An Analysis of Pre-Match, In-Match and Post-Match in Football Manager 2014
One of the most important parts of succeeding with your Football Manager Tactic is to take benefits of the Football Manager match analysis. Your approach to match analysis is a personal approach decided by either adapt your tactics to your opponents or use your main tactic which builds on your team strength hiding your own weaknesses.
Here you can discover how Ryan Tank approaches match analysis in Football Manager and how he uses the available information pre-match, in-match and pro-match to increase his possibilities to win the match. This excellent analysis of match preparations and discussions on match tactics adaption will let you be able to improve your take on Football Manager match preparations and using all the tools laid out to conquer the opposition team.
In this article Ryan Tank will share with you how he approaches match analysis in all phases of the game; pre-match, how he adapt and react during and after the matches. You will also be able to see how he interpret and utilize data provided by Football Manager as part of the consideration and decision making for deciding if it’s beneficial to adapt his formation and Football Manager tactics in regard to the opponents style of play.
PS! This article is my own attempt to share my own experience on match analysis. It can not be regarded as an absolute guide as it’s very situation based – something that’s not appropriate to apply in every situations.
Approaching Match Preparations Before The German Klassiker: FC Bayern vs Borussia Dortmund
For this article I’ve used my Dortmund team as an example. Dortmund would play their 23rd Bundesliga match on February 19th 2022. 3 days earlier they faced Kaiserslautern. I started the match preparation for the FC Bayern clash already on the match day of the Kaiserslautern match (February 16th 2022).
You may be wondering what I mean by starting match preparations for Bayern on the day where I also had to face a match against another team (Kaiserslautern). Sometimes match preparation is not only done 1-2 days before the relevant game begins. There are a variety of options. You can do the analysis after you receive the report opposite, 1-2 days before the match. Alternatively, you can start preparation (as I did), at the other match before the ‘real’ match begins.
Match Preparations: Anticipate Starting Line Up: Phase 1
In terms of the team’s reputation, the reputation of the players, the club’s position in the domestic league, team performances since 2013, Dortmund were 2-3 levels above Kaiserslautern. From this factors, I believed I could win the game without having to play the number one choice ones. So, I decided to line-up like this :
I decided to play 6 players of my “2nd choice”, as part of the rotation, in order to achieve fit condition before the Bayern match 3 days later. I also planned to pull out Ivan Kujevic, Eder Balanta, plus one of Verratti or Reith, between minute 60 s / d 70 (which I hoped that everything was fine as I planned).
And, I grant my expectation, perfectly. Until the 27th minute, couple goals each from Balanta and Kujevic plus an AI own goal, brought Dortmund ahead 0-3. So, on 61st, according to plan before match, I pull out Balanta and Kujevic, in unison. Then, at 76th, I replaced Reith.
For additional information. Kujevic had just recovered from an injury and required rest for around 5 days (he was given a new entrance on the bench in the Bundesliga match 3 days before). Here I played him in the last 15 minutes to see the progress of his condition and match fitness after the game ended, and how it went right on the day of the match of Kaiserslautern.
On the day of the Kaiserslautern match, Kujevic condition reached 94% and 91% on match fitness. Long story short, Kujevic’s in-game condition on the 59th minute was about 81%. So, I immediately replaced him, as I planned. In the end, Dortmund won 1-4. I get 3 points, no player injury, no red-card, pluss the benefits of a maintained moral condition at the top level. Absolutely perfect before the main match – the rivalry against FC Bayern.
The first stage of match preparation is done.
Pre-Game Preparation: AI Match Squad Analysis & Deciding The Playing Style / Tactics
On February 17 (Day 2) I received the Opposition Report. Tentative conclusions, the Right Wing was the most dangerous with most assists contribution (FC Bayerns right winger Matt Hough was one to watch out for). Bayern right side of the defense becomes the weakest side.
Their Passing was the best attribute, hence, it could be, Bayern wouldn’t be playing too short passing game (plus David Moyes is a manager who rely on direct-passing). Bayern played a lot with formation of 4 – 2CM-2W, 1AM – 1, also described as a 4-2-3-1 formation. Bayern were very likely to play a high defensive blocks (using Push Higher Up).
The above screenshot was the Bayern line-up, as I predicted earlier. There were Timo Werner, Bernard, Toni Kroos and regen Matt Hough as the main treats. I focused much of my attention to the leading position Bayern 4, with range of considerations :
(1) this match takes place at Allianz Arena, so, they would attack with the 4 would be the main actors
(2) Bayern trailed by 11 points, so, they really needed 3 points
(3) in the first round, Bayern lost 0-2, certainly there was intention of revenge, considering the 2 teams rivalry, and
(4) they were FC Bayern, the German giant who always tended to attack, whenever – wherever.
