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I read a lot of great tactics and articles posted by a lot of people on this forum. They have been immeasurably valuable to assisting me in developing and understanding this game. It is my hope that I can add a little to collective knowledge and maybe offer a different perspective. I also promised some people via pm that I would post this and explain the system.

As background, I am an American with almost zero soccer experience. Prior to picking up FM16, I had never seen a club match in my life and had only watched a few US mens and womens national team games. Aside from a short stint on a soccer-based MMO, I had no experience with soccer videogames. I had no idea what a holding midfielder was or anything much about formations and tactics. I still don't know how to properly kick a soccer ball. I only discovered FM by accident looking for a similarly designed game for American NFL Football. I bring literally no soccer background or knowledge (or biases) into this, but I like team building games and the FM franchise was well reviewed so I gave it a shot. I'm now hooked.

Not knowing what I was doing in the game, I started a quick 1 season save to get familiar with the interfaces and understand the depth of the game. The goal was to then resurrect the Michigan-Carolina Wildlings from the MMO and take them to the top of the footballing world from the bottom of the English pyramid. But I wanted to do it playing American Football. As of posting this, we just completed our 6th season as Champions of Skybet League 1 after starting in the National South. 4 promotions in 6 seasons and the worst I have ever finished is 10th. I'm not there yet, but I'm doing a lot better than I expected and I'm confident that I'm going to be able to get there eventually.

 S3fYfaM.jpgBV7EO9s.jpg

But this post isn't about my results. I only mention them to lend some creditability to the system. I want is to discuss the system I am developing and share some of my methods with the forum. I think new players may benefit from seeing how I built the system from the ground up and maybe encourage them in developing or refining their own tactics. Believe me, if I can do it, so can you. As for the vets, I think they may find this interesting as it's, at least as far as I can tell, a rather unique tactical approach to the game and may offer new ideas and perspective to spruce up the game.

As a quick summary of the system, I run 3 TI setups which are universally applied to 9 different formations. I also have a few alternate PI/role setups for certain players to alter the formations as needed in game. The end result is an American Football style playbook with dozens of options giving me tons of versatility and adaptability to expose and exploit weaknesses in my opponents tactics.

Its fun to play, engaging to watch, and I'm excited to share it with with y'all. I hope you'll enjoy yourself some American Football.

 

 

 

Special note: Navigating the posts

Most of the content is behind spoiler tags to better facilitate scrolling and loading as this ended up being way more content than I originally intended. 

If you are trying to find the tactics and instructions I use, they are in the "Building the System" posts. 

If you have no idea what I mean when talking about "gaps" and "zones", there is a description in the Terminology post.

Finally if you want to see what kind of results the system is producing, they are all grouped in the Stats section. 

If you have any questions or can't find something, don't hesitate to ask.

Edited by VinceLombardi

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Terminology 

Just to ensure clarity I am going to take a moment to explain a few terms that you will see me use throughout this primer. Most are football terms converted for use in my system. Also note before we get started: Typically, when I say football, I mean “football” sport of the American variety with the oblong ball. When I mean the sport where one must use their foot to kick the round ball, I will, of course, refer to it as soccer.

 

Describing Space: Line of Scrimmage, Gaps, and Passing Zones

Spoiler

Given the importance of space in soccer, I am surprised that there aren't more universal ways to describe it when speaking of tactics. While I have seen reference to the “Golden Zone”, “Halfspaces”, channels, and even sometimes a grid placed over the field, I struggled with the concept of space and creating space because they lack clear definition and the terms used are somewhat nebulous. In football, these gaps and zones are different ways to describe and identify space on the field which are universal throughout the sport. When somebody says they are a 3 technique lineman or that the player ran through the A gap, you know exactly what is happening. In football these are different ways to describe and identify space on the field and I will use them to describe what I am doing as the system was designed with gaps and zones in mind.

  • Line of Scrimmage (“LOS”)

In football, this is where the ball starts on any given play. In soccer, I see the LOS as the defensive line and they can be used interchangeably. It doesn't really matter if its a high line at the halfway line or deep in its own box. It is simply where the defense digs in its heels and you as an offense, need to find a way to get the ball around/over/through it. This is only used as a reference point for the other areas and on its own is not useful. In front of the LOS denotes the space in front of the defensive line, between the defenders and the midfield. Behind the LOS would then be the space between the defenders and the goal. This may seem reversed to the football folk, but it may make more sense when you consider that defensive line protects the box and the goal like an offensive line protects the quarterback.

  • Gaps

In football, these are the spaces between the offensive linemen that denote where there may be space for the offense to run the ball or the defense to rush the passer. Gap control is a major component of football on both offense and defense. Books can (and have) been written on the topic. Because of my football background, I focus on the gaps in the line of scrimmage which are to be attacked and defended. Using the same naming system as in football, we start with letter “A” to identify the innermost gap and work outward in both directions along the LOS.

  • Passing Zones (“Zones”)

Football identifies the various passing zones by the routes that attack them and defenses are named based on how they defend those zones. Naming based on routes is useless for use in soccer, but identifying the zones is very helpful for identifying space and describing passing/running patterns. For simplicity, I will refer to them relative to the gaps and players on the LOS, using a similar system to defensive line techniques in football. “0” zone in the center, and increasing as we work outwards, labeling the zones immediately in front of the defenders and the zones between the defenders, in front of the gaps. Combined with the Gaps above the result for a 4-4-2 is:

gSpULQ6.png

A 5-3-2 would result in an additional A gap and a 5th zone like this:

BGdcGpL.png

For further reference, note how the 4-1-2-3 has the same gaps/zones as the 4-4-2. The presence of a DMC doesn't change anything, it only effects how they defend the gaps/zones.

1oQuCoO.png

As a final note on the subject, I see runners/scorers as primarially attacking gaps and zones behind the line of scrimmage. Creators look to sit in zones in front of the line of scrimmage or step up into a gap to pass to a player in a zone behind the line of scrimmage. Support players stay in the zones or on the edge of the zones to support the creators and scorers in front of them.

 

Player Match-ups and creating mismatches

Spoiler

The terms I use are pretty self-explanatory, but just to ensure we are on the same page we will make a quick rundown because match-ups are key to foootball play design and my system. Match-ups are determined by a number of factors, but primarily via proximity, roles, and marking assignments. I consider it very important to consider how these match-ups will occur so as to create situations which favor myself. It’s also worth noting that not all match-ups are created equally, and I will accept a bad match-up in one area, for a good match-up in a more favorable spot.

  • Double-teams and Bracketing

The most obvious mismatches are double-teams (which includes 3v2 and other overloads), but each double-team leaves me short somewhere else. If I'm going to devote those kinds of resources to shut down a player(s) on defense, I want to do it efficiently. Instead of just blindly throwing players at the problem, I look to bracket the target(s) of the double-team by placing the defenders over and under the target. This puts a defender between the ball and the target and a defender between the target and the goal, which removes the player from any possible space to get the ball. A DMC and a DC working together will lock out a forward better than 2 DC (who leave space in front of them) or 2 DMC (who give up space behind).

  • One-on-Ones and mismatches

More commonly I'm stuck with one-on-ones. I expect my players to beat the man across from them – football is all about “players not plays”. If my players aren't routinely winning their one-on-ones, then I can't win. Superstars are a natural mismatch for a regular player in a one-on-one and create favorable matchups by merit of just being better than the player they are lined up against. But for normal players, I need to use attribute and skill advantages they have over the player they are matched up against. These mismatches can be created by having players with certain extreme attributes (eg. speed on wingers), odd attributes for their position (eg. a midfielder with great jumping), or by using movement to get them to match up against a player who doesn't match-up as well against them (eg a speedy wide player coming inside and running past a slower, less agile central defender).

  • Leverage

A player is said to have inside leverage if they are nearer the center of the field compared to the player they are matched up with. They have outside leverage if they are on the outside. Leverage can be used to describe the natural 1-2 step advantage a player has on another to getting to the ball or specific areas of the field. For example, if I want a player to receive a pass in a shooting position, inside leverage will give them an advantage in getting the ball into a favorable position. I believe this may be related to showing a player on a foot, but I’m not familiar enough to be certain.

  • Isolation

Once I have a favorable matchup, I try to isolate those players and matchups from the others on the pitch to ensure the matchup is available to be exploited over and over again in the game. I use other players to pull, mark out, and matchup with opposing players which could potentially alter the matchup I am trying to isolate.

 

Edited by VinceLombardi

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Designing the System

Every system needs objectives. Without an objective, I don't have a tangible metric by which I can determine if my changes are helping or hurting the overall mission.  Once the objectives are identified, then I can focus on practical rules or ideas which will help me accomplish those objectives. Both the rules and objectives are really high level. They aren't anything that can be applied to the pitch, but rather are the first steps to creating the system proper. 

 

On Defense: “Bend but don’t break”

Spoiler

Though there are many philosophies to playing defense in football, I am firmly in the “Bend but don’t break” camp. The idea is that, I can let an offense move the ball against me but when they get into scoring area, I tighten up and prevent them from finishing the job. The strategy is pretty simple. From there, I have set up some rules that I have designed my tactics around.

  • Rule 1: Don’t give up the big play

My first goal is to stop the big play. Whether it’s giving up the score or letting the opponent get the ball deep into my half on a single pass. But it’s not just about avoiding a long ball or counter attack. The goal is to force the opponent to make as many plays as possible to get to goal. Everytime the opponent has to make a play, whether it’s a pass, dribble, run, what have you, there is a chance for a mistake and an opportunity for me to take advantage. This means when I am choosing between defending deep or trying to attack a ball carrier, I defend deep. Cover. Cover. Cover. Keep the ball carrier in front of me.

  • Rule 2: Don’t give up easy plays. Contest everything.

It's not about stopping everything, rather my goal is to just make it difficult for the opponent. By pressuring plays I increase the chance of my opponent making a mistake. Pressure the ball carrier, make passing lanes tight, pressure the receiver on the pass, anything to make the play more difficult without taking a big risk. A lot of plays are still going to get through, it’s expected. I only need to stop one play. The more plays, more chances to make the one stop that matters to end the attack.

  • Rule 3: Don’t Break!

When I get pushed back, and I will by design, then I need to tighten down and keep them from scoring. Typically that means I’m going to stack the middle of the field in front of the box. If I can force them to recycle possession back into a less dangerous location, that’s a victory.

  • Rule 4: Stop the run.

Running with the ball is the ultimate “easy play”. So this is really an extension of Rule 2, but is important enough to merit discussion. Again this isn’t always about actually stopping the ball carrier or offense. Instead I am simply trying to get a player up in their face. This forces the opponent to make a riskier play, either a pass or to dribble through the ball carrier, and gives the rest of the defense time to reset and tighten up the LOS.

  • Rule 5: Take away what your opponent does best

This is the hardest rule and the most idealized version of the defense. If I can take away what the opponent is trying to do, then I can force the opponent to change or play around their game plan. This is by far the hardest of the rules, because it requires accurate reading of the opponent team to identify what they are doing and knowledge of roles, OI, and marking options to correctly counter. This is some next level stuff here and because I could do as much harm as good, I have been slow to add this into my game until I am more comfortable with my abilities.

 

On Offense: “Run to Daylight”

Spoiler

Early in the sport of football, plays (particularly running plays) were very rigid in their design and execution. A play would be designed to run through the “A” Gap and that is exactly what would happen. It didn’t matter if the defense stacked the “A” Gap, you still ran into it because the play was only designed to attack that one spot. Oftentimes this resulted in wasted plays running into a pile of bodies because both sides would stuff the Gap the play was designed to attack.

Taken straight from my namesake, the philosophy of running to daylight is that you set up a play that should be favorable for you and then give the ball carrier the freedom/responsibility to find a gap with space (the daylight) and take the play through that gap. I try to bring the same sort of idea out in my offense. I try to put players into advantageous situations and then rely on their reading of the field and intelligence to find the space and pick which gaps to hit and how. Like on defense, I have a few rules that I use to help design my tactics, but because I put a lot on my players, it’s a more simplistic system to implement.

  • Rule 1: Take what the defense gives you.

This is the offensive reciprocal of my defense. The idea is that I don’t try to force anything specifically and instead put a lot of options out there and want to use the least risky based on how the defense is set. It’s important that I don’t force something that isn’t there, which in turn, lowers the risk of me making a mistake or giving the opponent a play on the ball. However, that said, if the reward justifies the risk, or we can minimize the risk, then we will be happy about taking the chance. It’s not about total risk aversion; it’s about risk vs reward analysis.

  • Rule 2: Make the defense defend the entire field.

I want to force the defense to defend the entire field, this not only has benefits in stretching a defense to open up the zones and gaps, it also ensures that I have the entire field available should an opportunity arise. If the opponent is giving me a “C” Gap for free, I need to make sure I have a player who can and will take advantage, even if I would have preferred the A Gap.

  • Rule 3: Create and exploit favorable matchups.

For me, creating favorable matchups is paramount to designing my tactics and how try to I play my games. Because I rely so heavily on letting the players pick how to attack, it is very important that I give them good options to pick from. If there aren’t obvious choices and easy plays available, then the player may be more apt to try to force something that isn’t there. Forcing plays means taking bad risk.

 

Edited by VinceLombardi

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Building the System: The Roster & Player Roles

The constants within a system are the roster and universal tactical goals, which each formation/tactic is designed to deviate slightly to allow for variations in play or match-ups. Because the roster and universal tactical goals will depend on one another, I end up with a chicken and the egg situation. The tactics determine the roster as much as the roster determines the tactics. Because they are so intertwined, I try to think of them in conjunction with one another.

Although I will get into the specifics of the TI and the formations with the next section, I want to give a quick and dirty, high level analysis of some of the macro team elements before I get into the specific players.

Use and protect the entire field

Spoiler

Generally speaking, whether or attacking or defending, I'm going to want to make sure that I have a threat and defender on every zone and gap. This ensures that if the opposing team is giving up a certain area of the field, I have a player already designed to find it and take advantage. On the flip side, I don't want to leave that sort of opportunity for the opposing team.

But focus on A,B Gaps

Spoiler

But all that said, the 0,1,2 Zones behind the LOS and the A & B Gaps are my focus. Those zones offer the best chances on goal and the AB Gaps are the easiest route to those zones. Similarly, the 0,1,2,3 zones in front of the LOS (goldenzone & halfspaces/channels) are important because they are the easiest access to the AB Gaps. To help control these areas, every formation and tactic is going to feature players (namely DMCs and AMCs) designed to specialize in attacking or defending these Zones and Gaps.

Defense

Spoiler

Defensively I am trying to build that “bend but don't break” system. I'm going to want the defensive line pushed up a bit to ensure that my players engage early on defense so that I don't give up easy plays, but I have to be careful to not give up the big play in the process, so I can't get them too far forward. Additionally, I can use pressure to stop the run and buy time for my players to get back into position and having defensive players with a bit of pace will also help in that endeavor.

Because no one player or group of players can defend all the zones and gaps, I will specialize them a bit to allow them to focus (and hopefully be more effective) at their assigned tasks. My defensive line will be tasked with protecting the zones behind the LOS (cover) and then the gaps. That means they will need to prepared to stop long balls and crosses as these are the biggest threats to get into the zones behind the LOS. Then their job with the gaps will be mainly gap control and keeping their shape to be difficult to play through and keep the opposing team from getting the bal behind the LOS via a through ball or pass. I want the defensive line (particularly the CD) focused 100% on these roles, so I will use other players (mainly my DMC) to protect the zones in front of the LOS, so no stopper roles here.

