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Old No7

Defensive 3-4-2-1 where did it go wrong?

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I have been desperate to get a 3 at the back system to work, it just intrigues me,  I'm also really keen to give defensive football a go.

Anyway having got the boot at Crystal Palace (trying something else entirely) I landed on my feet a bit & got the Real Sociedad job. With 8 games to go, we won 5, drew 2 & lost 1 to climb from 8th to 6th & secure Europa league football. I lost a couple of good player in the summer but for big money & that allowed me to build a good squad, bringing in 5 relatively expensive signings. All set for a good season or so I thought.

Looking back the warning signs were there a early as preseason, won 4, drew 1, lost 3. And without going in to detail I get the boot at the end of  November (save file ends 3 games earlier), hovering around the relegation zone but having done well in the Europa league winning 4 out of 5 group games. 

The good end to the previous season & European performances blinded me to issues & making changes in what must be a flawed system. Several days later it's still driving me nuts as I was excited about the potential of this one.

We played either 3-4-2-1

20180604235157_1.jpg

PI's

GK - roll it out

CM(D) - tackle harder, fewer risky passes

or 3-5-2, I used this more away or if up against a 4-3-2-1 at home. At home I would turn on TI's be more expressive & roam from positions TI.

20180604235151_1.thumb.jpg.10945454e4c2b4c369616f8a6c064b3e.jpg

PI's as above but with wing backs set to mark opposing AM L/R

Our results were

20180604235216_1.thumb.jpg.634b84e12f8f9f5ef528cd621e0c0f50.jpg

 

I went on to beat Celta & Sion, drew at Mallorca & got the sack immediately after

My Thought's

Clearly not scoring enough averaging just 1 a game in the league, why? 

  • Striker role not aggressive enough? Possibly need to change to a CF or AF with attack duty to push defenders back, will this negatively affect the AM(A) though?
  • Not enough movement in the AM strata? Perhaps a Treq would be better than a AP?
  • Sterile possession? We average 56.83% (2nd in league), are retain possession & work ball into box TI's having a negative impact? Just 38% of shots on target
  • Wrong shape? Would structured create more space than fluid?

I'm slightly more baffled by the defensive weakness? We conceded 6 goals in 8 games the previous season, to 22 in 12 games this season

  • Are the CB's to exposed?
  • Is the set up of 2 covering & 1 stopper not right?
  • Are we just sitting too deep, failing to score & pressure telling?

Would love anyone's input, as I said, it's eating away at me! 

Oh yes, should add I'm still on FM17

Edited by Old No7

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10 hours ago, Old No7 said:
  • Sterile possession? We average 56.83% (2nd in league), are retain possession & work ball into box TI's having a negative impact? Just 38% of shots on target
  • Wrong shape? Would structured create more space than fluid?

Hello.  It might be a few factors together as you suggest.  I've picked up on a couple you highlighted yourself as they seem quite relevant.

On a defensive mentality you are going to be low tempo, patient.  That's going to help with possession but as you analysed maybe not so many chances and especially when working the ball into the box too.  I have seen people say you can play any combination of shape and mentality but I always think of fluid football being zippy passes, movement and closing down.  I'm not sure I'd describe that as defensive football.

Edited by Robson 07

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I think the question to start with is what do you think defensive football is?  Just because you've selected Defensive mentality doesn't make it a defensive tactic, all your doing is making it lower risk.  No idea why your telling your team to exploit the middle, why increase there risk taking and make it more focused on the center when its already a center heavy tactic?  Personally if you want a "defensive" style i'd look at formations with more DMs shielding the CBs and letting them just deal with crosses.  Both formations you've shown still have quite a lot of players up field (2x AM + ST) defending high, whilst they might drop deeper thats not how you've positioned them.

It looks more like a very Possession orientated setup rather than defensive.  Low risk and lots of passes to feet.  Only the AP-S is likely to offer anything different with his creative freedom, the rest are all quite conservative roles (DLF-S, AM-A, BBM-S, CM-D, WB-S, WB-S) with very little risk taking built into them.  Thats not to say you have to use roles with risk taking built in on a low mentality but ideally there will be some creativity in the team or a quicker more physical style of play rather than just "keep the ball". Rather than questioning the roles individually whats your plan for creating chances?  Do you want a patient approach with a central playmaker dictating play, whats targets are you giving him?  Do you want a quicker counter attacking style then are those formations & roles+duties going to invite pressure and create space for you to attack quickly?

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5 hours ago, summatsupeer said:

No idea why your telling your team to exploit the middle, why increase there risk taking and make it more focused on the center when its already a center heavy tactic?

