FM17: Stuttgart – The Story So Far

So this wasn’t supposed to happen so soon was it? I mean, usually I flounder around hopefully for AT LEAST a few months on a new Football Manager game, jumping from tactic to tactic, team to team & rage quit to counselling. But here I am, the game has literally only been out a matter of hours and my first blog post is here, cherish this moment folk, and pray this lasts for a while to come.

I’ve sunk my teeth quite far into FM17 by my now-restrictive-time-standards. Real life tries to get in the way but I’ve found myself staying up ridiculously late & playing each minute I spend on bloody trains, but I digress – let’s focus on FM.

Stuttgart

So why Stuttgart? I’ve always enjoyed saves in Germany and the fact that they really should be a Bundesliga side meant my chances of early success were somewhat higher than most. Plus during my fantastic, all-conquering Stoke save in FM16 Stuttgart notoriously churned out some fantastic regens – something I was hoping would continue into FM17.

Here I’ll sum up my progress so far, I’m 2 seasons in so I’m not going to bloody remember every detail – so I’ll stick to the juicy bits. Melons.

Season 1 – 2016/17

Well this was a journey into the unknown, tactically that is. I don’t really know why but looking at the squad at first glance I thought ‘yup, 3-5-2 definitely, or 5-3-2, 2-3-5? No, definitely 5-3-2. Wins followed losses followed wins followed losses. Consistency was hard to come by & I was frustrated time and again by our inefficiency going forwards. Something had to change as we then slipped to 14th and murmurs of impending doom were sounding around the Mercedez-Benz Arena.

In a moment of lucidity the cogs began to whirl and the puzzle pieces began to come together. Over Christmas 2016, when in real life I would no doubt be rather inebriated, I decided to scrap all instructions, drop back to 1 striker in Daniel Ginczek (returning from a long term injury) & giving some of my best young players a chance. What was born from the fruit of my loins brain was a 3-4-2-1 as seen below:

system

Stuttgart clicked as we rocketed up the table, culminating in winning promotion and the title with a few games to spare, including a 5-0 drubbing of 2nd placed Kaiserslauten to notch up the trophy. This was in no doubt down to some crafty transfer business as well in a busy January 2017:

Ins

jan17 inOuts

jan17 out

My better performers/players were inappropriately touched up (steady now) by those clubs with more money than me. They all moaned as initial bids were knocked back but I saw it as an exciting challenge to replace some regular and positive performers. All those sold were aged 25+ years with Grosskreutz & Gentner both 30 – I couldn’t turn down some good money for them – even if Gentner were my star man at that point. It gave us some good money to reinvest.

In came Onguene to sure up my backline, Ristic to make the defensive winger role his own on the left hand side, Havertz on a compensation fee from Leverkusen who can play anywhere across the MC/AM lines & Assombalonga so replace Ginczek and be my main man up top.

Ristic was brilliant, Assombalonga even better as he notched 15 goals in 12 games from January including two hattricks. Britt was the shit.

Season 2 – 2017/18

Confidence was high in the Wilson household. The 3-4-2-1 was producing some stunning passing football in central areas. My friends had a new-found respect for my managerial skills & even my wife came up with the chant ‘Britt, Britt, he’s the shit’. She didn’t really, but I like to think that if she ever showed an ounce of interest in my managerial career, that’s the sort of crap she’d come out with. There’s nothing quite like enjoying an FM save is there ey?

The only major departure in the summer of 69 2017 was Emiliano Insua to Monaco for £6.75m – for an ageing, whining, ex-Liverpool player I was all too happy to see the back of the Argentinian bastard. Besides, Ristic was my man at ML & that was that.

Ins

ins Jul17

Gajic came in to provide sufficient backup and a rotation option with Jean Zimmer who was pretty darn good at MR. Bogosavac was to sit on the bench and learn every fucking detail possible from Ristic. Manojlovic was a cheap backup GK whose progression has been disappointing. Diaz provided backup to Britt the Shit, as did Guillaume (who again, hasn’t had a sniff nor progressed as expected). M’Vila was a cracking free signing to walk into the CM-D role and Upamecano was a must buy when his lovely agent told me he might be available – I promptly threw a bunch of my resources at the 18yr old wunderkin from Salzburg and he’s been a stalwart in the Stuttgart defence ever since.

So how did we do? I have to say this was one of my most enjoyable seasons in recent FMs to date, we over-performed on a consistent basis and, well, just have a look at some of these images.

results to Jan18

Some cracking results including a phenomenal thrashing of Schalke at home (yes, I don’t have the name fixes yet please don’t hate me too much).

results to Jul18

A great 2nd half to the season though we stuttered through April, however, the 1-0 win v Bayern & 4-0 drubbing of Dortmund were orgasmic.

