Football

[FM19] The Paris Project - Episode 2

 
 

Written by @JordTheDesigner

The Parisians

“Getting rid of Cavani, Silva, Alves and Buffon is a bold move for any manager but by a new manager at PSG, with the level of scrutiny and expectation from the board, Eric Moreau may already be setting himself up for failure. ” - Jose Mourinho on Bein Sports (August 2019)

Implementing the project

The Ile de France has always produced some of the best youngsters that France has to offer, teams from all across the country send their scouts around the outskirts of Paris, looking to sign the next big star of French Football. Monaco, Lyon and Marseille frequently find a gem and convince the Parisian players to move further afield. PSG’s new manager Eric Moreau wanted to change all that, he wanted to make sure that young Parisians dreamed of playing for PSG and knowing if they were good enough they’d be offered a pathway to the first team. Before the appointment of the 37 year old, who had played his football in the lower leagues of France, there was only 3 players born in the region who were part of the first team squad.

 
 

By the start of the season that had changed to 15, through signings and promoting players to the first team. Former youth products Kingsley Coman and Moussa Dembele were brought back to the club after the sales of Angel Di Maria and Edison Cavani, despite the Uruguayans stand out season, Eric Moreau looks to place his trust in his more youthful forwards. Julian Draxler, Juan Bernat and Jese quickly followed the two South American’s through the exit door, Moreau had little need or want for bit part players on high wages. Moreau’s project began to attract the attention of the worldwide media when Buffon, Dani Alves and Thiago Silva were all told that they could leave. Buffon returned home to Parma whilst Dani Alves and Thiago Silva found themselves in the Premier League for Liverpool and Arsenal respectively. The last to leave the now heavily depleted squad would be Kevin Trapp, Mazxim Choupo-Moting and Layvin Kurzawa, leaving the team with 14 first team players and youngsters who could play a part throughout the season.

 
 

Tagy Ndombele was the first of the Paris Project signings through the door, a strong centre midfielder with an eye for a through ball, Moreau believes that Tagy can be his Yaya Toure in the midfield. With both left backs sold and no real standouts in the academy, Mathieu Gonclaves was brought in from Toulouse and instantly loaned out to Orleans in the second division, Mathieu would be one for the future. After spending most of the season injured, Bernard Mendy has transfer listed by Man City and was quickly on a plane to Paris, the attacking left back would be appointed as vice captain in the coming weeks. Alphonse Areola was the only recognisable goalkeeper at the club after Frankfurt offered to give Remy Deschamps first team football, Bingourou Kamara was swiftly brought in and will compete for the number 1 spot.

With no number 10 at the club, Moroccan Amine Harit was brought in from Schalke after his £21.5m release clause was activated. After a stand out pre-season Harit could prove crucial to PSG’s European challenge. The final signings for the first team were the experienced striker Wissam Ben Yedder and exciting centre back prospect Evan N’Dicka who was scouted by Man United and Arsenal before PSG struck early and brought the heavily sought after French Under 21 star to the club.

 
 

The Paris Youth

Maolida, Quinas, Konango Mbon, Touati and Massengo were all brought into the reserve team to develop and push for the first team football in future years. Maolida, Touati and Quinas all left on loan valuable experience. With the reserve team and youth team each containing 25 players, the development system were a lot more streamlined and  and players who wouldn’t be good enough in the future for the first team were let go.

After numerous meetings with the board, no progress was made with increasing the youth coaching or gaining an affiliate, this combined with the loan restrictions that only 7 players can be leave on a domestic loan meant that the development pathway was still as vague as ever, hopefully by January this will have some progression.

One positive for the youth development was the PSG will feature in the UEFA Youth League and the Premier League International U23 cup, allowing some of the players to gain experience against the best youngsters in Europe.

 
 

The Asian Experience

Pre season consisted of nine friendlies and the Trophee des Champions which was played in China. The first two friendlies were played around France with Niort and Paris FC playing host to the richest team in France, both games saw seven goals with PSG winning 5-2 and 6-1 respectively. The first of two tours was next on the agenda as PSG traveled to the Benelux region playing affiliate Antwerp, Sevilla, Feyenoord and Ajax. Three wins, 13 goals scored and only four goals conceded was a big confidence boost for the youthful PSG team.

The second tour saw PSG with all the new signings bedded into the team by this point travel to Japan ahead of the season curtain raiser. Kashima Antlers were the first team that newly appointed captain Presnel Kimpembe would lead his team out for. A professional performance saw the French side take home a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Harit and Coman. With two games in four days and only a three day break until the Trophee des Champions, Moreau played two differing starting XI’s in the games against JEF United and Sanfreece Hiroshima. The rotation proved no issues as PSG scored nine across the two games and came away with convincing wins, a good sign ahead of a tough Ligue 1 opening few games with Lyon and Marseille on the horizon.

1500 fans made the trip to Shenzhen for the game against Coupe de France winners Strasbourg, the team responsible for the sacking of Thomas Tuchel. Eight of the fourteen players to feature were born in the Paris region, whilst another two, Tim Weah and Kimpembe are both home grown at the club. Within the first four minutes, the travelling fans had reason to celebrate as Kingsley Coman tapped home a Bernard Mendy cross after Strasbourg failed to clear Neymar’s dangerous cross the goal free kick. Two minutes later and Neymar delivered another valuable free kick with compatriot Marquinhos towering above his marker and heading past Sels to give the Parisians an early 2-0 lead. Ten minutes later, with Strasbourg struggling to get out their own half, Mendy and Coman again combined to put PSG 3-0 up and out of sight. From the 30th minute on the game descended into a keep ball session with Ndombele and Neymar finding the net in added time to give PSG an eight Trophee de Champions, overtaking Lyon’s record.

 
 


Who Loves A Football Manager Challenge?

Written by Steve Robbins

Welcome to my first ever blog post for WeStreamFM, first and foremost I want to thank Chris (Curty) and Joe (FridayNightFM) for the opportunity and taking a punt on me.

When thinking about what should be my inaugural written piece for the site I felt there was only one place to start, something I’m renowned for in the FM Community and that is Challenges (yes I know some love them, some hate them but I’m definitely the first of those options).

Over the past 2 versions of FM I’ve created my own challenges for my main saves, these were spawned from my love for interesting, tough, long saves with a set achievement to gain at the end of it.

I won’t go into my own challenges on here, instead I’m going to show you my three favourite challenges from around the FM Community, maybe one of them might give you an idea for a save if you’re struggling.

Pentagon Challenge

The Pentagon Challenge in my eyes is probably the most famous challenge about. I tried it (and completed it) on FM15 and have tried and failed a couple of times since. This challenge for me has it all, you travel the world, see new places and you get to play (and hopefully win) the big competitions along the way.

So what is the premise of this challenge?

There is one main aim and that’s to win the 5 Continental Champions Leagues from around the globe which are available within the base FM package (no edited/added leagues)

The 5 are:

  • European Champions League

  • African Champions League

  • Asian Champions League

  • North American Champions League

  • Copa Libertadores

Now there are some rules embedded within the challenge to make it just that little bit harder, these are:

  • You must start unemployed

  • You must start with Sunday League Reputation

  • You must start with no coaching badges

Start the save, load the leagues and you’re ready to roll! Win all 5 and you will end up as one of the FM gods because this challenge isn’t easy and not for the faint hearted.

So what tips can I give you for this challenge?

Start in Africa or Asia, starting with no badges or rep means you will struggle to get jobs anywhere else, you could start low low down in Europe but obviously you have a long way to go to win that Champions League, starting in Asia/Africa means getting a job easier in a higher tiered league, it is also the easiest 2 Champions League to win, whilst there you can build up your rep and badges to then move onto bigger things.

Keep badgering the board to go on those coaching courses. More than likely they will agree unless the finances are in a state. The quicker you get those badges the quicker you will get better jobs.

Want to make it harder? Then you could keep attribute masking ON, this means making more use of your scouting network.

Want to add extra edited leagues? Then you could add the New Zealand leagues and make it a “Hexagon Challenge” by adding the Oceania Champions League.

British/Irish Steel Challenge

If you thought the Pentagon Challenge was tough then this one is off the scale! The British/Irish Steel Challenge has been around a while and I’ve only ever seen one person complete it!

This challenge is one for people who like very VERY long saves, so what do you have to achieve?

Obviously looking at the title you need to load ALL of the British and Irish Leagues up, the aim then is to win EVERY single competition available to you within those Nations. Yes it’s tough!

So let’s have a look at what competitions you have to win?

  • England (12)

  • Premiership

  • Championship

  • League 1

  • League 2

  • National League

  • National North

  • National South

  • FA Cup

  • Carabao Cup

  • Checkatrade Trophy

  • Community Shield

  • FA Trophy

Scotland (7)

  • Premiership

  • Championship

  • League 1

  • League 2

  • Scottish Cup

  • Scottish League Cup

  • Scottish Challenge Cup

Ireland (7)

  • Premier Division

  • First Division

  • Senior Challenge Cup

  • League Cup

  • Munster Cup

  • Leinster Senior Cup

  • Presidents Cup

N Ireland (9)

  • Danske Bank Premiership

  • Bluefin Sport Championship

  • Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League

  • Northern Irish Cup

  • League Cup

  • County Antrim Shield

  • Steel and Sons Cup

  • Intermediate Cup

  • Mid Ulster Cup

Wales (3)

  • Premier League

  • Welsh Cup

  • Nathaniel MG Cup

There sure is a lot! 38 in total.

