Going Down A Gritty Road; Compensating For Lesser Players By Instilling Fighting Spirit

Whilst beauty is certainly in the eyes of the beholder, not every team has the players to play Joga Bonito. It makes one wonder, is playing beautiful football a goal in itsself? What is beauty? Sometimes, beauty is being efficient and making the most of the material you do have. The results achieved by fighting spirit and team mentality rather than finesse on the ball can be as beautiful in their own way as a technical and tactical masterclass by a FC Bayern or Barcelona.

Take for instance the style of play the Uruguayan national team employs. The football character of Uruguay throughout history was established as a defensive and combative though not without some attacking flair. The mix of different European cultural immigrants entering Uruguay, combined with the spread of association football globally, meant that Uruguay, as a nation, (along with their neighbours’ Argentina) created a new and unique style of football. They turned their back on the direct game brought across by the British and developed a brand of football built around short passes, player movement and attacking play.

These technical developments mixed well a key source of pride for Uruguayans, the national characteristic of “amistad” or “friendship/togetherness.” When looking at match clips from their national team, the concept of amistad seems to be a key ingredient of their style of play. They play as a cohesive unit, even established international stars, like Forlan and Suarez, fought tooth and nail for the shirt, eschewing any of the egotistical pretensions of grandeur seen by the so-called superstars of some other nations, taking one for the team if needed.

Add “amistad” to a pretty un-South American, gritty style of football, a style sometimes physical enough to make the toughest Argentine or Italian teams quiver, and you have teams that are pretty tough to beat… So what happens when you employ such a style in FM? Is it enough to compensate for a lack of absolute world stars against the very best teams out there? @diegomendoza1969 and yours truly look into things.


FM Central Presents; The Solid Base

Let’s start off with a brief introduction here. As you may or may not have noticed over the past few days, #wearethecommunity is a thing now on Twitter. A bit of cross-pollination within the scene and a bunch of us trying to look beyond our own blogs and websites. In that regard, Paul from FM Central has decided to share one of his favorite posts with us, his take on tactic building. It should prove for some excellent reading.



Dealing With Crosses In The FM16 ME

Defending in football is not just about parking the bus á la Mourinho and placing as many players as possible in front of the goalie, forming a sort of human wall between the opposing offence and your own goal. Defending is too complicated and sophisticated to simplify it in terms as simple as stacking players in front of the goal. Normally, it’s a fairly decent strategy to force the opposition wide and rely on the strenght and power of your central defender to deal with those pesky crosses. In FM16, that may not be a smart move as your defenders turn into vampires, who petrify whenever a cross comes in.

My defenders' response whenever a cross comes in. Actual in-game images may look slightly different.

My defenders’ response whenever a cross comes in. Actual in-game images may look slightly different.

In Football Manager 2016, two observations regarding wide play are that the effectiveness of attacking play down the wing has greatly increased, often ending with cross and goal, as the striker (or anyone who receives it) easily slots the ball to the goal and secondly the rather appalling and overall ineffective closing down of the player who crosses the ball. The two bothering issues which oftenly cause negative impact on the defensive line. How then I set up the play to face against such issue, here we go.

Defending is absolutely not only waiting for crosses then hacking them away. It’s not only waiting on the deep area then get stuck in to the opponents with the ball on his feet. Defending is about all 11 players. Defending is about a unit of players. It is about collectivity. Defending is about understanding attacking tactic so you can overcome and beat it at the right moment and come out as the winner. It’s about nulify the opponent plan and break it.


Project Arrowhead; Total Defending In FM16 (With A Libero)

When people talk about Total Football, they are usually referring to the attacking phase of play. The positional switching and movement off the ball it delivers has always captivated managers around the world and it’s always been an ideal people are trying to replicate in FM. The whole concept is based on fluidity of positions, rotations and covering your teammates runs. In this way, players use the movements of their colleagues for reference rather than zones on the pitch. In addition the concept is also about balancing the heart, which wants to attack, and the mind, which tends to focus more on defence. You can’t be on the offence all the time, but neither can you defend for 90 minutes and come out on top (hello José, that means you too!).


Yes, many people tend to forget that these same ideas and principles so often associated with attacking can and should also be applied to the defending phase of football. Fluidity of positions, rotations and covering your teammates, maintaining a tight and cohesive wall of players between your own goal and the opposing team. In an ideal situation there ought to be no more than 25 to 35 metres between the forward line and the defenders. The reason for this is to constrict the space in a vertical sense, hence reducing the distances between players thus making it difficult for the offensive team to pass or dribble through the middle of this compacted space.


Counter-Pressing In FM16

With the arrival of Jürgen Klopp in the Premiership, more and more attention is given to one of the major developments in football tactics in recent years; counterpressing. Before Klopp’s move the Premier League, counterpressing or its German equivalent gegenpressing was already hot topic for the football hipsters among us. The act of pressing and closing down the opposition immediately after the ball is turned over has been made popular by managers like Guardiola, Klopp and Heynckes. Just for reference, this is what I mean.

