With all the new changes this year, FM19 can feel a bit overwhelming at times. I decided that first things first, I should make my team solid at the back, and build from that foundation. So far as Trapani in Serie C/C I have conceded 8 goals in 19 games, keeping 14 clean sheets along the way. In this article I will try and sum up how I have achieved this.
Squad Links & Player Roles
A regular back four is really important if you want to keep clean sheets. Having good links between players means they will feel more comfortable passing to each other, and will improve your defensive performances. Try rotating pairs of players to achieve this, swapping both CBs instead of one, or swapping a Winger and a FB together.
When it comes to player roles, you’ll want to have more defensive duties. A FB on Defend can help a lot as you won’t get caught out on the counter with any space left behind. More defensive-minded midfielders can also help immensely, by cutting passing lanes and closing down opposition midfielders more aggressively.
A structured team shape is also important, as it makes players to focus on their own jobs; defensive players are expected to defend, and not be caught out of position. Another important tactical tweak comes from Opposition Instructions. They can make a really big difference, and I always make sure Close Down and Tightly Mark all attacking players. If their highest assist player is a full back or central midfielder, make sure to close him down so he can’t hurt you with a well placed cross or devastating through ball.
Beware of Counter Attacks
Often you can be caught out on the break by teams if you play with too many attackers. Playing with one upfront will mean you have more players behind the ball should you lose it, which can help you out in these situations. If you feel one striker is not enough, you can use Inside Forwards, Shadow Strikers or more attacking roles to help support your striker but also offer defensive stability.
Here you can see, even though we are in an attacking position on the pitch, we still have bodies in a position to move and cover in case we lose the ball. My DLP (midfielders in blue) has dropped into the hole vacated by my DL, and we have a spare defender (defenders in red) in case of a fast counter by the opposition. Our first aim here if we lost the ball would be to try and win it back quickly by counter-pressing, but if that fails we are still in a good shape to drop and defend.
Another good way of avoiding counter attacks is to play with a narrower attacking formation. This will make sure if the ball is lost, my team are not wide open or out of position, and will be able to drop back into shape quicker. This can really help if you are a possession team and seem to be conceding a lot of goals on the break.
Deeper lines of engagement and defence can also help, especially if you can create two banks of four, which can be very hard to break down. I will often switch to a 4-4-1-1 if we are playing a good side, in order to nullify their attacking threats and make sure we are solid defensively.
Spend Time on Set-Pieces
One thing I always neglect is defending set-pieces. This year I have spent a little time tweaking my tactics and it has made a hell of a difference. Spending a few minutes sorting out your corner tactics can really impact your save and I can’t recommend it enough.
The only changes I really made was to make my tallest and best CB on the near post (DCL), and my other CB (DCR) to mark their tallest player. I kept my FBs on the posts, two smaller players to zonally mark the 6 yard box and three taller players go back. Then I have a quick player left up-field to start a counter attack.
Free kick and throw tactics can also be set up to good effect, in order to make sure you aren’t caught out by a well placed deep cross, or hit on the break from a quick throw. From this deep free kick I have my CBs man marking and the rest set to go back. Having a tall and heavy team (think Tony Pulis’s squad at West Brom) can really help you improve set-pieces, both defensively and offensively.
Along with these tips, there is much more you can do to improve your defensive play. With the new Training Overhaul you can now tailor your training to be more defensive, focusing more on specific areas of defending you need to improve rather than generic “Defending” training. If you need to improve things more urgently, consider extra training sessions each day to speed up development.
You can also sign more defensive minded players and also look at bringing in better defensive coaches to improve your solidity at the back. All these things should help you become better defensively and you will be well on your way to boring your fans to death with your Pulis-ball tactics. But hey, at least you won’t be conceding!
Other articles you may enjoy:
- Training in FM19: How to develop, motivate and condition players in your training plan
- Dynamo Project: Part 1
- The Football Factory | Part 1
- Football Manager 2019 Guides | Bossing Pre-Season
- 10 Wonderkids Under 18 | FM19
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