Den Haag – Patience is a virtue…

den_haag_home 2017… but dropping a 4000lb cluster bomb on the Amsterdam ArenA might be more efficient.

That mob from the capital are swiftly becoming the bane of my (FM) life. Not only have they won the title for the fifth year running, i.e. every season I’ve been playing this save, they also beat me in both domestic cup competitions this season.

I’m not sure that I can blame them for Arsenal knocking me out of the Europa League but, other than that, they are single handedly responsible for ADO Den Haag winning diddly squat instead of a lovely shiny treble.

Anyway, the squad continues to strengthen but much of this update will be spent looking at the new tactic and, specifically, how it has provided us with more defensive stability this season – this at the request of @fm_samo and @fmanalysis

den_haag_away 2017But first, we’ll quickly cover this year.

By the way, the new kits are supplied courtesy of @theawaystand. If you like them, let him know – he may be able to do some new ones for your team.

So let’s start by quickly looking at our results from this season. As you should know from the last update, Ajax beat us on penalties in the Johan Cruijff Schaal (Super Cup) and Arsenal knocked us out of the Europa League in the playoffs.

That left us with a season concentrating on domestic football, which paid off somewhat:

LeagueSo second, Champions League football and damn tight with champions Ajax.

It should be noted that we lost the fewest games (Ajax x2, Twente away and Utrecht at home); whilst there were 7 frustrating draws (Utrecht away, De Graafschap away [those either side of the Arsenal games], Vitesse home, Feyenoord away, PSV away, Vitesse away and Roda away).

To me, that’s really not a bad record and we really weren’t far from winning the title. Indeed that Roda game was a killer – van den Berg being sent off after 10 minutes for an elbow, then ten Kroode making an horrific error to let them back into it.

But, for me, there are two reasons we lost the title this year.

Reason 1:

Vieirinha’s 95th minute winner for Ajax in the home game with TWO awful defensive errors required. That goal created a 3 point swing.

Reason 2:

Christian Eriksen’s 30 yard free kick in the 82nd minute of the away game after a stupid foul when Tschauner gave away possession. That goal also created a 3 point swing.

If either of those goals were not scored, we’d have won the title instead of Ajax. Most frustrating.

Nevertheless, it’s a record high finish for ADO, the best defensive record since I joined, the best offensive record since I joined and an outside chance at Champions League football – depending on our luck in the playoff draw.

Eredivisie player stats

As you can see from the Eredivisie stats page, much of our success was down to the partnership of targetman Giovanni Lagendijk (scoring his 20 goals in 20 starts and 4 subs) and playmaker Jan van den Berg who is, quite frankly, sensational and made the £14m departure of Derix utterly irrelevant, perhaps even a blessing in disguise.

One stand-out stat, however, is the clean sheet record for Mike ten Kroode – my much maligned ‘keeper. In fact, despite keeping a very un-ADO like and unprecedented 15 clean sheets in the league this season, ten Kroode is set to be replaced by a Bosman signing. Why?

Because he’s a giant twat mostly. But also because much of our defensive stability was despite him, not because of him. Which brings me nicely onto the tactic and why it works defensively.

Now some of you might be thinking that conceding over a goal a game is not particularly stingy – however it is worth noting that Holland is an attacking league with lots of goals, I still play an attacking system and my young defence is rotated a lot to aid development. Also, our record this season is a drop of about 25% from previous years.

I’m currently averaging around 3 goals scored a game so I don’t expect to keep 40 clean sheets a season; instead my aims are more realistic and this season I’m looking to take my goals conceded under 1 per game. I’d expect somewhere between 0.8 and 1.0 per game.

So why do I think this system will achieve that?


Reminding ourselves of the tactic, we moved from a back 3 system into a more common back 4.

There are some basic advantages that a back 4 has over a back 3:

  • numbers – it may be the crudest of considerations but it shouldn’t be discounted that 4 is more than 3 and, when defending, safety in numbers isn’t a bad starting point
  • width – a back 4 covers the width of the pitch more naturally than a back 3, allowing your backline to have an orthodox defensive presence in the wide positions without requiring a wide midfielder to drop deep
  • familiarity – this may be my imagination but it seems to take FM teams longer to ‘learn’ 3 man defensive systems than what I guess are more common 4-man defences.
  • flexibility – I know a few people that will disagree with this but, to me, a back 4 is more flexible in dealing with various opposition formations than a back 3 where high wingers might necessitate a radical change of shape.

