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ZdlR

The Art of Defending

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Theory

Defending, at its core, is the act of preventing the opposition from scoring a goal. Here endeth the lesson.

But, in all seriousness, there is a whole lot more to defending than initially meets the eye. Defending is an art form that is often overlooked, merely an afterthought to the team's attacking tactics. While preventing the opposition from scoring a goal might be the ultimate aim, it is far from the best course of action. Merely sitting deep and narrow will invite the opposition onto you and will result in your goal being peppered with shots. Defending is only half of the story when it comes to winning a football match. Generally, you do need to offer some sort of attacking threat, too.

So, what different things can be done to prevent the opposition from scoring a goal? Well, the most effective preventative measure is to ensure that they never have the ball. If the opposition don't have the ball, they can't score. Possession does not yield goals in and of itself, but it prevents goals. Keeping possession is a laudable aim, but it is certainly not feasible to achieve 100% possession across ninety minutes. At some point, possession will be conceded and you will have to concentrate on the bulk of what defending is really about: retrieving possession of the ball.

The focus from here onward will be the options available for winning the ball back from the opposition, during open play, without allowing them to shoot. Allowing the opposition to shoot is undesirable, although speculative shots from distance are obviously much less likely to succeed that shots from close range.

When possession is conceded in open play, every outfield player on the defending team needs to make a number of decisions that will determine how they will next act. The first decision that they make is whether they are going to try to win the ball back directly, or not. This is determined, primarily, by the player's proximity to the opposition ball carrier - given that the ball is lost to the left flank, it is unlikely that a right-sided player will come galloping across the pitch to engage with the ball carrier.

If we accept for the time being that a player in close proximity to the ball carrier has decided he is going to engage with the opponent, they now face another decision: how to affect a favourable outcome when engaging directly with an opponent in possession of the ball. Basically, you want one of two things to happen here: either transfer possession by winning the ball or forcing the opposition into a negative action. Negative actions would be passing backwards, trying to pass to someone who is marked, putting the ball out of play: typically, anything that does not directly advance the opposition's attack.

In order to transfer possession, the defending player needs to be approach the ball carrier and get close enough to take the ball away, either by poking the ball away, by executing a block tackle or by executing a slide tackle. Poking the ball away is a difficult skill to perform accurately, and requires that the ball carrier is sufficiently far away from the ball that it can be cleanly removed from his possession. While it is unlikely to result in a foul, unless badly timed, it is not guaranteed to transfer possession directly - the ball could feasibly end up completely free or even in a better position for the attacker. A block tackle requires the defender to place themselves in the right position to extend their leg at the right time so that, when the ball carrier tries to play the ball, they prevent the ball from going forward. It might not result in possession, but it can take the attacker out of the game - fairly, too. The final kind of tackle is extremely risky. Risking injury and disciplinary action - the slide tackle is an overtly aggressive method to remove possession from the ball carrier. Even if executed perfectly, by purposefully going to ground, the defender leaves themselves prone and effectively out of the game until they can return to their feet.

So, if not by winning the ball back directly, how else can a defender engage with the ball carrier? They can limit their options and force them into a negative manoeuvre. There are two very similar options here. The first is to jockey the ball carrier - getting close to them but not necessarily close enough to make a tackle - and keep goal-side of them at all times. By angling their body, the defender can prevent direct shots, prevent passes and block off a potential dribble. The second option is slightly more proactive: shepherding tries to channel the player into a certain area where they will hopefully provide less of a threat. Both of these options can be preludes to winning the ball directly through a tackle, but they can also be used to make the ball carrier give up their possession and make a pass, take a shot or cross the ball, etc.

Let's return to the alternative branch of the original decision: what if I am not going to engage the ball carrier directly? Again, this is split into two further branches depending on the player's general role in the team. Some players are going to be sufficiently absolved of defending responsibilities that they can take up some sort of attacking position. Perhaps they will move into space generally, or they might move into some sort of useful space that would aid the player(s) looking to win the ball back directly, should they be successful. In other words, they are not defending, but anticipating the turnover of possession in their team's favour and positioning themselves in the best way to spring a possible counter-attack or consolidate some nascent possession.

If the player has defensive duties and they are not going to pressure the ball carrier, then they will need to take up some kind of defensive position. This position will aim to limit the attacking options of the ball carrier, further cementing their decision to take regressive action. Specifically, the player is going to mark space or mark a man. If they are marking space then they can still end up marking a man - if there is a man in the space that they have been designated to cover. However, if there is no-one to mark in their space then they must assume a position and will prevent the ball ending up in the possession of the opposition following a pass or a dribble. They want to position themselves so that they can easily intercept a pass into their space or perhaps engage with the ball carrier should they be the opponent to enter their space.

Marking a man is a different proposition. With man marking, the defender should gravitate towards the nearest free man that they can mark. Once there, they have the option of sticking to that opponent tightly and ensuring that they do not easily find space in which to receive a pass or make a run. Or, they can stand off them, allowing them some space but staying goal-side and attempting to contain them in front and preventing them from getting in behind.

The primary difference between the two systems are the focus: zonal marking concentrates on space and the ball whereas man marking is more interested in the direct opponent. Man marking was very popular in systems like the catenaccio but a strictly man-marking system of defending has been proven to be defeated by a sufficiently fluid attacking system whereby players can interchange positions and roles, thus dragging the shape of the team around. It is a more reactive system than zonal marking, which aims to preserve the formational shape while dealing pragmatically with the opposition's attacking threats. That is not to say that a fully man marking system cannot work in FM, but it is likely to come unstuck against attacking fluidity. Conversely, a fully-zonal marking system is difficult to execute successfully: defenders need to be alert to the continually changing shape of the opponent's attack and must be able to deal with it in a dynamic fashion.

Applied to FM

Let's take each of the decisions and see how they can be affected by the tactical sliders that we have at our disposal.

The first decision, whether to close down the opponent, is directly affected by the closing down slider, but can also be affected by width, d-line and mentality, which help to determine a players position. If you increase closing down to 'whole pitch' then you are giving players the license to leave their position and close down the ball carrier no matter where they are on the pitch. If you reduce it to 'own area' then the player will tend to engage ball carriers only inside the penalty area.

If the defender is going to engage with the ball carrier, then they may make a tackle. We have an option for controlling how a player makes a tackle, not necessarily if they make tackle. The settings for tackling are 'easy', 'normal' or 'hard' which I tend to think of as 'poke', 'block' or 'slide' tackles. However, this is not the full story. I would say that Bobby Moore's legendary tackle against Jairzinho is an example of an 'hard' poke tackle. While he goes to ground a little, he is back-peddling, waiting for Jairzinho to make a slight error of judgement with his dribbling, and pounces when presented with a chance to poke the ball away. Note, however, that Moore is interested in nothing more than taking the ball away from an advancing ball carrier. He's not so fussed about where it goes at this point but, equally, he attempts to touch nothing but the ball.

Assuming that the defender is not going to make a tackle but will otherwise engage with the ball carrier, there are another two options that they might choose: jockey or shepherd. Both are most likely to occur when a player is given a sufficiently defensive mentality that they are risk averse enough not to want to commit to a tackle immediately - and easy tackling helps with this, too, requesting that they try to poke the ball away from the opponent may require them to jockey until such a situation occurs (which is exactly what Bobby Moore does in the video linked above). Shepherding is achieved in FM by using the Opposition Instructions on certain players. You can't give your players individual instructions to always shepherd any opponent that they try to hold up, rather you must instruct them to shepherd specific players. This makes sense because shepherding is most useful for directing players into channels where you feel they will pose less of a threat. For example, you may shepherd a central attacking midfielder out to a wing. Or, you may shepherd an inside forward down the touchline to the byline where they will be forced to pass backwards or cross with their weaker foot. For both, simply show the specific player onto their weaker foot.

The bulk of defending will be done by those players who are not engaging the ball carrier. The first decision they make will be based on the type of marking that you have set up. If a player is set to zonally mark then they may still man mark if there is someone in their designated zone (well, ideally they will, but players are imperfect). Zonal marking requires positioning, anticipation, teamwork, concentration and decisions while man marking requires marking, workrate and concentration. When tightly man-marking, defenders need physical attributes like agility and strength so that they aren't out-muscled or turned easily. Loose man marking places more onus on positioning.