A season to be very, very happy with. The board expected mid-table as a minimum required (one I was genuinely worried about at the beginning of the season) and we sat in 3rd place pretty much all season, once flirting with 2nd & even spent a few hours at the top of the table. Our late season stutters however meant that the defeat to Koln on the last day of the season dropped us down to finish in 4th. Still a brilliant achievement and ensures we have a chance to qualify for the Champions League next season – which is bloody awesome.

Of course, the success isn’t all down to me, I suppose. We had some great performances throughout especially from some of our young talent – here’s a summation below:

Upamecano Jul18

Dayot has been consistently great for us. At 19 he’s got many a season ahead of him – though I am worried I won’t be able to hold onto him. Averaged 7.10 this season.

Anto Grgic Jul18

Grgic has been fantastic in his role as DLP-S at MC-L; though these down arrows concern my slightly (I’m hoping he’s just boozing up on his summer holidays). He dictates the play and most of our goals involve him at some stage. Averaged 7.05 this season.

Havertz Jul18

Largely a rotation option, Havertz was a steal to effectively sign on a free. I’ve used him at DLP-S, EG & SS and if I’m honest I prefer him from the SS role and his better performances were from there – he even bagged a few playing up top when called upon.

Ozcan Jul18

Ozcan was fantastic in his first season with us and showed glimpses in his 2nd, I’d love more consistency from him and to play more of a pivotal role – maybe I should ask him to ‘dictate the tempo’ from his EG role, or play killer balls often…it’s amazing what you think of when writing up crap like this. 12 goals, 3 assists in 33 games this season, should only get better too.

Britt Jul 18

Ok, ok I know he’s not a ‘youngster’ but I couldn’t leave without telling you more about this guy. 45 games for Stuttgart in total, 44 goals and 14 assists, averaging 7.53 this season. He topped the scoring charts with 29 in 32, won numerous awards and was the most potent scorer in Europe. In other words, Britt is the Shit.

Summary

So this brings you up to speed, I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride as much as I have so far. This will be the first of many posts and as a teaser I’ve just had permission to pay money and play with a couple of cracking 16 year olds next season. If you won’t come back for the fallout from that sentence then well I don’t see George writing much for the site these days.

Roll on Champions League qualification!

 

Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 6: Meeting the forwards (with squad summary)

vflbochum
What is football without goals? Some scholars would have you believe that the best possible result in football is 0-0 as it means the tactical discipline of each side was perfect; others would be more pleased by a 5-5 thriller comprising composed finishes, power headers and 30-yard thunderbastards – I am torn between the two.

The scholar in me likes a clean sheet as much as the next guy but the kid in me wants the joy of the goal and – when it comes to football – the kid in me always wins eventually. The scholar may recognise the need for a sound structure, but it is the kid that drives risk taking on the pitch – be it a skillful take-on, instinctive strike or a daring run. The real skill (of course) is balancing these two strands of thought to create frequent, high quality opportunities without leaving yourself vulnerable at the back.

So after some inner reconciliation between the kid and the scholar (and some theoretical tactical noodling), we are left with a system that should provide at least some chances to score. The only part of the puzzle left to discuss is the lucky lads at VfL Bochum who get to play the hero by converting chances into goals; the forwards; the strikers; Die Stürmern. Continue reading

Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 4: Meeting the midfield – The central pairing

vflbochum

The Midfield. Das Mittelfeld. That crucial area of the pitch that is simultaneously a creative hub and a defensive screen; where passing patterns are woven and opposition attacks destroyed. Usually containing players with talents varied like the instruments of an orchestra, they can be tuned to sound as bombastic as an Italian opera, as balanced as a Viennese waltz or as playful as Brazillian samba. As the cliché tells us – it can be where the game is won and lost. Lucky then that the incumbent VfL Bochum manager built quite a varied midfield for me to work with, combining steely defensive players in the centre with lightweight but creative attackers out wide. In this article, I’ll be looking at the central area of midfield where a trio of very capable players should give me the central lock-down that my tactic depends upon. Let’s take a look at the contenders…
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Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 3: Meeting the defence


