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Welcome to the latest instalment in a series of Football Manager tactical recreations based on some of the most entertaining football teams of all-time. Sitting in Barcelona as I type, it is impossible to ignore the the football culture and history associated with the iconic FC Barcelona. After last week's result in Paris and Pep Guardiola's stop-start season at Manchester City, this is perhaps not the most fashionable subject but - to me - Pep Guardiola's Barcelona team was certainly the best I have witnessed and arguably the best of all-time. Their iconic playing style and the best player of all-time - Thierry Henry [/sarcasm] - combined with the supporting cast of Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Alves, Busquets, Pique, Puyol etc., etc. makes them an interesting prospect for this type of discussion. If you have yet to read previous discussions, I recommend starting starting with the previous threads in order to fully understand the concepts I am talking about: Johan Cruyff's 3-4-3 Diamond Arrigo Sacchi's 4-4-2 Arsene Wenger's Invincibles Brazil's Jogo Bonito style Cult Heroes: Wales at Euro 2016 Whilst Barcelona may not be the biggest challenge - and I am aware many have asked about lower-quality sides - Guardiola's tactics offer us the chance to discuss areas we have not yet covered comprehensively. Mentality - Team Mentality v Team Shape v Player Duty. Specialist Roles - famously the Half-back and the False 9. Multiple Playmakers and how to differentiate between them. Retraining Players, including Player Traits. In addition, Messi - in my opinion the best player of all-time - in the prime of his career. Let's enjoy his ability whilst he's here. I think it may be quite a few iterations of FM before we see another player like him. Resources on Pep Guardiola's Barcelona GPS - Analysis: Pep Guardiola's Barcelona Tom Payne Football: Analysis of Guardiola's Barcelona (2 parts) Zonal Marking Team's of the Decade: Barcelona 2008/09 Spielverlagerung - 2011 CL Final: FC Barcelona v Manchester United Zonal Marking: Barcelona 3 - 1 Manchester United Sky Sports: Pep Documentary Theory Once again - using the excellent analysis from Spielverlagerung - this is the shape we are trying to create. In case you have been living in a cave, this is the starting line-up from the 2011 Champions League Final where Barcelona faced Manchester United. Barcelona winning 3-1 and Sir Alex Ferguson describing Barca's passing as a "carousel" in a game widely regarded as one of the defining games of Guardiola's Barcelona. Lined up in a 4-3-3 or 2-3-2-3 formation - defence, midfield and attack highly integrated with each other. Playing style clearly inspired by Dutch Total Football and Cruyff's influence at the club. Guardiola once said, "Cruyff build the cathedral. It is up to us to maintain it". Highly creative, free-flowing football. Focus on intelligent, technically gifted players. Thierry Henry describes Pep Guardiola's playing style as 3 Ps: Position - Juego de Posición. Team is structured into triangles with players between the lines, giving the player in possession options. Busquets drops deep, central defenders spread wide and the wing backs push forward to create numerical superiority building up from the back in what's known as la Salida Lavolpiana. Messi also drops deep, linking up with Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets creating a diamond in midfield. Wide Forwards stay wide during build up, stretching opposition defence and creating space for creative players in midfield then given licence to cut inside when the ball hits the final 3rd. Possession - don't say tiki-taka. Controlling possession and moving the opposition, to create weaknesses elsewhere. One of the most technically gifted teams in history. Dual playmakers in central midfield - Xavi acting as the heartbeat of the team playing deeper and recycling possession, whilst Iniesta is more advanced, creating chances and linking with the attack. Pressure. Attackers leading the pressing. Pressing as a unit. High block defensive line controlling space. In Football Manager 2017 There are a lot of rather sophisticated - and potentially complicated - tactical concepts here, but we actually don't need to deviate too far from the playing style we have already discussed. Last time out we discussed the concept of Playing Style and Structure. Let's now apply that concept, to the points we outline above. Playing Style Playing style is going to be more evolution than revolution. We have already mentioned that Guardiola's style is heavily influenced by Cruyff and the Dutch school of Total Football. We can use playing style to create: Highly creative, free slowing football. Team working together, attacking and defending as a unit. Possession orientated game-plan, short but positive passing. Higher Defensive Line & Pressing. Team Shape: Very Fluid Surprise, surprise. Hello, old friend. If you've read previous threads, this will not be a surprise. Very fluid gives us the creative, free-flowing football and ensures the entire team attacks and defends as a unit. Mentality: Control The main evolution to playing style. Moving from Standard to a Control mentality offers several benefits: Higher collective mentality. Quicker tempo. More width. Higher defensive line. More aggressive closing down. With a just a handful of Team Instructions we are able