Seen so many posts lately, that suggest people are still confused. One of the most important things in FM is understanding spatial responsibilities. And people spend far too much time still trying to think in terms of sliders. SI made the tactical creator for a reason, to make things easier, and if people can’t come to grips with it, its just going to make the whole process more frustrating.
Control of space is vital in football. Over the weekend, Brendan Rodger’s took his side to the Liberty Stadium, having been playing a 3412, they found themselves struggling to control midfield in the first half of the game. Swansea, had gripped the midfield tight in the first half forcing Liverpool to swap to a different system with Gerrard inserted back into his deep playmaker role. They regained control of midfield and exerted themselves on the game, increasing their shots on target count.
FM isn’t anything different, sometimes you need to change systems. I have done this so many times I’ve lost count. If I lose control of midfield, I will always look to reasons why, and most times it may just be a simple tweak of roles or it could be a complete tactical overhaul. But, what do you do when? To understand this, you need to understand spatial control.
Players have basically 3 roles in a game, defend, support and attack. Each affects their starting point from where they defend. This is the starting point for every system. from here you need to factor in attributes, to understand why players don’t drop back or support. Lets take a simple example to begin with.
This is a simple illustration of the fullback role. What I cover here, can be applied to all positions on the tactical grid, which is a great tool to understand space. The fullback position has 4 different roles: Fullback, Wingback, Complete Wingback and Inverted Wingback. Each plays different, but here I just want to focus on defending.
The fullback has the deepest starting point for defending and the complete wingback has the highest point on the grid, By choosing a fullback with a defend role, you are effectively telling him to defend from as close to the defensive line as possible. The complete wingback with an attacking role defends from further up. This effectively grants space to be exploited or limits it.
During the course of any game, you may find yourself defending against Wingers or Inside forwards. And if these players have the speed you are going to find it hard to defend if they get behind you. If there are times such as these you may find its better to drop their role. However, dropping their role also leaves you with another problem, it creates more space between them and midfield, forcing them to either pass back to the middle or hoof it up. How then do you solve this issue?
Going back to Brendan Rodger’s, he opted to have 2 holding midfielders in his 3412 system. This effectively allowed his wingbacks more latitude to bomb down the wings. While some people on the forums may argue that one only needs one holding midfielder. I disagree, There is no hard and fast rule. What one needs to do instead is understand how they want to play and what kind of players they have. If you want to use 2 explosive wingbacks you need 2 anchors. Even if you employ one anchor in midfield he still needs someone close by to lay off the ball to if the wingback is out of position. In any system that employs dual wingbacks or attacking fullbacks, you absolutely need 2 players who can fulfil the anchor role. The anchor role can come in many forms, the more popular one is the BBM, you can also use the BWM on support or on defend.
Control of space happens first from the positions that you have chosen to use. The second thing we need to address is attributes. Just because you stick a dot in a holding role, doesn’t mean he will always assist. This is where teamwork and anticipation come in. The teamwork attribute is vital if you are running any system where you expect a lot of support roles to succeed. Teamwork affects whether a player will drop down to assist another player. So if a fullback is defending and he needs support, a player with high teamwork will be unselfish and sacrifice aspects of his role to assist another. Anticipation then makes it better.
That covers defending, what about attacking? Here you need to pay attention to the attribute workrate. If you have a system with a lot of OTB running, and you are playing short to direct style of football, whether or not your players move up to assist is a function of workrate. The higher the work rate the higher the likelihood of them assisting. Of course there are other attributes at play here, like pace, acceleration, vision, and decisions as well, work rate however is the prime attribute.
Putting it all together
Taken together, these concepts affect your with ball and without ball situations. When I am playing a really tough side like Liverpool, Chelsea and Man City I opt for systems that optimise control of space. I forgo anything which uses AMs unless I plan to camp in their half. Thus far, I am not entirely comfortable with my WBA side to do that. So I have gone for a more Rodgersesque system, which relies on workrate and teamwork to play a lot more defensively. For a while I was using a 4312 system that employed one DLP and one BWM (S) and another CM(A), but as the season wore on I realised that my wingbacks whilst glorious in their attacking flow, were frequently short-changing me in defense – we were conceding a goal nearly every game.This necessitated a slight change to my system. I experimented with a BWM(D) DLP BWM(D) combo in midfield and discovered it looked fantastic in defense, but it wasn’t so solid in attack frequently leaving only the fullbacks and the 3 upfront. When I changed the BWM to support, things changed. We suddenly began not only shutting them down, but also leaving them clutching at air when they tried to get the ball back.
Spatially I had made the mistake of relying entirely on one fullback on one side of the pitch to do all the defending on that side, but once he got support from a BWM(S) things changed.
This would not have been possible with a side with low teamwork.
