I have spent much of the last few days laying horizontally after a nasty ankle injury that's left me in a cast. I am now able to sit up and type thus bringing you this week's blog: 'Stop the passer'. It's something I wanted to share with you since my 2nd league game of Season 1, I've just had so many other things to write about it's not been possible (until now). It is short, but hopefully interesting...
Review your opponent
My aim is to help those new to FM compete against the AI, especially when there is a clear gulf in class between AI and the human player. In this case, my first away game against FC Basel is a great example. For those that do not know much about the Swiss League, FC Basel are the heavyweights of the league. They have won 6 consecutive league titles and have amassed 10 league titles out of the last 15! Their salary per annum is around 4 times greater than that of Grasshopper Club Zürich (GCZ).
In the old days of CM/FM, I probably would have just changed to a defensive formation and prayed I got lucky. Now there's nothing wrong in this, in fact it's probably a lot more than some people do anyway. However with the new Prozone feature in FM16, it's now easier to pinpoint a team's strengths and weaknesses. Reviewing my AI opponent is one of the most important things I now do in FM.
Being the 2nd game of the season, I didn't have a lot of Prozone evidence to go by. But I re-watched FC Basel's 1st league game against Vaduz, where FC Basel won 2-1 away. It was clear that their highest earner and 15/16 marquee signing Zdravko Kuzmanovic was pulling the strings.
Kuzmanovic completed 61 passes with 3 being key. These are not phenomenal numbers, but what is more evident is that 45 of these passes were in the opposition's half, a high % of these were forward:
I therefore went into my game knowing that I needed to 'stop the passer'. If I did that, at least it forces another one of FC Basel's players to become the Chief Playmaker. Do nothing, and there's a good chance I would end up like Vaduz.
So the line ups were announced before Kick Off. Kuzmanovic was deployed in his natural position. My strategy therefore was to put Ball Winning Midfielder Marko Basic on Man Marking duty. I also set the team instructions to close down, show onto weaker foot & harder tackling. This meant that if Marko was out of position, somebody would be on to Kuzmanovic relatively promptly. Kuzmanovic would also know he is in a game!
The match itself
So we've done the homework and prepared for the match, now it's down to the players to perform. That's the beauty of FM, it will not always go to plan. However in this case all previous steps executed perfectly and Kuzmanovic had a match to forget:
Kuzmanovic was subbed off after 67 minutes after completed 19 passes with only 4 in his attacking half. Below are images of the pressure he received from various GCZ players during his completed passes (note: one of the completed passes was a freekick, no point including that):
What I have spoken about above will not solely dictate the match result. But even if this only partially works, you may force the AI to change tactically through a substitution or a tweak in formation. This has knock on effects and may mean you have more opportunities to exploit space elsewhere.
For me in my match, I feel it was a critical reason for a 1 nil away win, which set me on my way to a historic Domestic Double:
Thank you for reading,