Hello and welcome back to Football Manager Ambition. As I write, it's the 1st of January, and I'll be heading out shortly to watch my beloved Sheffield Wednesday take on Birmingham. So this is going to be a quick post, but that's fine, as you'll see.
I'd like to think that anyone who has followed this blog would have felt my love for football, and the sheer pleasure I have had playing Football Manager. But that's all over. Before I explain why it's over let me tell you this:
My save is going well. Everything is going to plan according to the ambitious targets I set myself. In my save, it's 29th December 2025. I'm 7th in the league, over-performing despite some critical injuries. I'm progressing nicely in the Euro cup, I'm favoured personnel with the fans, the board are pleased, and my job status is very secure. My star striker is fit again, and I'm just about to ship out a few unwanted players so I can bring in the players that can take the club to the next level. Everything is peachy.
But the game is shit.
Simply, I'm fed up with the elements of the FM19 that are broken and the continued bugginess of the game. The player interactions and dynamics are terrible. For me, the straw that broke the donkey's back was the goalkeeper nine months into a five year contract (big wages) who was unhappy because he wanted a new contract. Note, he'd not asked for one, and had not been turned down for one, but was unhappy anyway. So I opened talks with him, and he decided he no longer wanted a new contract - he was just happy I'd come to speak to him.
That is just one example in a series of mystifyingly awful and unrealistic interactions on the game. There have been so many.
The dynamics part of the game is a joke. Players who are marked as unhappy one one screen, but are perfectly happy on the dynamics screen, or vice versa. Why?
Last time I checked, the Sports Interactive FM19 bugs forum had over 20,000 posts, with new bugs being reported daily. The game is so buggy that it is not fit for purpose; indeed, not fit for sale. Sports Interactive are milking the fans of the game. The same was true of FM18. I've played every version of the game since the CM97-98 iteration, and I've played them a lot. But FM19 has proven to be the least enjoyable.
The way to deal with bugs on the game, apparently, is to report them on the bugs forum. As I've previously written, bugs can stay "under review" on this forum for months. Months. Not only that, the SI Football Manager forums can be toxic. Don't get me wrong, there are some lovely people using the forums. But there are also trolls who get away with it because of friendly relationships with moderators. And there are a number of moderators who have such colossal arrogance that they are impossible to deal with - unless you're one of their sycophants. I mean it. Have a look for yourself at what happens when someone on the forum disagrees with a moderator, and what happens when someone replies to a moderator with "Oh, that was so helpful, thank you so much." Go see for yourself.
The toxicity of the forums, like the culture in any online forum, is driven by the actions (or inactions) of the moderators. The amount of freedom the moderators have to develop the culture is determined by how involved their employers are in policing the content of the forum - in other words the culture of the company heading it up. It doesn't take much to extrapolate from SI's willingness to release a horribly buggy game for sale, and the toxicity of the forums, that the culture at SI is not great. I repeat: they are milking the fans.
So, I've had enough. I'm not going to be party to SI's shameless profiteering on the back of a badly flawed game - however tiny my part might have been in promoting the game through my blog.
The 2017 iteration of FM was an excellent game. Apparently, there were bugs, but nothing on the scale of 2018, and I personally didn't experience any bugs at all on FM17. I thought the poor quality of FM18 was a blip, but the state of FM19 has shown that was not the case. The fans desperately need a rival product to make SI up their game. I don't know if that is likely. But I do know that when FM20 limps out, I will not buy it. It will be the first time since 1997 that I haven't rushed out and bought the new iteration the moment it was available.
Sports Interactive, you have alienated one of the oldest paying customers.
I'll probably go back and play FM17 again, just because I like playing a football game. But I won't blog about it, or talk up FM in any way, as the quality of what Sports Interactive are offering has fallen so low.
Happy New Year to you all. I wish you happiness and prosperity. I hope your teams win - as long as they don't beat SWFC.
Hello and welcome back to Football Manager Ambition. I'm several days late with this post, as things have kept me from working through my save recently. It's nearly Christmas, season of good will and all that, but that good will doesn't necessarily extend to football. Mourinho has been sacked, but more importantly, Sheffield Wednesday have finally parted company with the hapless Jos Luhukay.
It's looking very likely that Steve Bruce will be the next victim of SWFC's poisoned chalice, which is a funny bit of synchronicity seeing as Bruce has recently had a stint at Aston Ville; the team I'm managing on Football Manager.
But it seems good will is lacking in football generally, regardless of the time of year. Last week, I was half-watching the Saturday Morning Savage show on BT sport, and was surprised by the chat at the beginning of the show.
Robbie and his guests were talking about abuse from fans in football. Savage revealed he has been punched and spat at in the street, and his house windows have been put through.
The discussion had been prompted by the issue of racist abuse, though, as highlighted by Raheem Sterling. Ugo Monye, one of Savage's guests made several highly relevant points (as did John Barnes on the BBC).
Football is a sport that ignites passion. That passion will sometimes come out vocally. In any football match, you’ll hear the fans singing about how they love their team; how their team and only their team, is by far the greatest the world is ever seen.
But why is it, for some fans, that passion mutates into ugly, abusive chanting, whether is be racist, or other types of abuse?
The people who engage in abuse at football matches probably have the same behaviours out of football matches. We can be fairly confident in this because there’s nothing intrinsically part of football that transforms normally rational people into racists and abusers. So in this way, the problem goes beyond football and into the core of society. We have to look at how racist and sexist tropes are perpetuated in the media and culture, and at how our children are educated.
But the issue does also have to be addressed from within football. The antidote to all forms of bigotry, prejudice and intolerance is respect. I’m not talking about about a snappy hashtag #Respect, but genuine respect; living and breathing respect in all behaviours.
Footballers can help by not surrounding referees, and by not spitting at each other, or headbutting each other, and all that other aggressive nonsense we see on the pitch that, in the minds of some, glorifies aggressive behaviour.
Fans also need to step up and refuse to tolerate abusive shouts and chants, and report it to stewards as soon as they hear it.
Football clubs must name and shame people found to be engaging in abuse at matches, and must always initiate lifetime bans. We need a culture of zero tolerance and public shaming of unacceptable behaviours if we are ever going to move on.
GREAT FOOTBALL MANAGER QUOTES
“You have to look at the cause of racism, not the symptom.”
~John Barnes; one of the finest voices on racism. A hugely intelligent man with meaningful things to say.
And now for the update on the Football Manager Ambition save...
After finishing 4th last season, I expected big things from my team. However, by the end of September I had already lost three league matches, and it was clear it wasn't going to be a straightforward season. However, I did get silverware early doors with the Community Shield.
Heading through the autumn, then, and a further two league defeats, and difficulties in the Champions League. At this point, I was hovering mid-table, and seriously doubting any chance of a top four finish this time round.
And the inconsistency kept flowing, despite strengthening the team in January.
February and March saw me looking a little less frail defensively, with good progress made in the FA Cup, still fighting in the Champions League, and winning the League Cup!
April was crazy. A good run of wins saw me rocket up the league, hovering around 6th and 7th, but with games in hand. The team put in some great performances, and I was gutted to lose out in the Champions League to PSG on away goals.
But then, after the -0 win over Everton, my team's performances and results fell off a cliff. It was extremely disconcerting. I think that if the FA Cup final had been against anyone other than my long-time local rivals WBA, I would have lost. As it was, I was able to stoke up local rivalry, get the team fired up with the team talk, and passion won the day.
Thanks to the drop in form toward the end of the season, I failed to clinch 4th spot again, and finished 6th. But with two domestic cups in the bag, and getting to the quarters of the Champions League, it felt like Villa - MY Aston Villa - had arrived, and were ready for lift off.
As you'll shortly see, I have edged closer to achieving the stated ambition of this save. This means I am now highly unlikely to change clubs. A few blog posts ago, I said Spurs would have been the club I really wanted to go to. But now...
Confidence is good, as expected, but the real treat coming from the boardroom was, without any prompting from me, a decision to expand the stadium again. Great news for a club with ambition!
Serious business was done...
