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Building A Tactic From The Beginning And Maintaining It Long Term

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NOTE - If you’d prefer to read all of this as separate articles then you can do so via my blog which can be found at www.sisportscentre.com

For discussing this on here please use this discussion thread http://community.sigames.com/showthread.php/403165-Building-A-Tactic-From-The-Beginning-THE-DISCUSSION-THREAD!

Introduction

Every year I try and create threads and articles that are an improvement on what I've done previously and this year is no different. What I’ll be doing is creating a massive in depth thread about how I create a tactic from the very beginning and document it step by step in the way I build them on Football Manager. This isn't a guide that will provide a download link to a tactic nor is it a guid that says you must play this way. It’s just something to show people how I create a tactic in the hope they might find something worthwhile from it, or in the hope it gives those struggling with the game an idea into how they can create a successful tactic by questioning their current approach to tactic building.

Not only will I be going through the process step by step I’ll also be showing you how I determine what the strengths and weaknesses of the tactic are and how we can spot issues when viewing games. Along with all this I also plan on going into considerable depth about how the roles, duties, team instructions and player instructions all interact with each other. So I’ll be focusing on the roles and what they offer to the shape used and how they compliment each other.

Once that is all explained and out of the way the next step will see me focusing on consistency and how I adapt based on what is happening in a game and the focus long term. So that part of the thread will concentrate on spotting and identifying issues that I face on a weekly basis and showing first how I spot them and secondly how I fix them and what the options are. Then I’ll focus on other things like dealing with specific formations or those stubborn hard to break down teams.

So as you can see this project is very long term focused and will initially start with how I think up a tactic then design it. Then it’ll focus on how I refine it and discuss how I take my ideas and put them into practise. Then once all that is done I can switch focus to the more long term issues people face daily and show how I handle them step by step.

Hopefully you’ll like what I have planned and as usual the discussion thread will be separate (linked at the very top of this post) that way its easier to see all the information.

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Pick A Team

Creating a tactic isn’t easy and does take some consideration when creating one. Anyone can chuck eleven roles and duties together but not everyone can throw together eleven roles and duties that actually compliment each other. Hopefully over the course of this article it’ll outline the basics and maybe change how you approach tactic making and think about tactics in general. This was written before FM15 was released so ignore the version of the game as this was written using FM14 as the example due to writing this in advance and using bits of posts I had posted in the past. However regardless of what version you play all this is still relevant for any past or future release of the game. We might get new options or features in the game but the tactic creating process will always be the same for me regardless of all that. My thinking and how I approach tactic creating will always remain the same.

Any team can play any formation if they have the players to play the positions. But not every team can play an attacking style and be effective. The better the side you are the more creative you’ll be able to be with tactic creating. You still can be creative with the weaker sides as well but to a much lesser extent normally due to the type of players you can attract as they’ll likely not have the required attributes needed. There might be a few occasions though where you are lucky enough to be a smaller side and have really good creative players. There are four types of teams. Let’s take a closer look at what I mean by that and give a quick brief overview of how you should be thinking depending on the side you take over;

Weak Teams

Teams like Palace, West Brom and Burnley are classed as weak teams in season one. So to begin with the options you have might be limited. You can still play any formation you wish player and transfer budget allowing. But the style which you play will be could initially be hampered. If you want to be attacking then you need to ensure you’ve got a good knowledge of the the system you’ll be using and understand its strengths and weakness If not then you’ll struggle especially against better sides. As these teams are classed as weak sides almost everyone in the league is better. So even before you start you’re already on the back foot. The good thing about being a weak side though is teams will underestimate you and try and impose themselves in the match and force you to adapt to them rather than the other way around.

That can be a good thing at times as this will mean regardless of how you set up majority of teams you face will set up to be attacking and slightly more aggressive against you and we know what that means don’t we? SPACE. Bigger sides when they attack automatically leave you space to use somewhere on the pitch, it’s impossible to be attacking/aggressive and not concede space somewhere on the pitch or risk certain players being exposed at times. So regardless of your sides limited capabilities this is something you should be looking out for as you can really cause the opposition some difficulties if you can spot this.

Average Teams

These are sides that are expected to finish around the mid table; this includes sides like Newcastle, Hull and Stoke. If they have a good season they could possibly have an outside chance of pushing for a European place. If they had a bad season they could be down in a relegation place. The choice of tactics for these sides is vital and it’s important you get the players playing well in most games to avoid a slump down the table. I class these type of teams as bang smack in the middle of the road sides. The opposition will be a mixed bag and while some sides might be really aggressive against you other sides might be more cautious. If you play with a side like this then you have to be really aware of how the opposition are playing so you can understand what you need to do yourself to get a result from the game.

Good Sides

Everton, Spurs and Swansea are what I class as good sides. These sides have probably got too much talent to be relegated. But probably not enough to break into the top 4 on a consistent basis to begin with. That’s not to say with a couple of new signings and the right tactic that you can’t push all the way for the title. A lot of sides you face will try being stubborn in their approach against you and could end up having men behind the ball trying to stifle your attacking threat. I believe its these sides and the top sides that people have the most issues managing and the reason for this is space and movement. When managing sides like these any badly made tactics or tactics that offer no movement tend to get caught out and shown for their weakness much more than when you are a lesser side. The reasons for this is its down to you to create space and movement as teams are more cautious/reserved against you compared to when facing bigger sides who naturally give up more space.

Top Sides

Teams such as Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal can dictate how they play. They can also be creative in their tactics and approaches due to the quality of players they have available. You have much more creative license when creating tactics for these types of sides due to most of the opposition playing defensive or counter attacking against you and you normally having a much stronger squad than 75% of the league. Again, when managing a side like this you really need to understand how the roles and duties you’ve chosen all work together and how its all brings you the ‘final product’ you see on the pitch

It’s really important you decide which category your team falls under. Then you should be able to be more realistic about how the team can actually play. Remember the above is simplifying things slightly and talking in black and white context but this is just so you can decide what type of team you are.

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The Starting Point - The Real Life Example

The first example used here is from FM14 and something I posted before. The reason for reposting this particular bit is, it saves me rewriting it as its not really needed, it already covers all the bases I want to touch upon. However the second part of this (which will be a separate article) is new and written using FM15 to show how I think about creating a tactic when I have nothing to reference and am using a concept I thought about rather than trying to imitate like the first example.

When creating a tactic you need to have an idea of how you want it to play and have an idea of the kind of football you want to see. Without knowing this you’ll feel a bit lost and struggle to have success. Everyone needs a starting point of some kind whether its an idea, tactical philosophy or a style of play. Having this thought out will make it possible to build around this and give you a starting point. This thread will hopefully show you how I create a tactic and give a few of you a couple of ideas along the way, especially if you feel a bit lost for direction and not quite sure where to start.

While I am copying Bayerns style of play to some degree I have to adapt it to suit the players at my disposal. I actually don’t have the right type of players to play this way but that’s a good thing for this thread as it will mean there are more discussion points and it should be a lot harder for me to get right. Over time as the squad gets stronger and I bring the right sort of players in that fit this system then the more like Bayern it should become. But this will take time and not something you can do off the bat and copy instantly unless you are lucky enough to have a squad with the players already in it.

Some of you might think that Sheffield United have a very good squad and they do to some extent but they don’t have the attributes to play the Bayern way. My side lacks composure, technique, decisions and creativity all of which are very important. Not only that but my midfield is lacking numbers and while I have a bit of money to spend I can’t attract the right kind of player that I need. None the less this should be fun to try and make work :)

The starting point

I like to attempt to replicate real life tactics but putting my own spin on them. This past few weeks I’ve been reading about Bayern and the system they’ve been using and it intrigued me a lot. Especially as people claim this is the next tactical revolution and the next logical step for tactics. So with this in mind I started to read about about how they played to get some ideas for how I would set up. For this I used such sites as;

http://spielverlagerung.de/2013/11/23/borussia-dortmund-bayern-munchen-03/

http://www.bavarianfootballworks.com/2013/7/17/4530782/bayern-munich-pep-guardiola-4-1-4-1-tactics-flexibility-schweinsteiger-kroos-alcantara-martinez

http://www.chroniquestactiques.fr/bayern-munich-pep-guardiola-tactical-analysis-telekom-cup-8116/

http://www.squawka.com/news/2013/10/21/talking-tactics-how-pep-guardiola-utilised-the-double-no-10-role-against-mainz/2013102128050

http://bundesligafanatic.com/tactical-analysis-bayerns-4-1-4-1-in-german-super-cup/

This was more than enough to start me off with what I was trying to create and how to go about achieving it.

Setting The Base Shape

Once you have some kind of inspirations its all about setting this up in Football Manager. So what I do is create some kind of base tactic for how I try to translate the information I found in the articles above into the game. I call it a base because things never work exactly how you think and you have to make changes during games or to your initial setup should you find something isn’t working.

Firstly the shape. I went for a bog standard 4-1-4-1 because I feel this is more versatile than a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. I can make the 4-1-4-1 turn into those formations quite easily while in the game with the use of roles/duties. So for me this is the shape I choose.

HpRwgGL.png

That’s the shape I’ve gone for.

The Instructions

Once the shape is sorted we have to add the roles/duties and settings we think the team use. So I need to identify what I learnt from the links above.

  • The striker closes down the opposition’s back line constant
  • The wingers judging by heat maps I’ve seen start from further down the pitch but are at times the furthest players forward.
  • The MC’s are versatile and are something that change depending on the personnel available.
  • One of the MC’s likes to drop back into the DC positions at times to act as the third centre back when defending. Yet when attacking like to push up into midfield while still being the deepest midfielder.

These are the main points so to put this into FM terms I am thinking along the lines of;

  • The striker is better suited to being a defensive forward. Some could argue they are a false 9 or even a deep lying forward. However due to the nature they press the defence then a defensive forward is more logical.

  • The wingers or inside forwards depending on you label them will be wide midfielders for me. The reason for this is they both defend and help out defensively and having them in the AMR/AML position won’t allow this. But I can influence their play from the wide midfield positions by the use of individual instructions. Maybe use the cuts inside ones and possibly the gets further forward ones.

  • This is the hardest part and the one I am undecided on. So I think I might set this up just like real life and change it depending on who I use or the team I play against.

  • I honestly think the half back is suited for this position because it does exactly that, deep when defending and pushes higher up when attacking.

So with these points the shape and settings currently look like this;

HpRwgGL.png

Team InstructionsI learnt that Bayern like to keep width throughout the game. I also learnt that they like to hassle opponents, play with a high line, play short passing and use a high tempo game. So these are the settings I have chosen to start with;

iycb.png

I also decided that I would use an attacking strategy and play very rigid. The reason for playing very rigid is simple - I need certain players do act in a very specific way so by going rigid this allows those players in those roles to really shine and be the focal points of the side. I’ve not gone for retain possession as I believe I can do this naturally due to the roles/duties we have. Plus I’d rather we focused on good dangerous possession rather than keeping the ball and not doing anything with it.

And that’s it, its really that simple......

Well actually it isn’t because we don’t know if the ideas or logic behind what I’m trying to create even works.

........................................................

The next example is about an idea when you have no reference points.

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The Starting Point - An Idea In The Mind

In the last part I showed you a starting example of a real life formation that you can find information about on the internet. But what if you want to create your own formation that doesn’t necessarily follow any real life examples? Hopefully this will give you a little idea on how I approach this topic myself and set out something that I want to create when I have no references to refer to.

So where to begin!

Firstly I need some sort of idea in my mind so I can develop the idea into a proper working tactical idea. So I decide I want to try and utilise three of the new FM15 roles, they would be the wide playmaker, the roaming playmaker and the raumdeuter. This means I need a formation that allows for the roles to be used and then I need to fit the other seven player roles around these three. Due to the three roles that I definitely want to use this means I need to use ML/MR for the wide playmaker role, DMC/MC for the roaming playmaker and AML/AMR for the raumdeuter.

So after looking at formations and moving the positions around on the pitch for a while to get an understanding of what my shape options would be like, I decided that I’d go for a modern 4-4-2 of sorts;

4-4-2.png?resize=196%2C300

Once the shape is sorted fitting the roles into it should be simpler as I already have three in mind I want to use. But before deciding on the roles I need to decide what type of footballing style I want to create at the club as this will also make the roles I need to use more clear.

So what I’m thinking here is I want to be patient with the ball but be aggressive when I don’t have possession. I also want to retain possession and show that a 4-4-2 can keep possession if set up correctly as people believe it to be weak in that regard. Maybe I’d like to try and take advantage of more through balls too and even work the ball into the box rather than shooting from range. With all of this in mind that means my team instructions are pretty much sorted now, at least on paper, any tweaks or changes will come from watching games and seeing how it all plays out. So the team instructions will look something like this;

ti.png?resize=300%2C229

This does highlight a possible issue though and that is the amount of TI’s used. I’m not a fan of using excessive amounts so once we get to the actual playing a game side of things these could be reduced by a considerable amount. Remember at the minute everything is still theory based and we have no idea how this will all play out.

Now I need to make the rest of the roles I want to use fit around the above TI’s and the philosophy I’m going to be attempting to create. As this is still all idea based I don’t want to spend vast amounts of time discussing the player roles and how they work together as I won’t know that until we’ve played a few games. So what I’ll do is give a few brief reasons to how I see it all working and then once I dive into the season I’ll do a proper analysis of the roles one by one to give a real insight into how they worked or why I had to change them.

roles.png?resize=162%2C300

Those are what I’ve chosen so far.

