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This is an excerpt from a guide I will be releasing in the future, which will be a giveaway to my loyal patreons who've supported me over the last few months. I do plan on dribbling this down on the forums too. Its just a massive 70 page guide. So bear with me. I find that most players have a good idea of the basics about tactic creation. Where most go wrong is surprisingly over squad building. Now this may even sound strange, but its true. Overachievement demands that you know what goes wrong in transitions, however most times people fail to recognise the failure point in transitions. They won't know why a player failed to make a challenge, or close down a flank, or even take a shot at goal. It's not an issue when you are managing one of the top sides in the world, because let's face it most of their attributes are already above average. Its when you go down the totem pole that the challenge increases. In the following excerpt. I talk about squad building and how important it is to identify key swing attributes in your team, even before we take a look at what I've termed in my book as Core Role Attributes, these are attributes central to the performance of a role and duty. SQUAD BUILDING So do you build a tactic around your squad or do you build a team around your system? You always need to make the latter your goal, and there is a basic reason why. When you build a tactic around the squad you have, you're always going to be in band-aid mode. This means that you're trying to shoe horn your players into a particular system. Its not ideal and you frequently need to make compromises. Regardless of budgetary constraints, you need to find a way to build a team into the kind of system you want to play. Many people have told me that they find this impossible in certain cases. They could have taken over a club and discovered that the board has given them no wage budget and worse still, every loan signing they've made is uselss. Let's face it most loan signings can be terminated, so you still have a window to make a number of changes. You could be left with no wage budget, but you should still be able to fit a side around a system. There are certain golden rules I follow to make things simple when I want to choose who plays for me: THE SWING ATTRIBUTES Bravery - Determination - Work Rate For me when all things are equal, these attributes are the swing factor. Sometimes these attributes are the very first I look at. For certain duties, these are absolutely vital. Bravery Without this attribute, a player won't go into a challenge, or dive into a header. They affect offensive and defensive situations. A 50-50 ball, becomes a certainty for the opposition AI. So, when it comes to support players, Bravery is a swing factor. If you have less than 8, you have no place in my side as a Support duty. And this duty is huge, because it affects you during transitions. You can't improve bravery, sometimes it may be ok for a striker to have low bravery, but in those tight matches where lunging into a cross is important, this attribute could swing the result the wrong way. So I never pick players with low bravery. This becomes especially true for LLM saves, low bravery means no squad number. And it gets really tough in LLM football, which means I trial the hell out of the world. Work Rate If you are looking for a team to give you lung bursting work, then high stamina and natural fitness are not enough, you need work rate. And a good dose of it. Nothing less than the league average. This attribute defines whether a player is capable of covering every blade of grass, twice. A player with stamina may do it, but a player with low work rate will never do it. Determination Are you fighting to the last minute for an equaliser? Are you urging on a support player to cover miles of grass? Do you want the player to work hard during a game when you are a goal down? Do you want players who are willing to fight for a point? Then you need determination. For me, this is the most important attribute for any team. It gets especially important for sides that are planning to over achieve. A player may have anticipation and positioning, but if he doesn't have the determination to get back in time, then transitions may fail due to his lack of desire. This makes it one of the most important swing attributes in the game. These 3 attributes together form the core requirements for any side that wishes to play with ANY kind of block. If you are looking for players to defend from the front, then the front liners need all these attributes. If you want your midfield to come back and work hard all the time then you need them to have it too. In fact, whenever I build my squad these are always the first 3 attributes I zoom into. Once you have isolated the players that fit the mold of the battling warrior, then you go and start shortlisting players. I always have a few rules for these too. Rule 1 More central midfielders are always better than more wingers. There are more systems that control midfield with central midfielders in the game than there are with wingers. You can also take central midfielders and play them as playmakers, defensive midfielders, box to box midfielders and sometimes even wingers. You usually can't do the same with wingers. Furthermore, most good wingers are low on technical