“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant or the scared. It’s an excuse for inaction, a call to non-arms.” – Colin Powell
1: ON THE SLOPES WITH MIKE BASSETT
It’s a slippery slope we get ourselves on at times in FM; that moment when winning every game 3 nil creeps towards 1 nil and you find yourself having a little tweak with your TIs and (God forbid) the sacred PI’s, before one loss becomes another and you tweak again .. and again .. to eventually turn around to find you’re in a rabbit hole of FM decrepitude, on a run of 10 losses with the odd mediocre draw convincing you with the little morsel of hope why you still love the game.
For this read me at 12:15am last night/this morning, when I had almost convinced myself on a run of 8 either scoreless or 1-1 draws that surely a 2-1-4-3 (or something like that) would work if only that lazy sod Callum Gribbin could get his finger out of his arse and lead our attack to defeat PSG away (like at Agincourt n’ all that when the English did similarly scary stuff to the French). Predictably, Gribbin went missing once more and we didn’t recreate that great battle but instead lost 4-0.
So what to do at a time like this, stuck in 14th at the end of our 3rd season? When I felt I had tried everything, that the wealth of experience of playing FM for a gazillion hours over the years had given me? When all hope of a rescue of this wonderful save that I had such high hopes for was looking about as possible as Jezzer phoning Boris at 3am to ask if he can come round for a wikkle cuddle?!!
I’ll tell you what I did, I went 4-4-fucking-2.
And then found that, nah, it didn’t work AT all and our underperformance was most likely because my team was just, well, meh.
To illustrate the point, here are the two periods before and after I went Mike Bassett at the end of last season vs the start of this 4th season, which also included another 3 similar results before the 442 list (Note: the first game in the 2nd column was against PSG so that doesn’t count) ..
So why, you may ask, did I stick with it when it was so clearly not working? The answer is quite simple, that after trying sooooo many different variations on my base tactic I decided that I would go all vanilla and stick with a simple tactic until goddamnit the players got used to it and would start to win, which of course they clearly didn’t.
But let’s not just leave it there, let’s delve a little deeper into the topics of a) why sometimes in FM a tactic that may work for others will (very very often) not work for you and b) the game’s enduring ability to screw up the best laid plans of mice and (FM)men just for the pure hell of it.
2: THE PROBLEM aka a) why sometimes in FM a tactic that may work for others will (very very often) not work for you (oh, and also b, the mice and men bit)
So first off, let’s see where the reasoning come from for me to go 442. The short answer is that we were coming off a run of games where we could not score no matter what we did so I felt we needed a two striker system instead of the 4-2-3-1 we were playing with and also that it was getting talked up in the community both on twitter and a few of the pods.
The long answer is that after watching 3 or 4 games on full highlights I realised that we were lacking in many areas that I felt the 4-4-2 could improve upon, while maybe also giving me a simple base from where I could just tweak the mentality and roles to go either def or att in a second without necessarily changing formation. These advantages I felt were as follows:
- WIDTH: I felt that we would naturally get more with covering more of the pitch
- DELIVERY: Basically it was very poor, I was relying way too much on the WBs to produce and if they had an off day, which was frequently, the full team had one and it would almost certainly lead to a loss
- CHANCE CREATION: an extension of the above
- CHANCE CONVERSION: more strikers = more goals??
In practice, this equated to a sat back 442 with a cautious, regrouping undercurrent that would be patient, win the ball back in midfield and feed it forward to my two shiny new attackers (we were coming to the end of the season so would be delving into the market).
In reality, it looked like this, all very simple and conservative ,,
Pretty standard as I am sure you will agree. As you already know however it didn’t quite work out that way for us at SM Caen, who always like to do things the hard way.
Beginning by working and tweaking the tactic with a few friendlies, it was all going well, with high possession, excellent defense and some great chance creation. Yeah, we didn’t score many but what I saw was really encouraging and worth persevering with.
I continued to tweak until the version you saw in the top tweet, with a lot of TIs but all relevant I felt and bringing some improvements. However but then it happened, we lost one then another, the backside fell right out of it and we only picked up 4 pts in 7 games even after dialing it right back to hardly any instructions.
The most obvious problem with it was that the aggressive attacking midfielders we had were simply playing too deep to have any effect, but when I moved them higher in the past they had got lost against the better teams and hardly had a touch so it was a bit of a catch 22
So what to do? With the board opinion dropping from my usual ‘pleased’ or ‘very pleased’ to ‘satisfied’ I had no option but to throw the bugger away before I lost my job!
3: THE SOLUTION aka how to grow a pair in three easy steps: the tactic, the right players and the implementation
So after taking a step back for a day I came back with fresh eyes to look at all the tactics I’d used in the last three seasons (there were a lot). Then suddenly it dawned on me that in order to stay afloat in Ligue 1 with a squad 3/4 full of Ligue 2 players I had dialled back more and more every time until eventually every one was based on a deep counter strategy. This had happened mainly because whenever I had tried a high line/high press tactic we lost the ball almost immediately and got spanked against at least half of the league. In effect, I had gradually become more subservient to the point where clubs were facing us expecting to bend us over to take three points every time. And the worse bit was I had invited them to do it!!!
That said, we needed something PDQ for the new season which was going to work better, MUCH better, if I was to survive and prevent myself from becoming a reluctant French journeyman. In reality this meant I needed something confident and assertive with a quick switch that I could flick to dial backwards more defensively or forward to be more attacking where necessary.
With that in mind and with a paltry 1.7mil in hand, I managed to do some very tasty transfer business indeed, bringing in a total of 6 aggressive, attacking and creative players (and a solid granite defender called Mathias Jorgensen) who were ready to step up and press for victory, taking the game to the enemy. What is more, I also had another rule, that they had to be at least listed as being at a Ligue 1 level:
So what to do with them? Well, wanting to keep some security at the back whilst also being strong going forward I started with this standard 4-2-3-1 which I felt was well balanced between attack and defence, with some urgency in high pressing but also restraint as they regrouped and got behind the ball out of possession ..
This then switched up into this attacking version, with everything cranked up and much more where I want us eventually to be when we get to the top of Ligue 1 with the players to back it up ..
And of course, the defensive variation, for the top 6 or tough away games, which is essentially a deep defensive counter ..
So how did it play? BLOODY MARVELOUS THAT’S HOW!!!!
As I previously showed, the turnaround, although gradual at first has been quite incredible and has continued for most of the autumn campaign.
What is nice is that has time has gone on and our morale has risen I’ve been able to go more and more attacking until the point where I have used that attacking version in these last three games.
In addition, the new signings have made a massive impact, not always scoring themselves but raising the game of the other players around them, so that assists and goals are now coming from all over the park. To give you an idea of what I mean, I had my striker Leandro Cardoso on the transfer list he was that useless last year and Teden Mengi was a prospect I’ve just brought through who must think he’s won the lottery playing in defence behind Mejbri, Oliviera and Pukki. In fact, Cardoso is keeping poor Jamie Vardy out of the team he is that good atm and the poor bugger is begging for a start still while he’s sat in school with that French Madame on his ‘intensive’ language course!
In conclusion, this is where the turnaround leaves us, with our best start to a season since we were back in Ligue 2 over two years ago ..
So on that note, I shall leave you there with fingers crossed that it continues. This is likely to be my last post up until after Christmas so have a good one!
Daz aka @fmheathen everywhere