Offensive

Spoiler

Offensively, although I'll have players everywhere looking to exploit whatever opportunities present themselves, my focus is going to be creating throughball opportunities as they are a very low risk, high reward option to attack the AB Gaps. They have a pretty decent chance of success and result in a good shot scoring opportunity when successful because of both the location of the shot and the fact that the scorer is already facing the goal and has momentum when he gets the ball. Its low risk because even if it fails, its likely to result in a goal kick, throw, or corner. The defenders are typically facing the goal or their own backline when they intercept a throughball and between the pressure on the defending ball carrier and the time it will take for them to turn around, it will be difficult for the opposing team to turn it into a counter opportunity. More often than not, they will simply have to clear it away as quickly as possible. (compared to a long ball or cross where the defender could already be facing upfield when they intercept the ball, making an easy counter opportunity)

 

Specific Positions and Player Instructions

Generally

Spoiler

Before I get into the roster and PI, I want to point out that you will not find any AMR/L or WBR/L players/roles in my system. Nothing against either, but those players were harder to find in the lower leagues and I found them less customizable than the MR/L and FB roles. I also wanted to make it clear to the players and the match engine that those players are expected to have responsibilities in the build-up and defense. Plus, I'll be honest, the AMR/L roles/players were (and still are) difficult for me to understand and conceptualize because I don't have much soccer background.

For the most part, players in certain positions are expected to play more or less the same way no matter what the formation is. For example, my AMC is always a SS(a) with roam, mark tighter, tackle harder, and close down more. So despite having 9 different formations, each position will only have 1 or 2 role/PI setups and they are universal across all tactics. I'm not going to post screenshots of all the setups, but I will bold and underline specific PI settings that are set other than the defaults.

Also, with my wide players you will notice a “support w/gets further forward” and “attack” duty. Unless otherwise indicated, they are set up exactly the same and are used to control how aggressive the player is attacking gaps vs sitting in zones in front of LOS, balance out their defensive responsibilities, and get them to play nicely with the team TI.

Additionally, you will notice that I avoid ball-magnet roles. This is to allow my team the freedom to play where the defense is giving them space, rather than force it into a predefined space that may or may not be there.

The base of the system is that every player have a role and responsibility to fulfill. If they succeed in their individual jobs, then the team as a whole succeeds. For this reason the Player Instructions are the most important part of the entire system. At the end of the day, its players not plays that makes this system work. The rest of the tactics in later sections are about helping the players accomplish these goals through favorable matchups.

  • Central Defenders – CD(d)
Spoiler

These guys come in one flavor across all my tactics. They are designed to focus on AB Gaps and 0,1,2 Zones behind LOS. I have them set to close down less to help them stick to their focus, keep their shape, and not step up into the zones in front of the LOS. I'm looking for the normal CD attributes, jump, strength, anticipation, etc etc

  • Fullbacks – FB(a) or WB(s) w/get FF
Spoiler

They are set to FB(a) by default and are a two-way player. Defensively, they are expected to focus on winning their 1v1 on the outside to protect the C Gap. They are set to close down more and mark tighter to help ensure they stick their man. Their primary purpose defensively is to discourage the opposing team from even playing the ball out wide, or if they do, to intercept the ball or force the opposing player to pass it back. Offensively, they are responsible for the C Gap (stay wider and run wide with ball) and 3,4,5 zones. They are not a primary offensive option and are expected to get rid of the ball quickly when they do get it. To further encourage a quick release, they are instructed to dribble less and make more risky passes. When they are in their WB(s) they are also instructed to cross more often and make more direct passes.

As for the players I want, I am 100% focusing on defensive attributes – a central defender plus speed. Offensively, they should get plenty of space to operate in and should get rid of the ball before they feel pressure, so offensive attributes, while nice, are entirely secondary. Also note, that because defensive attributes includes anticipation and decisions, they tend to make good passes, even though they may lack the skill needed to pull off some of the more aggressive passes/crosses they attempt. I'll take a good idea, performed poorly over a poor idea performed well.

  • Defensive Midfielder – DMC(s) and DLP(d)
Spoiler

This position is one of the few with 2 different role/instruction set ups, though both do the same thing. In either case, they are tasked with protecting the 0,1,2 zones in front of the LOS in defense as their primary duty. Any offensive roles they fill are entirely secondary. They are key to controlling the midfield and are tasked with a lot of the defensive responsibilities to make the system work. They are tasked with stopping the run and intercepting passes through the middle. They are always instructed to mark tighter to help ensure they have good position to intercept a pass or pressure a player should they get the ball. This also helps create the bracketed double-team I want on opposing strikers. If they don't have a threat in their zones, they will step back and cover underneath on a striker to get on a man, while the CD will cover over the top. Then when a player comes into their zone, they release off the striker and step up to challenge the new player.

As for players, I am again focusing entirely on defensive attributes and its especially important that they have anticipation, aggression, and I strongly prefer strength and jumping. Typically, I tend to opt for converted CD that are either too slow to play CD for me or have a little bit more on-the-ball skills than a normal CD. Like with the FB, I rely on their anticipation and decisions to make good passes and despite regularly having lack luster passing, technique, and vision, they almost always lead the team in most passing statistics.

When using a single defensive midfielder, they are given the DLP(d) role and left to focus 100% on the defensive duties. In this role, they will always have other midfielders (typically as part of a 4 man diamond) to assist them, so its especially important that they stay back and not get out of position. I originally used an anchor role here, trying to avoid the ball-magnet role, but I needed that tiny bit of midfield support that the anchor doesn't offer. I also read in a guide somewhere that the DLP(d) role doesn't follow the normal defensive role mentality ladder and instead goes up the support role mentality ladder in advanced positions, which is exactly what I wanted. I made the switch and its been noticeably more effective.

The DMC(s) role is used for my double defensive midfielder formations. In these tactics the only other midfielder is the AMC, and so the defensive midfielders are required to make an offensive contribution by getting into zones 0,1,2 and supporting the more advanced players. They form a double pivot behind the central attackers and work with the AMC to distribute the ball and recycle possession as needed. However, they are still defenders first and foremost and give instructions to hold position and shoot less often to keep them from getting too involved with the offense. Also, given that there are two of them screening the defense they are given a bit more freedom to be aggressive in the midfield (close down more). As a final word, I really like the way these two players work together and with the rest of the team; they are extremely effective at both ends of the pitch due to excellent positioning/space and they way they can cover one another's movements.

  • Central Midfielder – BBM(s)
Spoiler

I build a system built on versatility and here with the most versatile position in the game, I only play it one way. Figures. But even so, this is a very versatile player and is expected to do a little bit of everything with no real emphasis on anything. Normally working in pairs with a DMC and AMC to form a 4 man midfield, they are expected to find and get to wherever they are needed at the time to support the efforts of the other players. They must get into the 0,1,2 zones to support the attack and, if possible, attack the AB Gaps (gets further forward and get into channels). They are also the primary midfield harasser and instructed to close down more and tackle harder to create pressure and loose balls. Last they comes back to assist in defending the 0,1,2 zones.

Player attributes vary, but I typically want a balanced player with a combo of attributes that can create a potential mismatch and give them an extra dimension over a player that lacks such a combo. For example, a player with a few extra points above average in dribbling, agility, and pace could suddenly open up a defense with a well timed dribble, or a player with vision, flair, and technique/passing might make that backheel pass to set up the shot. Even a simple, pace, workrate, determination, and stamina combo could just make for a whistle to whistle workhorse. I often play my DMC with better ball skills or my AMC with defensive attributes in these positions, which naturally creates these sorts of mismatch opportunities at the expense of some balance. A player with an exceptional mismatch oppurtunity will get his own personal instructions in these roles to encourage its use.

  • Wide Midfielders – WM(a) or WM(s) w/get FF and W(s)
Spoiler

First, I will discuss the far more used WM(a). These are scorer/creator players who's only defensive responsibilities are putting pressure on ball carriers near them (close down more) to force a bad pass or use their speed to intercept an errant pass or loose ball. Their job is to attack the B Gap and the 1,2 zones behind the LOS on their respective side (sit narrower and cuts inside with ball). They also have some responsibilities in the build up and are expected to find space to make themselves available for a pass in the 1,2,3 zones in front of the LOS (roam from position). Additionally, they are encouraged to use their speed to beat their man and exploit potential mismatches, as well as carry the ball up the field in transition and through the B Gap if given the opportunity (dribble more).

In setups which lack a FB, the W(s) is tasked with picking up the duties of both attacking the C Gap (get further forward) and defending the opposing wide player 1v1, which he is almost always assigned to man mark. In defense he is expected to stick to his man (mark tighter) and should he get the ball, challenge him immediately (close down much more). He is still expected to make himself available for passes and find space to exploit (roam from position) and take an opportunity for a through ball from out wide if it presents itself (more risky passes).

This is a very demanding position in my system, but its also super adaptable because its give so much freedom. First thing I look for on a wide midfielder is speed (acceleration and pace), but faster is not everything. Its more: Does he have it? Yes or No. They need to be fast enough to do what I want, once they are I look at the other stats and additional speed is weighted against everything else. If they aren't fast enough, they aren't even considered. I need guys who can jump on through balls, beat their man to the far post to score off the cross, win a race to a loose ball/errant pass, and carry the ball quickly up a flank in transition. For all that they don't need to be the fastest, but definitely need to be noticeably faster than average. A bit of stamina and some workrate and we have enough to get by. After that, the role is whatever the player can make of it. Like the central midfield position, I am looking for things that can combo well, preferably with the speed, to make them even more dangerous. First touch/finishing/composure, dribbling/agility, pass/flair/technique, and crossing/tech are all great options to give him a little extra something.

  • Attacking Midfielder – SS(a)
Spoiler

The SS(a) is a lot like a WM(a) but has to do it all better and more often because his positioning always puts him in the middle of everything. Like the WM(a) his defensive duties are largely harassment (close down more), but he is also expected to go in hard to try to create loose ball opportunities and turnovers (tackle harder). Additionally, he is expected to try to intercept backpasses and prevent the opponent from recycling possession to defenders or the holding midfielder (mark tighter). Offensively, he is expected to come back for the pass (roam from position) and be a ball-carrier in transition (dribble more). Then in the attacking third, he attacks the A Gap and the 0,1,2 zones on both sides of the LOS to both make passes to potential scorers and also receive the pass and make the goal.

All told it's a herculean task, but again like the WM(a) it is surprisingly adaptable. Speed is a good place to start, but its less critical than the WM(a) as its used more to get the player in position to make a play and less to actually make the play itself. Good first touch, passing, vision, decisions, anticipation and finishing may seem mission critical, but I have had very successful players in this position who were below average in all of them. When I'm looking for a SS(a) its less about picking a player that is good at certain things and more about picking a player that isn't bad at anything. Its less about finding strengths and more about avoiding weaknesses. If I can do that. I'm good. If I can do that and get a player that has that extra wrinkle in his game, I have a star in the making.

  • Center Forwards – DLF(s) and AF(a)
Spoiler

I have two CF roles and what I want out of each is different enough to almost warrant their own discussion. But defensively they are the same. Be annoying and apply pressure (close down much more); if you can knock out a loose ball, all the better (tackle harder). Aside from those two PI, they both play with just the defaults. The DLF(s) is the primary striker role and the AF(a) only shows up in the 2 striker formations (with the DLF(s)).

For a DLF(s) I am not looking for a creator or a scorer (though he will do both often enough). I'm looking for a bully. I need him to add as much physicality as possible to match up with opposing defenders and nullify their potential advantages over the SS(a) and WM(a)s. Hopefully he can hold up the ball and maybe make a few passes or take a shot, but if not, oh well. All he needs to do is sit in the A Gap or in front of a CD and make it difficult for the opposing CD to cover the movement of the SS(a) or WM(a) without leaving a free shooter right in front of goal. It should also always give him inside leverage against those CD to make or receive a pass. In terms of attributes, I'm focused on the physicals, with emphasis on balance, strength, and jump. Like with the WM(a) with speed once I tick the boxes for the physicals, then I will look for some offensive tools in his game.

The AF(a) is the combination of the SS(a) and the DLF(s) roles. Its a physical freak who can bully the defense and has no significant weaknesses in his game. But where the DLF(s) is pretty static, the AF(a) is another active role. He has a single minded mission to beat his man and find a way to score the ball or pass it to somebody who can. Typically this is my best and most complete offensive player and, more often than not, my first choice SS(a) or DLF(s) will play this role. But occasionally I will keep a player on the roster for just this role.

 

Edited by VinceLombardi

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Building the System: Formations

Where most of the system is in the player instructions, the formations are designed to create and exploit match-up problems for opposing team. To this end, I have 4 “Base” formations which constitute the core of my various line ups. Well over 90% of my time on the pitch will be in these base formations. After those, I have what I refer to as 3 “Sub” formations as well as 2 “Goal line” formation. The Sub and Goal line formations are used situationally and rarely used as the starting formation when beginning a match. In total, these 9 formations create the tactical adaptability to create the mismatches my system requires.

Before I get into the specific formations, I want to touch on a few reoccurring elements within my formations and how they work in isolation.

  • 3-man attack
Spoiler

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The 3-man central attack is extremely effective against unsupported 4-man defenses. Without a DM to defend, the A Gap is ripe for the taking with the SS(a). The DLF(s) is used to man up with inside leverage on one CD, while the other CD is forced to stay out to defend the unrelentless attack of the AF(a). This prevents either CD from tightening up the A Gap and leaves it vulnerable to the SS(a) attacking from the 0,1 zones. Should either CD step up to challenge the SS(a), they release their respective striker to run onto a through ball. If they don't, the SS(a) gets a free run and shot on goal. If I see a 4 man defense without a DMC, I'm looking here to create a 3v2 in a very dangerous location and then trying to isolate that match-up to prevent the opposing team from bringing in a MC or FB to help.

  • 5-wide attack
Spoiler

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The 5-wide attack is the alternative to the 3-man attack and used vs 3-man defenses and DMC. Without a clear path to the A Gap, I have to spread my efforts across the entire defensive line to create favorable 2v1 and 1v1 situations. With this set up, I have 3 roaming attackers (SS(a) & both WA(a)) spread across the width of the field with each looking to get into a different Gap. SS(a) take the A Gap while the WM(a) each focus on their respective B Gap, while the FB(a) take the C Gaps. The defenders are then challenged to keep up with the ball and player movement to try to cover everything at once.

Typically a break though occurs when an outside defender over or under commits to covering a C gap. When they over commit on the C Gap, they free up the B Gap. The WM(a) looks to get the ball into the B Gap and run on goal. When the CD steps up to challenge, he frees up the A Gap attacker for a through ball. If the CD tries to cover, the WM(a) gets a favorable 1v1 and can use their speed to either dribble past them for a shot, cross to a runner in the other B or A Gaps, or pass back into a shooter sitting in space in front of the A Gap. Alternatively, if the outside defender over commits on the B Gap, he will find himself in a tough 2v1 with my overlapping FB(a) getting a free run in space on the C Gap. When the FB(a) gets the ball, the outside defender needs to make a choice, either he closes down my FB(a) in the C Gap – which frees up the WM(a) in the B Gap and creates the situation outlined above – or he leaves the FB(a) to freely cross into the box where I have runners on both posts and in front of goal.

