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Anatomy of a Liverpool Save

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I’m given the opportunity to change our season expectations to EPL Winner, and get £5.52M transfer money, but after the update I have no confidence in our ability to do this so I’m going to keep it at Champion’s League qualification.

Bayern want Lovren, and are willing to play market value for him. If I can offload Ibe as well I might be able to afford a decent defender.

EPL 2015/16, Game 21 - Bournemouth

They’ve started all 20 games 4-4-2. Normally I’d play 4-1-2-3 DM Wide, but I’ve been unable to get it to work defensively since the update despite many training games (replaying the same game over and over in other words), so I’m going to use a version of the 4-2-3-1 formation. Counter + Very Fluid but still short passing and possession oriented. After going 2-0 up I switch to 4-4-2 to deal with Bournemouth’s attacking intent. Initially we try a direct approach but it’s not really effective so we go back to a controlling approach, pushing up the defensive line when they take the speedy Wilson off. We sneak a third and come away with a decent win.

FA Cup - QPR

Routine 3-0 win.

EPL 2015/16, Game 22 - Watford

I respond to Watford’s 4-2-3-1 DM Wide by playing 4-1-4-1 Wide using Counter + Very Fluid with a Slightly Higher dline, Normal Tempo, Mixed Passing and Exploit The Flanks. I expect them to play defensively and try to hit us on the counter so I’m going to try to keep the ball and lure them to us. Also, 4-1-4-1 places players in the stratum their formation vacates in midfield.

It works a treat, we win 3-0. Although we only had 55% of the possession, the ball only spent 12% of the game in our third and 33% in theirs, which explains our 17 shots (3 CCC 5 HC) against their 5 shots (0 CCC 0 HC 4 Long Shots).

On the downside, we’ve picked up injuries and I’ll be missing 3 first team players (Sturridge, Lallana and Coutinho) for next week’s match against Man City.

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EPL 2015/16, Game 23 – Man City

Used the same tactics as the Bournemouth game against their 4-1-2-3 DM Wide. We had plenty of possession and were solid enough but, despite them creating no clear cut chances, they converted one of their half chances and we didn’t convert our clear cut chance. We even hit the woodwork. Feeling a little bit robbed by the 1-0 loss.

FA Cup - Ipswich

Rested as many players as I could and couldn’t buy a goal. 0-0 draw.

EPL 2015/16, Game 24 – West Bromwich Albion

Against their 4-1-4-1 I’m going to use 4-2-3-1 Wide, same as against Bournemouth. I‘m going to use Tight Marking and Close Down on their lone ST and Close Down on their DM. They’re set up in their preferred defensive formation and I want to force them to commit men forward by denying them an upfield outlet. I have my injured players back so hopefully we can put up a good show.

Within 10 minutes I’ve changed to Control as we’re tending to punt the ball a bit, dropping Passing to Shorter and Tempo to Lower, dline to Slightly Higher and added Exploit The Flanks. I also add Hit Early Crosses and remove Run At Defence to add a little zip to the attacks. We take the lead after 25 minutes and I remove Tight Marking from their lone ST as they’ll have to come forward now and I want them to punt the ball to their striker.

At half time I switch to Counter and we completely dominate, attacking again and again, the slightly more direct approach fitting in well with the extra space. We only score one more, their GK getting a 7.0 rating despite letting two goals in.

EPL 2015/16, Game 25 – Newcastle

Somehow they seem able to carve through us at will. I try 4-1-4-1, 4-1-2-3 DM Wide, Counter and Control to no effect. In the end I adopt a direct 4-2-3-1 and pretty much hump-the-ball-forward-and-chase-it. We benefit from a marginal offside call in injury time to rob them 2-1. It got so bad that I told the wide players to just cross the ball early to Benteke and hope.

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Ipswich 4-2

West Ham 1-1

FC Thun 3-0

Crystal Palace 1-0

FC Thun 2-

Swansea 2-2

Stoke 1-0

Leverkusen 1-1

Home game. They started 4-4-2, we used a possession oriented 4-2-3-1 Counter for an hour and then a direct 4-2-3-1 Counter. Despite dominating the game it ended 1-1 with their goalkeeper getting an 8.1 rating.

