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This is an excerpt from a guide I will be releasing in the future, which will be a giveaway to my loyal patreons who've supported me over the last few months. I do plan on dribbling this down on the forums too. Its just a massive 70 page guide. So bear with me.

 I find that most players have a good idea of the basics about tactic creation. Where most go wrong is surprisingly over squad building. Now this may even sound strange, but its true. Overachievement demands that you know what goes wrong in transitions, however most times people fail to recognise the failure point in transitions. They won't know why a player failed to make a challenge, or close down a flank, or even take a shot at goal. It's not an issue when you are managing one of the top sides in the world, because let's face it most of their attributes are already above average. Its when you go down the totem pole that the challenge increases. In the following excerpt. I talk about squad building and how important it is to identify key swing attributes in your team, even before we take a look at what I've termed in my book as Core Role Attributes, these are attributes central to the performance of a role and duty.

 

SQUAD BUILDING

So do you build a tactic around your squad or do you build a team around your system? You always need to make the latter your goal, and there is a basic reason why. 

When you build a tactic around the squad you have, you're always going to be in band-aid mode. This means that you're trying to shoe horn your players into a particular system. Its not ideal and you frequently need to make compromises.  Regardless of budgetary constraints, you need to find a way to build a team into the kind of system you want to play. Many people have told me that they find this impossible in certain cases.

They could have taken over a club and discovered that the board has given them no wage budget and worse still, every loan signing they've made is uselss. Let's face it most loan signings can be terminated, so you still have a window to make a number of changes. You could be left with no wage budget, but you should still be able to fit a side around a system. There are certain golden rules I follow to make things simple when I want to choose who plays for me:

 

THE SWING ATTRIBUTES

 

Bravery - Determination - Work Rate

For me when all things are equal, these attributes are the swing factor. Sometimes these attributes are the very first I look at. For certain duties, these are absolutely vital.

Bravery 

Without this attribute, a player won't go into a challenge, or dive into a header. They affect offensive and defensive situations. A 50-50 ball, becomes a certainty for the opposition AI. So, when it comes to support players, Bravery is a swing factor. If you have less than 8, you have no place in my side as a Support duty. And this duty is huge, because it affects you during transitions. You can't improve bravery, sometimes it may be ok for a striker to have low bravery, but in those tight matches where lunging into a cross is important, this attribute could swing the result the wrong way. So I never pick players with low bravery.

This becomes especially true for LLM saves, low bravery means no squad number. And it gets really tough in LLM football, which means I trial the hell out of the world.

Work Rate

If you are looking for a team to give you lung bursting work, then high stamina and natural fitness are not enough, you need work rate. And a good dose of it. Nothing less than the league average. This attribute defines whether a player is capable of covering every blade of grass, twice. A player with stamina may do it, but a player with low work rate will never do it.

Determination 

Are you fighting to the last minute for an equaliser? Are you urging on a support player to cover miles of grass? Do you want the player to work hard during a game when you are a goal down? Do you want players who are willing to fight for a point? Then you need determination. For me, this is the most important attribute for any team. It gets especially important for sides that are planning to over achieve.

A player may have anticipation and positioning, but if he doesn't have the determination to get back in time, then transitions may fail due to his lack of desire. This makes it one of the most important swing attributes in the game.

These 3 attributes together form the core requirements for any side that wishes to play with ANY kind of block. If you are looking for players to defend from the front, then the front liners need all these attributes. If you want your midfield to come back and work hard all the time then you need them to have it too. In fact, whenever I build my squad these are always the first 3 attributes I zoom into.

Once you have isolated the players that fit the mold of the battling warrior, then you go and start shortlisting players. I always have a few rules for these too.

 

Rule 1

More central midfielders are always better than more wingers.

There are more systems that control midfield with central midfielders in the game than there are with wingers. You can also take central midfielders and play them as playmakers, defensive midfielders, box to box midfielders and sometimes even wingers. You usually can't do the same with wingers. Furthermore, most good wingers are low on technical skills like marking and tackling.

 

Rule 2

More fullbacks are better than wingers.

Full backs are one of the more versatile positions in the game, they can be retrained as wing backs and as wingers. And they can tackle. They are also incredibly versatlile positions in any system. Furthermore, if you can build a system with good full backs, then you can build really good attacking and controlling systems. Full backs give you incredible width and they can tackle. 

 

Rule 3

Always have at least one striker who has strength and good first touch

Having a striker who can hold up the ball, gives us options up front. If he has the Swing Attributes, then you also have a final third bully. Imagine having a "Diego Costa" bullying an opponents back line.  These players can work well with pacey off-strikers and can bring others into play.  Their ability to hold the ball up will give your sides time to build attacks. If they fail to hold up the ball, you will be a victim to quick transitions. It's very dangerous losing a ball in the final third transition off a player who is trying to hold up the ball and is unsuited to the role.

