I want to take a step back and talk about creating tactics before we jump ahead with all of the other stuff I have planned. This will be a comprehensive guide focused on designing, creating and maintaining a tactic. Be warned though, this is a very long read and will contain many different parts to it. So if that isn’t up your street you might want to consider tapping out now.
In the last piece I did about the W-M, I did some random analysis in the build up to the season. In this article I want to change the pace and direction I am going in, with the series. It’ll still be analysis heavy but first, I want to explain how the W-M formation functions, what we can change-up, how we might be at a disadvantage in certain areas and so on. I want this to be a comprehensive article that focuses on my thinking because each decision I make. This will then help you all understand the analysis I do much better and give a great insight into how I play Football Manager 2019.
Before all of that though we need to know how to arrive at the point where you can start to analyse things and know what to look for. Some of this stuff might seem a bit familiar as I did something like this around 5 years ago but none of it really exists online any longer. So I want to reuse some of the stuff and update it for the current game.
The Starting Point
Teams and Players
The team you are and the games expectations for those teams, can impact how you can play from the off. Some styles of play or formations might require a specific kind of player or players for positions you currently don’t have. So the idea you have might be likely something you progress towards rather than starting out at. This doesn’t mean you have to abandon your ideas though, it just means you need to be realistic about what you can do straight away.
Any team can play any formation if they have the players to play the positions. But not every team can play an attacking style and be effective. The better the side you are the more creative you’ll be able to be with tactic creating usually because you’ll have more variety or players who are strong for a specific style of play.
A lot of people think you can’t be creative with weaker sides or with teams who are lower down the league pyramid. This isn’t true at all. You still can be creative with these type of sides but it could be to a much lesser extent normally due to the type of players you can attract as they’ll likely not have the required attributes needed. The important thing to remember is that the player attributes are relevant for the level you are playing at. So it is possible to find creative (or any kind of player you need for your style) players at any level.
The point I am trying to make is that you don’t have to keep it simple in the lower leagues or with weaker sides. Just like you don’t have to be more creative in your thinking and application when you are a much stronger side. Keeping it simple or being as detailed as possible in your approach isn’t tied to the level you play or the team you manage. They're separate things entirely.
When deciding on the team you are going to be, it’s best that you have realistic expectations. For this I break teams down into four different groups.
Teams like Palace, Cardiff and Burnley are classed as weak teams in season one. So to begin with the options you have might be limited. You can still play any formation you wish player and transfer budget allowing. But the style which you play will be could initially be hampered. If you want to be attacking then you need to ensure you’ve got a good knowledge of the system you’ll be using and understand its strengths and weakness If not then you’ll struggle especially against better sides.
If the team you’ll be managing falls into the bracket classed as weak sides almost everyone in the league is better. So even before you start you’re already on the back foot. The good thing about being a weak side though is teams will underestimate you and try to impose themselves in the match and force you to adapt to them rather than the other way around.
That can be a good thing at times as this will mean regardless of how you set up majority of teams you face will set up to be attacking and be slightly more aggressive against you and we know what that means don’t we? SPACE.
Bigger sides when they attack automatically leave you space to use somewhere on the pitch, it’s impossible to be attacking/aggressive and not concede space somewhere on the pitch or risk certain players being exposed at times. So regardless of your sides limited capabilities this is something you should be looking out for as you can really cause the opposition some difficulties if you can spot this.
These are sides that are expected to finish somewhere between the bottom three and mid-table. These kind of teams are sides such as West Ham, Newcastle and Southampton. If they have a good season they could possibly have an outside chance of pushing for a European place. If they had a bad season they could be down in a relegation place. The choice of tactics for these sides is vital and it’s important you get the players playing well in most games to avoid a slump down the table. I class these type of teams as bang smack in the middle of the road sides. The opposition will be a mixed bag and while some sides might be really aggressive against you other sides might be more cautious. If you play with a side like this then you have to be really aware of how the opposition are playing so you can understand what you need to do yourself to get a result from the game.
Everton, Wolves and Leicester are what I class as good sides. These sides have probably got too much talent to be relegated. But probably not enough to break into the top 4 on a consistent basis to begin with. That’s not to say with a couple of new signings and the right tactic that you can’t push all the way for the title. A lot of sides you face will try being stubborn in their approach against you and could end up having men behind the ball trying to stifle your attacking threat. I believe it's these sides and the top sides that people have the most issues managing and the reason for this is space and movement. When managing sides like these any badly made tactics or tactics that offer no movement tend to get caught out and shown for their weakness much more than when you are a lesser side. The reasons for this is it's down to you to create space and movement as teams are more cautious/reserved against you compared to when facing bigger sides who naturally give up more space.
Teams such as Liverpool and Man City can dictate how they play. They can also be creative in their tactics and approaches due to the quality of players they have available. You have much more creative license when creating tactics for these types of sides due to most of the opposition playing defensive or counter attacking against you and you normally having a much stronger squad than 75% of the league. Again, when managing a side like this you really need to understand how the roles and duties you’ve chosen all work together and how it all brings you the ‘final product’ you see on the pitch.