  • 3-man midfield
Spoiler

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The DMC(s) pair make this setup. Defensively, the DMC pair sit in front of the defensive line in the 0,1,2 Zones and cover the A,B Gaps, forcing the opposing team to either play into the C Gap on the flanks, or really work hard to get the ball though the midfield.

In attack, it all works because of the “hold position” instruction and the double pivot they create. Positioned on the edge of the 1,2 Zones, they hold position keeps them far enough back that opposing CD cannot step up to challenge them when they have the ball. In turn, this means that the have to be covered by opposing midfielders and the spacing of the DMC(s) on hold position prevents a single midfielder from covering both. But those midfielders are constantly being pulled back to cover the SS(a). The static positioning of the DMC(s) combined with the dynamic movement of the SS(a) and to a lesser extent, WM(a), forces the opposing midfielders to choose between either covering one of the DMC(s) or the movement of the SS(a). Doing either will free up the other and attempting to cover both will just lead to the midfielder being stuck between, not covering either as they pass around him. The end result is that almost always there is a free midfielder with space to receive a pass and redirect the rest of the attack. Additionally, the DMC(s) shift well laterally and support the attacks on the flanks well. They work best when outnumbering the opposing midfield, but can hold their own even if they don't have numbers in their favor. However, they can struggle in attack vs formations featuring 2 MC and a DMC because of the opposing player's natural positioning and the static nature of the DMC(s).

  • 4-man midfield
Spoiler

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Where the DMC(s) was the key to the 3 man midfield, here it is the BBM(s) pair. They take over all of the responsibilities the DMC(s) had in the 3 man midfield, but are given far more freedom to accomplish it as they can count on the DLP(d) behind them and, more often than not, a numerical advantage to cover any risk they take. They are given license to roam to extend their influence into the 0,1,2,3 zones and also allowed to get into the A,B Gaps if they see an opportunity. On defense they can aggressively attack the ball and the ball carrier or sit in passing lanes looking for an interception. While many would emphasize maintaining the shape of the diamond, I instead go in the entire opposite direction and allow them to move and react to the game as they see fit.

Formations

  • 4-4-2 Diamond
Spoiler

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Being the most standard of all my formations, this seems like a great place to start. Featuring a 4-man midfield and a 3-man attack, its creates a numerical advantage in two key areas of the pitch. These advantages make it easy to create overloads and double-teams. In return, I only have a single player on each flank, making me vulnerable to the same out wide. In attack, The strikers each look to win a 1v1 with an opposing CD, freeing up the BBM(s) and SS(a) to attack the A & B Gaps. The FB(a) try to prevent the opposing wide defenders from assisting with the B Gap or covering the strikers, and punish them with runs and crosses from the C Gap if they do. Defensively, the team looks to clog the central areas and hope that with support from the BBM(s), the FB(a) can hold the flanks.

I often use this formation to counter the 4-2-3-1. The 3-man attack applies aggressive pressure A Gap pressure with a 3v2 and the BBM(s) and FB(a) occupy the opposing midfielders and wide defenders, isolating them from assisting. Defensively, the biggest threat is the opposing wide attackers and getting caught in transition, but even if it does, the DLP(d) stays deep with the CD(d) and even in the worst case, 4v3 on the break, situation, my 3 players are all centrally located to potentially stop a cross or shot. Once the defense gets set, the back 4 has the width and numbers to defend well against the 3 wide attackers and the DLP(d) can form a bracket with a CD to double-team either the striker or AMC. The 3 BBM(s) and SS(a) gets a good matchup with the opposing midfield due to the man advantage and it frees up somebody to go wide or back to assist the defensive line or flanks if needed.

  • 4-4-2 Hybrid
Spoiler

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Featuring a 3 man midfield and 5 wide attack, this formation resembles a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1. This formation is my most balanced formation and is my go to when nothing else working or I meet an exotic formation that I don't know how to handle. I build my roster around trying to get my best 11 players into this formation.

Offensively, it aggressively attacks Gaps. The static DLF(s) sits right in the middle of the attack, which makes it significantly harder for opposing teams to defend the movement of the 5 wide attack. If the opposing CDs do not shift in unison to cover the movement, they can free him up for a shot on goal or to feed a throughball to a WM(a) or SS(a) rushing through the gap. His central location also helps ensure he has inside leverage against whatever CD is covering him to make him more effective in the passing game. Defensively, the back 4 have width and the DMC(s) pair offer plenty of cover and depth to the defense through the middle. Particularly the 2 DMC(s) in the middle are tough to play through as they like to bracket advanced attackers in transition with the CD(d) and then step up to aggressively defend the 0,1,2 zones in defense.

  • 4-6-0
Spoiler

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This is a strikerless formation combining the 5 wide attack with the 4 man midfield. This formation completely overloads the middle third from sideline to sideline to control action in the other 2 thirds. Defensively, it gets compact and defends in depth by keeping all 10 players behind the ball. This creates numerical advantages to ensure that there are always players in the passing lanes, even if somebody steps up to apply pressure. This allows the team to very effectively defend teams, even if they are significantly more talented.

Where the 4-4-2 Hybrid attacked Gaps, the 4-6-0 attacks the 0,1,2,3 zones in front and behind the LOS. In transition he team springs up the field resembling a 4-1-2-3 and can put together some aggressive passing sequences without much effort thanks to the compact nature and close support created with the 5 aggressive roaming players moving forward. But while the formation moves through the middle third with ease, it can get struggle turning that into goals and sometime even just getting the ball to a shooter. The formation lacks a true scorer and can find itself getting bullied by opposing defenders if they are allowed to set their line. For this reason the team really needs space either in front or behind the LOS to take advantage of, and if given that space, can keep defenders guessing all game.

I find this formation is best used in situations where I am going up against a significantly better team, a team who is going to either very aggressively press, defend very deep, or against 3 CD formations. Up against significantly better teams, the formation brings numbers in defense and midfield allowing me to prevent the opposing team from getting and advancing the ball through both defense and possession, largely nullify the opposing attack. This leaves my team to focus on the task of trying to get that goal or two to get the upset. Versus extremely aggressive or defensive approaches, teams will find that this formation will exploit the space the other team leaves undefended. And with so many players and depth, anybody trying to get the ball forward aggressively against me (whether via attack or counter) is going to find it very tough as I am not giving up any space for them to work. Last, 3 CD formations shrink the A,B Gaps my players are normally looking to exploit. Rather than play into their strength, I play in front or behind it trying to work the zones. This also has the added benefit of giving me an even greater numerical advantage on defense as they are guaranteed to have at least a 3 player disadvantage moving forward.

  • 5-3-2
Spoiler

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This is the last of my base formations. It uses a 3 man attack and 3 man midfield and combines it with a 3 man backline to specifically counter the 4-4-2 formation. This gives me a man advantage at every level in the center of the pitch. In defense, the back 3 combine with the 2 DMC(s) in front to bracket both opposing strikers in, making it difficult for the opposing team to finish their attacks. In the midfield the 3v2 ensures that there is always a free player in space on transition and in the 0,1,2 zones on attack. The 3 man attack can outnumber the 2 CD and get a free player into the A Gap with regularity. And n order to further isolate the CD from the rest of the defense, I use wide midfielders to control the flank. This is because the W(s) aggressively attack the C Gap and the opposing wide players are less apt to leave them in space vs the space they will give to an attacking fullback. This often results in 2v1 against my W(s), which is in a bad matchup for the W(s) but is ideal for the team as it allows my central attack to proceed without interference from the wide players.

Obviously that same 2v1 is a huge liability in defense. For starters, I man mark my W(s) to the opposing wide midfielders to prevent them from getting stuck trying to switch off between the wide midfielder and fullback in defense. If there is an attacking fullback, then I roll my AF(a) to the side with the attacking fullback and have him set to man-mark that fullback. While none of this creates a great 1v1 in my favor, the simple fact of having a defender marked closely to the opposing wide players will dissuade the opposing team from trying to pass to them. But they will still get beat often and the real flank defense is the stout central defense. When the opposing team tries to attack through the wings before my attacking players can get back to cover, then the CD to the side will step up to at least slow down the attacking winger and force the ball back inside where I still have both strikers bracketed. This time is all my speedy wingers need to get back to their man, and often results in an inception as they force the ball into the double teamed striker. Similarly when the opposing wide players beat their men and try to get a cross in, they are met with a significant number disadvantage in the box.

The bigger problem is when the 4-4-2 opts to push both FB forward. I can man mark out with the DLF(s) or SS(a) but do that really pulls them out of positions that I need them to be in for my transitions. (As opposed to the AF(a) who is significantly less involved in my transitions.) Instead I look to my 4-4-2 Left/Right sub formations.

  • 4-4-2 Left/Right
Spoiler

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This is my first sub formation(s) and is an asymmetrical answer to create a powerful attack on the A Gap and strong-side (side with the WM(a)) B Gap and/or defensively respond to a strong flank attack brought on by the opposing team. Like the 3 man attack that makes it's base, it is best used vs a back 4 without a DMC, but adds a WM(a) to get into the B Gap in addition to the pressure on the A Gap. This puts the CD defending the strong-side in a very difficult situation as they are stuck defending the DLF(s) who is sitting in front of them as well as the SS(a) and WM(a) that are trying to run by either side of them. Meanwhile the AF(a) runs off the weak-side CD and my strong side FB(a) runs off the opposing strong side FB to isolate the strong side CD from any potential help. If the opposing weakside FB is causing problems when I'm defending, then man-marking the AF(a) against him is an easy solution. Its a relatively easy sub formation to get into for any base formation except for the 4-6-0. It is also a useful formation if I do not have both wide-midfielders available but still need a B Gap attack and will occasionally be used as a starting formation in that circumstance.

  • 4-5-1
Spoiler

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The other sub formation is a 4-5-1. It uses the 5 wide attack, but alters the 3 man midfield slightly to provide an additional player that can attack the 0,1,2 zones and A,B Gap at the expense of one of the DMC(s) and the double pivot. This formation doesn't offer much of an advantage defensively and because of spacing can allow attackers to work up the field between the central and wide midfielders relatively easily. However, with the 3 central midfielders stacked this way, it does become easy to cut the field in half and trap the ball against the sideline in defense. Its not as effective in protecting the middle, but does have some use. This is likely one of my least used formations, but is an easy sub from either the 4-4-2 Hybrid or 4-6-0 and can be very helpful in getting that last little something to break down a stubborn side.

  • 5-5-0
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This goal line formation is likely my least used. In my opinion, the best way to protect a lead is to score again, so I am loathe to go back into this formation. Normally I would rather opt for a 4-4-2 Hybrid or 4-6-0 or stick with what had already been working. But sometimes you get that improbable lead and you need to close out those last few minutes and make that defensive stand. In such a case, I park this bus. It works well. The 5 man backline tightens up all the gaps and the 2 DMC(s) keep attackers out of the 0,1,2,3 zones. Meanwhile 2 players on each flank ensure that the C Gap the 3,4,5 zones aren't given away easily. With all the Gaps and zones covered redundantly, there really isn't much space for anything other than a lucky long shot. Offensively it has all the struggles of the 4-6-0, and also lacks all of the movement and support it has. Still, it does have the entire 5 wide attack and the 3 man midfield so it does have all the parts and is just dangerous enough to allow you some time on the ball and give you a creditable counterattacking threat.

 

  • 2-6-2
Spoiler

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At the entire opposite end of the spectrum is this top heavy throwback, which takes the 4-4-2 diamond but trades the fullbacks for wingers and hopes lady luck is in our favor. The attack is simple enough, overload the A Gap with the 3 Man attack, isolate the opposing fullbacks 1v1 in the C Gap in a match-up that should be favorable to my wingers, and the pull until the B Gaps rip open for my BBM(s) to run into.

Defensively, it relies on prayer more than strategy or tactics. Still, the midfield is packed, making playing over the top the best option but even then, I do have a few players back who are good at jumping for those high balls. And when that gets through, and it will, the back 2 are supported by a DLP(d) and they can typically at least get in the way of 1 or 2 players to slow down the opposing attack long enough that somebody might be able to block or tackle the ball off. During all of this, the opposing team has come back out of their end and given me plenty of space to attack back into. This tactic essentially turns the game from an organized sport into a free-for-all ripe with opportunities for lucky bounces, schoolyard shenanigans, and heroic players making impossible plays. Its an edge of your seat rollercoaster, but it can and does save games.

 

Edited by VinceLombardi

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Building the System: Team Instructions

All of my formations are designed to be run with any of the 3 different TI setups. The differences between them do not fundamentally change what we are trying to do as the tactic and style of play is determined primarially from the PI and formation. The specific TI set-ups are just the last little bit to get everybody on the same page and add some more versatility to our tactics without requiring substitutions or formation changes. 

  • “Balance” -- Standard/Structured
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The “Balance” TI is our basic set-up and is the basis for the other 2 TI systems. Its just the system, nothing special. It is the low risk, take what they give you, do your job and good things will happen instructions. The structured shape and standard mentality helps keep the defenders back, the attackers forward, and discourages players from getting too fancy with the ball. 

Much of the offensive design for the entire system is keyed around throughballs because I consider them as a good low risk high reward option. As such, the first TI is pass into space.  Additionally, I want to make sure that I am using the entire width of the pitch so I will have them play fairly wide but only on mentalities that don't add width naturally. Also, because I have lots of midfield support around the defensive players, I encourage the team to play out of defense to take the low-risk passes in front of them rather than have my worst passers try low percentage options. However, I do not want to direct the offense any more than needed, preferring that the players take offensive opportunities as they present themselves so all the rest of the of the TI are related to defense. 

Now sticking with my bend but don't break defensive philosophy, I want to ensure that my team is challenging everything the opponent is trying to do. This starts with prevent short GK distribution. Now already in the system, I have players higher up the pitch pressing more through their PI. That's a good start, but I also want to ensure that the team as a whole engage before the opposing team get into my half, so I want a higher than average defensive line. But I also want to make sure I don't give up too much space behind for a long ball. So like with width, I am going to play slightly higher to get that med-high block, but only on mentalities that don't push the block up naturally. Finally, now that I have my players engaging the ball carrier like I want, I need to focus on the players off the ball and make sure they aren't getting space to receive the pass or make a run if they get the ball (mark tighter). 

Mark tighter helps my system in a number of obvious and non-obvious ways and is more important than it may seem. First, when the ball-carrier is pressured it will reduce the number of options he has to pass. This in turn will make the situation more stressful and cause less composed players – like those in the back that my attackers are pressing and tackling hard – to just kick the ball away, make a mistake, pass to a covered player, or attempt to play out of the danger. Second, even if the pass gets completed safely to a player, I should have somebody nearby to immediately pressure him to force them to pass or play out of danger. And last, it helps reduce situations where a player finds himself defending an area, but there are no players in the area. Instead of wasting his defensive efforts, the player will be encouraged to find a player nearby and mark him. This will help create the double-teams and brackets that I use to mark out opposing strikers in transition. Once an opposing player gets into the area a player feels he should be defending, he will release the double team and go mark the new player. Combined with the pressure, this puts the opposing team into an interesting situation, play too slow and you are going to have your passers constantly harassed and pressured. Play too fast, and you may be passing right into a bracketed double-team.