  • Keeper defend - This might change to a sweeper keeper if I find I get a lot of long balls over the top.
  • Complete Wingback Right Side – I see him getting beyond the wide playmaker and creating an overlap. This will mean the wide playmaker will have options centrally and wide hopefully.
  • Complete Wingback Left Side - I’m unsure on this and feel it might be too aggressive but the strength of the 4-4-2 is the wide play so I want to start with this. Another reason for this is the AML will be quite aggressive so I want the wingback to be able to link up with him and play closer. If not this could potentially be problematic in some games as the AML/DL would have a lot of space in between each other that could be exploited.
  • Defenders – Just your standard defenders. I find this is always a good start point. I might find myself edging to a ball playing defender if I feel my defence isn’t linking to the midfield all that well.
  • Wide Playmaker – A new fancy role, I have to try and utilise it!
  • Roaming Playmaker - For the reason above really. I see him dropping back and helping defend out of possession but bursting forward from deep when in possession and offering a central threat.
  • Central Midfielder Defend - I need some stability and that one player who can drop back and help out the back 4 when needed. Especially as my full backs are gungho. Leaving just 2 defenders back could leave me exposed if I get the balance wrong. So hopefully this will be enough.
  • Raumdeuter - I see this role as a goalscorer and drifting inwards like an IF but using and creating space much better. Technically the player shouldn’t need to be brilliant as a lot of the role is down to what he does without the ball. So mentally strong and physical will help. Being technical is a bonus but I don’t feel its a must.
  • Complete Forward – Undecided on this role and a advanced forward might be the actual go to option once matches start. But for now I’ll see how it goes. I’m hoping he drifts wide, pushes the defence high up the pitch to keep the centre backs occupied. Along with also holding the ball up if its needed. Basically I need them to do a bit of everything in the hope the other striker and raumdeuter can cause some issues with arriving late into free space.
  • Deep-Lying Forward - I see him dropping deep and linking with the raumdeuter or the roaming playmaker who is coming from deep. Hopefully he can take his marker with him which will create space for those around him to use.

All in all I’ve tried to use roles/duties that can complement each other in theory. So I’ve got the players who can be creative i.e DLF, Wide Playmaker and the roaming playmaker. Then I have players who can use space created like the free roaming playmaker and the raumdeuter.

Remember its all still just an idea and we have no idea how it will work. But you need to have some kind of rough idea of what you want to create then you have to try and work out a few things like;

  • Who are the creative players?
  • Where will the goals come from?
  • Who will be supplying those ball to score the goals? This can differ to the creative players in the side.
  • Will I be exposed or am I being too aggressive?
  • Do you understand the strengths and weakness of the shape you are using?
  • How do the roles/duties/TI’s and PI’s impact this?

Those are the types of questions you need to be asking yourself. It’s important you understand how and why something works in the system and set-up you use, if not how will you know how to fix issues or even spot them in the first place? I’ll be touching upon this a lot later in the series.

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Understanding The Basics Of The 4-4-2

Picking a formation in Football Manager can be a daunting task at times, do you go with the unknown and try a 343 and be a bit adventurous or do you stick to the good old 442. The reason why so many people use 442 is because it’s familiar and always a safe bet for any side to use, its also very flexible and allows you to change into other systems during a match if you need to shake things up a bit. Another reason why the 442 is so popular is because of the balance between defending and scoring, you can create a very solid 442 that is tight at the back but lethal when going forward. There are many types of 442 and variations of the system though so what I’ll do is outline them below and give a brief overview of their strengths and weakness.

A Flat 442

flat442.png?resize=177%2C300

Strengths

  • Plenty of width and general wide play from the wingers
  • Two solid banks of 4
  • Cover down the flanks
  • Doubling up down the flanks both in defensive phases and attacking phases of play
  • The 4-4-2 can change into many different tactics which can add different kinds of aggression to your play

Weakness

  • You can get out numbered in the centre
  • No real DMC cover
  • Vulnerable to quick counter attacking tactics that can focus on direct balls behind the two MC’s
  • Strikers can get isolated from the other 8 outfield players at times
  • Strikers can also be found too far apart and not able to link up cohesively at times

This is the more neutral focused 442 that concentrates on the defending and attacking ability of your team, this is a very good starting point for any side to see what you’re team is capable of. This type of formation should produce a fair amount of goals as well as keeping it very tight at the back if set up correctly. The wingers in this formation are vital for providing crosses into the box for your strikers. A lot of people also like to play one attacking midfielder and one defensive midfielder to make it a lot more balanced.

Diamond

442diamond.png?resize=179%2C300

Strengths

  • Numbers in the centre and the protection of a DMC
  • Can become really compact and tight defensively
  • Plenty of attacking intent especially with the AMC
  • Rampaging full backs to provide the width

Weakness

  • Lack of players on the flanks
  • The team is vulnerable to fast changes of play and can get caught out of position especially if the opposition use the width of the pitch
  • Too narrow at times
  • Full backs can get exposed or even doubled up on

The 442 diamond normally consists of a flat back four, two central midfielder, a defensive midfielder, an attacking midfielder and 2 strikers. This set-up is very dependant on your fullbacks as they will be responsible for getting forward at every opportunity available because you have no wingers. So at times if the fullbacks are struggling to get forward you might find your strikers could get isolated for periods in the game. The wings can be a problem area at times, especially if you’re playing against two very good wingers as they will have lots of space and time on the ball. If you do use this formation ensure that your fullbacks are good going forward but extremely good at defending duties too

Diamond Wide

442widediamond.png?resize=178%2C300

Strengths

  • Plenty of width and general wide play from the wingers
  • Cover down the flanks
  • Able to create overlaps in attacking phases of play
  • Has a DMC for protection to the back four

Weakness

  • Lack of central players can mean lots of space in the centre for the opposition to really grab hold of the game.
  • Struggle to play any kind of possession game due to lack of central players
  • Can sometimes be very one dimensional play
  • Strikers and the AMC can find themselves isolated if the wide players can’t provide the required support

Unlike the diamond one above, this set-up does have wingers and is a good system to use if you want to use overlapping full backs (these are explained further down). The vital part of this formation is the attacking midfielder’s position and the defensive midfielder. The attacking midfielder will have both attacking and defensive duties; if he does not track players back when your side is not in possession of the ball then you will have a huge gap in middle of the park. This can cause big problems as your defensive midfielder will then move forward to try and win the ball and if he doesn’t win it your defence will have all sorts of problems to deal with.

Understanding The Basic Principles

It’s vital that whatever formation you use that you learn what the strengths and weaknesses are as this can be a deciding factor in what kind of style you are trying to create at the club. By understanding the strengths and weakness it should allow you to eliminate a few of the available roles for certain positions depending on how passive or aggressive you want to be in the set up. Not only that but it’ll allow you to quickly identify the issues you might face when playing certain formations. For example if you use the flat 4-4-2 and come across a formation that uses an attacking midfielder, then you’ll know you need to make sure he is picked up by the midfield or he’ll have lots of unguarded space to play in just in front of your back four. I know it sounds really simple but something like making one of the midfielders man mark or making them less attacking to deal with the threat can be the difference between a good or a bad result.

Defence

The fullbacks are one of the main strengths of this shape as you can have many different types of full backs in this shape. Some of them are; overlapping fullbacks who are very offensive minded and provide a very attacking option to the team.. Another way is to make them mark the opponent’s forwards or wingers. These players have to be dependable and willing to give up any kind of offensive play as they will be very defensive minded so don’t expect them to contribute on attacks. A third way to get them to work would be to have them work with the wingers (not overlapping though) and get forward to get crosses into the box at every chance possible for your strikers. The fourth way is more of a mixture between attacking and defending, the settings of this specific way really depends on how neutral you want to be, a good idea would to be to not over do it on the player instructions as that is more neutral.

One thing to keep an eye on when viewing this formation in the match engine is to make sure your defence isn’t sat too deep watching the game and are basically spectating. As this can cause players to either switch off or allows a gap to appear between the defence and midfield making it harder to work as a unit. So if you feel this is happening in your game then try and do something about it by either pushing the defensive line up or using different roles or duties.

Ideally the full backs should be supporting and joining the midfield regardless of what type of football you are playing. This will then allow the wide midfield players to bomb forward and make runs down the flanks. This is a very important part of the 4-4-2 because it uses width and the wide men need to provide the support to the strikers. If this doesn’t happen then the game can be a struggle.

Sweeper/Stopper/Cover

A sweeper can be used in any formation or system but is mainly used for a back three rather than a back four and is mainly used in real life by the Italians. For this type of system to work you need the sweeper to be very good for the level that he is currently playing at. If he is not then it simply will not work how it should and be more of weakness that a strength. A sweeper in the DC position on FM isn’t allowed (unless its announced in FM15 remember I am writing this in advance so ignore this if its changed) so if you did use one it would be behind a central defender on the formation screen rather than in-line with him.

The stopper/cover combo can be really good too but there is a downside to using this. If you use this combo and you face a team with a striker who drops off or an attacking midfielder who pushed us this can make your defence vulnerable at times due to the stopper pushing up to deal with the threat or dropping off to follow the deep striker. This will then mean a gap appears between both your centre backs so you have to be visually aware of late runners or through balls because they can really expose you. I personally favour the stopper/cover combo against long strikers for this very reason.

The Sweeper and Stopper systems are very similar and from a positional sense can look the exact same, but it’s what they do that makes them different. You have the sweeper set to where he’ll push up and mop up any balls that the defenders in front of him cannot deal with and does what the name “sweeper” suggest and sweeps up any mistakes your front defenders might make. Were as the stopper system uses his marking to either mark a striker or a central attacking midfielder of the opposing team. Plus he is expected to play quick and early balls to your midfield to start early counter attacks.

Midfield

The midfield of a 442 formation can be very variable indeed; you can play a flat four midfielders which is very stable and safe. You can use two wingers, one attacking midfielder and one defensive/wide midfielder which are a common thing on Football Manager to do. Or instead of using two wingers you can bring them in to the middle of the pitch so you have two central midfielders. This way makes you a lot narrower but is good if you have very attacking fullbacks who like to venture forward. You can also use two wingers and two defensive midfielders if you wanted to as well. There are also lots of other ways like using a flat three midfielders with one defensive midfielder behind them.

In a 4-4-2 formation, it is common to have one defensive midfielder and another whose job is to get forward and join the strikers in the penalty area.

The defensive midfielder is charged with breaking up opposition attacks, and when the team is on the back foot, act as an extra member of the defence. Most good teams have a player capable of screening the defence, acting as an insurance policy should the team surrender possession. Three of the best defensive midfielders currently in the game are Michael Essien, Javier Mascherano and Yaya Toure. It is players such as these that allow the team’s more attacking players to push forward.

The other midfielder still has defensive responsibilities, especially when his team does not have possession. But it is key that he gets forward to support the strikers when the team have the ball, otherwise there is a risk that the front men would lack support, particularly if the wingers are not of the required quality.

More attack-minded managers may opt to have two midfielders who go forward, particularly against weaker teams, but it is considered the norm to field one more defensively-minded player.

If a manager is looking to surprise the opposition, he may tell his midfielders to take turns in going forward.

Defensive Midfielder

One of the more popular 442 systems to use is one that implements a defensive midfielder. This offers extra cover in front of the back four and when used right you should find the opposition’s chances can be limited to longer ranged efforts as playing against a back 4 and a defensive midfielder can be very hard to break down if you stay compact. This is an extremely useful set-up if you need to keep clean sheets and dominate the game in the midfield areas.

The defensive midfielders job is to break up play and distribute the ball up field as quick as possible or hold onto the ball and wait until a clear cut pass arises, however holding onto the ball for too long can cause problems especially if he loses possession from dwelling on the ball. Remember though that using one of these in this shape can take something away from the tactic in an attacking sense especially in terms of support from the centre. It’s about finding the right balance between defending and attacking so keep a close eye on the game and the stats so you have a real understanding of how the game is actually going.

Wingers/Wide/Defensive Midfielders

The wide men are vital for providing support to the strikers and will be one of the main sources of your attacking threat. If not then maybe you might be best using a different shape as the 4-4-2 (a flat one obviously) is width dependant. They will provide crosses, runs from deep, run at the defence, cut inside and even score goals depending on what you use and the settings they have. You have many varied roles to choose from and player instructions that can make the roles even more varied and custom tailored to suit your needs. As you’ll likely not have much support from the central players in terms to continually supporting through the centre this means you have to be aware of how your wide men are playing and what they are doing in a game. if someone is playing badly then don’t stand by and watch it happening either sub them or try a different role. If you use the analysis tab you should be able to see why they might be doing poor.

Attacking Midfielder

Another popular choice on the Football Manager series is the use of an attacking midfielder. A lot of people use this system and play through the attacking midfielder letting him get forward and create chances. A free role can work well in this position for the correct player as it allows him the licence to roam and wander looking for the ball so this would be a role like the Treq. However if you play through the attacking midfielder the opposition might soon see this and make it incredibly difficult for you to get the ball to him or are closing him down heavily. If you see this happening then try and find out why its happening and again change the role or the player. If its a case of the opposition not allowing him time on the ball then changing the player is not likely to help so I’d focus more on the role of the player and give him something else that either makes him play higher or drops deeper in the hope it gives him the space needed.

Strikers

As for the strikers in a 442 formation you have a lot of options and variable partnerships you could use. It is common in this system to have one striker playing high up the field capable of holding the ball up and laying it off to his partner. This player furthest up the field is often a big target man, with the physical strength to hold off defenders and bring his team mates into play or someone more pacey who can push the defensive line high up the pitch making it harder for them to pick up the striker who dropped off the front.

But the front two does not have to comprise a big man and another striker running off him. Often teams choose to deploy a withdrawn striker, capable of playing in the ‘hole’ (the area behind the main striker) and using his creative skills to set up those around him, primarily his strike partner. Former Netherlands international Dennis Bergkamp was a prime example of this type of player.

If you opt to field a creative player in the ‘hole,’ the formation transforms into a 4-4-1-1.

Whichever front two combination you choose to field, the player who is not a big target man or a withdrawn creative player, is likely to be a goalscorer, with the nous to sniff out and score chances in and around the penalty area.

You can play anything really as it really does depend on how you’ve set up elsewhere on the pitch and were the support will come from. But the above are some of the more popular ways to play. So the next time you set up and attempt to use a 4-4-2 remember to decide how you want to play and try and choose the roles that compliment this way of playing.

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Playing Styles - The Attribute Side Of The Game

It’s not only the shape, roles and duties that you choose that determine how you can play either. When creating a tactical style you need to ensure you have players with the correct attributes to play this way. Below is a list of attributes I look for in players if I want to create some of these styles. There not set in stone but remember these are just my opinions and this is aimed at those who might be struggling with the game or need to strip everything back because they’ve become confused.

Once I have a clear plan of what I want to create like I highlighted in both the Starting Point Examples articles I did, I then refer to this to see if the players I have are actually capable of playing the way I want. If they aren’t then I’d revise the roles/duties I had selected and even team instructions. Then I’d try and find a way of progressing towards what I want to create, this could be a short process or it could be a long one. It all depends on what resources you have available and what your team is already capable of achieving.