FA Cup– Southampton

With the previous game only three days ago and the next only four days hence, I’m going to field a rotated squad and take a chance on going out before the board target.

Against their 4-1-2-3 DM Wide, I use an asymmetric 4-1-2-3- DM Wide. Firmino works best in the middle but Ibe works best on the flanks.

------------------------ Benteke CF(S)

---------------- Firmino AM(A) ----------------- Ibe W(A)

------------------ Can DLP(S) Milner BBM(S)

----------------------Lucas BWM(D)

Enrique FB(S) Skirtel CD(St) Sakho BPD(Co) Torosidis WB(A)

---------------------- Mignolet SK(A)

The only modification to the normal possession based instructions is to Exploit The Right Flank. Other than that it’s the usual Counter + Very Fluid.

We lead 2-0 at the break, Benteke scoring two headers and Ibe tearing their full back a new one. I change to Control at half time as I think they’ll have to come after us and I want to be a little more positive but I change back twenty minutes later for defensive solidity. Not much happens in the second half and we comfortably win 2-0 away from home.

That win means we’ve met our FA Cup target. We’ve already exceeded our UEFA Cup target so if we can finish in the top four of the EPL I’ll get to keep my job.

[uEFA Cup] Leverkusen 2-1 (3-2 on aggregate)

Same as the first leg, except we got an extra goal and played Gomez to replace the suspended Sakho.

EPL 2015/16, Game 29 – Norwich

They’re likely to play 4-2-3-1 Wide. I think I’ll stick to our Counter + Very Fluid 4-2-3-1 and see how it goes. I’ll have Can in central midfield and Lima at AMC so I can change to 4-1-2-3 DM Wide without changing personnel.

We completely dominate the game … they take the lead on 7 minutes, have a man sent off after 67 minutes, have 3 shots (0 CCC 0 HC) to our 22 (2 CCC 4 HC) and somehow beat us 1-0. Aarrgghhh!!!!!

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Just want to add that this thread, more than any other, has been the one to trigger the "light bulb moment" for me on this year's FM. I've had a go at implementing Cleon's possession theories - with very limited success; tried using my dominant, near plug and play, 433 Assymetrical from last season - no joy; attempted to counter attack, but that didn't go well either.

I'd just "got" tactics over the last couple of years, and had become lazy. This thread has helped me remember how using some common sense TI and OI within a base tactical framework can be so effective, and has taken my Sassuolo team from 12th-14th-16th to 3rd. Well played sir, well played.

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Just want to add that this thread, more than any other, has been the one to trigger the "light bulb moment" for me on this year's FM. I've had a go at implementing Cleon's possession theories - with very limited success; tried using my dominant, near plug and play, 433 Assymetrical from last season - no joy; attempted to counter attack, but that didn't go well either.

I'd just "got" tactics over the last couple of years, and had become lazy. This thread has helped me remember how using some common sense TI and OI within a base tactical framework can be so effective, and has taken my Sassuolo team from 12th-14th-16th to 3rd. Well played sir, well played.

Thank you kindly.

I'd best get off my arse and post some more stuff.

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EPL 2015/16, Game 30 – Manchester Utd

Knowing we’ll be up against it at their place I try Cleon’s The Art of Counterattacking. It works well, we succeed in boring them to death (even though I accidentally use Standard instead of Counter). I also used Milner and Moreno as MR and ML to add defensive solidity. I may have to try this approach again against Chelsea and Arsenal later.

UEFA Cup - Benfica

They’re most likely to play 4-2-4 DM with a Passing Playing Style and a Closing Down Pressing Style. Our set up of Counter + Very Fluid 4-2-3-1 Wide ensures a very end to end game, we have 18 shots (2 CCC 5 HC) against their 10 shots (2 CCC 1 HC) but it ends 0-0 with their goalkeeper getting MoM and a 9.1 rating. I didn’t like leaving my 4 defenders against their 4 attackers, but if their players get dragged back to defend … .

EPL 2015/16, Game 31 – Aston Villa

They’ve started the last 20 games 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow, but their preferred defensive formation is 4-2-1-3 DM Wide and we’re at home. We use the same set-up as against Southampton so I can rest some wide attackers. It’s a game of very few chances, we take the lead but they catch us with a simple ball over the top for a 1-1 draw.

