Developing The First Team

156I’ve finished all of the transfers that I want to make for Sturm in the transfer window, so I thought I’d do a quick update to summarise what I’ve been up to. As the transfer window started, I was given a budget of absolutely nothing, so I came to the conclusion that it was best to stick with what I had, and begin to re-sign those that were coming to the end of their contracts. Sound like a good plan? Football Manager had other ideas.

In the last update, I talked about our top striker Marco Djuricin, and how he wanted to leave Sturm, and had clubs (particularly Werder Bremen) sniffing around him. This would have been fine, but he’s got a £1.5M release clause in his contract, that had me worried, particularly considering we already had a lack of depth upfront, with the other options nowhere near the calibre of the Austrian international. Well, in the end, it was Vitesse Arnhem who matched the release clause, and off he went for 1.5M. I couldn’t do anything to stop him.

Well, I Was Right

156Well, I’ve reached the end of my first season in charge of Sturm Graz. First off, I’d like to say thank you to @Shrewnaldo for creating this edit. I’ve had a lot of fun this season, and I can tell it’s going to be a challenging save. When I last updated, we were at the end of December, were pushing Red Bull Salzburg as hard as we could in the league, and were 3 points behind, having suffered two horrible losses against them. I was also having issues deciding whether to stick with the 4-4-1-1/4-1-4-1 I’d been using at the start of the season, or switch to the Hidden Diamond I’d started using once Stankovic broke his foot.

At the end of my procrastination, I ended up doing neither, but I’ll cover that later in the update. So, most importantly, how did the league go, and did we manage to achieve the Champions League qualification I was so focused on?

A Tactical Brainstorm And Preview

I’ll admit it, I was hoping to have had a tactical piece out by now. Whether that was the FM15 Central Winger article (which is coming) or something altogether different, I wasn’t sure. I was only a few matches away from being ready to do the article on the 4-4-1-1/4-1-4-1 I’d been using with Sturm Graz, but then FM intervened, taking away my star Number 10, and forcing me to change tactics, meaning I hadn’t managed to test the 4-4-1-1/4-1-4-1 enough before writing an article on it.

To compensate for this (and also because I’m missing writing about tactics) I thought I’d give you a preview of what I’m hoping to use down the line on FM15. I’d use it now if I could, but there’s certain elements of the game that don’t work quite as SI said they would, meaning for now at least, they’re largely useless.

First off, I’ll show the formation and roles I’d want to use, before explaining the theory behind it.

Salzburg Hatred, A Broken Foot, and Hidden Diamonds

156Well, we’ve reached the halfway point of the season, 19 games into the Bundesliga. How have things been going? Well, pretty well but it’s not been easy and there’s been challenges along the way. Looking at our record, you probably would think it’s been plain sailing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

As I said in my first post of this save, I was planning on using a formation and tactic that was a combination of a 4-4-1-1 and a 4-1-4-1. A bit hipster-ish perhaps, but I’ve got a problem when it comes to Football Manager, and I can’t bring myself to use something simple. I’ve always got to try to make it complicated or different.

So, Change Of Plans….

In my FM15 preview post, I said that I would be starting this year managing Austria Salzburg in @Shrewnaldo’s edit of the Austrian league structure. At the time of writing, Shrewnaldo planned to put Salzburg in the Bundesliga, however, when he holidayed the Austrian leagues, and saw the level of the club in general, he decided that it would be better to put them in the Erste Liga (the second tier).

That left me with a bit of a dilemma. I’m notoriously slow at completing seasons on Football Manager. I spend too much time messing about trying to make the tactics perfect, daydreaming about how to make them better. Plus, with the tactical ideas I had in mind, the level of players at Austria Salzburg wouldn’t have allowed me to have it play quite how I’d like. To me, tactics is everything in Football Manager.

So Here’s What I’ve Been Up To

In my FM15 preview post, I spoke about wanting to do something along the lines of the current Real Madrid setup, which is basically a 4-4-2. I’m an avid supporter of 4-4-2, and I’ve always believed that the formation gets a bad reputation, especially amongst British fans/media (I’m looking at you Gary Lineker). I’ll go further into my support of 4-4-2 when I do the full article on this tactic when the game releases, but I believe Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan are one of the best teams to watch that I’ve ever seen, and they used 4-4-2. It’s about the system, not the formation. I’m sure Pep Guardiola could use 4-4-2 at Bayern, and they’d still produce wonderful football.