 

Rule 4

Great mentals are important for central defenders

Always try to get one defender or select one defender who has great positioning, marking anticipation and concentration.  This defender will usually be the one racking up the interceptions. Eventually SI will rework how interceptions are calculated in the game, but for now, you need a defender who can read the game. If you have two fast defenders and neither can read the game, then you will usually end up praying they run faster, which is usually never a good thing.

Now that we have sorted out some requirements lets start building the rest of the squad. Lets start with the core support players.

 

In the book I have listed out them out as Destroyers, Supporters and Creators, or something along those lines. Essentially we want at least a few attributes that are core. The Swing attributes form the core for all of them.

For the Destroyers you need to add acceleration, anticipation, tackling and concentration.

For the Supporters you need to add teamwork, passing, tackling, first touch and decisions

For the Creators you need to add, decisions, passing, crossing, first touch.

For strikers it goes without saying they need finishing and composure. 

 

sWhen you have isolated these attributes you will notice one thing, there are a large number of systems your team can now play.

4411, 4312, 4231, 3421, 3412, 532, 352, 51221DM Wide, 4231, 4213DM, 41221

 

At this point, I am expecting some of you to say :"You don't have any wingers, so how can you play some of these systems?"

The game is versatile, it allows you to play someone out of position. So long as they have the attributes for the job, it will get done. You can retrain him for the position, but you should never allow the player to dictate what you can and cannot do. You need to get creative with some of the roles in the game. Let's take one example:

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This happens to be on of my central midfielders, he has decent off the ball, and has average crossing and dribbling, but he has no acceleration to speak of. However his anticipation and tackling make him a good choice as a wide midfielder who can play on support. I can expect him to get up to support and drop deep to defend. Knowing he doesn't have great acceleration will mean I don't need to think of him as an attack duty, or I could give him the attack duty but tell him or the team to hit early crosses. This is how I think with every single player that I've identified as a support player. Now  I look for those that can be played in multiple positions. If I can find a fullback who can play as a winger, then his tackling, positioning and workrate make him more valuable to me than a winger who can only cross and dribble. Now I have a player who can drop back to help the team out. 

The next step is to put them together into systems that allow me to morph from one tactic to another if I need to. I love playing LLM, and sometimes the only way to win, is to react to ingame events .If the AI is willing to go into a 424 to win matches, why should I stay on one tactic, shouldn't I be able to have the same sort of adaptability? Yes, but it all depends on how well your team can move from one role to another role. You need players who can be versatile, you can't have an entire second or third team on the bench, but you can certainly play a different system by changing a role and duty here or there. I can maintain the same level of risk, but change the profile of my attack. Now isn't that more powerful?

 

Setting up a System

Now that you have shortlisted your squad its time for you to think about the tactical system you will be using with them. Essentially whatever system you create has to control key zones on the pitch, which I will explain later as Zone 14 or the Golden zone. This immediately gives systems with a Defensive Midfieder and Attacking Midfielders an edge.

This part is easy, right? I mean we go out we get ourselves enough players to be versatile. What's the next part? What kind of systems should I build? And this is where people stumble. When we go out and secure these players there is a reason why I chose so many midfielders. To do that I need you to understand a concept common in Germany  and Austria called Juego de Posición. It basically boils down to telling your team to play football by controlling grids on a pitch.

“Do you know how Barcelona win the ball back so quickly? It’s because they don’t have to run back more than 10 metres as they never pass the ball more than 10 metres.”

Johan Cruyff

Football is about controlling space, and these are covered in numerous articles on the web as "Principles of Positional Play". There is also a little known theory about "half spaces" and how to control Zone 14, or what I like to call in FM as the Golden Zone. 

Zone 14/Golden Zone/Juego de Posición

Whenever you create any system, it plays against another system. When you head out and play a game of football, its one tactical system against another tactical system. The goal is to breach the defences and score goals, and in the last 10 years, numereous studies have postulated the co-relation with controlling Zone 14 with a large number of assists. This can easily be applied in FM.

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A large number of goals come from assists created from within the Golden Zone.  When we decide on the Swing Attributes we have basically decided which one of our players is going to be the frontline battling titan sent out to control areas of the pitch. So whatever system you create, when it comes down to transitions you don't want to see the AI happily camping in our Golden Zone. And, you want to be able to get into theirs. This can be done with many systems.

Does this mean we need to set up shop and camp there? No it means we somehow need to drag the opposition around in that area so that we can free up one player to play a deadly pass to a goalscorer. And this is one of the reasons why I favour using an APM as a wide playmaker in a wide 41221, he's an instant magnet.

 

So what kind of systems lend themselves naturally to creating control here?

Immediately several pop to mind:

4231, 4312, 4132, 41221, 433Narrow, 3142, 442 Diamond

 

What do these systems have in common? All of them have a DM or an AM in either zone. This doesn't mean that you automatically gain an advantage. It just means that you have the players and with the right attributes they stand a good chance of making something happen. As a manager its up to you to design a system which either drags them around creating space for your scorers, or if you are defending, herd the AI into cul-de-sacs where you win the 2nd ball or they turn over possession.