Defensive

To play a defensive type of game it is important that your team is able to keep the shape at all times. This will make you hard to break down and mean you are well organised. When playing defensive if you don’t keep the shape it will mean you have holes in your tactics and the opposition will exploit them. Plus if you don’t keep shame then the whole philosophy is flawed to begin with. The players must be alert for the full 90 minutes and be on-the ball so to speak. Any lapse in concentration can be very costly especially late in games. It also requires you getting men back behind the ball. Remember also that someone defensive minded will be less ambitious with their passing.

Technical Attributes

  • Tackling – This is important for all players who will be back behind the ball.
  • Marking – You’ll want the player’s to be able to pick up their man and stick with him. One slip up by not marking properly and you could start to see gaps appear in your shape.
  • Heading – Because you’re defensive the chances are a lot of balls over the top and crosses from the wings will be a big issue. So you’ll want the defenders to be able to cope with these. Heading across the field in general will be a big bonus but it’s vital for the defence to be able to deal with aerial threats.

Mental Attributes

To be able to stay focused and keep the team shape players need to be mentally aware of problems and potential problems. So they must have good mental attributes to excel under pressure and reduce the amount of mistakes they make.

  • Anticipation – Player’s need to be aware of danger before it happens
  • Composure – The calmer the player is on the ball the less hurried his next action will be. You want people who won’t panic on the ball and give possession away cheaply. Especially when in your own half
  • Concentration – It’s no use having players who might switch off at any moment. You need them focused at all times.
  • Positioning – You want them positioned well enough to force pressure if it’s needed. This also helps the players keep the shape of the formation.
  • Teamwork – As the team will be playing as a defensive unit then it’s important all players are on the same page and working together.
  • Workrate – Players need to have a good work ethic as they’ll have lots of running about to do. You need the players to want to work hard for the result.

Physical Attributes

  • Acceleration – You need people to be able to be fast over short distances to cover other players. Or for them to pick up and loose balls quickly. It will also help with getting across to mark a player or to close him down.
  • Balance - A player who falls over easily and isn’t on his feet is out of the game.
  • Jumping – This will help in defensive situations. Remember this is needed for the heading attribute and works hand in hand with that.
  • Strength – Having a high attribute for this will ensure he can hold his own against the opposition should they get close to each other. You don’t want your players to get out muscled and knocked off the ball.
  • Stamina – You’ll want players who won’t get tired after 20 minutes of a game. The higher the attribute the more they can cope with high level physical activities.

Some might argue that other attributes should be on the list and that could possibly be the case. But for me these are the important ones for playing defensively. A few of you would have probably put decisions on the list and I'd agree to a certain extent. But for me playing defensively is more about getting the players to follow my own instructions I've set. So for this reason I omitted decisions from the list.

A Normal Approach

A normal approach is neutral and doesn’t concentrate on one aspect more than the other. It will provide the right balance between defence and attack. Meaning the players are less likely to take risks defensively or attacking. So this approach is more neutral compared to the others. That doesn’t mean it's boring it just means it doesn’t favour anything and treat it all equally.

Technical Attributes

  • First Touch – You want the players to be comfortable when receiving the ball. This prevents risks if they can control the ball at first time of asking.
  • Passing – It’s important that the players don’t take risks and lose the ball needlessly.
  • Tackling - The midfielders will need decent tackling so they can win the ball back and start attacks early.

Mental Attributes

  • Anticipation – This attribute is important for all most everything. So it’s no surprise I think its need here again. Much for the same reasons already mentioned further up the guide.
  • Aggression – Having a high attribute for this will make the player more likely to get involved in an incident and get stuck in.
  • Composure – The calmer the player is on the ball the less hurried his next action will be. You want people who won’t panic on the ball and give possession away cheaply.
  • Decisions – Making the correct decision is important for any good football player. As you are playing a more neutral game its important they make the correct decision.
  • Teamwork – It probably feels like I am repeating a lot of attributes and that would be the right assessment. But a lot of them do tie into all aspects of the game as hopefully we are beginning to demonstrate throughout the guide. Teamwork is important in that you want the team as a unit. So anything that requires you to work as a team and not individuals will always require a high teamwork attribute throughout the team.

Physical Attributes

  • Stamina – This is the only attribute I’d put for this part for the same reasons as the defensive one.

Playing a normal game means teams won’t excel at one particular area of the game. They should try and be competitive in all areas equally and not be ‘really good’ at anything.

Counter Attacking

Counter attacking is a speciality and requires you to exploit space and get the ball forward fast and early. For this type of play it requires players being deeper than normal inviting pressure onto them before hitting them on the break fast when you outnumber them and have the player advantage.

Technical Attributes

  • Crossing – Whether it is from deep or the by-line, it’s a weapon that you can use to devastating effects. An early cross to an attacker can instantly put the opposition onto the back foot.
  • Dribbling – To take advantage of any space that appears you’ll want players who are able to bring the ball forward.
  • Finishing – To make the most of any move you’ll want to put it into the back of the net.
  • Long shots – Players sometimes find themselves with a good opportunity to shoot from distance, especially when counter attacking.
  • Technique – For the same reasons I mentioned in the attacking one.

Mental Attributes

  • Aggression – Players should want to be involved in everything. This can also help with winning the ball back early and starting quick counter attacks.
  • Bravery – You don’t want players who bottle it when trying to win the ball back early do you?
  • Off The Ball - Movement is the key to all attacking formations and play. If an attacking player has a low rating then he’ll be less likely to find a little bit of space and make the right movement to beat his marker before he receives the goal. Sometimes it can be the difference that gives you that extra yard.
  • Work rate - Players will need to work hard both in defence and attacking situations. They will be up and down the field all day long, so should be prepared to put in the hard graft.

Physical Attributes

  • Pace – I like to play fast paced attacking football so for me pace is essential. Especially for player’s who like to drive forward and beat their man. It’s important for me that they can reach the top speed. Plus the players will be back and forth all match long.
  • Acceleration – This will provide that little edge in gaining an extra yard on the opposition. This and pace are very important.
  • Stamina – As the players will be up and down a lot, they need to be fit.
  • Strength – Having a high attribute for this will ensure he can hold his own against the opposition should they get close to each other. You don’t want your players to get out muscled and knocked off the ball. It will also help you win the ball back.

Attacking

Attacking football is all about player movement and how well you distribute the ball. You look to put pressure on the opposition and commit players forward. Then when the time is right you’ll look to carve open the defence with intelligent play and skill. While at the same time been aware of how open you are for the counterattack. This kind of play can be really risky at times though.

Technical Attributes

  • Dribbling – You want players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet and who can commit defenders. This will help create space and openings.
  • First Touch – Is vital ingredient for any player playing attacking football. Players who lack good first touch will miss good opportunities for running at defences or important passes.
  • Passing – You want people in the side who can distribute the ball well to take advantage of situation in the game. Poor distribution will lead to missed opportunities.
  • Technique - Technique is the aesthetic quality of a player’s technical game – how refined they appear to be with the ball. A player with high technique will be more likely to pull off a tricky pass or a cross-field ball with greater ease than someone less technically able. This in turn affects a number of technical attributes – poorer technique will let a player down.

Mental Attributes

  • Anticipation – You’ll want the players to anticipate the movement of others around them as well as the type of ball they might be about to receive.
  • Composure – This will help with how comfy a person is on the ball in hurried situations. So when under pressure from the opposition will still attempt their ‘original decision’.
  • Vision– For cutting open those defences you’ll want people who are creative. Plus it will help it spotting an opening or a different type of pass.
  • Flair – This goes hand in hand with creativity so can’t have one without the other.
  • Decisions – A player should be able to make the correct decision if more than one option is available. As you’ll be attacking then making the right decision is important and will be the difference between a goal and defending a counter attack.
  • Off The Ball – Movement is the key to all attacking formations and play. If an attacking player has a low rating then he’ll be less likely to find a little bit of space and make the right movement to beat his marker before he receives the goal. Sometimes it can be the difference that gives you that extra yard.
  • Teamwork – Again this is needed to play as a unit. But if you have a few special talents in your side that might be better playing as individuals then this isn’t as important. But very few teams have that kind of luxury.

Physical Attributes

  • Pace – I like to play fast paced attacking football so for me pace is essential. Especially for player’s who like to drive forward and beat their man. It’s important for me that they can reach the top speed.
  • Acceleration – This will provide that little edge in gaining an extra yard on the opposition. This and pace are very important.
  • Agility – Provides the player the ability to turn fast if needed. Ideally all attacking players should be agile when playing an attacking game. As they’ll be receiving the ball a lot and sometimes might find themselves with it when they wasn’t expecting it.

Those are the basic playing styles but there is much more to this as you can also have the more technical types of football.

The Passing Game

Over the last few years lots of teams have gone possession crazy with the likes of Barcelona and Spain both settings the tactical trends. This type of game often involves a slow meticulous build-up of play where the ball is patiently passed around the pitch, often being played out from the back. The aim is to keep possession at all costs until an opening is created and there is a possibility of a shot at goal. This does require highly technical players who are composed on the ball so they can keep the ball at their feet until an opening occurs. It also requires patience and needs to have runners so you can do something useful with the ball. Having possession is easy but can you create something that retains possession and uses it in dangerous positions? This part is hard and might require a lot of time watching games and seeing how the players and roles interact with each other.

Technical Attributes

  • First Touch – You need people who can control the ball and won’t risk giving it away by having an heavy first touch.
  • Passing – You want people in the side who can distribute the ball well to take advantage of situation in the game. Poor distribution will lead to missed opportunities.
  • Technique - As you are creating a passing game you need to ensure you have players who are comfy with the ball at their feet and can actually do stuff with it.

Mental Attributes

  • Anticipation – You’ll want the players to anticipate the movement of others around them as well as the type of ball they might be about to receive.
  • Composure – Quite a vital attribute for me this as someone with low composure will have their decision making rushed and could become flustered if they are being pressed/closed down heavily or have little time on the ball. You don’t want players who are likely to panic to have lots of possession as they will likely always be forced into making a quick decision that they aren’t capable of doing correctly.
  • Concentration - Players need to be switched on for the full 90 minutes, any lapse of concentration could see them making more mistakes and these can be costly especially if you intend of retaining possession.
  • Vision– Again this is important as you need a player to be able to see his options around him. Someone with low vision is unlikely to see all the available options and could miss seeing the obvious choices.
  • Decisions – Low decisions will mean the player is picking the wrong choices more often than he is the better choices. So the higher this attribute the better. You don’t want the player to decide to dribble if passing was the better option do you?!
  • Off The Ball – You need players who are able to move around and find a bit of space so they aren’t static. This will help keep possession if players move around losing their marker etc as it means the player on the ball will have free options around him to pick out a pass.
  • Teamwork – Again this is needed to play as a unit. But if you have a few special talents in your side that might be better playing as individuals then this isn’t as important. But very few teams have that kind of luxury.

Physical Attributes

  • Agility – Provides the player the ability to turn fast if needed. Ideally all attacking players should be agile when playing an attacking game. As they’ll be receiving the ball a lot and sometimes might find themselves with it when they wasn’t expecting it.
  • Balance – You don’t want players who can’t stay on their feet to see much of the ball as they’ll give possession away far too cheaply. You have to be confident that players who see lots of the ball don’t fall over or go to ground easy.
  • Strength – Not everyone needs this but it can be a good idea to have a few physically strong players in the side especially in those positions where you might need the player to be creative and get stuck into certain battles. The higher the attribute the better as it means they should be able to shrug certain challenges off and not lose the ball so easily.

The Direct Style

A lot of FM users tend to think directplay equals long ball but that’s not true at all. Direct play is different because it means getting the ball from A to B as quickly as possible with the aim of finding a teammate who can then try to finish quickly or maintain possession (were as long ball is more about hitting it in the hope one of your players can hold it up). Passes seen in direct play can be all different kinds of passes, they can be on the ground passes, high passes and so on. The aim is to exploit a sudden weakness in the oppositions formation such as a player being in the wrong place or being out of position. Or it could be you’ve created a great bit of play and some space has opened up so you look to get the ball to the player who is taking advantage of this as quickly as possible.

Technical Attributes

  • Crossing – You want players who are able to cross the ball quickly whether it be from the byline or from deep. It can help you get from route A to B a lot quickly.
  • First Touch – Players should be able to control the ball first time. This will enable you to quickly try and do the next required action as the ball would be under control. A low first touch attribute could mean the touch taken is too heavy and the player could lose a few vital seconds in trying to recover or even lose the ball.
  • Passing – You want people in the side who can distribute the ball well to take advantage of situation in the game. Poor distribution will lead to missed opportunities.
  • Technique - Technique is the aesthetic quality of a player’s technical game – how refined they appear to be with the ball. A player with high technique will be more likely to pull off a tricky pass or a cross-field ball with greater ease than someone less technically able. This in turn affects a number of technical attributes – poorer technique will let a player down.

Mental Attributes

  • Anticipation – You’ll want the players to anticipate the movement of others around them so they can pick out the runs or see where the player will end up in able to get the ball to them without wasting time.
  • Vision - If you are being more direct and looking to make things happen quickly, then vision is vital as you need players with the ability to see all of his available options.
  • Flair – This will allow certain players to attempt the more difficult types of balls or the more spectacular ones.
  • Decisions – A player should be able to make the correct decision if more than one option is available. As you’ll be attacking then making the right decision is important and will be the difference between a goal and defending a counter attack.
  • Workrate – Players will be expected to run, make movement off the ball, work the channels and in general be a workhorse. Having a high work rate will mean the team has work ethic and seeing as you are attempting to move the ball from A to B in the quickest possible safest way then you need players who can work hard.

Physical Attributes

  • Pace – This will help for those players who have to chase the ball or are expected to run onto certain balls.
  • Acceleration – This will provide that little edge in gaining an extra yard on the opposition. This and pace are very important.
  • Agility – Provides the player the ability to turn fast if needed. Ideally all attacking players should be agile when playing an attacking game. As they’ll be receiving the ball a lot and sometimes might find themselves with it when they wasn’t expecting it.

Parking The Bus

This is where a team invites the opposition to come at them and aims to soak up the pressure. When the ball is lost, the team retreats back to it's own half of the pitch and only attempt to win the ball when the opposition moves over the halfway line. Two distinct lines or units of players close to their own penalty area mark the opposition. This approach differs from the defensive one as the aim of parking the bus is to make it as hard as possible for the opposition to break you down. The emphasis is on not conceding above all else and this can come at the cost of any attack play. It can also be a very risky dangerous strategy to use if the players aren’t capable.

