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LPQR

Attacking Football - Ironing out a Style

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Recent threads saw me focus a lot on ideas revolving around concepts on defending and the systems I've focused on have been a consequence of maybe too much dwelling on that, so I've decided to try out something new, yet again, with my Sparta Bucharest side :) Attacking football is a very debatable term... is it GegenPressing? is it Route One? is it Schimdt's overloads? is it Conte's 3-4-3? The whole idea of branding a style of football as attacking is based on the fact that throughout most of the match you will notice a particular progressive move from one end of the pitch to the other executed in quick successions and with a reasonably high tempo. Whether that is achieved through high, aggressive pressing, intelligent positional play, exploiting the wings or a quick passing game seems to not matter very much in the eye of the 'attacking football' label, although each of these 'styles' are achieved through completely different approaches to the game. Another often disregarded issue is that the ability of the team to execute more attacking moves in a short space of time relates a lot to:

a) how often the team is presented with a scenario where it can exercise a transition from back to front, i.e. having space to attack

b) how often the team will win the ball back and how efficient it is in recycling the possession necessary to initiate an attacking move

 

Consequently, my interpretation of a system that aims to create attacking football will be based on the following principles:

1. a system designed to create and exploit space

2. a balanced way of managing all phases of play (defending, possession, transitions)

3. a team layout that ensures the ball travels from back to front with minimal waste of time

 

these three constitute the foundation layer if you wish, the next area of consideration is analysis of squad and design of suitable duties:

The more I play FM the more obvious becomes an issue which is fundamentally.....obvious! Do not demand something of your players that they can not execute! It really is a simple and cliche point, but the implications that it has on a system performing or not as a whole are like a domino-effect. If our attacking wingback has the responsibility of covering the whole flank alone but lacks attributes for workrate, bravery, stamina and speed - will he be able to perform the task necessary for that system? How will that affect the whole set-up? So yes, it is fundamental that the players at my disposal have suitable duties allocated to them and that the requirements of the system demand actions that they are able to perform. 

 

strategic considerations

- our DR and DL have emerged into top quality fullbacks for our level and they are more than capable of covering both defense and the full width of the pitch

- the number of talented players for the striker and AMC positions that we have got through previous intakes is quite big, and I want to accommodate their transition to the first team

- our AMR is our best attacking player and it would be a shame not to exploit his ability closer to goal

- we have very good coverage for center-mid positions, with a large number of players of different profiles

- one of our CM's, (Bodea) and his specific stat distribution make him uniquely suited for the BWM role and he is one of our most promising talents so I want to use him

- we have a shortage of wide players, with the above mentioned AMR being one of the two available (the other is also an AMR)

 

squad suitability 

as mentioned above, the general attributes of the squad would need to be suitable for the style of football I want to implement. Here are the main attributes I've identified in that sense and their application to our best 11

12d80c787bf60fb305b562aaa8aa8914.png
 

For the level of football we're currently operating in (Romanian First Division) we show excellent ability in the required areas. The main concern is that we only have a few people who can pass the ball well, however, luckily they all play in advanced positions, exactly where we will need it the most as per my current vision. Additionally, we have the highest stats for aggression in the league which is a bonus! 

One of the trickiest parts of designing a system is that one needs to carefully balance the role and duties the players are best suited to with the responsibilities the general idea of the system requires. Here we already have a few important considerations:

- There needs to be a correct balance between players who support and attack as well as players who have more and less creative ability in order for the transitions to unravel smoothly and to maintain a healthy balance between penetration through runs and penetration through passing

- players need to be positioned in a way that the ball constantly moves forward without unnecessary delay

- I want my attacking players to hassle the opposition and avoid getting too 'artsy' about their passing, dribbling or creative endeavors, rather keeping it simple and progressive. 

