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How many player instructions should you give in FM19?

The tactical depth in FM19 is simply phenomenal. You can get so immersed in the new roles and sorting out your defensive width, while forgetting about all the other parts of your tactic.

When it doesn’t work, some people will go straight to Miles Jacobson to lament how the new features don’t work.However, we’re not like that. These issues test all of our patience, though; no one’s more than mine. You want to know the worst part? It becomes more and more complicated every year.

The issue

Why should I use player instructions when I could use team instructions?

It is worth using team instructions when I could use player roles?

Why use player roles when I could just buy the best players and put them into their preferred roles? Even if I don’t do that, isn’t it easier just to tell them what to do using player instructions?

See how circular a lot of this can be? It can take hours on strenuous work to find the right combinations and understand how to build a winning tactic… until the next time you lose a match and need to rethink everything.

Playing identity

In order to understand where player instructions come in, we need to discuss the layers of building a tactic.

It all starts with having a playing identity. With me, that’s patient, possession football with a 4-1-2-3 DM Wide formation. My overarching objective is to make that work. This encompasses a lot more than just results. Playing tika-taka football with a positive mentality and a 4-1-2-3 DM Wide formation, my team must:

  1. Spend most of the game in our opponents’ half,
  2. Have every player involved in our passing game as much as possible,
  3. Counter-press as a team as soon as possession is lost,
  4. Make the most of our width and
  5. Take risks in the final third.

Apart from the formation on rare occasions, these fundamentals have not changed since FM19’s incarnation. My player roles, team instructions, player instructions, set piece instructions and opposition instructions must all help me achieve this.

My tactic

It’s pretty self-explanatory how most of these team instructions help my WBA side meet the objectives above.

However, I want to touch on my ‘out of possession’ instructions:

You might be thinking that you’ll seen all this before. If that’s the case, I’ve caught you out.

Recently, I’ve found that selecting ‘stay on feet’, can be an important safeguard when you’re playing with a high press and an offside trap. There are a few reasons for that:

  1. I’m going to cover the blatantly obvious ones in the first point, such as the lack of cards and free kicks given away,
  2. If a player mistimes a tackle, the opponent’s surged off into space and it’s almost impossible for him to recover and
  3. Tackling can become a crutch when a player’s trying to sweep up when the attacker’s running behind him or trying to press high in vain. A team’s press is more dangerous when the positional discipline is always there, and it doesn’t become overzealous.

This clip is good example:

Because of all the players surrounding Danilo, who’s online on the right flank, we recover the ball almost instantly. Against the biggest teams, going to ground too often is likely to lead to an opening at some point. Having attackers stay on their feet is also beneficial on the ball; the team will be in a better shape to break forward.

Where does that leave me with player instructions?

I used to think player instructions should re-iterate the team instructions. Accordingly, I told all my players to tackle harder and mark tighter. It worked for a while, but for some reason big teams kept thrashing us.

Player instructions should be used for situations which the role itself and the team instructions do not cover. For instance, telling one wing-back to sit narrower and the other to stay wider. It can also be used to re-iterate team instructions that a player’s role might deter him from doing. Good examples might be telling any attacking player to shoot less or telling a centre-back to pass shorter.

In fact, there’s only one main reason why my previous idea didn’t fully work. While I liked my players to mark tighter and tackle harder, how would that work if we were outnumbered and trying to retreat? I wouldn’t want every player to always have those presumptions.

However, I have ‘shorter passing’, ‘dribble less’ and ‘shoot less often’ selected for every player, whenever possible. Does that mean I want every pass to be short and no one to dribble or shoot? No. My team’s setup means that players will get forward and make risky passes anyway. Having player instructions just sets the standard that keeping the ball should be at the forefront of anyone’s job, no matter what their role is.

As a defender, it’s far easier to clear the ball and get back into position than make yourself available for a one-two or play out of defence. Likewise, as an attacker, it’s easier to shoot from range or hold onto the ball, than it is to move around, try and get everyone involved, in order to probe forward and catch the opposing defence out. Concentration is one of the most important skills for my players.

Are you still wondering whether this will end up being pedestrian? The key to avoiding that is selecting the right player roles, so players are heavily encouraged to make adventurous passes at the right times.

If you ever have any questions about any of this, or anything you want to discuss, feel free to start the discussion below, or contact us on our social media channels!

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Written by Ben

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