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  1. Welcome to - what I should imagine is - my last tactical thread before Football Manager 2018. So far, I have enjoyed looking at some of the most exciting and interesting teams in football history and looking at how we can implement their playing styles in the Football Manager Tactics Creator and see it played out in the match engine. As always - if you have yet to read along so far - I would recommend you start here as I will not spend too much time explaining already-discussed concepts. 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 Pep's Barcelona In addition to tactical re-creations we have also looked at some more general real-world tactical theories or Tactics Creator concepts. What is Team Shape? Grassroots Tactics: Simplicity Playing Style, Structure & a modern 4-1-4-1 Universality in Football Manager 2015 (Very Fluid) Remember when I promised that Pep's Guardiola was my last system based on the Very Fluid shape? I am sorry.. Before you think, "here we go again" and your eyes glaze over, this discussion is going to follow a new approach aimed at making the Tactics Creator cleaner, simpler and more rational when implementing your tactical ideas. Resources on Marcelo Bielsa My most common gripe about tactical content, certainly applies to Marcelo Bielsa. There is an awful lot written, but not a lot actually said. There is a lot written about his erratic character - obsessive, genius and nicknamed "El Loco" - or his "disciples", but not much actual tactical content. Please feel free to recommend additional resources, and I am happy to share. Zonal Marking - Bielsa's Chile, the most tactically exciting side (at the 2010 World Cup) Zonal Marking - Marcelo Bielsa set to thrive at Bilbao Zonal Marking - Manchester United 2 - 3 Althetic Bilbao: United unable to deal with Bilbao pressing Analysis of Tactics of Athletic Bilbao by Peter Chulkov Scout Report: Olympic de Marseille 2014/15 by Branko Nikovski Tactical Theory Before we look at the characteristics of Marcelo Bielsa's tactics in more detail, let's introduce a new format which should make it easier to relate real-world football to the Tactics Creator and on to the Match Engine. Football can be broken down into 4-phases: Defence Transition from Defence to Attack (aka. Build-up) Attack Transition from Attack to Defence Now, let's think about Marcelo Bielsa's approach to each of these phases: Defence Famously intense pressing and high defensive line As a general rule, Bielsa maintains a one-man advantage over the opposition striker(s). -> Preferring a 3-man defence when facing a 2-man attack. -> And choosing a 4-man defence against a 3-man attack with a lone centre forward. The rest of team press man-to-man against the entire opposition team. Transition from Defence to Attack Fast attacking transitions Verticality or - for those not a fan of tactical jargon - passing the ball forwards. Build-up play through Defenders comfortable on the ball. Regular use of midfielders in defence, aiding build-play. Attack Attacking unit has been described as an "enganche y tres puntas" which means playmaker and 3-forwards. Bielsa was one of the pioneers of Inverted Wingbacks, essentially acting as auxiliary midfielders in-possession. Stretching the opposition defence using width from either wingers or wingbacks. Runners from deep position support attacks and overload opposition defenders. Transition from Attack to Defence Typically employs 1-2 holding midfielders, protecting the defence from opposition counter-attacks. Bielsa is famous for his 'loco' approach to the game and his 3-3-1-3 formation, but also uses 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 as illustrated thanks to the tactical diagrams from Zonal Marking and Konzeptfußballberlin.de. In Football Manager 2017 Step 1: Team Mentality Team Mentality is - in my opinion - the single most influential component of the Tactics Creator, determining: Base individual mentalities across the team Base levels for: Defensive Line Closing Down Tempo Time Wasting Width Passing Directness (to a smaller extent) Quite simply no other instruction influences - anywhere near - as many aspects of a team's play. In order to simplify our decision, we can group these aspects into 3-core factors which relate to the phases of play outlines earlier. Base individual mentalities across the team => our overall, collective strategy Defensive Line and Closing Down => Defensive strategy Tempo, Width, Time Wasting and Passing Directness => Transition from Defence to Attack / Build-up strategy Later on, we will assign individual Player Duties and use Team Instructions tailor each of these to our exact requirements. Let's apply this theory to the characteristics of Bielsa's play, outlined above. What is our overall, collective strategy? Bielsa advocates pro-active, high-intensity (Spoiler Alert! ) attacking football. What is our defensive strategy? Intense pressing and a high defensive line. What is our build-up / attacking-transition strategy? Fast-attacking transitions, verticality etc. Team Mentality: Attacking Step 2: Formation Re-visiting the quote on formations from Jonathan Wilson: The application of this is that we use formations which facilitate our overall strategy: Facilitates intense pressing, positioning players across