FM18 Beta has been out for a week now and needless to say I’ve been quite addicted to it. My first steps were trying out all the new player roles, player- & team instructions and other shiny new features. Once I got all of that out of the way and out of my system, it was time to start tinkering with tactics.
Of course I tried shoehorning all the new roles into a tactic. The outcome was less than stellar. Next I started a save and built tactics using the concepts that worked so well for me in FM17. Unfortunately, this was not working at all. Try as I might, I simply couldn’t get what worked for me before to work in FM18. So after much frustration, I turned to some community members and ran my thoughts, ideas and frustrations past them. After a few discussions I had the proverbial “aha” moment (or “duh/no shit” moment).
The transition from FM16 to FM17 had been smooth and seamless for me. Most of what worked in 16 never let me down in 17. Thus spoiled, I naively believed the same would be true when I made the move to FM18. Well that was stupid. Every year, Sports Interactive makes subtle tweaks to the match engine that slightly alters the way the tactical side of the game works. Best example of this was just how OP fullbacks/wingbacks were on FM16 when compared to FM15 or FM17. Or the fact that narrow formations were the ticket on FM17 over FM16. I myself made subtle discoveries over the years. A fluid 4231 was amazing for me on FM14, yet it would not work the next year. I switched to a flexible 4411 and got amazing results. Then in FM16 and FM17 fluid team shapes and complex tactics worked wonders for me yet again. Football Manager 2018 is no different from previous versions. Slight match engine tweaks have once again forced a tactics reset upon myself, which I am truly enjoying.
Above you will see the “great” results I got with Bayer Leverkusen, playing the way I did in FM16 and FM17. I was using a fluid team shape, coupled with a control or standard mentality and a good amount of team instructions. It was infuriating and nothing was working. After my tactics reset however, results turned around nicely.
I even beat Bayern handily at the first time of asking in FM18, a feat which I never accomplished in FM17!
Above you can see the two main tactical systems I now use with Leverkusen. So what has changed? As far as I can tell, wide players once again play an integral role in the success of many tactics. Now I haven’t tested a narrow formation yet, but the amount of deadly crosses once again being played, lead me to believe that always going narrow won’t always guarantee success. Or better said: using wide players can now also lead to a lot of success.
Having a balanced tactic has always been important in Football Manager, but it seems even more critical in this year’s version of the game. I’m also making a lot more in-match adjustments than I ever have before. The “click & play” style for every match hasn’t been working for me. This naturally means that I need to pay much more attention to what’s happening in a match, keep an eye on the opposition formation (and substitutions) and be very knowledgeable of my squad’s strengths and weaknesses. I might switch back to a fluid team shape at some point, but a flexible (and even structured) team shape gives me more balance and control over my tactics, much like it did for me back in FM15.
Aside from “resetting” my tactical approach, I have noticed that the addition of squad dynamics and the medical center have made squad management much more in depth, complex and outright fun than in FM17. I feel bad for the newbie first getting into Football Manager with FM18. There are so many more variables now flying at them. I have to admit that for the first few days my head was spinning from all the new features as well. A week into playing the FM18 Beta and I feel a lot more comfortable and confident when dealing with injuries and squad dynamics (though not 100% just yet), along with the new layouts and user interface.