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Football Manager tactics for Hamburger SV (Pt 2)

The story so far…

In the Part 1 of this series, I created Football Manager tactics for Hamburger SV, based on the strengths and weaknesses of the players. The formation settled on was a 5-2-3 with the following strategy.

  • Use short passing to control possession in the opponents half.
  • Use attacking wingbacks to pin back opposition fullbacks and create room centrally.
  • Reduce the amount of space our “not very mobile” central midfielders have to operate in.
  • Convert Bakery Jatta to a Pressing Forward.

I’ve played season one up until the winter break and have eighteen games to allow me to analyse my Football Manager tactics. By looking at player stats and the data hub, I’ll be able to see what’s working and what’s not.

At the winter break

As you can see, we’ve had a pretty good first half of the season:

We started out on a 15 game unbeaten run which finally came unstuck at Hannover in a 1-0 loss. As you can see, it’s close at the top and we found ourselves just behind Schalke 04: Probably the only other team whose dysfunctionality over the last few seasons can match ours!

At the bottom end of the table, bitter-rivals, St. Pauli, have been really struggling and find themselves down in 15th place. Timo Schultz has been sacked and ex-Hamburg boss Markus Gidsol has taken over, which adds a little extra spice.

Defensively, we’ve been great. Although, admittedly rode our luck on a few occasions. Still, we’ve conceded only 8 times in 18 games and this makes me very happy.

Going forward, we’ve scored 25 goals, which is the joint-third best in the division. However, it’s been the source of much frustration as we seem to have been missing some absolute sitters.

July & August 2021

The season started with a tough game against Schalke 04, but we took the lead when Glatzel headed in a Kittel corner. Although both teams missed excellent chances, we dominated the game. Of course, having striker Simon Terodde playing against us, following his recent transfer, he was bound to score. And he did, knocking in a 89th minute equaliser.

That would be the only goal we conceded, however, and apart from a very boring 0-0 draw vs Darmstadt, we looked good.

You will notice out 2-0 victory of St. Pauli in there, of which I did live updates on Twitter as we strolled to victory thanks to a Glatzel brace.

Always a warm welcome at the Millerntor

September & October 2021

Our second rivalry game of the season came against Werder Bremen, who at the time were in 2nd place to our 5th. We had a goal disallowed in the 3rd minute, but other than that it was a very tight, cagey affair which ended 0-0. We were dangerously close to another bore draw against Nurnberg, but substitute striker Kaufmann stepped up gave us a very late winner.

Our DFB Cup run was brief. The board demanded we reach the 3rd round but, unfortunately, we drew Bayern Munich in the 2nd round. We put up a decent fight but lost 0-2. No Football Manager tactics can prepare you to play Bayern! Especially when you’re a 2. Bundesliga team.

As you can probably guess from the amount of draws, I was getting frustrated with our strikers. We should’ve been victorious in all four of our tied games. Over those four draws we won the xG battle 5.54 vs 1.94 and had 25 shots on target compared to 14 for our opponents.

November & December 2021

We started November without the injured Glatzel and he was replaced by youngster Faride Alidou, who scored both goals in our win over Karlsruhe. The first real test of our character came when we found ourselves 0-2 down against Regensburg, but a switch to a 3-4-3 after 70 minutes lead to two late goals from Bakery Jatta to rescue a point. Rescuing undeserved points is always a good sign.

We lost our first game to Hannover, in a game which we could’ve scored 4 or 5 in the first half but they turned on the style in the second half and found a 85th minute winner. December finished with our second game against Schalke which ended in another 1-1 in another game where we dominated but couldn’t find a way to win.


As you’d expect from a second placed team, our attacking stats are pretty good. We’ve scored 25 goals from a xG of 28.66 which I hope will even out over the second half of the season. Despite creating the most clear cut chances, our shot conversion rate of 9% ranks only 13th. A clear indication of my frustrations and the work yet to be done.

Averaging 53% possession and completing 91% of passes is great, however, we’re REALLY struggling to break down defences. Most teams are sitting back in a low block and frustrating us. As a result, we’re finding it hard to get our attacking players involved.

