The first game of the season is probably the most important game I play and is the one game where I take the most time looking back over events that happened. Not only that but it’s also the game were I don’t make changes during the game unless something really bad is happening. The reason for this? Well I need to understand how the shape and settings I’ve chosen play out in a competitive environment, something which you can’t really do during pre-season. With this in mind I allow, if I can, the game to play out in its entirety and then I watch it back afterwards. Watching it back is easier as there is no pressure on to get a result as its already happened, meaning I will view the game differently than if it was watching the game in real time .
You need a free half hour or more depending on how thorough you want to be. I like to spend as much time as I can and really over focus on this one game to fully understand how my tactic works as it saves me a lot of time in the long run. Sure the tactic will play differently against other shapes but that doesn’t really matter to begin with as I need to understand how my set up works in general and understand as much as possible about it. You also need some way of making notes, I tend to use Google Docs these days or sometimes I’ll be old skool and use a pen and a bit of paper. Once I’ve got a bit of free time and some way of taking notes I’ll then view the game back as highlighted below.
While the score is obviously important for whether we get three points or not, in the grand scheme of things it’s more important to focus on the performance rather than the actual score. I need to know if my players perform like I thought they would, which I highlighted in an earlier post. I need to see what the shape is like when defending and attacking and see just exactly how players are linking up. For this reason I’ll be splitting this into three separate articles; one focusing on the defensive side of things, one on the attacking side and then a post that summarises what I learnt about both phases of play and how I can fix some of the issues I mention.
Sheffield United vs Bristol City
I’ll be focusing mainly on what my side does. I don’t over concentrate on the opposition because if you do that, you can lose sight of how you want to play because you are always focusing on what they do rather than what you are doing.
The stats from the game looked like this;
The stats for me are nothing more than a very quick snapshot of what happened during a game without giving you any answers or solutions to anything. Context is everything and you’ll only find that out by viewing the game and seeing what actually happened. So I don’t concentrate on this much as I much prefer the individual stats as they offer so much more information about how the game went and more importantly what the individual was doing. I’ll be focusing on the game stats and the individual ones in a further update. For now I want to keep it simple and focus on watching the above game back.
The Defensive Aspects
Straight from Bristol’s kick off you can see my sides shape and already see some issues that could be problematic as the game goes on;
Already I can see issues here and it could be quite a big one as the game goes on. The amount of space the Bristol City player has to play in is cause for concern. We can see the central midfielder who is on a defensive duty shifting across as he is gravitating towards the player with the ball. I’ll have to see more of the game other than the opening five seconds to get a better understanding of what’s going on. But for now its note number one in the note pad.
This screenshot is a few seconds later and highlights the issues with a two man midfield against a three man one. My more defensive minded midfielder has to mark two players. There is no immediate threat here but it is an issue and one I should see often throughout the game due to suffering the numbers disadvantage in midfield.
An intelligent ball or a quick change of play here and I could be in serious trouble and on the back foot. It’s enough to cause concern but at the same time its one I have to accept that might happen often unless I make the roaming playmaker more restrained or change shape. It’s one of the downsides of using a two man midfield when the opposition have greater numbers centrally, you can be found chasing players at times as it relies on your own player making the correct call at the time. What it comes down to here is risk vs reward and whether you think its worth it or not. Personally I like to play dangerous and take risks as it can help with my attacking as you’ll see when we focus on that bit later. But I’m also aware of how open I can be. It’s another reason why you need to understand how your formation works and what its strengths and weaknesses actually are.
There’s an awful lot going on in this next screenshot;
Firstly you can see on the near side my wide playmaker, roaming playmaker and defensive minded midfielder all in the circled area. This is from a throw-in but just look at the Bristol City player circled a bit further up. Now if he receives the ball he has options: He can either drive forward with the ball or try and feed a ball to one of the runners either between both centre backs or the centre back and fullback. It also means my centre back has a choice to make: Does he go towards the goal or stay and pick the runner up? Being FM you can guess what happens here right?
He dwells on the ball luckily for me but my centreback charges him down and by some miracle has positioned himself so the free attacker behind him isn’t an option as the player on the ball can’t see him. This means he has to pass into the space between both centre backs and on this occasion it doesn’t cause me trouble. However this is a massive issue and is so far number one on the list I’m doing while watching this game back. Although I’m not sure how much of this is down to actually defending the throw-in so I need to determine if this happens often and if I can actually influence defending from throw-ins which I’m not sure I can. If that’s the case then a bug report will be filed. However I need to make sure it isn’t the settings I’m using first to ensure its not a human error.
The next thing I notice is this;
That’s the oppositions wingback running back to his position as he thinks his side have lost the ball. However they haven’t and due to my side coming across to cover naturally it means he has time to turn direction and is unmarked. This isn’t really an issue and I’m happy with how my side are set up. Until this happens…
The opposition quickly shift the ball across to the other side. Fast switches in play like this cause any formation problems and players get caught out of position. Is there much I can do about these situations? I’m not 100% sure there is but I could try and make the players go out wide rather than forcing them infield like I currently do. This is something I will make a note of but in FM terms, I don’t think this is a major issue unless it happens for the full 90 minutes.
As you can see here, when the wingback does receive the ball my team have been caught out in the quick change of play and my side have a lot of work to do to catch back up.
I have 6 players all scrambling trying to deal with the threat or get back into position. It’s something that can be quite costly at times yet almost impossible to defend against.
The full move can be seen here in this little clip;
All in all there wasn’t much else to report defensively in this game, it ended up being much more one sided than I anticipated. The stuff I mentioned above wasn’t one-offs though so we’ll be revisiting them in part three as I discuss possible solutions to the issues and then how I go about putting them into practise.