vflbochum
There’s nothing quite like that palpable atmosphere in a football stadium – with its tension, mumbles and an energy you can almost taste. My first few times in the Ruhrstadion (AKA rewirpowerSTADION for sponsorship reasons… *grumble grumble modern football grumble*) I was transfixed by the tifo displays, the sea of flags, the constant drumming, the megaphones and the almost other-worldly tunes they sang. Perhaps not as tempestuous as Italy or South America, from my perspective the German fan culture still has an edge that seems to have long left the UK. It doesn’t feel dangerous, it feels alive. And they chant and chant and drum and hiss and cajole and chant some more. The Bochum fans in particular have some great catchy chants and one of them is responsible for the naming of this series of articles.
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Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 2: The staff (and pre-season)


vflbochum

Although often overlooked by many, getting together a functioning backroom staff that match your overall plan can be very rewarding. We may only be talking a 5-10% increases in coaching efficiency, tactical familiarity, team blend and squad personality (to use some examples) but in terms of player development, that could be the difference between having a good player and a world-class player. As discussed in the previous article, player development will be an important part of my philosophy at Bochum so when I start-up my search, I’m looking for excellent coaching ability first and foremost. I also look at their personality, history and age as well as key attributes for each role to make sure I secure staff that will be around long enough to improve themselves and rub off on the lads coming through.
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The Stoke Chronicles: Tactical Analysis (Part 1)

I’m heading into unprecedented ground here folks. I can’t remember ever churning out articles so regularly as this, it’s a good thing, a bloody good thing. I’m enjoying it and hopefully you are too – long may this continue.

As promised I wanted to provide a bit of in-match tactical analysis to back up my last article where I broke down my team, tactic and instructions. So prepare yourself for death by screenshot.

Here I’ve looked at 2 matches from the 2021/22 season, one of the seasons with a Premier League & Champions League victory. I wanted to analyse matches before this season – but only realised when writing this article that I couldn’t go back further than 4 seasons! Slightly gutting, but a lesson learned. You’ll go on to see that I’ve analysed goals from these 2 games – as this is the easiest thing to do. In future posts I will focus on defence and weaknesses to try and give a really rounded look on this Stoke team.

Champions League Final: Stoke 3-1 Chelsea

I’ve picked this game because it was lovely to revisit, always savor a win over Chelsea, especially with Mourinho still there. We won the game comfortably in the end, 2 goals from set pieces and the first goal I’ve analysed below.

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I enjoy scoring this type of goal and it’s one that’s pretty commonly scored in this Stoke side. It’s fairly simple and direct and takes full advantage of the demonic pace in our wide players. Rene-Adelaide’s starting position between the lines is exactly what we want for him to either turn and run at the defence or to have time to pick a pass – which he does very well.

Champions League Semi-Final 2nd Leg – Stoke 4-0 Dortmund

Now for a lot more insight. Here I’m analysing all 4 goals and will hopefully give you a good idea of how my tactic and instructions contribute to the build-up and more importantly, the goals we score. Buckle up and get ready for a thrilling ride.

Stoke 1-0 Dortmund (Gabigol 4′)

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Another deadly counter-attacking goal. Against a 4-3-3 we are lethal on the break as more often that not, the AMR/AML are caught high up the pitch and leave acres of space down the flanks as the DR/DL tuck inside. I particularly enjoy how Jevdjovic is within the penalty area when crossing and not nearer the corner flag, meaning we’ve a much higher % chance of finding the man in the middle and ultimately, scoring.

Stoke 2-0 Dortmund (Cresswell 29′)

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This is a great example of how the instruction to ask my full backs to sit narrow can have a positive affect in attack. Notice how we have 5 players in their penalty box and a further 3 supporting. If an attack breaks down we may be a little exposed, so it’s a good job we have a good habit of scoring.

Stoke 3-0 Dortmund (Gabigol 51′)

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A lovely goal and an example of how our players can find space both through the initial set up positionally and from their own ability. The triangle between Romero, Rene-Adelaide & Gabigol works very well again.

Stoke 4-0 Dortmund (Gabigol 79′ – hat-trick)

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A fairly straight forward goal but one that comes about through a number of factors. Cresswell starting wide means Sane tucks in, allowing him to break into the box when he skins his man, making the ball to Gabigol a simple pass instead of a low % cross.

I hope this gives you all a bit of an insight into how the tactic works in practice. There’s a lot more to show – but only so much I can do in one post. All feedback appreciated as ever. My next blog will profile a few key players in our current squad, until then!

Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 1: The groundwork

vflbochum

After a protracted reorganising of my life forced me into a several month article hiatus, I felt it was time to jump back on the wagon, dust off my virtual boots and start asking my scouts to find me the next Jamie Vardy. So far FM16 has mostly been about tactics, tweaking and a new level of deeper learning for me, though like many of us I’m still prone to the occasional freak out of frustration when something just isn’t going as planned. To be honest, my most recent Altrincham save was binned when I took a few weeks off, came back and had no desire left to raise the sleeping Chesire giants to the pinnacle of English football, especially as it was something I’d done before. I needed a spark of inspiration… Continue reading

The Versus Series – Ed’s Stoke take on Chris’ (FM_Samo) Morton

FM Versus Competition – Ed v Chris

Stoke vs Morton

Welcome to a brand new feature some of us within the FM blogging world are looking to bring to you over the coming weeks and months where we pit ourselves, our teams, tactics & pride against each other in a one off, winner-takes-all-the-bragging-rights match.

However this competition is different in that it’s not the result that matters the most…ok it still matters – but what we’re looking to mainly provide is a bit of an insight into our thought process as FM managers as well as a rundown on our team, tactic and in-match analysis when standing on the touchline with each other. So without further ado, let’s stop Ed from waffling on. When you’re done reading this make sure you check out Chris’ take on this game here.

So to kick things off I’m up against Chris Samson (FM_Samo) and his overachieving Morton side. To set the scene my Stoke side have, for the most part, been laying to waste most of the PL & Europe for a few seasons now, so the match-up is slightly skewed, however as mentioned before, it’s more about the journey than the destination (big hint: I won the match, go Stoke!).

So here’s how the teams looked before kick-off:

FMV - lineups

So as you can see I’m in my beloved, slightly lob-sided 4-4-1-1 formation & Chris has gone for a 4-1-2-2-1 / 4-3-3 formation. On seeing Chris’ formation before the kick-off I didn’t make any changes, I know that my team has fared fairly well against this system in the past with the only real threat coming on the counter attack if my full backs have bombed on too bloody far and we for some reason don’t put the ball in the back of the net. Yet I know that Chris had more to worry about that I did (that sounds awful but really no offense is meant Chris). Mind games ey?

And here’s my instructions:

stokeinstr

Stoke’s key men:

Keyman - Jevdjovic

This is the main man right now. My best player and a bloody awesome regen. He dominates the right flank with his pace and power. I play him as a WM-A which may surprise some who would no doubt look at him and cry out that he should be a winger, but hopefully all will be revealed later. He also does a damn good job if getting on the end of left wing crosses from…

Keyman - Sane

This chap, my first love (not strictly true) and you’d be hard pushed to find two better wide players. Sane is the source of most of my assists because he’s bloody brilliant at whipping in them crosses. Most of them to…

Keyman - Barbosa

Gabriel Barbosa, Gabigol, Sexy Beast – he goes by many names & he’s nothing short of fantastic playing as an AF-A up top for Stoke. Morton, you have been warned.

Stoke 1-0 Morton (Barbosa – 9mins)

1st goal initial

So here we are in the build-up to our first goal, Chambers has played the ball into Lucas Romero. You can see how Morton are set up with quite a structured 4-3-3 and quite narrow sitting full backs and inside forwards. My 4-4-1-1 becomes a 4-4-2 here with both wide men sticking very wide and stretching the pitch. The three danger men are circled, all of which are available to Romero who has a plethora of passing options. The filled boxes also demonstrate just how much space Sane & Jevdjovic have should they receive the ball.

Romero decides to switch it out to the danger man; Jevdjovic (as we look to exploit the flanks).

1st goal 2nd

Jevdjovic takes one touch to control it and then his 2nd touch is shown above, lightning turn of pace and he’s beaten his man with ease with acres of space to run into. Romero (circled in white) who played the pass has already bombed past his man to provide support in the attack.

1st goal 3rd

Jevdjovic actually slowed up to allow the defence to get back at him, but he was just toying with them as he gets to the byline and whips in a beauty to the near post as Gabriel Barbosa heads in ahead of his marker. 1-0.

Stoke 1-1 Morton (Kyle Walker O.G – 38mins)

It wasn’t all plain sailing after this as Morton grabbed an unlikely equaliser after 38 minutes through a Kyle Walker own goal.

morton goal 1st

Their deep lying forward picked the ball up between the lines and plays it square to an advancing central midfield player in Kern, instantly I can see I’m in trouble as Walker goes to press the ball due to my instructions to close down like f*cking crazy. Jevdjovic is fantastic but he’s not completely enamoured with the idea of tracking the full back here and he has oh so much space to run into.

morton goal 2nd

Mings is let loose down the touchline and he fires a cross into the near post, as you can see Walker has done his best to get back into the box to defend but right now he’s not even looking at the ball…and doesn’t look at it once as it cannons off his knee from the edge of the 6 yard box and into the bottom corner past the despairing Rulli. You can argue I was slightly unlucky with the nature of the goal however I was caught out by clever overlapping by Mings and also a victim of my own philosophy to press the ball extremely meaning Walker was caught out.

