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furiousuk

The Power Of A Few Choice Words

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I’ve not made much use of the media before, preferring to rely on good old fashioned tactical and personnel superiority and pretend that I’m being a good honest sort of chap who creates a level playing field and exclaims ‘may the best person win’, however, I’ve been tempted by the dark side and the power it can yield. The few well placed comments on danger men can reap devilish rewards.

Let me first explain the situation: My Southampton side are currently enjoying their 1st season in the EURO Cup and have found ourselves playing away in the 1st leg of the 1st knockout stage against Catania. Both sides are evenly matched, both with national reputation and predicted to finish 9th in their leagues. The odds slightly favour the hosts but I have other ideas.

A quick look at their team sheet shows that they are indeed a strong side who are very similar to my own. They have a highly professional side whilst mine are highly determined; we both play a 451/433; we both have speed out wide and a creative core and we both like no-nonsense players. On top of that I have this little problem:

sotonprematch.jpg

The 2 ineligible players joined too late in the summer but Sandro and Rudenok are 2 of my star players, to be without them for the biggest game of the season is unfortunate to say the least. Berra, my Capt and stalwart (missed only 1 league game in last 4 seasons), has been busy playing in the stupid Four Associations Cup, as have Cunningham, Ledley, McCann and Evans which further depletes my options. With Kovacic & Mohammed Sissoko only just returned from injury things are looking a little bleak.

Still, Sissoko is physically good and should have gained some sharpness from a reserve game and an African Cup game and, with Old, can smash most midfields. I’ll miss Sandro in this respect, of course, but this is advantage number 1 I have over Catania. Advantage number 2 is my attacking triplet, all decent players and all in good form, I’ll still miss Rudenok but these 3 can do a job. My 3rd advantage is about to rear its ugly head.

The game is being played on Thursday 16th Feb, my nefarious plan for this game began 3 days hence. Normally my motivational plan stems from the last game but it’s been 12 days since then and these games will be played back to back with no Saturday game squeezed between them. With the odds slightly stacked against me I had to turn the tables somehow and a few choice words on Monday began the onslaught.

Catania’s best player by some margin is Matias Schelotto, containing him would be a bonus but destroying him before he’s even set foot on the pitch, well, that is the aim. Cue the media. A well-timed media comment drawing the attention squarely on his shoulders might do the trick. He hasn’t got bad bravery but a quick look at his previous games have shown that he hasn’t performed particularly well against bigger sides and Catania are in a bit of a slump. The plan is compounded by 2 more carefully worded press releases about his team-mates. Aubemeyang & Schelotto are best mates so Aubameyang gets the treatment, that should really rub it in whilst to round it off I have a good go at Muntari as I know he can be a loose cannon.

mediaimpact.jpg

Bingo! The press might only agree with 2 of my choices but each player is worried, stage 1 of the assault has been formulated and carried out to great effect so far.

Stage 2 is the effect it will have on my players. My squad is pretty professional and don’t normally agree with this sort of dirty tactic but, for most them, this is their 1st foray into the knockout stages of Europe (and the club’s 1st foray for many a year) so hopefully they will be reassured that their manager has got their back and is assessing the opposition. Well, it worked for 1 of my players and annoyed my star player (he’s highly professional but with lowish determination so he’s never going to like it but as he saw fit to get a 3 match suspension he can complain all he likes from the stands). My pre-match talk to the media got another 2 players on side so I’m ready to go.

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Tactically I haven’t had much to do, the team has pretty much picked itself due to unavailabilities and I choose not to make any tactical alterations before the match begins – Old & Sissoko should be able to muscle the midfield whilst the front 3 can do their normal thing. Spence doesn’t normally play in the centre for me (yet) but I know he can do a good job so I’m not overly worried about my defence. So long as the injuries stay away I have confidence this team can do a job, with the seed of doubt placed in the minds of the opponents I really have a fighting chance despite losing 3 key players.

The OI’s I have chosen for this game should further ram that doubting seed down their throats as I’ve used hard tackling and closing down on Schelotto and tight marking on Aubameyang. I want to destroy the midfield to further frustrate these players so I set all 3 opposing midfielders to weaker foot whilst closing down and hard tackling their DM.

The plot thickens.

matchmotivation.jpg

Thats what I’m after. Aubameyang is disinterested and, despite Schelotto actually starting ok, within 20 minutes the OI’s have finished him off and he’s nervous. The match stats are from 30 minutes in and it’s all Southampton. Ok, it’s tentative but at this stage of the game I just want to stop them from playing, they are a team on a bad run of form, the longer this goes the better I should be looking and more frustrated they’ll get.