Technical Attributes

  • Dribbling – For the odd occasion where you might find yourself out of your own half then having someone who can run with the ball at their feet can be a good way of relieving pressure.
  • Marking – Players need to be able to stick to their man and be capable of dealing with him and sticking with him..
  • Tackling – You’d expect players to be doing a lot of tackles during the match and if you want to have more chance of winning those tackles cleanly without giving away dangerous free kicks or picking cards up then you’d want as high as possible for this attribute.

Mental Attributes

  • Anticipation – Players have to know their surroundings and need to second guess what the opposition players are going to do next before it even happens.
  • Composure – This will help with how comfy a person is on the ball in hurried situations. So when under pressure from the opposition they will still attempt their ‘original decision’. This is important for this strategy as it will revolve around absorbing an intense amount of pressure.
  • Concentration – Every single player needs to be switched on as you’ll be deep in your own half, normally camped on the edge of your own area. So any individual errors can be costly as the likelihood is they’ll be no second chance to attempt a recovery.
  • Decisions – It’s really important that the player can pick the correct decision. You don’t want him to suddenly decide to leave his position and go chasing someone who isn’t no threat do you? The decision attribute affects everything the player does so its vital he can always choose the correct decision more often than not. So you should aim for as high as possible.
  • Positioning– If this is low then players will be incorrectly positioned between the ball and the man they are marking. This could lead to things like players being the wrong side of the player they are marking or it could mean they aren’t in the correct position to begin with. This can actually cause the team to lose its shape or for an hole to appear, even if its just the one player who is positioned wrong. Everything has a domino effect and if he’s out of position and can’t recover then that mean someone else will have to but then who is going to cover for him?!
  • Teamwork – Again this is needed to play as a unit. But if you have a few special talents in your side that might be better playing as individuals then this isn’t as important. But very few teams have that kind of luxury.
  • Workrate – hard working players are an essential part of this strategy, you can’t afford luxury players who aren’t willing to put a shift in as this could cause huge amounts of issues.

Physical Attributes

  • Pace – On the rare occasions you venture forward you might find that if players are slow then they struggle to regain shape and fall back into position when possession is lost.
  • Acceleration – This will provide that little edge in gaining an extra yard on the opposition. This and pace are very important.
  • Strength – You need to be confident enough that someone isn’t going to get charged off the ball easily especially if its happening close to your own goal.

Aggressive Pressing

Teams try to win the ball back as quickly as possible wherever it be on the pitch and as close as possible to the opposition goal. It does require the whole team to push up at the same time as the pressure is placed on the opposition player. So playing as a unit is essential so roles and duties should compliment this style of play if not it can cause you massive issues. Teams who play this way also tend to use the offside trap due to how high up the pitch they tend to be playing. This strategy and style of play is mentally and physically demanding.

Technical Attributes

  • Marking – Players need to be able to stick to their man and be capable of dealing with him and sticking with him..
  • Tackling – You’d expect players to be doing a lot of tackles during the match and if you want to have more chance of winning those tackles cleanly without giving away dangerous free kicks or picking cards up then you’d want as high as possible for this attribute.

Mental Attributes

You basically want as many mental attributes as possible here.

  • Anticipation – Players have to know their surroundings and need to second guess what the opposition players are going to do next before it even happens.
  • Composure – This will help with how comfy a person is on the ball in hurried situations. So when under pressure from the opposition they will still attempt their ‘original decision’. This is important for this strategy as it will revolve around absorbing an intense amount of pressure.
  • Concentration – Every single player needs to be switched on as you'll be high up the pitch, so any mistakes or lack of focus and you might find the opposition get in behind quickly.
  • Decisions – It’s really important that the player can pick the correct decision. You don’t want him to suddenly decide to leave his position and go chasing someone who isn’t no threat do you? The decision attribute affects everything the player does so its vital he can always choose the correct decision more often than not. So you should aim for as high as possible.
  • Bravery - You don’t want players who shy away from challenges, tackles or who only enter those situations half arsed. You want committed players who aren’t afraid to get stuck in.
  • Aggression - A little bit of aggression is useful as the player will look to involve himself more which is ideal for a high pressing game where you want to impose yourself on the opposition and give them little room to breathe.
  • Teamwork – You want to press as a unit plain and simple!.
  • Workrate – Hard working players are an essential part of this strategy, you can’t afford luxury players who aren’t willing to put a shift in as this could cause huge amounts of issues.

Physical Attributes

  • Acceleration – This will provide that little edge in gaining an extra yard on the opposition. This and pace are very important. I’ve not listed pace this go though as in situations like this players should be pretty close to the ones they are closing down anyway so this is where acceleration is more useful because its the initial burst of speed a player has.
  • Stamina - One word, Vital! This strategy is very energetic and players are expected to consume lots of energy. So if their stamina is low then they are very unlikely to finish the full game.
  • Natural Fitness - If you’re using this as a full time strategy then having players who have a high attribute for this will allow them to play more games in a shorter period of time as its basically a players recovery rate.

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Roles and Duties - How I Think They'll Work

For this part I thought I’d discuss the roles and duties in a bit more depth to give you an idea of how I see the roles interacting with each other. It’ll also be a good reference point for when I actually see how it works in game because remember so far this is all just theory and something that I aim to put into practise. You hear people all the time talk about logic and look how the roles compliment each other etc, so hopefully this shows how I THINK something might work. It could all turn out to total crap though and it could fail once the games actually start. But nonetheless I still think its good to put this down on paper for people to see my thinking and the reasons behind them.

The Complete Wing Back’s should provide me with width down the flanks and put crosses into the box for the strikers. As I'm wanting these to cross then this influences the roles I used on the strikers, this is why one of them needs to stay higher up the pitch. If not, then who realistically would be getting on the end of the crosses? The answer is no-one if both the strikers dropped deeper. Someone might arrive late from midfield to get on the end of them but that isn't going to be that beneficial long term. It might work every now and again but it isn't a reliable way of creating a tactic imo.

Even though I'm planning on using two complete wing backs I expect them both to play very differently due to the players they have in front of them. On the left side I don’t expect to see many overlaps as the Raumdeuter is very advanced so realistically my wing back has little chance of overlapping him unless he comes deeper. So what I’m hoping here is that on the left, the wing back pushes up to reduce the space the Raumdeuter has behind him when he’s wandering about the pitch looking for space. The main reason for this is when I lose possession it could become problematic should the Raumdeuter not track back (which I don’t expect him to do tbh) it would mean there would be huge amounts of space in the area behind the Raumdeuter and in front of the wing back.

Doing this can still be risky as it means they could get in behind me by a direct ball or a ball over the top/through ball etc. But I’d rather have that than allow players to run at my wing back. I've always thought that its hard for defenders to deal with people who can run at them, you risk giving away fouls. So by reducing the space I'm hoping this won’t happen as frequent as the opposition players should have less time to run at their man.

One the right side I'm hoping overlaps do occur when the wide play-maker has the ball. Even though he’s on an attacking duty I’m hopefully the wing back will still go beyond him. If not then I might change the wide play-maker to a support role but this is something I need to see in game myself to gauge how he is actually working. I actually think this side will link up better and be a lot more involved than the left side due to how the WB/MR and striker should all link up.

The central midfield pairing should offer me runners from deep as well as stability in the centre of the pitch and protection for the back four. I see the CM defend dropping deeper and acting as the covering player who isn’t too adventurous when it comes to attacking play and can track back and help out the defence is needed. I see the roaming playmaker as the player who will contribute in all aspects of play and link the midfield to attack from central positions. Not only that but I also expect him to provide late surging runs and be a threat in the final third of the pitch.

The Raumdeuter I’m hoping will roam the field in search of space and always be available for a pass. I also expect him to receive the ball and be a threat in very dangerous positions. In theory he should see lots of the ball and have space around him as the DLF should open up space for him to run into as well.

Up front these are the two roles I’m not that convinced by just yet and really need to watch how they interact when the game starts. However what I expect is for the deep-lying forward to drop deep, this will hopefully make the opposition commit a player to following him which will mean space has appeared. If they don’t then it will mean the player is free and unmarked which isn’t a bad thing as it’ll allow him to see lots of the ball. The complete forward should be involved with everything. He should link up play, push forward, drop off the front, move into the channels and so on. I’m not sure if this is a good thing yet or not though as he might move around a lot more than I actually need. Sometimes someone less involved in all aspects of play can be better suited depending on what the team is actually doing with the ball in the final third.

That’s my thinking so far and the reason for choosing the roles that I did. Whether this all works in practise is another thing but I think for most parts it should as it seems balanced and I seem to have players who are runners, players who are creative and players capable of scoring those chances created. In a future part we’ll discuss how it all actually works in a game and give you an idea of if worked like I thought it would or not.

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The Analyst - Taking Your Time Part One

The first game of the season is probably the most important game I play and is the one game where I take the most time looking back over events that happened. Not only that but it’s also the game were I don’t make changes during the game unless something really bad is happening. The reason for this? Well I need to understand how the shape and settings I’ve chosen play out in a competitive environment, something which you can’t really do during pre-season. With this in mind I allow, if I can, the game to play out in its entirety and then I watch it back afterwards. Watching it back is easier as there is no pressure on to get a result as its already happened, meaning I will view the game differently than if it was watching the game in real time .

You need a free half hour or more depending on how thorough you want to be. I like to spend as much time as I can and really over focus on this one game to fully understand how my tactic works as it saves me a lot of time in the long run. Sure the tactic will play differently against other shapes but that doesn’t really matter to begin with as I need to understand how my set up works in general and understand as much as possible about it. You also need some way of making notes, I tend to use Google Docs these days or sometimes I’ll be old skool and use a pen and a bit of paper. Once I’ve got a bit of free time and some way of taking notes I’ll then view the game back as highlighted below. [???]

While the score is obviously important for whether we get three points or not, in the grand scheme of things it’s more important to focus on the performance rather than the actual score. I need to know if my players perform like I thought they would, which I highlighted in an earlier post. I need to see what the shape is like when defending and attacking and see just exactly how players are linking up. For this reason I’ll be splitting this into three separate articles; one focusing on the defensive side of things, one on the attacking side and then a post that summarises what I learnt about both phases of play and how I can fix some of the issues I mention.

Sheffield United vs Bristol City

I’ll be focusing mainly on what my side does. I don’t over concentrate on the opposition because if you do that, you can lose sight of how you want to play because you are always focusing on what they do rather than what you are doing.

The stats from the game looked like this;

(Click on screenshots to enlarge)

stats-300x183.png

The stats for me are nothing more than a very quick snapshot of what happened during a game without giving you any answers or solutions to anything. Context is everything and you’ll only find that out by viewing the game and seeing what actually happened. So I don’t concentrate on this much as I much prefer the individual stats as they offer so much more information about how the game went and more importantly what the individual was doing. I’ll be focusing on the game stats and the individual ones in a further update. For now I want to keep it simple and focus on watching the above game back.

The Defensive Aspects

Straight from Bristol’s kick off you can see my sides shape and already see some issues that could be problematic as the game goes on;

def1-300x148.jpg

Already I can see issues here and it could be quite a big one as the game goes on. The amount of space the Bristol City player has to play in is cause for concern. We can see the central midfielder who is on a defensive duty shifting across as he is gravitating towards the player with the ball. I’ll have to see more of the game other than the opening five seconds to get a better understanding of what’s going on. But for now its note number one in the note pad.

This screenshot is a few seconds later and highlights the issues with a two man midfield against a three man one. My more defensive minded midfielder has to mark two players. There is no immediate threat here but it is an issue and one I should see often throughout the game due to suffering the numbers disadvantage in midfield.

def2-300x147.jpg

An intelligent ball or a quick change of play here and I could be in serious trouble and on the back foot. It’s enough to cause concern but at the same time its one I have to accept that might happen often unless I make the roaming playmaker more restrained or change shape. It’s one of the downsides of using a two man midfield when the opposition have greater numbers centrally, you can be found chasing players at times as it relies on your own player making the correct call at the time. What it comes down to here is risk vs reward and whether you think its worth it or not. Personally I like to play dangerous and take risks as it can help with my attacking as you’ll see when we focus on that bit later. But I’m also aware of how open I can be. It’s another reason why you need to understand how your formation works and what its strengths and weaknesses actually are.

There’s an awful lot going on in this next screenshot;

def3-300x145.jpg

Firstly you can see on the near side my wide playmaker, roaming playmaker and defensive minded midfielder all in the circled area. This is from a throw-in but just look at the Bristol City player circled a bit further up. Now if he receives the ball he has options: He can either drive forward with the ball or try and feed a ball to one of the runners either between both centre backs or the centre back and fullback. It also means my centre back has a choice to make: Does he go towards the goal or stay and pick the runner up? Being FM you can guess what happens here right?

def4-300x146.jpg

He dwells on the ball luckily for me but my centreback charges him down and by some miracle has positioned himself so the free attacker behind him isn’t an option as the player on the ball can’t see him. This means he has to pass into the space between both centre backs and on this occasion it doesn’t cause me trouble. However this is a massive issue and is so far number one on the list I’m doing while watching this game back. Although I’m not sure how much of this is down to actually defending the throw-in so I need to determine if this happens often and if I can actually influence defending from throw-ins which I’m not sure I can. If that’s the case then a bug report will be filed. However I need to make sure it isn’t the settings I’m using first to ensure its not a human error.

The next thing I notice is this;

def5-300x146.jpg

That’s the oppositions wingback running back to his position as he thinks his side have lost the ball. However they haven’t and due to my side coming across to cover naturally it means he has time to turn direction and is unmarked. This isn’t really an issue and I’m happy with how my side are set up. Until this happens...

def6-300x145.jpg

The opposition quickly shift the ball across to the other side. Fast switches in play like this cause any formation problems and players get caught out of position. Is there much I can do about these situations? I’m not 100% sure there is but I could try and make the players go out wide rather than forcing them infield like I currently do. This is something I will make a note of but in FM terms, I don’t think this is a major issue unless it happens for the full 90 minutes.

As you can see here, when the wingback does receive the ball my team have been caught out in the quick change of play and my side have a lot of work to do to catch back up.

def7-300x144.jpg

I have 6 players all scrambling trying to deal with the threat or get back into position. It’s something that can be quite costly at times yet almost impossible to defend against.

The full move can be seen here in this little clip;

[video=youtube_share;qkf4LA9OQnU]

All in all there wasn’t much else to report defensively in this game, it ended up being much more one sided than I anticipated. The stuff I mentioned above wasn’t one-offs though so we’ll be revisiting them in part three as I discuss possible solutions to the issues and then how I go about putting them into practise.

