Scoring More From Midfield | Torquay #9: League One | FM17 Stories

Welcome to a rather interesting post in VivaTorquay. In the previous post, we saw how Federico Hurtado led newly promoted Torquay to back-to-back promotions from League Two as one tiny tweak was enough to turn around his team’s fortunes.

In this post, we find a problem within our team and look to use tactical analysis to solve it! What is this madness?

In over a year of VivaLaVidaFM I have yet to delve properly into the tactics of football, instead focusing on the story element of my saves. And although I’m far from being a tactical genius, I do like to use the analytical features in FM to help me make tactical tweaks to my team.

In order to help me decide how I write stories moving forward, if you enjoy this post and the way it is written, please do let me know in the comments or on Twitter / Facebook etc. It will help me decide on how I’m going to structure my content moving into FM18 and beyond.

Torquay United in League One | VivaTorquay Season 7

league table

Torquay United finish 14th in League One

past positions

Torquay United’s past positions in League One

After a brilliant start to our League One campaign, which saw us sit 2nd after 7 games and 6th and the halfway mark, Torquay United’s form suffered a terrific blow. This saw Torquay fall from 6th to 14th in the second half of the season.

second half of the season

Five wins from 23

The finger points clearly to our poor defence as to why our form dropped off a cliff, keeping just three clean sheets in this second half of the year. Yet Federico Hurtado noticed a trend in attack that he regarded as perhaps an even bigger problem.

A Worrying Lack Of Goals From Midfield

Below is a list of Torquay United’s non-strikers to score a goal in the entire 2045/46 season (including Cup matches):

  • Joseph Okoye (MC) 4 Goals
  • John Morris (MC) 2 Goals
  • Carl Brown (MR) 2 Goals
  • Colin Peacock (ML) 1 Goal
  • Renaldo Downey (DM) 1 Goal
  • Kevin Robson (DM) 1 Goal

11 goals between 6 non-strikers over the course of one entire season!

So why are we not scoring goals from midfield? 

We’re going to take an in-depth look at our tactic, focusing on our main four midfielders over the season. AMR: Carl Brown, DLP: John Morris, BWM: Joseph Okoye and ML: Colin Peacock.

tweak of 4-4-2 tactic

Our tactic for the majority of the 45/46 season

If our midfielders are not scoring, the first thing to think about is if they are having any shots.

Midfield Four: Shots in the 2045/46 Season

  • Carl Brown (AMR): 34 shots in 3393 mins
  • John Morris (DLP): 37 shots in 2890 mins
  • Joseph Okoye (BWM): 43 shots in 2931 mins
  • Colin Peacock (ML): 10 shots in 3798 mins

The Tactic and Instructions: Should I expect more from our midfielders?

tactical instructions

The instructions behind our counter-attacking tactic

The thoughts behind this tactic are simple. Win the ball back, pump it long to our wingers, pass into space for our pacey strikers.

This method has been used in all of our successful years so far with Torquay. But as we have progressed further up the leagues, is it time to change the way we play? Our results and performances suggest so.

A Lack of Movement in Midfield – Exhibit A

winning ball back 1

Screenshot 1

In screenshot 1, AMR Carl Brown has just won the ball back and will look to move from left to right as Torquay look to counter.

winning ball back 1 - engage opponent

Screenshot 2

Ideally, Brown would sprint forward with the ball into the space shown before engaging number 12. This should then give space behind him for our attacker (number 11) to run into.

winning ball back 1 - clear ball

Screenshot 3

Instead, Brown clears the ball up field to our striker, who appears isolated from his teammates. This shouldn’t be a problem as Williams can hold up the play, as shown below in screenshot 4.

winning ball back 1 - striker hold up 2

Screenshot 4

The white lines indicate where our players should be looking to run in order to give Williams some options in attack.

I want our wingers to run into space in the wider areas and look to receive the ball down the wings.

winning ball back 1 - striker hold up 3

Screenshot 5

Williams decides to turn with the ball and try to play in his partner, Mark Cresswell, as opposed to holding up the ball for his midfielders to run past.

