Creating A Tactic – The Paysandu Way #3

In this third part of the series, I focus on analysing matches and splitting it up into sections. If you've not yet seen the first two parts of the series, you can catch up with them here;

Creating A Tactic – The Paysandu Way #1

Creating A Tactic – The Paysandu Way #2

Analysing your tactics can be quite tricky and is something I see people get frustrated with regularly. I understand why it’s frustrating and sympathise with those people and hopefully, this article will go a long way in helping these people not only spot potential issues but give ideas on possible solutions they could use.

I like to keep it simple when analysing games and reviewing my tactics, I don’t over-complicate things if it isn't necessary. What I mean by this is, don’t analyse too much in one go as this can be daunting or be information overload. So what I did was create a system of some kind to help breaks things up, so I can analyse in stages. Some of those stages look like this;

  • Friendly games
  • Competitive games
  • 15 mins
  • 30 mins
  • 45 mins
  • Without the ball
  • With the ball

These aren’t all the stages I use but are probably some of the most common splits I use.

Friendly Games

I believe the results of this games or the manner they are played in should be taken with a pinch of salt. For me these are mainly used for fitness for all the players that will be used during the season. It’s important that everyone is in peak physical condition are ready for the season.

In terms of actual telling me much about the tactics I’m playing, I don’t really put much stock into anything that’s happening. The reasons for this are players aren’t in peak condition and will likely be nowhere near match fit (especially on new save games). Another point is, the players know the difference between a friendly game and a competitive one. Some players due to personality or hidden attributes might be more dismissive towards a friendly game than a competitive one. Which makes it hard to judge if something is a player, tactical, or personality issue. If you want a more clear picture of how things work then I tend to use competitive matches to get any kind of real feedback or info. I’d never make a change based on what happens in preseason or a friendly game.

This year though due to playing with no attributes, I used the friendly games to try to understand my players more and the types of personality traits that they might have, which don’t initially show up on the player's profile page.

Rather than reusing some stuff that I recently wrote, I’ll just link some analysis I already did on the W-M formation a few weeks back that were based on the friendlies I had played.

The W-M Formation – Match Analysis

Competitive Games

These are the most important games of all, especially if you want to learn if your tactic plays how you thought it would or whether you need to make changes and adapt your initial ideas somewhat.

As stated in the linked article above, I like to play three competitive games without changing anything. Even if something isn’t working, I don’t change anything. The reason for this is because when I’m creating a tactic I like to get a feel for it over several games. This way, you can see if something is a one-off or whether you see patterns in each game of things that aren’t working. You don’t want to make knee jerk reactions and change things without knowing if it's a one-off or not. Friendlies can kind of help with this but I believe competitive games are better because players know the difference between a friendly and a competitive game.

Once the three game period is up, I then look back over the games. There’s a reason for this. When you watch a game in real-time and when the result matters, you maybe rush decision-making or don’t think properly. So it’s important for me to take my time and make sure I look over all three games and gather all the information I need, without feeling the result matters.

I know some of you will be sat thinking that this sounds like too much and fair enough it might be. But then you’re probably the person who doesn’t need the use of this whole series. However the point is, if you spend time (now) learning how your system functions and works then you can play at a faster pace once you have that understanding. Putting a bit of effort in now means you’ll be able to make changes on the fly in the future or be better places to know what’s gone wrong and why.

15 mins, 30 mins and 45 mins

Splitting the game into time sections when viewing it back can be really useful. By splitting the time up, you can really push your focus. It’s also easier to spot potential issues in shorter spaces of time than it is longer ones.

My favourite time period is the first 15 minutes of a game, I believe the game is won or lost in this time and that its very hard to recover from a bad opening. I’ve wrote about this before so I’ll just link the article;

The First 15 Minutes – Football Manager

You don’t have to stick to these time periods though, you could use anything that makes sense for you. This is the good thing about analysing, you find what works for you and the way you play. If you wanted to you could analyse the first 15 minutes of the second half, to see if your team talks have helped or not. You could analyse a specific period of time after you make a change to check how it's benefited/restricted you and so on. Find something that works for you.

With and Without the Ball

When viewing games and looking for what my players are doing without the ball this includes both defensive and attacking phases. So immediately you can see the positions the players take up when defending as well as seeing how they move off the ball when attacking. I’ve banged on about this for the past 10 years but the most important aspect of trying to identify these issue is using the pause button. Pause the game at random stages throughout, to see what positions the players have taken up and to enable you to see what is happening around them. Not only that but also use different camera angles to view things as it gives you a much better picture of what’s going on seeing incidents from a different view.

