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A sunday afternoon in Germany – Implementing grassroots German tactics into FM 2015


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To begin with, I guess a thread title like this one requires a little bit of backstory and explanation...

As well as a virtual football manager, i'm also a keen footballer in real life (keen doesn't mean good!) and having moved to Germany last year, I set about finding myself a small local team that would take on the responsibility of having a strange “Engländer” in their midst. Fortunately, I was taken up by a team from a small town of about 2500 inhabitants – proper grassroots stuff! - and I have spent this current season with them soaking in the culture and adjusting to the German game.

In this thread, I will be attempting to recreate the tactics that the team plays with most weeks, as I introduce (most of) you to some interesting role terminology from the German game.

(I should also add beforehand that I currently wish to keep the club and players anonymous as i'm not sure how they'd feel to be the subject of a nerdy thread on football tactics)

First we'll start with a sketch that I asked my coach to make of how he thinks the team lines up:

image.jpg

Defenders are on the left and attackers on the right, just to clear that up straight away.

Now what you may have noticed is that the letters next to the dots don't all readily attribute themselves to positions and roles that the majority of us are familiar with. I'll walk you through them:

L – Libero – Ok, the role does exist in Football Manager and it has been a key one down the years, but in recent times it has faded from the top level of football due in part to changes in the offside rule and increasing fitness levels.

MD – Manndecker (literally “man coverer”) - Another role that has faded in recent years as it essentially denotes the player purely as a man-marker. The idea in defence here is to simply match the opposition man-to-man, rather than outnumber them or defend space.

VS – Vorstopper (literally “before stopper”) - Protects the defence by tracking runs and harrying opposition in the centre of the park, before they reach the backline.

ABL/ABR – Aussenbahn Links/Rechts (literally “outside track left/right”) - These guys are expected to be up and down the flank for the entire game, staying wide and supporting where needed and rarely coming infield.

M – Mittelfeld – No explanation needed really! A couple of midfielders with split responsbilities which I will discuss at a later point when constructing the tactic. One is usually more attacking than the other.

S – Stürmer/Spitze (literally “striker/peak”) - Depending on the situation, these guys will either have split roles or similar roles. As a Stürmer one would be expected to do more in terms of overall contribution, whilst a player playing Spitze would be as high as possible either as a Target Man or Poacher.

So that's the role terminology dealt with for the moment. What I will do now is attempt to translate this into FM, along with the instructions I am most likely to hear from the coach before and during the game. Before I get started on the translation of the roles however, I will need some sort of coherent tactical framework in which I can get things going. Once again my coach will be providing this, so I will run through a few expressions that he tends to focus on before the game/in training as well as occasionally barking them from the touchline.

In rough order of frequency, these are the phrases I associate with his instructions the most:

Clever spielen/mit deinem Kopf spielen – (“play cleverly/play with your head”) - He is constantly encouraging us to think and use our own initiative to solve problems on the pitch.

Tempo, tempo, tempo – The higher the tempo, the higher the rate at which the attack becomes dangerous. He encourages us to move the ball quickly (important at our level with the poorer quality defending) so that we can find gaps and unsettle the defence.

Alle arbeiten/Akku, akku, akku – (literally “everyone working”. Akku is a slang term for “battery”) – He values work rate very highly and will let you know if you are not working hard enough for the team. He encourages us to signal when we need to be substituted as he would rather have 11 players with enough energy to fight.

Dran bleiben/Konzentrieren – (“stay tuned/concentrate”) - We are always encouraged to focus on the game and think about the job we should be doing.

Wo gibts Platz?/Kann ich helfen? - (“Where is the space?/Can I help?”) - He is again encouraging us to use our own vision as much as possible as well as concentrating on the space and where I can assist my team.

Nichts zu viel uberlegen/Einfach spielen - (“Don't think about it too much/Just play”) - Perhaps a little contradictory to his main points about us using our brains to solve problems, but he is aware that playing with instinct is also a valuable tool. He will mainly say this if the team are overcomplicating a passage of play or squandering chances.