 

formation&roles

8704ac84a5e2b83fad1eda0c052ac387.png

- the Defensive Forward and Shadow Striker are two uniquely aggressive attacking roles that are fairly limited in their creative responsibilities and that look to challenge opposition for the ball and generally cover a lot of defensive ground on the pitch

- the DLP is the only 'creator' of the team as his presence in the build up from deep as well as when in possession high up the pitch is a key element to balancing play and providing penetration through passing

- the BWM on the left helps cover the gaps that the CWB leaves when attacking and does not look to run too forward. I've even moved the BWM to the DM strata occasionally as well as had him on 'defend duty', both successfully.

- there is a good balance between 'runners' and 'passers'. We have the BBM, CWB, W and SS mainly focused on exploiting space through runs while the DF has the instruction to 'hold up ball' and support on-running players and the BWM and DLP act as support options from deep. The furthest support option is the right FB, which stays even deeper than the DLP and rarely joins attacks in order to maintain good defensive coverage.

 

 

team instructions&shape

1a26abc5e2f6581e06a45828114c7078.png

- as mentioned before, I want as quick of a transition from back to front as possible, and hence the higher tempo

- I'm still wary of defensive responsibility so I've adopted a tighter marking scheme, which forces players to track back more and stay close to the opposition players. That also helps us regain possession through player positioning rather than relying on exhausting hassling and physical duels all the time

- close down more and preventing short GK distribution makes our forward trio press the opposition defense even higher up the pitch

- my side midfielders need to cover width occasionally, hence the balanced setting there, which is actually fairly wide under attacking mentality influence

- I want my attacking players to take a man on and pressure the opposition with a number of players running at them, hence the run at defence instrucion

- pass into space relates to exploiting open spaces that the opposition are bound to leave behind and relies on the promise that we will have a player attacking that area in most cases

- I want a balanced and varied approach in the way our attacks unfold, so it could be either through a defence-splitting long ball or a short pass combination between the front 3/5, so mixed passing

- I want my squad to have space in front of them to run onto, so the defense line is set at normal. Given the attacking mentality and high closing down setting, however, my team will push a little bit higher, just enough to pose a considerable challenge to the opposition in their own half, and integrate the counter-pressing element into our style of play

- the attacking mentality relates to numbers 1. and 3. outlined as principles, and it aims to increase the risk the players are willing to take in moving the ball forward, as well as the aggression of the squad as they look to transition up the pitch

 

Ok, so to elaborate on the principles I have set out to embed in my approach:

 

1. a system designed to create and exploit space

space will be created by a number of factors: 

a) the overload we create on the right side of the pitch, with increased numbers of players attacking that area. This forces the opposition to commit players towards that zone and thus leaves spaces elsewhere, which we can exploit if we maintain good coverage of the pitch. Here comes why having the correct player for the CWB roles is so important - if he wouldn't be quick enough to be in an advanced position on the left side, we wouldn't be able to exploit width/space in that area.

b) the variety in player movement - as mentioned above, we have runners and passers, players who hold up the ball, and players who dictate from deep, so we have a number of ways in which we move on the pitch in order to de-stabilize the opposition and create/exploit space

c) the shape, formation and roles which aim to have the squad close enough to each other in order to interact however spread out enough in order to move the ball quickly without having to spend time on running

 

2. a balanced way of managing all phases of play (defending, possession, transitions)

Here I aimed for a balanced coverage of duties being performed around the pitch in different situations of play. As mentioned above, this relates to choosing the player roles in correspondence to the general idea of the system as well as in accordance to each other. For example, I am able to manage good defensive coverage because the BWM fills in for the CWB when the latter is caught up the pitch. I am able to manage possession well because I have a good number of players in the midfield area that are performing the correct duties (think DLP dictating from deep and BBM running in the box). I am able to manage transitions well because the support/attack duties as well as the movement that the players make on the pitch are complementary and are designed to achieve the above mentioned goal, which happens to be point number 3:

3. a team layout that ensures the ball travels from back to front with minimal waste of time

it's difficult to talk about the three points in separate ways, as you can obviously see how inter-relational these concepts are. And.... it's supposed to be like that! Football is highly complex mechanism and you can't just separate one thing from the other and pretend it's not there. A lot about how I plan to achieve that has already been talked about, relating to player roles, duties, mentality, tempo and so on.  A key aspect of point 3 that has not been mentioned above, however, relates to team shape: I have chosen flexible because I literally want my team to be....flexible :) I don't want them too close to each other and neither too spread out. I don't want my defenders playing through balls and neither my forwards coming too deep to defend. I want a balanced shape that would allow me to ensure good coverage of the pitch and quick progression of the ball, without running into extremes. 

