"Total Recall: Surviving A Continental Final Against The Odds" - Return to La Plata #FM18 #WeAreTheCommunity



You would think that after managing 5 full seasons in FM18 Argentina nothing would surprise me.  Think again.  Estudiantes de La Plata were defending their Recopa* crown, a first leg 2-0 victory away in the Estadio Libertadores de América Vs Independiente put my team in a really strong position.  Surely all I would need to do now is turn up and keep it simple in front of the La Plata crowd?

FM threw a curve ball: due to International fixtures 6 of the first XI would be unavailable for the second leg in 2 weeks time.  Furthermore, a total of 13 of the 25 registered to play in the Recopa were missing in the various u20, u23 & National Team squads.  I was left with a depleted squad, barely able to field an XI and incapable of calling up youth players in my squad.

*For those unaware, the Recopa is a match between the winners of the Copa Libertadores Vs Copa Sudamericana, played out over two legs: home and away.
Today’s blog post is therefore a story of survival, tenacity and willpower: 5 things I did to fight against the odds.  Did we end up with the Recopa?  If so, how did we do it?  To find out, read on below…

(1) Total Recall

Well apart from being an awesome blog title, the total recall option was used for players out on International Duty.  In all my time with FM, I have never used this en masse.  I recalled EVERYBODY who was away from the club via the Squad Screen/International Friendly Availability.

"Call the Banners. They've all sworn to defend La Plata, have they not?"

So why the need for a blog post?  Well, only 6 players returned to me in time for the 2nd leg...notably those outside of Main National Team squads.  But still, 6 players boosted the eligible pool of players available to me by 50%.  We were now able to field an XI and have a substitutes bench for the Recopa final, but I was still left without a left winger or right back.

(2) The Makeshift XI

On the face of it, it doesn't look too bad...you could argue 4-5 of the first XI above are regular starters at Estudiantes.  However, in order to fill some positions a few tweaks/adjustments were made to the regular 4141:

(1) Diego Polenta (Full Back on Support) - was instructed to Hold Position.  

Diego Polenta is usually my 1st choice left-sided Centre Back.  However, for the Recopa 2nd leg I had to push him to Left Back in order to move reserve Left Back (Mateo Allione) forward.  Polenta is technically raw, and does not have the Physical attributes to venture back-and-forth on a regular basis.  So I wanted him to hold his position, doubly critical as I expected Independiente to play with an AMR.

The Hold Position is defaulted when on a Defensive Mentality, but passing directness is also increased and it absolutely killed Diego’s attacking instincts.  On this mentality he would be very insular and no threat going forward.  So I manually set Hold Position on a Support Duty instead, via Edit/Player Instructions.

(2) Mateo Allione (Wide Midfielder on Support).  

I switched Newgen Left Back Mateo Allione to Left Midfield because I was short of a left sided wide player.  However, the usual Winger-Attack role would have to change...Mateo is no winger. In fact, Mateo’s strengths are fairly strong Mentals in Positioning, Teamwork & Work Rate.  So I set him to be a Wide Midfielder on Support duty, which is a nice role for hard working players of a team ethic.  Due to Polenta's relative uneasiness at Left Back, I also thought it was worthwhile having someone disciplined and focused on keeping the team's shape.

Mateo Allione our makeshift Wide Midfielder.

(3) Fernando Zuqui (Winger on Attack).  

Usually Fernando Zuqui plays as my Wide Midfielder on Attack, but in order to add variety and reduce the risk of being too predictable/symmetrical in attack (as Allione is now plaing as a WM-S on the left) I switched Zuqui to the more advanced Winger role.  Zuqui has good crossing (14) and reasonable Acceleration (14), Pace (13) & Stamina (15) which shows he is suitable for the role.

Below are the Team Instructions, unchanged from the usual 4141 I use.  I figured I would have to go with my eyes and watch it play out in the FM18 match engine and adjust where needed.  In my opinion, there is no point changing something unless you see that it needs to be changed (more on this later).

My 4141 TIs.

(3) The Plan B (if required)

So despite having a makeshift XI and a general tactical plan, it's always best to have a backup plan...just in case things go sour.  In FM18, my panic reaction is to switch to a 442 formation.  I have a backup tactic loaded just for this event, and personnel to make it work (notably the combination of Target Man on Attack and the trusted Advanced Forward role).  Luckily, the players for my 442 remained in La Plata...so this was always an option, should we go behind.

I have managed over 250 games with this Estudiantes team, so I know from experience when it's likely the 442 needs to be called upon.  I know what my team struggles to play against, and it was plainly in sight as I entered the pre-match screens.  Independiente's formation: the 4231 DM Wide - there is something about x2 DMs that troubles my 4141.

Independiente's 4231 Wide formation.

Anyway, we would go with the 4141 on the basis that we were 2-0 up and Independiente needed to come out of their shell.  We'd assess on Comprehensive Highlights and go from there.  But first, there was a couple of extra tasks at hand...