  • “Control” -- Control/Fluid
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This is my take on a possession based system, though I see it more as a west-coast offense. Under it, I take “Balance” above and add pressure defensively (close down more) and reducing pressure on my players by increasing support so they have more, closer passing options. I offset the mentality increase by playing lower tempo in order to match the “Balance” tempo setting; similarly I have normal width and defensive line in “Control” to match the higher line and width in “Balance”. I don't lower the tempo or passing length below medium because its important that my players are not giving the defense time to react to my ball or player movement. If I am slow moving the ball, it wastes any advantage gained through movement and it just becomes wasted time on the ball. I also don't have work ball into the box or retain possession for similar reasons.

I use this set up when I feel like the opponent is defending deep, giving me space with the ball and they are letting me run my offense uncontested. If that's the case, then I want to keep that offense going. Also, the added creativity and support can also be helpful to break down a defense. Last, I consider this option when the opposing team is showing good attacking movement and I want to disrupt their tempo or keep the ball away from them as a means to use my offense to play defense.

This setting doesn't change very much for the attacking players in my formations. For the advanced, attacking players the structured shape of “Balance” already had them playing a bit more aggressive that they would have on standard normally. With fluid, those same attacking players are now playing slightly less aggressive than control would have them normally. In the end, its more or less a wash. They get a bit of creative leeway and get a little fancier on the ball. Else, they just apply more defensive pressure.

The mentality/shape change has the biggest effect on the defensive players. In addition to the additional pressure they bring on the ball carrier, they become far more involved in the offense. While its not enough to cause the CD to run up the field with the ball himself or forget his defensive duties. It does encourage the defensive and support players to give in that little extra to step up and give support to the attack when the opportunity presents itself. Its not a huge difference, but if the opposing team is giving me space or I need to keep the ball away from the opposing team, that extra bit of support can make a world of difference because it creates more avenues for recycling possession and gets players to step up into the zones for closer support.

  • “Attack” -- Attacking/Highly Structured
Spoiler

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The “Attack” name is a bit of a misnomer. Its not about attacking, its about transitions. The entire premise of this setting is to create turnovers and transitions to see if I can turn that transition into an attacking opportunity. If not, then I need to be in good position to defend the resulting turnover and transition coming back my direction. This setting is as much about counter attacks from deep in my own half as it is about high pressing turnovers in the opposing half. Its about creating a fast paced, wide-open, back and forth game that hopefully my team is a bit better prepared to play than the opposing team. Again, starting from “Balance”, I want to increase the tempo and speed my team moves forward, but take care to ensure my defense is prepared to handle the extra pressure they will be under. The Attacking mentality already raises the tempo, but I also want the players to open up and play a more direct passing game. I also want to apply pressure (close down more) to the opposing team to try to force them to match my tempo and make mistakes, encouraging more turnovers and transition opportunities.

While “Control” didn't change much for the attacking players, this setting turns them into madmen. Because of the highly structured shape, almost all of the increased risk from the attacking mentality is pushed into the advanced players and players with attacking roles. As such they are hyper aggressive at closing down in defense. When they recover the ball they immediately look to run or pass the ball up-field. If they don't have the ball they run towards goal trying to get themselves into a goal scoring location. Its a bit like triggering the “counter” event, but it happens almost every play and I can control who it effects by toggling them from attacking to supporting roles. This is also why I have so many attacking roles by default in my formations and why all my wide players have an alternate support & get further forward role. I can remove them from reacting this way by switching them from the "attack" to "support + get further forward" version of their role. 

Now those guys are going up the field with reckless abandon and will turnover the ball or take shots from terrible locations constantly. That's fine. The highly structured shape means my defensive players and support players are no more risky than they were in the “Balanced” setting. This means that my defensive line is still holding its shape, my central midfielders are still supporting the attack, and I'm still getting my double teams. The total team defense is slightly less stable than with the "Balanced" setting. But that's because the advanced, attacking players are almost always out of position, either because of the previous attack or because they were aggressively trying to close down a ball carrier. This lets the opposing team more easily penetrate those first layers of the defense. But that can work to my advantage as well as it will give me space to attack back into on the next transition.

I use the “Attack” is often my response to an aggressive team as it raises the tempo to offset their press and looks to exploit the space behind the defense in transition. I also use “Attack” to disrupt a team that is trying to play a slow tempo game. It can also be useful in situations where I have a man advantage or disadvantage, am trying to score a goal, or have a players playing out of position.

 

Edited by VinceLombardi

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Executing the System

So all the preparation in the world is no good if you can't execute on gameday. Part of what I enjoy about this system and makes it fun for me is that it really challenges me as a coach to step up and get involved in what is happening on the field. I have a role to play as much as any player on the field. If I'm not making the calls to give them favorable match-ups, the players are going to struggle to win their one-on-ones and the team will struggle. 

Its also important to note that this is very much a "by feel" thing and there aren't any unbreakable rules. I still have a lot to learn and am continuing to test the bounds of the system. I'm constantly looking to add or subtract things and discover new ways to make the system work in my favor.

For those interested, I always watch matches on comprehensive highlights, but I am often doing something else outside of the game while the match runs, particularly if I feel good about the direction the match is going.

  • Pick a base formation
Spoiler

The entire process starts before the game even starts with selecting a base formation and lineup for the match. Although I am going to try to get my best 11 on the field every game, because of the matchups the various formations make, I will make consessions to get a favorable matchups, knowing that I could bring a better player on at some point with a formation change if the first choice formation isn't successful.

The first thing I am looking at is the opposing team formation, particularly that back line. If its a 4 man backline without DMC support, then I want my 3 man attack to hit that A Gap, so I'm going to go 4-4-2 Diamond or 3-5-2. If its anything else, I'm probably going to with my 5 wide man, so either a 4-6-0 or 4-4-2 Hybrid.

Having narrowed the selection down to 2 formations, I look at how my defense is going to line up against their attackers. This is less clear cut as I have less information about how they will actually attack, so I have to just guess based on numbers and positioning. If they have wide attacking midfielders (AMR/L) then I want to make sure that I have a full 4-man back line to match their width, eliminating the 3-5-2. If they have 3 or more central attackers (STC & AMC), I want to make sure that I have more than just 3 players protecting the central areas, else I am vulnerable to them bringing an attacker in from deep or wide to create a numerical overload. This will eliminate the 4-4-2 Diamond, but the 4-6-0 is still a valid option because the numerical overload it creates defensively in the midfield can offset this. If there are 2 or more strikers, then the 3-5-2 becomes a good option to try to double team and out number the strikers, but the 4-6-0 and 4-4-2 could still be in contention.

Last, I look at the central midfield (AMC, MC, DMC). If I am between 2 formations, but one can get me a man advantage in this area, then I will often opt for it over the other. However I don't value a 2 man advantage any more than a 1 man advantage. Having a free man in transition and for recycling possession is very useful, but having 2 doesn't add that much over just 1. I also look at the shape of their midfield compared to mine, in particular I want to avoid putting my 3 man midfield up against a 2 MC, 1 DMC. This is because my 3 man midfield lacks the movement, particularly at DMC(s) to find space and it makes it easy for the other side to defend.  Generally speaking midfield is more of a tiebreaker than deciding factor and I have already decided on a formation before I got to this point.

Common lineups

Here is my typical line-up in response to the formations I regularly see:

  • Against a standard flat 4-4-2, I'm going 3-5-2. Everytime. Period. 
  • Against a standard 4-2-3-1 Wide, I'm going 4-4-2 Diamond more often than not. 
  • Against a normal 3-5-2/5-3-2 (with the wingbacks and 3 midfielders), I'm looking at my 4-6-0. 
  • Against a normal 4-1-2-3 Wide, I'm also looking at my 4-6-0.

Last, if the team I am going up against is immeasurably better than I am, like I get a cup draw against a team I have no business playing, then I throw everything else out and go with the 4-6-0. 

Here is a breakdown of how my formations were this last season when I won Skybet League 1.

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  • Pregame
Spoiler

I don't use any OI currently, though I hope to start incorporating them into my system at some point in the future. Unfortunately for now, I just don't have the skill to recognize what specific players are doing or understand how to use the OI to make their life difficult. For now, rather than screw anything up, I just leave it alone. I also don't let my assistant manager make those calls because I don't want them to inadvertently wreck my system.

I do, however, make some man-marking assignments. I generally avoid this until I see how the game is playing out, but with the 3-5-2 I need to mark the W(s) to the opposing wide midfielder (or most advanced wide players). 

I also set up my initial TI setting if it needs to change as I prefer to start from the "Balance" TI. Typically this is just if I'm in the 4-4-2 Hybrid as it has "Attack" by default and I will sometimes reduce it to "Balance" before the match starts. The 4-6-0 starts with "Control" by default, but I typically let the 4-6-0 start that way.  

  • Watch and react to the match as its developing
Spoiler

All the formations are designed to run all of the TI settings and the TI switches can make the team play in very different ways. This is an easy way to react and change what is happening on the field. Further, because each TI in constant (as opposed to making different TI switches all the time), I know what each TI setting looks like when it is or is not working. Switching TI is an easy move and the first change I ever make in response to what I see. 

Unless something jumps out at me, first I'm focusing on transitions and play through the middle third for both teams. Particularly I am watching how freely both teams are getting through the middle. If they are getting through easily, then I'm looking to switch to "Control" or "Attack" to disrupt their tempo and apply more pressure. If they are letting me get through freely, then I'm looking to take advantage by getting the ball, so I will lean towards "Control". If they are really pressuring me, or leaving a lot of space behind the line, then I'm looking at trying to exploit that with "Attack".  I also watch how both teams are attacking and defending the gaps and zones. If they aggressively trying to get the ball into the zones behind my LOS, I should shy away from control as it has the defense taking the highest risks and is the most likely to give them that extra bit of space. If they are giving me space behind the LOS, then I'm looking "Attack". 

Regardless of all that, if I am getting good chances on goal or am at least getting the ball into dangerous locations and they aren't, then I'm  going to stick with what I have and not make a change, even if something else might be better. Similarly, if they are getting good chances and I'm not, then I have to make a change. The system lives off tipping the scale in my favor. Once its tipped, I've done all I can as a coach. Now its on my players. I'm not going to try to tip it further for fear of losing the advantage. Likewise, if its going against me I need to make a change.

  • Cannot Solve Problems with a TI switch
Spoiler

I don't consider something a problem until I see the same issue 2 or 3 times unless it is so obvious and dangerous that it needs to be addressed immediately. I don't want to be chasing ghosts and altering the tactic for issues that aren't really there, even if something results in a goal against. Its important to remember that I don't expect to have a perfect defense and that the other team is out there trying to win too. I can't stop everything and they are going to make some plays and score. A problem is only a problem if its repeatedly happening.

That said, oftentimes I cannot solve the repeating problem with a TI switch. Sometimes the issue is isolated, like a single opposing wide player always getting free space, which I can solve by man-marking or switching the appropriate FB to WB(s). Else if it an issue of players getting too aggressive attacking gaps, I can redirect them to work the zones in front of the LOS more with a similar switch to their support role. 

If the attack is working well, but the whole team is struggling to defend, then I look to see if I can solve the issue with a generous helping of man marking. Typically its wide players beating me or my wide players are always being out of position. If that's the case, I will go man-to-man outside and set all of the wide players to man-mark their counterparts on the opposing team. This reduces their pressure on other players, but keeps them locked down on their guys.

"Cutting the midfield"

Alternatively, if its not just the wide players, but the entire team beating me, then I do what I call "cutting the midfield". Under this, my goal is to use every one of my players to man mark out every player they could possibly play through and free up my CD and DMC to focus on defending the opposing strikers. I start by going man-to-man outside. Then starting with my most advanced attackers, I start man marking them to the holding midfielder and working backwards, assign my players to their central midfielders. The goal is to get my advanced players to drop back a bit deeper than they normally would on defense and focus their pressure on a single player to try to take away their space.

Typically this will result in my DLF(s) matched up with the opposing holding midfielder, my AF(a) or SS(a) matched up with their more supporting midfielder, and my BBM(s) or SS(a) matched up on any midfielders with even more advanced positioning. My DC and DMC are left to control their gaps and zones as normal, but now can have a much easier time of it as they can focus on the strikers and only have to clean up an occasional leaker. Additionally, with no midfield players left with any space the opposing defensive players are forced to decide between lobbing the ball forward into my CD and DMC or trying to squeeze a pass into very tight windows. Their central defensive players can now make the pass mostly without being harassed, but all the passing options become much harder for them to make.

For the football gurus, they may recognize this as a Man Under or Cover 2-Man Under defensive play.

"Cutting the Midfield" is an incredibly effective method to disrupt the opposing teams attack, but my own attack suffers, particularly in transition. This makes it difficult to play with the "Attack" TI and is why I avoid this level of man-marking unless needed. It's also worth pointing out that if I have both a AF(a) and DLF(s), I man mark the DLF(s) to the holding midfielder and not the AF(a) as the DLF(a) positioning is more important in transition and the AF(a) still plays effectively running from deeper.

Formation switch

Finally, if the attack is the problem, I lack the players to man-mark effectively, or the man marking doesn't work then I look to switch formations. Sometimes I skip right to changing formation if I am confident that a certain formation can give me what I need or if it's not burdensome to make the switch, as is often the case for the "Sub" formations.

I'll not get into too much detail as I discussed the merits of each formation previously. However it's importaint to mention that the entire playbook is open and any formation is fair game, including the goal line formations. I'm also not going to concern myself too much if that means I use up 2 of my subs in the first 20 mins to get the formation I need -- although I will avoid using all 3 in possible, including playing out of position. It's not ideal, but learn from it and next time pick a better base formation time start the game.

  • Situational Football
Spoiler

You may have noticed that up to this point, I have not mentioned using statistics or the score to dictate what I'm doing. While I do watch stats as the game goes on, I use them to confirm or deny conclusions I have drawn from watching the march and not to form conclusions directly from any stats, including the score. So while I may be down 2-1 away 30 mins into a match, if I like what I see and shots totals and chances for each team are in my favor, confirming what I see, then I will stick with what has been working, despite the score. Because if I'm getting my guys play the way I want, then the system IS working and needs to be left to continue to work. The score and even the final results of the match aren't the benchmark. Similarly, if I'm up a goal, but don't like what I'm seeing, I'm looking to make a change.

I cannot emphasize that enough. My only objective is to get the system to work. That is my only measure of success. Not goals. Not even wins and losses. Because I believe -- and have seen -- that if the system is working, then good results will come. Maybe not everytime, but definately more often than not.

Two goal rule

That said if I go up or down by 2 goals I need to take steps to consider the game situation and either close out the advantage I have or turn the game around.

I'm the team ahead, then I may just switch the FB(a) to WB(s) to keep them from making so many forward runs. For the most part though, I'm going to stick with what got me up 2 goals. I just need to take care to not get complacent in reacting to changes the opposing team may make. 

