Welcome back to the third instalment of my England national team FM community save, “it’s (probably not) coming home”. Community managers, FM Pressure and Diego Mendoza, have guided England to Euro 2020 qualification.
Now the torch has passed to our latest manager who will attempt to secure England’s spot as group winners with games against Czech Republic, and Kosovo, to round off the campaign.
When I started this project I already had a manager in mind for these games, so it was great when he agreed to take part. A match against the Czech Republic could mean only one manager in my opinion, FMRensie.
I presume if you have found my site you will already know FMRensie. But, for anyone who isn’t already familiar with him, he hails from the Czech Republic and is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best bloggers on the FM Scene. His output is absolutely fantastic both in quantity, and more importantly in quality. You can find his website by clicking the link below, there is a wealth of Football Manager content there ranging from Tactics, Set Pieces, Graphics and Guest writers. It is well worth checking out.
As ever with FMRensie he goes above and beyond, providing a conceptual kit for the save which I will install. I think you’ll agree they look great.
In the post today he will discuss his 4-1-4-1 DM Wide system that he is using this year to great effect. He has already released a number of blog posts discussing elements of this system so I highly recommend you check these out in conjunction with this post.
I will come back at the end to discuss another area/role of the tactic that has, so far, not been mentioned too much.
I decided to use my current version of the 4-1-4-1 DM Wide or 4-3-3 with DM formation – it depends on how you like to name it. If you will go through the previous two posts, you will notice I have fewer team instructions. Before tactics or matches, I had get used to England little bit.
Three squad assessment issues
1. Half Back role
I had the first problem even before the first match when I had to select the 23-man squad for the upcoming matches against the Czech Republic and Kosovo – as I’m not playing in the Europe/England, I don’t know too England players enough. Don’t take me wrong, I know Harry Kane or Raheem Sterling but when I wanted to select someone to fill the Half Back role, I have no clue.
The natural choice was Declan Rice. The young and talented midfielder was already in the squad from the previous matches. But other options were Jordan Henderson and Sean Longstaff. Both mainly CM players. Same as Harry Winks, another central midfielder in the squad.
I decided to open the Scouting screen and tried to find the best possible Half Backs in the game with the English nationality. It’s a specific role but in the end, I found the cover for Declan Rice in Isaac Hayden from Newcastle.
- It’s his natural position/role.
- His key attributes for this role are good
- The Comes Deep To Get Ball player trait is a “plus”
2. FB role
I also had to resolve the left defender call up as Danny Rose was out for two weeks with fractured ribs. There is Luke Shaw in the squad but I don’t trust him for some reason, so I called up Ben Chilwell but he is not much better.
I was very close to calling up Leighton Baines as he was not too far of Chilwell or Shaw despite being older. But in the end, I went for Chilwell and Shaw.
3. Great players on the wrong sides
As you can see, I’m using the winger role in the AML slot and IF(A) role in the AMR slot.
I don’t like to have a right-footed player as a winger on the left side of the pitch but I didn’t call up someone new. I decided to flip the roles to the other side to take advantage of right-footed players in both AMR/AML positions.
To keep the tactic balanced that also means a switch of W(S) with IF(A), CM(A) with CM(S) and FB(S) with FB(A). It will allow me to use all the great right-footed players including Raheem Sterling in the IF(A) role.
Other changes in the squad?
I removed Harry Winks as well and James Maddison. I rather called up Jadon Sancho and James Ward-Prowse. The first one because he can be great against the Czech defenders (Filip Novák is not the fastest already) and the second one because of his crossing/set pieces abilities.
But also because of his Passing + Teamwork/Vision/Work Rate, all good attributes for CM(S) role. I could use James Henderson for this role, he would be great, but he had a slight injury.
Chris Smalling was replaced by Eric Dier as well. I also removed Callum Hudson-Odoi from the squad and replaced him with Tammy Abraham to have another striker option with Harry Kane who was the only striker in the squad. Phil Foden was replaced by Ross Barkley later due to injury.
Match vs. the Czech Republic
The Czech team started the match with the 4-2-3-1 formation with two defensive midfielders. Probably the worst thing. I, personally, really hate formations with two defensive midfielders.