Praxis

To try to demonstrate how this translates into the match engine, I will show some screen shots with explanations from my FA Cup 5th round tie at home to Aston Villa. I am Liverpool in this game, with a vastly different squad to that which starts the game. For full disclosure, I've won the league three times in a row, the FA Cup twice and reached the CL final once.I'm on course to achieve a treble, inasmuch as I'm still in the cups and I'm leading the league by four points. I will therefore not only analyze what I do right in this game, but what Aston Villa do wrong, defensively. Assuming, of course, that things turn out the way I plan :D

Villa take initiative

The first goal comes very early on from a Villa counter attack. There are six screenshots below which show the move developing. #1 shows the moment that we lose control of the ball. Lucas, my deepest midfielder, is caught in possession and Villa launch a counter. The circled Villa players are free to bomb forward unhindered, meaning that we have too many people committed forward. The rest of the screenshots show how we deal with this potentially dangerous counter attack.

g1full.png

#2: Here's our first mistake. Otamendi (4) moves out of defence to engage with El Arabi (the ball carrier). This opens up a whole heap of space between left back, Tiago (14), and other central defender, Phil Jones (3). Isla (12) should be pretty much laughing at this point at how utterly stupid this decision was. Otamendi, in this game, is set up to be my more defensive, covering, centreback. As Cleon has pointed out in threads before, it can be fruitful to play one defender with lower mentality and closing down than the other - typically, your better defender is deeper to cover mistake by your other defender. The problem here is that Otamendi's aggression (20) dictates that he likes to get involved at all times. I should probably be playing him as the more advanced defender. However, Phil Jones has anticipated the threat and is peeling backwards and inwards to cover for Otamendi - this is zonal marking in action. Agbonlahor (11) has pulled wide between the first and second screenshot. Thankfully, Phil is not set to man mark and thus is not tempted to track him across, leaving an absolute gaping chasm in the middle for Villa to exploit. Instead, Jones hands Agbonlahor off to Johnson (2). This is the crux of zonal marking: track runs from deep but hand of lateral movement. El Arabi takes the easy option and passes inside to Isla, and we're in trouble.

#3: Phil Jones does excellently to scamper across and cover. This is due to his acceleration and pace (both 17). He manages to get into position to engage with Isla and force him into a negative action: a sideways pass to Stanislas (25), who is not really free. Jones and Otamendi have combined to great effect here and it is due to their zonal marking settings, allowing them to pressure and cover alternately. The only criticism I have is that Otamendi is slightly out of position and should drop back and move to the right, slightly: Reo-Coker (20) is in a good position to exploit the space between centreback and rightback, Gerrard (8) having almost no interest in tracking him properly from the start. I think the danger from before has been averted and we're in a good position to deal with this counter now.

#4: Phil Jones has stopped backing off, while the rest of the defence has done. This puts him in a more advanced position but his is now marking Isla (12) for a possible return pass. Tiago should be thinking about engaging Stanislas (25) and putting pressure on him. I'm not really happy that the gap between Otamendi and Johnson hasn't been plugged, but at least we've bought enough time for Gerrard to wake up and get goal-side of Reo-Coker. El Amadi is now the free man to look out for, but Lucas (18) should be scampering back to get goal-side of him.

#5: What on earth just happened here??? Oh, that's right, I asked Tiago to tackle hard and so, when he went to engage with Stanislas, he totally missed the tackle and Stanislas just skips past him. Jones and Otamendi have now gone back to their original positions at right centreback and left centreback, respectively. The two of them have done quite well to repel this attack so far, despite Otamendi's initial rash decision to step out of defence. Tiago has caused all sorts of problems though - we have gone from a comfortable position to being 2v1 against one of our centrebacks.

#6: Otamendi has moved across, but Tiago isn't dropping back into the centreback position, like he should do in a zonal marking system. This is because of his low teamwork (10). He is not helping his fellow defenders out at all. Otamendi has gone too far across Stanislas and is shepherding him inside. This is my fault because I instructed everyone to show Stanislas onto his weaker left foot. So, he's doing exactly as I requested, but what I requested was wrong - for all Stanislas' left might be weak, there is no congestion in the middle of the park in a 442, so it is a risky move. From here, Stanislas accepts the invitation inside and powers the ball past the keeper. While I could feel aggrieved about the shot due to Stanislas being fairly poor at finishing, composure, long shots and having a swinger of a left-foot, that's really not relevant when you gift someone time and space. I, personally, would score less than him in all of those categories and it still doesn't mean i would never score from this position.

Villa extend their lead

g2full.png

#1: We have adopted a very typical defensive formation here for the 442 - two banks of four. the horizontal lines show the distances between our players. Ideally, this should be quite narrow, irrespective of our specified width. While you can defend with width - and this is desirable against teams that focus on working the ball wide before throwing crosses into the box - it is generally accepted that you want to make the pitch small and ensure the opposition has to work to create space. The width you choose will affect both your defensive width and your attacking width but it is closer to the latter. Specifying wide will still see you spring back to a narrower width, just perhaps not narrow enough. The only issues I have with our position here are: Lucas (18) is too man-centric, meaning that he has moved laterally to mark Isla (12) and this has opened up too much space between himself and Gerrard (8). This is because I am asking Lucas to tightly mark. When he finds a man in his zone, he will stick tightly to that man. The second issue that I have is that Reo-Coker is free to receive a simple ball, which he does...

#2: Reo-Coker receives the pass and continues the move by sending the ball to Isla. Firstly, Lucas is nowhere near tight enough to Isla here. What you want someone to do in this situation is either cut out the pass and make an interception (which is pretty much the ideal) or put the player under a lot of pressure once they receive the ball and force them into a mistake or a negative manoeuvre.

#3: Lucas does neither of these things, allowing Isla to control the ball and hold up for long enough until a forward player (El Arabi, 29) shows for the ball. The picture shows the situation just after the pass forward has been made. Look at Otamendi's position - he has left his position to track El Arabi laterally. This is also due to his tight marking setting. El Arabi has dropped off into space to receive the pass, so Otamendi is not going to intercept it. As long as he does what Lucas failed to do (puts in a tackle) then we should be ok...

#4: Oh. El Arabi dropped his shoulder to the left, thus shielding the ball away from Otamendi. It's hard to tackle someone from behind. That chasm wasn't filled by Tiago (14), who is too interested in containing Stanislas, so El Arabi exploits the space in the channel and scores. I'm reminded once again of Tiago's lack of teamwork. Again, it's a shot from a fair distance but, again, with this sort of space this doesn't matter.

The conclusion I draw at this point is that we're marking too tightly, especially at centreback. So, I remove the tight marking option from both Otamendi and Jones.

The next couple of goals are shared between ourselves and Villa. Ours is a result of a freekick, while theirs comes from lax marking from a throw-in - a third shot from around the edge of the box. After that goal goes in I throw caution to the wind and go for the jugular.

A simple goal?

After Villa's third goal (to make the score 1v3 in their favour) we score almost immediately from kick-off.

g3full.png

#1: The ball is passed back to Lucas and the strikers make their way forward. As implied in a 442, the strikers can proceed unmarked until they reach the defenders: there is no cover between the midfield and the defence. For all that Lucas is put under some pressure, it is not enough to prevent him from making a forward pass to Paloschi (99) in space.

#2: Villa are in a little bit of trouble here. They are facing a striker in possession who might not have many tricks and flicks, but is fast and direct. Torres (9) is instructed to find space and cause havok, which he will do via the top square in the channel... Davies (15), starts to engage with Paloschi, leaving his position in defence. Paloschi is very right footed so he will travel through the bottom square in the channel.

#3: Villa aren't dealing with this very well. They now have two defenders positioned laterally in the same space, creating two chasms between the fullbacks. If the fullbacks both hurry back and narrow, they might be able to avert disaster.

#4: Warnock (3) has made some attempt to do this, but Paloschi really is quite fast. Cuellar (5), on the other hand, has actually moved further away from the centre, apparently more worried about Muniain (11) than the huge hole in the defence waiting for Torres to run into.

#5: Palschi centres, leaving Torres with a very simple tap-in. Cuellar finally realised the true threat but it was far too late, same with Davies, who actually stopped in the box, looked around for someone to mark and then realised that it was all too little, too late.

I think Villa's problem here is that they are way too open. They could do with a formation change to put an anchorman between the lines, as well as generally narrowing their formation to reduce space across the pitch.

(More to follow...)

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Looking forward to this Zdlr :thup:

Defensive play is art as you said and I am curious to see your analysis.

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Cheers, NakS. Sorry it's taking so long. I didn't expect so many goals!

Was hoping to have it finished last night but it'll not be ready until tomorrow morning at the earliest. I'm four hours behind the UK and I don't finish until 6pm. Might put the next game up, too - away to Benfica in the CL first knock out round, first leg. Sounds like an interesting match-up.

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jojko, sorry but there won't be a download. Not only would it probably not suit anyone else's players, it is also flawed, as I will be demonstrating over the course of some of the goals of this 5v3 win. I change my tactic pretty much every game so I don't really have a tactic to download.

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Interesting OP ZdIR, looking forward to more of the same. Hopefully it will help people, myself included, understand perhaps a few more things about defending.

