Sheffield F.C – The Flawed Invincibles

In the last article I spoke about how I analyse and identify issues in my current setup and listed all the things I need to improve upon. This article will cover those changes and see how we fared over a larger sample of games – the entire season in fact.

The main issues in the last article seemed to be;

  • Too many long shots.
  • Lack of Movement.
  • The midfield and defence cut off from the strikers at times or strikers too deep

Those were the three main things I want to focus on in this article and see how my changes affected these issues and if we cured the issues or not.

We have quite a few options for fixing these long shot’s hopefully, we can look at the individuals who are the biggest culprits and maybe alter their player instructions so they don’t shoot as often if that instruction is not hardcoded into the role their assigned. We can also explore using team instructions if we think that is a more suited approach. There is no right or wrong answer to this by the way, as there are many things that influence this specific issue and many different ways to go about fixing them. It comes down to either preferences whether you select TI’s or PI’s to try to fix the issue or trial and error. That’s basically what it comes down to, trial and error.

Some of the issues with long shot’s that I was having was also linked to the other two options I mentioned above. A lack of movement means a lack of support and options for the player on the ball and if they have neither of those, then the only real options are to shoot regardless of the distance between the player and goal. Also if the midfield is cut off from the strikers then again this limits support, supply and passing options further up the field. And again this comes back to giving the player no option but to shoot in most cases. So it’s all linked and is like a never-ending circle and the issues all exist because of one another.

Fixing them is hard because where do you start if they’re all linked together? Well for me fixing the long shot issue first would be pointless as that seems to be the end product for the other two issues. So realistically we need to sort one of the other two issues first and I’m going to start with the strikers either being caught too deep or too high up the pitch as this cuts off supply. If I can make these front two more in tune with the rest of the side then the movement should follow which would have a huge knock on effect for the long shot issue. Even if the movement doesn’t come, then we at least know it’s a role or duty issue and can then focus our attention on that.

The Fixes

What are the options we can use for the striker issue. Well again there’s a few things to do here but I think a good place to start would to be look at the roles of the strikers. In the last article I ironically stated that I needed one striker to stay high up the pitch all the time to occupy the defenders and give them some actual work to do. I still stand by this so the first thing I will try is changing one of the striker roles. Obviously I’ll stick with the deep-lying forward for now because I need a striker who attempts to link the midfield from high up the pitch. So the role I’ll be changing is the complete forward role and changing it to the advanced forward one instead. By doing this he’ll be less likely to drop back into deep positions which is what I believe I need more of at times. It’ll likely have some kind of drawback but that’s why I’m focusing on providing balance throughout the side. So if the striker has a drawback then his partner or the players around them need to be able to do the things he can’t, which I think I can do easily in this system.

Change 1 – Striker now an advanced forward instead of complete forward.

One of the other changes I could look at doing to bring the different bands closer together is changing the team shape from flexible to fluid or maybe very fluid. But this is something I am reluctant to do because not only does it bring all the mentalities of the players closer together it also makes the players more creative in their roles. That’s not something I want, I already have a creative player who I want to be the main creative outlet and don’t feel I need everyone in the team to be more creative. I’d rather the roles and duties they have set the default creativeness without using a modifier like team shape to up it, even if it’ll only be upped slightly for majority of players.

If you wanted you could approach your issues by altering team shape if you fully understand what team shape actually is. If not then I suggest reading my very good friend rashidi’s stuff, you can find him on Twitter or his YouTube channel or his website

I’ll not be going into the discussion about team shape as I believe people over complicate it when it’s not really needed. I think of it in more simplistic terms and have covered it in-depth before. However if you want to learn about it in greater detail to get your head around just how complicated and complex it is, then definitely check out Rashidi’s stuff he explains it better than anyone else. He is also one of about four people who actually know all the ins and out of the tactical side of Football Manager and was one of the people who really pushed for the recent team shape changes over the past five years or so, so that it was more intricate and had a bigger impact on the tactical side of things. So please check him out if you want to deal with factual stuff and not myths 🙂

As I’m not using team shape to bring players closer together then what are the other options?! I could alter roles and duties but that’s a last resort for me as I want to try to achieve it via other methods first as that would limit what roles I could actually use in the long-term and I don’t want any limits as that makes you less flexible. But again changing roles and duties are something you can do if you wanted.

So this basically leaves me with team instructions and player instructions which really won’t help overall. They might make a slight dent in the issue but not much. This leaves me with mentality to change to fix the issues, or at least attempt to fix them. In the first article if you can remember that far back you’ll know I was playing on a standard mentality and wasn’t really planning changing it that much. However things have changed now so I need to adapt somehow. I can change mentality constantly through the matches to see if it some how combats the issues I have or I can just use another one as the standard base I work from. So what I’ll try to do is use the same mentality for the majority of games I have unless I see something unfolding in games then I’ll be reactive and change it.

