Scoring late in a game, whilst a tense circumstance for the fans, is usually a blessing, as it puts all the onus on the opposition to try to equal the feat, or else risk leaving empty-handed. With that in mind, I’m sorry I’m a bit late with this post, but I’m sure many of you can understand work getting in the way of your addiction to Football Manager. I’m actually trying to save up to fund some entry-level coaching courses for myself, so in a funny way, it’s all for you guys. Unless I get your team relegated in the future, in which case, sorry for that too.
I received a lot of positive feedback on my previous post, the Definitive 4-4-2, and I was already planning a follow-up where I would attempt to tighten up the defensive aspect of the tactic, as I wasn’t happy with the high number of goals being conceded from crosses into the box. However, a few of you lovely readers surprised me with inquires about more attacking options, specifically with a mind to overcoming weaker teams who would line up defensively. Though I usually focus my efforts on building up those weaker teams, I can understand as well as anyone the frustration of dropping two points you should have had wrapped up with a bow on top. So over the past few weeks, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into adapting my 4-4-2 into a more attacking style of football.
The easiest way to test a tactic against weaker teams was to pick a strong team, so the question was – “who are the most dominant domestic teams in European football right now?”
I’ve always been a fan of Italian football, and I have an affinity with many of the clubs in the Serie A, including the mighty Giants of Turin, Juventus. Put it this way, I like them enough to have spent what I would consider “too much money” on their pink alternative kit from the 2010/11 season. They are also the current home of my favourite player in world football, Hernanes.
There was the added draw-card of the Italian defensive-bias stereotype. Taking on the staunch and experienced Serie A backlines would be a mighty challenge indeed for the attacking 4-4-2 I wanted to create.
Before we get our grubby little manager-mitts hooked into the tactical discussion, I want to stress that this strategy is based specifically on my Definitive 4-4-2. It is designed to be used alongside the original tactic, using the same players. Therefore, I thought it was prudent to give myself a set of criteria to meet when creating this tactic, and I’d like to share those with you now.
– Maximum of two positional changes
– Must play a more assertive style of football
– Be able to break down smaller teams playing defensively
– Must retain at least one of the key positions outlined in the previous post (B2B Playmaker, Defensive Poacher, Wide Playmaker)
– High work rate and cohesion as a unit should still be important
– Players who play new roles must be able to play the role of that position in the Definitive 4-4-2. Ex: The left midfielder should be able to play the new role of Winger, and the old role of Wide Midfielder
I wanted to create these guidelines for myself for the people who have already started using the previous tactic, and have made signings around that strategy. Because of these restrictions, you should have even more room to tinker and experiment yourselves. As this is a sort of pseudo-challenge save, I’ll be talking a bit more about squad building in this post than in the previous one, and will endeavor to give you some of my thoughts on the sorts of things you should be looking when looking at players for these positions. This is also my third attempt at this challenge, so no, I didn’t get it even remotely working well on my first try 😉
Ignoring the unfortunate injuries to Hernanes (henceforth referred to in this post as “King ‘Nanes”) and Paulo Dybala picked up in the last game and Bonucci not being registered for Champion’s League matches, here is what I would consider my starting eleven for the home/away season.
At first glance, the asymmetrical formation above doesn’t bear the greatest resemblance to the previous 4-4-2, which had three flat, defined lines of players. But as we all know, formation isn’t everything, and in practicality this shape is incredibly reminiscent of the previous structure. I chose to use both of my positional changes, moving the Wide Playmaker further up the right-hand flank, and converting him to a Raumdeuter. The Deep-Lying forward has moved back into left attacking-midfield and become a shadow striker, whilst the Defensive Poacher has moved into the central striker position, so you can accuse me of bending my own rules slightly if you want. The Box to Box Playmaker and Central Midfielder have also changed sides, the reason for which is quite obvious – you can see that the space we want the B2B Playmaker to exploit is going to be created between the Shadow Striker and the Raumdeuter.
Other than that, the roles of the full backs have changed slightly, to encourage overlapping on the left and more endeavor on the right. The Wide Midfielder has become a winger with an attack duty, giving us a more available option on the left when going forward, and Chiellini has been given a Stopper duty, as I noticed when opposition teams were advancing towards our penalty area during pre-season, they were having far too much space and freedom in the hole between my midfield and defence.
As you can see, the team instructions have had a reasonable overhaul as well, switching to an Attacking mentality and a Flexible team shape, to make sure we’re looking to have more of an influence in the final third, so asserting our influence on the match gets a huge tick on the criteria sheet.