the entire pitch. Facilitates quick-attacking transitions, allowing players to quickly get into attacking positions. Given Marcelo Bielsa's flexibility in his approach to structuring his teams, we need to employ a 3-3-1-3, a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1. We will come on to Player Roles and Duties later on. How do these formations facilitate our strategy? High-intensity pressing: Wide 3-man attack means we can effectively press opponents in their own third. We have different midfield options depending on our opponents set-up. Option of either a 3 or 4-man defence, allowing us to maintain a 1-man advantage against our opponents attack. Quick attacking transitions: We have 3 or 4 players in attacking positions ready to attack quickly when we turn over possession. Note: The only aspect which requires any basic knowledge of the Match Engine is positioning the positioning of the Wingbacks in the 4-3-3 due to the issue with a Half-Back playing with a 4-man defence. Step 3: Core Team Instructions Having determined our Team Mentality and Formation we can use Team Instructions to tailor our game plan, exactly as we would like it. The Team Instruction screen throws a lot of information at you. It helps me to divide it down into 3-areas: Core Team Instructions => Instructions relating to our Team Mentality: Defensive Line Closing Down Tempo Time Wasting Width Passing Directness Team Shape (covered later) Auxiliary Team Instructions: All remaining instructions. In the instance of Bielsa, we can use these core Instructions to: Optimise intense-pressing Higher defensive line Close down more Match passing directness to suit attacking-transitions More direct passing => has the side-effect of a minor increase in tempo and width. Step 4: Team Shape Team Shape is the final element of our collective strategy, and determines: How individual players prioritise Team Mentality vs Individual Duty. Collective level of Creative Freedom across the team. Individual Mentality Individual mentality is determined by 3 primary factors: Team Mentality determines a base Mentality level, according to the collective team strategy. Player Duty determines whether an individual is responsible for attacking, defending or supporting in relation to the collective mentality. Team Shape determines to what extent the individual focuses on the Team Mentality vs. their individual Duty. Given that we have already chosen an Attacking team mentality, we can see that a Flexible - instructs individual players to balance Team Mentality and individual Duty equally - team shape gives us the following Mentality distribution: Defend: Balancing a Defensive duty with an Attacking team mentality gives us a Neutral balance between attacking and defensive tendencies. Interestingly, the Attacking mentality description does hint towards this but is very easily overlooked: Support: A Supporting duty balanced with an Attacking mentality gives us a 70-30 preference towards attack. In a Standard mentality system, this level of individual mentality would be considered attacking. Attack: Attacking duty in an Attacking team mentality = all out attack. More than 80-20 in preference of attacking. Team Shape allows us to alter the balance between Team Mentality and Individual Duty, with more Structured shapes prioritising the individual duty and more Fluid shapes prioritising the Team Mentality. Applying this back to Marcelo Bielsa: One of the reasons behind the 'el Loco' nickname is the focus on a collective, attacking mentality. Bielsa's teams attack and defend as a unit. Bielsa typically gives players a high level of collective creative freedom. Team Shape: Very Fluid Deja vu. Sorry.. Step 5: Player Duties Having determined our team mentality and shape, assigning individual player duties will now allow us to: Set individual Mentality Structure our attacking movement Individual Mentalities In the context of an Attacking team mentality and a Very Fluid shape, we can see the individual Mentality assigned to each duty in the Player Instructions screen. Defend => Marginally above neutral. Positive, yet sensible play. In a Standard mentality, this mentality would be associated with a Support role. Support => 70-30 preference for Attack. In a Standard mentality, this would be classed as an Attack duty. Attack => Heavy preference towards attack. Attacking player in an Attacking system. All out attack. Attacking Movement Going back to the 4-phases of football: Defence Transition from Defence to Attack Attack Transition from Attack to Defence We have already defined our strategy for defence and the transition from defence into attack. Player duties influence our attacking shape in 2-ways: More attacking mentalities will - other factors remaining equal - take up more attacking positions on the field. Roles associated with different duties have different profiles for attacking movement. Roles associated with an Attack duty are more likely to get further forward. Roles associated with an Defend duty are more likely to hold position. Roles associated with a Support duty are typically open to customise. How does this influence our Attack and Transition from Attack to Defence phase? Attack Instructing players with Support or Attack duty to get forward more determines Attacking shape. => Next, we'll use specific Roles and PIs to