At ViewFromTheTouchline we are happy to host and promote other people’s posts and blogs, We’re happy to have Matt aka @FM_Throwing share his FM23 save here on our site. Today’s post is his introduction to his FM23 tactic ideas.
In the First article, I explained why I chose UD Almeria for my FM23 save, gave a brief history and talked at a high level about my plans. Next, I want to look at my tactical plans. In this article we’ll cover:
● Inverting the pyramid
● Expanding the space
● Striker combinations
● Putting it all together
● Strengths and weaknesses
● Training for success
Inverting the pyramid
In FM22 I primarily used a 5-3-2 which was created using “duties” rather than roles. This meant I wasn’t tied down to using specific roles, like a Ball Winning Midfielder or Deep Lying Forward. As long as the player carried out their specific duty the tactic would work effectively. For example, as long as one of the strikers dropped deep into “the hole” to link play it didn’t really matter if he was a Deep Lying Forward, False 9 or a Target Forward. This gave me flexibility as I could use a player in their preferred role, and to their strengths, more often than not. I intend on carrying on this approach when building my tactical framework with UD Almeria. If you read the intro post you’ll remember we’re using a 5-2-1-2, which I’m referring to as a 3-4-1-2 as it sounds sexier.
However, transitioning from a 5-3-2 to a 5-2-1-2 isn’t just a case of moving a player from DM to an AMC. As with every tactic, moving one player has a knock-on effect on everyone else.
As you’d expect, having only two midfielders in front of our defence changes the dynamics of our back three. I still need all three Centre Backs to be physical and good in the air to potentially deal with a lot of crosses into the box. The Centre Backs on the left and right will need to be mobile and athletic enough to cover wide areas behind the marauding Wing Backs. Being good 1v1 defenders would also help, as they might occasionally find themselves on an island against a winger. We’ll need a Destroyer who’ll be physically strong, good in the air and a good tackler. At least one Ball Progressor will be required. Their job will be to play through the lines with either accurate passes (Ball Playing Defender) or with the ball at their feet (Wide Centre Back). I’m predicting the back three will be the hardest area to settle on. It could take a few in-game months to figure out the best configuration. The Wing backs will carry out the same function as a 5-3-2. Vital for providing width and passing options up and down the pitch as we progress through the phases. When we’re in the final third they’ll stretch the opposition defence and whip in crosses for our strikers and supporting players.
Even though I’ve “inverted the pyramid” the duties of our three-man midfield essentially remain the same. I need an Aggressor, a Creator and a Line Breaker. First, let’s talk about the central duo. At the most basic level, both players carry out the same tasks: remain disciplined in the middle of the park and be the balance of the team. Out of possession they sit in front of the defence and break up opponents’ play. In possession, they stay central and provide support to the attacking trio. Either progressing the ball from defence to attackers and Wingbacks in the build-up phase, or as a “safety valve” when the ball is in the opposition’s final third. These will be the Creator and the Aggressor.
Expanding the space
The central attacking midfielder has been my least favourite position over the previous two instalments of Football Manager. The increased use of defensive midfielders, and more mobile central defenders, means the “AMC” has less time and space to operate. Thus, usually limiting their effectiveness. This causes a problem because in this tactic the central attacking midfielder will undoubtedly be the most important player. Not only is he responsible for connecting defence and midfield to attack, but he’ll also be expected to be able to pull off something magical in the final third. He needs to be a goal threat inside the area as well as from outside the area. So, how can I overcome the problems mentioned above? I can expand the space. Currently, my lineup looks like this:
Behind the AMC we have two midfielders. The likelihood is that at least one of the pair will encroach into the “AMC zone”. Up top, we have two strikers. If I stick with my 5-3-2 striker pairing we will have a Deep Forward who will drop into the AMC zone. All of a sudden, a crowded area is getting even busier, with two extra teammates and their respective markers. The space our AMC has to operate in is now even smaller. However, with some adjustments I can create this:
Look how much extra space we can create by:
1. Dropping the CMs back to the DM strata.
2. Removing the Deep Forward and using a striker role which will stretch the play.
3. Asking our Wingbacks to hug the touchline.
Having two strikers pushing the defensive line back further will create even more room and not allow the opposition to squeeze the space. To quote one of my favourite movies: “Look at all the room for activities”! To assist with this plan I’ll be looking to have the Creator (in the defensive midfield slot) and Ball Progressor(s) in defence hitting balls into the channels for the strikers to attack:
The AMC will be our Line-Breaker. He’ll be expected to help out his midfield partners with the defensive side of the game. In attack, I’ll be looking for him to get in and beyond the strikers and be both a creative and scoring threat. A player with good Off Ball, Anticipation and Work Rate should be able to make the most of all the space which teammates will be trying to create.