 

In-match examples:

the BWM (here in DM strata with support duty) covering for the CWB caught up the pitch in attacking move. Here you can notice the 'domino effect' that complementing duties can have. The DLP drops deep to cover the central area that the BWM leaves exposed due to drifting out wide, while the SS drops into midfield to cover the area that the DLP left exposed. Flexible team shape ensures good balance of these 'covering' situations

5c4efa0967705773c237a7ee19b47d8b.jpg

 

example of a) good space coverage - notice width and number of players looking to make runs into space. b) possession management - the duties that the midfield trio perform: the BWM looks to make a simple short pass to the creative DLP who will either launch a direct ball to either of the runners or pass it shorter to the BBM who will either look to make a run himself or pass to close running options

f88f1a0bdf3003116927b08d4128d0c7.jpg

 

example of creating space - the DF is challenged by 3 opposition players and chooses to protect the ball and make a pass to an on-running player. Notice there are four of them making runs into space. the central runners exploit the space left by the midfielders that challenge the DF, the W tries to beat his man in the box and the CWB is advanced enough to be a forward passing option in the above mentioned left side of the pitch :)

e775f1fc08fdec7b10752a62f30fefe3.jpg

 

example of good defensive shape, as the SS drops deep to mark his man, thus creating an important numerical advantage for us in this situation. Notice that the DF and W are positioned high enough up the pitch in order to attempt out-running their opponent if they are on the receiving end of a direct pass.

4c2e51482ce3175b8ecd9fb807681d69.jpg

 

there are a lot of other examples I could go into, but it's a short day and I've been writing for a few hours now :) I used this system with slight variation when necessary for the second half of the season - i.e. dropping the BWM to DM or changing his duty to support, playing narrower, or more disciplined if necessary. Don't forget that the ME reacts to how you play and if you don't react to them you will lose! So, this isn't about a magic formula, this is about developing a concept and adapting if necessary. The results however, have been mesmerizing:

Spoiler

an unbeaten run that saw us score for fun in the league as well as beat the likes of Arsenal and Milan, both giants compared to us:

f2cf10d10cf24287571b488677da1460.png

 

a domestic quadruple:

f5924858f2d71e15bf3247a2e6d7617f.png

 

and a first ever appearance in the Champions League final for a club that was predicted to be knocked-out in the groups:

c3353ab838fd37beedf5874e1bdf4e74.png

 

Part II - Adapting

 

Sparta vs. Real Madrid

- this match in the group stages was a massive challenge for us as we had to play Madrid. Going in as heavy underdogs, I made a couple of changes:

- moved the BWM(S) to the DM position to offer cover for our most vulnerable area, as the CWB ventures forward to support the attacks

- ticked the 'stay more disciplined' instruction so that we stay focused and reduce the risk of misplaced passes or ineffective creative outbursts from our players

d2657c03c62741b269693c3ab9acd1e2.jpg
 

the Defensive Forward (Dumitriu): drifting left to support the CWB, then running in the box to finish off the move after the SS was muscled out. This move also shows we have 3-4 men challenging for the final ball in the box.

 7be50e27631710bbd8e820ed385edf50.gif

 

the BWM(Blaga) covering for the CWB who mistimes his tackle and is caught out of position

f4e87dd65f934a7313077b6a48834576.gif  

 

Anticipation+Speed from the CWB allows him to intercept this ball and start a quick counter. Here you can also notice the quick transition from back to front, the involvement of the BBM (player takes final shot) and the DF holding up the ball waiting for on-running team-mates.