Net spend: £74 million
Two days before the FA Cup final against my local rivals, with my league form, as previously mentioned, plummeting, I wanted to hold a team meeting. But this:
And now for some other silliness...
What's he going to do, demand a transfer?
Sometimes, we're just lads.
So, how much closer have I edged to the Ambition?
The current Villa squad looks like this:
And Villa presence in the England Squad looks like this:
Now, if you're thinking that doesn't add up, it's because those squads include the signings I made after the end of season 2024/25:
I'm spent up now, and need to lose a little bit off the wage budget, which I'll achieve loaning out some youngsters. But my first team looks very good, now. My tactics always get better results than should be expected of my players, so I'm confident in a 3rd or 4th place finish in the coming season. I'll let you know. Until then, have a peaceful and happy Christmas, and may your game never crash unsaved.
Welcome back to Football Manager Ambition. It's been a tricky season, and now, I guess, I've created a rod for my own back.
I've added some significant silverware to the trophy cabinet, and had some major success in the league, as you will see. But I've also been turned down by Man City, Arsenal and Tottenham. Where does this leave me in terms of achieving my crazy ambition?
Well, at Aston Villa, I now have two domestic trophies in two seasons, I have stunningly over-achieved in the league, and attendances are averaging around the 40,000 mark and are sure to increase, as big matches have been selling out. The board have just sanctioned a £27 million stadium expansion.
It looks as though instead of moving on to a big club, I've turned Villa into a big club. This has been a somewhat unexpected development. But I'm now in the realm of attracting top players, and competing with the elite. It's a step toward the ambition. So here is the dilemma: Do I continue applying for jobs at bigger clubs, all the while not really pressing Villa forward to my ambition's end? Or do I settle at Villa, and use the club to achieve my ambition?
With the work I've done so far, I think I know the answer. For me to move clubs now, it would take a phenomenal opportunity. So, let's get on with Aton Villa!
In today's blog, as well as our usual regular features, I'll be talking about tactics in light of a discussion about how to break down packed defences. But for now, let's have one of our...
As I mentioned at the top, I've had some major success in the league, and added some significant silverware. Let's take a look at the results for season 2023/24.
As usual, I played a large number of pre-season friendlies, against clubs of varying stature, before heading into the league campaign and remaining unbeaten through August despite tough matches against Liverpool, Man City, and the previous season's over-achievers, West Ham. So far, so good.
Throughout the autumn, I began to realise my players had clicked with my tactics. I was controlling games, and proving very difficult for anyone to beat. Big wins against Leicester and Palace - two teams who have been known to cause me problems - were enjoyable, but the 3-1 win over Arsenal was extremely satisfying. At the end of autumn, I was the only unbeaten team in the Premier League.
Results through Winter were a bit more mixed. The first defeat finally came, disappointingly - to an average Newcastle side. The League Cup loss to West Ham was also annoying, as they were struggling this time around. But at least I had this:
I was optimistic going into the business end of the season. Flying high in the league, difficult to beat, no European competition to clog up the fixture list... I doubted I could hold on to top spot in the league, but maybe, just maybe, I could qualify for the Champions Cup?
I took 3 points from Manchester United, and had an impressive win over Chelsea, although Arsenal got their revenge over me in a 4-0 drubbing. To be fair, I played back up players in that match. Why? Because by that point I had clinched 3rd place in the league, with 2nd place definitely out of reach. And... I had the FA Cup final on the horizon!
What a journey with Villa! From taking them over with the brief of avoiding relegation, the club has now been transformed!
To summarise, then...
I'm satisfied with that.
I had some amazing results over the season, so there's a lot to choose from. The FA Cup final against a Barnsley side who just parked the bus was a bit underwhelming in terms of spectacle, so for the match of the blog, I'm going for the drubbing of Leicester...
By the end of the season, my job status with the board was untouchable. As you can see from the shot below, I had applied for the Man City job, but was unsuccessful. Well, those top teams are going to get knocked off their perches in the next few seasons. Just watch my Villa team go.
Typically, the chairman has to find something to moan about, but I stick by my decision to field the reserve players in that ill-fated Arsenal match. My players needed a rest, and the fixture was a dead rubber. Still, confidence in me is high, so it's all looking good. Plus, the board continue to sanction my requests for improvements...
Business has been done... How much of it was truly successful, however, I'm not sure this time.
The goalkeeper Onana was bought after Timo Horn became unhappy on the back of a bid from Man U which I refused. Eventually, I had to get rid of Horn because of dressing room disruption, but he ended up at City. Similarly, the leftback Arana was brought in to replace Ben Davies, who also left for Man U. Mason Mount was an error of judgement on my part. He wasn't good enough, and has now departed.
The young striker Falcao is an excellent, if injury prone, striker, who I will make a serious profit on at some stage. At the time of writing, he's unhappy because he wants a new contract. He won't get it.
As for the others, Stengs has underperformed, and Cragno was signed as second choice keeper after the departure of the unhappy Freddie Woodman. Jonjoe Kenny did play an active part in the campaign, and has proved to be a good buy. The others aren't really worth talking about.
Net Spend: £28M
I've been taking part in a really interesting discussion on a Sports Interactive forum. The original post in the thread was a question from a gamer who wanted advice on breaking down packed defences. He was managing Bayern with access to some world class players, but clearly had some concerns. After some discussion, he posted a screenshot of his revised tactics:
My reaction was that he was going to get regularly caught out on the break, and so I posted this:
As the discussion progressed, one contributor asked me to elaborate on my tactical approach, as I had been pointing out how well it works for me. So, for your pleasure, here is how I explained my tactical approach on Football Manager...
To try to sum up my approach, I believe in keeping a lot of possession, but not to the extent that you don't make attempts on goal. Obviously, every time you cross, through ball, or shoot, you risk losing possession and getting hit on the counter, so there's a balance to be struck. I find the 55%-60% possession level allows me to really frustrate opponents, while still getting plenty of attacks in.
I like to confuse opposition by having a very fluid style of play. My Complete Forward and Inside Forwards have licence to roam. I play a left-footed IF on the right wing, and vice-versa, which encourages roaming and cutting in. By definition, the box-to-box midfielder roams, too. Also, my fullbacks are hugely important to attack, but I put them on support rather than attack duty, as I want them to spring into space rather than take opponents on with a dribble. (As far as I'm concerned, if a fullback is dribbling and gets tackled, they have failed to do their job properly. This is taken directly from a rule I had when managing a Sunday League side IRL; fullbacks were not allowed to attempt to dribble past opponents; it's too risky. I like my team to keep the ball moving.)
I digress... In attack, I generally have one or two fullbacks, a box-to-box midfielder, two IFs and my striker; 5 or six men forward. My BWM holds the centre of the park, and generally mops up panicked clearances from the opposition when a move breaks down. My DLP supports play, but I expect him to always be behind the ball, rather than running on ahead. A DLP with great positional sense and a support mentality usually accomplishes this.
In my usual slow build up, I have two fullbacks supporting midfield from deep, three men in centre midfield, the IFs cutting in and roaming, and the CF dropping deep and roaming. It sometimes means I have up to 8 men in midfield, keeping the ball and making the opposition chase shadows. A common outcome is play is concentrated in midfield, drawing opponents out of position, and then the ball gets slapped out wide to one of my onrushing fullbacks who now has acres of space to cross in.
My central defenders and BWM (and to a lesser extent the DLP) form the structured spine of the team.
I only ever play with the one formation. I have three tactics, but they all have the same formation and player roles; I just ever so slightly tweak mentality and instructions. My main tactic, Control the Game, is currently played with a 'balanced' mentality (I tried positive for a while, but it didn't quite yield the results). My Go For It version is played with a 'very attacking' mentality, and my Park the Bus version is played with a 'very defensive' mentality.
When I lose possession, I like to press and win it back quickly, either high up the pitch or by mopping up long, panicked clearances. This is why my forwards are maxed out for closing down.