EPL 2015/16, Game 32 – Sunderland

They play a defensive 5-4-1, so a calm 4-1-2-3 DM Wide, Control + Very Fluid, with Exploit The Flanks should give us plenty of possession. I add Close Down and Hard Tackle to their lone striker and keep a high line with plenty of closing down to try to force them to lump the ball up to their lone striker who we can then rob.

Despite resting a number of key players we dominate the game, they have very few chances but it’s the usual problem with a team parking the bus: getting a clear sight of goal. We’re helped by them losing a man after 53 minutes and eventually find a way through and get a couple of goals.

EPL 2015/16, Game 33 – Chelsea

We’re away and they’re only a point behind us in the league. I think this’ll be another ‘backs against the wall’ game, so the counter attacking 4-1-4-1 from the Man Utd game will make a reappearance. I add Prevent Short GK Distribution, at the start and within a few minutes Close Down + Tight Marking against the ST (Costa) and set my DM to tightly man mark their AMC. We’re having trouble getting time on the ball so after 10 minutes I change mentality to Standard to up the tempo a bit.

Nothing seems to dramatically improve things, we’re outclassed throughout and lose. :-(

FA Cup – Manchester Utd

I try the same trick as last time we played them, but they aren’t as attacking this time so I change to the normal 4-1-4-1 until we take the lead, then go to the counter attacking 4-1-4-1 and win 1-0.

EPL 2015/16, Game 34 – Arsenal

They play a 4-2-3-1 Wide, and my 4-1-2-3-DM Wide lasts all of thirty seconds when I see how attacking they’re playing. However, the counterattacking 4-1-4-1 DM Wide, whilst not terrible defensively, fails to generate any real counter play as we don’t commit enough people forwards when we do have the ball and end up playing long hopeful passes. A change to a more possession oriented 4-1-4-1 improves things but they still cut through us at will and it ends in a 3-1 loss.

Rerunning the game a couple of times afterwards, we’d have done better to accept we couldn’t cope with their attacking skill and attacked them instead with 4-2-3-1: they can’t attack us as much if they’re pinned in their own half. I tend to react defensively to situations, but I might be better off attacking as a first reaction.


Now that we’ve reached May, time to get new scout reports on shortlisted players and search again for new players who’ll fit the bill.

EPL 2015/16, Game 35– Everton

Four games to go and six points will secure Champion’s League qualification.

Everton have started the last 20 games 4-2-3-1 Wide, but their preferred defensive formation is 4-1-4-1, we’re at home and 15 places above them. They’re also missing three regular players. I’m going to tweak the roles to maximise the players’ start ratings and see how that goes. I’m going to go for 4-2-3-1 Wide.

They’re packing the centre so I add Exploit The Flanks, and soon remove Run At Defence because the runs aren’t really working. We control the game, taking the lead from a corner in the 15th minute and sealing the win with a second in the 88th minute.

EPL 2015/16, Game 36– Crystal Palace

We play the same as the Everton game with the same result.

The board set an initial budget for next year of £2.7M for wages and a transfer kitty of £48.6M.

EPL 2015/16, Game 37– Tottenham Hotspur

We play the same as the previous match and win 3-0. Chelsea get humped 3-1 by Man City, so we’re suddenly top with a game to go. I was going to rest players during the next game to concentrate on the FA Cup final but now I’ll have to play a full squad.

EPL 2015/16, Game 38– Southampton

We’re unable to beat relegation threatened Southampton and draw 0-0, while Chelsea win 1-0.

Clyne wins FWA Player of the Year, Mignolet wins the Golden Glove Award, and I win Manager of the Year. Both my award winning players get into the PFA Premier League Team of the Year.

FA Cup Final– Man City

Fairly even game, their finishing and goalkeeper were just a bit better than ours.

Despite not winning anything, we achieved our objectives for the seaon so I'm not too unhappy with it.

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2016/17 SEASON


The picture shows players I want to keep (with a 3 star rating or better) and kids with good potential (who are in italics).



I have Jordan Williams DR (CA 1.5 stars PA 3.5-4.5 stars), Ojo MC (CA 2 PA 3-4), Origi ST (CA 2.5 CA 3.4-4.5), Gomez DC (CA 2 PA 4-5), Kent AML/R (CA 1 PA 2.5-3.5)


4-4-1-1 which can easily morph to 4-2-3-1 Wide just by pushing up the wide men.

