Using Tactical Tweaks To Perfect My Anti-Football

Previously on accordingtoFM: The baseball cap made a surge to the top of my most used emoji list as I took a look at the Vitesse squad using the ‘Tony Pulis Baseball Cap Metric’

Now that we know which players we want to use, it is time to see how they fit into the system we want to use. As with my method of picking players, my anti-voetbal tactic will be loosely based on Tony Pulis’ Stoke side from around 2010/11. In it, each player will have a specific role to play.

The base of our tactic will, of course, be 442 and the main features of it will be as follows:

-Solid and defensive back four – Full backs to defend above all other duties
-Hard working central midfield
-Pace and attacking from the wide men
-Defensive forward to work hard and apply pressure to the opposition
-Strong advanced forward who is able to dribble
-Defensive mentality – narrow, deep and cautious as a by-product
-Structured shape meaning that players primarily set out to do their role
-Simple – no extra instructions

With the above in mind, we start the first game in the following set up, then change after some analysis.

As previously mentioned I am taking over Vitesse in March 2018, the majority of the way through the first season. This is due to the fact that I got up to a similar time in my América save, I am using the winter update, and I just want to start here. Because of this, we will get straight into some competitive games in order to truly test the tactic. I take over with the side in 11th, clear from any relegation but with an outside shot at European qualification. Before the season, Vitesse were predicted to finish 6th so the side had been operating lower than they should at the time of taking over, having lost three of their last four games. The coming fixtures are as follows, first up is a home game against Ajax, to truly test our tactic.

We set up in the formation shown above, while Ajax are in a 4-1-2-3, as is typical of Dutch football. The game goes as expected, we concede a lot of possession and Ajax take a number of shots, however, they are mainly from distance and do not trouble us greatly. We do not create much, many of our chances are from set pieces and counter-attacks. A lot of this play is something I recognised from watching Stoke, we frustrated the opposition well. We were undone by one mistake late on and went on to lose 1-0. A deserved win for Ajax given the stats, but I saw a lot of what I wanted to from our side.

Full-time stats from the home game v Ajax. Many of the shots off target were from distance

Shots taken by Ajax during the 1-0 defeat – 11 of their shots coming from the edge of the box or further

As I say, it was a deserved win for Ajax, but we had chances to take the lead before a (very FM) defensive mistake cost us at least a point. With this in mind, I go into the game away to Utrecht with the same set up. I thought we could have caused more problems to Ajax with some changes, but I want to get the defence sorted first and I do not believe our build-up play against Ajax will be a fair assessment. Again, Utrecht set up as a 4-1-2-3 and we concede a lot of chances, 21 shots in total, but honestly did not feel under serious threat more than once. Of their 21 shots at our goal, 16 were off target and many of them taking place in front of our back four. The game ends 0-0, the perfect anti-football job on them.

Full-time stats v Utrecht tells a similar story to the Ajax game

Again, I see the defence working as well as it could be, one goal conceded in two difficult games is exactly what I wanted, however, now may be the time to look at our build-up play, to see if we can trouble the opposition.

The next four games though do not go well. They were against opposition further down the table and perhaps our very negative way of playing is not effective when we should be on the front foot. I had made a few tweaks to improve the build-up play, example of moving my right full-back to a support role as I believe he has the ability to perform there. Over these four games, we win just once, against bottom of the table Roda, who will go down and did not cause us an issue. The poor results came against Heracles (13th when I took over), NAC (15th) and Sparta (16th). the first two defeats were narrow and in particular, the 3-2 loss to NAC, all the goals came within six minutes and I could not change tactics quick enough before conceding the final goal.

First six results since taking over

The 2-0 home defeat to relegation threatened Sparta was the final straw. We were awful, conceding a lot of possession in midfield and offering nothing up front. This was the last game of a long Saturday night FM session and I was babysitting my son, cue rage quit and bed. The analysis came with a fresh mind in the morning.