Those are the very crude, starting blocks of a back 4’s advantages over a back 3 and it should be noted that I am not advocating one over t’other. The back 3 has certain advantages over a back 4 – not least releasing an additional player forward and, against 2-striker systems, optimising the balance of defence and attack.

Another benefit of a back 3 can come when it is used with a sweeper – a deep defender providing cover for two more advanced ‘stoppers’. This, however, can also be implemented in a back four.


Although a back-four is almost synonymous with the prefix ‘flat’, this is really very rarely the case. Most successful centre-half partnerships of the last few years have a more intelligent and nimble covering defender alongside a more brutish, aerially strong thug – Carvalho covering for Terry, Ferdinand covering for Vidic, Costacurta and Baresi, Hansen and Lawrenson, Hyypia and Henchoz, Miller and McLeish…

The idea is quite simple really and is an extension of the first advantage to the back 4 – safety in numbers. One-on-ones are dangerous for a defence. Space is dangerous to a defence. A defender should not try to engage an attacker if he has no cover unless he is 100% sure he can win the ball cleanly or the attacker is about to shoot.

Here is a fine example in our latest loss to Ajax (sigh)


The ball has broken loose from Tschauner’s tackle in midfield and heading towards my defence. Van de Pavert decides to come and meet the 50/50 with Andersen, safe in the knowledge that should he lose out (as he does) then Bosec, his centre half partner, is moving across to cover the space behind and will intercept the ball (as he does).

As the majority of teams that I face use a single striker formation, this combination of stopper / cover is very effective in allowing both depth in my defensive cover and an aggressive attempt to meet the ball early.

If you want to read more about this then it’s been covered fairly extensively over the years, probably most notably in what was called ‘the Nike defence’ – Google is your friend.

An additional layer of cover is provided by the DMC, here set to a ‘Defensive Midfielder – Support’. My reasons for selecting this role are mostly offensive but the use of a DMC rather than a more symmetrical 4-2-3-1 with two MC’s is purely defensive – much of which I already covered in this article:

Protecting the Pocket – Part 1: Using a DMC

I still haven’t got round to Part 2!!

Although the DM-MC split is offset, the DMC should cover both sides of the pitch. Here, for example, is the tackles and heat map from our first league game of the season:


There’s a slight left-bias there but not as much as I had originally expected and certainly not as much as you would experience with an MLC in a standard 4-2-3-1.

This level of protection is all well and good when the opposition have the ball and the DMC has retreated into a protective position but, as you can see from the heat map, the DM is asked to get forward an awful lot. Surely this leaves the defence exposed?

And this is where the strength of a DLP becomes apparent.

DMC attack

The DMC (Tschauner) has joined the attack and so, to balance out attacking intent in one area, we compensate with an MC who is mainly static. A ‘deep-lying playmaker’, with his ‘run from deep rarely’ instruction, stays deep and tries to control the game from a central position where he can see the majority of the pitch (and players) ahead of him.

This has the handy knock-on effect of leaving a player deep to cover – the first line of defence against a counter attack. Hence why I tend to see a high number of interceptions for this player as he collects poorly aimed clearances from the opposition.

DM interceptions

This, in effect, changes our formation during defensive and offensive phases. When we’re defending, the opposition will see a back four, two holding midfielders covering them and the ‘attacking players’ aggressively closing down from the front – the AML, AMC, AMR and striker.

When we attack, though, the two centre backs sit deep, protected by the DLP at MC with the fullbacks pushing on out wide and the front four attacking from various angles – then the DMC arriving late to exploit space. Hopefully.

This is the basic set-up with which we approach games. There really isn’t anything too complicated to it, just what I see as a common sense approach to achieving a solid shape. For me, successful defending is about preventing the opposition from having meaningful possession in space and in areas which can hurt you. To prevent them from doing so you need:

  • to understand your basic shape and it’s strengths / weaknesses
  • react to your opposition’s strengths when appropriate
  • play the right personnel in the right positions

Reactive tactics are a big topic and are ably covered elsewhere. Again, Google is your friend but these two articles are a good starting point, both from FM Analysis – versus Napoli’s 3-4-2-1 and a guide on The Dugout. You can also see my general approach in my Analyzing your tactic and spotting problems blog article.