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Specific man-marking

I haven't really used this option in the past. It seems like a bit of a throw-back to systems long since refuted in modern football. However, while setting specific marking across the team might be suicidal, it can be useful when used in isolation. Playing against my main title rivals at home, this game is a must-win for Man City due to my four-point lead. My only real worry about their team is Tevez, who truly is difficult to handle. I asked Nicolas Otamendi to specifically mark him for the full ninety minutes, hoping that he might shackle him to some degree. I ensured that Phil Jones sat deeper and was set the loosely zonal mark to provide cover.

otamendivstevez.png

As you can see, it was somewhat of a success. Every interception that Otamendi made was a cut out through ball that was intended for Tevez. While Tevez did manage to score, he was limited to shots wider and deeper than he would probably have liked - and only four of them at that. The only two things hampering Otamendi in a role like this is his preferred move of 'marks opponent tightly' and his concentration of 12. The former means that he is prone to being dragged deep before being turned on a run, but his agility of 20 and acceleration of 17 help to combat this. If I can get him to unlearn this then he would stay goal side of his opponent more often. Of course, if given a yard, Tevez can turn and shoot, so perhaps tight marking is a necessary evil in this situation. His concentration is a problem because he doesn't really stick to his assigned task for the entire 90 minutes. This is not to say that he switches off all the time, but there were two or three moments where he either wasn't marking him at all or he wasn't really looking at what Tevez was doing. I think another change I could make to this in future would be to drop Jones back to the sweeper position and put Otamendi in the central position, cementing Jones as cover and allowing Otamendi to move left and right unhindered.

Winning the game 4-1 while remaining fairly defensive for the whole game, I'm tempted to say that this was a fairly successful tactic. I'm tempted to use something similar soon against Barcelona in the Champions League quarters but it may not be applicable.

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A very interesting post sir. First off, almost as an aside, it's good to see you got Paloschi - he's my star forward and I picked him up for 1.8m from a (Inter?) side who were happy to let him go. Cash back!

I'm interested in your scenario number 2 - Villa increase their lead: You rightly say that Lucas is man marking and too tight at that, but then when the ball comes to his man he is not tight enough, despite the fact that (in my understanding) it is not possible to get much tighter than to tight man-mark. What did/do you do to get away from the fact that you're getting the worst of both worlds here: tight enough and man-focussed enough to pull him out of line, but not tight enough to be able to cut out the pass or stop his opposite man offloading it accurately?

Cheers

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Zonal marking requires positioning, anticipation, teamwork, concentration and decisions while man marking requires marking, workrate and concentration. When tightly man-marking, defenders need physical attributes like agility and strength so that they aren't out-muscled or turned easily. Loose man marking places more onus on positioning.

Firstly, great post ZdlR. I've never given a great deal of consideration to defending before and have achieved my defensive goals largely through luck than dedicated and systematic improvement - I simply picked a system and only loosely analysed it to ensure it worked as I expected. The quote above I think is a great summary of key attributes for each system. I value the former in players but have been using the latter, my system works but maybe switching to zonal would be even better, your post has given me a lot to consider.

What I'm wondering though is your view of a fully split system. I know you went into detail about specific man-marking but the system I employ splits the team into 2 distinct, but appreciated, defensive entities. I play the 451/433 you show in the man-making example - my defensive core is DC,DC,DMC,MC,MC and these players are set to tight man-marking where they form a solid box of players who bully anyone in that central area, as there are 5 of them they normally out-number the attackers in that space. My 'floating' 5 (DR,DL,AMR,AML,FC) are set to zonal (not tight) to pick up threats coming from their zones (of course).

Just wondered your thoughts on a split system?

I should add my team are almost always more physical than the opposition.

Also, would you consider switching to a wholly man-marking system (you use wholly zonal mainly??) for a specific game? Say, a local derby or a tight game?

As you suggest, I sometimes struggle against a truly fluid and expressive team, particularly those that match numbers in the central man-marked region (i.e. 4231 or 4312) and wondered if you think it would be detrimental to change to a zonal system (maybe keep DM on man-mark) for those games?

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A very interesting post sir.

Thanks, much appreciated :thup:

First off, almost as an aside, it's good to see you got Paloschi - he's my star forward and I picked him up for 1.8m from a (Inter?) side who were happy to let him go. Cash back!

Yeah, I had to pay his release clause of £8.75m, but he's been well worth it. He was a challenge to set up right but he scores more than 1 in 2 for me and is keeping Torres on the bench - sometimes even Aguero. He is extremely one-dimensional but excels at that one dimension: scoring goals. He thrives on having a creative partner up front but does a decent sideline in holding up the ball. I'm considering cashing in on him but I'll wait to see what the fans think of him come the end of the season. If he's a favourite then I might keep him around.

I'm interested in your scenario number 2 - Villa increase their lead: You rightly say that Lucas is man marking and too tight at that, but then when the ball comes to his man he is not tight enough, despite the fact that (in my understanding) it is not possible to get much tighter than to tight man-mark. What did/do you do to get away from the fact that you're getting the worst of both worlds here: tight enough and man-focussed enough to pull him out of line, but not tight enough to be able to cut out the pass or stop his opposite man offloading it accurately?

I'm letting him leave on a free transfer to Barcelona! In all seriousness, though, there is a very important distinction to make here: marking is something you do to an opponent who doesn't have the ball. When that opponent receives the ball, you aren't really marking him any more. You absolutely must get tight to the ball carrier - there should be no question of going loose on him. It would be completely counter-productive to do so. Lucas is not built for this kind of battle. His aggression is only 11 so, despite decent tackling, he doesn't relish this kind of battle. His replacement, hopefully Yann M'Vila, does, however. The answer here is merely to use a better player. There's nothing I can do to Lucas to make him better in this situation. He's more of a playmaker than a ball-winner, despite the tackling of 16. I could ask him to tackle hard, but I don't think he's good enough to pull that off consistently well. I can't even motivate him to be more effective in this situation: his personality is subpar compared to most of the rest of my squad - one of the big reasons I'm happy enough to let him go. Sometimes, tactics aren't the answer: personnel is.

Firstly, great post ZdlR.

Thanks, as much as I'd like to say that writing something this long is a pleasure in and of itself, it's the feedback that makes it worthwhile. Otherwise, I'm just another internet crazy talking to an empty room :)

What I'm wondering though is your view of a fully split system. I know you went into detail about specific man-marking but the system I employ splits the team into 2 distinct, but appreciated, defensive entities. I play the 451/433 you show in the man-making example - my defensive core is DC,DC,DMC,MC,MC and these players are set to tight man-marking where they form a solid box of players who bully anyone in that central area, as there are 5 of them they normally out-number the attackers in that space. My 'floating' 5 (DR,DL,AMR,AML,FC) are set to zonal (not tight) to pick up threats coming from their zones (of course).

I think the highlighted bit is probably why you succeed with this. Even a narrow 41212 won't throw enough men through the middle to overload you. Perhaps a 4312 would challenge you, especially with sufficient quality, but you have enough personnel through the middle to stifle the opposition. If you set your full-backs to man-mark, they'd probably tuck inside and you'd be exploited on the flanks. If you set your DMC to loosely zonally mark then he could act as a sweeper behind your MCs. With a 451/433, I set the MCs to close down lots and have the DMC sit back and protect the back four. This requires that the DMC does not have too much aggression, or they'll come galloping up with your MCs and start causing holes.

Just wondered your thoughts on a split system?

They work, certainly, as long as the split is how you have specified - with the central players being the man-markers. I do prefer to play fully zonal but it's difficult to pull off without good players. It can result in all sorts of problems if your players lack in the key attributes. Look at my LB, Tiago, in the examples above. We're really carrying him at times but when faced with a flying winger, he's very good. He's also a natural CB but I can't bed him in there until he improves his teamwork significantly. You have a point about changing marking system for specific games - the scouse derby is always a spicy affair and I never really thought about changing to a more rugged marking style for it. Might try that in future because I usually draw those games. At the moment I'm playing fully zonal and loose but identifying the runners that I want to mark tightly and setting that up with the opposition instructions. So, for example, against Man City I set Sanchez and Silva to be tightly marked (because it was described as a 4141 so I'm anticipating normal mentalities with plenty of forward runs which I need to be tracked), and I watched the first few minutes to see which of Sissoko and Badelj was the designated midfield runner. If necessary, I'd swap my MCs so that the more defensive is directly against their runner.

As you suggest, I sometimes struggle against a truly fluid and expressive team, particularly those that match numbers in the central man-marked region (i.e. 4231 or 4312) and wondered if you think it would be detrimental to change to a zonal system (maybe keep DM on man-mark) for those games?

Yeah, the inversion of what I suggest above is a nice idea. Depends on the DM. SFraser once intimated that, when closing a tight game out, he went 4141 with two zonal banks with a pitbull between the lines set to man-marking and aggressive closing down.

I'm tempted to dissect the CL quarter final first-leg I just played against Barcelona. I won 2-6, which was very much unexpected. They were just far, far too open and I capitalized. I'll take another look at the goals this evening and see if there's anything of interest.

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Great work, thanks for the reply.

I've always enjoyed really analysing specific moves within a game and I know I won't be the only one reading intently if you find anything from the QF.

I watched the first few minutes to see which of Sissoko and Badelj was the designated midfield runner


I think this is often overlooked, even if you suspect you know how the opposition will line up it's crucial to watch and react.

