Invincibles – The Analysis

People have been asking me how long this project will take until I’m happy with it and playing the type of football I’ve set out to achieve. The truth is I didn’t set any kind of time limit so it could vary. The idea behind this project was showing you how I build towards something and plan for the end goal. I’ve done articles in the past that show you how to create specific styles from the off but I wanted to highlight the other end, which is what this project is all about. I think a lot of people get frustrated when playing Football Manager because they demand instant success and that isn’t always a realistic option. So if you’re one of those wondering how long this will time, the truth is I simply don’t know.

Another question I always get asked with most things I write is, what do I change during the season? Now depending on what type of save I’m doing the answer will change. I play the game in three different ways at times and it all revolves around the style of play I am creating. If I’m creating something specific like the counter attacking stuff or even this Invincible project then I’ll change things differently compared to a normal save. Let me explain the three different ways a little bit more.

Team Instructions

When I’m working on a project like this Invincible one most of the style I am creating comes from the mentality I use and the players used. This means changing mentality is a big no because I’d lose the base of what I’ve created. So when I need to make changes to turn games around or to play better I’ll use team instructions to achieve this.

In this particular save because I play counter attacking the defensive line is a little too deep at times, not all the time but on the odd occasion. In these games I tend to push the defensive line up more. On this saved game this is the probably the team instruction I use the most and is the one that has the biggest impact as it pushed my lines closer together and reduces the space between the lines. It’s a small change but one that makes a big difference to how we play.

I do use other team instructions as well but it depends on the type of scenario I am facing. But team instructions are the way we play during this save. I never change the team mentality never.


I’ve written about this in the past and how I’ve had saved games where the only changes I make are mentality ones during a match. It’s probably the simplest yet most effective way of turning games around. I believe this to be the simplest method of tweaking and is less complex than deciding which team instructions to use. This type of tweaking method is better used when your style of play doesn’t revolve around mentality and it doesn’t matter if players are further away from each other or closer together. So if you was focused on a pure counter attacking game for example, then you’d steer clear of this method because it would make things complicated and depending on how far you adjusted mentality, it could mean you losing your whole style you’ve created.

The Players

This is normally my preferred method of playing the game and probably the most complex way. What happens is I have my first eleven players and then the backup players will all be very different from the first eleven. This means I use substitutes to turn games around and get a different way of playing. Or the starting line up is selected differently to give me a different dimension. For example I might have a deep-lying playmaker who is very creative and is focused on being a passing outlet and dictating play from deep. However the backup player used for this position might be more a destroyer type of player who is more mobile via player preferred moves. This means that when he plays the deep-lying playmaker role his interpretation of it is different from the other player. It’s also common for me to have yet another player, normally a youth one, who plays the role differently to those two players as well.

Playing this way is all about having different kind of options and influencing games via substitutions or line up changes. In my opinion this is the most challenging way of playing the game yet the most rewarding.

Those are the three main ways I play the game but deciding which way I’m playing depends on what it is I’m trying to create, with regards to the overall club playing style. I think this is one of the reasons when people ask me ‘what did you change during the season’ and sometimes I say nothing or very little, it’s because it will have been a strategy that evolved round the players and using substitutions wisely. I just wanted to cover this point quickly because I’ve been asked that question about 40 times so far during this current series of articles. Maybe at a later date I’ll rewrite about them in much more detail.

Anyway, back to the game. To give you an idea of just how far away or how close I am to the end product that I’m trying to replicate, I think we should look at some analysis to give you a general idea.

First I want to start with a bad game.


People normally see the league tables or my results list and think I play the perfect game in every single game I play without a bad day. I want to show that isn’t the case and at times I still get outplayed. In this game my side stuck to their plan and played the football that had been getting us results but Arsenal were always that much better due to the difference in player quality. I still had players playing who I had in League One. None the less even though the stats suggest we were being outplayed I didn’t panic because I saw my team doing exactly what I had instructed them to do. At this point I could have easily panicked and started changing this to stop us being dominated but what could I have altered? I’ve already said my side was playing how I’d expect so if that’s the case then why try changing? I’m a firm believer of you will always get results if you focus on what you are doing and not the AI and many of you, will have seen me write topics about this and mention it quite a lot.

Based on the stats above without any real match context to them, how many of you would have panicked and tweaked the tactic somehow regardless of how well your own side were doing the things you instructed them to do. I bet an awful lot of you would have changed things. But not me. Don’t get me wrong I’m not stubborn and set in my ways far from it. If I saw my side not playing how I wanted then I would have looked to use the team instructions to change this but I felt there was no need. In fairness though, out of the three seasons I’ve done so far, this is the one game where I have been dominated the most in terms of every single stat. Was it just a bad day at the office? Maybe. Was it just player quality shining through? Definitely.


But look at the score, we FM’d, Football Manager.Like I said above this was a game that isn’t a relection of how we normally play and was one of those one-off ones in terms of stats. My point here and the reason for including this example isn’t to say ‘Oh look at me I still won’ it’s more about the context and if you believe your side is playing the way you want or not. If it is doing everything you expect then why even consider changing anything? What you do is important not what the opposition is doing.

So let’s take a look at the game itself;


Romero who is playing the Bergkamp role has the ball and is very deep, which is a good thing. If we look at the players around him we have the Ljungberg role cutting inside and looking to run between the two Arsenal players. We then have Henry moving into a more central role but cutting in from the left. We also have Pires who is going to run into the space that Henry creates while Cole, stays wide on the outside and overlaps. Oh and the roaming playmaker playing the Vieira role is also going to push on. This original image is a bit like the Invincibles and the movement is quite similar in some aspects but not perfect.