Does Exploit The Middle/Flanks actually increase the risk taking? I always thought that it simply encourages the ball to go through the middle/flanks more, which is why I usually use Exploit The Middle for middle heavy formations (such as OP's, for example), where I'm the strongest. My thinking behind is that it will make us play through the area where we have the numerical advantage more. I never thought of it as risk-increasing shout. Am I wrong?

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9 hours ago, summatsupeer said:

I think the question to start with is what do you think defensive football is?  Just because you've selected Defensive mentality doesn't make it a defensive tactic, all your doing is making it lower risk.  No idea why your telling your team to exploit the middle, why increase there risk taking and make it more focused on the center when its already a center heavy tactic?  Personally if you want a "defensive" style i'd look at formations with more DMs shielding the CBs and letting them just deal with crosses.  Both formations you've shown still have quite a lot of players up field (2x AM + ST) defending high, whilst they might drop deeper thats not how you've positioned them.

It looks more like a very Possession orientated setup rather than defensive.  Low risk and lots of passes to feet.  Only the AP-S is likely to offer anything different with his creative freedom, the rest are all quite conservative roles (DLF-S, AM-A, BBM-S, CM-D, WB-S, WB-S) with very little risk taking built into them.  Thats not to say you have to use roles with risk taking built in on a low mentality but ideally there will be some creativity in the team or a quicker more physical style of play rather than just "keep the ball". Rather than questioning the roles individually whats your plan for creating chances?  Do you want a patient approach with a central playmaker dictating play, whats targets are you giving him?  Do you want a quicker counter attacking style then are those formations & roles+duties going to invite pressure and create space for you to attack quickly?

My understanding of defensive football is that it's low tempo, short passing, a deeper defensive line & low risk.

So what i was hoping to achieve was a defensively sound formation, where we would control possession with a slow build up & score through passing & movement on the middle. 

However what I've achieved is the possesion & slow build up, with little end product & a suspect defence. 

My hope was the DLF would pull defenders out & create space for the AM who has good finishing, my AP is also one of my better players & he would be the creative hub. Hopefully the BBM would make runs from deep & also get involved. 

However the BBM & AP seem to be on top of each other & all just too congested. With the 3421 i selected the roam from position TI in the hope of creating some space. I think i should have gone for a structured shape & used a striker on attack duty to cure this.

I went for the exploit the middle TI as that's where we had a numerical advantage so i thought the TI would add to that. Possibly with a centre heavy formation that TI is too much?

Defensively i had expected the 3 centre backs & a CM with defend duty and either wing backs or defensive wingers to provide a solid unit.

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5 hours ago, DiStru_ said:

Does Exploit The Middle/Flanks actually increase the risk taking? I always thought that it simply encourages the ball to go through the middle/flanks more, which is why I usually use Exploit The Middle for middle heavy formations (such as OP's, for example), where I'm the strongest. My thinking behind is that it will make us play through the area where we have the numerical advantage more. I never thought of it as risk-increasing shout. Am I wrong?

With a central-heavy formation, the players are positioned in the middle already, so play will be focused in that area naturally. Adding the TI will add to that focus, pulling more players in to the area as you have told them to exploit it, the opponents will follow them - it will become crowded and passing options stifled as there is no space. To top that off, you have told the players not to penetrate unless it is a really good opportunity - Work Ball Into box - and to take less risks with possession - Retain Possession - they are playing it to feet, in a crowded space which means short passes and playing the 'easy ball' rather than a more risky, penetrating ball.

Then, your Playmaker, who attracts the ball as his teammates are always looking to pass to him, is asked to operate in the middle of this area of the pitch crowded with players. His options will be limited to short safe passes.

Have you tried this formation with Exploit the Flanks or Play Wider - might open a bit more space for you to exploit. If your WBs have good crossing, use them to stretch the width and throw balls into the box - you have the bodies in there. Try them with an Attack duty?

Structured would stretch play vertically a bit, Fluid does tend to compress the formation, so more structured you might find pockets of space opening. If your playmaker is operating in a deeper position, he can see the space and exploit it with more penetrating balls. Have your forwards look to get into channels, your wing backs pushing up and your playmaker should see more openings to make things happen for you.

In terms of defending when out of possession, your formation should be pretty solid as long as you force your opponents narrow - WBs aren't the most reliable defenders compared to FBs  so you need to encourage you opponents to play through the center so your CBs aren't getting stretched across the pitch and give them some protection with a midfielder defending in front of them.

