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OK, I'm Biting the Tactics Bullet: An Advice Thread


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Afternoon all. First time posting in the forum, but of course you all come highly recommended, so hoping you can bring back my love for this game.

A bit of background first - I've been playing CM/FM for a long time, but only recently, with FM12, really got into playing it for long periods of time. In FM13, I played the longest I ever had and achieved quite a lot on the few saves I had (go to the Careers Forum to see, go on, I'll wait...). However, I got all this success without ever really paying much attention to tactics. I would pick my team, usually using my assistant, and then fit the roles around whatever those players were best at. So basically, I was tactically suicidal. But still, I had a decent amount of success.

Fast forward to FM14, and I started out doing a long-term save that I did on FM13. I was alright using the same terrible tactics I'd used before, but I would say it got a little more difficult. Then I hit crash dumps, and then more crash dumps, so long story short, I've really struggled to get into a save in 14.

My new idea is to tour Italy, like I did on my honeymoon, so I started a save at Venezia, from - obviously - Venice. They're currently in Serie C1A - or Lega Pro 1a Div. Girone A as it is in game under the new naming - so the third tier of Italian football. Quality wise, they're not great, but the media predicts them to finish 9th out of 16. I'm just about to start the league season, so I'm going to play three games, and explain my decisions throughout. I expect that I'm getting a whole lot wrong, so I'd like your advice on all things tactical.

Venezia v Vicenza

Lega Pro 1a Div. Girone A

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Vicenza are likely to line up with a narrow 4-2-3-1, so my head tells me to set up with a wide formation, to try and create some movement down the flanks, and hopefully some 2-on-1's against the full backs.

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I'm going to try using the following. I'm hoping it's balanced enough, while still doing enough to give problems to the opposition.

At half-time, it's 0-0, and pretty well-balanced, as you can see below.

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The stat that jumps out at me is that our defensive passing has been terrible. I change both center backs to play as central defenders, and with shorter passing to try and remedy this. Other than that, we're getting a lot of shots, but not too many on target. Added the team instruction to work the ball into the box.

In the 63rd minute, no change, so I raise the tempo as I noticed the strikers are taking far too long on the ball. It didn't seem to make much difference, and the game ended 0-0.

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Virtus Entella v Venezia

Lega Pro 1a Div. Girone A

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Changed things up a little - stayed with 4-4-2, but used a ball winning midfielder and advanced playmaker combo.

We started much the same as the previous game, but a defensive mistake (poor pass back beat our high line) cost us the first, and a long shot the second. I changed things at half-time to stop trying to work the ball into the box or play it out of defense. We improved, got two goals back, but then conceded a late third.

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So that's a brief rundown of my thoughts for the first two games. I know I've probably missed out a lot of crucial information, so if there's anything else needed, let me know and I'll provide it.

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In the first game, your strategy was to exploit the wings, but your crossing was only 10% at match end. Did you abandon this strategy halfway through the match, or are your wingers cutting instead? Or is there simply no-one in the box for the wingers to aim for?

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In the 63rd minute, no change, so I raise the tempo as I noticed the strikers are taking far too long on the ball. It didn't seem to make much difference, and the game ended 0-0.

Look for overlap will cause some players, including strikers, to hold up the ball more to allow the wingbacks to get forward.

In general, I'm not sure playing a short passing game and waiting for overlapping runs is the best way to go with a 4-4-2 vs. a narrow formation. I'd try to push the ball out wide and hit quicker, more direct counters.

I'd also question your CM roles in the second match. The CM/D and CM/S combo from the first match is fine, but a BWM/D will close down all over the field and an AP/S will focus more on playmaking than defensive work. You need somebody holding their defensive position, especially against a packed central midfield.

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A really good, detailed opening post :thup:

Before discussing your interpretation of the AssMan's advice, we need to look at the balance of your tactics.

There are a few exceptional threads about to help, and my personal favourites are listed below, and in the appropriate order:

http://community.sigames.com/showthread.php/366111-How-to-Play-FM14-A-Twelve-Step-Guide

http://community.sigames.com/showthread.php/375632-Pairs-amp-Combinations-The-Complete-Series

http://community.sigames.com/showthread.php/377489-Creating-A-Tactic-Design-Create-and-Maintain

They respectively list broad concepts, combinations to enable those concepts to blossom, and then insight into how to manage matches.

