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crusadertsar

Everything TOTAL Football (From Cruyff, False 9s, 4-3-3, to Guardiola's Overloads) - updated July 6, 2020

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3 minutes ago, crusadertsar said:

My next big update us coming tomorrow by the way :)

Looking forward to that.

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Just now, Hovis Dexter said:

That's interesting because my best AMR has PPMs of Runs with Ball Down Right and Hugs Line which seemingly conflicts with the Cut Inside with Ball PI for the Inverted Winger. So does mean that he's likely to play as a cross between a winger and inverted winger?

In my experience yes. For example I could also use traditional winger roles in my tactic and they would probably play similar to my current roles if they had cut inside and run with the ball traits.

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Posted (edited)

Anw, after some more experimenting I might be a little wrong on what I said about the move into channels, the mezzala problem might be the conjuction of the two and not only that shout. I tried again the CM with move into channels and it feels more free than with stay wide. 

Like I said, I like to change stuff when I feel like it. So, I'm always going from stay wide/move into channles to nothing at all depending on the game.

Just a little catch up, because I don't want people to get a sensation that what I'm saying is law, or wtv, my first aim was to say that Im onto something about those shouts.

Edited by Razor940

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Posted (edited)

I've spent most of FM20 playing more direct football with rapid transitions (lots of 3ATB and two forward formations), but I had the urge to go back to a more possession-heavy 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 thanks to this thread.

I'm trying something a little different to @crusadertsar set-up, but we're off to a good start:

Sevilla-4-0-Girona-New-Style.png

The pick of the goals:

Girona were playing a 4-1-4-1 as well, but with a MR and ML. I've found this to be one of the most stubborn defensive formations this year, especially combined the big passing numbers you can get on lower mentalities. Typically, a game like this for me might still end 4-0, but with 300-400 passes vs their 600+. For us to out-pass them and still create four CCCs is very encouraging, especially when two of those chances were tap-ins created by low crosses from the wingers and full-backs. 

I'll report back when I've got a bigger sample size. 

Edited by JEinchy

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Posted (edited)
Part 2 of Role Guide: Back Four

This articles continues my guided series on crafting the ultimate 4-3-3 Possession Tactic. I have been enamoured with this formation in FM20. I believe it offers the perfect balance of attack and defence while maintaining high possession. Possession has always been important for me when creating tactics although I have never been a fan of possession just for the sake of possession. Thus the main of this series is to find ways to optimize possession with intent within the limits of Football Manager. In my tactical creation, I am loosely inspired by historic teams such as 1970s Netherlands or Ajax and 2010 Barcelona. This is not meant as an accurate tactical recreation, as I will mix different tactics looking for my ideal 4-3-3. So without further ado, lets take a look at what roles make up the back four.

 

I started last article with a nod to Arsene Wenger and his ill-fated attempt to bring Tiki-Taka/Total Football to England. Under the Frenchman's guidance Arsenal played some beautiful possession football, but failed to claim any more titles after their historic 2003-2004 unbeaten season. To this day their perfect season is a record that has not been broken by any team in Premiership. Wenger has always been a manager to put emphasis on solid defense as a foundation in all his tactics. This was especially evident during Gunners' Invincible season. As if the perfect 38 games without a loss record was not enough, Arsene's boys kept 21 clean sheets

arsenal-champions-2003-2004-v3.jpg

Interestingly enough, the team that came closest to beating Arsenal's defensive record was Jose Mourinho's Chelsea one year later. The Blues managed to capture the Premier League title in 2005 with an almost perfect record. They only lost one game; a surprising 0-1 defeat to Keegan's Manchester City. The following year they retained their title along with the impressive defensive record. For 2005-2006 season Mourinho's Chelsea had conceded the fewest goals in a Premier League season. The record still stands today at just 15 in 38 games, whilst their 25 clean sheets is another Premiership record. What is more interesting in context of this guide, is that Mourinho's formation of choice during this time, was 4-3-3.

124474.jpg

A Man from Porto

Arsenal stuck with a traditional English 4-4-2 for its title-winning season. Whereas Chelsea's tactics flipped the tables and showed that other formations could be just as successful in Premier League. Always the outsider, Mourinho arrived in England hot on the heels of his career-defining stint with Porto, where he used a Narrow 4-4-2 Diamond (or 4-3-1-2). The advantage of this shape became most evident in Champions League. In this competition Porto were able to win this sought-after trophy due to the defensive solidity offered by 4-3-1-2.

Mourinhos-2004-Porto-Lineup.jpg

Mourinho gave much more freedom to his 3 attackers to roam around and create chances as they wished. At the same time midfield trio gave Porto a numerical advantage that most formations could not match. Additionally, Jose borrowed the Brazilian utilitarian approach to wingbacks, using one very attacking wingback (emphasis on "winger") and one defensive one. If you are interested in more musings on recreating this iconic tactic, check out my earlier attempt with FM19.

For my tactic, I am going to borrow a bit of Jose's sensibility in structuring my own defence. As you will see, it is important to realize that when one element of your tactic goes up the other must come down or stay back. For instance when using an aggressive attacking mentality, I tend to set my tempo to low and vise versa. Balance is everything, especially in FM20. But more on this later, as first lets take a look at Mourinho's Chelsea and its 4-3-3 formation.

Mourinho's 2004-2006 Chelsea

new_chelsea_drogba_lampard_terry_cole.jp Image courtesy of Zonalmarking.net

So in 2004, Jose Mourhinho took the lessons learned in Portugal and tried to transplant them on English soil. He found it rather fertile. With Chelsea he could operate with a much bigger budget and better quality of players. Thus he went with a more open attacking approach offered by 4-3-3. Although the principle of midfield control and solid defense in the back remained. In 4-3-3, as in 4-3-1-2 you cannot have effective defence without having a solid midfield trio in front. This is where your best, most well-rounded players should go. And if you need more justification for this then you can refer back to Part 1 of this series.

Jose Mourinho described the advantage of 4-3-3 over a classic 4-4-2 in the following way:

‘Look, if I have a triangle in midfield – Claude Makelele behind and two others just in front – I will always have an advantage against a pure 4-4-2 where the central midfielders are side by side. That’s because I will always have an extra man. It starts with Makelele, who is between the lines. If nobody comes to him he can see the whole pitch and has time. If he gets closed down it means one of the two other central midfielders is open. They are closed down and the other team’s wingers come inside to help. It means there is space now for us on the flank, either for our own wingers or for our full-backs. There is nothing a pure 4-4-2 can do to stop things’.

With a solid midfield trio in front, we can afford to be a little more adventurous with our back four. When operating with a 4-3-3 or 4-1-2-3, my motto is simple. Your attack is the best form of defence. And you will need high energy players in both central defence and fullback positions to make the best of it.

Defensive Unit

Lets start with your two central defenders. They must work well as a unit with the two fullbacks and the defensive holding midfielder in front of them to plug any gaps that the attacking players leave behind them. While on the surface it might seem that their function is very basic. Stopping the opposition from getting through. How you want them to go about this however, makes all the difference.

Centre-backs in any formation must be strong in jumping, tackling, positioning, and heading. They get to the ball before first to pass it to a team-mate, clear it away or tackle the opponent. In the air, they should ideally win most of their headers. Essentially they cannot allow opposition’s strikers to control the ball and bring their team-mates into play. As a last resort they need to know how to clear away the ball safely. Seeing how we are trying to achieve possession style of football, I am looking to get more passing than clearing. To achieve this, specific Team and Player Instructions, as well as Roles and Player Traits are needed.

Defend.png?fit=662%2C514&ssl=1

The Team Instructions that will make your defenders play TikiTaka/Total Football are Play Out of Defence and Higher Defensive line. The high defensive line will make sure that they stay closer to your midfield which in itself will both encourage them to pass it short and discourage to conservatively hoof the ball over the midfield. And attacking mentality works very well in combination with these two.

The reason why I prefer to play on Attacking or even Very Attacking is that it increases the mentality of my centrebacks (especially the BPD) and makes it even more likely that they will make risky plays like dribbling up with the ball. I might just go as far as stating that in FM20, on anything lower than Attacking Mentality, your Ball Playing Defenders won't really act like proper BPDs. When playing on a lower mentality and faced with pressure from opposition pressing, they tend to still act rather conservatively. Meaning that rather than dribbling with the ball or passing it short, they will kick it long towards your strikers or even out of bounds.

