1.2 has (finally) gone live, despite the unfortunate server crash on opening night. Still, those of you logging in today will probably be wondering what’s gone on with tactics. There’s an awful lot to get through, so, over the coming weeks I’ll be trying to show you how the new system works, what you can do with it, and later how to get an edge on your opponents by using it.
Listen out for the podcast this coming Wednesday too, as we’ll have one of the development team on the show discussing all things Football Manager Live, including tactics. And, on top of that, Richard Claydon, the brains behind the ever-popular Tactical Theorems and Frameworks on which the new system is based, will be in the virtual studio with us to discuss the new system. Those episodes will be aired over the coming weeks.
Right. Site business out of the way, let’s get into the meat of this week’s Chalkboard and discuss the new wizard. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but let’s go through it stage-by-stage and show you the wealth of options you have at your finger tips.
The new screen looks rather different to the old one, but all the basic instructions are available to you. You now have a tempo indicator in the top left hand corner of the field of play. This speeds up or slows down according to the tempo you set. The watermark ball and arrows in the centre of the pitch indicate passing length, while the players will pull wider or deeper depending on how high you set your defensive line and width settings. Have a play around and see what happens.
The buttons on the right-hand side indicate the various different options that we had before, such as team and individual instructions, captains, corner takers, etc. We will discuss these in a little more detail in a later instalment. Our focus now is the tactics creator.
When you first go to the tactics screen in FML 1.2, you will be prompted to set up a tactic. If you miss this, or for some reason it doesn’t load up for you, click the “tactics” drop down menu in the bottom right hand corner and choose the Tactics Creator option. You should see the screen to the left of this text if all has gone well.
The starting point of any tactic is designating the placement of players on the field in a formation. Traditionally these are quoted in a “defenders-midfielders-attackers” format. So, for example, the “4-4-2” formation has four defenders, four midfielders and four attackers. Some are a little more complex than that, but will tend to quote the positioning of players in bands up the pitch. So, the 4-2-3-1 has: four defenders; two more defensive midfielders; three more midfielders placed higher up the pitch; and finally one attacker. This is basic football terminology that most of you will know, but it’s good to make sure everyone is on the same page. Each formation has a handy little icon next to it mapping out how the players will line up to help you choose.
Choosing a formation is relatively straight forward, but it’s good to think of how your squad is made up and what their strengths are. For example, if you only have one good central midfielder, is a formation that uses three central midfielders really a good idea?
The creator has most of the world’s most common formations already in its database. If you want to use something more complex then you can drag players around the pitch to suit your needs. We’ll cover this in a later article. But, for now, I’ve chosen the “standard 4-3-2-1 asymmetric” as it looks good and was the one I used in my tactics in 1.1.
Philosophy is a key component of tactics in the tactics creator. It decides how the team attacks and defends and how your players behave relatively to one another. This seems like a complicated and unrealistic idea at first, but it becomes clear one you see the philosophies why they are there.
In the previous incarnation of Football Manager, teams were set up using sliders. One of those sliders, mentality, decided how attacking players were and roughly decided how they positioned themselves on the pitch. It was important to have enough of a gap between these settings in order to get the attackers attacking and the defenders defending, but not so much of a gap that the players were too far apart and couldn’t communicate with each other.
The philosophies in the tactics creator decide how big those gaps are how strictly you define the roles of “defender”, “midfielder”, “attacker” and so on. Rigid philosophies tell the players to stick to their role and their position and let the attackers concentrate on attacking and the defenders concentrate on defending. Fluid philosophies allow defenders to join the attack and also encourage the forwards to track back.
Simply, rigid philosophies can work well with weaker players with low mental attributes, whereas players with great creativity, positioning and decision making skills may well thrive in the more loosely constructed tactic. That is a simplification, and good tacticians will quickly work out what works best for them. Experiment, and see what gets the most from your squad.
Sometimes, you will want to attack the opposition hard to get a goal. Other times you will want to try desperately to keep the ball out of your own net. This is one of the most basic of tactical decisions to make, but perhaps one of the most difficult. Do you go for that second goal and risk conceding the equaliser, or sit on your lead and hope the opposition don’t break you down? Or do you do something in between?
The creator has seven strategies to choose from, each of which affect how attacking the team will be, the duties of the players on the pitch (more on that later), and to a certain extent aspects such as width, defensive line and tempo. Roughly, the more defensive you are the deeper, narrower and slower the team play, and vice-versa for attacking strategies. However, this is just a very rough guide, and by using other instructions, shouts and players you can play with other effects than just these bog-standard strategies.
