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Can you point out any glaring issues with my tactics?

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I'll try to be brief but to also give a little bit of context. It's 2022 in my career save, I decide to make the jump to the premier league after a few promotions of minor sides and a couple of avoid relegation seasons.

Unfortunately for me, the roaster of my new team (Aston villa) is mostly made of 30+ years old players nearing the end of their careers with a few exceptions.

The budget at my disposal was not enough to revolutionize the squad as I wished, especially because obviously nobody wanted most of my players (It's amazing the kind of salary that the AI can offer to worthless players) so I had to try and make do with what I had and a couple of young prospects I purchased and wait for some huge contracts to expire.

That was my wish anyways, because I have been constantly at risk of being sacked after struggling all year trying to find the right tactics for my squad.

What I used to use in my previous side (4-4-2 diamond) didn't seem to work well for me in the premier, or at the very least I wasn't able to tweak it well enough.

Why I feel it didn't work well? Well simply put, I am afraid there is just way too much of a difference in squad quality for what concerns physical prowess compared to most of the other premier league sides.

Most of them seem to be able to press and dispossess me way too easily, and my team seem to dwell on the ball too much no matter how I instruct them to short passing, work the ball into box, lower the tempo, try to offer them as many passing options as possible and so on.

It feels like my side is overwhelmed all the time and I get hit in the space way too easily no matter how I try to use a counter strategy myself.

Most of the premier sides seem to play defensive football (ironically enough) with 4-4-1-1 and 5-3-2 among the most used, yet they all have powerful fast strikers that score screamers and control the game in the air with ease against my old, slow CDs.

Since they were very good players in the past (one of the CDs is 34y old Benatia) they do have very nice mental and marking skills despite the decaying physical ones. So I tried to employ the use of the offside trap and try to control the game, but it just ends up back firing over and over again as my CDs screw it up leaving easy counters behind, or missing too often the headers on long balls (infuriating how frequently that happens).

The fact that I needed to train the tactics in few weeks starting with awkward familiarity didn't help much at the beginning, I felt like I needed to counter the opponent all the time without managing to find a tactic that always worked (with the occasional tweaks) as I imposed my game.

That's why at least the next season will start with a good familiarity of the tactics already.

The tactic I ended up the season with, and that I plan to use for the following one, are these:

28jyyck.jpg

Strategy: counter

Mentality: structured

PIs: All players aside the wingers are instructed to dribble less (to try and make them dwell on the ball less...), the midfielders are also instructed to pass it shorter, because if there was no chance for a fast break from the back, I don't want them to waste possession if possible.

I am more than sure you would all make many changes, and any advice is appreciated, but what I would like to understand most of all, is if you can find some clear and exploitable weakness that I must address before starting the next season with the wrong foot.

Thanks.

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Think along these lines - what does your chosen mentality do, and what do the chosen TIs then do to the mentality?

So, for example, with a counter mentality you are telling your defenders to take less risks so they will be more likely to clear the ball from danger areas. Likewise, your more attacking players will also be risk adverse, playing a slower more patient game trying to create better but fewer scoring chances. This makes your team play narrower when in possession, and lowers the tempo. Of course, when on the counter that all goes out the window and they temporarily become very attacking, but that's beside the point.

Given how the counter mentality plays, what benefit do you get from adding TIs such as More Direct Passing, Pass into Space and Play Wider? Is that how you want to play? How does the TI More Direct Passing relate to the PI of Shorter Passing you give players? How does that PI work with the TI to Play Wider?

Also, why do you want your team to Get Stuck In? Do your players have the aggression needed for that? What happens if they do get stuck in but miss the tackle?

Finally, have a look at your defensive screen and your left flank. On the left, you have an attacking fullback with a support duty player at MCL. Compare that to your right flank where you have a support duty fullback and a defensive MCR. It looks lopsided. Further, your midfield defensive screen will be weak. A CM(S) + CM(D) in front of your defence will create gaps that will be exploited. Your CM(S) will be relatively far advanced (as will the fullback on that side) meaning your CM(D) will be trying to move across to cover - thus leaving big gaps in the MCR area that he leaves behind. Try having 2 centre mids with a defend duty.

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Thanks for your insight on the matter.

