INVINCIBLES – The Long-term Vision

Over the festive period I decided to start another new save game because I realised I had left my pen drive, with my Santos save on it, over 200 miles away in Sheffield. So I won’t be able to pick that up until I next go, which won’t be until the middle of January. In the meantime I started a new game with Sheffield United as I’ve not played them much this year and due to our rubbish on goings this season, it’s made me really want to play as them on Football Manager. It might come as a surprise that I’m not doing this project with Arsenal but that would be too easy right? Once I’ve got the style nailed down and happy with how it plays, if time allows I will use Arsenal to see if it works as well.

How do we achieve this on Football Manager 2016?

Well for this we need to first understand the Arsenal players and what they offered to the team. For me Arsenal were the first real strikerless team I can remember seeing. Henry would drop deep and wide and so would Bergkamp. I’m not saying they invented it or anything like that but looking back they are the first team I can really remember doing it but then again back then I wasn’t really watching that much football outside of Brazil and England.

Arsenal played a 4-4-2 system or a lopsided 4-2-3-1 depending on how you look at it. Although it was quite fluid and players moved around a lot and morphed into different shapes as they played, Wenger’s system is often translated as “Flexible” in FM. He likes players to express themselves, but also sees it as a team game. Arsenal tended to sit deep at times before launching devastating Counter Attacks. They could keep the ball and move it around in the final third with attacking moves, but the Counter was their most potent weapon. Not such a high pressing side either, they traditionally tend to drop off and became compact when they need to.

Let’s have a brief look at the players and what type of players they were;

Jens Lehmann – Was a perfectionist goalkeeper, with excellent handling. A generation of players before the modern Sweeper Keeper – he came out when he needed to, but  rarely saw any Szczesny antics from him. He commanded his area, and distributed the ball relatively well (a few exceptions aside).

Lauren – A reliable and consistent player, more of a defender than an attacking type, but offered width going forward pretty well. Could cross a ball, or play a pass instead.

Possible PPM’s;

  1. Stay wide

Kolo Toure & Sol Campbell – Toure was much quicker, tending to sweep up behind a little more, whereas Campbell was the most proactive ball winner. However both played in a reliable partnership, were strong and powerful. Giving very little away. Toure played on the right, Campbell on the left.

I need to rewatch some games here and look at Toure’s movement more closely. From what I remember he ran with the ball a lot and got forward often. However I think this might have happened after the Invincible era, so need to double-check. If however I am wrong and it was part of this era, then he’d likely have these PPM’s;

  1. Runs with ball through centre
  2. Gets Forward when possible

Ashley Cole – A really good defender, did his one-on-one duels very well, but he got forward at every opportunity, offered a lot of width on the left, combined really well with Pires in front and Henry when he drifted there. A good final ball, mix of passes and crosses. Never neglected his defensive duties though. His PPM’s would be something like;

  1. Gets forward when possible
  2. Argues with officials (if I could get a player with this already, it would be great)
  3. Plays one-two’s

Gilberto – Played on the right of the midfield pairing of him and Vieira. Gilberto was not a rough player, or “Ball Winner” in the mould of someone like Keane. He used his intelligence to anticipate the opposition players, and cleanly dispossess or intercept. His height was a notable feature at opposing goal kicks too – often he would drop back a touch to win the header off an opposing striker or target man, which meant Toure & Campbell could keep position more often too. Good, tidy distribution, unadventurous generally, but capable of supporting attacks when Vieira was deeper instead.

I’m unsure of PPM’s for Gilberto, so not totally sure what I will do here.

Vieira – He played on the left of the central midfield pairing. Again, not a Ball-Winner like he has been labelled in recent years. A true box to box type of performer. Would distribute the ball adventurous, dribble and carry the ball forward, using his strength and power. Hard working, technical player. Frequently looked for Bergkamp in front as his favourite passing option. Definitely the more attacking of the pair, would support attacks at a moment’s notice.