With three up front, it's a fairly attack-minded or top-heavy formation for Defensive football, but should keep possession as a way of defending. Try a DLP-D instead of AP, and concentrate on opening pockets of space.

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11 hours ago, Snorks said:

With a central-heavy formation, the players are positioned in the middle already, so play will be focused in that area naturally.

So when would one use an Exploit The Flanks/Middle shout? I always thought it's best to use it for the area you're strongest at. I may be stupid, but I kinda struggle to see the difference between changing the width and using that shout.

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17 hours ago, DiStru_ said:

Does Exploit The Middle/Flanks actually increase the risk taking? I always thought that it simply encourages the ball to go through the middle/flanks more, which is why I usually use Exploit The Middle for middle heavy formations (such as OP's, for example), where I'm the strongest. My thinking behind is that it will make us play through the area where we have the numerical advantage more. I never thought of it as risk-increasing shout. Am I wrong?

Yup.  Plus remember its not just about where your strongest, its about where opponents are weak.  If you have lots of central players and the opponents do to, its going to be congested so trying to focus that area could make things harder than letting players use the best option they see.

13 hours ago, Old No7 said:

My understanding of defensive football is that it's low tempo, short passing, a deeper defensive line & low risk.

So what i was hoping to achieve was a defensively sound formation, where we would control possession with a slow build up & score through passing & movement on the middle. 

However what I've achieved is the possesion & slow build up, with little end product & a suspect defence. 

My hope was the DLF would pull defenders out & create space for the AM who has good finishing, my AP is also one of my better players & he would be the creative hub. Hopefully the BBM would make runs from deep & also get involved. 

However the BBM & AP seem to be on top of each other & all just too congested. With the 3421 i selected the roam from position TI in the hope of creating some space. I think i should have gone for a structured shape & used a striker on attack duty to cure this.

I went for the exploit the middle TI as that's where we had a numerical advantage so i thought the TI would add to that. Possibly with a centre heavy formation that TI is too much?

Defensively i had expected the 3 centre backs & a CM with defend duty and either wing backs or defensive wingers to provide a solid unit.

I would sum it up as "getting players behind the ball".  Just because you tell your team to be low risk and deep line doesn't make them defend better, how well they defend comes down to the players attributes.  They can still get pulled out of position due to opponents movement, overloading etc, the more players you have back to help the more bodies in the way and cover you have.  That sacrifices pressure higher up but defensive football isn't really about pressure.

I think an issue with the forward dropping to create space idea is your quite a narrow team from your formation and defensive mentality plus your only wide players are two WB-S.  To play through the middle of opponents, especially if they have DM player(s) is hard as they can defend narrow when there isn't much threat outside.

I'd forget team shape of the time being, its won't dramatically change things to fix your issues.  As I said above, I prefer to look at both teams when deciding if I want to exploit a side/middle, if you have numbers there then your team will naturally play there more often anyway and as mentioned above, you need to create space which takes more than just having one forward dropping deep, especially when your playing a keep ball strategy that will allow defences to get back.

If you really want to keep that formation then i'd maybe try swapping the AM around.  Have the AM-A pushing up with the BBM-S using the space he leaves and have the CM-D sitting deep with the AP-S collecting + distributing it.  Scrap the TI's and see how things play.  I think if you have a forward on attack duty you'd potentially have 2 players pushing high but the AP dropping to the CM-D + BBM-S leaving two groups of players.

If defending deep i'd want to have a DM, maybe a DLP-S or DM-S.  Shielding the CBs so they don't have to step up and leave a gap in a dangerous area when your deep but can step up and support attacks with 3 players covering the width of the pitch behind him, plus a low risk mentality making him quite safe without being defend duty.  Then i'd have one of the AMs pulled back to CM, probably the AM-A, maybe a WB-A outside of him to draw opponent FB out to create space inside.

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12 hours ago, Snorks said:

With a central-heavy formation, the players are positioned in the middle already, so play will be focused in that area naturally. Adding the TI will add to that focus, pulling more players in to the area as you have told them to exploit it, the opponents will follow them - it will become crowded and passing options stifled as there is no space. To top that off, you have told the players not to penetrate unless it is a really good opportunity - Work Ball Into box - and to take less risks with possession - Retain Possession - they are playing it to feet, in a crowded space which means short passes and playing the 'easy ball' rather than a more risky, penetrating ball.

Then, your Playmaker, who attracts the ball as his teammates are always looking to pass to him, is asked to operate in the middle of this area of the pitch crowded with players. His options will be limited to short safe passes.

Have you tried this formation with Exploit the Flanks or Play Wider - might open a bit more space for you to exploit. If your WBs have good crossing, use them to stretch the width and throw balls into the box - you have the bodies in there. Try them with an Attack duty?

