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Anatomy of a Liverpool Save

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What’s this thread about?

I’ve been playing Football Manager since the days it was text only and called Championship Manager. I’ve struggled ever since the introduction of roles and the removal of sliders. Clearly I’m doing something wrong.

I’ve decided to start a thread where I lay out the details of my Liverpool save as it progresses, from team selection, to tactics, to training and friendlies (and the thinking behind it all), in the hope that wiser heads can point out where I go wrong and struggling managers everywhere can learn from my mistakes.

I’m playing FMC: I can set scouting, individual training, opposition instructions and I don’t have to deal with team talks and press conferences. I’m starting at Liverpool (obviously).

In the beginning

The Squad

Let’s look at what I’ve been left by Brendan Rogers – there must be someone he hasn’t loaned out.


I see the squad as 2 GK (Mignolet, Bogdan), 1 DR (Clyne), 5 DC (Skrtel, Sakho, Lovren, Toure, Gomez), 2 DL (Moreno, Enrique), 2 DM (Can, Lucas), 2 MC (Milner, Allen), 4 AM (Coutinio, Firminio, Lallana, Ibe), 3 ST (Benteke, Ings, Origi).

I don’t have the funds to overhaul the squad, just tinker with it a bit. I’m inclined to try to get rid of Toure and lend Origi out once Sturridge is fit. Henderson, Sturridge and Flanagan are out injured for 2-3 months, 2-4 months and 6-8 months respectively so I’m not going to be able to count on them for a while.


4-2-3-1 Wide is attacking, lets me put my best players on the pitch at the same time and doesn’t isolate the lone striker. However, it’s awfully attacking and lacks cover for the fullbacks. I might get away with it if I can deal with opponents who try to use the space between the DCs and MCs. I would need to buy another AMC to give me five players for three positions.

4-1-2-3 DM Wide gives me a DM to shield the back four (who can act as an extra defender if the opponent plays two up) which would free up the FBs to be more adventurous. It has the drawbacks of a potentially isolated ST and space for opposition players behind the wingers. The wingers are going to have to contribute a lot to the attack. I would need to buy an MC to give me three players for two positions plus Henderson when he recovers from injury.

4-1-4-1 DM pulls the wingers back to wide midfield which denies the opponent space but leaves the ST very isolated. Also, Coutinio and Firminio aren’t known for their tacking which could be an issue. Still, it might work if our backs are against the wall and we could get some fast counter attacking out of it.

I think I’ll use 4-1-2-3 DM Wide as my base formation, with 4-2-3-1 Wide if I need to get attacking and 4-1-4-1 DM for defensive games.

4-1-2-3 DM WIDE

I’ve picked roles according to the depth I have in the Roles Overview:


IF(A) ------------------- AP(S)



WB(S) CD(St) BPD(Co) WB(A)


Looking at the roles + formation using the Pairs & Combinations thread, I have

• A ‘DM Triangle’ with a DLP(D) and B2B(S) as my Defend/Support combination and an RPM(S) as my creative outlet.

• A BPD(Co) & CD(St) combination is a Cover & Stopper mix

• I have an IF(A) & DLF(S) as a strike partnership

• On one wing I have a IF(A) & WB(S) with opposite duties (i.e. the WB occupies space vacated by the IF). On the other wing AP(S) & WB(A) (the WB looking to overlap the AP who will cut inside late)

• The SK(A) is because I want to play as high a defensive line as I can get away with and need him to be a sweeper as much as possible.

According to wwfan’s How to Play FM: A Twelve Step Guide, I have three specialist roles, so I’m going to choose Flexible Team Shape as my starting point.

I want to be defensively solid but still attack when we have the ball so Counter seems a good Mentality.


Slightly Higher Defensive Line. I want to play as high a defensive line as I can get away with to stop the opposition just playing the ball around in front of me.

Prevent Short GK Distribution. My midfield isn’t going to dominate aerial battles but if their goalkeeper had to play it long he may misplace the pass.

Pass Into Space + Run At Defence. I want the team to look to play through balls for runners and to be willing to attack the defence with the ball.

Retain Possession. I want my players to be patient with the ball instead of just lumping it forward and hoping.

Be More Expressive + Roam From Position. Hoping for good, creative play when we have the ball.

Work Ball Into Box. Patience rather than hit and hope.

Low Crosses. Used unless Benteke is up front. My strikers aren’t much of an aerial threat.


SK(A) – Pass It Shorter, Roll It Out. I want a keeper who acts like a sweeper but doesn’t just hoof the ball up field when he has it: there’s a reason he’s not an outfield player … .

CD(St) – Shorter Passing. I just want him to lay the ball off to a more creative player.

4-2-3-1 WIDE

Using the previous 4-1-2-3 DM Wide tactic as a base.

I’m going to convert the midfield player in front of the BPD(Co) into a CM(D), change the RPM(S) to B2B(S), and use an AM(A) to give me a balanced ‘AM Triangle’.

I’m also going to change the striker to CF(A) which gives me a Creator-Scorer partnership with the AM(A).

For the moment I’m going to keep the IF(A) as it is, but keep an eye on how it combines with the AM(A) and CF(A).


IF(A) ------- AM(A) ---- AP(S)

B2B(S) CM(D)

WB(S) CD(St) BPD(Co) WB(A)


I now only have 1 specialist role so I’ll shift the Team Shape to Fluid.

TIs and PIs kept the same.

4-1-4-1 DM

Using 4-1-2-3 DM Wide tactic as a base.

As my AM L/R have been pulled back I’m going to have to change their roles. After looking at the depth chart I’ve decided on WP(S) and W(A), and amended the mentality of the fullbacks to be opposite the wide man in front of them.


WP(S) RPM(S) B2B(S) W(A)


WB(A) CD(St) BPD(Co) WB(S)


I have three specialist roles, so I’m going to choose Flexible Team Shape as my starting point.

TIs and PIs kept the same.

Set Pieces

Attacking Corners

Anyone not accounted for is either on Go Forward or is taking the kick.

Stay Back: Both FBs to make sure I don’t get caught out from my own corners.

Stay Back If Needed: My most defensive minded central midfielder. Just in case the opponents decide to leave people up.

Lurk Outside The Area: An attack-minded central midfielder. He can round up any balls headed out and recycle possession.

Near Post Flick-on: One of the DCs.

Challenge Keeper: The other DC.

Attack Far Post: The ST.

Attack Ball From Deep: The other central midfielder.

Right Corners

As almost all my corner takers are right footed I’m going to set a wide player to Come Short and use Short Corners.

Left Corners

I’m going to leave this as Mixed and see which corners work best.

Defensive Corners

Default except that I’ve moved the ST to Edge of Area and both FB to Man Mark.

Attacking Free Kicks

Stay Back: Two FB.

Stay Back If Needed: The most defensively minded central midfielder.

Disrupt Wall: Another central midfielder.

Mark Keeper: One of the DCs.

Go Forward: Everyone else.

Delivery set to Best Header.

Defensive Free Kicks


Throw Ins


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Initial Actions

I cancel all my friendlies and set up seven new ones (two per week) against smaller reputation opponents. I want games we should win (to boost morale) but which will give my tactics at least a bit of a test.

I transfer list Toure in the hope of freeing up some wages and look for an MC and DR, using RPM (with Tackling and Teamwork added) and WB(A) (with Strength, Determination and Anticipation added) as search templates.

Training: I’m going to leave team training to my assistant but put everyone on individual training for the role I’m likely to ask them to play with the broadest range of skills.

1st Friendly


After 5 minutes I add the TI: Exploit The Flanks as they're packing out the middle. Also, set OIs of Tight Marking to their WBs as they are giving the opposition more width than us. I also update the Defensive Line to Higher Up as their front three are slower than my DCs.

After 22min they’ve had 61% of possession and a lot of it in our final third. This is clearly unacceptable. I’ll try the TI: Close Down More.

We manage to get their possession down to 58% by half time but they’re still dominating possession, territory, we only have one attempted interception in their half and we’re creating nothing. Our midfielders are sitting too deep when we have the ball. They’re slaughtering us down the flanks (as their WBs are very wide) and their lone striker is getting too much service, especially over the top.





2nd Half Plan:

Use my wingers to man-mark their WBs out of existence (and remove the OI).

Change Mentality to Control to push the midfield a bit farther up the field.

Change Defensive Line to Slightly Higher to deal with balls over the top and the effect of a more attacking mentality on the dline.