The third bullet point though, playing the right personnel in the right positions, is equally vital. I can recommend you read Cleon’s Understanding your Tactic series for an alternative (if similar) view but this is how I try to ensure my defence is as strong as possible.

Defensive attributes

The attributes shown above are those which FM designates as ‘defensive’ – or at least they are chosen to appear on the ‘defensive attributes’ menu. Many FM-ers will concentrate on these, and with good reason, but for me they only provide half the picture. A defender may be majestic in the air and capable of last gasp tackles but what if he’s always switching off or can’t anticipate where a striker is going to run?

Which is why, for me, mental attributes are also vital in defenders:

Mental attributes

These are the attributes which are deemed ‘mental’, although obviously not all of them will relate to defensive actions – creativity being an obviously irrelevant attribute in this field.

Key, if not absolutely necessary, are the following:

  • positioning
  • anticipation
  • concentration
  • composure
  • teamwork
  • work rate
  • decisions
  • bravery
  • aggression

I have put these in descending order of importance in my mind. Many will have a different approach but that is the priority I place on mental attributes for my defence.

It's not just my wife who prefers an elegant defender
It’s not just my wife who prefers an elegant defender

Positioning is a simple one – if a player is in the right position more often than not then he doesn’t need to do anything complicated like tackle to clear a ball; this goes hand-in-hand with anticipation, ensuring that your defender has ‘read’ the play and predicted where the pass is going to go or where the striker is going to run.

Concentration prevents your defenders from switching off and making stupid goal-costing mistakes; whilst composure ensures that they don’t panic on the ball in dangerous areas where a turnover could be catastrophic.

Teamwork ensures that your players work as a unit and I would probably place additional emphasis on this attribute were I employing an offside trap. I’m sure many FM-ers will place higher priority on bravery and aggression in defenders but I would always favour a Maldini or a Kompany over a Colin Hendry or an Ivan Córdoba.

Obviously, everyone would prefer a defender who has 20 for all these attributes; plus tackling, marking, heading, jumping, strength, pace, acceleration… well, everything. But that isn’t going to be possible and, depending on the level you are playing at, you are going to have to prioritise attributes.

Which attributes you prioritise is really down to you but, for me, it’s a combination of the mental attributes listed above and the technical / physical attributes which suits their role within the team. Remembering that my central defenders are intended for differing purposes, they require different attributes.

van de Pavert

Ted van de Pavert is my current first choice for the more CD(D) role and you can see the influence of my prioritisation of attributes: positioning, concentration, composure, decisions, teamwork, work rate… but not anticipation. And his pace isn’t great.

Well his decisions will balance out a relatively low anticipation but I’ve also used him in the more cavalier role which has the safety net of a cleverer, covering defender behind him. Ted’s lack of speed and low anticipation would make him unsuited to the covering role but he is exceptional in the more advanced role – winning 86% of his headers and 92% of his tackles.

Attributes aren’t the only impact on a player’s performances, though. It’s always worth considering Player Preferred Moves, or PPM’s.

Sliding tackles might be impressive but get it wrong and you leave the team exposed
Sliding tackles might be impressive but get it wrong and you leave the team exposed

A fine example, for me, would be van de Pavert’s central defensive partner – the covering defender.

Remembering our ‘Nike’ defence image from earlier, the BPD(C) is the only player in my team that doesn’t receive natural cover from anyone else. He is the last line of defence. Once an attacker gets past him, he’s 1-on-1 with your ‘keeper. So the very last thing that you want him doing is diving into tackles recklessly.

Following on from that logic, I would be loathe to play anyone here who has the ‘dives into tackles’ PPM and I am currently attempting to teach my youth prospect the ‘stays on feet’ PPM so make him as effective as possible in this role.

It really is just a case of considering what it is that your player needs and prioritising this to make a solid unit. If you play a flat defence with a high line then you’ll need high teamwork and pacy defenders. If you sit deep and surrender wide areas then you’ll need defenders who are strong in the air and a ‘keeper with good aerial ability, command of area, communication and jumping.

