Match Analysis 2013: relegation rivals

Match analysis, eh? Yep, we’ve finally got round to bringing back the [relatively] popular and successful series from last year, and we hope we can make it even better this time around. These take quite a while for us to write, and quite a while for you guys to read through, but it’s the best way of us showing what we do in our games so you can pick up some ideas about how to react to your opponent and give yourself the best possible chance of winning matches. And that’s what it’s all about.

Up noooorth

My main career save is a 2017 game with Schalke, but I’ve recently started a game with Wigan to try out some ideas and gather some information for an upcoming post. The Latics are currently embroiled in their fourth relegation scrap in as many years in real life and their squad doesn’t contain many consistently Premier League players and tend to rely on late surges to get themselves out of trouble. The club is therefore predicted to finish 16th in-game, and the board expects nothing more than that.

I’ve played six Premier League games so far, against Aston Villa, Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool, Norwich and Southampton, garnering a respectable 9 points, including a brilliant win against United. The next match should be a good one, as we play host to fellow relegation scrappers QPR, in a game that British football pundits would be tripping over themselves to dub a ‘six pointer’ or ‘dog fight’.

Squad selection

My squad for the match pretty much picked itself. I’ve actually scaled back my pre-match preparation from FM12, and I now prefer to start with quite a versatile squad that can adapt nicely to any changes I decide upon while the match is in progress. I did make the decision to replace Emmerson Boyce with Ronnie Stam at right wing-back, purely for the Dutchman’s superior physical attributes, particularly his Agility, which made him a more suitable opposite man for Junior Hoilett.

3-5-2 vs 4-4-2

Opposition Instructions

Mark Hughes and QPR have found themselves in the unfortunate position of losing a load of first team players, including Anton Ferdinand, Fabio, Ryan Nelsen and Stephane Mbia, so they have to field two centre backs from their youth team. They are still strong going forward, but with a defence like that, I’d be a fool not to try and pin them back and make them play at our tempo.

Both CBs: Close Down Always – I want to put pressure on this pair as they’re both very inexperienced and neither seem to have the kind of mental attributes required to be good under both physical and emotional pressure.

Kieron Dyer: Hard Tackling – there’s no room for niceties in football and I’ll happily put Dyer out of action for a few weeks! He’s a great player but he’s bound to have very high Injury Proneness and if I can force Hughes into making a sub he doesn’t want to make then I will. Especially if it involves taking one of his best technical players off the pitch.

Junior Hoilett: Close Down Never – the guy’s like a 100m sprinter! By backing off, I’m acknowledging that he’s too quick to try and stop but not clever enough or technical enough to do much with the ball. He does have 14 for long shots so as ever, watching the game will be absolutely vital. If he’s managing to get too many shots off then we may want to switch our approach towards him, or perhaps a more general team change in width (so he has less space to shoot through).

Djibril Cisse: Hard Tackling, Tight Marking Never – another injury prone player who I would rather not have on the pitch. Doesn’t have an injury list as long as Dyer’s, but I imagine his two leg breaks will have led to a high Injury Proneness attribute. I usually reconsider a hard-tackling strategy if a player is skilful enough to skip challenges, but Cisse has 10 dribbling and 13 agility, so I’m happy to commit to challenges. I’m less happy to keep tight to him though, which accounts for the non-marking. If my defenders try and keep close to him he’s just going to leave them for dust.

The key to OIs is making sure that they’re working out as you’d like. The four instructions aren’t as clear cut as you might think, and with the match engine changing so much in recent weeks, you absolutely have to make sure that your instructions are correctly executed. It may be that you understand them differently to SI, or it may be that your players are just not good enough in certain areas.

Opening stages

The first few minutes are key for identifying trends in the way the match is panning out. I’m playing the match as I write this, so I have absolutely no idea what the situation will be in five minutes time, and certainly no idea about the result.

We start the match knocking it out around nicely and our three in midfield give us some great width in that area; the nature of the 3-5-2 means that we are undermanned on the wings but the by-product is that we have an extra man in the middle which will allow us more options for movement and passing.

McCarthy is our MCR but he has pushed up into a position where he could do some real damage pushing onto the QPR left back. Kone has dropped deeper than I’d like but from this early move we can at least be impressed by our potential to break through. Just as importantly, Gomez (#14) has got us nicely covered in the middle and we have two spare men at the back.

