Why do so many get the basics wrong on FM17?


Over the years I’ve noticed trends, and these are repeated everytime. And almost everyone does it, even today on FM17. People tend to look for certain rules of behavior in the game that make it repeatable. So if A leads to B some of the time, then people tend to associate it and then draw conclusions for future behavior. Fact is, it’s a waste of time. There has always been a really simple way of playing the game, I’m frequently surprised why people go through all the effort in making the game more complicated than it has to be. We used to have the Rule of One, then it was the Rule of Two, I could list all of them, but then some of you reading this may start thinking about making other rules, then we’d all end up in the same place again. I’ve even written a book on Football Manager called “Bust the Net – A football managers’ guide” that tries to help people play the game in the simplest way I can think off, and even that took 200 pages of effort. And after 2 years I lost count of the number of videos I’ve done on Youtube that try and simplify the game.

I’ve been pleading with everyone to keep thinking about the game in simple terms since 2003. And to be honest the heights of simplicity reached its peak in 03/4 and then again in 2015.  In 03/04 match engine flaws allowed exploitation, hence its simplicity. Stick in a tactic, go on holiday, collect the trophy then sign a couple of players and repeat the cycle. It wouldn’t matter which club you managed, you’d win. By 2015, we’d been playing the game without those sliders for a good 3 years but it was still fundamentally easy. You could still go on long seasons undefeated, this time though you just needed the right attribute combination and your tactics had to respect what I had termed in closed beta sessions as the Golden Mean. There was an optimum mentality/closing down/defensive line combination in the game, get it right and you were back in your string of undefeated sessions. I racked up 500. Rinse and repeat, we started hollering again. Shape needed to be tweaked. SI listened and changed Shape. Lo and behold, the game was now a lot more interesting. 500 unbeaten quickly dropped to 50. You could still get long undefeated stretches with a really good side, but now it was at least a bit more challenging. 

The effect on the average game was now profound.

Before all this happened, FM gamers were used to a less complicated style of play. Pick a team, choose a tactic, make the occassional change, win or draw. If your side took a lead, maybe the AI would switch to overload in the last 10 minutes to try and equalise. It was a simple situation. Things started changing in 2015, this time the AI adapted. The AI didn’t simply change tactics, it would change roles, make tactical subsitutions and even changed mentality and shape. Finally, we had a match on our hands. You see prior to 2015, the AI was a backseat passenger to your ambitions. It was there as your punching bag. Today the AI knows how to give as good as it gets. Maybe in the future, the AI will won’t draw as much and will make a real go of it. It is getting there, the problem is most of the gaming community is still struggling to handle this. You see, the majority are too scared to make changes to a system they think is winning. Win 10 games and you immediately think that this run will continue and the AI won’t adapt. All you needed were better players. If this were to happen in real life, we’d be living on Mars and sun tanning. Face it, to become good in the game you do need loads of trial and error. You need to try different things out.

Most FM17 managers I speak to in today’s game, want to know what settings make a good tactic. They want to know the settings needed to get counter-pressing done, or the settings needed to replicate Maurizo’s Sarri’s Napoli system in the game. People still think there is a magical combination of instructions that will get this happening. Yes, you will start well, in fact, I believe with the right players and instructions, you could probably go half a season undefeated, but then like all teams in real life, they start studying your system for weaknesses.  They start playing differently against you. Maybe they’ll find a bigger bus to park in front of their goal. Fact is, in real life, teams adapt. The AI has learnt to adapt too. So what should you do to keep this game simple?

1. Be Realistic

In reality, if a side from the lower leagues were to suddenly go charging up the leagues securing promotion every season, the authorities would probably dope test the team, after every game, and then question the dope testing procedures for failing to find anything wrong. The team would either need a brilliant manager, loads of money or fantastic long term planning.

If we think that one tactic and a solid team of players is all it takes to make rapid promotion a reality then we are sorely mistaken. You need to be the kind of manager who has no emotional attachments to players and a willingness to change roles and duties in games to adapt to changes in the environment. You need to see a weakness in the AI and then make changes to exploit it or you need to learn how to build bigger buses. If you are attacking the AI down the right side, there is a strong chance the AI will either shore up that side or look to play direct behind your attacking players to take advantage of the spaces you leave behind.

