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DurinVIII

Help me to beat West Hams 4-4-1-1 with a 4-1-2-2-1!

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We're in that difficult time period between the start of the Premier League season and the new FM game. In order to somewhat quell that abstinences, I downloaded a transfer update and got cracking with my beloved Newcastle. Things are mediocre at best, as I'm into the christmas period and find myself in 11th place. The boxing day fixture is away at West Ham. I played that game, lost, but my computer crashed before I could save. Thus, I had to play the game over, and I tried to tweak a few things as my initial approach didn't cut it. I lost again, and something kicked inside me, and I really wanted to win this game against West Ham. Partly out of wanting to improve and understand, and partly(mostly) due to stubbornness. Without further ado, let's just say that I've had a few unsuccesful attempts, and here I am.

A part of this "challenge" is that I want to beat West Ham using the formation I've mostly been using, a generic 4-1-2-2-1/4-3-3/whatever you call it. West Ham start out in a 4-4-1-1, and eventually move on to a 4-2-3-1 when they need a goal. I've not really tried to pinpoint what roles their players have, neither from their line up or the way they play, but in general it's pretty aggressive:

WHPA1cb.png

In addition to beating this team with a 4-1-2-2-1, I also have a preference in how we should defend, create and score. I'd like us to sit deep and narrow, soaking up pressure. As for creating and scoring, I'd like us to play the counter, utilising fast transitions and being direct when we win the ball (I'd appreciate it if everyone ignores the fact that this makes more of a Alan Pardew than a Steve McClaren). Ideally, two of Newcastles new signings would be the main threats, namely Florian Thavin and Aleksandar Mitrovic. An ideal goal for me would be Thauvin getting a ball in space or beating his full back, and proceeding with a cross onto Mitrovic who's arrived in the box, who then slots it home.

Through my multiple attempts at beating West Ham, I've realised that my approach might be a tad flawed. Thauvin is by no means a world beater down the wing, and at best he's only a decent crosser of the ball. As for Mitrovic, he's probably inferior in the air to both of West Hams central defenders, Tomkins and Reid. Defensively, I have all but given up on dropping deeper and not closing down. If given the time and space, the pace and power of West Hams attack absolutely kills me. I'm never really beaten on the counter, I just ship goals when I'm organised, generally from crosses from Jarvis into Sakho, who physically bosses Steven Taylor and Coloccini, or Valencia on the other flank, who only needs a square meter of space in the 16 yard box in order to find a shot. Thus, I now play the match with a higher defensive line and more closing down.

As I've played this match a lot of times, with a lot of variations in player roles and tactical instructions, most with miserable results, I wouldn't read too much into the following setup, as it's just what I happened to have at the time of my last save (using Counter and Flexible):

q6OlXlg.pngM1wbnN1.png

It does however highlight a few my general ideas:

1: I'm using Mitrovic as a DLF in order to try to exploit the space between West Hams midfield and defence. I'm also hoping that him being deeper makes him harder for Tomkins and Reid to pick up when he eventually arrives in the box.

2: In my midfield trio, I'm trying to have a sitter (Anita as DLP/Tiote as Anchor) as the DM, a CM(s) or DLP(s) depending on whether I have Tiote or Anita at DM, and for the final, someone to further exploit the hole between West Hams banks of 4. For this I've tried a RPM, B2B and CM(a).

3: I'm using Ayoze as an Inside Forward on the right with Janmaat as a Wing Back behind. This as I'd like to have some penetration between the lines, as well as to avoid becoming all too 1-dimensional.

In addition to being thankful of any general advice on how to improve, I'll post a few of the things I struggle to achieve:

1: Even though I've given up on defending deep and soaking up the pressure, I'd still like to know how to best achieve defending narrow and attacking with width.

2: Is defending deep in a 4-1-2-2-1 even viable with one of the wide players on attack duty?

3: I struggle immensely with getting Thauvin involved in the game, and he may often go the entire game without even attempting a cross. I've tried having the more offensive MC on his side of midfield, but that's not been an immediate quick fix, at least not in this match.

I'll just end with a TL;DR: I want to beat a 4-4-1-1 with a 4-1-2-2-1. I want to do this playing on the counter, wide and direct, and ideally while defending deep. This I'm incapable of, and I'd very much appreciate a kick in the right direction and someone telling me why I suck.

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Looking at the screenshot of West Ham's formation, I notice neither fullback is very aggressive. Cresswell is in line with the center backs, and Jenkinson is behind them which I think means a defend duty. Couple that with the wingers being in the midfield strata and it looks like the Hammers aren't giving up much space on the flanks.

But then look at the middle of the park. There's no DM, Noble is looking to get forward, and while they appear to have Nolan as a holding mid that's not really his best role. They're vulnerable in the hole.

If this is how West Ham is going to line up, I don't think wide and direct is the way to beat them.

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I'd consider Janmaat to be more attacking, get some crosses in there for Mitrovic, who is a decent aerial player. With Perez cutting inside, or sitting a bit more narrow, there'd be space for Janmaat. You have Tioté as an anchor, he will compensate for Janmaat going forward more.

As for Mitrovic, he's probably inferior in the air to both of West Hams central defenders, Tomkins and Reid.

This would be the case for 95% of all strikers in the world, they still find space to get some headers in. Anyways, the point of driving one of your backs further up is to have more options while attacking, not just for crosses.

Another thing, and this is just my personal preference, when closing down a lot and having essentially 3 forwards, I like my team to be more fluid. Get some help from one or more of the forwards when defending or building up.

Direct passing into space is very effective against sides that pushes up a lot. Teams like Arsenal and Man Utd are teams that do this. Tbh, I don't know if Bilic and WH do this, I haven't played that much in PL lately against them.

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I've moved away from using Thauvin as a Winger, and instead using him as an Inside Forward, and putting Haïdara on attack duty. Janmaat has the Gets Forward Whenever Possible PPM, so he's a threat down the right even on support duty. In addition, I made Wijnaldum an AP(A), and Anita a CM(S), as well as Mitrovic a DF(D). This allowed me to win the game a couple of times, but it was never exactly smooth sailing. Eventually I found that using a 4-2-3-1 Wide (with mostly the same setup, DLP(D) and CM(S) in the middle, T(A) in the AM slot) nullified West Ham much better.

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FB - A, W - S, IF - A, WB - S(or A whatever) - Those are the changes to the flanks I would make, reason being I'd want the Inside Forward to attack the box a lot more. You'd overload them in the middle I reckon with the inside forward, striker and CM/A pushing through the middle 3-2 overload. Plus the wingback coming up down the flanks will give the opposition FB food to pause. The Winger on the left is there to offer a cross or get into the box as well for any crosses from the right wing, but we also have the full back pushing up for the overlap. Though on second thought I'd drop the Winger back down into the midfield strata, to give a deeper attacking run while also occupying the opposition winger. On top of that, he'll be instrumental in defending on that flank in a 2-1 situation, especially if West Ham's full backs really are that defensive.

I would remain neutral in terms of passing in order to see what happens when possession is turned over. If they pressure you quickly, then yes, direct passing may relieve the pressure, but I'd really have to watch the game to see what instructions I'd put in outside of my 'philosophy' as Van Gaal would put it.

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