I remember Vieira getting stuck in and throwing himself into tackles at times so his PPM’s could be something like;

  1. Dives into tackles
  2. Runs with ball through the centre

Ljungberg – He played on the right flank, offered width, but made late, angled runs into the 6 yard box to score balls across the box from the left flank/byline. Also Bergkamp frequently played in Ljungberg beating the offside trap. Great finisher. Goalscoring was probably his most important contribution to the team. Very hard-working and tracked back diligently. Possible PPM’s here are;

  1. Cuts inside
  2. Gets into oppositions area

Pires – Right-footed player, and used to cut inside. Sometimes he would stay wide and just cut in on his right foot late in the move, others he would drift early in the move centrally, taking defenders with him, creating room for Henry or Cole. Great goalscorer, but a superb pass and through-ball as well. Very creative and technical player. Often Cole would provide the widest presence in the team in the final third, while Pires and Henry moved and linked up.

Possible PPM’s;

  1. Cuts inside
  2. Get’s further forward
  3. Attempts killer balls often

Bergkamp – Always found himself in space, frequently dropped deepest and loved making that final pass. When he dropped deep and Vieira, Ljungberg, Pires or Henry attacked the space it was electric. Incredible technique and grace. He knew how to put his foot in though, and didn’t wander around not giving a toss about the defensive side of the game. He loved that “number 10” area on the pitch, and would always wander into it. This and the Henry roles will be the ones that are the hardest to implement. They will also require the PPM’s to make the real difference here. Possible PPM’s

  1. Comes deep to get the ball
  2. Looks for pass rather than attempts to score
  3. Play one-two’s

Henry – Notably used to drift to the left flank, then attack back inside again on his stronger right foot. He linked up with Pires & Cole on the left, and Bergkamp in the middle a lot. He used to love dribbling and taking on players man for man. He had the pace, technique, flair & strength to beat whoever was in front of him. Scored from distance relatively frequently too. Not renowned for his heading ability, but still capable of attacking the 6 yard box just as well as anyone. Possible PPM’s

  1. Places shots
  2. Comes deep to get ball
  3. knocks ball past opponents
  4. Cuts inside

A few other things to note which I believe to be important are;

Ljungberg on the right wasn’t the best dribbler of the ball and wasn’t a great crosser of the ball either, he main talent was raw speed. His movement and play in general all resembled that of what we now know is an inside forward. He was a goal threat and would often finish off chances. Arsene Wenger set him up to utilise his ability while limiting his weakness. He still dribbled with the ball but not as much as he could have. In terms of FM he’d have had individual instructions something a bit like;

  • Dribble less
  • Cuts inside
  • Roam from position
  • Gets further forward
  • Shoots less often

On the left Pires was more a creative type of player on the wing who also had an eye for goal. Pires along with Henry and Cole would often overload the left flank and you’d see some brilliant link up play between the three. He also did an incredible amount of through balls for Henry and could cut sides open with his vision. So his settings in FM would be something like;

  • Gets further forward
  • Dribbles more
  • Cuts inside
  • Shoots less often
  • Sit narrower

Now, unless I have a squad already capable of playing this way, which at this point is very unlikely then the above is always the end goal and what wen are aiming towards. People always ask me how I approach tactic building when I’m in the lower leagues and hopefully these articles will show that my approach doesn’t change. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the top leagues or bottom leagues, the fundamentals and my principles are still the same. I approach the game no differently. It’s just that when you get further up the leagues you can attract better quality of players who will then refine the way I play. But that doesn’t mean I can’t lay the foundation for that now, at the start of my new saved game.

If you have any more ideas for possible settings or PPM’s that you think players should have, then please leave a comment below.
In the next article we’ll look at how all of this translates into a tactic that I can use and be successful with in the short-term.

28 thoughts on “INVINCIBLES – The Long-term Vision”

  1. How about “Sticks to the left side of the pitch when dribbling” PPM for Henry? Or would that prevent him from then cutting in from the flank?

      1. Fair enough. I’m still uncertain of how much impact PPMs have, especially when they potentially conflict with PIs and TIs.

        I’m looking forward to reading the next article

        1. PPM’s are tendencies, so regardless of PI’s and TI’s the player will use his PPM. What governs this is his decision making. PPM’s with a low decision making will mean he uses the PPM’s at the wrong times. But a higher decision making can see him using the PPM’s wisely.

