First things first, I need to apologise regarding the regularity of the updates on the return of One Man’s Journey. I started the save with the full intention of making it my main save for Football Manager 2019, but work has since got in my way over the last month and a half or so, and I’ve really been unable to devote much – if any – time to playing Football Manager. As a result the save has largely remained untouched – halfway through season one. I’m struggling to find time to play a save that is so time intensive – a quick look at the sheer amount of links and images I need for one update will show you – so for now, I’m going to shelve the save.
However, what I have been able to continue is my beta save with Arsenal and that will form the basis of what I’m going to discuss in this article. If you remember, I wrote about the original system I was using with Arsenal as my first piece for FM19, and the system itself was a 4-3-1-2 that formed a diamond. This system had taken us to 3rd in the League after 7 games, two points behind leaders Liverpool and one behind surprise early runners Burnley. However, I’ve since moved away from that system, and the new system – along with a few other features – will be what I’ll discuss in this article.
The main reason that I moved away from the 4-3-1-2 – that had been working well – was that quite simply, I felt that we could do better. Realistically, 3rd would be a fantastic result for Arsenal this season, but with City, United and Chelsea starting the season badly in my save, the opportunity was there to challenge Liverpool for the title. The major issue with the 4-3-1-2 was that whilst it played lovely football, and allowed us to dominate the ball, it didn’t always create a bucketload of chances. A lot of our early league games with the 4-3-1-2 were won only by one goal despite the results themselves never being in doubt. As a result Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette – both top class strikers – weren’t really getting that many goals. More than anything, it just felt like I needed to loosen the reigns on the team, and allow them to play more expansive football and allow more men to go forward.
The new system has had a drastic impact on our form as you can see to the right, and we’ve rocketed up from 3rd position to 1st, leading Liverpool by one point with a game in hand – against Burnley, who’ve slid down to 9th after their good start. Our already good defensive record with the 4-3-1-2 has got even better, with only 9 goals conceded in the league so far, the best in the league. We’ve only scored 32, enough to put us only 4th in the league in terms of goals scored, but a look at our goal difference shows the difference the switch in tactic has had. Style wise, the system itself hasn’t changed that much, and I still use a modified version of the Vertical Tiki-Taka preset, my preferred setup currently on FM19.
This is the system itself, a ‘classic’ 4-4-2. 4-4-2’s always seem like simple tactics to come up with on Football Manager, but in actuality, they’re fairly complex and to come up with a more advanced version of a 4-4-2 is quite a test because it requires good knowledge of the partnerships in the match engine and the effect the roles will have on one another. The full backs have really been unleashed, and have become an even more important part of this system than they were in the 4-3-1-2 – Bellerín is the 3rd best player in the league on average rating with 7.41. We are still suffocating in terms of possession and pressing – 1st in the league with an average of 59%, down from 62%, but we create more chances now – up to 2nd in the league – which has led to an increase in the number of goals we score in games. As a result, Aubameyang and Lacazette have increased the number of goals they score, with Aubameyang getting up to 6th in the league for goals scored, and Lacazette is 7th.
Those that follow this blog know that I always prioritise defence first when managing, and this save has been no different. Above you can see the defensive shape that we form when the other team has the ball. We’re narrow and compact, and we have good control over the available space. We tend not to stay in this shape for very long as we press aggressively, which usually leads to us either giving up space in the middle of the pitch if the AI by-presses our press, or a turnover of possession – far more frequent – allowing us to counterpress at pace. Not long after this image as the ball is played out to the left, we press effectively through the DLF, CM and IW and are able to win the ball back in midfield without Southampton posing any kind of threat to our defence. This is a regular pattern of our defensive play, and is the reason I found it fairly challenging to find an accurate depiction of our true 4-4-2 defensive shape.
In attack we often show a shape similar to the image above. As you can see we have a very high line, but maintain a 2 v 1 against Newcastle’s lone striker. Our full backs have staggered their runs forward at this point in the move, with the WB-S higher up initially with the FB-A joining the move later on. The narrowness of our shape has dragged the Newcastle wide players into the middle of the pitch, and this then allows our DLP-D Xhaka (usually Torreira) to play the pink pass to the FB-A. This gets us in behind Newcastle, and a byline cross allows Lacazette at DLF-S to tap in to give us the lead at St. James’. However, you can also see that we pose other threats with our shape. Xhaka doesn’t pick the pass, but right in front of him is Mesut Özil at WP-A, who could potentially pick up the ball and move into the space with the white circle to provide incisive passes to the AF and DLF. We often end up pushing the AI back with this constant attacking pressure, and here is an example of the kind of shape we can see from the AI overall (this is against Fulham, who are bottom of the table).
These have been our results since the switch away from the 4-3-1-2, and as you can see, the switch has been nothing but positive. We’ve suddenly gone from being a team challenging to qualify for the Champions League, to a team that is challenging for the title. However, I’m still not entirely happy. As I alluded to in the 4-3-1-2 article, there are still some issues defensively despite our fantastic record. Our central defenders now do average well over 7 for the season, but other than Rob Holding, they’re ageing players and so I feel that an improvement is needed there now in order to set up for the future. As a result I have a transfer already arranged for Ajax’s Matthijs de Ligt in January for what will eventually amount to £30m with add-ons. I also wanted to improve at left back, with Monreal and Kolasinac both solid options, and both being good defensively, but neither being the dynamic attacking option that I’d like from the FB-A. As a result, I splashed out an eventual £36m on Celtic’s Kieran Tierney. With the additions of de Ligt and Tierney, our defense should retain its defensive prowess, whilst also becoming better in contributing to the build up and – particularly with Tierney – the final phase of the attack.
I said in the 4-3-1-2 article that I was strongly considering making this save my full-time save for FM19, and for the time being, I’m going to do just that. It won’t be done in a standard save update format, but every time something major occurs within the save that I want to talk about, I’ll do an update on that topic. So until then, thank you very much for reading, and as always, should you have any questions regarding my plans for this save, my 4-4-2, or just Football Manager in general, then please don’t hesitate to ask either in the comments section of this blog, or on my Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you again.
EDIT: Now that I have won the league with Arsenal using this 4-4-2, I feel comfortable in releasing this tactic for download. The tactic can be found at this link. Any questions about the tactic itself, please feel free to ask.