get players into specific positions. Transition from Attack to Defence What happens in the key moment we are attacking - with players committed forward in our attacking shape - and we lose the ball? Instructing players with Defend or Support duty to hold position means they remain in their defensive position guarding against opposition counter-attack. Understanding this we assign players duties depending on: Whether they should be: Positive yet, sensible. Attacking All-out-Attack Whether they should: Get forward in attack Stay back Implementing characteristics we see employed by Bielsa, we can implement: Aggressively commit players forward with attacking runs from deep. Attacking players wide, stretching the opposition and creating width. Use a holding midfield shield to circulate possession and protect from counter attacks. Across all 3 formations, players perform similar duties despite taking up different positions on the pitch. Central Defenders (Defend or Cover) Positive yet sensible mentality Stay back in attack Wingbacks (Support) Attacking mentality Get forward in attack, providing width Inverted Wingbacks (Support) Attacking mentality Neutral movement, naturally moving into midfield. Holding Midfielders (Defend) Positive yet sensible mentality Stay back in attack Advanced midfielder (Support) Attacking mentality Get forward in attack Wingers (Support) Attacking mentality Get forward in attack, providing width Inside Forwards (Support) Attacking mentality Get forward in attack, naturally coming inside Striker (Support) Positive yet balanced mentality -> Strikers on Support always have a lower mentality than other players on Support, conversely Strikers in Attack are more attacking than others. Move into channels creating space We avoid Attacking duties in an Attacking mentality as: We want to attack as a unit. The mentality is simply too extreme. Chasing a lead maybe but playing all-season trying to score at all-costs is an unnecessary risk. Step 6: Player Roles and Instructions Player roles are the icing on the proverbial cake. Player roles are simple. They are nothing more than a pre-set combination of Player Instructions, the name is just a label. In most cases, after selecting Duty you will be left with a handful of options. Your decision simply comes down to: Do you want this player to be a Playmaker / Target Man? Do the Player Instructions associated the role, suit the player and fit your tactical requirements. If not, are they customisable? Not sure we need to walk through every decision, but let's give one example. We already know that my Striker is going to be in the Centre Forward position and playing a Support role, which leaves me 5-options: Deep-Lying Forward Target Man Complete Forward Defensive Forward False 9 Process of elimination: Do I want a Target Man? -> No, I tried it and don't like the long-balls. Target Man. Do I want my Striker to Dribble More? -> No, my primary striker is 35 and his dribbling is 11. Complete Forward False 9 Do I prefer more or less risky passes? -> More, as he is drifting off and has attacking runners all around him. Defensive Forward Hello, Deep-Lying Forward + Move into Channels. Don't forget to set your Goalkeeper distribution. In this case, to the centre backs! Step 7: Auxiliary Team Instructions If the last step was the icing, these are the candles. Finally, we have the remainder of the Team Instructions screen which we bypassed earlier. Offside trap? Tighter Marking? Tackling Instructions? Passing Instructions? Retain Possession? Creative Freedom? Final 3rd instructions? Crossing? Dribbling? Freedom of movement? There are two issues people trip over with Team Instructions: Lots of them are redundant, ignored or unspecific? -> In an Attacking / Very Fluid system, is more creative freedom going to do anything? -> How much is more, anyway? 2 is more than 1, so is 999,999,999. Lots have unclear side effects. -> Retain possession, and play out of defence change passing and tempo settings. -> Focus passing through the middle and look for overlap impact the individual Mentality of related players. My advice: Treat them as an intermediate level area of the Tactics Creator. => Employ them if you know what you're doing => If you're struggling then keep it simple Watch a few games first. => Do you need to employ a particular instruction to improve play? => If yes, watch a few more games and see if it does the trick. In this case our Attacking mentality meant that players were prone to shooting from long range more than I liked during pre-season, so I added Work the Ball into the Box. Overview There we have it. We have used the tactics creator to create: Marcelo Bielsa's high-octane attacking football. Fast-attacking transitions. "Verticality" High-intensity pressing. Applying this style in 3-variants: 3-3-1-3 4-3-3 4-2-3-1 Apologies for a long post. The purpose is to explain decisions in simple way that people can apply to their own tactics. Look at this as a walk-through ahead of a guide I intend to put together around the release of Football Manager 2018. Due to travel commitments I am out of time for now, but the next post is reserved for: Match engine analysis Info on the squad For those who like inverted wingbacks and 3-4-3 diamonds, here's a pre-view: Can't give an ETA at this moment as it's subject to finding time.
