Benfica – Conveyor Belt to the Stars | Ep9: A tactical analysis – Attackers| Football Manager 2019 Stories

Hi and welcome back to the third and final part in my attempt to analyze the tactic we used in the 2019/20 season, focusing on our three attackers. We’ll start by looking at our Inside Forwards, and then look at the lone striker and finish it all of with a bit of an analysis to tie it all up. In this final part I also became a bit creative/”wild and crazy” with the stats in an attempt to create a better measurement for offensive output.

More on that further down. Now let’s start off like the previous post, by simply looking at what I want our players to do on the pitch.

Inside forwards

Playing Inside Forwards on both flanks are very much the keys to the opponent’s defensive locks. I want to get these players with the ball at their feet causing all sorts of problems for the opposition. We use a left-footed player on the right flank and vice versa or preferably two-footed players to make them more unpredictable for the opposition and increase their chances of finding a pass or shot once they’ve cut inside.


Inside forward options

Their primary task in our build-up play is to stay open for passes from our wing backs or midfielders, either by staying wide or by dropping into the half space between the opposition’s central defender and wing back. When they get the ball we want them to cut inside and wreak havoc!


When cutting inside I want the IF to do one of three things:

  1. Pass the ball into the box, either to our striker or the other IF who has moved into the box from his flank
  2. Dribble and finish
  3. Switch the ball to the other flank

If there is space in the box for a pass or a dribble attempt then that should be the first priority. If the area in or just outside of the box is too congested to enter that probably means that there is space on the flanks! Then he can hopefully get the ball out to our other IF who has stayed wide or more likely the wing back who has moved up the field.

Stats yf

Inside forwards

Antonio Marin started his season in the B squad but was promoted after the sale of João Felix. Young gun Imbamba got a few chances straight out of the U19s. Diego Laínez also featured out on the left side for a few games, even though his primary position was out on the right where he shared game time with Trincão. When reviewing the IFs‘ performances the first thing I wanted to do was to look at the hard facts. How much did they contribute to our offensive output? Is goals and assists a good measurement? Well, both yes and no. As you know from previous parts it’s easy to get fooled by absolute numbers (at least for me). In a sense the best goal-scorer is the player with the highest number of goals scored, but is a player scoring 17 goals in 38 games better than a player scoring 10 goals in 10 games? Probably not. We solved this sort of dilemma by looking at stats per 90 minutes. Now, the latter player looks better than the player with the highest absolute number of goals. We could end it there, but since this is the final piece in this tactical series, let’s take it one step further. Is it possible to create better measurements for offensive output?

I’m not gonna claim that I’m revolutionizing football in any way, but this is a fresh and interesting way to approach Football Manager, at least for myself. I will only look at offensive stats for our front trio and to spice things up I’ll introduce two new stats for the analysis. Shots/goal and Passes/Key Passes+Assists will be added in an attempt to better quantify the offensive output. Shots per goal is for me a measurement of how effective a player is at converting their chances into goals and is a stat I see used at least occasionally. Passes per Key Passes and Assists is an attempt at creating a similar efficiency measurement for passing. Let’s use our good friend the radar chart to see if I’m on to something, stating the obvious or if I’m just way off. To get make it a bit more comprehensible I removed Imbamba and Nuno Santos from the analysis because they played too few games and I added Marin‘s A and B squad games together.


Inside forward comparison

So, let’s start by looking at the actual player performances before we pay any attention to my “new stats”, Two things become obvious by just looking at the big picture; Trincão had an amazing season and Morilla was abysmal. Apart from that, it becomes a bit difficult to read with 6 players in the same chart, so let’s break it down into finishing, passing and dribbling:

  • Finishing
    • Trincão had the most shots/90 minutes and also the most goals/90 minutes.
    • Antonio Marin was 2nd in shots/90 minutes and 3rd in goals/90 minutes.
    • Csoboth was 3rd in shots/90 minutes and 4th in goals/90 minutes
    • Laínez on the other hand was dead last in shots/90 minutes, but 2nd in goals/90 minutes.
    • By introducing the stat “Shots/goals” (used inverted in the graph for a better visual representation) does the picture change in any way?
      • Yes, it actually does! By using this measurement Laínez becomes our most effective player, ahead of Trincão. This isn’t the only surprise though as B squad player Embaló emerges as our 3rd most efficient finisher, a player we might have missed completely in our analysis due to his rather anonymous numbers in both shots/90 minutes and goals/90 minutes.
  • Passing
    • Trincão continues to shine as he tops the list in key passes/90 minutes and is 2nd in assists/90 minutes.
    • Embaló is 2nd in both, sharing the assist spot with Trincão.
    • Laínez is 5th in key passes/90 minutes but 1st in assists/90 minutes.
    • Does looking at “Passes/Key Passes+Assists” change anything?
      • Well, both yes and no. The list looks very much like the assists/90 minutes one, with Laínez in 1st place ahead of Trincão and Embaló. The only surprise is that B squad player Csoboth is very close to the players above in 4th place.
  • Dribbling
    • Marin was our most frequent dribbler/90 minutes and the 2nd most fouled.
    • Embaló was 2nd in dribbles and 3rd in fouls against.
    • Trincão was 3rd in dribbles and 1st in fouls against.