The one thing that has always confused me with this challenge is what happened if you go up without winning the league? Now some people have said you HAVE to win the league as part of the challenge but I know most people (and the person who completed it) said being promoted was OK to tick off a competition. For me this would be the way to go or you be here for about 10 years trying to win every one!

So what are the rules for the challenge?

Well a bit like the Pentagon Challenge you must:

  • Start Unemployed

  • No Coaching Badges

  • Sunday League Reputation

But there are a couple more

  • Attribute masking must be ON

  • You can only sign players who are English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish

This is probably one of the toughest challenge you can take on but it is one of the most enjoyable especially when you starting ticking those competition off!

The Dafuge Challenge

Named after the person who created it, this challenge has been around for a good few years over on the SI Forums. This is a challenge for those people who like to stick to just one club.

The aim of this challenge is to take over a club which was previously unplayable and take them all the way to Premier League and Champions League glory.

When I talk about “Unplayable” this means taking over a club which wins promotion to the lowest possible league at the end of the first season in-game.

The Dafuge challenge solely bases itself around the English leagues so you would need to sim a season and when the league resets itself for the new season (Usually June 24th/25th) you take over a team which has won promotion to the National League North/South.

This is a really tough challenge but a really fun one for those that like to build up a team.

The easiest way to find out those clubs which have been promoted is to click on the Globe Icon on the top toolbar in-game.

 
 

From there select Nations and England from the drop-down

 
 

Then on the left hand side select “Season Summary”

 
 

Once in here scroll down to below the National League North/South and it will tell you the teams who have been promoted.

 
 

Now this challenge is based on England but there is no reason why you can’t do this in any nation you wish. The more obscure the nation the tougher it will be to win the Champions League!

I hope you enjoyed the read. I really really enjoy challenges in FM although I know not everyone feels the same as me. This is why FM is such a brilliant game, we all play in so many different way.

So have any of you played any of the challenges above? How did it go? Has anyone completed any of them?

I’d love to hear how you have done.

Thanks for reading

Steve















The 4-4-2 Diaries - Squad Building

INTRODUCTION

In my last blog for WSFM, I documented my approach to conducting an end of season review where we outlined a strategy regarding the existing squad in terms of who to sell, re-sign or redevelop. The continuation of this is obviously reshaping the squad for next season by bringing in new players. I start by identifying what tactical approach we might use based on the players we are planning to keep and then identify transfer targets for the upcoming window to fill the squad gaps.

 
 

The End of Season Review for Sunderland produced a pretty clear result: rebuild. I had taken over just before the January window and already did the heavy lifting by dumping players with huge contracts that didn’t fit our preferred formation, style, or were simply crap. This left me with a small squad of players to get me through the rest of the year. The review process identified 8-10 players who’ll we planned on keeping so we now need to define an approach to rebuilding the squad for next season.

SQUAD GOALS

Based on the info from the review I defined some objectives in order to focus our efforts in the transfer window:

  • Tactical thoughts: Switch to a counter-attacking system. Solid in the centre of the pitch and more creative from wide positions.

  • No more Jack Rodwell’s. All contracts must be reasonable for a championship level club and within a set framework based on salary limits depending on the players’ squad status.

  • Squad limits: 2 players per position + 2 x Utility slots.

  • Each position either has a Key Player and a Backup or two First Team/Rotation level players.

  • Look for physical and technical type of players.

  • Use a DoF model. Identify transfer targets and then hand things over to the DoF to negotiate transfers in the first instance. DoF to handle transfers for Under 23s.

  • Develop a Younger Core.  First Team signings should be under 27.

THE PROCESS

  • Move all players that are not in our plans for next season to the Under 23’s and transfer list or set to release those players whose contracts won’t be renewed.

  • Review any unsolicited bids for players. We accepted bids for Max Power and Bali Mumba as both were expendable and the latter had his release clause met so the board signed off.

  • Build a preliminary tactic based on our goals defined above. Put existing players into their appropriate positions.

  • Review/Change Development Training for all first-team players to refine their role training and/or acquire new PPMs.

  • Setup my squad spreadsheet with our existing playing squad less any expected to be sold. I put an indicator next to each player to define if a player is a (1) Key Player, (1A or 1B) First Team/Rotation player, or (2) Rotation/Backup. Note:  I can only have a 1+2 or a 1A+1B combo for each position to control our spend.

 
 
  • Review existing watchlist. Remove any players that don’t fit our system or needs. Set wanted players from watchlist as Transfer Targets for the DoF to start negotiations.

  • Attend matches for any Targets still playing. If playing in England our season is usually over before European leagues so potential target may still be playing. Some of you may already be familiar with the @OfficiallyTeach pursuit already which includes announcing your intention to sign the player to the media.

  • Get DoF transfer suggestions for all positions needed and request scouting reports for any of interest.

  • When adding a player as a transfer target I select the desired squad status so the DoF can negotiate within those salary limits.

  • Let the DoF do his job. If he fails to negotiate a transfer, I usually let him take a second crack at agreeing to terms or step in myself.  On failed deals, there may be something funky going on with FM functionality or possibly demands from the player not necessarily in the club’s best interest to accept.

  • Review Transfer/Loan listed players.

  • My first preference is to bring in players on trial wherever possible before signing.  I will book extra friendlies to do so if needed or play them in the Under 23s and watch highlights.

  • When watching matches I select/highlight the player I’m most interested in assessing so I can track their movement both with and without the ball. Here, I’m watching Vlahovic track back:

 
 


IDENTIFYING TARGETS

There are countless ways to identify players to sign in FM. My personal strategy will depend on the funds available and the objectives I have set for myself with the save (e.g. youth dev, pure journeyman).  On my current save, given the financial constraints at Sunderland, we need to be creative rather than just giving the DoF a shopping list that would command massive transfer fees. We’re a sell-to-buy club at this point but I’m still able to use different methods to find players:

The Talisman - find that quality player that takes the squad to a new level.  There are plenty of disgruntled big-name players who you can snag on loan for a portion of their wages even if you can’t afford the transfer fee.

We came close but ultimately failed to land both Martin Odegaard and Mishi Batshuyi. We made some good signings but haven’t yet found that special player who can transform this team. I will save some budget for January and keep my eye out in the interim.

The Prodigal Son - few football narratives are as powerful as the return of a prodigal son.  

In January 2019 Josh Maja was sold to Bordeaux after refusing to sign a new deal with Sunderland. I’m hoping for a do-over. He’s here on loan for the season but we’ve got an option to buy him outright for £2M if all goes well.


The Prodigy - we all know those young players waiting for that opportunity to get in a load of games and let their talent blossom rather than stagnate on the bench at another club.  

We brought in Xadas from Braga for £875K and young Italian prodigy Luca Vido on a free transfer. The latter has been at Cagliari, Atalanta, Perugia and Milan but hasn’t settled yet despite his obvious talent.

The One You’ve Always Fancied - there’s usually a player or seven out there that you’ve never had the chance to manage and when the opportunity arises, you should...

Josh Vela from Bolton might seem like a bit of a random choice, but I’ve always liked the way he seems to dictate play from midfield. Misic from Sporting Lisbon was our first choice but we passed on him due to wage demands

The Does What It Says On The Tin  - we all have spots to fill on the team sheet and would love to have world beaters in every position but sometimes your wage budget dictates getting someone who is simply good enough to do a job at the level you’re at.

Callum O’Dowda will do a job on the left flank. He has a bit of a trick about him and will be industrious, so he’s a bit of a regular in my Championship saves.

The If In Doubt, Raid Benfica - we all know what a treasure trove Portuguese clubs can be and Benfica is the pick of the bunch. There is so much talent in the ranks of that club it’s not hard to find a stellar talent on the cheap for your squad.

Alex Pinto is our new starting right back and based on his first performances for us, I think I’m in love.

The DoF Suggestion - don’t sleep on suggestions from your DoF. I’ve found plenty of gems this way.

Claudio Reyna put me on to Yanna Regasel (backup right back) from Dusseldorf, Sabiri from Huddersfield (left inverted winger) and Gian Felicoli (starting left back) from Milan. All were signed on free transfers.

The One For the Future - Our Academy of Light kids are our first priority but we augment our Under 23’s by adding young players released from clubs with excellent acadamies.

We picked up Clarke-Salter from Chelsea and Reyna has been raiding Southampton for our Under 23’s.

The Phil Neville - players with good all-around technical and mental attributes that can pinch hit in multiple positions can prove invaluable. I don’t need them to be outstanding. I just want someone to do a job at full-back or in midfield from time to time.

We picked up Marcus McGuane who was sitting in Barca’s reserves for the past couple of years. He’s able to put in a shift in eight different positions in either midfield or defensive. He may never play more than a game to two for us, but he looked decent in friendlies and gives us a lot of value for money in terms of cover.