Change the RPM(S) to AP(A) to better occupy the space between midfield and attack.

Hang on a sec … they’ve changed to 4-1-4-1 at half time. Let’s take away Exploit The Flanks, and nullify their not-very-brave lone striker using OIs of Close Down and Hard Tackle – let the opposition pass him the ball when he doesn’t have support and then take it from him. Also, I’m not going to use the wingers to man mark their (now) FBs.

After 25minutes we are doing better with possession (up to 44%) and much better territorially.


We’re also playing slightly wider and higher up the pitch. We’ve also had 4 shots to their 1 in the 2nd half (compared to 2 against 5 in the 1st). I’m still not enormously happy but it’s a start. This being a friendly, everyone is unfit and I change 10 players.

We fail to score but outshoot them 10 to 1.


On reflection I shouldn't have used Pass Into Space as there wasn't the space to pass in to.

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Great thread. Love seeing people go to this kind of depth.

Some ideas/suggestions/feedback (take it all with a grain of salt):

  1. Your 4-1-2-3 Wide DM formation:
    - Think your roles need a bit of a rethink. My suggestions are to have at least one Attacking duty in your midfield three, and the obvious choice for that is the RPM. Otherwise you only have one player making runs into the box (AML). Your attack will be way too stagnant.
    - Maybe look at changing the left wing-back to a CWB (S). Thinking this may be better to get increased width down that left-hand side, while still retaining a bit of defensive stability.
    - The heat map from the first friendly shows that pretty much your entire play is going down the right side, which would be because this is where you have the best link-ups (BBM, AP, WB, DLF). On your left there's too much of a gap between WB and IF, and your RPM isn't providing the link between them. RPM role doesn't really do that anyway (not like the BBM which is a good water-carrier role). So that's why a CWB (S) may be better down the left.
    - I actually play a fairly similar formation with Ajax, but mine is a little more attacking (we can leak goals sometimes, but willing to take the risk). Have a look here if you're interested:
    (start talking about tactics at 1:40 mark). Have made a few changes in the second season though.
  2. Given all of the above though, I wouldn't read too much into friendlies. Especially if your team isn't up to full fluidity... personally find it makes an enormous differences, especially with possession based tactics.
  3. Against that formation you came up against, my approach would have been to play Narrower (either Fairly Narrow or Narrow), and then exploit the flanks. Basically the idea is to counter their strength in midfield by getting your team to play narrower and clog up the middle of the pitch, then when you're attacking, you want to make the most of your numerical superiority down the flanks and pull their formation apart using width. Always finds it works well whenever I come up against it. Give it a try and see how you go :)

That's pretty much it. Won't cover the other formations as I haven't got the time at the moment haha. But think you're generally on the right track :) Good luck!

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Good luck! I always want to write out my saves but I'm much too lazy. Can respect someone putting all the detail and effort in though!

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2nd Friendly

Same 4-1-2-3 DM Wide formation as the previous post.


I was going to remove TI’s Pass Into Space as they have two DMs (so there’s not going to be the space to pass into) and Roam From Positions because I think we need a bit more structure, but as they’re playing with a big gap between attack and defence, changing to something possession oriented which utilises my midfielders seems appropriate. Following the suggestions in Pairs & Combinations I change to:

Mentality: Control

TI: Pass Shorter, Retain Possession, Play Out of Defence, Work Ball into Box, Lower Tempo , Push Slightly Higher Up, Get Stuck In, Closing Down More.

Also, changed the MCR to a BWM(S) and MCL to AP(A).

After 15 minutes, we’ve had 1 shot to their 0, 58% possession (35% in their third of the pitch) and we definitely own the middle of the park. On the downside, we’re not creating much and our Passes (Defence) is 35% - which is odd, because they’ve completed 20 of 30 passes.


I’ll give the AP(A) and BWM(S) the PI of Get Further Forward as they’re both a bit too close to the DM when we have the ball.

The next half hour’s play shows the spacing between the DM and MCs is better and the heat map has shifted farther forward, but now the right wing AP(A) is too close to the right-sided MC. Also, every single one of his crosses has been intercepted. I’m happy with 59% possession but not a shot count of 3 against 1. With that much possession I ought to create more.


I’ll try using an Inside Forward(S) on the right and a Raumdeuter(A) on the left. Also, change the striker to CF(S) to try to get him more involved in the game. I’ve just realised I didn’t check how many specialist roles I have. *facepalm* That’s 4 (DLP, 2*AP, Raumdeuter) so I should try Structured (which I should have done since the start instead of Fluid).


Well, that was interesting. Our overall possession went up to 62%, we had 7 shots in the 2nd half (including 2 CCC) and the average positions in possession looks healthier to me. (I substituted lots of players after 50 minutes, hence the map running from 51 min).


Play is … different with a Structured approach. It is visibly more rigid. It’s much easier to see the attacks developing, but the opposition seemed to have an easier time attacking too. It could be that they changed tactics a bit, or maybe my players stick to their positions more. I’ve always favoured Fluid but I’m either going to have to tweak a Structured set up or generalise my roles because it didn’t work in the 1st half with 4 specialised roles and Fluid team structure.

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Great thread. Love seeing people go to this kind of depth.

Some ideas/suggestions/feedback (take it all with a grain of salt):

  1. Your 4-1-2-3 Wide DM formation:
    - Think your roles need a bit of a rethink. My suggestions are to have at least one Attacking duty in your midfield three, and the obvious choice for that is the RPM. Otherwise you only have one player making runs into the box (AML). Your attack will be way too stagnant.
    - Maybe look at changing the left wing-back to a CWB (S). Thinking this may be better to get increased width down that left-hand side, while still retaining a bit of defensive stability.
    - The heat map from the first friendly shows that pretty much your entire play is going down the right side, which would be because this is where you have the best link-ups (BBM, AP, WB, DLF). On your left there's too much of a gap between WB and IF, and your RPM isn't providing the link between them. RPM role doesn't really do that anyway (not like the BBM which is a good water-carrier role). So that's why a CWB (S) may be better down the left.


I played the 2nd friendly before reading this but ended up replacing the RPM with AP(A) anyway. I am inclined to change the left WB(S) to CWB(S) for the 3rd game, the focus on the right side concerned me too; the CWB might get past the IF more and offer some attacking width on that side instead of the IF.

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3rd Friendly

We’ve finally signed some players!

Torosidis will be a back up to Clyne at DR but can also play DL so he’ll get playing time and be a regular on the subs bench.


Lima is a quality central midfield player ideally suited to Advanced Playmaker with his Vision, Passing, Dribbling and Technique.


That wipes me out financially but at least gives me a bit of depth. I’m also going to try to offload Toure as he may not get many games.

I’m going to implement the same TIs as the previous game plus Prevent Short GK Distribution.


With the following Roles:


IF(A) ---------------------- IF(S)





With 3 specialist roles (AP, BWM, DLP) I could go for either Structured or Flexible. I’m going to try Flexible to start with and maybe switch to Structured later to see how much difference there is.

The opposition are playing a bog standard 4-4-2 so I’m not going to make any changes to my set-up.


That was interesting. 18 shots, 2 clear cut chances, 5 half chances, 68% possession with 15% in the final third.


The heat map shows a good, balanced distribution and I’m fairly happy with the average position of my players. The left-sided CWB(S) sits at the same level as the WB(A).


Also, our movement is spread across the width of the pitch which is a good sign.


The WB(A) has had 6 dribbles, made 18 passes (none key) and received 19 passes. The CWB(S) has had 3 dribbles, made 28 passes (6 key, all in the corner) and received 19 passes. The difference in dribbling is probably explained by the DR having the PPM of Runs With Ball Often, so nothing structural to worry about.

Whilst I’m happy with how the game has gone I’m going to change the Team Shape to Structured to see what difference it makes to how we play. I’m also going to change all 11 players as I try to get everyone up to match fitness.


The second half was somewhat less dominant than the first but as we used a 2nd XI I’m not going to read too much into that. The heat map shows pretty much the same relative positioning of the players as the 1st half but a bit deeper as we weren’t on the front foot as much.


There wasn’t much going on down the wings, which is disappointing.


Overall I prefer the way we play with a Team Shape of Flexible rather than Structured. The play seems more fluid and varied.

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This is a fantastic thread with a lot of potential, can't wait to get the time to read it properly tonight. Great work mate, I just wanted to post to let you know I was reading because it's disheartening at times to put so much effort in and then to think no-one is reading.