Given how the counter mentality plays, what benefit do you get from adding TIs such as More Direct Passing, Pass into Space and Play Wider? Is that how you want to play? How does the TI More Direct Passing relate to the PI of Shorter Passing you give players? How does that PI work with the TI to Play Wider?

Well the reason I put the counter strategy, is because I didn't want to be defensively too fragile, I noticed that control and attacking strategy push the squad too high on the pitch. I could tell them to drop deeper, but that would just widen the gap between midfield and defense to be exploited.

The reason I put play wider is exactly to counterbalance the tendency to play narrow of a counter strategy while retaining the defensive traits of a counter strategy. Or at least that was the logic behind it, not sure it works as I wish in the ME, that's the problem. Direct passing and pass into space were put because I wanted to incentivize fast breaks from deep, given that I lack enough quality in the midfield and the only good players are the wingers and their 1vs1/crossing skills.

The PI to the midfielders to pass it shorter was supposed to be something to keep the ball when the ball was cleared to the midfield, and my wingers were very deep in our final third after a spell of dominance from the opposition. It was supposed to give the wingers enough time to burst forward to be able to receive the ball before the midfield simply throws the ball to my forward that does not have the physical strenght to hold the ball.

You are probably right about the center cover, I put the other CM as support because I wanted to help them with the build up phase, but it probably leaves too much space to be exploited.

About the stuck in, I put it because I noticed that the difference in players quality is too high, I either get the ball back aggressively and fast, or they'll just dominate the possession and eventually find the right gap for a through ball.

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Your midfiled traingle consisting of 2 MC's and 1 AMC doesn't have anyone set to an attacking mentality so i'd be tempted to put the AMC on attacking, this would also help him stay close to your lone striker who is on an attacking mentality.

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That could work, also setting one of the CM to attack or as a box to box could work if they run onto through balls from the AM

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With your current instructions I would expect almost every single ball to be a long ball to one of your wingers. If their fullbacks are decent and paying attention they probably intercept 90-100% of them. Besides if you are trying to attack down the wings might as well keep the center of the pitch locked down with a DM and play with three attackers and an MC on attack duty. I'd remove most of those team instructions and pick one of them to focus on play down the flanks (play wider for instance). When you try to attack down the flanks most of the strikers service will come in the form of crosses, a DLF(a) isn't exactly a role that is very suited to get on the end of crosses. An advanced forward would make a lot more sense here.

I like how you had a clear plan for this tactic (sit deep, defend and hit them on the break with pace down the wings) but when you select every single instruction that promotes that behavior you end up with a super extreme version which will be very one dimensional. Even Bayern counters fast when there is an opportunity to do so and even super direct counter teams will at times pass it around a bit when nothing is on. You say you have really old players so they probably have decent mental stats, let them use it and give them a bit of room to make a decision for themselves at times. Use your TI's to give them a general plan and playing style, instead of telling them exactly what to do irregardless of the current situation.

What I don't like is that your plan and playing style isn't really reflected in the roles and formation you chose. When I look at your formation screen I'm expecting a possession oriented play focused on getting the ball to your AMC or DLF in the hole. Not direct counter football focused on wide men putting good crosses into a retreating backline.

Basically cut down on your TI's and PI's.

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Awesome feedback, really gave me some thinking to do.

I agree especially about the one dimensional point. Totally true, because I tried to watch the full match sometimes instead of just comprehensive, and they do follow it to the letter even when the most obvious choice would have been another.

The old players do have mostly quite decent mental stats, my problem is that for some reason, unless I "babysit" them with PIs, they just like to dwell on the ball too much, which would be probably the right decision as they wait for the right off the ball movement of someone.

I just can't find a way to allow them time at the ball but at the same time not risk to lose balls in very dangerous zones (CMs I am looking at you). They just lack the physical attributes to hold the ball properly waiting for the right pass or at the very least getting that breathing room free kick.

P.S: the DLF was originally an AF, and it worked well on the receiving end, but the problem was on the break (another reason the wingers are asymmetrical), the ball would be immediately thrown at the AF, and he would immediately start to dribble forward and be dispossessed. With a DLF I could put the dribble less PI and by coming a bit deeper to receive, it gives the wingers more time to push up.

Again that was the thinking behind it, I can see with some of your explanations how it doesn't translate properly on the ME, I'll try to work more on it.

