By the gasworks wall #5: In Salford we trust

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
Ernest Hemingway, South Pacific, 1949

“So, like, we just go out and do what we want?”
Nathan Broadhead, Kersal Labour Club, Salford, 2020

Ironically given the current circumstances and the spare time I’ve had it has taken me a while to get the desire to play FM again recently. I won’t bore you with the details as we’ve all fought our own lockdown battles but it’s enough to say that like many many others the world over my mind has been elsewhere in the Covidpocalypse thus far. That said, I am pleased to announce a resumption of hostilities at Moor Lane as I have once more taken the reins of my beloved Salford but this time with a slight difference that you may find interesting.

This came from an examination of my strengths and weaknesses as an FM player which boiled down to ..

WEAKNESS:
I tinker all the time with tactics (especially instructions)

STRENGTH:
I tinker all the time with tactics (especially instructions)

In other words, I can either win a game or a league from a hopeless position with some perfectly placed tactical changes (for this read my final save-ending league win over PSG with SM Caen) or also lose them from a dominant position (for this read throwing away a 12 pt lead with 5 games to play in my 2nd to last Heathens year because I was a little bored with the tactic). What can I say, there are soooo many gorgeous instructions!

That said, and with a strong desire for a new angle on the save to keep my interest, I have decided to go completely full throttle in the entire opposite direction and use absolutely no instructions at all in this Salford resumption, relying purely on formation, roles and PIs where required, which will be revealed below.

Firstly though, let’s have a look at where we find ourselves after my self enforced FM lockdown.

1: A HERO NAMED CASP

If you recall back in By the gasworks wall #4: It’s alive!!!! we had magnificently gained promotion at the first time of asking into the dizzy heights of League One and were setting out on a rebuilding campaign to tackle life in the new league.

Chris Casper, brilliant
(with smooth hair)

However with a limited budget and a current stock of players who were very much League Two at best it was quite a challenge for which I decided to recruit some help. Enter stage left my wonderful and (occasionally) brilliant DoF Chris Casper, whom in the sheer breadth and quality of his player suggestions is an FM wonder to behold, bringing in a mass of incredible loans and frees that enabled us to step up immediately to the new level.

PS, for anyone who might be worried about this approach you need to set the staff responsibilities as follows so you can filter out the inevitable dross they come up with, which means you can stop them at the signing stage:

That said, the amount of quality that Chris suggested meant I only had to reject three players after he got on a bit of a 2 star CD fixation for a week, but other than that I have to say it was the best DoF work I have ever seen in any FM edition since the feature was introduced. To give you an idea of what I mean, here are his three best finds from the 9 excellent players he suggested and we went on to sign:

Casper’s Heroes #1: Jayson Molumby

Millwall’s loss was our gain as we picked up Molumby on loan to fill a massive hole we had in that marauding midfield position and the boy has not disappointed with an impressive 7.08 avg and 89% pass rate in 11 games so far.

Casper’s Heroes #2: Josh Emmanuel

With a massive lack of quality at RB I was soooo pleased that Casp had picked up on it and began to send me some cracking suggestions, the second of which was Bolton wantaway Josh Emmanuel, who has absolutely smashed it since his arrival with a 7.1 avg, 1 goal and 4 assists in 14 starts.

Casper’s Heroes #3: Alfie Jones

Fully aware that we needed to shore up the rear (oo err missus) I jumped at the chance of Alfie Jones on a free. Once more he has the passing ability that I love (remember the tiki taka Salford Sarriball thing?) while also being a threat in the box. For this read a magnificent 7.13 avg, 4 goals, 1 assist, 85% passing and an 88% tackle rate in 19 games thus far.

Add to this a couple of other loans such as Thomas O’Connor (lately of Gillingham) and Nathan Broadhead on loan from Everton and it’s fair to say that Casp has absolutely smashed his DoF role so far for me.

That said, I also had my own ideas for a little Manchester United icing on the cake so made two cheeky bids for the twin gigantic-barnet-ed Hannibal Mejbri and Tahith Chong after a vs Utd U23s friendly which were miraculously accepted! This was so satisfying not only because of the Utd connection but also because Mejbri is an absolute beast in this edition, often ending up in the world top 10 under the right circumstances.

2: TACTICAL MINIMALISM AND A NEW DISCIPLINE

So, I hear you ask, what exactly do no instructions look like? Ok, you didn’t ask that as it’s pretty easy to imagine. That said, maybe a more valid question is what does a tactic with no instructions play like? The answer is pretty damn good. What follows are my two starting tactics for both home and away. Firstly let’s have a look at the home ..

As you can see it is entirely a case of roles dictating play. What you see here is a development of my original 4-2-3-1 wide that has been adjusted to accommodate the strengths of my team based on the players available, which of course has meant I have full greens for several players as I play to those strengths, as for example when I insert the 5 players I mention above like so:

Although I have never ever been a ‘full green’ obsessive it is a nice consequence and again a new way to play the game which I am finding both interesting and rewarding, even if the rest of the team don’t fit perfectly.

On to the away tactic and you can see that apart from swapping the AMC (sorry Hannibal) for the anchor man it is basically just a stepped back version of the same with also the FBs dropped back both to that FB auto role, which I am well aware is the marmite of current FM roles but which I love, especially in this new strategy where often I just change the mentality without having to then go and change the FB roles.

A footnote to all this has been how DAMN HARD it has been for me to resist making even a single change to the team instructions even when we are under the cosh, where instead I will adjust roles, make subs or simply switch mentality to force a change.

3: SO HOW ARE WE DOING?

I am very surprised and pleased to say that after 17 league games it has proved to be an excellent move, with us lying proudly in 9th just 4 points off the playoff places which, given the pre-season prediction was 15th is very good indeed imo. Yes, we have had our dodgy periods but basically we have flitted between 5th and 9th all season so far which I am very happy with as are the board (which always helps).

In terms of the tactic pros and cons it can be INCREDIBLY frustrating when I know for a fact we need to push higher or focus play down one side but surprisingly I haven’t noticed a difference in the outcome of such games and in fact am now much more focused on the factors of the players and their roles making an impact, which let’s face it is THE main change a manager makes during the game. This is interesting because a pal of mine (who shall remain nameless but played for Blackburn not that many moons ago) told me that most of the time the players either don’t hear what the manager is shouting or just don’t pay attention anyway!

4: AND FINALLY (AKA THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING)

So there we go, enough of the written word for now so I’ll leave you with this, my latest game in audioblog format over on my FMheathen audioblog. I hope you enjoy and see you back soon!

Regards, stay safe and all that, D x aka @fmheathen everywhere.

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