In the last article I wrote about the stats and the quick overview they give us with regards to tactics and explained how they don’t really tell you anything useful without adding the context of events that determined the stats. This is the article that will hopefully add that context. The stats did provide a bit of information though as we spotted patterns emerging in majority of the games and those were;
- Long shots are an issue and we need to get to the bottom of this.
- A lack of quality shots in some of the games and a low amount of shots on target is a concern.
- Twenty two goals in eight games we have scored and fifteen of them have all come in the second half of games. So it’s not only are we creating in the second half of games we are also finding a way of finishing the chances too.
- Do we lack movement? Do we have players creating and using space? I need to figure this out because at times based on the stats alone looks like this could be an issue.
Now we are analysing the games we can look out for the above and see how and why these things are happening, whether they be positives or negatives. We need to fully understand how the 3-5-2 I’m using functions. As well as looking out for above, we will be trying to spot other issues too. An eight game sample should be more than enough to get a good sample size of events and to see if we notice any other patterns emerging that the stats didn’t tells us, which I think we will find as we scour back through the matches already played. I’ll not write about all eight games in full detail as that might become boring or make the article far too long but I will discuss the majority of those games especially if the same things keep happening as that indicates there are issues that need sorting out.
In this article I will only be talking about the issues we spot and find and trying to get to the bottom or how and why it happens. There will be no talk of fixing it in this article that will be in the follow on one. This is purely about identifying issues.
I think long shots are a good place to start because the amount I’ve had is quite alarming at times. Plus long shots can mean a few different things so can throw up some interesting issues when you look at them. The main causes of long shots tend to be related to a lack of support or movement from the players around the player currently in possession. This isn’t always the case but is the majority of the time I have found. Not only from my own games but from seeing tactics that other people create and viewing their games, it’s something that a lot of people don’t seem to understand.
The game I’m going to look back at first is the one against Rugby that I won 3-0 but I had eight long shots during that game. The first thing I do is head straight to the analysis page to view the shot.
These are the shots we had during the game and the players who took them. One of the great new additions to Football Manager 2017 is that when you click the dots on the pitch not only can you still view them like always but this year we have the added option of viewing the linked events to the build up to the move. Which is always vital. To understand why something happened the way it does the key details are normally in the build up of the move and not what happened at the end of it.
So when you click the ‘Show Linked Events’ tab it should present you with something like this;
So now we have a general idea of how the shot came about and which players were in the build up of the move. This is great for a quick snapshot of events and you can also click on these and watch the highlights too. Now if I watch the clip back to see the end product (the actual moment the shot takes place) then this is what I see;
Cottingham is my box to box midfielder, he is the one who actually takes the shot. Now we need to watch the build up and see what is happening around him.
In the above screenshot we can see the positioning of my players and while this move started via a throw-in the positioning of players is still poor. That’s more the role and duty allocation though. The central midfielder is the one dropping off into space and offering himself as a passing options. The deep-lying forward has also dropped off but this has taken the defender with him. Now that’s not a bad thing if someone was then actively looking to get between the two centrebacks and attacking the space the deep-lying forward has created but sadly I don’t have this. The complete forward is too far down the pitch really and not as central as I’d like when the deep-lying forward is the one dropping off the front. Ideally I want one striker to drop while the other pushes forward. This would then create space not only for the strikers but the box to box midfielder also.
Then when the box to box midfielder receives the ball he’s have space to run into or someone making a forward run to pass to.
When Cottingham does receive the ball he turns and passes it to the complete forward. However the complete forward is facing away from goal to begin with so when he receives the ball his marker is already on top of him and making life difficult for him. Not only this but it also cuts off the central midfielder and the deep-lying forward as passing options because the opposition’s defenders and midfield are blocking them. Meaning the only pass for the complete forward to make is back to Cottingham.
Another thing I notice is for how deep in the opposition’s final third I am, I have no-one inside the box and there isn’t really anyone actively making a run to try to get into it. This makes life tricky for me but easy for the opposition’s defenders as they can step up and deal with the strikers with ease. In an ideal world I’d like one of the strikers to always be advanced and giving the opposition centreback’s some work to do. In the last two screenshots we can already get a good idea of why the player takes the shot from this kind of distance. If everyone is dropping off the front then who is going to get onto end of chances created or more importantly who is making the kind of movements we need. By the time I had someone even close to being in the box it was too late Cottingham had already explored all his options and realised he didn’t really have any and shot from distance.
The type of scenarios are frustrating but despite what you think it is a tactical issue and comes from having roles and duties that perhaps don’t offer me the type of balance that I need or that simply don’t compliment each other. I know this was only one example of a long shot but viewing three others from the same match I noticed the same type of thing. A real lack of runners and too many people dropping off the front, coming short or moving into the channels.
