Hello again, and welcome back to Football Manager Ambition.
This time I'm going to chat a bit about tactical ideals. That doesn't mean I'm going to recommend a 'killer tactic' or 'unbeatable formation', though. I'm going to cover some general principles I use to achieve considerable success on Football Manager.
At the time of writing, we are in the transfer window (in real life), and my team Sheffield Wednesday have played their first game of the season - a humiliating defeat away to Wigan. Since then, the club has held a fans forum, which has led to a bit of a meltdown on Twitter, as it has emerged the club is under a transfer embargo, the club finances are a mess, and the Chairman, according to some, seems to be both blaming the fans, and demanding more money from them. It's a huge contrast to the relative comfort of my Football Manager fantasy world!
With SWFC being in the headlines, then, I thought we would have a look at the eccentric ex-SWFC manager Carlos Carvalhal for our latest...
GREAT FOOTBALL MANAGER QUOTES
'I said to my players that Liverpool were a top team, they are really strong, but they are a Formula One car. If you put a Formula One car in London in traffic, the Formula One car will not run very fast.'
~Carlos Carvalhal, discussing Swansea's tactical approach.
It's a telling quote from Carlos, as it reveals something about his tactical ideals - although he has a reputation as an attack-minded manager, he clearly is not averse to, apparently, parking the bus, or flooding midfield (depending on your interpretation of the above quote).
Tactical ideals were on my mind this week when I re-watched the movie 'The Damned United'. For anyone who doesn't know about it, it's kind of a biopic of legendary manager Brian Clough before his Nottingham Forest glory days. It specifically focuses on his ill-fated 44 days in charge of the post-Don Revie Leeds United.
In the movie, a lot is made of Cloughie's disdain for the fact that Revie would prepare his Leeds players a dossier of information on every opposition team. He was meticulous. And, judging by the physical approach of his team, Revie believed stopping the opposition was paramount.
Clough, on the other hand, had a different ideal. He would get great players, and free them to play great football, and let the opposition worry about how to stop them!
We see in the movie how the Leeds players are bemused in their first training session under Clough, as he just wants them to play a 7-a-side match. Later, before a match, the players complain that Clough hasn't prepared a dossier, and hasn't told them how to play.
It's a fascinating insight into two polar-opposite ideals of tactics.
I'm going to talk you through my tactical ideals on Football Manager. It won't take long, because it's really simple. But before I do, here's the start of a new regular feature, bringing you up to date with the major events from my ongoing SWFC campaign on FM18:
So, on my game, January 2027 came along, and if you read my last blog, you'll know I was hoping the board would release some more transfer funds because I'd been so sensible with the finances. Here's what happened...
Yes! Would I finally be able to buy my top transfer target, Chelsea's world class midfielder, Shane Fuller? I raised a bit more money by selling Tammy Abraham to Liverpool, as my star striker Mick McGreal had recovered from his 9-month injury. Now I had some real spending power!
I tried everything I could, putting as much of the transfer kitty as I dared up front (leaving some for signing fee and agent's fee), and offered huge add-on clauses. This would have led to a total offer of £220 million, but still Chelsea refused, and I don't seem to have unsettled Fuller at all. Maybe in the summer, then.
With money to burn, I decided to go to my second priority target. I was getting concerned that Luke Shaw was declining rapidly as a player, leaving Josh Tymon as my only really reliable leftback. So, I made an offer for Arsenal's James Bailey.
I kept upping my offers, starting at £30 million, but when they rejected £120 million, I decided to give up. Then, a message appeared indicating the Bailey was unhappy that my offer had been rejected.
I made another bid - this time a cheeky £25 million. This happened:
So, they wanted £81 million; much less than the £120 million I had been prepared to go to. I went back with another offer:
So, I got him for £50 million up front, with add-ons potentially going up to £75 million. Bargain.
Good player, but he's a work in progress, as he is very defensive minded, but I like my fullbacks to rampage forward. So I started training him on improving his off-the-ball. Which he complained about. Not a good sign when a new signing complains about training. I'll give him some time to settle in, then come back to it.
I also bought a young rightback from Southampton for a knock-down £1 million, and loaned him straight back to them, with them paying all his wages plus a fee. He might do a job for me in the future, and his market value is now £9.75 million.