The fault lies with both sets of players. Williams needs to hold the ball up for his midfielders to overlap. However both wingers made no effort to run into space, instead choosing to remain in their wider, but deeper, positions.

A Lack of Movement in Midfield – Exhibit B

with possession - wingers movement

Screenshot 6

Here we see a standard situation where Joseph Okoye has the ball in the middle of the pitch. Displayed using the white arrows is the movement I expect from one, if not both, of my wingers, with the blue arrows indicating how Okoye could play the ball.

lack of movement of wingers

No movement from our wingers

Both Brown and Peacock make no effort to get in behind the defence and Okoye chooses to work the ball through the middle. The highlight ends with Williams shooting over from outside of the box.

What’s the problem and how can we fix it?

The Problem: A lack of goals from the midfielders

The Possible Reason: A lack of forward movement from our midfielders, meaning they are rarely in a position to be able to shoot

Why? Both of our wingers are assigned the role of Winger (Support). As shown in the image below, a winger with support duty hugs the touchline when his team is moving forward and looks to quickly get past his man when he has the ball.

winger support role

Winger (Support)

This is what we want from our wingers, so I’m convinced that this role is correct. We don’t want our wingers to be too attacking and risk becoming overloaded on either wing.

counter mentality

Counter mentality

So let’s look at our tactical instructions, starting with our mentality and shape.

We played with a counter attacking mentality, meaning we sat deeper, holding our shape, and looked to break quickly when the ball was won. The aim is to expose the space behind opposition full-backs.

flexible shape

Flexible shape

Torquay used a flexible shape, which means that our players are expected to contribute to more than just their own phase of play. Defenders are expected to contribute to the defensive and transition phases with attackers being expected to contribute to the transition and attacking phases.

We look to play a direct style of football, passing into space and clearing the ball to the flanks. We are also instructing our team to play wider.

And I think it is here wherein our problem lies.

  1. We are moving the ball forward too quickly which means our wingers are not able to keep up with play
  2. Our flexible shape means our wingers are less likely to want to sprint past the opposition full-backs, instead keeping shape in their slightly deeper positions

How I plan to solve our problem

  • Play with a very fluid shape

This should help our midfielders to be able to contribute more to each phase of play. It should allow our wingers make more runs behind the opposing full-backs, thereby producing more opportunities for shots or crosses.

  • Play with a standard mentality and a lower tempo

I will encourage our players to take more care of the ball through playing at a slower tempo and less direct. No longer will our defenders hoof the ball clear to the flanks, instead they will look for an opportunity to play out of defence.

tactic moving forward

Our tactic moving forward

Here is a look at the tactic we shall be using moving forward with Torquay United. The change of formation should give our players more options when on the ball and more fluidity when looking to create those options.

This change of tactic/formation has seen our non-strikers score 25 goals so far in the 2046/47 season after 30 league games, compared to just 11 in the entire season just gone.

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Thanks for reading our 9th post in the series ‘VivaTorquay’. It has been my first proper tactical analysis so I would appreciate any feedback you have on what has been written.

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4 thoughts on “Scoring More From Midfield | Torquay #9: League One | FM17 Stories

  1. Very good post mate. When I used 4-3-1-2 my player in AM position scored a lot of goals and had also many assists. I used 4-1-4-1 in the last three seasons again with WM/A – CM/S – CM/A – W/A and all midfielders had 10+ goals & assists during these three seasons. I used Standard and Flexible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks mate!

      I’m using an AM now with my 4-4-2 diamond (with wingers). He’s scoring well for me too.

      What role does your DM have? I’ve stuck mainly with a BWM-D through the rise from Conf South but am now using a DM-S


      • The main role is DLP/D but when we play against teams who use 4-1-4-1 as well or 4-5-1 with flat midfield I change it to RPM and it works better against these formations…


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