Whilst early signs are that my fears of domestic dominance coming too easy look to be well-founded, I’ve still more or less enjoyed the initial months at Rapid. The national side, though, is another matter completely as I’m already struggling to keep my job.
Having reached the winter break in the first season, it does seem an apt time to update on my tactics – or rather my tactical plans. As always with a new save, I set up for the first half season to suit the existing personnel until I can get a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of the squad.
Then, around Christmas, I start to plan for the long term – what tactics I’d like to move to, the players I can move on and targets for summer transfers including Bosmans. This, then, is my current thinking.
Indeed, it’s more than just my current thinking as this, in general terms, is pretty much my permanent stance on tactics in FM.
The basic precept of my thinking is – whilst I enjoy a good counter-attack as much as the next man – I want to dominate possession and camp in the opponent’s half. While doing so, I want to have these highlighted areas covered. The light green / yellow at the bottom is clearly about preventing quick counter attacks and monitoring whoever the opposition leaves forward, but also I like to consider the potential for recycling possession – offering an easy pass for any advanced players that get into trouble.
There are different ways for people to do so this and it’s mostly down to personal preference. For a long time now, my own bias has leaned towards two centre backs with a DM in front, usually an anchorman. Although a CM(D) or DLP(D) in the MC position can also provide this role.
I like the way the anchorman ‘fills in’ to other positions but I also prefer to prevent the easy pass into the opposition strikers’ feet in central positions. Playing a 2CB/DM combination will obviously cover less of the width of the pitch than three at the back, leaving the areas in red free, but I’m ok with that as personally I’d prefer to protect the middle whilst having the anchorman, or alternative, in a good position to close down anyone breaking from deep. Also, when defending I prefer to have a back four with a DM protecting the space in front, so this combination fits both desires.
Meanwhile, I cannot see any tactic being consistently successful without someone on each flank to stretch the play, even if you don’t want to be throwing crosses in all game. Whether this be a fullback, wingback or wide midfielder, I’ll always ensure that one player stays wide on each flank. Leaving us with my building mental picture as this (Xs are players):
That leaves five players to attack the central area. My personal preferences here are to have a relatively static fulcrum through the middle. Whether this be a battering ram targetman type, or a creative false 9-ish striker staying central but dropping off to play runners in… either way I always want to make sure we keep a presence in the centre of the pitch.
And I’ve always liked a diamond shape in the middle, maximising passing options and providing a link from flank-to-flank. Meaning the mental model has progressed to something like:
Which leaves two players to fill the gaps. With Rapid so far, I’ve been using them in attacking roles, wide of the central striker. In games past, I’ve used them to overload the midfield or, in games where I’m playing a counter-attacking system then I might keep the spare two deep and only attack with the five players shown.
Regardless, in almost every tactic I’ve used in FM for as long as I can recall, there’s been a basic framework that looks something like the above. This shape can be achieved in any number of different ways – looking through the tactics I used with every club in my FM18 journeyman save, the common theme is readily apparent.
So instead of trying to settle on a specific formation, I’m looking to develop the squad in line with the framework based on maintaining 9 relatively fixed positions, as follows:
Which I have, thus far, interpreted into FM as wingbacks on the flanks, anchorman – AP(S) – mezzala combination in the middle and a deep-lying forward up front.
This will allow me to develop my squad for the long-term, moulding the existing youth prospects and newgens into players that will fit the framework whilst leaving some flexibility in the placement of the final two players to suit both available personnel and match situations.
In the interests of maintaining the new shorter structure for the blog, I’ll leave the personnel details for another time but I hope that the above outlines how I go about building up my ideas for a tactic – and perhaps provide some food-for-thought for your own games.
If you have any thoughts on my framework, particularly on whether you’d translate it into FM differently than I have, or want to share details of your own framework, then please let me know in the comments below.