The Swing Attributes I listed earlier make it easier for you to filter out those who can work hard to control the space. Anytime you see someone fail to, check those attributes first before you check on their technical abilities.

Some of these tactics seem a bit odd, like the 442 Diamond and the 4312narrow, both of these play narrow. And it would appear that we are ceding control wide to have an advantage in the middle. Yes, we are ceding control, but remember eariler when I looked around for fighting midfielders with bravery, determination and work rate, why do you think they are in the team? To battle over every blade of grass in midfield to win the ball.

Sometimes you will end up ceding control of specific areas to get this done. For example, a 442 narrow diamond would give up some measure of control of the flanks in order for the system to control the middle. Deciding what system you can use sometimes becomes the harder choice. Here I would recommend that you stay away from a 442. In the image above, these are the two zones that need to be controlled for the 442 to succeed. To exploit a 442 or any system we need to identify the weak areas of the system and take advantage of it. 

The 442 fails to control any zone effectively apart from the flanks, but controlling this area of the pitch also limits the kind of football you can play. Any attempt to play a more attacking role in the final third through the middle weakens your centre. So unless you have very good players, you would probably be better off playing a system like a 41221, 451, 4312 or even a 4231 Each one of these systems seeks to control some part of the pitch with more players.

 

Now having already followed certain rules with player selections you would now have a squad with more central midfielders, this will give you more options to control the middle. Now we need to apply all this into specific games. And I have a match against Leicester coming up and they play a wicked 442.

 

SETTING UP A SQUAD FOR A SPECIFIC GAME

Most people start the game with a tactic in mind, they choose their starting 11, set up training and look forward to the first game of the season. Results usually end up working out for them, and then towards the middle of the season, things start to go pear-shaped.

Fact is, you need to think about squad building throughout the season. You need to choose who to play for every game and every kind of opposition you face. Most times when you are one of the best teams in the game, it isn't much of an issue. In my long term save with Torino, they just happen to be one of the top 10 clubs in the world. In the Serie A, they are probably the best team. Setting them up becomes an afterthought, because there are probably only 2 teams there that pose a significant challenge. When you reach this stage, then squad building has been perfected. 

In order to get to that stage you need to go through several years of planning, and it begins when you are a small club punching above your weight. This is when you plan your squad around the matches you face.

In the previous section I spoke about how you add players to your squad. I explained why I chose to prefer full backs and central midfielders above all else. There is a simple reason for this - it allows me to choose the right 11 for every match. And this is how I do things. I usually scout opposition teams study their strengths and set up to combat them. Here are a few examples:

 

Playing against a 442

In the previous section I spoke about how you add players to your squad. I explained why I chose to prefer full backs and central midfielders above all else. There is a simple reason for this - it allows me to choose the right 11 for every match. And this is how I do things. I usually scout opposition teams study their strengths and set up to combat them. First I do my homework, with a bit of practice you should do this naturally but here I list out my thought processes if I were going to be playing against a 442. What I do is to develop what-if scenarios in my head. In matches I absolutely need to win, I do this diligently and I watch highlight reels of the AI's matches. Over time you should be able to work this into a habit and you will shorten this list. Ultimately you will be instinctive and won't be watching pkms anymore, instead you would have developed your own solutions embedded into multiple options you could use in the game.

In the hands of a human manager, this tactic usually falls apart. In the hands of the AI, it ends up becoming a beast. A 442 has certain strengths, its balanced in all areas of the pitch without being too strong in any particular area.

When playing against an AI 442, I study to find out how the attack patterns play out. I scour previous games, study the AI and if possible watch highlights of the AI matches.

The goal here is to find out how they attack.

If they attack with a double flank attack, ie both wingers attack with fullbacks coming in support. And, in the final third transition, the wingers cut inside and the fullbacks add width, then I need to work on breaking midfield transitions.

Here isolation is the name of the game. You need to isolate their fullbacks from the midfielders and identify the playmaker in the system. If the tactic plays with a targetman/poacher combination, then it becomes even harder. If the targetman can hold up the ball in time for support to arrive, it usually means that we have ceded control of our final third. 

When I analyse the AI play, I look for clues.events that warn me about the AI's style, its these little things I look for before coming up with a plan on how to combat it. Once I've identified the clues, I start building a squad around combating it for my match. During the match itself, I will look for these clues again to see if I need to adapt

Clue 1

When Full back enters opponent's final third their central players start entering dangerous positions

Clue 2

When central midfielder on defend enters opponents half fullbacks give width in final third and wingers cut inside

Clue 3

Midfielder on the ball is ice skating through the middle

Clue 4

Midfielder on flank holding up the ball dragging players to him

Clue 5

Midfielder on the right side of midfield is switching over to left side of midfield

Clue 6

Where does the team win its 2nd ball, in the midfield consolidation phase, midfield penetration phase or does it prevent the opponent from entering midfield phase

Clue 7

Who is the most influential link up player in the AI team? This may not neccessarily be the playmaker, it could even be the player who is almost always breaking up interceptions. Imagine Kante with Chelsea, he doesn't tackle much, but he is always around intercepting breaking up plays. Without him Hazard won't get the ball. Prevent Kante from interecepting and Hazard has to drop deeper.

