Attacking complete football is rooted in Dutch culture and national spirit, according to the British author David Winner, who wrote the book ‘Brilliant Orange’ several years ago. By analogy, defensive football is not a part of the Dutch national identity.
The statement contains a grain of truth; the Dutch despise the often business-like hardness with which teams from Southern Europe, as well as Germany, are able to win a game. Shutting up shop at the back (or at times, even parking the bus), playing to keep a clean sheet first and foremost, and delivering an unexpected knockout to the opponent with a few rapid counterattacks; this is something that happens quite often to Dutch teams rather than adopting a similar plan themselves.
It goes without saying that Football Manager is no exception to the rule in this sense. Generally speaking, a Dutch manager will opt for a somewhat offensive style of play in the vast majority of circumstances. As a result, scoring goals is more important than preventing goals from being scored against you.
That also makes sense in certain respects. The majority of the time when you play FM, you are doing it with the intention of adopting or perhaps improving a specific playing style. Most managers are more inclined to mimic or even modify the style of a successful squad than they are to do the same for a relegation candidate team that is struggling to keep its heads above water. As a kind of a rule of thumb, you can also infer that the majority of top teams play a style of football that is relatively offensive in nature.
Similarly, I am probably a typical product of my environment and upbringing (at least in the field of football); although I almost exclusively play without a striker in Football Manager, this style of football can be compared very well to a cross between Liverpool’s Vollgas-Fussball and the more polished positional play of Pep’s Man City. This style of football is a hybrid of the two. I realise that seems a little arrogant, but I was already playing without a centre forward before that bald Spaniard came up with the idea.
My typical approach to the game can best be described as hyper offensive, which is exactly what it is. Vertical tiki taka with a heavy dose of counter-pressing, to put it in FM terms. As a result of applying constant pressure and bringing the ball forward swiftly, opponents must be snatched by the throat and denied any respite, which is a long and winding way of saying we go for the jugular any chance we get.
As a result, defensive football was not inherently in my football ancestry and DNA. That does not take away from the fact that I appreciate the craftsmanship and skill of a squad and manager when they are successfully making it impossible for an opponent to play; it is just not my style. After years of trying, I was able, in my mind anyway, to replicate the style of football played by Atlético Madrid, but I was constantly frustrated by the reality that dropping back to absorb pressure resulted in more goals conceded than successful counterattacks.
As a result, I have been preaching for years that it is difficult to properly drop deep, absorb pressure from the opponent, and then score through rapid breakouts. It couldn’t be done, or at least that’s what I thought. FM22 has always been treated as a distinct version of the game in this regard.
Almost all of the work on my own website, Strikerless.com, has come to a grinding halt. It’s not at all difficult to come up with objectively solid reasons to explain what happened; children, work-related issues, and the aftermath of Corona, but the major reason is that I didn’t know what to talk about anymore. I’d written a mini-novel of material over the years which covered a wide variety, or even a plethora, of issues, so I felt uninspired to start writing again.
To be honest, playing defensively has been a sort of last ditch effort to compel me to accomplish anything with FM22, to experiment with new ideas and explore alternative possibilities. In this article, I’d want to take you on a journey over the previous four months that I’ve spent playing Football Manager 22.