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From the quadruple to fourth place, a story of tactical confusion


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I am playing as Tottenham, beginning the fourth season of my save in FM12. Season 3 was a huge success, as the team won the quadruple: Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup. As a manager, I went from a relative unknown whom my stars had trouble motivating themselves to play for to turning down jobs with England and Man Utd. The board finally went ahead with plans to build a new stadium. The future could not be brighter in North London.

Here is the squad with positions

squadendofseason.png

And the team stats:

teamstatsv.png

We played with two tactics:

Home:

homegw.png

Away:

awayng.png

We led the league in goals scored, and conceded fewest in the league. We hit a dry patch in the spring, but after a visit to Cleon's amazing "Understanding Your Tactic" thread, I tighted up my formation, adjusted my shouts, and went on an absolute tear to wrap things up.

And despite that, things have been disappointing ever since.

I made a few signings to start season 4, but nothing major. The biggest signing was to bring in Shawcross for extra defending depth and to tutor youngsters. In reading the forums and revisiting the Tactical Theorems and Frameworks, I learned a few things about my tactic that I set out to correct in Season 4:

1. Playing a Trequarista at AMC and a Poacher as my lone striker was creating supply issues to my striker. Even though Bony scored 30 goals, he would disappear for games at a time. I need to put either my AMC or my FC in a support role to create better link-up play.

2. I was better off playing my FBs as Wing Backs instead of Full Backs in order to support my AML and AMR.

3. Between Sandro, Fellaini, Hamsik, Alberto Sanchez and Ruben Yttergard Jenssen, I had a tremendous amount of skill and versatility in my midfield, but I often struggled to create the right midfield parings between my main tactics.

I want this team to play dominant, but responsible football. We won the quadruple, so I expect teams to fear us and adjust their tactics for us. I would rather dominate a match and win 2-0 than win 7-1 and then lose 3-2 the next week. I built this formation to have Bale and Lennon setting up the AMC and FC, with Bale also scoring his fair share playing the IF-Support role (13 goals, 16 assists last season).

Her are the resulting changes that I have made to my tactics:

Home:

homealt.png

Away:

awayalt.png

In full disclosure, I made these tactical changes after 3 games rather than prior to friendlies. I was simultaneously reading and learning, but still playing. I have saves going back to the start of the season, and before I started making these changes, so I can go back if I need to.

Since making these changes, my teams form has suffered. Losing to recently promoted teams like Leicester and Bristol City, home and away. We are struggling to score goals, and are almost powerless to come back after conceding. Teams are loading the box with defenders and my team looks like they are playing without confidence, lobbing half-hearted long shots at goal (even when I have shouts like "pass into space" "work ball into box" "run at defense" etc).

I'm getting incredibly frustrated here and, as the struggles mount, my tendency to tinker starts to take over. I'm finding myself moving my versatile players around in-match looking for a spark, or changing tactics altogether. It seems the more I learn about how to build a tactic "the right way," the worse I play. I was better off playing ignornantly, with a less cohesive tactic.

This leaves me with a few questions:

Am I making too many changes too quick and disrupting the harmony of the squad? Do I just need to relax and take my lumps for a few weeks while this new alignment gels? Or Would I better off going back to the pre-season and trying these new tactics at the friendly stage?

Are there any glaring errors in my formation, or player roles, that I'm missing? I realize my strikers aren't naturals for a Support role (they are either Poachers or Target Men), which might be part of the problem. I've been trying Bony as a CF-Support, but my AMC isn't scoring either.

Should I scrap the idea of "home" and "away" tactics? Should I be imposing my formation on teams regardless of where we play, and only using the other tactics as alternates when facing certain types of tactics (narrow diamond, 3-5-2, etc)?

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It seems a shame to post such a "to-the-point" post as this after such an excellent effort by you, but......try a DLF on Support instead of a CF - you'll find he's much more involved in play, the Treq will run beyond him, and it also complements the attacking duties of your wide men.

Your "Away" tactic would benefit from a DLP(D) in the DM position to control the tempo of play, and would suit being paired with a BWM and CM(A).