Ball-Playing Defender (BPD) - The Quarterback

As the name states, here you want to put your smartest, most technical defender. He might not necessarily be the strongest CB with top positioning and tackling. But he does need to have the best technicals and mental attributes. Thus first touch, passing, technique, decisions, anticipation and vision need to be among the best on the team. Also decent dribbling is always welcome.

paz89ta8ppu01.jpg?fit=662%2C414&ssl=1

Much like the quarterback role in American Football, your BPD is a key player with a huge weight resting on his shoulders. Not only does he have to withstand enormous pressure from the opposition's high press but also needs to make quick decisions on how to distribute the ball. His distribution skill (linked to his mentals) is vital as one good pass could unlock a stubborn defence. In the following clip, you can see how the right player in this role can create a goal from nothing. In the video, my BPD Aritz Elustondo makes a long pass to the Inverted Winger, Odegaard. The goal that results from this shows that short-passing possession style cannot be without a bit direct bite. 

In terms of player traits (PPMs) I am going to use an example of Ajax' player Lisandro Martinez. He already possess all the attributes needed for the role, as well as two important traits. Both preference for Long Passes and Bringing Ball Out of Defence, will make a defender behave like a ballplaying defender. Another two that are important to have are Runs with Ball through Centre and Tries to Play out of Trouble. In combination these two will discourage the player from hoofing the ball when under pressure. Instead he will be encouraged to dribble with the ball through opponent's press and make defence-splitting passes towards your midfield. Of course for this too work he needs good dribbling as well as passing, vision and decisions.

67AC00D2A7E7E062CFD4CF90A4DD20C93B5FFE38
Sweeper Keeper - High Press Breaker

When using Ball-Playing Defender role, one must also use a Sweeper Keeper (SK), as the two work in tandem. Similarly to BPD, a highly technical variation on the traditional defender, SK is a very technical version of Goalkeeper. Both are ideally suited for possession football because of their focus on ball distribution. Sweeper Keeper will need other ball-playing players close to him to offer passing options. So roles such as BPD, Deep-lying Playmaker and Libero are ideally suited to work with a SK. A partnership of SK and BPD will not only counter the opposition high press but will also prevent them from disrupting your short goalkeeper distribution.

How does Sweeper Keeper nullify opposition high press? When pressed by opposing forwards your SK will always have a passing option in the BPD. A good Sweeper Keeper will draw the opposition in before pinging the ball to your playmaker or BPD. The Ball-Playing Defender can then send a long ball over their high press and to your inside forward who suddenly finds himself with lots of free space to exploit. Without his BPD partner, the SK will try to pass the ball to the nearest fullback. This is fine although much easier to predict and close down by an organized defence.

6C8801FAD6391BA279DCCF1C863E9C2E2EC4C26D

Apart from the typical goalkeeper attributes, a good SK will need good technique, first touch, passing and kicking. The only preferred move that I would train in every Sweeper Keeper is Tries to Play Way Out Of Trouble. As its description states, it increases the chances of a player looking to pass or dribble against pressure, rather than opting for safety-first approach of clearing the ball.

Right Inverted Wingback - Swiss Knife
Barca-2.png

Total Football is all about balance. And even-though you will need well-rounded players to make this tactic work, it does not mean that all the roles will need to be generic or act the same. To the contrary, in every strata of 4-3-3 formation, you will need one reserved/defensively responsible player for every attacking runner/dribbler. In attack, theres is the inside forward making forward runs in contrast to the inverted winger coming deep on the right. In midfield: the aggressive dribbler - mezzala is offset by the more conservative roaming playmaker. And the generic left centreback covers for the more adventurous BPD. Its no different with my two inverted wingbacks. The left one must be more defensive, in order to get the most out of my right inverted wingback. As you can see below, in this role you cannot play your typical fullback. Here lies his strength.

ACBA43AAC3B9491860953BC5BDB4F8C16C58669C

Quincy Promes at Ajax fits perfectly the mold of my ideal attacking Inverted Wingback. As you can see he is a natural inside forward with PPMs of one. But has a really interesting attribute distribution, possessing good values in key IWB attributes as well as those of a forward.

These attributes include Dribbling, First Touch, Passing, Anticipation, Off the Ball, Work Rate, Acceleration, Pace and Stamina. He is a great physical specimen who is as comfortable in attack as in midfield. While decent tackling and positioning complete his well-rounded profile, assuring that he won't be a defensive liability. I really like Qunicy's PPMs. They all encourage him to make tricky runs into the final third. Traits such as Gets Into Opposition Area, Cuts Inside and Runs with The Ball are all required here as they will make your IWB into a potent weapon.

11620A9D12334724019FAB57443FEBDBBBAB5F43

Finally, you do not need an amazing player or even very fast one to play this role well. Sometimes great mental attributes are much more important. For example, in my save with Real Sociedad, my Right Inverted Winbgack is Portu, a very different kind of player. He almost like a deep Raumdeuter who is capable of offering attacking threat anywhere across my formation, from striker to fullback position. Swiss Knife indeed, and a veritable poster-boy for Total Football.

So this covers all the roles in my Possession 4-3-3 Tactic. In the future articles I will be covering other aspects of my TikiTaka Possession philosophy that contribute to its success. Specifically the elements other than the tactical ones that make the whole system tic. For sometimes what happens on the training room or dressing room is equally as important. This is hopefully something I can show in the next update.

 

 

Edited by crusadertsar

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Posted (edited)
On 22/03/2020 at 22:26, JEinchy said:

I'll report back when I've got a bigger sample size. 

Just to follow up on this.

Sevilla-4-3-3-0.png

This is what I came up with after spotting a few problems with my original version.

Firstly, the original tactic used More Urgent pressing, which saw a lot of players run around like school kids without actually accomplishing anything. This allowed opposition teams to have comfortable possession and create more chances against us than I would have liked, so I toned it down. The impact has been dramatic: a far more solid defence, fewer chances conceded, and plenty of traps being set for the opposition.

Secondly, the original had a CF(A), but I dropped him to the Attacking Midfielder role due to this:

Spacing-Problem.png

Ideally, I wanted my CM(A) to be higher up, closer to the front-line, because I already had plenty of players back to help with the build-up phase. Unfortunately, the only way to do this was to stop playing out of defence altogether, which kinda defeated the purpose of this tactic. Switching to a 4-2-3-1 would have solved this quite easily, but I wanted to stick with the 4-1-4-1 shape because it suited my midfield better (I lack the all-round midfield presence for a good double pivot). I could have changed one of the wide players to a playmaker role, but again, personnel dictated I use wingers or forwards. Hence, I went strikerless. 

Possession-wise, this approach achieves about 51%/500 passes in most games against all types of set-ups, so it's not a true "tiki-taka" approach. That said, there's plenty of movement and overloads going on.

The CM(A) (with Move Into Channels) links with the IW(S) and the IWB(S) to create passing triangles on the right. Any one of these three can be in a position to play a killer pass or shoot. 

The AM(A) and CM(A) can overload a lone DM, or occupy space behind the midfield to confuse an opposition defence, in turn creating space for the IF(A).

The IF(A) can overload an opposition full back with the WB(S) thanks to the Overlap TI. He, the AM(A) and CM(A) can all be targets for crosses as well. 

Edited by JEinchy

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Nice write up again. I have a basic question. Why overlap right and left if you are playing inverted wingbacks? Wouldn't that just stop the penetrating runs of the iw and if with no purpose as no one is overlapping.

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34 minutes ago, Timothy. said:

Nice write up again. I have a basic question. Why overlap right and left if you are playing inverted wingbacks? Wouldn't that just stop the penetrating runs of the iw and if with no purpose as no one is overlapping.

It's too get them into more advanced space up the field before actually cutting inside into midfield. And not to stay mostly back in defensive midfield area as they tend to do by default. Basically what overlapping shout does is increase their mentality one notch. In end I'm trying to get them to play like a hybrid wingback/inverted wingback.

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How do you train  Sweeper Keeper Tries to Play Way Out Of Trouble PPM? I have tried to find it but it doesn´t even give me an option to do it. Is it even possible for goalkeepers to do it? And yes I know where to teach PPM´s. :D

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1 hour ago, Punt said:

How do you train  Sweeper Keeper Tries to Play Way Out Of Trouble PPM? I have tried to find it but it doesn´t even give me an option to do it. Is it even possible for goalkeepers to do it? And yes I know where to teach PPM´s. :D

The only way it can be taught is by being mentored by an older goalkeeper who has it. It's a very rare PPM in a keeper.