Ok, so most of it is probably the german equivalent of what we've all heard when playing/watching football at various levels - none of it is really groundbreaking. But in order to translate how we play into FM I will require more information than the basic formation. This could be perhaps the most problematic part of translating our playing style into FM as some of the instructions may be taken in different lights depending on the scenario. Furthermore, he has never stressed to us a particular style, mostly demanding us to use our own initiative and read the game as we see it. Either way, let's crack on.

My reading of his instructions from an FM perspective are as follows:

Standard mentality – I have never heard him mention a particular strategy or mentality. We are expected to balance swift attacks with dogged defending. When considering it, this could indicate an Attacking mentality, but for now I wish to leave it as Standard in order to experiment.

Very Fluid team shape – Most of his instructions are centred around us having the freedom to solve the problem ourselves and to think on our feet, as well as working hard as a single unit to both disrupt play and create chances. Additionally, he has never stressed the importance of shape to us, preferring us to know our rough position and improvise from there.

More Direct Passing – I will have this TI activated as I feel he is always encouraging us to get the ball forward as quickly as possible. He doesn't neccesarily encourage long balls, but if there is an opportunity to pick out a player in advanced position, we are encouraged to attempt the pass. This ties in also with his notion of “just playing”. Although he is trying to get us to be intelligent in our decisions, when a player is in space and he can be reached with a pass, then we should give it a go.

Close Down More – I am a little apprehensive about using this TI as i'm not sure it will have the desired effect. My coach encourages a high work rate and for us to close out the opposition quikly at the expense of shape. It's a high risk/high reward strategy.

Higher Tempo – Self explanitory. We are consistently told to keep the tempo high on the ball in the hope that we create space and leave the opposition in a position where they can't cover in time.

So that's the basic framework sorted, now for the formation and roles.

(I have chosen to do a test save as Stockport County as they're sort of a local team for me back in the UK)

Here's how i've lined them up.

wetten.jpg

And now a short explanation of the role choices:

Libero – BPD© – I actually feel that there is perhaps a conflict in terminology/understanding of the Libero role here. Certainly the way we play it, our Libero is not expected to drop too far behind the defence instead operating as a supporting/covering defender to whichever of his fellow central defenders is in trouble. I have opted for the Ball Playing Defender role as the coach does tend to play the more accomplished all-rounders in this role, expecting them to contribute some creativity at times.

Manndecker – CD(D) – PI Mark Tighter – I feel this is the best way to translate the Manndecker role into FM when taking into account the Close Down More TI. In reality, they operate more as stoppers, keen to press attackers that threaten the defence. But in tandem with the high closing down, I feel it would create chaotic scenes at the back.

Vorstopper – DM(D) – I had originally penned in a BWD(D), but once again decided to hold back due to the possible layering of instructions via the Close Down More TI. He is expected to intercept moves and break up attacks, but not venture too far from his area.

Aussenbahn – WB(S) – PI Stay Wider – At the moment, I have them both down as supporting Wing Backs, but there may be scope to have one as more attacking. My coach will occasionally play a striker on the wing for some extra bite going forward.

Mittelfelder – CM(S)+CM(A) – A classic midfield pairing ahead of a defensive midfielder. One supporting and one attacking. We do not play with a designated playmaker, my coach will simply highlight which midfilder is meant to be the most attacking of the two.

Stürmer – DLF(S)+AF(A) – Another classic pairing, and one that needs little introduction or explanation. The coach will occasionally play with a single striker and drop one of them into the attacking midifield or midfield strata, but for the most part it's a case of one striker staying further forward keeping the defence busy whilst the other looks to link up play.

The final step is the most interesting part of all... seeing if it actually works!

Over the next few days, you should hopefully see some analysis of the tactic in action. I guess the point is really just to see how it goes, and whether a workable tactic can be achieved that is as faithful as possible to my coaches line of thinking. I would actually like to invite you all to take part here in whatever way you wish, whether it's re-interpreting my coach, picking holes in the tactic, or testing it yourself. All feedback is welcome at this point.