A move a couple of minutes in reaffirms my optimism, as interplay between McCarthy and Stam opens up space behind the full back while Di Santo and Kone find themselves 2v2 against the centre backs. Nothing comes of it in the end, as Watson fizzes a shot past the post but we look dangerous. This kind of move is worth noting down on a refill pad or on a notetaking application like EverNote; we may well have scored if we’d moved the ball forward more quickly, but there’s no point jumping to conclusions yet. Worth remembering just in case.

Hoilett in space

This situation comes about from a corner and sees Hoilett find a huge amount of space on the edge of our area. I’m unsure whether this is a result of my OI on him, but this is far too much space to be ceding to a player of his shooting ability; I was happy to let him have the ball on the wing but when he’s getting this much room in front of goal I need to reconsider my strategy. This has a pretty simple fix, in reality – all I end up doing is put someone on the edge of the area when defending corners. It was slightly naive of me not to do that already but sometimes it takes an incident like this to remind you to iron out some slight vulnerabilities. It’s the little things that make a great team. And he doesn’t score, by the way (!)

Being more direct

I noted earlier that I thought our passing in the final third could have been a little snappier and more direct. This sequence of play moves me to act.

This screenshot shows Kone straight after receiving the ball from a long goal kick. The green arrows are the passes I’d prefer him to make, though the pass marked with a red arrow wouldn’t be so bad if it was played straight away. Because Kone has pulled out two players, we need to be snappy with our passing to take advantage of the space created between their centre backs and their right back, but he delays and eventually plays an overhit and misweighted pass to #14, Jordi Gomez in the middle.

Gomez gets put under pressure by the poor pass and suddenly we look very vulnerable; our two wing backs are nowhere to be seen, Watson (#8) and McCarthy had pushed up to pick up the wall pass from Kone and QPR look dangerous. It breaks down but this gives me a couple of thoughts:

  1. Our wing backs are on Run From Deep – Sometimes which means they have made runs beyond their markers to give us some wide options. Kone lost the ball and now they have left us stranded; I either need to make my wing backs more defensive or I need to make sure the ball is shifted around more quickly (to prevent being tackled and pressed like this).
  2. I need to keep an eye on Kone’s motivation, as the pass he played to Gomez was one of a man running scared.

The pass to Gomez was mostly a result of Kone’s nerves, but I’d prefer he didn’t make that pass at all. If we’re more direct, at least we’ll make mistakes like this in advanced areas which will allow our wing backs at least some chance to get back, rather than being left high and dry by mistakes in central midfield. Therefore, the first shout of the match is Get Ball Forward.

First real chance – Kone somewhere else?

Our first proper breakthrough comes in the 21st minute following a lovely move. Jordi Gomez has looked impressive so far and in this move he plays like a quarterback, picking up the ball from players ahead of him and trying to manouevre a pass elsewhere. Here he can’t see anything on so he knocks it back to Ramis, who has a 40 square yard zone to himself, a great advantage of playing three centre backs, especially when the striker on one side, in this case Zamora, has a habit of dropping into midfield. Ramis moves it straight on to Beausejour.

Now, I don’t wish to proclaim myself a genius but I impressed even myself here! Park Ji Sung (#7) is well known for his hard working nature and never-stop-running style, and it would take a very cautious manager to stop him from closing down the opposition with everything he’s got. Hughes’ tactical preference is to Close Down, so I could tell that Park would be all over the place, making my spare man at the back rush passes, so I placed Ramis on the left hand side of my back three, because of his 14 composure and 15 concentration. He’s not the best passing defender I’ve got, but he’s the most able to cope with being closed down. He was always going to start but I felt it might help to put him on that side. Ahem.

Anyway, Beausejour controls the ball and plays this pass:

You beautiful man. I can’t think of a better pass to play. This displays everything I love about the system I use with Wigan: the three men at the back allow us to have a spare man who has plenty of time, the three in midfield allows us more central penetration without sacrificing defensive stability (as Gomez is holding the fort), and the wing backs’ deep positioning allows them to engage full backs high up the pitch and therefore find space for runners. Superb.

From here it’s pretty simple – Watson slots a simple ball through for Kone who then has a free shot on goal.