I don't see the need for Home and Away tactics, and play the same way, home and away, in 95% of cases. The only changes you should ever really need to make are with your strategy, and I do feel that Control is a bit too aggressive - try a game or two on Standard and see how you fare.

Finally, Lloris can be a good Sweeper Keeper, and it's a role which can really knit together your defensive structure....

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It seems a shame to post such a "to-the-point" post as this after such an excellent effort by you, but......try a DLF on Support instead of a CF - you'll find he's much more involved in play, the Treq will run beyond him, and it also complements the attacking duties of your wide men.

Your "Away" tactic would benefit from a DLP(D) in the DM position to control the tempo of play, and would suit being paired with a BWM and CM(A).

I don't see the need for Home and Away tactics, and play the same way, home and away, in 95% of cases. The only changes you should ever really need to make are with your strategy, and I do feel that Control is a bit too aggressive - try a game or two on Standard and see how you fare.

Finally, Lloris can be a good Sweeper Keeper, and it's a role which can really knit together your defensive structure....

Thanks for tips. I'll definitely be picking up a DLF to pair up with my AMC. I'd like to have some versatility in my striker options. If I wanted to play a guy with an attacking mentality up top, I should change my AMC to an AP/AM on Support, right? In that case, should I be putting my AML/IF onto Attack? The idea being that the AMC and AMR would be providing support to the AML/ST duo?

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Meant to say DLP, not DLF (and BBM rather than BTB, for that matter). I think he lacks the creativity and the decision-making to be a DLP.

I see what you're saying. I rotate him a lot with Sandro and feel like I can bring him in to play a variety of roles as needed. A midfield super-sub, if you will. I'm training the young guy, Sanchez, to play as a DLP, for the near future. In the meantime, I was able to sign Busquets for 11mil to play as a DLP.

Up front, I am leaning towards a combination of AMC/ST pairings. One a Trequarista and Deep Lying Forward (thinking about a suggestion from lam to re-train Hamsik as a striker). The other being an Advanced Playmaker and Trequarista. In which case I would try to sign Suarez and train Fierro to ultimately replace him.

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Ok, so the only changes you've made are essentially:

1. Fellaini for Hamsik (but expected the same contribution).

2. Hamsik for Gylfi (but expected the same contribution).

3. Poacher to CF (this is the biggy).

4. FBs to WBs (this is also a biggy, due to the duty selected).

I'll go through each and give you my 2 cents:

1. Fellaini is not comparable to Hamsik. At all. They both bring a different dynamic to your team. I also don't think Fellaini is a DLP (I've used him as such but not in the way that you're seeming to want them to play) - I'll elaborate on your midfield later.

2. Fine, this seems like a good like-for-like swap with both players being primarily creative. There are, of course, differences in the players but they should fulfill similar jobs for you. I like Hamsik further forward and if he is struggling, it's likely the setup of others rather than his own ability.

3. Poacher to CF/s - This change radically alters your whole attack. (I'm not going to comment on whether the player can play this role, just on the balance of the roles). You've gone from having a poacher always looking to get in behind, probably playing high and pinning the DC's back, always busy to a role who is far less predictable but is probably deeping, more involved and changes the actual playing shape of your team. This will affect the Treq most because his options change and the DC's may be stepping up and so he may also have less space. Lennon as a winger will likely have different targets in the middle, possibly no-one at all if the attack is quick so his play changes. Bale will still be bombing in from the side but he may have less options in front of him when he isn't directly going for goal because both Treq and CF/s may be in line with him rather than the high, direct poacher.

The Treq, despite his Attack duty, plays more like a support role and as you have 3 guys in behind your striker in your formation you can afford an attack duty on your striker with no problems. The advantage it can give you is that it pins back the DC's and can create space for the Treq, who should be the focus of your formation. In turn this will allow Bale, who sits slightly deeper due to a support duty, to get a good run at a static defence, perfect. Lennon may struggle but with the DC's pushed back, the opposing FB has a choice - pull back into line with his DC's but allow Lennon a run at him or push higher and tighter but create a potential gap between himself and the DC, either way is good for you.

A support role can work of course with this formation but it is quite a drastic change to how you've previously been playing.

