Finding the Balance in a midfield three in FM19

Often when a team is underperforming in FM, the obvious direction to point the blame is the defence, or the attack. If the team is conceding too many, the defenders are considered to be at fault, but if the team is struggling for goals, the strikers and wingers are looked at as the issue.

However, on many occasions it is neither of these areas of a team that is the true issue. It is sometimes an issue in the balance within your team’s midfield. This is a problem that I have struggled with at many occasions throughout my years of playing the game, but here is the way that I believe it is best to address the midfield balance issue when using a three.

The main thing to do when attempting to balance a midfield trio, is working out which of your players fit particular roles. Certain roles in a midfield three work better together than others, and this is something that you should look at, if you are finding balance an issue in the middle of the pitch. The roles that you will require in midfield will of course depend on the system you are playing, and how possession/ attacking or long ball/defensive your team plays.

With that said here are the roles that I find most effective when combined together, in FM19.

Attacking System

Using these blanket terms of ‘attacking system’ and ‘defensive system’, it is possible to work out which roles work best for a given tactic’s midfield. This can easily be seen throughout football in real life, with team’s signing players to perform specific roles in very structured and planned out systems, in order to get the best results from them.

A clear example of this within attacking systems would be the Deep-Lying-Playmaker role. This has become a much more popular trend in England over the past couple of seasons, and with the arrival of Jorginho from Napoli to Chelsea last season, the topic of the DLP became one of the most discussed in the footballing world. In FM, I have found myself using DLP’s much more over recent years, usually dropping the player back into the deeper position in front of the back four. This player is responsible for helping a team play out from defence and beat an opposition’s attack, offering an easy passing lane for centre backs to build attacks through short possession exchanges. The deep-lying playmaker also needs to be able to help defensively, and therefore having a player who is fairly well rounded both technically and physically can help massively in this position.

It is then important to consider which roles will match up well with the DLP. I almost always refrain from using an Advanced Playmaker as well as DLP. This usually leaves a team short on attacking intent from midfield, as both of the two playmaking roles require players to look to receive the ball and distribute it to attacking options. Therefore, having two players to do that can mean that the team loses legs in midfield, as two passing based players are deployed to help pick out attackers, leaving just one free to attack.

Therefore, I often pair the creative and possession based DLP with a Mezzala and a Box-to-Box midfielder. This once again can be compared to a classic Sarriball midfield, especially when considering his team at Napoli. The Hamsik position on the left side of the three can be seen as similar to that of a Mezzala. He looked to get forward and attack through the half spaces, making runs inside of the wingers and looking to exploit space in attacking areas. This role can link well with a DLP, who will look to find the Mezzala after his defence splitting runs in the half spaces have occurred.

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The box-to-box often acts as a spare man in this midfield system, who helps to regain possession higher up the pitch in pressing phases, but also comes back to defend deeper when the team are struggling for numbers at the back. This player will also look to contribute goals and assists in your team, and once again should really be a player with good all-round stats and ability.

These three kind of midfield players offer the perfect amount of attacking, defensive and transitional support, combining together well to make a complete midfield. This allows a balanced central area to your attacking tactic.

Defensive System

The balance of a midfield three will be found in a different way in teams which play more defensive football. If your tactic involves a defensive, counter attacking style, it is important that your midfield three contain roles that fit that way of playing. Firstly, it will be likely that you will need a midfielder whose main role is defensive cover and support. This could include a Ball Winning Midfielder, a deeper positioned Defensive Midfielder, or even an Anchor Man in front of the back four. These players will not have to be involved in build-up play as much as in an attacking setup, so therefore are more involved in purely defensive phases.

Having this defensive minded deeper midfielder will therefore mean a lack of playmaking ability that would be found in DLP. Therefore, in a defensive set up often the technical role in the three is further forward. This can mean that the deployment of an Advanced Playmaker can lead to a better balance. In a counter attacking system, the defensive midfielder will win the ball back, but it will be down to the playmaking talent to create attacks, spotting runs and finding space quickly on the break.

Another example from real life of this system is Chelsea in big games under Jose Mourinho. During his second spell, he would field a three-man middle with defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic at its base. In front of him would then be Cesc Fabregas, would launch counter attacks and look for space to create chances.

Alongside them would be Box-to-Box midfielder Ramires. This could be the role you use for the third man in your defensive midfield. With a playmaker and a defensive midfielder, you could be lacking in pace and attacking intent from midfield. Whilst an AP could offer attacking impetus through passing and creativity, you may require a player who can make runs and contribute goals and assists from midfield. This could a BBM, or even a Central Midfielder with an Attack responsibility.

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Overall it is important to remember that midfield balance means that both attack, defence and transitional support is offered by the three men in the centre of your team. With lower league teams, often the rarer roles such as Mezzala aren’t suited to the level of player. Therefore, it is important to recognise that even a CM role can be effective if deployed correctly.

It cannot be overstated how much a midfield three needs to carry a varied range of ability and style of player. Finding the perfect balance of attack and defence will allow your midfield in FM19 to become unstoppable, no matter what level of individual player you have at your disposal.

Holiday Journeyman: Season Three Part One

Welcome back to the Holiday Journeyman save. A FM blog series which combines my love for FM and virtual management, with my passion for googling places which look nice, and obsessively fantasising about being there. Three seasons into the save, I am jealous of a virtual me, who is currently sat on Krk Island in Croatia, planning a new season in the second division.

Pre-Season

After our unexpected promotion into the second tier of Croatian football, we needed to prepare for a tough transfer window. With key squad members retiring, and important players leaving, it looked set to be a summer of big transfer movement.

This looked set to be possible too, with the board giving us a generous budget both for transfer fees and wages. It seemed as if the directors of the club saw the prize money and improved sponsorship finances as a way to improve the team first, and expect us to use the unexpected promotion as a vehicle to build the club from the pitch outwards, gradually improving in size overall. This was a system that I would’ve hoped the club hierarchy were going to look for, and I was pleased to see an increase in the scouting and transfer budget, as the club showed its positive ambition for the future.

