Keep It Simple; The Beauty Of Stock Tactics

thanksgiving_letter_i_2_460-1 had a discussion the other day with my buddy Chris @comeontheoviedo and we were talking about maybe having a save where you could only use the stock tactics, tactics as they come out of the box. You know just throwing words out and maybe outlining a bit how strict it would be, ended up being strict. The discussion was fun and while the idea is very intriguing and could be a fun challenge, I still think I would not enjoy it for extended periods of time and I tell you why. A very key element which makes the game fun for me would be gone because I love the feeling when the game fools me to think that I had any important input to the outcome with my tactical choices before and during the match. Even the slightest hint of this will give me a feeling of joy and achievement. Makes me feel I have done my part. Also, this game is quite good at relying on the conflicting feelings towards you and your tactical choices, making you feel lost and inside a Japanese genre movie pretty soon.

Acknowledging the fact that Football Manager is a very harsh mistress with a very volatile temper, I have chosen to try taming her with soothing tactics, making very subtle moves and changes on the tactical side of things. Nothing flashy, complex or something that quickly gets mixed up. Something that even the lesser echelon of footballing gene pool can effectively Analysing. The preceding sentence could mean that I am willing to lean towards a more simple tactical framework or it could mean that I don’t actually understand the tactical side of things so well in this game to make them work for my advantage resorting to simple solutions in the lack of anything better. Luckily for you and for me, I am indifferent of what people think of me in front of their laptops and such, so just pick your liking and let’s move on.

One of the sexiest ways to play football at the moment is counter-pressing. Counter-pressing with ball control is maybe even more towards the 50 shades of whatever is the shade of gray Pep’s beard is these days. If we really want to crank the flavour up we can steal from @DerFManager and use his tongue, call it Gegenpressing which is German and we all know German is the sexiest language around right?  So yes, it is a somewhat attractive and popular style, and we’ve seen many great content creators emulating that on Football Manager in different forms and situation. Heck, most of us have had their own version of this very pro-active style of play. I had my experiment in FM16. Played gung-ho style counter-press against not so skilled Veikkausliiga method in Finland with good results winning the league and losing all my players to better teams abroad and there are the part I and part II  of my “Finnish” counter pressing for anyone interested.  So it is efficient and cool to play counter-pressing. So obviously we are not going to cover that at all today, maybe a bit in the subtext but that’s all. Instead, we are focusing on my tactical approach that I adopted at the later stages of FM16 lifespan and moved it over to FM17. Neat.

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Mucho Tactico

How much can a tactic lift your other means mediocre or even lousy team? If you believe it can, then the results might be quite staggering. If you, on the other hand, think that if your players are good enough, your tactic does not matter. Again, if you choose to go that way the results might be staggering. Either way, I think the most enjoyable way lays somewhere in between. For me having good players for that particular tactic I want to use seems to do the trick.

As in real life, we are different by approach at least. Some of us are very tactic oriented, simply put: We have a set tactic which we use and get the players for it where ever we go. Some of us are team oriented. We will focus on making an efficient and functional tactic for the team at your disposal. The latter seems to be a better option at least on paper if you are eyeing a move to lower levels of football where money is rarely seen.  And there´s always people who buy the players so talented that making any tactical stuff will lower the performance of the team you have. In essence, for around 55 euros you can do as you please.

I can safely say that I don’t have any real knowledge regarding the Football Manager match engine nor do I aspire to acquire said knowledge in-depth. I want to hold on dearly to my feeling of immersion about managing a football team not trying to beat the lines of code made by other people somewhere near the Isle of Brexit. So my decisions while tampering with the tactical creator are based on what I observe or what the game allows me to see mixed with the initial idea and preference on how I want to play and I do get enjoyment out of that. It involves a lot of trial and error and eventually if successful, lots of pleasure (in a non-Biblical sense).  So with that cheeky disclaimer, I´ll jump into the sea of jellyfish.

It´s shiny, can I touch it??

So far I have failed to mention the fact that this post is actually more about tactical mindset (which I like to call concept and I shall) than any particular set tactic. In my concept, I have a fixed point where I start to work from towards every game I play. What I have found out that turning every stone helps me a great deal towards achieving the best possible result. By turning every stone, I mean every possible thing you can do in the game to raise your chances of getting the desired result from the next game(this excludes buying the in-game editor). This process starts right after the last game until the whistle has blown and lasts until the end of the next one. Everything you can possible to. Let´s have a list.