You’re off at half-time, Arouna. Seriously though, the last two times I’ve seen Kone involved, he’s managed to display bad motivation issues. It’s not that he can’t be arsed, it seems to be nerves more than anything; if I can’t calm him down at half time then I will actually have to take him off.

Successful pressing from QPR

Again, Gomez gets closed down in midfield and dispossessed, by #22 Hogan Ephraim, though this time it is primarily the Spaniard’s fault for dithering on the ball. When I see a pattern like this developing, I take a look at the stats and analysis to see if it is something that is happening in the highlights of the match that I don’t see (I watch on Comprehensive). It turns out Ephraim has won 3 of 3 tackles, and even Kieron Dyer has won 2 of 2 next to him in central midfield.

We’re dominating possession so that zone of six won tackles is worrying; it suggests we are losing the ball when trying to build attacks, and as shown by the two examples I’ve already put up, it’s putting us under pressure as our outer central midfielders are pushing up. I really like the way that they’re giving us extra support when attacking, so I’d rather not rein them in. One midfielder and three centre backs should be plenty to defend against a counter-attacking 4-4-2, as long as the midfielder doesn’t keep getting tackled and left stranded as he has so far. The subsequent changes made were:

  1. Gomez’s role was changed to DLP-Defend to lower his Run With Ball.
  2. I went into the Advanced panel to take off his Hold Up Ball. The feature has its uses but Gomez isn’t strong enough or brave enough to put up with the pressure that comes from slowing the play.
  3. Get Stuck In shout was used to get us into more challenges against QPR’s defensively weak midfielders. At the moment we’re not losing challenges, but QPR are winning little nabs and ‘steals’ as our American neighbours would say, and we need to make these more 50-50. If we do, we’ll win them.

Half Time

By the time the break comes around, the game is still locked at 0-0, but I’m optimistic that we can push on for victory. We’ve made Cesar make some good saves in the QPR goal and we would have been at least one up if anyone but Arouna Kone had gone through on goal for that chance.

Must be a “kids go free” day…

Not too bad, but my players’ match ratings aren’t the best. This is where watching the game gives you the all-important context you need to make intelligent team talk decisions. My assistant wants me to give them a bit of a roasting because we’re not winning a game we should be, but I’m quite happy with how we’ve played and if we repeat the performance with better finishing we’ll run away with it, so I’m quite complimentary about how the team have played. Mixed responses, as Kone, Di Santo and Figueroa react badly, but the first two weren’t doing much with the pressure on them, so I don’t care that they’ve ‘lost focus’; focus seemed to have scared the life out of Kone in the first 45.

Other observations

  • Cisse has picked up a knock, amusingly. This means I can tight mark and close down to try and finish him off.
  • Hoilett has been taken off and replaced by Fabio who has gone into central midfield in place of Ephraim who moves wide. That’s fine by me: Ephraim was getting stuck into us in the middle and Fabio is half-recovered from a previous injury.
  • A couple of my players have bad match ratings, without me noticing them do anything particularly wrong. For example, Figueroa is the worst player so far and looks nervous, but I’ve not noticed him playing badly at all. Must watch these to see what’s happening.
  • Gomez has dropped to a 6.6 but hopefully my changes to his role just before half-time should help him to keep the ball more.

Second half – still too slow

As the second half starts, we continue with the same fervour and attacking intent that so pleased me in the first half. However, the good movement from the frontmen is still going unused; Kone’s running isn’t as obvious as it could be but he’s still getting plenty of room to run into and he isn’t being passed to. The midfield need to be far more direct and stop ‘faffing around’ knocking it between themselves.

There’s two instances here where the two QPR centre backs have been stretched and there is a chance to create a one-on-one opportunity for Di Santo, but in neither instance is a dangerous ball put into the space. Now, the shouts only change instructions by a maximum of 25% in any direction, and my tactic uses a Shorter passing style, so Get Ball Forward didn’t change our directness by enough. I don’t like doing it, but sometimes you have to go the tactics screen and change the instruction by manually changing the setting. No need to be drastic though, so I only changed it to Default passing.

First subs

You get to a point in some matches when you have to admit that your starting XI won’t be able to win you the match. That point came after 70 minutes for me, as I had to concede that my midfielders weren’t offering enough creativity from deep and Kone’s performance wasn’t improving. On came big man Leonard Kweuke who took over the Target Man role from Di Santo who took up the more penetrative role, and replacing Gomez was David Jones.

