Feralpi Salò – the first months

feralpi_homeWell I’ve managed to get through the first half of the season in a stupidly short span of time, partly due to being on holiday but also due to not having internationals, continental games or two cups to deal with. A nice simple 21 games that has taken me up to the Italian winter break.

I say simple but it really wasn’t very simple at all for a while there.

As I detailed in the club introduction, I was intending to play a simple 4-5-1 counter-attacking game but we were really struggling to get this to click which lead to an extraordinary run of winless games before I decided that I simply had to try something a bit different.

That tactical change has worked wonders and we hit a nice bit of form… anyway, you’ll need to read on to find out the details.

A quick look at the league table would intimate that things have been comfortable for us as we sit slap bang in the middle of the table, but this really doesn’t tell the whole story.

LeagueWe have lost the joint fewest amount of games in the league but those 7 draws keep us out of the playoff places which is, to be honest, a fair reflection of our performances to date. We’ve taken counter attacking quite literally and have simply sat back in most games, conceding possession to the opposition and then bombing forward in numbers when we win it back.

Here are the fixtures to date, take note of the highlighted game – a friendly against non-league opposition.

FixturesAs you can no doubt see, the early fixtures were… difficult, let’s say. After the opening win over Pro Patria we embarked on a massive 8 game winless streak. Although we only lost twice in that time and secured some decent draws, we were, in the main, struggling to create chances or simply failing to take those chances we did create.

Something had to change.

After reading this excellent counter-attacking article on Push them Wide, I decided to re-assess my tactic and have a look at where we were going wrong. An exhaustive review of my players’ statistics for those first 9 games identified a key deficiency. For a counter-attacking tactic we were not making nearly enough “key passes”. These are designated within the match engine as passes which break the defensive line thereby leaving the receiver of the pass goal side.

This should surely be the crux of any counter attacking tactic as you look to hit the defence whilst they are disorganised or under-manned. The primary “key pass” makers for me were supposed to be the striker (trequarista) and the two MC’s (advanced playmakers), yet they were barely breaking into double figures between them.

At this point I decided to go back and re-watch some game highlights and peruse the match analysis to find out where we were going wrong. Using the example of the home game against Carpi, a 0-0 draw, I could start to draw some conclusions.

Here is the passing analysis page, showing my trequarista’s pass map on the right-hand side:

Carpi match analysisI have highlighted the key passes, disappointingly showing just the one for the trequarista. I have also highlighted a particular pass on the right hand side. This pass was made from an area where I would expect the trequarista to look forward, trying to slip in an inside forward between centre half and fullback. So why did he simply pass it backwards? (note – sometimes passing backwards is the right thing to do, this is just an example)

Passing optionsThere’s a lot going on here so I’ll try to break it down a little.

The trequarista has received the ball nice and early. Good, that’s what I want. He’s managed to turn and look for a pass into space but there just isn’t the right options. The ideal pass would be the one I’ve highlighted for the left inside forward to run onto, leaving him 1-on-1 with the ‘keeper. However, Bytyci can’t play this because our players don’t currently have the pace to beat the defenders.

There’s a similar story on the right-flank with a more difficult passing option available but, again, the right inside forward won’t make it.

Similarly, the MC’s are too deep here. They aren’t breaking past the ball-carrier as I would hope, following the arrows I’ve indicated. They hold their position deep and the right MC ends up taking the backwards pass and the chance is lost.

Note also that the fullbacks are too deep to assist. I’d be comfortable if these players decided to bomb on in this case with the DM nicely covering the shaded area and the potential runners pulling the majority of the opposition deep.

So what to do about it?

ScabsWell I decided to switch it up to this tactic to the right.

A small change but an important one. The striker has been dropped into the AMC slot, retaining his trequarista role, whilst the two central midfielders have been given box-to-box instructions and the DMC has been changed to a deep-lying playmaker, allowing him to make more incisive passers for those players who should be making more advanced runs in front of him.

