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ajsr1982

Building a tactic dictated by circumstances - generic football

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Introduction

One of the central themes to building a tactic is to have an idea of how you want to play. It's often the first thing the demi-gods of this forum will mention when they come up with their (excellent) threads. It's excellent advice, but at times, circumstances will dictate that you have to play a certain way. I'd love to get my team to play like Jurgen Klopp's Dortmund/Liverpool teams, but I like a challenge, and in choosing to play as Blackpool, it's unlikely I'll be able to pull it off.

Another good piece of advice is that it's wise to look at the strengths and weaknesses of your team/squad and base your chosen playing style around it. However... This is Blackpool. The strengths and weaknesses of my team aren't immediately obvious; most of the stats for most of my players hover between 9 and 13. So, what to do?

Well, the only detail to be gleaned from the above is that I have a pretty generic set of players to work with, with only marginal differences in specialist areas. It might be anathema to the purpose of this forum, but the logical conclusion is that I have to play generic football.

What is generic football?

I find this an interesting question because if I asked you to point to generic football, you'd have no trouble whatsoever. The answer 'any League 1/League 2 match' might be popular. So, generic football is easy to recognise, but perhaps a little harder to define. Maybe a process of elimination might help. Let's list the things that we're not looking to achieve.

  • A possession based tactic
  • A high intensity pressing game
  • A system based on a low block that absorbs pressure and prevents the opposition from playing.

The last one is a little bit tenuous, because I'm going to need some of the principles from that one; it's really just there to highlight that I don't want to develop a Pulis-esque system that is built solely to destroy.

Hopefully you see the worth of listing the above, because it immediately knocks out certain principles and we can derive some direction from this. So what are the principles I'm looking to employ? The simple answer is all of them, but it comes with a qualifier: All things in moderation. So, I want bits of everything, but not too much of anything. What could be more generic than that?

What is 'everything'? Well, the seven principles of attack and defence in Lines and Diamonds is a fantastic guide, and it's easier for me to refer you to the home page of the tactics forum than for me to explain them, but here they are:

Attack

Penetration; possession; depth, width; support; mobility; improvisation.

Defence

Delay; pressure; compression; balance; cover; consolidation; restraint.

I'm going to try to distill these down further though, because as good as they are, they can be a little abstract. To me, football is about space. More specifically, it's about the control of space, and if I can apply some generic but fundamental principles well enough, I'm hoping it's enough to bring some success.

PRINCIPLE ONE - Deny the opposition space when out of possession

PRINCIPLE TWO - Create space when in possession

I'm hoping this isn't rocket science. It's effectively saying 'make the pitch small when you don't have the ball, and make it big when you do have the ball.'

PRINCIPLE THREE - Have balance between attack and defence

Again, hopefully there's nothing too complicated about this. I need to be functional at both ends of the pitch, offering enough in defence without compromising my attacking options, and vice-versa.

And that's it. I'm not going to commit to do anything beyond this. The rest will be dictated by the players available and the prevailing style of the level I'm playing at.

 

The tools at your/our/my disposal

I love how much control is possible over how my team plays. However, I also love the fact that it's not perfect, that for every perceived strength of a system, there is a corresponding weakness, and that no matter how good or bad my instructions, player personalities and chance play their part. In the next section, however, I'm going to explore the tools at my disposal, and how I go about using these tools to create my generic system.

  • Team shape/formation
  • Team mentality
  • Fluidity
  • Team instructions
  • Roles and duties
  • Player instructions
  • Opposition instructions

 

Edited by ajsr1982

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I have a save with Blackpool. They're a hard team to really create something around so I am looking forward to the finished touches. 

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I think when creating a generic system roles and duties are the primary focus (as they should be in all systems really), I've often thought selecting highly structured could be very beneficial when creating a 'basic' style of play because you get big mentality splits for individuals so you can get your best players having a higher mentality, more creative freedom and and greater emphasis placed on them by minimising the freedom/aggression afforded to others.

 

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PRINCIPLE ONE - Deny the opposition space when out of possession

I'm going to look at each of the principles in turn, and roll through each of the tools to see what my options are, what the trade-offs might be, and then present my solution at the end.

What do we actually mean when we say we'd like to deny the opposition space? Well, we can certainly link it back to some of the defensive principles in the first post.

Delay; pressure; compression; balance; cover; consolidation; restraint.

Delay, in this case means to halt the momentum of the opposition's forward movement. My interpretation of this is that it's more of a transitional element, buying yourself time in order to allow other players to attain a good defensive shape. What does this look like in practice? To me, it involves having enough players behind the ball when attacking, and is more to do with the third principle of balance than denial of space. Denial of space to run into, perhaps, but we'll tackle this one later.

I'll deal with pressure and compression in tandem, because I see them as being closely related. Together, this is what we commonly refer to as pressing. Pressure on the man with the ball, backed up with players compressing the adjacent space, and making everything more congested. This will be key to denying the opposition space, and so I need to look at it more closely. An important thing to note however, is that this isn't the same as a high press. A high press is a variant of this, but there are other options and I want to look at them all.

Next up is balance and cover. Again, I think these two go hand-in-hand. This effectively refers to making sure there are no obvious gaps or weaknesses to exploit defensively, and there are direct trade-offs to be had with some of the attacking principles here. What it effectively means is that I need to balance every attacking part of my system with a defensive one. There's a key word in there: balance. Which means this one probably belongs to my third principle.

Then we have consolidation. This is a proxy for 'narrowness'. 'Defend narrow, attack wide' is one of the cornerstones of (modern) generic football and I need to make sure I tick this one off.

Finally, we have restraint. This refers to the resilience of my players and my system in terms of keeping a good defensive shape and making sure players do what is asked of them. The mention of players is key here, but there are things I can do with my system to help them out and I'll be looking into that.

So, after looking at each of the elements of defence, to make sure I meet my first principle, the most important elements are pressure, compression and consolidation. I also need to flutter my eyelashes at restraint as well. How can I go about this? Let's have a look...

 

1a - Team Shape

This isn't difficult, because there is a direct relationship between defensive efficacy and team shape, or more specifically, how many players I have behind the ball. It's perhaps time for a bit of context here, because if you remember, I said things would be dictated by my players and the prevailing style of play for my level.

Well, I'm 18 months into the job, and I managed to achieve promotion from League 2 after an excellent late push to finish third. This season, I'm predicted to finish 21st, and I'm bouncing around between 11th and 18th in a very congested part of the table. My current points projection is around 55, so I should be safe, but a poor run of form could easily derail that.

What that means is that I'm one of the weaker teams in the division, and I need to take that into account when devising my tactics.

Remember, I'm going for generic here, so it's going to be a generic formation. My options, therefore, are:

  • 4-4-2 or some variant of
  • 4-2-3-1 or some variant of

These are the two prevailing formations in English football. Yes, some teams use three at the back, but I think that's relatively rare. Note that I'm including 4-1-4-1, 4-3-2-1 and 4-3-3 as variants of the latter.

My backroom staff would love me to play 4-4-2, because I have two decent centre forwards, but I'm against shoe-horning players onto the pitch in favour of tactical efficiency. A couple of things are likely to sway my choices here.

  • I'm one of the weaker teams in the division, and would favour an extra man in midfield over two centre forwards.
  • A three man midfield offers more in terms of the defensive principles mentioned above.

The trade-offs against some of the attacking elements are obvious, and we'll get to those in due course.

So, from a defensive point of view, I'm tending towards a 4-2-3-1 of some description. In terms of the team shape, the back four and the one up front speaks for itself. Well, more or less. I have the option of going strikerless, but I consider that niche, and a move away from my intended goal of generic football. Therefore, we only really need to look at the midfield.

I say 'only', but midfield is unique in that is has three strata all to itself, and then it has the options of 'central, left and right'. So I have the task of placing five players into nine possible positions.

Let's start with the wide players. Am I even going to have wide players? Well, yes, I am. Why? Because my generic tactic says so. Two wide players is the norm. It also plays to some of my attacking needs, but that's for the next section. For now, all I need to decide is which strata to place them in. The DM strata can be discounted immediately here. Playing with full backs and wing-backs is frankly ridiculous. So I'm left with the option of the AM or the CM strata.