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On 25/03/2020 at 23:52, crusadertsar said:

It's too get them into more advanced space up the field before actually cutting inside into midfield. And not to stay mostly back in defensive midfield area as they tend to do by default. Basically what overlapping shout does is increase their mentality one notch. In end I'm trying to get them to play like a hybrid wingback/inverted wingback.

Ah I understand.

 

Crusadertsar are you tempted to have a safe with Barcelona on themadscientists 2006/7 database, and recreate all of this with xavi, iniesta and messi! Would be fun to read about.

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1 hour ago, Timothy. said:

Ah I understand.

 

Crusadertsar are you tempted to have a safe with Barcelona on themadscientists 2006/7 database, and recreate all of this with xavi, iniesta and messi! Would be fun to read about.

I second this! Wouod be awesome to see. 

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Posted (edited)

@Timothy. And @3LionsFMI would have loved to guys but I'm currently too obsessed with my Real Sociedad save. It's taking up most of my playing time. And then I still have to write about it. But it sounds like an awesome database.

Edited by crusadertsar

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Who do you remove in case of red card?

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3 hours ago, Punt said:

Who do you remove in case of red card?

Usually I will remove the striker and move my DM into AM position

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Posted (edited)

So it turns out being stuck at home due to the pandemic sometimes is not so good on the morale. Those who read my last thread and saw me vent on FM20 might wonder if I would still continue this project. So I just wanted to reassure you that I'm not giving up :D I just had a temporary lapse of morale. I did a team talk with myself and now I feel more confident about it. And most importantly having fun playing the game and excited to write about my experiences again.

My quest to find the magic Total Football formula continues ... with The Royal Society. My longest ongoing series since Young Devils. I'm almost finished my latest article where I will be giving some background to this save and explaining a little about how I'm trying to build a Total Football-focused club from the ground up. My tactic is also being rebalanced. This is my latest version.

AB5CD2E4BDABFFE18485FE572257C0922ED1A2F5

Edited by crusadertsar

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The next update of Royal Society, Part #3 (if you count the previous two articles about setting up 4-3-3) is coming next Monday. And here is a little preview :hammer:

 

The Royal Triumph

In 1981, Real Sociedad de Fútbol (Royal Football Society) were the Leicester of the Spain's La Liga. In other words, they were a plucky little club from a small city that punched far above its weight. They challenged the traditional hierarchy of La Liga's Big Three and won the ultimate prize through hard work and perseverance. And a healthy injection of local Basque pride.

1250460009_740215_0000000000_noticia_nor Will the "Real" La Liga Giant-Killers of 80s please stand up!?

Over the years La Liga Finalists have become rather predictable with the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Even with Athletico Madrid joining the triumvirate, it has not been challenging to predict La Liga winners year after year. The situation was not all that different in 1980s. So for a club like Sociedad to win the league was unexpected to say the least. But to do it for two consecutive seasons was simply unheard of. And they did it with a completely home-grown squad, without a single international star to help out. So no Kante or Riyad Mahrez shrewd types of signings to help them out. No. Every player on Sociedad's successful squad was either born or grew up within 2000 square mile area comprising Basque Country.

Basque_Country_Location_and_Provinces_in

Interestingly 1980s stand out as unique decade in Spanish football, because during this time the Basque Duopoly dominated the headlines. The two Basque clubs competing at the top were (and still are) Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao, Txuri-urdinak (Whites and Blues) and Rojiblancos (Red-Whites). To this day it remains one of the most iconic and fierce rivalries in world football. And during the 80s, the two rivals shared 4 La Liga titles between themselves. Real Sociedad won in 1981 and 1982 while Bilbao took the honours in 1983 and 1984. It was the longest time that La Liga champion's title did not belong to Barcelona or Real Madrid.

basquederby-epa11032020.jpg Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao - two rivals united by culture.
 

 

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17 hours ago, crusadertsar said:

So it turns out being stuck at home due to the pandemic sometimes is not so good on the morale. Those who read my last thread and saw me vent on FM20 might wonder if I would still continue this project. So I just wanted to reassure you that I'm not giving up :D I just had a temporary lapse of morale. I did a team talk with myself and now I feel more confident about it. And most importantly having fun playing the game and excited to write about my experiences again.

My quest to find the magic Total Football formula continues ... with The Royal Society. My longest ongoing series since Young Devils. I'm almost finished my latest article where I will be giving some background to this save and explaining a little about how I'm trying to build a Total Football-focused club from the ground up. My tactic is also being rebalanced. This is my latest version.

AB5CD2E4BDABFFE18485FE572257C0922ED1A2F5

Looking forward to the follow up.

Odegaard at IWB!!. He must be a ball magnet. 

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Posted (edited)
12 minutes ago, Irn Rvd said:

Looking forward to the follow up.

Odegaard at IWB!!. He must be a ball magnet. 

He actually is and it's great, we are getting some nice underlaps on that side with Odegaard often making unmarked runs into final third before passing or crossing. He even has 5 goals from open play. And he greatly contributes to overload on that side. My only concern with him is his inconsistency which is in the red. Not sure if that was set or unlucky random draw. So I actually already acquired his replacement, Hannes Wolf from Leipzig for when Odegaard's loan finishes this summer. He is a great young player so hopefully he does as well.

Edited by crusadertsar

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3 hours ago, crusadertsar said:

He actually is and it's great, we are getting some nice underlaps on that side with Odegaard often making unmarked runs into final third before passing or crossing. He even has 5 goals from open play. And he greatly contributes to overload on that side. My only concern with him is his inconsistency which is in the red. Not sure if that was set or unlucky random draw. So I actually already acquired his replacement, Hannes Wolf from Leipzig for when Odegaard's loan finishes this summer. He is a great young player so hopefully he does as well.

He knows plays one twos already which is great.

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8 hours ago, witticism said:

03791a1f98a538b4c9d4c39767db872d.gif

 

Started a new save out of boredom, here's another gif

Awesome goal mate! Which role is the assister? Is he your playmaker?

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I thought I would share this as this is relevant to the topic. Tifo just released an excellent video explaining the TikiTaka tactic :applause:Typical Tifo, concise and easy to understand. Enjoy!

Im expecting to delve deep into this to see how it can be applied to FM20 and to my tactic. 

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2 hours ago, crusadertsar said:

Awesome goal mate! Which role is the assister? Is he your playmaker?

So at this point I am basically set up like this:

bdee32bc239d5f3a3df0b28e6317bc66.png

Which is just a combination of ideas from this thread and my own terrible idiosyncrasies. I introduce very few changes game to game with most of the variance coming from different PPMs in the players.

In that particular goal, it is the mezzala playing the pass after possession had been recycled and receiving the ball from the gk:

201222a0aea7a071d8788f797a0a1a33.jpg

 

Generally, the assists come from the left hand side or the front three: Only the DL, MCL, AML/R & F9 have recorded assists so far this campaign.

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6 hours ago, witticism said:

So at this point I am basically set up like this:

bdee32bc239d5f3a3df0b28e6317bc66.png

Which is just a combination of ideas from this thread and my own terrible idiosyncrasies. I introduce very few changes game to game with most of the variance coming from different PPMs in the players.

In that particular goal, it is the mezzala playing the pass after possession had been recycled and receiving the ball from the gk:

201222a0aea7a071d8788f797a0a1a33.jpg

 

Generally, the assists come from the left hand side or the front three: Only the DL, MCL, AML/R & F9 have recorded assists so far this campaign.

I really like your setup. I feel it would really get the best out of the Raumdeuter. Who is your main player in that role?

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4 hours ago, crusadertsar said:

I really like your setup. I feel it would really get the best out of the Raumdeuter. Who is your main player in that role?

Welcome to Norway:

image.thumb.png.8a8b0d37c589026b59e43b3d4f2cdad1.png

image.thumb.png.3e3b3f29d0ddba6aa1b1554bfffbe0f7.png

I originally got him for the f9 role but middling ratings and an injury crisis and a few key loans from Southampton moved him to the Raumdeuter last season. Through this I discovered it was the f9 itself having difficulty being involved in play and not necessarily just the player.

Been trying a few different people at that position but so far no one has jumped out as a possible replacement.

 

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He looks like he has all the attributes for a Raumdeuter. Finishing, Work rate, anticipation and off the ball. Good find. And nice choice of skin 👍

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7 hours ago, crusadertsar said:

He looks like he has all the attributes for a Raumdeuter. Finishing, Work rate, anticipation and off the ball. Good find. And nice choice of skin 👍

Yeah it was a rather fortuitous find.

