As soon as I saw Fernandez’ attributes, I really wanted to give him the opportunity to create havoc in Zone 14 as an advanced playmaker. That, however, meant that there’d need to be some switching of roles – as I don’t feel that two playmakers would work with this style and could possibly slow the play down more than I wanted. Whilst a T(a) is a playmaker, I don’t feel as they’re as much of a ball magnet and I’d already used one in a previous shape, just in the striker role. It would also mean a change to that role – with two more rounded forwards in Tchetchoua and Pejcinovic – the CF(a) role came into play and I feel I can mitigate their combined lack of heading ability through our style, anyway. With a focus already on to work play through the middle and an AP(a) role that is already quite attacking, removing the ‘Get Further Forward’ player instruction felt like a sensible option.

Here, in our early build up, we have a very clear 3133 shape which means I am able to play diagonally and forwards with several banks of overloads. Having two wrong footed players in that right-sided bank – Osterhageand Molina are left footed – it means that their natural body shape brings them back inside to play in one of the three attackers. What I like most about this still in the Samake, deputising in this game, is holding his width – despite playing as a more conservative IW(s) yet the FB is still drawn to him. Whilst the ball is a good thirty plus yards away, here Fernandez is two on one with Tchechtoua up top, or, if he moves, two on one with Samake on the full back. Being able to move the ball through Ndiquidi and forward is going to be a key element of our play here. In this still, I’ve been able to get Fernandez on the ball in a pocket of space as the midfield has been baited into pressing the Molina/Osterhage/Passlack overload but the ball has bypassed them. Again, he can drive forwards and Samake and Tchetchoua are now potentially part of a 2v1 versus their full back. Even more interesting for me is how the T(a) and BBM(s) operate when the ball is out on the left. Osterhage occupies an aggressive position, one that I’d consider more akin to that of a CM(a), Mez(a) or AP(s) but a quick switch, again, can create a 3v2 with Passlack on that side.

Overall, it’s a little more scripted than I’d normally like in terms of team instructions as I tend to try and use roles that allow that within them. However, things like low crossing cannot be controlled by a player role and I feel you can have the same roles play the same at different tempos: a winger will hold his shape and cross at a lower tempo but will naturally progress the ball when asked to play at a higher pace. Likewise, I could overlap on the right with a Support duty there but feel that I want both, an attack minded player and an overload and I could use playmakers in the centre to naturally gravitate around. With these, I think I can move us closer to my intended playing style and the addition of ‘Run at Defence’ combined with dribbly-roles will only allow us to emphasise that element of our transition.

I also had two further exploratory tactical things to consider…

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I’m in no rush to get this right and have, therefore, taken a full half of a season to explore the outputs of Fernandez in this role, with pass maps from his first three games forming the image above. My intention is for to get into that Zone 14 where a very clickbaity video tells me I can see up to an 81% increase in chances of scoring, compared to when the ball does not come through this zone. Overall, despite our strong team performances, he hasn’t really set the world alight, as his stats – below – show. A lack of assists, expected assists and, to be honest, key passes is a concern for me. He’s probably too aggressive to be in an area to carry the ball that much but yet it still safe – not losing the ball a huge amount of times! That being said, the eye test is positive and it’s not as if we are struggling to find the net and find creators elsewhere in the team. I just need to fine-tune this one. Next up is the Pau Torres role. Whilst FM24 cannot compute this, a key metric of Pau’s play is his progressive actions: he the ball 1,084 yards in Villa’s win over Fulham. It is the 8th time that Torres has passed the ball over 1,000 yards in a single Premier League games this season. This link to show how Torres’ forward thinking draws in players to create spaces further up and this link shows the number of passes that Torres has made into the final third. I pondered about whether to introduce a HB(d) in front and go full out with a L(s) here, properly utilising the positional play elements to create a very fluid back three but, actually, have settled on – more often than not – the L(d) role that sees him patrol slightly ahead of the defensive line in a 325 in build up. That, again, can be altered as we look to fulfil that ideology of building up with one more man – as seen with the 5v4 here. Kozic’s pass map from his first game as a L(d) is above with a 66% success rate of long, forward passes – hopefully something I can build into his game and, when compared against all outfield players, he’s dribbling – per game – more than about 60% of them, that’s not too bad, either. I want more cutting edge and risk from his passing game, which will, in turn, reduce the 94% completion rate but it’s another work in progress role within this shape!

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Javier Fernandez – left – and Luka Kozic – right – statistical outputs, compared against all players in the top 25 leagues, represented as a 20% percentile band.


It’s working overall!


We’re not quite at the turn yet but we’ve been pretty strong across the majority of the matches, even after a shock opening day defeat. We’ve won each game on xG this year and are recording 2.20xG per/90 (1.90 in the league), with two goals scored a game. We look a little on the soft side at the back, but I think that an upgrade in the goalkeeping department will assist there. Tchetchoua has, unlike last season, found his scoring boots in the first half of the season and leads the league, and team, with no small part down to his five goals in the dismantling in the DFB Pokal. With so much focus on tactical development, I really feel that we’re on to a winning formula here and so many players are performing well, with us working towards our goals. For reference, our metric comparisons at this point are:

  • Possession: 54% (7% increase)
  • Final Third Passes: 58 (decrease of four)
  • Expected goals per shot: 0.14 (increase of 0.02 per shot)
  • Dribbles: 15.64 (increase of 2.38)
  • Interceptions: 21.66 (increase of 1.30)
  • Defensive line height: 40.27 yards (increase of nearly four yards)
  • Opposition conversion rate: 10% (increase of 1%)

Pretty good going towards those targets we set at the start of this season.

Elsewhere, a quick look in Sweden shows a shock as feeder team Brommapojkarna actually won the league with my ex-side Elfsborg down in fifth having changed the manager who successfully destroyed my squad! The highlight has to be Christian Brahmerwho notched twelve goal contributions whilst out on loan there.


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David Raya – or, at least – a player like David Raya could be the final piece of my jigsaw and, given our strong showing this year in the league combined with the fact that promotion will open up significant avenues that I’ve not been able to explore yet, I have gone pretty much all in on finding a new goalkeeper. His on-ball ability is, to my knowledge, unmatched within the pool of players who are willing to join us and his contract expires in the summer. His stats show him at a struggling Tenerife side, who really don’t play out from the back like I want to so I’m taking them with a pinch of salt, somewhat. The fact that he’s 35 does concern me somewhat but I’ve never truly tested the age boundary of a goalkeeper and he could, potentially, be here for four or five years. Likewise, the (hopeful) promotion means that new players will become interested in joining our journey and I may then be able to spend a more significant proportion of any budget – safe in the knowledge that I have stabilised the club financially – on said player.

The other element of my development is coaching staff: and, in this case, Pablo Perez. He joins as a youth coach and, now that I have added attributes back into my game, I am able to chart his progress across months, years and coaching badges. This move follows a previous appointment in this mould, as Oscar Lewicki moves up to fill a gap within the first team. I pay far too little attention to this area of the game so wanted to make myself a bit more accountable by posting about it!


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  • 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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