They sit back and as I didn’t want to give them time and let them play with Souček & Pavelka are both able to dictate tempo, I decided to move the defensive line higher up the pitch to give more pressure to the opponents.
I also like to identify the biggest weakness in the opponent’s team. It was a little bit easier for me in this case as I know all the Czech players very well. It was Ondřej Čelůstka who plays as the central defender and as his Decisions, Anticipation and Agility attributes are not too good, I decided to set Pressing Intensity to Always and Tackling to Hard to put him under even more pressure.
Always pressing intensity was also set to both defensive midfielders Pavelka and Souček. In overall, it resulted in the fact I removed More Urgent from the team instructions to not drag all my players to press.
These changes led to the fact these three players had minimum time to distribute the ball and they had to pass it to the back (goalkeeper) many times. Or they passed it to space where England players were. Like before the third goal of the match.
I also adapted the set pieces I’m currently using in my save in Mexico. I only had to select players to the roles. For example, John Stones was quite dangerous during near post corners but he didn’t score. On the other hand, Trent Alexander-Arnold scored after a throw-in.
The match ended with a 3-0 win, James Ward-Prowse with the Man of the Match award. One goal, three key passes and an average rating of 8.9. It was also his first national team goal.
Match against Kosovo
The last opponent in the qualifying group was Kosovo and their 4-4-2. That meant I removed the Higher Defensive Line before the match and I added More Urgent pressing intensity instruction again.
Mainly also due to the “Some players can be guilty of making poor decisions” in the pre-match scout report. In combination with the bad positioning (9.91 on average), off the ball movement (10.13 on average) and vision (9.56 on average) it can lead to mistakes during the match.
Herolind Shala, their DLP player, was selected as the main target to press always. And the same for one central defender. It was great to see Shala’s body language was “Frustrated” during the match.
I let Isaac Hayden play against Kosovo as Half Back. He had most passes from all. Same as Declan Rice in the previous match. To be fair, Isaac was even better in my eyes. Raheem Sterling showed why I wanted him in IF(A) role in this match, Oxlade-Chamberlain was also perfect before the injury as W(S). I will mention James Ward-Prowse again… he made one assist and 11 key passes as CM(S) in this match as England won 4-0 away.
I hoped for little bit better outcome from set pieces due to quality of England players in terms of the key attributes for the roles I’m using. But the off the ball movement by Kane, Stones or others were not as good as I expected. Maybe it’s due to not training set pieces.
Let’s talk about Wingers.
One facet of FMRensie’s tactics that remains fairly consistent is the IFa and Ws on the flanks. In modern football there tends to be an emphasis on wide men cutting inside all the time whether to shoot, or to make runs into the box. This has lead to the proliferation of FM Tactics that use double Inside Forwards, Inverted Wingers, or a variation around that. That is all well and good, but it does require you set up your full backs in such a manner that they provide width to the attack, much like FM Pressure did in Episode one of this series.
When I was growing up (late 1980s/early 1990s, yes I remember football before Sky Sports, before the Premier League), almost all teams played with at least one, old fashioned winger. In my mind a winger will have chalk dust on his boots and will run up and down the touchline. Get the ball, beat the full back with a trick or pace and immediately cross the ball in. One player that I loved as a kid, who did this, was Lee Sharpe in his early Manchester United career. Here he is scoring a back-heel against Barcelona in the Champions League in 1994, and celebrating by pretending to copulate with the stanchion.
So is the winger redundant in modern football? Does he offer anything else other than vertical movement? In my opinion, the winger role still has a vital part to play in many successful tactics. The reasons I say this are twofold.
Firstly, and similarly to what I have said above, to give your team width in attack as the role description says….
The Winger aims to beat his man on the outside and needs to be technically proficient as well as quick to do so. The Winger hugs the touchline when the team is going forward, ready to surge into space and attack the byline. With a support duty the Winger’s job is to try to quickly get past his man and get in an early cross for the forwards. With an Attack duty the Winger will try to run at the defence in the final third, aiming to cause panic and indecision prior to shooting or attempting to make a through ball/cross to a team mate.
It is, as ever, important not to look at roles in isolation. We have already ascertained that a winger will “hug the touchline” offering you much needed width during the build up phase of your attack, which, in turn, stretches the opposition defence. FMRensie’s has also cleverly placed a central midfielder on attack beside his winger on support. The stretching of the opposition defence will therefore leave nice gaps for the central midfielder on attack, in this case Ross Barkley, to exploit in the build up to England’s first goal against Kosovo.