705813de9d41e08821de7a63f643da78.gif

 

final result:

we kept Madrid at bay and even created a very respectable number of chances. 

127c0cc978726350acff79b0fd150824.png

 

this goes to show that defensive stability can be achieved with a high risk mentality such as 'attacking' providing a few elements of play are functioning well:

- space coverage, or the ability of the team to maintain good control of all areas on the pitch, without allowing the opposition an 'Achille's Heel'

- balanced duties that support and complement each other in their responsibilities on the pitch

- an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the style of football you play and how to react to potential threats

 

Further Analysis

Using the initial system with minor in-match adjustments as exemplified above, we completely dominated the Romanian First Division this year, finishing the season unbeaten and scoring almost 3 goals per game:

bd986ba3beb525db0305507744a81ce0.png
 

edaabf40d2114c3c8058ee1e38194852.png

 

the assist map/type shows how efficient the CWB is in the open area we create on the left by overloading the middle-right of the pitch. Apart from that we have a very healthy mix of assists from all areas and of all types which shows that we are involving players in different areas in attacking moves. This graph also shows that what is our main strength (left flank) is also our main weakness in defence as we have mainly conceded goals assisted by crosses.

a39d6b40849a9b1c5343841531ac96ea.png

 

the goals we are scoring rely mostly on shots - either placed or powerful, and our lack of quality headers is quite a concern given the high number of crosses we put in the box. A possible explanation for that would be that we only have one or two players who are good in the air and both play in the DF position, which is most of the times caught a bit deeper in the final third, behind the SS and the AMR. 

d3b8d9e6f5cc1437ecea3f0d9b5aa2b5.png

Goals & Style of Play

quick transition& using deep passing option (AMR-BWM-SS)

b4176e3d5b2825d39341b5991aa1fc75.gif

 

quick transition& fast exchange of short passes (CWB-SS-DF)

76efd330840125a53c6d834356285296.gif

 

drawing opp. players in centre of the pitch and exploiting the left wing via CWB+ AMR attacking far post

81d278e31a33c4b37a7be39f7ac90807.gif

 

quick counter-attack (SS-BWM-CWB-DF)

c8d294d0f3cbbbec4194b5b03f16978c.gif


 

one of the key objectives in developing this system was to exploit our best player's attacking ability as much as possible - Catalin Turcu (AMR)

ca71c1e68f77a30dca478603ed6b2157.jpg

the idea was to exploit Turcu's ability both ways - in a supporting sense as well as in an offensive one. I want him to be a sort of wide forward, there to finish off the ball or beat the last defender with his great pace; I also want him to skip past his man and put in a cross or a dangerous pass when presented with the occasion.

What this required is a correct management of the attacking A-line: the fact that the DF is instructed to hold up the ball, as well as being a role that operates in the deeper area of the pitch, meant that our AMR would be the most advanced player on the pitch in most of our attacking moves:

 

in the same move that led to the goal against Madrid (GIF above), here's how the A-line takes shape:

4138832732bc878a8b08365b7e367342.jpg

the functions that this kind of movement perform are various and beneficial for both the player and the team in the context of this system for a number of reasons:

- the W pushing up usually creates space for our deep runner (the BBM) who can get in the box easier as a result

- the W attacking the far post means he is our main threat from early crosses by the CWB

- the W provides the most advanced passing option the team has for a crucial reason: he has the best ability in the team to take a man on and thus create heavy numerical advantage

- the design of the system means he is one of our most supported players on the pitch: FB on the right providing defensive cover and deep passing option, DLP supplying with long balls to run on to, SS, BBM and DF as close passing options and CWB supplying crosses to the far post.

 

Turcu stats 2031-32:

af7f30a92858df8d95d3f815ec4300de.png

 

European Golden Boy for the 2031 year

5de71f209c6294a07a782c447650b9d7.png
 

more results:

Spoiler

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-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks for reading and check out my blog for more stuff like this :)
 

Edited by LPQR

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Between this and your libero system...great stuff, as always.