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Damn, we were using that formation when I played in Germany back in the early 90's, thought it would have become obsolete over 20 years later, the Manndecker role was perfect for my limited technical ability on the ball but high stamina & anticipation.

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At the level I play at, I think it's just a case of the coaches sticking to what they know. It's also a style that allows for lots of switching around of places to account for players dropping out here and there and massive rotation. There are only a couple of players in the squad with nailed on positions.

If you're interested, I usually play midfield (though I have played in every outfield position). Depending on how good/bad my feet are on the day will affect whether i'm in the attacking, supporting or defending role ;)

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Haha, I saw the title and thought this would be about the DFB's efforts to modernise grassroots coaching. :D

Really good thread though. The tactic you settled on looks well balanced too. In Conference North, I also don't think you should have too much trouble from setting aggressive closing down.

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THoG is an excellent member of the tactics form but imho his assessment of German tactics in that post is/was incorrect, it also doesn't really related to this thread as there is a world of difference between the World Cup & Kreisliga.

Will be interesting to see how closely the OP can replicate the system in FM & as how well it works,

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Haha, I saw the title and thought this would be about the DFB's efforts to modernise grassroots coaching. :D

Really good thread though. The tactic you settled on looks well balanced too. In Conference North, I also don't think you should have too much trouble from setting aggressive closing down.

Maybe we are yet to feel this wave of modernisation! I have actually watched the youth teams play as well and they tend to line up in varying formations. The average age of the A-C teams is much higher (pushing 30 maybe) and I think it's a case of them using a system that values fitness over technique and is readily understood by the older players.

I reckon I should be pretty much ok too with Stockport County. I wanted to start lower down so as not to complicate things too much.

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THoG is an excellent member of the tactics form but imho his assessment of German tactics in that post is/was incorrect, it also doesn't really related to this thread as there is a world of difference between the World Cup & Kreisliga.

Will be interesting to see how closely the OP can replicate the system in FM & as how well it works,

I think you have mixed up THoG post with the one below it? - I agree the one below it (from DouglasMig) is totally irrelevant to the thread, but THoG's was fine?

Really looking forward to seeing how this replicates into the game. Man marking in a 3 man defence sounds suicidal in the modern game, but lets see how it goes :)

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Man-marking in the lower leagues can work irl, in FM it probably won't due to a variety of reasons.

Oh, I was referencing THoG post btw, imho the mentality should have been control with tempo set to lower or much lower but that's a discussion for another thread.

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Hi,

I'm using a 4-4-2 (direct pass, higher tempo and counter-attack) with Portsmouth and will try this one. I think that my team is capable of playing in a 3-5-2 (like this) and can solve some problems that I have in the wings.

I think that can be add to the TI:

- Get stuck in

- Pass into space

This I don't know yet:

- Play wider

- Run with the ball

- Be more expressive (if the team is to rigid)

- Change the mentallity to Counter

No?

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- Be more expressive (if the team is to rigid)

"Be More Expressive" mainly affects how much players play with creativity and flair on the ball. To avoid being rigid, it's best to assign more aggressive roles to the deeper positional strata.

- Change the mentallity to Counter

If anything, I'd follow felley's initial instinct to move up to the more direct, aggressive mentalities like Control and Attacking. wwfan led an excellent discussion on modeling old fashioned wideplay that's should provide some good ideas here.

Oh, I was referencing THoG post btw, imho the mentality should have been control with tempo set to lower or much lower but that's a discussion for another thread.

If you're interested, I'd be more than happy to discuss my reasoning in the relevant thread. Of course, as I would say to DouglasMig, I think there are almost always multiple valid interpretations of IRL tactics depending on which aspects of a team's play you want to emphasise.

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Hi,

I'm using a 4-4-2 (direct pass, higher tempo and counter-attack) with Portsmouth and will try this one. I think that my team is capable of playing in a 3-5-2 (like this) and can solve some problems that I have in the wings.

