Rebuilding The Thames Ironworks – Different Formations

Guest writer Herne79 is back with another edition of his ongoing series.

Playing Against Different Formations

I started some match analysis above, showing how I made some in game tweaks against an attacking Man City side, and a defensive West Brom.

To carry this on, I thought I’d do a little series detailing what I do (if anything) against different formations. I’ve just started my 2nd season so I’ll post these as and when I come across things. Hopefully you find it interesting.

1) The 4-4-2 Narrow Diamond

An early season away game at Aston Villa. This is how Villa line up:


I always pay attention to this pre-match screen to see if I can start to make any assumptions about how the opposition may try to play. I’m not always right, but it’s a starting point.

Here, my initial thoughts are:

  • The right back may have a support duty compared to the left back’s defend duty. So the right back may get forward a little more. Fine by me as he’s up against my attacking left wing, Di Maria.
  • There is a large gap between the MCs and the AMC. AMC may have an attack duty, I need to pay attention to him as I don’t play with a DMC. Both MCs may have a defend duty.
  • Their threat is from 3 advanced players. With a gap to MC, I expect long ball tactics.

NOTE – Even though I start to analyse before kick off, I never make changes to my tactic until I see what is happening on the pitch. There is no point, as otherwise I am reacting to assumptions. I couldn’t care less if I am playing home or away, who I am playing against, weather conditions, what the press may be trying to stir up etc etc. My focus is 100% on if my players are actually playing as I expect them to – if they are I’ll probably win. If they’re not, I need to change something.

Anyway, onto some action.

This first screen shot confirms my suspicions that Villa are playing a long ball game – the match is only 4 minutes old.


My team just lost possession. Gil has a huge amount of space to run into (my BWM had drifted wide – that’s him just to the right of the fullback at the bottom of the shot). If Gil does make a run, my central defenders are going to be in trouble from a 3 v 2 overload. But Gil doesn’t run. He just hits a long ball towards the forwards, hoping one will latch onto it. They don’t and my defence easily picks off the pass.

If Villa are just going to play long balls, I’m not worried at all. My defence and midfield are good enough to cope, although I need to keep an eye on my BWM. He’d drifted out wide here in support of our previous possession and has been caught out of position. He doesn’t usually do that, so no need to panic, but I have to keep an eye on him.

(As it turned out, that was a bit of a one-off, and he played well in midfield after this, closing down space nicely).

Next shows how narrow Villa are playing, and how I will be exploiting things. This is from a Villa goal kick (again early in the match):


The midfield is packed. Villa are just trying to overload the area, and get the ball up to their attackers. This is why my Assistant Manager keeps telling me I am outnumbered in midfield (which I ignore). If Villa were actually trying to play a passing game, I may be concerned by this. But they aren’t – they are just kicking it long giving my players easy turn overs from interceptions.

So, we’re getting easy interceptions, but what do we do with the ball? Well, look at all that juicy space out wide. Di Maria’s going to have a field day down the left, and I expect plenty of crosses from Ward-Prowse and his overlapping fullback down the right. And that’s how things panned out – Ward-Prowse picked up the PoM award thanks to two cross assists from which we scored, with Di Maria getting on the end of one of those crosses.

We score the first after 5 mins (Ward-Prowse cross to Di Maria on the far post) and before that we’ve already had a goal disallowed for offside (another Ward-Prowse cross). I don’t change anything at all during the match and we win 3-0. Again, I keep an eye on my widgets once I switch to key highlights – this is how things look after 30 mins of play when we’re 2-0 up:


Villa have 60% pass completion and 32% possession, which just backs up what I see as their attempted long ball game. They’ve had 2 shots (both off target) compared to my 7 shots with 5 on target. I can sit back and relax.


Because I use tactical settings that aims to control the space, lining up against a team with an AMC and 2 strikers is just fine – especially if they play a long ball game. My team are compact and play with a slightly higher defensive line, so the potential threat from an AMC gets snuffed out. 3 players in advanced positions simply plays into my winger’s hands, and I annihilate them down the flanks.

There’s no need to make changes because my team are doing what I expect them to do. I don’t have to (for example) tell the team to Exploit the Flanks because they are already doing so – there’s no space in the middle to exploit so my players act accordingly.

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