Over the past years, especially during multiplayer matches, I have become impressed with the various acts of shithousery the game allows you to unleash upon unsuspecting opponents. In itself, shithousery is a muddled, somewhat ambiguous term. For this article, let us define it as the dark arts of football, resorted to gain an advantage over a nominally superior opponent, often by somewhat underhanded means.
When you consider shithousery, your first guess would probably be that it is as straightforward as trying to hurt or enrage opponents without suffering any consequences for your actions. It’s about creating maximum chaos with minimum effort – a smirk and a “fuck you” gesture here, a casual short-arm jab in the back there.
You see, shithousing is an art form. Despicable, detested on the one hand but there is always a grudging, somewhat belligerent form of respect for the true masters of their craft, able to pull off a piece of theatre that riles up or disrupts an opposing team. In this brief article, we’ll look at some of these acts of shithousery you can unleash. They are not always effective, but that makes it even more rewarding when they come to fruition.
If that’s an approach to Football Manager you agree with or want to experiment with; please read on.
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A chain is only as strong…
It’s one of those cliché sayings people throw around when it comes to sports. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, or when used in a more elaborate analogy, a team is only as strong as its weakest player. Admittedly, it is a cliché and perhaps even an overused cliché at that. On the other hand, while a cliché has become unoriginal through repetition and overuse, doesn’t the fact that something becomes a cliché means that there must be some truth in it? Why else would these phrases be repeated over and over again? So can you gain anything from the adage that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link?
From a shithousing perspective, that is undoubtedly the case. It’s a fact, a team may like to measure itself by its best members, but the weakest link will impact its strength. No matter how people try to rationalise the situation, compensate for weaknesses or even try to hide a weak link, it will always come to light.
If you exert pressure on the weakest player in a squad and he snaps, that will give you a tactical advantage, as an opponents effectiveness is either limited or completely removed. If you can gain an edge over an opponent by taking one of their players out of the equation to some degree, well damn it, you go for it by exerting as much pressure as you can on that weak link. When that weak link finally snaps, you can celebrate by dropping more teabags than Lipton on your downed opponent.
There are several ways to eliminate a perceived weak link. Those are technicalities. The real art of shithousing lies not in applying the correct technique but in recognising opportunity and assessing which method to use.
One of my favourite approaches to eliminating a weak link consists of targeting fatigued or injured players. If a player has low fitness levels or an orange cross injury, they are ideal targets for such antics.
Again, there are several ways to exploit such a situation. For instance, you can focus on removing this player from the match entirely. Such an approach would be useful if the opponent in question were one of the star players on the opposing team or if they have no more substitutions left. Eliminating him from the match would see your team gain a numerical advantage.
If you want to try to remove him from the game, you are going to resort to physical violence. While you cannot instruct one of your players to kick the shit out of an opponent literally, you can maximise the opportunities of such an occurrence. You usually don’t kick a man when he’s down, except for well… now… because you want him to stay down.
While this is not a 100% foolproof method, it is the one that has yielded the best results for me over the past few years. It’s a combination of maximising the potential for physical contact as well as inherent violent behaviour. I use Opposition Instructions to tell my players to go in hard and press more often. Additionally, I try and have players with the Player Preferred Moves of Marks Opponent Tightly or Dives Into Tackles do the dirty work. If you have no players with these traits (or not in the position to face off against injured or fatigued opponents), players with high ratings for Aggression and Strength will do as well.
In some cases, you are trying to injure an opposing defender. I have never seen a forward who dives into tackles or who is an exceptional marker, so finding a player like that will be a trialling task. Players with high ratings for aggression and strength will get the job done as well.
A slightly less violent option consists of exploiting their weakness more tactically. Instead of removing a player from the match, you are going to try and capitalise on their vulnerability. If their left wing-back is fatigued or injured, you will focus your play down your right flank. Additionally, it might pay off to bring on a player who is extra fit or physically imposing, to make that physical imbalance in that area of the pitch come to bear even further.
This tactical approach works equally well in situations when there is no fatigue or injury. If you can spot a slow or weak player on the pitch, it pays off to field physically superior players against them to gain an edge. Mismatched pairings weighted in your favour are generally a good idea.
A different form of picking off the weak link involves focussing on players who are on a yellow card. You want to provoke this player into picking up a second yellow card or into holding back to avoid getting sent off; either way gives you a tactical advantage.
A player who is on a yellow card is, in that particular match anyway, not the sturdiest door in the door emporium. We want him to become thoroughly unhinged, allowing our players to thrive; either because they enjoy numerical superiority or because an opposing player has to hold back to avoid a second booking.
I generally set up such a scenario by ensuring the player on a yellow card is facing off against a strong dribbler. I typecast a strong dribbler as someone with high pace, acceleration and dribbling attributes, with a few bonus PPM’s thrown into the mix for good measure, mostly knocks ball past opponent and tries tricks. Tactically, you could focus play down the side where the cautioned opponents reside to see if this brings your taunter in more one-on-one situations with his booked adversary.