I think that can be add to the TI:

- Get stuck in

- Pass into space

This I don't know yet:

- Play wider

- Run with the ball

- Be more expressive (if the team is to rigid)

- Change the mentallity to Counter

No?

Hi Pedro. Thanks for getting involved, but for now i'm going to be attempting to stay as faithful to my coach as possible, so I won't be adding anything to the tactic that changes the style too much.

- I think Get Stuck In may be too extreme for what my coach is asking. He wants us to tackle - sure - but there is never an instruction to be more physical (unless it's our derby match!).

- Pass Into Space could work in certain scenarios, but I feel it is dependent on the opposition so I won't be adding it for now.

As for the rest, I think the creativity aspect is dealt with well already via the Very Fluid team shape and I won't be making alterations to dribbling frequency or the areas of the pitch I wish to emphasise until i've watched the tactic in action for a fair few games. Regarding using a Counter mentality, I don't think it goes along with the instructions from my coach. He doesn't like us to stand off and use our shape to disrupt the attacks, he would rather we press earlier and match the opposition in 1v1 duels, holding them up for support to arrive or simply winning the ball back quickly. As THoG says, Control or Attacking will be my next mentalities to experiment with should it not click on Standard.

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Hi guys. Just a quick update on how this is going. I've played most of the pre-season and i've been tweaking quite readily due to using FMC (no penalty for experimentation/altering the tactic).

To be honest, what i'm seeing in FM is not really looking anything like how we play in real life. The main problems are as follows:

  • The use of wide men in the WB strata - Although it seems sensible to think of the wide roles as akin to Wing Backs in their duty, I believe their default position is higher - in the midfield strata. In the current system, they are very cautious and I feel as though I have a back 5 which is not strictly how we set out to play.
  • The 'Standard' mentality and TI combination - The team seems overly cautious and the combination of this with the TI's makes the tactic very one dimensional. Lots of long hoofed balls but nobody to win them. Too many men behind the ball. The midfielders and strikers rush to penetrate without proper support. To be honest, it's a bit of a mess!
  • The passing length - I think I have underestimated the impact of More Direct Passing. In my setup, it is encouraging long balls from deep that are pretty aimless. This is not at all how we play in real life and it needs to be sorted out. I would say that the vast majority of our passing is to the nearest man; it's the tempo that counts. We are still encouraged to try the odd 'hollywood ball', but it isn't a regular feature of the tactic.
  • Isolated forwards - If my plan had been to set out defensively and I had some good targets to aim for, then this wouldn't bother me so much. As it stands, we win the ball back fairly well (normally before the final third) but then counter at breakneck speed with direct passes and no supporting runs. It's a recipe for very high turnover of possession. Before I started tweaking, I can honestly say I didn't see a single passage of good play resulting from this style.

The "solution":

- Attacking mentality

- Wing Backs pushed up into the midfield strata as Wide Midfielders on a support duty

- More Direct Passing removed. Shorter Passing added to try and reign in those long balls

- Higher Tempo removed as the Attacking mentality already gives us enough tempo

- Close Down More kept for the moment

- Much Higher Defensive Line added in order to bring the defence closer to the play - we tend to push the line as high as we dare.

I'm aware that these changes make the tactic seem very extreme, but I actually only have two players on attack duty and a back 3 with a holding midfielder. I believe I have a pretty solid base here as well as plenty of supporting roles. The most important thing is it is currently playing much more like it does in real life, though I anticipate another round of tweaks as I move into the season and start facing proper opposition in competitive circumstances.

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Don't know at which level of german football you play and in which region but where i come from this system is so old that i never played it myself... hahaha

Let's just say I play at a very, very low level :lol: ...my Bundesland is NRW, but I couldn't tell you how much of a bearing that has on the system!

Like I say, the youth teams play more of a variety from what i've seen. Much more modern, with a back 4, attacking mids etc. I guess the reason we stick with this system is because it's what our coach and the older players are used to.

