The biggest lie in the world of custom tactics is that someone out there has a perfect combination of tactics and instructions. The famed ?meta.? Truthfully, there is no perfect combination of custom tactics that a player can readily apply that will instantly make him better. With this post, I hope to share some of what I?ve learned while, at the same time, learning from players who can supplement what I know. Knowing why your player didn?t make a certain run, moves a bit slower in the attacking or defensive zone, or appears unresponsive to the play in front of him will help you adapt and improve.
I hope that you will find this helpful. I am not a pro player. I?m a regular Div 2/Elite 3 finisher. I?ve won 150 more games than I?ve lost. Nothing special. Many out there better. But this isn?t designed for experts. I?m hoping to help anyone stuck in lower divisions striving to improve.
?Attacking? Versus ?Supporting? Runs: Notice how, in many formations, your primary striker(s) will have an ?attacking runs? option as opposed to a ?support run.? This is an important distinction. Even though the options are similar, with the exception of ?target man,? attacking and supporting responsibilities are quite different.
There are a variety of types of supporting runs a winger can make. The idea of a supporting run, versus an attacking run, is that a supporting run is designed to create space and passing options. Many players simply ignorantly set all of their attacking players to ?get behind? without giving much though to what that does to their attack. You?re essentially asking your wingers or wide midfielders to get behind the back line. They?ll run. They?ll burn stamina. And if they fail, you?ll find zero attacking options as you dribble up with your midfielder exasperated. Your players won?t make runs, because they already tried and failed, and your options are now severely limited.
This isn?t to say that this option isn?t viable in the right attack. You?ll need a strong midfield of at least 3-4. You?ll need to set one or two of them to stay forward and free roam (will discuss later). And your striker will also need to be set to free roam as well (will discuss later). Otherwise you?re creating a ton of green space in the midfield but without any passing options.
I?m always perplexed when I play a guy who clearly has his entire back line set to stay back, a CDM set to stay back, and all 3 attackers set to get in behind. You essentially are playing 2 on 11 football, friend!
Think of your formations and instructions as a cohesive approach to your game. If you set your supporting runner to get behind, your fullback should probably be set to join the attack to help your midfielder by giving him yet another option in attack. These instructions are unique to gaps you create and will vary.
?Get in Behind:? This instruction is designed to allow for a supporting player to work, face to goal, to get behind the defensive line. This instruction impacts your midfielders as well if you have pass assist on. I?ve already discuss the cons. It will create a lot of unfilled space. The positive is that it allows you to play a pace driven game on the wings. If you don?t care about the space and want to play this counter attack, 40/60 possession game you should stack your box for crosses.
?Come short:? is a possession oriented instruction. Your winger will, ideally, make a sharp run and then abruptly stop. This creates some space for your midfielder to run, but it also provides a passing option for him. Use the driven pass to get this winger the ball and you can send him on a run. It?s a flexible option for players who like options in the deep midfield but also want the option of sending a player on a run manually. A negative here is that only particular players thrive in this instruction. You need someone with a high work rate because this requires a ton of movement in your attacking zone. You need someone with good positioning to be able to make runs as appropriate deep in your box. No matter the pace, anyone who doesn?t have those two qualities will feel slow and heavy. They won?t move with confidence. You?ll see a ton of turnovers.
Be weary of giving conflicting instructions! Try not to set your left winger to drift side and get in behind while setting your left back to stay back! Drifting wide on wide attackers means they?ll get in the gap in the quadrant over the right shoulders of the fullback and CB. Stay central they?ll try to narrowly fit through whatever width the back line has set. This is dependent on your opponent?s ?width? setting. If you have a weak winger set to stay central and your opponent is playing narrow with Sol Campbell and VVD do NOT expect great runs. Learn to adapt. If your opponent is playing wide it is best to set everyone to stay central.
Do you ever feel like if your opponent, with similar players or even identical players, move much faster or have far more passing and shooting options than you? The above instructions coupled with how you instruct your attackers play a role in this. But so does work rate and positioning. Do not underestimate the value of work rate. There are videos online of two players with different work rates, in the same game, on the same team, behaving differently in the attacking zone. Moving slower. Feeling clunky and stuck in the mud. Make sure you put players in the best position for them to succeed for you.
?Get in Behind:? for a striker will send him on a variety of different runs. An important distinction is that their runs are designed to score, not to support an attack. Be mindful of this goal and this distinction, this instruction isn?t designed to create space or create options for your midfield. This option is designed to position this player to score. So think about whether this is the best setting to put whoever you gave at striker in the best position to score.
Sometimes it?s easy. Auba is a prime example of a striker who should be set to Get in behind. He?s not going to be a target man like Firmino who can come deep into your midfield and create havoc. He?s not a Messi style False 9. He doesn?t have the ability to dribble and pass that well. What he does and does well is use his acceleration and pace to beat a back line.
Appreciate how this setting works with the rest of your attack. Imagine in a traditional 4-3-3 having your entire forward line set to get in behind. Your entire back line set to stay back. Two midfielders set to stay back. And one attacker tasked with playing one perfect through ball to one of the three attackers. Doesn?t seem efficient, no? It also sounds exhausting for the three attackers?especially if even one has a medium work rate.
Pushing your entire team (depth) up and setting your wingers to cut inside could create a mirage of space with this setting. But it will expose you quite a bit on the back.
?Target Man:? Ibra is the ideal prototype in my view. Strong. Big target. Backs into your defensive line. Hard to bounce off the ball. Can play with wingers or midfielders set to any instruction. Want to set them to get in behind? Two quick passes, one to the midfield and one wide, allows him to set up for a cross. Want to have them both come short? Possession based passes let you feed him ?in the paint? for a post up goal.
?False 9:? I love Firmino in this role with ?free roam.? I think that is essential. In this role you can set your wingers to get in behind and trust that your false 9 will come back to your midfield to help. And when you send him on a run, in free roam, he?ll run to the wing or to the top of the box or to the front row of the audience. It?s quite helpful if you like chaos. It?s quite incompatible with anyone who doesn?t have the work rate, passing, dribbling, and shot to punish opponents who crowd your box.
I know I have not covered everything. But I hope this helps many understand how each setting works together in attack. Look at the players in your squad and ask yourself if they fit in your formation. Ask if they fit in your style of play. Ibra is great but if you?re a bad shot in the box and don?t play his style well it may be best to stick Tevez in there and set him to get in behind. Understand that your settings are directives to your players to do something. This does not mean that they will do it WELL every time. This is important to note.
I?ll end with a tidbit from a WL game I played. Player was playing a meta formation. 3 CAM and a line striker and 2 CDM. I like reading formations and instructions so I know how to adapt and attack. Immediately I spotted two things: depth maxed out and everyone set to sweaty play. And everyone central.
I paused. Set my depth all the way back. Narrowed my defense to 1. And he still destroyed me 4-0.
Tactics can only take you so far. But understanding your players and setting yourself up to succeed will help you have a better experience.