While my goals for the system were constant from the beginning, it can evolve considerably from the first season to its current iteration. Particularly in the early years, the system was extremely cumbersome altogether lacked much of the variation and complexity, not to mention actual functionality, that the current system has. There were numerous roadblocks and hurdles along the way and the team had to endure some pretty ugly football at times working out the kinks. To date, there have been 3 versions of the system, each a significant step forward from the last. I do not expect to need another complete version moving forward as I really like where it is now and I think any changes will be within the existing framework, but who knows.
So all the preparation in the world is no good if you can’t execute on game day. Part of what I enjoy about this system and makes it fun for me is that it really challenges me as a coach to step up and get involved in what is happening on the field. I have a role to play as much as any player on the field. If I’m not making the calls to give them favorable match-ups, the players are going to struggle to win their one-on-ones and the team will struggle.
It is also important to note that this is very much a “by feel” thing and there aren’t any unbreakable rules. I still have a lot to learn and am continuing to test the bounds of the system. I’m constantly looking to add or subtract things and discover new ways to make the system work in my favor.
For those interested, I always watch matches on comprehensive highlights, but I am often doing something else outside of the game while the match runs, particularly if I feel good about the direction the match is going.
All of my formations are designed to be run with any of the 3 different TI setups. The differences between them do not fundamentally change what we are trying to do as the tactic and style of play is determined primarily by the PI and formation. The specific TI set-ups are just the last little bit to get everybody on the same page and add some more versatility to our tactics without requiring substitutions or formation changes.
Where most of the system is in the player instructions, the formations are designed to create and exploit match-up problems for opposing team. To this end, I have 4 “Base” formations which constitute the core of my various line ups. Well over 90% of my time on the pitch will be in these base formations. After those, I have what I refer to as 3 “Sub” formations as well as 2 “Goal line” formation. The Sub and Goal line formations are used situationally and rarely used as the starting formation when beginning a match. In total, these 9 formations create the tactical adaptability to create the mismatches my system requires.
Before I get into the roster and PI, I want to point out that you will not find any AMR/L or WBR/L players/roles in my system. Nothing against either, but those players were harder to find in the lower leagues and I found them less customizable than the MR/L and FB roles. I also wanted to make it clear to the players and the match engine that those players are expected to have responsibilities in the build-up and defense. Plus, I’ll be honest, the AMR/L roles/players were (and still are) difficult for me to understand and conceptualize because I don’t have much soccer background.
For the most part, players in certain positions are expected to play more or less the same way no matter what the formation is. For example, my AMC is always a Shadow Striker with the instructions to roam, mark tighter, tackle harder, and close down more. So despite having 9 different formations, each position will only have 1 or 2 role/PI setups and they are universal across all tactics. I’m not going to post screenshots of all the setups, but I will bold and underline specific PI settings that are set other than the defaults.
Also, with my wide players you will notice a “support w/gets further forward” and “attack” duty. Unless otherwise indicated, they are set up exactly the same and are used to control how aggressive the player is attacking gaps vs sitting in zones in front of LOS, balance out their defensive responsibilities, and get them to play nicely with the team TI.
Additionally, you will notice that I avoid ball-magnet roles. This is to allow my team the freedom to play where the defense is giving them space, rather than force it into a predefined space that may or may not be there.
The base of the system is that every player has a role and responsibility to fulfill. If they succeed in their individual jobs, then the team as a whole succeeds. For this reason, the Player Instructions are the most important part of the entire system. At the end of the day, players make this system work rather than plays. The rest of the tactics in later sections are about helping the players accomplish these goals through favorable matchups.
The constants within a system are the roster and universal tactical goals, which each formation/tactic is designed to deviate slightly to allow for variations in play or match-ups. Because the roster and universal tactical goals will depend on one another, I end up with a chicken and the egg situation. The tactics determine the roster as much as the roster determines the tactics. Because they are so intertwined, I try to think of them in conjunction with one another.
Although I will get into the specifics of the TI and the formations with the next section, I want to give a quick and dirty, high-level analysis of some of the macro team elements before I get into the specific players.
Every system needs objectives. Without an objective, I don’t have a tangible metric by which I can determine if my changes are helping or hurting the overall mission. Once the objectives are identified, then I can focus on practical rules or ideas which will help me accomplish those objectives. Both the rules and objectives are really high level. They aren’t anything that can be applied to the pitch, but rather are the first steps to creating the system properly.