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The Analyst - Taking Your Time Part Two

The second part of this article will focus on the attacking side of the tactic and see how well it creates chances, uses space and to look at how the roles function together.This first screenshot poses a problem for me due to it showing how isolated the complete forward on an attack duty can be, especially when the raumdeuter and the deep lying forward come deep.

attk1-300x146.jpg

So when the ball is cleared what can the complete forward really do, realistically? He can drive forward but the defender is already looking at making him move wide. So what happens when he is forced wide or can’t get beyond his marker without support?

attk2-300x144.jpg

Well this is what happens, he is forced to play a cross into these kind of areas (shown in the screenshot) which would be great. But can you see the issue I have? He’s way too far ahead of play in general and can’t really do anything here, he’s just going to give the ball away. These are the sort of balls you want players to attempt but its wasted if there is no support. You’ve probably heard me bang on before about how players need support and you need to use roles that compliment each other. Well this is a prime example of what I’m talking about. It might just be an isolated incident here but its disappointing to see so early in the game.

If this is a regular thing I notice then I either need to make the deep lying forward more attack minded or make the complete forward less aggressive. However on FM15 support players seem to track back an awful lot compared to previous version due to certain tweaks in the match engine.

This screenshot shows a similar scenario;

attk3-300x148.jpg

I can’t really cause too much damage when my DLF is this deep, it’s far deeper than I was hoping he’d be. In this screenshot it's making it hard to get the ball to the complete forward and raumdeuter. The DLF is supposed to be the link up player but as you can see he can’t link from where he currently is. It would be much better if he was playing in the area I highlighted in red. He’d be better positioned to link up play and would be unmarked, it seems.

I mentioned at the very start when I wrote about this idea, that the strikers would be the problematic area and the one aspect of the tactic that I wasn’t clear how it would work with the roles and duties I used. At first glance with the two above examples I’ve got it completely wrong with these two roles. A simple change could change all of this though. I feel like I do have options and we’ll speak about them in more detail in the third article.

This next one shows better what the DLF can do or should be doing when in the areas I want him to be:

attk41-300x144.jpg

The red dotted line shows the ball’s path for this move. The blue dotted line shows the possible option the DLF could use should be decide to pass rather than drive forward. This kind of play is what I like to see and is how I want to play so for me this is a good move. On this occasion the DLF is fouled though but this move was an encouraging sign.

Next up is showing the wide playmaker and the right fullback creating an overlap;

attk5-300x144.jpg

It shows what I mentioned in the ‘How I Think The Roles’ will work section a lot earlier in the series. I had visions of the wide playmaker cutting inside and allowing the right fullback to overlap into the vacant space so its good to actually see this happening. I also have options getting into the box who we can aim for unlike in the first example at the top of this post. However the fullback makes a really poor cross and doesn’t make most of the situation. But it’s still encouraging to see.

The next screenshot again shows how much more efficient I look when the complete forward is dropping deep and the DLF is pushing forward. This is making me believe I have the duties the wrong way around on them.

attk6-300x149.jpg

The red dotted line shows the path the ball will take again. This is good as it shows me trying to use the width of the pitch and use the strength of the 4-4-2, the wingers/fullbacks. On this occasion the fullback actually cuts inside rather than going on the outside of the wide playmaker:

attk7-300x147.jpg

Not only has he cut inside but just look at the amount of support and runners I have trying to get forward and into the box. Unfortunately the wide playmaker is fouled so its an opportunity missed but this is the sort of thing I love to see happening when attacking. I need to see players in space, players running into space and players making space. I can see all of these things in the image above.

The rest of the game I kept seeing similar things happen and apart from the few things I mentioned above I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary or anything that was a cause for concern.

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The Analyst - Taking Your Time Part Three

In part two I spoke about various defensive and attacking issues I saw when viewing the game back, so now we can concentrate on how I will tackle those issues and try to fix them. Let’s have a quick recap of some of the issues from the above post;

  • The more defensive minded midfielder was being quite aggressive at times and shifting all the way across the defensive line which was leaving me exposed at times.
  • Quick changes in play against sides who use the full width of the pitch was causing me a few headaches.
  • Through balls between my centre backs could have been more costly and long term this would be an issue.
  • Throw-ins!!! The players positioning is all wrong and poor in general.
  • The deep lying forward was becoming very withdrawn at times and far too deep for my liking.

So how exactly do I approach fixing these issues now? It’s not an easy task but the first thing I do is look at the settings of the players having the issues as well as looking at the team instructions I use.

Let’s start with the central midfielder on a defensive duty;

CMDI.jpg?resize=300%2C233

The highlighted options are the ones that are already active on the role. Before I talk about what I could possible change here lets have a reminder of the team instructions I use;

ti.png?resize=300%2C229

If you remember at the start i claimed these were probably overkill and I was using far too many. Well I still think this is the case and its actually causing me a few issues so I think I need to drop some.

The defensive minded central midfielder is clearly closing down far too much and he has the individual shout selected for closing down more automatically. Couple this with the team instruction of close down more and its an issue. Shouts were changed in FM15 compared to previous versions and are now layers rather than the old overriding of team instructions. It’s quite complicated how they work now as its not a 1+1=2 kind of equation either. This is for another post though. But because both of these are selected then its an issue, we saw this in the examples posted above. I could just add close down less PI to the individual but as a whole I think my team is pressing far too aggressively at times and I’m losing shape due to it, especially centrally.

As I’ll be removing the close down shouts I think it makes sense to remove the stay on feet shout as well, as my players shouldn’t be as aggressive so there is no point encouraging them to tackle easy now they have less space to over in getting to the player to close them down. It removes the risk of badly timed challenges. Also I’ll remove the much higher defensive line shout as I don’t need to be higher up the pitch to close down as much or as fast now. These three shouts were only added as they compliment what I was doing so if I remove one of them then it makes perfect sense to remove the other two.

The logic behind them initially was if I’m closing down aggressive then you want to be pushed higher up the pitch for that to be more effective and I didn’t want to risk people giving fouls away or getting cautioned if they didn’t make up the space in time, hence why I also had stay on feet activated. That meant they’d only tackle if they were confident of getting the ball.

I’m also hoping these changes might solve the other issue with me being caught out with quick switches of play. Due to being less aggressive in my pressing, players should be a lot more stricter positionally and be in the areas that I highlighted in part one about being wide open. So I won’t be sure if this is fixed or not for a few games. Any changes you make, you have to give it time and see it over several games and not just the one, as players can have off days.

Due to these changes I’m also wondering if it might have some knock on effect with the throw-in issue I have? I’m a bit unsure how to tackle that and still think it’s a bug of some sorts with players positioning in general. I’ll keep an eye on it for a few more games and then either update you all on what I’ve done or submit the appropriate bug reports.

In fact I’m hopeful this might sort out the centre back issue too. After I watched the game back and talked about it, I watched it again and felt they pushed up a bit too much or closed down in the wrong area initially making them ever so slightly out of place. Again, this is something I’ll be keeping an eye on.

The deep lying forward issue with his coming deeper is a bit more tricky as I can do quite a few things here. I could change his role completely but seeing as I bought a specific type of player to play this role that kind of rules that out for now. So my options are;

  • Keep him as he is and see how it goes for three or four games rather than just a single game
  • Switch him to a deep lying forward with an attack duty and switch the complete forward to a support duty

I Think I’ll try the latter for now as I think I’ll benefit him being positioned higher up the pitch. This will mean in the next game though I need to really study the movement and link up play of them both yet again as the dynamics compared to the first game will have changed.

This post is quite short as I don’t like to make wholesale changes in one go when for most parts it plays the way I want. It’s much easier to keep changes minimal at first as its easier to track if something has or hasn’t worked out. I will do another post about the changes and how it all worked out or didn’t at a later date.

In the next article I do though I’ll be talking about the different types of opposition i face and how I set up to play them. This will then hopefully address a lot of issues I see where people play Man Utd and beat them and then lose to the bottom of the league. They seem to miss the point that these teams play differently even if the shape is the same. That will likely be posted at the weekend or the beginning of next week.

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Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants

This is the first of a three part mini series inside the ‘Building A Tactic From The Beginning And Maintaining It Long Term’ project that I am doing. The three parts will consist of;

  • Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants – This will concentrate on looking at how I set up to play a lot stronger opposition.
  • The Walls Of Jericho – The second part will take a look at how I set up and try to break down the more stubborn teams who are well disciplined and organised defensively.
  • Eureka! – Then the final part I’m hoping will enlighten people about the differences in the styles of play that both teams do. This should explain why you can beat bigger teams one week but lose to the weaker teams the week after. It will examine and explain exactly why this happens based on the two games I discuss in parts one and two.

Playing stronger opposition can be a big issue at times – just exactly how do you set up to play against them? Well, you can play a numerous of different types of games against them. You could sit back and be solid defensively and hope you can grab a goal on the counter, or you could just focus on a counter attacking game and look to always hit them on the break when they overcommit players forward. Or you can try and attack the natural space that they leave when attacking you, which is different to counter attacking because you will be focusing on certain areas. It’s this latter method I am going to talk about now as I just played Manchester City in the first season in the FA Cup. Now I might be a decent side in League One but being drawn against City, I am the lot weaker side.

The First Game

I was drawn away against them and managed to pull off a 1-1 draw. I wasn’t outplayed at all like one would suspect. I perfectly held my own and was unlucky not to win the game. These were the match stats;

mstats.jpg?resize=300%2C170

I played the usual 4-4-2 which is outlined in this post http://sisportscentre.com/the-starting-point-part-two/ minus the shouts push higher up, close down more and stay on feet. The rest is the exact same.

And Manchester City also lined up with a flat 4-4-2.

I don’t want to dwell on the first game too much as it led to the extraordinary replay that I’ll be discussing below but I thought I best touch upon the fact it was a replay I was discussing.

The Replay

I approached this game the exact same way I did the one above (we both played the same shape again too 4-4-2 and I used the instructions set out above) but because I’ve not discussed that let me set a bit of background about the way I view the game and set up in general. I should point out as well because I’ve not mentioned it yet, I play with the control mentality.

Pre Game Changes

Some people like to make changes before the game is set up and being played – they like to look at things like form, the match odds and even the scout reports and look at the areas the opposition seem the most dangerous. Then they’ll make changes based on what they think will happen. Myself, though, I take a different approach, I don’t make changes before games ever as I don’t like to try and guess what will happen I’d rather make changes based on what I see happening in the match. One of the main reasons for doing it this way is due to me wanting to enforce my style and club playing philosophy on the opposition. If I’m always changing and trying to adapt to the opposition before a game then I don’t have a playing identity because I’m the one always trying to adapt. That’s not something I want to do, why should I be the one always sacrificing the way I want to play? So for these reasons I’d rather change based on what is actually happening in a game rather than trying to predict what might happen before its even happened.

That’s not to say my way is better though, it just works for me and how I play and view the game in general.

Opposition Instructions

For me these are the devil, they seem useful on paper but they can cause complications that the user doesn’t always realise. They can cause you to lose your shape and for players to do things that don’t seem understandable when viewing the match or highlights as he might behave different to how you instructed his tactically, due to having OI’s that make his behaviour different. For me I never use OI’s, ever! If you do use them just make sure you understand which you are using and try and understand how these will impact how you’ve instructed the player to play.

Things like ‘show onto weaker foot’ sound good in principle, but what happens if you’re forcing that player onto his weaker foot? It could mean you are forcing him to use the side the natural overlaps is on. So while in theory it sounds good in practice, it could mean something else and actually be a strength for the opposition if you are forcing him to do a particular thing, you could find the opposition actually has the advantage in some cases. That’s not to say this will always be the case but you need to understand the impact they can have on you and your side.

The First 15 Minutes

The first 15 minutes of any game are the most vital in my opinion, I can’t state just how important these opening minutes are. I always and I really mean always watch the first 15 minutes of the game in full to get an understanding of what is happening in the game. If I was just watching highlights I wouldn’t get a true feeling of what my players are doing and if they are doing the jobs I’ve instructed them to do. For most parts the majority of changes I’ll ever make will come in this time period. After these 15 minutes you can switch to highlight mode again if you feel comfortable with how your side is playing, which is something I often do.

I’ll pause the game, rewind clips, look at the stats and even change camera angles to view incidents from different angles, as you can learn a lot by doing this. Don’t panic and think you haven’t got time, always pause the game if you are unsure before making a decision. I also pause the game at random times when attacking and defending, this allows me to see how the players are playing positionally and sometimes can show things that are wrong in your own set up. For me its probably the easiest way of identifying an issue.

Let’s take a look at what I noticed in these opening minutes.

ana1.jpg?resize=300%2C150

That screenshot is taken from the first 20 seconds of the match and already I can see that attacking I look really good and have men committed forward when attacking, which is good. It can also be an issue should I lose possession as I’d be hit on the counter. But again I’ll worry about that if and when it happens – if it’s not happened yet I’m not going to worry about it as I look good going forward and I’d hate to hamper that. As a rule of thumb I follow something along the lines of;

  • Stick to my own game plan as much as possible
  • Never panic or rush making a decision when it comes to changing stuff
  • Make small changes. Small changes are what 90% of the time wins games.

That way I never lose sight of my own style.

ana2.jpg?resize=300%2C145

Remember above when I said there is no need to worry until something happens? Well it’s happened so now I’ve seen enough for me to decide my first change. While I’m happy with how I attack I can’t help but think City’s pace in their squad could hurt me over 90 minutes and I really think I have a chance of winning this game. So with that in mind;

  • Change 1 – Switch from control to a counter attacking mentality

The reason for this change is simple, I don’t need to leave myself exposed like the screenshot highlights. I mean, I have five players behind the ball so that shows I’m far too aggressive in my approach.

My defensive minded central defender has had to leave his position and move across to the ball which is problematic. He’s identified the danger and is dealing with it like you would expect but this in turn means he’s abandoned his position, leaving the full midfield exposed. He really should be hanging back more but this is due to me using a control mentality, it’s just too attacking for what I’m wanting at the minute and because City are a top side they’ll exploit this time and time again.

Everyone viewing that screenshot should be able to see the issue. Now I might like being risky against sides who are equal to me, but taking a big risk like this against good opposition could result in me taking a hammering.

