Torino Diaries – Season 2 : Football Manager 2017

The challenge grows – the weaknesses of Counter Pressing

Well it took us almost ten games into the new season before we settled into a rhythm. It’s clear to me that playing a Counter Pressing game can be extremely taxing on a side as thin as ours.  In our system, my side-midfielders are set in stone. On the left I need Danielle Baselli, I use him to unlock defences, but his tackling is sometimes suspect. Interceptions become vital,  so we keep tracking these numbers. It’s no surprise to me that Baselli and Valdi are generating the most pass attempts over 90 minutes. As you can see there is no one else in our team who has had a chance to play there. Andrea Poli has been making some appearances and looks most likely to step in when needed.

Season 2 Midfield DNA
Season 2 Midfield DNA

For me, tracking these kind of numbers is almost ritualistic. I need to make sure that I perfect the player selection process. Then I need to observe how they play on Comprehensive, yeah if you watch any of my youtube videos, you will notice I play on Key Highlights. That is the price one pays for a viewing audience – you gotta keep it short. So details go missing, and it’s probably the biggest reason why Cleon doesn’t like videos. I use them to illustrate, but I know the written word is more comprehensive.

Currently we play a really boring brand of football. We keep the ball for ages while we patiently unlock defences. When we lose the ball, we regain shape, then deny them passing lanes, and get the ball back. In season 1 I was playing the game so fast, I was nervous about getting things wrong so I watched on Key Highlights. You see Key Highlights are the best mode to watch them on if you want to know which side is in ascendancy. It’s easy to spot, their highlights are show, and the type tell you whats going on. So for me, playing on Key for Youtube, felt like an arcade game. ” Ooh we’re five minutes, the get a goal disallowed. Time for me to switch up mentalities” It’s only 5 minutes and the first highlight and people usually want to know the reasons behind the change.

If you are playing on key and a highlight is shown. You better know – that highlight is significant. You are meant to pick something up from it. Failure to do so is your problem. Furthermore, I hadn’t settled into the comfort zone, of wanting to watch comprehensive. You see I like comprehensive highlights or us having the ball almost all the time. And that can be boring.

So once I settled on changing the format of the show for Season 2, I started sitting back. Games got longer, and I started getting nervous. “OMG if I watch on comprehensive, I’ll be itching to make a change everytime” I needed to tie my hands down, somehow.  So off we went, it was time to start watching each match on full to comprehensive to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I needed to see every single pass, assess every single disc move around the pitch. Yes and I was watching it on 2D classic. If you want to see how your shape holds out, you can ONLY do it on 2D classic, because you don’t get distortions in relative distance. And that is important when you want to assess why someone is not closing down. And there is something that happens when your tactic is actually good. You can enjoy these matches on comprehensive so much that they actually begin to resemble a game so real, you get deeply involved.

One thing was certain though, you still need to adapt. In the match against Lazio, I made the mistake of putting Baselli in the wrong position. This affected how our transitions would play out. Ciro Immobile punished us with 2 goals. However once I noticed the mistake we made immediate corrections. We also pushed up our mentality, they were just finding it too easy if they were near my goal. Lazio would go on to lose the match 4-2.

You won’t see your side Counter Pressing 90mins of a game. It’s just physically tiring to do short burst full out sprints for that long. Players are more likely to do it in bursts, and we just need to hope that they do it at the right times. All we can do as managers is assign priority grids on the pitch. I never expect my side to Counter Press all the time, but I do expect them to protect the vital areas. In the match against Lazio, I played Baselli in a central position, his tackling is poor for a centrally placed defensive player and we got ripped through the middle more than once. If the AI manager realises that width is your enemy, it will play the diagonal ball. That was something that Juventus did to us. It was going to be one of those rare days when I discovered that the side-press can also be your undoing. There will be times you will pray that your side doesn’t counter press, or you will need to change your system.

Juventus almost end our run
Juventus almost end our run

The importance of having the right players and enough of them is beginning to drain Torino. Our runs are taxing the players, and I can see that their match conditioning, isn’t as good as it was at the start of the season. Benassi and Baselli are dropping to 60% on the quarter mark in the second half. While any kind of pressing system in the game is good for dominance, the price you pay is high. Our pressing style is beginning to morph into our own unique style. We use elements of the High Block with our front line, ensure that we pick the right players and then  manage this with Mentality changes. If we want to play Sacchi’s press we use the defensive line to adjust. Peps’ is the most annoying because it involves working with the training module and ensuring your players are versatile but the game itself doesn’t do positional flexibility responsibilities within the tactical confines of the moving off the ball as well as I would hope.  There are moments when I see this happening, but like Counter Press, the game has an “internal decision making mode” for your players to pick from the right thing to do under the right circumstances. And the funny thing is this- It’s like Pep’s problems with some players:

Pep: ” When the ball goes there, if you are in the zone, you need to become Role A and play like this and move there”
Player answers back “But I am a centre forward, its not my job to tackle in midfield its their job to win the ball and give it to me so I can score, Bugger off you sod!”

And oddly enough, it’s already mimicked in the game!