to create the playing style we want. Team Instructions: More Closing Down - has the knock on effect of increasing tempo and defensive line. Play Out of Defence - shortens the individual passing instructions for my defensive players. Shorter Passes - shortens passing across the team and lowers tempo. Retain Possession* - further shortens passing. Can further decrease tempo but doesn't when combined with More Closing Down. Getting pretty minimal now, which I am very happy with. As outlined above Team Instructions usually have knock on effects and I think this causes a lot of problems. You can easily add loads and lose track of what you've changed. Keep it simple until you know what your doing, and even then keep it simple. * Retain possession is a controversial subject. Team Structure The most important thing about Playing Style and Team Structure is that they complement each other. In addition, we can use Team Structure to re-create: Team structured into triangles with players between the lines, giving the player in possession options. Busquets dropping deep, central defenders spread wide and the wing backs push forward to create numerical superiority building up from the back in what's known as la Salida Lavolpiana. Messi also dropping deep, linking up with Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets creating a diamond in midfield. Wide Forwards stay wide during build up, stretching opposition defence and creating space for creative players in midfield then given licence to cut inside when the ball hits the final 3rd. Dual playmakers in central midfield - Xavi acting as the heartbeat of the team playing deeper and recycling possession, whilst Iniesta is more advanced, creating chances and linking with the attack. In previous threads we have discussed how Very Fluid team shape means that individual mentalities will deviate minimally from team mentality - if you attack, everyone attacks. If you defend, everyone defends. Control is a reasonably aggressive mentality - more aggressive then Standard, but less aggressive than Attack or Overload - so my Team Structure must balance that. A second consideration is that in order to have Busquets dropping back and my centre backs spread wide, firstly he must be in the Half-Back role but also - due to a glitch in the match engine - my fullbacks must be in the wingback strata, otherwise my central defenders won't spread wide. This means that we have two important challenges which we need to balance out: We have increased mentality across the team. Our hand is forced into an aggressive Formation. Mentality is probably up there with Team Shape as the cause of the most confusion for a lot of people, but - in my opinion - it is actually incredibly simple. ========================================================================================== What is mentality? Mentality is mentality. Mentality describes perfectly what it does. It's probably safe to assume that most people reading this have - at some point - played football or some kind of sport. Now, think about your mentality when playing and how you act differently. If you're an attacking player, you're more likely to be passing the ball forward, more directly towards goal, take up more advanced positioning and make more attacking runs. As a defensive player, you're more likely to take up a conservative position on the field and your passing, movement and general play will effect that. Then of course there is everything in between, and extremes at both ends - all out attack or holding on to a 1-goal lead in the last minute of the Cup Final. In Football Manager a player's mentality is reflected in a hugely-informative[/sarcasm] green bar, tucked away in the player instruction screen. If you're numerically minded - like me - @GreenTriangle put a helpful spreadsheet together of the 'under the hood' values, reminiscent of the old, slider systems. Mentality is determined by: Team Mentality - increases or decreases mentality across the board. Team Shape - determines how far individual mentalities deviate from the team. Player Duty - specifically duty, not player role. Position Player Duty is relative primarily to Team Mentality, but also Team Shape. Team Mentality determines whether your team is attacking, defensive, somewhere in-between or either extreme. A player's Duty, determines whether their responsibility is to attack, defend or support within that team mentality. Then Team Shape determines how far a player's Duty will make their individual Mentality deviate from the Team Mentality. Structured systems have more deviation, whereas more Fluid systems are more of a unit. For example, not all MC(A)s are created equal - in fact, differences can be large. In an Structured, Attacking system the MC(A) mentality is 17 / 20 where as in a Very Fluid / Defensive system that mentality is reduced to 8 / 20. In real football terms that's the difference between, "we're going to play an attacking system, everyone's got their own roles but you're the spearhead" and "we need to defend as a unit, attack when you can but be very careful". The challenge of going from a Standard mentality to a Control mentality is that - across the entire team - mentalities increase by 20-30%. This is a horrendous interface for analysing this, but given the centre of the bar is Neutral mentality at a basic level we can see that in a Control mentality with Very Fluid shape, Duties take the