So that was the analysis assuming how Bayern would play against me. Now onto how I would conquer their treaths:
1. It’s beneficial to specific mark the AMC of 4-2-3-1. The AMC in a 4-2-3-1 formation is the main chance creator and their most creative player, especially with a worldwide Reputation player like Toni Kroos. If you successfully isolate the AMC, your chance of winning is growing very large.
2. I would want to decrease the passing creativity of Matt Hough by showing the ball on to his left foot (force him inwards) and ask players to tackle him hard.
3. I wanted to invite Bayern to play openly with high defensive block, pressing and higher tempo.
4. I decided to play a 4-1DM-2-3 strikerless to overload the opposition team.
I hoped to be able to play fast football with ball possession percentage above 51%, blocking their AMC (Toni Kroos), exploited spaces between the two central midfielders and FC Bayern defense, and literally forced them to drop their defensive line (drop deeper).
The physical conditions of my players were ok; in minimum state of 94% on the match day. This was ideal for me.
Applying the idea – Non-conformance Facts, Match Tactics Adaption and Tweaking
Formation and Team Instruction
My formation was based on a Very Fluid Philosophy. For this match I tried to minimize the specialist roles. I also deliberately did not appoint any Midfielder to serve as a creator (DLP, AP, T, EG, or Reg).
You may ask why? Because I did not want to focus on the flow of the ball tended to one player (creator role will be fishing off the ball from other players more leads to him). Another reason was, last season Kujevic had been in that position with a role as Enganche / trequartista / AP-S. In the previous two seasons, Kujevic was voted World Player of the Year.
In situations like this, if you do not tweak or make some adaptations to the specific player (Ivan Kujevic for this case) plus a growing global reputation of your player, there’s huge possibility you’ll see a decrease in the appearance of your player. Why? Because, the AI will react to your advantage no matter what. They will be more careful and do everything they can to stop it. I’m sure, the AI anticipated this Kujevic already – his role and the way Kujevic played, as well as his reputation. So, I had to anticipate it.
I really hoped Ivan Kujevic and Marco Verrati would be able to create and take advantage the gap between the 2 CMs and the Bayern defense. I’ve decided to not instruct “Get Stuck in” to the team, as I feared it would create a lot of sliding tackles – potentially damaging my tactical shape.
For an brief explanation of Player Instruction, I deliberately focus on using a halfback (HB), who I asked (in particular) to keep AMC silent. Supposedly, if I captured when the game progressed, you’d see the specific command-marking Opposition player at the bottom (below the Mark Tighter Instruction).
Attacking Corner Instructions:
You can see, how I arranged the positioning of the players for Attacking Corner. I purposely did not put a single player in a position of ‘Near Post Flick On’. This was an experiment, actually. In previous matches, I saw a lot of opportunities (and goals) were created from a player with a command ‘Near Post Attack’, which at that time ‘Near Post Flick On’ was not activated. Getting confused? For a bit more details, you can see in the screen-shot below.
From the screenshot, the activated instructions were: Challenge GK, Attack Near Post, Far Post Attack, and Attack from Deep. With swing to near post corner, the player with the command Attack Near Post would come from behind jumping, and did near post header. And, with no other player ‘bother’ him in that area, the opportunity for goal was getting bigger.
In-Match Analysis and Setup During the Bundesliga Match 2021/2022: FC Bayern 2-2 Borussia Dortmund
Team Talks: I decided to say, do it for the fans (although my assistant advised to tell the players to do what they left). Sorry, I did not capture the screen. It was positive reaction, as 6-7 of the players responded positively (green), especially after positional Team Talk enhanced the early Team Talk.
Opposition Instructions, I left it to the assistant (NB! The instructions for Matthew Hough was already appropriate with what I needed + I add positional closing down always to AMC.
The match begun. I chose the comprehensive highlight mode. As the match had just began, I’d found a discrepancy with the facts on the ground and weather conditions I had expected. Heavy rain!! Possibly field conditions was rather watery. Meanwhile, on the other hand, I chose a short passing game. And, this might be contradictory. Another problem (potential problems to be exact), Werner was able to exploit spaces behind the Dortmund defenders (too high defensive line, I guess). You can see in the screen-shot below. So, I immediately did some match tactics adaptations and decisions must be made.