  • Scouting the opponent: Injuries, stats, form maybe even morale if you have them scouted by your staff
  • Team composition: Fitness, morale, form, slight differences on suitable attributes considering the opponent players
  • Adjusting your training: Match training, maybe listen to your assistant? Individual training, general training maybe your team needs rest?
  • Analysing the last game: Going over the last game, see if there´s something you missed.
  • Maybe talk to some of the players: Praise form, praise last game – I usually don´t give flak to my players, just a preference
  • Media stuff: Maybe you can buff up your team, maybe make the other team complacent.
  • Every possible thing you can imagine and everything you think of is useful.

On the game day, you will be picking a team. If on a higher level, you might have options to rotate and you need to be considerate on that. Sometimes you can go overboard with rotating players and it will cost you points. But in general you have picked the team, and you are ready to go.

In all of my saves at this moment I don´t have the luxury of rotating too much. I got two saves I focus on: the other one is my to be Youtube save which is German 3rd.league and the other is Finnish 2nd league so options on big, quality squads are limited. Luckily on both, I have enough to be tactically flexible in every game I attend. By tactically flexible I mean that my lineup is easily switched to any of the tactical options I want to have at my disposal in each game and as it figures injuries are atrocious for this sort of game plan, as they tend to be on any other game plan as well.

So, yes. The base of all things has to be laid. Usually, that means the idea or approach or in this case, I call it the concept, and as the title says, I call it the “Jellyfish”- concept. Essentially, as you know or might not know a jellyfish is a cool looking blob that lives in the water. While the cool looks make you want to touch them, you are usually  served with a very painful sting by doing so. So the base premise for my approach is reactive. I want for the other team to come and have a look what we are about. Therefore the set tactical outlay for the beginning of every game is formulated to something that gives me time to observe the style and idea the opponent is looking for. For the moment I have found it to be something like this.

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It looks rigid, and it is supposed to be very simple because the purpose of my approach is to gradually build on this foundation to achieve “The sting” which in general means just exploiting their tactical approach or some form of weakness for any set game. Also,  this base method usually allows me to assess the opposing team tactics since it is pretty “stalling” for the lack of better expression here. I usually run with this around 20-25 minutes of the first half and then go look at the stats and other stuff to adjust or if things look good just keep going. I know it is not the most realistic way of playing, looking at the stats and stuff but I am willing to let myself go on this one. There are a few points we might want to tackle into before furthering forward without a journey.

You can see from the lineup that the roles are set to almost default without too many specialist roles on the team. My reasoning behind this is the fact that I want my team playing very conservative and simplistic football at the start. Nothing fancy and most importantly with the least amount of risk possible. To accommodate this, I start with a defensive mentality and structured shape and speaking of defensive mentality it does not straightforwardly translate to players just defending rigorously with every fibre of the being. It is more in form that they have placed an emphasis on defence in every decision they make. For instance, their passing is not so risky. At least this is the way I have interpreted this thing with mentality.Structured shape is for keeping players in their respective positional responsibilities without having too much to worry about other areas of the pitch. Defends defend, etc…

Individual player instructions are default at this stage.

The overhanging portion of text is subject to an exception in the case of me wanting to take control of the game straight from the kickoff. This sort of case would be for example me seeing something in the line-up or something how they are tactically set before the kick-off. Like playing strikers for DC´s or something silly making me confident to attack that weak point from the very beginning of the game.

For the few obscure TI´s I have put in place, I think I could do less even. This tactic is very much still in evolution stage for Football Manager 2017 and I am still looking into it with a very critical eye. Few points I want to make still. I want to have it fairly wide at the start to have a loose structure. Having it too narrow would make them start going around straight from the start. A tad of closing down to add some discomfort in passing, shorter passing since I want to keep the ball once I get it at this stage, I am in no rush. Play out of defence, safer more slow paced build up. Pass into space is probably something that will drop off eventually but I am keeping it there for now as also overlapping. I like to whip my crosses, I just do.

As for the other portions, they are for the adjustments.

I think that with this article I have taken you from the last played game, through the week, into the match and almost to the point where we actually start working the  tactical approach in the game. But that it is another story which will be covered in part II. Thanks for sticking so far.

Rousty

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