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Transfers

The big movements started with the retirement of central midfield veteran Neven Curturilo, who was then followed by Marin Con, in hanging up his boots at the end of the season. Going out on a high, the club’s captain and vice-captain had both left, leaving behind big gaps in both the squad depth and dressing room. A few fringe players left on free transfers, none of which had an impact on the team’s promotion, but still left gaps in the squad in terms of depth.

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At one point, my players came back from their holiday and told me that the squad had a problem in this department. I’m sure this was worth the money for them, in flights, accommodation and transport to the stadium, as I reassured them that we would in fact be signing players in the transfer window. They were happy with this explanation, and returned to their holiday.

As I was already on mine, I spent June and July on the beach sipping a Fanta and looking through a phonebook of third and second tier Croatian league footballers, At the end of my relax on Krk island, I managed to cobble together these signings.

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With squad depth the issue, Bruno Gale was brought in for free at the end of his contract from Zagorec, and the twenty-three-year-old rotation centre-back was accompanied on his arrival by Mario Miletic just a day later, who also arrived from third tier Zagorec. Gale was brought in as a direct replacement for Con. He became just the third centre back at the club, up until the point when last season’s key defender Hrvoje Smolcic agreed a deal to extend his loan for another season from Rijeka. This left us with four solid centre backs in our squad.

Miletic was a typical promotion season signing by me. Maybe just out of paranoia, I always tend to replace my backup keeper when I get a football manager side promoted. I worry that my first choice will get injured, and that I will have to rely on a sub-par replacement in a higher division. With this in mind the free signing will compete with first choice Rihtar, as he is the same star rating, and just one year older. This leaves us with two equally strong keepers for the new season.

In early-July, we brought in two more players. The first was Bryan Derwich, a defensive midfielder. He will be starting in the anchor man spot for us, as we look to ensure that our defence will be supported well enough in the second tier. With our former first choice defensive midfielder (Alilovic) only two stars, Derwich shows an attempt to improve the overall level and quality of our starting eleven as we progress into the Druga HNL.

The next signing was by far our most dramatic, and the one that made me most excited. After an exceptional second half to the season on loan with us, Nino has decided to return to Krk. This was not a straightforward deal however. As soon as we were advised that his loan would be coming to an end, I made a two-grand offer for the striker who netted eight times in twelve starts last season. However, despite his club (NK Varazdin) accepting the offer, Nino decided to break Krk hearts, and turn down the opportunity to talk to us. This was until he returned to his parent club however. Perhaps he missed Krk island, perhaps he missed my jokes about his first name sounding like a police siren, or perhaps he just missed having a little gold owl badge on his shirt. Whatever it was, he decided to make NK Krk his permanent home, and signed to become our first-choice striker.

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This would not be our only signing in this department however, as just ten days later we managed to secure the season-long loan arrival of Ivan Krajina from Sibenik. Our only choice as striker before Nino arrived was Filip Mamic. He did well in the third tier, scoring eighteen goals across two seasons in the save, before he was even twenty years old. However, his one and a half start current ability meant that we needed a better backup option in the second division. This is the purpose Krajina will serve. The four-star rated twenty-one-year-old is comfortable as an advanced forward (the role we play) and scored eleven goals in twenty-two games (that’s a goal every other game if my maths serves me right) for the Sibenik B-team. Before that, he played for the first team in the top tier of Croatian football, making two appearances. He will offer both experience at a high level, and a recognised goal scoring ability, as he provides backup to Nino throughout the campaign.

On the same day as Krajina’s arrival, we brought in left-back Matej Mlakic on a free, to offer backup to our highest average rating player of the 19/20 season, Manolo Bilic. We had loaned out our second choice of the previous season (a youth player of just one star) so required a new proven backup option. With a three-star rating and four-star potential, Mlakic had played in the HNL West for former club HASK, before arriving to Krk to offer cover to our starting left-sided full back.

Over a month later we spent money for only the second time this window, and brought in twenty-six-year-old Jurica Kovacic, from Druga HNL relegated side NK Kustosija, for a fee of £1.3k. The midfielder becomes our highest rated player based on current ability, and will replace Curturilo as the right sided midfielder. His role alongside Batelic will be as the box-to-box midfielder. His fifteen natural fitness, fourteen pace and stamina stats will make him perfect for this role, once again improving the overall quality and ability of our starting eleven.

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Friendlies

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With four wins, two loses and one draw, our pre-season fixtures did not really hold much in way of surprise. We beat most teams smaller than us, but struggled against teams of a higher or equal size. Mainly, these fixtures were used to increase first team fitness rather than try anything new, and they served their purpose for us throughout June, July and early August.

Other Club Issues

With bigger clubs arriving next season, the club pressed forward with our process of developing, and decided to expand our stadium. This work was done over the summer, and left us with a bigger and better SC Josip Pepi Uravic to start off our new season in.

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The final piece of club admin was the captain and vice-captain situation, with both leaving the club. Last year’s central defensive rock Valerio Puskadija took the role of captain, with Krk’s Treca HNL West top scorer and player of the season Kristijan Batelic becoming the vice-captain.

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Summary

Overall, I believe that this busy and hectic transfer window has been a success, at least on paper. Out team should be much more able to cope with the higher division after the arrival of our new additions, and with Nino and Smolcic back, we will hopefully be able to continue the momentum from the promotion victory into the new season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Tips for Surviving an Immediate Relegation in FM19

As the 2018/19 season comes to an end, many teams around the world are beginning the process of planning for next season. This becomes an even more important period in the season of one of those few lucky sides that have managed to get promoted. Entering into an exciting new chapter of their club’s history, they begin to plan signings, tactics and new systems that will allow them to battle well as a small fish in their new big pond.

