Dafuge & Data: Season Summary 9 – Tactical Tweaks

For context I’ve been working hard at the day job for a couple of months now, and whilst I played on when I could FM time was rare, and blogging time was even rarer. So I finished this season about 2 months ago, and have played another since. For I am human

This means this summary will be a little shorter than the next. Partly because the memory of the details has been dimmed by time, but also because it wasn’t really a barnstormer of a season. Let me save you some time here – we didn’t get promoted, and we didn’t get relegated. Good times. This is mainly just about tactical tweaks caused by mass panic.


We actually spent some money on someone this window. We raided Boreham Wood of all places for central midfielder Pablo. A few teams were interested in him but for once we came out on top and got the youth prospect for what would hopefully be relative peanuts. And if he flopped the £20.5k fee wasn’t too much of a pain.

We then followed up with traditional free transfers in the form of young AMR Leahy, and a defensive option for the future Gary-Heaton. Both would maybe, along with Pablo, play bit parts from the bench if needed.

Once again though it was a transfer window without stars though our closest perhaps came in the form of Ronan Annesley-Smyth all the way from Cliftonville. The Northern Irish midfielder looks pretty decent, especially when he cost nothing.

A few players left. Akande who was prone to moan was shipped off to Wimbledon where he barely played. Sonny Winn was released as a kindness to Mansfield and actually got some game time. The rest were all players who found themselves on the fringe and with our tiny wage budget I needed the money to just cover the basics in the rest of the squad.

Initial Tactical Issues

Whatever worked last season didn’t seem to be this season. With our transfer dealings being a little underwhelming (as is tradition) so were our initial performances (again as is tradition).

This sent me into a full-on panic. I didn’t need the data to see that 3 losses in the first 4 games were an issue. And according to the useful but statistically annoying eye test, the team just wasn’t doing it. I needed something different. There was a way I wanted to play, and then there was the way I could play according to the resources I had. Cut your cloth accordingly and all that.

Based on the performances and last years stats I had a few things to consider:

  1. Inconsistent wingers (left)
  2. Leaky in terms of xG against, and over-reliant on the super keeper Harrison
  3. One dimensional upfront with an over-reliance on Fairs
  4. An abundance of talent in the middle of the pitch, with Duggan, O’Brien, Ronan, Pablo, Gale, Lynch, Howell, and even Kujabi and Fairs if needed.

So I started to sketch out in my handy notebook a few formation and role changes. Because I was using pen and paper it had the benefit of making it look to the casual observer (family) that I was actually working. It had the downside though of allowing me to make various lapses and include 12 players rather than 11.

Tactical Tweak 1: Give me Libero or Death

I just wanted a libero. I liked the idea of the sweeper/playmaker. A hero gathering interceptions and then launching a pinpoint pass to the targetman. A sort of unholy matrimony between the hipster and the hoofer. I should have paid more attention to RocksendFM’s articles as I managed to mess this up. A couple of games with this did squeeze out some points but I lost whatever attacking edge I had.

The hope had been that I could get more out of my talented central players whilst retaining the longball focus. It did not work.

Tactical Tweak 2: Destroyer

If you can’t get a libero to work then stuck an anchorman in and make the team even more aggressive than normal. I had a defensive variant of this called ‘FuckYourShins’. It didn’t take off. The cards piled high and it broke up play but yet again nothing came out of it in an attacking sense. I didn’t reduce the xG against enough, and what little xG I was creating took a nosedive. 10/10 for violence though. I’ll be keeping this for when I’m sick of being outclassed and just want to hurt people.

Tactical Tweak 3: Herr Lipp’s Revenge

This tactical tweak was inspired by the direct manner of fictional manager Herr Lipp. Catch up on his FM20 based adventures here, alles klar?

At this point I felt like I can’t defend, I can’t kick them off the pitch well enough, so why not just get everyone up front. The ultimate stick it in the mixer directly (like Herr Lipp would).