skills like marking and tackling. Rule 2 More fullbacks are better than wingers. Full backs are one of the more versatile positions in the game, they can be retrained as wing backs and as wingers. And they can tackle. They are also incredibly versatlile positions in any system. Furthermore, if you can build a system with good full backs, then you can build really good attacking and controlling systems. Full backs give you incredible width and they can tackle. Rule 3 Always have at least one striker who has strength and good first touch. Having a striker who can hold up the ball, gives us options up front. If he has the Swing Attributes, then you also have a final third bully. Imagine having a "Diego Costa" bullying an opponents back line. These players can work well with pacey off-strikers and can bring others into play. Their ability to hold the ball up will give your sides time to build attacks. If they fail to hold up the ball, you will be a victim to quick transitions. It's very dangerous losing a ball in the final third transition off a player who is trying to hold up the ball and is unsuited to the role. Rule 4 Great mentals are important for central defenders Always try to get one defender or select one defender who has great positioning, marking anticipation and concentration. This defender will usually be the one racking up the interceptions. Eventually SI will rework how interceptions are calculated in the game, but for now, you need a defender who can read the game. If you have two fast defenders and neither can read the game, then you will usually end up praying they run faster, which is usually never a good thing. Now that we have sorted out some requirements lets start building the rest of the squad. Lets start with the core support players. In the book I have listed out them out as Destroyers, Supporters and Creators, or something along those lines. Essentially we want at least a few attributes that are core. The Swing attributes form the core for all of them. For the Destroyers you need to add acceleration, anticipation, tackling and concentration. For the Supporters you need to add teamwork, passing, tackling, first touch and decisions For the Creators you need to add, decisions, passing, crossing, first touch. For strikers it goes without saying they need finishing and composure. sWhen you have isolated these attributes you will notice one thing, there are a large number of systems your team can now play. 4411, 4312, 4231, 3421, 3412, 532, 352, 51221DM Wide, 4231, 4213DM, 41221 At this point, I am expecting some of you to say :"You don't have any wingers, so how can you play some of these systems?" The game is versatile, it allows you to play someone out of position. So long as they have the attributes for the job, it will get done. You can retrain him for the position, but you should never allow the player to dictate what you can and cannot do. You need to get creative with some of the roles in the game. Let's take one example: This happens to be on of my central midfielders, he has decent off the ball, and has average crossing and dribbling, but he has no acceleration to speak of. However his anticipation and tackling make him a good choice as a wide midfielder who can play on support. I can expect him to get up to support and drop deep to defend. Knowing he doesn't have great acceleration will mean I don't need to think of him as an attack duty, or I could give him the attack duty but tell him or the team to hit early crosses. This is how I think with every single player that I've identified as a support player. Now I look for those that can be played in multiple positions. If I can find a fullback who can play as a winger, then his tackling, positioning and workrate make him more valuable to me than a winger who can only cross and dribble. Now I have a player who can drop back to help the team out. The next step is to put them together into systems that allow me to morph from one tactic to another if I need to. I love playing LLM, and sometimes the only way to win, is to react to ingame events .If the AI is willing to go into a 424 to win matches, why should I stay on one tactic, shouldn't I be able to have the same sort of adaptability? Yes, but it all depends on how well your team can move from one role to another role. You need players who can be versatile, you can't have an entire second or third team on the bench, but you can certainly play a different system by changing a role and duty here or there. I can maintain the same level of risk, but change the profile of my attack. Now isn't that more powerful? Setting up a System Now that you have shortlisted your squad its time for you to think about the tactical system you will be using with them. Essentially whatever system you create has to control key zones on the pitch, which I will explain later as Zone 14 or the Golden zone. This immediately gives systems with a Defensive Midfieder and Attacking Midfielders an edge. This part is easy, right? I mean we go out we get ourselves enough players to be versatile. What's the next part? What kind of systems should I build? And this is where people stumble. When we go out and secure these players there is a reason why I chose so many midfielders. To do that I need you to understand a concept common in Germany and Austria called Juego de Posición. It basically boils