That leaves me with using elements from Klopp’s system and that is actually the most interesting,  because it involves picking the right player with the right combination of attributes with the right ppms to play against the right system. Whoa! And once again, conditions in the match will determine if it happens at any time. Talk about uncertainty. I have seen some moments where it’s brilliantly executed, and others where we are flying around the pitch trying to get back into shape. However the long term effects are there, its still early days yet. I haven’t hit my bad period, yet, the signs are there, my players can’t keep this level of play up. I will need to switch between pressing styles for some of the matches. We are able to put great runs together but in order for you to go on epic runs, the amount of work you have to do is encyclopaedic.

Season thus far
Season thus far

I haven’t spoken about attributes for these kind of players yet, cos to be honest I’ve covered that to death and it should be the same as what I’ve written in the past about any hardworking support player. The only thing I would like to add,  is that player preferred moves can play an interesting role, once you have put your side together. I am only issuing ppms to the players whom I feel need that kind of adjustment based on what I already see on the screen in the way we play.  Baselli needs to learn how to switch ball to other flank, and that adds a layer of complexity and risk to the way we play. We don’t really have a flank attack, unless my fullbacks are final third players. His existing ppms already help with the way we play : Killer Balls and Dictate Tempo, I just want the option to use the flanks. So whenever I opt to unleash my fullback, that ppm will be relevant.

Yes I am laying layers and layers  of complexity to the game, but that’s just how I play the game to get the results I want. We could just get by, with minimal changes to the system. Then again, that wouldn’t be as much fun as seeing what you can eke out from every single layer of this game. The training module should once again hold the final key.

It’s almost customary to be get a curse of sorts once you put up a graphic of an impressive run. Our next game was against mid-table Sassuolo. With a champions league match coming up in a few days.  I opted to rest the B’s.(Baselli and Benassi). In their place came on Poli and Bianco. This was a match we dominated from start to end. Domination was near perfect. We played with a Counter Mentality away from home with a pushed up defensive line. This ensured we spent large amounts of time in the opponents half. We looked comfortable, and nearly highlight was of us attacking.

Our run ends
Our run ends
Shots Saved & Woodwork
Shots Saved & Woodwork
season2e
Shots Wide

It’s fairly disconcerting to see these numbers.

  1. Only 1 of my 3 attack trident players was getting into decent positions to shoot – Player or Role? I reckon it’s a combination of both, plus our shape.
  2. While some are decent attempts, we certainly lack the presence of a top class finisher in the box
Torino lose the ball
Torino lose the ball
We made the counter easy
We made the counter easy

We had rested Ze Gomes, but the other strikers were also players I depended on. It may only be one defeat, but there is something to be gained from this. The goal there scored was fairly lucky. We were attacking in their half when they won the ball and released their striker. Our defender lost concentration, and we paid the price. We had been playing with a high line and when you do that, regardless of mentality, you will be inside the opponents half. The Counter Press can be played on any mentality. Naturally there are those that are better or less risky, but we were also on Counter Mentality.  However these systems have a vulnerability, the ball over the top and the diagonal. We need to perfect this even more. So much for our attempt at another glorious unbeaten run.

Ramos the defender
Ramos the defender

These are the attributes of the Ramos, the defender in question. He may be good at tackling, however his concentration levels are not nearly as good. We can’t afford to be getting the best players, so we will need to adapt to our players and make late-game adjustments. We may be looking glorious in some games, but we are still vulnerable to certain plays. And that’s the inherent weakness of Counter Pressing, when you are playing so shallow, you need tremendous organisation and you need to keep track of how your team plays. Depending on your system, if you are playing narrow like us, you could be challenged to score goals. I have seen games where I’ve had to step up mentality a notch or two against sides that are a lot better at moving the ball. One thing is clear to me when you play a Counter Pressing style, there are so many ways you can do it. And, many of us have been doing this for ages. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We made the counter easy

5 comments

  1. Thank you for this Rashidi, it’s interesting stuff. I’m also trying counter pressing with my team by telling my strikers and amc’s to close down much more, while keeping the shape in the mc strata and defensive line, but my front players are not very hard working and i guess thats essential for this to work.

    Also, 16 wins and 4 draws in 20 games with a 2nd season Torino is pretty amazing.

    Do you mind i ask you one thing about fullbacks? It’s obvious that in a narrow tactic they are fundamental to add width, if they dont it can be really difficult to break teams down. My question is if you think a cwb would also still work in that kind of narrow systems? Because they roam and i’m afraid they wont be always there for that purpose? Would you chose that role over a traditional fullback or wingback if you had an excepcional player in your 4-3-1-2 system?

    Thanks a lot and hope you write more about this.

    1. I would still pick a fullback over a
      CWB because of the way I need my 3 central players play. CWB sometimes cut inside and lost their potency when providing width.
      Since I already have a congested centre this would make it worse and chances may become harder to fashion.

    2. When I look at Roaming fullbacks, I tend to use them in systems where I am assured the flank they operate on has a really good midfield screen. Furthermore, they also have the ability to cut inside, so I want to make sure I can open it up for them.

      They still work well in FM17, if I had such a player I wouldn’t hesitate

  2. First, thanks for have the time to reply.

    You know why i asked? Because i remember to read your FM save with WBA where you also used a 4312 system with 2 CWB on attack.

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