  2. Excellent article ,nice to read !,

    You have comes deep to get ball to both STs ,hmmmm

    I assume you will not put a playmaker role in CMs

    I thought you would choose a playmaker role in CM and put ” comes deep to get ball, dictates tempo ,and/or try killer balls often

    1. I actually do use a playmaker role in the centre of midfield, you’ll see in the article tomorrow 🙂

      The reason why both strikers will have comes deep is because that’s what they both did. Arsenal was a strikerless side really.

  3. Hi Cleon, with regards to the Bergkamp role PPM’s, I can understand why you want the “Looks for pass” PI, but surely the beauty of Bergkamp was knowing when to pass rather than to shoot, as he was definitely not afraid to take the shot.

    Many of his longer range goals, could have easily seen a pass to a player in space but he knew when shooting was the better option. So my question is, would you consider this PPM core for the role?

    1. By giving him the PPM it will actually make him do the above. He will still shoot and score goals but it will enforce that style of play that he was. Looking at all the stats from this time, he definitely passed the ball a lot more than he shot. I just want to create that and because the player will have high decisions for the role, he will then be able to make the choice of what’s the best course of action 🙂

  4. Perfect, so essentially, their decision-making is key. I would agree that he passed far more than he shot, he didn’t actually score a bucketload. He was the single reason I picked up football as a hobby. My favourite footballer of all time 🙂 Personally i feel this role will be the hardest one to nail to perfection, maybe along with the Henry role. Looking forward to the next.

    1. You’re spot on, decision making is key and the deciding factor for PPM’s :). It’s interesting watching Bergkamp’s early Arsenal career compared to the later years. He definitely became more static and central as every season passed.

      And this role and the Henry one have been frustrating yeah 🙂

  5. Can’t wait to see how you translate the roles. As much as it is always nice to keep things simple, there will surely be a fair amount of PIs to get the unique way each individual played.

    Loving the way you are talking through the process.

    1. I’m hoping the PPM’s will mean I can reduce the amount of PI’s used. But there will still be a fair few yeah.

  6. Apologies for hijacking the comments section cleon 😉

    I think that would be a natural reaction to him not having the pace he had earlier, when he was relatively quick (pre-Arsenal), i thought Teddy Sheringham did a similar thing at Utd/Tottenham too. Relied far more on brains later on and could still influence things from a central position without too much legwork!

    Would it be worthwhile learning the “Killer Balls or Short simple passes” PPMs for this role? Again, it might be highly “situational” in game as due to his high decision making he would probably know when to play those anyway, but IRL he would just as easily play a short simple pass which could be devastating as he could make the long range passes or through balls. I’ve never truly known when to teach a player these 2 PPM’s. How would they affect the Bergkamp role?

    1. Ah don’t be sorry, I like discussions like this 🙂

      I think a lack of pace was partly to do with it yeah. It also looks like he realised he didn’t need to run about as much though and could be just as effective if not have more influence from deeper, more static areas. Especially with the players he played with and the way they attacked. I could watch him play all day long, he really is one of my favourite players of all time.

      As for the PPM’s, those you mention are something I’ve been toying with and haven’t rules out yet. Truth be told, I’m just starting the 4th season now and still don’t have a couple of the players needed to complete the Invincibles. Once I’ve got them in, then I’ll know one way or the other whether I need to give him those. But it is highly probable that he will have one or both of those at some stage.

  7. How long do you anticipate playing the save for? Reason I ask is I wanted to know if you’re looking to groom the Next generation of youngsters to continue the style and if so, will you include a little about it?

    This series is really one that hits all the right buttons for me as it’s something I’ve tried to implement in every version since the Invincibles. Being a Gunner since the moment i saw Bergkamp helps too!

    1. I planned on quitting after the 4th season as I thought that would be more than enough time, which would mean at the end of my current save. However I’ve enjoyed the save so much, I normally dislike playing in England too. So I think I will continue it.

      I’ve started laying the foundations for the next generation already and am currently spending my funds on newgens. So I will likely write about those at some stage too 🙂

  8. Extremely interested in this!

    Recreating the left flank combination of Cole-Pires-Henry should be a great challenge and as you said probably the key of this project.