  2. Introduction: I’ve been playing football manager since 2014 version and long-time following this forum. I finally decided to dip my feet in writing a series following my first long-term save in FM 2019. I plan to start a somewhat open discussion of Dynamo Kiev club and my tactics. I intend to post regular updates on my squad and results as well as welcome feedback on how to improve my tactics and training. You can follow the story at the site to which I contribute: https://dictatethegame.com/ I decided to start this save while still in beta for two main reasons. The tactic I intend to try out is not one relying on breaking the current game engine to overachieve but rather on tried and true concepts that would hopefully be applicable to any version of the game. So no 3 strikers nor strikerless tactics. Secondly, I intend to do it with a club that is not from the top 5 leagues. I noticed in the last couple of FMs that the attribute changes between beta and the first patch could be drastic in players in Premiership, Bundesliga or the other “big” leagues. For obvious reason those leagues are more thoroughly scouted. For that reason I reserve those kinds of big saves for later in the year, once I tested out my tactic with a less known side. This year I chose Dynamo Kiev. What attracted me to this club can also be viewed as the 3 Pillars of my 5 Year Plan: 1) Youth Development, 2) Domestic and Continental Success and 3) Implementing Hard Pressing Tactical System inspired by Valeriy Lobanovsky I hail from Ukraine myself so naturally I always followed clubs from this nation. My all-time favourite player growing up was Andriy Shevchenko. One of my earliest footballing memories was watching Dynamo Kiev’s systematic dismantling of Barcelona’s defense in Nov 1998 Champion’s league. Sheva scored 3 goals in that match. Dynamo went on to beat Barcelona 7 to 0 in aggregate. He was part of an elite class, all nurtured at same time by the club. Players such as Oleh Luzhny (later won the Premier League with Arsenal), Serhiy Rebrov (totaling 75 appearances for Ukraine) are just a few examples of the “Dynamo effect” – taking local youngsters and molding them into superstars through hard work and intense fitness conditioning. So to reflect this objective will be to develop a class of homegrown players over the first 5 intakes and then to integrate them into my first team over the following 5 seasons. So by 2028-2029 to have only youth academy products in the 22 player squad. On my way there I’m hoping to also have a positive effect on Ukraine’s National Team and become the foremost farm team for the National Team squads. Success in 1998 Champion’s League marked the revival of the club’s fortunes in late 90s when the manager Valeriy Lobanovsky took over for the second time. In total, he spent 3 decades with the club and its best years were undeniably with him. Becoming the fixture in Champions League and winning numerous domestic trophies were all part of this success. Lobanovsky relied on his signature hard pressing, direct style of play (what some might think of as Geggenpressing today). After dominating Ukrainian League from late 90s to early 2000s, Dynamo has had a bit of a decline due to the meteoric rise of its main rival Shakhtar Donetsk in late 2000s. In the last decade, Shakhtar has won 7 domestic titles in comparison to Dynamo’s 3. This is something that I intend to change, aiming for getting at least 4 titles in 5 seasons. Also Dynamo has not won a major continental trophy since 1985 (UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup) which I also intend to change by winning at least one continental trophy during my first 5 seasons with the club My final objective is developing a Lobanovsky style Pressing Tactic that is built around the player’s hard work, relentless physicality, stamina and disciplined selfless teamwork. By hitting my domestic and continental goals on time, I will know whether this tactical goal was achieved. As you might guess the mold of my ideal player will also be defined by this system (but more on this in future posts) Next: A little context on the Lobanovsky system
