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Can't stop conceding!


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I'm in my first season at Ayr United in the Scottish League 1. Up until relatively recently we've been doing OK although a persistent problem I haven't been able to solve is that we just cannot keep a clean sheet. Here's how we've been lining up for the majority of the season

4-2-3-1 wide formation, structured and control (usually play with look for overlap, work ball into box and play out of defence)

GK - Goalkeeper

RB - Full-back support

CB - Limited stopper

CB - Limited defend

LB - Full-back support

CMR - Box-to-box midfielder

CML - DLP defend

AMR - Winger support

AMC - Adv playmaker support

AML - Inside forward support

ST - Adv forward attack

I don't use any specific player instructions

I seem to concede a lot from deep crosses and I particularly struggle against teams playing with wing-backs.

I've tried turning my full-backs to defend but that's not really made any difference and in the last couple of matches I switched to a 4-4-1-1, pulling the attacking mids back to try and fill in the gaps (using then on winger support) but, again, still conceding the same sort of goals.

Is there anything else within the above structures I could try? My next move is probably to try a 3-5-2 variation but my squad's best players are probably in the attacking midfield area so I wouldn't be playing to their strengths.

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I quite like my overlapping FBs as they provide a fair few assists for me. What I would say though is that both my FBs have the PPM of runs with ball down left/right so am I over-encouraging them to do something they already like to do by also turning on look for overlap?

Also, I think my RB has the PPM of gets forward whenever possible as well.

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I quite like my overlapping FBs as they provide a fair few assists for me. What I would say though is that both my FBs have the PPM of runs with ball down left/right so am I over-encouraging them to do something they already like to do by also turning on look for overlap?

Also, I think my RB has the PPM of gets forward whenever possible as well.

It's the risk you take if you use overlapping fullbacks and the opposition use wingbacks as they'll play in the space your fullbacks vacate.

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That's also why the 4-2-3-1 normally has 2 holding midfielders, which you don't - to allow the fullbacks to be more attacking, which yours are.

I see. Are both midfield roles dodgy for this formation or is the B2B midfielder just a bit too much of a loose cannon type role for the system?

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Holding midfielders hold position in midfield and don't venture very far forward. The box to box midfielder, being a support role too, isn't a holding midfielder.

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Had similar issues and am still to an extent trying to sort them out. I would turn off the overlapping fullbacks until you get some real quality holding mids.

I am at the opposite end of the spectrum with a world class Norwich City and had been playing 4231 but my creative cms were way better than my holding cms. I had been playing gotze in the am hole with sterling and Brandt either side but have since replaced gotze with a dm as I simply don't have the power in the middle to cope while I have fairly attacking full backs and the aforementioned wingers.

I really want to get gotze back involved but I can't find a way to get him in a balanced side. I now just about get away with one dm deep lying playmaker, a box to box cm and an advanced playmaker cm.

I usually overwhelm teams with sterling my main man averaging 8.01 and the rest of the midfield doing well but de gea only averages 6.8 and my CBS other than an aging otamendi averaging low as well. If icardi or Martial is misfiring then the opposition often sneak a late winner/equalizer. I seem to lose to some real rubbish teams as well! Maybe it's complacency.

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Had similar issues and am still to an extent trying to sort them out. I would turn off the overlapping fullbacks until you get some real quality holding mids.

I am at the opposite end of the spectrum with a world class Norwich City and had been playing 4231 but my creative cms were way better than my holding cms. I had been playing gotze in the am hole with sterling and Brandt either side but have since replaced gotze with a dm as I simply don't have the power in the middle to cope while I have fairly attacking full backs and the aforementioned wingers.

I really want to get gotze back involved but I can't find a way to get him in a balanced side. I now just about get away with one dm deep lying playmaker, a box to box cm and an advanced playmaker cm.

I usually overwhelm teams with sterling my main man averaging 8.01 and the rest of the midfield doing well but de gea only averages 6.8 and my CBS other than an aging otamendi averaging low as well. If icardi or Martial is misfiring then the opposition often sneak a late winner/equalizer. I seem to lose to some real rubbish teams as well! Maybe it's complacency.

Have you been editing the side to get those players coming to Norwich?!