following effect: Defend duty: Slightly below neutral - if neutral is 50-50, they're 55-45 in favour of being conservative. In real football terms, players with a Defend duty will be slightly more conservative than neutral, but only just and higher than a typical defender. They'll be involved with build up, playing pro-active football but remain reasonably conservative. Support duty: Slightly above neutral - if neutral is 50-50, they're 60-40 in favour of being positive. In real football terms, players with a Support duty will be slightly more positive than neutral. They'll be playing positive football, more inclined to more the ball forwards as opposed to side-ways and support attacks yet remain reasonably sensible. Attack duty: Pretty comprehensively attacking. Looks like 75-25 in favour of attacking. In real football terms, players with an Attack duty mean business. They'll be strongly inclined to attack - not quite at all costs, but pretty heavily - the ball will be going forwards at goal and they'll be looking to score. ========================================================================================== Formation, Player Roles and Duties: If I was to be 100% accurate, I would perhaps skew my wing backs roles to create the Abidal / Alves roles to something along these lines, however I just do not have a player for the Abidal role at the moment. Not sure this represents anything overly groundbreaking here. Only one falling off his chair at this point is probably @Guimy at the sight of my first Strikerless system - of which I'll explain more detail shortly - otherwise, I'd be fairly surprise if anyone had not seen or thought of similar systems before. In comparison to previous systems we are using a lot more Support roles and fewer - but more potent - Attack roles. The wide players are the main difference between this and my last 4-3-3, moving from Attack to Support. For both Wing Backs and Inside Forwards - outside of mentality - the changes are negligible. IF(A) is hard coded to Get Forward More. IF(S) doesn't automatically Get Forward More, but has the option to. IF(S) will also automatically play More Risky Passes. WB(A) automatically Gets Forward More, Run Wide With Ball, Dribble More, Cross More & from Byline. WB(S) automatically Gets Forward More & everything else is optional. Complete Wing Back (Support) has the mentality of the WB(S) but the instructions of the WB(A) plus Roam From Position (which apparently = Complete, to SI). Player Instructions: GK: Sweeper Keeper (Support): Distribute to Centre BacksDCR: Ball-Playing Defender (Defend): N/ADCL: Ball-Playing Defender (Defend): N/AWBR: Complete Wing Back Right (Attack / Support): N/ADMC: Half-Back Defend (Defend): N/A WBL: Wing Back Left (Defend / Support): N/AMCR: Deep-Lying Playmaker (Support): N/AMCL: Advanced Playmaker (Attack): Roam from PositionAMR: Inside Forward Right (Support): Get Further Forward & Stay WiderAMC: Shadow Striker (Attack): Roam From PositionAML: Inside Forward Left (Support): Get Further Forward & Stay Wider Lionel Messi & the False 9 role The first of my joker cards In the Football Manager Tactics Creator we are spoilt with a number of remarkably similar Roles for Strikers / Attacking Midfielders. Let me begin by saying that - to me - the Role is entirely plastic. The most important things are: Position - DMC, MC, MCR, AMC etc. Duty - Defend, Support, Attack. Are they a playmaker? Movement - hold position, get forward, roaming, wide, cutting in etc. Other PIs - crossing, shooting, hold up the ball etc. Lionel Messi is probably the best player I have seen since Ray Parlour and he is famous for the False 9 role. In Football Manager, the False 9 role is represented as: Key points: Striker position. Support role. Move into Channels, Risky Passes and Dribbling all hard coded. Option to Roam from Position. However I opted to go for the Shadow Striker role, which is represented as: The roles are similar. Lots of movement, dribbling, creative, but we can see there is a key difference: The False 9 starts in the striker position and moves away from the goal, creating space for others. The Shadow Striker starts deeper in the AMC position, but aggressively attacks the space ahead of him. The role you chose will depend on the way you see Messi and we probably all see things slightly differently. To me, Messi is way more the latter - he's deep, he links with midfield, draws defenders towards him and attacks the space. Looking at his goal record and watching some of his goals I would be advocating an Attacking mentality all day long. Squad Development & Player Profiles There is a reason I left the tactics screen above without a team selected. Whilst our Team Structure and Playing Style may have been reasonably vanilla in comparison after previous threads. Squad development is an area we can throw in a couple more joker cards and hopefully make it worthwhile reading. A common misconception is that particular tactics will instantly turn no-hopers into world beaters. Unfortunately - whilst there are always tactics which will optimise what you have - until SI implement a "Play Like Messi" instruction, sticking Per Mertesacker up front and calling him a False 9 is not going to make him play like Messi (but maybe Peter Crouch?). Whilst many are admirably grafting away, gradually turning their lower league team into world-beaters I have been having a whale of a time taking one of the