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I'll echo Cleon, thankyou for making the effort to document your progress. Having started with Liverpool this year 3 times already getting sacked just after Christmas, it is appreciated to get some insight into how to get it working.

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Thanks for the encouraging comments.

Having to explain what I'm doing, and why, forces me to think about what I'm doing and analyse games. The last few years I've just used other people's ready made tactics and ended up with a handful of tactics from various folk which didn't follow the same philosophy (and so demanded different sorts of players). When they stopped working I didn't know how to adapt them so I'd download more tactics in the hope of hitting on something that would work. I didn't enjoy the last couple of campaigns very much.

Hopefully by doing this I'll develop a decent working understanding of tactics and the ME in FM, not Cleon or wwfan level but competent, and get more out of playing the game because I have some idea how what I do affects how my team play. That said, I am stealing heavily from Pairs & Combinations and How to Play FM: A Twelve Step Guide.

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4th Friendly

I’m fairly happy with how the 4-1-2-3 DM Wide is working with a Team Shape of Flexible (based on a whole 45 minutes of football), so I’m going to experiment with 4-2-3-1 Wide.

I’ll use the current 4-1-2-3 DM Wide as a base

Mentality: Control

Team Shape: Flexible


IF(A) ------- AP(S) ------- IF(S)




I have 2 specialist Roles (DLP, AP) which still suits Flexible but with an option of Fluid if needed. Everything else is the same as 4-1-2-3 DM Wide.

The opposition are playing a defensive 4-2-1-3 DM Wide, so I’m going to add the TI: Exploit The Flanks and OIs to their ST of Close Down and Hard Tackling – I don’t mind them playing the ball up to him as long as we can take it off him afterwards. [Apparently I forget to add Exploit The Flanks until the 60th minute. *facepalm*.]



It’s not a terrible first half, 63% possession, 12 shots against their 3, 80% pass completion.


Territorially we were good, 36% possession in the middle third and 28% in the final third, but it felt a bit laboured and samey.

Looking at the heat+positions map, the AP(S) is too close to the B2B(S), but I don’t want to make him an AP(A) as he may then be too close to the CF(A). I’ll offset him to the right to try to create some space. To avoid the AP(S) occupying the same space as the IF(S) on the right I’ll convert the IF(S) to a W(S), which may add some variety to the attack.



Ok, that made a difference. We looked much better in attack, more varied in position and outshot them 9 to 3 with 3 CCC. The change didn’t affect the amount of possession but we definitely looked better. Adding Exploit The Flanks in the 60th minute helped stretch play too. The IF(A) on the left scored 4 goals, 3 from crosses from the right (two in the 2nd half).

However, the heat+position map shows the AP(S) is now too close to the DLP(D) ... .


I want to move the AP(S) forward a bit but can’t use the Get Further Forward PI with that role. I’ll try Move Into Channels in the next game first; if that doesn’t work then make him an AP(A) and see what happens. I’ll keep him offset to the right though as he doesn’t have to push as far forward to get away from the MC behind him.

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I've been using the 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-4-1 as well and have been having much better success. The low point was Hendo coming back from injury and then tearing a calf muscle in training without playing a single match. He's now out for 3-4 additional months.

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5th Friendly

I’m using an entire 2nd XI so this match may be tougher than the others. Other than adding Move Into Channels to the AP(S), I changed the BPD(Co) to CD(Co) with the PI Pass Shorter as Gomez isn’t ready to be a BPD.


They’re lined up in essentially the same formation as us. My instinct would be to go to 4-1-2-3 DM Wide to stifle their AMC and help out my defence, but I’m going to stick with 4-2-3-1 Wide because I want to sort out that formation and it’s a friendly – if I don’t experiment now, then when?

After 33 minutes it’s obvious that Move Into Channels on the AP(S) really hasn’t helped so I convert him to AP(A). It moves him forward, but not as much as I feared.


Their goals concern me. A ball over the top to their AMR takes out my left back and he had an obvious target in their striker because there’s a big gap between my CD(St) and CD(Co) – Lovren gets caught out and Gomez is way too deep.

And in the second they just play through the defence, Gomez gets drawn to the ball, even though there are already players there, and lets their player just run into the gap.


I think I may have to keep Toure around and lend Gomez out instead.

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6th Friendly

I think I have a decent basic 4-2-3-1 Wide, so I’m going to try to sort out the 4-1-4-1 DM in the next couple of games (again using the 4-1-2-3 DM Wide as a base).

The big problems I see with 4-1-4-1 DM is the big gap between midfield and attack and there’s only one striker up there. The formation means I’ll have players behind the ball when defending, but I need players to flood up the pitch when we have the ball, so I’m going to need more attack duties than before.

Wide Playmaker (Attack) looks like the best duty for Coutinio (ML). This has a few knock on effects:

• That puts him next to an Advanced Playmaker (Attack)., so swap the MCL and MCR so BWM(S) is MCL and AP(A) is MCR.

• Swap the CDL and CDR to keep the covering defender behind the support mid and the stopper defender behind the attack mid.

• As the WP(A) on the left will cut inside, make the MR a Winger (Attack) for variation and width.

• As both wide midfielders are on Attack duty, make both FBs CWB(S).

• The extra playmaker means I have 4 specialist roles (DLP, BWM, AP, WP) so I’ll go to Structured Team Shape.







They’re playing a Defensive 4-4-1-1. I’m going to leave everything as it and see how it goes.


After 21 minutes, possession is even but we’re spending time in the right parts of the pitch, and miring them in midfield.


Our shape with the ball has a familiar look to it.


However, there’s a certain amount of hoof-it-up-to-the-striker and I’m not happy with the way we’re attacking. I’d like to change Structured to Flexible but I have too many specialist roles for it to be a good idea. I have three playmakers which may be pushing it. I’ll change the AP(A) to CM(A) (more of a hard working water-carrier role) and go to Flexible.


That didn’t change things as much as I’d hoped. It’s all still a bit rigid and stratified. At half time I change the W(A) to W(S) and the fullback behind him to WB(A). Ten minutes into the 2nd half it’s still dull and uninspired. They’re packing the middle a bit so try Exploit The Flanks and Look For Overlap. The movement is a little better but now the fullbacks are too attacking so I set the DM to Anchor(D) to provide cover for the two central defenders.

Although we win 1-0 and out shoot them 16 – 3 (2 CCC, 3 HC) I just don’t like the way it plays. There’s only one person up front when we get the ball and it’s not playing the way I’d like to play.

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I've been using the 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-4-1 as well and have been having much better success. The low point was Hendo coming back from injury and then tearing a calf muscle in training without playing a single match. He's now out for 3-4 additional months.

Feel free to explain how your 4-1-4-1 works because mine was poor.

My sympathies on Henderson. You spend (game) months looking forward to him coming back and then he's cruelly snatched away.

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I´ve felt so far that getting the most out of my lone FC is by using him as an Trequartista. Also been playing both my Fullbacks as CWA to get some attacking play going and both of this has worked out nice. Yet still struggling with the use of mentality and style of play :(

Playing a 4-1-2-3 DM Wide, Counter/Rigid

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7th Friendly

Maybe the issue in the previous match was that I expected something more counter attacking from it. Instead of counter attacks and people storming up the pitch, it’s more suited to a cautious advance, controlling the ball and moving together up together as a team.

If we’re to move together as a team then the mentality throughout the team needs to be close together, which means as fluid a team shape as possible, which in turn means getting rid of as many specialist roles as I can.

I’ve decided to keep the ML as a Wide Playmaker as I like that he’ll come infield ahead of the MCL. The rest I’ve generalised.






I’m using Standard Mentality with Very Fluid Team Shape. The TIs and PIs are the same as the previous game.

They’re playing a Defensive 5-3-2 WB (screenshot not taken until half time because I was being sat on by a cat.)



After 10min I remember that Lucas Lima and Lallana can dribble well so I give them the PI Dribble More.

The 1st half was so much better than the previous game. Despite lowering the Mentality from Control to Standard, going from Flexible to Very Fluid has made my fullbacks more attacking and my striker less attacking (and thus less isolated from the rest of the team). I’m even getting an overlap on the right side without having to use a TI.

Despite not scoring, the stats are good for shots and possession.


The ball is outside our back third of the pitch for 95% of the time.


I’m happy with our average positions with the ball.


And our interceptions show we’re creating a defensive wall near the halfway line.