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First of all, apologies that this update took a while. I've made the clever decision to start a thread whilst i'm incredibly busy! Off on a holiday tomorrow as well, so I thought i'd throw out this update and I can really get going after i'm back with a bit more detail.

Knock-on effects - Balancing the tactical vision with the reality of the game

The first few rounds of league fixtures have given me a chance to see if the tactic will finally play as envisaged and - as predicted - there has been another round of tweaks. Virtually instantly I could see that Shorter Passing was not the correct choice for what I was looking to achieve. We lost the all-important tempo and seemed to circulate the ball pretty aimlessly. I then started to notice other areas that seemed problematic, requiring change that would have potential for knock-on effects throughout the tactic. I will detail below how I analysed and attempted to fix them whilst staying as true as possible to the tactical vision.

The wide men

The wide men in my tactic originally started out in the DM Strata, but I decided pretty quickly that they were giving me more of a back 5 which wasn't at all what I was looking for. It was my hope that pushing them into the Midfield Strata would give them a more neutral position allowing them to react to situations both ahead and behind of their position, whilst encouraging the pressing style in midfield. Remember, the most important qualities that my coach stresses in these positions are hard work, support and width (very simple). I therefore chose Wide Midfielders on a Support duty and kept the Stay Wider PI for the wide men.

The outside central defenders

As I mentioned, the potential for knock-on effects were large due to the structural changes I brought into the tactic. Once the wide players had been moved up a strata, I was left with a gap down the wings behind their position. This was not hugely problematic, until I noticed that the outside central defenders (Defend duty with Mark Tighter PI) actually remained very cautious, often deeper than the Ball Playing Defender on Cover duty. This is not what I wanted from the tactic and I felt a switch of the roles would give me a better representation of the Manndecker role so I opted for my original thought - two Stoppers. I hoped this would close the gap as well as encourage them to be more aggressive than the centrally positioned defender.

As I rang in these changes, I felt the tactic started to reach stability as we remained solid defensively (largely from the pressing), but managed to get bodies forward due to our aggressiveness. Our problems now became tempo, passing and chance creation as it wasn't really clicking how I had envisaged.

Passing length

As mentioned above, I noticed almost instantly that the switch from More Direct Passing to Shorter Passing had been a bad move. Not only did it slow down our play considerably, it was also far from true to what my coach encourages. I set about looking for another solution. First of all, I would steer clear of a passing length TI and instead target the area(s) that were squandering the ball. In essence, the defenders were punting it long far too often so I opted for the Play Out Of Defence TI in the hope that it would cut out the long balls without knackering the tempo and directness from the midfielders and forwards.

Chance creation

The final place where things were falling short was in chance creation. I'm playing on FMC, so I have to watch the matches on full to get a good feeling for how things are happening. What was clear to me was that we had plenty of bodies supporting the attack and ready to counter, but the forwards were not intelligent enough in their positioning to take full advantage. The split roles up front were a complete definite (our coach often mentions it IRL and it makes the tactic much more dynamic), but I felt that the allocation of Deep Lying Forward and Advanced Forward was wrong. The Very Fluid team shape was giving them bags of creative freedom and neither of them seemed to offer penetrative runs, nor did they press the defence - instead opting to drift around laterally looking for space. I opted for a Defensive Forward on Support and a Poacher. I wasn't sure about the Poacher at first because I wasn't expecting him to press, but in our system he is ideal. As we win the ball back high up, he is invariably on the shoulder of a defender or ready to pounce and use his pace (I have an exceptionally fast striker here) and he is an excellent target to aim for from these quick counters. The Defensive Forward role is a clear fit for the tactic - fits with the pressing style and the creative forwards I have earmarked for the role as I wish him to be more of a creator than a goalscorer.

These changes really brought the tactic to life. The high block functioned very well (if a little frighteningly high at times!) as we snuffed out the opposition before they reached a dangerous area, then countered with pace. The final touches were to the wide men, the central defender and crossing style

Final tweaks - Wide Midfielders

These guys were doing an excellent job of providing width and support, but I felt they could perhaps be more attacking at times. Without switching to an Attack duty and giving them too much freedom, I wished to get them in more advanced positions so they could provide width and another angle of attack. I added Get Further Forward to both players.