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On 12/26/2016 at 18:35, ManUtd1 said:

Between this and your libero system...great stuff, as always.

 

11 hours ago, Ö-zil to the Arsenal! said:

Nice thread. Enjoyed reading. Particularly interesting to read about an approach with such an interesting club.

cheers guys :) will update the OP with more analysis and detail once I get the time, but for now this is to highlight the backbone of the concept

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OP updated with Part II

Edited by LPQR

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just scored this against Juventus... :)

30ab99b45933cd8aca9a7cddd0b3a470.gif

Edited by LPQR

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I was reading this earlier today and thinking about a system I briefly experimented with, that also had a back 4 and a single winger. I don't recall the specifics but what I remember is that it failed dismally. We created absolute loads of chances, but the opposition created better quality chances, because my defence all fell apart like dominoes trying to cover for each other whenever the ball went to the vacant wing! In fact I also used something similar a couple FMs ago and it fell apart in a similar way.

I'm a bit surprised you managed to avoid this effect and make this system useful (and not just useful, VERY successful). I think it's a combination of the BWM being a good role to use on that side of the pitch - he's eager to cover for that wing -, the SS being on the left side as well, and perhaps more importantly than both, the Attacking mentality. Because on attacking mentality, your players are going to be wider than on normal mentalities, even whilst on their defensive shape...

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On 26/12/2016 at 15:48, LPQR said:

- I'm still wary of defensive responsibility so I've adopted a tighter marking scheme, which forces players to track back more and stay close to the opposition players. That also helps us regain possession through player positioning rather than relying on exhausting hassling and physical duels all the time
 

This is something I don't quite get neither. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding what "tighter marking" is supposed to be, but I'd have thought that having players sticking to their opponents, rather than marshaling zones (isn't this effectively the "man marking" option now?), would make the game more physical, more about muscling out opponents in divided scraps? Whereas if players defend by zones they'd win more balls through positioning.

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4 hours ago, noikeee said:

I was reading this earlier today and thinking about a system I briefly experimented with, that also had a back 4 and a single winger. I don't recall the specifics but what I remember is that it failed dismally. We created absolute loads of chances, but the opposition created better quality chances, because my defence all fell apart like dominoes trying to cover for each other whenever the ball went to the vacant wing! In fact I also used something similar a couple FMs ago and it fell apart in a similar way.

I'm a bit surprised you managed to avoid this effect and make this system useful (and not just useful, VERY successful). I think it's a combination of the BWM being a good role to use on that side of the pitch - he's eager to cover for that wing -, the SS being on the left side as well, and perhaps more importantly than both, the Attacking mentality. Because on attacking mentality, your players are going to be wider than on normal mentalities, even whilst on their defensive shape...

unless you make mistakes in the way you cover space+ the roles and duties you're choosing, asymmetry shouldn't be much of an issue. That's what I've mentioned countless times in the OP: look how players cover areas and how they complement each other on the pitch - this will affect how successful you are in all phases of play.

2 hours ago, noikeee said:

This is something I don't quite get neither. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding what "tighter marking" is supposed to be, but I'd have thought that having players sticking to their opponents, rather than marshaling zones (isn't this effectively the "man marking" option now?), would make the game more physical, more about muscling out opponents in divided scraps? Whereas if players defend by zones they'd win more balls through positioning.

you're getting caught in a trap called 'discursive wisdom' :)

employing tight marking can result in different approaches to defending depending the overall style of play, and players being muscled out definitely relates to options like tackling and closing down rather than marking. Using tight marking makes my players track back defensively and having players like the SS and DF come into our own half to provide additional numbers in defense. I'm winning balls through player positioning not because of the 'tight marking' option but because of how it interacts with my overall shape and duties. I have a number of players who push high up the pitch, a number of players who drift into the half spaces, a high number of players challenging for the ball in midfield, and so on. 