If you look at the first two in particular, you'll identify fundamental Role and Duty issues with your 4-4-2s.

In simplest terms, I would look to better mix your distribution of Duties. That alone will see marked improvements in your play.

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My initial thought... if you're throwing both wingers and both wingbacks forward, a CM(D) or a BWM(D) isn't anywhere near enough cover for the two central defenders.

My personal preference when playing with wingbacks is to not play with wide midfielders at all and just let the wing backs take care of it, and cover their attack by using a DM. But... that doesn't mean the set up you have can't work, would just be a matter of tweaking it I guess.

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Following RTH's advice to read those threads on roles/duties is the perfect advice - specifically re your wide players.

You have a CWB(A) and a WM(A) on both sides - both these players instructions can be summed up as 'get forward wide and to the byline at all costs' - so you will end up with 2 advanced wingers on both sides and teams will rip you to shreds down the wings on the counter. You need one attack and one support duty on each side (so one players covers the other defensively) and I would also recommend changing the CWBs to FBs (so they actually act as defenders!) - so you would perhaps go with FB(S) and W(A) on one side and FB(A) and W(S) on the other. You've got the more defensive MC on the left in each tactic, so I would suggest the more attacking FB on the left, so the CM(D) covers for him getting forward more.

My only other advice at this point would be to say that although your reasoning for playing wide (ie that you can then exploit their 'narrowness') is correct - the way you have done so is (in my opinion) flawed. Given the opposition's numerical advantage in the middle in both formations, you need your wider players (the ML/R) to get narrower to help even things up - and a better way of doing that is to 'play narrow'. To take advantage of their lack of numbers out wide while doing this, I'd then suggest 'Exploit the Flanks' which will then focus passing to out wide where you would have the 2 on 1 advantage each side.

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Your low passing percentage out of defence is easily explained. You are playing limited defenders, who'll boot the ball away at any hint of danger. If you want better passing out of defence, use the Central Defender role.

I'd concur with much of the other advice you've been given, especially about the one-dimensionality and vulnerability to the counter of the wings. You will have somewhat muted that vulnerability with the overlap instruction, which will keep the wingers deeper.

There's an issue in midfield nobody has picked up on. It's correct that the BWM and AP offer little protection to the DCs in the middle because they'll push forward so much, although I don't entirely agree that the CM(D) and CM(S) combo is bad with the overlap instruction. I think that should offer you adequate protection. What I'm concerned with is the support midfielder pushing up into the same space as the support forward, which will limit passing options. I'd much prefer the support midfielder to be operating behind the AF.

Where the AF is positioned also hints at what wing you should encourage the winger to get further forward on. There's no pint in making the winger operating on the AF's side of the pitch push up quickly, as the AF is likely to be drifting to the flank anyway, which again compresses your own space.

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Cheers for all the replies guys. I've been trying to put into practice some of the advice, but not having too much success at the moment. I'll try and describe what I'm doing, as I'm at work, so not too easy to give the same level of detail that I gave in my opening post.

So in terms of roles and team balance, I thought people would say something along those lines. I've changed the two wide midfielders to have support roles, and removed the look for overlap instruction. My thinking for a ball-winning midfielder was pretty basic - I thought they won the ball, then passed it on, so a pretty simple player. I wasn't aware that they tore around the pitch seeking out the ball, so I can see why that's a poor choice to make. To bolster up the midfield, I've withdrawn one of the strikers and added in a half-back between defence and midfield. The two CMs in front are set to a box-to-box on support and an advanced playmaker on attack.

In terms of instructions, I've had a bit of a rethink. Out goes the short passing, and in comes direct. I'm now pushing even further forward and playing the offside trap.

One thing I seem to notice, all the time actually when I look, is that my side very, very rarely holds the majority of possession. This isn't just the case with this save, it's been with pretty much all of the FM14 saves I've had. I'm not saying it's always a bad thing - if you have 10% of possession but win 1-0, then you've still won - but it's worrying that we struggle to ever have more possession. Is it possible to have a retain possession instruction while still playing a quick, direct style of play? I get the feeling that retain would slow things down.