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When I first looked at your formation, my first idea was that your 4-2-3-1 Wide (a formation that I've played a lot and like a lot) is for possession and dominance. But no, you're playing for counters. These two - your formation and desired style of play - are very difficult to combine together. If you want to take in pressure, perhaps move your two central midfielders to the DM strata. It would certainly make your tactic more robust. Since the Counter mentality is ideal if you want to sit deep and look to soak up pressure from the opposition before looking to break with fast, direct attacking football, I wouldn't change that. I agree that some TIs and PIs could be "re-evaluated". :)

Best!

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Okay I've tried to modify the tactic taking into consideration all your input.

This is what I've come up with.

i2n4et.jpg

Strategy still counter (but I am considering standard or control with drop deeper)

Mentality still structured (I do need full backs and DMs to help in the transition phase after all)

The part I had the most doubts about was either to keep the F9 as AM or not. For now F9 seems like a better idea because with a lone striker in front, if he receives a long ball, most of the time he will lose it fast and without any support. The F9 will both provide support for the AF and vice versa, and at the same time by dropping deeper he will theoretically speed up the build up by coming deep and launching the wingers/AF as they run forward. The AM would probably come TOO deep in non possession phase and wouldn't expose the opposing defense as much.

Or at least this was my reasoning behind it, not really sure if it will work as planned ahah.

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I have to rethink everything from scratch. It's impossible to play counterattack football if you can't manage to recover the ball often enough and your defense is not solid.

The main problem is the loop that goes on during all the match:

-AI is attacking with good technical possession, we can't manage to steal the ball (we can tackle it sometimes, but their players are always well positioned and take it back immediately)

-They have a bit of possession until they find an opening or decide to go for the screamer (another tragedy, close down more and they'll put the through balls in, close down less, and they'll have the space and time on ball to put screamers in, over and over again)

-Finally the ball is our... just for the time of the goal kick, because most of the long balls are immediately won back by the AI.

-The loop repeats itself.

Sure, I could instruct the keeper to feed the ball to the defenders, but in any case, the defense of the AI is all deployed back, so we are not going to "counterattack" anything, we are just going to have to try and go around their defense.

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I am having a really hard time coming up with a solution.

I am not saying it's not possible to do otherwise, it's clearly my fault for not understanding how to make it work, but since I started to play the series two years ago, I never had a problem building up successful, possession based football teams, starting even from lower division teams coming up all the way to the first and starting to win trophies.

My feeling though, is that my "defense" in all these teams, has been the ball possession. If I keep the ball, they can't score me, it's probably the best form of defense in this game.

I might be wrong of course, but I got the feeling that the moment you start to give up the initiative to the opposing team, it's really hard to prevent them from shooting crazy amount of shots (in a test I made with a "defensive" strategy line up, I received more than 60 shots...).

I understand that from the game perspective, it's exactly what should happen since I am giving up the initiative to the opposing team and I basically just give up building up plays to look for counter attacks.

But in real life football, no matter the difference of quality between teams, I have never ever seen such a crazy amount of shooting.

I get the feeling that the player collision is too "permissive", i can't find a better word.

What I mean is, that too many through balls, too often, seem to go literally "through the player body", the opposing players seem to be able to make forward runs in the box "through the defender body"... it feels as if there isn't a real physical wall in front of the opposing team... no matter how much you hassle them or you decide to not close down and keep a tight shield in front... they have it too easy, both dribbling their way in and passing through balls around... not to mention the pin point screamers.

Every match against a good team (good, not great), feels as if it was Guardiola's barcelona against a lower division side, and yet in real life barcelona would probably win by a landslide but not shoot or have as many chances as they have in this game when you choose to focus on defense.

If instead I make a possess based team, I have it way easier... I will still probably lose against way better teams, but I will be much more successful in the end... it feels weird because to win at the game, I should be doing something else, but for me part of the fun is some sort of "roleplaying" where I think "what would I do in real life with this team", and the answer is clear... with a really bad team, you would hardly play offensive possession football...

Edit: I would also like to add, that I am not really aiming for a tactic that "works" in the game because for example, I can still force the AI to take 90% of long wasteful shots, so their quality is low, and there is a chance I "may" keep a clean sheet despite their 60+ shots.

