It’s fair to say Sean Dyche is a miracle worker, he’s got 2 Premier League promotions under his belt and is currently sitting pretty (if that’s the right word) high up in the Premier League.

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Dyche is very sensible with his tactics, unlike some newly promoted teams. He keeps it simple, you could say priorotises ‘defenceFirst’…but that’s just cringy (sorry). In all seriousness, his teams are VERY hard to beat, and he’s evolved his philosophy more recently to add more attacking bite.

What I would love to see is Sean Dyche given the opportunity to manage a so called ‘big team’. Would there be a more beautiful sight than Sean Dyche bollocking Mesut Ozil for not putting in a shift? Whilst that would be something, for this FM18 Experiment I’ll be using a team who are quite renown for their defensive incapabilities; Liverpool. I’ll be using the squad as it comes and will be making no transfers.

How will my Liverpool team need to be setup?

Good question, firstly, a Dyche team plays with big strikers who can collect long clearences and hold up the ball. Liverpool don’t have this, but what they do have is PACE, and plenty of it. This is therefore a perfect alternative, as the likes of Salah, Mane, Firminho and Coutinho can hold the ball up with their pace and skill.

Secondly, his teams have a very high work rate, something which is already engraved in this Liverpool outfit. Liverpool are use to playing a high press, though, our squad will still have the fitness to keep their shape off the ball and counter with speed.

The most significant attribute is organisation, something which Liverpool have lacked under Klopp. This is where I come in, and this is the base we’ll be using >

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So to match our desired system, I needed to keep things really simple. No fancy Libero or CWBs, I’ve gone for a flat compact back 4, a flat 4 in midfield, a shadow striker to help support midfield when out of possession and a DLF.

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With our secondary shape, the only change is having two out and out strikers rather than a Shadow Striker. I anticipate using this shape when searching for a goal, and I’m more likely to switch from ‘Counter’ to ‘Attacking’.

Both shapes do have the same team instructions which can be seen in greater detail:

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The Idea is to keep a rigid back 4 who sit slightly deeper, I want to encourage the ball to be played infront of our defence rather than in behind. Our general shape will be kept fairly narrow to make us compact out of possession and stick to positions also encourages greater organisation.

When transitioning from defence to attack, I want us to be quick about it. We’ll be playing at a higher tempo, running at defences and knocking the ball into space out wide.

Player roles

Midfield is key, and in a 4-4-2 I believe the most important positions are out wide. I personally believe the ‘Winger’ player role is flawed, it’s way too focused on individual attributed rather than to fit a team ethic. I’ll be using wide midfielders who by their role description will fit the style of play I want to implement to perfection.

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Both wide midfielders have the below player instructions, which will help our team frustrate the opposition and win back the ball.

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Central defenders are also key to the way we want to play. Sean Dyche has got a record of massively improving Central defenders, just look at Michael Keane (who earned a move to Everton), Ben Mee and James Tarkowski. I want my defenders to be solid, have no rush of blood moments. I’ve therefore tweaked their instructions.

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Set Pieces

Set Pieces in modern day football are absolutley vital, especially for lower to mid table clubs. It helps bridge the goalscoring gap that some teams have. Both defending a Set Piece and attacking one is an art, but one which I don’t feel is respected enough by top teams. This cannot be said for a Sean Dyche team, excellent defensively and a constant threat attacking one.

This is how we’re setup to defend a corner. I find that 3 and 3 works wonders, that is 3 players on the six yard box, with one at the near, one centrally and one at the far post. The other 3 players are set to ‘go back’ for two, and my central defender will pick up their tallest player. I want to breakway quickly from corners, so I’ll be keeping both wide midfielders forward, who in this squad generally do have pace. I do expect to be keeping the ‘corners conceded’ stat to a minimum, I’ll take a look at this come the end of the season.

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When attacking a corner, two players must be back at all times, with two lurking outside the box to pick up a clearance if there is one. I find corners delivered into the 6 yard box are most effective, as the game engine will have the player under and over hit the cross. If this is the case, it’ll either go to the near or far post if miss hit, adding variety to our corners. If this eventually happens, we do have attackers positioned in both areas, as well a striker in the 6 yard box.

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Training

With training during both pre season and the regular season, I like to keep it focused on the next match, rather than general training. If away from home, I either go for defensive positioning or attacking set pieces. At home, I’ll either go for attacking or attacking set pieces.

As you can see with the screenshot below, I do have start of my weeks consisted of ‘team cohesion’, this is for pre season purposes only. During the regular campaign, I tend to go mix this up, depending on the opponent and our form.

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Pre Season Friendlies

First up was AZ away, a solid dutch outfit usually competing for the European spots in Holland. With the way the Dutch teams play, I knew this would be perfect, AZ 30 minuted in controlled the possession, but we we brilliant on the counter attack. 2-0 up with just 39% possession and limiting our opponents to zero shots on target.

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As the game progressed, AZ changed their system to try and Counter attack us, leading to more possession. AZ did break our defence and get on the scoreline, which was a disappointment. Though, the goal was from 20 yards out and it wasn’t a defensive mistake, which was somewhat of a consolation.

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I was really pleased with the amount of goal scoring opportunities we mustered with just 44% possession, whilst AZ only had 2 shots on target with 56%. Looking closer into the match stats, we created 5 Clear Cut Chances (CCCs) and one half chance. We still maintained a high pass percentage, despite our direct approach. We also attempted 46 crosses, which is a fantastic return.

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We then took on Roma, a potential UCL opponent at Anfield. What was interesting about this game was how defensive Roma were, I was expecting Roma to dominate possession, which just didn’t happen. We drew 1-1 which was disappointing, we’re still looking for this elusive clean sheet. As per the average positions, Roma did sit very deep which meant we ended up with 55% possession.

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What’s a real positive is once more we didn’t allow our opponent a CCC whilst we managed 2. As a team, this is now two games in succesion we’ve out run our opponents, which was an aim for me.

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Our next pre season game against Premier League Watford was our most pleasing. A real benchmark for the up coming season, in classic Dyche style we allowed the opposition all the possession in their third and on half way

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What is really noticable is 41% of Watford ball possession came in the middle third of the pitch, and only 6% was in our third.

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This resulted in Watford being the next opponents to not have a CCC against us, or even a half chance in this game! We managed to collect 3 CCCs with 3 half chances too.

Now onto our final and most difficult pre season outing, away to AC Milan which we took on our stride. A comfortable 3-1 away win which gives me great hope that I can make this style of play work.

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What stands out so far is how consistently we’re managing to have 5+ shots on target, despite having little possession. AC Milan, like most teams, had a 3 man central midfield and controlled the ball for large periods. We played on the counter attack wonderfully and took the spoils…if there are any for a friendly.

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A close first half was followed by a dominant second. I’m not too sure what happened to Milan during the second half, but we were sensational. Milan did score from their CCC, but it’s encouraging that we’ve only conceded 3 goals from 5 pre season games (which includes a 3-0 win away to Wrexham).

So that’s it for Part one, you’ve seen how I’ve built this tactic and the way we’ll be playing. Part Two will show how we fared over the whole season, and I’ll be analysing our system further.

Thank you for reading, please feel free to check out my Twitter here > @defenceFirstFM.

Thank you

defenceFirst

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