So at the close of the window, I think we’ve done some decent business with £12.5M in sales and only spending just under £4M. I am still pursuing a couple of free agents as I think we can get them on cheaper wages than their initial demands during the window, but overall I’m happy with the business we’ve done.  We’re nearly £100k under the wage budget and still have £2.4M in transfer budget remaining.

 
 

Here’s the completed spreadsheet:

 
 

Compared to the rest of the division we are way under our biggest rivals but I’m aiming for playoffs and/or promotion this season:

So between the End of Season Review and the above squad building approach that about does it for my approach to getting things ready for the new season. The situation with Sunderland is way more chaotic than my usual approach but it’s a rebuilding situation.  I’m keen to crack on with some games and stop blogging so I’ll leave it there.

Sparky, Out!











#WeStreamFM News 04/04/2019

A mental March rolls in to an awesome April & we’ve been crazy busy at WSFM Towers working on ways to bring you even more Football Manager content.

Today we’re delighted to announce the following:

WSFM co-founder @FMDoop has today been confirmed as a Twitch Partnered Streamer. Doop’s commitment to Football Manager streaming & Twitch is second to none and we are delighted that his hard work has finally paid off with Twitch recognising his efforts in the Football Manager category.

 
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@BigHerbTheNerd joins the WSFM team - you may know Herb from the Collab Crew or more recently as a finalist of the Football Manager Creators Cup. Herb has long been admired by the FM community for his epic beard content creation! Welcome to the team Herb.


 
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The Master of Disaster, Proudie, joins the WeStreamFM team on a long awaited free transfer. Proudie’s a big name in the Football Manager community & is commonly known for getting sacked live on stream, saying something stupid or being told off for eating in his room (niche reference).


 
Proudie Welcome.gif
 

The last of the announcements was the news of a new network save between Teach, Doop, Dave & Joe which will be live on Twitch most evenings. The guys will be taking charge of Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal & Chelsea respectively. If you’re a fan of the 5 Star Podcast & enjoy the network save banter between Teach & Doop or Dave & Joe, well this is going to be twice as good!

 
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4-4-2 Diaries - Broad Strokes

Written by Simon Kean

Thanks to the #WeStreamFM crew for the offer to provide some blog content for the site. I’ve been a regular in many of their streams and listen to the podcast while I’m in the shower.

Background: This blog post is an addendum to my 4-4-2 Diaries series from on my own site. My “Angel of the Norf” save has the objective of starting in non-league football with two goals:  taking a team from the North East of England into Europe (as per Robson’s Newcastle or Schteeve’s Middlesbrough) and to do so playing a different variation on a 4-4-2 every season. I started two and half seasons ago with Gateshead and won back-to-back promotions before I recently took over mid-season at Sunderland in the bottom half of in the Championship.

 
 

Fantastic Tactics and How to Build One

There’s a lot of content out there regarding building tactics. I’ve read and re-read Cleon’s writings on tactics many times over along with FridayNightFM, Strikerless, Dictate The Game and others that have influenced my own efforts in tactical development. I’ve absorbed content regarding recreating real-world systems or implementing a specific style of football and these are scenarios when you have a preconceived idea about a style you want to play. But what about if you’re not in that situation and don’t have a preconceived tactical concept? I often go into situations such as taking over a struggling club mid-season with no real knowledge about the squad, so I there’s no sense in forcing a style on a team that they may not be up to playing. I’m a fan of Ancelotti who is probably the most pragmatic big name manager out there. He takes over a gig and simply works with the squad he has to find the right tactical fit.

When taking over a struggling club, I’ve usually got a chairman that is expecting results to turn around right away and Sunderland is no exception. This bloke wants us to make the playoffs! In circumstances like this the biggest problem you have is time. You’re not in the pre-season with the luxury of being able to experiment and develop a tactical approach over a number of games and you need results now. You’re essentially starting with a clean slate but need to work something out quickly...so that’s what I’ll do.

I try to get FM to reflect real-world football as much as possible and seek inspiration from my football knowledge and experiences to influence how I play the game. For the situation with Sunderland, I’ve looked at a number of managers who specialise in taking over struggling teams and turning things around. Most adopt a common sense approach that focuses on two things: (1) sorting out the defence, and (2) playing a simple system with players in their best positions that work well together. “Well done Captain Obvious” some may say but in the FM community, I often see folks trying to brute force a complex tactical system on their squad expecting immediate results.If things don’t work out they compound the problem by making changes every five minutes and wonder why they’re losing matches. The poor old players usually end up getting the blame. I’m as guilty as anyone else of building a tactic with loads of instructions based on what I think will happen before we’ve kicked a ball. But here’s the thing: you can win matches on FM without using any instructions at all.  

Mackem My Mind Up

With Sunderland, I wanted to really dumb things down and implement a top-down tactical approach by identifying the squad’s strengths and weakness via gameplay and have that dictate what tactical system we develop. Having just joined the club I don’t know all that much about these players. I also took over without any backroom staff so any Team Reports or other information on tactical suggestions is probably garbage and not worth looking at. In this situation, I’m going to build a tactic based on only what I actually see happen in the match engine (….I know, crazy man). I may use a couple of analysis tools to check our passing stats and positioning but our tactical changes will be reactive based on what I see, and not what I think should happen.

For the first game I will purely focus on roles and mentality and play without any instructions. I’ll make notes throughout the match, and limit myself to changing player roles, making subs and adjusting our mentality. Every every decision needs to be validated by visual confirmation in the match engine.  Given we need results quickly I need to be decisive but I’m only looking at things in terms of broad strokes right now.

Building the team sheet takes patience and critical thinking. I’m sticking with the principles I spoke about earlier: keep it simple and put our best (available) players in roles that suit them. I then tweaked some roles to ensure they complemented each other on a relational basis as I want a balance of conservative roles and movement between the lines to cope with sides that play three in central midfield against our 4-4-2. When building the lineup I noticed that our creative and attacking players are on the left side of the pitch so I balanced this out with more conservative roles on the right side along with a CM-D in the left CM slot to provide that side with some defensive cover.  Here is the team sheet and I’ve included some markups to indicate the movement I’d like to see (which needs to be validated by the match engine):

 
 

Match Validation

I documented both the what and why behind tactical changes during two consecutive matches where I developed the basic structure of the tactical system I’m going to use at Sunderland. This includes some things I got wrong and how I tried to rectify the problems. Just to make things even more challenging both matches were against teams in the top 3 of the Championship. Brentford managed by Bielsa and Birmingham were strong favourites against us. I watched at least a half of each match in Full Game mode with the remaining time on Comprehensive Highlights.

Match One Notes:

  • Brentford line up in a 4-2-3-1 DM formation.

  • I start out with a Cautious Mentality as we aren’t favourites to win and I’m prioritising defensive solidity.

  • 3rd minute: 1-0 Sunderland. A long ball over the top from El Yamiq (CD) to Nketiah (AF) finds him in behind the Brentford defence after a lovely inside channel run and he fires home.

  • 6th minute: we concede a cheap penalty from a set piece from a corner but luckily our keeper saves it.

  • 14th minute: 1-1. I just got totally FM’ed. Honeyman scores a bizarre own goal when attempting to clear the ball.

  • 29th minute: El Yamiq (CD) fails to clear a long ball and heads it into the path of Brentford’s #10 who smashes it into the top corner. It’s 2-1 to Brentford.

  • 35th minute: Tactical change - Mentality to Balanced to try and ease the pressure on our defenders and create more some chances of our own.

  • 37th minute: 2-2. Game on! Nketiah makes another lovely run into the outside right channel and Honeyman finds him with a perfectly weighted thru ball from the middle of the park. Nketiah crosses to Boateng who is waiting on the edge of the area. He pivots and smashes it home.

  • Half Time Analysis: our front two have bossed this game and barring a couple of defensive errors, we’d be in total control of the game. The Mentality change totally transformed our play.

  • 66th Minute: Adomah! Maguire breaks down the left and fires in a cross to the back post where our right winger is there to head it home! It’s now 3-2 Sunderland. While I’m tempted to drop our mentality to Cautious and go into preservation mode, I decide to leave things along.

  • 78th Minute: the defensive positioning from our two banks of four is like a double brick wall and Brentford cannot break us down. What does Bielsa have up his sleeve (or in his bucket) for us? He switches to a 5-3-2.

  • 87th Minute: Tactical Change - Mentality down to Defensive Mentality to close the game out. Our blokes are dead on their feet but we keep the ball beautifully and kill the clock. We go on to take all 3 points in a terrific encounter.

Post-Match Notes: I think we proved we can be successful just with a balanced lineup and the right mentality. I still think we can improve things, but the once we moved to a Balanced Mentality the pressure was off our defenders and our passing improved. While our defensive shape was good, I think adding Tighter Marking would help along with Hold Shape as our counter-attacking efforts were pretty shite and I don’t think that’s our strength. I’d rather just keep the ball and start our build up again. I’d also like to get our goalkeeper to distribute to centre-backs as he simply lumps it upfield otherwise and we lose possession. Play out of Defence and Shorter Passing would probably help us retain the ball a bit better as well.