Once again, as one of the weaker teams in the division, I'm leaning towards dropping my players back a little deeper. To be honest, however, my experience is that some of the other tools available are more effective in defining the behaviour of wide players.

That is less true for central players. I have probably three options here:

  • An 'upward' triangle, typically two CMs and an AM, though this could be dropped one stratum deeper if needed.
  • You guessed it... a 'downward' triangle of two CMs and a DM. Again, I could push this up a stratum higher, but that would be, well, nuts.
  • A flat midfield three.

There are positives and negatives to all of these, and I won't dig into them here. All I will say is that from a defensive perspective, I want to get some things right.

  • I want to protect the space in front of the defence.
  • I want some defensive 'depth'. That is, I want my midfield to be staggered vertically in order to provide more coverage. It also helps me maintain a narrow defensive shape. I can create this using player roles to some extent, but I think team shape is more powerful in doing so.

On that basis, I think the downward triangle, or a deep upward triangle is most likely to meet my needs. The choice which is likely to be cemented when we look at the attacking side of things.

So, that gives me a basic idea of my defensive shape.

 

GK

FB    CD    CD    FB

DM

WM    CM    CM    WM

 

CF

That gives me a 4-1-4-1, or if I tweak the midfield, a deep 4-2-3-1. Ignore the player roles for now, this is simply illustrative. There is an obvious attacking issue with this sort of formation, namely the big gap between the lone forward and the midfield. Having decided upon a team shape with no-one in the AM stratum, there is nothing else I can do about this in terms of team shape, and so I'll be looking to mitigate it in other ways.

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1b - Team mentality

The next thing I can use to reach my defensive goals is the team mentality. There are loads of articles that analyse this, so I'm not going to go into infinite detail, but it's probably useful to recap what happens when we play with the team mentality.

We have Contain at one end and Overload at the other, with all the various points in between. You know what they are by now! There are offensive and defensive connotations to what choice you end up making, but this part is about defence, so let's focus there.

If we consider Contain to be at the bottom end of the scale, what happens defensively as we move up the scale is that we take more risks in attack. Now, I know we're talking about defence, but what we do in attack is directly related. I could talk about transitions, and I will when the tactic is more developed, but we're merely highlighting possibilities at the moment so let's keep things simple. When we talk about risk, the combination of team mentality and player duties is what defines things, for me. Effectively what this translates to is the number of players we commit forward in search of a goal. The flip-side of that is how many players we leave back as defensive cover. Or, how effectively we can delay opposition (counter) attacks.

It won't be news to most of you that alterations in team mentality also have a knock-on effect on default team instructions, and it's very important to understand these, or at least the main ones.

Again, if we start from Contain and move upwards, what we find that the following things change by default:

  • Tempo increases
  • Defensive line gets higher
  • Team plays wider
  • Team closes down more
  • Passing becomes more direct (there are nuances here, but let's keep it high level for now).

Effectively, as we get more attacking, we play faster and wider and closer to the opposition's goal, and we work harder to get the ball back.

Now, technically, only two of the above have defensive implications. The defensive line, and the level of closing down. You could argue that how wide a team plays has a defensive element, and it does. However, it's defined as how a team attacks. Clearly, attacking in narrow formation should make for an easier transition, but I feel that's a secondary effect, and as such I'm not going to factor it into my decision making.

If we focus on the remaining two elements, we find that they are inextricably linked. Try tweaking them in the team instructions; you can't alter one without the other changing. That tells us something. It is inadvisable to close down more with a deep defensive line. Most of the time, at least. But remember, we're dealing with rules rather than exceptions. I feel it's also worth touching on the subtle difference between closing down and pressing. Closing down, to me, is how readily my players will apply pressure to the opposition man in possession. What it isn't is applying the principle of compression. That is, my supporting players closing down the surrounding space. FM isn't perfect in getting this right in my opinion, but you can do a passable job with a mix of player/opposition instructions, which we will look at later.

Let's get back to the matter at hand. What are we trying to do? Deny the opposition space. Newsflash: Pressing isn't the only way to do this. There is space all over the pitch, and as annoying as this might be, you can't cover all of it. Which seems like it might be curtains in terms of a generic defensive approach. Well, not really, because as I mentioned earlier, what is the prevailing style of the division? First, let's look at my options:

  • Restrict the space in the opposition's half by closing down space as quickly as possible (aka, high press).
  • Try to maintain an even spacing between players to cover as large an area of the pitch, within reason.
  • Create a compact block that moves as a unit depending on where the opposition attack.
  • Crowd the centre of the pitch and concede the space on the flanks.
  • Sit deep and compact to restrict space in behind, and concede the space further up the pitch.

There may be others, but those are the ones I can think of. It might also be better to think of these as aspirations; indeed, I might not actually be able to accomplish them. Each one has a weakness, and there is just no getting away from that. Therefore, what are the things I need to consider in choosing one?

  • The attributes of my players. Do I have quick defenders? Do I have fit, hard working players capable of maintaining closing down over 90 minutes? Do I have players with the concentration and positioning to maintain tactical discipline? Are my defenders capable of dealing with aerial bombardment if I sit deep?
  • My chosen formation. There is little point in me trying to press high up the pitch if my players aren't situated there, etc.
  • The opposition. Of lesser importance, in my opinion, but there are times when what the opposition are doing will influence the choice of mentality. If they are sitting deep and playing the ball around, pressing high up the pitch might be an option, for example.

I'll post the abilities of my players when I have access to it, but I mentioned in the first post that they are all pretty generic. However, with the exception of my left back, my defence lacks a little bit of pace. On top of that, my midfield isn't blessed with players who are great at breaking up the play. Also, my 4-1-4-1 is aimed at getting players behind the ball and making life difficult, and so on the face of things, conceding space higher up the pitch seems like a natural fit.

So, as far as team mentality is concerned, Defensive or Counter seems a decent fit. We still have the attacking principles to assess, however, so that's not set in stone. I'll discuss what we might lose (or gain) in an attacking sense from choosing one of these team mentalities later on.

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1c - Fluidity

The next thing we can play with is the fluidity. From reading this forum over the years, I think this is the area of the tactics creator that generates the most confusion. It might be because the in-game descriptions don't cover all the nuances of how this affects the way your team plays, but that would be hard to do. I've seen fluidity presented in a number of ways, so I'm going to list all of those things.

  • It affects how many phases of play your players contribute to.
  • It affects the creative freedom of your team.
  • It affects how far individual players will veer away from the team mentality.
  • It affects the compactness of your team.

I think each person has their own way of approaching this particular part of the game, but actually, all of the above are interlinked, and they are all true. I can therefore use that to decide what's important for my principles, and apply things accordingly.

Let's go through the list again and look at the requirements for each.

A more fluid team sees more players contributing to each phase of play, and actually the knock-on effect of this is that players are closer together. What do I need to consider here?

  • Are my players fit enough to pull this off? More fluidity means running more.
  • Do they have the concentration, intelligence and positioning to be able to maintain the shape required?
  • Using my 4-1-4-1 formation, do I need my players any closer together, or are they actually close enough, with the exception of the centre forward?

What about creative freedom? The consensus here is that more the more specialist roles you employ should mean less fluidity. Why? Because you want your specialists providing the creativity, and your generalists playing the supporting act. However, creativity and intelligence are somewhat synonymous. If my players don't have the game intelligence to be relied upon, is more fluidity a bad thing, regardless of roles? These are the trade-offs I need to think about.

Finally, do I want the team mentality to override individual roles, or vice-versa. Well, we haven't touched on roles yet, but it'll be something to bear in mind when we do.

And this is why choosing a level of fluidity is so difficult. On the one hand, to get the defensive compactness I'm looking for, it makes sense to pull my players closer together by flirting with the fluid end of the scale. However, the word intelligence is mentioned several times in this section, and a team mired in the bottom half of League 1 is unlikely to possess the intelligence required to pull this off. This will be even more important in an attacking sense, but high mental stats are key at both ends of the pitch.