Plan for the transfer window is finding another body to throw at the position and starting working on a 3 man defense formation just for the sake of variety. Trying to think how too make the whole concept work away from the 433 I am already running.

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Seems they havent fixed the same fm18/fm19 striker movement issues yet, and are pushing it to next years edition, again

Might scrap the whole idea and do something new instead of that 433 I've been using then.

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Posted (edited)
45 minutes ago, witticism said:

Seems they havent fixed the same fm18/fm19 striker movement issues yet, and are pushing it to next years edition, again

Might scrap the whole idea and do something new instead of that 433 I've been using then.

 

 

 

 

That's disappointing 🙁. I had no reason to complain about my False9, Willian Jose. But then he has been killing it and scoring lots of goals (27!). So that's not exactly the behaviour of a supporting striker who is supposed to drop deep 😄. I thought it was just due to my player and his traits. But now I'll take a look at it more closely. 

Before scrapping your 4-3-3 have you thought about using a Trequartista either in striker role or AMC ( as a Strikerless formation). The Trequartista is supposed to drop into space to and might work better with a hard-working player.

Edited by crusadertsar

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Posted (edited)

Royal Society 👑 Update coming in about 30 minutes

Edited by crusadertsar

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il y a 7 minutes, crusadertsar a dit :

 

 

il y a 7 minutes, crusadertsar a dit :

 

That's disappointing 🙁. I had no reason to complain about my False9, Willian Jose. But then he has been killing it and scoring lots of goals (27!). So that's not exactly the behaviour of a supporting striker who is supposed to drop deep 😄. I thought it was just due to my player and his traits. But now I'll take a look at it more closely. 

Before scrapping your 4-3-3 have you thought about using a Trequartista either in striker role or AMC ( as a Strikerless formation). The Trequartista is supposed to drop into space to and might work better with a hard-working player.

 

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Posted (edited)

The Royal Society is here! Check out my original article (with the pictures working) here:       https://dictatethegame.com/2020/04/13/the-royal-society-giant-killing-second-chances-in-la-liga/

 

Part 1: Building a Total Football Club in FM20

One country has always fascinated me. España. The historian in me is attracted to its turbulent history of conquests and revolutions. And Spanish football is no less interesting. As a nation it is united by its love of the beautiful game. Nevertheless it is divided politically and geographically. Each autonomous community comes with its own distinct culture and languages. And it is this vibrant multi-cultural mosaic that also gives Spanish football its unique flavour. It is much more than the ultra's bragging rights at stake when Barca fights Athletic Bilbao. Rather it is the battle of Catalan nation versus Basque country. La Liga really has the feel of an international league where distinct footballing cultures compete for the ultimate prize. Other than in Champions League, we don't see this in another league, and I wouldn't want it any other way. What better setting for my last FM20 saga?

800px-Real_Sociedad_logo.svg_.png
spain_clubs-by-autonomous-communities_a- The map of Spanish clubs according to their autonomous region. As you can see regional pride is strong in Spain, making for an interesting league indeed.

The Royal Triumph

In 1981, Real Sociedad de Fútbol (Royal Football Society) were the Leicester of the Spain's La Liga. In other words, they were a plucky little club from a small city that punched far above its weight. They challenged the traditional hierarchy of La Liga's Big Three and won the ultimate prize through hard work and perseverance. And a healthy injection of local Basque pride.

1250460009_740215_0000000000_noticia_nor Will the "Real" La Liga Giant-Killers of 80s please stand up!?

Over the years La Liga champions have become rather predictable with the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid. Even with Athletico Madrid joining the triumvirate, it has not been challenging to predict La Liga winners year after year. The situation was not all that different in 1980s. So for a club like Sociedad to win the league was unexpected to say the least. But to do it for two consecutive seasons was simply unheard of. And they did it with a completely home-grown squad, without a single international star to help out. So no Kante or Riyad Mahrez types of signings to help them out. No. Every player on Sociedad's successful squad was either born or grew up within 2000 square mile area comprising Basque Country.

Basque_Country_Location_and_Provinces_in

Interestingly 1980s stand out as unique decade in Spanish football, because during this time the Basque Duopoly dominated the headlines. The two Basque clubs competing at the top were (and still are) Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao, Txuri-urdinak (Whites and Blues) and Rojiblancos (Red-Whites). To this day it remains one of the most iconic and fierce rivalries in world football. And during the 80s, the two rivals shared 4 La Liga titles between themselves! Real Sociedad won in 1981 and 1982 while Bilbao took the honours in 1983 and 1984. It was the longest time that La Liga champion's title did not belong to Barcelona or Real Madrid.

basquederby-epa11032020.jpg Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao - two rivals united by culture.

Keeping It Local, or Not?

Football started out as a local game played by neighbors with a passion for their local club. From these humble roots, the game grew into a cosmopolitan industry where the club's star is usually from thousands of kilometers away, if not from a different continent all together. The giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona would get picks on the best footballers in the world when selecting their squads. From West Germany's Bernd Schuster to England’s Lawrie Cunningham, both Barca and Real had their share of international stars in 1980s. Some did better than others.

tumblr_mp9yg4SAm31rmxfeao2_640.jpg Maradona (a then world record fee of £5 million), Simonsen and Schuster - Barca's three international golden boys of the 80s. A case of too much of a good thing. As Spanish league restrictions meant Allan Simonsen competed with Maradona and Bernd Schuster for two foreign player places in the line-up. This caused a dispute, with Simonsen eventually leaving for Charlton Athletic.

What united all these players was the fact that before coming to Spain they were already established international superstars in their own country. For example Allan Simonsen, before arriving in Barcelona in 1979, was already named European Footballer of the year and was becoming one of the most capped Danes.

B9qAgKoCAAEpJCS.jpg Allan Simonsen was one of Denmark's most capped players ever with 55 appearances.

The Basque Example

So in the 80s, while clubs across Europe were discovering the joys of globalization (along with the problems of keeping all of their international stars happy), Basque clubs continued to look within. And it worked wonders. Real Sociedad had its best decade, getting two titles and three 2nd place finishes between 1980 and 1987. During this time the only other team that prevented Sociedad's total hegemony was Athletic Bilbao. Bilbao won La Liga in 1983 and 1984, thus keeping the title exclusively in Basque Country for four consecutive seasons!

Athletic Bilbao is another Basque club that practices the cantera (youth academy "quarry") policy of only recruiting players with an established link (either through birth of upbringing) to Basque Country. For a time the two Basque clubs were proof that a club can maintain its local club link, representing its cultural identity, while still being successful. Even more impressive was the fact that these two clubs were able go head to go with the veritable giants, Barcelona and Real Madrid. The two LaLiga giants operated very differently. Barca and Madrid would practically set transfer records every year in their pursuit to out-do each other. By participating it this sports race, Madrid gained their "Galactico" nickname.

1570705991_352455_1570709568_noticia_nor At the time Real Madrid invested more money in this famous quartet than the value of full first team rosters on most mid-level clubs

With time, things change. To this day Athletic Bilbao remains strict in who it signs, while The Royals have not been as staunch to their roots. Sociedad abandoned its own cantera policy in 1989 by signing a likable Scouser John Aldridge. He was the first non-Basque to pull on the txuri-urdinak shirt. He was also a hell of a goal-scorer.

3072.jpg?fit=662%2C397&ssl=1 The English-born Republic of Ireland international John Aldridge was Real Sociedad's first non-Basque player, and the club's top scorer three seasons in a row, 1989 to 1991.

New Realities in 2020

3620.jpg

In second decade of 2000s, the ideal of going local and looking within for talent has become a pipe dream. Or has it? The cold reality of globalization makes it easier than ever for "Big" European clubs to raid South American football academies and lesser European leagues (Ajax and Zagreb anyone?). If you can simply buy your way to victory, why bother developing your own academies, right. But is that really the best way? Some current events might play a role in taking clubs back to their local roots. It is hard to predict all the economic repercussions of Brexit and the Covid19 pandemic but some things are becoming clear. Most big clubs will need to start looking within their own academies for talent. Especially as foreign sources becomes less accessible due to travel restrictions and harsh isolationist policies.

And so we arrive at the main point of this Real Sociedad save and blog series. Firstly I want to prove that attractive possession football in very possible in FM20. But my second aim is to showcase how nourishing local talent, with little Transfer Market spending, can keep the club competitive.

Progress Report

So it's been almost two seasons that I have been in charge of Real Sociedad and things are looking up. While we have not won any trophies yet, the club's standing has been improved. After finishing 4th last year, we were able to finally get Continental football, and in the prestigious Champions League. There we will be representing Spain alongside the usual big three of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletico Madrid. Our initial aim was Europa League, so making it into the Group Stages itself is a coup.

