In my previous piece I tried to cover all of the phases I go through while turning every stone available to win a football match in Football Manager 2017. Today, I will try to cover all the steps I take in preparation for a game and during the game to achieve a desirable result, which I am content with. You have to take into consideration the fact that desirable result may vary depending on how things go on the pitch. I always do have a set result in mind when entering match day. For today’s example, we are going to use my “Merchants of Groom” – save which I play with Benfica. More specifically we are going to take on Tottenham in ECL. So let’s jump into the action.
I reserve the right to do these things in a different order since I don’t always remember to do everything in set pace and order. One of the first things on match day what I go looking for is the opposing team’s squad. Here we see some useful info regarding Tottenham’s coming line-up against us. (Small disclaimer: I actually took this photo after the game, since I forgot to take it before. The only change is Eriksen, who injured himself in the game against us.)
What we can tell straight up that they are without Harry Kane. The deadly gunslinger from White Hart Lane was injured in the previous game and is not available in the game against us. Looking at his form and stats, he would probably not be a part starting line-up anyway, but it’s always nice when a class player like Kane is unavailable to play against us. Even as his season has been horrendous so far and Vincent Janssen seems to be the top pick for the moment, FM does have a knack for hopelessly out-of-form players scoring late winners against you.
In terms of statistics, these are the most relevant variables for me:
- Average rating
- Last 5 games
With these, I try to determine the “danger men” I need to keep an eye on. With Tottenham having a dismal start, there is not too much to look for here. Christian Eriksen seems to be in good form and is something we need to keep a close eye on while in game. What I always try to remember is to check how they have played in the matches before. Tottenham actually was doing pretty good. They had only lost to Stoke in the English League Cup in the preceding 5 matches. If going for really meticulous approach and now we do, you dig up the statistics for the team you are facing. In this case, we want to see the EPL statistics for Tottenham. From the statistics screen, you get a good overview how the opposing team have done in their main competition. I will not analyse Tottenham here for the sake of space I have been given. Also, a good place to have an overview is to pop up the team report screen for opposing team. Like this.
Very good screen on giving you a rough idea about the team you are facing. In general, always look the referee and the weather also. It’s not really tiki-taka in snow or heavy rainfall. Also, a referee with a very itchy trigger finger can be devastating to your team if you choose to field a pair of very aggressive BWM’s on your side.
Moving on to our side finally. Obviously, we have now decided that desirable result has to be a win or at least a draw for out Portuguese giant. That is something we are aiming for with all of our efforts. Having taken all things into consideration, we have a glance on our team. Having only a couple of long term injuries and few youngsters not registered for ECL, we were able to actually field our almost best possible line-up for the match. Our CD Jardel was suspended for the match and we started seasoned veteran Luisão alongside with Lisandro López who is still unhappy about my title winning predictions. Silly man. My stock endeavours have had a slight uplift against Tottenham, and I was feeling adventurous before the game. So my 4-3-3 had this sort of outlook entering the team selection phase.
Chipping in heavy with 3 AP’s and an F9 I was looking for decent activity in around Tottenham box. As always it was going to be a Defensive mentality and Structured shape for starters. While moving away from stock roles since having a quite talented team. I also was comfortable to add some PI to the mix. The tactic in itself is not generally counter-pressing, but the spearheading trio was instructed to be all over Tottenham defence. Each one having close down more and tackle harder, I was planning do disrupt the playmaking efforts of Pocchetino’s side. The wider MC’s were also closing down quite heavily from the start of the game.
D-line was set to slightly higher and the offside trap was in use. I was playing out of defence as always with short passing and fairly wide formation. Opposition instructions were set by assistant since they seemed to make sense this time. And for team talk I went assertive -> Pick up where you left last time. Usually, my team talks are in the range of assertive – calm. It was time to kick the game in motion.
After a quite boring first half(this time I did not change anything since the game was looking in our favour) we seemed to have a slight upper hand over Tottenham. At least on heat maps.
The only thing worth to mention was the ankle injury of Christian Eriksen which we in all forms of sportsmanship, tried to worsen with hard tackling. He eventually was substituted at the half time for Dele. We started the second half with our game plan intact. Press the Tottenham back end and patiently wait for our time to strike. We didn’t change a thing during the half time break. I thought Tottenham was very much in our control and I wanted to have my options available if needed. Our defence had been superb in the first half, so my confidence was on the attacking core to make something happen. Tottenham was short on form in front, so I felt there was no reason to start looking more closely at certain individuals.