Presented with a paradox such as this, I think the safest thing to do, at least initially, is to leave this alone and try to apply my principles using other tools at my disposal. Therefore, my fluidity level remains at Flexible, which fits in nicely with my third principle, as a nice side-effect.

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1d - Team instructions

Before we start, a word on team instructions, because I'd like to break this into two sections. The first section is TIs that overlap/interact with mentality and fluidity, and the second section is TIs which are largely independent of mentality and fluidity.

There aren't too many TIs, so we might as well list them.

TIs which overlap with mentality and fluidity

  • Tempo
  • (Time wasting)
  • Width
  • Defensive Line
  • Closing Down
  • Passing Directness
  • Creative Freedom

TIs that are independent of mentality and fluidity

  • Offside trap
  • Tighter Marking
  • Tackling
  • Passing
  • Pass Into Space
  • Retain Possession
  • Final Third
  • Crosses
  • Dribbling
  • Freedom of Movement Note: I've placed this in here, but it could easily be in the other section. 

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that each section has something in common. The first section works on a sliding scale, and the second section is generally an on/off switch. My take on TIs is that if you've picked the correct mentality and fluidity, you don't need the first section. A (probably bad) analogy might work here. The first section of TIs are a little like a well known photo editing suite. If you take a phot that is over/under exposed, then you might need to make adjustments later on. If you get the camera settings right when you take the picture, then you don't need to adjust. The first section of TIs are exactly the same. I think it's okay to use one or two, but if you find yourself using nearly all of them, it's time to question whether you picked the right mentality and fluidity.

From a defensive point of view, we've chosen Counter/Defensive and we haven't committed to any fluidity, which means it'll default to Flexible. What does this mean in terms of team instructions? Well, my team will already play deeper and narrower due to my mentality, and adjusting my defensive line on top of that feels like overkill. The only other defensive TI in the first section is Closing Down, which will be reduced by a lower mentality. My formation and mentality in combination means a medium-low block, so I feel like less Closing Down is probably a good thing. Remember, I committed to sitting deep and conceding space higher up the pitch. My midfield isn't full of ball winners either, so a commitment to keeping the shape as much as possible seems sensible.

Of the other TIs, most of them are regarding the build-up or attacking, so I can discount them for now. To deal with the defensive ones, however. If I'm sitting deep, it feels like employing an offside trap isn't really required.

Tighter marking is an interesting one. Here's my take. I feel tighter marking is best used in conjunction with increased closing down? Why? Well, because it reduces the options for the opposition player in possession. Surely that's a good thing regardless of the system used? There is, of course, a trade-off. First, your players mark men, rather than space. Which is fine, but a dynamic attacking unit can wreak havoc and really upset my shape. It also relies on my players having good stats for Marking and Concentration. My midfield in particular don't have this in abundance. It also reduces the defensive cover/support available if one of my players loses his man or gets taken out of the game by a good dribble. The tipping point for me, however, is this, which I mentioned earlier.

  • Create a compact block that moves as a unit depending on where the opposition attack.

My formation and mentality will create that compact block. I don't really want it to get dragged out of shape, but I also want it to move from side to side if required. So, tighter marking remains off.

Finally, we have tackling. This is League One, and I want my players to put their foot in when they're close enough to make a tackle. Simple as that, really. So, Get Stuck In is switched on.

In summary, I've only switched on one team instruction, and a minor one at that. This may change when we come to the attacking side of things of course.

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1e - Player roles and duties

Now we're done with overarching team instructions, it's time to pick some roles and duties for my players. Here, it's going to be useful to see what I have to work with. 

952mdXE.jpg

I've tried to break things down into physical, defensive and attacking attributes here.

So from a defensive point of view, let's see what we can observe.

  • I haven't included my goalkeeper's stats, but he's just below average aerially, but a good shot stopper.
  • My defenders aren't very quick, apart from my left back.
  • My central defenders have reasonable jumping reach and marking, and both want to go and attack the ball. But the concentration and positioning could be better.
  • My midfielders are pretty poor at marking and tackling, with the wide players especially bad.
  • My central midfielders are reasonably hard working and fit, but the wide midfielders less so.
  • My team is terrible at heading, and with the exception of a few, is just very bad in the air.

This section is aimed at setting defensive roles and duties, so I'm not going to cover everything here. I'm just going to set my base. So let's go position by position.

Goalkeeper - I'm quite happy with a regular GK/D duty here. I have a deep line, so a Sweeper Keeper probably isn't necessary.

Right back - Nolan isn't particularly quick, and his attributes show he's a bit better in defence than in attack. Therefore I'm edging towards a defensive or support duty. I don't like Defensive Full Back as it gives the ball away too easily. His first touch, decisions and passing stats aren't terrible, so a Full Back role is probably okay.

Right centre back - Aldred is my best defender and is going to be competing for the majority of headers. He loves going towards the ball and I can make use of that. Employing him as a Stopper is a bit of a no-brainer, and I'm happy with a regular Central Defender role.

Left centre back - This is an interesting one. If you look down my squad list, you'll see Robertson on the bench, but I've chosen Liddle to play here instead. I initially bought Liddle to add some steel to the midfield, but I have a big problem with Robertson. He has 8/20 for heading, and if you see where my tactics are going, with men behind the ball, the knock-on effect of that is that I'm likely to deal with more crosses than I otherwise would, and I need my CBs to be competent in the air. 8/20 for heading is a fundamental, great big 'NO' for this kind of system, for me. Liddle is only marginally better at 10/20, but Robertson is too much of a liability. Anyway, a regular CD/D role and duty is fine. This is an area earmarked for recruitment, incidentally.

Left back - Higham is a young, pacy left back with decent technical defensive stats, but he's not so good on the mental side. In any case, he's an obvious choice for being my outlet for the back four. I'll deal with this one more in the attacking and balance sections.

Defensive midfielder - This is the most important thing to get right in the 4-1-4-1 in my opinion, because he's the defensive link between midfield and defence. He needs to offer cover and support  to those in front of him, he needs to protect those behind him, and he needs to deal with the opposition AM if they use one. When sitting deeper and having men behind the ball, shape is king. That means I don't want my CBs stepping into the midfield line. To aid that, I want a role that isn't going to see my DM chasing the ball down everywhere. So, it has to be a Defend duty, and one that doesn't close down too much, leaving me with the option of an Anchor Man, or maybe a Deep Lying Playmaker. 

I'm going to leave the roles and duties there for now. The reason being that the rest of my midfield are better in attack than in defence. That doesn't mean they're all going to be free of defensive responsibility, but I'll be looking to see how they can attack without leaving the defensive players in the mire.

To summarise, from a defensive point of view, my back six might looking something like this.

GK/D

FB/S    CD/X    CD/D    WB/S

A/D

Edited by ajsr1982

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1f - Player instructions

From a strictly defensive point of view, there are only three things to control in terms of player instructions.

  • Closing Down
  • Tackling
  • Marking

If we concentrate of the five (outfield) positions above, do I want any of them to move away from the team ethos and what is inherent in their roles and duties?

The short answer is 'No.' I've already told my players to get stuck in, and I'm happy for that to encompass my whole defence. Lower closing down and a preference for zonal marking is also okay for my players on an individual basis.

Therefore No additional defensive player instructions.

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1g - Opposition instructions

This might be done on a game to game basis, but to be honest, I tend not to get too deep into opposition instructions. But is there anything I might want to do from a general defensive perspective? Well, what can I control?

  • Marking
  • Closing Down
  • Tackling
  • Show Onto Foot

I find that I don't really want to veer away from my overall team plan, but one thing I will look to do is to funnel the opposition into the centre of the pitch? Why? Because I anticipate it being crowded there, and it restricts space. And also because it's likely to reduce the number of crosses I face.

So, I tell my players to show all wide opposition players inside.

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Principle One in summary

It's probably worth recapping where I've got to in my search for generic football, while applying the principle of making the pitch as small as possible for the opposition.