UEFA-1.png?fit=662%2C372&ssl=1

UPDATE: We made into the 1st Knockout Round! The only other Spanish Team to survive to this stage was Athletico Madrid.

Champ-2.png

On the other hand, as of January 2021, we did not improve much on our previous season's 4th place finish. The competition in La Liga has been fierce as usual. Alongside the Big Three, Sevilla has been overachieving in 2nd place (they finished 5th last year right behind us). But at least we are still competitive on the big stage.

Developing Our Total Football Identity

Aside from league tables and European success, there have been other ways to measure progress in the last two seasons. My attempts to mold this club into a model Total Football system has started to bear fruit. The main aim is to play attractive, fluid football, not to hog the ball just for the sake of possession. Thus Possession with Intent is the name of the game. The Dutch used to call it Totaalvoetbal, the Catalans - Juego de Posición, and now some name it Vertical Tiki-Taka. In all of its guises, its essence remains the same. How fast and efficiently can 11 men on the field move the ball towards the opponent's goal. While maintaining total control of the game. Sounds easy enough, right?

"In possession, eleven men have to be in motion. Busy fine-tuning distances. Its not a question of how much you run but where you run to" - Johan Cruyff.

Cruyff's words are one of the reasons why I'm not a fan of the German mechanical football style - Gegenpressing. In my opinion, its probably one of the worst things to happen to modern football. It took one of the aspects of Cruyff's Total Football - its concept of relentless pressing and defending as a team, and bastardized into a whole playing philosophy. But unlike the original Totaalvoetbal, German version, in its by-the-numbers approach, ignores the technique and vision of the Dutch Way.

167816762_crop_exact.jpg Galactico Kaka being bullied by Dortmund's Gegenpressers

While Total Football had its dark physical side, it was by far overshadowed by its inherent grace. The neat geometry of flowing passes as they mapped triangles within triangles could not be recreated through hard work alone. The importance of technique and vision was paramount and still is to Ajax way of developing youth. It is hard-coded into its TIPS system. It is also the legacy that Barcelona and the Spanish National Team embraced and preserved to this day.

image-asset.jpeg

Technique - measuring inherent skill-set or footballer's "tricks".

Insight - tactical intelligence in knowing just when and how to use the above-mentioned skills and tricks.

Personality refers to how well the player fits into the team as a whole.

Speed relates to both physical and mental nimbleness in executing instructions.

Finding players with the right attributes in these four areas is essential in my own scouting and youth development efforts at Real Sociedad. It can be a very involved process, and one of the most time-consuming, albeit satisfying aspects of FM20. In Football Manager there is nothing more rewarding than seeing your team identity emerge along the parameters you predefined. It can be a major investment in time as it firstly involves searching for coaches schooled in our system. Secondly, the training set-up needs to be reworked to favour development of attribute ideal for a fluid possession tactic. And of course the infrastructure like youth and training facilities needs to be improved in order to support this development. Only once those are in place, will you start seeing positive change. Here is a peek at mine.

Molding Future Success

JS85806287.jpg

To illustrate my next point, it's best if I retell a story told by Cruyff while he was managing Barcelona.

"When Guardiola was a boy people said to me 'oh, he's one of the best'. So I [Cruyff] looked for him in the reserves but he didn't play in the reserves. I looked for him in the first team and he didn't play in the first team. Eventually I found him in the third youth team. So I said to the coaches, 'You said Guardiola was one of the best!' and they said 'Yes but physically he is not'. I told them to put him in the reserves'. He will grow, don't worry he will grow, everybody grows. They said 'yes, but we will lose'.... I told them 'If we lose, we lose. We need to create footballers'. Guardiola did very well."

19143277_303.jpg Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola - mentor-pupil relationship that allowed Dutch Total Football to continue and maintain its impact on modern football to this day.

My first mistake at Sociedad, was to focus right away on short-term success. When I could not win anything after one season, I started to panic and to blame my tactic (and even the game itself). And when tactical adjustments only appeared to result in marginal improvements then it was easy to lose heart.

tenor.gif

Yeah, I did not actually do that, but you get my point. It can be very frustrating to put time into a game, and not have the positive reward at the end. At instinct level, we are still creatures ruled by Pavlovian psychology, and Football Manager is no different. Here what can help is changing the perspective on how you define success. So from now on, I will be putting trophies on the backburner. For now I will be focusing on developing my players to fit my tactical system.

Total Football Training Method

The first thing you should do upon taking over any club in FM20 is to set up a training schedule. In the beginning I found the detail somewhat intimidating and would leave it to my Assistant Manager to set-up. But since staring this save I'm slowly starting to see the benefits of designing my own training routines. The main benefit, is in making the training compliment your tactic. Using a generic training is not ideal since you end up coaching attributes that aren't essential. For example you don't want to focus heavily on crossing while using a possession-heavy tactic. When you create your own training schedule you can choose the sessions that best compliment your tactic. Thus you train only the attributes that will help your players perform in your chosen tactical style, be it possession or counter-attack.

26EC84EBC858E757AB63B62E5AC7F7ACF10A38EB

As you can see, for majority of the season I have my team focusing on very technical aspects of football. Following Cruyff's advise, I want to foster the technique and vision that is essential for this style of Possession-heavy football. First and foremost I want to develop highly intelligent players in all positions. Players who can treat the football field as a chess board. If only I could have a bunch of Guardiolas and Cruyffs to fill my starting eleven. Alone, a possession-focused approach will allow my players to keep hold of the ball better. They will still need to know what do with it. Technique and tactical intelligence will allow them to do interesting things with the ball rather than simply passing it around.

Their physical attributes such as speed and endurance are still very important though. These will help a lot in maintaining possession in the first place. But outside of the pre-season (which I leave on default template) I don't do any physical training during the season proper. In my opinion, physical attributes are secondary to the other more "interesting" attributes. And that is why my training system is geared towards developing the technical and mental attributes needed for Total Football.

FC5A9810893DEAE4BB0999874E322946D8532CCB Example of Real Sociedad's training week during a heavy two-match schedule

I organize my training into three weekly schedule templates. I alternate them depending on whether we have two, one or no games scheduled during that week.

B6754D6F0EBCD877953A5A0BBF04D400C3EEB457

The one and two game versions are basically just variations on the "full" schedule. So on a week with no games scheduled I will have my players run through the full gamut of our Total Football practice. It includes, one day general training, one day each of defensive, attacking and tactical training. The remaining three full days are taken up by technical training.

5CA3A1D0BCDE14FE85AE644EA1B6709723C1E5EE

The aim of this practice routine is to instill "possession with intent" football style in my players. Because I want to develop the attributes for this style, then the choice of daily practice routines is very important. I selected each one for its impact on one of the elements of my tactic.

Training.png?fit=662%2C260&ssl=1

For example you see us training in "defending engaged" and "defending from the front". This is fitting because we are looking to play a high press football. Due to the split block my front attackers will need to know how to defend high up. They will be the ones most involved in the winning the ball back. Secondly we will use short passes and one-twos to go forward. So its only natural we train "attacking patiently" and overlaps.

In general, without going into more details, I craft my training to suit high-pressing, pass from the back possession game. I target specific attributes such as first touch, dribbling, passing, technique, anticipation, teamwork, vision and workrate. I do this by using only the routines that focus on improving those attributes. Those are easy to find when you study the training routine explanations as seen below.

9BBF04D78BF749A060888F0C732ADA6DD55D2E16

It does not mean that only those attributes will develop, just that there will be frequent increases there. And I need my players to have high values in their technicals and mentals to play our style of football.

Developing for the Future

Real Sociedad club has an illustrious reputation for developing some of the best footballers renown in Spain and the world. Few of you probably recognized the young man at the start of this article. The French international and Barca star, has already capped his career with World Cup trophy. But few might remember that Antoine Griezmann has originally started his professional career at the Basque club. So to recreate success stories like his, is why I implement such rigorous training system. And its already starting to pay off. Lets fast-forward a few months.

3492A35D58CA4CE9045FDC452D9536AAAA7382A9

For instance, two players whom I acquired less than a year ago, are already showing the benefits of this training. Ferreira has developed into a very well-rounded box-to-box midfielder. He is very similar to my Mikel Merino, for whom he acts as a backup. While In my attack, I have Eddie Salcedo on loan.