With one match under our belt, I’m starting to form an idea towards building a tactical philosophy that fits this team based on what I’ve seen so far. I’m inclined to harken back to Serie A’s glory days and move us towards a slow, short passing, possession style of football that also denies space to our opponents. We don’t look like we have the pace to be a pressing or long ball side and I don’t trust that we can handle the pressure of playing a low block. What we do have is a couple of blokes in the squad who can drop into the hole and hold the ball up and I’d like to see if we can pass into their feet and let them bring others into play. Our off the ball movement was terrific at times today so I’m keen to see more of that. Today’s game met my objective of starting to put the picture together with broad strokes.

Match Two

With only 3 days in between matches, we needed to rotate a couple of players due to minor injuries and fatigue. I also changed a few roles mostly in midfield based on my notes from game one as I wanted a bit more structure and solidity in our shape possibly at the expense of some creativity but I’ll let the match engine tell me if that’s the case in game two. I also added the instructions I mentioned in my analysis from the last game so our tactic for this game now looks like this:

 
 

Match Two Notes:

  • Birmingham lineup in a 4-4-2

  • 24th Minute: Tactical Change - Wyke role change from DLF to TM(s). He’s moving into channels but I want him in the centre of the pitch to provide us with a focal point when we move forward rather than lateral movement (which Nketiah provides).

  • 28th Minute: the above change has improved our shape and Wyke validates the role change with some gorgeous link-up play with Nketiah who forces the keeper into a great save.

  • 38th Minute: 1-0 Sunderland. Cracking direct free kick from Douglas.

  • Half Time Analysis: we’re a goal to the good and deserve to be.  We’re dominating possession with over 60% of the ball and have made the better chances. I’m pleased and don’t feel it necessary to make any half time changes.

  • 60th Minute: Substitutions - Honeyman for Maguire (IW) and Adomah (W instead of WM) comes on for Leadbitter. McGeouch moves into the DLP role and Mumba to the CM-D spot.

  • 67th Minute: Goal for Nketiah! It’s 2-0 Sunderland. Wyke comes deep again to receive the ball into feet. He turns and plays in his strike partner who runs across his defender into the inside-right channel. He fires across his body with a marvellous finish!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xtt5Tabi98o

  • 88th Minute: Tactical Change - Mentality to Defensive to close the game out and we do exactly that. It’s a pretty darn near perfect 2-0 victory against a tough opponent. Well done lads!

Post Match Notes: the match engine validated the instructions we added after the first game so I don’t feel compelled to change anything. Shifting Wyke from DLF to his more natural Target Man role was a bit of a masterstroke and we played the ball into his feet beautifully (it’s not just a role for hoof ball) and his back to goal capabilities really showed. I’m pleased with these two victories over tough opponents and in the course of these matches I think I’ve quickly found a tactical philosophy that should bring us some success. As the season progresses I may add (or even subtract) instructions to refine our approach but I’m confident were on the right track.

Summary

The above approach is something I’ve in the past on other saves and not just in situations where I’m taking over a team. Sometimes my tactics simply aren’t working and I need to turn things around so wipe the slate clean and start again. I think you can get good results with some ordinary players if you make the effort to put the right combination of players in roles that complement their attributes, traits and other players around them in a logical formation. It sounds really simple but I think there’s a bit of an art to it. I’ll see how the rest of the season progresses and may follow up if there’s much tactical evolution worth blogging about.

Sparky, out!












The Noisy Neighbour

Written by FMCatenaccio

When we think of Madrid, we often look at the likes of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, two Spanish giants, who often battle it out between them with the likes of Barcelona for the Spanish La Liga title. Without research we would probably never know that in the small neighbourhood of Vallecas sits a football club best known as Rayo Vallecano. Having only won a small number of trophies throughout its history, and being some what of a yo-yo club that would often get promoted and relegated to and from La Liga year after year I felt it was time to make a mark in Spanish history.  

When searching for a club to manage on Football manager I need to feel the love, the passion and the excitement, the only way I get so into a save is by really knowing the story of the club. It didn’t take long for me to get excited about Rayo, a few minutes of searching on google and YouTube and I was drawn in immediately, the Working class feel, the rough touches of the stadium and the passion from the fans was enough to make me like them.  

 
 

After a while of searching for a club to manage I came across an interesting video on YouTube about Rayo which really took my interest, the Rayo Vallecano Ultras best known as the “Bukaneros” were loud, passionate and loves a demonstration against the Spanish Football Federation. You can often hear them walking the streets before games protesting and voicing their concerns, and it doesn’t stop once they enter the stadium.

 
 

Back in 2013 they staged a mock funeral for “the soul of football” during their 3-0 lose to Valladolid. This is one of many protests the ultras have organised throughout its history. See article for more information regarding this.  

https://www.the42.ie/real-vallecano-fans-mock-funeral-soul-of-football-1149360-Oct2013/ 

If you are like me and you enjoy really digging into a club’s soul before taking the challenge then you will love Rayo, having already touched upon the ultras I highly recommend watching this YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYHi8PudfTE 

Now, I’m not claiming to know the club that well, nor do I know the club’s history but I do know they have been fantastic to manage on Football Manager. They start in La Liga tipped to struggle, minimal finances to work with, a small stadium to fill, facilities aren’t great and the standard of players is pretty average, but don’t let all this put you off the challenge. 

This is what I like to look at when searching for my next club, the small details play a huge role when I’m deciding who I want to manage, everything from what the stadium looks like to what the kit design is. 

The Challenge

I’ve briefly touched upon this above but I will go over it in more detail: 

I was looking for a team that could offer me a challenge on and off the field, I wanted to build a club not a team. Everything from the facilities to the staff needed a huge revamp but doing so on a financial budget smaller than most English league 1 teams was going to be difficult but that’s exactly what I was going for, a long term save where I built the clubs foundations from scratch and make them into a Spanish giant while pissing on my rivals Real Madrid. 

I started the with setting myself targets that I wanted to accomplish each year, this kept me focused, motivated and organised during the heavy seasons of struggle. 

Some of the short-term targets that I would set myself are; 

  • Manage Staff (Focus on scouts) 

  • Set up monthly training schedules 

  • Clear deadwood from both first team and B team 

Long Term Focus

  • Compete with the rivals (Real and Atletico Madrid) 

  • Qualify for Europa League & Champions league 

  • Improve all facilities starting with training and youth 

  • Youth players

Working with a very limited budget while trying to achieve those longer term targets meant that I needed to take recruitment very serious, I couldn’t afford to spend money on players that I weren’t 100% sure about, It was important that I had the right people scouting for me. 

I decided early on that I was going to take an interest in youth and wanted to build a team with as many top quality youth players as possible, this meant that I needed to hunt them down first. At the beginning I only had 5 scouts, so I decided to send them to countries where the talent pool is good but they are very undervalued, such as Serbia, Romania and Poland, when comparing the price tags to the major hitters in Europe and South America these three are considerably less so it made sense to focus on the “Less Valued” countries. 

The Stadium

When I first saw the Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas I fell in love, it had a “hipster” vibe with both goal ends being very different to one another. One end we overlook the city of Madrid and on a sunny day it’s a brilliant view.  

While the other side has a slightly more “Ultra” feel about it, being a wall with two blocks of flats overlooking the ground. This was actually the side that I loved, there is nothing beautiful about it, but that’s what I liked, it’s not glamorous and very rarely do you see selfie sticks like you would at Santiago Bernabéu but that’s what they thrive on, it’s a real working-class community and the supports of Rayo only have one love in their lives. 

 
 

This is no tourist attraction, it’s a football club for the fans and in my case for Football Manager. 

Financial Struggles

When starting off as Rayo manager you will not be to impressed with the budget in place, in fact it may scare you a little when you see clubs around you spending big but don’t let this put you off, in fact over recent years the TV money has certainly improved for the likes of Rayo and other such small clubs in Spain so you may be broke  early on but within a season expect to receive a nice sum and of course the more success you bring the more money you earn! 

Read more about the Spanish TV deal: 

https://www.soccerex.com/insight/articles/2018/laliga-s-new-tv-rights-distribution-model-a-level-playing-field 

 
 

However, its not all bad news, you do have a few gems sitting around the club that can certainly help you both on and off the pitch.

The Players

De Tomas is one of the leading stars at Rayo who showed great quality over the course of an impressive 4 seasons (managed to renew his loan each year) Only having to pay 18k a week for a Real Madrid striker isn’t a bad deal.

 
 

The second player is Velazques, a solid CB who enjoys the ball at his feet (to a certain degree) He was my best defender by a mile and also has a good value hanging over him if you were in need of some cash. 

 
 

Now there isn’t bags of talent at Rayo but they do have Santi, a very good-looking young man with piercing blue eyes, and bang average attributes for a La Liga player but he does put a shift in, and although the attributes are pretty standard, he knows how to score a long! Someone with potential to grow and also has a decent value hanging over his head. 

 
 

Remember you don’t have a lot of money, so make sure you really plan your recruitment, there are plenty of players available to recruit for small fees, make the most of it. 

Media Prediction

I can’t butter this up no matter what I say, the media think your down. 