best squads on the game and throwing £280m at it whilst shipping out £230m of dead-wood or mis-fits. Squad - 2017/18 Season Best squad I've ever had. Bar none. Couple more joker cards. Starting XI Couple of points of interest here: Messi, Iniesta, Neymar, Coutinho, Dybala and Suarez all in the same starting XI. 6 players playing in retrained positions. Apologies for the confusion of: Neymar in the Messi role. Messi in the Iniesta role. Iniesta in the Xavi role. Yes, that's Philippe Coutinho at right wing back. Xavi & Iniesta: Let's talk about Playmakers Last time out we looked at the differences between our options for Player Roles - Regista, Roaming Playmaker, Deep-Lying Playmaker, etc. This time let's think about the player performing the role. To me - regardless of role - world-class playmakers must be strong in two key areas: Technical ability - Technique, First Touch, Passing. Intelligence - Vision, Decisions, Anticipation, Composure. Plugging these attributes into a Player Search Filter with a 17 minimum, for elite level performers gives us: The original triumvirate - Messi, Iniesta & Xavi - plus Özil, Pirlo and Totti. Average age is very high - only Özil and Messi below 30, 3 players over-35. Players with widely differing styles - Pirlo to Xavi to Özil - have remarkably similar core attributes. When building a new team, my instinct is always to find a young player with potential and a reasonable attribute profile, tutor, give game time and let them grow into the role. In keeping with Barcelona's ideology, I attempted the same with Samper and Aleña but they are limited from reaching elite-level by their potential. Xavi and Iniesta are both legendary midfielders, absolutely at the top of their game. Not only their intelligence and technical ability, but also their experience allowing them to exhibit total control over games. This is why I opted for experience. Addressing the second point - how do we differentiate playmakers from each other with such similar attributes? Player role and how they are utilised tactically. Auxiliary playmaker attributes - particularly Team Work & Flair. Team work determining how likely they are to create chances for themselves vs team mates. High across the board but lowest in Messi, who happens to have the best goalscoring record of the group. Flair being the ability to create a moment of magic and do the unexpected. High for all but Xavi who was famous for his simple approach. Non-Playmaking specific strengths - dribbling, set pieces, finishing, strength, work rate etc. Inherent characteristics - preferred foot, (to an extent) size). Player Traits. Moving Iniesta into the Xavi role Xavi was undoubtedly one of the most intelligent and technically gifted midfielders of all-time and the heart-beat of Pep Guardiola's Barcelona. Xavi's role as a playmaker was more that of a conductor - controlling and recycling possession, switching play, connecting the entire team. Representing Xavi's role in Football Manager Either Deep-lying Playmaker (Support) or Roaming Playmaker (Support) depending on whether you're able to hold control of the midfield or need to move to find space. Incredible intelligence and technical ability. Xavi's traits: Comes Deep to Get Ball. Plays One-Twos. Dictates Tempo. Avoids Weaker Foot. Right Footed. In comparison, here is Iniesta at the beginning of the game: We can see, he's already got the intelligence and the technical ability but his traits are very direct. As a result, playing in the deeper role, he's going to try to directly create chances from deep rather than perform the controlling role we are looking for. Profile after 2-seasons moulding his traits by: Stop playing killer balls. Start dropping deeper to get the ball. Start playing one-twos. Physical stats have began to decline sharply but by maintaining his high level of ability by carefully managing his game-time and training he has become more intelligent and further improved his technical ability. Moving Messi into the Iniesta role Iniesta's role in Guardiola's Barcelona was that of a more advances playmaker, linking midfield with attack and creating chances. Representing Iniesta's role in Football Manager: Advanced Playmaker (Attack). Incredible technical ability and intelligence. Iniesta's traits: Tries Killer Balls Often. Dictates Tempo. Switches Ball to Other Flank. Looks for pass rather than attempting to score. Either footed. Messi has a phenomenal profile. He would be the best in the World in most attacking roles. In this case, development was simply: Retrain as a Central Midfielder. Tried but failed to Develop Weaker Foot - I believe due to maxing out his CA vs PA. The idea of Messi playing in midfield, coming deep to get the ball and then moving forward aggressively with 3 world-class attacking options ahead of him or going himself is - quite frankly - devastating. Neymar playing the Messi role In the 2016/17 season, my attack was structured like this: My scouts rating Neymar as a similar level of ability to Messi by the end of the season and - whilst performing very well - not quite reaching full-potential on the field playing wide right. Like Messi under Guardiola, Neymar moved central - initially as an experiment - and absolutely exploded. Messi dropped deeper into the midfield playmaker role and Cesc moved on to PSG for a modest profit after a very successful yet brief 3rd stint at the club. Coutinho playing the Dani Alves role