Il Doria – Sampthing Tactical

Those who have read the first two blogs on the Samp save will know that I’m forcing myself to use a 3 centre back formation rather than revert to the same old, same old.

Those who follow me on twitter will know that I’ve really struggled to get it to work how I want – particularly defensively.  So much so that I’m very close to abandoning the experiment and reverting to my tried and trusted, boring old back four.

Not yet, though.  This post will by the start of my attempts to work out the issues and find a system that at least pretends to have some form of defensive competence.

This is my current base-case line-up.  3 centre backs with the libero pushing into defensive mid when we have the ball and the wingbacks bombing on to provide the width.  I have certain concerns with the offensive side of the tactic but, given the clustershambles of our defence and my general preference for starting from the back, we’ll be looking at the defending first.

In our first season, using numerous variants of 5-3-2 and 3-5-2 systems, we conceded a not-terrible 1.18 goals per game in the league.  So far this term, that’s gone up to 1.75.  A major problem.

So the first thing I did was check the tactical analysis for any stats that showed an obvious problem area.  It wasn’t hard to spot the issue.

In the last 15 matches, we’d conceded 9 goals from through balls.  Way more than any other assist type.  In the previous 35 games, we’d conceded 5 from the same source.

So I looked back through our games so far this season, watching each of the goals that we’d conceded and focusing on those goals which came from through balls.  Two examples stood out.

This goal from Palermo neatly encapsulates what I believe the issue is.  If we look at play when Embalo receives the ball on the right, he’s going to drive infield along the pink line shown.  Any of the three Sampdoria defenders / midfielders shown can close him down.  But none of them do.

Instead, the defence drops off and Jankto, our MLC, isn’t able to get back early enough to put on any pressure.  With no pressure on the ball, Embalo is able to play the through ball much easier for the central striker, making the run between two of our centre backs.

This goal we conceded against Atalanta has the same root cause.  We’ve given the ball away on the halfway line and Ilicic collects to run at the defence.  Again we have three potential options for closing down the runner, particularly if our right centre back comes across to cover.

Instead, the defence drop off and allow Ilicic to run 25 yards before our libero finally decides to step out and close down.  With the right centre back not covering properly, this allows Ilicic to play the simple through ball for the goal.

Ordinarily, I would consider a defensive line dropping off when there is no pressure on the passer to be doing the right thing.  Indeed, it’s something that I aim to encourage by reducing the closing down of my central defenders.  But perhaps that is me being stuck in a 4-at-the-back mindset.  In both of the goals shown, we have enough numbers in defence to allow at least one centre back to aggressively close down.

For the Palermo goal, I’d have liked our leftback at the very least, if not our left centre back too, to step up and meet the run knowing that our libero is covering behind and marking the striker.  For the Atalanta goal, our left centre back should step up and the right one come across to support the libero.

Dropping off as we are is simply allowing the oppositon to move into the dangerous space in front of the defence under absolutely no pressure and pick a pass for runners from deep.  We need to engage those runners early and, if nothing else, make that through ball much more difficult.

My defensive line and line of engagement are both already set to ‘higher’ so I’ll start by reverting to default closing down settings for the wide centre backs and consider a change to a stopper duty should that still prove inefficient.

An alternative may be to put at least one player into the DM line but I’m hesitant to do anything which would discourage the libero from stepping out when we have the ball.  Going with two segundo volantes (segundos volante?) might be an option but constantly pulling people deeper and deeper does not sit well with me, particularly when I’m relatively happy with the midfield from an offensive point of view.

Highlighting a couple of points of note – the wingbacks are stretching the play well and in good position to run onto a pass out wide; the libero has pushed up perfectly into midfield whilst the two wide centre backs are not playing so wide as to leave an enormous gap through the middle; whilst our poacher is playing on the last line of defence looking for the through ball and our wide midfielders are getting forward to support the attack.

There are just a couple of problems I have offensively now.  The first is what I want to do with the second striker.  Quagliarella is first choice for that role and provides a valuable leadership role to add to his undoubted quality.  But he has decided to retire at the end of the season and I feel that I may get more from dropping the role to either a trequartista or shadow striker from AM.  A lot of the time, particularly on counters, we don’t do enough to threaten the opposition in the pocket in front of their defence and dropping a player in here makes sense.  This would, however, have a knock-on impact on the central MC, currently used as an advanced playmaker, as I wouldn’t want two players – particularly creative ones looking for space – to be crowding the same area.  One for an experiment, I think.

The second issue is that Santi Mina, our £2m signing in the summer, scored 7 goals in the first 7 games and then tore his hamstring.  His replacements have had nowhere near the same impact, leaving us very short of goals.  Depending on how badly his injury affects him going forward, we may be in need of an urgent replacement.

But that’s for another time.  For now, I need to sort out that defence.  And fast.  Hopefully the next update will have happier defensive news and we can move onto the fun stuff at the other end of the pitch.

Forza Samp!





6 thoughts on “Il Doria – Sampthing Tactical”

  1. Looking at the Palermo move, 1 thing instantly came to mind: why are those 2 midfielders so close together? One of them should have been closer to the guy with the ball in a midfield 3. I can´t have an answer as you would need to look at what happened before that but there are a number of possible reasons.
    In my case, I found that very often to reduce goals conceded I needed to improve what is happening in front of the defenders (dm/mc line)

    1. Completely agree on the bunching from the midfielders and it’s been a constant issue. They run side to side holding hands to close down the ball, it’s been quite frustrating.