If you set your DMC to loosely zonally mark then he could act as a sweeper behind your MCs.


I think I might try this, my main DM has awesome decisions and pace but lacks the aggression or tackling to be a true stopper or the technique to be a true creative force so he normally acts as a sweeper, sometimes even covering for an errant DC who has been pulled out of shape (I've noticed it only rarely but he will actually slot right into DC slot until the actual DC recovers his position) - zonal marking would be more logical. Although I like the sound of 2 banks of 4 zonal lines with a 'battle-axe' in there to aggressive close down any man daring to enter between the lines - makes perfect sense.

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Ok, looking at the Barcelona win and our third goal, scored just before half time, was quite interesting.

g1full.png

#1: Aguero is caught in possession in Barca's final third. This shows one reason why I chose to match their formation and not try to play an AMC playmaker: look at their midfield trio. With Pique stepping out of defence, they have a tight diamond of players through the centre which is extremely difficult to penetrate directly. We're not in instant trouble with this turnover of possession, but Wilson (5) is a bit far up the pitch. Considering he's supposed to be keeping Messi quiet, this is a brave move.

#2: This is the other reason that I matched their formation. Vidal is a great defensive midfielder, as soon as there's a sniff of a midfield battle, he's on it. This is the sort of thing that Lucas simple could never do effectively. Also, imagine what might happen if I didn't have a DMC in that position to run across and engage Hazard. Jones would have to step out of defence and Otamendi would have to move across to cover, leaving Messi criminally free.

#3: Vidal wins the ball. The commentary said that he 'nicked' the ball away. It looks a bit more aggressive than your average poke tackle, but it was certainly far. By this point, Barca are transitioning to attack mode - widening their play with the full backs bombing forward. While the midfield trio are close together, they have also all moved forward up the pitch, leaving space to be exploited.

#4: Vidal plays it first time to Piatti, who starts to advance with the ball, cutting inside as instructed. Look how much ground Mascherano has covered in this time: he's applied the reverse thrusters and is almost ready to put in a tackle. Aguero's movement at this point is very clever, dropping deep away from the defenders.

#5: Piatti passes back to Lucas. Chrzanowski and Aguero both start determined forward runs into the box, without anyone tracking them. Lucas plays the ball after this and Aguero is powering into the box behind Pique to meet the through ball before slamming it home.

This whole move showed what was wrong with Barcelona. They played too attacking throughout the whole game and we punished them. We didn't tight mark a single player in this game, staying loose and zonal throughout. I tried to shepherd Hazard and Messi down the wings, but it wasn't the most effective of tactics, to be honest - those two are just better than Glen Johnson and Danny Wilson, respectively. We played one notch above slow and two notches below middle for width and defensive line - so not overly cautious. We also played counter-attacking and used Aguero as a target man that should receive the ball to feet. He finished with a hatrick, typically just popping up in the right place at the right time to slot home.

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ZdlR, how agressive is your DMC closing down?

And also, what type of marking you usually put him?

Thanks and nice thread.

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ZdlR, how agressive is your DMC closing down?

And also, what type of marking you usually put him?

Thanks and nice thread.

Cheers :thup:

Vidal has something like 18 or above for aggression. His closing down behind two MCs is usually right in the middle of the slider. I put him on loose zonal marking for the most part. However, when I set midfield runners to be tightly marked using the opposition instructions, he tracks them tightly. I'll try to find a good example of this, should be plenty.

To give you the full picture, I set his mentality to one click above defensive and his creative freedom to one click below much. I think this might allow him to close down more or less as he sees fit, but I don't really know for certain whether creative freedom allows defensive instructions to be ignored, in a similar way to attacking instructions. It would make sense, though, and I've seen what looks like evidence of it.

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Yeah, maybe. If he had 13 for aggression I think I might just play him as a more regular creative midfielder, perhaps sitting deep and playing more of a passing game, which he is perfectly capable of. This is pretty much the role Yann M'Vila will have if I can persuade Atletico to part with him for the right price (I looked last night and M'Vila has about 13 aggression, so I was mistaken). Most midfielder trio's like that found in the 451/433 require three different types of players in three different roles: an aggressive ball winner, a passer and an attacking creator. At the moment, I have Vidal, Lucas and Hamsik in those roles, respectively. Of the three, only Vidal can really be the ball-winner, due to his attributes. If I dropped Lucas in that role then I might actually lower his closing down: I can't make him more aggressive by asking him to close down more - he'll still make the same mistakes as before of not putting enough pressure on the ball carrier. Look at what Vidal did to Hazard above: that's pure aggression that makes him do that. Without aggression, he would do what Lucas does and wait for a mistake before putting in a tackle. I could ask him to tackle hard, but that's not asking him to tackle more often, just with a different, more risky, style. Instead, I'd rather leverage his positioning and anticipation and get him to zonally and loosely mark behind the other two midfielders, who I might ask to close down more and to tightly mark. This way, he can be on hand to catch stray passes and attempted through-balls, which is more suited to his style of play.

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To give you the full picture, I set his mentality to one click above defensive and his creative freedom to one click below much. I think this might allow him to close down more or less as he sees fit, but I don't really know for certain whether creative freedom allows defensive instructions to be ignored, in a similar way to attacking instructions. It would make sense, though, and I've seen what looks like evidence of it.

I'd agree with that. I believe that mentality & creative freedom affect every aspect of what a player does whereas the other instructions are more specific (I group them into on the ball, off the ball/movement & defensive).

Good work with the analysis of the Barca game and I'm enjoying the discussion on the importance of aggression. It's a stat I've not overly paid attention to and I've often only thought of it's attacking implications but I can see how it's crucial in deciding the overall defensive style of a player and is pretty essential to consider.

The covering role that Vidal plays in covering Hazard is indicative of a key role of a DMC in this system for me, which is why I'd always prefer my DM's to have decent pace and good anticipation. Many people just consider the DM to be a defensive beast or a creative weapon but the covering role is very important to consider and doesn't necessarily require them to be rock-solid defensively. In the example Vidal has spotted the threat and moved from inside the line of the 18 (so, central) to really quite wide in order to cover, as you said, without a player in this position (or a player sufficiently able to cover) you would of been really quite exposed from a simple turn-over situation. Even if Vidal didn't have the required skills to make a tackle he would of fulfilled an important defensive job by 'occupying' Hazard.

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Even if Vidal didn't have the required skills to make a tackle he would of fulfilled an important defensive job by 'occupying' Hazard.

Oh, absolutely. Primarily, it's important to have some kind of occupying presence, in whatever guise. That's a very good basis to start from when looking at the cause for a goal- was the creator unimpeded on his route to delivering the final ball? If so, then it's probably a formational issue, but it could be a case of pushing too many people forward. Only after that, is it necessary to look at the quality of that impediment. If it's low quality, like Lucas provided against Isla in the Villa analysis, then that could be an instructional problem, but it might also be a personnel problem.

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Agression is something I have often looked at myself when looking into our defensive style of play, but not extensively and the link you make between closing down and agression is something interesting to consider myself. Might do a little testing similar to this and have a see at what sort of results come up since my tactics rarely focus on the defensive side of things.

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So it means when defending agaisnt stronger team that your it's better to zonal marking and less aggreasive tackle ?

Potentially. It depends.

If you are trying to keep out a stronger team, then playing zonally, with small mentality gaps between defenders and midfielders, low-ish closing down with a narrow-ish width and a low-ish d-line, along with easy tackling could help keep out the opposition. What you will hopefully see is your team retain their formation structure and make the opposition play through them. The opposition might be adept at doing this, though, and your players not positionally disciplined enough to keep the opposition out. It's horses for courses. Some teams would be better defending by attacking - relying on their defenders might be the last thing they should do, so weak are their players. There's no one true answer.

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Great article... love your analysis of the goals, it's really made me sit up and deconstruct certain moves (scoring opportunities, goals etc).

And most importantly of all, it's increased my understanding of tactics and how the match engine interprets instructions.

Hope to see some more threads from you mate :-)

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Wow, amazing thread I usually don't like to read alot but I sat down and read it all, really changed how I understand the defending in this game.

Really hoping for more threads like this , Thank you.

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Great article... love your analysis of the goals, it's really made me sit up and deconstruct certain moves (scoring opportunities, goals etc).

And most importantly of all, it's increased my understanding of tactics and how the match engine interprets instructions.

Hope to see some more threads from you mate :-)

Wow, amazing thread I usually don't like to read alot but I sat down and read it all, really changed how I understand the defending in this game.

Really hoping for more threads like this , Thank you.

Cheers guys :thup:

Might add to this with my current Newcastle save in FM12 - much more of a challenge with players of lower quality.

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It's about time this topic was brought back to the top of the forum imo :)

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Yeah this is a cracking thread, quoted from it just yesterday (as I frequently do!)

Yups was one of the reasons I thought I'd bump it with my 14 day bump review :D

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Ok, time to rekindle this thread with some new content for FM12.