There are a couple of flies in the ointment though. Firstly, we’re linking up much better on the right than the left. I’d like the left FB to get more involved but I also need to maintain some defensive solidity.


Secondly, my striker has been anonymous. Ings has not had a shot in the entire 45 minutes and is our lowest rated player.


I’m going to try changing my left FB from CWB(S) to WB(A) and making my striker a DLF(S).


After 20 minutes I have to swap players to make sure everyone gets some game time and improves match fitness but the change to the left fullback has made a difference, he now gets past the WP(A), who is cutting inside, and offers another passing option to him. My striker is still anonymous though. Changing the CF(S) to DLF(S), then later DF(A) makes no difference. Either I need to try another role for the lone striker (False Nine?) or swap him for an AMC.

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Feel free to explain how your 4-1-4-1 works because mine was poor.

My sympathies on Henderson. You spend (game) months looking forward to him coming back and then he's cruelly snatched away.

I only use it against the top tier EPL teams. I beat Man U 1-0, which got Van Gaal fired so I consider that a double victory. I also used it against Man City for a 0-0 draw. I think I am on the verge of being fired though in early Nov of 1st season. 2 straight injury time losses and a crushing 4-0 home defeat to Dnipro in Europa League. I am currrently in 3rd place in a very easy group and 12th in the league. Emre Can is being his usual pain in the ass in-game, causing locker room trouble. This is my 3rd restart and he has caused issues early in each season which doesn't seem to be his real-life demeanor.

Overall, my tactics seem to be the biggest trouble. I'm not sure why it takes 4 months to get a team to Competent in a style they should be able to play in their sleep. This has been the most frustrating part of the game.

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The Season Proper

Our last friendly is two weeks before the first game of the new season so everyone is fresh.

The two transfers wiped us out so we can only offer Normal Bonuses for the season.

Competition Expectations:

Premier League – Qualify for the Champion’s League.

FA Cup – Semi Final.

League Cup – Don’t Care.

UEFA League – Reach Group Stages.

EPL 2015/16, Game 1 - Bournemouth

According to the scouting report they’re most likely to play 4-4-2.

They have one fast striker and two plodders so I’ll just have to decide on a defensive line when I know who they’ve picked. I suspect they’ll go for one fast and one slow.

None of their defenders are particularly fast but Distin can hold his own physically and is good in the air so I’ll pick Ings as he’s slightly faster than Benteke.

Other than Ings for Benteke, it’s my normal starting XI. I’m going to plump for my intended default formation of 4-1-2-3 DM Wide.

Sure enough, they opt for speedy Wilson up front. I’ll drop my dline to Normal and see how it goes. Slightly nervous as this is the first match to actually matter.



Well, that went splendidly. 3-0 up and in complete control. One from a corner (I changed the routine), one from a free kick (unchanged) and one from open play. They haven’t been able to trouble us with through balls or knocking a balls over the top.


Our positioning with the ball is good.


Coutinio is causing havoc as the left-sided IF and Moreno is getting lots of space to run in to as a result.


Our possession/territory is lovely.



After 50 minutes we’re 4-0 up and Bournemouth replace one not-very-fast striker with an even slower one.

Bournemouth seem to get more into the game so, after 71 minutes, I change to 4-1-4-1 (with Ings as an F9 and the DM as an Anchor) to see if it is useful for closing out a game. The jury’s out on that change, a variation on my starting formation might work better.

A 4-0 win (albeit against weaker opposition), a Coutinio hat-trick and 3 assists for Ings. Not a bad start.

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EPL 2015/16, Game 2 - Watford

According to the scouting report, they’re most likely to use 4-2-3-1 DM Wide. I’m going to go for my default 4-1-2-3 DM Wide and try to rule midfield.

Mostly the same XI as last time but whilst Ings would have a slight edge on their defenders in terms of pace, Benteke has a definite edge in aerial ability to I’m going to use him up front.


Yup, they’re playing what’s expected, I’ll add the TI Exploit The Flanks. Their front man has much the same pace as Sakho, our covering defender, so I’m going to leave the defensive line at Slightly Higher.

They’re playing on the counter, despite being at home. This game is proving somewhat harder than the last. We aren’t attacking very well and the defenders are hoofing the ball up field. I’m going to try the same idea I used with the 4-1-4-1: take away all but one of the specialist roles and go to Very Fluid with Standard Mentality. The DM becomes DM(D) and MCR becomes CM(S).

Almost immediately we take the lead after Lallana is brought down in the penalty area but the FBs are now a bit too attacking and we’re struggling down the flanks when they get the ball. Changing to Counter makes things slightly more solid, but their wide players are still too much of an outlet. Whilst we’ve had more shots and possession, they’ve made better chances.


I’m going to try 4-1-4-1 with Counter Mentality and see if that helps. Also, I’m going to show their wingers inside, and try to bully their AMC with Tackle Harder and Close Down as he has low strength and bravery.

After 46 minutes they have a man sent off and remove their AMR. I go straight back to 4-1-2-3 DM Wide and change to Counter and Exploit the Left Flank, setting the DR to WB(S) and the AMR as IF(A) to offer some solidity on the side where they still have a wing player, and use IF(S) and WB(A) on the my left where they don’t. When it becomes obvious they’re still trying to chase the game I change to Attacking with a Normal dline and that kills the game. We win 3-0.

The lone striker wasn't as involved as the previous game but I'm loath to use Trequarista as it's a lazy role in a hard-working pressing system. It was not in any way a convincing performance and we have Man City coming up next. Eek!

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EPL 2015/16, Game 3 – Man City

The scouting report suggests they’ll play 4-2-3-1 Wide so I’ll stick to the usual formation.

Yup, as predicted. Aguero and Silva have the legs on my defenders. I think we’re going to have to play on the counter because they’re better than us. Counter mentality but Slightly Higher Line because reducing the mentality two steps dragged the dline back too far.



Initially we’re a bit overrun so I reduce our closing down to keep a better defensive shape. After 12 minutes we’re 2-0 up, with Moreno (DL) creating a goal out of nothing and Milner converting a penalty. They’re now on the attack which means more space if/when their attacks fail so I’ll try an Attacking mentality (use the space) with a Slightly Deeper dline. I’m not happy about dragging the defensive line that far back but Normal is too far forward.

The more attacking mentality is encouraging players to punt the ball up to the lone striker before he has support. Plan B: Standard Mentality, Normal dline, Very Fluid, Pass Into Space. That improves the attacking movement but we’re still struggling to contain them when the come forward.

They score two goals in seven minutes so I decide to go back to my original tactics (but keeping Pass Into Space) as the scores are level again. Almost immediately we score and go into half-time 3-2 up. Maybe I should stop tinkering with the tactics so much.

I do add Close Down and Left Foot (crossing isn’t his strongest suit) to Nasri, their AML and best player. I also Man Mark Zabeleta (their DR) with Coutinio (my AML) as he was being a nuisance. They equalise after the 65 minute and it’s backs against the wall time. For some reason we don’t kick seven shades of sh*te out of Raheem Sterling when he comes on.

We get battered for the next 25 minutes but hold on, just trying to keep the ball as much as possible.


Seven points from three games is a better start than I expected.

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We’re drawn against QPR of the Championship in the League Cup. We get Gelsenkirchen, Panathinaikos and Vorskia in the UEFA League. Let the fixture pile up commence.

My default 4-1-2-3 DM Wide has stood up to the test of the first three games so I’m going to stop going into detail about it and focus on adapting to specific circumstances i.e. how the opponent is playing, specific opposition player weaknesses & strengths, odd formations etc. I definitely need a version of it which copes better when the opponent is having a go at us. I’m inclined to try just a more direct version to take advantage of the space left by advancing opponents, rather than a counter attacking version but I’ll do a little more reading of threads before putting something together.

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It has been a really good read. This thread definitely has potential. Keep the updates coming!

P.S.: Stop tinkering so much maybe? :p

I am The Tinkerman.

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A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Led astray by delusions of competence, I started to look at everything – team reports, manager profiles etc to tweak things to extract the maximum advantage and lost sight of the basics. I’m going to stop that and just focus on the fundamentals (what formation are they using, are their attackers faster than my defenders) and work out the rest from what I see happening on the pitch.

Our results during my period of obsessive detail were:

(A) West Brom 3-0

(H) Newcastle 1-1

(H) Gelsenkirchen 0-0

Om the plus side, Hendserson is back and Sturridge should start proper training in a week or two.

