aka – the one with the header investigation…


I had obviously dug into the statistics in the post above, looking at where we sat in the league and the specific issues I had within my team. Before going any further, I did want to just look at how that compared with the normal. Now, I’d normally look at real-life statistics and get a feel for this but, given the match engine and it’s changes, I felt that a comparative measure within the game would suffice for this one. The above chart shows some three hundred and fifty centre backs and their heading outputs with one big anomaly at the bottom – Alexander Blomqvist, my centre back. I tried to look at the comparisons between the top five European leagues, built, largely, around more technical football and our Allsvenskan, which, seemingly (for us anyway), is built around tall strikers who win headers against defenders. The median number of headers won sits at just under five per game but I am obviously left unable to distinguish between those that are offensive headers and those that are in the defensive thirds but, just at first site, it’s clear to see hat there is an issue with my club – although only one of my players has reached the thousand minute milestone.

Yet, there appears to be more to it than that. Both Frej and Moros Gracia can win headers. A look at the charts below for their performance before playing for Sundsvall and after signing for us tell a tale of woe.


I simply cannot conceive how a player can come into the team, know the language, play a role that his attributes and his previous form would suggest he can do and then still record a forty percent drop off in header success. Granted, Gracia is 6’0” tall – shorter than I’d maybe want for a centre back – but he was brought in with the safety of some good defensive stats and the ability to utilise his strong ball playing ability. His interceptions – my preferred style of defending – have increased and he’s held quite steady in most other areas, which is interesting considering his move from upper half Djurgårdens to ourselves, a team supposed to be doing more defending. His partner, Frej, moved up with us from the second tier and, like us, GAIS were a top side – which would therefore explain why he might be doing a similar amount. Yet – again, he isn’t. There’s more headers and there is, seemingly, a disproportionate amount too – he’s facing nearly four times the amount of headers from the right centre back area that Gracia is from the left.

To me, this feels very tactical

On paper, Filip Aberg, the young full back, has been the most promising player at the club but, when I’d make an assumption that at least 70% of crosses aren’t aimed at the near post, it’d clearly suggest that they are coming from the left hand side – a statement that can nearly be corroborated by the above data – where I’ve matched up two goals down the left to two crosses and two of the three goals down the right to corners. Both need work!

To further develop these ideas, I want to dig deeper into the next few matches to try and find any nuggets of information I can work with, happy enough with our offensive patterns and ability to counter attack.


Each thumbnail, as always, can be clicked on to access a full match report.

e kicked the little spell of this update off with a draw against a strong Hacken team. It was really nice to watch another team that was utilising a similar style of build up to ourselves, also employed an IWB and IFB. This, however, did mean that they’d be utilising less wide overloads and, as such, maybe offering less crosses into the box. We ended with a draw in a strong performance against a side above us in the table; however, there were two headers that I felt it was important to analyse:

27th minute: Soko vs Aberg:

Patrick Soko, who is 5’9” tall with a 59% header win ratiothis season, against 5’7” Filip Aberg, who has won 32% of his headers this season.

The build up to this is far too easy for Hacken. They get 2v1 against Forsberg, the full back, and are able to cut inside him and float a ball into the box. The aim for the far post means that it is Aberg, the smallest member of the back four who has to deal with it and, as height might suggest, he struggles. I know that the graphics don’t always represent things perfectly, but, visually, it appears that he does not at all check that Soko is there and – by the 0:05 second mark – he’s static and in his position, allowing Soko the run and jump to make the height advantaged even more pronounced. With both centre backs and Hacken’s forward already in the six yard box, I do not feel that this is the kind of ball that Johannsson should and would be going for.

66th minute: Layouni vs Forsberg:

Amor Layouni, who is 6’3” with a 21% header win ratio this season, against 6’1” Lucas Forsberg, who has won 77% of his headers this season.

In my opinion, there is also far too little pressure on the winger here as he is able to drive to the byline and put the cross in, with only Aberg coming within five yards of him, albeit through a half-hearted attempt to win the ball back. Again, it goes towards the back post – an area where Forsberg has been strong this season – but he is outjumped by Layouni. Unlike last time, I feel that Forsberg has seen his man and just hasn’t attempted to jump for it. I’d not expect the keeper to come and get this one either.

Overall, I think that there is a little issue with the ‘show outside’ as it means that I’m happy for the wide men to keep the ball. Whilst this may be a sensible option longer term, it’s not going to stop me conceding crosses – even with the ‘stop crosses’ instruction selected – so a change is in order.


This feels somewhat typical of this season so far. A game in which we were pretty even and certainly never out of that has come down to one decision. Granath, their target man, won key headers everywhere on the pitch despite me trying to act upon the findings of the last game, pushing their wide men (in a 4-4-2 shape) inside and showing them all onto their inside foot.  Unlike the Hacken game, there was two wide men in each attack and, as you can see from the heat/pass map, they fanned out to create a front four when going forward that our two central midfielders and four defenders struggled with. The match was sealed by a decisive moment late in the game where I’d made a tactical change – bringing Martinsson on for Forsberg and moving Kusu to a HB(d) with the aforementioned sub moving to a WB(s) to try and give up an opportunity to exploit wider areas on the break.

87th minute: Granath vs Martinsson:

Viktor Granath, who is 6’4” with a 38% header win ratio(still, at over 5.00 per game), against 5’11” Fredrik Martinsson, yet to win a header in his 57 minutes this season.