Dani Alves is a special player. Wonderful Brazilian style attacking wing back. All round football ability - people have even called to see him in midfield. Solid defensive ability, which developed over time. Flair, work rate and fitness are inherent to his overall game. Ahead of the 2016/17 season I had a big decision to make. I had the option to sign Özil - as we have already identified, one of the few elite level playmakers capable of the Iniesta role perfectly - or Coutinho. But I couldn't sign them both due to financial constraints. Coutinho edged it for a few of reasons: Time required to retrain Coutinho meant I wanted him early, whereas maybe I could get Özil later. Scarcity of players with flair, work rate, fitness, a good right foot and the attacking ability to play right wing back. Availability of Cesc Fabregas as a cheaper alternative to Özil. Coutinho's progress has been gradual. It took the entire first season to reach Accomplished at right wing back and has not reached natural after two seasons. Attacking threat, technical ability, all-round footballing ability, fitness and intelligence come ready made whilst defensive ability is improving gradually. ========================================================================================== Match Analysis You join me for the 2018 Champions League Final - the ultimate El Clásico. Having beaten Real Madrid - once again - to La Liga and put two big scores on them in the League, they were out for revenge. Zinidine Zidane is still in charge has actually had two very strong campaigns despite losing out on the trophies. Perhaps under pressure for his job if it doesn't go his way. 4-1-4-1 is a bit of a surprise as Real Madrid have heavily - and successfully - used 4-1-2-3 all season. The big money acquisition of Eden Hazard has pushed Karim Benzema onto the bench, moving Ronaldo centrally. Ronaldo has thrived centrally in the 4-1-2-3 - hitting just under 30 league goals - but I'll be looking to ask questions of him with less support in the 4-1-4-1, trying to cut off supply and isolate him. 4-1-4-1 offers brilliant defensive coverage but the challenge is supporting the striker. You'll notice that in my 4-1-4-1 my striker is on Support and midfield runners rush forward. In Hazard, Kroos, Kovacic and Bale, Real Madrid have runners, but I'd imagine Ronaldo in an attack duty and his traits will drive him further forward - will we be able to isolate him and then exploit the space left by the midfield runners? Analysis Without the Ball Key Instructions / Attributes: Very Fluid - attacking and defending as a unit, forwards mentality is closer to team mentality meaning they will lead the press. Control - pushes defensive line, closing down and mentality - across the board - higher. Support duties - ensures my Inside Forwards and Wing Backs are track back and mitigate their aggressive starting positions. Work rate, determination, stamina, team work. Real Madrid attempting to build up play from deep. De Vrij advancing with the ball after a Real goal kick. Pressing structure I've been using for a few years now: Front 3 lead the press, hassling the opposition back 4, disrupting building up play and - ideally - forcing a long ball. A midfield wall consisting of WB - MC - MC - WB pressuring the opposition midfield and shielding the defence. Defensive triangle DC - DMC - DC outnumbering opposition attack. 'Busquets zone' protecting the centre of the field. Thinner dashed lines show the distances between the WB and the centre back behind and the wide forward ahead - a particular concern building this tactic. Note: in a standard mentality we use more pressing TIs - Higher Line, Close Much More, Tight Marking, etc. Using Control, we simply use Close Down More and notice how advanced we are. Already a risk, any higher would be overkill. Ideally the "Sweeper" Keeper would "sweep" more, but I can't make that happen. Real Madrid handicapping themselves by dropping Casemiro at DM into the defensive line (to aid build up) but failing to spread the defenders. Look at how close Casemiro is to Varane. Effectively taken himself out of the game, allowing us an extra man advantage - see Busquets. Low Block Real Madrid in a more advanced position, attempting to build an attack. Pressure on both the player making and receiving the pass. Wing backs and wide forwards have both adopted deeper, defensive positions creating a compact 4-1-4-1. We have a 4-man defensive line of WB - DC - DC - WB with Coutinho advancing to put pressure on Hazard. Busquets is shielding, again holding that vital position ahead of the defence and cutting out any passing option to Ronaldo. Alba is tucking in. Bale does have quite a lot of space, but with the ball on the other side of the field it'll take a while to reach him. Alba is well positioned to track a dangerous run at the far post. Wide forwards replace wing backs in a 4-man midfield screen. Neymar tracking way back creating a 3v3 on the opposition midfield, leaving Busquets free again. Real Madrid playing conservatively, neither their full backs or central midfielders making a run leaving Hazard, Ronaldo and Bale outnumbered. Analysis in-Possession Deep Build Up Play: Salida Lavolpiana Starting from a goal-kick, Barcelona attempt to build an attack from deep. La Salida Lavolpiana Busquets drops deep, between Pique and Romagnoli. Pique and Romagnoli spread wide - in this case, Pique draws Ronaldo with