Clue 8

Set piece transitions - When defending a setpiece, do they defend with everyone? Do they have a fast counter? Who stays forward? Who stays near edge of box?

Clue 9

When attacking set pieces, do they commit everyone? Do those who stay back have any particular weaknesses. Here we are looking out especially concentration, positioning, anticipation and acceleration.

 

Now we need to apply all this into specific games, and that's the objective of the next chapter, how do we adapt to certain tactical systems and what do we look for in transitions. Believe me, there are huge clues in the game, and sometimes they come in quick succession.

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SETTING UP THE SQUAD FOR A SPECIFIC GAME.

 

Now in the previous section I listed out all the clues, these will just give me a rough idea of what to look for, I also need to think of plans and what-if scenarios,  I need to think about why these could happen so I can prepare my squad for the next match the best way possible. So its now time to drill deeper in each of those clues.

 

When the full back enters the opponent's final third their central players start entering dangerous positions

 

This is usually a sign for me that the AI is playing on a higher mentality than me. It could also mean that my team isn't adventurous enough to press them in the middle. Here I will look for signs of control:

 

  • Is there a strong ball winner in midfield who seems to be intercepting balls?
  • Do their central midfielders have too much time to control the ball?
  • Are they playing with attacking fullbacks with support midfielders?

 

If there is a strong ball winner on support, and my players are failing to win the 2nd ball, then I need to find out if my players are losing 50-50 challenges? Or whether they are too slow to react. In either case, this could either be an attribute mis-match (ie, their players are just too good) or we are just too deep and not aggressive enough in terms of mentality. I will avoid raising our closing down because it would be pointless if there is an attribute mismatch. And I will avoid increasing closing down if the opposition is playing structured. This can easily be seen if their players seem to be well positioned and seem to have no players around them.

My first option would be to raise mentality and my 2nd option would be to increase defensive line settings. Remember that when you raise mentality your defensive line automatically goes up slightly, so you may not want to do both at the same time. 

If I were to go into a match with a team playing a strong attacking flank. I will need to identify which flank that is and place support players in midfield. If their players are only marginally better than mine then I will aim to isolate their fullbacks from the game. In this case I would use a system that plays like a 451, with 2 wide AMs and a flat 3 in midfield. 

The goal here would be to create a 3 man midfield that would put pressure on their 2 in midfield, my 2 attacking midfielders would play wide and apply pressure on their fullbacks. All attacking midfielders and the lone striker would have to close down much more.

In this case we are created a 1v1 in the opponents third against the fullbacks and a 3v2 against their central midfield attack. At the back I would resist the urge to play an attacking duty on my fullback if the opposition winger has good acceleration, first touch, dribbling or off the ball. 

If the AI team has very strong fullbacks and or strong side midfielders then I would not play the 451, instead preferring to use a more conservative 4141. In this case I would identify the flank where all the attacks are coming from and choose to use roles that are more support in orientation. 

I would select players who play in my team who are tough, willing to go in for the challenge and be prepared to work hard to deny them a chance to work opportunites on the flanks

Those who play on the flank would need to have determination, bravery, workrate, positioning, acceleration, tackling and marking. I would not shy away from putting a double fullback combination on one flank if I need to. This means that I would play a FB(S), WM(S) combination using a full back playing in the role of the WM.

 

When a central midfielder on defend duty enters my half, its usually a cause of concern. This usually tells me that the AI has become more aggressive, or my side is too passive. It can also indicate that the AI has changed mentality. I will always have the formation widget of the AI up to indicate if it has changed mentality. 

When the CM(D) enters my half I usually react almost always, unless it's something I have planned for. If the AI has pushed that far, I may have let that happen so that I can hit them behind the spaces. In this case, I would certainly be looking for my attacking midfield players and strikers to be getting ready to bomb forward. In these kind of cases, I am planning for the AI to have a transition failure during the midfield penetration phase. This is a high-risk strategy, and requires your backline to have good mentals to pull off well. Here you would need to have a plan to use direct passing or apply direct passing selectively to creators. You would also need to have at least 2 attack duties prepared to attack the AI, preferably one is on the flanks.

So when you win the ball, you need to see a deep lying player or a ball playing central defender hurl a through ball or a pass into space for the wide player to attack. He will be accelerating into the space to receive the pass and play the ball to the striker. If it comes off this is usually one of the best ways to score a goal.