  • I've chosen a 4-1-4-1 formation. A typical formation, with a slightly more defensive slant, at I'm one of the weaker teams in the division.
  • I'm likely to choose a Defensive/Counter mentality, for the reasons mentioned above, and because it offers added compactness. This means the space I'm looking to defend in is deep inside my own half, and I'm going to concede space higher up the pitch, and to a lesser extent, out wide.
  • My look at fluidity was inconclusive. I like the idea of the the increased compactness offered by a more fluid formation, but I'm not convinced my players are fit enough and intelligent enough to pull it off.
  • I felt that all of the above meant I didn't need any extra defensive team instructions, but I've added Get Stuck In to make sure my players are willing to put themselves about in the cauldron of League One football.
  • After looking at each of my players on an individual basis, I ended up with the following starting point for player roles and duties. This offers a DM that is going to screen rather than press, and a potential outlet at left back. 

GK/D

FB/S    CD/X    CD/D   WB/S

A/D

  • I didn't want to apply any extra player instructions to the above.
  • I've added opposition instructions to funnel the opposition into the more congested areas of the pitch.

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A really interesting thread with some really nice and basic explanation, I will be following this!

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Apologies for this hitting something of a delay. Christmas and New Year means real life takes over! Anyway, without further ado, let's take a look at the attacking side of things.

PRINCIPLE TWO - Create space when in possession

It's worth stating up at the front of this that I'm not going to undo all my (good?) work on the defensive side when I look at this. As a result, large elements of Principle Three (Balance) will be fairly evident, but I'll go on to talk about it explicitly at the end.

As I did with the defensive principles, I'll look at each of the attacking principles in turn. Let's recap what they are.

Penetration; possession; depth, width; support; mobility; improvisation.

Some of these are self-evident, but once again, it's worth stating what they mean, because a few of them are open to interpretation, as well as how they relate to the game and how we might go about implementing them.

Let's start with penetration. Many people will interpret this as 'getting behind the opposition'. And it is. Partly. But it's a bit more than that actually. What we mean by penetration is how we move the ball forwards, towards the opposition goal. Yes, getting people in behind the opposition is the ultimate goal, but we also need to think about forward passing options at various stages of the build up, whether we choose to attack centrally, or via the wings, or both, and getting variety into our play, if we can.

Next is possession. This is fairly self-explanatory, so I suppose the challenge is to see how to implement it. I won't go into lots of detail here, because there is a truly excellent thread by @Cleon - The Art Of Possession - that will do a much better job than I ever could of trying to explain this. All I'll say is that I'm a big believer in good possession; there is little point in simply rolling the ball around your defence and midfield, unless perhaps you're trying to see out a game or draw the opposition out.

Note that phrase though: good possession. The implication being that possession and penetration are heavily linked. One without the other is usually a bad idea.

I'll deal with depth and width at the same time, because this is really at the heart of 'making the pitch as big as possible'. There are exceptions to this rule where a very compact team in possession might be a good idea. It's just not what I'm trying to achieve here. We can think of depth as the space between the defence and the attack, but we can also think of it on a micro level. Are we able to create passing triangles and get in between the opposition's lines? Or are we a bit flat? Width is more straightforward of course.

Support is really the bedrock of possession. Are we able to give enough passing options to the man in possession. Does he have choices? Creating more than one option ensures we play with variety (there's that word again) and avoid becoming predictable in our play. I'll throw in mobility here as well, because getting into supporting positions requires mobility. There are a couple of positions where you'll get away with standing still, but generally, you need people running into space.

Finally we have improvisation. We are fortunate in FM that we can control this - we can think of it as 'Creative/Tactical Freedom'. In other words, what is the balance between letting players think their way out of certain situations, and strictly adhering to team instructions?

I have an early choice to make here. What sort of possession do I want? That is, who do I want to get on the ball, and in which areas? What is the balance between penetration and possession that I want?

Assuming I stick with my 4-1-4-1 formation after I've gone through my attacking principles, which I might not but it's what I have to work with for now, there is one thing that should be obvious.

I have a gap between my midfield and my lone striker. The type of striker I have here is key. If I have a Target Man, I can play direct balls up to him and ask him to hold it up while the rest of the team attempts to close the gap. However, I don't really have one at my disposal, and my relatively 'low' formation means I'll have to look to build up the play more gradually, or things will just break down and I'll invite pressure on to my defence. I'll go into more detail as to how to go about this, and my options and choices, but I thought it was worth sticking this in at the front so we have an early idea of what we're dealing with.

 

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2a - Team Shape

Remember from 1a that we ended up going for a 4-1-4-1 formation. The question here is whether I want to alter that to give myself any extra attacking thrust. There is no right answer here and remember that the formation you see on screen is your defensive shape. That should provide the clue that your formation isn't really one of the major players in attaining your attacking goals. That's not to say it's useless, but there are certainly more important parts.

The major function of team shape for attacking is that it lays the foundation for the player roles you are able to choose from further down the line. Sure, you can create a pseudo-inside forward in the wide midfield slot, but it might be easier to move the player to the attacking midfield slot and do it from there (or vice versa). The Wide Playmaker might not be quite what you want, but maybe the Advanced Playmaker is. Or maybe you want a Defensive Winger. I'm sure you get the point by now.

For me, the defence, in this case a flat back four, is already penned in. I'm playing with one forward, so that's also locked in. Which means the only question left to me is what I do with my midfield.

Again, there's no right or wrong answer here, but here are my choices and my reasoning.

First, the question of the wide midfielders. Do I want to keep them where they are, or do I move one or both of them up into the attacking midfield stratum? There is an argument that they're both so poor defensively that I might as well push them up and go 4-3-3. I actually started out with that in League Two, where I was one of the stronger teams, and it worked well for me. However, it left me too exposed on the flanks in League One. You'll find that there is very little difference between placing players in the AM R/L and the M R/L slots. However, if the players in question have poor defensive attributes, you might see your full backs getting exposed.

The other element to this is how my play is going to build up. My wide players are basically fast wingers. They're not technically great and they're not great passers of the ball. That's a large hint as to the roles I'll be looking to use, but the issue here is where they receive the ball. I read a very good thread on here once that mentioned the concept of acceleration space. That is, you want your fast players receiving the ball with space to run into, rather than receiving it with their back to goal and having to do something technical. The slightly deeper wide positions facilitate this a little better in my opinion.

The other question is central midfield, and how I link the play to my centre forward. I can do that using the team shape by moving someone up to the attacking midfield slot, but that means dragging the rest of my team up the pitch. I don't personally favour a formation that has a player in each of the three central midfield strata, unless I'm playing a diamond. For a three man midfield, I think a triangle of some sort (or a flat central three) works best in creating passing options.

Dragging my team up the pitch effectively means a 4-4-1-1 formation. I just don't have the defence to do this. It's suicide. So, from an attacking perspective, it's not ideal that I have a big gap between the midfield and my attacker, but I'll have to use some of the other tools at my disposal to try to mitigate things. The 4-1-4-1 remains.

 

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2b - Team Mentality

Next up is the team mentality. We ended up with a loose idea to go with a more defensive mentality based upon the fact that we are one of the weaker teams in the division. Do I need to augment this from an attacking point of view?

The short answer is 'yes.' There is lots of discussion elsewhere on what team mentality does, so I won't go too deep. Let's take Counter as our default defensive mentality and look what that does from an attacking point of view.

  • Lower tempo
  • Narrower play
  • Shorter passing

It's worth noting that this doesn't mean the above will be my pervading style of play; it simply means that all of the above will be turned down a notch from a standard/default style of play. However, some of the above is moving away from where I want to be, and remember that I want to achieve as much as possible without reverting to corrective Team Instructions. So, this is the place to do it.

My formation means I should have nine players behind the ball following a defensive transition. With a Counter mentality, something we'll find is that the gap between midfield and attack will be exacerbated because my players are less likely to make forward runs, regardless of duties. An attacking duty will behave a little differently according to the overall team mentality.

