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  1. Possession football seems a desired play-style amongst the Football Manager faithful, yet it seems to cause a lot of confusion especially on a higher mentality structure like control or attacking. While possession tactics on Football Manager are simple to create, they’re not if you use a higher mentality due to higher the mentality, higher the risk and faster play will be. When thinking about possession on Football Manager you immediately think lower mentalities are better suited because they are more cautious. While this is true to some extent but it’s not the only way of having lots of possession. So for this article I will be using a control or attacking mentality to highlight how to have success this way. All the current tactics and articles we see always focus on the lower mentalities because it’s easier to achieve but that’s not what the user is always looking for. One thing I would like to clear up before we start the article though is how possession works. People always throw real life percentages around when talking about Football Manager but don’t realise that how Football Manager and most analysis sites workout possession is very different. So if we start by looking at someone like Opta then we can see how they measure possession. That is how Opta work their possession out which seems reasonable enough. However Football Manager handles it different to how Opta now works. Football Manager still uses the old method of the ‘chess clock’ to record possession. But what does that mean? Well it means that the difference in methodologies between them and Opta cannot be accounted for. One of the main differences between the two methods but be an example like this; Team A is under real pressure and the ball is put out of play by Team B. Team A could take a minute or longer to put the ball back into play and all of this would account for possession in Team A’s favor. Because it’s the amount of time that is calculated. Were as for Opta all of this would amount to nothing and is meaningless. But in Football Manager it’s counted as possession. It’s worth remembering that when trying to figure out possession on Football Manager based on real life percentage figures. If you realise this then it’ll save you lots of time that would normally be spent banging your head against the wall. Before we jump into the analysis and seeing how I go about creating a possession style I would like to point out that the idea of this thread, is not for you to copy what I do. But rather for you to take elements of what I do and implement them into your saves. if you just copy what I did and expect the same results then you didn’t understand the purpose of the thread. This will also mean I won’t answer any questions you have when you post something along the lines of ‘You have success with Swansea but I tried and blah blah’. So please, use this article as it’s intended and take what you learn here and implement it into your own saves with your own systems. This article is about the ideas, principles and philosophy of possession football in higher mentality structures. The Beginning In Football Manager there is possession that is meaningful and possession that is meaningless. I see a lot of tactics and posts on a daily basis that fall into the latter. Achieving a high possession percentage is relatively easy but creating something that is still potent and uses that possession in dangerous areas is a lot harder. For any kind of possession strategy then something based on these Team Instructions would be a good starting point for such a system; Highly Structured Team Shape – This would allow space to open in midfield and encourages players to keep it simple. Lower Tempo – This encourages players to look for support and not to rush with their play. Players will be looking up and accessing their options more. Roam From Position – Encourage players to make themselves available, keeping support options available. It’s probably one (if not) the most important aspect of ball retention. Dribble Less – You don’t want many players dribbling with the ball because you want players in support and the idea is to retain possession. Dribbling can see passing options reduced. Pass it Shorter – It’s all about keeping it simple with the ball. The longer the pass the more likely it can be under/over hit, mistimed or even intercepted by the opposition. Retain Possession – Again it reduces passing length making it even shorter and cutting the risk of through balls out. Work Ball Into Box – You don’t want players shooting from distances and wasting chances. Not only that but it would give the opposition the ball, which kinda goes against possession right? Play Out of Defence – Building attacks from the back is basic possession football. Distribute Short – If you don’t then you will often find your keeper booting the ball long and wasting possession. Your keepers distribution will likely have the single biggest impact on your overall possession. So make sure he isn’t wasting it. Now if you used all the above in a system then likelihood is you’d see lots of possession but most of it pointless without the roles to utilise this possession. But these are the most (well, what I think anyway) are the most important team instructions when it comes to creating a possession brand of football. After writing the last article that I did, the counter attacking one, a lot of people have been asking me how to make it more attack minded. So with that in mind, I had the idea of using the same tactic that I discussed throughout that entire article in this one. But the further I got into this new saved game the further it no longer resembled the original 4-1-4-1 so I abandoned it after about eight games. The more I changed the player roles the more it was becoming pointless. I don’t mean the shape was pointless as the 4-1-4-1 is a great shape to use for a possession based game. What I meant was, it was becoming boring for me to write about that shape yet again. So I mixed it up slightly but it’s still basically a 4-1-4-1 due to the roles and duties used. The Club As you will have seen above, I decided to take over Swansea this time to create a possession tactic. The reasons for doing this is because I like Garry Monk and Swansea, I like how they try and build a philosophy and stick to it regardless of the manager is. More clubs should look to this approach