Now this change will likely surprise a few people as I’ll not be going attacking which a few of the comments on the previous article suggest they thought I would. But instead I’ll be going defensive.
People hear the word defensive and automatically think park the bus stuff but it’s not. That is one particular defensive style of play and there are many more defensive styles you can create which are actually adventurous, as I’ve highlighted in the past with the ‘Defensive Arts’ series on this blog. Using the defensive mentality is purely about risk and slowing things down slightly. But you have to remember that the team instructions, player instructions, roles and duties are what will define how defensive the system you use is and not the overall mentality of the team.

The main reason for this change is to bring the team as a whole slightly lower down the pitch. This won’t really fix the gap issues but it might bring us closer as a unit when breaking forward as the whole team will be slightly deeper than normal. I’m not 100% sure if this change will or not but I think it should in theory. But like everything, in theory and in practise are completely different things.

Change 2 – Go from a standard mentality to a defensive one

For now these are the only two changed I made to see how we get on. I don’t like making too many changes as its hard to keep track of what influenced what during the game if you do a lot of changes.

Already we can see the changes in force in the above screenshot. The advanced forward is already between the defenders (albeit offside!). Before I was witnessing both my strikers dropping off the front which was always easy to defend against. Now though the advanced forward is looking to get beyond the defensive line. The deep-lying forward is now the one dropping off and being the link player. My midfield is also a lot closer to the strikers compared to the last article I wrote already.

This is taken from a different game and this time shows a different dynamic that the advanced forward adds to the team. The whole move started with a long ball played from my wingback to the advanced forward, who received the ball that ran down the wing with it. It was a quick counter attacking move but look how he has dragged the fullback and one of the central defenders with him. In the last article I mentioned how this was something I wanted to do as it creates space and movement. The deep-lying forward is unmarked and the defender has no idea he’s about to run towards the advanced forward and cut across in front of him. Not only this but the box to box midfielder is also busting his gut to get into the box, which is all clear space in front of him. The advanced forward pulls the ball back across goal and the deep-lying forward taps the ball home with one of the easiest finishes he’ll get all season.

The kind of play in the screenshot above is how I want to see my forwards linking up and is something I’ve wanted since the very start. It seems like the role change I made is working. In fact the deep-lying forward is now more involved with the attacking side of things in my set up because of moves like this, something which you might not have expected when you saw the roles. But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense why. The advanced forward is further forward so is an attacking outlet that the midfield and even defenders can look out for with long or direct balls if they wish. When this happens it means the deep-lying forward is attacking from a deeper position so isn’t really marked properly. He’s also scoring quite a lot of goals.

Both of the above players are the ones I used for the deep-lying forward role. As you can see they have scored 32 goals between them which isn’t a bad return at all. They’ve both scored a similar amount of goals per game and have similar assist records which shows the role is working. Which isn’t bad at all especially when you add these goals to the ones the advanced forwards score.

51 goals between them is excellent and having them score goals is what their in the side for. I get goals from the midfielders too but not prolifically, although they have a combined tally of 19 between them so it’s not that bad. But I don’t expect them to get that many that’s what my two forwards are for and it’s good to see them scoring.

Long Shot Issue

I’ve not spoke about the long shot issue yet as I wanted to wait until the end of the article for discussing it. Have I fixed it? Yes and no. I’m having better shot quality and creating good chances like highlighted above but sometimes it’s like I’m back at square one. I’ll show you some examples of what I mean.

As you can see in these games the long shots I have seem limited and I seem to finish a lot of the chances I do get, especially in that last screenshot its clinical. You also have to remember that you can’t fully eliminate long shots and even if you could you shouldn’t. Players should still be able to shoot from distance but it should be down to choice rather than forced because of lack of movement, space and supporting options etc. Shooting from distance is okay if you’ve providing all those things but at the very start my players were not doing this. In some games this is still the case though like these;

I know what you’re all thinking and yes I did win the games so what’s it matter? It probably doesn’t in hindsight but it still shows there could be potential issues with long shots. In fact I’ve already identified why in most cases but that’ll be for another article. Sometimes it’s down to the players and how rubbish they are and other times it can be down to the formation you face. This is why I’ll be talking about them in another article, as I want to cover every formation I play against and tell you the weakness and strengths of both formations against each other.

So the long shot issue is somewhat fixed I’d say but I still need to analyse them further and make further adjustments as I progress and improve the quality of players that play for us. Tactically though the long shots are no longer because of a lack of options any longer so we have made progress. I’m also getting a lot of shots on target too, the best in the league in fact.

This is always a good sign as it shows you are doing well compared to the rest of the league so I don’t have to worry too much as we are heading in the right direction.

