain level of overhang from previous games. I tend to play the BBM on the right of midfield, purely because that's where I used to play Steven Gerrard. Similarly, I have always put the attacking striker on the right from the days of Michael Owen and again, this habit has stuck to the point of becoming engrained, no matter that left-footed Salah may perform better on the left, for instance. The rational, therapy healed part of my brain says to dismiss all of these notions, that I should challenge these illogical thoughts and overcome them. In time, perhaps I will. I certainly don't envisage using this exact 442 for my entire save. For now though, giving in to some of these internal, self imposed restrictions is the only way I can find to move forwards.
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