Another way to target players on a card is not through physical actions on the pitch, resulting in fouls but in having them made mentally unsure. You’re going to mess with their heads.
In my own save, I have a player I use as a joker for just such instances. He has a unique skill-set, a combination of being a fast and powerful dribbler with the right PPM’s. While that is not a surefire guarantee that he can get someone sent off, it increases the odds in your favour.
By winding up his opponents and trying tricks, the idea is that such behaviour invites opposing players to lash out and get booked (again), a bit like a particular Brazilian active in the French league. Taunting and provoking the opposition into committing fouls and getting booked.
Use the media to unsettle opposing players
One of those pet peeves in FM is the AI unsettling your star players. Declaring interest through the media, making ridiculously low bids for players that are so laughable no-one ought to take them seriously. Except that more often than not, the players will take such offers and antics seriously. When you don’t manage these delicate situations adequately, you could have a full-blown dressing room mutiny on your hands. On the other hand, you could just… turn the tables…
You can do to the AI what they often do to you. Unsettle their players and see how they like it! Declare your interest in the media and low-ball offer for him (though not under his market value), and you can build a positive relationship with a player, provided he feels flattered by the interest.
It’s a strategy often used by larger clubs to unsettle players at smaller clubs. Unhappy players will reject new contract offers and force a way out of the club, which usually means discounts on the transfer fee, pretty much what the AI does to you.
During the beta stages, I had a save-game with Ajax, and I quickly lost Ryan Gravenberch to Man Utd, after they successfully unsettled him. Stating I was not very pleased is an understatement; I launched into a tirade of expletives longer than a Tolstoy novel. On the other hand, I have to say I was quite pleased when I was able to turn the tables on them a few seasons later and unsettle some of their prime youth prospects.
Wreck outbound or unwilling players
One of my personal favourites is just so much fun. You can almost gleefully imagine the haunted expression on the poorly pixelated faces of your outbound (or just disobedient) player as this poor sod learns that he is restricted to training in a role and position for which he is utterly unsuited. While it is petty and vindictive, it’s still fun. We can’t all take the moral high road, now can we?
In older instalments of the game, you could even set outfield players to train as goalkeepers. This option was taken away, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had with stalling or even hampering the development of certain players.
Now besides the obvious answer that you are somewhat of a psychopath who revels in the suffering of others, such behaviour inevitably raises the question of why one would do that. Spite and just fucking with people are, in my eyes, the most obvious answers.
You could resent losing a prime prospect to a foreign rival, and by stalling their development, you can at least make sure the buying club will not benefit. Behaviour such as this can blow up in your face, however. If the players you are messing with are high-ranking in the social pecking order of the dressing room, it could cause a dressing room revolution.
Did you come up with this all on your own?
Nope. Credit where it’s due. I received advice and suggestions from Stouters, Scribe, Bust The Net, FM Scout and FMTahiti.
Isn’t this cheating?
Maybe. Possibly. Let’s argue semantics. It all depends on your definition of the word “cheating”. Seeing as cheating is fraudulently or deceitfully breaking the rules, it all boils down to what you consider fraudulently or deceitfully and what constitutes a rule; are these the arbitrary rules of the game or do they include moral standards.
The strategies listed above are not workarounds as such; they are not aimed at achieving something the game doesn’t want you to achieve. These strategies are all about stretching the limits of the game, however, and making the utmost of the tools at your disposal. The dark arts of Football Manager, if you will. I’m reasonably sure this goes against the moral grain of a fair few managers out there. That’s cool. I highly recommend you don’t use any of these approaches and you can rest easy.
I tried *this (any/some/all of the strategies detailed above) a few times, and it didn’t work. What do I do?
Keep trying and manage your expectations. Strategies like this don’t always work, and you should savour the moments when they do pay off. These moments are rare but ever-so rewarding. To quote AC/DC: “Dirty deeds and they’re done dirt cheap.” There’s no real risk for you, and the pay-off may be dirty but oh so fulfilling.
I find this morally reprehensible!
Technically, that’s not a question, but I’ll bite. Good for you, having morals and all that. Don’t force them upon others; let people play the game they want to. Having said that, I do like the fact you read through an entire article about a subject you don’t care about, fair play. Well, as I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to use any of the information in this article, so you’re good to go, sport. Skip along.
I still feel you shouldn’t post about a subject I do not agree with.
Bore off. No-one is forcing you to read this. It’s a single-player game; no-one is bothered or hindered by it. Get off your high horse.
I have another great trick for you! Can I share it?
Sure. This is not an exhaustive list but a collection of the dirty tricks I like to use when the mood strikes me. Feel free to drop me an email or share your ideas in the comments of this article.
Downloads? Training? OI? Results?
Wrong article, bub. This isn’t about tactics. Nice try, though.
I am often overcome by a sense of futility, wondering why I’m doing all of this. What is the meaning of it all?
Oh. Did I mistake Strikerless for my personal diary again? Mental note: make sure you’re working in the right file, Guido, you dumb-ass. Don’t drink and blog.