Some of you out there will be settling into your first seasons of Football Manager Live or eagerly waiting to sign in to your new game world. Many of you might be thinking though – what skills do I need? Where should I specialise? What can I do with the skills I get?
There are many routes to go down, but as co-author of Tactical Theorems and Frameworks, perhaps I ought to give my view on the tactics skills. Of course, you may choose to ignore tactics altogether. But if like me you’re a bit of a geek when it comes to fiddling with sliders, here’s a quick start guide to fast tracking yourself to TT&F glory in Football Manager Live.
Each of these skills is listed in order of priority. You certainly don’t have to go for them in this order, but I think from my own experience of creating tactics in FM09 this is the route you will need to go down in order to get the most important aspects of TT&F together. Each skill is listed with a minimum requirement to make the basic TT&F Default tactics which are available for download for Football Manager 2009. Then I give a “recommended” level at which I think you should be aiming short to mid-term in order to give yourself tactical flexibility. If you want more than the recommended, it may be best to achieve the recommended level and then go after another skill – you can then return to upgrade the extra skills at a later time. And finally I’ve outlined a maximum range which I think is the most you will ever realistically need. Going for more may actually be a waste of valuable time which you could be using elsewhere.
- Minimum 3*
- Recommended 3*
- Maximum 4*
Tactics opens up the world of the team sliders, and each skill gained after that gives you progressively more notches; from 1* which gives you 5 notches of control up to 5* which unlocks everything. For the TT&F tactics, you mainly use individual instructions anyway, but you will benefit from having some control over non-individual sliders such as width, tempo and time wasting. Additionally you can use the team sliders to cover for the fact that (early on at least) you have very little control over your individual tactical instructions.
You need tactics 3* to unlock everything that follows from here-on in. Those of you who started with the tactical boost in your original manager profile already have this. For those of you who didn’t, get this as soon as you can. Without it, you can’t get any further.
You either have this skill or you don’t. But it’s vital to unlock everything else that follows. Getting this skill allows the individual sliders to move. Getting this means a lot of the basic TT&F tactics can now be whipped into shape. As individual skills are what shape and hone a TT&F tactic, this really should be your first priority the second you’re able to research it.
I’ll now go through the individual sliders in order of importance. However, there is no immediate need to upgrade mentality, closing down, passing style and creative freedom. It’s handy if you do, but a basic role theory TT&F tactic can be made without them
- Minimum 0
- Recommended 2*
- Maximum 4*
Mentality is the most important instruction and vital to TT&F frameworks. As I said before, you can create a Role Theory tactic with only 5 slider notches. In a defensive formation, the defensive players would be on the lowest notch, the support on the second notch and the attack on the third notch. And with each progressive “flavour” you would just add a notch. Global frameworks are pretty easy to accomplish also, since you can differentiate MCa and FCd whilst everyone else is on basically the same setting.
But not everyone likes Role Theory or Global, and since both systems require quite a high level of player to work well, it’s best to grab a few more stars on this slider. Mentality 1* allows you to use 7 notches, which should give you a tighter role theory tactic and allow you to use a rough Bands of Two, the framework we used in the TT&F defaults, though 2* is probably recommended for this. 3* will give you even greater control and allow slightly modified versions of the Nike Defence, Rule of One and Libero systems.
In order to make all of the frameworks perfectly, however, you will need 4*, which gives you all 20 notches. This does take quite a while to research, so you have to ask yourself if you really need that much pin-point control.
This is why I recommend 2*. This will allow you to make Bands of Two frameworks which are solid and allow for individual creativity. If you know already that you’re a big fan of Role Theory or Global, you can get away with 1*, but without some kind of control you will find it difficult to get your players to play well as a team. 3*allows far more modifications and fine tuning, but if you’re a real control freak 4* is the one to go for. Personally – I think 2* will allow you to make decent enough tactics and give you all the control you need, but if you want more the only thing stopping you is time. I would suggest once you’ve got 2* mentality you move on to the other instructions and come back to it later.
Individual Player Forward Runs
This is the second instruction which is vital for assigning player roles. Once you’ve defined the mentality framework and shape, you need to be able to tell which players are defending, supporting and attacking by the use of forward runs. Defences become much more stable over night once you can specify a few “barrows” here and there.