Vitesse 0-2 Sparta Rotterdam

Awful – Again Sparta set up in a 4-1-2-3 and I realise that success in this save will come in finding an effective counter to that system. The four main weaknesses I spot from looking back at this, and the other, games played are as follows:

Issue -We lack support in the attacking phase and concede possession far too easily

31 – The advanced forward for Vitesse receives the ball but has five opposing players between himself and any other options

As you can see from the above, our advanced forward (Buitink) has received the ball from number 10, our playmaker, but is quickly swamped and had little option but to try a risky pass or be tackled. In the end, he is tackled and we concede possession. I need to get the advanced players more passing options or make sure they receive the ball in better positions.

Tactical Tweek – Change the DLP support to a standard central midfield role so he is more inclined to play safer passes and build up slowly. This should give more passing options to him and more support to the forward players.

Issue – We are constantly outnumbered in central midfield

Average positions for Vitesse (yellow) v Sparta (white)

From watching the match action it is clear that we are being overrun in the central midfield areas, it is always 3 vs 2 and in this game it was too easy for the opposition to bypass our central pairing.

Tactical Tweaks – change one of the wingers to a wide midfielder who will sit narrower and help to give passing options and to provide cover in the central areas. Also, the defensive forward will be instructed to mark the opposition defensive midfielder. This will put him under pressure and mean that if we turn the ball over quicker he can support the play more from a deeper position.

Issue -Too many long balls from the back conceding possession

Forgive the spamming of images but in the following, you can see our major issue:
1) Long passes lost by the back four
2) Goalkeeper distribution – the majority of his long passes through the middle of the pitch were misplaced. When played wider the possession was retained.
3) Total passes made by the side – The majority of misplaces ones coming from the back five, and the DLP but his task is to play riskier, which I have now amended.

1) Passes lost by the back four

2) Goalkeeper distribution – Green for completed, orange for lost

3) Passes played by the team

Note: the red card came late in the game so did not affect the result or stats too much.

Tactical Tweaks – Change the fullback roles to FB defend. The defensive full back role has ‘more direct passing’ as a hard instruction. With the FB def I can edit them to play shorter while maintaining the defence first attitude. I also made the central defensive pair both CD Def and asked them to play it shorter. The final tweak was to shorten the goalkeeper distribution and to play it to the full backs. This should limit the long balls lumped forward for the opposition to clear easily.

Issue – The central midfielders are often in the same position of the field

Our DLP (10) and CM (3) both close the same man making it even easier to bypass them both

With the two support roles in the central midfield area, they would often both close the same man or not offer support to those around them.

Tactical Tweek – As mentioned in the first issue, the DLP will now be a standard CM role, but I will also make him a defensive role. This will provide cover to the defence and allow others freedom to move forward once if the play dictates. The CM support will stay the same but I can be more flexible in-game with the instructions I give. Also, I will add be more disciplined and stick to positions to the team instructions. This should help to create a low block and stop players being in the same position as one another as much as possible.

So, after taking all that into consideration, this is what we have at the end.

Final tactic including all tweaks

The next three games were against the sides just above us in the league and ones which we should be competing with. After the tweeks I saw the same properties which made our defence solid but, once we played the ball out of the back and progressed up the pitch, we able to score.

The players on average were in better positions. The wide midfielder was able to sit narrow and helped to prevent the central two from being outnumbered. The defensive forward was tracking back more and putting pressure on the AZ defensive midfield. Finally, the central midfield two were spread apart over the pitch more and did not get in the same positions as each other.

Average positions v AZ show a more balanced side. Note: The two CD were switched a little into the game causing their osition to become confsed,

Final three results from the season

Final league table

The season ended much as it was when I took over, three wins from my nine games is average for how Vitesse’s season went. We are unbeaten since the tactical tweaks though, so I head into preseason looking to improve the playing squad and bring in more 5 🧢 ability players.

If you want to know more about myself or my save so far then please check the links below to the past episodes and follow me on Twitter. Also, if you would like to hear more about why I am doing this save then follow @tempo10podcast on Twitter or listen to the episode where I go into it more.

Part 2 – TPBCM

Part 1 – Introduction

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