Creating a tactic is one of the simplest things you can do on Football Manager, it takes seconds to do it. However creating one that works and is successfully consistent over a period of time is a lot trickier to achieve. Hopefully this article (although I might have to split these into a mini series depending on how long they become) will explain my process and reasonings behind the decisions I make. I’m not saying this is the best or the only way of doing things, as usual, this is just my methods and what works best for me.
Everyone needs an idea to work from, as this allows you a base to build from. If you don’t have an idea of how you want to play then how do you know what changes to make during a game or how can you determine that the tactic and the settings you use aren’t working? If you don’t have a general idea of the shape at the very least, then you simply can’t fix things properly when issues arise because you have nothing to build towards. So it’s a lot simpler and less frustrating if you have some sort of idea in your mind already.
I’ve wrote articles about this is the past so rather than going over old ground and repeating what I wrote I’ll just link the articles instead. In this first one it talks about the different levels that a team comes under. Understanding this can mean keeping expectations realistic. That doesn’t mean you can’t aim higher, but rather, remember what you’re starting from.
The second article explains my decision-making behind the process of taking a real life idea and replicating it in Football Manager.
And lastly the third article is focused on taking an idea that might initially not have no starting point and working from that.
Those three articles should help you manage expectations and give you a rough starting point with how I make tactics work based on what I want.
There is actually another way that I haven’t wrote about yet and is the focus of this article. What happens if all I have is a shape in mind? Well this is a lot trickier.
As I’m playing in Brazil I thought it would be good to go back to traditional ways. Plus it’s not a shape many people write about, at least nothing worth while since Uncle Sam’s spectacular threads for Football Manager 10 and 11. So to be different to what people are currently writing about I selected this shape as the base. Aside from the actual shape I don’t actually have a style or brand of football in mind. This is the tricky bit now as I have nothing to build towards so what happens now? But to be able to that I will need a basic set of roles and duties.
To give myself a few headaches and to give us some nice examples of tweaks that I’ll need to do, shall we keep the roles set and use them as a base? That might make things more interesting. I wasn’t going to but as I’m writing this, it might seem best?
Understanding how you are playing on Football Manager is the key to everything from a tactical standpoint. If you don’t understand the basics of how your system works along with understanding its strength and weaknesses then how can you determine if it’s working or not? Not only that but how can you decide what needs changing and more importantly, what you change it to.
I love the quote in the image above from Jed Davies. It’s simple and straight to the point. This can also be applied to Football Manager.
You will have noticed I’ve not mentioned the mentality of team shape that I’m using yet. The main reason for this is that during the last two ‘The Art of’ articles I did, people just copied what I had done rather than reading the article and understanding the concepts and principles behind why something works. So I might mention them at a later date but they’re not important for what I’m writing here. I hope you understand why I’ve done it this way.
If you’ve followed me for a while or seen things I’ve written on the past then you’ll know I always allow the first three competitive games I play to play out on their own. This means I change nothing apart from making substitutions during this time. The reasoning behind this is three games is a big enough sample size to allow you to see and discover patterns of play. What that means is, you’ll have a more general idea of how things work compared to basing any particular changes on one game only. Every team can have a good or bad day. If you make changes before knowing how what you’ve created works (whether that’s good or bad) then you’ll always be on the back foot as you have nothing to compare against. This is one of the reasons I always create a base and work from that. Hopefully this article will shed some light on this.
Let’s take a look at the first competitive game I played.
Those are the stats from the game and as you can see, we ran out two one winners. However at this point the result is only secondary because we still don’t understand how I play. So we need to focus on that now and learn what’s working and what isn’t. This requires me to watch the entire game back in full. Highlights wont show enough, even on comprehensive.
It’s not ideal just using the game stats to judge if something is working or not because they offer no context to how the game was actually played. However they can give you a quick snapshot of things and give you a few ideas of where to start in terms of analysis. So I even watch the game back let’s have a look at the individual player stats and see if I can pinpoint a few concerns to investigate further.
Already I can see and highlight a few concerns that need investigating further.
- Keeper distribution seems poor considering he only completed 50% of passes.
- My defence made a lot of mistakes, a total of nine between them.
- The full back positions are very demanding as expected and players condition gets low.
Those are the three main points I’ve picked up from the stats so far. If anyone is struggling for a starting point of what to look for in a game then do something like this. That way at least you have something to work towards and look at. I realise it can be daunting at first to analyse a match and understand why something isn’t working and it’s even harder to fix it. But anyone can look at the stats and pinpoint something to look into in more detail.
Now we’ve done that it’s time to actually analyse the game itself. I should point out for those unfamiliar with Santos, I’m the one in the white kits. I guess I should also point out that I don’t focus on what the opposition is doing, not ever. Instead I stick to my style that I’m creating and working on the things we are doing and focus on what we could be doing better. By doing this the game is simpler because I don’t have to focus on two teams as that can cause endless changes and frustrations. By concentrating on my own game plan I can eliminate the opposition more efficiently and with less hassle. Hopefully by the time this article is finished that comes across.
When my keeper has the ball we can see our overall shape. You can see that both the wingbacks have pushed up and are in line with the defensive midfielders (I forgot to label them on the image doh!). You can also see how narrow we are. There is nothing to worry about here however there are a few things to consider.