However there will be times when this may be a bad thing:

 

  • You didn't plan on it, and the AI is in your half.
  • Your can't seem to win the ball in midfield and the AI is building its transtions so easily that it moves from defence to midfield and into attack at will

 

When this happens you need to make adjustments immediately. The first thing I may do is to target the CM(D) for closing down OI. This needs to be done if the CM(A) and the CM(D) seem to be far apart.

Another option is to increase mentality. If you are on attacking mentality, then it's usually a sign that you may even need to consider changing systems. Here I may consider using a system that has a AM. The AM will always be around to pressurise the DM.

Finally if you are playing with a deep defensive line, then push it up to normal. Observe if this helps in compressing available space.

I find that a role/duty change in these kind of circumstances is usually the best first option to take.

When a midfielder starts ice-skating through the middle, it becomes an issue if its a player like Eden Hazard. Anytime a player like that does that, it has the danger of opening up your Golden Zone, this is the zone immediately in front of your goal. It's also the area on the pitch where any play that is dicated by the AI usually creates massive issues.

A player dribbling through the middle, has the potential of pulling players out of position. They can drag full backs in and pull central defenders out. When you start seeing this, trying to shut them is usually one of the hardest things in the game.

If you are an LLM side or a side that has players that are weak, chances are you won't be able to stop him. Players with low determination, bravery and work rate, will simply not be able to keep up. We have several options, the first is the dirtiest.

 

Tackle Hard Opposition Instruction

If the player dribbling has low bravery, he will stop dribbling, if he is injury prone then he will pull out, if he doesn't he gets stretchered off. I won't deny it, I have done this many times.

 

Use a DM-based system with a solid DM and tell the team to apply the OI show onto wrong foot

Now this can work sometimes, and it requires us paying attention. We need to observe which side of the pitch he usually dribble in from cos this instruction may send him further in or it pushes him wide so that any runs he makes to goal result in him shooting into the side netting. This is what we want to see. 

I usually use this in combination with a DM.

 

Playing Very Fluid with the TI Stick to Positions

Playing very fluid puts most of my team on the same mentality, and in the defensive third nearly every player there will be on the same mentality. If I find that this "ice-skater" is an issue, I go very fluid and counter, with a normal to slightly deep defensive line. This creates walls of players he needs to dribble past. I do not increase closing down on any central player, instead preferring to see them stand as barriers he needs to get around. Eventually they run out of options or get herded to areas like wide of goal which is my intention

When doing this its always good to have someone in your defence prepared to hurl the ball into space for someone to latch onto for a counter attack. When central midfielder ice-skate past you, its usually a sign that the team is fairly high up the pitch. If the AI is playing flexible to very fluid, then its a perfect chance to hit them on the counter.

You can also play structured and direct, but you will need to absolutely use a DM in this case, and be aware that you need more support players in your midfield centrally placed so they can track the other players. Playing highly structured and structured will encourage your defensive and support players to be more involved in defensive transitions if you are on defensive/counter mentalities. And if you are on attacking mentalities the support players may not get back in time to support the defence.  Defenders at the back nearly always requires strong mentals regardless of shape setting, so make sure you have the kind of players at the back who can get themselves into the right positions. 

The only difference between structured and fluid systems will lie in the kind of transitions you have and the density of your defensive third transitions.

When you see a midfielder on the flank holding up the ball, and dragging players around him its usually time to pay closer attention. These are players who have the potential of pulling your defenders wide, and this is what you don't want to see happening. In the modern game, the last thing any manager wants to see is a central defender being pulled wide. And attacking players who hold up the ball usually mean they are there for the purpose of being magnets.

They draw people to them and this ends up unlocking the Golden Zone. 

Deciding on what to do depends on the kind of shape you are using, and this will affect the kind of players you call on to be part of the squad.

If you are playing fluid and very fluid systems with any kind of defensive line, he's a major problem. Since you are fluid, instructions like tight marking will pull more than one player to him, so you want to avoid that.

Tight marking is a form of zonal marking, the instruction targets a specific player and tells players to mark him tight when he enters their zones. When you play fluid and very fluid, these zones overlap which means that more than one player will tight mark him or close him down.

 

So what do we do when we find an AM holding the ball?

Ideally we want to stop the balls getting to him from the source. This usually means we look further afield to discover where the transition started from. Did the DM win the ball and get it to him? Are full backs always close by to support him?

If I find myself up against a system that uses a WM as a playmaker then I will use a system that has a fullback and either an AM(S) or a WM(S). The former is more riskier than the latter. If I were to use an AM(S) I would be playing on a higher defensive line because I plan to break their transitions down before they get the ball into midfield, thus breaking it at source. 

If I am using a WM(S) its because I want more than one player around the playmaker. This means that those closing him down will be flank players this ensures that my central defenders do not over commit. 

Finally I will play on structured or flexible as a team shape. The choice of my shape will depend on how many get back into transition to defend and how it looks when the playmaker gets the ball. 