I used another shout here, too, Pump Ball Into Box, to try and get the most out of Kweuke, who I expect to dominate the two young QPR defenders.

Struggling to break through

QPR are still defending really strongly and at this point I want to just throw the kitchen sink at them, in the form of the Pass Into Space and Run At Defence. My midfielders and attackers need to be more proactive at the ball, and hopefully these shouts will allow them to do that by encouraging them to dribble more and try more through balls. It doesn’t help much that our wing backs are struggling to put in threatening crosses so with no other real attacking options I replace Ronnie Stam with Emmerson Boyce who strangely has better crossing than Stam.

You can see from that the plethora of crosses not being won, which seems to have stemmed both from good QPR defending, solid claims from Julio Cesar and extremely poor crossing.

Bore draw

The game unfortunately ended 0-0, not the best for a match analysis but that’s live writing, folks, anything can happen! Had we had someone else up front than Arouna Kone then we probably would have won the match but unfortunately the Ivorian missed two clear cut chances and stopped a lot of other potential chances by being slow and dithery on the ball. It just goes to show that you can’t control everything that goes on in a football match, whatever changes you try and make.

We should have done better against a poor team, but it’s much better to get a draw and be let down by one or two individuals than lose due to huge tactical errors and with the horrendous impact on moral.

Where did it go wrong?

The answer to that question is up to you. There’d be no point in me trying to answer it – I’m literally typing these seconds after finishing the match – but I’d be extremely interested to hear from our readers!

Download the match file here and watch it by clicking View Match from the FM start screen. Let us know your thoughts by contacting us on Twitter @PushThemWide, in the comments section, or by email at if you have some longer thoughts!

4 comments on “Match Analysis 2013: relegation rivals

  1. Another excellent match analysis, I do enjoy these articles so keep them coming!!

    I’m unsure of your original set-up so I don’t know if you had any designated playmakers in your starting tactic or anyone other than Gomez when changed to DLP? I was thinking that perhaps the negative backwards pass from Koné is partly down to a lack of focus in passing to a more advanced player?

    I know you say you had a targetman set-up in your forward line and therefore the team would look to get the ball to him quickly but I’d have been tempted to target the area between defence and midfield using a playmaker or trequarista in the “hole”. This would then allow you to push the two strikers further on and allow them to drift wide more often.

    I’d potentially have coupled this with a move to drop the defensive line deeper. With QPR employing a higher pressing game, this could have seen them push your players high up the park and stretch their midfield. Coupled with the two high strikers, their team should be nicely stretched for that playmaking AMC to take advantage of a large gap in a more dangerous area than a deeper playmaker utilises.

    Just one thought although it’s hard to tell without seeing the whole match.

    Good job as always.

    • Glad you enjoyed it Shrew!

      Gomez was my designated playmaker from the start, and I suppose that would be a valid reason for the poor pass back from Kone. Hadn’t thought of that!

      As for a playmaker in the hole, that’s another good idea but I honestly had no-one in my squad (or club for that matter!) that could sit in there. None of my strikers were that kind of player and only Gomez would have been able to do it. Considering he was playing shit, I was tentative to make him a key part of our game. Both our strikers were pushed up quite far anyway and we had two midfield runners that seemed dangerous running from deep (first screenshot I think). We got quite a few chances that way, in the form of shooting opportunities from the edge of the box but Cesar stopped everything that came at him. Take a look at the match file, he was incredible.

      I actually considered dropping the defensive line for a long time in the match, but I was worried about giving them the initiative and allowing them to play. Their team was far weaker in the defence and midfield than the wingers and strikers, and my main idea was just to get at them so we could get at their weak links. It would have given us more room, but I didn’t want to risk giving them more room as well.

      Some good thoughts there and I should probably have considered one of them. As I say though, we were limited by our squad and by the worrying about their strikeforce.

      • I can definitely see the logic in trying to press the young centre backs so can understand trying to push high up the park and compress the pitch somewhat. I hadn’t considered the lack of options in your midfield although, as an Aberdeen fan, you should just have given Fraser Fyvie a punt!! 🙂

        I particularly like that you’ve posted this even when you haven’t won the game. It’s always more interesting to read about “real games” than when people simply handpick the 9-0 thrashings they’ve handed out when everything went their way.

  2. Pingback: Austria at Euro 2016 | FM Veteran

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