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Nope, bought well first season (Romero, barbosa, embolo, horn etc) using the 48 month payment trick and came 4th. After a couple of dodgy seasons, man city had a few guys wanting out and it went from there. Now the payments are hitting me hard though! Constantly having to sell to balance the books and got lucky by having a take over that paid some debt off. The regens are getting good now, so are slowly replacing the real guys with high wages.

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I tried the tweaks suggested but it hasn't really made much difference, I still keep conceding and it's still mostly from deep wide crossing. When I look at the replays of the goals I'm conceding it seems that neither my winger nor my full-back is tracking the opposition wide player very closely so he always has lots of time to fire in a cross.

I've been experimenting with OIs of closing down and showing onto weaker foot for the opp wide players but, again, still struggling.

Would be interested to know how others who play this 4-2-3-1 are setting up their back line and holding midfielders.

Limited defender and play out of defence are a contradiction. Limited defenders hoof the ball out at each chance, but from the looks of it you are trying to build up possession from the back.

Despite appearing to contradict, it does work for me. I have a team that's quite good at passing and tends to dominate possession in most games. The goals my team are conceding aren't coming from my centre-backs giving the ball away.

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I don't use the same formation, but I do use a 4-3-3 (with wingers in the AM strata) and have had to deal with similar issues. So maybe some of this will help:

In my formation, I roll with 3 CMs - one on attack and the other two on defend duties. I play with wingbacks, one on support and the other on attack (although in the previous season, which saw me take my Hansa Rostock minnows into the Europa league when we were expected to be relegated out of 1.Bundesliga, I played both on attack). I play my wingers (actually inside forwards) on opposite duties (i.e., the winger on the side of the wingback(s) is on an attack duty, and vice versa - although, again, in the previous season both were on attack duties).

In short, for my team to have width the fullbacks do need be involved in play. I play a high press system and the inside forwards like to move inside.

When I was first setting up this system I played with a CMd, CMa and a B2B. But I found that I played poorly if my B2B player was more attack-minded, and did better (although not great) when he was more defensively minded. That is what led me to change the B2B to another CMd.

What I have found since then, and this is what I think you need to think about, is that when we lose possession higher up the field (or really anywhere, but since you are getting beat by deep crosses losing it higher up the pitch is more problematic) it is my CM(d)s who split out to the wings to deal with those wingbacks or wingers while my fullbacks track back. The wingers then also sometimes get involved in defense (but not always).

So, in this system, the CM(d)s close down the player quickly to smother the chance of a deep cross.

I also play with 'close down much more' TI and a control mentality. And CMd's default to 'close down more'. So I think part of the reason my CM(d)s are spreading all the way out to the wings is because they are encouraged to close down a great deal.

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So, maybe some of what I said above will help you think through, but here are some specific applications to your system:

1) Perhaps set both of your holding midfielders to CM(d)'s and, if you don't want your whole team closing down more, maybe give them PIs to 'close down much more'. That may lead to them spreading out to the wings to cut off those deep crosses.

2) HOWEVER, this may lead to a major gap in the center. Presumably your defenders will step in to fill this some, but you may need to be careful there.

3) Maybe you should ask your defensive line to sit deeper. OR get pacier defenders. In that case, I would stick to a DLP(d) and a CM(d) in the midfield, but then instead of relying on those guys to spread out and prevent the pass, you instead rely on your defenders to sniff out the pass AFTER it has happened.

4) Also, maybe think about altering the central defenders. Usually people combine a 'stopper' with a 'cover'. And if you are getting beat over the top, that may be because your stopper is stepping up but your 'defend' duty guy isn't dropping back enough to cover. So changing the 'defend' duty to a 'cover' would help that.

Alternatively, maybe change both to 'defend' duties. in this case, the idea would be to play the offside trap (I am not sure what your mentality is so you may need to add that TI) in hopes of eliminating the deep cross by just pulling the striker offside.

Of course that option is a bit riskier (but you already giving up balls over the top so not any more risky I suppose). But often teams that play a 4-2-3-1 will emphasize the offside trap, since you need to make up the gap between the midfield and the defensive line (since you have no DMs) and so the defenders should step up a bit, but in doing so they leave a lot of space behind them.

So anyway, give some of those a try (I don't think you should do all of them of course, so take your pick or try them alternatively, etc.)

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