This is a tricky scenario in Football Manager. Many players struggle to stay in a division after getting promoted. With that being said, here are five ways that I believe you can improve your chances of staying up in your first season in a new higher division in FM19.

Tip One- Don’t sign too many players

This mistake is one that can easily be understood. You probably have the largest budget you’ve ever had at a club, and with a squad that’s suited to a lower division, it can be tempting to rebuild and completely renovate a team. However, this can backfire. Firstly, it could alter the important ‘dressing room atmosphere’ at your club, leading to a loss in morale and a difficulty in squad harmony. In a long season when losses and periods of poor form are to be expected, it is vital that the squad sticks together and keeps the group mentality, splashing money out on players who won’t gel with the others, can risk the opposite happening.

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Tip Two- Keep the momentum

A similar idea to that of the previous tip, it is important not to waste the momentum gained in last year’s season. A promotion season brings around a great atmosphere, and excellent experience for players, managers and fans. This momentum can often be lost by a newly promoted club, who completely change their philosophies in the following season. This could be through a change in the tactics or style of play of the team. Once again this is understandable. If you have achieved promotion to the Premier League with a Championship team, playing expansive, attacking football, it can be risky to continue this in the top tier. However, creating a new tactic often just disrupts things at the start of a difficult season. Therefore, it is often better to adapt your current system, as to continue the momentum of the previous campaign.

Tip Three- Raid the Relegated

A classic tactic that I have used in everything from LMA Manager 2007, all the way to Fifa Career Modes and FM19. Raiding a club that has just got relegated is often a valuable way of finding proven higher division players, who can improve your squads level of experience and quality. This can be done by attempting to sign the best players from the relegated clubs, in an attempt to build a team that is good enough to survive the drop. These players can often be easier to sign too, as they will be looking for an exit route after a good season that ended in relegation. Therefore, this is usually a good option for a newly promoted team.

This is a less risky option, and often becomes the most financially astute way to go about transfer business as a newly promoted club.

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Tip Four- Spend money in other areas of your club

A promotion does not only have to benefit your club on the pitch. It is vital that some of the extra funds the step up will provide are spent in a way that expands the club size as a whole, not just in the on-field staff. This can include hiring better coaches, scouts and physios, or even asking your board for improvements in facilities. Using the extra finance to raise the youth level or facilities will be a long-term benefit to the club, and asking the board for better training facilities will also help your team. This ensures that the whole club reaps the rewards from the promotion, and not just the first team.

Tip Five- Go out a hero

The final tip is a bit of a cop out unfortunately. This isn’t because I couldn’t think of five tips and only doing four is weird (I promise it isn’t). It’s because sometimes the best way of making sure your reputation at the club you got promoted isn’t tarnished by a relegation, is to not give it the chance to be. Many managers throughout history have left a club on a huge high that they knew they couldn’t build on, or repeat. From Jose Mourinho at Porto winning the Champions League, to Sir Alex Ferguson winning his final Premier League title as he left Old Trafford. If you get promoted, and are open for an exit in the future, sometimes it is better to look for a job at a bigger club with better finances and facilities, as a means to improve your career. So basically, jump before there is even the slightest chance of you being pushed.jose.jpg

Holiday Journeyman: Season Two Part Three

After a difficult return from the long Croatian mid-season break, we managed to finish April strongly, maintaining top position in the league table. We were still defying all expectations, but needed to capitalise on our good form to cement the promotion at the end of a hugely successful season. Across the last few games, we entered into a dramatic title and promotion race, which took us into the final match day of the season.

May

We started off our final month of the season just as we’d finished the last. A 2-0 away win against nine-man HASK was sealed by new hero loanee Nino, and Josip Galesic, who with five goals and seven assists has turned out to be a good free signing.

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This result was followed up by one that was much less positive however. Despite another Nino goal, we ended up losing all three of the points at home to third place Dugo Selo. However, a defeat on the same day for second place Vinogradar meant that we still had a two-point lead in the table over them, going into the last three matches.

The first of those three showed the team’s title fighting resolve.

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After Nino (who else) had given us great start, we doubled our lead through high-scoring left-back Manolo Bilic. However, fourteenth in the table NK Spanksko pulled one back before the interval, ensuring that my team talk was tense enough to melt our team’s half time Soleros.

Our worst fears were realised eight minutes after the restart, as the hosts equalised. However, academy product Miro Teskera rescued the points just twelve minutes later, as we held out for a season defining win.

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This left us with two points between our title rivals, with two to go. A superior head-to-head record against Vinogradar meant that four points would be enough, but I wanted to win the title outright.

The penultimate game of our season was a clash with seventh placed NK Maksimir away from home. A close and tense fixture was decided by a Neven Curturilo penalty before the half time whistle that could turn out to be the retiring thirty-six-year-old’s last competitive goal before the end of his career.

A good result like this perfectly set up the final fixture of the season. Vinogradar needed to beat ninth placed Trnje at home, whilst we hosted bottom of the table Segesta, a side already relegated from the division. We sat two points clear of second place and went into the game full of confidence.

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This confidence was not wasted, as we managed to secure a famous promotion with a comfortable 2-0 win in Krk. Nino tapped home the opener after a goalmouth scramble had been created from a corner. This was the only goal up until Teskera doubled the lead, with a left footed long shot seven minutes after the break. We held on well for the rest of the match, recording a league title win in my first full season in charge of the club.

Season Roundup and Review

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This final day success made the season one of the most surprising and memorable that I have had in the whole of FM19. With multiple individuals standing out as key performers in the title win.

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Despite the great form of Nino in the second half of the season, his eight goals were only good enough to see him make it to third highest scorer. Our main striker Filip Mamic (who to be fair to Nino did play eighteen more times than him) scored two more goals, to equal Kristijan Batelic’s tally of ten goals.

