Here is the third part of the series by guest author Mark Rennolds. Under the pseudonym of Sdlonner Kram, he is looking to establish Huddersfield Town as a European super power with the experienced Director of Football Guido Merry. If you’ve missed the previous two parts of the series, you can find them here:

Part One

Part Two

Although we had a great start to the season I felt after the losses to Crystal Palace and Newcastle and the way I was conceding goals, a detailed analysis of my tactics was needed. If you remember I was set up like this:

HTAFC Ankle Biter Tactic

With the two wide AM’s pushed up and the WB’s driving on with an attack mentality, I was creating lots of chances but not taking them. I was also being broken on regularly on by teams. So, I thought I’d break down the analysis into the three sections that FM19 is now split into to help me decide where I was going wrong (or could do better). The primary identity I wanted to set as a coach was to be tough to break down, with a snappy ankle biting team who then would break quickly and efficiently to be a goal threat as well. The first part of the tactic I therefore wanted to analyse was the out of possession section.

Out of Possession Analysis

Here’s how we were setting up:

In essence, I was asking my team to:

  • Press Extremely Urgently
  • Engage the oppositions defensive line quite early by selecting Prevent Short GK Distribution and Standard Line of Engagement.
  • Cover the width of the pitch
  • Mark all opposition players tightly
  • Tackle hard

When thinking this through, what was likely to happen (and ultimately did happen) was that although the forward four pushed and harried well, the two creative central midfielders were often caught out of position when the opposition broke away. In essence, they were often bypassed by any team playing more directly. This then left my defensive team very exposed as it was high up the pitch (due to the higher defensive line), being asked to cover the width of the pitch and mark all the players tightly, without even playing the offside trap which would have helped with the high line.

Having read one of Rashidi’s posts today, I think he would describe it as a “Suicide Trap” and was always going to fail on a regular basis. So, it was time to rethink and decide on how I wanted to look without the ball and build from there. This is what I came up with:

I now asked my team to be much smarter in our defensive approach, which resulted in the intensity and demand on the team dropping as well. I’ll cover that in the summary of the change in results later.

The team now engaged only when the ball moved into their DM area of the field, with the defensive line sitting a little bit deeper but not right on top of my keeper as I didn’t want to invite too much pressure onto myself. Once the ball came into midfield then the team pressed urgently and got stuck in to try and win the ball, from where hopefully we could break quickly.

I now asked the team to sit more of a standard width (I’m reviewing this as I’m toying with going narrower) as I’m quite comfortable with the opposition having the ball out there as I have strong CB’s in the air and on the ground, and as you’ll see later my midfielders will track back centrally as well due to their role changes. My fullbacks will also get more help from the wide players ahead of them. I do ask them to play the offside trap as well to give the opposition something else to think about when trying to go over the top.

In the last eight games, I have seen a much better and more stable defensive platform, only conceding 1 goal before the last game against Man Utd in a 3-3 draw. This has propelled me up the league and given me more goals per game as the transition and possession passages of play have improved.

In Transition Analysis

Here I was asking the team to:

  • Fall back and regroup when we lost the ball
  • Counter quickly once we got the ball back
  • GK to distribute quickly and roll out

None of this made sense when I thought about the consequence of most of the instructions and the effect on the positioning of each player with and without the ball. To fall back and regroup goes against the concept of the more urgent pressing intensity (ankle biting) I wanted as our main identity. Even though I wanted us to be quick on the break, to go from regrouping to quick releases from the GK was again very risky and it was leading to turnovers in my own half that I wanted to rectify.

Just a few changes to the transition passage were made but I did notice a lot more turn over of the ball to us when coupled with the defensive phase changes, and a more secure transition when moving the ball forwards once we’d got it.

I now expect the team to counter press (but not too high up the pitch) when the ball is lost in central midfield areas or my defensive areas, and then break quickly as before. However, my keeper is set to slow it down and give the ball to the CB’s who can then decide what to do by following the ‘In Possession’ instructions I have coached them on.