  2. I’ve been wanting to read this article for ages and finally got down to it this morning. I used a 3 at the back all the way through FM!8, but haven’t enjoyed my experiences at all in FM19 and dispensed with it, (at least for a while).

    The 1st thing that jumps out at me from the 1st goal conceded, (against Palermo), is that their player who plays the through ball for the goal, gets the ball pretty wide and quite deep. It’s screaming out for the player in the DL position to get closer to him while at the same time you are completely right that the 3 centre-backs would look to drop off, (looking to cover in behind), until such time as you had pressure on the ball. Your central 3 midfielders are going to struggle to get to the ball-carrier from their central position when he starts so wide, so the pressure must come from the DL in my mind. The question is how you do it.

    You are using a CWB(s) which has the following individual instructions included within it’s instruction.

    More urgent pressing.
    Tackle harder.
    Get further forward.
    Stay wider.

    These 4 would seem to lend themselves to actually what you want them to do in terms of stepping out, leaving a 4 at the back and basically controlling this wide left area in front of the back 5, allowing the other defenders to drop off until he makes contact.

    The 1st decision I would make is, if I want him further forward, (in order to more effective close down the opposition in this wide area in front of the back 5) do I just change him from a CWB(s) in the D line to a CWB(s) in the DM line, or do I look to give him individual instructions to move him from the D line. I personally think that moving the CWB(s) player further forward to the DM line is something that might be more instantly beneficial, (in these particular instances), but what I suspect might happen is that you start to concede different goals.

    You mention that you were a little reluctant to drop a DM in there because you didn’t want him occupying the space that the L would step up into, (and I completely get that), so with that in mind, (and assuming that you had already decided that moving the CWB(s) forward a slot, I would be thinking how else to strengthen without clogging up the DM slot. You now have players in more advanced positions, (able to offer more attacking options), so I would look to possibly balance things by going slightly more negative/defensive further forward, but it’s not easy to do that without clogging up the DM line. If you already have 3 central midfield bodies in there, and you are not going to use a DM then your options here are restricted to either dropping one of the central strikers into the hole behind, (I’m not overly convinced as to the effectiveness of a #10 role in FM19 compared to other issues), or go the whole hog and drop 1 attacker back into the midfield line.

    Well hold on though, that fives you 4 in midfield and 2 CWB(s). How is that going to work? Well it’s not going to work with all roles, but maybe the answer is a WM(s) or a WP(s). Ideally one of each. This is going to get you a body in exactly the area that is being exploited, (even if you don’t push the CWB(s) on. I’m not suggesting that you do both of these at the same time, (I like to make very small changes so I can see what the impact is rather than making multiple changes and not being 100% sure what instruction has resulted in what change.

    The other thing I would mention is that you have the “extremely urgent” setting on pressing, yet at the same time in your head you seem happy to see a line of 5 defenders dropping off when attacked. This doesn’t seem to fit with what you want and what you are telling the team you want. “I want you to press, but I don’t want you to press when 1 ball carrier is threatening you with 1 attacker looking to run in behind”. Hang on a minute. There are 5 of you and 2 of them. Someone has got to close the ball-carrier, (apologies for rugby terminology), while the 4 others hold the defensive line against 1 attacker. What’s happening is that all 5 are dropping off and nobody is doing anything. That can’t possibly be what you want even if in your head you are understanding of their desire to drop off. If you want extremely urgent pressing, then all 5 defenders dropping off like this is not acceptable.

    I would be looking at the CWB(s) being pushed forward to see how they react from there I think.

    Good luck. Look forward to see what you do next and apologies it took me a while to catch up with this.

    1. Thanks for the extensive comment!

      If you’ve read my next update then you’ll know that I’ve abandoned the 3CB thing but still some valuable feedback.

      I don’t actually think the WB from the DM line defends any higher than the WB in the CD line. I’m happy to be corrected but I didn’t notice any difference other than using them in the CD line meant the wide CBs didn’t split so wide when we had the ball. I really liked this change hence I kept the flat 5.

      I totally agree that the CWB *should* have been pressing up with their instructions.

      The dropping off thing is a general rule – if there is no pressure on the ball then the defensive line should never push up because the ball carrier has all the time in the world to play the ball in behind – either for a runner or even themselves. That’s not to say that the whole backline needs to drop off – as I’ve tried to outline in the blog, there should be some sort of consideration for the numbers you have goalside versus the number of runners to contend with. The situations shown above are classic examples of allowing at least one defender to close down whilst the others drop off and prevent the easy ball in behind.

      In the end, I went for a back 4 with a DM, which has turned into a back 4 with a double pivot but hopefully more of that in the next update…

  3. The game is very complicated so every detail hampers the system. Sometimes I am surprised that someone who has a lot of knowledge about the game is victorious and how the game adapts to such an approach, while someone who spends a lot of time and knows how to struggle .. I was impressed that even some of the texts have a good intention to help but each team is different, if one tactic is good for one team for the other it is not necessary to know almost every role what exactly is working..and when the whole system brings it to work perfectly then we can say that we succeeded ..

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