From a tactical viewpoint, the successful implementation of a Running Regista hinges on building a balanced team, a cohesive unit. As I quickly discovered when I started my experiments, you cannot have your defensive midfielder running all over the place without being exposed in defence a few times by opposing attacking midfielders. In order to combat this, I had to re-shuffle the entire formation. Using the formation I used for Sexy Strikerless wasn’t going to work, as the Complete Wingbacks were needed going forward and if the Half-Back got turned into a Regista, the team would be incredibly vulnerable on the counter. In order to gain some stability, I had to field a second defensive midfielder, which meant sacrificing the formation I had previously used. I came up with the following formation, which allowed for defensively stability in the midfield area, even when the Regista started roaming about.
I had to sacrifice the back four I was used to in order to protect midfield. In order to keep the width I need, I had to shuffle the entire formation around, but I ended up with something that worked for the Running Regista. He was free to roam forward and generally act the way I envisaged. It presented a whole other problem though, the three-man defence proved ineffective defensively.
Generally, the three-man defence worked very well against any formation using two forwards. The defence would shuffle towards the side of the pitch where the ball was, but it generally spelled trouble when the opposition was able to quickly shift the ball towards the other wing. The defensive wingers went a long way to solving that problem, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied. A back three means we were still extremely vulnerable, especially on the break.
That’s how the team lines up on average. Since we have a lot of possession, you could say that’s how we line up in possession. You can clearly see the gaping holes between the various defenders. If you’re playing two strikers, that’s not really a problem, as both outter defenders can pick up one man, with the remaining defender providing cover. Against one striker, it’s a waste of numbers, as you only need two defenders to cover that one forward. Unfortunately, FM still hasn’t created an option that allows us to let a defender roam into midfield freely, so something else needed to be done. I needed to plug the gaps, without sacrificing the Running Regista I actually wanted.
The answer was relatively simple; all I needed was one change of roles. The Anchorman had to go and in came an old favorite; the Half-Back. In the past, I have analysed the role of the Half-Back extensively within the Sexy Strikerless formation. As mentioned before, he doesn’t excel offensively, he’s not the one making the Hollywood-passes, nor is the one to score a heap of goals or rack up assists like it’s nothing. He isn’t a proficient force defensively, normally he’s not the one with the great last-ditch sliding challenge or the skillful tackle on an opposing player. No, the Half-Back is the master of the Transition phase of play and his main weapon is his positional awareness and vertical and lateral movement across the pitch.
In the current setup, he doesn’t quite become a fourth defender as I had hoped. He does not drop back into defence, at least not in a systematic fashion. Instead, he rarely ventures into the actual defensive line. Most of the time, the Half-Back tends to act as a screen in front of the defence, so basically as a normal defensive midfielder would. On the rare occassions where he does become part of a back four, it’s usually to mark the run of an opponent.
In the following match clip, we see the Regista intercepting a ball and running with it, whilst the Half-Back, shadowing the run of an opponent, actually forces one of the defenders out wide to form a traditional back four. The defender is tracking the run of an opponent, whilst the Half-Back slots into defence to protect the space opening up by the defenders movement. It’s the kind of movement I wanted from the Half-Back, but I rarely get to see it. Allow me to re-cap what I want to see.
The Half-Back should drop into defence, turning the back three into a back four, allowing the Regista to roam, yet providing defensive width. When transitioning to offence, the Half-Back can take up his usual role, screening the defence and positioning himself to snuff out counter-attacks. That pretty much looks like this.
Defensively, the defensive wingers generally track back, following their opponents. The Half-Back does what is expected, he screens the defence, shutting down passing lanes and enabling one of the defenders to move forward to help pressure the threat on the wing. The application of this Half-Back enables the Running Regista to prosper, to defend aggressively and venture forward the way I want him to.
I realise this has turned more into another article of praise for the Half-Back, but it was what was necessary to implement the Running Regista successfully into a strikerless formation. An interesting side-effect has been the occassional creation of an actual back four, which is something I would love to re-create more systematically. All ideas and suggestions are welcome.
For now, I leave you with a download link for the tactic file, so people can have a look themselves and maybe provide me with ideas and feedback. I do realise this tactic is far from perfect, it definitely has its flaws, but the Half-Back / Regista combination is an interesting one.