This is a part of my ‘A Legend in His Own Mind’ Series, you can find the collection here. You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram and if you are a part of the FM Slack you can find my channel #braziers-cambridge.
A hot-button issue in the FM community will always be players making mistakes that lead to goals. It’s infuriating to see your goalkeeper get caught in possession by n adventurous press or see your defender let a striker clean through on your goal, especially after you’ve spent hours tweaking your tactics and setting up plans or set-pieces.
We often see Miles defending the FM match engine pointing out that mistakes happen in real life, he has to defend it so much that it’s almost become a meme at this point. The fact is that mistakes will happen in FM just as it does in real life, we see them more in FM because we push through multiple seasons in the same time as real football gets through one.
I’m personally towards my ninth season with Cambridge but I’ve also played about seven or eight seasons on a separate Chelsea save and one on an England save. That’s nearly 20 seasons simulated in the space of one, some on my twitter are hitting mid-forties, your mistakes are always going to seem to happen more often in those circumstances.
There are, of course, mistakes in the match engine, I don’t believe any simulation can ever be perfect. I’ve often seen defenders stopping the ball from going out in various situation, this makes sense and you can see it in real life often as defenders and attackers will try and stop a throw-in, where an opposition player steals the stopped ball before the original player can recover. The error I believe is when a defender tries to stop the ball from crossing the goal line for a corner.
As a defender technically has control of the ball the defenders stop the defensive phase and move into a transitional phase, ignoring the opposition player who has acres of space to move into after nicking the ball. I mention this now because I feel I should when talking about player mistakes but I didn’t want to finish it. However, mistakes, even these ones, can be limited with clever squad building.
Now I will never claim to be an expert on FM, if you want exactly tested and proven advice then there are plenty of great FMer’s to go to, Cleon, Ondrej (who runs this site), and James (FMPressure on Slack) are all far better players than me and all have a better insight into what attributes effect different things. The point of blogs like this is to give people an idea into my thought processes when making certain decisions, that means however that I might be completely wrong.
So how do I try and limit mistakes from my players? It actually stems from a general rule I follow when building my squad, I play a high importance on mental and physical attributes over technical.
This may seem counter-intuitive to some, surely a poor pass will be due to a poor passing attribute or wouldn’t a goalkeeper allowing himself to be caught in position due to a poor first touch a result of a bad first touch attribute?
While there is some credence to that line of thinking, I fully believe that the key to minimising mistakes lies in having players that are intelligent enough to recognise a dangerous situation and react accordingly.
My goalkeeper knows not to take that first touch because he sees the defender pressing and instead moves the ball straight away to another player or a safe place, the same goes for my defenders. The simple fact is that most mistakes are forced by the opposition, especially these days with so many teams using a high press and intelligent players are key to breaking that press.
I’ve also seen certain teams bake multiple mistakes in matches, one where the opposition goalkeeper sent the ball to my star striker at the time Uche Ikpeazu twice in one match, both resulting in goals, in a match we won by a single goal.
Having intelligent defenders has allowed me to play a fairly high line, I’ve played on control most of this save, with the trust that my defenders not only have the pace to control troublesome strikers but the intelligence to position themselves correctly to minimise any potential danger.
I said earlier that I can’t tell you what exact attributes do but I can pinpoint important ones for a defender by using one player. Ethan Ampadu has made a noticeable amount of mistakes when compared to my other defenders, while no defender is perfect, especially in a high line, he stand out.
So what does he lack that my other defenders have? The only attribute I can see is concentration, what is concentration? Well:
Concentration indicates the player’s ability to understand and react to events late in the game. Players with low concentration will lose focus toward the end of the game, especially if the score is lopsided, and probably should be subbed out.
This will correlate with the fact that Ampadu makes most of his mistakes late on in games, with a noticeable example being in extra-time of a League Cup match against Manchester United where him dwelling on the ball dangerously close to our goal allowed them to go 3-2 up and ultimately cost us the game.
This was even more infuriating as we were still a Championship team at the time and we had outplayed United up to that point.
Now I’m not saying that if you only get defenders with high concentration then all mistakes will stop happening, FM is far more nuanced than that, everything that happens is a result of multiple attributes coming together with an element of random to give you an outcome. What I am saying is mistakes will always happen, but by focusing on a mentally strong squad you can help limit those mistakes.