It’s not all bad, though, when being attacked by the opposition, as the next screenshot will show;

ana3.jpg?resize=300%2C145

This is City actually attacking me – this is my goal. But can you see all the space circled that they leave behind to be exploited should I win the ball back? This is the biggest advantage against the bigger sides as they naturally leave space for you to exploit due to their attacking behaviour. Against the lesser sides they are normally more compact and don’t attack with such numbers so this takes away the space that I’ve highlighted. That’s why we see people mention they beat a big team one week then lose to the club at the bottom of the league the week after. It’s all about space and how you use it against those sides. Against the big clubs they do half the job for you as they leave space compared to the lesser sides when the emphasis is on you creating that space somehow.

It’s normally during those sort of games that you’ll get a real understanding of how your roles all link together to give you the end product. So it’s not too unfamiliar if a lot of people get caught out here, and their tactic shows a flaw in which it creates and uses space. I’ll be touching upon that and showing examples from attacking sides and the more defensive ones in another article.

Back to the above screenshot though, I’m hoping the change to counter attacking mentality will make me concentrate on these areas more when we win the ball back and have a counter on. My complete wingback should make the most of it and I expect the roaming playmaker to take advantage of it too due to what the role is about – A creative box to box player.

After a few minutes I already see my side are doing better in the space I highlighted above;

ana4.jpg?resize=300%2C145

My left back plays the ball into the channel where my raumdeuter is already making a run between the centre back and fullback, he’s in clear space. The three City players highlighted have issues here, the one nearest the touchline is already running towards my left back so he’s totally unaware of my player next to him. The second highlighted player is running across to cut the ball out but realistically he isn’t going to even get close to it. And the third one is even more interesting – you’ll see me mention from time to time if you’ve followed my stuff before about making the opposition make a choice – well this is a good example of that, the defender has two options here;

  • 1 – He can try and cut out the ball and move across towards the raumdeuter
  • 2 – He can track the runner at the side of him who is looking to get beyond him

Now it doesn’t matter which option he really chooses as it will be the wrong option. Whichever player he tries to track, it will leave the other one in acres of space. Play like this wins you games, there is no two ways about it. Forcing the opposition to make a decision whilst you have the advantage regardless of what that decision is, is hard to do, but this is why role allocation and being able to understand how all the roles and duties you’ve chosen all link together is important. I know I bang on about that quite a lot but I can’t stress how important it is.

The deep lying forward has dropped off so he plays in front of the defender, and the raumdeuter is roaming around, looking to be aggressive and utilising any kind of space he sees. He’s quite tricky to mark and these are the types of areas you should see him attacking frequently. The DLF is the support, and this support can be in the form of a passing option or creating the space/occupying the defender.

The next screenshot shows the next stage of the move.

ana5.jpg?resize=300%2C145

He’s decided he’ll go wide with the ball rather than drive inside. By doing this he’s split City wide open and now it is down to the player to choose the correct option. He can either drive forward towards the byline or he can pass to the player who will be in acres of space in the next second, who then also has a passing option next to him too. Sadly on this occasion he goes towards the byline which is the wrong option, but not to worry too much as the player isn’t the best player going (despite what I’ll have you all thinking!) and seeing that my side can open up teams like this is a major positive and this is still all happening within the opening first two minutes of the game.

What comes next is a really well worked goal.

[video=youtube_share;K_UIYeEqmiw]

The goal shows me being calm and using the full length of the pitch and also using the areas I highlighted at the start that I thought I should be attacking more. If I was still using control mentality then this goal might not have happened as I’d have been higher up the pitch to begin with and play would have been more rushed compared to the slow build up play of a less aggressive mentality.

Jose Baxter is my roaming playmaker and you can see he is the calm head in the centre who then makes the move. He looks to get the ball forward and is making himself available as an option too. When he initially receives the ball from my centre back (Butler) at the start of the move, you can see him drop deeper to give himself space to be available for the pass. Then once he received the ball he instantly looks to make something happen and uses the width of the pitch. Not only that but he plays the ball to wide playmaker who is drifting inside into acres of free space (the space I highlighted further up the thread).

Then a little later on in the move Baxter is once again the player looking to make something happen and plays a fantastic through ball between Manchester City’s left winger and left fullback. It really is a quality ball. On a side note, I’ve seen people say these type of balls don’t happen in recent days, but this is clear evidence it does with the right set up.

It’s a great goal and I’m more than pleased with that. It came about due to the space they leave open when attacking – they seem to have a total disregard for being compact as they are concentrating more on their attacking play as they are the stronger side. This is why it can be easier to score against the bigger sides because they all do it (if they think you’re much weaker).

Not long after the first goal I get my second from the penalty spot when the wide playmaker is brought down.

All of this has all happened within the first 14 minutes and 50 seconds.

The other 75 Minutes

Now I had a dilemma, do I carry on watching in full mode or do I switch to highlights? If I go highlights it’ll pass by quickly but if I watch the game I’ll know exactly how I am playing and be in a better position to react to any changes that City do. In any other game I’d have more than likely reverted to highlights as I know my team is playing well and looking dangerous on the attack, however, I expect City to really go for it now and make some changes at some point so I stick to watching the full game.

Being 2-0 up is hard against the bigger sides because you are sat waiting for them as you know changes are coming and they’ll look to make something happen. This can also be a good thing, too, because as they chase the game they’ll take even more risks, and I normally score a few more goals when this happens due to the amount of space they leave and players who are caught out of position.

The rest of the first half passes without much else happening. At the end of the half the shot count looked like this;

  • Sheffield United 8 shots 5 on target
  • Manchester City 5 shots 2 on target

I don’t think those stats are that bad in all honesty and I seem to be playing well. I’m actually surprised at how poor Manchester City seem to be playing. The side they’ve put out isn’t that weak – they are playing names like Lampard, Milner, Kolarov, Jovetic, Zabaleta and Fernando, so it really is quite a strong line up. I’ll not lie, though, I was expecting a bit more from them.

Three minutes into the second half and City grabbed one back. My players’ positioning was awful in the build up to it;

ana6.jpg?resize=300%2C147

I’m hit on the counter-attack and my left back is caught way out of position due to the role he has. As he is a complete wingback he gets in very high positions, which can be great when attacking, but makes it harder to get back into position should you lose the ball and the opposition break quickly.

To make things worse one of my central defenders were out of position too. So add this to the fact my full back is out of position too, then I have one central defender who is being run ragged here as highlighted in the next screenshot.

ana7.jpg?resize=300%2C145

Just look at that space undefended and Manchester City are really punishing me here. This is what happens when attacking players who are aggressive in their play going forward get caught out of position. This is terrible defending and I’m not happy about this one bit. So I make change number two here;

  • Change number two – I make both full backs become wing backs on support duties rather than the complete ones they currently are.

Even though I was playing well and look a threat myself going forward, the game has now changed compared to when it was 2-0. City are back in this and if I don’t take precautions then I’ll lose the game, its as simple as that. I needed to do something before it was too late. I have some friends (no I really do, I can’t believe it either) who wait until the final twenty minutes to make any changes regardless of what is happening. Why would someone do that? I’d much rather react earlier while I still have a chance of winning the game, if I waited another twenty minutes I could be losing the game at that point. I’m more proactive and prefer to try and prevent things before they happen if I know something they are going to be an issue.

You can actually see the difference immediately after the change takes effect in the next attack;

ana8.jpg?resize=300%2C163

Normally they’d be slightly higher when I lose possession and City attack me quickly, now I’m much more solid and my back four are all playing as a unit for the first time in the match. It should mean I’m much better placed in the wide areas to deal with City’s wingers and full backs.

Around the 60th minute mark I score my third goal of the game from a freekick to make it 3-1.

It’s at this point that Manchester City switch to a 4-2-4 formation pushing the ML/MR up to AML/R. I love it when teams do this to me as I normally grab a couple more goals myself. As soon as I see they’ve made the change I counter this by making changes myself.

  • Changes number three – I take off the shouts retain possession, shorter passing and play out of defence.
  • Changes number four – I then add more direct passing.

The reason for the changes I said I made in number three is simple: I was playing a possession game of some kind and trying to retain it as much as possible, but now City are using AML/R’s and are being a lot more attack-minded – It’s like they are on overload now, and I don’t want to risk giving the ball away in dangerous areas. My players are tiring and aren’t that strong mentally to begin with, so now that City will close me down more aggressive from the front as the AML/R’s allow this more due to the natural positions they take up, and it could force my players into some kind of mistake.

The change I did in number four is so I get the ball from A to B quickly. This is because City now have a huge gap between their fullback and the players in the AML/R positions, so there is lots of space here and my defenders and midfielders should hopefully make the most of this by being more direct.

I guess a lot of people would also add exploit the flanks here but I haven’t for a very good reason. Exploit the flanks makes fullbacks/wingbacks more attacking, which is not what I want. I need them to hold their position better by being deeper – now that City have pushed their wingers up, it is even more important they do so. So anything that changes them from support to attacking will have a big consequence to the way they act. By being on a support duty it should mean that when defending they’ll be in front of their marker rather than behind him, and if they got caught out of position and ended up behind their marker, then that player would be free to run wild and one of my centre backs would have to cover. It’s a bit like the scenario I discussed earlier in the article when I talked about making the AI make a choice.

Not long after these changes I score my fourth goal. It all started with a throw-in.

ana9.jpg?resize=300%2C133

The throw-in goes to the most defensive midfielder who then passes it back to my left back who took the throw in.

ana10.jpg?resize=300%2C126

He then puts a ball into the complete striker who dwells on it for a few seconds while the deep lying forward times his run, and he then passes into his patch and the DLF taps it in to make it 4-1.

Not long after this, it’s 5-1.

ana11.jpg?resize=300%2C122

The right back gets the ball and puts a simple cross into the back post where Diego, my complete forward, is making a run to tap it home to make it 5-1.

Then three minutes before full time, a simple little dink just inside the box from the DLF to the striker, results in another goal to make it 6-1.

mstats1.jpg?resize=300%2C165

As you can see I more than held my own and totally deserved the win in the end. In the second half I played exceptional.

I won this game due to what I did at the very start in the opening few minutes, and changing strategy from control to counter attacking paid dividends. The changes I made when the opposition changed shape can’t go understated either. No matter how you view the game you always need to be aware of what the opposition is doing, and keeping an eye out for them changing shape or changing their playing style is crucial as this is what really catches people out!

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I get a lot of people ask me about players preferred moves and if I have a list of the best one for each position and I always reply with the same answer – There is no best and it totally depends on what you want from the tactic you’ve created and what style you are aiming to achieve. Any PPM training should be based on this because it will impact your tactic in some way so you need to factor this into any decision making when creating tactics. Hopefully this post will explain a little bit about how I utilise PPM’s and decide what I need and more importantly is the player capable of doing what I’ve learnt him. This is just about what I look for and others might do it differently, so I’m not saying this way is a must or better, its simply just explaining how I approach them icon_smile.gif?w=474

Even after setting your tactic up with the team and player instructions you’ve chosen it still might not mean the players are doing those things because they might have a players preferred move that doesn’t allow or impacts in someway the settings you’ve selected. For this you need to be aware of any PPM’s the player has when tactic building.

These add a different dimension to the player and depending on what PPM’s he has will instruct him to do certain traits like dictate tempo, curl ball, shoots with power and so on. So when creating a tactic and choosing a role for a player you really should take these into consideration because they may affect how he plays the role you’ve give him. For example – you wouldn’t want an anchor man with the PPM gets forward when possible, as his job is to stay deep and protect the back four. Having that kind of PPM for that kind of role can stop him doing it effectively and efficiently and could make him get caught out of position. So you need to be aware of the PPM’s a player has before deciding what you want him to do in the system you are creating.

PPM’s do not cost CA they are free with the exception of one, develops weaker foot. They should also be thought of as tendencies and an extension of a players profile. If someone has a PPM then they will attempt to use this move as often as they see fit. The frequency at which it will be used comes down to decision making and how successful it is comes down to the required attributes.

So below I’ll list them all and talk about what attributes I think a player needs to be able to use them. Remember this is just my opinion based on what I’ve used for quite a few years so if you don’t agree that is fine as these are just opinions.

There is a total of 47 PPM’s that are available by either tutoring or learning a player the move. Of these 47 different kinds of PPM’s 7 of them are available by tutoring only. The full list of PPM’s can be seen in the screenshots below. I used the player search screen as it was easier to show you them all without missing any out.

ppm1.png?resize=300%2C297

ppm2.png?resize=300%2C220

Below are a list of PPM’s that can only be obtained via tutoring (although on FM15 I believe all can now be trained);

  • Curls ball
  • Stays back at all times
  • Dwells on ball
  • Tries to play way out of trouble
  • Gets into oppositions area
  • Arrives late in oppositions area
  • Argues with officials

If you’d like your players to learn any of those then you’ll have to find a player with them already in the game and try and buy the player. Then you can try and get it transferred to one of your players by having him tutor someone. These will always be in the game but they’ll be hard to find like they are currently. So if you want to use these then you really need to find someone with them early on and try and get them transferred to one of your players.

PPM’s

When looking at PPM’s either learning them or unlearning them, not a lot of people take into account the players attributes. Player’s attributes are a massive part of PPM’s and determine if he can actually do what you’ve instructed. All I’m doing is showing what I look for when deciding who can have what PPM’s rather than saying my way is better than anyone elses. So here is a list of attributes that I work on when teaching players PPM’s, you might think differently or look for different attributes though.