4. This could be the breaker for me. The WB will support your wide men more, particularly on that left side where Bale will look to tuck in but won't play exceptionally high all the time but for the other side Lennon should be providing width. WB's, particularly with an attack duty, will get forward a lot which might hamper your defence, particularly on the counter. Teams are probably looking to counter because you're now a real top team so you're just making it easy for them. WB's are also tasked with doing more with the ball which most full-backs arent' particularly suited to so they might be losing the ball a lot. Previously your FB's were more conservative, probably recycled possession more and were certainly more defensive. May be stagger their roles (WB/a on the left, FB/auto or support - probably support - on the right).

I'd really like to see Bale on the right with an IF duty and a creative guy on the left with an AP role or just WM (for the ML away variant). Then it's up to you which FB you want bombing forward, I'd probably pick the left guy to bomb beyond the creative guy but it's debateable. Also, Bale could do this role if you wanted different options higher up.

Your midfield -

For me, a BWM in this formation is asking for trouble (I'm not saying its wholly bad, just concerning). A BWM can get pulled out of position and you can't afford that with this formation because it will expose your defence, particularly if both your FB's are high and opposition attack quickly. You've set the BWM to defend so he's your last line of midfield support, if he goes missing you could be in trouble. I'd consider BWM/s with DLP/d so that the DLP can cover more while the BWM destroys (it wouldn't be my preference but I think it would help you).

I love the idea of Sandro & Fellaini as your midfield, sounds very very strong but I'd want them both sitting. I'd probably stick them on DLP roles (either def or supp depending probably on your line height) but I'd modify it to expect slightly less of them with the ball. I think I'm right in saying they are smart but not particularly technical (as well as being very physical) so they'll see the options but I wouldn't expect them to reliably pull the trigger (like Hamsik would).

Sorry for the long rant, hopefully some of it will be useful for you, at least to think about!

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Thank you, Furious, for your response. I appreciate you taking the time to give thorough analysis, feedback and explanation. You raise a lot of points, and I'll respond to as many as I can

1. Fellaini is not comparable to Hamsik. At all. They both bring a different dynamic to your team. I also don't think Fellaini is a DLP (I've used him as such but not in the way that you're seeming to want them to play).........I like Hamsik further forward and if he is struggling, it's likely the setup of others rather than his own ability.

I agree that they are not comparable. I wanted to move Hamsik higher up the pitch because I felt his technical skills would be of better use in an attacking role. And, irrationally speaking, it was dispiriting to pay 100,000 p/w for a guy putting up 6.9s. Granted, I'm paying about as much for Fellaini, but I believed that this stronger defensive/physical skills would be better suited to a MC role in this formation.

Further, I signed Busquets, who seems like a more natural fit in a DLP role. In doing so, I was hoping to use Fellaini in a variety of capacities - rotating with Sandro as a ball winner, rotating with Busquets as a DLP, perhaps getting some play as a hard-working AMC against teams with stronger DM play (inspired by an SFraser thread where Cleverly was used as an unconventional AMC against Juventus).

3. Poacher to CF/s - This change radically alters your whole attack. (I'm not going to comment on whether the player can play this role, just on the balance of the roles). You've gone from having a poacher always looking to get in behind, probably playing high and pinning the DC's back, always busy to a role who is far less predictable but is probably deeping, more involved and changes the actual playing shape of your team. This will affect the Treq most because his options change and the DC's may be stepping up and so he may also have less space. Lennon as a winger will likely have different targets in the middle, possibly no-one at all if the attack is quick so his play changes. Bale will still be bombing in from the side but he may have less options in front of him when he isn't directly going for goal because both Treq and CF/s may be in line with him rather than the high, direct poacher.

The Treq, despite his Attack duty, plays more like a support role and as you have 3 guys in behind your striker in your formation you can afford an attack duty on your striker with no problems. The advantage it can give you is that it pins back the DC's and can create space for the Treq, who should be the focus of your formation. In turn this will allow Bale, who sits slightly deeper due to a support duty, to get a good run at a static defence, perfect. Lennon may struggle but with the DC's pushed back, the opposing FB has a choice - pull back into line with his DC's but allow Lennon a run at him or push higher and tighter but create a potential gap between himself and the DC, either way is good for you.