Due to my fullbacks lack of dribbling ability, I’ve also changed them to attacking fullbacks although I haven’t yet decided whether to manually instruct them to cross from the byline and ensure that they get further up the wing.

Incidentally, I’ve called this tactic “scabs”… because there aren’t any strikers… no?… I’ll get my coat.

Has it worked? Well one look at the fixtures after the morale-boosting friendly, when I implemented the change, will tell you that yes, it has. We went on a 4-game winning streak, the first 3 against fellow relegation strugglers and then thumping Spezia, a side who are challenging at the top.

The match stats from this game will show you just how little of the ball we actually need:

v Spezia

A lot of people would be concerned when allowing the opposition that much possession and so would I except that it’s, for the most part, harmless possession. Here is their passing map:

Spezia passingThey’ve spent 44% of the game holding the ball in the middle third and 11% in their own third. Their centre halves have had most of the ball and they’ve only made 3 “key passes” in the entire game, my trequarista made 4 on his own.

If they want to dick around with the ball at the back whilst we sit, organised, cutting off any passing angles then they are very welcome to do so. We are, essentially, doing the exact opposite of the latest possession hungry trend but it’s no less viable an approach and one which is clearly suiting us well.

Absolutely crucial to the improvement has been the impact on our trequarista, Bytyci. Here is his form over the last 17 games with the red line indicating the tactical change:

Bytyci formMore key passes, more assists and, as a nice aside, more goals as his breaking from deep has seen him getting on the end of more crosses. With the central midfielders also claiming 5 goals in the 8 games, there are some really promising signs that this could be a beneficial approach.

The tactic is far from settled but what it has done is given me 4 months to tweak, test shouts and, most importantly, gauge the efficacy of the players at my disposal. As we approach the January transfer window and the ability to sign Bosmans for next season, I should now have an idea of where we need to strengthen.

For the most part, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the players. Mattia Desole, at left back, has been excellent, Giannelli has proven to be a sound loan signing in goal whilst Francesco Lisi, with 12 goals, has been absolutely crucial.

Less fruitful has been the inside forwards on the opposite side with Kingsley Boateng already looking like an expensive mistake whilst Pietro Tripoli has blown hot and cold. And this is where my problems really start. 8 players that I would like to keep are out of contract in the summer and although I could feasibly give them all new contracts, this is going to cause me severe financial problems.

FinancesWe’re bleeding money at an alarming rate and will likely be £1m in debt by the end of the season. Therefore, I’ve prioritised the contracts and will have to say goodbye to Tripoli, his £2800 per week is just too much for me to service, particularly given his inconsistent performances.

Having said that, losing 8 first teamers on free transfers would be catastrophic business and so I’ve offered, and agreed, terms with the likes of Desole, Lisi, Gerbo and Luperini – some of them even taking pay cuts.

Looking at bringing players in then, my options are severely limited and I will likely be restricted to loan moves only in January. I would dearly love to sell Boateng, a big mistake on my part, for a profit but can’t see anyone being as stupid as I was. There are other sellable assets, presuming they sign the new contracts and I’ve have to seriously consider a 6 figure offer for just about any player in the squad.

I’ve arranged two friendlies for the winter break, partly to aid with the financial situation as we’ll travel to the San Siro to get spanked by Milan – although we’ll take £85k back to Salò with us as compensation. With that in mind, the last friendly is against non-league opposition to get our morale back up.

Co-ownership deals are something I don’t have a great deal of experience with and, if I’m honest, don’t fully understand but would definitely be an approach I would consider for my younger players. However, I don’t think it’s a viable option for us in terms of incomings and the likelihood is that one, maybe two, loans will join and I’ll concentrate on trying to find Bosmans for the summer.

I am quite happy to accept a mid-table finish this season and build the team up slowly, finances permitting. With that in mind, I’ll be trying to keep the signings young, preferably under 23, with a ‘keeper and a right inside-forward absolute top of the priority list.

