In the first episode Hansa Rostock owner Rolf Elgeti sold manager Marcus Allbäck’s house, bought Stockport County FC and moved himself, Marcus Allbäck and Mr Cat in the Hat to England. To catch up on that post, follow the link in the image below!
[Read like Arnold Schwarzenegger] “Don’t you just love it here, Marcus” Rolf Elgeti more proclaimed than asked. Before Marcus Allbäck got the chance to answer Mr Elgeti continued. “The English people they really know what they want. Have you heard about the Brexi, Marcus?” A bit startled by the question Marcus hesitated to answer long enough for Rolf Elgeti to continue once again. “Let me tell you about the Brexi, Marcus. The English people are having such a great time in this glorious nation that they want to celebrate it! It’s excellent. They are now throwing a giant party called the Brexi! Don’t you just love it?”
Marcus Allbäck, who had initially thought his boss was talking about Brexit, wasn’t really sure anymore. Was Rolf Elgeti not getting it at all or was he talking in metaphors? Or was he simply pulling his leg? Rolf Elgeti mistook his silence for approval and continued yet again. “The strange thing is that not all people seem to want to join this party. As ambassadors for the great city of Stockport we will have to do our very best to get everyone to join the carnival. We are gonna play extraordinary football and we are gonna do it in the name of the Brexi!”
Marcus Allbäck couldn’t even stand to look at Rolf Elgeti. There was no doubt in his mind that the man was crazy, but was he actually this ignorant as well? “I think it’s call Brexit, sir” he finally said in a quiet voice. Rolf Elgeti looked at Marcus as if he had called his mother a whore. [Angry Arnold] “Are you deranged Marcus? What kind of party would be called Brexit? It doesn’t rhyme with anything! Nonono, we are gonna celebrate Brexi. Sexi Brexi”
Trying something new
In my previous blog series I’ve only briefly gone through the way my team plays. I’ve pretty much only gone over the formation and our basic philosophies in defence and going forward. The tactical overhaul of FM19 has made me feel less restricted when it comes to tactics, and I’ve already spent a lot of time testing, analyzing and tweaking a tactic to suit Rolf Elgeti’s vision of Sexi Brexi. A flirt with the type of British football I grew up watching in the late 80s and early 90s, but with a modern twist. I’ll go through our defensive and offensive principles as well as our transitions between defence and offence and vice versa. To finish it all off I’ll provide a brief analysis of how the tactic has worked during the first half of the 2018/19 season.
The formation – The Sexi Brexi 5-2-3/3-4-3
A fairly straight-forward formation with 3 central players both up front and at the back. Our wingers will work the wide corridors both in offence and defence, making the formation a 5-2-3 or perhaps a 5-2-1-2 in defence and a 3-4-3 or 3-4-1-2 offensively, depending on how you categorize our TM.
Defence – Out of Possession
The key to our defensive plans (as well as the offensive) is to minimize risk. With 5 at the back we make sure that we’re basically never outnumbered and by dropping the defensive line as low as possible we rarely risk having balls sent over the heads of the back line. So we basically have to defend the areas in front of and outside of our defenders. In the central area in front of three central defenders, we have two midfielders to help us win the ball back. And win the ball back is the name of the game. We press with a high intensity to win the ball back and attack as quickly as possible, but we’ll get back to that in the offensive section.
With the centre of the field covered that pretty much leaves the areas outside of our wing backs for the opposition to exploit and that is exactly the area where we want to drive the opposition every time.
Our central forward (TM) drops down to close down the opportunities to switch sides through the middle (blue box) and our two Pressing Forwards always remain high up the field (blue rectangle) making it impossible to send the ball back in an attempt to start over. Our aim is to either win the ball through closing down and pressing or to force the opposition to cross the ball into our penalty area where we’re most likely in a numeral advantage.
The transition from offence to defence – When possession has been lost
Our first priority when we lose the ball is always to regroup. When we find our shape and our proper positions on the field we work to win the ball back. As you can see in the two pictures below our three central defenders fall back and centre until they reach their positions just outside our penalty box. Our wing backs who have fallen a bit behind in the first picture only focus on falling back as well. Our central midfielders are the only players who in this first phase show any interest at all in the player holding the ball. Their main focus is also to fall back and regroup, but they also try to halt the opposing ball holder in an attempt to give the rest of the team enough time to regroup behind them. Our central forward makes a defensive run as well, in order to provide some cover for the midfielders and potentially try to win the ball back early if they manage to stop the run (blue rectangle in picture 2). The only players not involved in this regrouping are the two Pressing Forwards. Their duty is to remain close to the opposition’s central defenders at all times, to prevent the opposition from starting over but more importantly to give us opportunities to counter-attack.