    I’ve often thought the Ljungberg role would probably resemble a lot to the new Raumdeuter in FM.

    Also, I think the ‘tries killer ball often’ PPM would be good for the Bergkamp role? it was really his trademark skill iirc. His interpretation of the ‘number 10’ role was so effective and beautiful to watch, curious to see your own ideas about that – I’m secretly hoping for a Treq 🙂

  9. Well the Bergkamp role, i think if you wanna replicate when he was younger a F9 or DLF would be perfect….at later stages of his carreer he was more like an APS in AMCR position. Also i thought Pires could have the TI more risky passes
    keep up the good work Cleon!

  10. Great description of each player and reasoning for their potential PPM’s. I can’t wait for tomorrow’s article. I’m very interested to see how you translate the Henry role. I’ve had good luck with CF(A) in the left striker slot. He probably doesn’t drift left as much as Henry did but my tactic has been the most dangerous going forward when he drifts to the left and cuts back to the inside.

    I’m also interested to see how you balance the defense on the left side. With a more attacking full back it would make sense for the holding midfielder to be on the left but this obviously isn’t how the invincibles played and the Vieira role plays a huge part in linking up with Cole, Pires and Henry.

  11. Another couple of unrelated questions/points:

    1. You say that this is a Flexible system (“He likes players to express themselves, but also sees it as a team game”) – why is this not something like ‘Very Fluid’? From the descriptions in the game, a Very Fluid system seems to be the ultimate in all players working as a single unit, and the more rigid/structured it becomes, the more it’s about the player performing more fractured roles…

    2. I’m very interested in seeing how you implement this style – whether it’s a Big Bang approach with all the aspects of Arsenal’s style from day one, or if you phase them in, and if the latter, how you go about choosing what to phase in when and why.

  12. 1 – The descriptions can be misleading slightly. On a more fluid system the players mentality structures are all the same and players play closer together while having more creative freedom. On more structured systems the opposite is true and allows the focus to be more about what you want the player to do. Remember, I am wanting players to do SPECIFIC things here so it doesn’t make sense to use fluid. And using a highly structured shape would see me move to the other end of the scale. So it makes much more sense to keep it in the middle of the two rather than going to one extreme or the other.

    In fluid systems the playmaker roles aren’t as prominent because everyone is that bit more expressive, means they are watered down somewhat. I actually need these types of players, Pires, Bergkamp, Vieira to be prominent and stand out. On fluid everyone is that little bit more creative etc and it detracts.

    Plus there was some changes made to team shape for FM16;

    First, the Team Shape setting has been streamlined to make it less convoluted and easier to understand. It still affects differences in mentality and creative freedom, but now, “Very Fluid” means the team will tend to be more compact (with more creative freedom) whilst “Highly Structured” means the team will tend to spread out more back-to-front (with less creative freedom) with Fluid/Flexible/Structured simply being sequential steps between those two extremes.

    In addition to that, now all team shape settings incorporate mentality differences between duties (just like the old Flexible setting used to work). So on any Team Shape setting, you should generally see more risk taking and more aggressive positioning from an Attack duty midfielder compared to a Support duty midfielder. One consequence of this is that your duties will have a greater influence on your overall style of play. A team full of Support duties will be far more possession-oriented whereas a team full of Attack duties will try to initiate attacks with much more urgency.

    2 – You’ll get a little insight into this in the post tomorrow 🙂

    1. Cleon, do you know if the more structured shapes also create bigger horizontal gaps I.e. bigger gap between the central players and wide players?

  13. Hi Cleon. I am glad you revisited Invincibles. I am fan of Bergkamp/Arsenal since World Cup 1998. 😉

    Is there any difference when you teach someone e.g. Cuts Inside PPM and when you instruct them to do it with PI in tactics?
    Wouldn’t it be better to use the PI so you won’t limit player’s behaviour if you “need” to use him in another position?

    1. A PPM makes it part of their behaviour, an instruction is just that, an instruction. I won’t be using players in multiple positions because I need to develop them in specific ways, so this means training will be different for each position I use. If I use them in multiple positions then I can’t really nail down the specific patterns of play.

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