I personally think this is bullshit, comparing Rayo’s team to some of the teams above you I really do think you can easily stay up, make sure you come prepared, have a style of play that you wish to implement and get into that loan market! I started my first season with 14 quality loan deals. 

Summary  

I hope you enjoyed reading this brief article on Rayo Vallecano and I hope it inspires you to take on the challenge yourself. It’s a brilliant club to manage and if you’re like me who likes to build a story around your save, you will love it.

——-

If you want to read more of FMCatenaccio’s work head over to his blog.













To DMC or not to DMC? That is the question.

Written by @MaddFM

🎵 Suggested tune: "It's like That - Run DMC ft Jason Nevins" (1997)

 
 

Anchor Man; Holding Midfielder; Destroyer; Half Back; Ball Winning Midfielder; Brick Shithouse; Volante de Marca, Trinco, Volante de Concención - there have been many different names and types of Defensive Midfielder applied over the past 100 years in the football universe, and although at times it hasn't suited every strategy, it is clear that some of the most successful teams in history have reaped the benefits of deploying a more defensive minded player in the middle of the park, not only providing cover at the back but also enabling and empowering more creative or attack-minded players to thrive with the resulting freedom and support that the role continues to offer at the highest levels of world football. 

They aren't pretty; they don't score, they rarely get assists, your kid probably wouldn't ask for their name on the back of a shirt; but yet - when executed effectively, a top Defensive Midfielder or Anchor Man can completely change and influence a game, and can be the difference between success and failure, between victory and defeat, between one point and three, and in the case of a few notable icons of the role in recent history - almost the difference between life and death as was the case when Roy met Alf a few years back. 

But what is it that makes this role so pivotal in the beautiful game? (both in real life and of course in the Football Manager world). In this article, we will delve in to some of the most influential and effective DMC's that have ever graced the turf and in turn analyse the attributes that are crucial in order to successfully utilise the Defensive Midfielder role in Football Manager. We will look at some of the top DMC’s and prospects within FM19 and how they compare to previous legends of the game, as well as conduct a few FM experiments to explore the various roles a DMC has to offer, and in turn formulate what we would call the "perfect" Defensive Midfielder. I write this not as an expert or someone who has mastered using a DMC (although I have always found it to be highly effective in the FM world), but as a big admirer and advocate of the role and the impact it can have when embarking on a new save adventure. 

DMC: Origins🔎 

I have read a lot about the history of the Defensive Midfielder (some great reference articles and literature at the bottom of this post), and how it kicked off all the way back at the turn of the 20th century where it was evidently developed in Italian football and subsequently adopted by some of the stronger South American international teams for success on the global stage.  

Without going in to too much history or detail, it is argued that the first real adaptation or implementation of a defensive midfielder or half back was put forward by Vittorio Pozzo who coached the Italy national team in the 1920's & 30’s. Largely influenced by his time studying in Manchester and the emergence of the "W-M" tactic implemented by the great Herbert Chapman of Arsenal legend, Pozzo's "Metodo" system is credited as being the first to really utilise a "Centromediano” or “Centrosostegno" (Centre Half Back), which placed an additional defensive player ahead of two more static full backs therefore giving his team more superiority in the middle of the park and allowing wide players to get forward when in possession or attacking with the ball.  

 

The "Metodo" - Italian and English versions (courtesy of Wikipedia)

 

This strategy was also utilised by the then most dominant International team of the era who won the first ever World Cup using this system - the Uruguay national team, who's defensive strength allowed them to win back to back Gold Medals in the 1924 and 1928 Olympic Games before taking home the first World Cup trophy in 1930 beating rivals Argentina in a 4-2 thriller played in front of 93,000 fans. An interesting piece of football trivia legend also occurred in this game, whereby a dispute over the match ball led to FIFA ruling that the Argentinians could choose their own ball for the first half (wherein they were 2-1 up at half time) before switching to the Uruguayan's ball for the second half where the Uruguayans proved too powerful winning the game 4-2 overall, and were presented with the World Cup trophy by a gentleman by the name of Jules Rimet. Let's just pause for a moment to appreciate the tools that these teams had at their disposal with which to ply their trade at the time: 

 

Argentina ball (left); regulation boots; Uruguay ball (right)

 

How Football Manager sees a DMC

As mentioned earlier, Football Manager offers a number of options when deploying a Defensive Midfielder, breaking it down in to different roles depending on the strategy, tactic and individual player being utilised. Below is a summary of FM's view on the different types of DMC available (focusing on the more defensive roles rather than playmaking etc): 

 
 

Notable DMC's 📰 

The Defensive Midfielder role became more prominent in English football in later decades, primarily in the 1960's with the emergence of the "Destroyer" ball winning midfielder through the likes of Nobby Stiles and Billy Bremner who still to this day are renowned not only for their tough tackling "hard man" approach but also the value they each contributed to their title winning teams by nullifying the opposition's attacking threats and enabling more technical and creative players to advance higher up the field and dictate the game. Bremner was instrumental in Leeds' spell of dominance whereby he captained the side to the First Division, FA Cup, League Cup and final of the European Cup in 1975, and Leeds took full advantage of his aggression and tackling ability in deploying him in a more defensive role alongside Johnny Giles. Stiles on the other hand, was a more composed and tenacious ball winning midfielder which allowed more skilled players such as Bobby Charlton and George Best to take full advantage and avail of the attacking freedom they were given as a result of Stiles positioning between the defence and midfield - it was this defensive awareness and ability to take players out of the game that was crucial in England's World Cup win in 1966 where Stiles played in every match and most notably marked the famous Eusebio out of the game in the Semi-Final versus Portugal. 

 

Stiles and Bremner - "tackling tenacity"

 
 

Nobby Stiles FM Profile courtesy of Top Notch FM's WC Legends DB

 

Evolution 🌍 

As football progressed and skill/technique became more prevalent and essential in the game, the DMC role also began evolve - not necessarily losing the "hard man" approach, but more so adding an enhanced level of footballing grace and prowess to the role whereby the Half Back or Ball Winning Midfielder evolved towards a more Defensive Midfielder / Ball Carrier type of player who was not only responsible for winning the ball and breaking down play, but also participating in and often initiating the subsequent counter attack that resulted from dispossessing the opposition. During the late 80's and early 90's and the re-emergence of a number of powerhouse clubs from mainland Europe, teams such as Ajax, A.C. Milan and Bayern Munich thrived on the implementation of a deep lying defensive / holding midfielder. Frank Rijkaard epitomised this role for both Ajax and Milan, whereby he was effectively converted from Centre Half to one of the best Defensive Midfielders of his generation wherein he won Euro 88 with Holland, three European Cups, 6 domestic league titles and amassed 73 international caps across two World Cups and two European Championships. 

 

Frank Rijkaard FM18 Profile courtesy of @jadog9495 on Steam

 

Similarly, Lothar Matthaus also frequently made this transition from Sweeper to Holding Midfielder for both club and country, and is regarded as one of the greatest defensive players of all time with two records to his name; ( i ) playing in the most World Cup Finals matches ever (25), and (ii) being the most capped German International of all time. His ability to move between the roles of Sweeper and Holding Midfielder were instrumental in Germany's 1990 World Cup victory and allowed him to continue playing at the highest level for almost 20 years. Even at 35 the guy was still a monster DM. 

Lothar Matthaus CM2 Profile courtesy of @cm9798

A relatively dry spell on the International stage for Brazil (having not won a World Cup since the iconic team of 1970) finally came to an end in World Cup 1994 in the USA, and it was here that Brazil displayed a resilient steel and spine to their squad that had been missing for many years - largely led by their Captain and Anchor Man Dunga, who alongside Mauro Silva served as the defensive backbone of the side which enabled them to neutralise their opponents attacking threat and in turn advance on their opponents through the likes of Romario and Bebeto. Dunga's leadership, composure, anticipation and tendency not to dive into tackles made him an extremely effective DMC for Brazil and earned him 91 caps for his country. 

Dunga CM2 Profile courtesy of @cm9798

It was also around this time that a young tenacious Irish midfielder was making a name for himself at Manchester United after completing a then British record transfer fee of £3.75m from Nottingham Forest, and clearly stating his intent on competing with and ultimately replacing Bryan Robson and Paul Ince in the heart of the Red Devils midfield. Roy Keane was instantly recognizable for his aggression and fearlessness in the tackle - usually preferring to go to ground as opposed to Dunga's timed anticipated approach. This, combined with his ability to read the game and his quick pass & move approach, gave a new meaning and value to the role of a DMC for Man Utd and the Republic of Ireland for whom he earned 67 International caps and eventually captained for most of his international career (let’s not mention Saipan). While his temperament was (and still is) questionable at times, there is no denying that Keane's role as a combative Ball Winning Midfielder was instrumental during Man Utd's spell of dominance throughout the 1990's and early 2000's - again, in the same regard as Rijkaard and Matthaus, this allowed more creative players such as ScholesInceSharpeBeckham and Giggs to play much further up the field as well as giving full backs Gary Neville and Denis Irwin the freedom to push on when attacking knowing that Keane would be there to support and cover on the break. He was immense in this role for more than 10 years for both club and country and is often hailed as one of the best defensive midfielders of all time – not bad for a small lad from Cork in the South of Ireland. 