The aim of said counterpressing is to prevent the opposition from counter-attacking, and to win the ball back as quickly as possible. It relies on the team in possession reacting as quickly as possible to the moment of transition when possession is lost. Ideally, a team needs to play as much as possible in the opposition’s half to get them in a low block where their striker is detached from their midfield line. Once they are in this position, it is about having ideal positioning with the ball ergo players in positions where they are impacting the game and finding spaces with the ball but also where they are able to prevent a counter-attack. 


FM16 Corners; Various Routines And Their Merits

Managers, coaches, players and pundits alike often make reference to the importance of set plays, which can be a crucial means to force in a goal when things don’t look good during open play. Set plays by their premeditated nature offer a relatively consistent level of defensive and attacking opportunity and by looking at the effectiveness of teams against a variety of different opponents, we may be able to start to characterize what constitutes good set play defence and attack. In this article, I will look at a few attacking setups, why they are effective and of course the necessary downloads.



Hipster Overload; 5-2-3 Strikerless With A Sweeper

Imagine a formation that takes you back to the times of the early nineties, to the times of teams like the 1990 West German squad. A sturdy, defensively reliable squad, with a proper defensive sweeper like Klaus Augenthaler. The Germans won quite a few trophies in their day playing, according to the pundits, a particularly cynical style of football. But in Italy 1990 the cynical defensive football prevailed, while the Germans began playing more offensive attacking football, but without losing their organisation and discipline. I’ve tried to marry this ruthlessly efficient and defensively solid style with my own strikerless ideas in the same fashion a master whisky blender tries to take the best flavours to create something new and genius. The end product of my whisky-fueled brainstorming-session looks like this.


Now before reading on, please don’t expect this tactic or any Football Manager 2015 tactic to provide instant results. This is a system involving a strikerless formation, which by default takes time to implement but has a proven track record of success in Football Manager 2015. This specific tactical system has been designed around the concept of an Auspützer as described by Jonathon and myself earlier. I will go into a detailed breakdown, covering both the formation and the various roles below. (more…)

The Libero’s Slightly Less Fashionable Cousin; The Ausputzer

It really is a majestic sight. Go back 30 or 40 years and watch teams defend. The majority of them will feature a type of player that seems to have been lost from the modern game. You’ll see an elegant defender sitting behind the defensive line, picking up a stray through balls from an attacker. As he effortlessly brings it under his control, he marches forward with it, stepping past the other defenders and moving into the midfield zone. From there he acts as a modern day deep-lying playmaker, initiating the play and spreading it out to the flanks, or playing it forward into midfield or attack. This is the Libero. People tend to get nostalgic about Libero’s and their style of play and rightfully so, as they were often stylish and elegant players.

But what about the Libero’s less fashionable and unpretentious cousin, the Ausputzer? The Beckenbauers of the world were stylish and elegant players, venturing forward and contributing to the offensive phase of the game, basically acting as additional midfielders when their team was in possession. The Ausputzers were far more gritty, as they just stayed behind the defensive line and just cleared anything that got past the other defenders. Not very stylish, but darn effective. Jonathon Aspey and Guido Merry team up to see if they can realise such a role in Football Manager.


Trying To Create An Old School Modern Defender Role; A 5-2-3-0 / 3-4-3-0 Hybrid

I’ll be honest, I enjoy three man defences. It’s retro, it’s vogue, it adds a bit of charisma to the tactic, for me anyway. It also gives me the chance to experiment with the whole libero-role. As I have read on other blogs, the role doesn’t work, but I can try to involve a sort of sweeper-styled defender. Instead of a defender who sits behind the central defenders and ventures forward, I want a defender who steps out and screens the space in front of the central defenders, building up play, getting involved in the build-up of attacks and aggressive challenging forwards in his zone.


Strikerless Meets Pulis; The 4-4-2-0

Over the last seasons, quite a few people have fallen in love with Barcelona, Spain and FC Bayern’s tiki-taka brand of football. After Guardiola’s departure to FC Bayern, we’ve seen the Bavarians employ a mix between the more direct style Heynckes implemented and Guardiola’s own possession-based style. Either way, possession seems to be crucial, as its importance is preached ad nauseum.

Now I am not blind to the importance of possession, but sometimes keeping the ball just isn’t enough to break down a well-organised defence. The problem with possession is that, while having the ball is certainly more desirable than not having it, you force the other team into sitting deep in a low block defence. This is the bane of possession-orientated teams such as Barcelona and Spain and to a lesser extent, Pep’s FC Bayern.

Breaking down such a team requires a different approach and in this case, I’ll be honest with you. @JLAspey‘s recent work on the Tactical Annals has been nothing short of inspirational for me. I quite enjoyed reading about his exploits with a 4-4-2 formation and I  started thinking of putting my own spin on 4-4-2 formations, naturally adding a strikerless twist. In this particular case, I decided to merge my own strikerless antics with a few pages from the Tony Pulis playbook.