@JemFell_FM23 joins us today to share with us their tactical approach to FM23, They explain their thought process as they go through putting their tactic together.
This isn’t one of those tactics alleged to break the game, it’s born of how I approach Football Manager, which is as a series of stories. I don’t seek to win a game, I live in the narratives the game throws up; I build relationships with the players, imagine myself on the terraces, create imagined conversations between fans after games in fictional pubs and have head-cannon grumpy podcast hosts talking to me as I try and sign a player on deadline day. I don’t imagine I’m alone in how I play, but it’s relevant to this tactic, because, although I’m getting success with it, it’s about playing a certain way, creating the football I’d want to watch.
So, that football. Let’s start with what I loathe. Tippy-tappy, patient build ups, possession heavy football is not my thing, it frustrates the living daylights out of me when I see someone standing looking around, foot on ball for long enough to eat a picnic – there should be a hairy-arsed player taking them out. What I want is the antithesis of so much modern football (I grew up remember on Second Division football in the 80s).
What do I want? I want aggression, pressing. Camp in their socks, don’t give them a moment’s space or time, push up, be relentless. Leading? Get another. Two up at half time? Let’s have another couple. Overload the box, run and run and run. We are leaving everything on the pitch, getting that crowd going at every possible occasion. Maverick heavy-metal football with an underbelly of chaos. Ooh, I’m on my feet already.
I like two strikers, it’s a regular moan of mine about the isolation of lone strikers. So, I start there. Two strikers. Then there’s width, I love the classic winger, getting in crosses, running at the full-back, a turn of pace, gone… Behind the strikers, a Bernie Slaven, Beardsley, McGoldrick, intelligent, movement, playing in the hole. That’s the DNA of every tactic I look at creating going back through twenty years of Football Manager, the root of every conversation I have in the pub after a real life match.
Then along comes Chris Wilder with his overlapping centre-backs, ooh, O’Connell and Basham marauding, how well that fits my vision of football. Then we get them in game. Thank you SI.
So, we have two strikers, heavy metal pressing, wide centre-backs and width. What does that look like? Well, it’s evolved.
Tactic – the start
Broadly speaking, across three saves, almost 800 hours and twenty one seasons, I’ve used this formation. It’s served me well through various tweaks and shifts.
It started with an attacking midfielder, who was superb at breaking the lines, running onto through balls until he wasn’t – how I curse updates sometimes. I’ve dabbled with a libero, with a no-nonsense centre-back, changed mentalities of the wingbacks. I started out with a regista, who was really effective in shielding, but didn’t have that attacking aggression I wanted. The mezzala has been a playmaker, a box to box player…
I like to tweak, to get the most out of a side, make them a little more assertive, a little more bloody minded to play against, a tad more to get excited about on the terraces.
I’m talking about this iteration of the tactic because it’s the skeleton of where we are now, I’ve just nudged things a little, the core is the same.
Tactic – where we are
We’re heading into 2034, off the back of a successful season, but I’m dissatisfied. There’s a niggle playing in my head as I lie in bed considering roles and possible signings, imagining the conversations in the Water Witch about the upcoming season.
I’m wondering how we can get a bit more. Be a little more aggressive, create a little more chaos, get the midfield to be more assertive in attack.
Given that, I start to wonder, in the dark, whether wing backs are a little wasted when using wide centre backs. There are still gaps in behind, you face crosses, so maybe, just maybe push them forward as defensive wingers.
The problem then is that, with one DM, you’re likely to be very open to the counterattack. So that obviously means dropping a player back as a double pivot. I’m thinking half-back or deep playmaker, but then recall seeing a double Segundo volante somewhere, and, oooh, doesn’t that sound a little sexy?
Now, I’m envisaging this and there’s a chasm in front of them, I need to narrow that gap, make sure the strikers aren’t all the way over there. Drop the shadow striker role. That has two advantages, first we have a better balance across the pitch, but also I’ve found box-to-box midfielders aren’t as effective with someone in the hole, they end up occupying the same space, so beautiful as the shadow striker’s been, it goes, allowing the box-to-box player greater attacking licence from deep.
I like the idea of this now, but I’m nowhere near sleep – actually tempted to get up and fire up the laptop, oh curse the oppression of work – and I’m thinking while it looks good, it doesn’t have that element of the unexpected, the maverick chaos demon I want in a tactic. It’s then I remember the raumdauter. I tried one five or six versions ago, and I like the idea. How would that work?
Well. It leaves the left more exposed. Defender on support then. Keep the central defender back, anchoring things. Can’t have too much chaos. It also means you have that drifting creative role which, with the attacking runs of the Volante and BBM, we can still overload the box effectively.
How’s it going? Very well indeed. There are niggles, and I’d like to play it in the Championship to see how lesser players deal with it, but as a top-five Premier League side, it’s lovely to watch. The box to box midfielder is getting into those spaces he should, the twin volantes are an absolute delight pressing. The analysis of where we win the ball back shows how effective they are – quite apart from what I see in the match engine.
Forward play certainly isn’t going to please those Pep purists, it’s a torrent of low crosses, cut backs and queues of players around the penalty spot ready to rifle in or pick up a loose ball, but dear me, it’s a feast I’d love to watch!
At the back we’re conceding space in the full back areas – as expected – but by having two of the defenders more defensive minded, relatively few of those forays lead to clear chances. The volantes and defenders track back well and we face a series of speculative shots from the corners of the area, because the centre is overloaded defensively. It’s a trade off I’m quite happy with. Better to win 3-1 than 2-0 I say.
Is this for everyone? No. It’s a tactic for me, for the way I like it played. There isn’t a variant to see out games, because I don’t do that, 1-0 in the 89th minute? I’m still attacking. You need fit, pacy, strong players with high stamina. The volante and winger will almost certainly need subbing/rotating because the workload they face is immense, but I love the aggressive press, the swift breaks, the crowded box, chaos and – above all – the goals.
And I love shutting down the laptop, imagining the conversations as the crowd spills out thrilled again by crunching tackles, aggression and swaggering, heavy metal football on a cold December night.