(4) Target 'The Danger Man' + 'The Weakness'

Ezequiel Barco is a Football Manager 2018 wonderkid.  In my save he has remained loyal to his local club and has amassed over 180 league appearances at the age of just 23.  He is Independiente's Advanced Playmaker, as shown in the Player Screen (go to Reports/Form):

Lots of people worry about Strikers/Goalscorers and focus solely on stopping them, but I am more inclined to worry about the guy that's supplying them with chances.  Barco is that guy (aka 'The Danger Man'), and by taking him out there will be a lovely central void in the centre of the park.

So I decided to apply every Opposition Instruction on him: Tight Marking (Always), Closing Down (Always), Tackling (Hard) and Show Onto Foot (Left).  Additionally we played with a Defensive Midfielder at DM, so I expected to have a player close to him at all times, in order to prevent him from dictating Independiente's attacking play.

Opposition Instructions are not all about stopping the opposition from attacking you, moreover...I always like to target a weakness in order to help our own play.  Luckily, for me at least, Independiente's Left Back has a Composure attribute of 4...so I decided to (always) Close Down.  Composure is the ability to make good decisions with the ball and keeping a steady head, so if a player is weak in this area I would want my Winger or Advanced Forward to be near enough to capitalise on 'The Weakness'.

(5) Watch The Match (& The Widgets)

It sounds like I am being condescending to you, the Reader, when I ask you to stay calm and just watch the match.  But it's true.  Sometimes it's best to see how things play out if you are uncertain about an aspect of your game.

But if you're still worried (like I was going into this Recopa Final 2nd leg), Football Managers in FM18 have a wealth of real-time information in front of us when watching the games.  The FM realism cult may look at it unfavorably, but here are the in-game widgets I use (and why):

Widgets everywhere!

  1. The Opponent's Formation - This is probably my most used in-game widget.  I am able to see how the AI is setting up, but can also see their tactical tweaks and adjustments whilst the game plays out.  That's right, if the AI changes the mentality of a player, you will see slight changes to their position highlighting a switch up has occurred.
  2. I am not sure how long Player Watch has been in FM, but it's really useful if you want to target a player.  You can dial right in to their Condition, Sharpness, Statistics & Body Language.  You can use it for one of your own players too, but I much prefer to target 'The Dangerman' and see if I am handling his threat.
  3. Player Ratings (for my team) - I want to see at a first glance the Condition & Match Rating of my squad members.  If I notice a drop in either, I can look into greater detail via the Player Stats screen.
  4. Match Stats - Not all of these are useful for during the match, but I pay particular attention to Clear Cut Chances & Possession.  I find both a good indication of how we are playing, the more CCCs the better...but possession is a mixed bag.  I am better at around 40-50%, anymore and I am likely getting too much of the ball...suggesting that the AI is sitting deep and attempting to anti-fútbol my anti-fútbol.

There are a number of additional widgets you can use.  For example, the Actions Zones and Focus of Attacks widgets are great indicators too - both offer an at-a-glance look at how your team is fairing compared to the AI.

The Result

We won!  2-0 on the night and 4-0 on aggregate, the Recopa Trophy stays in La Plata.  But did the 5 steps help us on the way?  Let's take a look:

(1) Total Recall - The return of Newgen Renzo Taborda, who ditched Argentina u23s to play this game, was a pivotal factor in our win.  He made a sublime assist to make it 1-0...and then scored the goal to make it 2-0.  I would say that Operation: 'Total Recall' was a total success :-)

1-0 Reynoso on 27 minutes.

2-0 Taborda on 79 minutes.

(2) Plan B - Not needed at all, we played 4141 for the whole 90 minutes.  But as the saying goes "Plan for the worst, and hope for the best"...we were ready to go 442 if need be.

(3) Targeting 'The Danger Man' & 'The Weakness'.  Barco was pretty quiet, it's always questionable as to whether this is my influence OR him simply having a bad day.  But his Heat Map & one solitary Key Pass are enough to make me happy:

Barco Vs Estudiantes.  Average Position, Heat Map & [solitary] Key Pass.

I don't really want to name and shame 'The Weakness', but he put in a 6.4 and was subbed on 79 minutes.  Completing 34 passes, but was all round pretty dull in possession.

(5) The Widgets always help.  I played on Comprehensive highlights, and I honestly wouldn't have it any other way for a final.  A trophy was on the line and we prepared well.  As a manager, I was able to see my Newgen Ignacio Fernández's condition deteriorate with 10 minutes to go.  So he was hauled off.  Thank you widgets!

A Return to La Plata

This post has been a venture from outside the usual seasonal updates that I have been running alongside my FM18 save (available to re-read at: fmgrasshopper.com/fm18).  I didn't include any of the other fixtures so far from Season 6 (mainly because we are only a few games in).  But I will be back, when a summary merits a blog post in due course.

Thank you for reading/sharing & caring.

FM Grasshopper