This is another instruction that you either have or you don’t. It takes a while to research, but once you have it you will find yourself with far greater flexibility in formations and in game plans.
Individual Player Closing Down
- Minimum 0
- Recommended 1*
- Maximum 2*
Closing down is another instruction which will help the defence and also give your team some shape. It’s possible to get a rough system working with 0* closing down, but your options are severely limited. If you were to go down this route, you may want to use closing down like I suggested using mentality in a Role Theory framework on 0* mentality. If, like me, you want to have a little control and be able to use mentality in a staggered way like the TT&F guide suggests, you will only really need 2* closing down at most. 2* means every click on the slider is roughly two clicks in FM09. That’s all the precision you need with closing down, unless you’re incredibly picky. For those who don’t like messing around with closing down all that much, 1* will probably do the trick for you. (One click equalling roughly three clicks on FM09.)
Individual Player Run With Ball
I was in two minds as to whether to prioritise RWB or put it towards the end, but in reality this is an often underrated instruction which can really add bite to a tactic. Attacking players running with the ball can be a nightmare to defend against. Similarly, the ability to tell weaker players not to run with the ball can help you retain possession when the default tactics might be making your players run into the opposition (my full backs do it all the time on the default 4-5-1!).
Like FWRs, this takes a while to research, but once it’s done you can use RWB and FWR to set your defend, support, attack roles and give real shape to your side. By this stage, your “shape” should be complete, and your defence should be reasonably solid. Now it’s time to get the instructions which add real bite and attacking zip to the side.
Individual Player Passing Style
- Minimum 0
- Recommended 1*
- Maximum 3*
Passing style is only discussed in very basic terms in TT&F – it’s direct, mixed or short. In theory, the five notches offered by 0* passing should be enough to create the tactics. Indeed, the TT&F default packs only really used notches 2, 3 and 4 in the defensive and attacking frameworks, though there was more subtlety in the standard flavour.
You can use 0* and be fine. However, for those who like to have more nuanced passing, or prefer to have your passing slightly shorter or longer than TT&F allows, you may need 1* or 2*. I would say 4* offers too many options, and you won’t see much benefit from having that many slider notches, so 3* should be your absolute maximum. You’ll need that extra time for other things. Bear in mind, though, that if you prefer to use global passing, the 3* team tactics skill which you already have may well be enough, and you can set everything using the team slider.
Individual Player Creative Freedom
- Minimum 0
- Recommended 1*
- Maximum 2*
Creative freedom is used in the same way as passing in TT&F. High, mixed, low. In effect, 0* will do everything you need. For those who want a little more control, however, feel free to crank it up to a maximum of 2*. I have yet to see a benefit in tactics by slightly tweaking creative freedom – it needs to go up by three or four notches at a time. 1* and 2* offer that, so there’s no need to waste your time going after more notches. Unless, of course, you like that sort of thing. But I would say that once you have 1* CF, move on to something else and come back to upgrade it later.
Individual Player Marking
Individual Player Tight Marking
Both of these instructions are incredibly useful. They will allow you to tighten up your defensive players and give freedom to your attacking ones. I would say that while it takes longer, getting the individual versions of these instructions is more important than the team ones, since it takes longer to learn both, and there seems very little point in doing so. Setting these two individually will give you a real boost. I would learn one after the other and give yourself nearly all the defensive tools you need (more coming later!).
Individual Player Try Through Balls
Like FWRs and RWB, TTB is a very useful “role based” instruction which allows the support players to look for killer balls. Being able to set this instruction will give you a lot more attacking impetus and allow you to control which of your players is looking to spray the ball around and which ones should focus on retaining possession first. It’s a very useful instruction, but not entirely vital, and that’s why it’s quite a way down our list. However, you should notice a significant increase in the amount of chances your side can create if you use TTBs well. Remember of course that the default tactics will already have some players set to TTB, so it’s not like if you don’t have this instruction that the team will never player through balls!
The final piece of the defensive jigsaw, tackling is flavour-specific, usually hard in attack and easy in defence. Having this instruction will give you a little more control over your defence. While it’s not a necessary instruction, it will certainly add stability to the defensive tactics and bite to the attacking ones. Recommended highly, but not a priority.