The players who end up playing in the WM(S) and FB(S) will need to be either full backs or midfielders who can mark, and have good positioning. If they do not commit to closing down passing lanes this will become an issue, so choosing the right players becomes vital

 

Midfielders who move from one side of the pitch to the other are usually players who have roam from position.

These are players I will track to see if they become important link players. They could be either roaming playmakers or box to box midfielders. And both can be dangerous to play against. Allowed to link up play the can be a problem.

Here playing with a defensive midfielder becomes a good idea or playing with any midfield configuration which is greater than the AI's. So if the AI is using a 4312, with 2 box to box midfielders, it means both midfielders could potentiall link up play, it also means that they may not always be aroudn in the right place to defend.

In this case I will need support duties in midfield to track these players and these support midfielders may need to close down more. Compressing available space by increasing the defensive line will also help to reduce the available space the midfielders have to exert their influence.

  • Where does the team win its 2nd ball, in the midfield consolidation
  • Phase midfield penetration phase or does it prevent the opponent from 
  • entering midfield phase?

If we are failing to win the ball in our own half, and if 2nd ball battles are being won by the AI, then its usually a good sign that either we are too deep or we aren't strong enought to keep possession of the ball in midfield. We need to ascertain whether our side is failing to move the ball around or whether we are giving up too much space.

When we look at transitions we are trying to see where the failure point is.

Defence to Midfield - If we fail to pass the ball from defence to midfield, this could mean the AI is very high or our players have no mental and technical skills to move the ball up. We may need to go long and try and win the 2nd ball in the opponents half.

Midfield consolidation to midfield penetration. If we move the ball through midfield but can't get set up to attack the AI, then this could be sign that players are too isolated, here we may need to change some roles around to bring them closer. Some roles in attack will need to be support duties and some duties in midfield may need to change to. If all has been done and it still fails then its a question of a players mental skills. Does he have the composure to move the ball around in midfield or doe the AI pressure force him into a turnover.

Midfield Penetration to Attack - Transition failures here usually come down to a lack of support and passing options. Address either through a role and duty change first before electing to change shape or mentality.

If your team was already moving the ball seamlessly from defence to attack and then something changes to stop it from happening, my suggestion is to track the highlight back to identify the point at which that happened. Now analyse whether it was the player himself or a lack of support.

Choosing players to play in this case, boil down to having the right kind of mentally strong and technically proficient players. Here this could be a sign that players need good composure, balance, decisions and passing.

  • Who is the most influential link up player in the AI team? This may not
  • neccessarily be the playmaker, it could even be the player who is almost
  • always breaking up interceptions.

 

This example is similar to another one listed above about the CM(D), what we need to do in a game sometimes is to look for the most influential player and the only way this can be done is by looking at the game or the key pass combinations. Key pass combinations will usually show who is linked to the highest pass completing midfielder. We want to know who that player is. He may not be making sexy long diagonals but he could be doing a Fabregas and just being the ideal link up player to allow the team to maintain possession. Isolate him and you break the playmakers source.

In this case, I would look at OIs to show this player onto wrong foot. Once again I am not targetting the playmaker but the player who is feeding the playmaker with balls. I could also push up my defensive line and compress space or I could play more fluid. I could also opt to flood the midfield area around this group with more players on support duty. These will influence the kind of players I will need and the formation I will play.

Set piece transitions - If the AI looks like it it keeps only 2 men back for its set pieces I will opt to play a squad that features a pacey winger and stick him to stay forward. When we defend against this set piece we will also have one player stand on edge of box to pass the ball to him. This means that the player standing at the edge of the box needs passing, decisions. If he has the killer pass pmm then its even better. This influences who I select on the day for the game.

When attacking set pieces I will make sure that I have one player who is technically strong standing with the taker of the set piece, this allows us to regain possession of the ball if its cleared in our direction. When selecting my squad on the day, deciding who will play in this role is just as important to me as deciding who my captain will be. 

When I am defending a lead, and its into the last 20 minutes, my set pieces change. Attacking set pieces become about possession control and I will keep at least 3-4 players back. And defensive set pieces keep everyone back.

These are the kinds of events I track when observing the AI's pkms or highlights. If I am dead serious about winning the match, then my research is extensive. I leave no stone unturned to win the match. In LLM football, sometimes even after all the effort we end up losing.

It's time like these that I will step back and analyse the game. 

  • Did we lose because of a fluke goal, deflected goal?
  • Did we lose because the AI scored from a dead ball setpiece?
  • Did we lose because the AI was simply too good in every phase of play?

Sometimes we need to accept the result, we can't win every game, but we need to know why we lose. So if I lost because of any of the above reasons, then I just chalk it off. In fact I actually become happy if its only because of those reasons. If the AI fails to carve me open in open play then, we did very well. After all, we were the big underdog. You need to manage your own expectations. The next section will deal with how we build our squad up and how we go about developing a legacy. First though we need to get some of the essentials out of the way. A lot has changed in Training over the last few years, most of the sites out there, haven't updated the information yet, this is current as of FM17, if there are any changes I will update in a future guide.