Overall I had a great first season at the club and managed an invincible season but that doesn’t mean I have the perfect tactic and set up because truth be told, I’m a long way of achieving that. I’m talking years not weeks or months. But none the less we made the best of what we had and got lucky in a few of the games. Rather than writing lots more about the season I’ll do a separate article in the near future and made the save game available on a season by season basis too. That way you can all scour through it if you choose to, to see how I played in much more detail.


24 thoughts on “Sheffield F.C – The Flawed Invincibles”

    1. I have been playing around with this tactic for a while now to try an learn more about tactics creation. (not for the sake of copying your work!)
      I was playing with standard/control mentality. One of the main issues I found was the lack of forward movement from my CMR, the CM/a. Changing mentality to defensive like you suggested makes him alot more inclined to move forward, making runs past the DLF – finally:)
      Could you please tell me why this is happening? In my head he should be more inclined to making those runs on a more aggressiv mentality and not the other way around?? This is confusing me…

      Thank you for another inspiring article by the way.

  1. Thanks for this article Cleon. However this series would be easier to understand knowing the team instructions you are using.

        1. I honestly have no idea how you can miss it if you’ve actually read the posts? I clearly say;

          I’m still unsure if these roles will stay the same because I’ve not seen it in action yet with Sheffield FC so any changes will be made based on what I see happening in the game. I wont be using any TI’s and the team shape is flexible and the mentality I use standard. The midfield is very flexible and it’s highly possible that I’ll change it quite a lot during the season to offer me different things.

          Taken from

          I also fail to see how knowing the TI’s (if I used any) would help you understand the articles better too.

  2. Great stuff, this is the part I really struggle with. I go on a 5-6 winning streak then lose 3 or 4 in a row.
    My question is, my save is with Rangers I’m using the same shape as yourself but different roles and duties. I have joey Barton in as a cm d and that’s his preferred role. I kept losing shape as he and my dlp s kept chasing after the ball and leaving their men unmarked. I noticed cm d has close down so I tried a different role cm a bit he keeps doing it. I then tried a different player but same issue arises. I have noticed that a lot of the times he is helping out the full back which is good but a lot of the times he’s chasing after the player when my dlp is already marking him.where am I getting it wrong? Thanks.

    1. Does he have any PPM’s? Also I’d check what the others players who should be picking these players up are doing too. So maybe look slightly higher up the pitch and see if the strikers are doing what they should be when defending. Or are the CM’s defending more aggressive because the fullback aren’t helping etc

      1. as an example Jordan Rossitor is my dlp and Barton my cm d. If the only Rossitor is marking player A and Barton marking player B. If player A gets the ball Rossitor is on him but Barton will still run after him as well leaving player b free. I noticed Rossitor would do the same the other way round. I dropped TI closing down to less often to see if that would help. It seems to have helped Rossitor but Barton still runs about after every player that has the ball.
        I will look at my forwards DLF as I don’t want my AF coming back if not needed. Should the DLF be picking up midfield players when defending?
        I don’t mind when he’s going inv out wide because I have no wingers so he’s helping the full back, it’s when it happens through the middle it annoys me. I looked back at a lot of goals I have conceaded and most were because of this issue. Your articles have helped a lot but I’m stumped with this one. When I’m on later I will look at his ppm like you said. Thanks.

  3. If I push the defensive line higher will it make the midfield and striker closer or will it make the striker go more further up which doesnt make any difference? Great article by the way 🙂

      1. Cleon, so you never changed TIs other than moving to defencive. Do you still view the first 15 mins of a game and make changes if needed?
        I remember you did an article about those changes but I can’t remember it. Do you know the one I mean?

        1. If I feel it needs doing then yeah I’ll always watch the first 15 mins to get a feel of the game. I do know which article you mean, I think it was a part of the create, design and maintain series I did.

          1. Thanks, I will have another read as that’s the bit I struggle with. Knowing what to change and why.
            I feel my formation and shape is good and my team look like how I had them down on paper the way I want them to play. I just keep drawing or losing late games and I think it’s more to do with in game changes than anything.

  4. @Cleon

    You have made a lot of articles playing with different formations showing-helping people ,explaining how the formations work

    Out of curiosity which is your favourite formation ?

    1. I don’t think I have a favourite formation as such. Although I do prefer back 3’s over back 4’s. I guess the 3412 would be high up on my list if I had one.

  5. Hello and happy new year! Followed your suggestions carefully and had an almost perfect start to my season in Northern Ireland with Sport & Leisure. But then 5 of my starters left because they were on non-contract deals and I collapsed! This ever happens to you in low leagues?

    1. Hi mate, I can really relate to that, as I was just recently playing with an amateur club in Italy. A possible solution is to have a flexible approach to your system that would allow you to play with various types of players and yet not compromise your style of play. I had players leaving every couple of months and yet we won back to back promotions using a simple 4-4-2 and paying attention to what happens in-match 🙂

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