Background

I'm Newcastle in the 1st season, with original data but patched to 12.2. I'm doing rather well in the league, currently sitting pretty in 2nd after 20 games. I'm still in the cups, so my squad is being stretched at the moment as it is now mid-January. Things are about to get serious and my form from here on out will be key in determining whether I drop back into mid-table obscurity or kick on and secure unexpected European qualification - either Europa League or, in highly unlikely fashion, Champions League. I'll post important images in the post, but link out to other peripheral images of note.

League Table

Fixtures

As you can see, I've got it right quite a bit, but on the odd occasion I've got it wrong and - against Spurs away - I've also sometimes got it very, very wrong.

Everton at Home

Everton are next to visit SJP, where I boast an unbeaten record of 7-2-0. We are comfortable favourites at 4/6, with Everton at 7/2. My scout report tells me that Everton have started every game 4411, and this scored them 16 goals but also conceded them 16 goals. They have primarily faced three tactics: 442, 41221 and 4231, with the latter being most effective against them. Notably, similar rated teams to Everton plying 4231 have scored 4 goals without reply. Of course, this could all have been in one game on a bad day at the office, but it is compelling, nonetheless.

Everton concede a notable amount of goals before half-time, so the may lack a bit of concentration. However, they appear to come out of the traps flying having scored a notable amount within the first 15 minutes. They concede primarily from placed shots and don't concede many headed goals. They don't score much from their right-wing.

Turning now to the Position Strength screen, I can start to form an image of the sort of players I will face in their 4411 formation.

GK:

I'm not particularly great at reading goalkeepers, but Tim Howard looks solid enough. He lacks a little in distribution and I'd be surprised if they set him up to kick long. His composure, bravery and anticipation are interesting: I might set someone with some of those stats to challenge him on corners. Perhaps, if I'm struggling to score, I might increase long-shots to take advantage of his lack of anticipation - although his positioning is not all that suspect.

Morale: Fairly Poor.

DC:

`Jaggers` is pretty solid at the basics of defending. He has no obvious weaknesses among the key attributes. However, he's not the best at jumping. Most obviously, he is prone to becoming off-balance, which I'm not sure exactly how to exploit directly, but is worth noting. He lacks in composure somewhat and, couple with his poor passing and creativity, might well make him a decent candidate for putting under pressure. In fact, perhaps his balance might be a problem here, too. Certainly worth trying if I have a player who can exploit this. Finally, he isn't overly aggressive and his quickness/strength aren't massive strengths. He is very much one-footed (right).

Morale: Fairly Poor.

DC:

Distin is a very experienced defender, at 34. He is physically imposing, and his quickness isn't a great deal of a problem, considering his age, but there is plenty of room for the right player to beat him in a footrace. Other than that, his most notable strength is his will to succeed. He isn't the quickest at spotting danger and he is prone to the odd lapse in concentration. As with Jagielka, he is extremely one-footed (left) which he also avoids using. He likes to stay on his feet.

Morale: Fairly Poor.

DR:

Another experienced head at the back. However, Phil is creaking somewhat and lacks quickness. He is not much of a threat going forward, but is quite mentally impressive. He likes to hug the touchline and is likely to be the captain, what with him being a 'leader'.

Morale: Poor.

OR

DR:

Everton primarily use Phil Neville at right-back, but it is a close call between him and another experienced right-back: Tony Hibbert. Hibbert is quite similar in that he is mentally quite strong but does not pose a threat going forward. He is very one-footed (right).

Morale: Fairly Poor.

DL:

Everton have a bit of an injury crisis going at the moment, and Leighton Baines will not be available. There is a chance that Neville will be used at left-back, but the other option is Royston Drenthe. Physical stats aside, Drenthe is all-round quite average. He severely lacks in composure, makes poor choices and is not good at positioning himself to deal with threats. He can't really mark, is useless in the air and quite weak. However, he works hard, gets stuck in, dives into tackles, is quick and generally very fit. He will be much more of a threat going forward than most, should Everton make use of this, as he gets forward whenever possible and runs with the ball down the left. He is pretty much their weakest link, thus far.

Morale: Okay.

MC:

Fellaini is pretty slow, but an absolute beast otherwise. He is strong as an ox, rarely tires, can balance on a high-wire and jump like Michael Jordan. Mentally, he doesn't have much of an eye for a pass, can sometimes choose the wrong option - but they will rarely be flamboyant - and is quite a quiet player on the pitch who doesn't take charge of situations. Technically, he is pretty average, with his heading accuracy being a real threat - most likely from setpieces. Indeed, he has scored five goals this season. He doesn't dive into tackles, is almost two-footed, but might have a slight personality defect which makes him volatile and confrontational. Considering he argues with officials, he is likely to get carded if wound-up (he has 8 yellows but no reds from 20 games).

Morale: Okay.

MC:

Jack is still young, but highly rated. He doesn't yet excel at any aspect of the game, and has some notable weaknesses. He is not particularly creative, he plays a very simple, unfussy game, struggles to find space and can lose focus, spot events late in their development and isn't particularly eager to get involved in the action. Technically, he can do what he needs to fairly accurately. He likes to take long shots, is almost two-footed and marks his opponent tightly. To complement his lack of creativity, his passes are short and simple.

Morale: Fairly Poor.

MR:

Leon Osman will battle with Seamus Coleman for the MR berth. He has a good range of dribbling skills and can control the ball well. However, he has some obvious flaws: he is slow and weak, lacks the aggression and his crosses aren't as accurate as a winger's should be. He is almost two-footed and plays one-twos.

Morale: Okay.

OR

MR:

This is the first player whose attributes are partially hidden. From what I can see, he is not very creative and fairly average all-round. He is more of an attacking full-back than an out-and-out winger. He is one-footed (right).

Morale: Fairly Poor.

ML:

Diniyar has played far less games on the left than Royston Drenthe, but due to Baines' injury, I think Drenthe might play at full back. Should Diniyar play, we should look out for his accurate passing and good creativity, as well as his eye for goal from any distance.

Morale: Fairly Poor.

OR

ML: Royston Drenthe

AMC: Diniyar Bilyaletdinov

Ahh, it appears that Tim Cahilla is also in the treatment room and Bilyaletdinov will play in the hole. This might mean that Drenthe will go left-wing, with perhaps Neville at left back and Hibbert, possibly Coleman at right back.

ST:

There is a possibility that Denis will start up top, forming a 'partnership of the unpronounceables'. Poor commentators, they struggle with 'penalty' most of the time... Anyway, I can't see all of Denis' stats, but he works hard, offers himself up for passes, and is strong. His top-speed is not a threat, and his first-touch and technique aren't all that much. He is prone to being disheartened and his dribbling is one-dimensional. He is oddly normal, personality-wise, compared to the strong characters that are around him.

Morale: Poor.

MR:

Victor is also partly an unknown quantity. He is powerful, with strength and pace, but a wide turning circle. He can lose focus, doesn't spot the intent of those around him, fluffs his first touch, is lacking with the ball at his feet, passes inaccurately, but can head somewhat. Again, another balanced personality with only one good foot (right).

Morale: Okay.

Notes

This has, admittedly, taken me ages, but only because I am writing it all down. In actual fact, it takes about ten to twenty seconds to look at each player and make a quick judgment on their strengths and weaknesses. Every thing that you spot can have an impact on how you set up your team, from exploiting weaknessed, to player selection and countering strengths.

Team selection

Before I select my team, I already have a decent idea of how I'm going to play against Everton. I know that I'm not very good at keeping hold of the ball, and I see that Everton are not particularly creative and lack players with the spark to unlock defences. I will be ok if they dominate the ball as long as we are decisive when we get the ball back. I expect Everton to be pretty rigid, like in real-life, with space between the midfield and defence, where they lack a player to plug the gap. So, I'm going to play a globally zonal marking system with a 4231-deep structure. I will be much more fluid than I expect Everton to be, and will try to overload them in attack. I will only go through the players that I pick and why, rather than explain in detail who I could have picked instead, which would take me all night.

GK: Tim Krul

Solely because he's my best keeper and he's the only fully-match-fit keeper I have.

DR: Davide Santon

Santon looks really average, stats-wise, but he's got bags of potential so I'm playing him in as many games as I can so that he progresses quickly. However, I played him in 22 games by the start of January and he needed a rest, so I informed him of this and he sat out the past to games. He was pleased with this and is now 100% match fit with 100% condition and listed as 'fully fit'. He's ready to get back into the game, I reckon.

DL:

The on-loan full back hasn't set the world alight for me, but he's been pretty solid in filling Newcastle's problem left-back position. I primarily want him to get forward and provide a threat from wide areas.

DC:

A classy defender, Colo is another ever-present in the squad.

DC:

A January signing, he was intended to be Colo's understudy but an injury to Steven Taylor and Mike Williamson's tiredness mean that I have two covering defenders partnering each other. However, as I'm playing two DMCs ahead of them, this will not be that much of a problem. I am, however, worried about not having a countering player to Fellaini's strength at setpieces. With a bit of forward planning, I could have set the team focus to 'defending set pieces' but I didn't because I'm not quite that astute.