Ball Playing Defender

I kinda chickened out of this role a bit, but it's very hard to get working with such terrible defenders available. Switched to a Central Defender but maintains the Cover duty. Squanders less possession, but perhaps not completely "true" to my coaches style. IRL, this player is expected to bring the ball forward at times rather than attempt risky passes so I might have to use PPM's to get the right sort of thing happening here.

Crossing Style - Low Crosses

I seem to add this TI to every tactic I make! I always seem to manage teams with no height in the box, I guess... Just a logical decision this one. Short, fast forwards and a quick tempo seemed to call for it.

The "not-quite-as-frighteningly-high" block

The pressing and attacking mentality seemed to layer things up enough, so once you factor in my instructing of the players to keep a Much Higher Defensive Line, it just seems to be needlessly asking for trouble. We were exposed once or twice with counter attacks, so I "dialed this back" and went for the Push Higher Up TI instead. Still extreme, I know. But not quite as suicidal.

Just for posterity, here's how the tactic looks now (with the PI's as detailed above):

2096r1x.jpg

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I find it to be a bit weird that your club hasn't fully embraced gegenpressing. At the rate that German clubs are piling on to that style, I expect more down below to do too??

God, no! It took, I don't know, 20 years for 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 systems with a flat four to finally appear in the lowest leagues. Forget about that modern stuff.

Coaches at the grassroots level are extremely conservative in Germany, even when they are relatively young, i.e. in their late 20s. Coaches actually have to have a license which has to be renewed every couple of years at a training course with theoretical and practical lectures. So they in fact do know about modern tactical advancements and even learn how to implement them in their coaching. They just rarely do it...

The coaches know they would have to teach their players totally new stuff, because, frankly, 80% of Germany's youth players are coached by their dads or the dad of a teammate, who simply can't teach football. They have no idea how a flat four at the back would work. Then there's also the factor of the "Altinternationalen", as I call them. The old guys watching every home and most away games of their local club from the sidelines, paying 2.50 Euro for the right to shout and insult everybody who moves. They too don't understand modern football and are the first to attack the coach if he dared to implement new things they haven't seen before. It can be a nightmare, trust me. By the way, the leading people of your club (i.e. the President) may be Altinternationale, too, which only complicates the whole matter.

To cut it short: In most rural places here in Germany you are best off playing a variation of 3-5-2/5-3-2. Everybody understands it, no one will question your tactical integrity, even if you lose.

Just to give you an example: I play in northern Bavaria at the 10th level (of 11) and two out of the 14 teams in our league (called "A-Klasse") play a flat four at the back. All the others play with three and a Libero. And one of those with a flat four was hilarous to watch at points. They had a young coach who gave this a try, but he had to use his classic "Manndeckers". So he ended up with a total idiot at left back. The guy had TONS of room in front of him whenever they had the ball because we always dropped deep. But he never crossed the centre line because the ball was his biggest enemy. It was hilarious. And painful.

So yeah, no Gegenpressing in my league anytime soon :D

Btw, I laugh about this and criticize this because I consider myself a rather modern football player who is, sadly, surrounded by dinosaurs and teammates who don't even know how to defend space let alone have the vision to find you 10 metres next to them :D

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Back when I was living in Germany myself & a mate convinced our trainer to switch to 4-3-1-2 with a standard back four & narrow midfield line, considering this was 1992 the idea was almost revolutionary but as the back four had 2 Brits in it plus a winger who we conned into agreeing to playing at left-back it worked a treat as myself & the winger would happily run up & down the line, even if I couldn't do much with the ball once I got beyond the halfway line the fact that I was in the opposing half caused enough trouble for the opposition.

