Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.
Part 3 can be found here.
The Second Round of the World Cup 2018 has arrived and we have been matched against the African giants Senegal in the first of the knockout rounds. As much as we were heavy favourites to win this match I was not taking anything for granted; after all this is FM! So far — other than the amount of off target shots — I’ve been fairly impressed with how the team have performed in the first three group stages especially with our ball retention and the ability to move the ball around the field quickly and efficiently. My only concern at this stage is our fitness as we have numerous players returning from injury and the majority of the squad becoming extremely tired.
Second Round v Senegal
Like previously mentioned, we went into the game v Senegal full of confidence and fully expected to come away with a win and an easy passage to the Quarter Finals. The game certainly did not disappoint and with another dominating performance we progressed courtesy of three first half goals from Dele Alli (2) and Harry Kane on the stroke of the half time whistle to round off a solid 3-0 win.
The tactic seems to be coming together nicely as the team have managed to continue some of the philosophies set out for the tactic to be a success. You can see from the graphic below that the Defensive Midfielder and Centre Back attempt to stay as close to each other as possible to guard against potential counter attacks from lost balls. The Wing Backs are attempting to push forward to provide width and to offer more passing opportunities whilst in possession.
However, we do seem to have a little work to do on the defensive side of our game. For the most part the players do seem to follow the instructions set for them but in other aspects we seem to be lacking. I believe this could possible be due to playing more attacking that usual in this game. As the graphic belows the Wings Backs are supposed to fall into the back line whilst out of possession to create a straight back five but here the Wings Back are a lot further forward than I would like. This could lead to possibly being exploited down the flanks would could be costly against a better side.
Quarter Final v Sweden
As the draw for the Quarter Finals were in progress and Sweden came out of the hat as our opponents I could not have been happier; as the second weakest team left in the competition after Peru I could not hoped for a better matchup than Sweden. Again, I sent the team out in Attacking mode full of confidence fully expecting a win and a nice easy progression to the Semi Finals and it duly happened with another resounding 3-0 win to cap off a majestic run where we have scored 16 and conceded 0 goals. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain grabbing his first goal of the tournament just as the second half kicked off to add to Adam Lallana’s 30th minute effort to open the scoring. Harry Kane scored his 5th goal of the World Cup with a 30 yard screaming mid-way through the second half. Even with a few tweaks still needed with the tactic, the team were in huge spirits and the dynamics could not have been better. I would never have expected to reach the Semi-Finals without conceding a single goal!
The graphic below again shows the average positions of the team over the 90 minutes v Sweden. At this point the diamond shapes are better beginning to form between the forward thinking Wing Backs, the Defensive Midfielder and the outside Centre Backs which is helping to create better passing angles. My only concern is that the right sided Centre Midfielder is still not pushing as high as I would like as technically he should be joining the same line as his fellow Centre Midfielder and the roaming Attacking Midfielder but this could be due to being on Support duty instead of Attack. I may look to change this for the next game however at the moment it does not seem needed.
In the Defensive Phase the Wings Backs still do not seem to be joining the back line whilst out of possession to create a flat back five however, again this could be due to playing with an Attacking Mentality. I am hoping as the opposition remaining in the competition become stronger that this will resolve itself when dropping back to Standard and Control mentalities as it did seem to work during the friendly games. Another concern is the Defensive Midfielder seemingly pushing further forward with the two Centre Midfielders instead of staying close to the Centre Backs although this could be due to the Defensive Midfielder spending more time of the ball during this game than previously.
Next up is a huge Semi Final v Portugal which I will cover in the next part. At this point I have achieved my target of at least reaching the Semi-Finals and indeed Echoing England IRL as they were knocked out at this stage v Croatia. If we can go any further then I will take that as a bonus!