    1. Argues with officials – I’m sure you all get what this PPM is about!
    2. Arrives late in opponents’ area – Off the ball, work rate, determination
    3. Attempts overhead kicks – Flair, balance, agility,
    4. Attempts to develop weaker foot – Self explanatory but costs CA if successful
    5. Avoids using weaker foot – Self explanatory
    6. Comes deep to get ball – Off the ball, technique, vision, passing
    7. Curls ball – Technique, anticipation, flair, finishing
    8. Cuts inside - finishing, dribbling, acceleration, technique
    9. Dictates tempo – passing, concentration, composure, first touch, teamwork
    10. Dives into tackles – Concentration, composure, bravery, tackling, aggression
    11. Does not dive into tackles – This is for players who have Low tackling, determination, Strength, Bravery, positioning. Or if you need a player to stay on his feet.
    12. Dwells on ball - Composure, technique, concentration, vision
    13. Gets forward whenever possible – Work rate, stamina, teamwork, pace/acceleration
    14. Gets into opposition area – Anticipation, determination, off the ball
    15. Hits free kicks with power - Strength, free kick taking, technique
    16. Hugs line – dribbling, crossing, teamwork
    17. Knocks ball past opponent – Pace, acceleration, balance, determination, agility
    18. Likes to lob keeper – Flair, vision, technique, anticipation
    19. Likes to round keeper – Flair, vision, technique, composure
    20. Likes to switch ball to other flank – technique, passing, teamwork, flair
    21. Likes to try to be beat offside trap – Anticipation, pace, off the ball, anticipation
    22. Looks for pass rather than attempting to score – passing, teamwork, flair, vision, composure
    23. Marks opponent tightly – Marking, concentration, positioning, stamina, work rate
    24. Moves into channels – Off the ball, acceleration, pace, flair, teamwork
    25. Penalty box player – Composure, anticipation, concentration, finishing
    26. Places shots – finishing, composure, anticipation, technique
    27. Plays no through balls - Doesn’t really need attributes for this
    28. Plays one-twos – Vision, teamwork, first touch, technique, passing
    29. Plays short simple passes – passing, technique, first touch
    30. Plays with back to goal – Workrate, balance, strength. first touch
    31. Possesses long flat throw – Strength, long throw, vision
    32. Refrains from taking long shots – Don’t need attributes for this really.
    33. Runs with ball down left – Dribbling, pace, technique, acceleration, balance, agility
    34. Runs with ball down right – Dribbling, pace, technique, acceleration, balance, agility
    35. Runs with ball often – Dribbling, pace, technique, acceleration, balance, agility
    36. Runs will ball rarely – Don’t need attributes for this
    37. Runs with ball through centre – Dribbling, pace, technique, acceleration, balance, agility
    38. Shoots from distance – Long shots, technique, composure, vision, flair
    39. Shoots with power – Long shots, technique, composure, vision, strength
    40. Stays back at all times – Don’t need attributes for this
    41. Stops play – Vision, teamwork, composure, anticipation, concentration
    42. Tries first time shots – Finishing, anticipation, technique
    43. Tries killer balls often – anticipation, technique, passing, teamwork, determination, first touch
    44. Tries long range free kicks – Strength, free kick taking, technique
    45. Tries long range passes – Flair, vision, anticipation, passing, technique, first touch
    46. Tries to play way out of trouble – Composure, dribbling, anticipation, balance, strength
    47. Uses long throw to start counter attacks – Strength, long throw

You’ll have noticed I left decisions off the list, that’s because decisions and teamwork are what makes the PPM’s function. A players decision making will determine if he uses it and his teamwork attribute determines how well he works with his teammates but not only that, it can impact how he uses his PPM. If it’s low then you could find he is more selfish and uses his PPM a lot more. This can be a good and bad thing. Basically teamwork is linked to how well a player follows the instructions given to him as well as how he plays and links up with his team mates.

Recently I’ve wrote a lot about the 4-4-2 that I’m currently using in FM15 so now I’ll focus on the PPM’s I’ve learnt my players or will be learning them eventually and explain a little about why for that set up.

Defence

The two central defenders don’t have any as I don’t feel they need any. If I did decide to teach them any at a later date it would only be the does not dive into tackles PPM. The reason being is I need them on their feet at all times and going to ground isn’t really something I want them doing if they risk bringing the oppositions player down. I need my defenders to time their tackles and not be reckless to decrease the risk of giving away pointless fouls or mistiming challenges in dangerous areas of the pitch.

With the wingbacks I use though that’s a different story. This is the left sided one;

harris.png?resize=300%2C128

He already had the hits free kicks with power one but I’ve added the rest. I want him to hug the line because I want him to offer me width at all times when attacking to really stretch play and to try and limit the amount of times he cuts inside. I also want to encourage him to really drive forward with the ball if he sees fit so that’s why he has run with ball often. Runs with ball down left is self explanatory.

The right sided wing back is set up a bit differently;

wbr.png?resize=300%2C118

In front of this player I use a wide playmaker so this has influenced the PPM’s I’ve taught him as they were done with that in mind. I want him to overlap the wide playmaker so he has the gets forward whenever possible settings and he has hugs the line for the same reasons above, to be a wide outlet. He also has runs with ball rarely due me wanting him to play through the wide playmaker rather than taking the responsibility upon himself. The reason for this is the wide playmaker drifts inwards a lot and this often drags his marker with him when this happens which means this wingback has lots of space to run into to receive the ball further up the pitch.

Midfield

These are the wide playmaker’s settings;

wp.png?resize=300%2C133

The idea behind these settings are I want him to pass rather than shoot or score. He still scores a few goals throughout a season but his main job is to play other people in who are in better positions or using space that is created near him, that’s why I game him the looks for pass and refrains from taking long shots PPM’s. I also want to encourage through balls as he will have a wingback going beyond him, a roaming playmaker at the side of him bombing forward, a deep lying forward who is hopefully in space and the other striker all of whom should be good viable options for through balls at times during the match. Finally I gave him the arrives late one as I still want him getting in dangerous positions but only once the other players are all in place, so I like this PPM as it makes the player hang back slightly.

Next up is the raumdeuter;

raum.png?resize=300%2C122

I don’t want him too wide here, ideally I want him between the fullback and centre back hence why he has moves into channels. He also plays closely to the deep lying forward so I’m trying to encourage the give and go type of passes so again that explains the plays one-twos PPM. When he can and the opportunity arises I want him to drive forward with the ball and really run at players as defenders hate players who run at them, it puts them on the back foot and can see them give away fouls if anything is mistimed. At the same time I don’t want him wasting an opportunity either by being a bit keen to take a long shot from range as that can be wasteful especially when I want him to drive into the space the DLF creates when he drops deep. Shooting from range just isn’t acceptable when I have created better opportunities in front of him to use and gave him passing options.

Roaming playmaker;

rp.png?resize=300%2C114

This one is fairly simple, I want him to drive forward and support attacks. The reason for short simple passes is he has lots of options along side of himself and in front of him, there is no need to make things complicated. Especially when he has the wide playmaker at the side of him who will be drifting into the space he creates when he drives forward.

Central midfielder;

cm.png?resize=300%2C106

Even though technically this player isn’t a playmaker I still want him to see a lot of the ball and dictate the tempo of the game seeing as he is the deepest player from the midfield. I also want him to collect the ball from the defence and link the midfield together. At the same time I don’t want him joining attacks or venturing too far forward. I need him to be positionally strict as I want him to act more like a defensive midfielder and take up similar positions so he is well placed to break up attacks.

Strikers

The deep lying forward;

dlf.png?resize=302%2C130

The job of my deep lying forward is to create a link by dropping back into the midfield areas. This links the midfield and attack together but also creates a bit of space for the raumdeuter to use. So again if he takes long shots then its a move/opportunity wasted. I want him to come deep in search of the ball as I want him on the ball a lot, he’s a dangerous player when he has the ball at his feet. Plays with back to goal is one of my favourite PPM’s to use for creative strikers or strikers who you expect to play other players in rather than himself. That’s not to say he doesn’t score goals, in fact my DLF has been my top scorer in the past 6 seasons but he’s also got the best assist stat too.

My complete forward doesn’t use any PPM’s yet and I’m unlikely to give him any at this point in time. He already plays like I expected and I’m not sure giving him any PPM’s would really enhance his play.

Basically that’s it, that’s how I view and utilise players preferred moves, I hope I haven’t bored you to death with all of that icon_smile.gif?w=474

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The Walls of Jericho

Breaking sides down has to be one of the biggest downfalls people suffer with on Football Manager. On the forums, blogs and Twitter, I see this mentioned a lot. I see posts that mention one week they beat top of the league then the week after get hammered against the club bottom of the league. People can’t seem to get their head around why it happens, so hopefully this will explain in detail why it can happen. I’ll not be focusing on one game in particular but instead I’ll be focusing on several to highlight the common issues you are likely to come up against when facing these types of teams. Then I’ll be focusing on how I try to combat this and give you some ideas that you might be able to try in your own save. Remember everything you see below is with me using the 4-4-2 that I discussed earlier in the series.

Space and Movement

One of the main reasons, we find it more difficult against these types of team is because they don’t give space away too easily in the final third. Space is the key to everything, if a player has space then he also has time and allows him to take his time and pick out runners. Against a side who defends deep and is quite compact, it’ll be really hard to play through balls, balls over the top, crosses and so on into the box as there will be no real space for the player to gain that half of yard they need. So you need to think of different ways to break them down when the above isn’t working.

A lot of people like to go more attacking when sides sit deep but for me this only makes the issue even worse because you are making the little space you do have even more compact. That’s not to say it doesn’t work for some but for me it’s not really something I would do. The way I see it is if you push players further up the field space is reduced and its less likely you’ll have anyone making any runs that will really stretch or hurt the opposition due to their compactness.

Let me show you an example of what I’m talking about:

wj1.jpg?resize=300%2C101

This side was more than happy to defend deep which means all the space I have to work with exists in front of the defence and I’ll struggle to get in behind them. I was playing with a low mentality here in this game but if I’d been more attack minded and had players in the positions were the numbers are on the pitch it would become even more congested. Now this might give the opposition a bit of defending to do and needs them to keep their concentration but for me that’s no way to play, hoping the opposition makes a mistake or has a lapse in concentration. It also means where would my late runners be arriving from or where would I get movement from in general that could hurt the opposition if I was higher?

Plus we are ignoring one major significant fact here, you’d also leave yourself vulnerable to counter attacks. Ever seen a post by someone claiming they dominate the game with like 20+ shots and fail to win because the AI has 3 shots and scores 2 from them? It’s because they get hit on the counter. I don’t like to play this way and like to use space that I have to create movement and get runners from deep involved and also minimise the risk of being hit on the counter.

So what I like to do is play deeper myself, so I can use the space in front of the opposition that they give up so easily and have no interest in defending properly. This then allows me to commit men forward from deeper positions which can instantly put the opposition onto the back foot, defenders dislike players running at them no matter how good/poor the players might be. They risk giving fouls away and even picking cards up and risking the dreaded red card.

Let me show you an example of what I mean:

wj2.png?resize=300%2C150

The opposition are happy to have eight men back behind the ball here. The solid red arrow shows where my player will run and the broken arrow represents a passing move my side will make. This is a video of the move;

[video=youtube_share;CaeoE8Ajd8g]

It results in a under hit pass and the move comes to nothing on this occasion but do you see the use of space I was talking about and how quickly stretched the opposition became?

Let me show you another example but this time when my team is pushed up playing high.

wj3.jpg?resize=300%2C136

The circled players are too advanced to cause any real issue and the Rochdale defence is quite solid. So when Baxter gets the ball he doesn’t really have a clear option to pass to in front of him. The two circled central player aren’t options at all because he can’t see them and they’re marked even if he could.

  1. He’s on the wrong side of Baxter so again he’s not a realistic option.
  2. The ref is blocking his view here but even so the player next to the ref (less so than the 2nd player tbh) or the one player on his own outside the box can easily move across and cut out the pass.
  3. If Baxter controls the ball well the first time then this could be an option. But with the refs positioning and the seemingly free roaming Rochdale players, I don’t think he is a safe option.
  4. This leaves number 4 as the only real possibility because I have three static player positioned way too high up the pitch.

The lack of movement and runners from deep is a big issue as I’m relying on the opposition making a mistake before I can do anything useful. I’d much rather take matters into my own hands and be in control, so I play a less attacking mentality against sides who sit deep, I normally go Standard or Counter instead.

The next screenshot shows what I was talking about a little earlier about leaving myself exposed if I am positioned high up the pitch.

wj4.jpg?resize=300%2C119

Baxter attempts the pass but the Rochdale player cuts it out and then I get hit on a quick break. I am still playing attacking in this screenshot btw to highlight the issues and show why I avoid being so aggressive.

wj5.jpg?resize=300%2C122

One simple ball down the channel and I’m completely exposed. I’m lucky in this instance and the sequence comes to nothing. Yet when you are high up the pitch or over commit men forward, this is the biggest risk you face and something you’ll see often should you give the ball away cheaply.

If you’ve noticed one prominent thing so far in all the examples and all the screenshots is Baxter seems to be involved in everything. The reason for this is the amount of space he has to play in, he’s basically unmarked due to the opposition not caring about giving space away due to them sticking to their strict positions and being deep. The next screen shows the amount of room he actually has during a counter attack that I have just done myself but now the opposition are trying to clear their lines.

wj6.jpg?resize=300%2C116

Even if the opposition do clear the ball like they intend on doing the chances are Baxter will still end up with the ball. He has lots of space and time and doesn’t come too high up the pitch. He actually does get the ball and smashes it home to make it 1-0.

This is another example of Baxter’s influence in a move started from deep. You can also see me attacking with numbers.

wj7.jpg?resize=300%2C131

This shows Baxter yet again pulling the strings after we break from deep. The raumdeuter has checked his run, the complete forward is going to drop off to create space which the wide playmaker (haha just noticed on the image I put RPM instead of WPM opps) will run into and the complete wingback is busting a gut to get forward. Baxter passes the ball into the wide playmaker’s path who then feeds the complete wingback in.

wj9.jpg?resize=300%2C134

Then my complete wingback has a few options, he can put in the cross (which he does) or he can pull it back. Either way I’ve created space and broke them down by movement its why I always bang on about space and movement, its this what wins you game.

I also like to use the width of the pitch when breaking sides down as this can create space and also catch the opposition on the back foot. This can cause players to be caught out of position or catches them in a lapse of concentration. Defensive sides tend to be narrow which makes them really compact so using the width of the pitch makes sense.

wj10.jpg?resize=300%2C130

Now Harris is about to receive the ball, this means the opposition have to go and close him down.

wj11.jpg?resize=300%2C130

In the image before this one the space I had was in front of the defence but now its behind as two defenders have gone across to deal with the wide threat so all this space has now opened up. The striker on the side nearest to the ball is completely free so my left back has the option to play him in or cross the ball.

wj12.jpg?resize=300%2C134

He crosses it in the end and the wide playmaker slots it home into the bottom corner.

What’s Important

As you can see from the above the important aspects of breaking a side down for me are;

  • Space
  • Movement
  • Width
  • Don’t overcrowd areas of the pitch than can work in your favour by being less aggressive.

To achieve all of these and make the most of those I always play on a low mentality, so either standard or counter. Obviously the roles you select will also play a part but for most parts if you can create and use space then you’ll force the opposition into making decisions. Which in turn will mean people have to leave their position to deal with the threats you pose. Movement is important because it snowballs and causes a chain reaction of events plus its harder to mark someone who is moving (especially from deep) compared to someone who is static or too advanced to really do anything.