Two targetmen, a pressing forward and a poacher? What could make this better? Well, when I occasionally changed the poacher to an attacking targetman I guess. A tactical tweak with all the subtlety of frankfurter stuffed down the pants.

For a while it worked, we got some goals. The chaos caused when everyone was in position was a joy to see. The problem was we had massive gaps and actually ended up under so much pressure that the payoff just wasn’t worth it. I know, it’s probably obvious for many of you just from looking at it. But I had to try, and unfortunately in this case I flew too close to the sun.

Tactical Tweak 4: Target 10’s

Are you sick of the tactical tweaks yet? I was. To try and deal with the gaps and the pressure Marks was pushed back into the FB position so he could run and support from deep when needed (and be locked down defensively if we needed to go full Pulis). The mezzala role for the CM left-sided position to encourage to drift wide on that side to make up for the lack of out and out winger. And then the shadow striker to play in the hole behind the strikers, to pick up on loose balls and drift in dangerously to off extra options.

Potentially they were to act as a bit of a linkage between the midfield, so occasionally would be an AM-a, AM-s or an enganche. Just as a side note (expanded on below) although there’s an AF in the screenshot it was still a pressing forward for the most part. I didn’t change this initially.

This change seemed to work. We weren’t as exposed or blunt down the left, the strikers had support and I was still getting four players forward, in and around the box, when needed. With the TM and WTM still acting a clear outlets for the aerial ball. The points started to drip in after this tactical tweak.

Tweak from Pressing to Advanced

The target 10 tactic seemed to be the one for me after all my tactical tweaking. Now I love using the Pressing Forward. Formerly the defensive forward this player hangs on the last man and hunts down the ball. Whether it is loose or whether a defender has it. This seems like a great role for a longball lover and has served me pretty well over the past few seasons. Leading to record goalscoring for the PF at the time, Varian or Fairs. It was part of the original target 10 tactic.

You can see in the tactics above that the PF role was something of a constant. Until…I watched a video from Old Zealand. I’m not one to often pay attention to everything I watch, and I’m not sure how I got onto the video, but he covered a few different striker roles. In this, he highlighted how good the advanced forward could be, especially when well served by other players. A fast striker, with a good touch and eye for goal, could cause havoc from that role. So, I gave it a go and switched the PF to an advance forward. Giving Fairs more license to just score, and less responsibility to bite ankles. This was probably a good thing as Fairs didn’t quite fit the PF role. He was getting away with it but he wasn’t a natural according to his attributes.

A comparison of the change in production

Success. More through balls, more goals. More of a lethal edge upfront. The change in roles meant Fairs was unshackled and in better positions to exploit a quick turnover than before. Presumably, because he was doing less chasing of opposition players and more finding gaps.

The goals kept coming an there was something of a rennaisance for the season.

End of Season

Our form picked up and we started to pull in the points. We avoided the Big Sam technique of throwing too many games against big sides as our hot streak gave us the confidence to snatch more points. There were fewer teams I felt were massively better than us. A healthy 10th place awaited us. No danger of the playoffs but in a similar fashion no threat of falling through the trapdoor into league one.

We did get some praise though. Dyche clearly loves us, as the Scarborough Way is very similar at times to the Burnley Way.

We tempted Holloway and Pearson over to become part of our star-studded backroom. With is being the shining star obviously, as Rodrigo de la Vega made it into legendary status.

Despite all this the board decided to mess with us.

After an underwhelming extension to the stadium was announced it was then cancelled at the end of the season due to a lack of funds. To be honest our finances were bad when they made the plans so I’m not sure what they were hoping was going to happen? Have the misc costs in the budget actually been covering clandestine sports bets that haven’t actually come off and brought us riches?

Regardless it left us in a poor stadium. With no money, but we do have plenty of good performers.

Fairs, Ronan, Pablo and Harrison all had a big impact. And looking at the squad overall and our performance on key metrics we held our own despite the poor start and the massive changes in tactics.

Next season is in the lap of the seagull Gods. It will be our 10th in the save. Forza Seagulls.