But against better teams, of all those shots, they are gonna score eventually, it doesn't even have to be a really good one actually, long range shooting seems quite successful compared to fm14 to me, but it might be my impression.

Anyway what I need to make is a tactic that can leave the initiative to the AI, but cover the field so well that they don't get many chances to shoot at all.

They can have all the possession they want, but I want them to shoot as little as possible, not just force them out of the box and watch them shooting from range until eventually the score.

The way I see it the problem is double folded: from one side, the attacking team, in real life, would rarely rely so much on long shooting, they would be much more patient in the build up against 11 men behind the ball. From the other side, the defensive team would have it easier using their bodies to close the spaces and to recover the ball.

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My initial reaction, going by your last screenshot is that you have nothing in midfield. You could still keep your overall tactical plan, but those two midfielders can't just sit back and let the opposition have free reign.

A Half Back will sweep in front of your back two, but also make your Centre Backs push forward to join him, so you could switch one to 'cover' but give him a BPD role so he can pass wide to the flanks once he gets the ball.

Regista will push forward and act as a playmaker for the M'vila role, filling the gap in midfield, with more direct passing and getting closer to the F9.

Otherwise, maybe change the AF for a Target Man, go for a Deep Playmaker, a BWM, two wingbacks and then use the TM as a fulcrum once you have possession. The wingers, or one of them, could then switch to Raumdeuter. Potentially (with the right players, naturally) you'd have a TM knocking around balls for the F9 to run on to, one (or two) Raumdeuters, an on-rushing Regista to smack in shots from 20 yards and a DLP to sweep up the resulting mayhem.

Essentially, what you are trying to do with this tactic is play like Brazil in 1970. You need short passing at the back, one direct playmaker, overlapping full backs and a high tempo once the playmaker gets the ball. High tempo will get your ball forward down the flanks quickly, a TM could then hold the ball up whilst everyone catches up. F9 is Pele ;)

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So looking at your formation and team instructions I can understand what you want to achieve. Now I'm no tactical wizard, but I can't help wondering if you really understand what each of the team instructions do.

"Clear ball to flanks" basically asks all your defensive minded players to hoof long balls wide without any other intent than to relieve pressure. I don't think it will be helpful for your plan.

"Exploit the flanks" will ask your fullbacks/wingbacks to push forward. I'm not sure that is what you want in combination with the above mentioned instruction.

"Play wider" is not totally misplaced by itself, but in my opinion it will reinforce the issue of the above mentioned instructions.

Have you tried playing standard mentality and a balanced shape without any team instructions? Or have you tried a less aggressive formation? Seems to me there is a disconnect between what you want and what you try to do.

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First of all I would like to thank you both and all those who have replied to this thread.

I am not really used to such friendly/helpful communities so it's a nice surprise :)

@rothordegilian: the bit about 1970's brazil is very interesting, I had no clue as I unfortunately wasn't even born back then, so I couldn't witness it. It does sound like with your tweaks it could work well offensively (it did okay as is for what concerns goals scored), but as to be expected, you are in for a world of trouble defensively :(

@Blinklys: I quite clearly didn't understand the exploit the flanks then... I thought it was only supposed to increase the width like an increased play wider AND to tell the players to focus passing on the sides. I thought that I would have needed to tick also overlapping in order to tell the wing backs to push forward even more.

The clear ball to flanks was probably over doing it, I was just desperate to see the ball served to the wingers asap, without wasting time, it was a test more than anything else.

This is what I came up with at the moment. Keep in mind that I am running tests against the same team, liverpool, over and over with the different tactics. In my save game they are one of the top dogs, winning the league every two years on average.

I still received a lot of pressure and shots, but they did get lower than 40, with less than half on target, and more than half of the total shots were from outside the box.

It ended 3-3. Their three goals were 2 corner kicks and 1 penalty kick. Mine all counter attacks obviously :D

Curiosity, probably it's just a coincidence, but it was getting late and I am tired, so I ran the match in commentary mode only after making a few tweaks from the previous attempt (that I watched in full) that had ended 4-2. Same with all the other tactics, I seem to get way better results when I don't watch the matches and just let them finish fast in commentary mode.

The tactics: counter strategy (had experimented with defensive and contain, way too much pressure to withstand) heavy structured mentality.

124c9k4.jpg

As you can notice it's not even fluid yet, so there is still room for improvement probably.

