Draft One

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-17-24-48Right let’s get started. 3-1-4-2 DM. In case you didn’t read the last update, I’ve joined the Community Formation Experiment over on the Sports Interactive tactical forum. The premise of this challenge/experiment is simple – formations don’t matter. In theory, base formation’s aren’t important. It’s the interpretation of those formations that makes the difference, and they can all be interpreted in many different ways, and in the end they all become unique. The challenge is to take whatever formation you draw, and turn it into a viable tactic.

I randomly drew 3-1-4-2 DM. That’s a back 3, a defensive midfielder, a midfield 4 and two strikers. An interesting formation with plenty of challenges, but definitely not one of the most challenging formations. There’s some horrible base formations in Football Manager if you take the time to look. All members of the experiment are also required to play as Sassuolo in Italy. This update will cover the first observation I did of the tactic I drew up as a first draft, and what positives and negatives I saw in the tactic’s first match against OGC Nice of Ligue 1 in France.

For reference, here is the tactic I’m kicking off with. If you have any questions about the tactic itself, please feel free to ask. Any details on why I chose certain roles are in the previous update.

So first things first before I dive into the in-match analysis, here is an overview of the game. I love this new post-match report feature. You can get a bunch of information from this little report.

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Firstly, we won 1-0 which is nice, with our CM-A Lorenzo Pellegrini getting forward – a good sign already – to score in the 39th minute. We absolutely dominated the ball with 63% again proving the theory that using the lower risk mentalities like counter and defensive can lead to high possession statistics without the need for shouts like ‘retain possession’. I’m not really looking for a possession hungry tactic, but I’m not adverse to it either as long as we create chances. Another glance shows that our biggest passing connection was from the Regista to the CM-A, a really good sign. This shows that we’re being able to advance the ball through centre midfield, from our playmaker Sensi to our most aggressive attacking central midfielder. Pellegrini also made the most key passes in the side, showing he’s being a clear threat when he gets forward.

Another glance will show that we only managed 3 shots on target, which is not good. However, in 90 minutes, Nice only managed one, showing that we may well be doing something well defensively.

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A deeper look into the shots we took – 17 during the game – shows that actually our profligacy in front of goal may have been our issue – a slightly worrying issue – rather than having any issues with the shots we’re taking using this tactic.

As you can see by the yellow arrows, there’s a fair amount of them that have simply been missed, and there’s two orange arrows that have been saved. Plus, the majority of the shots are in and around the box, and therefore are in good positions to score. I’ve told the side to ‘work the ball into box’ so this should be expected. However, it’s pleasing at this early stage to see that there isn’t a load of long shots, suggesting that the players have options when attacking, and aren’t reduced to simply hoofing it towards goal. However, you can see here that we’ve created plenty of chances, we just haven’t finished them. Let’s hope this doesn’t continue to be an issue, or I’ll be begging for Berardi to come back early.

So now for the in game images – how did I feel everything looked?

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Well, this is a screenshot I took straight from kick off – I always do this to see how the base shape looks in game. We can see that the back 3 looks good, the Regista is deeper than the midfield 4 but is looking for the ball, and he’s well connected to the rest of the midfield. The defensive wingers are also in close proximity to the Nice wingers should we turnover the ball and need to get back into defensive shape quickly. The only issue I could see from this image was that the two strikers initially looked quite isolated from the rest of the side – something I would need to keep an eye on throughout the rest of the game.

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So far, I’m very happy with the shape of the team when we get into attacking positions. Here you can see Magnanelli (playing Regista) with the ball, with plenty of options ahead of him. The Defensive Wingers have pushed forward, and we’ve ended up in a 3-3-4 shape. This would normally be an issue, but we’ve pushed Nice so far back that we can more than cope with our back 3. It’s also a shame there isn’t some kind of CD-S role in FM17 à la Azpilicueta at Chelsea, because there’s a bunch of available space for the LCB to advance into and cause overloads. At this point, I’d decided to make the change and push the defensive line higher up, and as you can see, the connections between the team are far better. It also compresses the space, and makes a counter attack far less likely.

Speaking of counter attacks, what was our defensive shape like?

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Well, the fact that we held Nice to only 1 shot on target through the whole game suggests that we did something right defensively. Above you can see our shape, with Nice moving the ball out to their right flank. Our defensive winger has gone out to close down Pereira, and therefore we’ve moved into a pseudo Back 4. The shape itself is nice and compact, and we’ve got 7 men behind the ball, something I’m very comfortable with – those that read this blog will know I’m unashamedly defensive minded. However, what eventually resulted from this move was a cross that caught our defensive winger on the right flank napping, leading to a slight chance for Nice. It was the only time during the whole match that I was ever unhappy with our defensive work. Other than that, we were comfortable, compact and dominated the available space on the pitch. Tactically, you cannot compensate for a player losing focus and allowing a winger to make a run into the box. Still, I am very happy with only one shot on target against a very decent Ligue 1 team.

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So in the (very) early going, this 3-1-4-2 DM is looking pretty promising. I’ve now added the shout ‘push higher up‘ after this game, and I’ve also included my usual goalkeeper personal instructions (something I stupidly forgot for the first 10 minutes of this game). As you can see above, everything’s still fairly basic for now, but the tactic is developing. I don’t think it’s anywhere near perfect, but as a baseline I’m very happy with the initial version of this tactic. The only irritating thing is that Defrel was injured in this game, meaning I’m down to Iemello and Matri as a strike partnership until Defrel and Berardi return.

