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Running with the Wolves #2: Making sensible signings in FM19

Roma- making sensible signings in FM19
Roma- making sensible signings in FM19

Continuing my AS Roma series, I start second season with some clear tactic and transfer goals. Winning the Italian Cup, finishing 2nd in the league and qualifying for another season in Champions League (unlike our real life counterpart) are definite highlights. However here are some things that I am not happy with. Our chance to goal conversation rate is something that needs improvement and I will be doing tactical adjustments with that in mind. This article will serve as a continuing guide on how I use tactics and sensible transfers to improve possession and scoring in my 4-2-3-1 formation. Join Roma on its second Conquest of Europe! Also, learn about making sensible signings in FM19.


In my last article, which can be found here, I discussed the importance of One-Two Passing (specifically the PPM in FM19 game) in implementing an attractive Possession style in a 4-2-3-1 tactic. I discussed my philosophy on training specific PPMs and their overall effect on the tactic. In this article, I will be discussing our achievement from the first season. Furthermore I will continue to expand on my PPM-focused tactic. Along the way, answering the question of how I create possession with intent. And how I use transfer market to imprint our style on the whole club.

Fonesca- making sensible signings in FM19
Fonseca became Pep Guardiola’s nemesis in more than just one sense, after he donned Zorro costume after defeating Pep’s Manchester City 2-1

The Masked Avenger, Paulo Fonseca, has been a huge inspiration in my Roma save. As a fan of Ukrainian football, I was naturally aware of his success at Shaktar. So you can imagine how excited I was when I found out that AS Roma appointed him their new manager in June. As the new Roma manager, he is still untested. We do not know what he will implement on the tactical level yet. Although having followed him during his tenure with Shakhtar Donetsk, I have a pretty good idea. I predict he will play 4-2-3-1 formation and not just because the Giallorossi  used this style in the past. There is reason behind my madness.

Fonseca’s 4-2-3-1

Fonesca's 4-2-3-1- making sensible signings in FM19

“I want the distance from my last defender to my furthest forward attacker to be short, and also the distance from one wing to the other. The idea is to be high and narrow, therefore compact, with a lot of density. That makes it more difficult for them to pass through us.” – Paulo Fonseca 

While at Shakhtar, Fonseca was fortunate to inherit a team of highly technical, creative players. He had the club’s talented Brazilian core to thank for that. With the Miners he preferred to play with 4-2-3-1 shape. It would often morph into some kind of 4-2-2-2 during its attackinzg phase. Such tactic suited Fonseca perfectly as his intent was to play a very compact high pressing possession style of football.

Why it worked so well

Such compactness and short spacing between players lend defensive density to Fonseca’s team. Shakhtar was notoriously difficult team for opponent to crack. Pep’s City found that out the hard way. Compactness also allows for effective short passing, build-up and counter-press. So even a team of relatively modest means can play an attractive possession style similar to Barcelona or Man City. It is exactly what I intend to do with Roma.

It is impressive that Fonseca was able to emulate Tiki-Taka with a Ukrainian team full of Brazilian players. An won three doubles in three years. This encourages me to see what his tactic can do with a team of Roma’s caliber. Especially with the young talent they have.

How we aim to emulate this

Same as with Fonseca’s 4-2-3-1 at Shakhtar, the main idea in my tactic is to win and maintain possession through a hybrid high block where I employ a STANDARD LOE with a HIGHER D-Line. This creates a very compact press “choke” zone just above the midfield line. On the individual level I am careful about which player instructions I use on my front six. I have the four attackers pressing to the max while the two central midfielders are told to press slightly less.

The two central defenders and fullbacks have no pressing instructions at all as I need more discipline from them. They are there to maintain possession and to recycle it to the forwards. I also want my fullbacks to focus on providing width. The choke zone is complete when my inside forwards cut inside to occupy central areas alongside the shadow striker and the DLF. Control of the central area is key in any possession tactic. And this allows me to overload the opponent centrally with at least 6-7 players.

Thiago Motta’s 2-7-2 – Future of Football?

My 4-2-3-1 system will differ from Fonseca’s however. I am looking to integrate the ideas that were proposed by Thiago Motta, PSG’s Under 19 manager. The daring Brazilian stunned many when he first suggested 2-7-2 shape as the future of football. Motta envisioned a very fluid, almost Total Football-like approach. The name of the formation led to some confusion. In fact many pundits thought Motta was a little crazy. According to them 2-7-2 placed the keeper in the midfield. It was only later that it was cleared up that Motta was reading the formation horizontally instead of vertically. Meaning that he foresaw his ideal team as playing in three columns. That is the pairing of winger and fullback on both sides of a central seven. This breaks up the team into three broad units tasked with specific duties.

Motta's 2-7-2- making sensible signings in FM19

The Sweeper Keeper

In 2-7-2, The outside four are tasked with stretching the opposition to open up space for the middle seven. They do so through two types of movement. Fullbacks stay wide and hug the touchline. While the wingers will cut inside (via roles and PPMs combination). The combination of the two should leave the enemy defenders scrambling and create gaps for our central unit to pass through. Our Magnificent Seven’s main task is to maintain possession and move the ball up the field. This does not mean that the goalkeeper will start high up the field in the midfield strata. Rather Motta suggests that all keepers should act as sweeperkeepers in modern tactics.