him. Wing backs push forward, creating a 3-4-3 shape. Messi and Iniesta drop deeper to offer passing options - in this instance, Iniesta is marked but Messi is open. Busquets is unchallenged and can progress with the ball, drawing out a defender to create more space for Iniesta and Messi to play through the middle. Suarez and Dybala retain their width, stretching the opposition defence. Neymar free to roam from position to create a diamond with Iniesta, Messi and Busquets, find a pocket of space and/or make an attacking run. Neymar is pulling the Real Madrid defence forward leaving lots of space behind. We have technical players with space and time to play a pass. We have very dangerous attacking runners in Dybala, Suarez and Neymar. Iniesta pulling the strings - Heartbeat of the Team Not normally one for the stats - as @Cleon pointed out in his Art of Possession thread, stats are often calculated differently - but Iniesta set some hit some stand-out achievements pulling the strings in his new role. 92% pass completion over the course of the season. Averaged nearly 75 passes per game. Completed 125 passes against Real Madrid in the Champions League final. Watch highlights: Messi - the Playmaker Over the course of his career, Messi has been a winger, an inside forward, False 9 and a playmaker. As the best footballer of his generation, he would be the best in the world in almost any attacking role. There are a couple of advantages of playing him in midfield. More involvement, receiving the ball earlier. More time and space. Passing options ahead of him, rather than behind. Receiving the ball from Iniesta and Busquets deep, Messi turns and runs at the defence. Almost anything could happen here. As we hit the final 3rd, the wide forwards - Suarez and Dybala - have cut inside. Wing backs drive forward providing width. Neymar has options for different attacking runs and space in behind the defence to attack. Devastating. The concern with Messi in midfield is his work-rate but he actually covered more ground than anyone in the league. Neymar - the new Attacking Spearhead Messi dropping deeper to take on a midfield playmaker role opened a space at the top as the spearhead of the team. Neymar - like Messi many years before him - moved inside from his wing taking up the "False 9" role, and never looked back. Watch highlights: Achievements Won the La Liga, Copa del Rey, Champions League treble. Completed an unbeaten season in all competitions. Broke the La Liga goalscoring and point scoring record with 143 goals and 102 points. Played beautiful football. Thank you & GoFundMe contributions So far the response to these threads and discussions generated have been absolutely phenomenal so once again I wanted to thank everyone for contributing as I have really enjoyed it. A couple of people have suggested they'd like to contribute financially to support the series so I have set up a GoFundMe page - Football Manager Analysis. I'd like to be 100% clear that these articles are completely free and will always continue to be. Contributions are simply supporting the work that's been done so far, if you've enjoyed them. As I am sure you can appreciate - whilst I love writing them - a lot of time & effort goes into these. Any contributions are very much appreciated. If we reach the conservative goal of £100m I am going to sign Nicklas Bendtner. I am going to finish by saying that - for those who have read a long so far - I think we have now talked through pretty much all of the tools you'd need to build your own system, if you have a different inspiration - for example Bielsa, Klopp, Pochettino. Please shout if there is anything you feel lacking and I will include in future threads. Enjoy
“Quantum CS” (4-1-3-2 DM Narrow) Tactic for FM19 Revision 2019.3 (Nov-6-2018) (c) 2013-2019 Xeewaj Q. Intro It’s “Quantum” ‘cause it’s full of superpositions and controversies. Be more disciplined but roam a lot? Sure. Defenders attacking, strikers defending, midfielders are everywhere? Of course. It’s called in-game “4-1-3-2 DM Narrow”, but it’s actually very wide. You get the pattern. CS stands for “Creeping Suffocation”. Why? ‘Cause it slowly suffocates opponents, restricting them from playing football as much as possible. Even top opponents will often fail to do a single shot on target (sometimes even just shot). Often they’ll enrage and get red cards. I played variations of this tactic for years, from exotic lower divisions to top European leagues and it gave excellent results everywhere. Especially well it does against (undeservedly) popular nowadays 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 variations. In general, every tactic with wingers is highly vulnerable. The only tactics which can cause struggle are classic 4-4-2 and its variations (4-1-4-1, 4-4-1-1 etc), but you may never see it during the whole season (in any case, doing right changes will solve the problem). Proof of Concept As a top team, it’s easy and boring. Average-promotion-candidate dominating the league. Most games were lost after securing the title (you can see it in the “Form” column). There are some demo matches in “matches” directory. Philosophy Balance, discipline, possession, fluidity, restricting the opponent as much as possible. Sounds boring enough, but board and supporters will praise you for the attacking football. Theory A key concept is overloading zones 2 & 5 while defending, zones 14 & 17 