Stoke 2-1 (Barbosa – 58mins)

3rd goal 1st

A rather fortuitous, if not well deserved lead came about from a throw-in deep in Morton’s half. Chris will no doubt be annoyed at his team’s desire not to clear the ball as it ultimately ricocheted into Barbosa’s path who lashes a volley into the far corner to give Stoke the lead.

Stoke 3-1 (Barbosa – 68mins Hat-trick)

4th goal

Not a lot to analyse with this goal either, after a lot of pressure by Stoke on the Morton goal Chris will again be extremely annoyed with the marking at this corner. A simple cross to the 6 yard box and Barbosa is unchallenged as he heads into the top corner to settle the tie and bag a hat-trick too.

Summary

As a side note I’ll be showing more of Stoke’s tactical shape and build-up play in a separate blog post in the near future (honestly), but this was a game where we were helped by Barbosa’s clinical finishing as well as some abject defending. We didn’t create a hell of a lot as the stats show:

summary stats

We had the lion’s share of possession though as you can see we don’t complete many more passes than the opposition; I’m ok with this as I play quite a high risk style of football with the aim of getting the balls quickly to the wide men and letting them attack their man or work the ball around the box till we find an opening. Only two clear cut chances were created and neither of them resulted in a goal funnily enough, with Angel Correa thwarted by the keeper from a corner and Barbosa somehow missing from point blank range after Jevdjovic had yet again skinned his man.

Barbosa picked up PoM however Jevdjovic was the one who really caused problems and indeed completed 12 dribbles in the match, his finishing was woeful given 3 reasonable chances in scoring positions but I’d much rather he look for a pass/cross than attempt to score (he is instructed to do so in his PIs).

As for Morton they rarely troubled us but I put that more down to individuals than anything else, my average player is worth £30m+ so there was always going to be a gulf in class. It has to be said that his deep defence on what I believe may be a counter tactic stifled much of my attacking play and indeed Leroy Sane has a very quiet game and was hooked at half time having only made 1 dribble and offering very little. We struggled to create and had a number of crosses intercepted.

Morton’s full backs were by far their biggest threat to my formation and it was interesting to see how when their striker comes deep, the two inside forwards would tuck in to create space for the full backs as they’d sometimes drag my full backs inside with them.

If I were to play against Chris or a similar system in the future I would definitely worry about how gung-ho my full backs are and may even suggest switching them to defend duties and to sit wider to counter the threat posed by the opposition full backs.

If he were to play me again all I can think of is that he hope Jevdjovic has a little niggle and fails to make the squad.

Analysing Altrincham: The Wing Backs

Ahhh, much better to jump in with a post after a few days rather than weeks! You join me on my quest to turn an old tactical idea into a functional tactical reality – the catch being I’m managing Altrincham who are relegation fodder in the Vanarama Conference. After putting the finishing touches to the basic 4-1DM-3-2 outline, my initial idea was to provide a broad analysis of the tactic in action with pointers as to what is working and what isn’t. However after reading several articles recently that champion the merits of breaking down the tactic into its constituent parts, I felt it would be a nice idea to write a series of posts about each position and the issues I found. First up: The Wing Backs.
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And Now For Something Completely Different

It happens to all of us at some point. You have a phase where you don’t play the game and it just doesn’t grab you; the thought of starting a new save seems desperately long-winded and your current saves don’t quite have the “X” factor. After the Wolfsburg experiment hit a brick wall, I drifted away from FM, had the obligatory crazy back half of December (flights, booze, flights+booze) and came back to it in January with minimal desire to perfect the disciplined 4-2-3-1. I’d been away too long and couldn’t get back into the rhythm of testing – the lack of Bundesliga at the moment certainly doesn’t help either!

But never fear, I’m going to continue my tactical blogging with something that I just have to do every year – take the helm at my beloved Altrincham FC and (attempt to) mastermind success with their astonishingly limited resources. I usually go for a classic 4-4-2 as their squad is geared towards it, but after tidying my desk I found some scrawly notes from a few years ago (that’s how often I clean up) and decided to resurrect a tactic I used in FM14 in the Belgian lower leagues (hipster alert).

Now as the game changes slightly with every edition/update, it’s important to use my notes as a starting point and not simply copy the tactic over from a previous version and expect it to function well. Also, it’s much more exciting to go on a tactical journey rather than plug-in and let the points rain down (or more likely, slip away). So, what was contained within these scrawly notes?

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