31FBD72AB058859F9BB9C93C8F8995681CF180CF

Salcedo started out as a utility substitute for our right winger star Alexander Isak. Yet with less than a year training for us, he started to develop into a much more creative, important player. Now he not only scores goals (already 13!) but regularly features in the build up with one-twos and key assists. His top attributes like technique, dribbling, anticipation and off the ball make him into one of our most potent offensive threats.

And because the training is copied to the youth teams, its impact is already reaching the next generation of Txuri-urdinak. Here is a glimpse of one star in the making, who I suspect might become Sociedad's version of Sergio Busquets.

1B47FE9E50796422972278C51860EB38F38A5B47

At 18 years-old he is already breaking scoring records in his deep midfield role for our Under-19 team. While his passing and vision might be lacking, young Garitano's technique, anticipation, and decisions are exceptional for his age.

So hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. It confirmed to me that even when there is no win in sight, there is still something to celebrate. Even during the darkest days. In football manager, planting the seed for the future can be as rewarding as winning trophies. All you need to do is persevere and never lose hope.

If you liked this then follow us on @ Dictate The Game’s Facebook and Dictate The Game’s Twitter. And check the complementary companion article about Athletic Bilbao from our fellow writer OldLadyPlays here:

Edited by crusadertsar

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This is interesting. I am playing with a Top Brazilian side FLA and doing what I know, defensive counterattack football which isn't optimal (eventhough I went on historic run in Club World Championship this morning destroying Barcelona, PSG, and Man City for the title doing so.). This is because I struggle against regulation fodder all the time in the league which leads to frustration because what works to get me to the top doesn't work at the top and I am trying not to Gengenpress in this save.

I wish more of the pictures would show up.

I might even try to become a possession side

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18 minutes ago, Hootieleece said:

This is interesting. I am playing with a Top Brazilian side FLA and doing what I know, defensive counterattack football which isn't optimal (eventhough I went on historic run in Club World Championship this morning destroying Barcelona, PSG, and Man City for the title doing so.). This is because I struggle against regulation fodder all the time in the league which leads to frustration because what works to get me to the top doesn't work at the top and I am trying not to Gengenpress in this save.

I wish more of the pictures would show up.

I might even try to become a possession side

I'm sorry about the pictures. It's a problem I had before and I'm not sure how to fix it. Have you tried to see if the pics show up in my original article on the blog? They show up there for me. 

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Posted (edited)

@crusadertsar: I used the link provided and was able to see the pictures. Great Article!

I will experiment by adapting my 3-1-4-2 Tactic or 5-3-2 WB before switching to a 4-3-3 copy of your tactic.

Edited by Hootieleece

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21 hours ago, MarioFcn said:

 

 

That's really too bad. I guess the game doesn't want us to play with False9 or AMC of any kind. Will have to look more into this and watch more games in full. I guess it's still an issue if SI has not responded?

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@MarioFcn First off, mind the language please.

Secondly, if you think the game "is broken", there are other sections of the forum where you can complain about that (such as feedback forum or bugs forum). This tactical section of the forum is purely about tactical help and advice in a constructive manner. 

These are the reasons why I removed your post, so next time please pay more attention to your manner of posting.

Thank you. 

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il y a 2 minutes, Experienced Defender a dit :

@MarioFcn First off, mind the language please.

Secondly, if you think the game "is broken", there are other sections of the forum where you can complain about that (such as feedback forum or bugs forum). This tactical section of the forum is purely about tactical help and advice in a constructive manner. 

These are the reasons why I removed your post, so next time please pay more attention to your manner of posting.

Thank you. 

I get it. My bad. 

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Posted (edited)

For those who were interested,

These are my three custom Total Football training schedules during the season proper. I use them depending on whether I have no matches, one match or two matches scheduled (like in the title) during the week. For pre-season I usually use the default routines that the game suggests.
No Match: https://ufile.io/nwsdur3f
One Match: https://ufile.io/egmoe26z
Two Matches: https://ufile.io/kg0pcnbr
 

Sorry for the long delay, but I am currently working on another article. It will be on a "new" Total Football tactic, inspired by mid 90s Champions League winner :)

Edited by crusadertsar

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40 minutes ago, crusadertsar said:

For those who were interested,

These are my three custom Total Football training schedules during the season proper. I use them depending on whether I have no matches, one match or two matches scheduled (like in the title) during the week. For pre-season I usually use the default routines that the game suggests.
No Match: https://ufile.io/nwsdur3f
One Match: https://ufile.io/egmoe26z
Two Matches: https://ufile.io/kg0pcnbr
 

Sorry for the long delay, but I am currently working on another article. It will be on a "new" Total Football tactic, inspired by mid 90s Champions League winner :)

Love your stuff on Dictate the Game bud. :thup:

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12 minutes ago, Crazy_Ivan said:

Love your stuff on Dictate the Game bud. :thup:

Thanks friend!

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Posted (edited)

 

11 hours ago, crusadertsar said:

For those who were interested,

These are my three custom Total Football training schedules during the season proper. I use them depending on whether I have no matches, one match or two matches scheduled (like in the title) during the week. For pre-season I usually use the default routines that the game suggests.
No Match: https://ufile.io/nwsdur3f
One Match: https://ufile.io/egmoe26z
Two Matches: https://ufile.io/kg0pcnbr
 

Sorry for the long delay, but I am currently working on another article. It will be on a "new" Total Football tactic, inspired by mid 90s Champions League winner :)

Will this involve a diamond midfield and a "special defender role" perhaps? Can't wait to see your take on this special team! :applause:

 

By the way, pictures in this thread seems to getting removed.

Edited by Djuicer

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Djuicer said:

 

Will this involve a diamond midfield and a "special defender role" perhaps? Can't wait to see your take on this special team! :applause:

 

By the way, pictures in this thread seems to getting removed.

Aha you got me 😉 And I know about the pictures. Have no idea about that, how to fix them. But other users are telling me that they can still see them on the dictatethegame blog. It's really weird.

Edited by crusadertsar

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1 hour ago, crusadertsar said:

Aha you got me 😉 And I know about the pictures. Have no idea about that, how to fix them. But other users are telling me that they can still see them on the dictatethegame blog. It's really weird.

Most of them have gone from there too now.

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53 minutes ago, Crazy_Ivan said:

Most of them have gone from there too now.

😔 Would love to hear f anyone has any ideavhow to fix or seen anything like this. I use wordpress for the site by the way. Maybe it's don't wrong with WordPress 

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9 minutes ago, ChrisBones1990 said:

@crusadertsar do you have a preference with which dominant foot your right IWB has? just curious to see the types of players available to play your system. 

No I actually have no preference for for the dominant foot. But of course one who has two dominant feet like Odegaard is ideal.

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Posted (edited)

So my series has become larger than a single club's journey but more of a tactical saga on restoring Total Football within limits of FM20. With Real Sociedad it resulted in a strong 4-3-3 shape that in 2 years led us to finish as Champions League Runner's Up & to 3rd Place in FIFA Club World Cup. 

But I think it is important to show that Total Football is possible with a variety of clubs and players. So for my next piece I will be doing something different. From both the club and tactical perspective. 

Edited by crusadertsar

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Posted (edited)
 

In case some of the images do not show then original article can be found here:

 

Part 2 of Building a Total Football Club in FM20

It is not about how long you have the ball, it is what you do with it. When playing possession football, you should always have this mantra in mind. Although I am not one to obsess over getting high possession numbers. Of course it is always nice to see your team getting the higher possession %. I see it as proof that my players are imposing themselves on the opposition and winning important battles. But despite winning the battles, one could still lose the war. I can't recount the number of times that my team controlled the ball and still lost the game. And the times we did the same to the other side. Possession is definitely more than just having the greater %. It is about controlling the ball in the right areas and time. It's about decisive movement Off and On the ball. It's about overcoming the odds.

 

Part 1 Is Here:

Bringing Back The Wolves

I thought I would try something different for this piece and temporarily abandon my Royal Society save and 4-3-3 formation. As they say, there is more than one road to Rome. And there are multiple paths to Total Football.

While the classic 4-3-3 worked well with Sociedad, I feel my series is becoming larger than one club's journey. I see it more of a tactical saga about restoring Total Football within the limits of FM20. So it should not be limited to a single club anymore. For my future articles I have a few clubs to choose from. I usually run multiple saves to test my tactics in different leagues and with clubs of various level. This does not mean that I won't ever come back to Sociedad. I had a great time with them, creating my 4-3-3 formation that led us to one Champions League Final & 3rd place finish in FIFA Club World Cup, in 2 years. But I ran a parallel Total Football experiment with another historic tactic. It's an old favourite of mine, and so to showcase it I'm going to bring back another favourite.