down to telling your team to play football by controlling grids on a pitch. “Do you know how Barcelona win the ball back so quickly? It’s because they don’t have to run back more than 10 metres as they never pass the ball more than 10 metres.” – Johan Cruyff Football is about controlling space, and these are covered in numerous articles on the web as "Principles of Positional Play". There is also a little known theory about "half spaces" and how to control Zone 14, or what I like to call in FM as the Golden Zone. Zone 14/Golden Zone/Juego de Posición Whenever you create any system, it plays against another system. When you head out and play a game of football, its one tactical system against another tactical system. The goal is to breach the defences and score goals, and in the last 10 years, numereous studies have postulated the co-relation with controlling Zone 14 with a large number of assists. This can easily be applied in FM. A large number of goals come from assists created from within the Golden Zone. When we decide on the Swing Attributes we have basically decided which one of our players is going to be the frontline battling titan sent out to control areas of the pitch. So whatever system you create, when it comes down to transitions you don't want to see the AI happily camping in our Golden Zone. And, you want to be able to get into theirs. This can be done with many systems. Does this mean we need to set up shop and camp there? No it means we somehow need to drag the opposition around in that area so that we can free up one player to play a deadly pass to a goalscorer. And this is one of the reasons why I favour using an APM as a wide playmaker in a wide 41221, he's an instant magnet. So what kind of systems lend themselves naturally to creating control here? Immediately several pop to mind: 4231, 4312, 4132, 41221, 433Narrow, 3142, 442 Diamond What do these systems have in common? All of them have a DM or an AM in either zone. This doesn't mean that you automatically gain an advantage. It just means that you have the players and with the right attributes they stand a good chance of making something happen. As a manager its up to you to design a system which either drags them around creating space for your scorers, or if you are defending, herd the AI into cul-de-sacs where you win the 2nd ball or they turn over possession. The Swing Attributes I listed earlier make it easier for you to filter out those who can work hard to control the space. Anytime you see someone fail to, check those attributes first before you check on their technical abilities. Some of these tactics seem a bit odd, like the 442 Diamond and the 4312narrow, both of these play narrow. And it would appear that we are ceding control wide to have an advantage in the middle. Yes, we are ceding control, but remember eariler when I looked around for fighting midfielders with bravery, determination and work rate, why do you think they are in the team? To battle over every blade of grass in midfield to win the ball. Sometimes you will end up ceding control of specific areas to get this done. For example, a 442 narrow diamond would give up some measure of control of the flanks in order for the system to control the middle. Deciding what system you can use sometimes becomes the harder choice. Here I would recommend that you stay away from a 442. In the image above, these are the two zones that need to be controlled for the 442 to succeed. To exploit a 442 or any system we need to identify the weak areas of the system and take advantage of it. The 442 fails to control any zone effectively apart from the flanks, but controlling this area of the pitch also limits the kind of football you can play. Any attempt to play a more attacking role in the final third through the middle weakens your centre. So unless you have very good players, you would probably be better off playing a system like a 41221, 451, 4312 or even a 4231 Each one of these systems seeks to control some part of the pitch with more players. Now having already followed certain rules with player selections you would now have a squad with more central midfielders, this will give you more options to control the middle. Now we need to apply all this into specific games. And I have a match against Leicester coming up and they play a wicked 442. SETTING UP A SQUAD FOR A SPECIFIC GAME Most people start the game with a tactic in mind, they choose their starting 11, set up training and look forward to the first game of the season. Results usually end up working out for them, and then towards the middle of the season, things start to go pear-shaped. Fact is, you need to think about squad building throughout the season. You need to choose who to play for every game and every kind of opposition you face. Most times when you are one of the best teams in the game, it isn't much of an issue. In my long term save with Torino, they just happen to be one of the top 10 clubs in the world. In the Serie A, they are probably the best team. Setting them up becomes an afterthought, because there are probably only 2 teams there that pose a significant challenge. When you reach this stage, then squad building has been perfected. In order to get to that stage you need to go through several years of planning, and it begins when you are a small club punching above your weight. This is when