Neuer sweeper keeper- making sensible signings in FM19

It is perhaps not as innovative an idea as it was 20 years ago. After all, Neuer mesmerized us with his artistry for nearly two decades. What is innovative however is how often Motta suggests the keeper should play outside the box. Which is always. in 2-7-2 the keeper is an active participant in starting attacking moves and helping to maintain possession. He should be as comfortable passing the ball as midfielders in passing it back to him.

Groundwork for Success

As you can see below, last season I was able to achieve some great things with Roma. I do not just mean being runner-up in the league and winning Italian Cup. Those were definite rewards of our success. Yet I am more excited about the under-the-hood statistics from the season. They show that my tactic is on the right track. Although there is always room to improve.

Possession stats- making sensible signings in FM19

We were the team with best Possession % (55), best passing % (85) and most number of passes completed (15625) in Serie A!

Roma stats- making sensible signings in FM19

Digging deeper into the stats

At the same time we scored 79 goals. It was 2nd behind the League Champion (and 2019 Champions League Winner) Juventus. Juve managed to score 88 times in their triumphant season. We were actually leading the league for most of the season. Unfortunately, injuries to a few key players and late drop in form allowed Juventus to take the lead.

The kinds of goals we scored were also significant. As you can see most of our assists came from central locations. Roma managed to assist 56 out 79 goals from central areas, 30 of them from within the penalty area itself. Who said that playing through the middle was not possible in FM19?

Roma assist locations- making sensible signings in FM19

The map of our goal locations is even more telling. As you can see majority of our goals were scored from within the penalty and 6 yard areas. I think it is safe to assume that we achieved our aim of Possession with intent. And at the same time we played some beautiful high scoring football.

Roma goal types- making sensible signings in FM19

Building New Rome – Sensible Transfers

Rome was not built in a day. Yet a lot can be done during one summer break. In June I started out with 55 million. Two months and 39 million later we beat Roma’s previous transfer record. As a result I believe the team is greatly improved. Despite already being a title contender last season, we now truly have a chance at Serie A title. I am even more excited by our prospects in the Champions League. All because of the three names.

Matthijs de Ligt – 15 million euro now, 16 million after 50 games

Matthijs de Ligt- making sensible signings in FM19

Adrien Rabiot Free Transfer

Adrien Rabiot- making sensible signings in FM19

David Raya 9 million euro

David Raya- making sensible signings in FM19

Types of ‘sensible’ transfer

All three are a type of transfer I love making in football manager. Lets call them “Sensible” transfers and in my saves there are usually three types.

Firstly, Matthijs is a multi-part deal that I always try to pull off when landing a blockbuster key player. And it is not because I could not afford his price-tag (31 million). It is simply rare that I overspend on a player. But when I do it is because I foresee him as an absolutely key element in my tactic. It is better business for me to pay 15 million upfront and then 16 after he plays 50 games for us.

When possible I prefer to break up the transfer amount so that it does not cost more than half of the whole season’s budget. It is never sensible to empty your budget at the start of the season. There could always be major injuries before the end of the transfer window. And you never know when you might need that last minute transfer or expensive loan. By breaking up this deal, I won’t have to pay the full price to Ajax until after we are well into 2020-2021 season. In some cases I will hold games to buy us time until the winter transfer period.


Such smart, sensible dealing actually allowed me to sign Raya for 9+ million as well as pay Rabiot a lucrative contract with bonuses. This brings up the second type of transfer that I like. Free transfers for a proven player at the prime of his ability. There is no better feeling than getting a world-class player like Rabiot without paying a single euro in transfer fees. Honestly, I think PSG were mental to let him go. But I am guessing that they could not afford his contract with Neymar and Mbappe on the roster.

Lower league gems

David Raya is the third “sensible” transfer type that I like. It is when you poach a young player from a lower league club. I definitely underpaid for him. At 9 million it was a great bargain for a young sweeperkeeper with potential to grow. I see him becoming one of the best for his role. He is no true replacement for Alisson. But realistically, with exception of Ederson and Neuer, there is no real replacement for Alisson currently. I am happy because of the price I paid. And also attribute-wise he is already equal if not better than Olsen. Most importantly he has room to grow over a few years.

Daniele De Rossi
Not even Daniele De Rossi whispering sweet nothings into his ear could keep Alisson Becker in Roma. In retrospect, it turned into a huge loss for Roma


All three players are going to be essential in my plan to perfect a 4-2-3-1 Possession Tactic. They possess high levels of technique and mental ability. As I plan to show in my future articles, the players I acquired all fit our Vertical Tiki-Taka system rather perfectly. To use Rabiot as an example, I intend to mold my team to have high levels of technique and mental ability. I intend to play him mainly as a centreback and fullback. In fact he is very versatile player who can fill many roles. Despite being a natural midfielder he has the attributes to also fill Edin Dzeko’s role as a Deeplying Forward.

Adrien Rabiot attributes

The foundation of a possession system needs to start at the back. The build up will start with my keeper and defenders. I intend them to bring up the ball patiently and methodically. We do not want to give possession away with needlessly long passes. Rather I want players like Rabiot to be very precise in how they passes to our midfield. High level of passing, vision, technique, first touch, composure, and team work are needed here. Perhaps even more so than in our midfield and attack. I plan to develop Matthijs de Ligt along the similar lines to Rabiot. This is the Club DNA I am looking for. But more on this in later articles where I will chronicle how the tactic is shaping up in its 2nd season

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Written by crusadertsar


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