Further decisions who must be made was to change to direct passing play and tick off the higher tempo instruction. My purpose was to avoid stalled by a wet ball flow field due to rain. I did not activate the higher tempo in the hope that my players were not too fast out of breath due to the severity of the field in wet conditions. Was the adaptation impacting positively on the Dortmund match? We’ll see below.
There are some incidents that ruin the game. Without this particular incident, I would not be in trouble for the rest of the match. But, this incident appeared because of my own fault of strategy. And, even more annoying, the incident involving the players who were in my focus more than others.
1. Verrati (with Kujevic) were the players I hoped to be able to create and exploit a gap in Bayern midfield.
2. I knew from the beginning, that Hough and Kroos would be major threats (plus Werner). So, I had to be careful with them all. But, what happened then?
The screenshot below shows how the incident occurred and where the mistakes I made. And where these players were when the incident occurred.
Hough (one of the biggest threats), dropped-deep receiving Smits pass. Benito (CWB) did the pressing (too fast), and it was the accumulation of Push Higher Up and its role, as Complete Wing Back. Here was were the incident begun.
Hough continued to dribble until he reached the byline. At that time, Kroos came from behind to receive Hough pass, unattended at all!! Verratti was too busy accompanying Benito who put pressure on Hough.
Kroos got into the penalty box. Verrati tried to block him and Verratti did wrong, he did a late tackle on Kroos, in the penalty box!! Bayern got penalty in the 7th minute. Werner executed it. Bayern 1-0 Dortmund.
Will this incident, plus the dominance of Bayern in controlling the ball and game as well, forcing me to do a few more tweaks;
A) Toni Kroos was targeted by Dortmund’s players (he was fouled in many times), also Toni Kroos won a lot of aerial duels when Dortmund got free kicks / corners.
B) The speed of Hough and Werner made me cringe. I decided to drop deeper in the Team Instruction and change the Mentality to Control, with the hope of reducing the gap so Bayern players can’t freely move in midfield or behind the Dortmund Defense. How was my decision of adaptation having impact on the team, we’ll see later.
13th minute; a moment that happened to me sighed resignedly and raised eyebrows mark. Starting from the Balanta violation of Kroos, Bayern got a long free kick, which in turn impose a corner-kick. Hough took it. Oikonomopoulos won aerial duel against Giokas, but threw the ball to fall in head of Werner. He headed it, Balanta blocked, but the rebound fell to Werner, and can not be detained again, Werner hit it. Goal! Change the score to 2-0. At home of Bayern at Allianz Arena, I left behind two goals without reply, in just 13 minutes!
Everything looked wrong. Ousmane appeared below the form. The Positioning between 2 IFs and 2 CWBs, seemed too close, to even appeared to be in one area the same power multiple times. The combination of Kroos (AP) and Mohammed (apparently B2B / CM-A), successfully created chances in the penalty box for several times. Javi Martinez seemed to get a role as CM-D, he played very deep. Bayern were clearly upper hand.
Around the 35th minute to above, I changed the role of B2B Verratti to DLP. With hope, he would drop little bit (because I had set for B2B further forward, so much better position to move forward) and to reduce the space for 2 Bayern central midfielders.
Silly, I just realized one thing. And this was crucial. When you read this from the beginning, I’d been planning for the specific-marking to the AMC (Toni Kroos), and I forgot ordering my DM to do so!! So, I tweaked it again on the instruction.
In the 37th minute, I realized something. I paused the game. Incidentally, Dortmund got a goal-kick. And, I saw more details. What we get from the screen-shoot below, is how it turned out, the distance of Toni Kroos and the two others was too much (there was a gap). 2 CMs of Bayern appeared as if not as 2 CMs but as 2 DMs. Could this could be my chance?
One of the CM of Dortmund, should be Barreau, would probably be tweaked to drop deeper, to reduce the gap seen in the screen-shoot above. Of how Werner and Kroos do the pressing, it seemed that Moyes decided to do a more moderate pressings, not Higher Up one, as i thought. It also appeared that he might apply Control Mentality approach (not Attacking).
One more thing, I realize there were lot of errors due to premature decisions I did. I analyzed the performance-tab analysis. I clicked on Passing. And, I was surprised, that it turned out they were playing a short-passing game, in opposition with my prediction at the beginning of this paper. I also realized, with under-soil heating in the discharge of rain like this, it seemed, the Allianz Arena could still be considered to be “dry” or not as wet as I believed. It was important to note. But, since it was ahead of the break, I save all those changes for the 2nd half, including what I would say to the players in the dressing room later.
