The System

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A genuinely interesting shape that is based albeit loosely on a 3-4-3 shape. By using an anchorman in front of the defence Sam is essentially giving himself a defensive triangle which should be extremely strong centrally. In the attack the lone striker will be ably supported by the wingers and two central midfielders to create overloads and angles.

Information

Creator: Sam

Style: Tactics Creator

System: 3-4-3 (loosely)

Site:  Chronicles of Almunia

Results

Fiorentina 2 – 2 Chievo

Palermo 2 – 2 Fiorentina

Fiorentina 2 – 0 Lecce

Roma 2 – 2 Fiorentina

Fiorentina 3 – 2 Milan

Statistics

Streak: DDWDW

Win%: 40

Draw%: 60

Loss%: 0

Average Shots at Goal: 12

Average Shots on Target: 5.2

Average Clear Cut Chances: 2.8

Average Possession For: 52%

Average Possession Against: 48%

Positives

Shape Causes the AI Problems

The basic shape displayed above is theoretically superb. Indeed when Sam sent me the tactic and I commented on the interesting shape he said himself that ‘I base things entirely on real life football, not the (match) engine’  What struck me is that this is exactly the way that I go about setting up my teams tactics. Indeed with this system we see over and over again that the AI have huge problems countering the shape of the side.

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Here you can see that the two wingers have joined with the lone striker to form an attacking three. What is most interesting about the shape is the presence of wingbacks along with attacking wingers. The fear would be, if the system failed, that the wingbacks and wingers would get in one anothers way occupying one anothers space. Instead as you can see here the setup offers an interesting and effective dynamic. The movement of the left winger stretches the AI defence to breaking point and the right back try’s to press the left wingback in possession of the ball. This opens up acres of space for our winger to exploit and with the centre of the AI defence already disjointed we are able to score a fairly simple tap in for an easy goal. Excellent attacking movement.

Waves of Attack Create Overloads

I wrote an article a while back titled ‘Mechanising the Play – Layering your attack’ in which I pointed out the importance of having secondary and tertiary tiers in your attacking play. In other words when the initial attacking phase breaks down you will benefit from having one or two more banks of players supporting the play. Sam has achieved this superbly.

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Here we are in a very similar position to the above screenshot. Once again we have a traditional three man forward line in shot but this time the two central midfielders are in position to support the play and make incisive runs through the gaps in the AI defence. The key to this piece of attacking play though was the movement of the central (lone) striker. As he shifts towards the left of the pitch his the central defender on that side is forced to move to negate his run thus emptying a large space in the AI backline. As the ball is fed into the left winger he is free to spin into the gap and finish superbly into the top corner.

These three attacking phases (striker, wingers, central midfielders) mean that the AI is constantly forced to adapt and change as our players shift forward.

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Again here we can see the initial attacking phase. As the striker and right winger press forward the defence is essentially pinned back. Our left winger has shifted infield and the AI simply cannot press the space in front of him effectively because the defensive line is being pushed back towards his own goal. Jovetic is able to slip the ball through for another easy finish. Simple yet incredibly effective.

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Once again we are attacking down the left and as we have the three men across the attacking line it’s impossible for the AI defence to play narrowly as they would naturally. The right centre back is forced to move across to support the right back and the space can be exploited by a piece of clever movement by the striker.

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Once again here it is the movement of the lone striker that makes the play effective and enables the move. Even when he is not the direct threat his movement and ability to drift between the two centrebacks mean that there is immediately more space for others to play in. This time the striker attracts the attentions of both centrebacks and Jovetic is free to isolate the right back and take possession. As he does so there is space for him to spin to either side and an easy chance is created.

Negatives

It may come as something of a surprise given that we conceded 8 goals in 5 games but my negative analysis concentrates almost entirely on the defensive side of the tactic – shocking isn’t it?

Defence can be easily stretched.

Makes sense really. Although centrally the two defenders and anchorman offer a degree of stability there is little protection if the AI is able to move the ball quickly in behind the wingbacks.

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Here you can see a case in point. We are already under pressure with our two centrebacks being isolated. The right centreback feels pressured to move out and challenge the ball leaving the gap between the left centreback and left wingback stretched to the point of breaking. One simple pass and there is an opposition striker through on goal.

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Once again here we are struggling for effective numbers in defence. The Palermo winger has found space to manufacture a cross and our two central defenders are occupied by AI players making the back to front movement to the front post. This leaves a third attacker on the overload to move unimpeded to the back post.

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It’s fairly easy to see the problem here. Both centrebacks, the anchorman and our right wingback have all decided to defend the same 10 yard area. They’ve bunched up and against all odds the AI striker is able to knock the ball down to a supporting player to feed the runner completely free on the left. This only happened once during the test to this extent but there was other evidence of similar mistakes. It is though relatively easy to fix.

What I Would Change

In the attacking phase, not a thing. The shape and movement in attack is superb and entertaining to watch. Indeed there are aspects of it that I have taken to incorporate into my own system.

There are however obviously a few defensive issues. I firmly believe that these can be negated by a couple of quick changes, unfortunately one of these is to alter the basic shape. The wingbacks/wingers dynamic looks great on paper and indeed there are some benefits in the attacking sense, none of these benefits would be lost however in dropping the wingbacks back and employing them as attacking fullbacks. You will still get the same attacking support but in the defensive phase they should create a more solid back line and deny the AI any space to attack in behind down the flanks. The other change is a slight tweak to the instructions of the two centrebacks. By setting their wide play to hug touchline you will see them take the time to move slightly wider to cover when the fullback goes on the attack. This shouldn’t weaken the defensive integrity of the side given the presence of a screening midfield player.

Conclusion

A tactic that was right up my street in that the shape and thought process behind it were interesting and different. The football on display in the attacking phase was at times a joy to watch with little wasted movement and plenty of attacking angles created as the players moved forward. There are without a shadow of a doubt problems defensively but if the idea is to simply attack and score one more than the opposition then who am I to judge that.

If I had my way more and more people would spend their FM time trying out new shapes and role combinations to combat the usual 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 shape that we are now seeing all over the place. Sam should be commended for trying to do something different.

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