As with every facet of FM, there is no right or wrong answer. It’s entirely subjective.

I started this section with the aim of outlining my defensive approach and, to be honest, I’ve found it quite a difficult thing to articulate. Writing this article over the course of 3 nights as opposed to the single sitting I usually take has not helped and it feels a little disjointed to me. Apologies and I hope that it is still of some use to people.

Unfortunately, my ramblings have left me no time to update more fully on my summer transfers and plans for the coming season. Therefore, I’ll try to cover these in the next update.

Until then, thank you once again for taking the time to read. If you have any questions on the defensive approach or want to debate on an alternative approach, then please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter.

Alles Door Oefening 😀

37 thoughts on “Den Haag – Patience is a virtue…”

      1. Just a mention and link in my newest blog piece. Still need to get all the pieces in place and use to the system before specializing their roles.

  1. My favourite bit of insight in this article to the relationship between the DLP and DM. It’s a combination I regularly use, but usually with the DM on Defend and a DLP on Support.

    Your examples show really well the offensive balance they provide and have opened my eyes to something else – I always tend to think in a blinkered way about what that “defensive midfield” duo offer. Merely swapping the Duties clearly offers more dynamism, and that variety of movement is a key to Football Manager, can’t believe I’ve missed that (face palm!)

    It was also interesting to see the relatively minimal impact of having an off-centre DM. Like you, I assumed that this would have a stronger bearing on a players’ areas of impact. Again, this is an eye opener as I tend to steer away from asymmetry for this now debunked reason.

    1. Cheers RTH.

      I really like a bit of vertical movement to open up space. People often use a similar idea out wide with a supporting winger and over-lapping fullback, or more commonly an inside forward / wingback combination but it can be just as effective through the middle.

      It’s particularly effective where you can get the opposition to close the DLP down, leaving space in behind. I think the fact the DLP is asked to ‘hold up ball’ helps here but means that ‘composure’ becomes a really important attribute – particularly if the DM is no longer covering but has sprinted past the MC and into space.

      Like you, I was a little hesitant about the offset nature of the DM/MC combination but it didn’t take long for it to become apparent that, so long as you have the right DM, this won’t be a problem. Unfortunately, I was forced to sell the perfect man for the role – teamwork, workrate, stamina all through the roof… but them’s the breaks with ADO.

  2. Finally had the time to read this just now. It’s a great article and gives a real insight into your thinking behind the roles and how they actually work in game. Not many people write about this side of the game so it tends to be overlooked. But the way you’ve written it down is brilliant and I love the exampled posted.

    You’ve gave me a new lease of life reading this and given me some ideas for a new save.

    Brilliant work mate 🙂

    1. Thanks Cleon. I really appreciate that.

      I find writing about the defensive side of the game quite difficult so I’m not surprised not many people do it. Perhaps I’ll write more in future as I want to try a flat back 4 with an offside trap in future… but that’s for another time!

      Thanks again.

    1. All sorts. I tried taking the pressure off, getting them to do it for the fans (rivals), etc. It just comes to Ajax having much better players than me. It’s been getting closer recently – I haven’t been losing by more than a goal plus getting a few draws – and I’ve finally beat them this season, 2-0 away in the cup.

  3. great article, just one questions….. how have you set you cb’s up for marking and pressing etc??? (sounds really bad… I cannot get my cb’s to cover each other the way you have this set up!)

    1. My default set-up is that I use zonal marking with default closing down in a fluid, ‘control’ system although I often go attacking and use the ‘push higher up’ shout a lot.

      Your centre backs SHOULD cover for each other naturally in a zonal system. Do they have any obvious weakness in attributes? Perhaps teamwork?

      1. teamwork in both cb’s are a little poor so have changed about my partnership and seems to be working…. I have dropped the pressing for both as well and set up offside trap, seeing a lot of positives from this!!! its amazing how a small tweak can affect the full game!!!!!!

