Auf gehts VfL Bochum – Part 7: The academy

vflbochum
Although it was last discussed in detail at the start of the project, you may remember that a big part of my plan for VfL Bochum was to use their already good youth facilities to develop players with the long-term aim of having a production line of talent. What should make my job much easier is that the board agree with my sentiments with their only real philosophy of note being 
“Give Youth a Chance” ; they should be very pleased with me favouring the long-term strategy by giving game time to youngsters – even if it means it could cost us points in the short-term. Whether or not these players stay and become part of the first team squad is really not too important in the first few years and we could honestly use the funds from transfers to develop the facilities further anyway. But to really become a top contender in Germany (and then Europe), we will need a sustainable model and that means year upon year of talented players to support and eventually become part of the first team squad. Continue reading

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…
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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′)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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′)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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′)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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.
Continue reading

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?

Continue reading