I'm a little confused here. From reading previous threads (most notably Cleon's "understanding your tactic" thread), I was under the impression that I was too dependent on my Poacher play. They can get pulled out of position too far up the pitch and create a lot of spacing issues. Plus, since I'm now the top team in Europe, teams are dropping deeper and/or loading up the box, so the Poacher has no one to get behind. Thus, switching to a striker on a support role would improve link-up play between the 3 AMs and the ST. Also, wouldn't having ONE of the AMC/ST on a support role help keep them from trying to occupy the same space?

For what it's worth, I was trying the CF role almost out of desparation as my current strikers are all Poachers or Target Men. Does it change your counsel at all if I played a DLF instead of a CF? My grand vision was to be able to play either a Treq/DLF or AM/Treq combination, based on personnel and opponents tactics, with the ultimate goal of more consistent striker play.

Previously your FB's were more conservative, probably recycled possession more and were certainly more defensive. May be stagger their roles (WB/a on the left, FB/auto or support - probably support - on the right).

My plan was to have WB support for whatever side my IF is on, but have a more traditional FB role on the side with the Winger.

I'd consider BWM/s with DLP/d so that the DLP can cover more while the BWM destroys (it wouldn't be my preference but I think it would help you).

I love the idea of Sandro & Fellaini as your midfield, sounds very very strong but I'd want them both sitting. I'd probably stick them on DLP roles (either def or supp depending probably on your line height) but I'd modify it to expect slightly less of them with the ball. I think I'm right in saying they are smart but not particularly technical (as well as being very physical) so they'll see the options but I wouldn't expect them to reliably pull the trigger (like Hamsik would).

I understand what you're talking about. I do think Fellaini has the ability to chip in with some goals. How would a Box-to-Box role work alongside a Ball-Winner?

I'm sorry if I'm asking some obviously dumb questions. As you can tell, I'm struggling to grasp how the various roles affect space. I understand the importance of balancing defensive/support mentalities against attack mentalities, but less so on how that gets affected by various roles (DLP vs B2B vs CM, for example).

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  • 3 weeks later...

Writing with a long overdue follow-up on my new season. As mentioned before, despite having great success last season, I wanted to make some revisions to make my team more tactically sound.

I was pretty quiet on the transfer front. I brought in Shawcross on a post-relegation bargain, and signed Busquets to bring some creativity to our central midfield. Otherwise, I was focused on re-purposing some of my own talent to play new roles to suit my adjusted 4-2-3-1.

Here is the squad:

standingsw.png

As had been suggested to me, I set out to bring balance to my AMC-FC pairing to have one in a support role and the other in attack. To lead this effort, I took on the challenge of converting Marek Hamsik to play as a striker, as a DLF. I had another player, Rafinha, who had been away on loan and was a natural fit into a DLF role, as well. When I play Bony or Fierro up top, I play my AMC as either a AP-Support or AM-Support.

Here is my adjusted tactic:

homemm.png

When I'm playing a tougher away match, I will play that same formation, switching to a counter-attacking game. Depending on the competition, I am adjusting my mcl position - between Fellaini/Sanchez as an AP-S next to Sandro/Fellaini as BWM-D, or playing Busquets as a DLP-D in a DMC position, with Sandro/Fellaini as an BWM-S.

I've also been experimenting with a 3-2-2-2-1, as I face both Man City and now Chelsea (who hired Mazzarri and are thus playing with Napoli's formation) with narrow/top-heavy attacks. The formation looks like this.

5221.png

After 12 games, I am in first place.

I have been very happy with the play of the team, for the most part. Since last season, I adjusted my wide play to use Bale as an IF-A (rather than S), and using Lennon or Hoillet as a W-A. I adjust my FB play to reflect this, using a WB on the left, and FB on the right. In doing so, I am getting phenomenal play out of Bale. In 12 league matches, he already has 7 goals and 10 assists, for a 8.05 avg rating. I built this tactic looking to utilize Bale as in real life and it's starting to happen.