1-Wolf-eyes.jpg

La Lupa is back baby!

Instead of my usual team introduction and analysis, I will jump straight into the midst of tactical analysis. I believe that my older Running with The Wolves Articles can still serve as a good introduction to the Giallorossi. The core of the team remains the same in FM20. As before Roma has a very technical squad and is one of the best teams to demonstrate Possession Football. I believe it's a squad capable of both Possession with Intent and of getting the best out a classic #10.

David Versus Goliath: 101 of Possession with Intent

To me Possession with Intent, means two things. Firstly, getting the ball up from my Keeper to my strikers in the shortest most efficient way. While at the same time taking the least risks possible. That means I want quick touches and short to medium passes. Achieving overloads can help too. What I am definitely not looking for is hoofing the ball across the field up to the forwards. The aim still remains to maintain methodical attacking approach and not a defensive counter-attacking one. In other words I do not want my team to play as an underdog (even if they are). They need to be confident and aggressive in their possession by maintaining a high defensive line and intense level of pressing.

Second important element of Possession with Intent, especially when playing against "big teams", is defensive balance. So you can be aggressive, but not to the point where you concede possession to the opponent needlesly or easily. As an underdog, you work hard to score your goals. It only makes sense that you must work even harder to not concede. To do this you must be able to efficiently and reliably shut down the opponent. Formations with three defenders are thus ideal.

david_and_goliath_804x491.jpg It was a Final from which tales of Giant-killing are made from. in 1995, Red and White wearing "David" Ajax faced off against "Goliath" Milan

The 1995 Champions League Final between Ajax and AC. Milan was a real David Versus Goliath Showdown. While Van Gaal's Ajax was full of exciting youngsters, they were still "green" and not used to the big stage. Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert, Frank de Boer, Edgar Davids and Edvin van der Sar were not the household names that they would become a few years later as they moved to some of the biggest clubs in Europe. Consequently, the achievement of winning Champions League against a more experienced Milan side is what put them on the map.

The youthful Dutch side was a definite underdog compared to Rossoneri. There was simply no doubt in the world-class status of the likes of Maldini, Gullit, Baresi, Donadoni, Boban and Savićević. Fabio Capello himself, while garnering the reputation a rigidly-dogmatic and harsh manager, was no pushover. The Italian was widely considered as the best tactician in the world after he bested Barcelona's Total Football Dream Team led by no other than Johan Cruyff himself. The young Ajax, "David" were facing a monumental task in their match up against the "Goliath" Champions League defending champion.

Nurturing Total Football's Creative Backbone

What set Louis van Gaal apart from Cruyff was his willingness to experiment tactically. He had a vision of how to make Dutch Total Football philosophy dominant again in the modern globalized footballing world. Like Cruyff before him, van Gaal invested into crafting a team capable of playing a highly attractive, technical possession football. Also like Cruyff', van Gaal wanted to do this by using a 3-1-2-1-3 shape. Johann Cruyff developed this innovative formation while managing Barcelona in the 1980s and early 1990s. It was a smart evolution of the older 4-3-3 shape used by earlier 1970s Ajax and Dutch National side. And Van Gaal had no qualms over "adapting" it to his young Ajax squad. But unlike Cruyff, he managed to make if successful with an almost entirely home-grown academy-trained squad. One cannot win anything with kids you say? Think again.

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SIDE NOTE: The 3-1-2-1-3 formation won Cruyff's Barca four La Liga titles and one European Cup in 1992. It was a Total Football Dream Team.

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The key to the formation was its graceful symmetry. Its three forwards mirrored the three defenders in the back, while the four-men midfield was the formation's defining "jewel". A diamond in fact. Then there was the creative backbone, made up of the Sweeper Ronald Koeman, Deep-lying Playmaker Guardiola and #10 Bakero. By putting his best playmakers in the shape's spine allowed Cruyff to move the ball vertically with ease and efficiency. It was Possession with Intent at its best. And a natural way to play Vertical Tiki-Taka (before it was known as such) by building from the back. It was only natural that van Gaal wanted to emulate such beauty.

e15a2ddd2aa9cb8dab1d1e8fe83fec26.jpg Jari Litmanen was the undeniable fantasista star of that talented 1995 Ajax squad chock-full of stars. He was equally known for his soft passing touch, and a thundering right foot for goal.

At the time Ajax possessed three world-class playmakers, Jari Litmanen, Frank Rijkaard and Danny Blind. The young Finn quickly became a fan favourite. Jari was famously described by the fellow teammate, and future Barcelona manager, Frank Rijkaard as ‘the best number 10 we ever had’. His cult status is well deserved as Litmanen was the creative heart of the formation's central backbone. His value was in his exceptional Off The Ball Movement, First Touch and Vision for both passes and goals. A classic fantasista as any team could ever hope for.

09c8fd25-291c-4bd2-9b85-dc98a7bb5d1f_rij Frank Rijkaard - Ajax' version of Pep Guardiola

If Litmanen was the formation's creative heart, then Rijkaard was its brain. At 33, he was past his physical prime but his tactical intelligence was as sharp as ever. He possessed an acute mind for football with top decision-making, and eye to read the game. While at his prime he was a very versatile physical player, able to play anywhere from striker to centreback position, he settled into a deep-lying playmaker role by his career's end. Surprisingly elegant for his size, he excelled in this role due to his great technique, passing and vision for link-up play. After possession was won, Rijkaard was always the first to start plays. Also as he patrolled the centre circle, he could be relied on to break up opposition's play. He was the formation's least mobile role, yet a valued one due to his wide range of passing options.

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Interestingly, Frank's career mirrored Guardiola's, Barca's own deep-midfield general, as he got to manage Barcelona from 2003 to 2008. Before handing the reins over to young Guardiola.

And then there was Danny Blind, one the best playmakers to ever play in the centreback role. Danny was Ajax' answer to Barca's Ronald Koeman. And he was far from "blind" regarding his famous smooth passes. He perfectly epitomized the mythical sweeper role. A role that is slowly becoming as extinct as the Classic #10.

1997645_orig.jpg Danny Blind - Ajax legend, known for much more than his flowing locks

Remembering 1995 Team

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Ironically, Van Gaal's match-up against Milan, was second time that the fluid Totaalvoetbal-inspired 3-1-2-1-3 faced Capello's rigid 4-4-2. In the first meeting at 1994 Final, Cruyff's Barcelona used a similar formation and came short. But the second time was the charm. So how did Louis van Gaal succeed where Johan Cruyff, Mr.Total Football himself, could not? Without further ado, let us take a look at how van Gaal's formation played and how it could be translated into FM20.

Bssc_aYCAAAdIif.jpg Van Gaal's and Cruyff's bitter feud started early during their playing days. It is impossible to see what Cruyff just told Van Gaal to make him turn so, and we probably do not want to know.

As much as Cruyff and Van Gaal hated each other they shared a common vision of the Dutch football philosophy. This involved maintaining width through two lightning quick wingers, and dominating the midfield with an extra player there. Much like Cruyff's Barca, Van Gaal lined up his Ajax side in a symmetric 3-1-2-1-3. This shape was key to Cruyff's vision of Total Football, because it allowed for three players in defence, three in attack and four in midfield. It was Cruyff's 3-4-3 Narrow Diamond, one of the most celebrated football formations. It was also ideal for winning the possession battle.

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The idea behind it was simple enough. It borrowed most concepts developed by Rinus Michels for his 4-3-3 shape with 1970s Ajax, and brought them to a whole new level. Its major advantage was that most other formations couldn't outnumber a 3-4-3 in the midfield, and still be offensive enough going forward. It was the polar opposite of the much more defensive Italian Catenaccio. The passing triangles between the players in the diamond and the rest of the team just could not be matched. Finally, the three men in the back (even with one having more freedom as a sweeper) was a big advantage against most teams. Especially when the Deeplying Playmaker, the "extra man" (and often unmarked) would drop down to help out with defence.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Lets start with Attack, and dissect 1995 Ajax from formation's top to its defensive trio at the bottom.