Counter Attack is quite a useful tool and will see a marked improvement in performances particularly in less attacking set ups. While it is very useful, however, it isn’t a priority. Shape and attacking instructions are far more important. Getting this skill doesn’t take too long though, and can provide more tactical options for the team.
Individual Player Cross Ball
The last slider to unlock for individuals, cross ball is probably the least important. Yes, it’s useful to specify which players cross, but to be honest most default tactics will have them doing it anyway. It’s only really if you want to stop people crossing the ball, or want to significantly alter the shape and formation that you’ll need this instruction as a priority. The other individual instructions are far more important, though cross ball can offer a new dimension to tactics by controlling attacking flow and perhaps getting central players to drift to the wings.
Passing focus is good for changing the pattern of play. In the TT&F defaults it was used to guide play to the wings in wide formations and through the middle in defensive ones. But, did you know that specifically setting a wing can be incredibly useful in FML? When a player gets sent off against you and the AI is controlling your opposition, it can be quite common for the AI to not replace the missing player and alter the shape. So, the opposition might well be playing with no left winger, no right back, or no central midfielder. Focussing passing exploits this gap ruthlessly while the AI is powerless to counter it. While this use is incredibly effective, however, it isn’t a priority when compared to the other instructions. A really good tool though, and not to be totally disregarded.
Individual Player Free Role
In attacking tactics you need movement, and Free Roles provide that movement in abundance. However, they are one of the last things to really add to a tactic. Solidity is the first priority. Once you have that you can start looking for goals. FRs help enormously, but there are more pressing concerns. Certainly you shouldn’t be stopping your tactics skills learning without this one though.
Individual Player Hold Up Ball
Like FRs, HUB is incredibly useful for controlling build up play, bringing FCds into the game and generally controlling the ball. However, like FRs it isn’t a priority. It should be researched, but the other instructions are more important at this early stage. Having this in your armoury though will really help add to your side’s options.
Individual Player Long Shots
Long shots. All the way down here. Long shots are nice to set, and good for those who like to keep them to a bare minimum, but it isn’t as if without this instruction you will never see a shot from range, nor will your players always be shooting from range. It’s very handy to specify to certain really good (or bad) shooters to take a pop (or not) from 20+ yards, but realistically there are other skills you’d rather have right now.
Some thoughts on “Meticulous Mind”
The skills involved in this will take a long time to learn, there’s no doubt about that. The time can be reduced, however, by learning the Meticulous Mind skill under the “Learning” tab. Each star reduces the time taken to learn a tactical skill by 5%. Sounds useful, especially when this list will take probably over 2 weeks to learn and there are other skills like set pieces and opposition instructions that, long term, you’ll certainly want to control.
The learning skills don’t take too long to learn, but on the other hand they take time away from learning actual skills that you need now. So, what should you do?
Personally, by the time I’m getting towards the lower end of this list I will want 3* or 4* meticulous mind. The big tactical minds are going to need a lot of skills to really hone their tactics. I would try and get 1* or 2* before you even start (much easier for tacticians since they start with 1*), upgrading to 3* at some point early on (perhaps after getting one or two individual skills).
You by no means have to do this. But 15% of two weeks is roughly 50 hours. That’s two days you could be spending on other skills, not necessarily tactics, which you will also need to become a major player in your game world. Though early on it may seem like you’re wasting your time, in reality you’re saving a hell of a lot of time. The effects just might not be immediately apparent.
Some Thoughts on the Other Skills
Important skills have been missed out here, but I was outlining the most important to get a TT&F default tactic like the ones in the download pack. There are, of course, other skills, many of which you may see as a higher priority. Firstly, anything to do with free kick and corner instructions will be worth its weight in gold against sides which don’t have them. Specifying routines at set pieces is worth many goals a season, and can save you quite a few too in defence. Opposition Instructions are also really, really useful though take an age to learn. Meticulous Mind may come in handy here. The other little things are quite handy to, like Cross Aim and Cross From. So too Target Man and Playmaker instructions for those that use them heavily in FM09. However, I would consider all of these desirable but unessential. By all means go for them, some of them as a higher priority than the instructions I listed in full. But bear in mind that for a default TT&F tactic you do not actually need them.
|Written By Gareth Millward
"Millie" is a long-standing member of the FM community and a co-founder of Gameworld One.Com. As part of FM-Britain, he was a contributor to TT&F and involved with the new tactical interface in FM2010.