Offense – In Possession
Just like in defence we want to minimize risk or “be effective” in offence. The aim is primarily to send the ball forward as quickly as possible, beating as many opposition players as possible while at the same time having as many of our own players on the defensive side of the ball at all times. Sounds boring and stale? On the contrary, this is where the old British style of football gets a revamp with a bit of a twist. I’m not gonna lie. With extremely direct passing and instructions to pass it into space, our primary goal is obviously to get the ball in behind the oppositions defensive line, but we have a couple of more tricks up our sleeve.
In possession, the team structure looks like above. A 3-4-3 where our wing backs quickly push forward into the midfield to provide some width. In the picture above we have three forwards in a line, which is nearly never the actual case. When we win the ball our Pressing Forwards immediately run towards goal, but our central forward – the Target Man – remains in position or drops down to become an option for a pass or to snatch up balls that are headed back by the opposition’s defenders.
As mentioned on numerous occasions now our first priority is to go “Route One” with a long ball in behind the opposition’s defensive line. As we always leave two players high up the field we always have at least two targets for this long pass. These runs usually draw a lot of attention to them, drawing in a lot of defensive runners to chase them down. This leaves a nice open space to find our Target Man instead as you can see in the picture below.
The player in the blue square, our Target Man, has several options after receiving the ball. He can either try to put the ball behind the defensive line for our two runners or if the opposition are doing too good of a job of tracking back he can move forward with the ball himself. His final option, and the preferred move, is to hold up the ball to give our wing backs the chance to progress up the pitch and then serve one of them with the ball.
That is exactly what has happened in the picture above. Our right wing back is in possession of the ball close to the final third of the pitch. We have started to move players forward and have quite a few players in between him and the opposing goal, thus raising the risk. This means that we want to get to a finish from here.
From this position our wing back works somewhat like a “quarterback” with a set play book. The preferred move is to cross the ball diagonally (1) towards the red square by the far post. His second option (2) is to get the ball into the blue square, either by running with it himself or by passing it into space for our nearest forward. Once in the blue square the aim is once again to cross the ball into the red square for a finish. The third and final, most risky and least desirable option, is to find one of the central midfielders (3) for a switch of sides, a long shot or a cheeky pass into the penalty box. In this green area we are most vulnerable when losing the ball, so this option is a risky one.
So how have we fared so far with this tactic? Let’s look at a brief summary of the season so far!
Vanarama National League North
We started off alternating between a 4-1-4-1 formation that didn’t work at all and a 4-4-2 that worked ok, but looked really boring. I experimented with the tactic that finally became the Sexi Brexi 5-3-2/3-4-3 from the beginning but wasn’t satisfied with it enough to really give it ago until the start of September and the game against Boston Utd. We won that game in convincing fashion and have really been on form since. We’ve put up solid performance after another, with the only exception being the awful loss at home to Brackley.
Halfway through the season, we are top of the Vanarama National League North with a five-point margin down to York in 2nd place and with twelve points down to Telford outside of the playoff spots in 8th. This is exactly according to plan and hopefully we can keep this up to gain promotion in our very first season.
Without any transfer funds available to us we basically had to use the players already at our disposal. Many of them seemed to fit the style of play, with captain Paul Turnbull looking like he had never done anything else in his entire life. We brought in one player of significance to strengthen the midfield.
Milan Butterfield came in as a free agent after being released from League One club Walsall. He looks like a well-rounded midfielder for this level and seems to have a little bit of development left in him as well.
When looking at the player performances halfway through the season it’s safe to say that Darren Stephenson has been our best player so far. Operating mainly as our left Pressing Forward he has been an absolute powerhouse offensively with 16 goals, 10 assists and 16 created chances in 18 starts!
To end this episode we’ll take a brief look at how the tactic has worked so far. Obviously it looks like it’s been working since we’re top of the league but we’ll test that out by statistically analyzing the goals we’ve scored and the ones we’ve conceded (from the Boston Utd game and on).
The majority of our goals come from the far post or the “red box” if you will (30/54), which is gratifying since that is the primary area that we want to finish from. When looking at how we’re creating our goal scoring chances the numbers look like this:
- Route one transitions – 16 goals
- QB play 1 “red box” – 5 goals
- QB play 2 “blue box” – 6 goals
- QB play 3 “switch sides” -12 goals
- Set pieces – 15 goals
The simple fact that we’ve only conceded 22 goals compared to 54 scored is a pure success. The goals conceded are spread pretty evenly on near and far post, close range and long shots and finally penalties. When looking at how the goal scoring chances are created one interesting fact is that we have not conceded a single goal to route one transitions ourselves.
We have done a good job so far and our tactic based on minimizing risk and getting behind the opposition’s defensive line quickly seems to be working. Now we’ll just simply need to keep doing what we’ve done so far to secure that promotion. In the next episode we’ll look at the second half of the season as well as a presentation of what sort of players we’ll be looking for in the future to strengthen our squad at different positions moving forward.
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