  3. Introducing the 5-2-3 Trident My first posted tactic. It's an attacking tactic using three central defenders and three strikers, with wing backs providing width. The two remaining players are in central midfield, acting as the engines and hub of the formation. It relies on quick and technically proficient attackers, good crossers and a solid pair of midfielders. Goals will come from both crosses and through balls. Origins: I started a game with Valencia, and needed a way to utilize their strengths. They have two awesome central midfielders, one creator and one typical all-rounder, and I wanted to build the tactic around them. They also have quite a few good central defenders, two promising home-grown left wing backs, and some pacey attackers. I also like to keep the squad quite light, and the formation reduces the need for backup players somewhat. The aim of the tactic: The aim is to create a solid defensive base, as well as a varied and potent attack. It presses hard and marks tightly, but is not a full-out gegenpress. The aim here is to leave some space to run into once the ball is won, enabling some deadly counter attacks when the opportunity arises. When the team needs to build from the back, there are plenty of passing options going forward. The playmaker acts as the passing hub, while the BBM does the dirtywork. What kind of chances can you expect: The tactic forces a lot of play through the middle, but since the opposition have to deal with three strikers and a BBM, this often drags their defenders inward, leaving my wing backs open for a pass wide and a free cross. The tactic is set to cross low, but you will still see both tap-ins and headers as an end product. You will also see some long balls over the opposition defense from the wing backs or the two wide central defenders, usually into space for the corresponding side's attacker to run onto (as you can see, there are 10 assists from within our own half in the last 50 games). Some goals will also come from combination play between the playmaker and the strikers, and between the F9 and the other two strikers + the BBM. In counter attack situations, the wide strikers will often receive the ball on the run, bringing it forward before switching play with a pass to the opposite striker making a run into newly opened space. Your top scorers will most likely be the two wide strikers. Results: Won the league and cup first season, and reached the final of the Champions League (beaten by the invincible Liverpool). Leading the table and still unbeaten in January second season. What kind of players do you need? GK: Any standard keeper will do. If he's decent with the ball at his feet, that's great, but it's not crucial to this tactic. Central Def: The two wide central defenders should have decent pace and aerial presence. It they are also decent passers of the ball, that's a big plus. The central one should be aggressive and a good tackler, as he is meant to cut into the opposition attacks and win the ball before they reach the box. Wing Backs: Pacey and good crossers. They need to cover quite a lot of ground. Playmaker: Good passing and vision, preferrably also some tackling skills. Pace and movement is less important here. BBM: An allrounder. Tackling and mobility. Passing and long shot is a big plus. If you have a great tackler who's not that useful going forward, you can change this role to a BWM(def). You will lose some aspects of the attacking play, of course. F9: Needs good technique and passing. If he has enough strength to hold the ball up, that's a plus. Wide strikers: Your main goal scorers. Need pace, dribbling, off the ball, finishing. They will get on the end of quite a few crosses, so good heading is a plus. If you can't find the right strikers, I've found that re-training wingers or attacking midfielders with the right skill set can prove quite effective. (I did this with Miguel Almiron and Matias Vargas) Download: TAF 5-2-3 Trident.fmf If you have any feedback, please comment below. I'd especially like to hear if the tactic works well in other leagues.