because it’s proven to work over time. So what better club on Football Manager to use right? They’re not a top side yet should have enough quality to avoid relegation. The media prediction is 10th in the first season, so it should be a challenge. The Tactic It’s worth noting that I didn’t just arrive at this tactic and it work instantly. In fact, I still think it needs work but it’s successful as you’ll see. All I wanted to concentrate on was possession for the first year and use that as the catalyst to build from. Getting high possession numbers was always the aim but that is always a challenge when you’re classed as weaker opposition to the rest of the league. Mentality – The whole point was to show this on a high end mentality but due to the side I am I thought control would suit us better than attacking. Control is still attacking though so don’t be fooled by the name. It still plays fast, attacking football and uses a high defensive line. It’s really aggressive in it’s approach. It’s actually not that different to attacking. Team Shape – I touched upon this earlier. I think team shape is the one setting on Football Manager that throws people off because it seems complicated. It’s really not complicated at all though, myself when deciding what to set the team shape as I simplify things and make the choice based on these; Do I want players to be more creative than usual? If so I’ll go to the more fluid end. If not I’ll go to the more structured end. The hand of god on the SI forums was spot on when he said; Honestly, it’s not a big deal and if you set team shape in accordance to the above then you’ll always be fine. If you’re not sure you can always leave it on flexible which is a bit of both approaches and is the ‘neutral’ point. Team Instructions – These were the tricky ones because I mentioned earlier all the best TI’s to use. But using them all is overkill and would no doubt create a possession style that was creating possession for the sake of possession without ever being a goal threat. That’s not what I wanted so I narrowed it down to just five in the end. Retain Possession. Play out of Defence. Lower Tempo. Close Down Much More. Roam From Position. Those are the five I ended up using. I mentioned earlier in the article about what these team instructions offer, so I’ll not go into those details again. However I will touch upon why I’m closing down more as I didn’t mention that above. The only reason is because remember how possession is calculated on Football Manager? Time. So the less time I can give the opposition on the ball the better. That’s my only reasons for using it. That covers that side of things. So let’s focus on the roles and duties now. The Defence It’s nothing out of the ordinary here, in fact it’s rather conservative really and what you expect from most defensive players. None of them have any player instructions apart from the goalkeeper. Remember earlier, I mentioned how he was important to possession football. Well I gave him some instructions to ensure he wasn’t wasteful. All those are focused on retaining the ball and passing it the shortest possible distance. The reason he is selected to roll it out is because when he was throwing the ball out, he was distributing it to full backs on the odd occasion when they were a bit too advanced. So I wanted to encourage him to play it to the central defenders instead and so far it’s working better. I didn’t want him to slow the pace down though because I feel he already plays at a slow enough pace. It is something you can consider though if you feel the player might benefit from a couple more seconds before releasing the ball. Midfield and Attack Those are the roles and duties that I use for the entire midfield. The interesting part is that the wide players have support duties. The reasoning behind this is that players on support duties in the wide areas will drop deep when out of possession. What this basically means is that out of possession I have a flat four in midfield so the shape resembles a 4-1-4-1 in defence. If these players had attack duties then that wouldn’t happen as the players would still more than likely be far too advanced. While I am focused on possession I still want to actively set out to win games and in order to achieve this, I need support from the midfield. That’s why I’ve opted for a box to box midfielder because he will be the engine who goes up and down the pitch. Next to him we have the roaming playmaker, who is responsible for playing the ball around from a central position and also providing a thread in the final third. Out on the wings we have an inside forward, who’s job is to support the striker and make himself an handful by making deep, late runs into the box. On the other side we have an advanced playmaker. He is both a creator and a goal threat. Remember I am focused on retaining possession so this role helps with this and between him, the false nine and the roaming playmaker, we see some interesting link up play which we will touch on a little later. Up front we have a false nine, who will drop very deep out of possession and help the midfield. In dropping back with the other attackers, it stops him being isolated up front on his own at times. It means players are closer together when out of possession and this allows for better passing angles and options with ball retention being a priority. That’s just a brief overview of things before we start the match analysis and see why this tactic works for the set of players I have. Speaking of players, it’s not been easy with Swansea on that front. Two of the biggest stars asked to leave when I rejected bids from PSG and Chelsea, so I had to sell. I could have hung on and kept them longer but I didn’t see the point in doing that, when I am trying to build a specific style of play. I need to build this around the players at the club and not base it on ones who would be leaving in the next window. So here are my transfer dealings, just so you can see the players I brought in. I lost quality players in Ki and Gylfi but I reinvested the money well and bought players I expected to stay at the club for a very long time. I’m not sure why I did that though as this was only ever going to be a one season save to highlight how this brand of football works. But I guess it’s hard not to approach the game like I do every other save, so maybe that’s why?!
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