They have the ability to strengthen or completely displace your spatial control. One needs to understand what the shouts do and once you are comfortable with them, don’t go messing with them unless you know what effect they are going to have. Lets begin with a combo:
- Retain Possession
- Short passing
- Play out of defense
These shouts make your passing super short, if you combine them with tempo you get lot of zippy passing, if you add the shout: “pass into space” thats when problems can start. Whilst the combination affects your possession, pass into space, increases the through balls your players will try to find space behind the defensive line. If you want to use this shout, you need to make sure you have players with speed and off the ball running. Furthermore having the ppm ” trying to beat offside trap”, “one two passing” will only increase the likelihood of them being played. Workrate however defines if this is successful, If you expect the “pass into space” shout to work without high workrate on the targetted players then you are screwed. If your players have poor passing and decisions you are screwed. Knowing whether your players can actually execute this combo is important. Furthermore, playing against a defensive side who are camping could see you being hit on the counter if you fail to find space, so you need to be able to stretch a camping defense to make this work, which is why i love using fullbacks for width.
Overlapping Play and Side Passes
Now we come to a combination of shouts I have seen quite a few people using. Personally I do use them but one needs to know what they do.
The overlapping play shout, reduces the amount of runs that are being made by your central players and increases those on the flanks. This allows them to overlap. There is one important consideration: Spatial Awareness. If there are 2 players occupying the same space, overlapping won’t happen, or if it does, it happens for a reason. Assume you have a winger on attack and a fullback on attack and you choose overlapping play. Both players are going to make a beeline for the flanks. In cases like this, you can opt for a ppm on the winger for cut inside or a PI for the fullback to cut inside. This way you increase the variety of movement.
Work ball into box has changed. It used to only affect long shots, decreasing them when you elected for this shout. Now it also reduces crossing as well. This is important to bear in mind, Whilst you may find players overlapping, you may also see players holding the ball up looking for a side pass, since you elected for this shout. This is when I set up “whipped crosses” which happen to be a low pass that’s drilled across the face of the goal. You can still use the shouts in combination : overlapping and work ball into box, but you need to know how they interact.
The tempo shout is another important one to understand. It not only increases the rate your passes move on the pitch, it also affects the directness of your passes and the off the ball movement of your players. If your teamwork, otb, pace, stamina, natural fitness attributes are low, then expect injuries low conditioning and gaps. I love the tempo shout, I use it a lot, but I also have a strong bench strategy, and, this is one shout I treat like a gas pedal in a game.
Shape shouts are important to grasp as these affect your spatial positioning on the pitch. The width shout narrows your width, but its not a defensive shout per se, It can be an attacking shout, since your players are packed together making them easier to find with short passes. The players who go wide will be the ones dictated by their roles, such as complete wingbacks. Going narrow does affect your defending in midfield if you playing with a narrow shape. It effectively increases the ground that your midfielders need to cover, and, this could leave flanks open. If you are using this shout and find that balls are moving too easily down the flanks, you need to first look at whether their teamwork is low, and then you may need to consider changing a role in midfield to make it a better screen for your defense, like i did in my earlier 4312 example.
Pushing up the defensive line or dropping deeper is not one of my favourite shouts, I tend to like how my players are spread out, but if i am forced into using this shout, I am keenly aware of how it affects my defending. Pushing up a defensive line decreases the distance between midfield and defense, but increases the gap between defense and your goal. So if you are using a defensive/ counter system and you push up your defensive line you are flattening your defense, While it can make an impenetrable wall, its also dangerous, cos a pass into space behind your defensive line can leave you exposed. At times like these my central defenders have a cover/defend duty combination creating one more line of cover, and my keeper goes sweeper. This increases a lot of risk, but if managed well it can be a good defense, but probably the hardest to master.
I have avoided talking about the other shouts cos I hardly ever use them I have never used the exploit flank shout, I absolutely hate any shout which goes long passing, it may be useful if you are using a deep 4231, and I probably would use it if I had such a system, but using it requires you to have the right players for it..good passers, and good receivers. Its like playing a quarterback and looking for a wide receiver with a Hail Mary.
How many shouts do I use? 5 atm
There are other posts on this blog which cover aspects of spatial control, a lot of what I wrote about in FM12 is still relevant in FM15, especially when it covers aspects of control green grass, and I do hope this post has helped.
Affecting the AI’s Spatial Control can be done via Opposition Instructions, and your own shape, one thing though: Hard tackling can displace your shape, cos your players will elect to slide in when they should be staying up. Sometimes its better to only pick a few critical players to hard tackle, tight mark. If a player loves to cut inside, you may find that work ball onto other foot, may suit him more, so you could end up gifting him a run, so know your targets before you OI them.
How many times have you created a tactic and just gone off and played games, or downloaded one and stuck it to your team? What about having a winning tactic that dries up [...]