EPL 2015/16, Game 6 – West Ham

They’re playing 4-4-1-1 so I’ll stick to my default 4-1-2-3 DM Wide. As we played only three days ago I rest a few players and give Henderson a start, even though he’s very short of match fitness and I’ll need to substitute him at some point.

Even though we’re at home, West Ham are stretching play down the wings and committing men forward. We’re creating more chances, and even take the lead, but I can see that changing if we don’t restrain their play. After 22 minutes I switch to Counter for more defensive solidity and TI Pass Into Space because they’re leaving space to pass into. The change helps to stifle their attacks and despite possession being relatively even, we’re dominating chances and I’m a little disappointed to only be leading by one goal at half time.


In the second half I take off Retain Possession, change the Passing Style and Tempo to Normal as they have been pressing (matching their manager’s Pressing Style of Closing Down?) when we have possession. It change the way we play a bit but doesn’t actually hurt our possession. Towards the end of the game, when we’re 3-0 up, I go reverse those changes but up the passing to More Direct which definitely makes our attacks snappier and I may try again in another game. With a Lower Tempo they should hold on to the ball until they see an opening, but with a More Direct passing style their range of passing will be greater.


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Really enjoying this thread! Like how you show your thinking-process, has made me think more about making small alterations depending on your opponent

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We get past QPR 1-0 using a virtual 2nd XI. The board don’t care about the League Cup so I use it to keep squad players happy and give Henderson some more match time. Enrique gets injured and will be out for 3-4 months. :-(

EPL 2015/16, Game 7 – Tottenham Hotspurs

Spurs have started the last 12 games 4-2-3-1 Wide so I know what I’m likely to be up against! They have a speedy young side with a number of players I’d quite like to have. I’m going to drop my mentality down to Standard for the start of the game and see how things go. It takes all of two minutes to see that they’re quite attacking and committing their fullbacks forward. After ten minutes I decide I need to react to this and change to Counter with More Direct passing and Distribute Quickly to the GK (try to catch their wingers upfield). That fails, they press the ball when we have it and just rob our players (again, a manager with Pressing Style: Closing Down). We’re getting battered.

Plan C: go back to Retain Possession, Play Out Of Defence, Shorter Passing but go for Higher Tempo so we’re not caught in possession.

We’re 2-0 down at half time, they’re had 11 shots (2 CCC 1HC) to our 5 and their AML is causing chaos. Their penalty was completely unjustified – honest. We’re playing better but still on the wrong end of this. I’ll try 4-1-4-1, to get men behind the ball and reduce the space for their wingers, with an Attacking Mentality and see how that goes. I’m also going to try to mark their AML out of the game. We’re pretty much closing down everyone except their ST and AMR, Hard Tackle on their MCs and DCs, we’re man marking their AML.

That works far better, we’re much more in the game. They’re having a harder time attacking and we’re holding on to the ball and creating chances. We pull it back to 2-1 straight away, miss a penalty, they have a player sent off, we take a 3-2 lead and they equalise from a cross from the flanks. Much as I like our wing play, I’m going to have to do something about that as it’s our biggest vulnerability.

We equalised shots and possession and were disappointed to draw in the end, but we’d have taken a point if offered it at the start of the game. After 7 games we’re 2nd, undefeated and only 1 point off the top so it’s a pretty good start really.


Looking at the movement map, you can see that their AML tore us a new one.


And how they were able to cross from the byline.



UEFA League 2015/16, Verskla

They’ve started every match 4-2-3-1 Wide. Still scarred form the last game, I’m going to play 4-1-4-1. We take a 2 goal lead inside 10 minutes, they have two men sent off and it finishes 4-1.

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EPL 2015/16, Game 8 – Swansea City

They’ve started their last 17 games with 4-4-1-1. I’m going to stick to 4-1-2-3 DM Wide as it gives me three defensive players (two DC and 1 DM) to their 2 attacking players (ST, AM).

Well, that’s annoying. They’re gone for a Defensive 4-2-3-1 DM


Looking at the scouting report almost all of the goals assists, both for and against, are on their left. We’ll see how that plays out.

Their striker is no faster than my defenders and could be quite isolated. I’m going to add the TIs Exploit The Flanks and Run At Defence (it’s going to be hard to play through their defence so maybe we can carry the ball through instead). Their striker is quite good at holding the ball up, but given his potential isolation, I’m inclined not to mark him tightly, just Close Down and Weaker Foot. I’m going to try that with their MR, MC and ML in the hope of panicking them into hoofing the ball forwards.

They really offer very little going forwards; it looks as though they anticipated a humping and came just trying to survive. We break the deadlock in injury time and go into the break 1-0 up.

Although possession has been relatively even, the action zone map tells the true story with the ball spending 36% of the time in their third and just 9% in ours.



We’ve also put in 23 crosses to their 1. Generally, the plan has worked fairly well, although I did try converting Benteke from CF(S) to DLF(A) to see if that improved his involvement. Given they have 2 CDs and 2 DMs, he may have to drop deeper to get the ball but I want him to be willing to attack when the option is there.

I add Hold Up Ball to our IF(S) to give Clyne more of a chance to go past him and give the defenders a dilemma of who to follow. Also, remove the TI: Work Ball Into Box as they’re parking the bus and we could try some pot shots and earlier crosses. Milner’s PPM of Tries Killer Balls Often seems to translate to ‘hoof the ball up to Benteke’. I change the two MCs to CM(A) and CM(S) and got to Team Shape Very Fluid.

After 56 minutes they bring on Shelvey and play more attacking football (without changing formation). I go to Counter, add the TI Work Ball Into Box and remove Run At Defence. They are much more into the game once they start going forward but we hold on for the win.


Counter versions of 4-1-2-3 DM Wide haven’t worked when sides have attacked us. I think I should just go to 4-1-4-1 which puts 10 men behind the ball, rather than the 8 of 4-1-2-3 DM Wide.

EPL 2015/16, Game 9 - Stoke

They’re likely to start 4-4-1-1 so. Again, 4-1-2-3 DM Wide, but with a Normal defensive line because their striker is properly fast and a set of OIs designed to send their wide players inside (plus Hard Tackle on one player with Bravery & Strength less than 10).

After 5 minutes I change the AMR from IF(S) to W(S) and add the TI: Exploit The Flanks as they’re packing the middle when they don’t have the ball. After 20 minutes I drop the mentality to Counter with a Slight Higher dline as it’s still slightly deeper than Control + Normal. Entertaining as the end to end football is, it’s not productive for either side. So, make both MCs into CMs and go to Very Fluid. They score from a cross from deep but it’s nothing to do with the change.

At half time they lead 1-0 despite us having 64% possession and 6 shots (1 HC) to their 2. I try 4-1-4-1 to get people behind the ball as they’re sending their FBs forward. We aren’t threatening until we abandon the idea of defending, and attack them instead by going back to 4-1-2-3 DM Wide. We pull a goal back but can’t manage more than that. Attacking them was a gamble but we weren’t getting anywhere being conservative.

Clearly I’m going to have to work on understanding when to go defensive or offensive when the opposition are having success attacking us.

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UEFA League 2015/16, Panathinaikos

They use similar formations to use, with 4-1-2-3 DM Wide and 4-2-3-1 Wide. 2-2 draw with squad players.

EPL 2015/16, Game 10 - Chelsea

Chelski lead the league by 3 points, so this is going to be a tough one. They habitually line up 4-2-3-1 Wide, so I’ll stick to my usual.

After 22 minutes, we’re edging possession (57%) but they’ve had 2CCC and 2HC already and we’ve just had 1 long shot. I change to 4-1-4-1 DM (Standard + Very Fluid) which dulls their attack a little and keeps good ball retention. We score from a cross 9 minutes later so I add Exploit The Flanks and Fairly Wide as our best efforts (and the goal) have come from the flanks.

The TIs don't help, so I take them off at half time. As their formation is balanced, we need the threat and possession in the middle of the field to give our wide men opportunities. I add Hit Early Crosses and Low Crosses because their central defenders are relatively slow and Sturridge isn't good in the air so hopefully we'll get angled through balls to him. After 5 minutes we score a penalty so I add Pass Into Space as they’re going to have to come forward, and give the GK the PI of Slow Pace Down. Finally, after 57 minutes of constant fouling they have a player booked, As expected, they attack to try to get back into the game but, although they score one goal, we look as dangerous counter attacking them as they do attacking us.