Final match stats:

2dj9jk6.jpg

28ataj9.jpg

ou87xc.jpg

I wonder why they concentrated their attacks on the right side, I don't think the wide players there are worse than the other, especially not at defending. Still most of their throw ins happened on that side.

Edit: Forgot to mention, liverpool uses the 3-4-1-2 and sometimes they change during the match to 3-4-2-1

I also saved the pkm, should anyone be interested to see it I'll upload it somewhere.

Any comment or feedback on the current situation is very much appreciated :)

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Wow.

They really threw everything at you. Wonder if Brendan is on the forums complaining about low conversion rate. :p

You should be happy with that result, or more about the fact that you had 5 ccc while beeing under that amount of pressure. From all those shots they only had 5 ccc themselves. Not too shabby!

Honestly though, imo your latest formation and team instructions make more sense considering your game plan. Keep tweaking it.

Edit; a bit unsure about the "push higher up" and "hit early crosses" instructions. You have both DMC's on defend duty and one of them is a half back. It might be a bit too conservative. I might be wrong though, but I suppose I would tinker with those roles and/or the above mentioned instructions.

Watching games on full is very helpful. I agree it can get tedious when you are testing stuff, but on the other hand you lose out on a lot of info (and fun!) if you are running commentary only.

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Wow.

They really threw everything at you. Wonder if Brendan is on the forums complaining about low conversion rate. :p

You should be happy with that result, or more about the fact that you had 5 ccc while beeing under that amount of pressure. From all those shots they only had 5 ccc themselves. Not too shabby!

Honestly though, imo your latest formation and team instructions make more sense considering your game plan. Keep tweaking it.

Edit; a bit unsure about the "push higher up" and "hit early crosses" instructions. You have both DMC's on defend duty and one of them is a half back. It might be a bit too conservative. I might be wrong though, but I suppose I would tinker with those roles and/or the above mentioned instructions.

Watching games on full is very helpful. I agree it can get tedious when you are testing stuff, but on the other hand you lose out on a lot of info (and fun!) if you are running commentary only.

Hahah, indeed, and as stated, the funny thing is that their goals came from set pieces actually. So incredibly low conversion rate I'd say, which means the tactics is still not working well enough. But I am running out of ideas.

I always try to watch the full matches, it's indeed the only way to spot the problems, but yesterday I was tired and still wanted to see how it would go with the latest tweaks :p

About the early crosses and push higher TIs:

Early crosses is something I wanted to don't give the AI the time to readjust its defensive line. I want my wingers to run down the flanks and put the ball in as soon as they can to avoid being catch up before the cross goes in and seeing him pass back the ball making an attempt to pass the ball around in their final third. That's a nono.

Push higher up is another desperate measure I wanted to test because in some situations the CDs and DMs will drop too much, leaving too much space on the edge of the area for the AI to shoot freely, or to take advantage of when they'll finally decide to close up to then put the through ball in.

Can't say how much it's working, it's just a test. Like for the HB to try and fill the hole when the CDs decide to come up to intercept/close down.

I am really struggling to find a way to keep the defensive shape while also having the DMs being in a position to intercept long range shots BUT without going to far and lose the shape.

P.S: about that wonderful guide, I have already read it. It's great but I am just not good at making use of it :p

If a tactics expert pass by and wants to drop a few lines it would be very much appreciated :)

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I keep working on it, I do make progress, but despite the result, I am still not satisfied at all overall. It is a step forward, but they still had too many chances. It's really hard to completely prevent them from shooting and still try to keep some sort of danger coming from wide.

This is the latest tactics:

140gaiw.jpg

As you can see I decided to give up on the striker and go strikerless. My two best forwards are also proficient at playing as AMs, and they have decent defensive attributes for being strikers, so I decided to increase the cover even more by deploying two AMs that would come deep when not in possession to put pressure, one of them an AP that has to launch the wingers and the SS.

The stats below:

2502cz6.jpg

2zp8ugm.jpg

Pretty good tackling % and going strikerless has hugely improved the aerial challenges won by filling that gap in midfield between the strikers and the DMs.

And finally the journalist title :D

2w4acsh.jpg

Somebody should tell him that even if they played as midfielders, they are all strikers... so they sort of shown themselves how to score :D

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I sort of gave up.