Where I have been struggling is in my striker play, namely Hamsik. I knew it was going to be a tough converting him to a striker in real time, but he performed very well in Friendlies, scoring like it was his job. However, once the real games started, he struggled in his striker role. In reviewing average positions, I seem to be having the opposite problem from before when using a Treq/Poacher combo. Hamsik and Sigurdsson are overlapping pretty heavily. Hamsik has quite a few PPMs, so I am having to adjust those to fit the striker role.

This is as good of place as any to starting asking a few tactical questions that I've come across as I've gotten into my new season with the new formation.

The beauty of having Hamsik and Rafinha is that they play the same positions - Trequaristas as AMCs and DLF-S as Strikers. They are both natural AMCs whom I am training to play as STs. Their play seems very compatible, so I'm wondering if I can play them together as a duo swapping between AMC and ST. Since they're both learning the new position, will having them go back and forth "confuse" them?

As for my central midfield, I was curious if it's advisable to play a DLP-D (Busquets) with a BWM (Sandro or Fellaini). Does the DLP-D stay too far back, while the BWM pulls too far forward in closing down - leaving a lot of space in the middle? Would I be better off playing the DLP as support or switch the BWM to support?

As I head into the winter, I have a lot of money and few holes to fill, so I can afford to bring in a big talent to make the squad even stronger. Due to my tactical revisions, the guy on the outside looking in is also my most conventional/successful scorer - Wilfried Bony. I have to do so much work to get Rafinha and Hamsik minutes up top, and a Poacher does not seem to be the right option as a lone striker in this formation. Even though the development of the other guys is far from complete, Bony just doesn't seem to fit this formation (which sounds crazy considering how many goals he scored for me last year.

If the other guys struggle to adjust up top, I can lay out big money for a guy like Cavani or Dzeko if needed, but I'd rather spend my money upgrading my AMR position. I have a few strong regens coming up in a few years, so I want to bring a more experienced player. I'd also like to bring in a player that could play as an Inside Forward to give me some more flexibility if Bale isn't playing. I'm looking at Hulk as the guy for that role.

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From my experience in a 4231 denmark, a AMC triq overlaps with DLF S too much. If you enjoy a lot of possession in their final third a AF A works much better because he will be probing and trying to play wide to open space. What you end up with is a lot of overlap where the AMC scores just as much if not more than the DLF.

If you are having trouble with possession, or possession is tied in the middle of the pitch with barely any team having an advantage, a DLF and AMC Trq combo works well to get possession into the final third.

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Just a general comment to follow some excellent responses to your OP. If my team's form starts to dip and my tactics are no longer looking effective I concentrate on shoring up defensively first before working out what is going on with the ball. The reasons for this are two-fold.

Firstly, as you tinker with why your attacking play isn't working, the tendency is to focus so much on this aspect of your tactic that you destroy any defensive balance that you had to start with. Secondly, if you are struggling to score and then concede, it's one hell of a battle to fix mid match unless you can see a clear opportunity to exploit. A team out of form that concedes first gets more and more desperate and morale drops rapidly, compounding the problem.

In summary, I take the pressure off, see a clean sheet as a victory and then start to see where it needs adjusting going forward. Often it sorts itself out at the opposition starts to take more risks trying to score against me.

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From my experience in a 4231 denmark, a AMC triq overlaps with DLF S too much. If you enjoy a lot of possession in their final third a AF A works much better because he will be probing and trying to play wide to open space. What you end up with is a lot of overlap where the AMC scores just as much if not more than the DLF.

If you are having trouble with possession, or possession is tied in the middle of the pitch with barely any team having an advantage, a DLF and AMC Trq combo works well to get possession into the final third.

Currently, my AMC is scoring far more than my strikers (Bale and Sigurdsson are my leading scorers), especially the DLFs. I'm okay with that, but the strikers aren't even getting assists.

I had a response with heat maps to show some of the different formations I have used between the AMC/ST combo, but for some reason it didn't post. I'll put those up later.

I suppose what I'm struggling with is that my strongest AMCs play as a Trequarista, but Trequarista also seems like the best role for a lone striker up top.

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Currently managing a team in Chile with a similar 4-2-3-1 formation to your 'Home' one and was struggling massively despite being overwhelming favourites on paper. We'd often scrape by 2-0 or 2-1 against teams i was expecting to demolish, both in terms of goals and the general play.