Half Time Assignments
Half Time Team Talk
I decided to give a “hair-dryer treatment” were I used an Aggressive tone. Actually, in a situation like this, against a team as strong as Bayern at Allianz, aggressive choice was a rather gambling with morale (selected team talk: where’s your passion to win).
Why it was a gamble? My players could become quite depressed by what I said. But since I had been given team-talks to this particular time for over hundred times before, I felt it would be an appropriate treatment. Since I have been their manager for 9 seasons I knew to an extent to which their mental capabilities and how they could control the pressure. Although, I did it just based on feeling, but, in certain situations, feeling can be very effective. Which mother does not understand her child? And, which mother on earth educates their children without based on intuition (feeling)? Use your understanding of team and click it with your feeling. The more interaction the more you will understand them.
Team instruction: I have not done any changes. I tweaked on Marco Verratti Individually setting by providing short-passing and fewer risky pass commands, because according to the Ass. Man’s Feedback, Verratti did many mistakes. In turn, I realized (again) there was a fundamental error I did (this is unsual for me). What and how the mistake, I’ll describe later. Just keep following this article.
There’s nothing wrong with Average Position on analysis-tab. I thought, so be it, I just let the first part for the players. Although, I was a little disturbed by the “too high” positioned of the 2 CMs of Dortmund.
I’ve not seen a lot of changes from the play and formation of first half to the opposition team. On 50th minute, Hough performed an indirect free-kick that was headed by Werner, again. Fortunately, the ball floated over the goalkeeper. Although Bayern still looked more solid. However, in terms of objective, Dortmund were statistically little better.
– Passing comp. Equal in number 76%
– Crossing comp. Bad. But, Dortmund is little bit superior (13% : 6%), I am not satisfied with this, because ideally a team should aim at least 21% Crossing Completion
– In terms of tackles, Dortmund ahead 87 vs 80. Okay
– Header, Dortmund ahead 76 vs 48. Though, actually with a 86% rate I would be much more satisfied
– For the control of the ball, Bayern lead 55 vs 45
61 minutes, I (just) realized, I missed to check and re-check every in-game details. Seems to be small error, but it is very crucial. At the same time, (thankfully) that the gap in midfield of Bayern, that I had seen since the middle of the first half, was not changed at all. I might be able to exploit with certain tweaks: So, how would I react in this regard?
– I did not check the player ratings, performances, and body-languages. And, how shocked I was when discovering Ousmane just got a 6.2 rating and (more) unfortunately again, Verratti (apparently) only got 5.8 rating, with the body-language condition Very Nervously. And, I let him playing for an hour!!
– I had to do drastic changes. Oikonomopoulos (CB), which is a natural positioned defensive midfielder (DM), I moved to CM, Verratti swapped. I change Oiko’s role to B2B. Zouma in to fill one position at the CB position. Barreau who had acted as the CM-defend, I change into CM-automatic. My objective, was, that my midfield could press the Bayern midfield into submission.
Once again I paused the highlight and found that the gap in the Bayern midfield was still there. I thought I should take advantage of this situation. I returned (re-activated) the instruction of Higher Tempo and Push Higher Up. With the faster tempo, I hope the exploitation of Bayern midfield gap can be done as soon as possible, so, the Bayerns did not have enough time to re-shaping. I changed Kujevic role from AM to AP, with the hope he would drop deeper to help Barreau and Oikonomopoulos exploited the gap in Bayern midfield. With AP role, Kujevic might use his Play-Making skill to the maximum limit.
An attack upon entering the 63rd minute, Oikonomopoulos shoot pushed over by Neuer and resulted a corner-kick for Dortmund. Balanta got it done with his header. Bayern 2-1 Dortmund. After this goal, I went back to Attacking Mentality after I adjusted it to Control.
As time went by there were improvements. Ball possession improved from 45% to 47%. Oikonomopoulos power provided plenty of power for the midfield. Getting closer to the end of the match, Bayern players kept their defense narrower and tighter. From the screenshot below, you can see how the Dortmund players pressed Bayern in Bayern penalty box. and how 9 Bayern players parked the bus in the penalty box.
In the end, all the tweaks; all adaptations and all the players efforts paid off. 92nd minute, from a corner-kick, which I command Balanta for far-post attack, managed to head the ball. Goal. Bayern 2-2 Dortmund!! The match ended in a draw.