Anyway, back on topic. After a brief dabble with my 3-6-1 with Manchester United, I switched saves to try out this ‘4-4-2’ with Real Madrid. I put 4-4-2 in inverted commas, because it’s not a standard 4-4-2 and is quite asymmetric. I’m not doing this just to be complicated (although that’s probably a factor), I’m doing it to try to accurately recreate the performances of specific players, particularly Kroos, Modric and Ronaldo.

The Mjallby 4-1-2-3-0

Image result for mjallby logoThis was without a doubt my favourite save on FM14. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was my best, because I only won one trophy and the save itself only lasted one season, but it is certainly my favourite. At a lull point in FM14 midway through my Salzburg save, I began to search around. I’d recently read @MerryGuido’s article on his narrow 4-1-2-3-0, and decided that I wanted to use the same formation, and incorporate the Central Winger, which I had just released an article about.

Just to give you a bit of context, when I joined them, Mjallby were predicted to finish 12th in the Swedish League and were a largely average team, nowhere near the level of Elfsborg, Malmö and Helsingsborgs. Starting the save, I put the players into the narrow 4-1-2-3-0 and happily decided that a mid-table finish would do me fine. Well, that didn’t end up happening. For anyone who was following me on Twitter at the time, you’ll have seen what happened. We challenged for the title, joining the race with about a month and a half to go, and won the title on the last day, needing a win to confirm ourselves as champions.

What’s more, it’s not as if Mjallby were one of those teams with good players that FM underrates (like Southampton) that are more than capable of winning the league. Mjallby’s players are mid table standard at best. The title win also wasn’t due to my (usually terrible) man management. No, the title win was entirely due to one thing, the Mjallby 4-1-2-3-0 (Mjallby Mjölnir for Guido).

What You Can Expect From The Tactical Annals Through FM15

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As FM15 inches ever closer, I thought I’d summarise some of my plans for this blog through FM15, and let you all know what you can expect this year. There are some fantastic ideas going round the FM scene right now, and tactically speaking, if the ME works correctly, it’s going to be a great year for Football Manager.

Firstly, I’ll go into what I’ve always done – tactics. In the last post I talked about an asymmetrical 4-1-2-3-0, utilising the new role the ‘Raumdeuer’. That is still very much in my plans, but a thread over at The Dugout (http://www.thedugout.tv/community/showpost.php?p=4276293&postcount=8) talking about footballing philosophies led me to go through mine, and by the end of writing it, I was so excited to try it on FM15. It’s a 3-6-1 with a midfield diamond. It’s possession based, but not entirely, as I’d want my players to counter attack when the opportunity presented itself. That would probably mean an ‘attacking’ or ‘control’ strategy, but then again, the defensive strategies lead to possession also, and ‘counter’ has the counter attack box ticked as standard. We’ll see. It also highly depends on how Back 3’s work this year. Last year they were pretty poor, and required you to be on defensive to make them work (or as @RTHerringbone discovered, play a Back 5). I would rather not have to work so hard to make my tactic work on FM15.

My Thoughts on FM15, and Some Tactical Ideas Going Forward

So, we’re now on the run up to the new Football Manager, FM15. I thought I’d summarise some of my opinions on the new roles for FM15, and preview some potential player roles that I’m looking at creating. I’ve reached a point now on FM14 where I don’t feel there’s much more that I can do, and save one more project for an upcoming article, I don’t expect to play the game much in the coming weeks. As much as I love Football Manager, I rarely end up playing in the period before the new game.

Despite this, there’s some new player roles that have been announced for FM15 that really have me interested. Those of you that have followed me on The Dugout, Twitter and Strikerless will know that I do enjoy a good strikerless tactic (not as much as Guido though), and I’ve already got ideas for my first tactical project on the new game.

The Narrow 4-1-2-2-1 – Expanding Upon Defensive Football in FM14

Image result for keckemet logoThose of you that follow me on Twitter (@JLAspey) or have read any of my recent articles will know that I’ve started to become very interested in defensive football in Football Manager. I wrote an article a few months back, trying to create a side that was uber defensive, and designed to be impossible to break down, and steal 1-0 wins. Since then, I’ve wanted to expand on that idea, but take away the negative aspects of it, whilst still retaining the defensive stability. The original article was inspired by a fantastic thread by @Cleon81, where he achieved a fantastic season with his Sheffield United side, utilising a defensive 4-4-2 diamond formation. Another inspiration for my tactic came from @MrEds, who combined aspects of Cleon’s ideas and tweaked my ‘defensive diamond’ in his save with Ujpest in Hungary. Like MrEds, I’ve recently been drawn to Hungarian football, but with Kecskemet (or KTE), a team predicted to finish 13th, and tipped for relegation by many. This seemed like a perfect situation to develop some defensive football, with a team that will need to be defensively solid in order to avoid relegation.

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