A Lack of Quality Shots and Low Amount of Shots
A part of this issue is likely to be a side effect of the long shot issue, at least for the quality issue. The lack of shots is probably down to something else like not enough movement, being too cautious or just passing the ball around needlessly. Another factor could also be the oppositions shape, it might have neutralised mine to some extent. Or it might have been something else entirely, the only real way to find out the cause (if I can) is to analyse the games were this is happening. As I’m working on watching games back it’s much easier to find issues compared to watching games in real-time due to it being less stressful and the result already happened.
To analyse the issue this time we need to focus on what the players and team were actually doing when we was in possession of the ball. So that means we need to watch parts of the game to see how we move the ball around and to see the players movement.
After a few minutes of viewing the match I already notice something that is quite concerning. Look at the above image and see the positioning of the players. The complete wingback is just about to release the ball by crossing it. However my strikers and midfield seem very lackadaisical in getting forward. They should be busting a gut to get into the box and on the end of any potential cross but they just aren’t. It’s like they are walking rather than running. If this is a regular occurrence then it’s easy to see why I was struggling to create in this game.
This is another example of me breaking forward and this time the central midfielder is trying to burst forward in order to support attacks which is what you want. However because it’s the deep-lying forward who is running with the ball then up top I am a bit short in numbers due to him being so deep. So any quick counter attacks I have, I could suffer badly with initial numbers I commit forward. I seem a bit too reserved at times with no real urgency. I won’t be discussing fixes here but hopefully the wording I’ve just used is giving you a nudge in the right direction in regards to the thinking in the next article.
The short clip above also highlights the issues with being outnumbered by the opposition. While the short passage of play is good, it’s not dangerous or realistically going to trouble the keeper from that kind of distance. I’d much rather have players trying to get beyond the complete forward to support the attacks and offer themselves as a passing options.
I’m not that far into viewing the game and I have already seen enough to know why I’m struggling to create chances of real quality. I’ve seen enough to reaffirm the long shot issue too as both are connected. If support is poor then the only option is to shoot. In fact every little thing I mentioned at the start with what we’d be looking at during this analysis is all linked. It’s like a vicious circle that you can break.
A lack of support = players having no options = players shooting due to it being the only option available.
I am however creating space but this is all pointless currently because no-one is using that space. I’ve also found out why I’m scoring a lot of late goals, there are three main reasons;
- Opposition changes formation
- Opposition players get tired quickly
- I make use of substitutes to add fresh legs to the side.
Due to me playing on a standard mentality structure and having a lack of movement in the side, this has helped late in games because the players have conserved energy much better than the opposition’s players. It’s quite ironic really that the success I’ve had is down to bad tactics on my part haha. This is why the context of the match and the knowledge of knowing what you’ve created works and why is vital. It’s the most important aspect of tactic making, to understand how it works and why.
This is also one of the reasons people might have an amazing run and then suddenly the wheels fall off and they can’t buy a win. I’m pretty certain I’m falling under this category sooner or later. That’s why I now need to concentrate on these issues and sort them out, so I’m not relying on luck and opposition errors to get me results. But instead I want to build a reliable system that works consistently and gets me results and then anything else like luck etc is just an added bonus. Had I not had a look at these matches in more details I’d still be thinking everything is hunky dory even though it quite clearly isn’t.
One of the other things I briefly touched upon earlier in the article was the spacing between my midfield and strikers. The gaps between them seems too large at times even with the strikers dropping off the front. So I just want to have a quick check through all the games and see if this is the case or not.
I’m hoping it translates into pictures but can you see above how the strikers seem to be separated from the midfield? It might not seem that bad but for what I’m creating it is because it means the defence and midfield are playing together as a unit and the strikers are kind of on their own. It’s almost as if the team is split into two bands. At times in the examples above I have said the strikers are too deep or not central enough in certain phases of play and that’s true. But when initial attacks happen they’re too advanced. One of the reasons they might be coming deeper later in the move is in search of the ball. Ideally I’d prefer to have the midfield take the ball to the strikers so they can focus on their own roles and do what I expect of them.
I could probably go on and find a lot more issues with the set up I’m using but I won’t just yet. The reason for this is I want to resolve the issues I’ve spoke about already above first before messing with other things. I don’t like to make lots of changes in one go, plus we don’t know how these changes will impact the way I’m playing. So for that reason I find it best to work on a few issues first and resolving them rather than trying to fix everything in one go. Another reason for that is it makes it harder to track if your changes are actually working. If you made twenty or thirty changes in one go, how could you know if they worked or not? So start small and make a few changes at a time, that’s what I’ll be doing as it means I can track the changes better and more efficiently.
Now let’s set about fixing them in the next article………….