Players of the Season

 3. Hrvoje Smolcic- This loan signing was arguably what turned our side from defensively leaky, to the best in the division. He contributed three goals and two assists meaning he ended up with three POTM awards. Overall, the nineteen-year-old Rijeka centre back had an average rating of 7.27, and is top of my list of players to add to the squad on a permanent deal during the next transfer window.

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2. Manolo Bilic- A full-back who joined six months before I did, Bilic has had an incredible player this season for Krk. A high-scoring left back is not exactly a rarity in FM19. Most saves I’ve had this has happened. The wing back role with attack function always ends up with strong performances from the player there, and Bilic continued this trend. His two goals and four assists left him with five POTM awards, and a league-topping average rating of 7.44.

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  1. Kristijan Batelic- What can be said about the impact this twenty-six year old free signing has made? From the left side of a central midfield three, his contribution of ten goals and six assists has been vital to our title-winning campaign. Batelic is my favourite kind of midfielder in FM, he is physically strong, scores goals and can play in just about any role. He works well as a Mezzala, BWM or even an advanced playmaker, and this versatility helped the team tremendously throughout the year. If we picked up injuries to other midfield players, he was there to fill their role. He has been an exceptional performer for us, and with an average rating of 7.17 I believe he has been our player of the season.

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Next Season

So, after the dramatic end to the season, our thoughts must turn to remaining in a division that hardly anyone expected us to be in. This will certainly be a huge challenge, with many of our players not even being considered good enough for our own league. I will use the promotion to build the club slowly into a more financially stable one, with ‘insecure’ the current description from the board. I will hopefully be able to strengthen not only the playing squad, but the backroom staff and facilities of the club, ensuring this promotion leads to a growth in NK Krk as a whole.

Thank you for following our promotion battle this season, I cannot wait to start the new season in the Druga HNL. The first blog of the third season in our Holiday Journeyman save will be coming soon, so make sure to follow FM Overload.

 

Holiday Journeyman: Season Two Part Two

After an unexpectedly great start to the 2019/20 season, we began our winter break at the start of the December, top of the Treca HNL West. With fourteen games to go, we were in the driving seat in the division, and looked set to gain promotion to the second tier of Croatian football.

The three-month break was a concern for me, with friendlies only arranged for January and February. I was concerned that there was a possibility that we would lose the momentum that we had gained in the previous months, with the long break almost feeling like a second pre-season.

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A loss to top division Sibenik began our friendly run, before a thriller in Split sent us on a run of four games in which we scored four goals. Thankfully, we managed to concede less in the three following. We finished up with a 2-1 win at semi-pro club Jadran Porec.

January Transfer Window

One player who stood out in these fixtures was our sole signing of the January window. As I mentioned in a previous blog, we had been struggling with just the one option up front. Therefore, at the start of the window, I was aware this is where I needed to strengthen. However, with literally no money to spend, I needed a loan deal with no wages or monthly fees included.

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I found my answer in the nineteen-year-old Nino Mohorovicic, loaned in from Druga HNL (second division) club NK Varazdin. He came in on loan until the end of the season, and instantly became the best striker at Krk.

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He would fit perfectly as our sole striker in the advanced forward role, and looked to instantly put pressure on the spot of Filip Mamic in the starting eleven. He started in a way that proved this ambition too, scoring twice on his debut in the 4-4 draw with Split, and continuing to score throughout the friendlies. In the end, he had four goals in six non-competitive games for us.

February/March

We returned after the break with a slight problem with match fitness, but no more injury issues than before the gap. This encouraged me, as I felt we could continue our long unbeaten run, that now dated back four months. However, it was not to be, as we struggled to get into our first league game back, and ended up collapsing as the game went on.

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However, we bounced back well from our loss to Pazninka, and began March with a fantastic away performance against Novigrad, resulting in a 3-0 win. Making his first competitive start in this fixture, a brace from Nino Mohorovicic showed he had the ability to do it in important games. We then dominated games against Vrbovec and Zagorec, but to no success. We were the better team in both, even the 3-0 loss, but couldn’t take our chances and ended up getting caught out at the back. This theme continued against Karlovac, who were seventeenth at the time. We took a 3-1 lead into the last quarter of an hour, but ended up throwing away two points, after the opposition converted a last-minute penalty to equalise.

This finished a disappointing run of games for the club, as we threw away a seven-point lead at the top, and with nine games to go we were level on points with second place Vinogradar.

These results were mainly frustrating due to the fact we hadn’t played particularly badly in any of them. We dominated possession, and created enough chances, but just did not have the luck in the games. This suggested that it wasn’t a case of our overachievement ending, but more of an example of fatigue and bad luck faltering an otherwise perfect title challenge. A title challenge that of course we were not expecting.

After this stutter in form, I decided to slightly alter the midfield balance and roles, as we seemed to lack creativity and struggled to find the killer final pass in games. Therefore, I switched from our 4-1-4-1 wide to a flat 4-3-3 style midfield.

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This presented a more basic, yet balanced midfield three. Alilovic switched from a DLP to a straightforward central midfielder, with the defensive responsibility. Batelic has been our best player this season, with the free signing scoring ten goals and assisting five in the league. He retains his role as the Mezzala which had seen him as our top scorer. Soon-to-retire veteran playmaker Cuturilo was moved into the team as the advanced playmaker. The aim of this was to shift the playmaking efforts further forward, and allow each member of the midfield to focus on the element of the game they are most accustomed to.

April

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This shift allowed us to turnaround our fortunes in an unbeaten month of April. Once again, we threw away the three points late on, in a 2-2 draw at home to mid-table Kurilovec. However, we followed this up with three good performances. We dominated a 3-1 away win to NK Zagreb, before loan signing Nino (Mohorovicic) netted the sole strike in a 1-0 win at home. We finished the month with a great 3-0 win in Krk against Trnje, leaving us still top of the table going into the last five games of the season.