- The wingbacks being doubled up by the opposition.
- Direct or through balls down the wings.
- The wingbacks being caught out of position and being too high.
Those are the major drawback of the shape I’m using. That doesn’t mean they have to be massive issues though, we just have to remember it’s our weakness at times. Making them less offensive is not an option, the whole shape depends on them bombing forward and providing width.
This screenshot highlights my first real issue and shows a potential flaw in the roles I’m using. My left-sided wingback is caught out high up the pitch. This means the box to box midfielder is shifting over to help him out as is the defensive midfielder. So because of the wingback being caught out, other players have to now give up their roles to cover. This shouldn’t be a massive issue but because I’ve not finalised or worked out the roles I want yet it’s a cause for concern. If we look were the big X is on the image, we can see all of this space is unprotected. Luckily for me there are no opposition players here or I could have found myself in some real danger. My complete wingback would be isolated in such a scenario because he isn’t even aware of the opposition’s wide player by the looks of things. Now I identified the wings as a vulnerable area at the start and because I can’t really have them any less attack minded, then the roles used around them need to compensate for this.
This is the same move a few seconds later. My wingback and defensive midfielder are beginning to regain their positions. But the opposition hit a long ball to their wide man who my wingback is watching. On this occasion he is able to deal with the ball and wins the header. However it highlights how badly exposed he is. Supposed this move happened but the complete wingback was the one caught high up the pitch? The winger would be in acres of free space. So the first note I make is;
- Regista role might need changing to protect the complete wingback and offer me better balance.
This is us attacking this time and I see lots of movement. My wingback on the far side is currently in possession, the deep-lying forward drops deep to help him out. So the wingback passes the ball to him then drives forward/ The box to box midfielders also burst forward with speed and intent. You’ll also notice the wingback on this near side, look how advanced he is, almost the highest positioned player on the pitch.
Moments later in the move our shape looks like this. The false nine, deep-lying forward and box to box midfielders are occupying the defenders with their late runs. This is creating an overload centrally while at the same time, freeing up the wide players and allowing them to have free space. Just look at the wingback on this side of the pitch.
This is still the same move. The false nine actually checked his run and drifted backwards and took his marker with him. The deep-lying forward is trying to run into the space in front of him at the very same time, that the box to box midfielder is trying to run across goal. This is creating space and movement and making it hard for them to be marked. I’m pleased with what I’ve seen when attacking so far but I’m still only minutes into the game.
My midfield roles still seem far too imbalanced at times and although it is a narrow shape I’m using my players shouldn’t be all to one side like this because it’s leaving me exposed in these areas time and time again. Before I mention my options here and explore the changes that I could make. I guess I need to explain why the shape has the random roles it currently does as I believe, I’ve not done that yet.
Due to me not having a real idea of the style of football I wanted to create, I hope to come up with some kind of goal to focus on. With that in mind, I went with the idea that using two withdrawn strikers would mean that the midfield would be the ones going beyond the strikers and getting close to them. In other words the strikers are the creators and the box to box midfielders are the initial goal threat. That’s the only reason why my roles are set the way they are as it made sense to me. However in practise it doesn’t seem to work when we don’t have possession of the ball.
So now my options are;
- Make the two defensive midfielders anchormen.
- Get better balance and change the roles of the box to box players.
In all likelihood I will do both of these if it proves to be an issue over the three games I’ll be looking at. If I do make these changes though then it means the simple idea I mentioned above doesn’t currently work in its present form. But by changing the roles mentioned above, it will have a knock on effect throughout the tactic and using two creative withdrawn strikers will also require changing.
Using two defensive midfielders covers for the fact the wingbacks are extremely aggressive. But I didn’t set them up how you should have because I wanted to create complications as it makes for a better article. I decided to have one as a playmaker when I assigned him the regista role. This allows him to stray from his position and drive forward with the ball. With the few examples I’ve posted above, everyone should be able to see why the defensive midfielders need to be ermmmm more defensive! It’s so they hold position better and when the wingbacks go forward they sit in position and are capable of breaking up attacks and covering the vacated space.
So at the moment I’m thinking about trying this in the fourth game (as I can’t see it improving in the next few games, it’s a fundamental flaw in the roles selected);
- Defensive midfielder on a defend duty.
- Changing a box to box player to be an advanced playmaker.
- One of the strikers becoming an advanced or complete forward.
That’s where my heads at for now. I’m not sure if I’ll make them support of attack duties though for the playmaker and forward roles. It’s something I need to think about more. The chances are I’d experiment with both though at some stage.
I know I’ve not listed many examples of other issues from this first game but there is a reason for this. The issues I’ve mentioned are more visible than everything else and rather than complicate things even further, I’ll use this game for those issues only. Everything else can be observed in the remaining two games. If I wasn’t writing this as a guide I’d probably be able to solve and find all issues from this game but that would be information overload. With that in mind I’m trying to slow things down so it’s easier to understand and follow.
I’ll be doing a follow-up article for game two and the third one. While I’ll still be looking to see if the above issues persist (which they will) it will only be a brief look and the focus from me, will be on other areas and seeing what I can spot.