If I had a Target Man, I might stick with the Counter mentality, but as it is, I need to do something to provide more attacking thrust from deeper positions, because the ball won't be held up so well. The overall plan for how I choose to attack will become more evident further down the page, but for now, let's just say that I want to crank my mentality up one notch to Standard to help provide support for my centre forward.

A knock-on effect of this is that my team will play a little wider as well. My low formation means that things are likely to be congested in my own half when I win the ball back, so getting a little wider and utilising the space there can be no bad thing. I want to avoid playing the ball into a congested area if I don't have the players capable of looking after the ball. But more on that later.

Of course, this potentially upsets my defensive setup by bringing the team a little higher up the pitch. There's a relatively obvious solution to that, which we'll look at very soon.

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incredibly detailed work, well done!

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2c - Fluidity

We arrive back to fluidity, and after giving it a big old swerve from a defensive point of view, is there anything I might want to do on the attacking side? Let's recall what is affected by fluidity.

  • It affects how many phases of play your players contribute to.
  • It affects the creative freedom of your team.
  • It affects how far individual players will veer away from the team mentality.
  • It affects the compactness of your team.

I linked this with intelligence further up the page, and that's still true here. From the above, what is important in my quest to create space? Well, the first bullet in the list certainly provides more mobility and thus support. But it makes the defensive transition more difficult.

Is creative freedom really a big thing for me in the bottom half of League One? Personally, I'm inclined to say it isn't. Not at the expense of tactical discipline. Simply put, I'm not confident my players have the decision making capabilities to ramp this up.

Compactness is the opposite of what I'm going for in attack, so this could potentially affect what I do. This is often cited when talking about fluidity, but remember that is has to be backed up with the correct roles and duties, or it's essentially worthless. However, with the right balance of those roles and duties, I should be able to create the depth that I'm looking for.

For me, however, the most important part of the list above is the third one. How far players will veer away from the team mentality. Why? Well, it means I have more control over what each of my individual players do. My personal approach to fluidity, which may go against what others preach, is that the better my team, the more fluid I become. That's not to say you can't play Very Fluid in League Two, it's just my approach to it. A team closer to the bottom of the English league structure is likely to have plenty of weaknesses (of course it's all relative, but the point stands). A more Structured approach means I can cover off some of those weaknesses while playing to the strengths of individuals. In other words, I want a less cohesive until, and I'm going to rely on individuals to do their thing.

Therefore, I'm going to go with a Structured approach, making sure my players focus on their individual tasks, rather than fitting into a team structure.

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Amazing thread so far mate. Really enjoying this one. So many good points and things to think about in here. Great explanations and even on a basic level you go into great detail. Keep it up mate, I will be following very closely!

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2d - Team Instructions

You can see my introduction to this section further up the page, but it's worth pointing out that the Team Instructions panel is much more concerned with what you do with the ball than what you do without it. That could mean that we have plenty of things to play with here.

First things first. Recall that we've pushed things up on the mentality side from Counter to Standard, and as a result, the team will play faster and wider, with slightly longer passes and take a few extra risks. Also remember that my back line isn't particularly blessed with pace, and so there is an immediate no-brainer to apply here, which is to drop the defensive line back a little. Slightly deeper defensive line is immediately applied.

A side note here. Dropping the defensive line means the midfield line will also drop a little, and the presence of a player in the DMC position becomes incredibly important here, as it has the additional effect of pushing the midfield slightly higher back up the field, as opposed to a flat four of five man midfield. It's marginal, to be sure, but worth highlighting.

Let's deal with width next. It would seem obvious that if I want to make the pitch as big as possible, I would have the width ticked to the maximum. Well, maybe, maybe not. There is an element of diminishing returns here. I've already cranked the width up a little using my team mentality, and... spoiler alert... I'm likely to do something using player roles and player instructions as well. Do I need an overall team instruction adding to that? I could tick it, but it's not really going to add much value.

Next up, let's look at the passing side of things. So, we're dealing with:

  • Tempo
  • Passing length
  • Passing directness
  • Retain possession
  • Pass into space
  • Play out of defence
  • Clear ball to flanks

This is tough to get right. The gap between my (lightweight) forward and my midfield means the direct approach is off the table. At the same time, I don't really want to be trying to play intricate football in central midfield. While I have decent players in there, they're still likely to make mistakes.

Quite frankly, I don't want to force the issue here. The obvious exception from the above is that my wide players should provide a good outlet for getting the ball further up the pitch, but I don't necessarily want to be one-dimensional. If my central players are in space, I want them to get on the ball. So I'm going to refrain from clearing the ball to the flanks, or using the exploit left/right flank options. However, with the latter, I might tick them if the opposition is playing a narrow formation which floods the central midfield.

By not ticking anything, I keep the variety in my play, but there is something above that I'm going to enable. Look at my centre forward and my two wide players. Plenty of pace and acceleration there, and I'd fancy them in a foot race against most defenders. Added to that, my formation and dropping slightly deeper means I'm likely to invite teams onto me. I want to be able to exploit the space in behind if they leave any, so Pass Into Space is ticked. That's asking a lot of my wide players, but if it's on and I manage to exploit that space, it could be devastating.

And that's (almost) it. The only other thing I'll apply is Drilled/Low/Whipped Crosses. I can't remember the exact terminology, but suffice to say my centre forward is a midget and I want to keep any crosses a bit lower. Common sense, that one.

As for the rest, well this really fits in with what I mentioned when I talked about fluidity. The disparate strengths and weaknesses in my team means I really need to concentrate on things at an individual level, rather than issuing team wide instructions. I'll deal with one thing explicitly however, because from reading around, a lot of people have Work Ball Into Box ticked by default. I get it, I really do. We all want to cut out those ridiculous long shots. I've seen Cleon go to great pains to explain that if you have to remedy this by ticking WBIB, then something else is fundamentally wrong, and that is completely true. Basically, you haven't achieved the necessary level of penetration and mobility. In my case, however, I hope you can see that what I'm starting to work towards is something that relies a little more on delivery from the wide positions. WBIB cuts down the crosses into the box, and is therefore likely to hamstring my build up play, so I'm not touching it with a barge pole.

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Posted (edited)

2e - Roles and duties

This hopefully won't be too much of a surprise, but from an attacking perspective, this is where the magic happens.

Remember that after the defensive side of things, I'd ended up with a back six that looked something like:

GK/D

FB/S    CD/X    CD/D    WB/S

A/D

Now, to look at the 'front five' and decide if we need any changes to the back six.

You may have noticed this already, but I tend to deal with the midfield last. It's just easier that way, for me. Deal with what you have at either end and then bridge the gap accordingly.

So, my centre forward. This will go against a lot of what you've seen before, but I'm going to choose an Advanced Forward as my centre forward. Why? Well, quite frankly, it's because he's not really suited to any other role. He's quick, he can dribble, he can finish, and he has flair. A bit of an unpredictable jack in the box. He's not going to hold it up, and he's not really going to play others in. One up front means I need something more dynamic than a Poacher as well. So, there's nothing clever in this; it's merely a process of elimination.

It does create a problem for my midfield, however. I need to bridge that gap somehow, and by playing with an AF, I've just made it bigger. What to do about that. Well, it means I probably need an attack duty somewhere in my midfield. Here, I need to decide who is providing the supply and who is getting on the end of things and trying to finish moves off.

First, let's get something out of the way. I'm going with two Wingers. Ideally, I'd like one to be a migrated Inside Forward to provide some variety, but I just don't have the players to really do it. My wide players are wingers and I'm going to play to their strengths. However, let's not get hung up on this; they will play quite similarly much of the time, regardless of their roles. However, note that as Wingers come with Stay Wider as a default player instruction, this creates the width I'm looking for.

My dynamic left wing back can get up and down the pitch, which means I can probably afford to push my left winger higher up with an attack duty. Not so for my right winger, who has to look out for his comparatively slower full back. At this point, you may be thinking that I'm creating a problem down my left side, pushing both players up, and you'd be right to think that. However, this is risk and reward at play. I have two central defenders and a less aggressive full back in addition to an Anchor Man to provide defensive cover. I'd expect them to be able to slide across and deal with any threats most of the time.