You can split strategies into 3 rough categories. First, we have the “standard” strategies: defensive, standard and attacking. These are not too complicated and simply direct the team to hang back a bit more and be more cautious, to go forward and try and cause the opposition problems or to go somewhere in between. Second, we have the “breakdown” strategies: counter and control. Counter looks to sit back a little more than the standard strategy and looks to hit opponents on the break as they push forward into the space you leave them. This can give you a good break against sides who are attacking and give you good opportunities to score. Control looks to attack a little more, but does so by holding onto the ball and drawing the frustrated opposition out of their hole: rather useful against sides who “park the bus”, since you can control possession and force them to tackle you, leaving a hole which you can then exploit. Third, and finally, we have the “extreme” strategies of overload and contain. Overload looks to throw caution to the wind and push many players forward in order to overload the opposition’s defence with waves of attacks. Contain looks to flood your defensive area with bodies to keep the ball away from your goal, but does not care if the team don’t attack: safety first is the key.
Choosing the correct strategy at the correct time can make or break a side. It is dependent on the relative skill levels of the two teams, the score line and how long there is left in the game. We will return to this topic in depth in a later article, as it really can be the thing that clinches those tight games.
Roles are dependent on positions. For instance, you cannot play a full back in the FC. You can, however, have a variety of different types of player who play in the MC position. Roles allow you to dictate what you want your player to do, and as part of a general team tactic can mould your side and style of play.
To return to full backs, I can give you an example. A full back is a defensive player who plays in the DR or DL position. He concentrates mainly on defence, but will support the winger when asked. However, a wing back can play in exactly the same position. He concentrates more on supporting the wingers and putting in crosses, though. So, while both men might play DR, they are playing in different roles.
The creator has many such roles which you can assign to different players on the pitch. In the example on the screenshot, I’m about to make my DMC into a deep-lying playmaker. This is because I want him to sit deep and play balls to my wingers and forwards. I could play him as a defensive midfielder and have him cover my defensive line and make lots of tackles. However, I think my DMC will play better with the ball than by crunching in with the tackles.
Experiment with these. Later when we examine the tactics screen in more depth, I will show you how the game highlights the key attributes for each role, so you can see whether your players are suited to these instructions. If they aren’t, either the tactic needs to change or you might need to spend some cash in the transfer market.
I mentioned these in the strategy section. Essentially, duties control whether the player is more concerned with attacking, defending, or supporting the attack and defence in equal measure. Based on your strategy, the game will automatically choose the appropriate amount of “defenders”, “attackers” and support players. Attacking tactics, naturally, have more attackers.
One of the common misconceptions is that all defenders must defend, all attackers must attack and all midfielders must support. This is not the case. Or, at least, you could try doing this, but the team would play in three separate units, not communicating well with one another and finding it difficult to play anywhere but in isolated bands.
Mixing duties means that the team play more evenly around the pitch, can move the ball from one stratum to the next, and crucially can cover and support attacks and defend in a co-ordinated way. Lone forwards will usually actually be given a support role with lower forward runs because if they didn’t they would remain isolated. By dropping back a little bit they can use midfielders to help them if they get into trouble, and they can still play on the shoulder of the defenders and nip forward to receive through balls and crosses.
Similarly, having a midfielder in the defensive role helps out the defence when they need cover. Attacking full backs can aid attacks in more offensive strategies. And support players dotted around the pitch provide better cover and more options for the attackers when they get into trouble.
Even if the instructions players get given based on their duty look odd compared to the way you used to play before 1.2, all I can say is give them a try before you think the system is broken. It may open your eyes to new ideas and help give you a tactical edge.
Right. We’re nearly set to go! All we need to do now is edit our tactic to suit our individual tastes. So far, the tactics we have produced are far from generic, but they leave little room for catering to the strengths of the squad or the way you want the team to play. Do you like short, sharp passing, or do you want to lump the ball? Perhaps you want your players to strictly follow your instructions, mark tightly or you want your attacking players to roam around looking for space. This is how you do it.
The options on offer here are pretty self-explanatory. Simply go to the appropriate instruction and choose a variant of “less/shorter/etc.”, “automatic” or “more/longer/etc.”. The result is a personalised tactic which should behave as you want it.
And we’re done. Click continue and you’re all set to play with your new tactic!
Clearly this is just an introduction. How can you change your tactic after you’ve made it? Can you still modify the sliders? What about during the match? Next week, we’ll cover the in-match “shouts” and show you how to make quick substitutions on the fly, change your strategy and target opposition players to hone your tactics to fight the opposition’s major weaknesses.
|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.