For opposition instructions, I base them on opposition positions, rather than individual players; the point is that regardless of how good my opponents might be, I want to handle them by making them play into my hands, not just by nullifying them. There's a difference. So I instruct to max pressing intensity and show onto weaker foot for the following positions: DR, DL, (C)WBR, (C)WBL, DM (central only), MR, ML, all AM positions, and all Strikers. That's it. I think if you try to constantly press ALL positions, you lose your way. My plan is to make opponents drive the ball infield where I dominate, or give it away in a panic. Or both.
I never play with 'between the lines' positions, and I also keep to very basic, player roles. You'll never see me use a false 9, a Mez, an inverted fullback or a segundo volante, for example. Over the years, I've developed this formation and style using basic roles, support duties, and possession play that without fail gets my team performing way over expectations. It doesn't mean anyone else's way is wrong; just that this system works brilliantly for me.
Here's the tactics I use:
As you can see, three tactics all using the same formation, just slight tweaks to use in different circumstances. Below, you'll see a slideshow of player instructions as used in my main, balanced mentality tactic.
I wouldn't be me if I didn't make observations about the annoyances and absurdities within Football Manager...
Take this, for example...
I had agreed a loan deal for this player, and also offered him a new contract while waiting for the loan deal to go through. And because he signed a new contract, the loan deal was cancelled? Why? It's daft.
And then this:
Jarvis is a great prospect, but I couldn't give him first team football. I wanted to loan him out, but he became unhappy as a result. We had a chat, in which he said he'd rather stay here. I agreed to it. I liked his ambition. But when I agreed to his request to stay, he responded with this:
Player interactions on the game are becoming a real problem, and can undo hard work done by managers. SI need to sort this nonsense out. I'm not going to post it on the bugs forum, because their response to it will be to ask for a save to be uploaded. No. Go and revisit the whole interaction module, please. Loads of people are posting about interactions on the forum. This part of the game is broken, I'm afraid.
So, where am I now in terms of achieving the stated ambition? Here's the updated checklist...
As I mentioned earlier, I have now transformed Aston Villa into a major club. The next step is to create an English player bias in the squad. So far, it's like this:
I don't think the squad is going to be good enough to win the Premier League or Champions League yet, so my targets for the next season are to again finish in the top four, and to again win either the League Cup or FA Cup. We'll see.
Okay, that's all for this time. Thanks for stopping by. Until next time, may your game never crash unsaved!
Well, if you thought the ending to last season was dramatic, things really took a turn this time. There's finally some proper silverware in the cabinet, but there's been heartbreaking disappointment too. There's plenty to talk about, so let's get started with our usual...
“You know he is a specialist in failure. I'm not. So if supposedly he's right and I'm afraid of failure, it's because I don't fail many times. So maybe he's right, maybe I'm not used to failing. But the reality is he's a specialist because, eight years without a piece of silverware, that's failure. If I do that in Chelsea, eight years, I leave London and I don't come back.”
~Jose Mourinho explains the differences between himself and Arsene Wenger.
You know what? I'm not used to failure, either. It's taking a long time, but I will achieve my mad ambition!
It has become a real frustration for me that my results with Aston Villa continue to be patchy. I've just completed season 2022/23. That's five seasons complete. I've normally won the Premier League after five seasons - or at least qualified for the Champions League - in previous iterations of FM. But then, for the last few years, I've always managed the club I support in real life - Sheffield Wednesday - taking only one season to get promoted. This time, I started with lowly, lovely Swindon, and arrived at recently-promoted Villa via Peterborough and Norwich. So I'm behind where I'm used to being. Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself. But still, the lack of consistency in results is a bit alarming. But it's not all doom and gloom as you'll see...
The pre-season friendlies left me feeling optimistic, as did the 10-2 aggregate win over Kalju. But ever the voice of concern, I worried a little about the Euro Cup. I'd qualified by finishing seventh in the league last season ,which meant I had to go through more qualifying against minnows like Kalju. Couple this with a mid-winter break coming up to accommodate the Qatar World Cup (don't get me started) - a break in which I would have to organise friendlies to keep players match fit - I could expect to play a huge number of matches this season. As good as I was looking in June and July, I would be handling exhausted players come the end of the season.
As you can see, August was a fantastic month, with some good solid wins, albeit against modest opposition. September was tougher. However, West Ham would prove to be one of the surprise packages of the season, finishing 4th, so that was a good draw, as was the result against Arsenal. Man city continue to be almost irresistible.
The October to December period again saw some great results, although the 3-0 defeat to Leicester set some alarm bells ringing. After a routine 2-0 wine over Larne, it was World Cup time, and a series of meaningless, annoying friendlies for me!
Incidentally, England didn't exactly pull up any trees in Qatar, but England manager Gary Rowett (you heard me) is still in a job at the time of writing.
When the season resumed, I knew I was facing trouble due to fixture congestion. The Euro Cup had taken its toll, and I had four games in hand on most other teams in the league, and was languishing around 10th position. I knew my best chance of a trophy this season would be in the League Cup, and I also wanted to go as far as I could in Europe. Something had to give. I made the decision I would blood U18 and U23 players in the FA Cup, and not really give a crap if I got knocked out. I also decided that if I won the Carabao, I would go on to occasionally play weakened teams in the league to help offset exhaustion. It wouldn't be U18s and U23s in the league; just second-choice first teamers occasionally.
As you can see, the fixtures came thick and fast. I got battered as expected in the FA Cup against a good Bournemouth side. But then glory, as I unexpectedly beat Manchester United 2-0 in the League Cup Final!
March felt like a disaster, with only one league win, although the Euro win against Genk represented important progress. Then on 17th March, my star striker Juan 'Cucho' Hernandez suffered a torn ab, and would not play again for the rest of the season. While I'd added Lacazette inJanuary, Cucho couldn't really be replaced, and it would be a telling blow for my League and European ambitions.
April was memorable for an amazing second-leg comeback against the mighty Bayern Munich in the Euro quarter-final and I did wonder of fate was going to smile on me after all. I picked up some league wins, but they were difficult and not a little bit lucky, as my team's performances were starting to falter.
May saw an away-goals win over Valencia in the Euro semi-final. My tried and tested approach when playing better teams in a two-legged tie is to keep it tight at home, and go all-out away, trying to make away goals work to my advantage, and it paid off brilliantly this season. In the league, I kept the fans happy with another win over local rivals West Brom, but tough games against Liverpool and Manchester United, along with an infuriating draw at struggling Southampton, meant I could not capitalise on my games in hand. I finished 9th; two places below last season. But maybe it's not too disappointing considering the League Cup is cosily ensconced in my trophy room, and I got to the final of the Euro.
Normally, I would find the Euro Cup fairly easy to win. But this season, not only did I have to overcome Bayern and Valencia, but I had Barcelona - yes Barcelona - in the final! Just my luck that the season I get into Europe, these giants are out of the Champions League! Well, I'm no stranger to giant killings, so I gave it a go...
So close. Damn. Yeah, heartbreak pretty much sums it up.
So, to summarise...
West Ham did ridiculously well, while to be fair to Leicester, it's still only a few years since they won the league, so they still carry some clout. Beyond those two, the teams that finished above me in the league are what I would consider to be big teams. I need to progress my career, now.
Nothing to see here. Move along.
There's no shame in losing out to Barcelona. I beat Bayern Munich, dammit!
Five seasons in the making. Happy days!
I was tempted to put the Bayern games in here, but really, there can only be one match deserving of this spot... even if there's not that much of it...
There have been a few Premier League managerial changes throughout the season, but my ambitions are now such that none of them appealed. I'm waiting for a big club, and with a trophy now in the bag, who knows?
At the close of the 2022/23 season, the job centre situation looks like this:
I would definitely take the Arsenal job. In fact, I might have even said so out loud a while back...
At the start of the season, the board had these expectations...
I matched expectations in the league. I failed in the FA Cup, but massively overachieved in Europe and in the League Cup. So where does that leave me with the board?
Meh. Whatever Mr Chairman. The lack of confidence in tactics is hilarious, as the opinion is based entirely on results, rather than actual tactical efficiency. Don't argue with me about tactics Mr Chairman. Haven't you heard Arsenal are sniffing around?
