January 12, 2013 by Wayne.
Note: For the new (pretty successful) 4231, check out my post here
I started a new save recently to try a different approach – more player development, less transfers etc. To accompany the new mindset, I decided to try a different tactical approach too. In previous saves, I’ve been scoring a lot – but conceding a lot too (much like the IRL United squad). This mostly had to do with the disconnect between defense and attack and the spaces left between the two, but I was also highly annoyed by the number of times my full/wing backs were beaten to a cross leading to a goal. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the current ME causing these situations and I decided to see if I could come up with a tactical strategy to reduce these occurrences.
What I ended up with was a highly possession-based formation that sacrificed an out-and-out striker for defensive stability. However, it might be time to modify the formation (next post!). While my team dominates every game in terms of shots and possessions, there’s been an abysmal lack of goals (only ~1 goal scored per game). This mostly has to do with the fact that my players are being restricted to (really poor) long shots, but more on that later.
For now, here are the performance statistics:
It’s 5th November and we’re in 4th place – 3 points behind Arsenal. We’ve only lost 1 game (the rest of the top 5 have lost 2-3 games each) but we’ve drawn 4 games (compared to 1 each for the top 5). We also have the lowest goal difference for any of the top 5 teams.
Defensively, we’ve been solid but we just aren’t doing well enough in the goals department. Van Persie has been missing for most of the season so far but I have my doubts that his return will be enough to increase our share of goals. Besides, we shouldn’t pin all our hopes on a single player.
Let’s take a look, then, at the formation itself and the strategy behind it.
The anchorman effectively acts as a 3rd (advanced) central defender, preventing the opposition from playing ‘in the hole’ and forcing them out wide. When defending, the anchorman forms a formidable pyramid with the other two defenders and this led to very few goals being conceded through the middle (the majority coming from opposition wingers breaking past wing-backs etc).
In the middle of the field are the Ball-winning midfielder and the Deep-lying playmaker. Both the BWM and the Anchorman were designated a very short passing game to quickly recycle possession to either the DLP or the trequartista. Further ahead is the aforementioned trequartista, assigned to play in the hole and break forward as the main focal point of attacks.
While the formation doesn’t look asymmetrical, the attacking part of my game is very much lopsided. To lend more incisive impact during attacks, I designated the left winger as an inside forward – in order to let him cut diagonally inside to support the treq/shoot on goal. To maximize the effectiveness of the inside forward, I had to reduce his defensive responsibilities considerably – letting him hang forward and wait for crosses/direct balls. Consequently, the left wing-back is considerably more defensive minded to prevent the opposition from breaking through on that flank. In addition, the BWM plays on the left side of the pitch to support the wing-back and help prevent overlaps.
The right flank, on the other hand, is set up to break forward quickly and provide assists. Both the wing-back and winger are incredibly pacey players, their job being to overlap, get to the byline and cross the ball in for the treq/inside forward to score.
Was the asymmetrical tactic successful? Here’s a breakdown of all the assists:
More than double the assists came from the final third of the right flank (as opposed to the left), so it does seem that my players carried out the plan accordingly. Interestingly, though, when one adds up all the assists (including the deep ones), there are a similar number of assists from both flanks.
Defensively, the formation works great. The team is cohesive and the positioning of the players really restricts oppositions to mostly long shots.
Plenty of mistakes (>10 a game) but only a single mistake proved costly so far. Plenty of clean sheets too with less than 1 goal conceded every 2 games. The defensive triangle appears to be working great.
When you look at attack, though, the situation is rather dire.
A ridiculous number of shots per game (nearly 30!) but a horrendous shot conversion ratio (5.3%). Most of the shots aren’t even on target, due to them mostly being long shots (I’ve already set the majority of the players’ to rarely shoot from far!). Ashley Young is the worst offender here, and his playing has been pretty atrocious.
Here’s the stats from the latest game:
Pretty much a typical game. Completely dominate possession and get in a ridiculous amount of shots (we restricted Southampton to a single shot!) and yet only score one goal (in the last few minutes too). It’s fine to grind out results every now and then but every match is a grind with this formation.
Coming back to the formation, let me talk a bit about the squad depth for each position:
- Keeper – plays a bit further out as a sweeper keeper. De Gea obvious first choice, Lindegaard capable back up
- Ball-playing defender – Ferdinand for now, Evans/Jones are good deputies for the role
- Limited defender – A beast of a centre back to pick up loose balls and serve as the last line of defence. Vidic first choice, no real alternatives yet.
- Left wing back – Buttner has been more disciplined recently, but Evra is still first choice.
- Anchorman – Signed Fellaini for this role. Both he and Phil Jones work splendidly as both anchormans and BWMs, so I tend to rotate a bit. Been playing Jones the last few games with Fellaini coming on primarily as a sub. Being an anchorman’s a bit of a waste of Fellaini’s attacking talents though, so I’ve mostly thrown him on as a BWM.
- BWM – Fellaini/Jones/Fletcher/Cleverley all play very well in this role. Despite having the same instructions, Fellaini and Cleverley tend to run forward more, lending more of an attacking thrust.
- DLP – Carrick first-choice, Scholes/Giggs for some games.
- Left IF – Ashley Young/Welbeck since Van Persie has been injured most of the season. Both have been playing horrendously though, so I gave Nani a shot. He’s doing a bit better.
- Treq – Shrek usually, Kagawa in the odd match where I’m already a goal or two up.
- Right Winger – Valencia of course.
With RVP returning to active duty soon, I’m about to switch the formation. I’ll be ditching the anchorman and placing a deep-lying forward further up the pitch with a support duty to allow other players to roam forward and get into goalscoring positions. Basically, a 4-2-3-1.