Post-Match Analysis – What Can We Learn?
Some important points once valuable lesson I got from this match. These points are surely going to be my important notes for up coming matches:
- Rain in February, should not cause the field to be “heavy”, if the under-soil heating is well-installed. The most disturbing of this error is, I forgot about this, which I should have realized it even before the match begun.
- As happened in this match, I forgot to ask my DM to tight marking the AI AMC (from the start of the match). And, at this match I paid that mistake, by letting Toni Kroos not maintained in accordance of we need, just because I forgot.
- In a few moments, I admit I was too impulsive in taking the decision as part of my adaptation to mismatches in field conditions with which I had planned earlier. Tweaks I did at the beginning of the match to the passing game, to the tempo, and to the mentality made Bayern able to master the game; strengthening them rather than weaken them.
In addition to the above points, I also did some pro-match analysis. Here are some of my ‘simple’ analysis’ from this match.
Lack of balance, the amount of feed on the left side more than the right side. This is due to among other things, such as Ousmane who were located on the right side was well guarded by the Bayern players.
Not too special (likely bad), especially in its accuracy. Some shots as the shot by Ousmane, Brandt, and Kujevic been done at the right time, just so accuracy was the main issue in this match.
By applying Hassle-Opponent and Push Higher Up, was very reasonable if you expected a lot of tackles won in the enemy Defense. And, a screen-shot above shows, that, not a lot Dortmund won tackles in the enemy Defense.
The same concepts and principles to the analysis that I use for tackles. And, interception is carried out by Dortmund player was satisfactory. Nothing special, therefore, in need of repair, especially, the amount of interception in the enemy’s Defense will be better if there are more.
Bayern dominated in the first half reduced the success of Dortmund players in creating Clear Cut Chance and Half Chance. Totally there are 2 CCCs and 3 resulting HCs by Dortmund players.
The first thing which caught my attention was the overlapping between RCB-DM position. But, what was seen in the screen-shot was not the same as reality. Because in the end the final positioning the right center back should be in was the white circle (Kurt Zouma entrance in the middle of the game and that Kurt Zouma was the white circle). The desire to play high defense block bit restrained. Usually, I see the average position Dortmund “higher” than that achieved in this match, with the same strategy and formation of course. But since Bayern was the opposition team they combat that. I guess it can still be considered okay.
The balance was pretty good. Julian Brandt and Mohammed were both doing 6 complete dribbles. Quite okay.
Full Match Team Talk
I decided to say I was happy, because there was something gained from this match. Plus it was rather lack of luck that led the team failed to win the game. As a result I got a positive reaction, as you can see.
Conclusion and Epilogue
The article became pretty long but I hope you can take something of knowledge from how I approach Match Analysis in Football Manager by seeing how I approach match preparation, how I choose formation and tactic, how I reacted to conditions during the game and finally what I did after the game ended in terms of analysing what went wrong or according to plan.
Some of you might wonder, why choose a match which ended in a draw when I could simply show off a faboulous win. But I wanted to use this match as an example as it was the clash between number 1 and 2 in the league – the best teams of the German Bundesliga. This was the match that will teach us a lot of things, which is the main aim, right?
As you might understand, the pressure of this match was at maximum level. Also after conceding two goals in the very first 13 minutes forced me to do a variety of tweaking, that hopefully can give a new perspective or some refrences for your tactical tweak, as a number of conditions (on the ground) were not in accordance with previous estimates.
What I was doing in this match was based on the resources of may Dortmund save conditions, developments, and Man Power, as well as my interpretation of how the Football Manager Match Engine (ME) works. How you prepare for the game; analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents, are prepared for a variety of possibilities and which decisions and reactions you do, is solely up to yourself in the end. How you shall adapt your football manager tactics to your opponent is often determined by your own personality, football philosophy and anticipation of the match and capabilities of analyzing the match.
“Once again, I have to say, football tactics are a world without absolute (quoted from article of Mechanising the Play – Emptying Space and Discovered Attack. Original quotation by Jonathan Wilson). There is no postulate there. There are no tactics or strategies that are right or wrong, there are no tactics that may or may not be. There is only, Is the tactic applied at the right time and the right place. Whether the tactic is logic.
I like to credit and give a huge thanks to Guido Merry of Strikerless formations. This article was written in the middle of season when I started my project on strikerless shape, as one of my three formations. I tried various formations. Then, I decided to use one of Guido’s. This was the match when Guido’s was applied.