Therefore, the final post of this season will be our run in for the end of the season. We will find out soon if we will be laying on the beach dreaming of the second division in the 20/21 season, or whether or not we will be looking back on a chance missed to gain promotion…we’ll still be lead on the beach though…just a bit more miserably.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Journeyman: Season Two Part One.

Summer Transfer Window

After half a season of getting used to the club, players and weather of Krk Island, I was feeling fairly confident of a successful full campaign in Croatia. After finishing eighth, I expected to maintain this position of security in mid table. The board expected even less of my squad, giving me the target of avoiding relegation from the division. Going into pre-season with a budget of £0 and only a couple of hundred to spend on wages, I knew the squad wouldn’t be changing a whole lot, so on the beach in Krk, I whipped out a Calippo and prepared for the season ahead.

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As expected, the summer window did not involve a huge amount of business, with two players out, and six in. Our record transfer for the window sitting at £170. We began our business with possibly the highlight of the window, a free signing of Kristijan Batelic from fourth tier side Rovinj. He had been lighting up the lower division, with seven goals and eleven assists giving him an average rating of 7.41. He looked to add creativity and goals to a rather hit and miss midfield.

Marko Colic was signed (also on a free) as backup in the defensive midfield position. He would be joined from HNL South side Primorac Biograd by Josip Galesic, who was signed to offer cover on both wings.

The two sales were quite important to how the rest of the window went. Both players I would have preferred to keep, but both forced out moves. Sluga was a nineteen-year-old backup centre-back who demanded a move for first team football, he ended up going to Croatia’s top league, signing for HNK Gorica for £10,000. This sale was not quite as important as our second, as Robert Brdar left the club for just over twelve thousand. He was our leading goal-scorer during the 2018/19 season, netting thirteen times in the league. I had been aware of his desire to leave the club from late in the previous season, so I had anticipated his exit before it became official on deadline day 2019.

Our other three arrivals included two centre backs, Hrvoje Smolcic on loan from HNK Rijeka for the season, and Canadian twenty-one-year-old Kosovar Sadiki. The former would become the best centre back at the club, taking the place of club captain Marin Con within the first team. The latter acquisition would replace Sluga as a backup option.

Finally, we made our first signing that involved a transfer fee on deadline day. After losing the winger who had provided most of our goal threat, I decided to replace him with Anton Berisic, an inside forward from the Eastern version of our division. He would offer competition for the wingers already at the club, and is the only natural inside forward in the squad for the left side.

The Starting Eleven and Tactics

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So, after all of the transfer business had been concluded, this is how we started our 2019/20 campaign. Just one change to the back four saw our loanee Smolcic perform the ball-playing-defender role. Despite the fact he is not completely natural there, I like having at least one BPD in this system, and he seems the most suited. Bilic performs the inverted-wing-back role and is set to attack, ensuring he offers attacking support. The left side of the team is set up for rotation during a match, as Batelic is set to the role of attacking mezzala. Stepcic is a home grown Krk player, who plays as an inside forward on the left. This system allows for the three left sided players to interchange in searching for space, with the ‘underlap left’ allowing all of them to search for space around each other to offer passing options. Alilovic is the team’s deep-lying-playmaker, and rotates possession well to build up from the back, aiding the team’s ability to play out of defence. The box-to-box midfielder is often the spare man in this midfield, offering cover and attacking ability. Two players have played in that position during the start of the season, Vice-captain and veteran Neven Cuturilo, and academy prospect Miro Teskera. The latter has cemented the place over the last couple of games. Despite his poor stats, Teskera broke into my matchday squad and then starting eleven during my first half a season at the club. Scoring four and assisting three from midfield in the 2018/19 season. This form has continued into the new season.

The eleven is completed by the out and out winger and new singing Galesic, and nineteen-year-old advanced forward Filip Mamic. The system can be compared to Sarriball in its roles (in the sense that I pretty much ripped it off), but ends up being different in its build up, with less focus on retaining the ball at the back, and more emphasis on balls in behind by the centre backs.

September

Our season began on the first of September in Croatia, and it was a great start. A 1-0 away win to last season’s runners up Vinogradar. The only goal of the match came from a Galesic header, after a free kick was conceded by the hosts just outside the area.

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We then started our home campaign with three wins back to back at the SC Josip Pepi Uravic. A 5-1 smashing of Samobor was followed by two solid clean sheet performances, leaving us top of the table with twelve points from a possible twelve. Our first loss of the season therefore did not come as a surprise. We were still expected to finish just outside of the relegation zone, and a 1-0 loss away to Novigrad seemed to suggest our over-achievement was over.

But the two successive wins that followed suggested otherwise. I must’ve forgotten my lucky flip-flops during the trip to Novigrad, because we came flying back into form to end September. This positive run continued into the next month, despite a draw that began October.

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We managed to maintain our unbeaten run, ending the month at the top of the table. This had been a great month for Batelic, who had scored three goals from midfield during the six games, and had been performing very well for us in our excellent run.

With November beginning we sat twelve places higher than our media prediction, top of the Treca HNL West table. In this division, there is a long winter break that means teams take December off, before playing friendlies in January and February. Therefore, I wanted to head off for the break still at the top of the league.Screen Shot 2019-06-27 at 18.11.50

Thankfully, our form in November allowed for this, with three wins and four draws. We did lack the final killer ball in a lot of these games however, struggling to draws with teams we should have comfortably beaten. Mamic our first choice (only choice) striker had some poor performances during this month, and with his tally of eight goals only half of that of the league’s top scorer, it may be time to look for some competition for his spot in the team.

However, despite some lacking performances, we went into the winter break pinching ourselves, top of the table after expecting a relegation battle. Hopefully this form can continue, and allow us to spend our summer relaxing on Krk island, planning our first season in the Druga HNL division.

