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Hi people, I'm new here. I've got somewhat "obsessed" with the issue of Team Shape. I've read a number of useful posts and articles and I now understand that, in general, more fluid shapes offer more compactness due to relatively less differences in players' mentalities, while the opposite is true for more structured systems. I also understand that even within a more structured system you can still make the team be more compact by using formations in which players are deployed in at least three successive strata (i.e. defense, defensive midfield and midfield), as well as by appropriately assigning roles and duties to the players. Now, let's imagine, purely hypothetically, that I simply have to use the 4-4-2 flat formation because I don't have (enough) players who can occupy DM or WB positions. My team is playing against a far stronger opponent, so I logically choose the Defensive Team Mentality. My primary goal is not to concede (rather than to score). I want my players to sit back as much as possible and defend as a compact unit. But in a flat 4-4-2 combined with a more structured system, even if I put all my four midfielders on Defend duty, the team still wouldn't be compact enough and there will be the space between the defensive and midfield lines that the opposition could exploit - something I certainly want to avoid. And so I decide to switch to a more fluid shape. Now I have the compactness, but on the other hand, my players are given too much creative freedom, and the problem is that they are neither tactically (mentally) nor technically proficient enough for such a style of play. Consequently, I go to Team Instructions and select the Be More Disciplined instruction (plus, optionally, Stick to Positions) in order to reduce the players' overall tendency to be more "creative" than I want them to be. Therefore, we now have this situation: Team Mentality - Defensive Formation - 4-4-2 flat Team Shape - (very) Fluid + Be More Disciplined (and, perhaps, Stick to Positions) My question is: to what extent the Be More Disciplined TI would affect/reduce the players' creative freedom in a more fluid system? Has anyone of you tried to play this way, and if yes, how did it work? Thanks everybody in advance
I've been a long reader of this forum, but never really posted anything. I've read a lot of the posts here (most notably the Art of Possession Football by Cleon, amongst others) and took a few tips here and there. I've created a club on a Portuguese Premier League, using Nacional da Madeira (a very small team on FM with no budget for transfers or wages) and it took me a few years to make it a powerful club. On one of my seasons, I've managed to make a whole season without losing a match. I did a lot of experimentation with it for several seasons, until it was perfected to my liking. It relies a lot on the quality of the Wing backs (Pace, Stamina, Crossing and Marking) and also the decision making of the AMC (Decision, First Touch, Passing, Long Shots). I would like to point out that at this moment, I have a high quality team with great attributes, very determined and fast. For several seasons I played with a Defensive Midfielder instead of an Attacking Midfielder, but there was always lack of support in the middle for the Striker. So I tweaked it, and it became much more stable with an AMC. It should work well for medium-sized teams, but the small teams might struggle. Here's the tactic itself: Counter mentality might seem counter-intuitive, but it gives more stability at the back to compensate the high defense. Structured shape is great to encourage players to keep it simple. However, I do change it to "Fluid" when I'm struggling on a match, this does seem to push the opposite side to areas that they are not supposed to be. As you can see, the Defensive line is the highest possible, which congests the space on the opposite side. Width is stretched so that the players can find better spaces. The problem with high or low tempos was that the players would either loose the ball too often or just waste opportunities, so I kept it normal. "Work Ball Into Box" is due to the same reason, my attackers used to waste too many balls. I do like to Play out of Defence though, it keeps the possession more stable. However, due to the space I have at the back, I want my players to press as soon as they loose the ball. This makes the opponents rush or waste opportunities to attack. For a long time, I used to have an asymmetrical shape (just one Winger with Attack, the opposite winger on Support, etc.) but I noticed that many times, specially due to the Preferred Foot or Player Traits, this didn't always worked well, so I decided to keep it symmetric on both sides. Another thing I rely a lot is on Player Instructions. The more control I have over the players way of play, the better. So, starting from the back: Sweeper Keeper (Defend) - Fewer Risky Passes - Distribute to Full Backs - Roll it Out Goes out of the goal if necessary, doesn't waste possession, starts the attack from the wings and passes the ball to a nearby player if the wings are marked. Complete Wing Back Right/Left (Attack) - Shoot Less Often - Close Down More -Tackle Harder - Mark Tighter - More Direct Passes - More Risky Passes Keeps pressure on the wings, aggressive at the back and