I had what is for me a very restrained couple of transfer windows. This is partly because Villa don't have huge amounts of cash to throw around, and partly because I'm getting to the stage where I've got the best players I can that are willing to come to Villa, considering the club's current reputation. I might be able to take Villa a little bit further yet, if I don't move on. But that next step would be qualifying for the Champions League, and I don't know if the right calibre of players will come. We'll see.
Net Spend: £25.5 million.
So I had some contact from another FM gamer asking if I'd had problems on the game with crosses. Apparently, he wasn't getting enough crosses in. Worse than that, when his wide players were getting into crossing positions, they would actually roll the ball back down the touchline, and pretty much do anything to avoid getting crosses in. This guy had tried all the obvious tweaks to tactics to get around this, and some less obvious ones. But the problem persisted. I had a look at his tactics, and while I made a couple of observations, there was nothing to suggest he was doing anything wrong. At times like this, it's a good idea to visit the SI bugs forum. Sure enough, it turned out this was a known problem, and at the time of writing no solution is being offered by SI.
Anyway, maybe I hadn't been paying enough attention to my game, but now the issue had been raised, I realised my team wasn't crossing anywhere near as much as on FM18. Crosses are integral to my style of play, too. After a bit of tweaking, I found some changes that have got my team back to more crosses, although not as much as I'd like. This might not work for everyone, because, as we know, everything in tactics is interlinked. But for me, these changes made the difference:
1. Instruct to play through the middle.
2: Set attacking width to widest possible.
3. Remove all instructions for crosses from fullbacks (IE, select neither 'cross from deep' nor 'cross from byline'. I do this with fullbacks because they are the only players in my tactics who regularly get into crossing positions.
Okay, I've got quite a few things to get off my chest here...
As you can see, Kohr has no current concerns. So why is it...
... that he feels alienated? I'm sure SI will have an excuse for it, but it seems to me like feeling alienated in training should be a current concern.
This is pathetic
This enforced inability to hold a team meeting came two days before the Euro Cup Final match against Barcelona. No reason? Really?
Tymon Transfer Twattery
I don't seriously use the 'transfer targets' functionality. But I'd been trying to unsettle Josh Tymon at Stoke, and decided to see what would happen if I listed him as a transfer target. This happened. Yes, my DoF made a bid of... Zero!
Which is more than a little annoying and plain stupid, considering I had this in the bank:
Apparently, I rarely communicate with my players. Despite personally holding every team talk, including drilling down to individual talks. I occasionally hold team meetings when appropriate (and if the game lets me). I also, once per game week, review team morale and have a private chat with one or more players with the lowest morale. I also hold private chats to criticise poor training with individuals every time it occurs. If any player gets a first cap, or first international goal, or wins players of the month / season or goal of the month / season, I hold a private chat to congratulate them. Every. Single. Time.
Do it again!
Apparently, the board expects me to finish in the top half of the table twice in the same season. Seems legit.
From now on, I'll be including an update on progress made toward my mad ambition. Over the coming weeks and months, we'll see how this checklist fills up!
That's all for this time. Thank you for stopping by, and may your game never crash unsaved!
Hello and welcome back to Football Manager Ambition.
What a season! Just... wow. I play Football Manager primarily for fun. I enjoy it. Yeah, there's a bit of me that likes that challenge of outwitting the game designers, but mostly, it's just fun. But I did not enjoy the latest season; 2021/22, one bit.
I stayed with Aston Villa the whole season, despite a late (unsuccessful) application for the Chelsea job. But I have to tell you, I have never had to work so hard on a save. Good results were incredibly hard to come by. At one stage it got so difficult that I entered what is for me new and dangerous territory: I began to doubt my tactics. All this led to an incredibly dramatic end to the season. I won't forget this save in a hurry!
GREAT FOOTBALL MANAGER QUOTES
"If you do not believe you can do it, then you have no chance at all."
~Arsene Wenger, being a source of inspiration when I thought last season would go belly up.
RESULTS, NOT EXCUSES!
They say in football you're only as good as your last result. Well, as each match went by last season, I was wondering exactly how not good I was!
The first three games of the season were a mixed bag: A home draw with Palace, an away defeat to Chelsea, and a fantastic home win over Arsenal. The victory over the Gunners filled me with confidence. I'm used to overachieving with my clubs, and I thought this was a pointer to me being able to exceed board expectations, and be good enough to qualify for Europe! Unfortunately, I then took four points from the next five league matches.
I continued cobbling together points here and there, but I went the whole of November and December without a win in any competition.
By this time I was hovering around 13th in the league. Board expectation was to finish in the top half of the table, so it wasn't impossible, but times were tough. On several occasions, I had the players coming to me doubting my ability. This resulted in Danny Drinkwater being stripped of the captaincy, and ultimately being sold to Sheffield United of all teams! (At a profit, of course!)
I had to work hard to convince the players everything would be fine, even though I wasn't sure if I believed it myself. I made some very minor tweaks to tactics; switching from whipped crosses to low crosses, and fiddling with defensive width, but none of it made me happy. I decided to have faith in my well-tested tactics. I made changes to the squad in January, and warned several players about their conduct in supporting Drinkwater. But it almost felt as if the game were working against me! Normally, you encounter this odd sense of resistance in the game only when there's a board takeover going on, but that wasn't the case. Until suddenly, it was the case! The chairman announced he was looking to move on! Had something been affecting performance in the background leading up to this? Who knows? In any case, my job status, for a while, became insecure.
Anyway, despite a protracted takeover process, and all the uncertainty, I stuck to my guns, and my form improved a little after the January window.
Then going into the business end of the season, I picked up huge wins over Liverpool and Stoke.
Going into the last game of the season, seventh-placed Leicester were on 54 points. I was on 51 points, but with a better goal difference than them. I had to play Stoke (on 50 points); Leicester were at home to high-flying Man City. If I could beat Stoke, and Leicester, as seemed likely, buckled under Man City then... wait a minute... I'd qualify for Europe!
I did it! After the toughest season ever in all the years I've played all the different versions of Championship Manager and Football Manager, against all the odds, I'd taken Villa to European qualification!
MATCH OF THE BLOG
THE JOB CENTRE
And after that season, it's only fair to expect this...
It was shortly after this screenshot that Martinez lost his job, and I got turned down for the Chelsea position.
A stressful time? You have no idea Mr Chairman!
THE TRANSFER WINDOW
As usual, I did some decent business in the transfer windows...
The young lad Raskin was a good buy, as he is an actual Wonderkid. I'll make some good profit on him if I stay at Villa for a while.
Net Spend: £32m. For getting into Europe? Not bad!
FOOTBALL MANAGER PROBLEMS
This time, I've got two Football Manager Problems to share with you. The first one, fairly minor, is just silly and annoying. The second one though is worth staying around for...
Press conferences. I always use a calm demeanour, but even so, when it comes to local derbies, I always talk up the pressure of the match. So when the WBA match came along...
And the press report it thus...
Is this intentional in the game; press mis-reporting? Or, more likely, further examples of crap interaction. *sigh*
There is a definite problem in FM19 with interactions between managers and players. There are many examples, but I decided to log one on the bugs forum. I don't know why I use the bugs forum; I don't like the attitude of some of the SI people on there. And that means I ten to respond with silliness. Which is exactly what happened when I reported an odd interaction with my then-Captain, Danny Drinkwater...
So, with Villa in Europe, my job status untouchable, and some decent players in the bag, what does the future hold?
Well, on the one hand, it holds this:
But on the other hand, it might hold this...
That's all for this time! Thank you for stopping by, and may your game never crash unsaved!
Hello and welcome back to Football Manager Ambition.
It's been a frustrating season.
Damn, I was so close to glory with a team built on an absolute shoestring. But before we start... just make sure you don't sit too close to me. I'm currently down with a really crappy cold. My head hurts, and my tubes are rattling. But I'll do my best.