Roy Keane CM97/98 profile

We mentioned how the evolved DMC moved away from that of Hard Man Destroyer / Half Back towards a more influential and rounded Deep Lying DM responsible for both winning back the ball as well as initiating repossession and subsequent counter attacking football, and few were better at this than French World Cup winning Captain Didier Deschamps who excelled in this role for both Juventus and France during a time in which both teams were dominating at both domestic and international level. While Eric Cantona mockingly referred to Deschamps as a "water carrier" for the team (i.e. there to provide the ball to more talented players), the reality was that Deschamps’ high work rate, vision, intelligence and leadership made him less like a water carrier and more like a quarter back for both club and country whereby he dictated the game and the pace of play with ease. He led his country to back-to-back victories at World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000, winning over 100 international caps and becoming only the second Captain since Franz Beckenbauer to lift the World Cup, European Championship and Champions League trophies. 

Deschamps CM97/98 profile

Leadership

It's interesting to note that the five legends mentioned above all went on to become Football Managers after retiring from playing the beautiful game, and experienced varying levels of managerial success at both domestic and international level. Rijkaard was instrumental in kicking off what would become two decades of Barcelona dominance, and guided the club to two La Liga titles and one Champions League between 2003 and 2008; Deschamps as we know has already led France to World Cup glory in 2018 after finishing as runners-up at Euro 2016 not to mention leading Marseille to their first League 1 title in 18 years prior to that. It is clear that not only is the Defensive Midfielder strong in the tackle and skilled at reading the game and breaking down the opposition - these players generally also possess excellent leadership qualities and are highly influential in the dressing room, which naturally is the catalyst for these players to progress in to management at the end of their careers. While perhaps not as highly regarded as some of their peers during their time as players, Defensive Midfielders such as Pep GuardiolaDiego SimeoneAntonio Conte and Ruud Gullit all went on to manage at the highest levels and this is a clear indication that leadership, communication and influence are also key attributes of an effective DMC. 

 

From bossing the midfield to bossing the dugout

 

Reading the Game  

The turn of the 21st Century saw a continued utilisation and successful implementation of the Defensive Midfielder, whereby a number of teams reaped the reward of intelligent ball winning midfielders that possessed exceptional positioning and anticipation, and almost controlled games single handedly due to their ability to anticipate their opponents next move and ability to cover huge amounts of ground during the course of play. Widely regarded as the best Defensive Midfielder of the last 20 years, Claude Makélélé almost redefined the DMC role or was at least responsible for reigniting its importance and powerful impact when he joined the Roman Abramovic revolution at Chelsea following a £16m move from Real Madrid - so much so that it has since been branded "The Makélélé role", which is largely based on a DMC with a powerful engine who breaks down play through exceptional positioning, winning the ball and playing simple passes to then build up his own team’s return attack. Claudio Ranieri hailed Makélélé as the "battery" of the team, and similar to some of the players mentioned above - his strength and defensive reliability allowed creative players such as Frank LampardJoe ColeDamien Duff and and Arjen Robben to shine during Chelsea's title winning season in 2004/2005. 

 

"The Makélélé Role" (profile courtesy of @MadScientistFM's 03/04 DB)

 

Gennaro Gattuso was also an example of a hard-working intelligent player whose ability to read the game and strength in the tackle more than compensated for what he might have lacked in terms of touch and technique. Similar to the Makélélé <-> Lampard partnership, Gattuso's position as a tenacious Ball Winning Midfielder granted much creative freedom for his midfield partner Andrea Pirlo, and the duo were central to Milan's success during the early 2000's where they won two Champions League finals and two Serie A titles - a partnership which was also replicated at International level in 2006 as the pair guided Italy to their first World Cup win in 24 years. 

 

"Ringhio " - The Snarl (profile courtesy of @MadScientistFM's 03/04 DB)

 

Modern Day & Covering More Ground 

It's safe to say that the majority of the players above were all masters of the DMC role, largely based on their ability to read the game, break down the opposition play and most importantly win the ball for their respective teams. Nowadays, with the increased speed and physicality of the game combined with the more modern and perhaps international influence on present day football, players who traditionally would have occupied the Defensive Midfield role are now expected to cover far more ground and perhaps are evolving to a more Box to Box midfielder approach as teams push higher and higher up the field. Patrick Vieira's style probably best reflects this - initially signed as a Defensive Midfielder thus allowing the likes of PetitPlattLjungberg and Pires to get further forward, Vieira quickly showed that he was equally adept at getting forward as he was in winning the ball, and this made him a formidable opponent in heart of Arsenal's midfield. He was exceptional in the tackle and had the uncanny ability of sending a defence-splitting pass to create a goal immediately after winning the ball from the opposition - this made him an instrumental figure during Arsene Wenger's success at Arsenal, in particular their famous unbeaten title winning side in the 2003/2004 season. 

 

Vieira profile courtesy of @MadScientistFM's 03/04 DB)

 

In the years that followed Patrick Vieira's departure from the Premier League, the role and importance of the evolved Box to Box Defensive Midfielder continued to be illustrated in successes enjoyed by clubs overseas as well. Daniele De Rossi, already a World Cup winner with Italy in 2006, is a perfect example of a combative, hard working DMC who also contributes hugely to Roma's attacking and build up play, again almost playing the quarter back role and shuttling between boxes dictating the pace of the game. Xabi Alonso also embodied the defensive box to box midfielder position consistently at the top level, winning trophies in the English, Spanish and German leagues as well as being part of Spain's back to back World Cup and European Championship teams in 2010 and 2012. More recently, we have also seen Casemiro at Real Madrid undertake this role for club and country, perhaps not with the same defensive tenacity but equally functional and effective in terms of his propensity to contribute both defensively and in attack.  

 

Daniele De Rossi - FM18 Profile

 
 

Xabi Alonso - FM15

 
 
 

However, there is one player that stands above all in this regard who has continually executed the Box to Box Defensive Midfield role, and has arguably contributed the most success to his team as a DMC in recent years....that player is one-club-man Sergio Busquets, who has been the backbone of Barcelona's midfield for more than 10 years and has been one of the least credited driving forces behind their dominance in Spanish and European football over the past decade. Busquets' ability to read the game, his tactical intelligence and positional awareness, as well as his combined tackling and passing ability have made him quite simply one of the best midfielders of his generation, and it is easy to see why he is one of the most decorated footballers in the current game having won the World Cup, European Championship, 3 Champions Leagues and 7 La Liga titles with Barcelona (as well as multiple domestic and world club cups etc). Busquets is the perfect Box to Box DMC and is a clear representation of how the role has evolved as time and football have progressed simultaneously. All together now: what a player. 

 
 

Back to the Future ⌚ 

So what is next for the future of the DMC role? It is arguable that we haven't seen a more influential Central Midfielder embrace the Premier League since the likes of Vieira and Keane (maybe Yaya Touré comes close?), and even now in 2019 a lot of the top clubs do not tend to deploy players regularly in defensive specific midfield roles, but rather demand more from these types of Box to Box midfielders who are expected to contribute to both defensive and attacking phases of play. Recently we have seen impressive results from Manchester City's use of Fernandinho in this role which has added a level of steel to their approach that perhaps they missed in previous years. However, the arrival of N'Golo Kanté at Leicester in 2016 served as a sharp reminder to many managers that the "Makélélé" role is still very much an effective weapon to have in their arsenal; Kanté was relatively unknown before his £5.6m move from Stade Malherbe Caen however Leicester scout Steve Walsh spotted something special in his ability, not least the fact that Kanté recovered the ball more times in the previous season than any other player had done in the whole of Europe. He made an instant impact at Leicester in his first season, and while players such as Vardy and Mahrez stole much of the headlines during their phenomenal title winning campaign, it was Kanté who was the driving force behind their success, playing in 37 games and finishing the season with the most tackles (175) and interceptions (157) in the entire league. This as we know led to a multi-million pound move to Chelsea where he would again win the Premier League as well as winning the Football Writers Player of the Year, and Leicester were never the same without him after his move to Stamford Bridge. Kanté is probably our best current example of the closest thing we can get to the perfect DMC; his tackling, positioning, anticipation, work rate, teamwork, aggression, stamina and determination all make him an exceptional asset to his team.

 
 

So...what's the point? 

What have we learned? Do we know what makes the perfect DMC? Can any of this real life analysis actually be applied in FM? In order to make this transition from real life to Football Manager and to try and give context to what we have discussed above, we need to answer a few questions:  

  1. What are the main attributes to look for in a DMC? 

  2. How can I use this information effectively in FM? 

  3. What does the perfect "DMC" look like? 

  4. Who was the best?! 

To answer these questions, I have conducted a "Moneyball" type analysis below whereby the strongest attributes shared across all of these great players (combined with the key attributes for each role as per FM) have been analysed, and it produces some really interesting and intriguing results which we will use to form the main conclusions from this study and answer the questions above. 

 
 

The DMC Matrix🕶️ 

Q.1. What are the main attributes to look for in a DMC? 