We’ve also shortened the passing directness a peg, and we’ve maxed the tempo. This is because our forward line is focused more on creating space for each other, and we want to overwhelm and break down the opposition’s back line by combining high-tempo play and intelligent off the ball movement to constantly shift the point of the attack. However, the tempo is the first thing I change if I feel we’re over-passing the ball. Depending on how an opposing defence is structured and how well they’re playing on the day, going to a “normal” tempo and giving your players more time off the ball to create space can make a huge difference to your chance creation. At a big club, odds are you have players who are intelligent enough to shift the tempo at the right moment, and “normal” tempo encourages them to do this.
You can see a few hold-overs remain from the Definitive 4-4-2, including the aggressive closing down of the opposition, and the higher line. I’ve also decided to use an offside trap to help snuff out counters from quick forwards – my center backs position themselves just inside our own half while the full backs like to sit a few meters further forward, so the central partnership is in a perfect position to push beyond the half way line and play a lurking forward offside should a long ball come flying over our defenders’ heads, and I can trust our vice-captain Chiellini to be smart enough to lead the line to do this.
In the first image above, which takes place just after Hellas Verona’s kick-off, you can see that the team (white on black dots) goes to a shape that is almost identical to the one they take up in the flat 4-4-2. In the second image, however, we’ve just transitioned into the attacking phase of play, and you can see that the shape is far more dynamic. You can see the Central Midfielder holding his position just ahead of the defensive line, moving into the space behind Hernanes, the B2B playmaker, as he supports the attack from a paddock of space he’s found just beyond the center circle.
Pereyra, playing as the Shadow Striker, has picked up possession and has players moving forward to his right, space to move into on his left, and two sound passing options behind him in Hernanes and Sturaro. He could just as easily look to create an overload on Verona’s right center back by playing a one-two with Morata as he could look to play a through ball into the channel, or lay the ball off for Hernanes to hit from range. This attacking dynamism is an evolution of the Counter-Pressing approach found in my original 4-4-2. The versatility, hard work and intelligent play is still there, but now we’ve added a degree of fluidity and flair to give us more options when creating chances, so cohesion and work-rate get a tick, as does the ability to break down opposing defences.
Now, you guys know I love to talk about my key players, and since it’s the only criteria left, I think we should get right into it. Cue screenshots of things only FM players would understand.
As a player, Dybala doesn’t meet the final criteria – he cannot, without retraining, play as a Wide Playmaker. However, this tactical change was made with Andrija Zivkovic in mind, who can play Raumdeuter just as well as he can play Wide Playmaker. Dybala is simply the best option for this position when I use this formation, however, when I play the flat 4-4-2, I use him as the Defensive Poacher, and Zivkovic or Cuadrado play as the Wide Playmaker. If you are at a big club and can get your hands on Dybala, I can’t recommend him enough, as he can play a number of roles across the two respective tactics.
The young Argentine is operating in much the same way as the Wide Playmaker would in the Definitive 4-4-2. When we run a play through him, he creates in an almost identical fashion, but when he isn’t on the ball, he’s now looking to get into the area, substituting the need for him to play from the right side of midfield for the freedom to act as a third striker. He still uses his movement to find and create space, and he’s still capable of driving in from the right wing and finding a killer pass, but now he also looks to have a telling impact in the box. He is less of an outlet outside the area, but this space is now occupied by the B2B Playmaker, who has Dybala to thank for every inch of space he finds.
Speaking of the Box to Box Playmaker (tick off “at least one of the key positions must remain” criteria), King ‘Nanes has added his own flourish to the role, bringing something that Lewis Cook didn’t – a vicious long-range shot. As you can see, the individual instructions remain the same (although he has a little more license to pass long), but the player’s attributes are skewed more toward attacking.
At smaller clubs, Abdou Diakhate has been a reliable goalscorer for me from the B2B role, thanks to his reliable finishing and his physical attributes giving him the legs to overlap the forwards and get one-on-one with the keeper. Hernanes has a similar impact on the scoreboard, but it is thanks to his stunning technique and ambidexterity. The term “Box to Box Trequartista” wouldn’t be an inappropriate one, as he is a constant goalscoring threat from inside the hole. The ability to move forward with the ball still remains, though this time, his dribbling is based more on technique than speed, and he does have the anticipation to contribute defensively. Whilst he isn’t prolific, he’s more than capable of winning the ball back for himself. In short, he performs the role of an Advanced Playmaker or Trequartista, whilst not giving me any reason not to ask him to do a job at the back as well.
A B2B Playmaker more in the vein of what I outlined in my last post would certainly be just as effective, and before I sold him on, Paul Pogba was very capable in this role. In fact, for the record, I still prefer the more defensive run-and-carry playmaker. However, I’d rather be able to show you one of my favourite real-life players and talk about a different way to use the position than just say “put the same player here again cause he’s still good.” And let’s be honest, when you’re at a big club, you want to give a little bit of lee-way to that player who can hit an absolute screamer from 30 yards.It’s one more tool in our attacking arsenal.
