So there I was again, reading another forum thread, and the same issue keeps being replayed in every iteration of the game. Managers have all the right intentions and then they go out set up a tactic and have issues. You then get people like Hunter, myself, Cleon, THOG, wwwfan who go in and try to help – the result is either revelation, which we are thrilled about or despair.
Fact is this is such an easy game its really hard to get it wrong. The only time we do is when we let our personal attachments to players get in the way, and this is especially so when we take a team where we have current stars in the side, and then we expect this side to play like world beaters. If they were world beaters they would win every game. This game is all about numbers. When I started out with WBA, we had a tough first season, and then I started to plan. It took me a while: 2 seasons prior to my unbeaten streaks. During that time, I did say I had plans on using a 4312, but I had to get the right players first. The system looked fairly solid in my head, but I knew the issue was always going to be the players. It took me 5 seasons to get the right players and then the 300 streak started. I think it was sometime in the 2021-2 season that the boys started to string together unbelievable runs. How did we do this? When I started managing Geylang I realized how hard it was to set the team up right. And I want to share this with you now.
The first thing I did was excise emotion from player selection. I brutally went through the side and looked at pace. If you were less than 12, the player had to prove that he was right for the position, if he had less than 12 for bravery, he was out. I didn’t’ care who the player was. The only players who were excused were the strikers. I knew my system would only work with a fully functional midfield screen, and it was these players who got a serious look-in. Any player who fell below the threshold for pace and bravery was on the slow boat to China.
I can’t overstate how important this was, players would be shortlisted as candidates for sale, simply based on these two characteristics, I knew stuff like composure, first touch and passing could be trained, but bravery – no way. Things got even more brutal for my defensive lynchpin, whether they were the ball winners in midfield or the defenders, if they had no anticipation or concentration and poor first touch, these guys also got the ticket to board the boat. Then it was time for the fullbacks. I knew this lot had to beat the man, and get in the cross. For this group, bravery was important, but acceleration was doubly important. For the way I played, if they couldn’t beat the man for a cross, they may as well stay on the bench, or get a ticket to board the boat.
The screen. Oh my god, how many times do I need to see pkms. This is almost a plea to people. If your defenders have a poor screen in front of them they will always step up and out of your line. Its basic, even if you take to the field and play football, if you find that the defensive midfielder has been late to go in, and you see a potential threat unfolding you will step up. Its second nature. So get the screen right and know your system. If you want to play a 4231 you have NO screen. Those 2 better be able to tackle in midfield and the back four better be top class. If you are playing with 5 at the back, you need to make sure your backs can get up and down the flanks. Its so easy.
Get these 2 basic steps right and I can assure you, you will win more than you lose, but first you need to discard any emotional attachment to the players. Trying to fit a player into a system can sometimes be as frustrating as fitting a square peg into a round hole. Ask Brendan Rodgers that, he may quickly become the premier leagues leading proponent of that.