  4. (You can skip the story and go straight to the questions). So, as a seasoned ever-since-CM3 player, few years ago I gave up on FM, considering it way too complicated and not fun anymore. I have no patience for training routines, team talks, media management: I want fun, realistic, yes, but fun. FM wasn’t giving it anymore. I tuned out. ”Try FMC/FMT”, they said. „It’s simpler and more to the point”. I did: it wasn’t. Press conferences again, team talks again, no option to train a new position (too fun, I guess) and still the ridiculous fluidity/philosophy concept, which I NEVER got. I gave up again. This year I gave it a go: it’s WAY better. I’m impressed: the fluidity setting is (finally) gone, I can give most of the secondary task - such us transfers, I just pick a target and let the director do the rest; realistic, no? - and concentrate on next match. Sadly, again I fail to understand the game. It’s kind of funny so many years in, but still I have very little idea what I’m doing. And it seems simple enough: covering all areas of the pitch, enough runs in, some holding, adjusting to the opponent. I recall two very influential FM reads: one by @Rashidi about covering areas and defensive screens (EDIT: I think it was this one: http://www.addictedtofm.com/working-title-tactical-design-i-player-roles/), and other one about winning possession: https://www.passion4fm.com/win-possession-adapting-match-tactic/ These make you think: oh, so THAT’S what it’s about! and jump back to it, but then reality kicks in and you lose the match. Couple questions: 1. DEFENSIVE SHAPE: the width option is clear: expose flanks, middle or standard. I’m lost at pressing and the d-line. The passion4fm read would instruct me to press players in vulnerable, excluded zones, like a lonely wing back, a CM or CB if facing more numbers in my respective line (3 CMs would overpower and press 2 CMs, or at least one, a winger would press a wing back, having own FB behind to cover the line). I probably did it wrong, but sometime it worked. In FMT19 it doesn’t. Which opponent players to press? And does it influence the... ...line of engagement? I have no clue. I noticed that pushing it creates a gap between defence and midfield, and since there’s no DM there it’s huge. Still, the opponent doesn’t use any AMs. So, a problem or not? Where do I start to press? Which block do I choose? There are many texts and videos on HOW to implement stuff, but rarely any on WHY and WHEN do it. When push high, when stay low? When leave the gap, when not to? 2. Covering areas: two CMd’s cover the pocket, but not the enemy pocket. CMd + CMs cover own pocket (if the supporting one has right stats), but again there’s not enough pressure on the enemy pocket. I need to make a forward press more. Right or wrong? A line consists of: ML MC MC AMR, so there’s a gap on under the AMR. Would a BWM in the right MC spot cover it? Speaking of BWM, would it also cover other areas around him, like both pockets? 3. An AF and winger on the same side: they’d both make runs down the same flank, no? 4. The opponent has 4 defenders and 5 midfielders in flat lines. I’m playing 442, which leaves me at 2 vs 3 in the middle and 1 vs 1 on both wings. I set the attacking width to more narrow to reduce their advantage. Right or wrong? 5. Accordingly, since I’ve narrowed the attack formation, players are closer to each other, making shorter passing more natural, right or wrong? 6. However, my idea for the game is not to retain possession, but score goals, being firm favorites. Therefore, I leave the passing option at “standard”, ready to switch it down once I score one or two, maybe during the second half. Right or wrong? 7. It’s the 70th minute, and I still haven’t scored, time is running out. I need to go direct. Should I leave the „more narrow” on, or go “standard” or “more wide”, since the players should be fuhrer apart from each other? See, it’s stuff like that. I know what stuff means, but have no idea how to use it and when. Please don’t tell me to go read @Cleon‘s in-depth analysis of options, I really have no time to go through all this, despite it being an amazing read. I really don’t want to dig that much in, hence why I consider FMT the only option for me these days. Thanks for the replies and patience. EDIT 2 - my current setup 1: False 9 (s) Adv Fwd (a) Winger (s) Cm (s) Cm (d) Winger (s) FB (s) CB (d) CB (d) FB (s) Swp GK (d) and 2, the experimental one: Pressing Fwd (s) Adv Fwd (a) Wide Pmk (a) Cm (s) Cm (d) Wide Mf (s) Fb (s) Cb (d) Cb (d) Fb (a) Swp Gk (d)
  5. I usually use other people's tactics but after seeing my own might Ipswich Town rip into Reading a couple of weeks ago I was inspired to recreate that style of play in FM2019. First of all, this is very high energy, you will need players with high team work, work rate and fitness at FB, midfield and up front. The aim is to press the opposition into mistakes and create chances. I was using another tactic from here (unstoppable attacking) and another from Sigames (Quantum) which were pretty successful, but since I switched to my new tactic for the West Brom match I've been blowing teams away! Ipswich are predicted to finish 20th and have the 6th lowest budget in the division. It's okay to tweak player roles to suit your squad but keep the nature of the players role the same e.g. a deep lying playmaker set on defend can take on the role of the centre midfielder on defend. I would leave the pressing forwards alone though as their instructions and role are key to winning the ball high into enemy territory. Finally, be prepared to rotate, especially your fullbacks who cover acres of distance! Team talks I always encourage unless we're losing at half time. I never use opposition instructions. All the best, hope it helps some of you. 4-3-3 Blitzkreig.fmf
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