CM01/02 was the last year supertactics ruled. Scramjet and Diablo were the most downloaded tactics leading teams to unprecedented levels of success. Thus began SI’s long journey into adding more mystery to the magic. The game is still about numbers, there’s nothing complicated about a system which assigns a fixed attribute to a human quality that is used to replicate actions. The mystery of what attributes define a successful role was solved years ago.
When I started playing FM15 seriously, I realised that little had changed. We still have 22 men chasing a ball over 90 minutes. The game of football is still the same so if you understand the game well enough and can translate this into a fixed set of instructions for your team, then you can still find some measure of success. If its that simple, why then do, some overachieve and others still struggle?
Two recent threads on the forum struck me as a representation of the problem. One dude wondered whats the best way to set up the 3 tactical slots and whether its necessary to have a Plan A, B and C. Another wondered if its altogether necessary to limit the number of Player Instructions to use, instead offering up the possibility that one should assign as many initially and whittle them down. Both threads shocked me. Could it be possible that people still fail to understand the basics of this game after so many years?
Fundamentally this is a simple game, the more you overcomplicate it the worst it gets. Its a freaking computer program! How hard can it be? We aren’t playing chess. where there are 318,979,564,000 possible ways to play the first 4 moves. We are playing football, its infinitely easier. How should people begin then?
It all starts with a shape you want to play. If you haven’t played this game before keep shit simple. Don’t go trying to play a 4231 because your favourite teams plays a 4231, play a system that you understand, a system thats easier to defend. Always start with a good defense, always. Know how your team defends before embarking on attack.
Whether you start with a 442 or a 343, you really need to master defending first. And the most important part of the pitch is midfield. Spatial control is important. I have dealt with this in a few posts on the blog
Once you understand how to control space you need to identify roles, for me midfield is the place I spend the most time on. Just look at the number of roles, its confusing. Make it easier. If you have 2 players in midfield you should ask yourself: “How many players stay back to defend, how many players are going to be my screen?’. Once you have answered that question, start looking at your squad. Do you have the right players to be hard working? Look at work-rate and then teamwork, these are both vitally important. If they have low numbers they won’t support the defense.
Once you know how may players there are at your disposal its time to define the roles. Assume you want to have 2 (D) roles. You could have 2 central midfielders who have a defend role creating for you a box system that unleashes your fullbacks. There are only a few roles that can do this: the Central Mid, DLP, BWM. Once you have identified them then try and understand what they can and can’t do.
Its now time to look at their Player Instructions. Assume you want to play with some discipline and you want these players to really anchor that midfield, and you don’t want them harrying across the pitch, the first you thing should do is look at what PIs you can’t change.
If you wanted a player to play in such a role, a lot of people gravitate to the BWM cos thats what it says on the tin, but fail to look at his PIs.
The BWM is set to close down much more, there is no closing down instruction more extreme than this for PIs. Furthermore he’s set to be defaulted to hard tackling. If thats how you want to play then fine, but if you are playing a 2 man midfield and you have chose a BWM then you should really ask yourself why. And always know how a role sits in your team. A BWM on support is always going to sit a bit more deeper than a MC on support. These are all vital things to consider when you are selecting roles, as their relative positions affect how they other roles in your team interact with them.
Is it better to use a BWM or a Central Midfielder? A central midfielder can be tweaked to fit your system, knowing the difference can be crucial in creating a system that lasts. If you see someone using one it doesn’t mean that it can’t work, if he’s using it successfully it means he has the right player for the job, a player that can run around like a horse for 90 minutes.
I will now supplement this with a game. We are in the champions league, its been quite the start to the season as I juggle getting my jaded warriors off to a reasonable start. 4 of my key players were involved in the Copa America, returning looking like they needed prolonged rests. We opened our champions league matches with a sad draw at home to FC Cophenhagen, conceding a goal at the death after dominating the match for 90 minutes. Its not a disaster by any stretch, but we really need our 3 points.
Our opposition are lining up a 3412 system in our FM15 game. Initially I wanted to sit back and counter this system but looking at their attack I realized the dangers of sitting back. If my back 4 have to contend with their front three, it would be easier if I was in their half. If I sit back I allow their 4 in midfield to dictate play against my 3. We need to put the team under pressure because they only have 3 in defense.
This is a perfect time for me to play on the offensive, intelligent linkup play should undo them easily. Their defenders aren’t fast. 12 to 13 for pace for 2 of them with average acceleration, the central defender on the right, the korean is really slow. So we will take this match to them and then focus all attacks down their right flank.
After taking a two goal lead, I hold my left back a bit and unleash my right
We score 5 goals before the 40 minute, and the opposition are forced to change systems, employing a back four instead. We lose our captain after he gets hacked down and then release both fullbacks. Halftime score 6-0.
In response the AI decides to keep both its fullbacks on defend duty, I reckon its going to seek out counter opportunities, we revert to fullbacks on support. They manage to pull one back as expected from a longball from defense, but by then we are already 7 goals up. Bad news for us is we’ve lost my captain Crisetig for 3 months, a very real danger when you are playing a person as a BWM at the age of 30.
In this game I knew my biggest weakness would be the central area of the pitch, if we allowed them to play any higher up the pitch the three men upfront would have given my 4 at the back some headaches. By electing to play an attacking system we applied more pressure on their backline. They were also playing a flat 3, which I love to see, so long as its playing without a DM strata I know it can be ripped apart, and this signalled my intent early to exploit the weaknesses of their flanks. Knowing spatially how strong/weak you are relative to your opposition is vital, it helps if you do some homework. Their slow backline got ripped apart by our pace and that is clearly evident in the highlights reel. Look out for our third goal its a ripper from our fullback.