Well hello there one and all and welcome to something rather different and slightly risky from me! I don’t do tactical reviews, I’ll be honest I’m shit at it but while driving to work tonight I decided I wanted to speak about the tactic that I’ve been using for quite a few seasons now on FM20. A little disclaimer: I am not good at writing amazing tactically insightful posts so this may end up with me rambling on but I hope it comes across OK and I hope you enjoy!
I started using this tactic way back when I joined Magdeburg, it has morphed from a base 4231 to a 4231 but with 1 of my CMs dropping to DM, the roles have been changed, changed and changed again but now, as you can see from my season reviews, I seem to have created a tactic which works well for me and my lads! I’m going to go through each of the positions in the tactic separately and then bring it all together at the end with the instructions, etc, it’s nothing amazing but it is interesting to see how things have developed. For this post I am just going to talk about how this has happened in my 5 seasons at Newcastle.
This has always stayed as a Sweeper Keeper (s). Over my time at Newcastle I have signed and sold numerous keepers, not just because they were rubbish, but mainly because I found someone better to replace them. The main thing I want in my keeper (as we all do in a SK) is for him to quick off his line. The high defensive line I play leaves us vulnerable to quick attacks so it’s imperative he gets out to the attacker fast. Distribution is also a big one for me. I want to play it quick from the back and that all starts from the goalie, once he’s picked it up his main aim is to get it out to one of the back four and get the ball moving quickly to catch teams out.
THE BACK FOUR
This has been one of my biggest problems at Newcastle and one where I feel now I’ve sorted the issues out. When I plugged this tactic in after leaving Magdeburg I had my Right man as a WB on attack and my Left as a FB on support, playing as wide as I could have them, my RB was brilliant at attacking but because my CMs were told to defend I never had a problem.
Joining Newcastle we instantly ran into a problem, the Premier League is far better than the Bundesliga-2 and the wide players were much quicker and teams attacked us a lot more. Numerous times our full backs were caught out by quick wingers or counter attacks when my men were too far up the pitch.
Over the 5 seasons I’ve brought in much better full backs than what I had originally, Ben Stevenson on the left and numerous players on the right have vastly improved our defensive stability but I have had to make some changes.
The right full back has changed to FB (s) role, he still gets forward but just not as much, I have some very good attacking players and therefore don’t really need my FBs joining in the attack as much. Their main aim is to push the opposition wingers back, if the opposition gets the ball out wide the full back should be deep enough to then come out to his man and close him down. Before I improved my full backs the wide men would just run by them (lack of anticipation and decision maybe?). I’ve also asked them to sit a little narrower trying to keep the defensive shape as compact as possible, this was solely down to throughballs constantly cutting my defence apart in season one.
Very very simple here and one thing that’s not changed since the Magdeburg days. A left sided CB on cover and the right side is a BPD on defend. The reason for the cover duty was just to drop him a little deeper because of the issue with full backs getting caught out and those pesky throughballs.
With Antonio Giovanelli I have found an absolute gem of a BPD, he has been told to not bring the ball out too far but to be the calming influence in defence, the link between the GK and the midfield.
As for the cover CB Joe Lawrence and then most recently Drago Mestrovic have been perfect for this role. Positioning is key, as is decisions and anticipation, these are just a few of the attributes I look for.
THE MIDFIELD DUO
The Defensive Midfielder
The one big change as mentioned earlier was the switch from two CM’s to a CM and a DM. This was brought on mainly by the fact I had Ross MacLeod who is a natural DM, I wanted him in his best position and because I felt we needed more solidity in front of the defence.
MacLeod for me has everything to be that hipster role, a Segundo Volante. I like to call him my “Box to Box Defensive Midfielder”. The man who is always there when you need him, the defensive shield when teams attack us but also the man who arrives late into the box to grab the odd important goal. MacLeod has this in bundles, great decision making, fantastic off the ball to name a few, his passing and vision is also good meaning, when required, he can pick a pass out!
The Central Midfielder
One of the first things I did when I joined Newcastle was to find a top quality, young, energetic central midfielder who had the work rate and stamina to be a proper all-round midfielder, he would need to have the brain to be able to know when to get forward but also when to sit back and let MacLeod do the attacking work. Robin Nordin was that man and he had everything I wanted. Nordin is probably more of a primary goalscorer than my attacking midfielder, getting into the box late, leading those counter attacks but also picking the ball up and scoring from long range! A proper superstar midfielder.
