Going Down A Gritty Road; Compensating For Lesser Players By Instilling Fighting Spirit

Whilst beauty is certainly in the eyes of the beholder, not every team has the players to play Joga Bonito. It makes one wonder, is playing beautiful football a goal in itsself? What is beauty? Sometimes, beauty is being efficient and making the most of the material you do have. The results achieved by fighting spirit and team mentality rather than finesse on the ball can be as beautiful in their own way as a technical and tactical masterclass by a FC Bayern or Barcelona.

Take for instance the style of play the Uruguayan national team employs. The football character of Uruguay throughout history was established as a defensive and combative though not without some attacking flair. The mix of different European cultural immigrants entering Uruguay, combined with the spread of association football globally, meant that Uruguay, as a nation, (along with their neighbours’ Argentina) created a new and unique style of football. They turned their back on the direct game brought across by the British and developed a brand of football built around short passes, player movement and attacking play.

These technical developments mixed well a key source of pride for Uruguayans, the national characteristic of “amistad” or “friendship/togetherness.” When looking at match clips from their national team, the concept of amistad seems to be a key ingredient of their style of play. They play as a cohesive unit, even established international stars, like Forlan and Suarez, fought tooth and nail for the shirt, eschewing any of the egotistical pretensions of grandeur seen by the so-called superstars of some other nations, taking one for the team if needed.

Add “amistad” to a pretty un-South American, gritty style of football, a style sometimes physical enough to make the toughest Argentine or Italian teams quiver, and you have teams that are pretty tough to beat… So what happens when you employ such a style in FM? Is it enough to compensate for a lack of absolute world stars against the very best teams out there? @diegomendoza1969 and yours truly look into things.

This Uruguayan style is known as the “garra Charrúa,” the word “garra” meaning literally “claw” but implying tireless courage. The Charrúas were an indigenous community massacred in the 19th century, though not before acquiring a reputation as legendary fighters. The “garra Charrúa” was traditionally backed by the presence of two or three talents such as Francescoli and defensive players capable of reacting coolly when the ball reached their feet. It was “garra Charrúa” that helped Uruguay win the Copa América 15 times.

Since we are not really looking to re-create a tactic, we won’t be focussing on the tactical side of things in terms of creating a tactic and telling you it should do such or so. Instead, this article is all about the players that made the Uruguayan style so gritty yet effective. Is there a way to re-create this gritty and tenacious style of play by focussing on certain player characteristics and maybe slightly tweaking particular roles?

Player roles you could (or should) use

The tough-as-nails bastard Defensive Midfielder – (Egidio Arevalo Rios)

When Roy Hodgson voted Javier Mascherano as his World Player of the Year a few years back, he was widely mocked for his choice.  According to an article in the Telegraph they believed that his choice may have been to challenge the norm and highlight the contribution of a less glamourous yet just as important role in football, the no nonsense, hard tackling, tough bastard who strikes fear into opposition attackers.

So that got us thinking a bit more about the tough bastards that play for our teams, the ones that never top the player stats boards or have a particularly high average rating, yet are always one of the first names on the team sheet.  Why is it that when they play, we rarely notice them yet when they are injured our teams look lost? We thought it best to have a close look at how those players really influence a game on FM.

In our modest opinion, there are two key areas we need a tough bastard operating in, centre back and in the defensive central midfield role.  They don’t necessarily need to be the most technically gifted player in the world but there are certain attributes that we believe to be a must.

  • Aggression – The opposition wouldn’t fear him if he wasn’t aggressive toward them.
  • Bravery – He’s got to be prepared to put his body on the line and not shy away from anything.
  • Determination – I want him to keep going no matter what and drive the team.
  • Balance – If he’s going to be tough he’s got to be able to stay on his feet.
  • Stamina – Needs to keep going and be a constant thorn in the opposition’s side for 90 minutes.
  • Tackling – It’s no good being a tough bastard if you aren’t good enough technically to win the ball back. After all they are no use to me if they get sent off regularly.
  • Work Rate – Tends to go hand in hand with the other mental attributes, a tough bastard needs to be a worker else he won’t be half as effective.

Now there are other attributes that we also look for like teamwork, leadership, concentration and strength. Additional technical abilities are a nice bonus, but not quite necessary. Our player could look a little like this newgen.

fazio

Whilst he certainly possesses a certain skill-set, Fazio will never be a world beater in midfield. His main skills are mostly mental ones, he is aggressive, works hard and acknowledges where people are positioned on the pitch. This makes him an ideal breaker. A player to break up an attack by the opposing team, if needed with brute force. Let’s watch Fazio in action.

Holding position in front of defence, tenacious in his duels with opponents and not going for glory-passes but keeping the game simple and playing short passes towards team-mates, this type of player can be fielded both in defensive midfield and a regular midfield position, depending of course on the formation you wish to employ. Depending on the team balance you wish to use, we would recommend using one of the following roles.