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Holiday Journeyman: Save Introduction and Season One

As we move further into June 2019, it is getting to the time in the Football Manager calendar when most players decide to try something a little bit different. We’ve all started saves with the team we support, we’ve all won the Champions League with a team from the Evo-Stik Mars Bar League South and West, and we’ve all taken a mid-table team to domestic domination. Therefore, at this time everyone needs a creative new save idea. This was the thinking behind this new save. The Journeyman game I have set up is completely different to any I have tried before.

Using the summer theme, I have setup a save with a few selected leagues and nations to choose from. All of these are leagues that I haven’t tried using before in an FM journeyman save, this was the main reason I chose them, attempting to steer clear of any obvious locations or leagues which I’ve used a lot over the years.

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The Holiday Rule: Because of the summer theme, I have decided to introduce this rule, to make it different to all of the other journeyman saves I have done throughout every football manager game. This rule means that when I see a job available, I have to research the place in which the team play. If I would want to go on holiday to the location, I am allowed to apply. If I would not be keen on going there, I will not be applying for the job.

This means that in the world of FM, my manager just goes to places to have long holidays, and whilst he’s over there he gets to do a bit of football management. I will admit, most of this save is going to be me fantasising about being this manager, and ultimately, I will become jealous of a fictional version of me, but hopefully this won’t ruin my enjoyment of the save.

I will eventually be moving on from each club, building my way up from the bottom leagues of these countries right up to the top.

Season One: Unemployed

After starting any journeyman save, I tend to skip up until Christmas to see what jobs are available then. In this save I only skipped until November, as I decided my manager was already going to be having enough holiday throughout the save, so didn’t need to spend six months doing even more holidaying.

When I got into the save I finally found a job that I found appealing, both from a footballing and non-footballing standpoint. I was offered a job in the third tier of Croatian football, in the Treća HNL West division. The job I applied for was at the team who were fifteenth in the league table, NK Krk.

After doing a huge amount of research (googling the name of the team and looking at images) it is fair to say that Krk island did pass the holiday rule.

 

So, after hardly any deliberation at all, I moved to Krk, to try and make their football look just as good as their Island.

I decided to use the rest of the season as a bit of a feeling out process, getting used to the squad and seeing how I could fit them into a system that was both similar to what I have used in the past in FM, and suitable for lower level teams.

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My first game was the home fixture against Zagorec, a decent result that helped me to gage how I should be playing, we then had three successive wins before our first loss to second place Orijent 1919 away from home. A win on the first of December against Zagreb preceded a long winter break in which we were able to play ten friendlies. This once again allowed me to get used to the club, players and division.

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After this break, we won four games in a row, and ultimately went on a good run to end the season, finishing off with a 4-0 win at home, meaning we finished eighth, a comfortably mid-table position. This was a successful half a season, and left me feeling confident for my first full campaign, if a little bit sunburnt.

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Part Two-Our First Full Season at Krk will be coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FM Weekend Predictions #1

Premier League

Tottenham v Liverpool

After a disappointing defeat at Vicarage Road a fortnight ago, it will be interesting to see how Spurs respond at Wembley on Saturday in the early kick-off. Liverpool have made their strongest ever Premier League start, but this will be their biggest test. But with the momentum that they have, I can’t see anything other than a Liverpool win in this weekend’s top flight opener. I think that Liverpool will start strongly and blow Spurs away in this game, and set out their title aspirations this weekend.

FMO Predicts: 3-1 Liverpool

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Bournemouth v Leicester

After a good start for Bournemouth, they face a Leicester side who have been hit and miss so far. They were good against Wolves, and we unlucky against Manchester United and Liverpool. James Maddison seems to be another successful Championship export, performing well so far and could even get an England call-up for the next international games. With two strong teams in decent form, this game is difficult to call. I think it’ll be a score draw, with two good attacking teams and Jamie Vardy back for Leicester.

FMO Predicts: 1-1 Draw

Chelsea v Cardiff

This could end up being a more difficult game to call than it may look on paper. Chelsea’s defence has struggled from crosses, particularly from the left side of the back four, with Marcos Alonso’s attacking ability not being matched by his defensive knowledge. I think Cardiff could cause some issues at Stamford Bridge, with their no-nonsense route one style. However with a player like Eden Hazard on the pitch, it is difficult to bet against Chelsea, who I think will just get past their opposition to pile more misery on the Welsh side.

FMO Predicts: 2-0 Chelsea

Huddesfield v Crystal Palace

These teams only have one league win between them so far this season, and this should make it a big one for both of them. I was impressed with Palace’s transfer business this summer, particularly with Max Meyer, who is a great free signing for them. Obviously Zaha will be huge for them, if he plays I think they will have too much for a struggling Huddesfield side who haven’t really improved their squad after a great season last year. I think Palace will get their second win here.

FMO Predicts: 1-0 Crystal Palace

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Manchester City v Fulham

It is hard to give Fulham any kind of chance in this game really. They have looked good so far, maintaining their attacking style and recording more shots on target than Liverpool up to this point. I just can’t see how they’d keep out the champions for ninety minutes however. City have had a good start, despite drawing away at Wolves. They were unlucky not to win in that game against a newly promoted side high on confidence. Since then they’ve dragged through a win against Newcastle too. I think they’ll be far too much for Fulham.

 

FMO Predicts: 3-0 Manchester City

 

Newcastle v Arsenal

After a tough start, Newcastle are very unlucky to have lost three games. They did very well against Spurs and Manchester City and nearly parked their bus all the way to a draw against free scoring Chelsea. I think it may be another one of those days for the black and white army however, as Arsenal begin to find their stride under Emery. They were pushed all of the way by Cardiff but found a way, and I think they’ll do the same here.