Tottenham drew first in the 56th minute, throwing in Moussa Sissoko to replace a very poorly performed Son Heung-Min on the left wing. The Republic of Korea national was sub-par with his 6.4 rating while taking a seat for the remainder of the game. On the 61st Danny Rose took the field, replacing a stubbed Erik Lamela on the right wing. With more than 30 mins left (there’s always some extra time) Tottenham had used all their subs to crack my shell. Their formation was at this point a 4-2-3-1 wide with the AMC’s all subbed out.
We were still rocking our 4-3-3 defensive with some pressurising flavour added to it. It was about to change, though. For the whole game, Tottenham defence had been able to keep our boys away from around the box. I needed to find a way to score at least once. What would I do? I decided to overload their defence with extra guys coming into play creating movement and stretching out their wide backs. On 64th I brought in Kostas Mitroglou to replace Jonas at striker and Andrija Zivkovic to replace Pizzi, who was having a terrible game so far. Also, Zivkovic came in as IF and Semedo started going forward more as Attacking CWB. While creating a bit more danger towards the box, I made my final stroke in the 82nd minute. I took Fejsa off and brought Raúl Jiménez as the second striker. My left back also went CWB with ATT duty, while Cervi and Zivkovic both went IF’s with support duty. My strikers were Mitroglou as TM on attack and Jiménez as DLF on support. With this setup, I was able to create movement and width on the Tottenham defence in hopes of creating space or having a penalty as a result of an overloaded box. Creating disarray was finally awarded in the 89th minute with things starting with Semedo’s cross.
You can see the overload in the box when the cross is made. There’s an equal number of defending players drawn in also with two Tottenham midfielders also closing in.
While to ball is headed away, Dele’s mistake actually drops the ball to Lucas Lima. With all the space and time thanks to other players in the box, he is able to carefully scorch it from the edge of the box.
Tottenham´s game plan had already deteriorated with the early subs not coming into fruition and stalling their attacking even more. After the goal, there were some very boring and uneventful last couple of minutes for my side and in the end, we bagged the desired win for the club.
So was it my tactical prowess that clinched the match for us or was it just the natural progression of the game that eventually folded in out favour? You could probably successfully argue for the both ends, but I like to think I had some part in this result. The game itself was very uneventful and maybe not the best example of all the phases I go through during the match. So I try to recap here everything I should do in every match I play.
Before the kick-off
Assess the opponent – take a good look at the opponent. Who are the dangermen? Injuries, form, morale, team stats, team form, team weaknesses and everything you can dig up to your advantage.
Assess your team – My gameplan, desired result I am looking for, targeting specific threats, form, morale, fitness, rotation, targeting specific weaknesses, how to respond tactically or stick with my team tactics?
Assess the weather – What are the conditions we are playing in? Does it need to be addressed tactically?
The Ref – If having a strict referee, is it wise to get all stuck in?
Use the Prozone to your advantage – For the first 20-30 minutes look what your opponent is up to. This works only if you can keep them at bay long enough for the assessment. Usually, my tactical approach allows me to do this. Compare teams statistically to have a feel how things are playing out on the field. I also find helpful using 2d match engine.
Assess the intel you have – If needed start adjusting. Try to strengthen your weak spots and exploit the opponents weaknesses tactically. Respond with substitutions if needed. The match can be decided at any minute. Strike when you are ready. Don´t wait too long.
Assess the match so far – Again, fall back to Prozone. Compare your stats, positions and etc. with the other team. Are there areas where to strike? Is there a player to exploit? Is the opponent formation unbalanced, is there caps to be taken advantage off. Remember there is no time limit on the half-time. Also, assess your team. Do you need to tune your tactics, how are the players looking?
The game plan for the second half – after dissecting the info come up with the gameplan for the second half. How to come out of the dressing room?
For the most part, I play the second half making adjustments as needed. I have a certain plan I am coming out, and I try to keep a close eye on things happening on the pitch. If possible, I try to reach this point without making any subs but as we all know it is not feasible at all times and you have to adjust to everything happening in the match.
One thing I haven´t addressed at all is my team composition related to my tactics. I usually try to have very versatile players at my disposal. I often switch my formation to address particular needs within the match. For this, I need players comfortable in different positions and roles. This flexibility is the key for me to play the way I play. Also, all my subs are aimed to be used in different flavours I want to have in my tactical plan. For the curiosity, I usually have a Target Man on my team even though I rarely start a game with one. My team composition is aimed at everything else, to win as many games as possible for my club.
After every match, it is time to analyse how we did and move on. Press conference, maybe saying few words about players in public and after that, we start all over.
Hopefully, I was able to flesh out my approach to playing a match in Football Manager 2017 with these two posts I was happy to write for Guido.