  • Ball-winning midfielder; this role is pretty much the epitome of what we just described. Close down the opposition, win the ball and pass towards a team-mate. Depending on the defensive or support setting, he will do this high(er) up the pitch or more in front of the defensive line.
  • Deeplying playmaker; this player role sees your player operate in the space between midfield and defence. Whilst it’s primarily a creative role, this player needs to be apt at the art of defending. If you play a not-quite-so creative player in this role, he’ll generally opt for low risk passes whilst maintaining a holding position in front of the defence. On a defensive setting, this role is quite static, whereas a support role will see him venture forward a bit more.

We opted for two roles here because of the balance in the squad. A ball-winning midfielder aggressively chases down his opponent, which could potentially disrupt the balance of your team when he is being dragged out of position, forcing others to cover for his aggression-based positioning. The DLP-role offers a more stable alternative, but you’d have to check your own tactic to see what works.

The hard working, tough tackling yet technically gifted Attacking MidfielderChristian Rodriguez

Players like Cristian Rodriguez are a true heritage of Uruguayan DNA, a balanced mix between grit and footballing skills. These are players who can play refined football, are definitely capable of one-touch passes and swift-footed technical skills, but won’t hesitate to stick the boot in when the situation demands it of them.

These are the players who are the creative spark in our midfield, players who can set up the attacks, yet are still very much capable of tracking back and just being nasty, gritty players in their own right, grinding down an opposing team’s attacks with little fouls or other time-wasting tactics.

We want these players to play in their normal, creative way, but have a rugged edge to their style of play as well. That isn’t something we can easily achieve by means of highly tweaked individual instructions, it is something that has to be an integral part of the player himself. Therefore, we want players who possess a certain skill-set on top of the normal skills required for their role.

  • Bravery – He’s got to be prepared to put his body on the line and not shy away from anything.
  • Determination – I want him to keep going no matter what and drive the team.
  • Balance – If he’s going to be tough, he’s got to be able to stay on his feet.
  • Stamina – Needs to keep going and be a constant thorn in the opposition’s side for 90 minutes.
  • Decisions – A player is constantly presented with options, and the decisions attribute controls if the player chooses the best option.
  • Work Rate – Tends to go hand in hand with the other mental attributes, a tough bastard needs to be a worker else he won’t be half as effective.

Now there are other attributes that we also look for like teamwork, leadership, concentration and strength. Additional technical abilities are a nice bonus, but not quite necessary. Our player could look a little like this newgen.

moscuzza

Moscuzza is a player who possesses a pretty all-round profile. He’s technically skilled, has an imposing physique and there’s a rough edge, a certain grit to his style of play. He has the aggression to compensate for any mistakes he might make, but he’s not purely a bruiser or enforcer. Let’s watch Moscuzza in action.

That’s a clip from a game Moscuzza featured in and we feel it showcases Moscuzza’s versatility. We see Moscuzza tackling, scoring, intercepting and fouling opponents, he’s the total package. Technically refined, a fair bit of tactical finesse but he’s also got a mean streak, which makes him tough-as-nails in direct physical confrontations and it sees him committing tactical fouls to help out the team. Moscuzza and players like him are ideal midfielders for any team.

Depending on the team balance you wish to use, we would recommend using one of the following roles.

  • Central Winger; we feel this role is a great idea when you want this player to have an offensive impact on the game and when you want his defensive duties to primilarily consist of pressing high up the pitch and scrapping with opposing midfielders in the heart of the pitch. This role ensures he links up defence and attack by surging forward with the ball at his feet.
  • Box-to-box midfielder; a dynamic midfielder who is supposed to contribute to both offence and defence, which means he is slightly more conservative as opposed to the Central Winger role. That’s fine, as it’s all a matter of balancing out the team. We’re merely listing options and their pro’s and cons.
  • Roaming playmaker; when you want your player to have an impact in terms of playmaking, the roaming playmaker is a good choice if you want your player to start from deeper positions, surging forward and getting involved from there, as he spearheads attacks and is still wary of his defensive positioning, as he tracks back to snuff out attacks. He will pick the ball up in deep positions and venture forward from there on, getting heavily involved with the attacking process.
  • Advanced playmaker; when you want that brilliant touch a playmaker can provide but from a more advanced position or because the player can’t cut it physically to run all over the place, the advanced playmaker will offer such a package deal. He stays mostly in the attacking midfield region and looks to link up with the other midfielders and forwards there, as well as pressuring opponents in this zone.

We opted for four roles here because of the balance in the squad. You ought to experiment with which roles work for specific players and within the team settings you are using.

 

The mobile aggressive forward – Luis Suarez

For the national team, Suarez is generally played high up the pitch, constantly readjusting his position, making himself available and giving defenders torrid afternoons or evenings. He utilises the full width of the pitch in the final third, constantly moving from left to right and vice versa, which concentrates his energy toward one threatening area of the pitch.

