Hello and welcome back to Football Manager Ambition!
GREAT FOOTBALL MANAGER QUOTES
The arrival of Joe Holt, as foretold in the last blog, was really exciting. As a world-class player, he’s going to be very important to my team, although I’m going to have to retrain this left-footed midfield playmaker into a right-wing inside-forward. A small number of other signings rounded out a total transfer outlay in the summer of £218 million!
Preseason friendlies went along quite smoothly, and the team seemed well enough prepared. And then in the two semi-friendlies, the Charity shield and the European Super Cup, I won two pieces of silverware with two penalty shoot-outs! My experience on this save so far is that winning these matches is a fairly accurate predictor of having a good season overall.
Back when I was player-manager of a (not very good) Sunday League team, I had a bit of a problem with my midfield. I had a lad playing as a box-to-box midfielder who could run all day, and who was probably our best and most experienced player. But he didn’t have much physical presence, and despite being quite aggressive, he rarely won a tackle. The other lads I had in midfield fancied themselves as ball-players. I didn’t have anyone who could impose themselves on a game, and win tackles, and it was a real problem for us.
However, I did have a lad playing rightback, we’ll call him Dan, who could tackle like an angry rhino, and was as hard as nails. So I had a chat with him about moving into centre midfield. He said he’d played one or two games in midfield before, and he’d give it a go. He absolutely flourished there, won the ball for us, and gave us a chance of winning some games.
This was Sunday League. We had an hour or so kick about on Wednesday nights, then rolled up on a Sunday morning with hangovers, and a point to prove. What we didn’t have was time for proper training or tactical planning. So when I put Dan into midfield, I didn’t give him much instruction. I told him to just play his natural game, but in the middle of the park instead of at rightback. His natural approach to the game was just what we needed in that position. It worked.
Okay, so I know Sunday League is a million miles away from pro football, but it is still the same sport, and I think certain things hold true all through football.
In pro football, the managers and coaches give a lot more instruction to their players than I could ever have hoped to, but they are still faced with similar dilemma:
When faced with a need to change the team (like needed someone in midfield to win tackles), do you coach someone to play differently – like coaching your silky playmaker to tackle more and harder – or do you get a new player with the attributes you need, and just slot them into the role?
I would imagine in the pro game that for most managers and coaches they have to employ a combination of the two approaches. But I would say that there are some players who have more dimensions to their game than others.
Take a player like Liverpool and England’s Jordan Henderson. He might have his critics, but he’s been a pretty important player at club and international level. He’s quite versatile, and could be deployed as a playmaker, or a box-to-box midfielder, or even as a ball winner. The thing about more versatile players like this is that they actually need more instruction. They need to be tied down to a strict role to get the best out of them, otherwise they could end up trying to do everything and achieving nothing. We’ve all seen performances from players like that – they tend to get referred to as ‘headless chickens’.
On the other hand, a more one-dimensional player is likely to be simply slotted in by a manager with the instruction, ‘play your natural game, son.’ In contrast, some players are so incredibly talented that they defy instruction, and so managers sometimes for this reason also tell them to "play your own game son."
I couldn’t have told Dan to play as an advanced playmaker any more than a pro manager could get Andy Carroll to play as a trequartista (although someone has probably tried it with him). Dan was a born ball-winner.
So, how does this work in Football Manager 2018? Well, most of the time, it doesn’t.
In outfield positions, there are only five positions / roles you can deploy with no preset instructions. Three of them are variations on a theme: the central midfielder with support duty, the attacking midfielder with support duty, the defensive midfielder. The fourth and fifth are variations on another theme: the fullback with automatic duty, and the wingback with automatic duty.
All the many other combinations of outfield roles and positions come with at least one, usually more, preset instructions.
It is my assertion that the one-dimensional and multi-dimensional players can be found in all positions on a football pitch. And this is where Football Manager lets us down in trying to reflect real-life football.
To be fair, Football Manager is a game, to be played within certain game parameters. But maybe it’s time for the brains at SI to recognise the monster they have created in terms of tactically informed fans looking for a bit more creativity. I understand that the preset roles that come with lots of instructions might be useful for some gamers. But would it really be too much to ask to be able to deploy a player in any position on the pitch with absolutely zero preset instructions. Do you think Pep Guardiola tells Sergio Aguero how to play his game? No. As you may have seen on the Man City documentary All Or Nothing (available on Amazon Prime Video), he’s more likely to tell the other Man city players to just get the ball to Aguero.
It’s a little too late for any suggestions I make to impact on the decision-making behind the upcoming FM19. But I live in the hope that one day, one of the developers will read my blog, and that we may eventually be able to deploy players without any instructions, and let them play using only their individual player traits (a feature of the game which would need to be expanded dramatically) as in "Play your own game, son". And also, we would have the option to deploy players in any position, and by cleverly choosing from a selection of instructions, perhaps create a brand new role.
Some of the more specific roles in football started out with a particular player with an usual style of play being allowed to play the way he wanted, anyway. For example, the false nine is currently very trendy, but it actually has it roots as far back as the early 1930’s, in the shape of players like Austrian striker Matthias Sindelar, and Juan Peregrino Anselmo of Uruguay, and their particular style of play.
I’d love to hear from any FM gamers who could suggest interesting combinations of instructions for players that are not currently allowed due to preset restrictions on FM18, or even using new instructions not currently on the game.
Here’s my suggestion, using some instructions I wish existed:
A player in the centre forward position:
When the opposition has the ball:
When the team has the ball:
When the player has the ball:
This is a player who doesn’t have a natural ‘starting position’; he is a free spirit, and hard worker. He moves from central attacking positions to wide, sprinting into space in high, wide areas on both flanks to receive the ball. From there, he dribbles at the defence. When defending, he drops deep, centrally, giving him the opportunity to break wide in the counter attack. You could use a player like this in a counter-attacking side with no wingers, and with defensively focused fullbacks who would play long low balls up the flanks. Unlike a trequartista, he will work hard defensively for the team. His heat map would basically form an inverted triangle, with the points on the opposition’s fullbacks and defensive midfield positions. He could play as an unconventional lone striker, or be partnered with a various types of striker. Can you think of a striker who plays like this in real life?
Well, that's it for this time. I'll be back with an update when I've completed the January transfer window, with plenty more Football Manager Chat.
Thanks for stopping by!