I stumbled upon a solution to my problem at least, an article in World Soccer or FourFourTwo (can't for the life of me remember which :D ) which talked tactics and how the team in question pressed heavily when not in possession and how the back 4 pushed up as the midfield pressed the ball.

I've always fallen into the trap of playing a high line but having an Advanced Playmaker or Central Midfielder Support in midfield; the gap between the pressing midfield and the defence playing the high line was far too big and often we lost posession and they countered. So... my sollution was to have 2 Ball Winning Midfielders pressing in midfield, their lower mentality meaning they weren't too far from the pushed up back 4 :)

Results improved massively, posession improved to around 60%, shots on goal increased, passing accuracy increased and we won comfortably against poor opposition. I've got an advanced playmaker support in the AMC slot coming deeper to collect the ball off the MC's who are passing short but i'm not entirely happy with how it's setup as he's often crowded out. We're playing wide with an AMR and AML winger on Attack but my AML is a poor finisher and misses far too many chances; Bale might have more luck i suppose.

Ideally i'd like to play a 4-4-2 with the same principles, perhaps relying on a deeper forward providing the creativity.

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Interesting idea about the two BWMs. At home I play with a BWM-d and AP-s, but bring in a DLP as a late game sub as needed. I flip it on the road, playing the DLPd and BWMd together and the AP coming on as support. It's a nice rotation, and with Sandro and Fellaini together, I have the personnel. Plus, Fellaini can swap between AP and BWM as needed in a match.

How are you playing your striker with the AP-s?

Random question - if I wanted to get a DLF higher up the pitch, am I better off putting him on Attack or manually adjusting his mentality while on Support?

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I'd love to have Fellaini and Sandro at my disposal :D I don't have the necessary BWMs to fit at the moment (i've players with average strength, poor jumpers, average stamina etc) but i'm developing youth to get me there :thup:

I had my forward as a Poacher, he's probably the best forward in South America in my game, so i'm unsure if it's down to him or my tactics that he's hit around 20 in 18 games so far. He mostly scores headers from crossers or turns with his back to goal and blasts one in (he's a Drogba like player) My AMC AP does have 20 assists, but we're scoring a bundle from near post corners, so many are from that. It's probably the crosses that are feeding him his goal chances since he's tall and strong but he's yet to be tested against truely class opposition.

Another idea with food for thought that i attemped back in FM12 after an idea from these forums, was to play a higher ball winner up the pitch and make him press heavily in the AMC slot. Someone like Fellaini would be ideal as we often use him at Everton as the focal point in an attack, he's tall enough to win headers and strong enough to keep posession. I adjusted him manually to hold up ball, trained a PPM of plays with back to goal, increased his pressing and tackling to hard and it worked quite well. He's used in a similar manner at Everton so i'd like to replicate it in FM13 if i had the time!

I think i'd like to start a game with Dortmund eventually and use the 2 Benders as BWMs, their attributes lend them to be excellent pressers and posession winners :thup:

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Another idea with food for thought that i attemped back in FM12 after an idea from these forums, was to play a higher ball winner up the pitch and make him press heavily in the AMC slot. Someone like Fellaini would be ideal as we often use him at Everton as the focal point in an attack, he's tall enough to win headers and strong enough to keep posession. I adjusted him manually to hold up ball, trained a PPM of plays with back to goal, increased his pressing and tackling to hard and it worked quite well. He's used in a similar manner at Everton so i'd like to replicate it in FM13 if i had the time!

I've thought about doing just that against teams that play with 1-2 DMCs against me. Use his strength and work rate with some good (not great) offensive skills to set up the rest of the attack.

What I'm continuing to work through is how to use that AMC role in conjunction with the lone striker. I did a lot of reading on the pairing of those two roles, but haven't seen any real consensus. Sometimes I hear that a Poacher won't work as a lone striker, and that a AF/DLF is the way to go. Other times I read that a DLF won't work with an attacking AMC like a Trequarista as they will occupy the same space. Other times I read that a trequarista is not recommended as the lone striker, and so on...

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