If I'm the team down 2, then I need to come up with a plan immediately to get back into the game. At minimum, this means I need to play "Attack" or "Control" to either attack the zones or gaps to try to get some offense going. I also really take a hard look at making a formation change to give myself more attacking tools, including going as far as switching to my 2-6-2. I don't like it, but the base system, even under ideal circumstances, is designed around 3-1 wins. In actuality, the average results are closer to 2-1. Getting the 3+ goals needed to overcome the 2 goal deficit is simply too much for the base system to overcome without adapting to give the team any chance at a result.

  • Subs and the last 15-30 mins
Spoiler

If I can, I try to save all of my subs for a single 3 man substitution that will occur between the 60-75 minute marks. I like using all 3 at once because even if I'm not making a formation shift, adding 3 sets of fresh legs all at once can shift a number of matchups into my favor. I prefer to do to between the 60-75th minutes because I feel that gives my new players the best chance to impact the game. Any earlier, and I don't feel like they have a great advantage over the players coming with rest from halftime. Any later and I feel like the new players aren't getting enough time to exploit their matchup advantage.

This substitution event is my last chance to shift into to a different formation, and, unlike other changes I make in the game, this change is very influenced by the game situation.

Winning

If I like what I have been seeing and I have a 1+ goal advantage, I'm likely to stick with what got me there. I will look to shore up the defense by reducing to "Balance" and tone down my FB(a) to WB(s) if I have a 2+ goal advantage. But if I'm at just 1 goal advantage, then I am going to keep up with the attack as I think the best way to protect a single score lead is to score again. If I do, then I will shift down to "Balanced" with WB(s). In this senario, I'm waiting till closer to 75 min to make the subs, as my current players are doing a good job. And when I do make the subs, they will be primarially be in the defensive strata.

If I have that same 1+ goal advantage, but I'm not liking what I'm seeing, then I'm not going to get greedy and instead try to defend what I have. I will make the subs closer to 60 mins and my primary goal will be removing and replacing my underperforming players. I will also strongly consider shifting into a more defensive formation, like a 4-6-0, 4-4-2 Hybrid, or, in extreme situations, 5-5-0. Last, I will put my FB (a) to WB (s) and avoid the "Attack" TI.

Not Winning

Similarly, if I don't have a goal advantage or I'm losing and I'm not liking what I'm seeing on the pitch, then I'm making the change closer to 60 mins, maybe even as early as 50-55 mins. I'm also likely looking to change formations to get more attack, though I'm typically looking at the sub formations or the 2-6-2. And for my subs, I'm trying to get my underperforming players off and bring on fresh attackers.

If I'm down or its a tie game, but I like what the team is doing, then I'm going to let them keep going out there and give them a chance to equalize or gain the goal advantage. I'll sub late around 75 mins and try to make the subs balanced across the formation to help keep the team going in the right direction. If at 75 mins, I'm still down, I will strongly consider shifting into a sub formation or 2-6-2 to try to make sure I at least get the equalizing goal and give my team the best chance at winning the match. However if its drawn at 75 mins, and we look good, I'm not changing anything with the expectation that a player is going to step up and make the play to get the late game winning goal.

Always at this point in the match I am looking for a win and I will do what I can to give my team the best shot at it. I don't expect to always get the result though. I can be happy in a loss where my team played well and were in it until the end. Likewise, even if I get a win, I'm upet if my team played poorly.

 

Edited by VinceLombardi

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Evolution of the System

While my goals for the system were constant from the beginning, it can evolved considerably from the first season to its current iteration. Particularly in the early years, the system was extremely cumbersome all together lacked much of the variation and complexity, not to mention actual functionality, that the current system has. There were numerous roadblocks and hurdles along the way and the team had to endure some pretty ugly football at times working out the kinks. To date there have been 3 versions of the system, each a significant step forward from the last. I do not expect to need another complete version moving forward as I really like where it is now and I think any changes will be within the existing framework, but who knows.

  • Version 1: Chaos and Confusion - Seasons 1 & 2
Spoiler

Objective

My original intention was to control the game from the middle third by stacking the midfield strata with 4 - 6 midfielders, 3 of more of which would be in central positions. I would use a position of dominance in the midfield to influence the game in the attacking and defending thirds. From there I would created a varied attack through the use of different groups of attackers.

Design

The original system used around 24 different formations, each of which had its own TI setup and player roles, to create a complete playbook. The formations varied, but followed 4 general themes based on how many attackers they each brought, resulting in 4 core formations, from which the others were variations of the core. Generally speaking, the formations were designed around the idea that they would shift central midfielders forwards or backwards, in conjunction with higher or lower mentalities to apply more or less pressure to either the attacking third or middle third. The groups of formations were defined by each having 2 of 3 characteristics: either 2 strikers, 2 wide midfielders, or 2 fullbacks. Additionally there was a group of single striker formations.

For example, the 3-1-3-1-2 group of formations combined 2 strikers with 2 wide midfielders, but could not use any fullbacks for width. The "defense" variant would move a MC back into the DMC strata, while the "Attack" variant would move the DMC forward into the MC strata. There would also be a "Control" variation that would use the same formation as the "Base" formation, but would use a different set of roles and TI. Generally speaking, the "Base" variation was the balanced version, the "Control" was a possession tactic, the "Attack" version was a high block/high press and the "Defense" was a counter. 

In this version of the system, aside from the idea of a playbook, I was not really drawing off my football background. Instead, I was trying to recreate the generic soccer tactics that I was reading about on the forums.  But there was a major problem, I had no soccer background and didn't really understand what I was trying to create. I would read about Tiki-Taka possession or the Bayern high press and then try to remake them, but I had no idea what the finished product was actually suppose to look like. Honestly, I'm not really sure why I thought this would work. I think I really just underestimated the complexity of the tactics creator and the match engine -- and likely the entire sport -- and thought I would just click a few things like suggested on the forum and voilà instant soccer genius.

Result

Tactically speaking, the system was an absolute disaster. What I had created was a system of chaos and confusion led by an utter moron who couldn't use anything other than the scoreboard to judge what was happening on the pitch. I wildly changed the tactics and shifted players nearly at random trying to react to everything I thought I saw on the field. When it all started falling apart in a match, and it often did, I would just resort to some sort of man-marking monstrosity on defense and hope that my offense could score more goals. The results and tactics were inconsistent at the best of times and I'm sure the soccer was downright ugly to watch. 

Yet the impossible happened, I was winning matches. All thanks to 2 half decent tactics buried in a sea of trash -- the 4-6-0 Control and the 3-5-2 Defense -- and a player -- Paul Wyatt -- who was playing 2 leagues below his ability and absolutely carrying the team and me on his back. I ended up getting lucky late in the season and caught the last spot in the promotional playoffs, and then somehow won through to promotion. It gave me confidence the tactic was working, and, after upgrading the squad, I led the team through another campaign of insanity and inconsistency to a mid table finish my second season. But with Paul Wyatt now with players more his skill level, the inadequacies of my tactics and the system as a whole were plain for anybody to see, even with my untrained eye.

Takeaways

The biggest positive I had was lucking into 2 (of 24) decent tactics. They gave me something that I could always fall back on in a match and gave me the confidence to keep playing. I also was able to use them as an opportunity to see what better play looked like so I at least had a goal to aim for with the other tactics. I also spent a lot of time watching the central midfielders and how they played, often focusing on a single player for games at a time and just observing how they played in my various tactics. This was immeasurably valuable as it gave me a much better understanding of how to balance the midfield and use roles/mentalities to move them forward or keep them back in the various phases of the game. This knowledge was extremely helpful in designing and refining my own midfielder roles, but also gave me a knowledge base to apply to the other positions moving forward.

  • Version 2: Watch and learn -- Seasons 3 & 4
Spoiler

Objective

The playbook and formation system from the first two seasons had shown its limitations. It was tedious to use and the results were inconsistent. Instead of continuing to try to fix the broken system, I scrapped almost the entire thing, keeping only the parts that worked. My goal was to focus on those few plays and work to improve them. 

Design

The 24 play playbook was immediately reduced to 5 formations/plays. The 4-6-0 Base and the 3-5-2 Defend were the core of the new playbook, and they worked well as designed. Additionally, I kept the 4-5-1 Wide, 4-4-2 Hybrid. They were less consistent but showed enough flashes of success that I didn't think they were a total waste of my time. Plus I had just signed 3 exceptional wide midfielders and I thought they could turn the formations around. Each formation was given a specific role and had its TI's tailored to that role. The 4-6-0 Base kept its "Control" possession role. The 3-5-2 was redesigned slightly to be a bit more balanced and played my "Balance" role The 4-5-1 Wide was designed to attack and the 4-4-2 Hybrid was designed around the counter.

Under the redesigned system, if I wanted to switch into a new style of playing, I would have to totally switch formations and often bring on subs, where previously I had just moved midfielders around for the most-part. It made shifting more difficult and significantly reduced the number of tactical changes I made in a game to one or two at most.

Result

The smaller system was much more successful and consistent and the quality of play improved dramatically as I had hoped it would. However, what was intended to be a 4 formation system, was really more of a 2 formation system. The attack on the 4-5-1 was effective, but it was getting destroyed on defense. Similarly, while the 4-4-2 Hybrid defended well, it struggled immensely to put together any sort of attack. I struggled through 2 seasons trying to get either to work well without success and they were eventually both reduced to strictly situational roles.

The biggest and best impact the system had was that it prevented me from making constant changes on the field. Because I didn't have the options for making constant changes to the TI, I was able to focus on the players and what they were doing. In watching them, I was able to better identify what they did that I liked and didn't like and make tweaks to their PI to make them work better individually and as a unit. I also was able to take time to see how my formations lined up defensively against other formations. Additionally, I improved my man-marking techniques and developed the system for "cutting the midfield". 

In the third season, I went on a 32 game unbeaten streak in the National League that would eventually lead to my first Championship. In the fourth season, I got hot late and was able to sneak into the League 2 playoffs and steal another promotion. Much of this was due to a significantly improved roster and the addition of some very speedy wide midfielders. However the tactics and football had improved considerably and I was getting reasonably apt at recognizing when each of my formations was or wasn't going to work. Thankfully, the 3-5-2 Wing was proving to be great against the 4-4-2 and the 4-6-0 Base performed well enough against the 4-1-2-3 and 4-2-3-1 that I could muster an answer to the majority of what I was facing in the English lower leagues.

But with the simplicity of the new system came significant weaknesses, as it lacked the tools to do many things. Oftentimes, I found myself forced to rely on the counter or attacking tactics that were inconsistent in producing what was expected of them. Neither made for good football to watch and regularly let me down despite all my efforts to improve them. There were also numerous times I just simply didn't have (or determine) what I needed to either defend or attack against certain set-ups and formations. It was frustrating as I would see the similar things in matches over and over again, but just couldn't get over that hump against them.

Takeaways

In these two seasons I was able to improve immeasurably on my ability to read what was happening on the field. I didn't always have an answer, which was frustrating, but I could identify the problem with much more regularity. Additionally, all of the time watching my players had allowed me to refine their individual roles and fix a lot of small issues in the tactics. As a result, more often than not, my 3-5-2 Wing and 4-6-0 Base were actually producing good football and results. The back to back promotions and 3 in 4 seasons gave me a lot of confidence moving forward, despite my continued frustrations with the counter and attacking formations and the unsolvable issues that would keep reappearing.

  • My Eureka Moment -- between Seasons 4 & 5
Spoiler

Following season 4 I  scraped both the counter and attacking tactics. I was ready to accept that I couldn't make them work and I was okay with that as I felt I was in good company as failed tactics seemed to commonplace on the forums. Rather, I was excited that I had 2 working tactics and was ready to return to the drawing board to find another. Preferably something with my 4-4-2 Hybrid. What I didn't know is that a single forum post was going to make a light-bulb go off that would change everything for me. 

Still a lurker on this forum I came across a rather innocent post referencing a mentality chart (below). Previously I had read a super interesting and dense article on FM Scout (http://www.fmscout.com/a-tactical-guide-understanding-fluidity-and-duty.html) regarding the mentality ladder and shape and it pertained to individual players. I found it super helpful in understanding how, mechanically speaking, the AI treated different player mentalities, and it helped me get a rudimentary understanding of the decision tree the AI traverses in evaluating potential actions. But this was different as it broke out everything in a super convenient chart and even went to far as to break it down by position. 

Shape.jpg.98ebdec2a379bc78122816127890f8

As I was still trying to create a playbook of soccer tactics, I didn't know where else to go because I lacked any frame of reference. As far as I understood it, there were 4 ways to play soccer, balanced, possession, counter, and attacking. Having given up on creating a working attacking or counter formation and feeling good about my balanced and possession tactics, I was struggling for ideas of where to go with the new tactic. As a means to get a launching point for a new tactic and with no real goal in mind, I decided to print off a few copies of this chart and see if I could find anything to pique my interest and get the creative juices flowing.

After I printed it off, I identified all of the positions/roles I use in my formations from my 2 successful tactics (standard/structured and control/fluid) and then my 2 failed tactics (counter/flex and attack/flex). Then I compared the two and identified the differences between the various tactics. I also broke out the positions and roles I used into 3 broad categories and added them up so I could roughly compare how each setup was broadly effecting the groups of players I was relying on for either attack, defense, or support. 

It became immediately apparent that the two tactics that were failing me were either higher or lower across the board compared to my successful tactics. Using the failed tactics as upper and lower extremes, I looked to see if I could find something that might fall closer to my existing tactics, but still be different enough to give me something new. I identified all of the player/positions from the good tactics, and using them as bookends, I circled all the instances where the players could be expected to play like my existing tactics. Then I did the same with the failed tactics, but scratched out the most troublesome and problematic players/roles. After I was done I identified all the mentality/shape combinations which would give me the players I liked and avoid giving me the players I didn't like. This left me with 6 potential options, but after culling the ones with results that were either nearly identical to my own tactics or too close to the failed tactics, I was left with 3. I dismissed the counter/highly structured as it was across the board lower (like the previously failed tactic) and having narrowed it down to 2 -- control/highly structured and attack/highly structured. 

AqRlZgC.png?1

Then I did a deeper analysis comparing the 2 potentials with the 2 successful on each of my 3 formations. In the end, the differences were slight, but in the end I went with the attacking over the control as I already had a tactic that used control and I was concerned that I was going to have some of the same issues at DMC(d) as with the failed counter tactic.

6X3PCMf.png?1

What I also discovered is that the various setups had significant similarities such that they could potentially be used interchangeably without having to change player roles or formations. This would allow me to create potentially different styles of play to create the playbook I wanted. At this point, I was well beyond any soccer based tactic or system that I had previously seen. Since I was making an football playbook, it seemed appropriate to pull off my football knowledge to design it. Using the objectives I identified in the previous sections, I went through all the TI options to determine which were going to be required for me to get the styles of play I wanted to see.

For each TI option I thought I wanted, I asked myself 1) How did it fit into the system? and 2) How will my team be able to handle the instruction? The end result was a lot shorter than I expected and significantly trimmed the TI list from the original tactics. 