So, I have one winger providing supply, and one more concerned with penetration. What about my central midfielders?

To me, having two people getting on the end of things isn't enough. Also bear in mind that wingers and AFs often find themselves in wide positions, and thus providing the supply. If my AF has the ball on the left wing, who is getting in the box? My right winger will try, but it's not his primary role. I need something else, and that something is a central midfielder that will get into the box. What, then, are my options? I can rule a playmaker out, because they tend to hang outside the box to create supply, even with an attack duty. Yes, there are shades of grey, but getting into the box wouldn't be his main role. I could choose a Roaming Playmaker, perhaps, but I don't have anyone suitable. The Box to Box midfielder is also an option, but it's not quite aggressive enough for me. And so we arrive at the humble Central Midfielder, with an attack duty. It's exactly what I'm looking for.

What about the other central midfielder? It should come as no surprise that he's there to create things. Playmaker, then? Actually, no. I could stick a playmaker role in there and it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, in truth. However, the issue with the playmaker is that he acts as a bit of a magnet for the ball. Not to the detriment of all else, but other players will look for him a little more. Recall what I said about my out-ball. I want to get the ball out wide if I can, with supporting runs from the centre of the pitch. What I want to avoid is defenders looking to play the ball into midfield just for the hell of it. If my midfielders are in space, then yes, get the ball into them and let them create, but I want to be a little cautious about over-doing it. A regular Central Midfielder on Support is just fine here.

And so, we end up with....

GK/D

FB/S    CD/X    CD/D    WB/S

A/D

W/S    CM/A    CM/S    W/A

 

AF/A

However, the formation screen means very little when we're looking at an attacking shape. I always find it useful to get a piece of paper and sketch out what it might look like in possession when I have the ball deep in central midfield and I'm pushed up to half way. Let's take a look.

GK/D

 

CD/X    CD/D

FB/S                 A/D                        

                                CM/S        WB/S

W/S         CM/A                               

                        AF/A                 W/A

It's not exact, and it's not a perfect science, but it's gives a rough idea of my shape in possession, and I can check this against the attacking principles stated at the start. Everyone here has a relatively short forward pass, and an easy option to lay the ball off, with the possible exception of the left winger. I can live with that, as I'm telling him to run at his full back anyway. So, I have penetration and support. I have width, that should be obvious. I have depth - I hope you can see the asymmetrically advancing lines in the diagram above. Hopefully I have mobility but you could say I'm forsaking possession and improvisation. I'll just have to live with that. This formation is very much aimed at defending well as a unit and then breaking out, utilising the space in behind teams with the individual strengths of certain players. The attacking formation is all very well, but it's heavily reliant upon me being able to get up the pitch without possession breaking down in the transition. I know that, and I've tried to mitigate it by not going too gung-ho in attack and making sure my defensive block is relatively solid following the defensive transition. It is, like any system, sub-optimal, and there are obvious weaknesses that I just have to swallow.

                              

Edited by ajsr1982

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2f - Player Instructions

I'll include this for completeness, but there isn't a lot to say here because I'm not going to add too many player instructions. That's not because I think they're useless, but because I feel like I've been able to largely achieve what I wanted to using player roles and duties. I'll deal with a couple of things specifically though.

The goalkeeper is always an interesting one for me when it comes to player instructions, and how he distributes the ball. I find it can be a very important part of how the play builds up, especially if you're going for a possession based tactic. The options here are basically to either tell him to prioritise rolling the ball out to his defence, or punting the ball long.

Honestly, neither of these is a particularly appealing option. My centre forward just isn't going to win headers, and I don't really want to play out from the back. Likewise, targeting my wingers with long balls probably won't work as the opposition will have regained their defensive shape. So I don't do anything, and that means my goalkeeper will more often than not punt the ball long, unless a full back is in acres of space. I'm happy with that; it allows my team to get up the pitch a little, and with a five man midfield, I can compete for the second ball and try to build from there, facing the opposition's goal.

The only other thing I'll do is tell my left wing back to Stay Wider. I want him to provide back-up width and crossing supply if my left winger pushes on or cuts inside.

I could toy with my central midfielder, particularly around his passing (More Risky Passes) or tell him to Hold Position. These are things I might tick later on in a game if I'm chasing the game or protecting a lead.

And that's it. I'll wrap up with the balance section at some point, as there are probably a few extra points to be made there.

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Really enjoying the detail here.

Interested to see how it plays out :thup:

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PRINCIPLE THREE - Have balance between defence and attack

Most of this has already been covered indirectly in the rest of the thread, so this section is really here to serve as a check once I've arrived at my final answer. If you're checking something though, it's a good idea to have an expectation of how things should be. So it's worth asking at this point what balance actually looks like. There's nothing clever about this, but let's have a list anyway. A checklist, if you will.

  • A sensible balance of attack, support and defend duties.
  • Are any of my players isolated in the various phases of play?
  • Do I have enough variety in attack?
  • Do the attributes and characteristics of my players synergise with what I'm asking of them?

Some of these things are interlinked, but I'll address them individually anyway.

First, do I have a sensible balance of attack, support and defend duties? Well, if we ignore the goalkeeper, I have 3 defend duties, 4 support duties and 3 attack duties. Allied to a Standard team mentality. It doesn't come more balanced than that, right? My Structured fluidity level means that those duties carry more weight than they would normally. It might help to think of mentality and fluidity as two dials. The mentality dial controls how much risk your players on average will take, and you can think of your average player as one on a support duty. The fluidity dial controls the spread of mentality according to roles assigned. Seven mentality settings and five fluidity settings gives you 35 possible combinations, so there is lots to play with. What this means though is that if you have Attacking and Very Fluid ticked, then even your FB/D will get forward to support attacks, perhaps more than a FB/S if you have Defensive and Structured ticked.

Standard and Flexible is always the base from which I start. Once I understand what each players is doing, I move those two dials to try to achieve what I'm looking for.

What have I ended up with? Well, I have a medium level of team risk, but I've told my two centre backs and my Anchor Man to stay back, and I have attacking thrust down one wing, and from central midfield, with my centre forward more interested with the business of goal-scoring than bringing others into play. I also have support in central midfield, right wing, and from the full back positions. Seems okay to me at first glance.

 

What if I look whether I isolate any of my players? Well, we can refer to the two diagrams I have further up the pitch. My formation screen shows that in the Defensive Phase, then yes, my centre forward is isolated. That's not too much of a problem to me, because I'm not trying to mitigate the opposition's attack high up the pitch. In FM17, I've also noticed that an AF won't just stand next to the opposition CBs, and is more likely to help out defensively, so I'll swallow him being isolated here.

He's also likely to be isolated in the Attacking Transition if the ball goes forward quickly. I won't pretend this isn't an issue; if he can't get hold of the ball and keep hold of it for a few seconds, it's coming straight back at me, at a time when my 4-1-4 in defence is starting to morph into something different. There are pros and cons to this. If my left midfielder and my central midfielder have managed to push forward and get on the 'wrong' side of the opposition midfield, I'm in a great position to win the second ball and launch a second wave of attack. This is more likely to happen if there's an aerial challenge. The flip side of this is that if they're in that position and the opposition defence or DMC gets it down to feet, I'm immediately in Defensive Transition and I don't have my 4-1-4 in place. This is when a team is at it's most vulnerable and opposition players can find space and break my lines. This is really our old friend, 'risk vs reward'. There are times when this is going to play into my hands, and there are times when I'll be exposed. However, it's probably not a complete deal breaker, but definitely something I'll keep an eye on, as some opposition formations will be better set up to make the most of it.

Defensively, I have my central triangle staying back at pretty much all times, so I'm unlikely to be isolated in defence. My full backs are on support duty, with the wing back being a little more aggressive than the full back on the right. So they'll get forward, but the support duty means they'll get back into position as soon as they can. So, I can set up the '4-1' part of my defence relatively quickly after losing the ball. Nothing is perfect however; there will be times when I'm exposed, but I feel I've done all I can to mitigate it without blunting my attack.