closing opposition opportunities, finds opportunities to start the attack and doesn't shoot as much at the front. Ball Playing Defender (Defend) - Shoot less often - Tackle Harder - Close Down Much More The Central Defenders always stay at the back, taking the ball away from the opposite attack as soon as possible. Very aggressive as well. Ball Winning Midfielder (Support) - Shoot less often - Dribble Less - More Risky Passes The main function of the Ball Winning Midfielder is to support the defenders, not wasting possession with dribbles but finding players to exploit the opposition Deep Lying Playmaker (Support) - Dribble Less - More Risky Passes Another midfielder to support both the Defense and the Attacking areas of the team Inside Forward Right/Left (Support) - Shoot Less Often - Tackle Harder - Mark Tighter I experimented a lot with this. I noticed that, due to the attacking mentality of the Wing Backs, I needed to have the Wingers more close to the center, but every time they were close to the area they were shooting from a distance. So, they are there to keep support to the Striker and the Wing Backs when necessary. They still shoot when an opportunity arrives, but not so often as before. Advanced Playmaker (Support) - Tackle Harder - Mark Tighter This is the team main creator. He's always there to support the Striker and the Inside Forwards, but also deviates a bit from position to support the midfield. Plays very close to the Central Midfielders when we don't have the ball, but is there at the attack close to the Penalty Area. Great for second chance shots, or when the Striker is marked heavily. Complete Forward (Attack) - Shoots Less Often - Tackle Harder - Mark Tighter He's the main scorer. However, many times he tried to shoot from a distance or straight away, so the Shoots Less Often does bring some stability to this. He's always at the front, ready to score. EXAMPLES: Defending from the front As you can see, all my team (except the CD's) are at the opposition side. They lost the ball, but the team is pressing straight away. The Wing Backs are coming back to their position, and the Central Defenders are ready to press the Striker right at the center of the pitch. Defending from the center Now the team is more evenly shaped. The back four are at their marking areas. The AMC is going into position to press the player with the ball. The other two midfielders are marking the opposition midfield. The opposition will either have to pass long, or stop the play. Attacking from the back/center The midfielder has several options to pass. When attacking from the middle, there's always at least two options to pass the ball. The Inside forward is finding position, and the Complete Wing Backs are getting ready to go forward through the wings. On another example, you can see that the CWB is already very high on the pitch. The AMC now has an option to either play to the Striker that has no marking, or send the ball to the wings. The Inside Forward is starting to push to the center, as the Wing Back is getting the flanks covered for the attack. Attacking from the wings The CWB has the ball. He's ready to cross. The Striker is there, but if he misses the chance, the Inside Forward is going there as well. The AMC is finding position to cover the hole. Defenders are always at the back in case the chance is missed. The problem Here is one of the problems of this tactic. Because we play so upfront, the CWB is going to mark the player with the ball. However, the opposite striker has plenty of space to attack. That's why the team as a whole needs to have high attributes on the physical side. So, this was basically the tactic that I used the whole season. It's based on attack and pressing. More often than not, my back gets a few yellow cards during the season, but you can always remove the option Tackle Harder and see how it works for you. The Wing Backs need good physical attributes, and the two Midfielders should be good at defending. I kept using this tactic the following seasons, but from time to time I had to tweak some options because the AI seemed to figure out some of the way of play (Specially the teams that park the bus). Also, the updates of FM kept me having to make some changes here and there. But if I struggle, I mostly change the shape from Structured to Fluid, and also add the option to Retain Possession and Pass Into Space. It does push the opposite team to leave their positions, and my team doesn't waste as many balls at the front but sometimes there's not much you can do. It worked out for me, maybe it will work out for you too.
