Mechanising the Play – Creating Gaps in the AI Defence

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There is nothing more frustrating to the FM player than spending the last 20-25 minutes of a game chasing a goal and trying to break down the AI defence. We have all been in that situation at one point or another and time seems to speed past without a chance at goal as the AI choose to sit deep and frustrate our attacking intent.

I thought I would take the opportunity to share a trick that I use to overcome even the most stubborn AI defence by creating large gaps in their defensive schemes that we can exploit with players coming from deeper positions.

The basic theory to this article will be familiar to most FM players that also play chess as we look to mechanise our system to the extent that we open up space along two specific files or lines that can be exploited by our midfielders by way of a typical discovered attack in chess terms. I must stress at this point though that this is not a strategy I employ for the duration of a match since it’s hugely overbalanced in attacking terms and can leave gaps in your defence. That is why I tend to switch to this system when the AI are already intent on sitting as deep as possible and thus offer less of an attacking threat.

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Mechanising the Play – Stretching the Midfield

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Those of you that have read The Blizzard may have seen the piece in Issue Zero written by Michael Cox (Zonal Marking) on the similarity between New Labour and Dennis Bergkamp. In the article he describes the way that Wenger stretched the opposition creating space for Bergkamp by playing a deep midfield and forwards with pace and the freedom to run in behind the defence.

Bergkamp was fielded alongside a pacey central striker – first Ian Wright, briefly Nicholas Anelka, then Thierry Henry – which forced the opposition back four to defend deep. On the other hand the use of two holders (Patrick Viera and one other, most famously Emmanuel Petit) drew the opposition central midfielders up the pitch into battle. The gap between the lines was maximised, increasing the space Bergkamp had to work in.

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Mechanising the Play – Using the DM as a vertical weapon

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Once again I thought I would share an older tactical article with you as part of the mechanising the play series. This is one that I have used in a variety of different tactical setups so far.

Former Chelsea coach Andres Villas Boas is one of the more interesting coaches in football today and is always willing to share his footballing vision and philosophy with others.

In a recent article published by the Telegraph we see an exert from an interview Villas Boas gave to a Portuguese student back in 2009. In this piece there is one idea that caught my attention..

Top teams nowadays don’t look to vertical penetration from their midfielders because the coach prefers them to stand in position (horizontally) and then use the movement of the wingers as the main source to create chances.

So, you, as a coach, have to know exactly what kind of players you have and analyse the squad to decide how you want to organise your team offensively. And then, there are maybe some players more important than others.

For instance, many teams play with defensive pivots, small defensive midfielders.

And, except Andrea Pirlo and Xabi Alonso, and maybe Esteban Cambiasso and one or two more, they are players that are limited to the horizontal part of the game: they keep passing the ball from one side to another, left or right, without any kind of vertical penetration.

Can’t you use your defensive midfielder to introduce a surprise factor in the match? Let’s say, first he passes horizontally and then, suddenly, vertical penetration?

The idea that we can use the DM as more than a purely defensive weapon has often been one that I have tried albeit only as far as the player joins the central midfield to make a three. Using the player from deep as almost an advanced libero was something I had never tried though and it should be something the AI struggles to cope with.

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Mechanising the Play: Using the ‘Enganche’

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Right at the start of this article I have a confession to make, Lionel Messi is not my favourite Argentinian football player, shocking isn’t it? Nor is it Diego Maradona, Carlos Tevez or even Javier Mascherano. No, my favourite Argentinian player of all time is Juan Roman Riquelme. The mercurial Riquelme shone at the tip of the midfield for Boca Juniors (over two spells) as well as in Spain with Barcelona and Villarreal. He operated in a role that has been synonymous with Argentinian football for the last half a century, the Enganche.

The Enganche is literally the hook, the player that is more commonly described in modern tactical discussion as the pivot. Traditionally in Argentina the Enganche is the player that sits at the tip of the midfield and knits the possession together. He is the player that receives the ball and chooses how and when to release the ball to maximise the potential of the attacking movement. Ironically it was when I started to think about the use of the position within Football Manager and given its links to and popularity within Argentinian football I found the perfect Enganche in Brazil, Paulo Henrique Ganso of Santos is the ideal player for this system. The Enganche therefore is an integral part of our system within Football Manager when we are looking to use a style that maximizes possession and sees the opposition happy to sit back. How then do I use the Enganche? More

Tactical Review: Lewis 4-2-3-1 Counter

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Once again a member of The Away Stand football manager forum was the first to get his tactic in for a review so that makes it two in a row for the site as I took the time to examine Lewis 4-2-3-1 Counter, a system that provided interesting results in terms of stretching the opposition and using direct passes to dissect the opponents defensive lines.

The System

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Mechanising the Play – Layering your attack

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I’ve made the decision to drip feed some of my older articles onto the site both to expose them to a new audience and to eventually make sure all the articles of this type I’ve ever written can be found in one place. This is the first of those older articles and one that is certainly amongst my favourites – fear not though this will not mean a slow down in the fresh content being produced. I should add that these images are from FM11 and would stress that although the game is older the theory is still more than current.

In a couple of recent articles I have mentioned just how effective adding layers to your attack in order to provide depth and angles for your players. In this article I will look in more depth at this theory showing how I mechanise my system in order to link attacking players and stretch the AI defensive system to breaking point. I will also look to highlight how important it is to maintain a defensive base both in terms of breaking up the AI’s attacking transitions and in ball retention and circulation.

One other point worth mentioning is that I will be looking to set a lone striker up as a ‘wall’ player in that he will recieve the ball to feet with his back to goal and look to feed runners from deep. This is another ‘trick’ that can be used by any FM player to bring something a little different to their tactic and unlock the tightest AI defensive setups. More

Tactical Review: Foxo’s Wehen 4-2-2-2

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The first in what will be many of my tactical reviews has been provided by Foxo from The Away Stand Forum. For those that are unfamiliar with how these work I will use the same team and same set of fixtures for each review in order to give a fair representation of each tactic. The tactic will be used over 5 competitive matches of varying difficulty both home and away before I analyse the games to pick out positives and negatives as well as giving a statistical breakdown of the sample. I hope you enjoy and as ever feedback is welcome.

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