In Football Manager, the process of creating your own tactic is one of the simplest things imaginable, especially since the inclusion of the tactics creator, it takes a little time to create your own tactic. You start the creator, walk through a couple of steps, select whichever option appeals to you based on the description and presto, an instant tactic. From start to finish, the entire process takes a few minutes to complete.
Creating a tactic takes minutes, but there’s no actual guarantee your tactic will work and work consistently. That is a process that takes far more time and it’s an end result that is a lot trickier to achieve. It’s a constant balancing act and a continuous process of observation, rethinking and tinkering with various settings and roles until you get it right for the specific players, specific opponents and specific circumstances you are facing. Chucking together random roles and instructions within a specific shape will most likely end disastrously.
“Inside My Mind” is going to be a series that takes you into the process of how I create a tactic. Let me be clear upfront that this is by no means the only way to create a tactic or the ultimate way to create a tactic. As the title indicates, it’s how I create a tactic and I reckon there are some interesting aspects to my approach. Naturally, it will not be all theory and I will apply the concept in a real case of a tactic I am developing. This first post, however, will remain theoretical and will simply focus on the process.
In case you don’t want to trawl through the entire article, let me summarise in advance.
I will walk you through the various steps of course.
Think of a concept
You need some sort of a tactical philosophy to start with, a basic concept of how you want to play. This allows for a scaffold for the rest of the process, a foundation for your ideas, a base to build from. Think about it, if you don’t have a clear-cut idea of how you want the team to play, then you won’t know what to look for when watching the games, you won’t know what to change to make the tactic work, because you haven’t the foggiest on how the tactic is supposed to work beyond the basic concept of “winning me matches.” When problems arise, you shouldn’t haphazardly chop and change instructions and roles when you have no clear end-goal to work towards. Think of a concept and stick with it for half a season or so.
Think of a basic shape
I deliberately called this section “think of a basic shape” and not “think of a basic formation,” because there is no such thing as an absolute formation. It’s a myth, crammed into our heads by analysts and newspapers, oversimplifying things. There is no such thing as playing 4-4-2, as no 4-4-2 is the same in the way they actually take to the field and move around on the pitch. Every team has at least an attacking shape and a defensive shape. You don’t play with a back four the entire time, you play with three at the back when going forward, as one of your wingbacks joins the midfield, four at the back when transitioning between attack and defence and perhaps five at the back when defending, as a midfielder may drop back to help out the defenders. Players are defined less by their positions than by what they can do.
Anyway, back to the basic shape. Think of how your players will line up defensively, think of how they should line up offensively and try to come up with something that will look like a shape resembling their average positions. Personally, I like to tinker around on ShareMyTactics and come up with something. This is by no means definitive, as you are brainstorming and coming up with ideas. Just go nuts and worry about applying the concept later.
Think of basic team instructions
Your next step will be to decide on a style of play, which is displayed through the use of the team instructions in the game. You need to decide what type of footballing style you want to create. Do you want to go for a counter-attacking approach or a more offensive approach? Are you going for direct and incisive passing, long balls or a more possession-oriented short passing game? Will your players drop back to defend as a block or pressure high up the pitch? These and many other factors will determine your style of play. Again, this is by no means definitive, as you are brainstorming and coming up with ideas. Select the settings that appeal to you and worry about the execution later.
Think of basic player roles
Once the shape is sorted and we have figured out the style of football, fitting the roles into it should be simpler. Deciding on a certain style automatically rules out certain roles or merits the inclusion of others. A direct style of play will often include a sort of target man role, whereas such a role would be much less effective in a short passing style. Once more, this is not a definitive selection, as you will need to test the entire tactic and you will make changes from that point on.
Analyse and tinker
At this point you need to just start playing games, watching the games, seeing how the tactic works out there on the pitch. Just keep in mind that it is not very likely to work brilliantly straight off the bat. We have some rough ideas that need refining and polishing and that’s what the pre-season is generally for. Watching, analysing and tinkering with the tactic in all its intricacies.
I realise that this sounds awfully generic and I will try to elaborate by disclosing some of the factors I look for when analysing the games.
- How is the build-up for the attacks developing?
- Who will score the goals?
- Who will provide the assists?
- What happens when we lose the ball?
- How aggressive are we in winning the ball back? Does this change the shape of the team? Does this expose us to needless risks?
- Can the inherent weaknesses of our shape be easily exploited by opponents?
- Are the players interacting in the way I envisaged?
Those are the types of questions I ask myself when I am watching the games. In the next update of this series, I will apply this process to a new tactic I am creating.