4-1-4-1 which can easily morph to 4-1-2-3 DM Wide by pushing up the wide men

Required Players by position

GK: Either a replacement for Mignolet or a decent young player who can improve beyond him.

DR: Decent young back up for Clyne (lend Williams out for 6 months to gain 1st team experience and consider for next year).

DC: 1st team DC. Gomez is a decent young player as the 4th DC and Skirtel should be a decent 3rd DC but, at 30, is going to start declining.

DL: Decent young back up for Moreno.

DM: A good DLP/RG.

MC: I wouldn’t mind a decent defence minded MC, and Milner isn’t going to last forever, but it’s not a priority.

MR/AMR: I have two players who can play there so I’m OK.

ML/AML: I need another player to cover that because I only have Coutinho.

AMC: Very covered.

ST: I need an upgrade on Benteke. Origi is going to be given some games to help his development, but a decent Attacking Forward would be useful.


Attributes at least 10. Age no more than 29.

GK. SK(D) role + Determination.

DR/DL WB(A) role + Determination + Strength.

DC: DC(D) role + Acceleration + Pace + Stamina.

DM: DLP(D) role + Determination + Tackling + Strength + Stamina.

MC: CM(D) role + Strength + Vision.

ML: WM(A) role + Strength + Dribbling + Acceleration + Pace.

AF: AF(A) role + Strength + Stamina.

Anyone with a known PA of at least 3.5 stars or an unknown potential gets a Scout Report done on them.

I’m notified that our facilities have been downgraded and our youth training setup is category two. I use the options given to request we improve the training facilities and youth setup, which the board agree to.

The stadium expansion has been completed and Anfield can now hold 54,000.

The Transfer Window


Much deadwood offloaded.

£30M Eric Dier DC (Tottenham) (CA 3.5 star PA 4 star), he’s fast, only 22 and can play DM as well as anywhere along the back line. We have to pay a bit over the odds but he fits the bill and a good central defender was our highest priority.

£160K Ben Chilwell DL (Sheffield Utd) (CA 1.5 PA 3.5-4.5). Promising young full back, can play central defence at a push.

£850K Petar Stojanovic DR (CA 2 PA 3.5-4.5). I know, another young DR, but I couldn’t resist. I’ll lend him or Williams out for six months once he’s had some training.

£12.5M Geronimo Rulli GK (R.Sociedad) (CA 3.5 PA 4). More expensive than Timo Horn but also with slightly more potential. Also, a goalkeeper called Geronimo!

£35.5M Jose Gaya DL (Valencia) (CA 4 PA 4-5). I can’t believe we got this guy. I’d obviously put him on the shortlist at some point the previous year as I was notified Man City had bid for him. He looked great so I took a punt on him, expecting to lose out to Man City, and he decided to come to us. It wipes us out until I can offload some players, but he’s really good, only 21 and can play anywhere up the left. Moreno will now become my second ML and sometime DL.

I’d like a DM and ST. Everton got relegated (heh!), so I wait for the start of the new season and pick up Stones and Lukaku for less than they’d have cost before relegation. In no way am I motivated by a desire to rub in Everton’s relegation by stealing their best players … honest.

£26M Lukaku ST (Everton) (CA 3.5 PA 4). An upgrade on Benteke.

£29M Stones DC/DR (Everton) (CA 3.5 PA 4-5). Quality young DC as a replacement for the aging Skirtel.

Youth Intake

PA 4-5 GK and PA 3-4 AMR/C/L. Not too bad.

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Champions League: Reach 1st Knockout Round.

Premier League: Champions League Qualification.

FA Cup: Reach Final.

I follow the same approach to arranging friendlies as the previous season, but have issues due to a compulsory tour to Hong Kong and players' international commitments.

1st Attempt at 4-4-1-1






Standard. Fluid. Slightly Higher dline. Prevent Short GK Distribution. Play Out Of Defence. Work Ball Into Box. Use Offside Trap.

I've changed last season's SK(A) to an SK(D) purely to stop him lumping the ball long.

