Heathens Rising #4: the one about the tactic

“My name is Daz and I am a tactical tinkerman. I’ve been clean for 0 days.”
FMheathen, FMA(nonymous) meeting, Salford community centre

I’m the sort of person who hates any form of order and routine. I detest the organisation that the missus or my job tries to impose on my life and suffer it begrudgingly, grumbling under my breath at her desire to plan the exact minute that we will be going to the mother-in-laws on a Saturday in three weeks’ time or the clock watching that comes with business meetings.

That said, it is perhaps understandable that when it comes to FM tactics I apply a more free approach, tending to twiddle about with them way too much, driven by the instinct to try instructions to solve this or that problem rather than stick with anything resembling the routine or mundane for a long period of time. I have accepted this as a weakness in my FM game that occasionally can be turned into a strength (see below). However, the balance is definitely on the side of it being a generally a negative influence on the way I play the game with no doubt many leagues, derbies or trophies lost from fiddling too much.

But then again there have been those occasional reversals of FM fate, the moments when due to being a tinkerer I spot patterns and make changes in second legs or the last half of games to turn it around, a case in point in this recent FM touch game where my Benfica side were 4 nil down to PSV in the Europa after the first leg only to win 7-1 in the second due to the observations and changes I made (going positive, 4 role changes and 3 replacements to the starting XI in case you were wondering – also no tight pressing as we were ball-chasing).

Then of course we got smashed for 5 and eliminated in the first game of the next tie because I pissed about with it yet again, such is my addiction 🙂

All of that said, I decided for my second Newton Heath 1878 season to finally nail down a tactic, a one-tactic-to-rule-them-all that would, well, rule them all (hopefully) and I thought it might be interesting to share the process with you as follows ..

ACT ONE: creating a base

Whenever I build a tactic that I want to last I always start with a list of aims such as these that I wrote on my desktop sticky notes ..

With this in mind I clean-slated the instructions and chose your common or garden 433 DM wide as a base (ignore the default roles for now):

I then addressed the first aim of LOTS OF MOVEMENT with a cheeky bit of asymmetrical wingery with the IWBs and IWs at opposite corners, adding my first instructions for the underlap and overlap on different sides to force the interplay and movement of those players even further. I also added an RPM in CM and a BWM in the DM slot, again for the same reason as per the arrows which are my understanding of their general movement:

I then set up a bunch of friendlies to test it to work both these and the other roles that I hadn’t touched yet as well as the instructions. As I made changes I also saved over the tactic in-match and reloaded it as the next base for the next game. Whilst we immediately got good results, winning all three games against reasonably matched teams (one of which was Sporting, a full level above us albeit in Portugal) what I noticed more importantly was where the goals were coming from, with all these highlighted in yellow either wingers or WBs, with only our loanee Liam Delap the sole striker. All well and good I thought. However, the movement and that switching and overlapping I yearned for still seemed to be lacking.

Guessing it was quite a bit to do with tactial familiarity I did a lot of tactical training sessions including any that hit the “creative freedom” element such as attacking wings, which also covered the obvious wing play I wanted to encourage:

Back into how it played, we continued to improve and I began to see more of that crossover movement, especially when I changed some of the other roles.

However what was lacking was a method to tie this down even more and make it more visual, so using two tools I often use; the nickname feature and also the ctrl-click function to select multiple players, I came up with something that I thought would work quite well.

ACT TWO: analysis

In short, I decided to temporarily rename all my starting XI into their given roles so that I could better track their movement and interplay as per this image below. It’s not something I would do a lot but it took 5 minutes and I just selected them all and chose “remove nicknames” after I’d watched a few games back.

You might think that this is a bit obsessive (it definitely is) but I found the insight it gave into team movement was excellent. It showed me first of all as per this shot above how the TREQ and RPM were bunching and while you may say I’d spot it anyway I think it just makes it easier especially as you can see the roles.

However it really works best when in motion as per this stunning run from my left IF Curtis Jones to set up a tap in for Liam Delap. This was now 5 games in and you can see that the familiarisation is kicking in proper with lots of movement that is causing the opposing team massive marking and tracking problems, leaving loads of attacking options as we approached the box:

We also got our highest ever xG in this game which I was very pleased with, albeit against a lower opposition.

Of course it isn’t always as plain sailing but I did find that it was as dynamic as I had hoped in that it seemed hard for the AI to suss given all that movement and the results in the next section show that.

All that work done, this is how the tactic looks now, which I’ve named the “Cyclone” due to the movement thing and also because I’m a big child. I also have a defensive version which is basically the same but dropped to cautious and some of the role mentalities dialled back:

ACT THREE: the judgement

As we know the proof of the pudding is in the eating so how did it play? Well first off, here are the results, bearing in mind we got smashed last season and I almost got sacked whilst we are now on a mini invincible run:

My biggest triumph there was the game against a much stronger Newcastle outfit that saw all our bottom half players get plus 7s using our defensive version while our front lot sneaked two of those cyclone-specials on 81′ and 91′ after I’d switched up to our base version. Our overall campaign stats are massive as well with an xG of 1.72 🙂 This was all the more interesting when I remembered that last year we barely managed to match the league avg, indicating a huge improvement:

However, on a final note I wanted to share this image below which gave me the greatest FM stats-high I’ve had for a while, namely our attacking efficiency which shows us right at the top of the pile for attempted shots for the first time in the save. Now all we need to do is get more over to the right to make them count more!

And on that note I shall leave it there before I go and jinx the bugger.

Thanks for reading, find me everywhere as @fmheathen and bye for now.


ACT FOUR: Epilogue (3 games later), aka hubris n’all that

I should have known, straight after I had signed the blog off above with the fatal words “I shall leave it there before I go and jinx the bugger” this happened, with the AI sussing us despite all my best efforts and thus destroying that exact aim:

From watching the highlights it is clear that we are now being pressed by every team from the minute we kick off and here is a perfect example, where my previously featured dribbling hero Curtis Jones gets surrounded by 4 players on his approach ..

Also this, showing the successful tackles for both us and Peterborough from when they dumped us out of the Carabao 2-1 despite being a league below us. We are the orange (12 tackles won) and they are the blue (24 tackles won) and as you can see they completely negated that main threat from our wings which I had took so long to build:

The solution? This was a tough one as our game relies on freedom of movement and time on the ball. That said, I decided to soak up that pressing and switched to a deep counter version which looks like it is working, with an easy friendly to test it followed by a draw and a win:

Saying that, who knows what else they’ll throw at me? We shall see!

Defintely bye for now,


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