DMC:

DMC:

Both Yohan and Danny will be expected to play a similar game: link the defence to the attack with accurate forward passes. They will both screen the centrebacks and also be allowed to creep forward to join the attack, although not so far as to put us under the threat of a counter attack.

AMR:

Obertan is not a very good player. However, he has his uses, especially against slow players which I believe Everton are likely to play in the back line. While a player like Phil Neville is likely to dominate Obertan in almost all respects, when it comes to pace, Gabby could cause him all sorts of problems.

AML:

Similarly to Obertan, Jonas is not the greatest player in the world. However, he has good pace, technique, agility, work rate, composure and decent dribbling. His job will be to receive the ball and run at the defence, cutting inside of his marker who is likely to have no left foot with which to effective stop him.

AMC:

Ben Arfa is s enigmatic in FM as he is in real-life. Almost totally a trequartista, he just lacks with the accuracy of his finishing. He will be expected to sit in the hole and cause mayhem with direct, tricky running before setting up a team-mate or, possibly, heading towards goal himself.

ST:

Demba Ba is quite hit-and-miss for me, but he has started to come into form now that I've tweaked his settings - he has scored 4 of his 6 goals in the last 5 games, with three of them admittedly coming against lower-league opposition in the FA Cup. His lack of awareness means that his offside count is through the roof, so I now try to get him to drop into space, collect the ball and then take the opposition defenders on with direct dribbling through power and pace. Arsenal are interested in him and I'd sell him in a heartbeat for an eight-figure sum.

So, that's the team, and .

Just before I start the match, I'm going to do a quick run-down of what I expect to see in-match. I'm hoping to see us sitting back and soaking up Everton's pressure when not on the ball before confidently striding forward with swift, but not overly quick, forward passes through the deep-lying playmakers up to the men in the hole. Our deep-lying playmakers will hopefully attract the attention of the MCs, producing even more space in the hole for Ben Arfa to wreak havoc. Some problems that may occur:

* We might be sitting too deep, inviting too much pressure and conceding too much of the ball. I might need to push the DMCs up to MC and raise my defensive line, but not too high if Anichebe is playing.

* We might be too narrow, offering Everton to push the ball out wide and whip crosses in.

* We might be a broken team with too large a gap between the DMCs and AMs, in which case I may have to lower mentalities for the AMs / increase passing range for the defensive side of the team or push up.

* Our zonal marking might offer too much space to the opposition and we might need to switch to a man-marking or mixed-marking system.

* Our DMCs might not get forward enough and could need 'sometimes' for forward runs.

This is how Everton have lined up. Pretty much what I expected, although they've gone for Stracqualursi up front, which is a bit odd because Anichebe's pace is a threat. Hibbert is right-back, Neville at left-back and - very oddly - Mucha is in goal...

Opposition Instructions

Referring back to the list of Everton's players I set the following:

* Jagielka: Close down always, to try to force errors.

* Fellaini: Tackling easy, I want him to be the one who goes in harder, if anything, because of his temperament and reputation with officials.

* Rodwell: Tight marking never, I want him on the ball more than any other midfielder because I just don't think he's going to create much.

* Coleman: I want to close him down a lot, but he does have a bit of pace and technical ability about him so I'll not set anything and monitor how he gets on.

* Drenthe: Close down always, tackle easy. I fancy Santon to do a job on this fella. I want him to engage him as early as possible to test his composure and anticipation, but not dive in because if beaten, Drenthe's pace might be a problem.

* Bilyaletdinov: Tight marking always. I don't want this guy on the ball because he can create.

* Stracqualalursi: Again, in two minds about him. I could tight mark him but I think he's going to move about a bit and I don't have a defender to match his strength. I could also have my players close him down all the time because I don't think he's up to much with the ball at his feet. If he starts causing a problem, I'll do something about it.

Team Talk

The relationship with my players is fairly `meh` at this stage, so I'm not going to go all out and expect a performance from them. I'm aware that some players are prone to nerves (Ben Arfa) while others are likely to become complacent (Gutierrez). So, I'm going to cop-out a little bit and passionately tell them to give the fans their money's worth. It does nothing, as I thought it might, but it's better than putting undue pressure on fragile divas. I then decide to target a few specific players with some choice words. I want Santon to have a good game, and he's been rested, so I want to tell him I have faith in him. I've already been passionate so I've set the tone already. It does nothing, unfortunately. Ok, let's mix this up a little. I calmly tell Obertan - who is not a regular starter - that I think there's more to come from him (have faith). He looks happy, excellent. Now, I really need to get Ben Arfa playing to his best because he's key to this tactic. He's looked nervous recently so I think I'll calmly tell him that he's under no pressure. This could backfire because I reckon he's pretty temperamental. Nothing. Assertively, I tell Demba Ba that I expect a performance from him. Nothing again. Hmm, maybe I should just let them go out and play. One last try... Calmly tell Guthrie I have faith. Yay! He looks happy. Right, on with the show...

The Match

Finally, kick off. Preparation is over and now to analyse what happens from kick to kick.

00:50 From kick off, they win a free kick which comes to nothing

02:00 We work the ball forward through Obertan who finds Ben Arfa happily in acres of space. Ba has pulled extremely wide, however, so is not in a position to receive a pass. Ben Arfa dribbles forward, attracting Distin who fouls him. Ba likes to move into channels, so he will do that even without me asking him to, but I also have roaming on for him and I've given him quite high creative freedom. One, or both, of these might have to change if he keeps doing this because I need him more central to score! The free kick comes to nothing and is very sluggish, resulting in a throw-in on our left to Everton.

03:30 Bridge fails to prevent Coleman advancing down the left and the cross comes in. In the build up, Cabaye is picking up Rodwell before spotting that Bilyaletdinov is free in the hole and he tracks back to occupy him. Interestingly, the zonal marking settings for both centrebacks mean that they are double-marking Stracqualursi, loosely. He attacks the cross and a mad scramble ensues - which we luckily earn a goal-kick from.

Ok, time to change that pairing up a little bit. I view things like that as a warning from the match engine that I've done something wrong. Ideally, I want Bridge to stop this cross coming in, but I should also have a defender positioned to stop the cross, not concerning themselves with (badly) double-marking a player. I set both centrebacks to man-marking, but leave them on loose. I then set the opposition instructions on Stracqualursi to Tight Marking always, to ensure he is tracked and not given space. We are not conceding enough space in behind with our defensive line to make this a problem via a ball over the top. I'll keep an eye on this.

04:30 We struggle to get the ball forward after Krul passes the goal-kick out to Santon. Santon does manage to launch a long pass toward Ba who is back out on the channel and nods down for Obertan. He dribbles past Neville and proves that he is comfortably faster than him, even with the ball at his feet. We only have , which is a shame because it's 2v2 in there with Distin having come across to occupy Obertan. This is down to Ben Arfa's run from deep instruction, which I set to rarely. He is being marshalled by Fellaini who looks to be loose on him for now. I will monitor this and may increase HBA's run from deep to sometimes.

06:30 Drenthe gets past Santon's challenge down the left and puts a cross in the box. Notice that, this time, Coloccini is tight marking Stracqualursi, . This is what I like to see.

07:10 Once we regain control of the ball, Cabaye launches a wonderful direct pass behind Neville for Obertan to run on to, which he does with ease. , but it is poor, despite now having Ben Arfa up supporting Jonas and Ba (I haven't changed his RFD as yet, is creative freedom has allowed him to decide to get forward in this instance).

08:10 Bilyaletdinov tries the same trick as Cabaye, launching a direct pass towards Stracqualursi, who has pulled wide onto Bridge. Despite being set to loose marking, the OI on Denis means that Bridge is tightly marking him. With a bit of a struggle, he manages to win possession for us.

08:40 This time, Cabaye finds Jonas, to feet. He dribbles inside and tries to play a through-ball to Ba, but his touch is poor and Jaggers clears out to touch.

10:00 We work the ball to Ben Arfa in the hole a couple of times, but he lacks options as Rodwell marshals him and it's 3v2 against Obertan and Ba in the box. Jaggers gets a tackle in but the ball squirms in to the box for Jonas and Hibbert to fight for. While Hibbert wins, he plays safe and puts it out for a corner.

11:00 The corner initially comes to nothing, but the 2nd ball finds Guthrie in space outside the box. He plays it forward to Obertan who is miles offside, even though he finishes neatly. Chalked off. Ba is now in danger of losing discipline and Guthrie is playing nervously. Krul is looking motivated. I just noticed that Mucha is playing without confidence, so I'm tempted to target him, but short of long shots I'm thinking just creating chances is our best bet.

13:30 Guthrie tries a ball over the top to Obertan, but he's offside.

14:30 Jonas puts hibbert under pressure and he's forced to put it out for a throw.

17:30 From a throw out on the right, Santon and Ben Arfa exchange passes. Ben Arfa then puts the ball into the box where Ba controls well and slots him. Ruled out for offside, however.