That was a lot of work, now you probably know why I go looking for Bobby Mimms to be my assistant manager, I can't do this for every game! That's a lot of things I need to spot and do research on, I have a few ideas, but I need to go see a game and then I can formulate a plan for my match.

Coming up

Developing a system of play

 

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Gloucester are an LLM side I've taken to the premiership. They didn't start the season well, as I had failed to put everything I talk about in practice. Halfway through the season, I started to take a deeper look at my squad. I know that we had selected them well, but we needed to start winning matches too. This video shows I prepare for a match against Leicester, interestingly Leicester threw a surprise on match day when they headed out with a formation I wasn't prepared for. The video then ends with a second match where I just show us playing a match against Spurs. What's key here are how I use Statzone to get the information I require and how I use transition points to give me clues on what to look out for. Hopefully you guys find it useful

 

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Thank you for taking the time and effort to write this. I think many experienced FM players are now at the stage where we can design reasonably balanced tactics which will be successful most of the time. 

Perhaps the part we are missing is why our tactics sometimes fail. Often it is as a result of using the wrong players with the wrong attributes in certain roles or not understanding what the AI is trying to do.

This has certainly given me some food for thought in terms of what to look for during games. 

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That my friend, is a beautiful piece of work, that answers a whole bunch of questions I have/had.  Going to read it again, and probably again. I feel I am a pretty good manager, but this kind of gold will help me move to the next level hopefully.  Thank you.

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Great write-up. Of particular interest to me is your thoughts on Bravery.

I am developing the Hungarian national team from the ground up, and have a DM who has among the highest PA of any Hungarian player in the game. He has 20 Determination, good Work Rate, but a measly 7 Bravery. I now imagine a player who gets fired up on the pitch but perhaps not really willing to do anything drastic about it.

Is there any hope for this player? Other stats are typical for a good DM, and he's 19 with room to grow. I'll post a picture when I get home from work.

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Really interesting, what you say about Bravery, Determination and Work Rate.

The style of football I like to play I tend to end up with a lot of technical, intelligent players and use a similar approach but - for my system - it's Flair, Work rate and Team work.

They don't need to be high in all of them - in fact, almost nobody is - but it will go someway towards determining how I'll use them:

  • High work rate players go into the core pressing unit, generally MC or Wingback.
  • High Team Work and they'll be a support player of some description.
  • Low Team Work and they're more likely to be a goalscorer.
  • High Flair and they'll be a creative player.

I like the fact that they're reasonably inherent so you can see - even with a new regen - providing the potential is there, where they might fit.

:applause:

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Excellent thread Rashidi, you have made me rethink tactics all over again. :thup:

In regards to Bravery, Determination and Work Rate, is this something you have changed your mind over to in recent times? I was watching some of your older videos a few months ago where you touch on Club DNA but I don't think these were mentioned. What you have outlined here makes perfect sense.

For me I always look for players with intelligence (good decisions and anticipation) as I like to follow the philosophy that I want my players to be intelligent first and foremost, I normally look at determination and work rate but bravery I have tended to not rate as much. Perhaps that is why my players are not performing as I think they should and hold back.

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47 minutes ago, Powermonger said:

Excellent thread Rashidi, you have made me rethink tactics all over again. :thup:

In regards to Bravery, Determination and Work Rate, is this something you have changed your mind over to in recent times? I was watching some of your older videos a few months ago where you touch on Club DNA but I don't think these were mentioned. What you have outlined here makes perfect sense.

For me I always look for players with intelligence (good decisions and anticipation) as I like to follow the philosophy that I want my players to be intelligent first and foremost, I normally look at determination and work rate but bravery I have tended to not rate as much. Perhaps that is why my players are not performing as I think they should and hold back.

TBH you should thank @johnnyyakuza78 .He sent me a pm thanking me for my articles and then mentioned I have a "stream of consciousness" way of doing things where it seems I just skip over things which come to my mind as a reflex. These may actually matter to other people.

So I revised this a few times, constantly thinking of what I take for granted and those Swing Atrributes are right up there we morning tea and sunshine.

I've always considered bravery for any support and defend duty. Basically anyone who is expected to fight for the ball. Even when I look at players who play upfront I've favoured players who're willing to do a diving header. So while I was writing this chapter for the new guide, I thought I'd add it considering how challenging certain aspects of the game are for people. 

I plan to dump a bit more of my assumptions that I instinctively use but never mentioned any Gloucester just recorded their most famous win in history. 

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9 hours ago, Rashidi said:

I plan to dump a bit more of my assumptions that I instinctively use but never mentioned any Gloucester just recorded their most famous win in history. 