The stats show we were fortunate to win, they had more and better shots, and our goalkeeper was man of the match, but I’ll take the points and we made some of their players look very ordinary indeed.



We were able to get at them down the flanks without suffering too much ourselves.



However, they were able to play too many key passes from the edge of the box and create much better chances than us.



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League Cup 2015/16, Stoke

As the board don’t care about the League Cup, and we have a game a few days after, I field and entire 2nd XI. We start off with Attack mentality, expecting them to attack us, but they’re circumspect so I change to Counter to try to draw them out. We take a 1-0 lead. At half time I decide to have some fun and change to Attack + Very Fluid (having removed specialist roles). It may not be tactically sound but it’s entertaining. We pick up another goal and win a reasonably comfortable 2-0.

EPL 2015/16, Game 11 - Norwich

They’ve previously started 17 matches 4-2-3-1 Wide and 2 4-4-2, however, their manager’s preferred defensive formation is 4-1-4-1. Nothing I can’t handle with a DM who can move to MC, and an MC who can play AMC if I need to change formation.

They decide on 4-2-3-1 Wide. I stick Hard Tackling on two of their punier players. They score after 1:05 – I don’t think we even touched the ball. I don’t panic, the only alteration I make is after 10 minutes, to ask my AMR(Inside Forward, Support) to sit slightly narrower as he was a bit too close to the full back and we equalise. They are getting at us on the flanks so at half time I drop the CWB to WB and WB to FB. We also drop the specialist roles and go Very Fluid and Attacking. This is much more solid and we’re making chances. After 60 minutes, Norwich go to 4-1-4-1 so I change to 4-2-3-1 Wide and Very Fluid but maintaining the more defensive fullbacks. In spite of dominating we’re unable to break down their defence and can only draw 1-1.


When the report of our loan players comes up, I transfer list everyone who doesn’t have at least 3 star potential, plus Balotelli.

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UEFA League 2015/16, Panathinaikos

They play 4-2-3-1 Wide, we stick to our usual 4-1-2-3 DM Wide with some squad players thrown in because the board don’t expect us to get out of the group anyway and I’m concentrating on the league. After 45 minutes we’re hammering them but can’t stick the ball in the net. Their goalkeeper is the highest rated player on the pitch.


I try going to 4-2-3-1 Wide for 15 minutes but it’s too end-to-end, last-ditch defending for me. When they bring on a faster striker I go back to 4-1-2-3 DM Wide but with a Counter mentality to try to make space for us to play in. I continue to use Run At Defence because they’re being defensive.

Eventually we score in the 79th minutes, change back to Control and take off Run At Defence. We get a 2nd in injury time and now top the group. We created 4CCC and 6HC but for 78 minutes it looked like it was going to be one of those days.


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EPL 2015/16, Game 12 – Manchester Utd

This is going to be another tough one, especially with a few players still tired from our European adventures. According to the scouting report they’re likely to play 4-2-3-1 Wide.

They set up as expected. I add Hard Tackle to Ashley Young because he’s a bit of a wuss. Unfortunately, he appears to have our DL on toast. This is going to be a long game. I change the DL from CWB(S) to WB(S), tell our DM (Can) to man mark their AMC (Mata), and tell both the IFs to Sit Narrower to provide more support for our ST.

The changes improve us defensively and we’re having possession but not creating anything. Removing specialist roles from the two MCs and going to Very Fluid makes us much better going forward. I also set Hit Early Crosses and Low Crosses but I’m not sure if that had any effect.

It’s still level at half-time so a little tinkering is in order. Ashley Young seems to be a common outlet for them so I set Tight Marking on him. I’m also going to bring both my IFs into the centre as AMs and Exploit The Middle.

They’re attacking us so I add Pass Into Space and set our DM as Anchor.

That experiment lasts all of 15 minutes, we are terrible going forward, and revert to our pre-interval plan. On 60 minutes they replace Rooney with Lingard and I set Close Down and Hard Tackle on him because he’s not physical. Later I change my AML to W(A) to add variety to the attack. It turned out to be a fairly even match, and our first goalless Premier League game. We did manage to quiet Ashley Young down.


We head into the international break 3rd in the table, 3 points off the top, and top of our group in the UEFA League. Naturally we then lose two players to injury, Lovren and Allen (who had just come back from a minor injury). I’d better make Toure unavailable for the reserves so I have one spare defender.

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You're doing pretty darn well for someone who struggles with the new tactical system :D

Keep up the good work. Gives us fellow "strugglers" hope.

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EPL 2015/16, Game 13 – Aston Villa

They’re most likely to play 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow. I’m going to go for a modified 4-1-2-3 DM Wide:


W(A) --------------- IF(S)





with ...


... and see how it goes

We take the lead after 6 minutes, and Aston Villa aren’t having a sniff, but after 20 minutes I change from Run At Defence to Pass Into Space and remove Work Into Box to look for more of a cutting edge (we’ve had 4 shots to their 0, but 3 have been long shots). Also, Hit Early Crosses as Sturridge is faster than their central defenders. We continue to create chances (now 9 shots, 1CC 2HC) but haven’t increased our lead (missed a penalty after 30 minutes). Their DR is causing problems as he stays wide when he advances but our DL gets drawn inside so I set Tight Marking on him.

I’m going to change things a little at half time and set the left side as W(S) WB(A) and the right IF(A) CWB(S). Also, remove Hit Early Crosses, Pass Into Space, Low Crosses and Exploit The Flanks and just trust the players to find the right idea. After another 15 minutes I restore Exploit The Flanks *shrug*. Our RB is getting lots of time as the IF(A) pins their DL back. As time goes on they’re all over us and I don’t know what to do about it. If we’re defensive, they have too much time, and if we attack they get in behind us. I’ll try 4-1-4-1 with Exploit The Flanks and Fairly Narrow. With the goal keeper instructed to slow things down, and Work Ball Into Box meaning we play the ball around, hopefully we can play keep ball to wind the clock down.

We hold on by the skin of our teeth.

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So, what have we learned from 3½ months of competitive play?

1. We struggle when teams attack us.

a. Defending more doesn’t help.

b. Attacking more leaves us vulnerable.

2. I like how we play when we have Team Mentality: Very Fluid. It brings the mentality of the front and back players very close together so the fullbacks tend to bomb forward and the ST and AMR/L are less isolated but the roles/duties might need a bit of tinkering with as there’s a tendency to over commit going forward and we can lose shape.

3. 4-1-2-3 DM Wide (Team Mentality: Flexible) is fairly solid but still offers an attacking threat: we’ve only conceded 13 goals in 19 games and scored 38.

a. It still needs some work as the attacking players can get isolated, and the way we use it isn’t suited to counter attacking, but it’s good for possession.

b. We don’t play many through balls to Sturridge, even though he’s faster then many defenders. Possibly because he’s on Support duty, but an Attack duty might leave him even more isolated.

c. Our top two crossers are the DR and AMR by a massive amount but their completion ratio isn’t great at 13% (16 of 122 and 12 of 92). It’s still better than our DL at 4 of 44 but not great.

d. The AML on Attack can get stranded up field.

e. A
Slightly Higher
dline works well with a Sweeper Keeper, even without massively speedy defenders.

4. Set Pieces are an irrelevance. We’ve scored 1 goal from a knock down from a corner and haven’t conceded more than 1 or 2. We’ve only scored 1 free kick but haven’t conceded any.

What next?

1. Modify the 4-1-2-3 DM Wide to be more defensively responsible when Very Fluid.

2. Develop a counter attacking version of 4-1-2-3 DM Wide. I’m not sure whether to count the AMR/L as midfield or attack. If they act as midfielders then I don’t want to play direct as it bypasses midfield.

3. Try a high tempo short passing version of 4-1-2-3 DM Wide.

4. Change my attacking set piece instructions.

It's still going better than expected though ...


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Uefa League 2015/16, Gelsenkirchen

They’re most likely to play 4-4-2 so we stick to 4-1-2-3 DM Wide with some squad players thrown in because the board don’t expect us to get out of the group anyway and I’m concentrating on the league. We use Control + Very Fluid, with:


W(A) ------------- IF(S)



WB(S) CD(St) BPD(Co) FB(A)


After 10 minutes, I pull the dline back to Normal as their striker has the same Acceleration but more Pace than our defenders and they’re only just catching him. After 20 minutes, we’re not creating anything and they’re having decent possession. As they’re causing problems by committing men forward I’m going to experiment with a more attacking, direct approach.