As we now know, I’ll be looking for two strikers who are on the shoulders of the defence. They should be constantly looking for opportunities to turn and attack the channels. Personnel-wise I want one of the strikers to be capable of winning long balls and holding up play. This is vital for teams expected to be at the wrong end of the table, who can’t rely on the player ability to progress the beat and beat an opponent’s press. He’ll also provide a big target for Wing Backs to aim crosses at. I want the other striker to be quick, skilful and a real threat when those passes into the channels are made. This combo should give opposing defences plenty to think about.
Putting it all together
Now we know what the duties of all the players are, we can put them together as an eleven.
You can see from this image we’ll be able to attack with six players and still maintain a solid base to deal with any counterattacks. This is the same as with a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and 4-2-4. Showing once again, playing with three Centre Backs doesn’t have to be defensive. Here’s how I initially interpreted these duties into Football Manager 23.
The Advanced Forward and Pressing Forwards both to have instructions to run into the channels. Having both leading the line will also help our desire to press opponents. The Attacking Midfielder will have a free role, moving up, down and side to side. This will help to create overloads in wide and central areas and make the most of any space he can find. Our midfield pair, whilst offering the same thing off the ball, will offer different options when in possession.
The Segundo Volante will take any opportunity to get forward and support attacks, whilst also being the more aggressive of the two when it comes to counter-pressing. The Deep Lying Playmaker is on a defensive duty to offer a safety net, providing cover for the Segundo Volante and the attacking Wingback. He’ll be the main outlet for the three Centre backs and should have plenty of passing options in a more advanced position. Patrolling the flanks we have two Wingbacks, one more attacking than the other. This leaves us with three Centre backs. As mentioned previously, I think these roles and duties will take the longest to finalise.
Although I intend on being aggressive with our counter-press, this doesn’t mean I’ll be recklessly pressing and sending my players out to run themselves into the ground. I’ll be using a high-pressing line and a standard defensive line as my base set-up. Against the stronger teams – or to hold onto a lead – I’ll drop the line of engagement to a mid-block, otherwise I feel we’ll get ripped apart. My defence isn’t quick enough to play a high line but in the future, I may look to make that progression. The players will be instructed to funnel opponents to the flanks. Despite this being our weakest area, the plan is to trap fullbacks and wingers against the sideline, limiting their options and using our numbers in the middle to take away passing options. If the press works as planned I’ll go into more detail in a future instalment.
Strengths and weaknesses
Like every formation, there are both pros and cons. No tactic is perfect and able to be exploited. All we, as virtual managers, can do is identify and try to limit our weaknesses as much as possible.
The weakness of this 3-4-1-2 is the flanks. Whilst we’re relying on the Wing Backs to provide width up and down the length of the pitch, this opens up three potential problems. Firstly, if we lose the ball in an advanced position there will be a large open space behind each Wing Back. If they can’t get back quick enough it means a wide Centre Back will be dragged out wide. As touched upon earlier, this means they’ll likely have to defend 1v1 against a Winger. Not ideal. Also, as they’re pulled out of position it might leave gaps elsewhere in the backline. The second issue faced by having only a Wing Back for width is if they move up the flank either too quickly or too slowly.
Either of these can make it hard to progress the ball downfield as we’ll be forced to do so in crowded central areas, where we’ll be less talented than most opponents. Thirdly, if an opponent lures us over to one side of the pitch, it leaves us vulnerable to a quick switch in play to the other flank. If successful, the likelihood is they’ll be able to create a 2v1 or 1v1 situation. The last main weakness of this tactic is when playing against a formation which uses three advanced strikers. Lining up against a 4-3-3 with inverted wingers or inside forwards can create a 3v3 against our centre-backs. If the opposition uses attacking, or wide wingbacks our own wingbacks are unable to tuck in to help.
Training for success
Naturally, our training sessions will look to teach and develop our playing style.
I want each aspect of our game to be drilled throughout the week:
● Counter-pressing (Transition press and Defending from the front)
● Progressing down the flanks (Attacking Wings)
● Balls into channels (Attacking Direct)
● Fitness and stamina (Endurance)
Also, any weaknesses of the tactics should be worked on:
● Defending crosses (Aerial Defence)
● Defending the flanks (Defending Wide)
Finally, we have the basics of which all training sessions should consist of:
● Attacking Shape (Attacking Shadow Play)
● Defensive Shape (Defensive Shadow Play and Def Shape)
● Football intelligence (General – Tactical)
● Decision Making (General – Possession)
● Composure (Attacking – Patient)
This is how that looks to put into an actual schedule:
Disclaimer: This schedule only has one block which allows players to work on their individual training. Therefore, if this isn’t enough I will change as the season progresses. I plan on training set pieces hard in pre-season, but again, this might need to be something I factor in. I’d be interested to hear any thoughts or comments on this training schedule. In the next article, I’ll introduce our players and give insights into who the key players are. We’ll also find out the potential surprise packages and those who might soon be heading out for pastures new.
Thanks to Matt for that great second piece about his FM23 tactic, if you want to discuss his save, he is active on our discord or get in touch with him on Twitter. There is a lot of FM23 tactic discussion happening on our discord so come and join in.