A check of my average positions and the action zones at half-time and I try to further encourage my guys. It doesn’t really work but as Spence at Captain, Loach at GK and Djuric as the key player are motivated I’m still feeling pretty good. The 2nd half begins pretty mundanely and the plan is still to frustrate and annoy. Losing my nerve and going for the kill too early could be disastrous.

On the 60 minute mark several things happen at once. Firstly, the pressure of drawing at home is getting to them and they attempt to go for the kill first. They swap to a 3-4-3 and are definitely narrower whilst looking for the overlap and they aren’t looking too bad for the change. I check my motivation, the 3 motivated guys are joined by 3 ‘playing with confidence’ so I hit the tactic button to change to counter attacking. I want my quick wide players to punish them for not defending the flanks. An injury at this moment to Steven Taylor would normally be disastrous as his replacement, Rigamonti, is young and not in particularly good form but he’s got better passing, creativity and decisions than Taylor so I’m optimistic he should do a job firing long balls into the corners for my AMR/AML to chase.

Two near misses from counters and it’s Schelotto off and a slightly more defensive 5-2-3 for Catania but the damage is already done.

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countergoalframe1.jpg

Ignore the score, it was 0-0 at this stage.

With the Catania FB’s bombing forward still looking to sneak a goal (at this stage Catania have only had 2 shots, both wide, so they’ve got to be worried) my strong midfield win the ball and Djuric in the middle starts the counter by nodding it wide to Lallana (7).

countergoalframe2.jpg

The benefit of having quick players. Lallana has done his stupid wobbly run up to the edge of the box where he lays it off to Simpson (2) who has a knot of 3 players to aim at, he might only have crossing of 11 and decisions & technique of 12 but anywhere near those 3 and it’ll be in.

countergoalframe3.jpg

And there is the winner, with a diving header no less. With 17 for heading, jumping and anticipation to aim at it doesn’t matter that Simpson can’t cross, with that much space created from counter attacking hard & exploiting weaknesses in the opposition Djuric is always going to get there first.

Summary

So, to sum it up, embrace the dark side of player manipulation. Sure, it’s a dirty trick and one that I won’t be employing too often but you can bet that I’ll be continuing the media sorrow for the stars of Catania in preparation for the return leg.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Djuric picked up another needless yellow in the closing stages of the game (he’s not afraid to mix it about!) so will miss the return leg, and Taylor will only just have recovered from the knock he took so will probably be unavailable too. I’ve won the battle but, as for the war, well, it’s not over yet...

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Player "manipulation" is definately a fun part of FM, and once you get the hang of it it becomes more than fun, it becomes incredibly immersive.

It's one of those parts of the game where reading a lot of football news in real life and trying out a few experiments in FM really pays off. There are plenty of little tips and tricks like the one above for many areas of FM, but you have to be careful using them. Chucking around a few comments without thinking them through can swiftly cause a lot of problems for you. On the other hand if you aim some well weighted comments in the right direction at the right time, you can reap immense rewards.

I have had transfer fees reduced, squad discipline problems clear up, players banging in hat-tricks after being out form, not to mention the general benefits of a nice and happy squad through good use of these options.

There are no X+Y=Z rules for this kind of thing, or atleast that's not the way I get success from these options, and yes they can backfire and be scary. But if you can get a feel for how they work and learn to use them at the right times I think they add a whole lot to the game.

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Yes, I've certainly had a few back-fire when I've been a little careless about using them. Particularly if I'm favourites, it just seems to get up my guys noses and I rely on motivation quite heavily. I have to say, I only used the media so heavily in this situation because I was in a hole with unavailabilities and not-fully-fit players but it's an area I'd definitely like to improve further, particularly as my squad face tougher challenges. The Catania squad is very low on morale as it is so I'm not sure how I'll approach the 2nd leg, given that I've lost an additional 2 players, any upwards shift in the morale of the opposition will be fatal for me.

As a rule of thumb I normally make a comment 2-3 days prior to the game to allow the pressure to really build on a player and possibly longer to get into a proper feud with a manager if I want to take the stress off of my players, in your experience, does this sound about right as a general rule? I still have a lot to learn in this respect.

Also, how would you go about motivating your players for the 2nd leg, which is at home? I know this is difficult without knowing the squad but they are a determined and professional bunch who are on an exceptional run of form (although haven't faced the top sides in the league for a while). I've generally been fairly expectant with them, although this game against Catania saw a 'for the fans' with plenty of 'faith' for key individuals.