  4. I commented in an earlier article and mentioned update about my Real Sociedad squad. In it, I mentioned that I was using the same base formation and we have gone through a similar progression. I’m just starting my 3rd season and we’ve finished 3rd in each of the first 2. In both seasons, we finished 3rd and I have switched formations to the same base formation in the 3rd. Admittedly, my save has been less challenging than yours. In the 1st season, our only major transfer was Stefan Strandberg (we signed Wanyanama in the winter transfer too, but we also signed Mattheus and several cheap newgens that appeared bc I used a very deep and customized Spanish database). Then, in the 2nd year, we raided Holland and Spain and signed Iago Aspas, Felipe Gutierrez, Wijnaldum, Alvaro (who we sold at a huge profit to sign Adam Maher in the 3rd season) and Stefan De Vrij (winter transfer window, but all aided by UCL money and selling Griezman) in the 2nd season.

    Anyway, I bring this up, because I have some questions/comments about both formations. First, I actually found the 3-4-1-2 (I had a more defensive 3-6-1 variant as well) to be quite sound both defensively. In my 2nd season, I was amongst the top defensive clubs in Spain. However, I think you need to have a damn good team to pull it off. Despite the great deal of success I had, I found the formation quite limiting. Basically, I did extremely well against higher reputation teams (I only lost once to Madrid/Barca last season and beat Munich), but I found it very difficult to break down smaller teams and often drew 1-1. Did you have a similar experience?I know you mentioned that you had a lot of draws (I was 23-12-3 last year) and I had a lot of miracle, game-saving draws/wins…

    Currently, I’m playing a very similar 4-1-1-3-1 (fb-a/s at rb, untrained inverse wing-backs at lb, dlf (both s and a) at striker and dw at LAM), but I also have a more traditional 4-3-3 and a striker-less 4-2-1-3 as alternate formations. The only real difference is that I’m currently favoring an IF amc-r as opposed to a more traditional AMR (and I haven’t quite decided on my DM-CM roles). I mention this because I’m curious how you alternate your formations against stronger teams. I mean, I couldn’t imagine trying to go into the Bernebeu with my very fluid-control 4-1-1-3-1. Do you play change your formation for your opponent? Or, are you much braver than me and make smaller adjustments?

    I find that I significantly alter my player roles/tactics on a weekly basis. For example, if I’m playing an opponent without an am, then I will often set my dmcl as my dlp-d and pair him with a bbm (and adjust my am roles) or if I’m playing a team that presses very aggressively, then I’ll play an AF striker. I know a lot of people do the same thing, but I was curious about your tactic as your progress would be even more impressive if you maintained basically the same tactic. Regardless,good job! I’m sorry about the longish post, but I’m enjoying reading about your save and I have found it to provide me with both inspiration (I was debating switching formations, but I think your post finally pushed me over the edge despite not having a single natural lb on my squad…I’m currently retraining Wijnaldum). Also, do you have any plans to try and take over the Holland squad? I originally intended to take Del Bosque’s spot when he left, but Guardiola was fired less than halfway through the season after taking over for Bayern (comically, they fired him to hire Martin Jol) and he’s now the Spain coach. I’m now focusing on taking over Colombia and importing all their talent. Well, good luck.

    1. Thanks for the comment, first of all. Secondly, there’s no problem with very long comments. If you put in the effort to read the essays that I write on here then I can’t complain about long comments too!

      Re your questions:

      At the start of this save, I was determined to play the same attacking, gung-ho tactic in every game. It’s not the usual way I play the game as I’m normally much more pragmatic and change my approach to suit the opposition. This, as expected, did not turn out particularly well and I was getting humped in the majority of big games.

      After that 4-1 loss in Arnhem, I finally snapped and changed it up to a 4-2-3-1 where I have given myself more leeway to change it up depending on the opposition. However, I still try and err on the adventurous side to maintain a little of the original intent of this save. For example, in my latest 2-0 win at the Amsterdam ArenA, I still played the crooked 4-2-3-1 but a ‘control’ and narrow version, playing my harder working, more defensively sound players than the purely offensive ones.

      I also agree that the 3-4-1-2 CAN be a defensively sound formation. I used it in my final season in Salò and had a record-breaking defence. I think it is possible to play a defensively adept version, but remember that I was trying to play this gung-ho style – hence the number of goals at either end!!

      How is your La Real save going now? Have you overtaken the big two?