Background So I’ve been playing FM for years now, ever since first stumbling across it back in the good old CM days. I’m also a Villa fan so naturally every game my first career is Aston Villa. Now as if that alone doesn’t make me a big enough glutton for punishment I also every year try to recreate a very specific tactical philosophy - a 451 / 433 counter attacking hybrid which keeps things tight and attacks with lightning pace down the flanks. Don’t ask me why I do it. Partly it’s because it’s just become a thing I do, partly it’s because my fondest memories in recent years are of Villa playing this way (yes there haven’t been many). Think O’Neil’s side at their best with Ashley Young bombing down a wing, or the brief glimmer of Lambert’s competence that saw Weiman, Gabby and Benteke form a potent attacking triumvirate. It also plays into what I like to do on FM which is keep clean sheets and score goals from dazzling wing play, counters and crosses into the box. Sometimes this has had more success than failure and yet here I am once again returning to the same tactical conundrum. “The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.” - Albert Einstein I didn’t have a great time of things on FM16. I just couldn’t get to grips with the game, which, when coupled with a not too great Villa team; wasn’t exactly a recipe for success. My failures - which were numerous - did teach me a lot of valuable lessons about the way I was playing the game wrong however and I was insistent that I would learn from them and set about FM17 with a plan in mind. So what were my mistakes? Formation - For some reason I’d always started out trying to build a 451/433 hybrid by setting my team up as a 433 (41221) and then trying to force the players to defend as a 451. After spending much time on these forums I realized I had it the wrong way round. Your formation on the tactics screen is how you defend, as such I’d set up in a flat 451 and try and make the players attack like a 433. Team instructions - Cleon’s excellent counter attacking thread on these forums has taught me that less is most certainly more where team instructions are concerned - especially counterattacking. Taking my time - I’m a busy man, when I sit down I want to churn through games. That means highlights on key and the inevitable frustration when I see seemingly random things happen. I vowed to change my approach this year, that means highlights on comprehensive and 2D camera to fully analyst every aspect of my tactic. Players - For years I was used to stumbling across a great formation and filling it with the best players, but i’ve learned the hard way that you just can’t do that anymore on FM. There’s no point playing a counter attacking game where your defence will constantly be under pressure if your centre backs are Micah Richards and Jores Okore. Likewise there’s no point in Gegenpressing if your front man is Rudy Gusted. Instead it’s about horses for courses, getting the right kind of players to suit the tactic I’m trying to implement. “I love it when a plan comes together” - John “Hannibal” Smith Despite dropping down a division I was excited to get my hands on Villa on FM17. After all there’s been a complete overhaul of the squad, one that would seem to play into the hands of my desire to create a counter attacking 451/433 system. After a few seasons of trying to create this system I had a good handle on what was needed to make it work: A strong defensive core - The team will be sitting back deep. That means we’ll be under pressure a lot of the time. As a result strong defenders - both physically and mentally - are a must. In Elphick, Chester and Jedinak I was confident I had the defensive triangle to do just that. In Amavi, Cissoko, and De Laet I also have hardworking fullbacks who can defend and attack in equal measure. Pacey widemen - The wide men really do make this tactic tick. They not only need to be lightning quick to take advantage of the counter, they also need to have a good work ethic, be decent dribblers and capable finishers. I find converted forwards are great here and in Kodjia, Ayew, Adomah and Grealish I was confident I had good options. A hold up man - For O’Neil it was the physicality of John Carew, for Lambert it was the all round game of Benteke. A lot of pressure is put on the lone striker in this formation. They need to hold the ball up and find a way of creating chances whether that’s through skill or sheer physicality. I had Kodjia (a sort of Benteke lite) and Ross McCormack a prove Championship goalscorer who could also create. Again I was happy with what I had to work with. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” - Benjamin Franklin The key to getting the tactic right this time around was preparation. I needed to carefully think about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. I came up with a few key concepts that I wanted my tactic to fulfill. A low block, getting men behind the ball. Keeping the shape at all times, making it hard for the opposition to score. Breaking with pace. Using the flanks. I had an idea of what this might look like in my head but it wasn’t until reading Ö-zil to the Arsenal!’s excellent Wales thread that the plan really cemented. Ö-zil to the Arsenal! talks a lot in that thread about using Structured / Highly Structured team shapes to cause deviation from the baseline tactic. It was a revelation. Previously I had it in my head that I needed to go Flexible or Fluid to encourage the players to break position, but after reading the thread I realized I could do it with Structured using the correct assignment of duties. What I ended up with is was your see below. The formation is pretty standard, a flat 451 in defence. But the key here is using the right duties in midfield in conjunction with the Structured shape to create the 433 / 41221 shape when we were attacking. So let’s look at it in a little more detail. First the set up. I’ve opted for the Counter mentality because, well, duh! I’m trying to build a counter attacking tactic. I chose Structured to ensure the team kept it’s shape, but