Good Isn't Good Enough For Me
Despite some very patchy results at times, I was able to keep Villa in sixth position in the league right until the last couple of weeks, when we slipped and ultimately finished eighth. What's more, I had an incredible run in the FA Cup, including a spectacular victory over Manchester United, and it looked like Villa's name was already on the trophy, but a very disappointing performance in the final meant we went home empty handed.
GREAT FOOTBALL MANAGER QUOTES
“I’m conscious we’ve just lost a massive, massive game and I don’t want to be seen to be moving on too quickly. We shouldn’t overlook the opportunity we had and, at the moment, we all feel the pain of the defeat. Did we feel we would be in this position? Realistically, I don’t think any of us did.”
~Gareth Southgate, pretty much summing up how I felt after the FA Cup final.
THE JOB CENTRE
Throughout the 2020/21 season I kept one eye on job opportunities. At different times, the jobs of Joachim Low (Spurs) and Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool) were apparently insecure. At one stage, Spurs were 14th in the table, and that was the job I wanted, as it would have made it easier to achieve my ridiculous ambition, with Harry Kane and Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Jesse Lingard, Danny Rose and Keiran Trippier already in the squad. Sadly for me, Spurs went on an incredible run of form, overtaking me, and finishing in the 6th position I had craved.
As fate would have it, I finished the season still Aston Villa manager.
MATCH OF THE BLOG
I had some great results this season, including beating local rivals West Brom 3-0 at home and 1-0 away. But the most memorable match was the FA Cup semi final victory over Manchester United...
RESULTS, NOT EXCUSES!
So, let's have a look in detail at how the season went...
Considering how the FA Cup campaign came within touching distance of glory, it's worth looking at that on its own.
As you can see, replays and penalty shootouts were all the rage. After that semi against Man U I was sure I was going to win the cup. Dammit!
The Premier League was a real challenge. I honestly expected to qualify for European football, but it wasn't to be.
I mentioned earlier that I was running the club on a shoestring. Have a look at this:
It's difficult to bring real success to a club with such limited backing. I can't see Villa being the club at which I will achieve my crazy ambition. Winning the FA Cup would have opened up job opportunities. I don't really want to stay another full season at Villa, so I'm going to have to really pull up some trees in the league early on next time.
FOOTBALL MANAGER PROBLEMS
Yes, it's that time when I vent my frustrations about bugs and sheer daftness in the Football Manager game.
No news is good news?
When you've selected visiting the news screen automatically...
My scouts recommended this lad to me; a player I'd signed on previous versions of the game. I thought he could do a job for me, and so I made an approach...
But he had a long-term injury. Why didn't it say so on the scout report?!
So I've got to stay with Villa for the time being. I'm in that half-way position between having put down a few roots and wanting to get some silverware, and wanting to move to a big club that can match my ambitions. For the time being then, I've got to get my head down, and make the best of Villa. A big part of that will be getting in the best players I can muster...
Going into season 2021/22, here's what I've managed so far...
Net Spend: £32m
Now I have a problem. The squad is bloated with players I don't need in the U23s and U18s, but I can't find takers for them, which leaves me in a situation I almost never experience: spending over my wage budget.
I am expecting a tough season ahead.
That's all for this time. I going to drink honey and lemon, and breathe in steam. Until next time, may your game never crash unsaved.
Hello again, and welcome back to Football Manager Ambition.
Yes, I am managing Aston Villa. We are now in the 2020/21 season, and so far things are looking good. But as always, there is plenty to talk about.
GREAT FOOTBALL MANAGER QUOTES
THE JOB CENTRE
Having succeeded in my promise to the Villa chairman to not apply for other jobs for a while, it's time to start thinking about the next step in achieving my daft ambition. I'm in a good position with the current chairman, with my job apparently secure, had an okay start to the season (better than okay considering the severe overhaul of playing staff), and I'm probably a decent prospect for another club. But, as you can see, there's nothing happening in the Premier League...
I may have to play the long game for a while.
RESULTS, NOT EXCUSES!
So what happened with Norwich?
Things went pretty well, actually. Although my form did get a little patchy, I was well in contention for winning the league and gaining promotion.
When Villa became available in March, they were 13th in the Premier League, but worried about relegation. In line with my ambition, it would have been rude not to apply for the job.
Here's how things went...
My first win in charge of Villa was against my old enemy, the Blades. That was a pretty satisfying match.
The win against the Blades came after defeats in my first two games, as I settled in. The Villa squad was horrendously imbalanced, and I was really having to put square pegs in round holes, but managed to finished ten points clear of the relegation zone, although admittedly still in 13th position. However, the last match of the season, a 1-0 win at Spurs, showed me I could take the club forward.
So, onto season 2020/21. I overhauled the squad (more on that shortly), and went into preseason fixtures full of confidence, while aware that my new team might take a while to get to know each other.
The team looked to be gelling well, and I was happy to start the league fixtures...
This was frustrating. The draws against Arsenal were not flukes, as the team played brilliantly. I could just about accept defeat at Old Trafford against a very strong Man U side. But the defeat to Burnley was a horrible capitulation. And I had planned on taking the League Cup very seriously, as - if I ended up staying at Villa for a while - it might be my best chance of silverware.
I hadn't been helped by my club captain Joe Worrall behaving like a bit of an arse, and refusing to accept a telling off with good grace. I don't put up with that so Worrall was transfer listed, sent to the Under 23s, and is currently on loan at Ajax, who are paying all his wages as well as paying me £170k a month for the privilege.
It took a few days for things to settle down, during which I suffered the defeats to Burnley and Derby. But the 3-0 win at Brighton was great for morale.
And that win left me in a very healthy 8th position, at a club that just wants me to steer clear of any relegations issues. The players, meanwhile, agreed with my suggestion of targeting the top half. But actually, if I stay at Villa, we will qualify for Europe this season, guaranteed.
So, now seems like a really good time for the latest...
MATCH OF THE BLOG
The big headline in the boardroom is still the 1-0 win over Spurs at the end of last season, which secured the Premier League future of the club (until I leave, at least).
Staying up in the Premier League is a big deal for a club like Villa, and so it still plays a part in board confidence...
As for the next bit of news, I'm sure the board will have concerns of some kind or another, but considering the terms of my ambition, I don't see it being a long-term issue for me...
THE TRANSFER WINDOW
This is where the fun happened! Oh boy, did I need to overhaul the Villa squad!
At the end of the 2019/20 season, I decided to transfer list all the players who weren't good enough, and stick them in the Under 23s just to get them out of my face. My remaining senior squad, who I laughingly called my remainers, was this...
That's it. Five players. But it gets worse. Moutinho, at age 33, had to be transfer listed. He was worth £13.5m, but I got over £21m from Everton for him. Furthermore, a few games into the season, Grealish and Rodrigues were behaving a bit petulantly. I have zero tolerance for it, so Grealish is now transfer listed and in the Under 18s, while Rodrigues is out on loan. Neither will play another game for Villa while I'm in charge. As a result of this, I ended up bringing James Chester back into the senior fold. As you can imagine, to be able to put in place a squad with my preferred balance of 24 players, I had some work to do in the transfer market.
I had a few quick successes getting players in...
But shifting players out looked like it might be a challenge...
After some hard work, this is what happened:
With all that occurring, it was no surprise to see this flash up on the news...
THE BOOT ROOM
I've been contacted by an FM gamer and asked if I'd share my thoughts on organising non-playing staff on the game. Personally, I put a huge amount of effort into the non-playing staff. It's a part of the game I really enjoy. So let me share my somewhat idiosyncratic thoughts with you...
As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I treat Football Manager like a role-playing game. In other words, I try to imagine what I'd do in real life if I was manager at a football club, and then try to find the options on the game that come closest to reflecting those choices.
I also regularly point out that I am not one of those FM gamers who claims to know how the game works under the hood. I do actually have some experience in game design, though. Not computer games, however. I don't know how to, erm, code? But one thing I know about game design is that there is a golden rule. And that rule is Nothing goes in without a reason. Nothing in game design or game rules should be there without a purpose. If it doesn't affect the outcome of the game (and to be fair, where immersive computer games are concerned, what is considered an outcome may not always be initially clear), then it shouldn't be in the game. There should be no window dressing in game mechanics. So with that in mind, I give the people at Sports Interactive the benefit of the doubt, and assume that if something is in the game that I don't understand, that doesn't mean it doesn't do anything.
