In my previous article (see HERE), I briefly mentioned the apparent greater significance of in-match adjustments in Football Manager 2018 versus the previous versions of the game. After nearly two weeks of playing the Beta, this opinion has only gotten stronger.
There were quite a few matches, where by closely watching the game, analyzing the opponents and making the correct in-match adjustments, I was able to secure victory. Following are just a few examples of what I’m talking about.
I’m a fan of having my keeper distribute to my central defenders, as I feel that they have many more passing options than my fullbacks and can be isolated less easily through aggressive pressing. In the above image from a match as Leverkusen manager against SC Freiburg I deviated away from this core principal. As you can see, the Freiburg strikers are pushed high up and are apparently man-marking my central defenders. Freiburg’s wingers, however, are sitting much deeper. The natural change was for my keeper to distribute to my fullbacks instead, which shifted the Freiburg attackers around (due to their pressing instructions) and opened up passing lanes and space for my fullbacks to play into.
Following my initial Leverkusen save, I moved to Brazil to test that league out for the very first time with Vasco. Just like in Germany, in-match adjustments were equally critical in Brazil.
Above you see my standard formation and team instructions with Vasco. I’m showing you these so I can highlight the changes I made that helped us win two tricky matches.
The first match I am going to highlight was our Rio de Janeiro State Championship Final (1st leg) against Fluminense.
Our local rivals line up in the 4-3-3-“Christmas Tree” (a formation I loved in FM17 and that you can read about HERE). Obviously a very narrow formation, you can also see (thanks to the new FM18 scouting reports) the player roles and duties. What stand out are their wingbacks and the attacking target man. My first thought was that the wingbacks would push up high and whip in crosses to the “big guy”, with their AMC’s attacking the second ball. That being said, I never make tactical adjustments pre-match. I always wait for the first 15 minutes (or so) to play out, since I want to see how the players interpret the roles/duties based on their attributes and PPM’s.
It didn’t take long for me to see what I had already anticipated pre-match. As you can see above, they clogged the central areas and pushed their wingbacks (A) high up the pitch. You can also see the huge spaces left behind the wingbacks (B). So I decided it would be prudent to make a few adjustments to my team instructions.
Given the attacking formation I was facing, I dropped my defensive line back a bit to “normal” and got rid of the offside trap. Trying to play Fluminense offside was too risky in my opinion, especially with their runners coming from deeper that can break the trap. I also ordered us to play a bit wider to exploit the narrow formation. We simply couldn’t win the numbers game in the central areas.
I kept my pressing (because I’m a pressing fanatic) and also “pass into space”, because of the big spaces they left that I highlighted above. These small adjustments were quickly proven to be decisive, and the next sequence of screenshots will highlight what I’m talking about. Finally, I also told my keeper to distribute to the fullbacks rather than central defenders to help facilitate fast transitions on the wings.
Our central defender Jomar stepped up and intercepted a bad pass they played out of central midfield. Immediately you can see how wide open Fluminense are. Their fullbacks are way up the pitch, as is their entire central and attacking midfield. With us playing a bit wider (with “mixed” passing), Jomar has two direct passing lanes open to him in behind the Fluminense fullbacks. Our two wingers are ready to attack, as is our complete forward. With a direct pass to either wing, we will have immediately created a 3 vs 2 situation.
Jomar played the ball to the right and Gonzalez picked it up. My players quickly transitioned to attack, as you can see our advanced playmaker is already behind the entire Fluminense midfield.
Gonzalez played to this advanced playmaker (Evander), who has multiple passing options open to him and plenty of space to operate in.
He picked out our complete forward, Thalles, who pealed off from the isolated central defender…
…and scored a great counter attacking goal.
We ended up winning that first leg 3-0 (winning 4-1 on aggregate). In the second half, Fluminense went all-out attack with a 4-2-4 and spread the ball wide. I simply switched to a counter mentality, dropped my defensive line a little further and played a little narrower, since I now had the numerical advantage centrally. In the end it was a comfortable win.
My last example will be our first league match against Botafogo.
Botafogo also lined up in a narrow formation, but this one was more top-heavy and attacking than the one we faced against Fluminense. Here too I suspected the aggressive wingbacks would be key in delivering the ball to the target man, with the on rushing AMC’s attacking the second ball. Yet again, I wanted to wait out the first 10-15 minutes in order to see what this formation translated into on the pitch.
As I figured, Botafogo packed the central areas (A) and left the wings wide open (B).
I made almost all the same adjustments as against Fluminense (including the keeper distributing to the fullbacks), but I did add 2 more wrinkles. I added “clear ball to flanks” and bumped up the tempo in order to facilitate fast transitions to exploit their weaknesses in the wide positions. I wanted to have fast counter attacking moves from any position on the pitch.
Here Bruno Paulista won the ball back higher up the pitch thanks to our more aggressive pressing. Given that Botafogo were transitioning to attack, the left-back had already committed to his forward run. As such, he vacated a huge space that left our winger wide open. Even though Paulista could’ve played a shorter pass, he played the more direct ball into space towards our right-winger.
Evander then received ball from the resulting pass and ran straight at the opposition keeper in a 1 vs 1.
The goal was the natural outcome from this fast counter-attacking move, based on the adjustments I made.
Even though it took a few second half substitutions to fully capitalize on our in-match adjustments, at the end it was a very comfortable win.
FM18 has ratcheted up the complexity of the game in a variety of areas (e.g. injury prevention, squad dynamics, scouting, etc.) and in-game analysis and adjustments are a part of that. I’m making more small tactical tweaks during matches so far on FM18 than I did in FM17 or FM16. So if a match isn’t going well, just stop and take a closer look at what’s really going on. Finally, I’d also highly recommend playing on comprehensive (as I do) to really see all facets of the match, or even full if it’s really going badly. If things are going smoothly, I then bump it up to extended or key.
Now this article wasn’t meant to be a guide on what tactical adjustments to make in a variety of situations, even though it may help if you encounter these types of situations. All I wanted to do was fully illustrate the importance of making in-match adjustments in Football Manager 2018 and really watching the match. Had I not made the critical changes I outlined, I am fully convinced we would have lost these matches. What you can also see is that I made these changes after simply watching the match. I didn’t need to delve into the analytics tools and dissect my opponents statistically. Now there are situations where that is very helpful, but that’s something for a future article.