This is a little later in the move and while the movement is still good it’s not quite how I expected. Ljungberg has continued his run and is just about to get into the box. His movement and runs are exactly what I expect from the role and so far, from what I see, he is doing perfectly fine. So I’m pleased with what I’m seeing of his contribution.

The Henry role though, I think he may have come central a little bit too early. So I believe this role still needs a lot of work and isn’t functioning correctly just yet. However he is showing signs of the type of movement needed by starting out wide and cutting inside.

Bergkamp, I’m happy with him so far and he is dropping off the front and creating in the type of areas I expect. However overall I’m still not happy with the role and think he is too much of a goal threat. But we’ll discuss that in a lot more detail in the next article.

The wide playmaker, Pires, is cutting inside and offering the narrowness I need and expect. But I don’t think he’s pushing forward as much as I want. But I did mention this at the very start of the series and say he might need changing to an attack duty instead of a support. Then he should be more attack minded and look to push on that bit more.

The rest of the players in this move are as I’d expect but maybe the Vieira role could be more advanced too? Although he did pass the ball to Henry so this will factor into why he is still deep.


This is another move later in the game. Henry is centrally again but this move did start on the far right so it’s expected he’d be more central due to the quick switch of sides. Pires is just about to get the ball and pass into the path of Cole who is bombing forward. This is very like the Invincible side. I still feel Pires isn’t doing enough once he lays the ball back off though.


Once Pires passes the ball to Cole he drops off and hangs back on making his run. This is 100% down to the duty he has. If it was an attack one, I’d expect him to push on to where the green star is. This would be a lot more dangerous and more like the style we are creating and something that I am looking to change for the next season.

So we’ve seen glimpses of what I expect from the style I’m creating but it’s not at a level that is acceptable. The key to getting this style working lies with the two strikers, the wide playmaker and the left back. The rest already works like I want so the focus going forward is on these four players. In the next article we focus on Bergkamp’s role and look at that in a lot more depth and detail. Is he offering us the kind of play we expect?!

9 thoughts on “Invincibles – The Analysis”

  1. Great article again Cleon. I’ve been messing about with a Very Fluid Counter attacking strategy and also noticed that changing the mentality totally messed about with the way I wanted my team to play.

    Something which you mention which I had previously (up until I noticed on Prozone when looking at heat maps) us how differently roles are interpreted by different players. I find it interesting that you actually use this as a “weapon” to influence games.

    I’m really looking forward to the article on the Bergkamp role. However, one thing I would like to point out is that although you are trying to recreate the overall style of the Invincibles, you have to remember that the Bergkamp role was filled by a 34 year old Dutch Maestro, where you have a 20 year old starlet in the same role. It might be somewhat unfair on Romero that he’s too much of a goal threat. I think if Bergkamp was in his twenties it may well have influenced the overall style in a similar way. Is this something to consider? The difference in the actual player that plays this role versus the real life Bergkamp?

    What i think I’m trying to say is, Romero may be less a goal threat when he’s in his mid 30’s as Bergkamp was at the time.

    1. I’m glad you’ve brought that up Vince because that’s exactly what the article is about. It also shows a younger Bergkamp and compares his stats, goals and assists compared to when he got older. I’ve also done the same with Romero and I think people will like how similar they are 🙂

      You are right though I am being unfair on Romero but that’s intentional so people can’t say ‘he scores too many’ blah blah. I’ve already covered it myself until the next article comes out 🙂

  2. I love articles / projects like this.

    I have to admit that I will use your findings and try to make it work in one of my future saves. I like to find great idea and then make it work within my save – find players, tinker with roles, find out it can’t be better, tinker it back. 😀

    But the best part of these articles is the knowledge I get. I am not fan of wide playmakers, I haven’t used roaming playmaker or enganche yet. I started to use box-to-box midfielder just recently, after I read your counter-attacking and possession articles.
    Now I get ideas how to use them!

    I will definitely use Henry-Pires-Cole type of interplay in near future to try to overload weak side of the defence. I might fail but it will be still valuable experience for me.

    So thank you, again. 😉

    1. I’m glad they inspire you to try them out and adapt them for your own saved games. That’s the aim when I write them, so I’m glad at least one person is attempting it.

      If you check the Santos stuff I wrote I had a few in-depth articles about the enganche 🙂

      1. Yeah, I read them all. 🙂
        Last time I tried tactic with attacking midfielder was in FM13 with 4-2-3-1 Wide. It somehow worked, but it wasn’t what I was expecting (focus on crossing wingplay with one striker). I didn’t thought it out properly but it was something new.

        I think I will try to read more about one of my favourite players – Juan Román Riquelme – and use him as an inspiration. Probably in 4-2-3-1 Deep or 4-4-2 Diamond, maybe 4-3-3 Asymetric. It will depend on my free time (very little atm).

  3. Heh, I’m one that saw those stats and I thought “that doesn’t scare me in the slightest, in fact, that would be the kind of statistics I’d be normally pursuing against Arsenal”. It’s how I played against the big sides with Torino in FM12 (including a 3-0 thrashing of Chelsea in Europa League when they were, I think, running with it in the Premier and the Cup and Supercup finals won against Palermo and Juventus). That seems to be getting harder since FM13. Also as I’m improving my understanding of the game I’m moving away from the over cautious style I used to have.
    Well, on to catching up and looking forward to opening that post on Bergkamp vs Romero.

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