while attacking and eliminating opponent presence in the middle (zones 8 & 11) by pressing them out to sides. We’ll use flanks occasionally, mostly for crossing and/or stretching defense, but as a whole, it’s a center line strategy. Pros One tactic to cover them all. You don’t need alternative tactics, just do some minor changes. Almost plug-n-play, it works well for top clubs and relegation candidates with minimal tweaking. You don’t need wingers (though you may use them until they’re sold). High possession. Graphene-strength defense, you’ll concede mostly flukes. Ideal for “Play attacking football” philosophy (again, quantums of discipline and possession do the magic), but board and supporters will be extremely happy anyway. Cons Can be vulnerable to counter-attacks if you have low-quality center-backs. Heavy rotation is required to keep players alive during the season. Dealing with 4-4-2 may require some extra clicking. Tactic Tactics itself looks plain enough, but don’t be fooled. It transforms to 5-3-2, 3-5-2, even to 2-4-4 or 5-5-0 when needed. Team Instructions The mentality is ALWAYS "Balanced". Don't touch it. There is a new "Positive" mentality in FM19, but from what I saw, it's too positive and lowers discipline too much. May work for playing against weaker teams, but use it on your own risk. 1) In Possession: We playing cautions football focused on possession and teamwork. No brainless longballs, we play out of defense with patience. Though we may use direct passes when appropriate or passes into free space if there's an opening. Constants: Width, all Approach Play instructions except Overlap Left/Right, Passing Directness, Creative Freedom. Tweakable: Overlap Left/ Right, all Final Third instructions, Play For Set Pieces, Dribble Less. Not recommended to touch: Tempo (tactic itself is quite intense and you’ll just kill your players with the high tempo, though it’s possible to slow down when you in total control of the match), Run At Defense (we play team passing game), Time Wasting (especially!). So, basically, you need to tune cross type, overlapping and long shots/working balls into the box. Using “Play For Set Pieces” is generally not recommended unless you have problems scoring normal way and/or already scored from set pieces. 2) In Transition: We press opponents as soon as they get the ball and counter-attack quickly. Generally, you don’t need to change anything there. Though you may use “Regroup” if playing vs much stronger team and/or want to play safe. 3) Of Possession: We press high and play offside. Constants: Defensive Width, Prevent Short GK Distribution. Tweakable: Use Offside Trap, Line of Engagement, Defensive Line. Not recommended to touch: Use Tighter Marking, Tackling. Using offside traps and defensive line depends on the quality of your defenders, though tactics work better with high lines. We don’t use global tight marking and hard tackling. Though it’s possible to use easier tackling when you in control of the match and want to prevent any unnecessary suspensions. Player Instructions You should not touch instructions/roles/mentality except for Full-Backs, Ball Winner and Strikers. There are 2 types of instruction sets for those players, more cautious and more attacking. Choosing the right one is depends on the situation. You can found instructions in “player_instructions” directory (they’re loadable from instructions edit dialog). Keeper "Cautious Sweeper Keeper": Keeper plays safe, sweep when needed and distributes the ball to full-backs with long throws (somehow it's now moved to "In Transition") Full-Backs They stay wide, dribble forward and cross a lot. "Attacking Full-Back": going forward often and cross close to the byline. "Cautious Full-Back": playing more carefully (works well with "Hit Early Crosses"). Centre-Backs “Ball-Playing Defender”: They obviously defend but may start counter-attacks with through balls and go forward for set-pieces often. Defensive Midfielder Tries to win the ball asap, tackles and presses hard. “Cautious Ball Winner”: stays back, acts more like third center-back/stopper. "Adventurous Ball Winner": goes forward more often, similar to Box-To-Box. Playmaker “Roaming Playmaker”: team brain. Does anything he wants. Central Midfielder “Box-To-Box”: they move all around the pitch, press and tackle hard, helping both with defense and attack. Striker Attacking all-rounders who shoot, pass, cross and press opposition defense. “Complete Forward: default balanced variation. “Pressing Forward”: acts much more aggressive. Stays slightly wider than “Complete Forward”. Alternate Tactics & Plan B You don’t need one. This tactic covers (almost) everything. When the team has a ball, it's extremely attacking. When not, it's extremely defending. Use Player/Team Instructions to make it more attacking or defensive. Be creative, use non-standard moves. For example, put center-backs into BBMs positions, turn on Float/Early Crosses from the Deep etc. Familiarity, Cohesion, and Partnership This tactic is focused on teamwork so it may require some time until it starts to give the best results. Usually, pre-season is enough for the start. Focus on establishing partnerships asap (especially for central defenders). Opposition Instructions It’s a complex topic and you can read about it here or there, for example. If you have a decent assistant, let him handle this. Yellow Cards By default, BWM and BBMs (and “Pressing