I’d like to finish on the changes to the Defensive Poacher. At first glance, Morata is the perfect player for this role. He has the pace, the work rate and the finishing that I look for, and he either has or can easily learn the PPMs required to encourage him to get in behind the defensive line and use his pace to his advantage. With Pereyra in shadow striker behind him, the strike partnership is almost identical to the Definitive 4-4-2’s Deep-Lying Forward/Defensive Poacher strikeforce. However, in this save with Juventus, I’m also lucky enough to have a talented striker by the name of Mario Mandzukic.
I believe I may have mentioned this in my previous post, but this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to put my idea of a Defensive Target Man into action. As you can clearly see, both Morata and Mandzukic have the requisite mental attributes to fulfill the “defensive” part of the quota – and Morata himself is certainly a threat in the air. They both close down opposition defenders and force a long ball when we’ve lost possession. However, as strikers their style of play is completely different. The key to this difference is that whilst Morata comes packaged with the “Knocks Ball Past Opponent” Player Preferred Move, Mandzukic has the “Plays With Back To Goal” PPM. Experienced FM players will know that, with the right tactics, one player with one PPM can completely change how a team plays.
When Mandzukic is on the park, it’s no use expecting him to drop the shoulder and beat the last defender to go one-on-one with the keeper. He just isn’t that kind of player. So rather than try to ship him out, I decided to make the most of the talent I had available. Mandzukic clearly has the potential to be an assist machine in this system, as the amount of movement we have going on behind him means he’ll always have a player overlapping him as he holds up the ball, and a player in the hole to pass to. Pereyra and Dybala become fantastic outlets for him on the overlap, whilst Hernanes can get on the end of a lay-off and smash the ball toward goal. His skill at playing as a central pivot can also give you the flexibility to change around the positions – Morata can play as a shadow striker, more focused on getting goals than creating them. Pereyra can play as a Box to Box Playmaker, looking to pick the ball up in deeper areas and use his pace and dribbling to drive at defenders. Alex Sandro can switch up his crossing, floating balls into the area for Mandzukic to get his head on.
The point here is not to tell you that you should have lots of different options – at a lot of clubs you’ll be restricted in the amount of quality transfers you can make, or the players you have that can fit into this system. Rather, it is to remind you to look closely at the talent you do have at your disposal, and think about how you can get the most out of it. This is something I’ve been guilty of many times this year, and it’s something I’m trying to change in the way I play the game, and moving forward as I look to get into real-life coaching and management.
Here’s a screenshot of the tactic without distracting injured players in there, or to imagine your own players in there 😉
So. That’s it! You can stop reading now! Unless you want to hear about some future pieces of mine? You do? Okay!
As I mentioned a few times in the main body of the post, coaching is something I want to try out, and figuring out how to articulate my ideas first into a simulation, and then into words so I can explain them to other people, is a huge part of that process for me. I also hold myself to very high standards when I write, and frankly, I’m out of practice, so sitting down to create more pieces is practically a given.
I already have three projects I want to do when FM17 hits, so on top of giving me some feedback and letting me know how you got along with this tactic, if there’s a particular one you’d like me to work on first, feel free to mention it in the comments.
The two clubs I support in the ol’ real world of football are Newcastle United and Melbourne Victory. Well, I guess you could count the Socceroos in that. Both of my domestic teams have had tactics that they’ve stuck with for a decent while now, and I’d like to try both in FM17 and see what makes them tick.
Newcastle begun playing a 4-4-1-1 under the awful Steve McClaren, and despite him getting the club relegated, Rafa Benitez, blessed be his name, has stuck with the same shape, despite many pundits suggesting he’d experiment. I’d like to try and replicate this tactic and see if we can figure out why the 4-4-1-1 was such a failure under one manager, and is (currently) a modest success under another. On top of this, I’d like to see what some other viable tactics could be once I get my hands on Rafa’s Newcastle United.
Similarly, Kevin Muscat at Victory inherited a side from Ange Postecoglu that was built around the 4-2-3-1. Muscat won the League and Grand Final double in his first season at the club, and the team followed it up with a disappointingly low finish last season, using the same system. There have been calls from many fans for a fresh tactical approach, but Muscat has just recently kicked off this season’s A-League campaign with the same team shape and mentality. I’d like to find out what makes the Victory’s 4-2-3-1 tick, and see how it compares to similar systems in Europe. I’m hoping it will be an interesting look for some of you into Australian football at the same time.
Finally, I want to see if I can translate my favourite tactic from the last few FIFA titles into FM – The Triforce. A flat back 4 with an inverted triangle attack, a center mid at the point with a fast and fluid front-five.
Thanks for reading, and remember, you can find the links to this tactic below!
Steam Workshop: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=779506295