After a series of posts dealing with the periphery of the game, graphics and mods for streamlining FM, I’ve finally played long enough to write a proper update on my actual save. In case you missed it, I’ve started a Club and Country save with Austria and Rapid Wien that I hope will last for some time and form the bulk of my blog articles for the foreseeable future.
I’ve played up to the winter break in my first season which includes 19 leagues games with Rapid and 4 Euro 2016 qualifying games with Austria.
My initial tactical plans have proven impossible to implement due to SI’s decision to introduce the inverted wingbacks as a new feature that doesn’t actually exist in the game. Therefore, I’ve had to tweak the 4-1-4-1 slightly. There are some parts that are working very well and others, like the striker, which aren’t
Apologies if this is something of a statistical overload but, as well as updating on the progress of both club and country, I hope to work through the issues I’ve been having tactically and hopefully come up with some sort of solution.
The starting idea I had was still the same – I wanted a 4-1-4-1 shape in defence and then to break into a more fluid shape when attacking, using two players to maintain the width but also have runners through the middle to create problems for the opposition defence.
That lead to this:
The idea is somewhat simpler than the previous plan with inverted wingbacks. The 4-1-4-1 shape when defending should be more or less the same and I’ve opted for MR/ML in FM-speak rather than AML/AMR due to the ludicrous notion SI have that these wide players wouldn’t track back. Their attacking contributions are somewhat different but it’s a necessary price for the defensive input.
Going forward, the wide midfielder on the right is asked to “sit narrower” and “cut inside with the ball” in an effort to empty the space for the overlapping wingback. Said wingback and the left winger maintain the width and stretch the defence whilst the right midfielder and the central runner get up in support of the striker. The roaming playmaker controls play from all over, with the anchorman and two centrebacks protecting us against counters.
When the opposition isn’t using an AMC, I tend to make our DMC the roaming playmaker and switch the MRC to a box-to-box midfielder but other than that the roles shown are more or less my default options.
Has it been working? Well of a sorts:
We’ve had what you might class as generous draws in the Austrian Cup with lower league sides USV St Anna, Grazer AK and SC Weiz all being defeated with varying levels of ease.
The Europa League was a different matter as a surprisingly strong Litex side defeated us 4-3 in the home leg and then 1-0 going on 5-0 in Bulgaria to send us out in the playoffs. This was disappointing but not disastrous as our board weren’t expecting progress.
They do, however, expect a title challenge domestically and, thanks to Red Bull Salzburg, we’re some way off that.
The root cause is fairly obvious for all to see – too many draws. The real trick, now, is finding out why. The first thing I did was to compare our home form…
…with our away form…
Quite the contrast. The recent home form hasn’t been great either with goalless draws against Grödig (8th), Kapfenberger (17th) and Altach (6th) but the biggest problem is clearly the away form so we’ll concentrate here.
Losses to Kapfenberger and Altach (who also appear on the list of home draws) as well as Wolfsberger (7th) and draws with Admira Wacker (11th), Weiner Neustadt (12th), SV Ried (9th) and Mattersburg (16th) saw us drop 17 points on the road.
Seeing as the game comes down to goals, the problem should either be our ability to score them or keep them out. At home we’ve scored 16 in 10 games but good statisticians will try to exclude outlying results and that 5-0 victory over Sturm Graz may be skewing the results somewhat. So, ignoring the 5 we scored against the side from Graz and one of the goalless games (the highest and lowest results), we’re left with 11 scored in 8 games – averaging 1.375 per game.
Away from home, we’ve scored 12 in 9. Removing the outlying results, that leaves 9 in 7 games; an average of 1.29 per game.
Defensively: home we’re conceding 0.375 per game, away it’s 1.42 per game.
That clearly highlights two problems: our defence away from home is shocking and we’re never scoring enough goals.
The analysis tool suggests that we are particularly vulnerable to the 4-2-3-1 with 2 DM’s (which comes as no surprise to me) and that we are conceding more goals from our rightback area than anywhere else.