you plan your squad around the matches you face. In the previous section I spoke about how you add players to your squad. I explained why I chose to prefer full backs and central midfielders above all else. There is a simple reason for this - it allows me to choose the right 11 for every match. And this is how I do things. I usually scout opposition teams study their strengths and set up to combat them. Here are a few examples: Playing against a 442 In the previous section I spoke about how you add players to your squad. I explained why I chose to prefer full backs and central midfielders above all else. There is a simple reason for this - it allows me to choose the right 11 for every match. And this is how I do things. I usually scout opposition teams study their strengths and set up to combat them. First I do my homework, with a bit of practice you should do this naturally but here I list out my thought processes if I were going to be playing against a 442. What I do is to develop what-if scenarios in my head. In matches I absolutely need to win, I do this diligently and I watch highlight reels of the AI's matches. Over time you should be able to work this into a habit and you will shorten this list. Ultimately you will be instinctive and won't be watching pkms anymore, instead you would have developed your own solutions embedded into multiple options you could use in the game. In the hands of a human manager, this tactic usually falls apart. In the hands of the AI, it ends up becoming a beast. A 442 has certain strengths, its balanced in all areas of the pitch without being too strong in any particular area. When playing against an AI 442, I study to find out how the attack patterns play out. I scour previous games, study the AI and if possible watch highlights of the AI matches. The goal here is to find out how they attack. If they attack with a double flank attack, ie both wingers attack with fullbacks coming in support. And, in the final third transition, the wingers cut inside and the fullbacks add width, then I need to work on breaking midfield transitions. Here isolation is the name of the game. You need to isolate their fullbacks from the midfielders and identify the playmaker in the system. If the tactic plays with a targetman/poacher combination, then it becomes even harder. If the targetman can hold up the ball in time for support to arrive, it usually means that we have ceded control of our final third. When I analyse the AI play, I look for clues.events that warn me about the AI's style, its these little things I look for before coming up with a plan on how to combat it. Once I've identified the clues, I start building a squad around combating it for my match. During the match itself, I will look for these clues again to see if I need to adapt Clue 1 When Full back enters opponent's final third their central players start entering dangerous positions Clue 2 When central midfielder on defend enters opponents half fullbacks give width in final third and wingers cut inside Clue 3 Midfielder on the ball is ice skating through the middle Clue 4 Midfielder on flank holding up the ball dragging players to him Clue 5 Midfielder on the right side of midfield is switching over to left side of midfield Clue 6 Where does the team win its 2nd ball, in the midfield consolidation phase, midfield penetration phase or does it prevent the opponent from entering midfield phase Clue 7 Who is the most influential link up player in the AI team? This may not neccessarily be the playmaker, it could even be the player who is almost always breaking up interceptions. Imagine Kante with Chelsea, he doesn't tackle much, but he is always around intercepting breaking up plays. Without him Hazard won't get the ball. Prevent Kante from interecepting and Hazard has to drop deeper. Clue 8 Set piece transitions - When defending a setpiece, do they defend with everyone? Do they have a fast counter? Who stays forward? Who stays near edge of box? Clue 9 When attacking set pieces, do they commit everyone? Do those who stay back have any particular weaknesses. Here we are looking out especially concentration, positioning, anticipation and acceleration. Now we need to apply all this into specific games, and that's the objective of the next chapter, how do we adapt to certain tactical systems and what do we look for in transitions. Believe me, there are huge clues in the game, and sometimes they come in quick succession.
WHAT ARE TRANSITIONS? A transition is an event in a game of football, the term itself was only recently used in football over the last 15 years. The word itself means "changeover". In basketball, it's sometimes called a turnover. It's an event in a game where something significant happens, i.e, someone loses possession of the ball or you could suddenly go from defending into launching a blistering attack. It's important to understand them and learn how to identify them in a game. If you can't identify a transitional event then chances are you will not even know something is wrong in the game. PHASES IN PLAY Football typically has various phases in play and I like to break these up in conjunction with the way duties work in the game. Duties in football manager have 3 settings, Support, Defend and Attack. Each duty kicks in at various points in a transition. In order for us to line these up with the