For now, it’s a case of keeping us away from that relegation zone and ensuring our finances don’t become too restrictive.

As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to any questions or comments you may have.

Forza Feralpi!!


26 thoughts on “Feralpi Salò – the first months”

  1. I still can’t get to grips with the co-ownership thing and am always being offered it for my developing youth players but always say no. If you should see any benefits then perhaps you could enlighten me

    1. Will do. I really am unsure how it works, should probably look into it a little because a few clubs are interested in offering co-ownership for a couple of youngsters. I think it could be a potentially lucrative option.

      Thanks for you comment on the other post too. Is that club a re-incarnation of Castel di Sangro?

      1. Love your posts Shrew!
        I’m managing Empoli in Serie B in my save as a roaming manager and my understanding of CO-Ownership is that the player must have more than 24 months remaining on his current deal. Then with one season remaining on his deal the two clubs make an offer for the other half of the player to the FA with the highest bidder being the winner.
        I’ve found larger clubs offer for the 50% and leave him at your club for the remaining time to see how he develops as a ‘first dibs’ kind of deal.
        Good luck with your quest. The biggest thing I find hard is increasing the attendances as this is the easiest way to keep the cash rolling in.
        We sit top of the league just before the winter break only filling a depressing 17% of the stands. Using the do it for the fans talk is almost redundant.

      2. Ouch! We’re currently getting around 30% of capacity which isn’t bad but the stadium is tiny as it is, hence the financial difficulties. I may just need to sell a couple of players every year.

        Thanks for the info on the co-ownerships. It’s the “bidding” process which I don’t really understand as I believe you can bid two years out from contract end but if no-one bids then the player just stays with the club he’s at, still co-owned, and they bid again the following year. It’s really a very strange system.

  2. Ridiculously good. I’m guilty of it too, but it is so simple to find problems when you use your brain a bit, watch some games and try and get in the mind of the players, which you’ve shown fantastically here. I always make a point to judge the success of a tactic after it’s properly settled in – I think a lot of beginners either give up too early (I do that too!) or make swift changes too early. But you’ve shown the importance of patience here too, and even when you did make the change, they were pretty small tweaks here and there to get the changes you want.

    1. Cheers bud. I have to admit that I was on the verge of giving up on the counter attacking approach and just going for an “I’ll score more than you” tactic but I really wanted to get this to work so thought I’d delve into it a bit more.

      I think we can afford, if not profit from, at least one season of mid-table obscurity before going for promotion so I can take my time to get the tactic right.

    1. Haha! Just shows you, though, how flexible any formation is.

      That’s why it annoys me when people on forums try to tell you that “against 4-4-2 you HAVE to do this” or something similar. The shape is just the shape, yes you can get a general idea but there are any number of variations within the shape that comparing one to the other is futile.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment. Much appreciated!

  3. It’s been a while but I think Co-Ownerships are easy, cheap cash.

    A team will give you cash for potentially 50% of the player, always arrange for him to stay at your club. When the year is up you can delay it another year. If you can’t anymore you can bid up to the agreed fee to keep the player.

    Say you bid 0 dollars, and the other team do as well, you keep the player since you tied on the bid but hes already at your club. It’s why there are famous examples of players signing for 1k in Italy, etc.

    Of course this is when the agreed fee isn’t reached and known as “going to the envelopes” in which all sorts of great controversy ensues heh. When I was first starting I would save the day before the bids, go thru and check the amounts tehy bid, and saw what I could get away with.

    1. Thanks! I only wish I could make the easy money, unfortunately I can’t seem to offer my players out for co-ownership deals and no-one is biting so far.

      I’m in desperate need of some cash as well!!

  4. This setup is very like the Roma 4-6-0 setup under Spalellti. Ive been trying to recreate it but so far a Fluid Counter set up with

    2 FB auto 2 cds dlp d 2 cms att winger att inside forward att and treq in the striker position hasn’t been working how I would have liked.

