When trying to improve, in virtually anything, you always look at the same thing; past data. Statistics and footage are important in spotting those crucial little details that can make the difference between finishing second and winning the league.
FM17 follows suit. Serious attention to detail is necessary to create an effective tactic and, with FM’s partnership with ‘STATS,’ this detail is much easier to find. You have a wealth of statistics at your fingertips and, coupled with footage and highlights of previous matches, you have all the tools to be a successful manager. You do need, however, to be patient.
How to choose your tactics
Every manager has a style of play that they bring with them from club-to-club and want to implement wherever they go, but the best managers, those really worth their salt, are the ones that can learn to get the best out of what they currently have. The key is adaptability. You need to assess your existing personnel to figure out their strengths and weaknesses and, thus, what tactic will best suit your squad. Having too rigid a tactic can be disruptive.
Key things to look out for when creating a tactic:
- If the overall work rate, stamina and determination of your squad is low, don't try and play with a high tempo or ask your players to close down more, as they're lacking the crucial attributes that determine the effectiveness of this tactic.
- A high level of passing means that your squad may be suited to playing a possession game. Try asking your players to use shorter passing, retain possession and work the ball into the box.
- Similarly, if your defenders, too, have high passing, composure and vision attributes, ask your team to play out from defence.
- If you have speedy fullbacks and wingers that can beat their marker and cross accurately, perhaps ask your team to hit early crosses and look for the overlap to really take advantage of your ability in the flanks. Asking your exploit the flanks in your build-up play would also be a good choice in this respect.
- If you like to play with a target man up front and you possess a strong striker that's a threat in the air, ask your team to pump the ball into the box so that he can hold the ball up and bring others into play.
The point here is that, whilst it's important to have a clear idea of your tactic in mind, you have to be able to adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of your squad, in general, and the individuals at your disposal. Asking a generally slow, unfit team that passes poorly to play a high-pressing, possession game is counter-intuitive.
Additionally, make sure to check out your assistant manager's team report. This will give you an in-depth breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of your squad, including the source of some of your on-field problems. Supplement this with your squad depth as you'll then have a greater awareness of how well-suited each player is to the role you're asking of them, plus the strength of personnel in the position.
How to read the post-match analysis
Now that the first step is out of the way and your tactic is set-up, the next key asset of a successful manager is fine-tuning. You have to fully understand your players to get the best out of them. To achieve this, inspect a player's individual stats with an analytical eye. Have a productive preseason and read the post-match analysis reports to have a better knowledge of how well your tactics are working so you can iron out any issues before real competition begins.
These reports will reveal the focus of your attacks, the best passing combinations, heat maps, direction of passes and so on. The point is that it’s extremely in depth and will be a valuable tool in your management. Here’s they key things to look out for in the post-match analysis reports:
- Comparing defenders can reveal who’s making the most interceptions, tackles and clearances. It can help identify how you concede goals who's responsible and, subsequently, who will need replacing in transfer windows.
- Looking at heat maps reveals the focus of your play and in what positions players spend the most time. This can help in terms of team shape and width.
- It can help you monitor how well your passing works. If your possession game isn't fruitful, take a look at the accuracy of your short passing. Too direct, however, and passes may be inaccurate and costly. It could show that you need players with better passing attributes or your style doesn't suit your personnel.
- You’ll also be able to see how clinical your strikers are in terms of goals scored compared with shots on target. It may inform your decision whether to sign a striker with better finishing.
- If a player performs poorly, looking at his individual stats can help find the root of the problem. For example, is he failing to take players on, losing the ball too many times or missing too many headers? It helps you to make tactical adjustments and focus the players training more specifically.
Outside of these team reports, if you go to the squad screen, the ‘general info’ dropdown menu and click stats, this will give you a host of individual stats including general play and discipline.
Things to watch during games
It's important to supplement your use of data with visual sources of information, that being watching the games. Don't just set the highlights to 'commentary only' to power through a season quickly, cast a watchful eye over every match.
Whatever tactic you choose to employ at the start of the season, it’s important that you have a clear blueprint in mind. Without this, you can’t expect to achieve anything.
Here’s a list of key aspects to keep your eye on during the game:
- How your players are positioned after losing possession. For example, were they caught out of position or did they close the ball down and create a gap in the line? This could show that you should ask your players to close down less and stick to their positions.
- Where and how your attacks end. Is the final ball letting you down from a wide position? Are you struggling to pick that key penetrative pass? Are your strikers failing to convert? You might need to change how you attack the final third.
- If the distance between defenders, midfielders and forwards are as you want. If the answer is no, you need to adjust your players’ mentalities (defend, support or attack).
- How the players retain their shape. Are they too wide when you’ve set a ‘narrow’ team instruction? Are they sitting too deep even though you set a ‘play slightly higher’ instruction for the defensive line?
- Failing to convert crosses. Are your strikers getting in the right positions? If not, this could indicate they lack anticipation, speed and jumping reach.
- Passing options when attacking. Are your fullbacks making overlapping runs on the wings? Is there someone in a deep position? Is a striker trying to break the line? Adjusting your build-up play will help eradicate these issues.
- How your players react after losing the ball. Do they rally back to defend or lethargically track back? This could indicate that you need players with higher determination attributes.
After analysing these situations, the solutions become fairly obvious. For example, if you notice that there’s too much distance between different units on the pitch, adjust the player mentalities, the team shape or width.
Top Tips & Handy Hints
When everything’s going wrong and you’re in a slump, don’t panic. Get back to basics. Look at why you concede and why you don't score. Ask whether you're committing too many men forwards or if you're good enough at attacking and defending set pieces. Addressing these issues first are important to have a solid foundation to build on.
Don’t try to initiate a complete overhaul at once. Slow and steady wins the race. Little adjustments is the way forward as implementing too much in a short space of time will disrupt your team cohesion and the players’ tactical understanding.
Remember to inspect the pre and post-match analysis reports so you can have a better understanding of the upcoming opposition and what went right or wrong in the last game you played.
Lastly, always consult your assistant manager and coaching staff for tips and advice. On FM17, they provide more information than ever before and they're put there for a vital reason.