I wrote that Trincão looked like the obvious best player when looking at the graph, but when digging a bit deeper Laínez turns out to be our most effective player looking at both chances converted and chances created for others. Embaló put in a solid performance for the B squad. Antonio Marin dribbled a lot but struggled when it came to efficiency. Csoboth was very effective in his passing game but looked pretty rubbish besides that. That only leaves Morilla and yes, he was simply abysmal.

Let’s look at the final position, the striker.


Playing with an alone striker you can go down a couple of different routes. You can use a Poacher or Advanced Forward whose primary duties are to spearhead attacks and pose a threat in the box. You could also choose to play with a more dropping forward who participates in the build-up play and hopefully creates space for other players due to his movement. The, you could go down the route I’ve chosen, which is the route of the Complete Forward. This role requires a bit of both of the above. A constantly moving outlet in our build-up play, but also a threat in the box. It’s easy that instead of becoming a bit of both this player becomes a bit of nothing if the shoes are too big to fill. Perhaps I am spreading our young strikers a bit too thinly by using this role and we will take this into account in our analysis. So, enough rambling, what do we want our lone striker to do ideally?


Striker options

We want him to become open for passes when we’ve advanced a bit up the pitch, preferably by dropping down. After receiving the ball we want him to distribute it either forward to a running Inside Forward, back to a midfielder or to our wide players.

Stats fw


Only playing one striker at a time and using only two per squad that naturally leaves us with few player to analyze. Alexander Isak played the most, 42 games for the A squad, with back-up option Joveljic playing 34. Stepcic played 12 games for the A squad and 4 for the B squad with Boadu playing the majority (19) of the B squad games.


Striker comparison

We have some good stuff to extract from our chart. None of the player’s octagons look similar to each other, which is a fun start for a final analysis! Mladen Stepcic shoots and scores the most but anonymous B squad striker Myron Boadu has the highest conversion rate ahead of Stepcic. When it comes to creating chances Alexander Isak is the star, topping all three of the lists; Key passes, Assists and Passes/Key Passes + Assists. All season I felt like Isak wasn’t doing much since his goal tally was pretty low, but obviously he played a more important role than I figured! Young Joveljic was pretty unimpressive all through the season, but he still has time to develop into a great player!


Getting close to the end of both this episode and the series of tactic posts it’s time for a bit of a conclusion. Three things really stood out for me, doing this analysis, all three being things I might use to improve the tactic:

  1. The difference in offensive output between a CWB with an attacking role vs a supporting role is much bigger than the difference in defensive output in the attacking role’s favour. This leads me to probably playing with attacking roles on both flanks next season.
  2. The box-to-box midfielder isn’t really working the way I want him to. He doesn’t cover enough distance and doesn’t contribute enough compared to the CM(a). Therefore I’m going to change the midfield role of the player next to my CM(a) from a BTB to a CM(s) next season.
  3. The lone striker role. This is a tough one. I really want all the benefits that a CF brings, but I think it’s too much to ask from my young players. None of them carry the complete toolbox needed for the role. I need to think and tweak and think a bit more before I make up my mind what role to choose, but a change is needed.

One final thing that doesn’t show in this tactical series but became obvious when I did the statistical analysis is a problem of game time. It appears that both the B squad and  U19 squad are overcrowded compared to the number of games available. For the B team this is caused by them only playing 2nd league games and for the U19 the problem is that there are simply too many players in the squad. This leads to us having 11 (healthy) players with 0 to 5 games played this season, which is devastating in a player development perspective. This is something that needs to be addressed immediately, either by finding a way to distribute game time better or by simply offloading players. We’ll get back to this soon!

Now it’s time to end this post. I really enjoyed writing this and I hope that you enjoyed reading it! In the next post I’ll get back into player development and squad management the Benfica way! See you soon!

Thanks for reading another excellent post by Mikaelinho. You can follow him on Twitter here:


2 thoughts on “Benfica – Conveyor Belt to the Stars | Ep9: A tactical analysis – Attackers| Football Manager 2019 Stories

  1. Great to see you lay this all out. Maybe you already calculate it this way but surely you would want a low number for shots/goal and passes/KP+assists but seems like right now the further out on the octagon the worse a player is for those stats which is opposite to the other stats?


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