Focusing on play when you do have the ball is just as easy as the above but remember you want to look at the positions of the players not on the ball too as everyone who is currently on the ball needs support. I’ve wrote about both of these aspects in greater detail before too. It can be found here;

Identifying Tactical Issues

This series is a great way of me linking all my previous works into what I’m currently doing to make it even more in-depth.

Now we’ve got the basics of analysing your tactics out-of-the-way, it’s time to show how we now apply this to our games.


I touched upon this above but I like to see how my tactic plays out over three competitive games before I make any changes. This allows me to look back at the games after they’ve happened so I can watch them properly and not get worried about needing a result. On top of this, it’s a great way for spotting if something is a one-off or a regular issues. Sometimes the issues might be caused because of the oppositions tactics, shape, team instructions or even because of a specific individuals influence. It could also be caused by your own player not being good enough, a weakness in your formation, a player having a bad day and so on.

The most important aspect of this is to try to spot such patterns of play and make a mental or written note. When I was learning how the game works I used to write things down on a bit of paper or by using the notes feature inside the game. Find a way that of doing what works for you and make notes about what you see happening in a game. You don’t need the answers to fix them just yet, the first step is identifying issues.

At times you might notice something happening in-game that isn’t currently a problem but might be at a later date or in a specific scenario. This type of information can be valuable as you progress and is all part of understanding how your formation works and why, as well, as knowing its faults and flaws. To give you a few examples, here are some things I noticed in my first few competitive games.

With The Ball

What I’m looking for here is how we attack when we have the ball. This means I’m totally ignoring the opposition and just concentrating on my own players positioning and movement. I need to understand how the roles I am using all link together. This is the start of the move and I already notice something interesting in the screenshot.

The three players in the red box that I’ve highlighted are all a bit too close together. Now this doesn’t mean it's an issue because this is the very start of a move and they might become further apart as the move progresses. However I’d like the RPM to perhaps play slightly more forward initially.

Perhaps somewhere between his current position and the arrows end would be more preferable. Maybe I have the wrong role for what I am wanting or maybe all of this is nothing to worry about. However I’ll make a mental note because it could have complications further in the move. One of the reasons I believe it could be an issue further down the line is highlighted in the screenshot below.

There’s an awful lot going on here, it’s why I’ve broke it down into little stages to make it easier to understand. However in this latest screenshot I add everything back together to show you the overall picture which actually prompted my concern from the very first screenshot.

Both the inside forward and the roaming play maker are both facing away from goal and are both going towards the ball. This then creates the dead space. Now if you look at the strikers positioning (he’s the player circled in white) you can see he is really advanced. This means the only immediate support he has is from players on the opposite side of the pitch. If we get the ball to the opposite side then none of this becomes an issue.

But what happens if the ball doesn’t reach that side? Well my striker would be isolated because he’s cut off from the right hand side of my tactic in this scenario. He has no support, no runners and no direct route for anyone to supply him with the ball. That’s all without even considering the opposition and the amount of players he has around him. From the very first screenshot were there doesn’t seem much going on, at face value, there actually is an awful lot going on potentially.

Now I’ve identified this I can look to see if this kind of scenario happens regular in this match and the others that I play or if it's just a one-off. I can also keep an eye out to see if this does happen, does it actually play out like I think it would and is the striker actually lacking support or supply. If it happens two or more times in one match it's a concern long-term. If it only happens once then it’s likely nothing much to worry about unless you see it occurring in every single game. Then it would require a further investigation.

I could probably show fifty or more other examples too but I don’t want to over analyse and fill you with information overload. So I’ll keep it at that for the attacking example. I will show you one more example before this part of the article is done though. This time focusing on our positioning when we don’t have the ball.

Without The Ball

One thing I have neglected to mention in the series so far is changing your view when watching games or incidents back. Changing the camera angle can be a great tool for looking at things from different angles and perspectives. Some stuff might become clearer or give you a fresh take just because you did something simple like change the camera view. I often change it for different angles when analysing my tactics.

In this screenshot I lost the ball after attacking. A bad pass and the ball was put out for a throw-in. The opposition took it quickly and got the ball back into the centre of the pitch. You can basically get a general idea of my formations natural shape here, it’s not exact but it’s more than enough to highlight the issues defensively.