I'm fascinated by how deep player personalities can run. Cunningham, above, is normally only on good morale and I haven't yet worked out how to get under his skin and motivate him properly despite the fact that, on the outside, he seems roughly the same as my other players.

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I didn't think that bravery would make any impact on media handling. Isn't low deterlmination more important than bravery?

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Heath did a thread similar to this and the 3 attributes he highlights are bravery, composure, and determination.

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Players have a hidden attribute called "pressure" and it's that what determines if they can handle the media pressure or not, generally players with low determination have a worse personality (there are exceptions though) so they are good targets for those interactions, i'll do this sometimes but keep in mind that it can also backfire if you have a very professional squad who won't appreciate this sort of "mind games" and it can lower the morale of your own players.

Good read anyway, heath's thread about this is interesting as well.

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Thanks for the tips guys, I always thought bravery and the hidden pressure stat (which can be guessed at in some cases) but was starting to lean towards determination. Hadn't thought of composure. Of the 3 players in the OP, Aubameyang has poor bravery (reasonable determination & composure), Muntari poor(ish) composure but good in the others whereas Schelotto is fairly brave (14), very composed (16) & immensely determined (19) so I'm guessing that the pressure stat must be the low one. I would guess that player reputation also plays a part, particularly in how the media think your comments will be taken.

I also took into account form, both the team form and the player form.

Maybe I just got lucky, I certainly don't know everything about this mechanic in the game yet, but I'm sure it played a fairly significant part in the victory. I was careful to implement the effect I hoped it would have on their players into my overall approach for the game (i.e. be a bit more defensive and use OI's to further frustrate them and wait until they were desperate before striking).

I'll look for the Heath thread too, thanks for the heads up.

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I just lokked at the thread, and indeed he points out those three attributes. In my opinion though, this changes nothing.

I firmly believe determination (and ofcourse the hidden mental attributes) as the attribute to look for when trying to put pressure on opponents. The only way bravery and composure seem to play a role for my is the type of comment you can make. If determinations is low and the other attributes are high, yoy can make a comment that he's a dangerman. If composure and bravery are low, you can comment he's the weakest link.

Yhis means determination is still the most important attribute to look for.

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Stefaan: Do you know if the different chat options have any different effects or if it purely cosmetic?

Also, I couldn't find a thread by Heath (unless its contained in his Lower League Management thread?). Could you post me a link please? I'd like to have a look, think I'm going to have a crack at the 2nd leg tonight and I need to pile yet more pressure on the opponents. Their Capt in particular was very well motivated but I guess, being skipper, he may prove an impossible nut to crack. I'm not averse to be even dirtier and leaking a story about buying him (although I think this might well have an adverse effect on my squad ;) )

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I think (think, this is important to note, I'm no Heatxxx, SFraser, wwfan,...) it's cosmetic. It seems to unnerve players, making their morale drop. The (hidden) pressure stat seems important in this regard.

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I just lokked at the thread, and indeed he points out those three attributes. In my opinion though, this changes nothing.

I firmly believe determination (and ofcourse the hidden mental attributes) as the attribute to look for when trying to put pressure on opponents. The only way bravery and composure seem to play a role for my is the type of comment you can make. If determinations is low and the other attributes are high, yoy can make a comment that he's a dangerman. If composure and bravery are low, you can comment he's the weakest link.

Yhis means determination is still the most important attribute to look for.

Forget this point µI was trying to make. Seems not to work out. I just commented oon a pleyer with low determination but high composure and bravery as "weakest link". He's now "hoping he doesn't let his team down..."

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Forget this point µI was trying to make. Seems not to work out. I just commented oon a pleyer with low determination but high composure and bravery as "weakest link". He's now "hoping he doesn't let his team down..."

Ha ha, yes, I'm finding there are no hard and fast rules as SFraser says above. I haven't seen a weakest link (or didn't notice it) thread so haven't seen a 'hoping he doesn;t let his team down' and I used the same discussion thread on the three above, hence no difference in their un-surety. I'm hinting towards it being a cosmetic feature too that just drops morale but it wouldn't surprise me if this game was more complicated, I've long suspected that an influential player will leech morale, form and possibly attributes to those around him during a game (i.e. a young CB next to Ferdinand or Terry would surely be 'helped' to a better performance) so it would make perfect sense that a key or influential player will leech a lack of morale to other players.

It all feels very Sun Tzu!

Thanks for the link too Coentrao.

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