    I’ve been thinking of using 2 b2B mids as the cm att seemed to get too far ahead of the play too early and didn’t really resemble the type of forward runs Romas cms made.

    Any tips in regards to some of the team instructions in regards to replicating Romas style back then Shrewnaldo?

    I was think short passing, More expressive, More Roaming and Drill crosses with every thing else on default.

    Do you also put the treq as playmaker? I was thinking maybe using him as a target man aswell.

    1. I’m afraid that Italian football is something that I haven’t watched a great deal of over the years. For a more educated opinion on Italy you are better to ask Lee Scott of FM Analysis https://twitter.com/FMAnalysis or Thomas Paine of FM Old Skool https://twitter.com/FM_Old_Skool

      However, I will say that I would prefer direct passing for counter attacking football. The idea, for me, is to get the ball forward quickly to utilise the space vacated by advancing opponents.

      I also experimented with the CM(A) instructions but, like you, prefer the box-to-box midfielders. Their movement seems to compliment the trequarista better and they “play off” the AMC better than the CM’s.

      The trequarista is designated as your primary playmaker by default and I leave the instructions this way. For counter attacking tactics in particular, I’m a big fan of getting the ball forward into advanced positions early. If your playmaker was deeper your team is more likely going to try and give the ball to him and your primary offensive passes will be longer distance, therefore of greater risk.

      I haven’t considered also setting the trequarista as a targetman but it could work I guess. Just be aware that this will mean your fullbacks and inside forwards will be told to aim for this player with their crosses. It could be a viable tactic if you have a trequarista who is strong in the air – in fact it could be of great benefit, utilising his late runs from deep – but something to beware of if your trequarista is a midget.

  5. Hi Shrew, I love the Ferapi Salo career and the blog as a whole, your articles are so in depth and detailed. Though I should have known, I was thinking after finishing exams and reinstalling FM, just under a month now, fortunately, that I might be first to realise that the 4-2-3-1 with wide attacking midfielders could be made even better by dropping the striker to the DM spot and blending it with the 4-1-2-2-1 and then I saw this blog and came here and saw that you’d already gone and done it!

    I’ll cope though! As you made up for this with a fantastic read as always, not on just this, but on the entire blog, and provided even more ideas and thoughts to put in the tactical blender, great work.

    And from what you’ve said in later articles and the way I see it, there are so many different possibilities with it and potential styles to play it, it will be a real treat.
    Ooh the potential!


    1. Thanks Lewis, really appreciate the comment! (although I had to search for it as I didn’t realise it was on such an old post!!)

      I really, really like the 4-1-2-3-0 shape and it could possibly be my favourite shape ever in FM. Like you say, it just has so many possibilities and I’m planning my next FM game where I’m thinking I may use the same shape at a number of clubs throughout the career but in an entirely different philosophy at each. We’ll see.

      My apologies for writing about it before you got there, although I’m sure I’m not the first one to think this up! I’ll try harder to give you first dibs next time! 🙂

      Where do I know your username from (modernlefty)? Rings a bell.

      1. Yeah sorry, it was the one that first referenced the 4-1-2-3-0 first, I think.

        Oh , and just the main SI forums, just started to get involved in all the hustle and bustle of that, after ages of reading around and lurking. I honestly don’t think there is a better time to be an FM player, such a plethora of talented writers, like yourself, providing great information and ideas on the game, it’s pretty incredible.

        And… ha, don’t worry, I’ve still got to spend abit more time testing my knowledge and understanding, and continuing to learn, before I might eventually get round to writing something.


  6. Hey there, I’m a new blogger coming from Grindelwald, Switzerland who found you on https://footballmanagerveteran.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/feralpi-salo-the-first-months/. Do you have any suggestions for up-and-coming writers? I’m hope to launch my own page soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Do you believe I should start off with a free site like PivotX or shell out some cash into a pay site? I’m confronted with a lot of options and it’s all so intimidating… What would you say?