 

Do I have enough variety in attack? Well let's see.

I have support players on the right providing supply. I have a central midfielder doing the same, and I have my left wing back. My left winger has an attack duty, but he'll also provide crosses. It might be a little light in the centre of the pitch, but let's not forget that my CM/A and my AF will pass the ball to players who get into good positions, or lay the ball off and move again if there's nothing on. I sometimes feel as though player roles are given a little too much attention. I view each of my players as a general footballer, and the role I give them represents a preference rather than a hard and fast rule every time they get the ball. So, an AF will still come deep and get the ball and play others in, just not as often as a DLF. Conversely, a DLF will still make runs in behind the opposition defence if it's on.

I have my CM/A and my AF/A pushing through the centre of the pitch to get on the end of things, and my left winger attacking the back post as well. That's backed up by my right winger and my CM/S, who will also get into the box if it's safe to do so.

If I look at the primary function of each of my attacking players, it might throw something up.

  • CM/S - Midfield creator/passer
  • CM/A - Forward runs from midfield, passing
  • W/S - Crosses
  • W/A - Run at defence, crosses
  • AF/A - Forward runs, run at defence

I have two passers and two crossers, to give variety of supply. I have one person running in behind (the AF), supported by the CM/A in that venture. My left winger can stretch the opposition defence with forward runs as well.

Overall, I'm relatively happy with this.

Finally, am I asking too much of anyone? A good time to revert back to the attributes screen, but let's focus this. Where am I asking big things from any of my team?

Well, my CM/A and my left winger are being asked a lot to get up and support the CF as quickly as possible. Do they have the necessary stamina and work rate? My CM/A, yes probably. My left winger, maybe not. I have two options here. I can either change the role/duty, but I choose the second option, and accept that I'll probably have to substitute him a lot. So be it.

I've already covered the fact that my CF needs to be an AF by process of elimination, and I've made defensive personnel changes to make sure I can deal with opposition crosses.

So, there we go. That wraps up what I have to say really. Hopefully some of you have found it useful. I ended up with something pretty unexciting... Generic, even.

PS - I will keep this ticking over a little longer. I'll try to update with the following:

  • How I use this process to feed into player recruitment.
  • Some analysis of some of these themes in practice.
  • Periodic updates on progress, and what I do if I ever need to change my generic setup.

 

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I'm really loving the write up so far, really curious how this will work out. Personally would love to see a lonely striker (and such an aggressive one at that) with 2 wingers work but have some serious doubt about it.

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21 hours ago, Repsalty said:

I'm really loving the write up so far, really curious how this will work out. Personally would love to see a lonely striker (and such an aggressive one at that) with 2 wingers work but have some serious doubt about it.

Well, the ultimate turn out of this is that I was 22nd in League One after about 18 games, and I decided to go through the methodical approach above. After 40 games, I was 9th, with an outside chance of making the playoffs, but I ran out of steam and finished 12th. That's with a team expected to finish 21st though.

My centre-forward, Redshaw, won the League One player of the year and finished top scorer with 32 league goals. He missed the last few games, which coincided with my drop in form. So he was scoring at a rate of about 4 in 5.

I'm 15 games into the following season, having made additions at CB, RB and bolstered the midfield with a more defensive minded player, employing him as a BWM/D in front of the defence. Redshaw is again top of the scoring charts, and I currently sit 4th, but it's tight and I'm bouncing around between 1st and 5th. That's against an expected 19th placed finish.

All in all, quite successful so far, and I'm happy with it. It's dependent on keeping my best players fit though. Injuries to key players tend to hit this quite hard, but such is the nature of football.

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1 hour ago, ajsr1982 said:

Well, the ultimate turn out of this is that I was 22nd in League One after about 18 games, and I decided to go through the methodical approach above. After 40 games, I was 9th, with an outside chance of making the playoffs, but I ran out of steam and finished 12th. That's with a team expected to finish 21st though.

My centre-forward, Redshaw, won the League One player of the year and finished top scorer with 32 league goals. He missed the last few games, which coincided with my drop in form. So he was scoring at a rate of about 4 in 5.

I'm 15 games into the following season, having made additions at CB, RB and bolstered the midfield with a more defensive minded player, employing him as a BWM/D in front of the defence. Redshaw is again top of the scoring charts, and I currently sit 4th, but it's tight and I'm bouncing around between 1st and 5th. That's against an expected 19th placed finish.

All in all, quite successful so far, and I'm happy with it. It's dependent on keeping my best players fit though. Injuries to key players tend to hit this quite hard, but such is the nature of football.

Sounds really great. Do you see a pattern in the way the goals are scored? Like is the striker simply just outrunning the defence (I noticed he's quite fast) or something? Really eager to learn more of your progress!

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read your thread and started a linclon city saved.

after 34 games, i'm first. strikers scoring lots of goals

even won 7-1 against a league 2 side in fa cup.

goals i normally score when i watch is my players just hoof the ball up and my 2 strikers will run for the ball and score. 

it's not really working now, starting to draw lots of games and conceding frequently. i guess the opponents are sitting deep to counter me. 

nSHoeuL.jpg

jKR7YzB.jpg

lTr0iy1.jpg

 

anything i can do to change around? my strikers aren't really big, i try using matt rhead, he is an excellent targetman but it didn't work when i put him as targetman there instead of DF in the beginning.

How do i get my team to do more of this kicking the ball over the defence for my fast striker to score goals?

Edited by kingpoodle

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Will give this a proper read when I have some time, but looks like something to follow/help with the Bolton save I want to start after the update.

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3 hours ago, kingpoodle said:

read your thread and started a linclon city saved.

after 34 games, i'm first. strikers scoring lots of goals

even won 7-1 against a league 2 side in fa cup.

goals i normally score when i watch is my players just hoof the ball up and my 2 strikers will run for the ball and score. 

it's not really working now, starting to draw lots of games and conceding frequently. i guess the opponents are sitting deep to counter me. 

nSHoeuL.jpg

jKR7YzB.jpg

lTr0iy1.jpg

 

anything i can do to change around? my strikers aren't really big, i try using matt rhead, he is an excellent targetman but it didn't work when i put him as targetman there instead of DF in the beginning.

How do i get my team to do more of this kicking the ball over the defence for my fast striker to score goals?

 

If that's something you actively want to do, then I'd make sure that you have 'Pass Into Space' ticked - I can see you already have. You could also instruct your central midfielders to 'Play More Risky Passes'.

However, for this to work, you need two key ingredients.

- Space in behind the opposition defence.

- At least one forward fast enough to exploit that space.

Sounds like you have the latter, but maybe opponents have become wise to granting you the former, so you might need to think of an alternative (like getting down the sides of teams, or getting your full backs to deliver early crosses).

I agree with the whole Target Man thing; I find it quite hard to make it work well. Remember that a Target Man is often the middle link of a chain. He needs good supply, and he needs people moving into space around him. A lack of either will see him rendered ineffective.

I'd look a little closer at Rhead's stats. Remember that the player roles in the game are based upon some sort of algorithm to come up with an answer in terms of role suitability. But you might want a slightly different type of Target Man, and therefore a different role might be better.

It looks like you're scoring enough goals though. You seem to have spells where you've conceded a few, and spells where you haven't conceded many at all. Did you do anything different during those spells? A change in tactics or personnel?

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Targetman is quite difficult to use. Normally i treat my Defensive Forward with PI "Hold up ball" and "dribble less" as a  "Target Man".

The funny thing is, Robinson in this role scored a lot of goals when he's the defensive forward instead of the AF.

And nope, didn't really change the tactics or players. Maybe only 1 or 2 because of fitness issues. 

There was some games I thought the performance wasn't promising enough, so I tried changing my left WM to Winger (S) and the CM(D) to BWM(D)/DLP(D). But i didn't really pay a lot attention to it.

