By the gasworks wall #3: Virtual Tiki Taka Garyball?

You might guess by the title that there has been a slight, shall we say, adjustment, in our VTT Sarriball aspirations of the first blog so let me explain. firstly by stating that in the past week of playing this new Salford ‘Vertical Tiki Taka’ angled-save I have mainly learned two things:

  1. Pissing about with database options in FM is a recipe for disaster and
  2. Going straight into a club with a tactical philosophy then trying to squeeze ill-fitting players into that resulting tactic is ALSO a recipe for disaster

So, that said, what could go wrong? The answer is lots that almost threatened to derail the save before it had even left the station. Firstly, let’s deal quickly with the DB nonsense so that I don’t bore you to death and we can get on to tactics.

1: Database nonsense aka dabble at your peril

So you think after so many years of playing FM that I would know how to set up a game, right? Wrong, though at least some of it wasn’t my fault.

The problem started when I decided it would be good to join Salford at this moment IRL, currently sitting in 12th position in a bit of a meh period of inconsistent results but with some excellent players just brought in via the January window. My reasoning behind this was that it would provide a good challenge to try and make the playoffs with just a third of the season left to play.

However, even with the most excellent updated transfers file from Sortitoutsi this was easier said than done, especially as there are currently no ‘real start date’ patches available as often appear later in the game cycle. With that in mind I patched in the update, turned off transfers and started to holiday ahead until this week’s start date. That said, with (I think) the effect of the new better players every time I did it Salford ended up running away with the league come January and in one sim were 18 points ahead!

That was bad enough but I had also started to mess with the DB setup at the game start rather than just choose leagues and a large DB like I usually do, selecting just certain divisions and other tinkering. The end result was that, as well as the Salford-excelling-in-the-holiday problem, I also had many teams from random countries filled with half greyed out players for some reason!

All that said, there was a simple compromise in my mind, namely to restart; still keep the updated transfers; select the usual vanilla DB setup for the countries I wanted within FM and jump in in October instead, which I felt would give me a fair crack at it without (hopefully) Salford being 18 pts clear already. Happily, I am pleased to say it finally worked out good, with me joining with Salford in 4th after this patchy run of results:

In addition, all the teams and players I wanted from the other leagues were there also so happy days!

The only downside when compared to real life of course is that all teams have started in August with the latest transfers as per mid the January window but hey it can’t be perfect and I’m happy with that.

With all that out of the way, lest’s get on to the other problem ..

2: Using a tactical shoehorn

It’s one thing cocking up a DB but it’s another to walk onto a training ground and ask lads who have been oddly playing an extremely defensive Catenaccio for 3 months to immediately adopt a vertical tiki taka tactic, whilst not necessarily having the perfect attributes for it. For example, harking back to the first blog (of this edition that is) By the gasworks wall #2: cross-FM Salford Sarriball anyone? our identified list of attribs we required was as follows:

1ST TIER (ESSENTIAL):
PASSING / ANTICIPATION / COMPOSURE / BALANCE / DECISIONS

2ND TIER (IDEAL WORLD):
POSITIONING / TEAMWORK / OFF THE BALL / CONCENTRATION / TECHNIQUE

Matching this with the team, we have some good attribute matches but with a few key essentials lacking. For example, while our passing, anticipation and composure are above average for the league (anticipation in particular is close to the highest) we are severely lacking in technique, concentration, balance, and off the ball, meaning quite often the passes are there and sought for but not completed because there is nobody there to receive it or it is mishandled (i.e. low concentration / off the ball).

So, when I identified this problem what did I do? I stuck with it of course, because I’m only human and, well, just wanted the thing to work especially as I had blogged about bloody Salford Sarriball 🙂

That said, 5 games later I had pretty much repeated the form prior to my joining purely to sheer pig-headedness:

Therefore I had to make changes and a few games on the tactic has now evolved into this, with the ‘Vertical tiki taka’ now very much matching the ‘custom’ prefix given to it by the FM tactical style auto naming thing in the top left in that, yes, bears some resemblance but no, it isn’t really a VTT (for the moment anyway):

By comparison, here is the instruction set for the default VTT as already in-game with the differences highlighted through necessity to match my squad’s strengths:

To sum it up, while we have retained the passing through the middle, pressing and a higher defensive line, we are now distributing to the playmaker, going wider in attack (albeit to IWs who will cut in for passing options) and using standard passes to give us more options. As for the other roles, they are still in a state of flux, apart from the DLP-s which we will deal with now.

3: Picking the perfect pivot

One thing that has been a good consequence of this tactical shoehorning has been the discussions I’ve had with Adam, aka @FM_stag on twitter, who was behind the excellent Vertical Tiki Taka article that prompted all this in the first place.

It has become clear both in reading the article and from these chats that the DM pivot is absolutely essential to the whole tactic, in other words, the hub of the wheel whose job is to instigate attacks by moving the ball forward with intelligence and high technique. Sadly though, with a top heavy team such as Salford our options are limited:

That said, and with no transfer window for another two months in game, let’s have a look at those options, firstly with our first choice Micheal O’Connor, a stalwart, experienced 32 year old and secondly a lovely prospect called Sam Hughes, whom we will come to in a moment. Here’s Michael O’Connor to start us off:

As you can see for this level he hits almost all the markers with an avg of 10.1 across all of them which I am very happy with. His stats are excellent as well, with an 87% pass rate and almost 2 key passes per game:

Interestingly, his performance has also massively increased since I’ve dropped him into that role from his natural CM slot with 92 passes incl. 4 key passes in one game!

By contrast I also have hopes for our loanee prospect Sam Hughes, a central defender whom I am retraining as a DLP-s, hitting some of the attribs already at the age of 22 and is very positive when on the ball, tending to pass forward rather than sideways or back which is just what I want:

Yes, the boy is not at all a perfect match for our needs (teamwork and OTB need work) but given time and a long enough loan he could well be quite useful.

Thinking ahead we are scouting for a January signing to improve even further, using the following filter, with passing as 13, other tier 1 attribs >12 and tier 2 attribs >10 (I’ve also included pace above 10 as well so we don’t get a donkey):

Initially this was pretty successful in pulling up 26 yr old George Thorne from Oxford who could be an almost perfect fit for us, who is also unhappy and wanting to leave. At the moment he is a good match for Michael O’Connor but he is also younger and playing in a division higher which will be good as we have an eye on promotion.

What is more, his stats for the single game and 2 sub appearances are very impressive, with the following:

  • 83% pass rate
  • 90 completed passes in 118 minutes played
  • 3 key passes
  • 1 goal
  • 7.10 avg rating

The only problem might be that price, so it would defo have to be a loan or a long term HP deal.

4: .. and finally ..

So where does this all leave us going forward? Well feeling pretty positive to be honest, especially when I am beginning to see things like this start to happen, which I do believe is vertical tiki taka embodied, even though on this occasion it didn’t lead to a goal 🙂

My plan is to keep using O’Connor as first choice while retraining Sam Hughes and go and watch George if he plays for Oxford whilst also scouting for other targets with the aim to most definitely have one or two good DLP ‘hub’ options come January.

With regards to the quest for the tiki-taka, given the above gif shows we’re not too far short of it already we’re just going to plod on and keep aspiring for it as the save progresses. which is the sensible choice I think so long as the results go in our favour!

Hope you enjoyed that one, thanks for reading,

Best wishes Daz aka @fmheathen everywhere.

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