phases in a game, let's break the phases down so they work closely with duties. Defence to Midfield Transition This transition involves working the ball from your goalkeeper/defenders to your midfield players. Its typically a short transition that involves simple passes from the back to midfield. Shouts like Play out of Defence affect this transition and player instructions like the Goalkeepers passing instructions and the passing instructions of the defenders can also affect this transition. If you were to play short simple passes and tell the backline not to play risky passes, this could see the players play the ball from the back. Bear in mind though, that mentality here plays a significant role in how these passes are set up. Higher mentalities could see more direct passes from the back and lower mentalities could either see simple short passes or hoofed clearances if the defenders are under pressure. Midfield Transition - Midfield Consolidation and Midfield Penetration I like to break this phase into two parts : Consolidation and Penetration. During the consolidation phase the ball has moved from the defenders to one of the central midfielders. Now the team can go through a phases where supporting duties on the flanks start to move up to support the passing moves. Players in attacking midfield could drop deeper if they have the player trait : "Likes to drop deeper". This phase is typified by movement as players with good off the ball make themselves available for the pass. I have seen plenty of pkms from users over the years to suggest that this is the main area where people have issues with. If a team cannot consolidate possession in midfield at this point, its usually down to several factors: a. Aggressive press by opposition played with a high defensive line b. Poor attributes of the user's team showing a lack of "off the ball" attributes in key support duties c. Wrong duty selection leaving few players available for the right kind of pass. For a midfield consolidation phase to work well, we need to have players with good off the ball to make themselves available for the pass, players with decent first touch to take control of the ball. Playmakers need decent balance, composure to keep hold of the ball under pressure. And they also need to have decent decision making and passing to make the right kind of passes. This phase is so important that it's significance cannot be understated. There are factors like Shape that influence this phase. A structured shape could see players positioned slightly further apart, demanding that the ball carrier and the receivers be good at holding up the ball, making the pass and doing the run. The manager needs to focus on this phase squarely, any failure of his players to find the pass/make the pass should be studied and possible tweaks to roles and duties should be made. The Midfield Penetration phase is the point in the game where your team has consolidated its control of midfield and is now getting its support duties into attacking moves. Here you will frequently see full backs on support making attacking runs or any support duty suddenly making darting runs. Forwards will also begin testing defensive lines at this point, and its a good indication of whether they are attacking the channels between defenders and fullbacks and between defenders. The Attacking transition is usually the shortest phase typically lasting less than 12 seconds. This is the point where an attacking pass is made either to unlock the defence or a diagonal ball is played out to the flanks where a fullback is readying to cross the ball in. A good attacking transition involves the exploitation of space and is an indication of a successful midfield penetration phase. If your attacking transitions are failing, its a good bet that the problem lies in failing to drag the team around well during the penetration phase. There are other transitions in the game like the: Defence to Attack transition - e.g. Counter attack from defending a corner to attacking the AI Attack to defence transition - Going from attack to suddenly defending against the AI. BREAKING THE AI'S TRANSITIONS The goal of the user has to be creating a seamless transition through all the phases resulting in a chance at goal. Once you have achieved this, then you can begin to look at adjusting roles and duties to tweak it further to give yourself better goal scoring chances. The reverse needs to be done to the opposition, your goal has to be shutting the AI's transitions down and preventing from having a seamless one. Common strategies to use to have this done: a. Opposition instructions - Closing down and hard tackling the backline to force them to play hurried passes. This requires you to use a suitable formation. b. Overloading - By choosing the right combination of support duties and attacking duties you can overload a specific side of the pitch and use talented players to unlock the other flank with good diagonals c. Man Marking - Targeting a specific player in the opposition to reduce their influence Generally speaking, you need to understand how to identify transitions before you can even begin to understand why your tactic isn't working. I believe that if you can master this aspect of the game, then the rest actually becomes very easy. I have also attached a video where I can explain this in a short 5 minute guide.