In Possession Analysis

Here I was asking the team to do the following in their possession play:

  • Move the ball quickly
  • Play out of defence
  • Use both short and long passing
  • Hit early crosses into the striker
  • All players in possession to run with the ball rather than pass it
  • All players to be more expressive all the time

Again, in hindsight, based on the way I wanted to play and the players I have at my disposal, there were so many crazy instructions in there that needed to be looked at.

With only one striker up front then to hit early crosses into him was a bit of hit and hope really. That’s why I was struggling to score more than one or two goals per game. Secondly, with the AM’s being so far up the pitch the run at defence instruction wasn’t really that beneficial as they didn’t have much room in the final third to move into.

The creative freedom instruction is open to interpretation really, as with it ticked, I feel that you are asking everyone to take more risks whereas if it’s left without selection then the more creative players will make good decisions but so will the less creative ones who will choose to recycle the ball rather than give it away.

The only instruction I want to stick with is the low crosses as they are generally fired in low and hard, which makes it harder for the defenders. That doesn’t mean they don’t make the far post from my analysis of goals I’ve watched back, just that they are placed more carefully and are easier for strikers or onrushing midfielders to smash in. Here’s what the instructions look like now:

As you can see, I now allow the team to make more of their own decisions, allowing them more time on the ball to make those decisions (lower tempo) with the major change that I am asking the attacking phase players to stay very narrow. What I have found here is that this allows the full backs more room as I ask them to stay wider, so they are always available as an outlet if we cannot get through the centre.

With the passing being left at standard, we will go both long and short, with the ‘Play Out of Defence’ instruction used to stop the Ball-Playing Defenders launching it up front every time.

The last instruction I altered was to ‘Play for Set Pieces’, as I have been working on perfecting corners and free kicks, especially in the attacking phase. In the tactical files which will be available for download with this article, my defensive and attacking set pieces will be included within the tactic. I have analysed both defensive and attacking positioning of the AI and tried to cover / attack accordingly. I will share these tactics in a separate article in the future, I think. If you haven’t set up your defensive set pieces yet, then I’d look like some of the games I lost where due to set pieces against me. I’m still working on the throw in’s, but I scored four corners in one game against Brighton, and I’d say I’m scoring from a set piece at least once every two games now.

Team Formation Analysis

As I mentioned in the previous article of the series, my tactical formation had been driven somewhat by the signings made by Guido. I now considered the three elements that made up my tactical identity and footprint in order to layout the team in the best way. This is what I came up with. I’ll explain the reasons why, before I go on to discuss individual instructions for each role.

HTAFC Lamp Post Tactic

I’ve called it this as it quite simply does what a dog does on every lamp post it comes across – pisses on it!! Whether it’s Man City, Tottenham or Cardiff then the tactic works (for now).

Guido has brought in some more players during the January transfer window and ran the tactic through the month whilst he did so. I always wonder when reading tactic downloads on other sites, how genuine the results are as when I first started out six years ago playing the game, I would download them and they just wouldn’t work. So, it was good to be able to write in here that the results are genuine as Guido can confirm (although I was disappointed, he only drew with Man Utd lol).

Here are Guido’s results during the transfer window:

I’d like to take this opportunity to give the likes of Guido, Cleon and Rashidi the credit they deserve for the wonderful blogs they do, explaining the game in depth and allowing players like me to learn and understand FM better and go away and put together their own tactics. Although there will be a download link attached to this piece, I’d say go away and have some fun putting together your own tactic as when you do get it to work then you’ll get much more satisfaction from it.

Thanks, Guys, for all the fantastic reads over the years!!

Anyway, back to the tactic and the players roles / instructions:

Sweeper Keeper – Support

PI’s:

  • Pass it shorter

Will sweep up behind the back line if anyone breaks through the offside trap, but with his individual instruction keeps it simple passing to the central players who then have the option of going left or right with the pass.

