Since downloading the Beta Thursday, I have played almost a single season. I have opted to play as Bayern Munich, so I wouldn’t have to worry about signing players and could focus solely on the matches and my own tactics. My findings so far of the FM15 Match Engine can be quickly summed up in a single quote.
Get the ball forward, whip it into the box, make sure there are plenty of people there, one of them will score. Rinse and repeat ad infinitum.
That sounds awfully simple, and the truth is, it really is awfully simple. Don’t worry, this won’t be a brief article and I will go into further detail, but the current Match Engine just seems to favour a direct approach to things. Verticality in its purest form, if you will.
The real-life FC Bayern under Pep Guardiola favour a possession-based style, though there are still traces left of the more direct style his predecessors Heynckes and Van Gaal imposed on the squad. Verticality is basically that, using a direct style of passing to get towards the oppositions goal as fast as possible.
Now I am not blind to the importance of possession, but as I mentioned earlier, sometimes keeping the ball just isn’t enough to break down a defence. The problem with possession is that, while having the ball is certainly more desirable than not having it, you have to make the possession count. Possession is a means to an end, not a goal in itself. You are not awarded goals or points for keeping the ball and teams tend to drop deep and allow you the ball if your team is that good, thus effectively frustrating you from reaching their goal.
Things that work in the FM15 Beta Match Engine; #1 Verticality
That brings us to the concept of verticality, the direct approach to things. Despite not selecting this style initially, I can see that the most effective way of scoring goals is launching our wingers with a great cross-pass or through-ball, so a certain level of verticality is a necessity. Let me just show you what I mean.
Normally, I would’ve used a Youtube clip to do so, but apparently I can’t just yet. Screenshots will do just fine though. Anyway, in this situation you can see Schweinsteiger has the ball. Normally, his instructions would be to distribute it to one of his nearby team-mates, who passes it along to the next ad nauseam until the opposing team is lured forward or some other opening is created. I want verticality though.
That’s what I want to see. Instead of opting for a short pass, he speeds the game up with a direct pass towards the wing. At this point, the current Match Engine kicks in, which seems to favour crossing the ball in, as most keepers and defenders are more afraid of crosses than your average vampire. So, any of the players flooding the box will run onto the ball and it gets put in the back of the net. How effective is this? You be the judge of that.
Please note that I do realise that Lewandowski is an elite forward, playing in a world class side, but that’s still an amazing return in goals and assists. So yes, the current ME apparently loves it when you just whip the ball into the box, as defenders seem clueless about their positioning and goalkeepers fumble the easiest shots and headers into their own goals anyway.
Things that work in the FM15 Beta Match Engine; #2 Overloading
Any good tactic relies on the movements of the players executing it, both on and off the ball. The Beta Match Engine is no different in this effect, but again it seems particularly effective when you manage to overload both the midfield and the opposing penalty area, as it causes the AI to make silly mistakes you can then exploit. A few case studies.
Our players have dropped back into midfield, effectively overloading the central area. Our wingers have tucked inside, as good Inside Forwards do, effectively creating a bank of three forwards in the central area, not far from where the midfielders generally play. This forces the opposition to re-position their defensive line, pushing it forward to negate the space our forwards create for themselves by playing between the lines. What happens next?
Verticality baby! No endless prancing around and passing the ball around, exploit the space when it becomes clear there is space to exploit. Make sure your forwards are fast and chances will come in this Match Engine. It’s a counter-attacking paradise. Now this is just one example of how overloading works. Let’s look at another example.
Again, we can see how many players are located inside the opposing penalty area. With so many players overloading the central area, space is bound to open up on the wings for our forwards,
Things that work in the FM15 Beta Match Engine; #3 Shoot like Rambo
For those of you who have never watched a Rambo movie; first of all, shame on you! Secondly, let me just show you how John Rambo approaches an opposing army force. There is no such thing as overkill.
The same applies to the current Match Engine. Just shoot. Goalkeepers are horrible. They fumble the ball, they punch it into the path of forwards, they let it fly straight in. Just give it a go and see what happens. Tie in #2 and #3 and you will see that your goal tally increases dramatically. Another case study coming up.
This is just one of many examples where the goalkeeper will fumble the ball. With quite a few players inside the penalty area, there will always be one or two players willing and able to challenge for the ball, which tends to get us quite a few goals. So yes, let them take a shot every now and then, as this Beta Match Engine seems to favour those who shoot and try to score by handing them free rebounds.
Now I did promise a working a FM15 Beta tactic earlier on Twitter and I do deliver on my promise. In the end, I opted for a more traditional tactic and not one eponymous to my blog’s name. It’s a traditional 4-5-1/4-3-3 hybrid.