Now that I’m half way through the season, I felt the urge to write down my thoughts after having spent another few days with the game under a microscope and myself engulfing any tactica reading that I could. The majority of this is focused on player recruitment as I enter the January window but I am still in the learning process, tactically, which is really and truly giving me the most fun I think I’ve ever had on a version of FM.



huge turn up for the books here as I look to not chase Bayern down, but actually cement my status as finishing comfortably above them. With a five point cushion, I really think that this could be the year that the pressure on Nagelsmann counts and his dynastical period could be over. That being said, normally being so far ahead of Bayern would put us atop the league but not this year as a resounding Dortmund have fired their way to a ten point lead over ourselves and fifteen (!!) over Bayern and Koln, in fourth. I know that stranger things have happened and I know that Bayern are, at the end of the day, Bayern, but I really think that this season is about us coming second and coming second without too much hassle. The glut of 30+ players in Munich will need addressing and we, like Dortmund, have a team whose key players are at peak ages and only getting better.

Obviously, we lost away at Bayern and have just lost away at Koln – we’re not perfect. However, our game play is reaching a level that is putting ourselves above that of the chasing pack and we’re able to kill games off more and more, despite having an xG differential of just +0.96, the fourteenth best in the league.

We’re progressing nicely in the Champions League – sealing our entry to the knockout rounds but it is the Pokal draw that, without Bayern and Dortmund, gives us our biggest chance of silverware this season!


Two interesting articles that I’ve been reading lately are this one about Andoni Iraola and this one about defensive and offensive principles. I really like this quote from Andoni:

“I prefer too much chaos to too much organisation. I prefer to play at a high pace, even if it means a touch of hastiness, than play at a lower pace and have a bit more control.”

Despite me recently lowering the tempo within my approach, I actually think more and more about the chaos that I can create going forward. Up until recently, I’d have assumed that tempo was the ‘speed’ in which we’d attack but, when I thought about it, I realised that – no – we don’t just jog around or pass the ball slowly because of that low tempo, particularly not when we have really pacey attackers and roles that are aggressive and forward thinking ball-carrying roles. Our lower tempo, from my experience of the changes in games, comes more about the initial build up – we are now happier to move the ball around and play a little bit safer in the defensive areas in order to identify the right pass. And that is where we can create that chaos.

This quote pretty much sums up my thoughts:

“Some like to approach games in a disciplined structure, intentionally and meticulously dictating games to their own tempo. Others opt for a more emotionally-charged philosophy, reliant on the belief, energy and willpower of their trusted eleven on the field.”

And on that definition of the latter:

“Electrifyingly fast, pulse-raising, edge of the seat entertainment is what chaos can bring. These are often the emotionally-charged performances that can use the crowd to their advantage. It’s less coordinated, and in turn, more unpredictable. For the opposition, it can be overwhelming being unable to anticipate enemy moves despite the chaotic team not controlling every facet of the game like a chess board.”

My chaos does not come from ultra-aggressive pressing and counter pressing (although we do use both at the right moments) but, instead, comes from off the ball movement, trickery and quick transitions, where all of the players can – realistically – apply themselves to any of the jobs I require from the attacking midfield trio. I think that the more I watch Unai Emery’s Aston Villa – my own team – I see that. Patient build up, the ability to break the lines with defensive passes (hence my insistence of the right type of full back) or progressive carries (hence using both a Libero and a Volante) before unleashing havoc by running at the defence. For me, that is then topped off by having a Haaland-esque finisher at the end of it. Whilst I’ve experimented with different striker roles and do like the DLF/F9 kind of interaction, I like the AF or even the PF(a)/P(a) because they tend to pin back the defenders, allowing more space to create chaos when attacking.

With that in mind, I wanted to see how my recruitment strategy this winter could better our chances of doing that. I identified some key attributes and stats that I think symbolise this chaos approach and compared the players currently at the club by them:


I think that we have the makings of some really strong players in these areas and I look forward to being able to expose D’Anzi to more first team football as he seems to fit the bill really well. We have created a young, focused attacking unit and there are clear development plans to get those last two to three percent out of these players, such as working on Bangura’s first touch, Krassnitzer’s acceleration and Sulley’s dribbling. He, of all the players, feels the furthest away from this but I am excited by his potential and really enjoy the process of moulding a player into something that I really require.

With that. I decided to add two new players to the chaos crew!  Welcome Ozguneri Sarier and Tornike Khuroshvili!

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At just €12m, I think that Ozguneri is an absolute steal and, thanks to the power of NewGAN, gives me a picture of a man with a bit of an attitude but also one who is incredibly nonchalant and oozes panache whilst on the ball. With elite flair, composure and vision, I think he’s basically Ronaldinho and I will look for him to spearhead the chaos in our ball progression. He’s lacking a bit of acceleration and isn’t the strongest off the ball when compared to my group of players but there are only minor things to iron out with him. He’s done pretty well in Turkey and I think he’s ready to take the next step in his career. Plus, at 6’3″, I am excited about his physicality between the lines. Again – in Villa related news – I’ve liked the way that Morgan Rogers presents physically – winning duels and headers in half spaces against outmatched opponents – and I think I can do similar as a team that, largely, do lack height. Tornike, like all my previous signings, is also subject to a random face and I actually laughed when I saw the name/nationality combo as his moustache makes me think of an old school circus performer. I can picture young Khuroshvili walking across a tightrope or escaping from a box and, in footballing terms, that’s pretty much what I expect the Georgian wizard to do. An initial loan deal was required but I don’t actually think I’ll have 25 games left that he’ll play in and, should Freiburg not get promoted, I think he’ll be available for much cheaper. A little quicker off the mark than Sarier but not as natural of a dribbler, the technically gifted and composed lad will be utilised (opposing the terms of his loan deal) largely off the right hand side, cutting in and unlocking defences.

For comparison, here they are with the same criteria as the above players:


I’m really happy with this bit of January recruitment and I’m now able to see a bit easier what that looks like when looking at my core principles of first touch, technique, decisions, determination and pace using my new squad DNA tool on Excel. I am aware that a high score here doesn’t naturally make them a good player but it’s good to see that my good players also rate pretty highly on that scale.

I’ve got a good little group of players here and I think that I’m two or three away from a squad that can really make things happen!

Die Werkself!


  • 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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