If you have been following me on Twitter somewhat, you will have noticed my ongoing digital love-affair with Zlatan Ibrahimovic over the course of my FM21 save with AC Milan. Ever since returning to Milan from his MLS exploits, the Swedish frontman has rolled back the years, playing like a man 15 years younger.
I always knew that Zlatan wouldn’t last forever and that the time of his impending retirement drew nearer every time I hit continue. Like any manager worth his salt, I saw what needed to be done. Who could replace Zlatan?
Over the past decades, we have seen ample evidence of the long throw-in and its effectiveness. Most notably, Rory Delap’s bullet throws long proved a useful piece of weaponry for Stoke City. Launching howitzers into the box towards tall and powerful players turned out to be a winning strategy.
The success of Delap and Stoke proves that football need not be complicated. Find someone to lob the ball into the box and have your strongest players shove around defenders and the goalkeeper. Since you can’t be offside from a throw-in, you can bring up your strongest players to cause mayhem in the opposing box.
Earlier I wrote a brief piece on my intentions for FM21. This the first proper article in this series, in which I want to look at the defensive aspect of things. Defensively, I want to look at the three defensive principles forcing the opposition wide, restricting the opposition’s space and maintaining a cohesive formation, how I am to achieve those and which performance indicators I use to make sure my players are performing the way I want them to.
Now that we have all been sucked into the enslaving obsession we all know FM can become if the game is good enough, it is time to look at another yearly seasonal tradition; the hunt for superb set-pieces.
I am no stranger to the subject, I have tried (and succeeded on occasion) to create successful set-piece routines. FM21 was no exception to the rule and I tried my hand at creating a corner setup. You have probably heard of the famous saying “necessity is the mother of all invention”? Well, if necessity is the mother of all invention, blind luck is the drunk uncle of invention. Not exactly something to be proud of but there’s a surprising number of such cases. This is the case of the mysterious throw-in routine that started as a corner setup.
Over the course of FM20 I have at times struggled to get into the flow of the game. It’s not that my teams were not achieving successes but something felt off. My tactics were not producing the smooth, silky style of play they used to in other installments of the game. What was up? Were my earlier successes flukes? Were all those comments about exploiting, hacking and cheating correct? It all came down to the shadow striker and how he behaved and interacted.
During our succession save, two most excellent forwards played a major part in the quick ascension of Depor; Internazionale’s Sebastiano Esposito and a Brazilian newgen forward called Ruan. While both forwards were formidable forces on their own, our tactical tendency had quickly shifted to a single-forward setup. Neither Ruan nor Esposito was undisputed for all the managers involved. This ongoing mystery plagued the minds of the entire managerial pool. How can two obviously world-class players vacillate between quietly mediocre performances and stellar form within the course of a season?