Full Backs – Support

PI’s:

  • Shoot Less Often
  • Get Further Forward
  • Stay Wider (when we have the ball)
  • Tackle Harder

“Primarily a defensive player but prepared to get forward when his team needs extra width.”

That’s exactly how I’ve set him up with these PI’s. His job is to recycle the ball, supporting the 2 creative DM’s and linking up with the AM and WM’s as well to move the ball from side to side as needed.

Ball Playing Defenders – Defend

PI’s:

  • Close Down Less
  • Tackle Harder
  • Mark Tighter
  • Pass It Shorter
  • Shoot Less Often

I like the BPD role as it to make slightly more risky passes as per the fixed PI, but this generally means they’ll look for the pass rather than give it away easily or hoof it upfield. I always select the ‘pass it shorter’ option to ensure it goes through the midfield positions or FB’s as a primary choice.

Defensive Midfielder – Deep Lying Playmaker – Support

PI’s:

  • Close Down More
  • Tackle Harder
  • Mark Tighter

Sits a little bit deeper and holds his position to allow his teammates to roam up the pitch. This creates a great few layers to the play as shown in this video clip. Initially, we are operating a defensive screen and closing down quickly eventually leading to a turnover when the AM wins back the ball before then laying it off to the RM.  He then knocks it inside to the DLP who plays in the LM to score but had multiple other options. This type of movement happens time and time again with the setup and as a result, we have much better passing options and clear-cut chances created.

Defensive Midfielder – Segundo Volante – Attack

PI’s:

  • Dribble More
  • Move Into Channels
  • Shoot Less Often
  • Close Down More
  • Tackle Harder
  • Mark Tighter

Although primarily a defensive player, this guy is key to the tactic as he moves through the central areas pulling players out of position as he runs with or without the ball towards the area. Great stamina, work rate and off the ball movement are vital attributes for this guy. The attack duty helps take him past the AM at times which really makes it hard for the defensive line to set itself.

Left And Right Midfield – Wide Midfielders – Attack

PI’s:

  • Dribble More
  • Sit Narrower
  • Close Down More
  • Tackle Harder
  • Mark Tighter

The biggest success of moving these guys back to start from the standard midfield wide areas is the room they available to move into once we have the ball. With the ball they run hard at the back line, going either inside or out as there are no team or player instructions restricting them. They sit narrower when we have the ball to make themselves available, and this draws central players towards them creating room for others (especially the AM) and allowing the FB’s to sit wide and open as an extra support. As shown by the goal above, the narrow starting position means if the ball is switched quickly then they can dart in like an Inside Forward.

Attacking Midfielder – Support

PI’s:

  • Dribble More
  • Move Into Channels
  • Great Further Forward
  • Close Down More
  • Tackle Harder
  • Mark Tighter

Due to the deeper line of engagement, he drops back into midfield and harries the opposition, acting as a shield in front of the DM’s and CB’s. Always available for a pass when we do win back possession due to the close lines. He contributes in many ways both scoring and assisting in goals either with the vital pass or by drawing people out of position with his forward late runs. The support duty works well here as he tends to sit in the hole, which allows the Segundo Volante and Wide Midfielders to run past him to score or set up the Striker.

Striker – Advanced Forward – Attack

PI’s:

  • Dribble More
  • Close Down More
  • Tackle Harder
  • Mark Tighter

As the game tells you, his role is to lead the line and score goals. He chases after everything and drops back to hassle the midfield. When the ball is won, he moves into the channels to pull players out of position for the next layer of attacking runners space to go into.

The Results:

After the Southampton game, when the players had achieved a greater familiarity with the tactic (and I’d stopped tinkering as much with the settings) you can see the clear improvement in the results. I now create and score more goals. Also, when I attack, I’m more efficient in getting shots away but importantly that they are on target. Whilst at the other end I restrict the opposition more by stopping them playing over the top with my mid / low block.

And the reward for our tactical analysis and changes?

Thanks for reading, at 2700 words I think that’s exhausted this article in the series. I hope you’ve found it useful. In the next article, I will take us through to the end of the season and share the results. Guido will work his magic again & strengthen the squad as he sees best.