 

FMO Predicts: 1-0 Arsenal

 

Watford v Manchester United

Despite only being the fifth match of the season, this already feels like a make or break game for Mourinho this season. Watford have been flying so far, making their best start in the Premier League era. They could beat United if they play as well as they did against Spurs. It is obvious that they’re there for the taking after some shocking performances against Brighton and in the second half against Tottenham. It is really hard to tell if Manchester United will turn up or not, but Watford will after the start they’ve made, so I think they can do it at Vicarage Road again.

FMO Predicts: 2-1 Watford

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Wolves v Burnley

Two sides who have had differing fortunes so far this season, and I think that form will prevail in this Super Sunday match. Burnley have really struggled so far, and I can’t see them beating a Wolves team that have carried their Championship winning momentum into the Premier League. I think Wolves will build on their good home form and first win away at West Ham, and beat Burnley at Molineux on Sunday.

FMO Predicts: 2-0 Wolves

Everton v West Ham

Another team that have been unlucky at times, Everton look decent this season. With good additions in the summer and a good manager, I think they will have way too much for a West Ham team that look in trouble already. Pellegrini really hasn’t brought in enough proven Premier League talent, and could be in for a long and hard season back in England. I think it’ll be a home win in this one.

FMO Predicts: 2-0 Everton

Southampton v Brighton

The final Premier League game of match day five is between two teams with identical records so far, and I think the game will be as close as the table suggests. Both teams have had decent starts after decent windows, and I think they’ll both end up around the middle of the Premier League table. I think this game will end as a draw, as both teams put out equally decent performances at St Mary’s.

FMO Predicts: 1-1 Draw

 

Championship (Summary)

It looks set to be a big weekend for many teams in the second tier of English football. Kicking off with a game in which Garry Monk’s Birmingham must pick up their first win of the season, if they are gonna kick on and do well. Their opponents, West Brom, will be confident after their home win against stoke, and I think this might give them the edge in this game. As a Reading fan, I am wincing at the thought of our trip to Deepdale on Saturday, as Preston will almost certainly record a second league win against us. We have been very poor in every game this season, and I really cannot see us getting the points to stay in the division this year. Another battle at the bottom sees Bolton, fresh off their devastating administration news, at home to QPR. The news of a points reduction will seriously hurt Bolton’s chances in this game, as they are taking on an uphill task for the rest of the season, this could give QPR the chance to pounce for a valuable win.

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FMO Championship Predictions:

 Birmingham 1-2 West Brom

Bolton 0-1 QPR

Brentford 2-0 Wigan

Bristol City 1-1 Sheffield United

Hull City 0-0 Ipswich

Millwall 1-2 Leeds

Norwich 0-2 Middlesbrough

Preston 2-0 Reading

Rotherham 1-2 Derby

Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Stoke

Swansea 2-2 Nottingham Forest

Blackburn 1-1 Aston Villa

 

Boxing:

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This weekend sees the eagerly anticipated second fight between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez. After a controversial draw decision, these two go head to head once more in Las Vegas in the early hours of Sunday morning GMT. Despite the fact he maybe should’ve been handed the defeat, Canelo proved he has what it takes to compete at the highest level, causing problems for GGG with his explosive and unpredictable fighting style. He’s only lost once and will not be any easier this time. I can see a repeat of the first fight, with Canelo starting well, and I think he’ll take Golovkin to a decision once again, however I think this time GGG will have done enough to beat the Mexican on points in Nevada.

FMO Predicts: Golovkin to win by unanimous decision.

5 Tips for FM Beginners

 

For many people, FM is a game that is appealing, but also daunting. The hundreds of menus and settings that can be altered allows for great detail, but also great confusion. However, it doesn’t have to be so difficult to begin playing Sport Interactive’s hugely popular management simulation series. So here are five things every beginner should consider when first playing the game.

  1. Play it Simple– It may seem best to leap in to Football Manager, trying to learn every detail of the game. I would suggest that this is not the best thing to do. FM can be as simple or complicated as you like, so it is best to start off slowly. Start a save with your favourite team, and spend a few seasons making your way through the game’s interface using things as and when you need to. The thing that puts a lot of people of the game is its complex detailed approach to management, but this issue can easily be fixed. Using the ‘Staff Responsibilities’ menu, Assistant managers and coaches can easily be assigned using the staff to take activities such as Training, Opposition Instructions, Friendlies or Press conferences for you, allowing any beginner to focus on learning the basics of the game, and developing a love for Football Manager.Picture1
  2. Save, Save and then Save again! – If you’re someone who has never played FM before, you are yet to experience the heart-breaking agony of a save file corrupting with which you have spent hundreds of hours of your life. Stop yourself from this mistake. As a long time, player of the game, I can say that it is quite rare for a file to corrupt, however it has happened in the past. It is very preventable however. Creating two files manually and switching between saving them is probably the simplest, however the game does allow you to set up a three/five/ten file rolling save system in the ‘preferences’ menu. This will automatically save in different files, meaning that if one corrupts you have two others that should be working perfectly. This of course is not an issue limited to FM, but being a game that tends to take up a lot of player’s time, it is particularly crushing to lose a game save.Picture2

 

  1. Get some Faces, Logos and Kits– Despite FM’s wide and impressive range of licences with leagues and teams, some of the bigger leagues do not have badges, kits or player faces. These can easily be downloaded from sites such as www.fmscout.com, and easily added to the game. When the files are unzipped and on your PC, then can simply be copy and pasted into the graphics folder of the game in your documents folder. A full step-by-step guide to applying the data packs will be on the website that you download them from. Overall this is easier to do than you may imagine, and adds hugely to the look of the menus, and with the bigger competitions like the Premier League, La Liga and the Champions League it is certainly worth doing.