Given that our rightback is asked to bomb on, this was to be expected. Perhaps we could make him less ambitious in away games but one look at our goals-for average puts me off that. Rather, I’m considering employing a more conservative overall approach away from home.
Our default tactic is set to “Control / Flexible” with 3 shouts used – push higher up, close down more and play out of defence. This has helped to maintain possession, win it back quickly and dominate territory. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always brought results.
For the rest of this season, I’m going to experiment with a simple change to “Standard” and ramping it down on the shouts a little. I’d be happier if we could get that goals against average down to around 1 per game.
The bigger problem, for me, are the lack of goals scored.
As you can see, we don’t have an outright goalscorer with Philipp Schobesberger, now playing leftwing, topscoring with 5 in 14 league games. That’s simply not good enough.
Up front I’ve used Deni Alar, Dominik Starkl and Philipp Prosenik so far. With 4 goals between them to date, this is clearly a large chunk of the problem. Finding out why is somewhat more difficult.
The screenshot above is a custom view I’ve created for the squad screen showing the attacking stats, this time sorted by the number of shots on goal per game.
Alar, our first choice striker, tops the list with an impressive 6.03 shots on goal per game, and with a 33% success rate that equates to him hitting the target twice per game on average. Is this that bad? Comparing this to my successful ADO save, Bond and Lagendijk averaged 2.74 shots on target per game. But then I did play two up front and, in this save, Steffen Hofmann has the next highest number of shots on target of our regular players – at just 1.37.
No real surprise, then, that we’re not scoring enough goals because we aren’t getting enough shots on target. One thing this does let me know is that the problem is not necessarily with the personnel – i.e. it’s not a lack of finishing capability, it’s more than likely a problem with creating the chances.
This is the second stats view, this time showing the midfield statistics sorted by average passes per game.
I’ve highlighted Deni Alar, our main striker, down there at the bottom of the list only outpassing our ‘keepers and left winger Schobesberger who has disappeared off the bottom of the list.
I’ve also highlighted a couple of stats which stand out for me – overlapping rightback Pavelic has delivered 209 crosses in 22 games at a success rate of just 10% and, linked with that, Alar attempting over 7 headers a game and winning less than half.
And this is really a microcosm of my problem. What do I want from the striker? Do I want him to drop back and link with the midfield more, increasing those passing averages and playing in the midfielders running from deep? Or do I want him leading the line, threatening to run in behind the defence and getting on the end of all those crosses? Honestly, I’m still not sure.
For the first 15 games or so, I had the striker playing as a Defensive Forward on support as I wanted to experiment with its ability to aid my high pressing game and see how it integrated with the rest of the team. When I looked back at the highlights to check this, I spotted a few problems:
Here Alar has received the ball to feet, back to goal and the problem is clear. Where’s the support? Alar ends up turning and hitting a hopeful shot from distance that goes harmlessly over the bar, probably through lack of any other options.
I’ve ringed Schaub, at right mid, and Hofmann, at LCM. Schaub is far too wide here and I’d ideally like to see him narrower – within the shaded area. Hofmann is also far too deep and should be looking to get beyond the striker. This is a fairly typical problem.
So how can we fix it? In the current shape, I’m not sure. The right midfielder is already asked to sit narrower so perhaps the only option is to ask the entire team to “play narrower”? The MCL, as a “Central midfielder – attack”, already has the “gets further forward” shout activated. So there’s nothing we can do there.
Alternatively, when the build up is a little slower and we get the ball wide, we start to get decent numbers into the box. Here 4 players are looking to attack the ball, although there are defenders looking to get back and outnumber us.
We are, however, keeping 4, perhaps 5, players goalside in that screenshot. All defending against… no-one. The centre backs will always stay back and the anchorman (#25) could happily play a little more advanced, perhaps close to where the ref is whilst we could happily commit the leftback forward without compromising our defence.