Forward”) use hard tackling, so be careful. Man Down (Red Card) An obvious solution is take off one of the forwards. But if the match is going well, it’s possible to take off BWM, set playmaker role to DLP/Defend and set strikers to Pressing Forward (Defensive Striker). This is particularly useful when you still need to score. Rotation As this tactic is quite intensive, a rotation is very important. Generally, you should have two full line-ups. At the start of the season good rotation is 25%-33%, but close to the end of the season, it may require 50% rotation sometimes (packed schedule, important/cup matches etc). Pitch Size It’s important. Basic rules are: max size if your team is among the favorites, max width and normal length for midtable teams, min size for relegation candidate. Assistant Just ignore him in most cases. “We being terrible overrun at midfield” and “We need to use more direct passing” when your team is winning 2-0 with 65% possession and opponents have 0 shots on target. Training & Match Preparation Prior to FM19 most important were teamwork and attacking movements. In FM19 training was completely reworked, so no real data on training efficiency exists. To be honest, I’m quite intimidated by the new training and prefer to leave it to the staff for now. Some recommendations may come soon. Team Talks Don't be harsh. Don't yell. Be calm and motivate. Remember, usually, the team who scores “pep” goal during 46-49 min, wins. Set Pieces Tactic includes some decent set pieces, but you may want to tune them for players you have. The playmaker is default taker (except for throws, full-backs obviously do them). Also, note that offensive set pieces are quite risky with many players going forward. Protecting Lead The tactic itself does it very well, but for more safety switch to Defensive Striker and bring on fresh fullbacks (with possible changing them to “Supportive”). Never touch mentality. Consider turning “Work Ball Into Box” on for more possession. Breaking the Crossbar Bus Sometimes it’s hard to score even if your team is dominating. Before going postal and moving all attack-related sliders to the right and subbing all the strikers, check your midfielders and full-backs, the problem is most likely there. Still, it may not help. They say "nothing is scripted in FM", but you may get something like this: Just laugh and move on. Players Don’t let the color of suitability circle distract you. Usually, I have only 2-3 players with more or less green circles, the rest are orange/red. Role/duty circle is a good reference, but again, don't worship it. A typical setup for teams I manage: You may check how they perform by watching a demo match, first goal especially. 1) GK Any decent keeper will do. Green circle of “Sweeper Keeper” is not necessary, but don’t touch role. Example: Gianluigi Buffon 2) DC * The position where the green circle of BPD is a good indicator. Though generic quality limited defenders may perform well. Example: Leonardo Bonucci, Matthijs de Ligt** 3) DRL * Fast players with good dribbling and crossing and decent defensive skills. Some wingers may be used there even with a red circle. Example: Marcelo, Daniel Alves, Alex Sandro, 4) BWM A defensive midfielder with good technical skills. Example: Arturo Vidal, Matthijs de Ligt** 5) MC/Playmaker * It’s hard to find a player with a green circle for that role, but DLP usually performs well there. Default set pieces use playmaker as default taker, so consider that. Example: Miralem Pjanic, Ruben Neves 6) MC/Box-To-Box Again, it’s hard to find “green circles” for that role and it’s no guarantee they’ll perform well. Look for MC, DM or DC/DM/MC with well-balanced stats. You may use wingers there if you don’t have other options. Example: Paul Pogba, Adrien Rabiot, Matthijs de Ligt** 7) ST Powerful pressing (“defensive” prior to FM19) forwards. You may use any advanced wingers (sic!) there, but pressing forward will score much more. Proof: Example: Edinson Cavani, Mario Mandjukic * Centre-Backs, Full-backs, and Playmaker are a top priority in that order. ** Should be transfer target #1 due to his skills and versatility. General Recommendations Try to avoid one-footed players. Make exceptions only for VERY good and/or young players (and immediately start developing their weaker foot). Try to avoid midgets, except for full-backs. Height must be 180+cm. Very important attributes: Team Work, Workrate. Installation Unpack archive and copy directories “matches”, “tactics”, “player_instructions”, “set pieces” (or select only files you need) to your FM19 directory (usually “C:\Users\[your_name]\Documents\Sports Interactive\Football Manager 2019”). Anomalies 1) Players on set pieces may behave not like they supposed to do (usually, players with attacking roles stay back). Set pieces rework in 19.1 supposed to fix that problem, but it still may occur. 2) Taker instructions may reset after loading set pieces. This bug is acknowledged so we may expect a fix soon. Changes 2019.1 (Oct-28-2018): First version for FM19. Tested on beta match engine 1900. 2019.2 (Nov-1-2019): Update for FM19 release. Changes: player instructions (BWM), set pieces, better demo match. Tested with match engine 1913-1914. 2019.3 (Nov-6-2019): Changed attacking corner set pieces (removed bugged role “Mark Keeper”). Downloads Another download link: https://www.filedropper.com/quantumcs2019-3 Quantum CS Demo.pkm quantum_cs_2019-3.zip