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Well it's great to have a few Germans/former players in Germany popping up on here to get involved with the conversation. Like I mentioned earlier in the thread, I am yet to meet a German IRL that is aware of FM, let alone plays it regularly. I'm glad that my experiences chime with others that have played at grassroots over here too. Would you guys say that I have this classic "system" figured out pretty well? Is my latest iteration still faithful to it? Is my German alright too? :cool:

Regarding the wider point of tactical advancements and the adoption of systems further down the leagues, I get the feeling a lot of it is out of convenience and habit. There are a few old blokes around the club that would maybe influence things, but I honestly get the feeling that - even if it occurred to them to change the system - they wouldn't bother as it would be lots of work and upheaval. As I've mentioned, the youth teams seem to play more of a variety of systems (maybe part of their development program?). PenS66, you have a point about it being a family thing. There are maybe 3-4 families in the club that are heavily represented. Grandfathers, fathers and uncles are coaches. Sons, daughters, brothers and sisters are players.

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You seem to have come up with a system that appears to reflect what is used irl, it will be interesting to see whether the flaws in such a rigid system are shown up in the match engine.

I assume that you've opted for a structured or maybe even a highly structured team shape.

As for awareness of FM in Germany that's down to issues regarding the legal sale of the game, a topic that is not for this thread. Here's hoping you have it installed on a laptop & can do some missionary work to spread the word.

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Counterpressing is actually fairly common in amateur play, it's just not often combined with organised zonal defending further down the pitch. Every youth player's natural instinct is to counterpress with everyone swarming the ball and immediately denying every inch of space around the first attacker. :D

With older players, the lack of zonal play has a lot to do with the relative lack of training time in addition to tradition/coaching knowledge. The fitness/technical standards in play also mean there would be less obvious benefit to investing a lot of time in coaching it.

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God, no! It took, I don't know, 20 years for 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 systems with a flat four to finally appear in the lowest leagues. Forget about that modern stuff.

Coaches at the grassroots level are extremely conservative in Germany, even when they are relatively young, i.e. in their late 20s. Coaches actually have to have a license which has to be renewed every couple of years at a training course with theoretical and practical lectures. So they in fact do know about modern tactical advancements and even learn how to implement them in their coaching. They just rarely do it...

The coaches know they would have to teach their players totally new stuff, because, frankly, 80% of Germany's youth players are coached by their dads or the dad of a teammate, who simply can't teach football. They have no idea how a flat four at the back would work. Then there's also the factor of the "Altinternationalen", as I call them. The old guys watching every home and most away games of their local club from the sidelines, paying 2.50 Euro for the right to shout and insult everybody who moves. They too don't understand modern football and are the first to attack the coach if he dared to implement new things they haven't seen before. It can be a nightmare, trust me. By the way, the leading people of your club (i.e. the President) may be Altinternationale, too, which only complicates the whole matter.

To cut it short: In most rural places here in Germany you are best off playing a variation of 3-5-2/5-3-2. Everybody understands it, no one will question your tactical integrity, even if you lose.

Just to give you an example: I play in northern Bavaria at the 10th level (of 11) and two out of the 14 teams in our league (called "A-Klasse") play a flat four at the back. All the others play with three and a Libero. And one of those with a flat four was hilarous to watch at points. They had a young coach who gave this a try, but he had to use his classic "Manndeckers". So he ended up with a total idiot at left back. The guy had TONS of room in front of him whenever they had the ball because we always dropped deep. But he never crossed the centre line because the ball was his biggest enemy. It was hilarious. And painful.

So yeah, no Gegenpressing in my league anytime soon :D

Btw, I laugh about this and criticize this because I consider myself a rather modern football player who is, sadly, surrounded by dinosaurs and teammates who don't even know how to defend space let alone have the vision to find you 10 metres next to them :D

There's a word for that in English...its called "traditionalists" :D

But once again, it is much of a surprise. I know England/USA is getting into the possessive/tiki-taka style of play down below but not Germany with gegenpressing?? Hmm...

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You seem to have come up with a system that appears to reflect what is used irl, it will be interesting to see whether the flaws in such a rigid system are shown up in the match engine.