By using a lower mentality it alters my tempo, defensive line and closing down to match meaning I can be more patient in my build up. And from what you can see above it works due to the movement and space both in creating and using it.To achieve width you can either changes the roles/duties of the players or do what I did above and used the exploit the flanks shouts. That is all I did.

It sounds really simple and basic but honestly this is how I approach such games. Some of you might have been expecting something really extreme but this is how I play, I like to keep it simple and not over think things because then you get lost and end up focusing on what the opposition is doing. Instead I focus on the things my own side do and try and make the best of that. This way I feel like I’m always in control regardless of how limited my squad might actually be or how strong.

If you don’t concentrate on your own side and always over think things then you are endlessly changing things that you might not need to change. Plus you then have no real identity or style because you constantly give in to the AI. So for me I always base any changes on what I see happening in a match and never try to guess what might happen by changing stuff before. I’d much rather change due to being forced into the change as then it means I can stick to my own style that I’m trying to create plus I have faith in the tactic I’ve made. I want the AI to worry about me not the other way around, after all they’re the ones being defensive.

The next part of this article will focus on the differences between attacking team and defensive ones and take a closer look at both the articles I’ve done on this so far.

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Eureka!

The purpose of this article is to help people see the difference between sides who play attacking against you and sides who are willing to sit back and hit you on the counter attack. It focuses on how both strategies give you different types of space to play in and the defensive shapes they take up on the pitch. It will also shows you some examples that should be able to help you identify this in your own saved games and makes things more clear tactically for you. If you remember correctly I did two previous articles about this and said the third and final instalment would be a collection of them both combined. Well this is that but with some new stuff added too icon_smile.gif?w=474Understanding what type of opposition you are playing is really important in Football Manager as it determines how you need to play against them. Not all teams play the same way so this means if you don’t know what’s going on in a game then you’ll struggle to get the result needed. On the forums, blogs and on Twitter, I see posts that mention one week they beat top of the league then the week after get beat by the clubs near the bottom of the league, while playing the same way they did in the previous match. People can’t seem to get their head around why it happens so I thought I’d shed a bit of light on why it happens. The two main kinds of team you’ll face during the season are;

  • Sides who are happy to attack you
  • Sides who like to defend deep and hit you on the counter

If you can learn to differentiate the differences between the two then Football Manager can become a lot more enjoyable because you can ensure you have the correct game plan in place or at least know what different things you can try to get the result you need as the approach to beating both teams is vastly different. A large proportion of people would probably go more defensive against the stronger sides and more attacking against the weaker ones, but it’s not that black and white as there is always different ways to beat the opposition, there is not one set way.

Sides who attack you

From a defensive stand point playing against sides who attack you often during the match can be a daunting prospect especially if they are superior to your own team. But the up side is, they’ll leave lots of unprotected space for you to play in and use to your advantage. This can do done by mentality changes or just a simple role change.

What’s Important

The key aspects to take into consideration against these type of teams and to take advantage of space are;

  • Look for open space and vulnerable areas when the opposition commit men forward
  • Try and spot patterns in their play, i.e is one side of theirs more attacking than the other
  • Try and overload the vulnerable areas by being more aggressive.

By focusing on the vulnerable areas you see you can really take advantage and hurt the opposition. Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about;

1.jpg?resize=300%2C136

In this screenshot we can see that the team in the black kits (Corinthians) are playing a high defensive line and positioned high up the pitch. Now because they are a better side than me they are being quite aggressive against me and committing men forward. As you can see on the screenshot they actually have five men inside my own half and this includes their two central midfielders (they are playing a wide 4-2-3-1 shape) but if you look at the space they’ve left behind the midfield between the defense you’ll see there is lots yet I don’t actually have a player in that area to take advantage of it. Robinho who is marked with the number 1 icon is playing an advanced playmaker role on a support duty, so he’s moved down field to help out. However if I did a simple duty or role change and made him more attacking then he should be looking to use the space marked in red on the pitch. Ideally he should be taking up a position more in line with the number 2 icon rather than where he currently is.

By ignoring this and not trying to take advantage of it then I risk making it far too easy for their defense, as it currently stands you can see how easy they have it and they are just spectators currently with nothing at all to do. But by making one little change I’ll be making them do some work and getting in behind their entire attack and midfield which can only be a good thing. The opposition will then either have to be less aggressive against you making it easier to defend against or they’ll continue to do the same making it easy for you to attack them.

After changing the role to an attack duty rather than him being on support you can notice the change instantly in this next move.

2.jpg?resize=300%2C129

This is more or less identical to the first screenshot but now look at the difference. By him being more advanced in the area I highlighted earlier he becomes more involved and should he get the ball, he is un marked and can either drive forward with the ball or he has passing options. The important thing is he is un marked though as this will allow him to dictate the game. Corinthians midfield due are their weak point in this set up and they aren’t picking him up at all. This is what I was on about further up the article when I mentioned looking for patterns, this is a regular occurrence through the match.

The next screenshot shows them attacking me and getting dispossessed and leaving their left flank exposed if I can get the ball out there quick enough.

3.jpg?resize=300%2C125

Their back four is quite disjointed due to the left back bombing forward and then them losing the ball. This immediately opens up the full left side of their pitch and allows me to be able to exploit the space left down my right.

Those are just a couple of simple things you can look out for during a match, how you take advantage of them though is down to you as there is more than one way of achieving success against these sides. If you wanted you can do a role or duty change to be more attacking or you could even change the mentality and go more attacking if you find they are leaving lot of space. This bit could be risky though as then you yourself, would also leave space naturally. Another way of doing it would to be sit deep and hit them on the counter, allow them to come onto you and commit men forward, win the ball back then attack them in the space they’ve left behind with pace.

At the end of the day it comes down to how you play the game as some managers are braver than others, it comes down to what you think is an acceptable risk vs reward.

Sides who defend and hit you on the counter

One of the main reasons, we find it more difficult against these types of team is because they don’t give space away too easily in the final third. Space is the key to everything, if a player has space then he also has time and allows him to take his time and pick out runners. Against a side who defends deep and is quite compact, it’ll be really hard to play through balls, balls over the top, crosses and so on into the box as there will be no real space for the player to gain that half of yard they need. So you need to think of different ways to break them down when the above isn’t working.

What’s Important

The key aspects to take into consideration against these type of teams to break them down are;

  • Space
  • Movement
  • Width
  • Don’t overcrowd areas of the pitch than can work in your favour by being less aggressive.

To achieve all of these and make the most of those I always play on a low mentality, so either standard or counter. Obviously the roles you select will also play a part but for most parts if you can create and use space then you’ll force the opposition into making decisions. Which in turn will mean people have to leave their position to deal with the threats you pose. Movement is important because it snowballs and causes a chain reaction of events plus its harder to mark someone who is moving (especially from deep) compared to someone who is static or too advanced to really do anything. By using a lower mentality it alters my tempo, defensive line and closing down to match meaning I can be more patient in my build up. And from what you can see above it works due to the movement and space both in creating and using it.To achieve width you can either changes the roles/duties of the players or do what I did above and used the exploit the flanks shouts. That is all I did. If you don’t concentrate on your own side and always over think things then you are endlessly changing things that you might not need to change. Plus you then have no real identity or style because you constantly give in to the AI. So for me I always base any changes on what I see happening in a match and never try to guess what might happen by changing stuff before. I’d much rather change due to being forced into the change as then it means I can stick to my own style that I’m trying to create plus I have faith in the tactic I’ve made. I want the AI to worry about me not the other way around, after all they’re the ones being defensive

A lot of people like to go more attacking when sides sit deep but for me this only makes the issue even worse because you are making the little space you do have even more compact. That’s not to say it doesn’t work for some but for me it’s not really something I would do. The way I see it is if you push players further up the field space is reduced and its less likely you’ll have anyone making any runs that will really stretch or hurt the opposition due to their compactness. Let me show you an example of what I’m talking about:

4.jpg?resize=300%2C101

This side was more than happy to defend deep which means all the space I have to work with exists in front of the defense and I’ll struggle to get in behind them. I was playing with a low mentality here in this game but if I’d been more attack minded and had players in the positions were the numbers are on the pitch it would become even more congested. Now this might give the opposition a bit of defending to do and needs them to keep their concentration but for me that’s no way to play, hoping the opposition makes a mistake or has a lapse in concentration. It also means where would my late runners be arriving from or where would I get movement from in general that could hurt the opposition if I was higher? Plus we are ignoring one major significant fact here, you’d also leave yourself vulnerable to counter attacks. Ever seen a post by someone claiming they dominate the game with 20+ shots and fail to win because the AI has 3 shots and scores 2 from them? It’s because they get hit on the counter. I don’t like to play this way and like to use space that I have to create movement and get runners from deep involved and also minimise the risk of being hit on the counter. So what I like to do is play deeper myself, so I can use the space in front of the opposition that they give up so easily and have no interest in defending properly. This then allows me to commit men forward from deeper positions which can instantly put the opposition onto the back foot, defenders dislike players running at them no matter how good/poor the players might be. They risk giving fouls away and even picking cards up and risking the dreaded red card. Let me show you an example of what I mean:

5.png?resize=300%2C150

The opposition are happy to have eight men back behind the ball here. The solid red arrow shows where my player will run and the broken arrow represents a passing move my side will make.This is a video of the move;

[video=youtube_share;CaeoE8Ajd8g]

It results in a under hit pass and the move comes to nothing on this occasion but do you see the use of space I was talking about and how quickly stretched the opposition became? Let me show you another example but this time when my team is pushed up playing high.

6.jpg?resize=300%2C136

The circled players are too advanced to cause any real issue and the Rochdale defense is quite solid. So when Baxter gets the ball he doesn’t really have a clear option to pass to in front of him. The two circled central player aren’t options at all because he can’t see them and they’re marked even if he could.

He’s on the wrong side of Baxter so again he’s not a realistic option. The ref is blocking his view here but even so the player next to the ref (less so than the 2nd player tbh) or the one player on his own outside the box can easily move across and cut out the pass.

If Baxter controls the ball well the first time then this could be an option. But with the refs positioning and the seemingly free roaming Rochdale players, I don’t think he is a safe option. This leaves number 4 as the only real possibility because I have three static player positioned way too high up the pitch.

The lack of movement and runners from deep is a big issue as I’m relying on the opposition making a mistake before I can do anything useful. I’d much rather take matters into my own hands and be in control, so I play a less attacking mentality against sides who sit deep, I normally go Standard or Counter instead. The next screenshot shows what I was talking about a little earlier about leaving myself exposed if I am positioned high up the pitch.

7.jpg?resize=300%2C119

Baxter attempts the pass but the Rochdale player cuts it out and then I get hit on a quick break. I am still playing attacking in this screenshot btw to highlight the issues and show why I avoid being so aggressive.

8.jpg?resize=300%2C122

One simple ball down the channel and I’m completely exposed. I’m lucky in this instance and the sequence comes to nothing. Yet when you are high up the pitch or over commit men forward, this is the biggest risk you face and something you’ll see often should you give the ball away cheaply. If you’ve noticed one prominent thing so far in all the examples and all the screenshots is Baxter seems to be involved in everything. The reason for this is the amount of space he has to play in, he’s basically unmarked due to the opposition not caring about giving space away due to them sticking to their strict positions and being deep. The next screen shows the amount of room he actually has during a counter attack that I have just done myself but now the opposition are trying to clear their lines.

9.jpg?resize=300%2C116

Even if the opposition do clear the ball like they intend on doing the chances are Baxter will still end up with the ball. He has lots of space and time and doesn’t come too high up the pitch. He actually does get

the ball and smashes it home to make it 1-0. This is another example of Baxter’s influence in a move started from deep. You can also see me attacking with numbers.

10.jpg?resize=300%2C131

This shows Baxter yet again pulling the strings after we break from deep. The raumdeuter has checked his run, the complete forward is going to drop off to create space which the wide playmaker (haha just noticed on the image I put RPM instead of WPM opps) will run into and the complete wingback is busting a gut to get forward. Baxter passes the ball into the wide playmaker’s path who then feeds the complete wingback in.

11.jpg?resize=300%2C134

Then my complete wingback has a few options, he can put in the cross (which he does) or he can pull it back. Either way I’ve created space and broke them down by movement its why I always bang on about space and movement, its this what wins you game.

Conclusion

The short version of the above is, the attacking sides naturally give up space so they do half the job for you. Even if you have a tactic that isn’t that great you should still be able to create chances against these type of sides. If you come up against the more stubborn sides though who sit back and hit you on the break, then creating and using that space falls solely on you and your tactic and this is when tactical set ups can be exposed and show faults. You need to create lots of movement both on and off the ball icon_smile.gif?w=474

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4 hours ago, Ragin Cajun said:

yeah, the dead links kind of hurt the points of the article. 

Well it was written three years ago, I'm sure Cleon will upload this article to his new website if he hasn't already at https://teaandbusquets.com/

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That's cool Fosse.  It's just I was pointed to this article yesterday and trying to glean information from it.

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36 minutes ago, Ragin Cajun said:

That's cool Fosse.  It's just I was pointed to this article yesterday and trying to glean information from it.

No you weren't.  I pointed you to "The Art of Possession Football" article.

Close but no cigar :D.

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12 minutes ago, herne79 said:

No you weren't.  I pointed you to "The Art of Possession Football" article.

Close but no cigar :D.

My bad.  It was the first link that was in the page your link brought me to.  I see what you're saying now.  It would be a while before I got to that article..lol.

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On 30/10/2014 at 09:16, Cleon said:

When creating a tactic you need to have an idea of how you want it to play and have an idea of the kind of football you want to see. Without knowing this you’ll feel a bit lost and struggle to have success. Everyone needs a starting point of some kind whether its an idea, tactical philosophy or a style of play. Having this thought out will make it possible to build around this and give you a starting point.

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever read.  I used to spend so much time going from tactic to tactic without ever getting the best of my system ot players at my disposal.

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5 minutes ago, ianscousemac said:

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever read.  I used to spend so much time going from tactic to tactic without ever getting the best of my system ot players at my disposal.

It also makes it easier to have something to aim for, so when it comes to tweaking and fixing issues you have an idea of how it should work. So you can easily identify if the players are doing what you want, if not then you can try other settings. Without any idea, how do you know if something is working or not or how to fix it.

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