In other words, the non-playing staff should, in theory, be critical to your success on the game, so ignore them at your peril.
Okay, then. Bearing the above in mind, let's just have a quick look at what the game makes obvious for you regarding staff.
Below is a screenshot of the details of one of my coaches, Alan Steele.
Looking at the bottom left, you'll see a dropdown menu for important attributes, which is currently selecting overall. You can click the menu to filter against a particular set of attributes...
I'm going to select Attacking - Technical for Mr Steele.
You can see that now, the attributes Attacking, Technical, Determination, Level of Discipline and Motivating have all been highlighted. These are, then, the most important attributes for a coach specialising in the Attacking - Technical part of the game. Below is a screenshot from training, that shows Alan Steele has a respectable four-star rating on that area of training. Easy, innit?
You can use this drop down to menu to select the most important attributes for all non-playing roles, on any staff member, so you know what attributes to filter on the staff search screen when you're looking to hire someone. Below is a screenshot of shot of a member of staff not employed by my club, Iddo Roscher:
The job that Iddo is most interested in doing in Head of Youth Development. Notice that there's no drop down filter as there is for coaches, because there's only one type of HoYD; there are no specialisms. So the screen automatically highlight the key attributes for that role: Working With Youngsters, Judging Player Ability, and Judging Player Potential. Iddo makes a pretty good HoYD. Let's see how good he is at some of the other roles...
He'd make a pretty good scout, although the below average Adaptability attribute might mean he wasn't at his best when travelling abroad. And another:
Yeah, I probably wouldn't employ Iddo as a Data Analyst.
The main point here is that because the game highlights the most appropriate attributes for given roles, you can pretty much see at a glance how good a given individual is likely to be in a particular role. So far, so straightforward.
At this point, I should say that the staff search screen have an option to highlight key attributes for roles in the search fields, but there's a bug in the system which SI are currently looking into.
So we now know it's pretty simple on the face of it to identify good staff. Bear in mind that, as far as coaches go, no matter what field of coaching they specialise in, all coaches will need to have healthy scores in the attributes for Determination, Level of Discipline, and Motivation. There's no getting away from it; those attributes are essential in any coaching role.
The next thing to consider is: Do you need to have staff in all these roles?
This is where I fall back on trusting that the game designers have obeyed the aforementioned golden rule of game design. All those staff should serve a purpose, so if the board is allowing you to employ six data analysts, I would advise you to fill all those vacancies. This philosophy is key for me: I will fill all staff vacancies with the best possible candidates I can find:
I'm pretty relentless with this. I can't be happy until I've got the best possible people in all positions. But what happens, for example, if you're trying to fill a position and all the candidates have an equal level of the key attributes? How can you be sure you're getting the best out of that pool?
Let's say we're looking for a Head Physio. According to the search screen, the key attributes for Head Physio are exactly the same as for a physio: It's just the Physiotherapy attribute:
So we set the Physiotherapy attribute to at least 20, and hit OK.
Whoa. There are a lot of physios with a physiotherapy attribute of 20. Are they all as good as each other? I dunno. Physiotherapy might be the key attribute, but again falling back on the golden rule, I would suggest some of the other attributes could well have a bearing. Otherwise, why even bother giving a physio a Determination attribute, for example?
So, you might want to employ a Head Physio who also has a good Level of Discipline attribute:
Or alternatively, a physio with good Level of Discipline and Motivating:
The choice is yours, and I suspect your decision will have some impact on your performance in the game.
Now, let's have a look at something that I find rather annoying. Here's a screenshot of my assistant manager:
According to the highlights, the ket attributes for an assistant manager are Man Management, Judging Player Ability, and Judging Player Potential. Hmm. But the AM also has to be involved in coaching the players. Thus, if you ignore attributes such as Determination, Level of Discipline, and Motivating, not to mention one or more coaching attributes, you do so at your peril. The same can be said for your U23 and U18 managers and assistant managers, and, very importantly, your Head of Youth Development, which is a coaching role after all. Furthermore, don't neglect the Working With Youngsters for any staff in the U23s and U18s. The Working With Youngsters attribute is a great way of sorting out physios, sports scientists and data analysts in the U23s and U18s who might have equal key attributes.
If you're employing a member of staff from another country, you will also need to consider the Adaptability attribute. Usually, a rating of 10 or higher will be good enough if it works on the same basis as other staff attributes in the game. Less than 10 and, presumably, the staff member's performance will be impacted.
Should you consider anything else besides attributes?
Based on the golden rule principle, you'd have to say that things like a coach's preferred formation, playing style and pressing mentality should have an effect on their performance within your setup. I don't know. In an ideal world, based on my role-playing approach, I'd have all my coaching staff with the same preferences as myself. But it's not realistic to expect that. Rarely, if ever, have I had an assistant manager who has the same preferred formation as myself. And I get a lot of success on the game. So I'm going to assume that these preferences are a nice to have rather than a must have.
When looking for new coaches, I don't pay too much attention to their coaching qualifications. By that I mean I'd take a coach with great attributes but a lower qualification over a coach with poor attributes but who has a Continental Pro Licence any day. But I will always be happy if my staff can go on to get further qualifications, as I believe that will have a positive impact on their effectiveness.
So, the way I work is:
I hope that's been some help, or at least interesting.
Moving forward, although I will now be looking for a move to a big Premier League club, which will be my last club change while pursuing the ambition, I will still do my best to turn Villa into a force. Having crashed out of the League Cup, I'll have to target the FA Cup instead. And I aim to finish in the top 6. This should be fun.
That's all for this time. Thank you for stopping by, and may your game never crash unsaved!
Hello and welcome back to Football Manager Ambition.
Football Manager is fun. Even moaning about the bugs and stuff in the game is fun. I needed fun over the last couple of days. The news of the passing of Stan Lee, the driving force behind Marvel Comics, came as a shock. I got into Marvel comics in the late 60's and early 70's. Superhero fiction has had as much an impact on my life as my love of football. And for that reason, Stan The Man Lee gets an honorary place in our Great Football Manager Quotes today.
Meanwhile in the world of football... Chelsea's caviar-eater Bruce Buck has suggested all Premier League clubs chip in £250k each to give outgoing executive chairman Richard Scudamore a £5m golden handshake. Scudamore allegedly earns a mere £2.5m a season, so it's nice to know he'll be looked after.
GREAT FOOTBALL MANAGER QUOTES
“I began to realise entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives.” ~Stan Lee on the positive power of simple entertainment.
On Monday, 12th November 2018, Stan Lee passed away at the age of 95.
I love football, and I grew up on the comics written by Stan Lee. His amazing stories and characters, his quirky dialogue, and his commitment to humanity made him the kind of guy working class kids could look up to. RIP Stan. #Excelsior.
THE JOB CENTRE
I know I should be annoyed by this, but I can't help thinking we'll swap places at the end of the season.
MATCH OF THE BLOG
On the 18th of January 2019, I entertained West Brom at home. It was in the middle of a good run of form if you looked at results, but performances had been fragile as the team was emerging from a really patchy earlier run. This was the match, against serious promotion rivals, when I feel things really got back on track.
RESULTS NOT EXCUSES
so, I went into my second season of the save - my first preseason with Norwich - still feeling uncomfortable. I felt like I'd come close to landing a Premier League club toward the end of last season, and Norwich was very much in the category of a stepping stone for me. I'm impatient to make progress toward my crazy ambition as quickly as possible. Basically, I wasn't full of enthusiasm for the Norwich job. But there's nothing like a good set of results to make you start feeling like part of a club...
Preseason was great, playing against a selection of teams of varying stature, and getting good performances and results. Come on, Chelsea and Liverpool were always going to be more about the match than the result. But beating Roma was amazing (even if they had a man sent off).
The form carried over to league fixtures...
The 3-0 win over Bristol City was amazing, leading to this:
And then the wheels came off...
