Defending is an art, done correctly, it can be like watching an artist paint a picture. Defending is a part of Football Manager that interests me greatly, my main focus thoughout this journey is to work on developing an identity within the club and the opening tactic can certainly help that, it will not define it but it can get the ball rolling.
We can start with the shape, a very simple 4-4-2, I wanted to keep it very simple and for it to have the ability to work with amateur players as well as professional players in the years to come.
As you can see, I do not have many greens… well, one. This has not been an issue as personal instructions keep them in control and keep them doing what I want them to do. I have some key players in the squad and players playing our of position are experienced players who I know can handle the change in role. A prime example is my left winger is a 33 year old left back who has played at the highest level in Norway.
The importance of my player instructions can be seen from the fact I am showing you them over the team instructions. My full backs are the two most important roles in this tactic. They have restrictions which prevent them getting forward whenever they please but have more freedom than the standard setting of Defensive Full Back or Full Back on Defend can offer.
The team instructions, a place where I wanted to keep as simple as possible, without over complicating the game and also without making mistakes without knowing which instruction to correct. You will see often in FM, people will add 5-15 instructions and wonder why a tactic is not working. Adding 1 at a time over a period of games can give you the chance to determine why it is a success or a failure.
Now we can look at why I have the title ‘Tight in Defence, Simple in Attack – SIF 2018’. There is a misconception that if you play defensively, you can’t be attacking, for me, you have two teams, you have a defensive team and an attacking team and often they are split into a 5 and 5 group.
Looking at the first image, I have three players highlighted; the two full backs and my central midfielder on defend.
These players are key to this tactic in the defensive phase. The holding of position of the full backs keeps a line of 4 as soon as defending begins whilst the defensive midfielder drops into the gap to help protect against a poor clearance from my defence. You can also see my wingers currently marking the opposition wingers which is something I like to do and wish we could implement within Football Manager with more detail, half field marking for example.
Now we are on the counter, we have played the ball from our left back to central midfield and he can drive forward. This is where the opposition instructions become clear, they have decided not to press, to stand off and let us attack. We have 4 players who Influence this attack currently. Our two strikers are pushing the defensive line deep, with their decision to drop off, the further our strikers move, the more they drop. Our right winger is already ahead of their winger and now clear to attack the full back, offering the pass to the wing. The final person is the defensive midfielder, always making himself available in the attacking phase whilst still keeping his composure to be able to defend if needed.
With the opposition still backing off, they have now found themselves on the edge of their own box from an attacking position 30 seconds earlier, in this phase of the attack, we now have the ability to be calculated and plan the attack with more composure. The player on the ball can turn and play it back to the defensive midfielder who is now supporting, he could switch it to the right back who is crossing the half way line, still offering his services but also holding a more defensive position than a normal full back on support. You can also see one of the strikers has dropped behind the full back, currently slightly offside but is an option for the ball over the top. The option he takes is a player who made himself invisible on the previous image, our left winger and the experienced head in the team, Named Bertelsen, he has waited for the right time to get forward and now finds himself in a great position to receive the ball and put the cross in.
The final phase of this attack and the delivery that results in a goal. We have made our way forward very directly and very safety, no issues to worry about, the chance of a counter attack is slim due to the numbers we have back. A great cross happens which goes to the back post where we have 3v2 but what impresses me is our shape outside of the box, the ability to start again, the ability to collect the ball if it is cleared. Players in supporting roles offering themselves. My only issue is the Yellow box, our defensive midfielder offering himself for a pass where I would prefer him waiting on the edge where I have placed the second yellow box.
This is my 2018 tactic for Stavanger IF, a tactic which focuses on being solid whilst attacking with direct and effective play.