ATTACKING MIDFIELD TRIO
These two guys are the real heart beat of the team, the primary assist makers (as you’d expect) but also two of the main goalscorers in the side. Oleg Wagner on the Right (a Winger on attack) has been one of the mainstays in the side since I joined and also at Magdeburg where he played the same role. He averages about a goal every 4 games and usually an assist in every 3 which is really good. He sticks to the byline collecting the ball and terrorises defenders with his mazy, energetic runs!
On the left was Chris Griffiths who’s 1 season stay before moving to Manchester United was amazing, he was then replaced by intake player Joey Barton Jnr and most recently Terry Beautyman, all of these players are a lot more reserved than Oleg Wagner and play as a Winger on support, their main aim is to get the ball into the box, whether that’s from deep or running at the opposition FB, which usually causes an error!
Beautyman has taken this role onto another level in the past season, scoring bundles and also being the main chance creator, he doesn’t run at defenders but plays lovely 1-2s with his left full back companion and DM Ross MacLeod to create space to then create chances.
The Attacking Midfielder
A role that alongside my Striker has changed quite a bit, at Magdeburg it was always a SS(a) but when coming to Newcastle it just wasn’t working, Sam Butcher was the man to play in the role for the first 3 seasons, he only really had 1 good season and that was when he played as an AM(a), it was changed to that in Season 2 and that was when Butcher was at his best. Since Butcher has left and Nahuel Gomez has come in, the role has stayed the same and has worked OK, it complements the positions around him, he stays centrally giving the wide players the space and freedom to do their work and also has the ability to drop deep giving the CM (and sometimes the DM) the ability to get forward.
It is a role that seems to distract defenders giving more space for other people to exploit gaps which I love!
THE LONE MAN UP-TOP
This is a role that has changed numerous times over the years, it started at Magdeburg as a PF(s), this was to compliment the SS(a) behind him, it worked well at Magdeburg but not so much at Newcastle. So many Strikers have played and failed to become that 20-30 goal a season man I desired, the role changed to a PF(a) and is now a plain and simple AF(a). For me it gets the best out of the boys I have up front. Work rate, stamina, strength, finishing to name a few is what I need in my Striker, all I need now is to find a man who can consistently bang goals in, not just in fits and spurts!
So that in a rather long nutshell is the team and how each role/position plays. When it comes together it’s amazing, it does have it’s shortfalls, mainly goalscoring from the Striker and full backs getting caught but overall it works well (it must do if you can say you’ve won back-to-back Premier League/FA Cup doubles!) but as you will have seen from the season reviews has a tendency to have one odd poor game (like playing Spurs in the Champions League!).
Here is how the formation looks all together:
I’ve always been an advocate of keeping “TIs” simple, these plug and play “exploit” tactics seem to have rafts and rafts of instructions but for me you don’t want to bombard the team with loads of these!
The main ones for me are:
- Exploit the flanks – Our wingers are the main creators and our most talented attacking players so this seems common sense.
- Play out of defence – this just slows the play down a little, I play on positive to be on the front foot but also don’t want our defenders to just give the ball away, this instructions just makes the approach a little bit more methodical.
- Prevent short GK distribution – I just like my forward man to close down a bit more giving us a better press.
- High defensive line – We have pacey defenders and a CB on cover, playing higher up gives us a better press and in turn forces more mistakes out of the opposition.
- High line of engagement – again it’s all to do with the press, most teams play out of defence so we try and close them down as quick as possible.
- Counter-press – we lose the ball and we try and win it back as soon as possible, we don’t want the opposition having the ball!
And that’s it. Sometimes I’ll change things up, if we’re playing a team who sits deep I tend to shorten the passing, play a bit more methodical to try and break the side down a bit more clinically. If we’re playing a better team I tend to add “counter” just to try and catch them out if they’re attacking us. Other than that it stays the same!
All in all it’s a very basic tactic with an asymmetrical twist, nothing fancy but it works a treat. I always say if you buy the best you expect them play to their strengths without being overloaded by instructions!
And if anyone would like to try this tactic out (disclaimer: it works for me, it MAY NOT work for you!) then go and give it a download here
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the slightly different post! Feedback is always welcomed!