    1. I’d say that it’s one of these things that is easiest to learn just by doing it.

      WordPress sites like this one are free, they only become paid sites if you want a .com rather than .wordpress.com and I’m quite happy with the latter.

      They have a really simple interface and I’ve found it dead easy to use and customise. So I’d just go with that if I were you.

  7. This has been a great read so far, and very encouraging… because of your struggles. 😉 I say that because I know where you will eventually end up, and this is very fascinating to see how you will keep your head up and keep moving forward at this point in the save. Your analytical response to the original tactic’s ineptitude was great to read, and has encouraged me to spend more time doing this in my own saves.

    1. Thanks! (again)

      I just wish there was more information available to you in-game, or at least that it was presented in a better manner. Analysing the tactic and performances is probably my favourite part of the game.

  8. You know, Shrew, I’ve studied these Feralpi posts quite a bit as I’ve been trying to go for more minnow-type clubs and really get into a longterm save, but I have to ask how you do so well and keep your players from making mistakes? I too tried the 4-1-2-2-1 as a counterattacking strategy and also found that I was struggling for goals. I’ve given your formation a go for a game and it seems very solid defensively. My issue though is that I still lose due to the fact that my players are missing easy chances, and my defenders just fall apart. I just lost a game 1-0 where my IF completely bottled a 1v1 in the box, and my defender scored an own goal. Those types of games are actually quite common for me. I feel like I can set up a tactic well and respond to my players’ performances with slight adjustments to the tactic, but I just can’t seem to get past their abilities. They will run up 1v1 with the final defender and not go for a shot, for example. It’s always things like that which keep me from scoring. The tactic is solid, it creates the right kinds of space and opportunities, but I can’t get seem my team to do anything with those chances when I am managing a really weak side.

    1. That sounds like it could be a couple of things:

      Perhaps there is an issue with mental attributes of your players – concentration in defence, composure up front. Similarly, maybe the hidden personality attributes such as pressure or big games are having a negative impact on you.

      Or it could be down to teamtalks and pre-match preparation. If your players tend to bottle it in big games then why not try taking the pressure off in the press before the match and/or in the teamtalk; or if they are taking easy games for granted then do the opposite?

      My players certainly make mistakes. In my first season with Den Haag we had endless defensive issues in the last 15 minutes due to a lack of concentration and determination in the team – I’ve sorted this with a few signings and we now score double what we concede in the final quarter.

      1. Thanks for the reply. After switching to your tactic I managed to finally score a few goals, but it only lasted a couple of games. I seem to have a real problem with my fullbacks simply shadowing the wingers and not doing anything about crosses coming in. Or when a ball is played, my defenders are nice and tight with the man off the ball, but he just breaks away and leaves them sitting there on their heels. Also, how are you setting up team instructions in your tactic, and how do you play against teams that sit deep? I can’t seem to break them down at the moment.

    2. Well much of that could easily be down to the striker just being a bit better than the defenders. If it was the other way round, you’d probably be getting annoyed that your strikers can never find space no matter what!! 🙂

      Against teams who sit deep I either try to go round them by playing wider and using my wingers / overlapping fullbacks; or draw them out by using the deep playmaker more often, maybe getting him to hold the ball up to attract a defender, using shouts like ‘play deeper’ and ‘pass into space’… there are a few options.

  9. Sorry, I also wanted to ask about your approach to tactic creation. Are you a ‘slider’s guy, or a ‘default’ guy? 🙂

    1. I used to be sliders but I’ve recently just gone TC with shouts and a few slider tweaks. With the re-vamped match engine, it’s my belief that the game has been changed so that the descriptions which were assigned by the FM Britain lot now actually do what they were supposed to do all along… and if I was in full-on conspiracy theory mode then I may even suggest that the descriptions in FM13 have an influence above and beyond that of the sliders which are offered… but that might just be my paranoia.

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