Hola dear readers. Apologies for being a bit quiet over the last few days, I have been trying to put pen to paper on the third “Johnny Cooper, Championship Manager” book and it has meant I have had less time to garble on about my Clapton save that has been going great guns.
Going back on to Championship Manager 99/00 in the last week reminded me of some of the killer tactics we used to come up with when playing some of the really old games, and being the total tactical waster that I am on FM I wondered if I would be able to recreate my personal favourite on FM15.
When I were a lad, and I appear to much, much older than many of you lot that so kindly read these blogs and the books, we didn’t have all this fancy tactical malarky. We had a very, very simple tactics screen made up of defenders, defensive midfielders, midfielders, attacking midfielders, wingers and strikers. There was not a single Enganche in sight. You could not analyse your team’s performance any further than did we score more than they did. If would wanted someone to push forward a bit or be more defensive, you clicked the button that made a tiny little arrow pop up in the relevant direction. It was a simpler time, that is for sure.
I devised, probably like every other successful manager on CM93/94, a very simple “continental” 3-3-1-3 that won me pretty much everything with teams as far ranging as Liverpool, QPR, Luton Town and Barnet. I used to even dominate Europe, something I have not really ever done since then to be honest – as I said, I am no tactical whizz and for me I cannot really take too much glory from using somebody else’s tactic though I do confess to winning many a trophy over the years doing so. The 3-3-1-3 was the first one I really came up with myself – it evolved into a 3-1-3-3 under the guidance of Johnny Cooper in CM99/00 and that stood me in good stead.
The question is, could it work in this day and age? As I have said before, I was clean for a decade, give or take the occasional slip and dalliance with FM Handheld, so FM14 and now FM15 have been my first real all-consuming FM days. On FM14 I tried, and failed, to recreate the Arrigo Sacchi 442 at Hansa Rostock – for all you Roger Schmidt lovers, Arrigo was doing this in the 80’s and, to be fair, Graham Taylor was doing something similar with Watford in the very late 70’s and early 80’s. A quick sideline rant, winning the ball back early and getting it forward used to be how English teams played, just with slightly less fancy names and a slightly less technical approach. Arrigo said that he was inspired by the speed and aggression of English football and wanted to recreate that style with technically superior players – he certainly succeeded.
Anyway, I digress. On FM15 I have exclusively used either my tweaked Strikerless style, using the brilliant @merryguido’s original set-up as the base or my Jena Press which was a 433 that got me from the 4th tier of German football to the Bundesliga in successive promotions. I wanted to go retro, so I thought I would see what my old 3-3-1-3 would look like in 3D.
Now, because on CM93/94 I never really got to see what the formation looked like, I am allowed a little creative license. The shape will be the same in terms of what it looks like on the tactic screen, but I am going to be able to work with the roles a little more to create what I would have loved it to have looked like back then. I want a team that is going to be attacking, fluid, have pass the ball well but quickly, not possession for possession’s sake. I want the midfielders to break through the lines and get past the front three, and I want the front three to drop in deep and be difficult to mark. “In the hole” I want the classic free role, a Peter Beardsley who is going to drift around, create and score a few himself.
This is the shape and player roles. I’ve gone with two stoppers and a covering defender at the back, which is how a back three should be set up in my opinion, but I am pretty sure that we will see RCB and LCB almost shift out into full back positions from what I have seen of the match engine playing a back three. This is actually what I would like them to do though, so this is not an issue. I will actually be playing full backs in that role whilst training them to be able to play as centre backs. The midfield three are set up exactly the same as they are in Strikerless. The DLP/D will sit much deeper, often in the back three, which I am hoping will help us plug the clear gap we are going to see in the middle a lot of the time, but then be free to go and play when we have the ball. The two players either side of him will push on and get beyond the strikers willingly and will be very hard to mark. In the hole is an AP/S with the freedom to roam from his position. I am hoping he will get on the ball a lot. The front three are two drifting F9’s, with the license to run wide with the ball and a trequartista who will also move all over the place and hopefully be very difficult to mark. The movement in this team will need to be exceptional as we have no width and if I have six attacking players all standing still in the middle of the pitch we will not break many teams down!
These are the team instructions, which are basically the Strikerless team instructions. These instructions should allow us to dominate the middle of the park, press and win the ball back early, and move it through the lines quickly with short, sharp passes.
Now, a little about the team and league that I am testing this in. Apparently, thanks to FM Sweden, there is a new country in Europe that has just got independence from Italy – Mateliano. Think of it as another Gibraltar. The guys at FM Sweden have put together the league set-up and I thought I would give it a go as it is unlikely that many other people are playing it. I chose US Soregno as the team to go with, randomly. As there are no Matelianese players in the database, all the players are generated. The league seems to be split into clubs that have an Italian heritage, obviously, and an English heritage as apparently Mateliano was once a British colony. I say apparently, as it is impossible to find anything online about this place.
The league winner will be in the Champions League qualifiers and the Cup Winner will be in the Europa League qualifiers, so I am hoping that I can win the league this season (27 games long, we play each other three times for some reason) and see if I can slowly but surely build a club from ground zero up to one that can qualify for the group stages. I might get bored very quickly, and at this stage I am much more interested in seeing if the tactic can work and then I will probably go and test it on one of the long list of other saves I want to do and write about.
Anyway, I am now five league games into the season and this is how things stand.
As you can see, we have won five out of five, scored twenty one goals and let in just four. On the face of it, things look very rosy. I’m going to use our last game, a 6-2 win against Inter Villa, to chuck out a few screen shots and see if I can look like something that resembles a tactical analyst!
This is what the formation actually looks like in reality:
As you can see, it becomes more of a 3-1-3-3 in game.
These are the match stats, which tell us a little more than the 6-2 scoreline (they scored their two in the dying embers of the game after we were 6-0 up and cruising).
Of the ten shots we got on target, we scored six – happy with that. We had 57% of possession and completed 85% of the passes. What interests me, though, is not possession for possession’s sake – so where did these passes actually go?
This is our number 5, Minelli, who lines up in the hole. He got on the ball a lot, 95 passes, and as you can see many of them were going forward which is what I want to see.
This is our trequartista, Gualteri. Again, plenty of forward passes. So far, so good I feel.
Our possession and completion stats for the season so far are in the league are 56.8% and 82%. As I am happy that we are moving the ball with a view to penetrating I would be happy if this moved up to 60% and stayed above 80% longer term.
I’d love to show you some clips of how it plays, but as ever, I cannot get any decent vids up to YouTube,.
This could be a fun tactic and a fun season. Someone will batter us at some point though!