Is it right to use Drop Deeper with Counter mentality? Because my both CB aren't fast and I don't want them to get caught on counter. How about "Play out of defence", my idea is I want my midfielders to hoof the ball up instead of my defenders. 

tdyknYN.jpg

Rhead's stat. He's the only slow striker in my team. The other 3 of my strikers have better pace. 

 

Maybe I will try early crosses. How about getting down the sides? Normally when opponent plays their wingers on the AM positions, i will click the exploit the flanks setting. Does it help to focus on the flanks more?

how do i stop goals like this?  

Edited by kingpoodle

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You're right, Rhead is a good target man, but he's also immobile. From what I gather, you're looking for your defence to play it into midfield, and then you're looking for them to play it into your forwards over the top. Fine, but Rhead limits your options there, which means the opposition only had to defend against one player. Easy. If you're going long to the forwards as well, you have to be mindful that he has no-one to lay it back to in central areas. You could bring your winger into play however.

As for the goal you conceded... It's a bit of a classic. CMs get drawn to the ball, opposition CF drops deep, your CB follows him and the opposition AF makes a run and scores.

How do you stop it? Well, there's no easy answer, and you can never cut it out completely. However there are a few things you can do.

- Counter and Drop Deeper is probably overkill. Counter moves your back line deeper already.

- The knock-on effect of that, is that you create a bigger gap between your midfield and defence. Your midfield will sit a little deeper than normal with your TIs, but if they decide to go pressing the ball, the gap opens up.

- You have two options, close the gap or put a player in the gap (a DM). You can close the gap by pushing the defence up slightly, or bringing the midfield deeper by playing two DMs. All of those options have trade-off however. Good old risk versus reward at play I'm afraid.

A (re?)read of some of the guides at the top of the forum to refresh yourself on what the TIs/PIs do might be worthwhile. Exploit flanks increases the mentality of your wide players and focuses some of your passing there. Again, it can come at a cost if you over-commit.

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It's better now after i added in early crosses and moved my CM(D) to DM(D).

 

What about set piece and training? How do you assign them?

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3 hours ago, kingpoodle said:

What about set piece and training? How do you assign them?

I don't. I use default set pieces and let my assistant sort the training out. Other threads do a good job of going into detail there however. Have a scout around.

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58vmKF5.jpg

why are my defenders so high up when i'm playing 4-4-2 defensive?

they lost the ball and the opponent score from a counter.

 

promoted to league 2 and now i'm struggling badly. opponent dominates the possesion and my long ball usually goes to waste.

might have to think of a new tactic.

Edited by kingpoodle

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Posted (edited)

I am a huge fan of this thread.  I love your methodical, non-idealistic approach and you write very well, explaining your thinking clearly.

I have gone through a similar sort of process, both in creating and in adjusting my tactic, though I've ended up with something fairly different.  Despite the reputation of lower league football, it's been surprisingly difficult for me to find a half-decent physical defensive midfielder.  (I have one decent player who can play in defensive midfield, but he's a 5'7" Deep-Lying Playmaker, so I generally want him in the CM stratum when he plays.)  That means a conservative but (sometimes) direct 4-4-2.  It's working okay, but I'm sometimes tempted to use something a little closer to what you've created here.

Do you have any updates?  I'm particularly interested in what, if any, changes you've made, and whether these represented evolution of the tactic over time, reaction to opponents, or moving past compromises you had to make based on available personnel when you found yourself able to bring in new players.  I'm guessing that in keeping with the notion of the generic, changes were minimal, but you never know.  Also, you said you kept PIs to a minimum; have you also preferred few PPMs?

Edited by Shi Xiansheng

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On 4/20/2017 at 12:16, Shi Xiansheng said:

I am a huge fan of this thread.  I love your methodical, non-idealistic approach and you write very well, explaining your thinking clearly.

I have gone through a similar sort of process, both in creating and in adjusting my tactic, though I've ended up with something fairly different.  Despite the reputation of lower league football, it's been surprisingly difficult for me to find a half-decent physical defensive midfielder.  (I have one decent player who can play in defensive midfield, but he's a 5'7" Deep-Lying Playmaker, so I generally want him in the CM stratum when he plays.)  That means a conservative but (sometimes) direct 4-4-2.  It's working okay, but I'm sometimes tempted to use something a little closer to what you've created here.

Do you have any updates?  I'm particularly interested in what, if any, changes you've made, and whether these represented evolution of the tactic over time, reaction to opponents, or moving past compromises you had to make based on available personnel when you found yourself able to bring in new players.  I'm guessing that in keeping with the notion of the generic, changes were minimal, but you never know.  Also, you said you kept PIs to a minimum; have you also preferred few PPMs?

Hi. I put the save in question down to be honest, due to work commitments, and found I couldn't get back into it, so it's not likely to see the light of day in the near future.

Glad you were able to get something out of it though, and I'm actually pleased that you ended up with something different to me. The thread really is aimed at making the best of what you have in that first season, or if you're broke and unable to bring in new players, and if a 4-4-2 is the way, then so be it.

You've identified the next steps already, I'd say. As you start to take those next steps, I think the idea of 'generic football' starts to become redundant, because you start to target players with a specific skill set to perform a role in a certain way. You're thinking 'this would work better with quick CBs because it would allow me to push up and from there I could perhaps use a press,' for example. As you move into season three and beyond, you should have had the opportunity to put your stamp on a team with a better idea of how you want to play.

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Incredible thread. Top marks. So much valuable insight, its going to come in really handy.

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Hey there, thank you for this thread. It's really great! I appreciate the straight-forward and clear approach.
I have a question though:

- What are your actions when you have to react in the game? For example how do you make the team push for a goal with urgency and how do you secure a result? I'm interested to know that. I "followed" your examples and build a decent 4-4-2 but I'm not sure how to react when things are urgent.

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1 hour ago, Jimmious7 said:

Hey there, thank you for this thread. It's really great! I appreciate the straight-forward and clear approach.
I have a question though:

- What are your actions when you have to react in the game? For example how do you make the team push for a goal with urgency and how do you secure a result? I'm interested to know that. I "followed" your examples and build a decent 4-4-2 but I'm not sure how to react when things are urgent.

Good question, and the honest answer is that I don't tend to make reactive changes in-game.

I'll deal with the defensive angle first, because it's easier. We've all seen how many AI teams react to going a goal down. 'Attacking 4-3-3', or some other risky approach. I feel comfortable that my Standard/Structured 4-1-4-1 offers enough in defence to deal with this. It's a low block system, and it has a couple of attacking outlets to catch out any teams that over-commit. Now, that isn't necessarily going to hold true of all systems. However, the general principles set out at the start should still hold true here. Restrict space and maintain some balance between defence and attack.

Attacking-wise, I very, very rarely change my system in term of team mentality. The reason for that is that I find anything above Standard at this level results in too much speculative play for my liking. Remember, your players aren't likely to be blessed in two key areas. 1 - making the right choice, and 2 - executing whatever choice they make. Therefore, I keep things at Standard to try to enforce fewer risky decisions, and shooting from silly areas. What I might do is change my approach to scoring a goal if things aren't working. There are loads of ways to do that, but the most common things I try are:

- Moving the playmaker to another part of the pitch if he's trying to work in congested areas. Assuming I'm using one, that is.

- Switching the attack/support roles around. So, whatever is on the left flank switches with whatever's on the right.

- Quite simply, personnel changes. Players play the same role in different ways, so sometimes putting a winger on who is quick but has poor delivery (or vice versa) can change things. Alternatively, putting a different type of centre forward on. In that case though, I might switch to, say, a TM over an AF.

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Cool, thank you! It's hard to restrain myself from dropping to a Counter mentality when I'm trying to secure a result or pushing up to Attacking when I need a goal... But I guess it's more of a way to handle my frustration than anything else hehe :)

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There's absolutely nothing wrong with your approach. It's just personal preference.

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This thread would be hugely useful a) to someone fairly new to putting a tactic together and b) playing away from the big sides where you can dictate how you want to play and build a team around that.

Some of your methods for putting a tactic together are very straightforward and methodical and should help anyone create a "basic" (meant in the most positive of senses) tactic that gives them a base to work on.

Bravo.

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