While FM advises of the key attributes for each specific role, we can also identify the strongest attributes based on our control group of DMC legends. If we look at the above data, it tells us that Teamwork (18), Work Rate (17), Anticipation (17) and Determination (17) are the highest scoring attributes within our player pool followed by Tackling (16), Positioning (16), Composure (16), Passing (16) and Stamina (16). This is a really interesting revelation in that traditionally I would have only searched for a DMC focusing on things like Tackling, Aggression, Positioning which aren't even among the top 4 attributes above.  

Q.2.How can I use this information effectively and apply it in FM? 

While we know that Football Manager offers us plenty of options in terms of searching by attributes and also searching for players by refining a search based on a similar player (i.e. the Find Similar Players option) - this obviously only applies to current players within the game, however if you are old fashioned like me and a fellow FM / IRL nostalgia enthusiast, using the above information we now have the option to refine our search based on a specific player from the past and try to replicate this within the FM universe.  

For example - if I know I would love to have a Roy Keane type player in my ranks, based on the above I would focus on finding a player with strong Teamwork, Work Rate, Anticipation, Stamina, Aggression and Determination. However if I am looking for a more graceful player in the same mould as the likes of Didier Deschamps or Xabi Alonso, I would focus more on Positioning, Passing and Concentration as well as on Teamwork and Work Rate etc. Below are some examples of FM19 search results when I have used specific attributes to locate similar players to some of our DMC legends above – interesting results! 

Q.3. What does the perfect "DMC" look like? 

The easy answer to this question would be a DMC that has a rating of 20 across all attributes, however the reality is that an ideal DMC should echo what we have established above and possess really good mental, defensive, technical and physical attributes. To illustrate what the perfect DMC might look like, I have created a fictional DMC to reflect how this would appear in the FM universe (and of course he is Irish and plays for Newcastle ⚫⚪☘️): 

 

The "Perfect" DMC

 

Q.4. Who was the best?! 

Now that is the question!! Of course there are many determining factors when we talk about who the best DMC was e.g. the role they played, team they were in, trophies won etc; however sticking to our Moneyball analysis and focusing solely on player attributes (as is the language of Football Manager) - the stand out DMCs from our pool of legends are powerful Sweeper/DMC Lothar Matthaus; fearless Irish talisman Roy KeaneClaude Makélélé - the man so good they named a role after him; hard as nails Italian World Cup Winner Gennaro Gattuso and former Arsenal and France enforcer Patrick Vieira. Gattuso is the one that surprises me a little, however his attributes in CM03/04 were outrageous and as a holding midfielder he was certainly up there based on his contribution for both Milan and Italy. If I was to give my own preference I would probably lean towards a Keane or Makélélé but again I am old fashioned and have a tendency to favour the hard-tackling BWM when scouting a DMC in my saves. Who would you choose? 

The Experiment 🔬 

I was curious about the different roles and how much of it matters in a game situation - i.e. if the player is good enough in FM, does it matter what specific role they play in? To compare the roles, I selected 4 players from FM19 whose natural positions are Defensive Midfielder, Ball Winning Midfielder, Anchor Man and Half Back respectively, and below is an analysis of their performance in each role in Champions League games where their team has won and they have played 90 mins per game: 

 

Heatmap illustrating movement, tackles, interceptions & key passes

 

At first glance this doesn't really tell us a whole lot but if we look closely we can make a few assumptions from the heatmap in particular looking at where tackles and interceptions have been made. We can see that Casemiro in the DM role spent a lot more time in the opponents half than any of the other three roles, making quite a few interceptions and tackles higher up the field. By contrast, Eric Dier in the BWM role didn't seem to actually complete any challenges until the ball was in his own half, despite the map showing he did spend time in his opponent's half. Danilo Pereira, playing the Half Back role, also completed most of his challenges in his own half but it looks like a good portion of these occurred while covering for his full backs - while we can see Javi Martinez in the Anchor Man role making a good few interceptions and tackles in and around his own box, suggesting that he naturally spent a lot of the game sitting right in front of his Central Defenders if not almost falling back on to the defensive line.  

Admittedly this experiment is only based on a single game however it is interesting to think about what each role can bring to the team and what to expect when deploying it as part of your match tactic. If you are looking for someone to plant themselves in front of the defence (e.g. to neutralise a top quality opposition Number 10) then perhaps Anchor Man is more effective than a standard DM – if your goal is to cover your onrushing full backs/wing backs, then perhaps a Half Back might suit in order to cover these when on the attack. As it has often been said with this game, there is no right or wrong approach in FM – it is down to what works for you and what you find to suit your style of play (or for many of us, its about finding out what doesn’t work usually the hard way). 

My FM19 Tips 

Again, I am admittedly no expert however taking all of the above in to account and having played a sh*tload of FM19 since it's release in November 2018, below is my hitlist of Top FM19 Transfer Targets for the DMC position, some of whom are already well known / hot prospects and some perhaps not so well known (yet!). Feel free to click each name to view their FM profile and observe their preferred role and natural positions etc. 

Summary 

I guess that's it! (although be sure to check out the hilarious quotes section below regarding some of the more infamous DMCs over the years). Hopefully you found this post to be interesting, informative and somewhat relevant to your own FM adventures - as I said before, I am a huge admirer of the role and value that these players have brought to their teams over the years (both in FM and IRL), and I am a big advocate of utilising a strong DMC to form the backbone of my team in order to provide both defensive support / brick-shithousery as well as a fulcrum through which quick short-passing counter-attacking football can be played. Scouting for a decent DMC is actually not the easiest thing in the game especially when you bring in the more advanced attribute analysis in to your search, and equally it isn't too often that a DMC consistently scores above a 7.0 average rating (as they don't usually get goals, assists or clean sheets etc). However, what I will say is that regardless of which league or level you are managing at, if you can find that core Defensive Midfielder and deploy him effectively to do the job you need done, it will usually yield solid results and allow you to then get creative in other areas of the field where you can look at punishing your opponent. 

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Thanks for reading - if you have any thoughts, comments, feedback or questions please be sure to post them in the comments below or on my Twitter page – follows and retweets are always appreciated! Also, if you enjoyed this post and would like to read more of my FM content, please feel free to check out my blog here – my latest conquest is with CD Tenerife in Spain, where we are attempting to dethrone Barcelona and the Madrids from the peak of Spanish football (appropriately entitled “Roy De Los Rovers”). For now I will leave you with some of my favourite quotes that I discovered during my research which pretty much sum up the DMC role in a nutshell: 

"Aggression is what I do. I go to war. You don't contest football matches in a reasonable state of mind" Roy Keane on his tenacious playing style.

 

"Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?" Zinedine Zidane on Claude Makélélé 's departure to Chelsea and David Beckham's subsequent arrival in 2003.

 

"Don't talk nonsense, let's not confuse Nutella with shit" - Gennaro Gattuso when asked if he thought that his tenacious tackling and defensive work did as much for Pirlo as Pirlo had done for him.

 

"We knew that Zidane, Raúl and Figo didn't track back, so we had to put a guy in front of the back four who would defend." Arrigo Sacchi describing the importance of a holding midfielder such as Claude Makelele when playing versus Real Madrid

 
 

"If it had come to a fight, Patrick could probably have killed me." Roy Keane on Patrick Vieira.

 
 

"If every manager in Britain were given his choice of any one player to add to his team some, no doubt, would toy with the idea of George Best; but the realists, to a man, would have Billy Bremner.’ John Arlott, Sports Journalist.

 

References/Interesting Reads 📖: 

"Inverting the Pyramid" - Jonathan Wilson 

"50 Best Defensive Midfielders in History" - Michael Cummings, BleacherReport.com 

"The Defensive Midfielder: A History" - Aidan Gibson, @theshortfuse 

"How the Makélélé role redifined English football" Zain Mahmood via Sportskeeda.com 

www.premierleague.com 

www.wikipedia.com 

www.transfermarkt.co.uk 

























FM19 Tactics: The Aldershot Way

Written by @CurtyFM

I want to start by saying that this is by no means a guide for lower league management (LLM), but after completely altering how I set up my LLM 442 formation after I was lucky enough to have a ‘Golden Generation’ youth intake, I wanted to share the transition I made from an incredibly basic system, to something a little more complex which aims to get my key players as involved as possible during build-up play. 

I recently started a LLM save with my beloved Aldershot Town. If you ever look for guidance on creating a LLM tactic, the advice is generally always the same: keep it simple, stupid. Lower league players have lower attributes in most areas compared to anyone playing in higher divisions, so it makes sense to keep things as basic as possible, right? Well, to an extent this is true. Players will still be capable of moments of brilliance, it’ll just happen much less often in the lower leagues. Personally, I think when recruiting for a lower league team, aim to focus on a couple of key attributes for a player, rather than all of the attributes the game recommends for a role. Need a winger? All he’ll need is pace and crossing. Need a striker? Look for finishing and off the ball. Anything else is a bonus at this level.  