2JLd3w8.png

  • Version 3: Football meets Football-- Season 5 & 6
Spoiler

Objective

I wanted to explore and figure out if what I had was a workable model or if I was working into a dead end. Worst case scenario, I was going to be able to return to my previous tactics and I felt confident that I could use the attacking/highly structured core to make something workable with the 4-4-2 Hybrid formation. 

Design

While it started with just 3 formations, the system eventually expanded into what you see now. As I continued to play, I started to put more and more effort into identifying, creating, and exploiting match-ups.  When I discovered I lacked the formation to do what I wanted, then I started bringing back or creating new formations to fill the need. I started using the gap/zone system to help decide player roles and evaluate whether or not I was effectively using the entire field or leaving areas undefended or without an attacker to exploit them.

Result

I was finally able to get the "playbook" I envisioned when I started and I am still exploring the full capacity of the system. What was especially exciting for me is that I was operating in a system that I understood. I went from trying to make something I didn't really understand work to actually being able to envision and then create what I had in my mind. That was a pretty amazing change. It was so refreshing to say "I should have done x" vs throwing my hands up and not knowing how to approach a problem.

Also exciting was that the soccer in the matches was so much better to watch. Most notable was the consistency. Even when things fell apart or looked poor it could normally be traced to a poor tactical decision by me rather than the players just looking like crap.

Early in the 5th season we had some struggles, particularly in defense, but a lot of that was because we had just promoted back to back and our player quality was poor. I was able to get a new GK around midseason and that alone cut the goals conceded in half. We ended up ending the season just outside of the playoffs. Prior to the 6th season I sat down and tried to think of all the niche I needed to fill to hopefully have a complete system and not find myself without the right formation. I expanded from 5 formations to the 9 you see now, adding the goal line and the right/left formations. The season went great with us dominate throughout despite an almost identical squad.

Takeaway

The lightbulb going off regarding shape/mentality was a huge step for me. I now finally understand how Cleon was able to create his attacking defense and use so many counter intuitive formations to create wildly different tactics. Now, I'm still by no means capable of doing all that, but I at least understand the mechanics and how he did it. That gives me huge amounts of hope and confidence moving forward. 

As for the system, its more than I ever expect it would be and I'm still exploring all of the possibilities for it. Its as strong as I am in identifying and reacting to what is happening on the pitch. Right now, I'm definitely the part holding it back right now, which gives me something to strive for.

  • Moving Forward: Where to now?
Spoiler

In addition to sharing, part of the whole reason I did this entire write-up was for me to go through the mental exercise of thinking through the system to the depth needed to explain it. I figured it would help me better understand the system and also identify potential weaknesses and give me direction with it moving forward other than just learning to execute it better -- which is priority number 1 right now.

One of the weaknesses with the system right now is that my player roles are more static than I really want them to be. I could be getting a lot more out of all the formations if I had more options on attack and could shift my player roles to redirect my attacks into a new manner in match. Currently if I want a drastically different attack, I am almost forced to sub into a new formation.

The biggest hurdle I have right now is that I do not have a clear alternative to the WM(a) to attack the B Gap. Particularly, I would like to figure out a method for creating a reliable B Gap runner from another position, preferably something in the center of the pitch, like a CM, AMC, or STC. My BBM(s) create some B Gap runs, but they are unreliable and unpredictable. I've run into a similar issue with the CM(a). I think they may be the answer, but I've yet to get what I'm looking for. This issue is also holding me back from being able to create a couple new formations I have in my head which would definitely be useful but don't have a wide midfielder available to attack the B Gap.

Similarly, the 3 man attack is effective but single-minded in attacking the A Gap. I would be nice to be able to set it up in a manner than would be more balanced between the A and B Gaps or actually be able to redirect it into a B Gap. This would help significantly when the opposing team is effectively defending the A Gap with either good CD discipline or effective tracking back from the CM. Although its not a large issue now, I expect this issue will become more common as the quality of players increase.

Additionally, system aside, I have a lot of issues that I need to learn related to club finances and roster management which are going to limit the progress of the club here soon.

All told, I feel the system is strong, and even if I can't make any improvements on what I have now, I believe it is capable of bringing my club to the top even in its current state. 

 

Edited by VinceLombardi

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Statistics, Notes, and Other Random Bits

I have not gotten a chance to delve too deeply into this yet, but I pulled all the screens I think I will need, at least from the game. I have grouped them by report type and then again by season to make them navigable and make comparisons easier. I will leave most of this post in spoilers to minimize scroll and load times for those who aren't interested. This section is still very much a work in progress and may take a while to complete.

The most interesting thing to me just looking at this all first glance is the consistently poor midfield I have in comparison to the league, but my regular dominance in passing the ball. I will need to look to see if there were a few key passers with good attributes carrying the attack. 

 

  • Season to Season comparisons

Season Results

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Team Stats 

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Player Stats

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(Midseason 6 stats; before first team players STC Mulhern, DM Kamara, and GK Messina were transfered)

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Season 1 Continued

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Player Attributes

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(Season 6 midseason; before first team players STC Mulhern, DM Kamara, and GK Messina were transfered)

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Season 1 Continued

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Team Comparison (All positions)

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Team Comparison (Goalkeepers)

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Team Comparison (Defense)

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Team Comparison (Midfield)

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Team Comparison (Attack)

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Season Summaries

 

Season 6

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(Midseason stats; before first team players STC Mulhern, DM Kamara, and GK Messina were transfered)y1CaCp8.jpg

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(Midseason attributes; before first team players STC Mulhern, DM Kamara, and GK Messina were transfered)

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Season 5

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Season 4

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Season 3

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Season 2

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Season 1

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Season 1 Player Stats Continued

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Player Attributes Continued

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Edited by VinceLombardi

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This is a fantastic thread, I have very much enjoyed reading the first couple of posts (I have not the time right now to look at where you start to talk about the formations, I will do that tomorrow). I really like the way you have taken a sport you understand and applied the principals to soccer, and in such a coherent way. I follow the NFL, so I could clearly see the logic of what you were saying when you make the analogies. In particular I love how you identify the different games in the defence, I also imagine you see the way the AI attacks in terms of the way they blitz your gaps, right? Fantastic. That alone is worth everyone reading this thread taking note of and looking at with their own tactics, I know this is going to make me look at the game differently.

I very much look forward to reading the rest of this thread.

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Exceptional. I feel this thread sums up team sports very well. They are about space and creating superiorities. This thread has given me some food for thought for some of my own tactics.

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The only thing wrong with this thread is that I don't have "Hut Hut Hut"...and you telling a group of players that we are doing the Blitz play at the start of the second half, and if that doesn't work we will go to Hail Mary in the last 10 minutes. :-)

Jokes aside this is a very good thread. I will be following this closely cos I love the idea of different approaches to the game. I hope you deal with shout combinations as a strategy too, cos I tend to have my group of shout combinations, basically my own "Blitz and Hail Mary"

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I can't up vote this enough.  Fantastic thread and a completely different way of approaching things.

I was watching a movie earlier (Apollo 13) and there's a line in it that goes something like "I'm not interested in what it's designed to do, I'm interested in what it can do".  And here's you ably showing what the tactic creator / ME can do when it probably wasn't quite designed to work in this manner.

Great new spin on things :thup:.

(I've made this a featured thread and will eventually add this to the stickies).

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Still working on getting this all posted over. Sorry its taking so long. The formatting and images were more of a pain than expected. It should be mostly legible now though. I'll keep with it, though I don't know if I will get all the sections up tonight.

1 hour ago, sporadicsmiles said:

This is a fantastic thread, I have very much enjoyed reading the first couple of posts (I have not the time right now to look at where you start to talk about the formations, I will do that tomorrow). I really like the way you have taken a sport you understand and applied the principals to soccer, and in such a coherent way. I follow the NFL, so I could clearly see the logic of what you were saying when you make the analogies. In particular I love how you identify the different games in the defence, I also imagine you see the way the AI attacks in terms of the way they blitz your gaps, right? Fantastic. That alone is worth everyone reading this thread taking note of and looking at with their own tactics, I know this is going to make me look at the game differently.

I very much look forward to reading the rest of this thread.

I appreciate it. Too many of the tactics posts weren't making sense to me when I started because I didn't understand the verbiage, so I tried to fit it into my own knowledge base and fill in the blanks as needed. This is what I ended up with. My system may be all about gaps and zones, but its space all the same. I just differentiate the areas a bit differently. I love defense in American Football, much more than offense. I'm not surprised that comes through. 

Yeah, I watch my defense in FM to ensure that the CD are controlling the gaps and the DMC are covering the zones in front to protect the gaps. It all about gap control, particularly the A,B Gaps. 

Hope so. That was the plan. Hopefully it will all be up and legible when you get time to get back to it. 

45 minutes ago, MDH2001 said:

Exceptional. I feel this thread sums up team sports very well. They are about space and creating superiorities. This thread has given me some food for thought for some of my own tactics.

Agreed 100%. Thats why I felt I could make it work when I started. It did take a few seasons to work out the kinks though. 

36 minutes ago, Rashidi said:

The only thing wrong with this thread is that I don't have "Hut Hut Hut"...and you telling a group of players that we are doing the Blitz play at the start of the second half, and if that doesn't work we will go to Hail Mary in the last 10 minutes. :-)

Jokes aside this is a very good thread. I will be following this closely cos I love the idea of different approaches to the game. I hope you deal with shout combinations as a strategy too, cos I tend to have my group of shout combinations, basically my own "Blitz and Hail Mary"

Got the TI's up now. Though they are pretty sparse since most of the heavy lifting is done in the PI. But I definitely have a Blitz, that's what the "Attack" is all about. As for a Hailmary, I've got the 2-6-2. Put that on Attack and your butt cheeks will eat your seat. 

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Although I personally aim for a little more flamboyancy in my tactics (at the cost if a little less defensive fortitude), it's always interesting to learn about other approaches. Very well written post.

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29 minutes ago, herne79 said:

I can't up vote this enough.  Fantastic thread and a completely different way of approaching things.

I was watching a movie earlier (Apollo 13) and there's a line in it that goes something like "I'm not interested in what it's designed to do, I'm interested in what it can do".  And here's you ably showing what the tactic creator / ME can do when it probably wasn't quite designed to work in this manner.

Great new spin on things :thup:.

(I've made this a featured thread and will eventually add this to the stickies).

I'm not sure it deserves all that, but I really appreciate it. That's high praise there.

The biggest battle I had with the tactics creator/ME (other than just understanding it with no soccer background) was getting an entire playbook into the 3 tactic limit without committing my team to always being completely inept with the tactics. By playing the same 3 TI across all the formations, I can have them all trained fluid which is 90% of tactical familiarity. From there because the formations all use similar shapes, the formation familiarity isn't terrible even when switching to an untrained formation. Before I got over this hurdle I struggled to even get to Accomplished. Now I can keep it at or near Fluid for about everything with minimal year-round tactical team training. But as a trade off, it does mean that the TI can't be specific to each formation and so it puts even more pressure to put more effort and thought into PI and player roles/mentalities.

Edited by VinceLombardi

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I just spent an hour talking to someone in SI who is going to be a guest on my new show called Glory Glory England, and what's surprising me more and more about this game, is that there are so many ways to approach this game. Cleon is a big fan of changing a role and duty here or there, I am very "Pepish" in the amount of micromanaging I do, and then my guest had another approach which was " let the roles do the talking", and now we have a thread here with yet another approach. I will have to do a video that broadly talks about the different ways people can approach the game and I am very pleased that this forum is beginning to show a maturity that typifies the myriad ways of approaching the game. I will also add to this thread eventually once you have laid the basics by listing out what shout combinations I use for different things. 

What you have done is observed what the TIs are doing, keep it simple and used them in conjunction with the PIs you deem vital. Thats good. My SI guest had no PIs and no TIs either, that was another approach. Fact is in both cases, the ultimate decision just lies in choosing the right combination of roles and duties in your team to achieve what you are going for, and ultimately that can only be done effectively by people if they know what attributes are important. 

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@VinceLombardi Wow... this is an awesome thread.  Gonna take awhile to digest it all, but this is one of the most interesting tactics discussions I've read in a long time.  Definitely outside the box, but not really in the end because it still focuses on space.   I've definitely never quite thought of zones in this way and the way you are considering formations and overloads is a completely fresh approach from how I've always approached things.  I think this thread will benefit a lot of players and get a lot of people's gears turning.  Thanks for putting all the time into writing this up and formatting it as well.  :thup: :thup: :thup:

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FANTASTIC read however the fact you are using an American team in the English league weirds me out haha!! What was the reason behind not having them in the MLS?

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6 hours ago, craigd84 said:

FANTASTIC read however the fact you are using an American team in the English league weirds me out haha!! What was the reason behind not having them in the MLS?

Well it's not a real team, MLS or otherwise. It's a team I created and resurrected from a soccer MMO I played a few years ago.

Not knowing how hard or long it was going to take, I wanted to start at the bottom and get to the top, so that put me in Europe and since the English pyramid was the deepest, I went there.

I even had a Abbott & Costello type scenario to explain it.

Wealthy American businessman purchases the lower league team to create an "American" football team in Europe for marketing purposes. Not knowing anything about the sport and largely just living out his fantasy of owning a sports team, he turns over management to a board for the day to day, but with instructions that they hire an American coach to keep with the theme. They advertise in America, but being devoid of coaching talent, only Vince Lombardi applies, mistakenly believing that NFL Europe is about to get going again and this is his a chance to start his football coaching career. The board, thinking they are getting a famous American football legend, can't believe their luck and hire him on the spot. On the first day of practice, the mutual confusion becomes immediately apparent, but with everbody lacking alternatives and nobody wanting to admit to their inexcusable stupidity, they all try to make the best of the situation. 

*Cue laugh track and cheesy TV sitcom title sequence*

Edited by VinceLombardi

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Thanks for the patience.

The system itself is up in its entirety, and I hope I explained it throughly enough that y'all understand what I'm doing.

The formation section was especially difficult to explain as I don't really have the soccer vocabulary to make a clear translation. Hopefully I explained zones/gaps well enough that you can get what each of the formations are doing and how they differ from one another. They each have a niche and a purpose, though there is some overlap. 

Execution was another another area that was difficult to explain because there are just so many options and senarios that it was impossible to touch on them all. Hopefully I gave you enough guidance to understand how I navigate the "playbook" and the larger system during a match.

I expect that there will be at least a few areas that are still going to be confusing. I'm happy that answer any questions anybody has and if my answer helps, add it to the explanation above.

There are 2 more sections planned. But neither is essential to understand the system and more interesting than useful.

First, a bit about the evolution of the system. It has changed quite a bit over the last 6 seasons and I hit a few roadblocks along the way. I think people may find it interesting to see what did and didn't work for me moving forward. I think there are few things I did that would really help players that are struggling to get their own tactics playing the way they want.

I'm hopeful that I can get that up yet tonight as its 95% finished already.

The last section is more of an analysis of the system. I'll point what I'm looking at via screenshots and upload a few matches. I also want to take some time to highlight a few players who have worked or not worked in the system. This section will take a bit longer as I have to gather up some of the screenshot and whatnot.

Additionally, if this is going to be linked in the guide base, I will take some efforts to do another round of editing another try to keep it updated if I add or subtract things from the system as I continue to develop it.

Thanks for all the positive feedback so far. I really hope that even if you don't find it helpful, you at least find it interesting.