I look forward to these future brain dumps :) I am sure they will be crackers :)

I've gone through my current squad and have earmarked all my players with sub average Bravery stats as transfer market candidates. Some of my key first teamers may get upset me thinks. 

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Really enjoyed reading this, fantastic work.

I have argued with my mate for years that mental stats are the ones that define a player, yes he may have have 20 passing, but if he is decisions are poor then more than often so will the pass in my opinion.  I've just sent him the link to this thread, so I am expecting him to apologise :lol:. I know other technical and physical stats are important but for me these attributes are nothing without the right mental attributes.

Love your insight on the "golden zone" too. To be fair I did not know anything about this until I read one of your posts in another thread, but I found it really interesting and has given me a few ideas on how to approach my next tactic. Just a quick question on this though, would it be beneficial to add to my OI's for the oppositions players that occupy them areas, maybe have close down more, tackle harder and show on to weaker foot? I feel by getting to these more and hitting them hard that would decrease the chances of the creator creating and hopefully mistakes being made towards their back line. I may be completely wrong with this suggestion.

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The bit about swing attributes is very true, they're definitely amongst the most important. I personally ignore bravery though, concentrating on determination/workrate/teamwork/stamina

 

I firmly believe that you only need 3 world class players through the spine to dominate, you can get away with everyone else being rubbish so long as they have a bit of pace and they're hardworking determined players. That's been my strategy recently and it's been working fantastically well.

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Rashidi,

This is very interesting to me, now starting to make my own tactics, keep going

btw - do you have any info. on your set-pieces?

thx in adv

Edited by nextqprmanager

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This is absolutely fascinating and exactly what i was struggling with

I wonder - would love to hear your thoughts on how you translate your roles into a formation  (think you mention this under a "coming soon" piece on your third post)

And also.  What constitutes a "good score" in your mind for your swing attributes.  Finding players for the supporter role who have those attributes AND others is quite a hard find

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One question I have is, what do you mean by having a squad made up of:

Destroyers, supporters and creators

 

do you mean your more defensive players are the destroyers, your supporters are the midfielders and the creators the attackers, obviously you can have a creator at full back, but you can't have a team full of creators, and he can be a creator as long as he has good swing attributes aswell??

am I on the right wave length?

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1 hour ago, Shakey said:

One question I have is, what do you mean by having a squad made up of:

Destroyers, supporters and creators

 

do you mean your more defensive players are the destroyers, your supporters are the midfielders and the creators the attackers, obviously you can have a creator at full back, but you can't have a team full of creators, and he can be a creator as long as he has good swing attributes aswell??

am I on the right wave length?

Its a quote from my book where I describe 3 different groups of players.

Destroyers are players you expect to see perform a D role

Supporters are players you expect to take part in transitions

Creators are any player tasked with unlocking defences and scoring

Each group has a role to play in transitions

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3 hours ago, Rashidi said:

Its a quote from my book where I describe 3 different groups of players.

Destroyers are players you expect to see perform a D role

Supporters are players you expect to take part in transitions

Creators are any player tasked with unlocking defences and scoring

Each group has a role to play in transitions

Ok great I think I get it, so for example if I wanted an attacking full back who is going to be involved in unlocking defences than I would be looking at a creator, if I think the full back will just be some-one involved in transitions, it would be support attributes I would look for, and if it was just a defensive full back then just the stopper attributes.

This thread has been very informative and will be very useful, playing a 4-1-3-2 (I agree how useful central midfield players are) I have just got promoted to the prem and squad building is going to be key now.

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@Rashidi

regarding Bravery, there are some individual training programs that improve it ,

target man and def.forward for strikers

B2b and BWM for MCs and DMs

CD ,BPD,Sw,Lib for Defenders

you think is worth to apply these specific indiv. training programs to youngsters with low bravery or it is waste of time ?

 

 

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I wouldn't do that, unless its absolutely needed. @roggiotis And at that age its hard to tell cos those numbers could go up by the time they are 21.

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The "golden zones" thing is massively important, once you mentally graduate from "I want a good tactic", you realise that controlling these positions with one tactic is next to impossible.

I play 433wide with 1 DM and 2 x CM.  So naturally my DM looks after the rearward zone, but I have options with regards to the advanced zone, I can have my ST drop, i can have a CM push on, or I can switch it up and forego some control of the DM zone, and go for 2 x CM and 1 x AM.  Due to my playing staff (Kondogbia, Pogba, Ali - alternates of Herrera and Witsel) I can switch from one to the other with ease during a game.  Having players who are capable of destroying and creating, whilst working hard and getting stuck in, is a luxury many aren't lucky enough to have, but having an understanding of the key attributes which makes them so versatile helps people no end.

I like the idea of trying to explain your thought processes, as even simple things like the rampaging CM are seen by many as the AI just deciding to win, rather than them seeing it as a result of their own actions/inaction: they've given the opposition space.

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