FOOTBALL MANAGER 2016 – SHAPE, MENTALITY AND THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY
Football Manager 2016 is an interesting game, and each season something happens that grabs my attention. This season its Shape. It has a huge bearing on how you want to get your side to play. In previous additions of the game I would recommend people choose any shape or don’t even bother because it had such little impact on FM Tactics. That’s now changed. In order to explain, I need to explain my notion of relatives. I’m not taking about me aunts and uncs. I’m talking about relativity of everything in the game.
In Football Manager 2016, nothing is absolute, everything is relative to something. When you compare teams, stop thinking in terms of absolutes. When you find a 5 star player in a league in Serbia, and you decide to drop him into Real Madrid, that 5 star potential changes once he’s compared relative to the Galacticos. It will drop. He may be a big fish in a small pond, but he’s a small fish in a big ocean. The same applies to comparing tactics. When you set your team up, it inevitably becomes an attrition of attributes as you need to outnumber your opponent in key areas. When you outnumber your opponent and then underperform, then its your system. Understanding this is the key. Since everything is relative to something else, how does this affect tactics?
Now we need to split the roles up. Ignoring the oft-lambasted “auto” role, we have 3 : defensive, support and attacking. There used to be a time when mentality was the sole factor that affected positioning. Today that’s affected by more than just mentality. Even shape affects it in some way. The effect is not huge but how this affects the team, affects how the roles interact. If you have a side playing on defensive mentality, and if Defensive is 2 on a scale where overload is 12, then a Defensive player will most likely be 1, a support player could be 2 and an attacking player will be 3. Now that we have that outta the way, let’s look at other stuff.
I know its really oversimplifying things, but its the easier way to explain it. Trust me I know the Tactical Creator like it was my own child, to some extent I played a part in birthing it. Now those numbers which modified the players mentality play a part in adjusting their risk appetite, their creative freedom, their runs with ball and their pass selection. Other attributes then come in as limiting or enhancing factors. Now that we have mentality sorted, how does this relate to shape? Everything is relative.
Basically Shape affects the depth of a team. How far each player is from each other and how each player’s roles in turn affect them. A structured shape will typically create more lateral gaps, whereas a fluid one will reduce those. In other words, a structured shape is more disciplined. Each broad role focuses on their jobs, but Shape, affects transitions. This in turn has a knock on effect on systems. Let me show you what I mean in this sequence of screenshots taken from a side playing a basic 442 who go from defensive structured to defensive fluid.
We started the game on Defensive/Structured, with minimal shouts and then switched to Defensive/Fluid to notice patterns.
DEFENSIVE/STRUCTURED AND DEFENSIVE FLUID
Mentality affects a lot of things, from the relative positions between players, to decision making. A player on a higher mentality is always more likely to play the riskier shot, but this can be mitigated by getting him to play defensively. However the effect won’t be so large its like telling a player with attacking mentality of say 15/20 (20 being max) to take it down a notch.
Shape affects depth, so when a team has a fluid shape the relative distances between the midfield and defensive lines are more compact. However these too can be modified by mentality, player instructions, team instructions, attributes and ppms. The biggest thing we need to know is that at any standard higher than flexible the relative distances decrease. This means that players on certain instructions are likely to go towards the same target. For example, at a fluid setting you could see a fullback and an MC heading to close down the same opposing player. The compactness makes it easier for you to play a gengen pressing style or keep 25 yards between midfield and attack.
Finally roles themselves modify the behaviour of a team. Defend players stay back and support players stay in 50-50 land. In a fluid system, there is also the chance that a 50-50 ball that lands near midfield and in between the defenders and midfield could see a DC leave the defensive line and head up the field to cut out the pass.
In this screenshot you will notice that when we are attacking on fluid with a defensive mentality, the side is very compact attacking. The distance between midfield and attack is small. With this line, it leaves us open to …..the ball over the top. Fluid systems are great to use, players are close together and you can move the ball around really fast and play intricate passing patterns. The risk is obvious. Mentality acts as a modifier for passing decisions as well. In the third screenshot Inler has various options to pass to, he chooses the least risky pass. If he was on defensive he may chosen the even lower risk pass.
These all have significant implications on the creation of various kinds of systems. An attacking system be either fluid of structured, it does play differently in both situations. Knowing the effect mentality and shape has on the team is vital. There are things you can do to mitigate and these should already be obvious to most. I don’t plan on revealing everything, but its clear what these mitigating acts should be.
It certainly answers one question on the forums. Someone asked why their standard/flexible system wouldn’t work so well. The roles were all logical. Now when you consider all the facts, you will understand why standard and flexible can be even harder to get right then attacking/structured. In a standard/flex system, mentality is 50-50, distances are 50-50. The factors now that influence the game are player selection/role selection and your choice on shouts. If you are not scoring goals, don’t go messing with the shouts unnecessarily, always begin with a mentality change first. I have to thank several people for making this possible : The Hand of God, for his synopsis on shape, Cleon’s thread on counter attacking arts, which inspired me to think of the Dark Arts of Attack, and ricki.bertolino for this thread on the SI forums. Finally who can forget RTHerringbone and his search for the perfect 4141. That was the gimme that kicked this off. I personally am having a BALL OF A TIME with attacking systems. I feel the Dark Arts calling.