In the image above you can see that Complete Forward, Harry Kane, has dropped deep and is occupying Kosovo’s central midfielder. Oxlade Chamberlain is our winger on support providing width which is preventing the Kosovan wide man from also closing down Barkley. This gives England’s most creative midfielder time on the ball to assess his options and make a pass. In the end he clips a ball to Inside Forward, Sterling who knocks it down for Kane to score.
A winger will also often find himself one on one with the opposition Full Back, if he can beat his man he will turn the entire defensive line. This represents one of the simplest ways to get in behind even the most entrenched defences. Once your winger has beaten his man he should cross fairly quickly into the centre. in this particular tactic he should have at least three players to pick out, the CFs, IFa, and the CMa, with any second balls hopefully being picked up by the CMs or, in this case, the FBa.
In the example above in the build up to England’s third goal against the Czech Republic. You can see Sancho has plenty of options to pick out in the penalty area. As it is, a clever piece of movement allows him to find Kane at the near post to score.
The second reason I believe the winger to still be relevant is that very few players actually operate in this simplistic manner these days. Football manager has adapted to the changes in modern football and the role of the winger is no different. In FM a winger will not just stand on the touchline (you can see this if you re-watch the clip for England’s third goal, in the build up Sancho can be found moving inside a couple of times during the move.).
When your team enters the final third of the pitch a winger will drift inside, especially if the ball is on the opposite side to him, and nor will he continually run up and down the touchline in a simple straight line. It is true he will do this more than other wide roles, but it does not mean he will never cut inside. I have captured some of Sancho’s movement in the opening five minutes against the Czech Republic below and you can see that it is certainly not confined solely to the flanks.
I believe many FM players have a preset notion of what a winger is, and that notion may lead people to think of it as a one dimensional, or old fashioned role. This may not be helped by the role description in the game. But be in no doubt, when the time is right, a winger will attack the box himself causing confusion in the opposition defence and he can even be a powerful goal scoring weapon himself.
Asymmetry and variation in attack is vital in FM, if you only have one way to attack it won’t be long until the AI, “works out your tactic” in so far as you become predictable and easy to counter.
IFa & FBa
No tactic is free of weakness and I want to close by looking at an element of this tactic that could be the source of a problem. On the left hand side against the Czech Republic FMRensie has Sterling playing as an Inside forward on attack with Chilwell behind as a full back also on attack.
This could leave this flank a little open especially in defensive transitions. The Czech Republic did have some joy in this area and they did have a few opportunities to create chances but these were not taken. Perhaps a better team would have managed to score one of these opportunities, we will never know. In the example below, Rice has the ball but any mistake here could leave England’s left side vulnerable to a quick counter attack.
With this in mind, it is important that you mitigate against your weakness as much as you can without stifling your own attacking play. In this case FMRensie has a hard working Central Midfielder on support, James Ward Prowse, on the left side of the central midfield, and Half Back, Declan Rice, to call upon to help out in the defensive transition, if required. Without these roles in place, or without the same mentally strong players, this flank could be horribly exposed. The images below are indeed taken after Rice misplaces a pass and the Czech Republic counter down England’s left. As you can see, it is not the FBa, Chilwell, who gets back, it is James Ward-Prowse. If you had another advanced role here, or a player with low work-rate, this would not have happened.
Current Position – Group of Life
England topped the group, undefeated and without conceding a goal. Surely the FMCommunity is going to bring football home!
I advanced the save on through the six or so months to Euro 2020, four friendlies were played by yours truly, winning three and drawing against Portugal. I allowed the assistant manager, Steve Round, to select the squad our next managers will use at the tournament.
Who have England been drawn against?
I’ve no doubt that the English press would be declaring England as champions after getting this group of life so it will be interesting to see what the next manager can do under tournament pressure.
I’d like to thank FMRensie once again for agreeing to take part and provide a lovely overview of his current FM tactic. If you made this far, many thanks for reading.
If you have some time on your hands for what remains of lockdown then you can catch up on my FM20 save here.
Over and out FMEadster!