The System

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The most striking aspect of the initial setup is that it seems to be primarily defensive in shape. A back four shielded by three defensive midfield players, two of which are set as defensive midfielders in their roles. What isn’t apparent from a first glance is that the three man curtain at the base of midfield is actually an excellent tool to help maintain possession. The fullbacks are both set to attack so the idea is obviously that they are able to offer a degree of width with the two inside forwards ahead of them cutting inside at will.

Information

Creator: Shrewnaldo

Style: Creator

System: 4-3-2-1 (Deep)

Site: FM Veteran

Results

Napoli 0 – 3 Fiorentina

Fiorentina 4 – 0 Cagliari

Fiorentina 4 – 0 Genoa

Juventus 0 – 0 Fiorentina

Fiorentina 0 – 0 Lazio

Statistics

Streak: WWWDD

Win%: 60

Draw%: 40

Loss%: 0

Average Shots at Goal: 9.8

Average Shots on Target: 4.2

Average Clear Cut Chances: 2.6

Average Possession For: 59%

Average Possession Against: 41%

Positives

Defensively Solid

I don’t think that there is really anywhere else I could start given the fact that over the 5 game test we didn’t concede a single goal – when opponents included the likes of Juventus, Napoli and Lazio that really is quite an achievement.

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Here you can see that the defensive zone (highlighted) is well covered by our disciplined back four. Positioning is excellent with both opposition wide strikers being marked by fullbacks leaving the two centre backs to deal with the central striker. With one marker and one covering defender we are well set defensively. You can also see that I have circled the three defensive midfielders all of whom are sitting centrally protecting from the ball down the channel. Interestingly the near side defensive midfielder has moved to narrow the field towards the ball – something that shows an impressive capacity to pressure the opposition.

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As I alluded to above the defensive midfielders are set to pressure and harry the opposition very impressively. Here you can see Juventus on the attack. They have two strikers that are ready to make angles into the box. Both players are going to be tracked by our centre backs and the full back on the ball side is moving to tuck in and cut the obvious passing lane. The more interesting aspect of this example is in the highlighted zone where the player with the ball appears to have been trapped by our three defensive midfielders all of whom are trying to apply pressure and cut of the passing lanes.

The performance of the defensive midfielders in both keeping possession and pressuring the opponents is really impressive throughout. Well worth having a look at settings to see what we can learn and take for our own tactics.

Excellent Movement when Attack Builds

It’s important within FM that you build your attack on a solid foundation so that when an initial wave of attack breaks down you are in a position to retain possession and try to penetrate the defence from another angle. The shape and movement of the team within this system give you the opportunity to attack from a variety of positions.

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As you can see the attack has built to the extent that when the initial thrust from the front three failed they were able to cycle the ball backwards to Kharja. It’s from there you can clearly see the importance of attacking from different positions. The front three are narrow causing the defence to contract and this leave our attacking fullback with a large portion of free space to attack, The players are smart enough to know that to hit the space with the first pass is dangerous with the ball likely to be intercepted. Instead the ball is cycled backwards slightly to open out the angle and the ball out to the attacking fullback in space is then far safer.

Forwards Interplay is Interesting

When you have such a huge starting space between the midfield and attack it is imperative that the attacking players are set to support one another in the initial attacking phase.

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A little complicated here so I’ll try to break it all down for you. The key is the movement of the central striker, instead of looking to move deeper up the field to stretch the defence and provide a focal point he is more prone to drop in and link the play. As the ball is moved out to the right attacking player the central striker drops off the line into space, not only is he in space to collect the ball he also disrupts the AI defensive line. As the ball is moved to the feet of the striker the two inside forwards are able to penetrate in behind the defensive line. The striker then has the capacity to move the ball in two different angles to one of the two advancing wide players.

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Here again we can see that the central striker is the key. This time in a bid to emulate Shrewnaldo’s Toulouse save I’ve picked a strong physical striker. Once more he has picked the ball up deep and managed to turn the defender. As he moves infield the right striker moves to take the opposition fullback away from the ball and the remaining centre back is isolated and forced to close the striker down. This creates a large gap in the centre of the AI defence into which the far side winger is free to move and take advantage of.

Negatives

Defence can be Pulled Deep

It’s always going to happen from time to time. When you have a back four supported by three players in the deep midfield positions then when the AI is able to build attacks over more than one phase then the defence can be pulled deeper and deeper.

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You can see this clearly in the example above. The ball has already been cleared once and our defensive midfielder are now sitting far too deep. When the AI cycle the ball backwards in the wide positions there is nobody to apply any more pressure to the ball and when the ball shifts infield you can clearly see the huge gap that the AI are able to exploit and a simple pass inside leads to a chance for the AI to score.

Little Support for Strikers in Initial Phase

The difficulty in writing these reviews is that often a single aspect of a tactic can have both a positive and negative aspect. Whilst if we are able to retain possession past the initial phase of the attack the team is able to provide an element of support in the initial phase the strikers can be very isolated.

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Here you can see that Vargas has attempted a poor cross into the area that is easily cleared. At this point Lazio have two players ready to snap up the lose ball whilst our closest players is sitting too deep to effectively challenge. It’s at this point that you really have to consider having a player move forward in the system to link the whole thing together.

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Here you can see that the central striker has moved into the channel with the ball. When he’s challenged and loses possession the defender has three players that he can hit at various depths and angles with relative ease and with little risk of having his pass picked off. Once again we can see the benefit of having a midfielder in a more advanced role simply to occupy the space and make things harder for the AI when it comes to them playing out from the back.

What Would I Change?

It’s really difficult to say. Let’s face it the tactic went through the five matches not only unbeaten but also without conceding a goal. That said I believe that there are always improvements that can be made.

First of all I think that sacrificing one of the defensive midfielders into a more advanced position will create a more effective link between the defence and attack. That said I would say that keeping that player in a more defensive role would retain the defensive strength of the three players. Sometimes it really is as simple as having a player occupy a place on the pitch to change the shape of the game.

In chatting with Shrewnaldo on Steam whilst I was playing through the review we were actually discussing one of the more drastic changes that I would make. Dropping the striker into the hole as an inverted false 9 would open up space in the centre of the pitch. I’d also push the wingers up to the wide striker role and still have them cutting inside. The different angles would give a different dimension to the attacking phase of the play and the deeper striker would be in a position to worry the defence from outside the box. It may even be worth keeping this in mind as a possible reactive option.

Conclusion

As I said above you really can’t argue with the results achieved here.

As a personal preference I tend not to retain 7 players as a defensive base purely because I like my team to remain more connected. There’s no doubting however that when the attack is given time to build up the supporting players really add an extra dimension. Seeing that is probably why I would be so keen to change the initial shape so that the support is more readily available.

The setup of the defensive midfielder in terms of applying pressure to the AI when they are in their ‘zone’ is really excellent though and something I will be looking to employ to an extent with my current system which has two deep lying midfielders. That’s one of the best things for me about these reviews though – every so often I learn something and see something that I want to implement.

I’m fairly sure that this tactic has been uploaded at Shrewnaldo’s blog FM Veteran as linked in the information section above. I’d recommend downloading it to see what you can take for yourself.

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