Whether you love them or hate them, there is no denying the prowess of all-out wingers dash inside forwards such as Arjen Robben and Eden Hazard. Despite all their brilliance, these players are often described as selfish, egotistical and players who don’t work hard in defense by many football fans. Yet both of these players I mentioned have added another dimension to their game, by becoming more aware of their defensive positions and actively contributing to the defensive phase of the game. So some of the best wingers in the world have taken to tracking back and helping out their defenders. Why don’t their FM15 counterparts behave similarly?
In my eyes, there is a sure-fire way you can get your wide players to actively track back and contribute to the defensive phase of play. This method consists of two steps and it helps you to achieve what I like to call Total Defending, which is basically a part of the whole Total Football concept. The positional switching and movement off the ball Total Football delivers has always captivated managers around the world and it’s always been some sort of utopian style people are trying to replicate in FM. The whole concept is based on fluidity of positions, rotations and covering your teammates runs. In this way, players use the movements of their colleagues for reference rather than zones on the pitch.
What people tend to forget is that these same ideas and principles so often associated with attacking can also be applied to the defending phase of football. Fluidity of positions, rotations and covering your teammates, maintaining a tight and cohesive wall of players between your own goal and the opposing team. In an ideal situation there ought to be no more than 25 to 35 metres between the forward line and the defenders. The reason for this is to constrict the space in a vertical sense, hence reducing the distances between players thus making it difficult for the offensive team to pass or dribble through the middle of this compacted space.
The whole idea of Total Football is tied in with the Very Fluid mentality the FM Match Engine uses. This mentality represents systems in which all players are expected to chip in to try and contribute to a general, collective function and in which, accordingly, there is significantly less differentiation between players based on position and role. While this demands a greater degree of versatility and tactical awareness from each of the players, it encourages the team to cooperate closely in carrying out specific tasks while promoting more movement between positional strata and, thus, greater variety and unpredictability in the team’s play. In short, attack as a team, defend as a team.
Whilst this sounds good in theory, will it actually work in the game? Let me talk you through a game of mine and show you. Seeing is believing after all. The venue is White Hart Lane, the fixture is a League Cup tie between Spurs and Chelsea. Two minutes into the game and Paulinho gets his sorry ass sent off for hacking down Fabregas. Now is as good a time as any to defend as a unit and I definitely want my wide players to contribute in order to stop the Chelsea wing-backs from overlapping and murdering us with pinpoint crosses for Diego Costa to drill past Lloris.
Chelsea are flooding the central area, where we are now a man short due to Paulinho’s absence. That means there is ample space for the wing-backs Ivanovic and Azpilicueta to run into. You can see how important it is that these marauding wing-backs are stopped. With my defence and midfield under distress, the wide players need to step up and help out. The above screenshot shows that this actually happens. The Very Fluid setting tells the players to take their responsebility for the team effort and help out.
Will this work all the time? Hell no! Your players need a fair bit of spatial awareness to make this work. This is why you need to use some player instructions as well. Unfortunately, these are not the standard settings you can use pre-game, but these are tweaked instructions you have to set again every match. In-game, you have to instruct your wide players to man-mark their opposing wing-back.
If you’re not willing to use the Very Fluid mentality setting, you could probably suffice with just step two of the whole process, using the player instructions during a match to have the wide players man-mark an opposing wing-back. Sometimes, solving a difficult problem really is that simple.