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Hi LPQR,

creat tread, inspire me to create an attacking tactic too. How do you create the gifs'? Which program do you use for this?

Regards

Volker

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4 hours ago, sgevolker said:

Hi LPQR,

creat tread, inspire me to create an attacking tactic too. How do you create the gifs'? Which program do you use for this?

Regards

Volker

Hi Volker, thanks and I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

I use Gyazo for both screens and gifs, amazing tool 

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Great read!

A good example on how to shape your tactics to exploit the strengths of its best individuals. Also the unusual shape and the team you are playing with make this very refreshing.

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7 minutes ago, Ji-Sung Park said:

Wonderful stuff.

Link to the Libero system please? Thanks.

:) cheers

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my AMR does it again, for the second year in a row :) 

a21c8d480d648aa1bd5ae88b5ccd89b1.png

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So I tried this tactic with Hertha Berlin. Started off as unemployed and took the helm as they were rock bottom in the BL by Christmas break. They have some of the required players to play this style, but I had to bring in Patrick Hermann in January. We finished 8th in the league in the end, despite losing 0-6 at home to Bayern - in a match we actually dominated at times.

If I had to use one word to describe this tactic it would be urgency. Absolutely brilliant.

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36 minutes ago, Ji-Sung Park said:

So I tried this tactic with Hertha Berlin. Started off as unemployed and took the helm as they were rock bottom in the BL by Christmas break. They have some of the required players to play this style, but I had to bring in Patrick Hermann in January. We finished 8th in the league in the end, despite losing 0-6 at home to Bayern - in a match we actually dominated at times.

If I had to use one word to describe this tactic it would be urgency. Absolutely brilliant.

glad to hear that :) and yes! urgency would be a perfect word to describe the style I wanted to achieve in my attacking phase

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LPQR Hello, sorry for my English, but I am Italian and I am using the translator ... are now almost 20 years that the managerial game and lately I can not create a tactic worthy of being posted due to his wife children etc .. ..I have written on purpose to compliment you, this is really a great tactic, it is simply effective, have created exactly what is my idea of football in fact, spectacular.

I took the liberty of doing un'accorgimento, I noticed that often suffered raids from the left, so I opted for the setting that you have given to your team against Real Madrid but taking the settings of your natural team plus I added offside avoiding lq central raids ....... Pretty much now it is a war machine, still Congratulations

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7 minutes ago, Gabrio78 said:

LPQR Hello, sorry for my English, but I am Italian and I am using the translator ... are now almost 20 years that the managerial game and lately I can not create a tactic worthy of being posted due to his wife children etc .. ..I have written on purpose to compliment you, this is really a great tactic, it is simply effective, have created exactly what is my idea of football in fact, spectacular.

I took the liberty of doing un'accorgimento, I noticed that often suffered raids from the left, so I opted for the setting that you have given to your team against Real Madrid but taking the settings of your natural team plus I added offside avoiding lq central raids ....... Pretty much now it is a war machine, still Congratulations

I'm not going to read that out of the principle of not offending your opinion :) E allora puoi dirmi la stessa cosa in Italiano, perche voglio davvero capire che hai detto

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gave this a brief run with Chelsea, and holidayed the matches after the Man U game:

0a520c60955ae14fdbc4a8f7a07385ff.png
 

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Hi LPQR, this looks like an interesting setup. I have been struggling to settle on a defined formation for my save, i seem to be able to find a solid formation but lack forward movement so have been considering a more asymmetric formation. Can you tell me if you use PI & OI for this setup? Many thanks.

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53 minutes ago, Bauer24 said:

Hi LPQR, this looks like an interesting setup. I have been struggling to settle on a defined formation for my save, i seem to be able to find a solid formation but lack forward movement so have been considering a more asymmetric formation. Can you tell me if you use PI & OI for this setup? Many thanks.

I use no OI's, and the PI's reflect the ideas outlined in the OP :) then again, it's up to you and the squad you have to set-up movement in a way that benefits that, so as @Cleon says... analyse and identify! :)

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