Download links to the tactic below. Happy ‘Lamp Posting’!!

DOWNLOAD

Cheers,

Mark


11 Comments

Fribbe · November 14, 2018 at 9:58 pm

You tell people to create their own tactic while using someone elses?

    Mark Rennolds · November 15, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    I’ve just shown the process of what I’ve done to set my own tactic up. Not sure what you mean?

      Fribbe · November 15, 2018 at 7:12 pm

      Well it looks an awful lot like Knaps Stormcaller.

      Fribbe · November 15, 2018 at 7:16 pm

      TFFs*, not Knaps

      Guido · November 15, 2018 at 9:50 pm

      Sorry for butting in here but considering the finite number of options in the tactical creator, could it not be a coincidence that there are similarities?

James Matthews · November 19, 2018 at 6:47 pm

Brilliant stuff. When I get some moments notice to go on my FM save of revitalizing Arsenal I will defo be using the above to look into mine.

While I am (honestly) on a unbeaten run and a point behind Chelsea before Xmas, my tactic doesn’t feel and look all that amazing and most likely, the quality of the team and happiness management has overcome the short falls of it.

I would love to know about your training setup, thoughts, management of happiness, thoughts and finally medical observation and management.

Also, would be great of how much importance into setting up the youth team you put in. Do you worry about throwing off the teams ‘Dynamics’ with promoting a youth for mentoring etc?

Cheers

    Mark Rennolds · November 20, 2018 at 10:09 am

    Hi James
    Glad you liked the article & found it useful.
    In truth I haven’t really paid much time to the training module yet as I was looking to perfect the tactic. I have left all training to my AM except for the individual training where I set the roles that train the attributes I want rather than just selecting the roles set within the target I.e wide midfielders are trained as inverted wingers.
    The main things I’ve done are set up mentoring groups of defence, midfield & attack to help the development & cohesion of each unit and set the training intensity guidelines up for my staff to follow in regards to a players fitness level following injury.
    This seems to have worked well so far with a generally high training performance. I do watch the summary email each week to see who’s not performing & then quickly check & alter their schedule if needed.
    For the youth players it’s business as normal for me. Once a player hits 2 stars he’s into the reserves or older youth team. At 18 + game time is required as much as possible. If a 4+ star potential rating then that’s within the first team set up in less key games. I aim for around 20 appearances over the season. You’ll generally only have 2 or 3 of these potential star players coming through so that should be possible. If they flourish in the first team squad then they get more game time. In this save Guido brought in 2 or 3 young players on loan with great potential, one of them outplayed my 4 star midfielder so got all the game time he could take.
    Once they’ve qualified as a home grown player then you can always loan the youngsters out if they need more game time, but I only do that as a last resort or if I know they’ll never get in my squad but I want to hold onto them a bit longer until their value has increased.
    Hope that helps a bit.

Aaron Bufton · November 23, 2018 at 10:11 am

Great work as always fellas. I’ve managed to propel myself into league 1 but am struggling, playing a 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2 ( very basic) for lower leagues.

How would you advise adapting tactics as above for League 1? For instance, very few players at that level can play the Segundo Volante role?

    Mark Rennolds · November 23, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    Hi Aaron
    Are you wanting to adapt your formation or are you asking about changing my tactic to suit league 1?

      Aaron Bufton · November 25, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      What sort of attributes would you look for in a Segundo Volante? I have been playing with a holding midfielder. This tactic has been working well with a player been played in the role that doesn’t suit it.

      Mark Rennolds · November 26, 2018 at 4:21 pm

      Hi Aaron

      I didn’t have anyone majorly suited to the role but I chose the player with the best work rate, off the ball & shooting attributes as they do get right up the pitch.
      The best passer of your CM’s / DM’s should be in the DLP role.
      If you feel the SV role isn’t working then you could try any other role that gets up the field more than the DLP role to support the attack.
      Hope that helps.

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