One thing is having a plan in your head, another is making it actually work.

With a formation with wingers, I will always receive way too much pressure, and eventually against good teams you are going to pay for it.

For my defensive tactic when facing superior opponents, I decided to switch to a 4-2-3-1, 2DMs narrow. 2 BBM on the side of the midfield to offer both cover on the wings and movement in the build up phase.

Worked so flawlessly it almost pissed me off. We comfortably won 2-0 against M.Utd, 3rd in the league, while playing away the fourth turn on the cup.

They barely had any chances, while we could have scored a few more if their keeper didn't work out miracles.

I really liked the idea of counter attacking with wingers, but instead of providing safety with the possibility of pulling the upset, it was more like having to be lucky to withstand a lot of pressure and hoping your wingers would have a good day in front of the goal.

In other words, it's really hard to justify the choice when your improvised alternative works so well right off the bat. It is disheartening because it really gives me the feeling that some formations are simply more suited for the ME of the game.

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Just a couple of notes about the Half Back formation.

The HB is not as limiting as an Anchorman. He will aggressively sweep into midfield and recycle possession very quickly. Out of possession, the Centre Backs will push up alongside him, effectively giving you a 3 man central defence. I always use a quick CB in the HB role for this reason. This also means that you can afford to set one CB to cover in order to deal with any through balls.

You have to remember that the defence is going to play a lot higher naturally with the HB in the team, so if you set them to 'Push Higher Up', you are effectively playing Much Higher Defensive Line and you will definitely need defenders who are quick and set to cover.

The 3 man defence allows you use the FBs as WB, probably on support roles so you can push them forward to close down higher up the pitch.

There's still the problem of that big hole in midfield. Neither the Anchor or the HB will push forward leaving all that space and time for the opposition to pick out long passes or through balls behind your (very) high defence. A DLP(s) will bring the ball out more and try to look for attacking options but still work hard at defence. A Regista is more dynamic and creative, great if you have a flair player in that role. Think of him like a marauding Libero. Or, you could use a Roaming Playmaker who is somewhere in between the two but needs a good engine to get him up and down the field.

This is my setup to recreate Brazil of the 1982 World Cup. The gap in midfield is filled by the Regista (Brazil actually played with 2 Registas...but that's a bit leaky!)

35jm1j4.png

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It's a good idea to use the HB to switch to a 3 man defense when the 2 FBs go forward to attack, but to be honest what I wanted to do was using him as a cover for when the FB would move out of position to close down the opponent. I wanted to try and keep a tight defensive line without giving them too much time to think or find the pass with the ball at their feet, but I just couldn't find anything that worked well enough against very skillful pacey players, that would just skate through my lines like it was nothing, or score almost impossible screamers with a terrifying ease.

Your setup looks like it could score a lot of goals, but would probably require really good players to work properly, what kind of team do you use it with?

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You don't need really good players, you just need the right players in the right roles. There's no point playing a FB at CWB if he is slow and can't cross and doesn't want to bomb forward. It would be better to retrain a winger to defend, even at the expense of marking and tackling. That sort of thing.

I always play as Forest. With a few additions we are always in Europe in two seasons.

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One way of dealing with a pacey attack is to stop it at source. Push high up the field (my defensive line is basically on half way) to compress the opposition. Don't set the Team Instructions to any sort of pressing at all, rather do it individually in the Player Instructions.

The defence is normally not told to press as they can step out of the line and leave gaps or be drawn to midfielders and away from the srtikers. Set the FB/CWB etc to Man Mark if you are very worried about wingers otherwise leave them as well.

Set one defender to Stopper and one to Cover. Make sure they both have high Anticipation and are good in the air. Set only one DM/HB etc to the same. This way you should maintain a defensive line that is always ready for counter attacks.

All other midfielders get Close Down More and the strikers get Close Down Much More.

Get all this right and the opposition will find it very hard to pass or dribble through you and be forced into lumping balls forward out of defence. The Stopper and the HB/DM will deal with balls in the air and if anything does get through, the Cover can chase back to clear.

I started a new game recently (in '15) whilst testing stuff in the beta of '16 and I just simulated the first season so I could start in the Premier and here are the goals for and against. If I ran the season manually, I would expect the goals against to be half that.

5n88ly.png[/img]

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