There is a disconnect between application and ambition when I see tactics being uploaded or queries for help being made on the forums. And frequently a lot of them its the combination of shouts and the shape that someone wants to use. We are going to take this example from the forums at SI.
What we have here is a counter/structured deep 4231. Just looking at the shape and then the shouts shows a huge disconnect. When setting Team Instructions, if you aren’t sure of what you are doing, don’t guess, don’t choose. Leave it alone. If you aren’t sure what any shout does, it’s far better not doing anything each shout modifies more than just the direction in which the ball will go, but it can also affect forward runs, through ball passes, and amongst others passing length.
Using logic and common sense is always a good start. Lets take this 4231 system for example, it has 2 distinct groups and this is further reinforced by the manager using structured. This literally hammers it home. On top of that we have a counter strategy, remember, a counter strategy doesn’t only sit your team back, but it also modifies their risk taking algorithms. This means that a counter system will see a side take a less risky approach to a) forward runs b) passing lengths as well as c) passing options. So when you know this…you start by thinking about your choices left in the shouts.
The shout Retain Possession – common sense will tell you a team aims to keep hold of the ball by moving it around themselves and will not take undue risks in its passing choices, furthermore, you are playing counter which modifies that more. Now what happens when you have this tactical shape? If the DLP can’t be reached with a pass from behind will the ball be punted forward? How is that even possible when people are being told to roam from position, in a counter system? Why would anyone want to roam around when you have 1 group of players already a half apart! To reinforce the contradiction in choices we have Exploit the Flanks shout being used, what does this do? It launches balls to the flanks, DIRECT players make forward runs early..so we are now going to see balls punted..how does that happen with low tempo? Does that even make any sense?
I am sorry to the original poster of this tactic on the SI forums, but I can’t help using this to make my point. This is what I like to call a Hail Mary formation and this is what I would hear if I was a player listening to the shouts ..
“If nothing else works guys just boot the ball up and hope for the best I don’t want you to take any unnecessary risks when we have the ball, you lot there…just run your hearts out make a beeline for the flag in the corner and do something…but wait take your time to do all cos we aren’t in a rush, yeah you heard me…play at a low tempo, you know, pass the ball around don’t lose possession, but yeah I still want you to run hard for the corner flag all the time, cos we are booting those balls up …you got it. Now go win the match!!!”
That didn’t make any sense did it? So imagine telling an AI to do it..good luck.
Whenever one sits down and decides on Team Instructions, they need to do this within the context of the system they are using. It’s important to bear this in mind. The shouts themselves modify player instructions under the hood, they all have simple descriptors that give you clues on what will happen. Lets first divide the shouts up to make things easy:
- Penetration Shouts
- Movement Shouts
- Shape Shouts
- Defending Shouts
- General Shouts
For example, if I wanted to play a defensive game what shouts would make sense? You could play a game where all you wanted depending on your system was to depend on 2 wide players to have a target the flanks, desperate to protect your lead, you are willing to give up any ambition and are content to just have 3 players have a go at it. So in this kind of case if I were playing a 433 I would tell my players to exploit the flanks and go route one. In this case, my system would have only 3 players on attack roles and with a centre forward on a role that holds up the ball, and I would only use those shouts.
Go Route 1 is a long ball shout, more direct passing, is less of a long ball shout, but instead requires your side to KNOW how to pass the ball well, furthermore to use it well you’re better off using it in a system where you have the right players for it. In my last 4 seasons with WBA, we have hardly used any of these shouts.
More direct passing is a fine shout, but if you have the right roles already they will make the right passes, so I don’t need them to be more direct…more direct just makes them take slighter shorter LONG balls.
What about Pass into Space, great shout, fantastic for unlocking defenses, but complete waste of time if you aren’t already using a wide system and have players who have good off the ball, if your players can’t run into space well, why bother, and if your midfielders can’t pass the ball you will lose possession. This is a very potent shout, in some well designed systems almost a game winner, but you need to know how to slot it in. You can’t simply take a shout, and voila it gives you a goal!
Now this is a common “double whammy kick-myself I am being utterly stupid shout”: Retain Possession & Short Passing. This combination has been used more times by people wrongly than I can ever imagine. This is a double whammy. If you want short passing, using this combination, makes this the shortest possible plus lowers tempo. Can you think of any time when you want to score a goal that you need to use this shout? No. So why bother? There is a place and a time for either one, and maybe both together, but never when you are trying to score a goal.
Play out of defense and clear ball to flanks are 2 mutually opposite shouts. The former sets passing direction and length when it starts from the back so does the latter, except the ball moves in different directions. It doesn’t even need an explanation.
I am going to skip the rest of the shouts as well, since they should be self-explanatory, the crosses are straightforward. Run at defense simply tells the forward boys to increase the likelihood that they will dribble with the ball into the box, which you don’t really need since you can expertly, with the precision of a swiss watch, use Player Instructions with more effect. Shoot on sight is shoot the hell on sight.
Now lets get on to the fun shouts:
Who doesn’t like good penetration? Done well this will bring you loads of satisfaction when your players find their scoring touch. Each exploit shout affects ………passing and runs. If you have one that says go for the flanks, those guys in the middle are more likely to stay put..cos it doesn’t really make sense if all eleven players start aiming for each corner flag! If you have a system with AMs then these shouts make some sense, but remember these affect passing as well, since direct to long passes will be made, players will make early runs and there is a strong possibility you will lose possession.
Now once you understand the Exploit Penetration family you can safely work out the rest. Notice how Exploit Anything conflicts with Look for Overlap? ‘s because LFO tells players to hold up ball and allow someone to run into space, while the former just tells them to run. Exploit the middle and Look For Overlap can work together, but I wouldn’t advise you to.
Now the rest of the shouts don’t really need any explanation, but what I want to do is offer some suggestions for defensive control and attacking systems. In any system you need to understand your own tactic and the runs people are making before you launch into Shouts. These can completely displace your system, and you could end up ruining them. So my advice is not to use them, and you want to avoid the defensive line shouts. If your tactic is unsound defensive line shouts won’t help. They could in some cases, but you need to be a master at spotting your own defensive line before you can use these shouts and spot why your players need to step up or defend deeper, in most cases a simple change to mentality is enough.
Hmm I really only have counter and attacking systems. So in any counter system you always want to return to your defensive positions first, instead of closing down. A counter attacking system seeks to contain the use of space and not pressure sides into giving the ball away. It seeks to hold it ground and force others to play around them and failing which a turnover is used to exploit weakness if the counter attacking side has players already set up to look for them. For example, some shapes make naturally great counter attacking systems: the 433 is very good example and the 4231 is the entire opposite, in these cases the shape of the system itself predicates your mentality. In a 433, the outfield players are in a natural position to counter, so if a side chooses to go counter it wants the opposing team to play around them.
So in this case, you should use these shouts:
Get Stuck In, and NO CLOSE DOWN SHOUTS. Some roles will close down a lot like the BWM, so you need to see if a role change may be better.
If you using an attacking system, you can use the close down more shout and stay on feet, close down GK distribution and offside trap. In an attacking system you need to press more since you want to pressure the opposition in their half, a counter/defensive system seeks none of that, and instead is willing to give up space, but once the opposition comes close to their Dline they know they need to tackle hard, because by then its too late.
Work Ball Into Box and Play out of defense are great shouts for controlling play, since the former reduces crosses as well as long shots and the latter asks defenders to play it short out of defense. In my humble opinion you don’t need a lot of shouts for this game, you just need a good dose of common sense.