It’s really important you decide which category your team falls under. Then you should be able to be more realistic about how the team can actually play. Remember the above is simplifying things slightly and talking in black and white context but this is just so you can decide what type of team you are. It is possible to be any team and overachiever/underachiever.
After you know which kind of team you are going to be, it’s time to explore the tactics and get a rough idea of how you’ll be playing.
There are a few different ways that you can approach tactic creating and each one will determine how it’s created. For me the different ways of creating a tactic are;
- Copying real life or elements of real life tactics.
- Just an idea in your mind.
- Creating a tactic based on player attributes/positions available in the current squad.
You might think there are many other different ways to create tactics and that’s fine. But for me, I think these are the three different ways. Despite which category you fall under, the most important part is that you have some kind of idea. Whether it be any of the options I mention or something else that you’ve thought of. In my opinion there has to be some kind of initial idea to work with.
If not, then how do you know if something is working or more importantly, how do you know you have to change things and what you can build towards. Without an idea you just stumble around with no real goal. It doesn’t matter if your idea is small or big as long as you have something to work with.
Copying/replicating real life
Trying to replicate real life football can be hard because the terminology in-game doesn’t usually match that of real life. This confuses a lot of people. I’d suggest to anyone who is trying to create anything based on real life, to ignore the role names in-game and instead focus on the settings the role comes with and base any decisions on that. At least by doing it this way, you can see if the settings reflect what you see the real life players doing. Don’t get hung up on labels, instead focus on what a role offers.
Another thing that I find tricky to achieve is creating a specific style based on a real life team. One of the reasons for this is, teams change settings/shape constantly. Some are more subtle that others and you might not really notice. This is why I believe if you want to take a real life concept and replicate it, you either needs to focus on the concept in a more generic manner and decide which parts you want to play all the time and which ones you can omit because maybe it's not a constant staple of the desired play.
Or if you want to be as specific as possible, then maybe focus on a specific time period of a particular game, were the desired style is really noticeable and prominent. This is probably the easiest way to replicate styles/formations and so on in my opinion.
I wrote about creating a tactic based on a real life idea a few years back. So rather than write a new example, I’m just going to use this. One important thing to remember is, that no matter what you are trying to recreate, there will have to be some sacrifices along the way due to game limitations. Remember that the below example was written maybe 4-5 years ago.
I like to attempt to replicate real life tactics but putting my own spin on them. This past few weeks I’ve been reading about Bayern and the system they’ve been using and it intrigued me a lot. Especially as people claim this is the next tactical revolution and the next logical step for tactics. So with this in mind I started to read about how they played to get some ideas for how I would set up. For this I used such sites as;
This was more than enough to start me off with what I was trying to create and how to go about achieving it.
Setting The Base Shape
Once you have some kind of inspirations it's all about setting this up in Football Manager. So what I do is create some kind of base tactic for how I try to translate the information I found in the articles above into the game. I call it a base because things never work exactly how you think and you have to make changes during games or to your initial setup should you find something isn’t working.
Firstly the shape. I went for a bog standard 4-1-4-1 because I feel this is more versatile than a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. I can make the 4-1-4-1 turn into those formations quite easily while in the game with the use of roles/duties. So for me this is the shape I choose.
That’s the shape I’ve gone for.
Once the shape is sorted we have to add the roles/duties and settings we think the team use. So I need to identify what I learnt from the links above.
- The striker closes down the opposition’s back line constant
- The wingers judging by heat maps I’ve seen start from further down the pitch but are at times the furthest players forward.
- The MC’s are versatile and are something that change depending on the personnel available.
- One of the MC’s likes to drop back into the DC positions at times to act as the third centre back when defending. Yet when attacking like to push up into midfield while still being the deepest midfielder.
These are the main points so to put this into FM terms I am thinking along the lines of;
- The striker is better suited to being a defensive forward. Some could argue they are a false 9 or even a deep-lying forward. However due to the nature they press the defence then a defensive forward is more logical.
- The wingers or inside forwards depending on you label them will be wide midfielders for me. The reason for this is they both defend and help out defensively and having them in the AMR/AML position won’t allow this. But I can influence their play from the wide midfield positions by the use of individual instructions. Maybe use the cuts inside ones and possibly the gets further forward ones.
- This is the hardest part and the one I am undecided on. So I think I might set this up just like real life and change it depending on who I use or the team I play against.
- I honestly think the half back is suited for this position because it does exactly that, deep when defending and pushes higher up when attacking.
I also decided that I would use an attacking strategy and play very rigid. The reason for playing very rigid is simple - I need certain players do act in a very specific way so by going rigid this allows those players in those roles to really shine and be the focal points of the side. I’ve not gone for retain possession as I believe I can do this naturally due to the roles/duties we have. Plus I’d rather we focused on good dangerous possession rather than keeping the ball and not doing anything with it.
And that’s it, it's really that simple......
Well actually it isn’t because we don’t know if the ideas or logic behind what I’m trying to create even works. But this part will be explained further in the series.
In the next article I’ll focus on the W-M formation again and discuss how we create a tactic based from just an idea we have in our head and how we can fill in the blanks.