I assume that you've opted for a structured or maybe even a highly structured team shape.

Cheers, glad that you think it reflects the system you played in too.

I should stress though that I have chosen a Very Fluid team shape because I feel my coach has instructed us to be much more free form in our approach. We are not encouraged to maintain a shape at all costs, nor is our freedom limited to a few specific tasks. The thing is, we could quite easily end up opening the whole "fluidity" can of worms thing here as it can very often come down to a matter of opinion on what these options mean. After reading plenty on the topic (in addition to the simple blurb given by the game itself), I decided that Very Fluid was just the proper fit. It brings the overall mentality of the team together and provides a freedom of movement and decision-making - both things I consider cornerstones of what my coach is after.

I should also mention that my current mentality is Attacking. I forgot to mention these two things in my previous update post, so apologies there!

Counterpressing is actually fairly common in amateur play, it's just not often combined with organised zonal defending further down the pitch. Every youth player's natural instinct is to counterpress with everyone swarming the ball and immediately denying every inch of space around the first attacker.

With older players, the lack of zonal play has a lot to do with the relative lack of training time in addition to tradition/coaching knowledge. The fitness/technical standards in play also mean there would be less obvious benefit to investing a lot of time in coaching it.

@The Hand of God - I think you are absolutely spot on here. It is a perfect blend of the instincts of our less tactically aware players and the coach recognising that fitness/work rate are very valuable at amateur level. Our training sessions our always focused on stamina and match play, as we attempt(!) to stay in shape and sharp in possession.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have to say that you have consider where you are staying in germany, don't think that german football (even at a level that is this low) is this awful.

I play at the 5th level in germany and also watch lower levels than that and you don't meet teams that play with a Libero or a Manndecker anymore. At the younger stages the kids are trained to play a passing game and not just kick & rush... I guess the bavarians are a litte bit behind in tactics, would interest me how the 6th or 5th league is, regarding playing style!

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I have to say that you have consider where you are staying in germany, don't think that german football (even at a level that is this low) is this awful.

I play at the 5th level in germany and also watch lower levels than that and you don't meet teams that play with a Libero or a Manndecker anymore. At the younger stages the kids are trained to play a passing game and not just kick & rush... I guess the bavarians are a litte bit behind in tactics, would interest me how the 6th or 5th league is, regarding playing style!

Well, Bavaria is very rural, which you have to consider. People are conservative and football coaches/fans/players are conservative as well. But in the Bayernliga (5th level) and Landesliga (6th) all the teams play modern systems, of course. But that has nothing to do with typical grassroots football. These clubs have players who all get paid and practice four or five times a week.

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I certainly don't get paid to play! I've just worked it out... I play in the - wait for it - 11th-16th level (have played for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd teams for my club). The leagues are Kreisligen in the Niederrhein, so even after several promotions we would only be playing in the Oberliga Niederrhein/West against the 2nd and 3rd teams of Duisburg, Gladbach etc. This is a long way from professional football! We are talking REAL grassroots here.

I should also say that i've not made this tactic in an effort to criticise German lower league football at all. Like i've said a few times, the youth teams play a variety of tactics as part of their development but obviously will be picked up by better clubs in their mid-teens if they show signs of having the ability to become a pro. The players that are left all have real lives and are happy to disregard most of the tactical part of the game in favour of playing for fun. The whole framework is pretty loose and more of a basic formation. I've tried to stress this as often as possible.

Finally, I have actually found (surprisingly!) quite a few problems with the tactic as i've progressed and I intend (not promise!) to post in a few days showing how I aim to adjust the framework to make something more workable.

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no problem pal, but i felt it was written in a little bit insulting way, maybe because i didn't read every single post. So don't get me wrong, i absolutely understand where you are coming from. I play at 6th level and practice 3 times a week! so i just don't how it is play in 8th level or lower, but where i come from (hamburg) there sometinh like 'Untere Herren' which means something like Lower Men, if you play there you reached the bottom of the whole system and i don't know how these guys play. actually i don't even want to know :p

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