As you can see, a quick ball out to the wider player and he has time to control and turn with the ball. This simple pass puts me on the back foot and means the oppositions wide player is one on one against my IWB.

This is still the same move but the screenshot is taken after the pass I was speaking about above and from a different camera angle. The oppositions wide player is rather isolated and my half backs who are circled are coming across to cover. So there isn’t that much danger here.

However what if the opposition was using an attacking midfielder or two strikers. Then this would be a huge concern because my centre back would be isolated and not able to mark them both. Not only this but in this screenshot my two half backs are too close together. I don’t want them both doing the same thing at the same time and moving into the same space. This isn’t helpful at all. Could this be a downside of using two roles that are the same next to each other or is it down to the quick change of play which has put my team onto the back foot.It could be either and I know the answer but I’ll leave you pondering the situation until the next article.

In the next article I’ll focus on the stuff I have seen happening regularly are speak about what changes we could make, whether it be a role/duty/PI/TI change and discuss all the other possible options. Normally there are multiple ways of fixing things and not one specific way.

17 thoughts on “Creating A Tactic – The Paysandu Way #3”

  1. Very helpful. your teaching how to fish, not just giving one away. ! question though. You’ve mentioned in previous posts that a good tactic should have multiple ways to attack. The above tactic uses 2 IF’s and a CF. i understand that the W-M isn’ t designed to create width so How do you invision the tactic creating different attacking methods?

    1. It’ll be touched upon in the next article. But the IF’s are just one way of attacking. The Mez/RPM linking with the striker is a second way of attacking. The IWB’s clogging up the centre of the pitch and strangling the opposition by allowing us to keep the pressure on them by feeding the ball to the strike/midfielders is also a third way. Also the relationship between the IF’s differ on each side of the pitch and how they interact with the central midfielder.

  2. Do you just change your fullbacks to inverted fullbacks or do you flip flop them as well ( rightback flipped to left and vice versa ) to get their stronger foot to the inside ?

  3. what kind of adjustments do you make ( if any) when protecting a lead or chasing the game late? exp: your a goal up or down at the 80 minute mark. sorry if this question is in the wrong forum.

  4. That was a great article. I meant with say 5 to 10 minutes to go when you have not been the dominate team. You see some pretty radical changes in real life. I just wondered how radical a change you would make and what type ( exp. would you ever change Paysandu from a WM at the end of a game?)

    1. I don’t play like that, so can’t really answer. I’d have made possible changes much earlier, as soon as I saw that we were losing the ball. I react to what’s going on, I don’t leave it 20-30 mins after. I don’t do anything radical ever.

  5. I just reread both articles. I understand that you concentrate on what your side is doing. I’m trying to get a read on how far a change is to far if that makes sense. Exp: you are up 1-0 in the 85th minute and the opponents are pouring it on suddenly. What might you do and what would you NEVER do.

    1. This is like asking me what your missus wants for a present at Christmas. I can give suggestions and I might get lucky and name something she likes but only you truly know what she wants. It’s the same in this instance, you do what feels right for you and the feel of the game you’ve had so far.

      You can pause the game and look at the match stats, individual stats, player performances, watch clips of stuff that’s happened back and so on.

      One thing I never do is panic and make changes for the sake of it. You need to know the context of the game you’re in and how its going.

      If the opposition are really going for it, most people would likely drop deeper etc. But that doesn’t make any sense because that would allow them to comeback onto you and pin you in your own half, deep.

      So if the AI has gone very attacking, I’d likely look to hit the ball longer and use all the space they’d freed up. Or use a more aggressive role maybe.

      There’s literally hundreds of things you can try and many different ways of still having the advantage. I’m not being awkward but it’s not a case of saying ‘do this, don’t do that’ blah blah. Context is everything.

  6. I could use suggestions for christmas gifts (lol). Your answer was helpful as I generally do drop deeper. I know switching to park the bus never works. I was trying to get a handle on what was going to far.

  7. Thank you Cleon for the wonderful article. I not new to FM but on numerous times, I have given up because it’s too hard for me. But I keep coming back to play each year and end up the same. I have read numerous articles from squad assessment to creating a tactic with what the team has but I guess it doesn’t work for me.

    This article has actually given me a fresh look into how to actually the matches and spot the gaps. When I think about the games I lost, the examples given showed up in my matches too. In order to get good results and sustainable tactics, spending alot of time analysing is important.

    Thank you for your time spent on a wonderful article. Awaiting for your next one.

    Cheers 🙂

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