 

Edited by VinceLombardi

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On 7/20/2017 at 02:26, Southern Buddie said:

How would you deal with narrow systems such as 4-1-2-1-2, 4-3-1-2, 4-3-2-1 etc.?

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American Football Verbiage

Against the 4-3-1-2 & 4-3-2-1, I'm likely going to play a Cover 2 Man Under Press or Cover 3 Man Under Press in defense. Offensively,  I'm probably going with a run heavy offense and really challenge the other team to stop the inside run. I also incoprorate playaction and west coast passing concepts to keep the defense from over commiting to defending the run.

Against the 4-1-2-1-2, I'm likely going Cover 4 Zone in defense and might go press-man on the outside to the let the safeties cheat inside and work inside-out. Offensively, I'm looking to get a college-style Spread Option offense working.

The short translation

Against the 4-3-1-2 & 4-3-2-1, I'm probably in my 4-4-2 Diamond Control and am likely "cutting the midfield".

Against the 4-1-2-1-2, I'm hoping that I can play my 4-6-0 Control and may man up outside on their fullbacks.

The long explaination

Generally speaking, these narrow formation are taking a potential disadvantage wide to stuff 4 or more midfielders into the central areas. This gives them an advantage, but also makes the one-dimensional and poor to adapt their play to anywhere else in the pitch. My 3 man-midfield doesn't handle being outnumbered because of the static DMC(s) roles, and it freely gives them the advantage they want. Instead I'm going with my 4 man midfield to try to take away what they are trying to do, putting me in a 4-4-2 Diamond or a 4-6-0. I would decide which based on the presence of a DMC -- 4-6-0 if there is one, 4-4-2 Diamond if not.

4-3-1-2 & 4-3-2-1

With both of these formations, they are giving me a shot at getting free runs on the A Gap. To me, that is a bigger advantage than trying to exploit their lack of width. That puts me in the 4-4-2 Diamond.

Now their formation and mine are pretty much the same, so simply lining up the two next to each other will be me the natural matchups that are likely to occur. The most interesting to me is how their back 3 midfielders match up against my 3 advanced midfielders. It will also be important to watch how their 3 attackers matchup with my 3 defenders. Last, I want to watch to see if my offense can get the 2v3 it's trying to make in the A gap and if it can isolate it. Once the match starts, I am making my call based on what I see in these matchups.

Midfield 3v3

The midfield 3v3 is the most interesting as it will likely impact both of the other matchups. Because both teams are trying to play through the middle and it can tip the scales of the other 2 match-ups, whoever wins here will have a great advantage in winning the match.

Offense

Offensively, I expect the movement of my guys will give them the advantage. Between the range they cover, first step space, and space created as defenders switch off, the movement should do enough. With no wide players, the only defensive help is going to come from the AMC or a backline defender. The first option would likely free up the DLP(d) and wouldn't cover the attacking runs well, so it not a big deal. The second plays right into my offense and would likely be disastrous for them; let's hope that happens a few times. Ideally, one of my midfielders can regularly get into 0,1,2 zones with the ball and threaten a run on the A Gap, creating the 3v2 matchup I want on offense.

If the midfielders are struggling to move the ball, then I need to determine if its because they aren't getting space or if they are but either the pass isn't coming quick enough or they aren't getting rid of it fast enough and getting closed down. The first can potentially be solved with a switch to "Control" setting by increasing creative freedom for passes and runs and by encouraging other players to step up and assist, potentially creating numerical advantages and increasing potentail passing options. The second may be helped with the increased tempo of "Attack" setting. 

Defense

Defensively, want to see how easily and quickly they are moving through my midfield. I expect some penetration, thats not a problem. I just want through identify what/how it's happening. But what I need to avoid is letting a midfielder get free on attack and join their other attackers to create a very dangerous 4v3 against me. Even if I defend well, it will probable happen once or twice. I need to make sure it's not a regular event.

Honestly, I expect my guys are going to struggle here. Not letting any midfielders through is a big, big ask, and I can expect that is what the opposing team is going to be trying to do. Expecting 3 players to always win in 1v1s is not a reasonable expectation. Especially considering how easy it will be for the opposing team to bring back their AMCs or strikers to shift the math in their favor. But I will give them a chance to try; maybe they can pull it off and I want to see how I'm getting beat before I make changes.

I'm watching to see whether the opposing team is trying to slowly pick their way through my midfield or aggressively attack it. I also want to know how much movement they are making in attack and how the FBs are playing. If they are trying to slow play me, I may be able to knock them off their game by applying pressure with Control or Attack settings. That might be enough, probably not though. Remember I cant let any free runners through, that's a small margin of error.

Most likely, I'm going to need to change the math in the matchup. Best way to do this on defense, absent changing formation, is man-marking. This is an ideal senario for "cutting the midfield" because I have 2 free players in my strikers who are otherwise not contributing much on defense. The goal is to take away any potential paths for the opposing team to play though. But it only works if I can cover all their options. 

"Cutting the Midfield"

I start on the outside and then work inside back to front.

First, if one or both of the opposing FBs are getting forward (and I expect they are) then I will need to man-mark my FBs to theirs. If I'm lucky one of the opposing FB is staying back, and that will free up my FB on that side to stay off man-mark and instead shift inside an help cover the B Gap.

Next, I identify the holding midfielder in the back 3 and man-mark my DLF(s) to him. If the holding midfielder is on the opposite side from my DLF(s), I will swap the AF (a) and DLF (s) players to keep the DLF (s) from running laterally across the field in transition to cover his man or get to his spot in attack. It is important that my DLF (s) is available quickly in transiton for my offense to run effectively.

The AF (a) gets man-marked to the next least attacking midfielder. Typically this is a support or additional holding midfielder. If I cannot determine which opposing player is the next least attacking player (because there are 2 midfield players playing similar roles), then I give the AF(a) the player playing the wider position, as my DLF(s) and SS(a) both play much better in the middle, while the AF(a) plays better from a wider position. If both opposing midfielders are playing equally wide and equally deep, then I look at the movement I have observed. Between a DLF(s) and AF(a), the AF(a) will take the more active player. Between a AF(a) and SS(a), the SS(a) takes the more active player. Again if the man-marking assignment would make the AF(a) cross to the opposite side, I will flip the strikers to get them closer to thier man.

The SS(a) will man-mark the remaining  (most attacking) player of the back 3 midfielders. Done properly, if you draw a line from every man-marker's position to the man they are covering, they (ideally) do not cross. However it's perfectly acceptable if ONE player's line crosses over another's ONCE. Typically this is when the middle opposing CM is the holding midfielder and the DLF(s) crosses  over the SS(a) covering an outside CM. The DLF (s) and AF (a) should NEVER cross each other; if they do, then I need to flip the strikers' position on the field. Everybody else is left to their normal assignment. 

What I did is shift the very dangerous midfield matchup from a 3v3 to a 5v3 in my favor in defense. I also significantly reduced the consequences of failure because I have created free defenders to cover any runners that leak through. A 3v3 is still at the core of the defense, but the 2 BBM(s) both become roving defenders to create double-teams and cover anybody who beats their man. The BBM(s) are also now free to step back and assist the back 3 with their 3v3 matchup and create double teams there. In "one" change, I reduced both the risk and the consequences of failure in the key midfield matchup.

Most likely this change is going to allow me to dominate their midfield in defense and, since their entire offense is designed to move through the middle, destroy their offensive gameplan. It does mean that the opposing CD will have all day with the ball, but they shouldn't have anywhere to go with it, so it's not a large issue. Similarly, my strikers are going to get beat trying to cover midfielders, but the BBM are there to clean up, so again not a big concern. 

Defensive 3v3

With no extra bodies to cover over the top or underneath the attackers, this is a very risky and dangerous matchup as it only takes 1 guy finding space or 1 runner from the midfield to make the entire thing fall apart. Immediately I need to look for oppurtunitits to add a player or two from somewhere else to tilt the matchup in my favor. Thankfully, the narrow formation of the opposing team may free up my FBs to drift inside and help cover the B gaps, which in turn will help the CD narrow the A gap. Unfortunately, I can't expect any help from the midfield and am actually more likely to find the opposing team bringing up their own players from here. It's not an emergency, but alarms are going off.

When the match starts, I need to pay close attention to the movement of the attackers and how the opposing team is getting the ball to them. If the players are very static and the ball is getting to them in the air from deep crosses and longballs, then I stand a chance. My CD and DMC are all pretty soldi defending that, even in a high risk 1v1 situation. More likely, the opposing team has at least 1 or 2 of their strikers moving around looking for space, and they are likely looking to use their midfield advantage to pass the ball to their attacker's feet in space. That is a big big problem.In the second, and more likely senario, I need to get my defenders help. This will likely cement my decision to cut the midfield.

"Cutting the midfield" will help in a couple of ways. First and foremost, it creates free defenders to comeback and help -- as opposed to letting the opposition bring in more attackers. Second, it will make it much harder for the opposing team to play to the feet of their attackers from the midfield. Instead they will see more longballs and crosses which better match their skillset.

Offensive 3v2

This the least essential matchup and not getting it will not make or break the offensive effort. What I want to see is a midfielder (likely the SS(a)) finding space and hopefully the ball in the 0,1 zones. If its there, great, but isolating it is going to be tough. If I get a midfielder open, they should have a free one to track back to cover him. The opposing FBs are also likely to pinch in as I lack a true wide attacking threat. It will free up my FB(a) in the C Gap, but it will shrink the B and possibly A gaps.

If the A gap isn't there regularly, I can still count on the FB(a) getting space in the C gap and throwing crosses back in. And more than likely a BBM(s) is going to find space occasionally in zone 2 or maybe even 3 and challenge the CD to step up into the B Gap. All told it's not a bad set of matchups and I have a good chance for a play at every gap. I expect I should be able told put the ball into threatening locations, and hopefully score a few goals.

______________________

I wrote more than I expected,  but it was a good question and it offered me a great oppurtunity to go show how i go through evaluating and setting up favorable matchups, particularly using man-marking. I will finish up the rest later, but I'm on mobile and I don't want to lose my work.

Edited by VinceLombardi

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Quality thread, defo given me a new perspective on fm, given the amount of detail you go into and the way you react to opposition tactics do you find that it takes you a long time to complete a season, also what do you feel would be the best way for the ai  to approach a match against you, and is there a particular system/style you struggle against?

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On 7/20/2017 at 19:14, pezza96 said:

Quality thread, defo given me a new perspective on fm, given the amount of detail you go into and the way you react to opposition tactics do you find that it takes you a long time to complete a season, also what do you feel would be the best way for the ai  to approach a match against you, and is there a particular system/style you struggle against?

Thanks much. Glad to hear.

I play on comprehensive highlights and matches normally last 20-40 mins, but I'm often doing other things while I play. I also have every change I can, including various PI roles, set on presets so they are quick. It also ensures that my changes are consistent and I don't forget anything. The only changes that take more than a few secs are formation changes and man-marking and I've even got those down to a min or less typically. Number of highlights is definately the biggest influence on match length, not my changes.

Seasons are maybe 60-75 hours or so? Hard to say exactly. Maybe more? Scouting players is an annoyingly slow process and takes a lot of my time. No idea if that is fast or slow as I have no frame of reference.

For starters, always play with a DMC, never play 4-4-2 Flat, and have a way to play your offense at a non-slow tempo vs me. Attacking wide players are hard for me to gameplan for. They have a lot of ways to play, and it's difficult to predict where they are going to go and who needs to cover them. They also often have physicals like pace and acceleration that can make it hard to win 1v1 matchups or man-mark them. Of the formations I regularly face, 4-1-2-3 is regularly one of the most challenging. 

Edited by VinceLombardi

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As a lifetime soccer guy who've followed the NFL and the Packers for the last 15 years or so, this was fun to read. "Win the one-on-ones" and "players, not plays"...I miss Vic already!

The concept of matchups and mismatches is something I've picked up from the NFL, and I've mostly incorporated it through my team selection -- pacey wingers against slow fullbacks, a big tank forward against smaller DC's, etc.

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1 minute ago, giventofly77 said:

As a lifetime soccer guy who've followed the NFL and the Packers for the last 15 years or so, this was fun to read. "Win the one-on-ones" and "players, not plays"...I miss Vic already!

The concept of matchups and mismatches is something I've picked up from the NFL, and I've mostly incorporated it through my team selection -- pacey wingers against slow fullbacks, a big tank forward against smaller DC's, etc.

Loved Vic. He had such great ways to simplify and explain complex football ideas and he had such an impressive perspective on the sport having been reporting on it from its infancy.

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Go Pack go. As a great Soccer and Football Fan I really enjoy reading it. For a non native english speaker it's hard to read, but I think i got your idea behind. 

Hopefully the Packers will have a great season.

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10 hours ago, sgevolker said:

Go Pack go. As a great Soccer and Football Fan I really enjoy reading it. For a non native english speaker it's hard to read, but I think i got your idea behind. 

Hopefully the Packers will have a great season.

Go Pack Go. I'm expecting good things this year, our division is pretty weak.

Glad you enjoyed it. If you can identify any issues with my writing that might help the translation let me know, I'll try to clean it up in editing.

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I added the Evolution section at last. I didn't have nearly as much free time as I expected this week. But I suppose that's how it always is.

As I said earlier its more interesting than informative, but I think it could help people who are struggling in their own tactics. Using the chart was a huge eye opener for me in understanding how shape/mentality interact.

That said, I do have one thing that I have been trying to work with that maybe the forum can help me out with.

Does anybody have any effective role/PI combinations to get a central player (DMC, MC, AMC, STC) to regularly and aggressively attack the channel between the CD and FBs (B Gap)? 

I've got a few that will do it occasionally, but haven't had any luck in getting anybody to do it as their primary move. Most of the time its just when I get lucky and they drift into it due to roaming and gets into channels.

Much appreciated.

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Hi I am american also. I am from Mexico. And your wrote good stuf but try to be more especific and dont develop to much your idea. It would be nice to see a tactic that you develop with this ideas.

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1 hour ago, Irving said:

Hi I am american also. I am from Mexico. And your wrote good stuf but try to be more especific and dont develop to much your idea. It would be nice to see a tactic that you develop with this ideas.

Most of the content is behind spoiler tags to make navigation easier. I suspect that you may have overlooked them, so I included a note in the OP to avoid confusion in the future.

There isn't a singular tactic, but rather a system of fomations and instructions that are designed be used interchangably.

If you are looking for what I am doing in the tactics creator, check out the "Building the System" posts.

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Ok, before I can read this, I need to understand the Michigan-Carolina part of this. And it sounds like you're a Packers fan. I assume you live in Michigan or one of the Carolinas? It's just freaking me out since they are not exactly close to each other.

 

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8 hours ago, jstu9 said:

Ok, before I can read this, I need to understand the Michigan-Carolina part of this. And it sounds like you're a Packers fan. I assume you live in Michigan or one of the Carolinas? It's just freaking me out since they are not exactly close to each other.

 

Born in Michigan. Lived there 20+ years. Liked it a lot. 

Enter girl. 

Moved to North Carolina. Been there around 5+ now. It's nice, I guess.

I played/created the Michigan-Carolina Wildlings close after the move, after I got engaged. At the time it had this sappy, stupid, cutesy meaning.