I have two concerns with just throwing additional bodies forward, though:
1. It will make us more susceptible to counter attacks, albeit maybe only marginally given how defensive the opposition appear to be.
2. More pertinently, I’m still keen to maintain the high possession, high pressing approach and asking more players to make runs beyond the defence will result in riskier passes and fewer deep passing options – both of which mean we lose the ball more often.
So rather than just go more attacking and switch to more attacking roles, I’m considering actually slowing play down. It may seem counter intuitive but it seems to me that the central midfield roles don’t get forward as effectively as they did on FM13 or 14, meaning that our striker is going to be isolated without some bodies in the AM line. I want to keep the general 4-1-4-1 shape and therefore a lower tempo and changing the striker to a deep-lying forward on support might help tie it all together a bit better.
I do think there is a case to be made for allowing at least one of the defensive players to get further forward, though, and so I’ll experiment with a second attacking wingback from the left. I’m not sure how well this will interact with the winger on the same side but it’s worth an experiment, maybe if there were, I don’t know, an inverted wingback option that’d be good?
The screenshots and clips that I’ve watched also support the change from anchorman to “roaming playmaker” although I’ll monitor how exposed this leaves the two centrebacks and judge whether a “deep lying playmaker” is closer to what I want.
That means the playmaker at MRC is obsolete. I want a tackler to replace the anchorman but still want runs from deep so a “ball-winning midfielder” seems sensible. There’s a good chance he’ll end up with the “gets further forward” instruction but, again, I need to see it all in action before committing to anything.
Will it work? I hope so and it all seems very sensible in my head at the moment. If you have any alternative thoughts, please let me know. I’m open to all ideas and discussing tactics in FM is my favourite part of the game.
I’m hoping to have the structure of the tactic more or less finalised by the end of this season. I disabled the transfer budgets at the start of the game but boards may start freeing up cash now that the January transfer window is looming. I don’t plan to sign (m)any players although I have my shortlist of Austrian prospects to target and if any of them become available…
There are a couple of players whom I would allow to leave – Slovenian striker Robert Beric and German central defender Brian Behrendt – both were complaining of lack of first team football and are decent sellable assets so I’ll be listening to offers for them.
Meanwhile, we’ve had four competitive games with the national side and two friendlies. The game against Iceland was a bit of a worry as we were plagued with the same problems facing the club side – a deep defensive unit that was difficult to break down.
Sweden and Russia, though, were entirely different prospects and whilst I think the draw was justified in Stockholm…
… the home loss to Russia was a travesty of biblical proportions…
Alaba is magnificent in the “roaming playmaker” role but there are clear personnel issues with the national side – primarily up front where we’re in desperate need of a clinical striker. Hopefully one of my ear-marked prospects can step up to the mark.
We absolutely dominated Montenegro from start to finish and I took the opportunity to experiment in the Lichtenstein game, going with a strikerless 4-1-2-3-0 that had the game killed off within 18 minutes. That might be something to come back to but I’m keen to try out new options having “done” strikerless.
Next up is Moldova at home which should be another 3 points to take us to 10 and right in the mix.
Russia look like going on to top the group despite a 0-0 draw at home to Lichtenstein meaning that we’ll probably be duelling it out with Sweden – who still have to face Russia twice and travel to Vienna – and Montenegro – who managed to beat Sweden in Podgorica.
I’m confident that we won’t finish any lower than 3rd, which puts us in a probable playoff position. Automatic qualification… I’d say 50/50 just now. We still need to travel to Russia and Montenegro whilst the home game against Sweden will be key.
I haven’t touched on any of the “rules” I set for the club yet. I want to get the tactics sorted before I start tinkering with the personnel. We have successfully asked the board to improve our junior coaching, though, so I’m looking forward to our first (randomised) newgen delivery.
Other than that, I’ll be trying to overcome our problems in front of goal and watching Red Bull Salzburg extend their massive lead at the top of the table. At least we have some decent competition to catch!
Thanks for reading and please let me know if you have any comments in the boxes below!