 

 

  1. Try out some Mods– The steam workshop page for FM2018 is a great place to find mods that will enhance your playing experience. With database transfer updates that keep up to date with the latest moves in real life you can always have the right players at the right team. Other more unrealistic, challenge producing mods can be used for creative save ideas. These include the two updates below, on the left is a legend update that adds historic players to the database, allowing you to poach them as an uprising wonderkid, and watch them rise to a footballing great. The right is an update that switches FC United of Manchester and Manchester United, reversing the facilities, status and finances of the two clubs.

 

  1. Remember Player Roles! –When starting off, it is easy to overlook the importance of certain things. When you have your formation, starting line-up and team instructions sorted, you may think your tactics are finished. However, the role you assign to each player may be just as important as the rest of the setup. Having a player with a low passing or composure stat set as a ‘Ball Playing Defender’ could lead to mistakes or poor performances. On the other hand, having a full back with great pace, crossing and stamina as a ‘Defensive Full-Back’ is a bit of a waste of talent.

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The Best Tactics in FM: 4-3-3 Xmas Tree

The Best Tactics in FM18- The Christmas Tree

With the central attacking midfielder becoming a more and more important position in football, the Christmas tree variation of the 4-3-3 is one that gets the best out of these types of attacker. It is a formation in FM that has created three high scoring players in the team, with the below screenshot an example of the tactic, illustrated through the use of Real Madrid. It’s a system that I have used at points in many saves, and has always led to my teams being both protected at the back and potent in attack.

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The Formation:

The tactic lines up with a back four, then three central midfield players behind two attacking midfield players and one striker, creating the tree shape. The full backs will need to provide width in attack, offering overlaps to the central midfielders and AMs. The central midfielder in the three will most likely be the one who is the most defensive, the player who will drop deeper to cut out passing moves and to protect the back four. The other two will either help in build ups or get forward to get involved in attacks. The two central attacking midfielders will need to do work both inside and out wide in order to create chances, they will also be required to get in behind, as the striker holds up the ball and looks to lay it off to them in space.

In Defence:

This tactic suits a pressing style, starting from the front three. They all will try and close down defenders and force them into errors, allowing for the other two attackers to launch counters when they win the ball back. The front three being close together allows for concentrated pressing as a unit, as they aim for interceptions and turnovers high up the pitch. The back four will need to be protected by at least one central midfield player, otherwise the defensive system can be based on personal preference. In Casemiro, Madrid would have a strong ball winner and defensive midfielder, in my save with Chelsea using the 1995-96 update (link at the bottom of the post) I played this tactic. I used Didier Deschamps as the defensive midfielder in the three, with either Di Matteo, Lampard or Wise alongside him in more attacking roles.

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The ball winning midfielder frees up the other two central midfielders to get involved in attacks, whilst covering the back four.

 

In Attack:

Going forward this tactic allows for three central attackers who all can get into attacking positions. With the second striker role applied, this player will almost be another centre forward, who will get beyond the complete forward. The advanced playmaking will find space and pick out the other two. This worked wonders with my retro Chelsea side, with Zola and Poyet combining with Vialli to create a lot of scoring opportunities.

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At the end of the second season I signed Poyet to give us a strong scoring threat from behind the striker, he outscored Vialli to become our player of the season, with 27 goals in all competitions, and 10 assists. His superb 19 finishing stat and great long shots, ‘off the ball’ and heading stats making him a vitally important component in this tactic.

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Another important player was Gianluca Vialli during this Chelsea save. He scored 50 goals in all competitions across the first two seasons, playing as a complete forward. Great service from other players combined with his good finishing meant that he became a prolific striker, leading us to great success from the lone centre forward position.

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Scott Minto was terrific in this system, with attacking full backs imperative to the tactic, in providing width and crossing for the centre forward and attacking midfielders. He has created 16 goals from the full back position in two seasons, with Dan Petrescu offering similar threat from the other side of the back four. The Romanian managed to get a huge 30 assists across two seasons in all competitions. This full back presence in attack is vital for this tactic.

Player Roles:

Most of the player roles can be changed depending on personal preference or the suitability to the players in this system. The attacking midfielders can be set to whatever role will get the best out of them, and the same is true of the left and right midfielders. With Madrid, I suggested using Kroos and Modric as either deep-lying or advanced playmakers, who create openings for the attackers. However, with Chelsea I used a Box-to-box midfielder in Dennis Wise, who gets involved in attacks. The more important roles are that of the middle centre midfielder and the striker. The more defensive midfielder works well as a ball winning midfielder, or as a defensive midfielder. The striker seems to work well as a complete forward, as an all-round striker is needed. He needs to hold up the ball well, and also press. A target man or advanced forward may also still work, but the striker himself needs to be good both technically and physically in this system.

 

Team Instructions

Once again there is a lot of personal choice involved. The most important instructions are in the build-up department, for example the ‘play narrower’, ‘exploit the middle’ and ‘look for overlap’ important in utilising the attacking midfielders, attacking full backs and strikers. I had good ball playing defenders in the back four, so with Chelsea I decided to play out from the defence to the midfield and onto the attacking three, but with strikers who can win headers and hold the ball up it can be possible to play a more direct style if that suits the team more. The obvious pressing instructions will be needed if you want to counter-press from the front, and passing into space will help with quick breaks and to open up opposition defences to create space for the attacking players.

 

Player Instructions:

The box-to-box midfielder could be told to move into channels if the full backs aren’t getting involved enough, this could help create chances from out wide. The full backs are important in the attacking system. I set attacking instructions to my full backs in my Chelsea save.

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With the full back ‘getting further forward’ and ‘staying wider’ he will offer width to the attacks, with the crossing occurring more often to the centre. This will create a huge amount of goals from out wide in this system, adding to the goals scored by the attacking midfielders and centre backs.

Overall:

This tactic is great for the use of good attacking players, who like to get forward and create and score goals. It is well balanced, with great support for the defence with three centre midfielders in front of a flat back four. The team attacks well through the middle and out wide, and providing you have the players to play in each position this system can be absolutely perfect for your team.