It wasn't immediately obvious what was going wrong. I had a squad good enough to be top of the league. I already knew my tactics were simple but very effective. But something was lacking.
Somehow, I managed to keep in touch with the promotion race, picking up a few wins by risking throwing the kitchen sink in some games. But the home reversal to QPR made me realise that my form wasn't just going to sort itself out, and that's when I made a simple change - which I'll explain in the Bootroom section of the blog. As you can see, following the change, I had six convincing wins on the bounce.
So by the end of the January transfer window, the table looked like this:
And I was suitably recognised...
Top of the league going into February, with some great results, in a great run of form, and some exciting new signings made. I was starting to feel right at home, in spite of myself. When the Burnley job came up (they were bottom of the Premier League), I applied because of the dictates of my ambition, but after an interview they turned me down. In a way, I was relieved, because I now want to take Norwich into the Premier League. It'll take a really good job offer to make me jump ship before the end of the season now.
I managed to do a little bit of wheeler dealing in January...
TOTAL SPENT: £19.825m
TOTAL SPENT: £18.825m.
NET SPEND: £193,806, in January. That's pretty impressive, considering that at the start of the season, my transfer budget from my board was a measly £146.000. In fact, why not have a look at the total in and out transfer performance for the whole season so far, rather than just January:
Yep, that's right. I have brought in exactly twice the amount of money in transfers than I have spent, making the club £27.5 million in the process. If this club really has Premier League ambition, they're gonna need to start shopping at Waitrose rather than Netto. This is what you get for having Ed Balls as a chairman. And this will be why, no matter how much I enjoy this season, I will leave Norwich for a proper club.
Time to talk tactics.
I know I seem to say this every blog, but today is not the day to do a deep dive into tactics.
Instead I want to share an example of how making one tiny change can have a huge impact on your tactical performance.
There is often a kind of nature versus nurture argument in football, resting on the question: Do you decide your tactics first and then fit your players into that plan, or do you look at your players and create a tactical plan to suit them? The answer seems have pretty much settled on a bit of both for most people. For me, though, I have fallen into a routine of choosing my tried and trusted tactics first, and the finding the players to best fit that plan. This maybe explains why I do so much buying and selling when I take over a new club.
One thing I knew I needed at Norwich was a tough midfielder in the middle of the park to add more physical presence. I went for this guy:
Tunnicliffe is clearly an aggressive ball-winner, although he is more well-rounded than people give him credit for. I like well-rounded players, so he was a good fit for me.
Tunny played alongside Tom Trybull; Tunny being the BWM, and Trybull as a box-to-box midfielder.
When my team's form dropped, and I struggled to work out what was going on, I had a good look through everything. And I mean everything. Training, player happiness, dynamics, etc, etc. In the end I came up with one thing. I thought there simply wasn't enough energy in midfield. Tunnicliffe was my most energetic, physical player, but I was playing him in a BWM role with the duty of defend. In other words, using his aggression as well as his physical and mental strength in a relatively immobile role. So I made a decision. I swapped the roles of Tunniclife and Trybull. Six straight wins and a rocket back to the top of the league followed.
I said that I prefer to start from my tactical plan, and then fit players into it. I've also made it clear in earlier blogs that I'm not keen on the green discs that tell us whether a footballer is suited to a particular role on FM. I think it's a primitive approach. Tunnicliffe is thriving in his new box-to-box role, and having the slightly less aggressive Trybull in the BWM role is resulting in less bookings. And have a look at this.
On the left, Tunnicliffe. On the right Trybull. I'm top of the league with Tunny as a box-to-box man, and Trybull as a BWM. You can't trust those discs, people. Although I will say that there's something pretty cool in FM when players respond the the roles I give them based on their attributes, even when I put them in roles that don't have a bright green disc!
FOOTBALL MANAGER PROBLEMS
It's that time when I vent my frustrations about either bugs or daftness within the FM game. I dialled it back in the last blog, but since then a few things have cropped up, so I'm going with it...
The Insanity of Pre-Match Tactical Briefings
The red highlight below seems to be telling me my players won't like it if I suggest going with a positive mentality, even though we are favourites.
So, I tell the players to go with a positive mentality anyway. And they seem to like that, because we are favourites. WTF?
Here's another similar example...
It looks like a bad idea to tell the players to go with our familiar positive mentality...
But when I tell the players to go with a positive mentality anyway, the like that as they are familiar with it. I repeat: WTF?
On a different note, here's what happened when I was selling this guy...
Which would have been fair enough, except he already had a transfer arranged...
What about this puzzler...
I'm being told Thompson's progress has been limited due to a casual approach to training. So why is there a big red button suggesting I praise his training?
Meanwhile this is just silly...
Football Manager promises us loads of analytical data to help us manage our teams. I count myself as a pretty analytical person, but this stuff is likely to just give me an embolism...
Last one for today..
I play a tactical plan that uses two inside forwards. I play a left-footer on the right wing, and a right-footer on the left wing. I also set the position / role training for these players to reflect that. You'd think different parts of FM would talk to each other, but that doesn't seem to be the case when it comes to the much-heralded assistant manager suggests which players to bring on in a substitution feature.
My first choice left-footed right-sided inside forward is Patrick Roberts. My second choice left-footed right-sided inside forward is Callum Gribbin. Here's the scenario: I need to sub Roberts. Gribbin is on the bench. But the suggested replacement for Roberts is... a right-footed fullback...
Seriously, just what is the point?
That's all for this time. I'll see you at the end of my save's season, but until then... May your game never crash unsaved.
Hello and welcome back to Football Manager Ambition.
It's been an interesting few days, both on FM and in real life. As you know, I'm a lifelong supporter of the greatest team in Sheffield; Sheffield Wednesday Football Club. On Friday night, we had the Steel City Derby, playing against some team in red and white.
The Steel City Derby
Apparently, this red & white team are doing quite well in the league, so I hear. Whatever. Meanwhile, the Owls have turned into a comedy outfit, being badly mismanaged both on and off the pitch. Still, we went into the match with a plan, and parked the bus. If the point of parking the bus is to get a nil-nil, then it was a raging success.
I was particularly pleased for young keeper Cameron Dawson, who had been getting undeserved criticism from some quarters in the Hillsborough faithful. But he saved a penalty, made one other great save, was competent in everything he did, and kept his first clean sheet of the season in an absolute cauldron environment. Well done lad. However, if real life was an FM game, and you browsed over to Job Security, I think you'd see Wednesday's Jos Luhukay listed as precarious. Trouble is, I have no confidence the chairman can make a good decision about who to replace him with.
Do the FM Shuffle
In the Football Manager world of my save, things have also been interesting. Perhaps I should provide a reminder about the current 'ambition' in my save...
At the end of the last blog, you'll remember I had left Swindon, and taken over at Peterborough. Well, erm...
We'll come back to the job shuffle, but for now, let's press on with our regular feature:
GREAT FOOTBALL MANAGER QUOTES
THE JOB CENTRE
So, What happened at Peterborough? I hear you ask. The answer is, not that much. I was in charge for 6 games, and it got me from League Two to League One, but it was never going to be a club I stayed at for long. However, I even surprised myself with how quick I was in-and-out. I played six matches, and moved up a couple of places in the league, but then the Norwich job became available. I didn't expect to be a serious contender for it, but I had to have a punt. Norwich were 9th in the Championship at that point (February), which meant I had a good chance of getting into the playoffs, and maybe finishing my first season on the save having gone from League Two to the Premier League.
I was absolutely delighted to get the job at the Canaries, but it proved to be more challenging than I anticipated, as you will see...
But before that, let's take a look at the finest moment in my short stay at Peterborough, with our...
MATCH OF THE BLOG
RESULTS, NOT EXCUSES!
My plan, upon joining Norwich, was to get them promoted via the playoffs, as Stoke and Villa were running away with the automatic places, and there were only twelve league games left. Once I got into the Premier League, I would move to a more established EPL club, and look to win a couple of cups while over-performing in the league. That would lead to a move to a top club, at which I would settle down and start creating my legacy.