also so that I could use duties to create the hybrid effect. In terms of Team Instructions I remembered Cleaon’s lessons from The Art of Counter Attacking thread and kept them minimal. I started with Direct Passing, Exploit the flanks to create the dynamic wing-focussed attack I wanted. However this quickly became Exploit the flanks only as aI realized on the counter mentality Direct passing wasn’t doing anything for me. In terms of roles I also kept things very Vanilla. Again this harks back to Cleon’s Counter Attacking thread which opened my eyes to the way in which playmakers can slow down a potential break, and the likes of BWMs can break the defensive organization of my team. What I settled on was: GK (D) - Pretty standard FB (s) - The more defensive of my full backs, tasked with keeping things tight. CB (d) x2 - Again nothing thrilling here, I want them to keep their shape and do the simple things well. WB (s) - Normally I’d go FB here but in Jordan Amavi I have a potent attacking weapon who I wanted to overlap the attacker like Matt Lowton had in Lambert’s Villa. I added Dribble more, run wide with ball, cross more often PIs W (a) - My right winger was a winger. I wanted him to stay wide and run at the defence, creating chances but getting the occasional goal too. On an attack duty (especially on Counter which is quite narrow) I find they make for good auxiliary attackers. The attack duty combined with Structured mentality should also be emphasized, creating the kind of hybrid sideman / forward I wanted in a 451 / 433. B2B (s) - The right central midfielder I decided would be a B2B. There was space for forward runs due to the winger next to him, and with one up front I knew I needed some late arriving support from midfield. CM (d) - In the centre I have a defensive central midfielder. My anchor man, there to make tackles and mop up the danger. Again with a structured mentality his duty will be emphasized, creating depth when we attack which will form a defensive triangle with the two centrebacks. CM (s) - Now I wanted a DLP here but decided a modified CM would do the same things but without attracting the ball. As a result I gave him more risky passes, dribble less, shoot less PIs WM (a) - The other wideman I wanted to offer something different so we weren’t one dimensional. I tweaked the WM role to create a pseudo Inside Forward. It would not only offer me a goal threat but also enable Amavi to overload outside. With the CM (d) to cover and the more conservative CM (s) on that side I was confident I wasn’t over committing. I added Cut inside Pi to get the desired movement. DLF (s) - The striker needed to score goals and play in others, especially without a playmaker or a traditional number 10. With this role they’d hold up the ball, hopefully before playing in one of the sidemen and charging into the box. I also experimented with a CF (s) which worked just as well. “Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.” - Oscar Wilde. So I had my tactic. Now I had the daunting prospect of a season in the Championship. I didn’t want to overhaul this squad, I quite like it in fact, so I only made one addition in January - a Turkish midfielder who was used whenever Jedinak was suspended. What you see below was achieved without signing wonderkids or underrated stars. So how did we do? Well we won the league, comfortably in fact. We only lost 5 games all season. 2 of those were home and away against Reading who had our number tactically. 1 was at home to Wigan where I’d rested too many players and they scored a wonder goal. Then there were two late on when we were trying to get over the line - both of these were the fault of me rather than my tactics as I took completely the wrong approach to media / team talks. So we won the title with a pretty decent Villa side. Big whoop! But the biggest surprise was how we did it. The tactic worked. It played out as a 433/451 hybrid, we scored from crosses, we attacked down the flanks. But most of all we kept clean sheets. Lots and lots of clean sheets. Over the course of a 46 game season we kept 32 clean sheets. 32! And only conceded 16 goals overall. 16! It was by far and away the best defensive record I’ve ever had on FM and quite frankly a joy to watch. Teams just couldn't break us down and were limited to long shots or half chances. The end result was unsurprisingly the best defence in the league, one that was 23 goals better than our nearest contender. Going forwards the wings were deadly. Player of the Year Kodjia weighed in with goals (19) and assists (10) alike from the left wing, Ayew (despite missing chunks of the season through injury) added 8 goals, and McCormack (again injured) got 17 goals. All in all we finished as 9th top scorers with 61 goals. And I’d say that tally could have been higher had I focussed on developing a Plan B for when teams parked the bus against me. What next? To be honest I just had to share this with you all and thank these forums for playing a massive part in making it happen. I stopped, I stepped back and thought about things logically and it worked. Now we’re Premier League bound. I think the tactic should do pretty well up there as the big teams come at me and leave space in behind. I’ll probably have to strengthen though, but for now I’m just gonna sit here and savour the fruits of my labour.