Playing LLM football is the pinnacle of a difficult challenge.You need to be a master of adapting to circumstances and not be a slave to habit. If you can’t adapt then you need to manage a bigger team and take an easier challenge, or just go hire Bobby Mimms and go on holiday. Yes Mr Mimms is still better at getting results than most human managers in the game.

2. Get the Basics Right

Most people seem to think, their choice of roles and duties or even the shouts are the root the cause of their problems. To be perfectly honest, every person I’ve coached gets attributes wrong. Yes, when I say basics, I am talking about choosing the right player for the right role. And that means attributes. What do you think is the most important attribute in the game?

Now what is the most important attribute for a defender? Now ask yourself what you think is the most important attribute for a defensive midfielder or a holding midfielder, what about a creative playmaker or even a goal scorer?

Attributes are the fundamental building blocks in the game. There are basically three attributes in the entire game I consider “swing attributes”. These attributes will probably define how successful your team is the whole season. 

Once you understand which attributes are important for which roles, then start asking yourself how you want to play.  Understand how roles help you achieve things in the game with your tactics. 

If you don’t get attributes and roles right, how will you ever know why something fails to happen in a game? I have often heard how people struggle to get their crosses released early, people often point towards a failure in the game. Funny thing, in my latest season with Gloucester, we had a winger and an attacker on such a finely tuned channel of communication that I was left dumbfounded at the number of times the two would combine for goals delivered from direct crosses in moves that lasted less than 5 passes in total. This was possible because of the right combination of roles and duties. Interestingly neither player had specific passing instructions.

Do you know that a games style can be changed entirely with the right use of roles and duties? Mentality acts as a risk barometer in the game and guides a teams decision making. Shape helps distribute it and affects transitions, but roles and duties help define your teams playstyle.

In this  attacking combination, the final third play will be slow as the ball reaches the playmaker. Even if it gets to the DLP he will drop deep and try and make passes to the others as they seek to bring each other into play.

Deep Dropping Attack Configuration on FM17

The attacking variety changes when we change it to an AF(A), IF(S), W(A) combination. Now their roles and duties will encourage more attacking play down the flanks. With the W(A) down the right the AF(A) will have someone on the same wavelength.

So far you haven’t heard me offer up any solutions and by now you are probably getting frustrated, so let’s get down to it. How do you play FM17 in a quick 7 step guide?

  1. Begin with a side that suits your ability level. 
  2. Do you want your side to fight until the end? Then make sure you pick Determination as the most important attribute. This attribute plays a big part when your side is a goal down and chasing a point.
  3. In terms of priority:
  1. Choose your squad  based on Determination first. Weed out the weak.
  2. Define your play-style. For every player you expect coming back to defend ensure they have high workrate and stamina
  3. Choose your tactic. Understand how it applies pressure, can it do a good job in the final third or is it one of those that defends well. For example, a 4213 with dual defensive midfielders is fantastic defensively, a 4231 can be devastating in the opponents half. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Know which areas of the tactic are weak. Now its time to focus on transitions
  4. Now that you know where to pay attention to, make sure you know what it takes for each role to work. This means you need to know what attributes define their playstyle well, my book lists each one out. 

However for simplcity sake, let us simplify that:

Defensive players need good mentals like positioning and anticipation, Support players need good workrate, teamwork, first touch, composure, and, attacking players need good first touch, passing, decisions. These are attributes they need at the very basic level.

During a failed transition, for you to become a truly good player, you will need to know which attributes could have influenced that failed transition. If you aren’t willing to invest time into trial and error to figure these things out, then you need to be prepared to accept the inevitable bad run of form.

Everyone is capable of getting a good run going with nearly every team. When the bad run begins it’s usually down to two reasons. Either you lose players to injury or the AI has begun adapting. The AI will make changes to its system. I have seen the AI shore up a weak flank, or attack me down a vulnerable area. It will try to win, and in future iterations of the game it will work even harder to win.  So either we need to develop a winning methodology or we need to accept bad runs. If you are the type who is uncomfortable with adapting, then you need to accept a run of bad form otherwise get the basics right. 

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