18:40 Bilyaletdinov is definitely given a free role. He wanders around looking for space and , unmarked. His shot from distance is powerful, but Krul saves and they get their first corner, which worries me...

19:25 As expected, the aim for the far post where Ba is attempting to handle Fellaini, who gets up to head over. No more of them, please...

20:30 We struggle again to get out of our half from Santon collecting the ball from Krul. Eventually, Ben Arfa puts the ball forward to Gutierrez who is completely unmarked. Hibbert comes across to recover but hacks Jonas down right on the edge of the area. Yellow? Yes. Cabaye hits the side netting from the FK.

23:00 More struggling down the right. I'm gonna set Krul to hammer the ball up to Ba. Can't be any worse than this. In fact, no, let's hit it to Obertan and see if we can get him beyond Neville.

25:00 Cabaye fouls Rodwell and the ball is swung in toward Fellaini... I really worry for our ability to deal with this aspect of Everton, but this time the cross is overhit.

26:00 Krul whacks the ball forward to Ba, who wins the ball and passes back to Cabaye. We now have possession a good twenty yards ahead of where we did before with Santon collecting. Much better. We work it wide left to Jonas who dribbles inside again and . He gets clear of Jagielka and dribbles toward goal. He shoots left-footed but Mucha saves well for a corner.

27:00 Cabaye swings it in near-post and Coloccini gets a yard on Neville... He powers a header at goal and SCORES!!! 1v0! Ok, quick look at the stats to inform what I should do now... . I'm not sure I want to change anything just yet, but we'll see how they react. They're a determined and professional bunch, on the whole, so I expect a response.

33:30 Santon races toward Drenthe to close him down and tackles him, Drenthe appears to retaliate and is yellow carded.

36:43 Just wanted to show you our when in possession. Note that we're quite deep, and that Everton are leaving a lot of space in behind. Without someone making lots of runs in behind, however, we're struggling to relieve the pressure that Everton's pressing is causing. From here, we go on to lose possession by giving a throw-in away from an unforced error.

39:00 Ben Arfa nicks the ball away from Fellaini just outside our box. He launches a Hollywood ball about 50 yards upfield for Ba to chase. Up against Neville, he makes it to the ball first with ease and bears down on goal. This is certain to be our first clear cut chance, but he absolutely fluffs it and puts it a good two or three yards past the post. Horrible effort, truly awful.

45:00 Half time team talk. I need to make this count. The basic theme here is that I need to be firm about how important it is to keep playing well, but also be mindful that a couple of players (Guthrie and Obertan) are looking nervous. The former is dead easy to deal with - at 6.9, he's playing well so I'll tell him so. Obertan, however is not playing great but he's still a threat so I will go easy on him. I tell the team assertivey that they can play even better than they are, no response. I tell Guthrie I'm delighted with him, but he doesn't do anything. I have faith in Obertan. Nothing. I calmly have faith in Ba, he looks happy. I tell HBA I'm delighted in him, he looks happy. I tell Demidov there's no pressure on him, because he's new and he seems relaxed. I tell Santon I have faith and he looks happy. That's enough I think.

Tactically, I think I might switch it up a bit. They are pushing pretty high up and pressing us, which isn't great for us, but it gifts us space for our pacey front line to run on to. I think the only thing I'll do for now is to increase tempo two notches, so it's now last notch of 'normal'.

45:00 Second half. behind Hibbert for Jonas, he dribbles down the line and cuts back for the advancing Ben Arfa, who goes for goal - but it looks like a cross-come-shot because it's awful and goes behind. Shame.

47:00 I've just realised that Anichebe is on for Stracqualursi. This is because they've just popped a ball in behind Bridge. I go to OI screen and instruct everyone to never tight mark him and always close him down. Basically, he's a threat from these balls over the top and if I have a man tight to him he could easily turn them and get a 1v1 with my keeper, which I want to avoid. So by loose marking him, I'll give him space to receive the ball and sit back behind him, between him and the goal. This will test my defenders' positioning stat. However, once he receives the ball, I want him to be closed down immediately because he has a poor first touch, can't dribble very well and lacks technique and anticipation. Basically, he won't be able to run onto the ball like he would want, he will receive it in front of my defenders, rather than behind them, but then he will quickly be closed down and he can't really deal with that situation very well. He might get lucky, but odds are on that he'll be tackled easily or panic and pass waywardly backwards. I may need to say easy tackling on him, but I'm not sure so I leave it be. The one situation that I am basically ignoring here is crosses from wide. Like earlier in the game, I instructed my defenders to loosely mark Stracqualursi and he advanced free in the box onto a cross. Anichebe might well be able to do this, too, but I'm going to see how it goes.

48:50 Note that Rodwell is now making surging runs forward, whereas before that was Fellaini. I'm loosely marking Rodwell which was fine when he was staying back playing simple balls that didn't penetrate. But now he's the midfield runner, I need to track him more closely. I'm going to make my DMCs behave more defensively by lowering their mentality to first notch of normal. This should limit this space. I will also remove the OI for never tight marking Rodwell, and set Guthrie to man-mark, rather than zonal. From this screenshot, btw, we make a last-ditch tackle on Rodwell just before he shoots and Bridge puts the ball out for a corner. Uh-oh...

51:00 That corner was poor, but this one is much better and Jonas is the wrong person to mark Fellaini. Thankfully, he heads over. Eventually, he's going to score one of these...

53:45 Drenthe is marshaled out of play by Santon, who is doing a great job of containing the Real Madrid wingback.

59:00 They are definitely threatening more than in the first half and we're not really countering effectively. I think I might get Ba and Obertan to make more forward runs, but I am a bit worried by their anticipation and the probability of offside. Well, I might as well try it for a little while at least.

64:00 Obertan burns past Neville to chase a long ball by Guthrie. Distin comes across and clatters him, conceding the foul. Demidov gets the header on target from Cabaye's FK, but it's directly at Mucha, who spills it.

66:20 Jonas is worked free left-of-centre in the box and Bridge finds him. His shot cannons off the crossbar. The 2nd ball comes back in and is cleared out for a corner. The second ball from that is passed to Guthrie who slides a through ball into the box for Ba but he fails to anticipate it and Mucha collects. Bridge is looking tired, but I'm loathe to put an unfit Gosling on the right and switch Santon to the left. A second goal and it's game over, one for them and we probably need to make do with a draw.

68:45 Cabaye goes in way too hard on Anichebe and is carded, so I tone down his tackling and tell everyone to go easy on Anichebe.

70:30 They struggle to work a free man up front outside our box, so it is layed off to Rodwell who fires from distance. Close, but misses.

71:30 Ben Arfa plays a and he is onside but smashes the shot straight at Mucha. 2nd ccc wasted.

73:00 I tell everyone to close Mucha down a lot but to go easy in the tackle.

76:00 Bridge is being run ragged down the left by Coleman, and he's down to 59% condition but I'm loathe to bring on Gosling for him. I tell him never to venture forward, and allow Cabaye to sometimes provide support instead. With the magical powers of hindsight, I now realise that I should have started showing Coleman inside - he is one footed and he was getting past Bridge down the touchline. By showing him onto his left, he'd have had to come inside, away from the prime crossing zone, and with DMCs as well as DCs to contend with, he would probably have been much less effective.

77:00 Cabaye plays a great ball over Hibbert's head for Jonas who dribbles into the box, round one man, round another but his eventual shot is woeful and Neville clears.

81:00 HBA gives away a needless FK against Drenthe in decent territory. Fellaini, almost unmarked by Jonas, heads over. If he's going to get one, it'll be in 90+3, won't it.

82:25 Bilyaletdinov, in space in the hole, smacks a long range effort narrowly over.

84:00 Corner to Everton due to Hibbert overlapping. Jonas might be threatening going forward but I need him to help out a tired Bridge. I bring him back to MR and ask him to run forward a lot more. The corner hits the first man and is cleared. HBA wins a free kick around the halfway line. Coleman is carded.

85:30 Obertan hasn't done anything for ages and is stood offside when the freekick is lofted forward. He's taken off for Gosling who will play MR and do for Santon what Jonas is doing for Bridge. Attacking though, he will play lots of through balls for Ba to run on to.

87:00 Time to waste time. Set right in the middle of the slider.

88:00 Demidov executes a tactical foul. The counter-attack-prevention-system.

90:00 We're basically clinging on now. They're working it down the flanks and throwing cross after cross in, but so far we're clearing them. I set Ba to hold up the ball and make less forward runs (down to sometimes) and take off his roaming. We need something to clear towards now.

92:00 Hibbert fouls Jonas and, with both of the two minutes' injury time gone, this is surely going to be game over after this FK.

93:00 Santon passes 50 yards back to his keeper, Krul smashes it upfield and the whistle blows!!! Newcastle win, 1v0.