Unfortunately, Granath peeled off Blomqvist and was able to easily win the header against my much shorter full back, who, to his defence, is nowhere near ready for first team action at the moment. I do have to question how both Gracia and Aberg were unable to stop the ball in and how Blomqvist appeared to very easily be distracted, maybe ball watching, allowing the giant forward to get between the two defenders. I have watched a little bit earlier back in the move and feel that there may be an issue higher up the pitch. All of these three headers have come from crosses – yes – but the ball out to them in the first place has been too easy as there has been too little pressure on their central players. With two quite aggressive wide men – IF(a) and IW(s) – I’ve not got them to rely on tracking back so need to make that first ball a bit harder.


The easiest game of the three so far, although that’s largely due to Halmstad’s huge underperformance and we pick up the first three points of the header-analysis period. To try and alleviate errors of the last two games, I made some conservative changes: BWM(d) to a DM(d) and VOL(a) to VOL(s) to try and keep the defense covered more. It worked, kind of, except for the fact that it made our box shape rather ineffective. It’s quite ironic that both of our goals came from crosses – both assisted by the impressive Paulson and finished by Carstrom, who my assistant later declared was better than Lionel Messi. Yeah. Our overall heading performance was much better – we funnelled them inside and, with more cover available there, stopped them being able to work an opening out wide where we are still down on numbers. Their goal, however, did come from a really nicely worked central overload – exactly what I’d forced them to do! Overall, Frej, playing with Blomqvist in the injury-absence of Gracia – recorded a 63% header win ratio, with Blomqvist – 72% – Forsberg – 100% – and Aberg – 100% (albeit from one header) – also showing an improvement.

I feel deep in the battle of defensive stability vs offensive fluidity!


I made a couple of tactical tweaks for the visit to Djurgardens: marking both posts at defensive corners and setting my wide forwards some specific marking targets. Overall, our shape was ok and we played really well but the box of IWB(S)-VOL(S)-DM(D)-AM(S) hasn’t really worked again, and, actually, it was the positioning there that led to their goal. I think changing Aberg – who is above the 95th percentile for tackle attempts and tackle success as well as decent interception and block ratings, to an IWB(d) will not only benefit our attacking build up, bringing the whole team closer together, but also will reinforce a defensive area. Djurgarden’s quick interplay caught the full back too high up the pitch and allowed Milleskog in to finish superbly. Aside from that though, things feel a little better: Blomqvist finished with 100% header success, as did Forsberg, whilst Frej’s 66% (two from three) is still better that entry to this period. Aberg was the concern initially, with only a 25% success rate, but one came from a corner – which I’ll be able to check his marking instructions on – one was a through ball and one was this occurrence, where, again, the cross comes into the back post and he simply doesn’t jump. In addition to the fact that my coaches do not necessarily believe he is good enough, yet, I do worry about the Jumping Reach and Heading – knowing that, sadly, his intelligence can’t always bail him out!


After Gracia agreed to work on his heading, we lined up with the intent of getting a little more height at the back, playing three centre backs in the four and moving Forsberg to the left, utilising his ‘Stays Back at all times’ trait to solidify a bit more. The game was dire, to put it bluntly, but sprang into life when we scored in the eighty-ninth minute. There was, of course, late heartbreak as Vargas scored a debut goal from inside the six yard box as Goteborg piled men forward at the end. However, all things considered, this is a decent draw against a team of a similar stature to us. My focus on heading feels like it’s reaching a natural conclusion: Frej – 75%, Blomqvist – 75%, Gracia – 66%, Forsberg – 100% tells me that we’re on the upward trend from when I started this investigation.

That leaves the table at the halfway stage looking like so:


To be honest – this is about as well as I could have hoped for. We’re not a great team and we’re almost certainly lacking in fire power up front. My aim, when promoted, was to make us hard to beat and I think I’ve done that. Five league defeats is as good as the other mid table teams around us sixteen goals conceded is also really strong – albeit if it’s caused me an issue with the type of goal.


I have also used this time to make three dips into the transfer market…




Emil returns to the club he started it all at and, if I’m not mistaken, he’s probably the best ever player to have played here. The club lists his father, Leif, as a club legend and this man as an icon and I am delighted to welcome him back. Out of contract at Leipzig but still on the periphery of the Swedish national team, I feel that this – for the first time for me – is really where the game has shown that he loves the club and wants to end his career here. With Bengtsson injured again and with the worst injury history I’ve ever seen – he is certainly going to fill a gap. He’ll slot nicely into the left sided role but I may have to change the ball carrier necessity of that as his legs, after a bit of an injury hit season or two, may not last forever. My highest earner on just under €2k per week – again, a huge drop from the wage he was on at Leipzig – I think he’ll be superb in feeding my new striker…


Next in is Saidou Bah, after a successful trial period. He’s not quite Adama Traoare but, when I watched back some Barcelona B games, the way he moves with the ball is something special. He’s going to need some refining but – as I look to cement myself as a team that builds up slowly, at first, then ignites into chaos, he could just be the man. Granted, his outputs haven’t been fantastic, but then against Barcelona B and Badajoz – where he spent the year before on loan (scoring four in twenty-eight games) aren’t going to be playing the same brand of football as I intend to.


Roger joins from Hammarby’s youth club in the third tier, where he’s been really successful. Initially, he wasn’t brought in for the first team but I’ll look to give him a chance given our striker woes of late.

Fifteen games to make something of our season! Let’s do this!


  • Ben

    Ben has been a long time contributor to the FM community previously on The Dugout and the SI Forums. He is known for his great in-depth tactical analysis and an increasing level of understanding of data led recruitment. His FM saves are always in-depth and he delivers both his knowledge of the game and great storytelling including a talent for squad building, progressing youth players and finding diamonds in the rough. His saves are really popular within the blogging community. He is also the creator of the popular skin “Statman”

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