On the pitch, the Uruguayan version of Dracula is constantly chasing down balls, harassing defenders and looking to drive play forward, or into wide appears of space. Such is the dynamic, constant adjusting of his game, that his compatriots upfront, which used to be Forlan and Cavani, have the freedom to both drift into space and attacking positions and also draw defenders from Suarez’s path to goal.

We want these players to play in their normal, creative way, but have a rugged edge to their style of play as well. That isn’t something we can easily achieve by means of highly tweaked individual instructions, it is something that has to be an integral part of the player himself. Therefore, we want players who possess a certain skill-set on top of the normal skills required for their role.

  • Bravery – He’s got to be prepared to put his body on the line and not shy away from anything.
  • Determination – I want him to keep going no matter what and drive the team.
  • Balance – If he’s going to be tough, he’s got to be able to stay on his feet.
  • Stamina – Needs to keep going and be a constant thorn in the opposition’s side for 90 minutes.
  • Decisions – A player is constantly presented with options, and the decisions attribute controls if the player chooses the best option.
  • Work Rate – Tends to go hand in hand with the other mental attributes, a tough bastard needs to be a worker else he won’t be half as effective.

Now there are other attributes that we also look for like teamwork, leadership, concentration and strength. Additional technical abilities are a nice bonus, but not quite necessary. Our player could look a little like this newgen.

lobo

Lobo is a strong and fairly mobile player. His main duty is to put pressure on the defensive line, chase down the man in possession and loose balls and generally stop the opposing defence having any time on the ball. In an attacking sense he keeps things as simple as possible, preferring to bring other players into the game than create his own chances. Let’s watch him in action.

We see an aggressive runner, who never gives defenders time to take a breath and acts as the teams first defender when his team loses the ball. He doesn’t have a great deal of interceptions or tackles, but his pressuring often causes defenders to just hoof the ball clear. We feel that most of the work he does cannot be captured by statistics in-game, which makes it hard to see his effectiveness if you’re not watching the game.

Depending on the team balance you wish to use, we would recommend using one of the following roles.

  • Defensive Forward; we want that aggressive runner, that Jamie Vardy/Luis Suarez-styled player, who never gives defenders time to take a breath and acts as the teams first defender when his team loses the ball. The Defensive Forward offers just that, on either a support or defensive setting. A defensive setting sees the forward drop back to cover and pressure defensive midfielders, whereas the support setting makes him pressure the central defenders.
  • Shadow Striker; since this is Strikerless.com, we do cater to people who stubbornly refuse to use a striker. A shadow striker can fill the role, since he is that mobile forward who can harass defenders.

We opted for these two roles, as we feel these are the two roles that could work for what we have in mind.

So does this actually work?

Ha! The million dollar question has been asked. It’s an awfully difficult one to answer as well, because the results will always be subjective. It’s not like you’re going to score a whole lot of extra goals or concede a lot less. It’s more of an intangible feeling that your players look sharper and more aggressive when trying to win the ball. We can’t say we have actually compared tackling or interception statistics, so it’s more based on a gut feeling than actual facts.

5 thoughts on “Going Down A Gritty Road; Compensating For Lesser Players By Instilling Fighting Spirit

  1. Hey Guido, love your page. Been using your Project Arrow v3 whit Bayern, works like a dream. One question, what kind of skin are u using?I have found the vortex 16, but finds it a bitt dark, your seems better =)

    Like

  2. Loved the article as this kind of thinking is maybe my favorite aspect of Football Manager. I love to set squads into certain styles and my different saves all those years are mostly that. Different styles. And guess what, my favorite is the “Fighting Spirit”-Defensive one. Unfortunatelly in last FM’s couldt implement it and in the last one were everyone says that defence in ME is improved a lot havent found the time to play the way i like (8 hours a day for a week).

    What i have in mind lately is a 4-4-2, with Defend duty Full backs, more mobile players in the middle (exept one) but very effective in their defensive dutys and two key players of attacking upfront. Imagine two centerbacks, two full backs that are center backs but a little quicker if possible, two box-to-box type MCs and two WB style MRLs. Dont want them to be world class, just good in defensive attributes and descent in their role requirements. Ideally the two banks of four will be of the same nation for ultimate chemistry. What i want from them is a GOOD first 4 to bypass for the second 4. Dont want to put pressure in my back four because two or three of my middle men has low Positioning, tackling, marking etc. Sicked of seeing my middle four just outside my penalty area ineffective to defend. The front two (and the goalkeeper) will be the best players of the team. One creative player and one scorer. Both with descent “Fighting Spirit” attributes ideally, at least Work Rate and Teamwork. Maybe in a 2 or 1-1 combination.

    How whould you implement something like this?

    Like

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