I'm not using Retain Possession to encourage players to take a slightly more adventurous passing approach than last season.

1st Friendly – Lam Pak (Hong Kong Tour)

v 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow I add Exploit The Flanks.

Due to international commitments and needing a rest, I’m short 8 first team players. After 30 minutes I add Look for Overlap. After 60 minutes I substitute all 11 players. We win 4-0.

I'm not convinced by the way we play during the next three friendlies, even though we win them without conceeding, so I add a bit of variety.

5th Friendly v Cliftonville

Slightly tweaked 4-4-1-1 against their 4-2-3-1 Narrow,




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



Our wide men absolutely kill them 9-0.

6th Friendly v Partick Thistle

They’re also playing 4-4-1-1. We take off Look For Overlap and Exploit The Flanks. We’re very comfortable (3-0), playing the ball around nicely and out shooting them 21-2.

7th Friendly v St Pat’s Athletic

V 4-1-2-3- DM Wide, we use the same system as the previous two games with the addition of Close Down on their ST. A comfortable 3-1 win (conceeded due to Mignolet error).

I'm fairly happy with the 4-1-4-1 set-up. It could be changed to 4-2-3-1 by pushing MR to AMR and converting to IF(A) and pushing the ML to AML with the same W(S) role.

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2016/17 EPL Game 1 – Brighton (A)

As they’re playing 4-4-2 I convert both central defenders to defend duty and don’t use Exploit The Flanks.

Despite being at home, they’re playing much narrower than us, so I add Exploit The Flanks. Later, Run At Defence helps ball retention.

We go 1-0 up, and to deal with their more attacking approach, I convert the RPM(S) to CM(D),the AM(S) to AP(S) and remove Look For Overlap. I really want to go to something with a DM but I need to get the hang of 4-4-1-1-, so I’ll stick with it. The changes stifle our attack a bit so I add Pass Into Space because they’re leaving more space than before they conceded.

We’re 2-0 up at half time. Looking at the analysis, there’s a clear difference between the positioning of the RPM(S) and CM(D) when we have the ball, the CM(D) definitely reinforcing the centre against counter attacks. Generally, our possession is decent (61%) and we’ve had the better chances. I give into temptation and bring on Dier for Firmino and after a few minutes push the ML up to AML as W(S) and the MR up to AMR as IF(A). Shortly after that, the IF scores but it’s disallowed. It’s downhill from there, they keep lobbing balls over the top or getting behind our fullbacks and run the 2nd half. We still win 2-1, but I should have stuck with 4-4-1-1- and maybe use OIs to improve things.

2016/17 EPL Game 2 – West Ham (H)

According to the scouting report, they usually play 4-4-1-1, so I’m going to stick to 4-4-1-1. It’s now Very Fluid and I’ve changed the two central midfielders and defenders.






I’ve set the OI to mark and close down their AMC and show their ST onto his weaker foot.

The first half is as complete a domination as you’ll see … without scoring.


Our average positions are nice and the defensive line is high, which means our pressing is good. West Ham, in contrast, are barely getting out of their own half.



My fullbacks are running down the flanks, my wide midfielders are putting in crosses from the byeline.


Defensively, we’re making many interceptions


So, if we’re so awesome, what’s the problem? Their goalkeeper has an 8.1 rating already, my striker Sturridge is 6.4 and Firmino, despite having Finishing 15 and Composure 12, had yet to hit the target in 5 attempts from inside the 18 yard box.

At half time they pull both midfielders back to give Defensive 4-4-1-1 2 DM. In response I change to Counter to lure them forward, remove Look For Overlap and set the OI of Close Down More on both their DMs.

We still dominate without being able to score. On 66 minutes we bring on Lukaku who scores 12 minutes later, occupying two central defenders and turning when a through ball is played to one side, striking a first time shot.



We’re largely holding on for the last 15 minutes but manage to run out the clock.

I’ve also been scouting u19’s in various countries, and pick up PA 3.5-4.5 ST from Middlesbrough and PA 3-4 ST from Birmingham. I’m going to train the both as Complete Forwards to ensure a well-rounded skill set.

In the League Cup we’re drawn against West Ham at home.

In the Champions League we’re in a group with Napoli, Sporting CP and Ludogorets. Not the easiest group ever.

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