Before starting any save on Football Manager I, like I’m sure many others do, like to do a bit of ‘market research’ with regards to the league, and the culture of football within the country I am heading to, whilst also looking for some sort of tactical idea to base my plans for the save around. Japan was no different in that regard, which is where the term Sushitaka comes from, I saw it used whilst reading this piece;
written about the Japanese national team in the early 2010s which referred to the way they played a patient passing game, as their very own Sushitaka. Coupling this with the Arteta-based tactic I was fiddling about with in Beta, laid the foundations for all my plans this year.
In essence, then, we are going to be looking for a patient passing game, smothering the opposition with our impressive possession stats, simple right…? There are many ways to accomplish this, obviously, the most famous proponent of Tiki Taka football is Pep, but being a fan of one of his students, it is Mikel’s Arsenal we will be taking inspiration from.
What does that look like?
Our front 5, all of these roles are what I would classify as “Final Third” roles, the front three play naturally in advanced positions, whilst the Advanced Playmaker on Attack and the Mezzala will both naturally look to take up more advanced positions than other roles in central midfield might, this will be important to keep in mind when we look at the defensive positions and roles later on. One of the most important things I think I have learnt from the tactic guru of the site is that when designing a tactic, you really need to consider how you’re wanting it to score goals, and how each of your roles is going to be a part of that, I personally find it much easier to do this when taking inspiration from real life.
Watching how Arsenal have played this year, the two central midfielders, usually Xhaka and Odegaard tend to take up very wide positions when the ball if progressed on their half of the pitch, looking to create overloads down that side, either to exploit or to draw the opposition out of position and create 1v1 situations on the opposite side. This is very much the inspiration I will be taking for this tactic; the Mez naturally looks to move wider, and a PI is added onto the AP to do the same on his side, the false nine is then asked to move into channels to help create some nice triangles of possession.
Now the balance, the Yin to the Yang. Now, as mentioned above, it is important to remember that the attacking roles are quite attacking, so our defensive half really looks to be the balance to that, the ultimate aim is for something that resembles a 2-3-5 in attack, so instead of looking for full-backs that will bomb on and overlap our wingers, I am more interested in having two players who will sit in deeper positions and look to be there to recycle possession as well as break up opposition counter-attacks. The positions that IWB take up currently are exactly what I am looking for, sitting around the inside of the half spaces always available for a simple back pass if one of our more advanced players runs into trouble.
Complimenting this is the Halfback role, in possession, he drops in to almost create a third centre-back, which in turn pushes the other two CBs into wider positions, which is where we are trying to create these overloads. Finally, we end with a Sweeper keeper on Attack, full inspiration from the modern prem goalkeeper here, I want my GK to be able to play counter-attacking balls forward, as well as being comfortable to come out of his box with the ball at his feet, just to offer that extra passing lane for the team.
I can never bring myself to use a mentality that isn’t positive or attacking, despite the benefits I see many people write about, I want us to be dominant, and I want our first thought to always be moving the ball forwards, I am prepared to die on this hill.
In Possession, instructions are quite basic, and really just the simple things you would expect, I don’t like going crazy on instructions, as much as I want us to be playing out wide, I want that to become a natural progression, whilst still allowing the players the freedom of thought to take up other options, so I am not a big fan of the play wide or through the middle instructions, simple play it short, take your time, play out from the back, and if we get the chance to cross, let’s keep them low because we’re going to have more technical players who prefer to use their feet than their head.
In Transition again, very simplistic, just asking the goalkeeper to play the ball out to the CBs, and the team to counter-press. Again, there are certain instructions I would rather leave blank than try and force the team into doing certain things, mainly thinking of goalkeeper distribution type here, his judgement should be better than me forcing him to do anything in particular. To a lesser degree, this is the same with possession when it has been won, our natural style will lead the team to hold their shape and slowly building, but I wouldn’t like to temper them from a quick counter if the opportunity arises.
Out of Possession, we see a few more instructions, mainly to try and dictate where the team will be positioned on the pitch, we want the ball up high, playing in the oppositions half, thus it would make little sense to play with a low defensive line or a low block, we want the team up high, pressing the defence and goalkeeper into mistakes. I have asked the defensive line to drop off more, generally, to try and counter the balls over the top, that seem to plague most high lines, this could also be countered by dropping the D-Line to higher instead of much higher and will be monitored through the season.
Sounds great right, but does it actually do what it is meant to do?
These pictures are taken from our final friendly against the South Korean champions, so while they look quite deep in positioning, this is mainly due to the quality of the opposition, and if we trust the process, when we get better players, we should see them move up the pitch more.
Firstly we can see the formation starting to take shape, this is attacking average positions, we see the IWBs sitting a lot more inside than we would from a WB role, and whilst the HB is a little deep in this game, we can see the beginnings of the 2-3-5 shape we are looking for.
Within the pass map we can see a lot of passes coming between the players in wider positions, a lot of our play being focused down the right in this game, with pretty much 5 players taking up positions in this area of the pitch.
Now, everything sounding this good is amazing, but did it actually produce anything in the match…
The game resulted in a 3-1 win, from a possession standpoint we had a lot of the ball, and the xG shows we also managed to create some really good chances on goal, the main point of improvement I would like to see through the season, is an increase in the share of our final third passes, only 5% of our passes came within the final third, whereas our opposition managed to double that. It would be nice to push them further back and pin them in more.
Thanks for joining me on this little tactical adventure, I realise I’m a little behind the main flow of FM posts so far this year, and I shall be looking to get my season update done and out while still firmly within 2022, until then, take care and happy FMing