Ever since I picked up the first edition of Championship Manager, my goal has been singular, beat the AI and humble it into submission. Making super tactics back in the day wasn’t hard because the game was simple, it had all kinds of arrows all over the place, and this made the engine frighteningly predictable. The continued success of the super tactics that ruled the 90’s allowed the game to be challenged, and this forced the game to evolve into what it is now, a much harder beast. The thing is, the game hasn’t changed very much, the basis of the game is still the same, its a numbers game. All you need now isn’t a super tactic, but a system of play, one that is built on a firm logic and something that you can replicate. If you want to humble the game again, the initial work you do will be time consuming, but once you have sorted things out and laid the foundations you will be on auto-pilot. And, when, your players retire, you will need to start looking for replacements that fit into your supersystem. The whole goal will then be creating a sustainable model.
To get this done, you need to follow some simple steps, and we will use a simple formation to begin with.
There’s plenty of discussion and debates on getting a 4132 to work. Its a fairly basic tactic I don’t even consider this to be an exotic tactic. This page will list out how you can set up a 4132 system that works.
Before we begin any system we need to establish broadly how we want it to play, and then list out what kind of attributes the TEAM should have and finally how the pivots in the side operate for you to get ahead.
STEP 1 – IDENTIFY A TACTIC
Every tactic is about control of space, remember that each position on the tactical screen shows you one piece of vital information : where the players will be when they defend. Its no use building an attacking 4231 and then moan that the 4 upfront don’t do enough defending. You need to know why they don’t and how to make them defend. Each system has a starting point for defending, and these positions can be adjusted via Player Instructions. A player who is an AMC in a 4231 won’t defend in the box, unless he has been giving Player Instructions that ask him to close down much more, hard tackle and PPMs that encourage him to drop deep. So understanding your tactic is the first step. From here, we will be using a 4132 to illustrate the rest.
How does it play
The 4132 we will be discussing is the narrow version, one can modify this to make it into a wide one, but I do believe it loses a lot of its potency. A narrow 4132 is a lot better at defending the space. The starting points are clear, and can be adjusted via PIs and roles. If you want the CWB to sit deeper just tell him to go defend, instead of attack. If you want him to punch forward then set him to attack.
The DM position is important, too deep and you have issues because he will only challenge when the ball is in your third, too high and a gap results. Knowing that there is a space that can be exploited between the DM and the MC forces me to tell the MC to close down much much more. The two MCs won’t go to the flanks unless they are encouraged to as well. If you are setting this as an attacking formation, you need to bear this all in mind. Player attributes are vital and important.
This is the 4132 that West Brom uses. When I created this formation, it was for the explicit purpose of being defensively solid. The goal, score on the counter, and if thats not possible at least have possession of the ball and allow for play to develop patiently around the box. The tactic I made could only be done on two shape settings Rigid or Fluid. Both of these essential divide the team up into basic defend/attack components the only difference between both being the level of creative freedom with the latter having more.
Since WBA wasn’t exactly the best in the land with creative freedom I opted to use fluid, this encourages the side to exercise a bit more creative freedom, across the pitch, I wanted the team to defend and attack as a group. Now I could get the same out of Rigid, and in some games where I require a lot more discipline I do occassionally either tell them to be more disciplined or I would go rigid. We went fluid simply because I needed a lot more imagination in fashioning chances.
When you set up a system as a defensive system, you are telling the same to take lower risks when going forward this does have the undesired outcome of reducing the risk taking of your team, and in doing so sometimes you can have loads of possession, and yet not create anything that even remotely looks like a great clear cut chance. This is something people need to understand about defensive systems.
These kind of systems while, they are solid, depend on a host of factors to create goals, and you will need to look at each player to determine how they fit into your system.
STEP 2 IDENTIFY THE PLAYERS
The attributes that define your quality
This by far will sink or float your boat. FM is a numbers game, simple as that, stop getting emotional about why a person fails to perform and start looking at numbers. When you create a defensive system you absolutely need to get these attributes nailed down tight:
- First Touch
Concentration is important because you are defending for long periods, any lapse will lead to conceding a goal. This is especially vital for midfield and defend roles. First Touch without a doubt the most vital cog on the wheel. If you receive a pass and can’t; control it, especially when you are playing narrow, you could lose possession, and if you play a ball wide, that early cross only comes if the first touch was perfect. Finally composure, is so important for defensive systems, ignoring it is as good as giving up. When you are passing the ball around, the one attribute that sees you misplace a pass is composure. Furthermore, playing narrow means that more than just your strikers will find goal scoring opportunities, composure as a whole is a good attribute to have.