The pass maps of our last two games show how hard the players are finding it to get the ball to our two main attacking threats: Glatzel (9) and our most creative player, Kittel (10).


I won’t spend much time delving into the defence. They’ve been great. If anything, these stats signify that I can open up more and commit more to the attacking phase.



Wingbacks are a vital part of out tactic. They’re expected to provide the width and provide crosses and through balls to the strikers.

Tim Leibold has been the main starter so far this season at left wingback and has performed relatively well. He ranks 5th in the division for tackles won per 90 minutes and 11th for crosses attempted.

On the right flank Josha Vagnoman is having a very impressive season. The 20-year-old has only notched up 2 assists but he’s exceeding elsewhere.

  • 5th in 2. Bundesliga for key passes per game.
  • 6th for chances created.
  • 4th for number of dribbles made.
  • 14th most fouled player.

Gyamerah hasn’t has much of a look-in, but hasn’t let himself down when called upon.

Central defenders

How have our group of central defenders done so far? You remember, they’re the ones who we established can’t head the ball and can’t run very quick:

*Heyer has also spent time as a central midfielder

On the face of it, they’ve done well. Although, they may have had it easy, as most teams have sat deep and not pressed aggressively. The amazingly high pass completion stats could back this up.

One of the group has performed very well indeed.

Jonas David, our 21-year-old wide centre back has notched up the following stats:

  • 2nd in the 2. Bundesliga for interceptions made.
  • 3rd for average rating.
  • 3rd for possession won
  • 9th for headers won
  • 12th for key headers won

Whilst David has won an impressive 80% of headers, this colleagues have been struggling. All of them rank below the divisional average for defenders. I usually look for my central defenders to be winning at least 75% of their headers.

When it comes to the percentage of tackles won, all are below average. Should we go on to get promoted – as demanded by the board – we’ll definitely need to make improvements.

Central midfielders

You might recall that none of the options for a two-man midfield we’re overly blessed with mobility. As a result, I attempted to reduce the area of the pitch they’d be expected to cover and simplify their roles. Their main tasks were:

  • Sit in the hole between the defence and attack
  • Recycle possession
  • Pick up loose balls from the defence or attack
  • Make tackles and interceptions
*Heyer has also played as a central defender

As you can see from the games played, Reis and Meffert were our main starters, whilst Heyer also spent some time in defence. All the midfielders have good passing stats, and, whilst Reis has won 87% of his tackles, both Meffert and Heyer have struggled when it comes to winning possession. In my mind, at least one player in a two-man midfield needs to excel at winning the ball.

The passing chart of Reis and Meffert in a recent game against Hansa Rostock shows how little is expected from them in term of pitch coverage. The bulk of their touched come just in front of the half way line.

As you can see, Reis (23) mainly remained sat in front of the defence, whilst Meffert (14) managed to get a little higher up. Neither ventured into the opponents final third.

Neither Reis, Meffert or Heyer three have notched up over 1 key pass per game, nor are they creating clear cut chances. It’s possible that as a result of “protecting” their weaknesses, I’m actually holding them back offensively.

Reis has been the pick of our midfield though. He’ll certainly be in the starting line-up after the winter break. He’s a good young player who should turn into a good player at Bundesliga level.


Our attack has been good, without being spectacular. It’s also been very frustrating. Jatta leads the way with 7 goals, whilst Glatzel has 6 goals and 3 assists. Kittel has thrived in the AMC slot and has notched up 8 assists – although 5 of these have come from set pieces.

My main concern, as highlighted earlier in the post, is how little both Kittel (avg. 39 passes) and Glaztel (avg. 27 passes) are getting on the ball. The main reason for this, I believe, is the short passing game against teams who are mostly sitting in a low block. Defences are getting time to settle into their position and making it tough for out two key men to be effective.

The charts above shows the attackers are effective when good chances are created for them, but also highlights the need to get more high crosses to Glatzel (heading & jumping 14) as he’s getting way below average aerial contests.


So, we know what the plans were for the football manager tactics I created in Part 1… but has it worked out the way I planned?

