Hello and welcome to defenceFirst and the second part of my introductory blog posts; ‘My Football Manager 2018 Story’. As per the title, this is going to be dedicated to the art of Premier League Survival…and yes, it is an art!
Both Pulis and Allardyce, they’re both leading examples who go for the same type of player. The common factor which I feel is most important is not experience, nor whether they’re British or not…but their height and pace.
For me, this is absolutely vital for remaining competitive in all 38 matches, which is a key target of mine if you read part one. If not, then we secured promotion only losing 4 games in 46, but we did draw a massive 23 league games. Below, I’ll list some steps I take every time I embark on my first year in the Premier League.
Preparation BEFORE pre season! (Tactic)
Before steaming ahead into pre-season, take a look at your squad, the money you have available to you. So often I see FM players whether it’s on stream or on Twitter spend a whole pre-season on a tactic, and abandon it because of results. Then, they’re left with a squad which is balanced around one formation and style of play, being plugged and played into another.
As you know, I played a 3-5-2 during my promotion campaign, and my tip would be to stay AWAY from this during your first season. It hurts me to say this as it’s my preferred shape, but this shape is simply not suited to an underdog in my opinion.
As you can see from the shape map below, there is a typical average positions from my higher press 3-5-2. The reason this was so successful is because of my solid back 3 who were up there with the best in the division at the time. In the Premier League, they will not be able to cope with the likes of Hazard, Coutinho and Sanchez for example. A quick fix you might suggest is to sit deep? Well, the negatives with a deep 3-5-2 (5-3-2 off the ball) is my team would be under huge pressure on the wings, with often an overlap occurring.
I therefore decided to ‘double up’ as I would call it, a more traditional shape with full backs on support and wingers in a 4-2-3-1 system, as per the shape below. I wanted to keep my team instructions to a bare minimum, with just a few basic team principles in place. During games where behind or trailing, these would be altered accordingly as you might expect, changes to ‘more direct passing’ and when defending a lead we’d close down less and sit in.
With the instruction ‘Close Down Much more’ this doesn’t encourage a solid unit in defence, as players will be pushing out of their position to close down. Therefore to counteract this, the below instruction is KEY. If for example I was playing a holding midfielder, then this instruction maybe wouldn’t be needed. However, since this isn’t the case this instruction does encourage my back 4 to remain tight and compact.
Preparation BEFORE pre season! (Transfer Targets)
We now have to find players to fit this tactical shape, a key find will be Wingers for me, since I played a 3-5-2 the previous season. Despite this, as per all my saves, the first priority is the defence. Whilst I boasted a decent defensive record the previous year, we needed to improve. The first 5 players I signed were defenders and a goalkeeper, all were transfer listed apart from Sam Johnstone, who was a free transfer (I’m no fackin wheeler n dealer).
Let me talk you through each signing player by player starting with Pascal Stenzel:
Bare in mind I signed him a season into the game so his stats would have developed, he’s still a very solid buy. Probably my weakest defensive signing out of the lot, though, he still proved a valuable acquisition due to his fantastic natural fitness, stamina and his brilliant mental side of the game.
Now onto the other Freiburg full back we signed, and this player proved to be one of my signings of the save. Christian Gunter:
Again, very solid physicals but Christian was instrumental in the way we attacked, I had him crossing from deep which helped supply the likes of Gary Hooper and Kelechi Iheanacho.
Now onto my 2 CBs who both remained as first team players for years to come, firstly; Terence Kongolo, or as I liked to call him ‘King Kongolo’:
Reason being he has just been a heroic servant to me on this and previous FMs. A solid CB who can do a job in a back 4 or 3, he can also do a sterling job as a LB. Solid Technicals and brilliant Physicals for the money paid, with him being at a club like Monaco, it’s likely he’ll be transfer listed come season 2!
King Kongolo has a similar partner in crime, though Calum Chambers doesn’t quite have the same ring to it:
Very similar to Kongolo with the fact he’s a solid CB who can also do a job at RB. A steal for 6.5m (also likely to be transfer listed since being at Arsenal).
Now, I’m hoping you noticed my highlighting skills…all 4 defensive recruits all towering over 6ft and all being quick…THIS IS VITAL. We’re not going to compete technically with the likes of Man City, but we can certainly out run and out work them, this is the true Big Sam coming out in me. The same can be said for my other recruits who I’ll post all below, all tall and all quick:
I hope you can see how the preparation has led to a well balanced squad, I went into the Transfer Window knowing the exact type of player required. As a result, I was left with a team who achieved Premier League survival with ease >
Of course, on a rare circumstance 43 points may not be enough, but 99 times out of 100 it is. Next time on ‘MyFootball Manager 2018 Story’ I’ll be sharing how I turned a 12th place finish into Champions League qualification. Hope you can join me then and I hope you found this useful.