I'm now playing in the Serie C Cup, so pretty much the sort of tournament we should be doing really well in. We're up against lowly Cosenza, a side from the tier below. I cannot stress how winnable this game should be. I don't change much, and head into a 3-0 lead early in. So far, so good. Then they get two goals back. Baws. One was from a corner, so OK, maybe a bit of work on routines, but otherwise not a problem. Second was a cross from the right, our defender cut it out, but hit it straight to the striker who smashed it in from about 8 yards out. We added another late on, so a comfortable win in the end, but conceding those 2 annoyed me. At half time I did go to using two CD rather than limited defenders, so hopefully that made a difference. Again though, we lost out on possession, 53 to 47.

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You can only have a majority of possession with direct play if you are the dominant side and can win the ball back almost immediately after you lose it. This would involve playing a high line with pressing.

You can just not have any passing related shouts and see how your team plays then. I only use Work Ball Into Box as I manually set short passing player instructions on those players in areas I want to build slowly from, and whom I want to recycle possession with.

You are looking for your fullbacks to overlap but that takes time, and if you are playing fast and direct they may often not get involved despite your instructions. If you want to play this way I'd swap the roles and make the WMs attack and the FBs support them.

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You can only have a majority of possession with direct play if you are the dominant side and can win the ball back almost immediately after you lose it. This would involve playing a high line with pressing.

You can just not have any passing related shouts and see how your team plays then. I only use Work Ball Into Box as I manually set short passing player instructions on those players in areas I want to build slowly from, and whom I want to recycle possession with.

You are looking for your fullbacks to overlap but that takes time, and if you are playing fast and direct they may often not get involved despite your instructions. If you want to play this way I'd swap the roles and make the WMs attack and the FBs support them.

Interesting...certainly makes sense to me. For the visit of Feralpi I changed the flanks to alternating attack/support roles - the left got a full back support with an attacking wide midfielder, and the right got the opposite. Also, after reading the fabulous gegenpressing thread, I decided to give that a try, as it fitted in with the basics behind how I was playing now. So in came hassle opponents, tight marking and stay on feet. The goalkeeper was also instructed to distribute to defence and play it short.

The switch just got flipped. May be premature, but at half-time we're 2-0 up and cruising, with, joy of joys, the majority of possession (60-40). We're also visibly playing higher up the pitch. From watching the second half - and bear in mind, I'm doing so through logmein, which makes it judder more than your average twerk - we're relentlessly closing down quickly, barely giving the opposition a sniff. They're lumping long balls which our defence just gobble up. One other thing I'm noticing is that we're playing at an absolutely insane pace compared to before. I fully expect the team to expire if I keep playing this way, but it's a good starting point.

Final score, 3-1. We secured it in the 90th minute after they had thoroughly beaten our offside trap to get a goal back. Seriously, by the time they put it in the net, my center back was still trying to catch him offside. Mammy daddy...

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Also, as an aside, I'm comparing my passing stats from this game, to the league game before, when we slipped to a depressing 1-0 defeat. Pretty much the last game of my "let's-pointlessly-overlap" era, and the most complete of my "let's-press-like-we're-going-to-die-tomorrow" phase. Makes for interesting reading...

Lost to Cremonese 1-0

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Beat Feralpi 3-1

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PASS BONANZA!

Thinking about it, the changes in roles for the wide players makes sense. Against Cremonese, we had very few passes in the defensive flanks. This was probably because the defenders were bombing forward relentlessly. I imagine we were giving up a lot of space there. Now that they're less adventurous, and receiving the ball very often from the keeper, they're being allowed to actually contribute, rather than just run. And boy have they taken the chance.

Feralpi - Opposition - Cremonese

687 - Passes Made - 437

561 - Passes Completed - 307

81.67% - Complete - 70.25%

Now yes, our pass completion hasn't raised massively, and was pretty good already, but it's got even better, and that's with attempting nigh on 50% more passes than the first match. A few particular specifics jump out at me. First, the keeper has really improved his distribution. Of course, that's not to say that he's done anything useful with his passes out, but it does mean we're not just immediately surrendering possession. Second, check out the flanks - Drame and Glorico were the wide midfielders, and managed 172 passes between them. Campagna and Armenise were the full backs, and they managed 197 between them. The full backs managed around 82% successfully, and the wide-men managed about 86%. The rest of the team hardly slackened though, playing absolutely rapid football. Wonderful stuff really.

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