Attacking Trident
411001_ori__20170620083959_patrick_kluiv A very youthful looking Kluivert, was only 18 when he scored the key goal in that 1995 Champions League Final. The youngest player to score in a final of the main event of the European continent. He was 18 years, 10 months and 23 days

In attack, Van Gaal used two lightning fast wingers and a perfectly complete Striker Patrick Kluivert. Kluivert was ideal for leading the line due to the combination of strong athleticism, technical first touch and dribbling skills. He was also a very intelligent footballer who could just as easily support attacks as finish them. And the wingers, Overmars and George, stretched the play, dragging the opposition fullbacks wide and creating 1v1s. At the same time Kluivert led the line and pushed back the opposition centre-backs. Thus prongs of the trident acted in unison as decoys to create more space for the real star of the show. That happened to be the #10 fantasista Jari Litmanen who owned the advanced midfield space with his exceptional technique and intelligent movement. He was the spearhead of the diamond and also its invaluable jewel.

Midfield Diamond

Jari was not just a pure playmaker but also chipped in with goals, scoring a key goal in the final. Check out that beauty in the clip below.

At the same time as Litmanen crafted chances for the forwards, he rest of the diamond had equally specialized tasks. Edgar Davids and Clarence Seedorf flanked Rijkaard on both sides. They acted as the lungs and legs of the formation. Very hard-working and determined, they also possessed the technical skills to pass the ball around until it reached the forwards. Davids, nicknamed “The Pitbull” for his tenacity on the ball, was just 22. While Seedorf played well above his 19 years as he possessed the confident physicality and stamina of an older player. The "shuttler" duo was able to alleviate much of the defensive, pressing responsibility from the much older Rijkaard.

totjax2.jpg Edgar Davids - the icon of the whole generation

As I mentioned before one element of the diamond that Van Gaal copied from Barcelona was the Guardiola position. Where Barca had Guardiola, Ajax had Rijkaard. Rijkaard's all-around technical ability allowed Ajax to shift between a back three and back four depending on the situation. If anything Rijkaard's role was as essential to transition from defence as Litmanen's role in attack. The video below is probably the best resource to learn about this all-important #4 role in 3-4-3. Especially if you would like the mastermind behind it to explain it to you in layman's terms.

One important take-away message from the clip starts at 1:15 minute mark until about 4 minutes. So at least watch that before reading the rest.

As the team's deep pivot, the #4 deep-lying playmaker, whether it was Cruyff's Guardiola or Van Gaal's Rijkaard, would start plays and control the ball around the centre circle. The idea was that by controlling the game from deep, you would control possession. Naturally a player with great passing range and vision is ideal here. One who could take the ball from the goalkeeper and bring it up to attack if need-be. Or drop back and prevent the opponent from advancing in your own half. In modern game this has become the domain of a technical half-back like Fernandinho at Man City. Although I still believe that in FM20 the best way to recreate this is with a Deeplying Playmaker on support. But more on this later.

Defensive Trio

The Ajax's defence trio was pretty straightforward. Essentially Van Gaal used two regular defenders, Frank de Boer and Reiziger, flanking a more creative and mobile Danny Blind. As the lowest part of the formation's creative spine, Blind had the instincts and technique of a playmaker. He had to pass the ball comfortably and quickly to Rijkaard while having the anticipation and mobility to drop behind and stop anything not picked up by Reiziger or de Boer. He would also "sweep" up any loose balls that the opposition forwards could run into. Working as a unit, this defensive trio managed to neutralize the majority of Milan’s attacking threat.

FM20 Tactical Translation and Disclaimer

ajax-95-old.jpg

How do we translate above into FM20? Or even more importantly how do you recreate the following in the game.

Historical tactic recreations are always tricky. In my mind some roles are more clear than others. So bear in mind that this set up is by no means final. There is still much experimenting ahead. One thing that I have been struggling with recently is accepting that the FM simulation is sometimes not as reflective of real football. In my mind and on paper I envision my players behaving in one way based on football theory. Then I watch the match in full and theory goes out the window as things become more "gamey". In the best case scenario, one can use the exact role that the player supposedly played in. The worst is that to recreate his behavior a very different role might be needed. After-all, Football Manager is still a game, not reality as much as we wish it to be.

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In my opinion, Ajax' Defence should be two CBs on defend duty and a Ball-playing Defender on Cover. Since the Sweeper role is no longer available in FM20, the closest equivalent role is a CB on Cover duty. This duty instructs him to drop behind the other defenders and "sweep-up" loose balls or attackers that get past the other two defenders. Finally, I chose a Ball-Playing Defender role simply to reflect the creative role that Blind played on the team.

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Rijkaard's role has to be a Deeplying Playmaker, to reflect his important pivot position at the bottom of the diamond. Luckily, this role translates well into FM20 and works exactly as I need it too. Especially on Defend duty, it will help maintain the rigid structure of the diamond. Working alongside Rijkaard, Davids and Seedorf as the twin hard-working carrileros. In FM they are similar to box-to-box midfielders except they are more disciplined and less prone to make forward runs. Without wingers in the MR/ML strata, carrileros should cover the lateral areas. With help of PIs I instruct them to mark the opposite winger and better recycle possession to our attackers.

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The tip of the diamond, was equally as important as its base. On paper Litmanen played as one of the last true Number 10s, a role that is virtually non-existent today. Just look at modern top clubs, like Liverpool or Man City, and try to name their player that embodies a classic Playmaker role. You might have difficulty there. Somewhat ironically, Classic #10 in AMC position is harder to make work in FM20 also. Or that is what many claim. In future articles, as I test the tactic more, I hope to show how the opposite can be true. A special creative player in AMC position can be very successful in both creating plays and scoring goals. But the key word here is that you truly need a "special" player. Jari Litmanen was the crowning jewel in that 1995 Ajax team. Here is mine at Roma:

0BCEF07421CFAA2C3409658B781E0B23F1401300 Lorenzo "The Magnificent". At the start, probably the most complete classic #10 playmaker in the game, who is 23 y.o or younger.

Litmanen is most famous for his many goals, scoring as many as 91 goals in 159 appearances for Ajax. But he did not always operate in the opposition area. Rather he had a very good sense for off the ball movement. So he actually stayed in his central position most of the time, only making that run on goal when timing was perfect. Litmanen's position within the diamond made it essential that he did not shirk his defensive responsibilities or deviate from his position too much. The times he did roam, he went backwards as much as forwards. Because the two carrileros were asked to track the opposition wingers, space opened in the midfield, isolating Rijkaard. To counter this, Litmanen dropped deeper into the midfield to support Rijkaard. Sometimes, pictures say more than words, as you can see in the following images, courtesy of the excellent blog by Tim Hill.

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The best way to recreate this movement is probably via Attacking Midfielder role with custom Player Instructions and Personal Traits. The vanilla AM role is perfect for this you can tweak it in so many ways. AM could behave as a playmaker, shadow striker or a combination of the two, all based on how you set the PIs. For my AMC I will start with just a few PIs to make him act more like a playmaker. Thus to start off, I will go with "shoot less often" and "take more risks".

The Wingers are the easiest to set up in this system. As I explained above one just needs a role to stretch the play and drag the opposition fullbacks wide. The simple Winger (Support) role should work just fine here.

I would use the AML/AMR version simply because I do not want them to get in the way of my carrileros' lateral movement. Here the key is the acceleration (along with good dribbling). At the top level I would prefer anyone with at least 17 for former, and 15 for the latter. Here is my ideal specimen at Roma, and he happens to be the son of the great Patrick Kluivert!

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In contrast to the wingers, the central striker, Patrick Kluivert role, was the trickiest to get right in the system. This is partly due to the fact that Kluivert was such a complete player, able to play as both a supporting striker and an all-out attacking one. Depending on the videos or articles, there are contrasting opinions on Kluivert's role. Would he drop to make room for Litmanen to run past or did he surge forward, pinning back the defenders? The truth was that the wonderkid probably did a combination of the two, depending on the phase of the game. Judging from the Champions League Final alone then you would think that Kluivert was a pure advanced forward/poacher. Yet evidence from the rest of his Ajax career, shows him playing more like technical creative striker.

So I decided to try something different in my tactic. How could I set him up to reflect both of these facets, staying back in support and breaking forward into opposition areas. In contrast to Litmanen I wanted my Kluivert to start deep and then push forward. What is the role that would help me model this behaviour? In the end, I took a little bit of inspiration from Roma's own illustrious past. But that will be the topic for my next article where I will further expand on my tactic.

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As a final treat, I leave you with this beautiful goal. It shows perfectly why Louise van Gaal's team was best modern examples of Total Football. While Cruyff had his Dream Team of international superstars, his compatriot and rival managed to win everything with kids. And they did so while giving us a lesson on the value of hard work and teamwork. For if there was one thing that we all learned is that there is no Total Football without the Collective.

 

 

 

Edited by crusadertsar

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