I tried to sell Luke Shaw with no success, but managed to loan him to Rangers, and as per my usual rules they are paying all his wages and a decent fee.
I recalled my hot prospect defender Chris Larkin from Leverkusen because he wasn't getting enough games. I wanted to give him a chance in my squad. But I already had 25 players registered, so I would have to offload Brendan Galloway. I tried and failed to sell or loan him. What to do? But then unexpectedly, I got a good loan offer from West Brom for my second-choice ball-winning midfielder, Liam Coyle. Now, I had six central midfielders for three central midfield places; 2 deep-lying playmakers, 2 ball-winners and 2 box-to-box men - just how I like it. But most of my midfielders are versatile, and can handle more than one role. Loaning out Coyle would leave my squad out of its usual balance, but would solve me a problem with squad size. So I accepted, and now I have one too many defenders, and one less midfielder than optimal for my usual squad balance. We'll see how it goes. (I'll cover squad management in detail in a later blog post.)
So now I have a lot of cash I can't spend because clubs just won't sell their English players to me (I only buy English - see the earlier blog post, Why Ambition, on this subject). I'm going to have to play the long game on this front. So, I've put the maximum allowed into wages budget, again showing the board I'm good with money.
On the pitch, I'm second in the Premier League, two points behind Man City, but with two games in hand. Unfortunately, I got beat home and away by Liverpool in the League Cup semis, and I got smashed 4-1 in the FA Cup - once again by Spurs! At least I'm in the knockout stages of the Champions League - but with a tough tie against PSG coming up!
Okay, back to tactical ideals. When we think about tactics on FM, we think about formations, about player roles and duties, mentalities, and philosophies. But how many FM gamers base all that on an initial ideal? Do you see yourself at the Revie / Allardyce end of the scale of ideals, in which the priority is all about the opposition; blocking their strengths or looking to exploit their weaknesses? Or are you at the Clough / Wenger end, wanting your players to play a beautiful attacking game, and let the opposition worry about stopping it? Or are you somewhere in between? Do you want to play with the same formation, roles, duties and mentalities every match? Or do you want to tinker depending on the opposition? Or a bit of both, with one preferred set up, but tinkering in certain situations? If you know what your ideals are, then that gives you a firm foundation on which to build your actual tactics. There's no point in training your team how to play a long-ball 4-2-4, if you're going to play a short-passing 5-3-2 every match, is there?
I'm not going to try to give a tactics masterclass here - that's not the purpose of this post (although I will cover tactics in detail in a number of later posts). I just want to talk you through what has worked for me in terms of ideals, and helped me to deliver a plethora of trophies in a relatively short space of time.
I decided early on not to be a tinkerer. I wanted to hit on a particular tactical style, and stick to it forever, building a team over time that would only ever have to know this way of playing. I wanted a tactic that would confuse and unsettle opponents as much as possible, that would be hard to beat, easy on the eye, and create goal-scoring opportunities in all positions. I wanted the opposition to worry about my team. I'm right over there at the Clough end of the scale of ideals.
As you know, you can train your team on FM in three tactics at a time. The game seems to expect the three tactics to equate to three formations, look:
But it doesn't have to be that way. I use exactly the same formation in all three of my tactics; a 4-3-3 wide. I use the same player roles in each, and mostly the same duties. But I have a different mentality, team instructions and player instructions in each. The idea is I have a standard tactic with control mentality, an all-out-attack tactic with overload mentality, and a game management tactic with contain mentality. I play possession-based football, with as many well-rounded players in each position as I can get. If I'm behind in a game, I'll normally switch to overload. If I'm trying to protect a lead late on, or up against a much better side (there's not many of those around), I'll use the contain mentality. It's that simple.
My opponents always know they're going to come up against the same formation, and more or less the same style of play, every time they play me. Like Clough, I don't care what the opposition are going to do, they can worry about me. I leave opposition instructions to my AM, for what it's worth. Most teams seem to try 4-4-2 against me. On the occasions I find it's causing me a problem, I switch to my overload tactic, and the problem usually goes away. As much as FM players like to go on about killer tactics, I always play this way, and I'm winning league titles and trophies. I'm playing with my ideals.
Thanks for stopping by. See you next time!