      1. Thanks for your response! I’m glad you didn’t mind my rambling about La Real. Anyway, I obviously agree that the 3-4-2-1 can be defensively sound, but I think I should add that in order for that to happen you have have a very good team. It’s worth noting that, in real life, Sociedad qualified for the UCL this season and even though FM severly underrates several of their key players (Markel and Illaramendi, who Madrid just pay 30 million plus to sign, come to mind), they are still far better than the majority of my opponents. I have also found that it is essential that your stoppers are extremely mobile in order to provide cover on the flanks (it’s not easy to find a mobile and intelligent cb who is also able to play reasonably well with the ball at their feet).

        As for my change: I found that, despite my success, I wasn’t enjoying the save as much as I should because I found myself obsessing how I was going to defend the flanks without sacrificing my wingers’ ability to attack. I was obviously reasonably successful, but it drastically reduced my enjoyment of the game. My default formation was a very fluid/control set-up, but in important games, I played a balanced/counter 3-1-4-1-1 and man marked all over the place. Not only was it stressful, but it was also quite time consuming.

        As I previously stated, I’ve switched to more-or-less the same base formation as you are currently playing, but I’m only in my 3rd season and I’m still a couple years from overtaking the big 2. I did import a custom database for Spain’s lower leagues and that accelerated my development by allowing me to sign amazing newgens (I also selected the “add players to incomplete squads” option) for well under 500k pounds (usually under 100k and that is just starting to pay dividends. Also, I had an extraordinary class during my first year. Originally, I was determined to overtake the big 2 with Inigo Martinez, Illarramendi, Vela, Xabi Prieto, Griezman (Arsenal paid his 21 milllion pound release clause) and Pardo as important players, but Illarramendi’s decision to sign with Madrid (I’m a Barca fan…well, Rosell’s insistence on abandoning everything I loved about Barca is challenging my fandom) accelerated my plans as I’m now happy to sell/bench him and let my talented newgens’ play instead, thus aiding in their development and possibly my La Liga dominance.

        Finally, I do have a piece of advice that may save you from selling your best players: I’ve found that if you’re willing to pay a little extra in wages, then you can dramatically increase your players’ release clause (assuming they demand a release clause as they do in Spain). After doing that, you can list your key players’ asking price at their release clause (assuming it’s significantly higher than their real value). I’ve found that by doing this, the AI rarely attempts to sign my key players. I suppose this could be considered cheating, but both Sociedad and Athletic practice this to some extent in real life (Madrid and Munich both paid the release clause for Illaramendi and Javi Martinez).

    2. Thanks for the tip but I believe that it works differently in Spain. I may be wrong but I believe that minimum fee release clauses are mandatory in Spanish contract law and that the lowest and highest it can be set are proportional to the wage. So perhaps this is where your players’ willingness to accept higher clauses comes from?

      Sounds like a fun game. Keep me updated on how you get on.

      1. I think it is in Spain (all of my players have one), but I still think the principle would work in Holland. I’ve managed in England and applied the same principle: namely, if you have a player that you’re unwilling to sell, then you can set your asking price well above what other teams would be willing to pay and that greatly reduces the likelihood (in my experience) that other clubs will try to steal him from you. When you do this, players will often get concerned that you’re valuing them too high, but you can usually tell them that they’re “underestimating their value to the team” and they’ll apologize for bringing it up. Sometimes — especially if the player is volatile or confrontational — they’ll continue to insist that you lower your asking price, but I’ve found that it isn’t usually the case. Again, this could be considered a glitch in the game and thus “cheating”, but I do feel that there is a real life precedent in Spain (especially with Bilbao).

    3. That’s very true actually. Athletic have taken a stand a couple of times and I think that as long as you use the facility realistically then it isn’t cheating – particularly not that SI have implemented the player’s moaning if the asking price is too high.

  5. Really enjoyed this read and in general your approach to playing your saves. You seem to always have a knack for creativity in your tactical setups, and it’s also great to read about your changes and to get insight from these kinds of breakdowns.

  6. I’ve finally gotten around to reading this article. Absolutely brilliant! It’s especially impressive that you can explain what are relatively complex theories so simply. I also agree that you should be very happy with the defensive record given the high scoring nature of the league.

    I would however be one of those that argued that a 3 man defence is exceptionally flexible in dealing with AI defensive systems. Having two men to sweep up and cover space behind while the third attacks the space in front of the defensive line remains my favourite defensive strategy.