[edit] Playing style appropriate roles and TIs taken from Pairs & Combinations thread.

It’s interesting. Much more end to end and we’re more in the game. After 15 minutes more, I remove Work Ball Into Box and make the AML into an IF(A). Their DLs are a nuisance but I’m reluctant to do too much about them as I don’t want everyone behind the ball. We score a nice free kick to lead 1-0 at half time.

I add Exploit The Flanks to try to take advantage of space on the wings when they commit their wide men forwards. That seems to make our attacks better as we’re spreading play across the width of the pitch. We score another couple of goals of exactly the sort I want us to score.


Our passing completion was lower than normal at 66% but that’s an effect of playing direct football. We created chances and scored nice goals but the lower pass completion meant we turned the ball over more often and put more strain in the defence. Also, the full back roles will have to be looked at. The DR [FB(A)] tended to be level with the AMR [iF(S)] when we had possession which meant he wasn't a passing option for the AMR. He may have to go back to being a WB(A).

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EPL 2015/16, Game 14 –Sunderland

They’ve started 4-3-1-2 Narrow 9 times and 5-4-1 10 times, so that’s helpful. According to Big Sam’s profile his preferred attacking formation is 4-3-1-2 Narrow but preferred defensive formation is 5-4-1. As we’re 4-6 favourites I’m going to assume they’ll start 5-4-1. He has a Cautious playing mentality and Direct passing style, which I’m going to assume means they play on the counter. Also a Closing Down pressing style,

  • So, I’m going to start 4-2-3-1 Wide as it gives me 2 CDs against their 1 ST.
  • Team Mentality: Counter as we’ll need to draw them forward in order to create space to play in.
  • Direct play style as I don’t have many players in midfield and, if we can succeed in drawing them forward, getting the ball to the front four quickly could pay dividends.
  • Their CDs aren’t speedy so I’ll pick Sturridge instead of Benteke.
  • I’ll use an DM who can also play MC and an AMC who can play MC in case I have to change to 4-1-2-3 DM Wide later. I’ll also choose AMR/L who can play AMC in case they go narrow and I have to bring them inside.




Yep, 5-4-1.


We absolutely murder them in the 1st half but can’t score.


The only change I’m going to make at half time is to add the TI: Work Ball Into Box. I give it 15 minutes and then bring Benteke on as TM(A) in place of Sturridge’s P(A) as Sunderland’s deep line is nullifying Sturridge’s pace advantage. We change to Attack for the last 10 minutes (dropping the dline to Normal) but, despite hammering them like a piñata, the game ends 0-0.


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League Cup - Spurs

Played a 2nd string side, didn't pay too much attention, lost 3-0. Not happy to lose the unbeaten streak but the cup doesn't count towards my objectives and I want to keep players fresh for the league.

EPL 2015/16, Game 15 –Everton

The scouting report indicates they’re likely to play 4-2-3-1 Wide, so we play the usual 4-1-2-3 DM Wide. After 10 minutes I add Run At Defence and remove Work Ball Into Box as they’re playing in a solid, defensive manner. Straight away they change to a more attacking style, so I try the direct version of our formation we used against Gelsenkirchen. We score quickly but it doesn’t really work very well, they get too much possession, we don’t create enough and the game’s too open. I change to 4-1-4-1, which is more possession oriented, and having extra men behind the ball foils their attacking intent. We score a second and close the game out comfortably enough. It’s nice to get a win in the Merseyside Derby at their place.

I’m not sure why the Direct 4-1-2-3 DM Wide didn’t work when it did against Gelsenkirchen. Maybe Everton’s 4-2-3-1 Wide exposed my AMR/L being up field but 4-1-4-1 got them behind the ball, whereas Gelsenkirchen's 4-4-2 didn’t attack the space behind the advanced wingers and they could get back in time.

Oddly, according to a new article, we lead the league in Goals From Corners with 5 from 15 games. I’d have said 2 or 3 but *shrug*. Maybe we don’t suck at them as much as I thought.

Other interesting stats, two of the top three highest Average Rating players are my fullbacks.

Uefa League 2015/16, Vorskla

Routine 1-0 win with squad rotation.

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EPL 2015/16, Game 16 –Arsenal

They’ve started all their games 4-2-3-1 Wide, have an attacking mentality and speedy wide players. This is going to be a tricky one. I’m going to start with the usual 4-1-2-3 DM Wide but I expect I’ll need to go 4-1-4-1.

They start as expected, but their AMC and DR are in need of a rest so hopefully they’ll tire quickly. I’m going to use my DM (Can) to try to mark their AMC (Ozil) out of the game and stop him running the show. I may need to pull the dline back if we’re getting skinned by their wingers but we’ll see how it goes.


We have lots of possession and look better in attack. They press but don’t tackle so we have plenty of time to play. By half time we’ve had 5 shots (1 CCC 3 HC) to their 0, 66% possession and 78% pass completion to their 57%. They aren’t getting at our fullbacks or playing on the counter so I’m not going to change anything.

Oddly, after 51 minutes they take off Giroud for some kid. They seem to be a bit more defensive so I’ll add Run At Defence. When they substitute the DR for a slower player I switch my AML to IF(A) and AMR to W(S) to see if Coutinho can run inside Debuchy. Also, remove Work Ball Into Box to get more shots at the so-far-unbeatable Petr Cech and bring on Firminio for Lallana(AMR) who hasn’t had the best day.

In the 84th minute Coutinho finally breaks the deadlock - the DR and DCR are drawn to Benteke when the ball is played to him, the DL and DCL are covering my AMR and Coutinho moves into the space between to receive the through ball. I immediately go 4-1-4-1 and tell Mignolet to slow play down. We play keep ball and run out the clock. In the end we bossed the game 13 shots (5 CCC 4 HC) to their 4 (2 HC) and 63% possession. Groud and Ozil were completely anonymous and they got nothing down the middle.


I’m not sure why we were so much better than them, it seems they just didn’t turn up. We played a higher line, and had more width, but it might be that their full backs were entirely defensive but ours were much more involved in the attack.

They played the very flattest of defensive lines and there's not much difference in their positions with and without the ball.


Our DR/L show a significant difference between average position with and without the ball. It also nicely illustrates the difference between the left sided WB(S)-W(A) combination and right sided FB(A)-IF(S).


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Sorry, but how do you get this green pitch on prozone analysis? I only have transparent pitch..

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Sorry, but how do you get this green pitch on prozone analysis? I only have transparent pitch..

Sorry luka_, I have no idea. It's always been like that for me. I'm using one of the default skins (Football Manager Touch - Dark) if that's any help.

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Update 16.2.0 installed

EPL 2015/16, Game 17 –Crystal Palace

They’ve started 19 of 20 games 4-2-3-1 Wide so I’ll stick to 4-1-2-3 DM Wide and see how things go. According to the scouting report, their best player is 3½ stars, one other is 3 stars, so we outclass them but they’re favourites and at home.

After 10 minutes I go to 4-1-4-1 DM as their wingers are getting in behind us. We’re much improved defensively and I change to Control to help ball retention, drop the defensive line back to Normal as their striker is timing his runs well and use my DM to man mark their AMC. We get a penalty and go in 2-0 up.

They get one back after 52 minutes. They seem to be able to play through us at will in a way no other team this season has been able to. I’m going to remove Work Into Box, add Pass Into Space (as they’re still a goal down and will have to attack) and close down Cabaye. After 82 minutes I bring on Coutinho and he scores within 2 minutes. We end up winning 3-1.

I hope Palace’s ability to play through us at will was a one-off rather than an effect of the update.

EPL 2015/16, Game 18 –Leicester City

They play 4-4-2 so I go with the normal 4-1-2-3- DM Wide. After 10 minutes I add Run At Defence as they’re quite cautious. We take a 3-0 lead but they get one back from a set piece. No changes at half time. They get another back so I change to 4-1-4-1 and that kills the game.

The update has definitely changed things:

Pre Update (16 EPL matches)

Liverpool: 24 CCC (1.5/game) 28 HC (1.75/game)

Opposition: 18 CCC (1.125/game) 22 HC (1.375/game)

Post Update (2 EPL matches)

Liverpool: 7 CCC (3.5/game) 9 HC (4.5/game)

Opposition: 5 CCC (2.5/game) 6 HC (3/game)

Obviously, two games are not enough to be conclusive, but normally the only time we get high CCC and HC is when we shut the opposition out. Now both sides are getting plenty of CCC and HC.