Now I'm married and it was a logo I found buried on my laptop. Saved me the trouble of finding something else for the new team I was going to make anyway.

Go Wildlings.

Edited by VinceLombardi

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On 7/28/2017 at 10:11, Jonny2J said:

What a great read this is, truly inspirational.

Glad to hear that you enjoyed it.

 

18 minutes ago, Ride-dat-vip said:

What real team would you guys suggest for this setup?

I dont know anything about real team rosters, but I would look for a team that plays a 4 back line with some depth at CB. Ideally they would also have a stong physical striker and a more technical guy to play AMC. Last some speed on the wings. Midfielders are not are high priority; almost anybody would work.

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7 minutes ago, VinceLombardi said:

Glad to hear that you enjoyed it.

 

I dont know anything about real team rosters, but I would look for a team that plays a 4 back line with some depth at CB. Ideally they would also have a stong physical striker and a more technical guy to play AMC. Last some speed on the wings. Midfielders are not are high priority; almost anybody would work.

Thanks. I think I'm gonna try it with Juventus as they have lots of depth at cb(both youth and older players) as well as some strong strikers and insanely fast wingers.

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On 7/29/2017 at 22:13, Ride-dat-vip said:

Thanks. I think I'm gonna try it with Juventus as they have lots of depth at cb(both youth and older players) as well as some strong strikers and insanely fast wingers.

Let me know how it goes. Very interested to hear how it works at the top levels and if you have any observations playing it. It's still a very new system for me and I'm learning new stuff about it all the time. A fresh perspective will likely give new insights on how to best use it. 

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Fantastic thread. I have been reading it for the past day or two. Trying to soak up as much info as possible.

I love the idea of being able to exploit deficiencies in other formations and these are perfect. Love the thorough explanation for each of the choices.

I do have one question though. I have faced a 2DM formation twice and both times found it easy to keep a clean sheet, but struggled to score. I have been using 4-6-0. Would you consider something else to combat a two DM system?

The formation in question looks like this.

Formation.png.4c161ea5784314ca6769cfbe47eafc9f.png

 

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On 8/6/2017 at 12:01, Anaconda Vice said:

Fantastic thread. I have been reading it for the past day or two. Trying to soak up as much info as possible.

I love the idea of being able to exploit deficiencies in other formations and these are perfect. Love the thorough explanation for each of the choices.

I do have one question though. I have faced a 2DM formation twice and both times found it easy to keep a clean sheet, but struggled to score. I have been using 4-6-0. Would you consider something else to combat a two DM system?

The formation in question looks like this.

Formation.png.4c161ea5784314ca6769cfbe47eafc9f.png

 

I really like 4-4-2 Hybrid formation because it is so balanced. It very easy to move players forward from the DM and FB positions and inside from the WM. This lets a team have 2 very distinct shapes -- a very compact defensive shape and a potentially aggressive attacking shape. Now I only play it one way to speak of in attack, but its quite versatile because of the options at WM, DM, and FB. Defensively it is going to be hard to find space, particularly in the middle since they are clogging everything up with those DM. I would tailor my tactic to counter what my opponent is doing in their attack and accept that they are probably going to be pretty effective on defense against me.

The easiest way would be a 4-6-0 and absent anything else, that's likely what I would start from. Its going to give me a great mismatch in the midfield and cover the flanks well. Depending on how conservative the opponent is in defense, its also likely to lend itself well to playing the Control settings and dominating possession which can help shore up my defense and maybe get a lucky break through due to the extra creativity. But all said, the 4-6-0 is rarely going to be high scoring. Keeping a clean sheet and eeking out 1-0 or 2-0 victories would be the best case scenario, particularly against that defense. 

Now if I know the team I am facing or am midgame and not liking the way the 4-6-0 is playing, then I would look to identify how they are attacking and see if I can find a more specific counter formation. For this, I would focus almost entirely on activity of the opposing wide players.

If one or both of the FBs are staying back and the opposing WMs are either cheating inside or focused more on support roles than beating me wide, then the door opens for me to switch to a 3-5-2 and playing against them like I would a 4-4-2. Defensively, I don't get the advantage in the midfield like I would against the 4-4-2, but I do still have 5 guys sitting in the middle, so even if they bring everything they have to the central attack, I should still keep a numbers advantage in that key area. If I need to work the midfield a bit tougher in defense, I can also man-mark the DLF and SS back into their DMs to potentially give me a numbers advantage in the midfield again. In attack, I don't have easy access into the A Gap like I would like, but if my WMs can keep their wide players (both WM and FB) from cheating inside, I can still get a 5 v 5 matchup through the middle. I would expect the movement of the SS to be enough to force their 3 midfielders to constantly have to switch marking assignments as one of the DMs will have to step up to cover my DM while the other DM covers the SS. When the SS switches sides, this will cause the DM to have to either follow him across, the other DM to step back, or a CB to step up -- potentially freeing either the DLF or AF as designed. 

Alternatively, if they are coming at me hard down the flanks, particularly with their WMs, I could use any of the Sub Packages. 4-4-2 Right/Left would both be useful versus an exceptionally aggressive attack down a single flank. While the 4-5-1 would be more useful if they were coming down both or just keeping both their WM wide. In either case, I would have 4 back to cover the width of their field and counter their wide WMs staying wide, and still keep a extra guy (or two) in the middle to help keep control of the key gaps and zones. These sub packages also all feature an aggressive B gap attack as opposed to the single minded A Gap attack of the 3-5-2.

I think the 4-5-1 is particularly worth mention here as would be a very easy sub from a 4-6-0 and may be particularly effective to try to get an attack going in transition. The DLF would sit in the A Gap and prevent the opposing CBs from getting too aggressive in stepping forward to cover the 0,1,2 zones or outside to cover the B Gaps. This will prevent the opposing CBs from reacting as quickly to the movement of your other players and eliminate one of the biggest shortcomings from the 4-6-0's attacking shape. Combined with the movement from the BBM and SS, the opposing DM are going to be regularly stepping forward and switching off from the BBM to SS as my guys move vertically and laterally around the 0,1,2 zones. This is going to keep them busy. With all the center players more or less occupied, the FBs are left to deal with my WMs attacking the B Gaps and my FBs attacking the C Gaps. If the opposing WM doesn't track back well, then their FB is going to give up one of the gaps. Hopefully I can just take advantage of lazy opposing WMs not tracking back, else I may be able to exploit them with the "Attack" TI setting. If I can catch even one player out of position, I should have an advantage, and I'm not terribly concerned with giving back the ball as I feel pretty confident in my own players to get back into their defensive shape faster than they can get their attack going. Particularly with the DM playing a DLP(d) role and giving me 3 players defending the middle. Also worth mention is that, defensively, the 4-5-1 has a fun trap mechanism on the sideline vs a flank style attack. If they are going to try to move the ball down the flanks, then I can cut the field in half and hopefully create some good oppurtunites to take advantage in transition. 

The most likely scenario in my head would be start 4-6-0. If that's not working, sub into a 4-5-1. If I'm still struggling, then 5-3-2 or 4-4-2 Left/Right. Not working/struggling in this sense would be, they are getting oppurtunites in the box and I am not. If neither team is getting opportunities, then I'm going to stick with what I have and hope my team can scrap a goal lead by 60-75 mins. If at 60-75 mins I don't have a lead or am down a goal, then I may actually just flip the table and go directly into 2-6-2 "Control" setting at 75. That 4 man midfield should have its way with the ball allowing me to control possession and with my 2 best strikers coming on with fresh legs, I would expect good things offensively. But that will entirely be a feel thing. If I'm feeling less inclined, then I will likely go 4-5-1 and get my best striker on to break the tie or get us back to even. If ever fall down 2 goals, I'm going 2-6-2 immediately and hoping for a miracle -- its the only hope I have to getting back 2 goals against that formation. 

Edited by VinceLombardi

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hi vince, brilliant thread, as a american football watcher myself i see alot of useful things in this that i wouldnt of thought could be relevent to the two sports so amazing thread eye opener im sure. 

on a side not though, i can just picture you sat in front of your computer shouting ''green 88 green 88 hut'' at your screen haha :)

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Mind blowing stuff @VinceLombardi

You deserve all the plaudits that you are getting. You've opened my mind to so many possibilities.

I would like to follow up on the point about familiarity. Are there three of your specific tactics (i.e - Hybrid Balance.etc) that you persevere with to begin with to get that familiarity up or do you just use the "playbook" system from the very start and just build up that familiarity as you go?

I'd also like to know how, mid-game, you'd transition between something like the 4-4-2 diamond and the 4-4-2 hybrid. I ask for squad building reasons.

You'd have to have a way of slotting two WMs & 2 DMs into 1 DM spot, 2 CM spots and then with the remaining player stick them up front in one of your AF, DLF or SS slots. Trying to work out the optimum squad balance for all the different roles is giving me brain ache.

So far I've concluded you could get away with a defensive unit of 10. This would consist of versatile defenders able to slot in at fullback, centre back or DM. The most you'll ever need in a match is six ( the hybrid system). 10 is a compromise number between 6 and 12 (12 would get you a like for like replacement in every defensive slot for your most defender heavy system). Hope that makes sense.

Where I'm struggling is the WMs who either play as a two or none. So, normally if I'd be called upon to have 2 wingers in any given match I'd want an extra two as cover but that would mean when we played a narrow formation we'd have 4 wingers sitting on the bench or in the stands. Then there are the BBMs who only crop up in a couple of systems. We'll need two at most at any one time, on the pitch, and again, usually that would make me want 4 over all but, again, then for DM formations we'd have 4 unhappy BBM's sitting on the sidelines. The DLFs are a simple matter as big, strong, hold up specialists. We can afford to have a couple of them. But the AFs only appear sporadically so should have you have cover or will 1 be sufficient? I never trust 1, personally.

If I were to have cover for every possibility I'd have a squad of 25 (including 2 goalkeepers) which seems to me on the uncomfortably high side.

How do you combine roles to limit the size of your squad and ensure you don't have specialists sitting around doing nothing most games?

 

Edited by Atarin

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A better way of putting might be to say that at any time we'll never have more than 1 goalkeeper on the pitch, 2 fullbacks on the pitch, 2 DMs on the pitch, 3 CBs on the pitch, 2 BBMs on the pitch, 2 WMs on the pitch, 1 SS on the pitch, 1 DLF on the pitch and 1 AF on the pitch. Not all at the same time obviously. But if we were building a squad of pure specialists then this is what we would need as a minimum. That's 17 players before we even get to cover. If we have a 2nd player for every first team specialist already mentioned then that is 35 players. Only 11 can play at a time. This totally makes sense in American Football, where they do have massive squads. What was your strategy for your squad to make sure that (a) your squad was a manageable 21-23, (b) without leaving yourself short in areas and(c) What corners did you cut and how? Are there certain roles within the system that act interchangeably? I've already surmised that the "backs" (i.e - CDs, FBs and DMs) have near identical skill sets and can probably be used interchangeably and thus if we take a minimum "backs" as six, as would be required in your Hybrid 4-4-2 then we can fudge around and find a happy medium between the minimum of 6 and the maximum of 12, i.e - cover for all six positions in the hybrid 4-4-2.

Basically I'm a big lover of parsimony, frugality and versatility when it comes to squad building and would appreciate your thoughts.

Edited by Atarin
duplication of phrase

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On 9/6/2017 at 13:02, Atarin said:

Mind blowing stuff @VinceLombardi

You deserve all the plaudits that you are getting. You've opened my mind to so many possibilities.

I would like to follow up on the point about familiarity. Are there three of your specific tactics (i.e - Hybrid Balance.etc) that you persevere with to begin with to get that familiarity up or do you just use the "playbook" system from the very start and just build up that familiarity as you go?

I'd also like to know how, mid-game, you'd transition between something like the 4-4-2 diamond and the 4-4-2 hybrid. I ask for squad building reasons.

...

How do you combine roles to limit the size of your squad and ensure you don't have specialists sitting around doing nothing most games?

 

My 3 "trained" tactics are 4-4-2 Hybrid "Attack", 4-6-0 "Control", and either 3-5-2 "Balance" or 4-4-2 Diamond "Balance". This ensures that my 3 TI setups are each trained -- that's 90% of familiarity. Sticking to those 3 TI sets and having them trained is what allows for my playbook to work.  All that's left is the formation familarity, but since those 4 formations are the biggies, that's typically pretty decent -- but it still prevents 100% familarity.

Not all switches are easy and the 4-4-2 Hybrid into 4-4-2 Diamond is one of the hardest. It also should almost never come up. If I'm in the 4-4-2 Hybrid it's because I'm not expecting to control the A Gap and instead am trying to work the B Gaps wide. The 4-4-2 Diamond ignores the B and focuses on the A Gap. It also switches from a 3 man midfield to a 4 man.

I rarely (almost never) try to change both my attack and my midfield in the same match for the reason you identified. And if I need to switch both that means I am making very poor formation choices prematch. Think of the 4-4-2 Hybrid and 4-4-2 Diamond as opposites. Same with the 4-6-0 and 3-5-2. If I make the right calls before the match, I should never have to switch between opposites. And will prolly look for a hybrid formation instead.

If I was in the 4-4-2 Hybrid and I wanted to switch to a A Gap attack, I go 3-5-2. One FB goes inside (or gets subbed) to get my 3 CB and the other FB is subbed off for the AF (a). If I wanted to switch to the 4 man midfield, then I go 4-6-0. I push one DMC up to MC and pull the SS (a) and DLF back one strata (or sub the DLF for a MC and keep the SS in place). 

In terms of gameday roster, I have my starting 11 based on the formation. Then my first 3 subs are typically a scorer (AF (a), maybe SS (a)), midfielder (DMC/MC) and a CB. My next 2 subs are wide players. If I'm in the 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 Diamond that means the starters that aren't starting. Else it's 2 subs, typically one at each strata. My last 2 spots (if I get them) go to the 2 best players, not already selected. It's rather common for players to start one game and not even make the gameday roster the next game, particularly in the midfield or as a striker.

My team roster fluctuates between around 15 (not recommended) and around 25 (a bit overkill). If you go them my last post I have all my rosters from the end of each season. Importaint thing to remember is not every player needs to be all star or even "starting" quality. A lot of guys are going to be role players. 

In terms of overlaps, you can see from my rosters, but I save all lot of roster space because my CB, FB, and DMC (and even MC to some extent) are all very similar and can cover one another. Same with the attackers (SS,AF,WM), sans DLF. Occasionally wide players (WM and FB) can cover each other and the opposite side as well. I also definately have a preference for players that can play multiple positions, particularly for my players that are on the bubble of getting cut or staying on the team. 

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Just a quick question about the 4-4-2 hybrid. You don't mention when you might start with it (other than against an exotic formation) in your specific 4-4-2 hybrid paragraph in the formations section. In the Pick a Base Formation section, near the end, where you go over which of your formations you use against common opponent formations you don't mention the 4-4-2 hybrid.

You mention a couple of times about the diamond being good against the 4-2-3-1. You say the 4-6-0 is good against 3 CD formations, better or stubborn opponents. You suggest the 5-3-2 against the 4-4-2 in a couple of places.

Are there any scenarios where you would use the 4-4-2 hybrid from the off?

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