I also need to consider any possible transfers. I can make two permanent ones and one loan deal, and I need to assess where I think the team is weak. At the moment, I’m thinking we need depth in central midfield (and I have a brilliant potential cheap option there) and potential improvements at defensive winger.

I’ll update again at the start of the Serie A season in order to show you any changes I’ve made until that point, but for now thank you very much for reading and as always, should you have any questions about FM17 or this tactic in particular, then please feel free to leave them in the comments section or contact me on Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you again.

Changing Things Up

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-17-24-48It’s time for something a little bit different. When I first broke through onto the FM Scene, I did so doing tactical pieces only. This can be seen in the early articles on this blog, such as the Central Winger articles, the Mjallby 4-1-2-3-0 and the defensive 4-1-2-2-1. As time has gone on, I’ve started to focus more on the story of my saves, and taking inspiration from other people across the FM Community. This is obviously something I’ll continue with, as it helps me immerse myself in the save I’m actually playing, but at times I feel like the focus I initially had on tactics has been lost.

It’s for this reason that I’ve signed myself up to the Community Formation Experiment over on the Sports Interactive forums (a forum I regularly lurk on, but rarely post). The premise of the experiment is simple. Everyone who enters is randomly allocated one of the standard formations within Football Manager, and your challenge is to create a viable tactic using only the formation you’re given. You can change roles, duties, team shape etc, but the formation itself must remain the same as the one you were given at the start.

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Everyone is also required to use the same team and the same database (the current one).

There are a few more additional rules to ensure fairness:

  • Only 2 permanent transfers are allowed, and 1 loan transfer.
  • No limitations on outgoing transfers.
  • The same past experience for managers (international experience and highest coaching badges).
  • No database edits.

So, which formation did I get? As you can see to the right, I drew 3-1-4-2 DM.

There’s plenty of challenges to the 3-1-4-2 DM formation, but considering some of the formations I could have drawn, this is a fairly pleasing formation. Quite frankly, there are some horrible formations that are left in the game by default – particularly those with absolutely no coverage through the middle of the pitch – and I look forward to see what others do with those they are given. I was pleased to have received a formation with a Back 3 as well, as I haven’t used one so far on FM17, but my love for them is well documented.

So, which club will I be playing as? For this year’s edition of the experiment, the Italian side U.S. Sassuolo Calcio has been chosen, for their positionally flexible squad, and good young players with plenty of potential. Also, Domenico Berardi is a Sassuolo player. Sassuolo are predicted to finish 9th in Serie A, so there’s mid-table expectations, but the potential to do far better with the promise the squad has. Still, first things first. The tactic needs planning and developing.

Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 23.43.41 2.pngThis is the basic structure of the 3-1-4-2 as it appears when you select it. A back 3, 1 holding midfielder, a midfield 4 and 2 strikers upfront.

There is one key weakness of this formation, and one that will be my biggest challenge when developing the system. This the red circles in the image to the left, the positions where wing backs would usually be. If I was creating a 3-5-2 system, I would always prefer to have wing backs in this role rather than MR/L’s. However, this is the challenge, and I have to make sure that the wide midfielders can track back and cover these key areas.

Another potential – but more easily solved – issue is that there’s no Number 10 role within the system, shown by the white circle. However, a simple solution for this is to have either an attacking central midfielder to move into this area, or to use a creative deep dropping striker who can move into the 10 space and link the play with the midfield. Ideally, I’ll be able to use both of these to make us dynamic in attack. Berardi could thrive in a creative role upfront.

Here are my other basic thoughts on the system:

  • A back 3 means that I have the ability to be quite aggressive with my role and duty selection in central midfield, aware that I’ve always got 3 men back to cover any errors.
  • The above point means that I can quite probably use a Pirlo-style Regista in defensive midfield to control the game, giving me the runners from midfield that I need to support the strikers.
  • A good number of men back, and two strikers upfront lends itself quite nicely to counter attacking football.
  • The fact that our ‘wing backs’ are at MR/L rather than the wing back slots means that any pressing we get involved in could be more effective.

From all of this information and theory, I need to create a first version of the tactic, a base level from which I can tweak and develop. It may be full of mistakes, but it ‘s a start.

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Here is the first draft. It follows much of what I’ve discussed above, with a Regista from defensive midfield, and the use of Defensive Wingers to ensure that we can cover the wide spaces. The midfield is also a basic recreation of the Pirlo – Vidal – Marchisio midfield that worked so well for Juventus several years ago, with the CM-A given the license to move into the 10 space and support the strikers. The Back 3 is very basic – at least for now – with just a covering central centre back flanked by two CD-D’s, and upfront I’ve gone for an ultra basic AF-A/DLF-S combo. It’s a tried and tested combination, and I feel like Berardi could be lethal when given the license to drop deep and run at the defence. For now, Defrel and Matri will have to fill in until Berardi returns from injury. If the DLF-S isn’t giving me enough, there are other creative roles I can turn to instead.

The system itself is set up with a counter mentality, but this is very changeable. I’ve asked the side to pass out from the back and work the ball into the box, and that’s it. Pre-season will be spent reviewing the base tactic, spotting any mistakes I’ve made in the initial setup, and looking at how I can improve it moving forward into the Serie A season.

I’d hoped that this would be a nice side series for the blog, and would allow you all to see how I formulate and develop a tactic. Plus, it should provide me with a nice challenge. I hope you all enjoy reading this, and should you have any questions – or suggestions – about the tactic, or just FM in general, then please do feel free to ask via the comments section, or on my Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you again.