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Great thread Jatravartids , im ashamed to to admit i only came across it now.

ive certainly regressed recently when it comes to tactics (cant start playing properly) so going back to basics might be the key

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Crewe want to extend Harry Wilson's loan. He's played 12(4) with an average rating of 6.81, so he's getting good playing experience. He's only worth £375k, so there's no benefit to bringing him back to sell him. He has a CA of 1 star and a PA of 2.5-3.5 stars, so he's not going to get into the team, especially as he's a winger and I have plenty of those. I'm going to leave him at Crewe.

EPL 2015/16, Game 19 –Southampton

Boxing Day we have a home game against managerless Southampton, with 1 point from their last 7 matches.

Although the scout report shows they have started 18 games 4-4-1-1 and only 2 games with 4-1-2-3 DM Wide, they sacked their manager 2 games ago and the caretaker manager’s preferred attacking and defensive formation is 4-1-2-3 DM Wide. He has a Cautious Playing Mentality, a Closing Down Pressing Style and a Direct Playing Style, so I’m expecting defensive, counter attacking football.

They have their first choice goalkeeper and three defenders out injured and no 1st team player who can play left back. I smell a banana skin.


Again, post-update, my defence is shocking and an inferior side can play through it at will. We go 1-0 down, 2-1 down and end up playing a direct counter-attacking 4-2-3-1 Wide in an attempt to outscore them. We win 3-2.

In the first 16 games we conceded 10 goals. Since the update we’ve conceded 5 in 3 games. Being a mean-spirited sort of chap I don’t like the opposition scoring so I’m unhappy with this: I’d rather win 1-0 than 3-2. Still, top of the league at the halfway point is nothing to complain about so we’ll just have to go back to the training ground and understand how the game of football has suddenly changed.


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EPL 2015/16, Game 20 –Leicester City

Leicester again. They play 4-4-2 again so I stick with my Control + Very Fluid 4-1-2-3 DM Wide, but with a Normal dline as Vardy’s quick.

Watching at real-time speed I can see that again the Anchor(D) isn’t shielding the central defenders as he should, so I change the Team Shape to Fluid which, as I understand it, increases the mentality difference between the back and front players – it does lower the Anchor(D) mentality but also decreases the amount of Closing Down. An alternative would be to drop Mentality to Standard but keep Very Fluid, which would drop his mentality even more, decrease the Closing Down, decrease the Tempo and make us narrower – if I wanted to keep the same level of Closing Down I’d have to go to Much More which would decrease the Tempo further unless I change that to Normal. It’s quickly apparent that he’s now sitting much more where I want him, as the apex of a triangle with the two DCs.

When we have the ball they’re quite defensive, getting everyone bar the forwards behind the ball, so I’ll add Run At Defence (as we’re unlikely to be able to pass through them) and remove Work Ball Into Box as, with that many people in the box, there’s a tendency to over elaborate and try to walk the ball into the box. I undo the changes 15 minutes later as they made things worse. *shrug* shows what I know. I’ll try Sturridge as a DLF(S) instead of CF(S) and see how he links up with the rest of the team.

We score from a corner and a lovely 1st ever Liverpool goal from Torosidis from the edge of the 18 yard area. Leicester are going to have to commit more players to the attack if they want to get anything out of the game but I’ll leave my tactics as they are for the moment and see how it goes.

They get one back from a free kick and are committing more players forward so I go to 4-1-4-1 which controls the game very well and we generate many chances. They score against the run of play to level the match but all is not lost until the ref decides to earn his bribe and sends one of my players off and a minute later gives them a penalty. I join the crowd in loudly questioning his parentage and sexual habits.

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Varying Team Shape and Mentality

Control + Very Fluid


Control + Fluid (Closes down a little less than Very Fluid)


Standard + Very Fluid (Lower tempo, narrower, deeper dline, slightly less closing down than Control+VF. Lower tempo, narrower, deeper dline, same closing down as Control+F - for a setting of More)


Standard + Very Fluid (modified to be closer to Control + Very Fluid. Slightly lower tempo and a lower dline.)


Anchor Man (Control+VF -> Control+F ->Standard+VF)


As the Control+VF -> Control+F -> Standard+VF chain is followed, mentalities drop going from Very Fluid -> Fluid for non-attackers (i.e. the striker, winger and CM(A) mentalities don’t change) and drop for everyone going from Control+F -> Standard+VF. Players’ closing down is reduced but closing down is also affected by duty: a covering defender’s closing down changed by more than a stopper’s

This is where I miss sliders. I could just have dropped the Anchor Man’s mentality and not affected the rest of the side.

I’m going to have to go with Control + Fluid and play about with the roles and duties a bit.

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The January Transfer Window

With the January transfer window opening in a few days, and a few players’ contracts ending this year, I should review the squad and see who I want to keep for next year and what positions I need to fill.


My attacking line up is decent. Improving it would cost a fortune and I think there are other areas which need the money more.

• As I now have Sturridge, Benteke and Ings fit I’m going to sent Origi out on loan as he’s promising but not yet ready.

• In the summer I’ll sell Ings as he doesn’t enjoy big matches which is a disadvantage I won’t have in the team.

• Balotelli is already transfer listed as he’s lazy and selfish.

• None of the strikers on loan are promising.


Treating Firminio and Milner as central players, I have Lallana as AM® and Markovic back from loan at the end of the season so I’m covered there. Ibe will have to go as he has the backbone of limp lettuce (Determination of 5) and I’ll get rid of Canos as he’s very inconsistent and not promising.

Treating Firminio and Milner as central players, I have Coutino as AM(L) but a lack of decent rotation options. Still, Firminio and Milner can play there if needed so it’s not an immediate problem.


Firminio and Lima cover this well, and with Coutino and Lallana able to play there as well as the returning Makovic I have plenty of options.


Allen, Henderson, Lima, Milner, Can and Lieva can play there with others to fill in.


Can and Lieva have this covered.

Clyne is excellent, but Torosidis is 30 and will decline so he’ll have to go. Flanagan’s contract expires at the end of the year and, although he’s been injured all season, he’s only 22 and not normally injury prone so he can be Clyne’s back up.


Moreno is good. Enrique is OK but his contract is up at the end of the season and he’s injury prone: I’m inclined to let his contract run down and see what’s available in the summer.


Skirtel and Sakho are good and I don’t trust Toure or Lovren. This is where I think I’ll be spending the bulk of the summer transfer kitty. Toure and Lovren will be offloaded. Gomes has promise but isn’t ready yet so I’ll send him out on loan to gain some experience.


I only have one decent goalkeeper. At some point I’m going to have to pick up a promising youngster.

Expiring Contract Players

Of the players whose contracts run out at the end of the season, only two have even a 2.5 star potential. Flanagan is the only one there's any value in keeping

Loan Players


• Anyone with a potential of less than 3 stars.

• Luis Alberto, AM©, suffers from Liverpool having a wealth of options in AM and is inconsistent, so I’ll sell him to bump up the transfer kitty.

• Balotelli, S©, goes if I have to drive him to the airport myself.

• Wisdom, D(RC), doesn’t enjoy big matches and therefore must go.


• Markovic, M® AM(RCL) WB®, great potential.

• Ilori, D©, could be a decent back up defender.

• Wilson, AM(RCL), has some potential.

• Kent, AM(RCL) ST©, also has potential but needs to be more consistent. He may go if someone makes a decent offer.

• Williams, D(RC) DM© M©, looks a decent prospect for a BPD.

• Ojo, M(CL) AM(CL), has potential but needs to be more consistent. Like Kent, may go if someone makes a decent offer.

Outline of squad next season Italics indicate development player





AML ---------- AMC ---------- AMR

Coutinho ----- Firminio ------ Lallana

Lallana ------- Lima ---------- Markovic

Wilson ------------------------ Kent

MC(A) --------- MC(S)

Milner ---------- Henderson

Lima ----------- Allen

Ojo ------------- ?




DL -------- DC -------- DC ------- DR

Moreno --- Skirtel ---- Sakho --- Clyne

? ---------- ? ---------- ? --------- Flanagan

? ---------- Ilori ------ Gomez --- ?

? ---------- Williams




I have two players for most positions but I'm going to have to buy two central defenders and try to pick up a cheap DL. I don't have any money for new players in January, but I might be able to sell Ibe and pick someone up.

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