Structured would stretch play vertically a bit, Fluid does tend to compress the formation, so more structured you might find pockets of space opening. If your playmaker is operating in a deeper position, he can see the space and exploit it with more penetrating balls. Have your forwards look to get into channels, your wing backs pushing up and your playmaker should see more openings to make things happen for you.

In terms of defending when out of possession, your formation should be pretty solid as long as you force your opponents narrow - WBs aren't the most reliable defenders compared to FBs  so you need to encourage you opponents to play through the center so your CBs aren't getting stretched across the pitch and give them some protection with a midfielder defending in front of them.

With three up front, it's a fairly attack-minded or top-heavy formation for Defensive football, but should keep possession as a way of defending. Try a DLP-D instead of AP, and concentrate on opening pockets of space.

 

3 minutes ago, summatsupeer said:

Yup.  Plus remember its not just about where your strongest, its about where opponents are weak.  If you have lots of central players and the opponents do to, its going to be congested so trying to focus that area could make things harder than letting players use the best option they see.

I would sum it up as "getting players behind the ball".  Just because you tell your team to be low risk and deep line doesn't make them defend better, how well they defend comes down to the players attributes.  They can still get pulled out of position due to opponents movement, overloading etc, the more players you have back to help the more bodies in the way and cover you have.  That sacrifices pressure higher up but defensive football isn't really about pressure.

I think an issue with the forward dropping to create space idea is your quite a narrow team from your formation and defensive mentality plus your only wide players are two WB-S.  To play through the middle of opponents, especially if they have DM player(s) is hard as they can defend narrow when there isn't much threat outside.

I'd forget team shape of the time being, its won't dramatically change things to fix your issues.  As I said above, I prefer to look at both teams when deciding if I want to exploit a side/middle, if you have numbers there then your team will naturally play there more often anyway and as mentioned above, you need to create space which takes more than just having one forward dropping deep, especially when your playing a keep ball strategy that will allow defences to get back.

If you really want to keep that formation then i'd maybe try swapping the AM around.  Have the AM-A pushing up with the BBM-S using the space he leaves and have the CM-D sitting deep with the AP-S collecting + distributing it.  Scrap the TI's and see how things play.  I think if you have a forward on attack duty you'd potentially have 2 players pushing high but the AP dropping to the CM-D + BBM-S leaving two groups of players.

If defending deep i'd want to have a DM, maybe a DLP-S or DM-S.  Shielding the CBs so they don't have to step up and leave a gap in a dangerous area when your deep but can step up and support attacks with 3 players covering the width of the pitch behind him, plus a low risk mentality making him quite safe without being defend duty.  Then i'd have one of the AMs pulled back to CM, probably the AM-A, maybe a WB-A outside of him to draw opponent FB out to create space inside.

Thanks both for your help, plenty to think about there

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10 hours ago, Old No7 said:

 

Thanks both for your help, plenty to think about there

No problem.

Honestly, the best thing to do is set it up, watch a full game and make notes on whether players are moving the way you want, passing where u want them - which needs players moving here, are you keeping the shape you envisaged when setting up the tactic?

One thing I do, in pre-season most years, is set up at least 9 friendlies, three against weaker teams, three similar rated teams, three stronger teams. I play my three tactics, for three games each (One defensive/counter - one 'Standard', one 'Control/Attack), and spend 30 mins of each game watching different areas of the pitch - player movement, player 'pockets', defensive positioning and attacking movement as generalisations - with and without the ball.

There is no golden button to click in the TC, BUT whatever you select there will impact across all 11 players to some extent and that is what can catch managers out - not the initial instruction but the ramifications of that in another area.

As this thread demonstrates, two of us have two different approaches to your problem hopefully, between us, we have helped you find your own way - look forward to hearing your results.

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Just to quickly add to what's already been said... It's a very passive set up almost devoid of risk, with Defensive plus Retain Possession. I imagine there's a fair bit of sideways and backwards passing. Your central attack looks quite easy to defend against. There's only one player (the AM-A) breaking ahead of the striker. The striker's dropping deep but you're not playing with a high line - often a lone striker dropping deep can suit a team that plays most of its football in the opponent's half, but here your whole team is quite deep, and then the striker's dropping deep too. So what's the opposition got to defend against? Just the AM-A making forward runs.

I'd have a look at changing Pardo's role - does he suit a BBM? He's not got great stamina and he's more of a passer than an all rounder. Maybe a CM-S or DLP/AP if you want another playmaker.

Edited by Park

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