Use short passing to control the ball in the opponents half:

We rank 3rd for total possession (53%) and as you can see from the two charts below, we’re making half of our passes around the halfway line. The amount of possession lost in the opponents half also indicates that’s where we spend most of our time.

In fact, I think it could be working too well. We’re controlling possession but against teams who are sitting back and we don’t have the technical players to unlock the stubborn defences. Moving back to standard lines could help create room to get in behind opponents.

Use attacking wingbacks to pin back opposition fullbacks and create room centrally.

You can see from the pass maps I posted earlier how wide the wingbacks are playing. But is the width they’re providing creating room inside as planned?

Well, yes and no… In principal it IS working and the wingbacks are fulfilling their role well. The issue is of the midfield roles I’ve selected, there’s not really anyone to make runs into the half spaces and take advantage.

That said, there has been times it’s still created overloads centrally which we’ve scored from. Here’s an example:

Here you can see that both wingbacks (in red) have to be picked up by their respective fullbacks. Vagnoman, in his attacking wingback role, has been running them ragged all game and due to his positioning, the opposition left back can’t fully commit to helping his central defender. As a result he’s left in a 2v1 situation against the pace of Jatta and Kittel. Poor guy. All it needs is for Glatzel to turn and pick out the pass…

This passage of play ended in a goal… even Jatta and his nine for shooting can’t miss from there! (Although he does, quite often!)

So, the plan HAS worked, just not as often as I’d like and it’s something I need to pay attention to.

Moving on, we’ve already covered reducing the area in which the midfielders are required to play in so their lack of mobility can’t be exploited.

The final element of the tactic was to make Jatta into a pressing forward. So how has that gone?

Well, in his Pressing Forward (Attack) role, he’s currently our leading scorer with 7 goals in 14 starts which is really good. He’s also winning the ball back 2.66 times per game (1.57 tackles and 1.09 interceptions). These aren’t great pressing figures so again, it’s something to work on.

The charts below show that, as a team, our counter press isn’t great. If we want to pin teams deep into their half and cause turnovers, we must be able to counter-press effectively.

This could be due to the roles of our front three, however, Whilst Jatta is a PF(A), his strike partner Glatzel, has mainly been a TM(S) and Kittel a Shadow Striker, so its probably that two of the three are too deep to quickly pressure the defence.

Tweaks to Hamburg’s Football Manager tactics

To act on the information we’ve gathered and to take this team to the next level I’m going to make the following changes:

  • Remove short passes. Standard passing should allow us to get the ball upfield much quicker, before the defence have the chance to get into position. This should also allow us to take better advantage of the pace and power of Glaztel and Jatta and the creativity of Kittel.
  • Increase the tempo. In an attempt to get the ball up field quicker I’m going to play with a higher tempo. The team have proven they’re good at keeping the ball so I’m hoping they can cope with a higher tempo.
  • Glatzel’s role change. Bobby will change from a TF(S) to a either a TF(A) or a Poacher. Rather than have him come deep and set up Jatta, I’m asking him to lead the line so he’s in position to find space to exploit, quicker.
  • Kittel’s role change. Sonny will change from a Shadow Striker to a Advanced Playmaker (S) in the hope he’ll drop a little deeper to be more involved in the build up and really get the most out of his creativity. This should also help out the two central midfielders when they’re in danger of being outnumbered.
  • The Midfield duo. As we’ve moved the playmaker role to the AMC strata we can let Reis and Meffert play in more of a combative role. I’ll still not be asking too much physically from them as they’ll share time as a Ball Winning Midfielder with a defensive role. Sitting alongside them will be the new signing Ron Schallenberg (who the Director of Football signed using the Transfer Target tool). I’m expecting big things from Ron. Maybe not in terms of goals or assists but I think he can grab the team by the scruff of the neck and give us an extra dimension.

So, that’s how we’ll set up for the second half of the season. In the next update I’ll cover the impact of the new football manager tactics and any transfer activity in the January window. There’s bids coming in for Jatta, Vagnoman and Leibold and it’s transfer deadline day… who knows what could happen.

Written by ThrowingCopperFM

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