Full Time

So, it's a victory in the bag. Very happy with that, but it was very nervy for the last twenty minutes, if not the whole 2nd half. I had no choice but to maintain the defensive line that I started with once Anichebe came on, and then I had to concede the wings because that was clearly their main avenue of attack and both Jonas and Obertan weren't offering much going forward. Team-talk is just a general happy with the performance and I'm lenient on Ba for his poor finishing which resulted in two ccc's missed and a 6.2 rating. Vadim Demidov is man of the match, so I'm obviously delighted with him at such an early stage in his Toon career. He made 10 (!) interceptions in the game. That's mammoth.

To follow: rest of screenshots and PKM.

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yeah sorry i miss that :) when you will add this screens and pkms?

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I wanted to do it last night, but it was 2:30am when I finished writing it! So, I might try to upload around 3pm Atlantic time today. Or it could just be tonight when I have some spare time. I need to add a few bits, too. Principally, Arsenal have put in an offer of 8m for Ba. I'm sorely tempted because this incarnation of Demba is not good enough at the top level, which I'm apparently playing at - judging from Alex Ferguson's attempts at mindgames. I'm considering a bid for Papiss Cisse of all people, but I have Paloschi joining at the end of the season and I'm loathe to limit his appearances because their too similar to play together. Dilemma.

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Great post ZdlR. Reacting to the opposition is something that I've been very fond of in previous versions of FM. However, I've not tried a system like this before on FM12. It seems to me that you change your tactics on a match by match basis. Do you disregard tactic familiarity? Or how do you go about this?

Just took some of your OI into account with my Blackburn team against Sunderland and won 4-2.

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Great post ZdlR. Reacting to the opposition is something that I've been very fond of in previous versions of FM. However, I've not tried a system like this before on FM12. It seems to me that you change your tactics on a match by match basis. Do you disregard tactic familiarity? Or how do you go about this?

Just took some of your OI into account with my Blackburn team against Sunderland and won 4-2.

Good work with the Sunderland win :D

I was worried about tactic familiarity, but I'm not sure it's all that important. While I have three formations being trained, I only use the main one and just move the players around all the time. I'll have a look at my Team Report to see what tactics I've played - I imagine there'll be a good 3 or 4 that I've started games with. As it stands, I pretty much disregard the tactic familiarity because things are working out fine without paying attention to it. Perhaps if I was a bigger team with a more settled way of playing, I might keep it going for continuity.

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Updated with most of the screenshots. The ones I've got left to do are for the Everton players, and I'll also upload the PKM.

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Another great post sir :)

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Another great post sir :)

Thank you very much :thup:

I swear, if I hadn't written that post and pored over all of the details, I'd have lost that game...

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Thank you very much :thup:

I swear, if I hadn't written that post and pored over all of the details, I'd have lost that game...

I've had that feeling quite a few times with the stuff I've written. I think it's because when you play the way we do, we are thorough but at the same time we dismiss the little things because we believe we'll get the result. When we write for others we include those little details and pay extra attention so we don't miss anything.

Well that's my theory :D

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That's just an incredible post. No idea how some of you put so much time and effort into all the writing you do. Fantastic read that :)

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Doing well with this going forward. And managing fine with big attackers. The thing I'm struggling with is quick attackers/wingers who are good at dribbling e.g. Gervinho, Suarez. Any advice?

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Doing well with this going forward. And managing fine with big attackers. The thing I'm struggling with is quick attackers/wingers who are good at dribbling e.g. Gervinho, Suarez. Any advice?

I'd usually sit deeper, stand off them and try to flood the area they are in. This means that for Suarez, I would add a man in the hole as well as two centrebacks. For Gervinho, I would play with wide midfielders, not wingers or forwards in the AM slot, with normal mentality so that they contribute in defence. Of course, you need players were are likely to contribute, too, so they need to work hard.

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Yesterday I actually used the same(ish) approach regarding pre-match prep and in-match approach as in the Newcastle-Everton example... So I started from the scout report and identified strenghts and weaknesses and also exploited that through the media by adding extra pressure on weakest link and "danger-man". I then chose my formation and marking strategy to counter the opponents lineup... Result was an excellent experience and a real eye opener playing much more as a real Manager, reacting and changing based on the match events and the AI Manager moves. The result was a 2-1 win but the most satisfying thing was seing my thoughts and preparation pay off and actually playing the match as I intended/imagined.... My players performed my orders to perfection - the defence and the marking system limited the opponents and my mind games resulted in the "weakest link" scoring an own goal.... Only thing that backfired was the "Dangerman scoring an excellent goal with 10 minutes to go but on the hand I was pleased with the way we absorbed the dying-minutes pressure and got away with a deserver victory. So thank you ZdlR for some great inspiration.

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Yesterday I actually used the same(ish) approach regarding pre-match prep and in-match approach as in the Newcastle-Everton example... So I started from the scout report and identified strenghts and weaknesses and also exploited that through the media by adding extra pressure on weakest link and "danger-man". I then chose my formation and marking strategy to counter the opponents lineup... Result was an excellent experience and a real eye opener playing much more as a real Manager, reacting and changing based on the match events and the AI Manager moves. The result was a 2-1 win but the most satisfying thing was seing my thoughts and preparation pay off and actually playing the match as I intended/imagined.... My players performed my orders to perfection - the defence and the marking system limited the opponents and my mind games resulted in the "weakest link" scoring an own goal.... Only thing that backfired was the "Dangerman scoring an excellent goal with 10 minutes to go but on the hand I was pleased with the way we absorbed the dying-minutes pressure and got away with a deserver victory. So thank you ZdlR for some great inspiration.

Really glad this has helped you! As you can imagine, playing like this can take longer than just clicking continue and building the squad over a number of seasons, but - as the league table shows - it can help you overachieve by quite a margin. Congratulations on the win, it's very satisfying to watch the game play out with full knowledge of things to look out for and pay attention to. Also, you know why you conceded - you fired up their dangerman - just a moment of individual brilliance by someone who was determined to prove you wrong. This is counterbalanced by the own goal that the weakest link scored. You make your own luck ;)

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This defending thread seems to be the best place to ask the question. Im playing with Crewe in League 2, possesion based 4-1-2-2-1, and conceding way to many goals. Im 7th but have conceded the most goals outside of the bottom 3. My set up is

GK: Standard

DR: Full back Automatic

DC: Defender Defend

DL: Wing back Attack

DM: DLP Defend

MCR: AP Attack

MCL: BWM Support

AML: IF Attack

AMR: Winger Support

ST: Treq/DLF Attack/Support depending on which one I play

Team Instructions are all default apart from High Pressing and drill crosses. Alwayys start every game balanced and with standard philosphy although thinking of changing to fluid. Regularly have over 55% possesion and do score goals, I think off the top of my head I have scored 3rd of 4th most of in the league, but just conceded way too many. Can anyone see any glaring mistakes in the tactic?

Also before people ask I do concede a lot of different types of goals although I am pretty solid from Set Pieces

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This defending thread seems to be the best place to ask the question. Im playing with Crewe in League 2, possesion based 4-1-2-2-1, and conceding way to many goals. Im 7th but have conceded the most goals outside of the bottom 3. My set up is

GK: Standard

DR: Full back Automatic

DC: Defender Defend

DL: Wing back Attack

DM: DLP Defend

MCR: AP Attack

MCL: BWM Support

AML: IF Attack

AMR: Winger Support

ST: Treq/DLF Attack/Support depending on which one I play

Team Instructions are all default apart from High Pressing and drill crosses. Alwayys start every game balanced and with standard philosphy although thinking of changing to fluid. Regularly have over 55% possesion and do score goals, I think off the top of my head I have scored 3rd of 4th most of in the league, but just conceded way too many. Can anyone see any glaring mistakes in the tactic?

Also before people ask I do concede a lot of different types of goals although I am pretty solid from Set Pieces

Probably due to your team having 1 central defender short :p.

Back to business, i am playing a similar formation, but my MCL is a DLP support and DM is a Anchorman/Defensive mid, depending which player i am slotting into that position, which is totally the opposite of yours. My DM is set to loose marking and the closing down is set to 4 clicks lower than mine MCL, the DLP support. This ensures that he is always protecting my back 4 and not going haywire with ultra aggressive pressing. My MCR is set to AP-support, instead of attack like yours, i find that better in recycling possession between my DR, AMR, and MCR.

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Probably due to your team having 1 central defender short :p.

Back to business, i am playing a similar formation, but my MCL is a DLP support and DM is a Anchorman/Defensive mid, depending which player i am slotting into that position, which is totally the opposite of yours. My DM is set to loose marking and the closing down is set to 4 clicks lower than mine MCL, the DLP support. This ensures that he is always protecting my back 4 and not going haywire with ultra aggressive pressing. My MCR is set to AP-support, instead of attack like yours, i find that better in recycling possession between my DR, AMR, and MCR.

Well yeah that could be my downfall ;)

Maybe it could be my DLP having too high a mentality and getting forward when really he should be just sitting in the hole spreading balls around. So do you have any of your midfielders on attack? Or use them both on Support all the time, may try that. Why do you use loose marking out of interest?

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