There are basically 7 players you defend with. Defending happens in zones. We are going to break the pitch down in thirds: last third, middle third and final third, with final third being the area in front of and including the penalty area of the opposing side.
- Last third
In this zone you expect to see all 8 of you players defending, These will include, fullbacks, central defenders and all midfielders.
- Middle third
In this zone you expect to see ONLY your midfielders challenging
- Final third
When the ball is in that zone and you have your team in the final third, you expect to see everyone pressing the ball and your defenders holding back.
These are the things I expect to see, to get this to happen, your players need these attributes’
For all players
Workrate, Anticipation, Marking, Tackling, Concentration, Stamina, Pace, Acceleration
These attributes allow your side to work hard in all areas of the pitch, now its natural for strikers and wingers not to have marking and tackling, but mine are still set to max closing down and hard tackling, regardless of whether they can tackle or not. The only time they are held back is when their aggression is over the top (strikers).
These are any players that have a role to play in my system that are central to how we get goals. These include my fullbacks, my central midfielder and my 2 strikers.
How do they attack?
You need to know how your team is going to score you the goals you want. In this system I am entirely dependant on my fullbacks. If they have a bad game, I will probably lose, so they need these attributes without exception:
Pace, Acceleration, Crossing, First Touch, Passing, Composure, Anticipation, Determination
These are always my priority attributes, I tend to look at these first once these are within my acceptable levels (14 is my very least), then I start looking at:
Marking, Tackling, Stamina, Natural Fitness, Concentration
These attributes allow my fullbacks to bomb forward and make telling crosses, because their anticipation levels are high, they are usually cutting out passes. Seeing them with high interceptions is commonplace.
When you look at the narrow 4132 you KNOW, that because of the position of the side midfielders, the open space ENCOURAGES them to move forward, so having ppms like switch play to other flank and get forward whenever possible are just going to give them that bit extra.
My fullbacks are my first attacking pivot, vital and central to how I want my 4132 to play. Since its a system thats narrow, you get the natural width from the attacking bias of the fullbacks.
My second attacking pivot is the central midfielder and the two strikers. My central midfielder is the tip of my attacking diamond of three, and he WILL bring the other MCs into play and he is the SOURCE of switching play when we are patiently building attacks in the final third, because he sits so deep, he’s been given the attacking set of instructions that make him go a bit forward, and as a further cop-out we have him with go forward ppms, dictate tempo, make killer pass, and run with ball through centre.
This means he has to have the necessary attributes of:
Pace, Acceleration, Off the ball, Passing, Dribbling, Decisions, Determination, Flair, Vision, Stamina, Composure, First Touch
Since he is moving forward you need to give him space and have some players do some one touch passing to get a lot of vertical movement happening. So the 2 upfront are set to DLF and F9. Now False 9 can be a bit of a debate, you can elect to use a Advanced Forward too if you want, but I like the uncertainty of not knowing where the goal is coming from. So I prefer the F9. An AF can work as well.
STEP 3 – TRAINING
So you’ve created your tactic, and chosen your players. If you’ve been paying attention you would have noticed that some attributes seem to run through the team like a thin red line. This is the lifeblood of my team, and I make absolutely sure their training guarantees this development.
To strengthen your odds, you now focus training on areas that affect the attributes you desire, I have a very specific training schedule: BALL CONTROL and TACTICs, with specific individual training. Once its set I only change this once in 6 months. In fact, training is so easy, its forgettable. We do focus on ppms for the crucial pivots but thats about it. The growth of my players development in key attributes then only serves to propel us forward year on year.
STEP 4 – Match Day
When it comes to match day, all you need to know is how the other system lines up against yours. Begin with identifying your formations weaknesses.
The 4132 is soft on flanks, and strong in the middle. So I know that any formation with AMs is going to give us trouble. So if I am faced with a really strong 4231 I tell my wingbacks to go more defensive. I remove the Player instructions that they have: Play more direct and Take more risks, and tell them to play short and take less risks. I then look at how another team lines up, if they have a DLP I tackle him hard, if they have an attacking fullback I tackle him hard. If they are playing with a 3 man defense I close the defenders all down.
We increase our odds even further by ensuring that my set pieces are done right, I do have man on posts. I understand the argument people make that suggest that not seeing them clear a ball off the line = the need not to put any players on posts. Well I find that the best way to defend is to have men on posts, because the game is still defined by collision physics. If there is a dot there, there is something to collide into, so from a numbers programming point of view, just cos you don’t see them blocking doesn’t mean its not happening, remember the 3d rendition is only a rendition of whats happening in terms of number crunching by the AI. By far the most important aspect of defending set pieces is man marking the threats. I have players man marking and marking tall players and one defending the edge of the box and another closing down the corner. Its worked fine for me, and I will be sticking to it.