With this in mind, when I first took over my Aldershot team, I wanted to create something basic which would complement the starting squad. Here’s the aptly named ‘Curty Brexit’ formation: 

The general idea behind this system was that I wanted to make full use of our quick wingers. We had a real lack of ability in central areas, so building up play from central midfield made little sense. I wanted to get the ball wide, starting from the goalkeeper, and then bombard the opposition box with crosses. The idea was effective as you can see below: 

 
 

We scored 105 goals during the season, over 20 more than any other team in the division. Defensively we had issues - predominately caused by our aggressiveness down the flanks and slightly kamikaze roles in central midfield - but my ethos was to score more than the opposition and it proved fruitful. I also made use of pressing forwards who constantly put the enemy defenders under pressure. If you’ve ever managed at this level you’ll be aware of some of the highly questionable decisions defenders can make when they’re caught on the ball. The pressing forwards were there to create indecision and panic if the opposition decided to build from the back. It’s fair to say they got their fair share of goals from defensive errors. The system was basic, but effective for the level. 

During the youth intake in season one, we were blessed with some real talent coming through the ranks. However one player stood out amongst his peers. Meet Daniel Elechi: 

 
 

As soon as I saw Elechi, the cogs in my head started turning. How can I possibly build this guy into a 442 formation? Will I have to change the system completely to accommodate him? What can I do to get the best out of him? 

Elechi made his debut in that first season, once the title was won. He became Aldershot’s youngest ever first team player and the clubs youngest ever goalscorer. His journey had started. My focus going into season two was to build the team around Elechi. Despite the fact he was only 16 years old at this point, he was comfortably my best player and my best prospect. I wanted to make the most of him before some horrible big bully club came along to snatch him from my grasp. 

Initially we tinkered with a 4231, playing him in his natural AMC position. Now, I’m not sure if the team wasn’t set up well enough to get the most out of his ability, or whether most AMC roles in this version of FM are slightly underpowered, but no matter what I did, he struggled. We then moved to a 4141 and tried to use him in the central midfielder role on an attack duty, but again, perhaps it was his unfamiliarity playing from that position, or the general team set-up, but he wasn’t getting involved in build up play, or getting on the end of chances we created. In the end, he played a bit-part role during the season as we struggled to a mid-table position, failing to win any of our last eight matches to miss out on a playoff spot.  

I decided at the start of season three to go back-to-basics, well, sort of. I wanted to go back to a 442 formation, but still try and get the best out of Elechi. Here’s what I’ve been playing in pre-season:  

My inspiration was very much based on Atletico Madrid and their style. I decided to play with a low block, but keep a positive mentality in my players when they’re on the ball or countering. This allows them to take more risks in attacking transitions, which still gives us a good platform to create good football in opposition territory.  

The deep-lying forward role seems made for Elechi so far. The wide playmaker role doesn’t encroach into his space but still feeds him the ball regularly. Once Elechi’s on the ball, he generally has several options with the CM support and wide playmaker around him, or the advanced forward offering an out ball. It’s incredibly early days for this system, but so far it achieves everything I want. The narrow, low block makes us extremely difficult to break down, the CM roles are kept nice and simple – the CM on support can be altered to hold position or get further forward depending on the match situation – plus I’m getting my most creative players on the ball when going forward. The positive mentality also gives these guys a little more creative freedom to express themselves, not always a good idea for lower league football, but with a talent like Elechi, it’s a risk I’m happy to take. 

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If you want to see the system in action, you can catch me live at 2pm every weekday over at twitch.tv/Curty.  



Football Manager 2019: 5 teams you might want to manage

Written by @FridayNightFM

You’ve got a day off of work or school, you fire up your computer, load Football Manager and then you ask yourself ‘who do I manage?’.

It can be tough choosing a team with so many challenges out there but for those that are like me and love a back story, this post is for you as I’ll give you a reason to manage the team and hopefully you’ll let us know if we’ve piqued your interest.

Here are 5 football teams with interesting stories that I hope will inspire you to a start a save with:

FC Twente

The story of Twente could be described as riches to rags & back again. Champions in 2010 to nearly bankrupt in 2018 and not for the first time as the club was saved from bankruptcy in 2002 by Chairman Joop Munsterman. From 2002 Twente’s stature in Dutch football grew, 2 fourth place finishes and a 2nd place were eclipsed in the 2009/10 season when they won their first Eredivisie Championship. The seasons that followed that first championship win were filled with turmoil, there were allegations of financial mismanagement which included transfers & expanding the De Grolsch Veste, both of which the club could not actually afford. In 2016 the club were relegated to the Eerste Divisie (the second tier) by the KNVB due to these irregularities but after appeal the club were allowed to remain in the Eredivisie, not that it mattered as the club was relegated naturally two years later.

In Football Manager:

Transfer Budget £500k | Wage Budget £70k p/w

Read more: https://www.asser.nl/SportsLaw/Blog/post/the-rise-and-fall-of-fc-twente

Malaga

Isco, Joaquin, Willy Cabellero, Julio Baptista and Ruud van Nistelrooy are just a handful of ex-Malaga players signed during the Al Thani era but unlike Manchester City, having a sheikh owner doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed success. The 2011-12 season saw Malaga finish 4th in La Liga meaning they qualified for The Champions League. They progressed from the group stages in a group that contained AC Milan, Zenit St Petersburg & Anderlect. They beat Porto in the round of sixteen and were eventually knocked out in the Quarter Finals against Borussia Dortmund after Dortmund scored 2 offside goals in injury time to send the Spanish side out of the competition.

The following season Malaga were banned from European competition for four years due to the clubs debts, however after appeal the ban was decreased to one year.

The lack of European football meant their star players wanted to leave and with that downward trajectory of the football team and in the 2017/18 season they were relegated to the Segunda Division.

In Football Manager:

Transfer Budget £3.7m | Wage Budget £388k p/w

Read More: https://www.sportskeeda.com/football/the-fascinating-tale-of-malaga-c-f

AS Saint-Étienne

The best team in France, or they once were. With a record 10 Ligue 1 titles Saint-Étienne have a rich history in French football but the 10 Championships were won between 1957 & 1981, a distant memory for Les Verts fans. Moving to the turn of the millennium and to fresher memories; Saint-Étienne were docked 7 points in the 2000/01 season after Brazilian Alex Dias & Ukranian Maksym Levytsky used fake passports that linked back to involvement from the club’s management. The points penalty was to prove too much of a mountain to climb and the club were relegated to Ligue 2. Upon their return to Ligue 1 after 3 seasons Saint-Étienne’s best league position has been 5th which meant European football for the first time in 23 years, that young squad was influenced by the likes of Blaise Matuidi & Dimitri Payet. This achievement was followed up in 2013 when Saint-Étienne won the Coupe de la Ligue, their first major domestic silverware for 30 years.

In Football Manager:

Transfer Budget £6.2m | Wage Budget £483k p/w

Read More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AS_Saint-%C3%89tienne

Sporting Lisbon

Sporting have a rich, successful history in football but what happened towards the end of last season makes for an interesting story. In a training ground attack where 50 of the clubs supporters forced their way into the club’s training ground and assaulted players and staff, Bas Dost, that seasons top scorer, came away with a nasty head injury and players such as Rui Patricio, Gelson Martins, William Carvalho & Daniel Podence were all involved in the altercation which lead to a number of key players cancelling their contracts with the club. Why did this happen a week before a Cup Final? Well, outspoken club president Bruno De Carvalho took to Facebook to criticise the team’s performance against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League. The players responded by posting a joint statement defending their commitment to the club, but not to De Carvalho. It was believed that De Carvalho organised the attacks, but at the time those rumours were unconfirmed. In June 2018 the club’s members held a vote and 71.36% of them voted against Carvalho continuing as club President and later that year the Portuguese Public Ministry charged Carvalho with terrorism and 98 other crimes including aggravated threat, kidnapping, qualified offence to physical integrity & possession of a prohibited weapon.

In Football Manager:

Transfer Budget £7.1m | Wage Budget £673k p/w

Read More: https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2776584-attack-on-sporting-what-drove-lisbon-fans-to-violence-against-their-own-team

Pachuca

I’ve added Pachuca to the list because it’s a club that I’ve wanted to manage in FM for a number of years, but have never taken the plunge. I first watched Pachuca’s youth team play against Manchester United in 2008 & I’ve been keeping an eye on them ever since. When Mexico played at the 2012 Olympics, I watched them beat Senegal and got to see a Pachuca graduate, Hector Herrera, play and score in the game. Their youth academy produces some stunning talent, the likes of Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano, Erick Gutierrez & Rodolfo Pizarro all came through the academy but nowadays it’s not just ‘home grown’ talent they’re producing they now have the ability to attract the top talented youngsters because of the investment of Carlos Slim, the former richest man in the world.

In Football Manager:

Transfer Budget £3.8m | Wage Budget £305k p/w

Read More: http://www.espn.com/soccer/mexican-liga-mx/22/blog/post/2694824/the-secret-of-pachuca-youth-success-in-liga-mx

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Hopefully that gives you some food for thought, please let us know if you start a save with any of the teams or have had experience with them.

@FMDoop decided to start a new save with Malaga after reading this, you can see how he gets on via his Twitch channel twitch.tv/FMDoop