    1. Haha, I knew you’d be one of those sticking up for the back 3!

      Thanks for the feedback, really appreciate it. Go on then, tell me how many clean sheets you had in your Ajax save?! 😉

      I really like a 3-man defence when I have top quality players to ensure that we can cover the gaps but, perhaps more importantly, when teams don’t flood too many men forward. I don’t particularly see the fault as being with the 3-man defence but with what I consider to be poor implementation of the defending from the wide men and they’re reluctance to get goalside – an absolutely ‘first day of school’ basic tenet of defending that seems to be incredibly poorly reflected in the match engine.

      Anyway, you know me, I’ll be back onto a back 3 before long but, for now, it’s a back 4 with a DM all the way!

      1. I agree that with the three man back line there is a tendency to not properly defend the wide player. I don’t mind that though. Ill let the AI reach the goal line and look for the cross if I have the numerical advantage centrally. With the system I’m using now I’m trying to have the two wide CB’s drop deep and defend against the wide player cutting inside whilst the central DC holds a higher more aggressive position.

        Didn’t have all that many clean sheets at Ajax. The focus was very attacking. I played with one defender for a while to fit in all my creative midfielders! You’re approach is interesting though. Especially the positional interchanging in midfield.

  7. Been following you since your Toulouse days…My only question right now is, How do you figure out the value of a player that your trying to sell?

    1. Thanks!

      To me, a player’s value is essentially what I would be willing to sell him for. Might be a few considerations in that – how much will a replacement cost, will another team pay me more, etc etc. I’ll use the AI assigned value as a benchmark and then consider whether I’d be happy receiving that.

      For instance, we lost Tschauner at the start of this season for £17.25m. He was valued at around £6m I think and I felt £17m was a fair figure as I would easily be able to replace him for that and I couldn’t foresee an AI team paying more than that for him.

      It’s a bit of a guessing game at times. Sometimes I just keep offering a player around for ever-decreasing amounts just to get rid of him!

  8. Hi Shrew,

    The DM/S and DLP/D tactical notes you mentioned are really useful. I have employed them to pretty decent effect in my game so thank you for that.

    I already employed the stopper/BPD combo but felt the BPD and the DM were getting in each other’s way somewhat – your advice has solved that!

    I think I still struggle to understand exactly what impact certain roles have on performance. My players seem to get decent average ratings (7.20+) that don’t always correspond to goals/assists. This could just be the standard of player in Serie B as opposed to my tactics.

    One thing I would love to do is improve the relationship between my front 3. I tend to use an IF/S on the left side with an attacking full back. On the right I go more traditional with a Winger on Attack and a supporting full back. Up top I vary between an AF or a DLF without really getting much luck with either.

    1. Do you use an AMC? What sort of striker are you using? I think the set-up sounds fairly sound with the assymetric winger / inside-forward combination on the wings and an overlapping fullback outside the IF… are your players suitable for the roles? Where is the supply coming from?

      1. Hi Shrew,

        I don’t use an AMC. I have a CM/A sitting next to the DLP/D with a central DMC/S behind them to form a triangle.

        Other than that its actually pretty similar to your formation except that I use an AF and have my IF/S on support as I felt the left side may be too attacking with both the FB and the IF on attack? My DLP is on the left side as well to balance this out.

        In terms of supply, I have left it as default however most assists are coming from central areas or from set pieces

  9. Superb as always i never fail to come away from your posts without learning something! Long time reader first time commenter here, I have just started my own blog about my own FM Journey – would appreciate it if you would go an have a look.



    1. Thank you very much. I see there’s not much on your blog just now. Give me a shout when there’s a bit of content on there to read and I’ll take a closer look!

      1. Seeing as I only started it today just thought I’d do an intro then look at picking a team etc before playing a while then updating!

        Thank for looking anyway – a suggestion on a league to start in would be good if you want to comment on it,??

    2. I wasn’t having a go! I did comment. Unfortunately there’s a problem with my WP commenting ability just now so it’ll have gone to your spam folder. You’ll have to rescue me and then approve the comment!

      1. Oh gosh no, I know you werent having a go, everyones gotta start somewhere lol! Okay Im new to this but ill see if i can get ur comment to show haha!

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