Yeah, that didn't quite work out.
Results pretty much went my way, and I got the Canaries into the playoffs, finishing 5th, and having a couple of really memorable matches, including hammering Reading and Wigan 4-1 and 4-0 respectively. I faced off against West Brom in the playoff semis, and got an aggregate win. Everything was looking good!
So, who would I get in the playoff final?
Yep, it's that team in red & white!
In the pre-match tactical briefing (which I've been half-heartedly trying to persevere with), my players did not react well to my assertion that we should attack the Blades with a positive mentality. And this happened:
Yes, I outplayed them. Yes, I deserved to win. But it's the results that count. Fortunately, my board stuck with me, and I'm still in a job. (Although I'll be having a proper rant about the Norwich board in the next blog!)
It's all about next season, now.
THE BOOT ROOM
Later down the line in FM Ambition I'll be going into detail about tactics but today I just want to cover one little point.
Another FM gamer got in touch with me, asking for my thoughts on a problem he was having. He had set up tactics he was happy with, and was dominating opponents with 70%+ possession, but was losing matches, getting caught on the break. Could I help him work out what was going wrong?
At first, it sounded like it might be a simple issue of the striker and keeper not being good enough, but 70%+ possession seemed almost too high. I count myself as a possession-based tactician, but I usually get around the 60-65% mark at best. If you're getting over 70% regularly, that is extremely high, and is usually in the realms of a Pep Guardiola side playing a minnow. So I asked this chap about his midfield set-up, and almost immediately worked out what was happening. Have a look at what he was doing in midfield, and see if you can spot the issue.
Normally you'd associate a short-passing side who were getting a vast share of possession with packing the midfield. But this guy was doing it in an odd way. The ball winner is in the DM position, set to defend. So he's gonna stay just in front of the defenders. The playmaker is going to move forward with play a lot, and is going to get caught out by counters when moves finally break down. The other central midfielder is a box-to-box man who by nature of his role is going to get get caught out on the counter. And the fullbacks are pushing forward, leaving space in wide defensive areas.
With inside forwards cutting in from the wing positions, this tactic is clearly one that will have lovely build-up play but is ripe for being counter-attacked. The formation is saying Please, counter-attack me! With a little more discipline, this team would probably have still had good possession stats. The reason they were that high, though, was because the opposition were letting this guy have the ball, knowing that two central midfielders would actually abdicate the midfield, while the ball-winner would not adequately push up to support.
With this type of tactic, If you're playing a box-to-box man, it makes sense to put your playmaker in a DLP role. As for the ball-winner, if you're keeping him in the DM position, put him on support. Otherwise, put him in central midfield (on defend duty, not support). The thing about tactics is everything is linked!
FOOTBALL MANAGER PROBLEMS
Last time, I may have gone overboard on this, so I'm keeping it simple with just one bug I spotted, today, which I have reported via the FM19 bugs forum:
You can see from the above screenshot that I was using the staff search screen, but when I was going into the attribute filters, it was giving me player filters. Bizarre. Even more bizarrely, the fault has spontaneously gone away. Anyone else encountered this?
A new feature, in which I'll share anything Football Manager-related that's given me a chuckle that is at least on a par with Kevin Keegan's legendary rant...
When I took over at Norwich, it never entered my mind to think about the presence of celebrity cook and laugh-out-loud cultural icon Delia Smith. But then this happened...
Obviously, this retirement would leave a horrific vacuum for the Canaries. But surely someone would step into the void, right? Who could replace Delia? Who would I really like to, as it were, get my hands on?
That's all for this time. May your game never crash unsaved.
Hello, and welcome back to Football Manager Ambition!
We've got a few fun things to talk about today...
As you'll know from last time, I've set myself some targets for FM19 that are at very least challenging, and some might say downright crazy. I'll bring you up to speed on how I've jumped the first hurdle in what I hope will be a long and exciting journey toward achieving my Crazy New Ambition.
Football Manager Problems:
Regular readers will know I occasionally vent my thoughts about bugs or plain daftness within the Football Manager game. Today, I'll mix in a few such items, seeing as FM19, being still new, is quickly revealing its flaws; some more annoying than others...
For the first time on Football Manager Ambition, we have video technology. Yes, I'm dragging myself into the 21st Century, and on today's blog, you will find actual footage from a rather significant match on my save.
I've also got a book recommendation for you, which is very current.
But before all that , we must have, of course, one of our...
GREAT FOOTBALL MANAGER QUOTES
Football Manager Problems 1: Scouting Meetings
Sports Interactive made a big deal about how the scouting meeting stuff would drop in your inbox, and how this was supposed to be a great improvement. Well, somehow, they cocked it up. Below is a screenshot of the scouting meeting in your inbox...
My player James Dunne was recommending his buddy Greg Taylor to me. Look closely. Nowhere on this screen can I see the attributes of the player Greg Taylor, because the i button is for Dunne, the guy doing the recommending. But if I navigate to scouting...
Don't get me wrong, it's not as if I broke my leg navigating to scouting, but what is the point of all the fanfare about scouting info going directly to your inbox it it, well, doesn't? I suspect Sports Interactive will insist this was a planned design feature however. (Don't get me started.)
This is my 4-0 tonking of Oldham, from 29th September 2018. This was the match, I think, when I realised I'd cracked it with Swindon; the tactics were working, I'd got the right balance in the squad, and I just knew promotion would be there for the taking come the end of the season.
But of course, it's not that simple! Why? Because of the rules of my new ambition! I've got to move my game career forward relentlessly if I'm going to get everything done before the release of FM20. So, while roaring up League 2 with Swindon, I also had to keep my eye on the job market...
I'll come back to the subject of the job market shortly, but first let's have a look at how awesome things were going with Swindon.
Preseason was a mixed bag, which is to be expected, considering the teams I invited to the friendlies. It was pretty satisfying to get a 1-0 win over a Man City side containing Bravo and Diaz!
By my usual standards, I hadn't actually done too much business in the transfer window, although it turned out to be more than enough.
Hmm. In retrospect, that was quite a bit of business...
Once the season proper got going, things just got better and better. Despite a first round knockout in the League Cup, I was full of confidence. Just have a look at this run of form:
Those results led to this situation on the league table...
And by the middle of January 2019, I was still flying high...
And I had hit some great milestones...
As you can imagine, this kind of performance - which I had even surprised myself with - brings rewards...
Hmm. Not quite what I was after... So I agreed the contract below, making sure I could exit with minimum fuss at the appropriate time...
Football Manager Problems 2: Rock the Casbah
Can you say 'Clash'?
I've no intention of going into huge detail about tactics today - we'll be doing some deep dives into that subject later down the line. But considering my success with Swindon, it would be rude not to show you my default tactic...
This is virtually identical to my tactics from FM18. I had tried a variant on the FM19 Beta, and it failed horribly. But this tried and trusted, very simple, tactic always gets me the results.
Football Manager Problems 3: The Chairman must be on drugs...
So Swindon was turning into a memorable save, but I had my career ambition to think about, and once jobs started becoming available, I had to apply for them.
I was turned down by: Derby, Preston, Sheffield Wednesday (Hah!), Doncaster, Newcastle and Spurs. But not to be put off...
Okay, this is a punt. Peterborough are 13th in League One, and I would definitely have won League 2 with Swindon. So, for this to really count, I've got to get Peterbrorough into the playoffs, and win promotion (automatic promotion is too big an ask), so that by the end of the season, I can call myself a Championship Manager, if you will.
Football Manager Problems 4: Social Media Logins
I've already raised this on the bugs forum. It was the same on FM18. the problem disappeared for a while, but it's come back. If you're experiencing this, please log it on the aforementioned bugs forum.
If you care about football, you need to know about this stuff. I'd like to recommend the book Football Leaks. I was shocked and fascinated in equal measure.
Give it a go.
Football Manager Problems 5: No S**t, Sherlock
I'm not sure I needed telling this under the circumstances, but whatever...
Well, that's all for this time. I'll be back soon with another update. Until then, may your game never crash unsaved!