Du Malone writes: It’s clear from following many FM-based accounts on Twitter that one-on-ones — specifically the paucity of goals resulting from them — is widely perceived as a major problem with FM20.

Evidently, and sadly, some people have even ceased to play the game because of this.

I certainly don’t doubt the genuineness of this reaction. But the purpose of this post is to report a different experience.

Context

I should say at the outset that I do, from time to time, get frustrated with the lack of goals from one-on-ones. However, for me this hasn’t proved a major frustration.

From reading other people’s experiences, it sounds as though for me — in manager Grigor Pasha’s reign at Neftochimic 1962 in the Bulgarian second tier — one-on-ones are less of a problem in term so of both (a) incidence and (b) effect.

Implications

I’ve tried to work out why this might be. The following is a list of potential explanations and solutions.

  1. Though I accept the each FM match engine (ME) has deficiencies. I tend not to rush to blame the ME. There are two reasons for this.
    1. Things often don’t go right in RW football either. Most of the football I watch IRL is of a standard roughly equivalent to the level I’m playing at on FM20. Do strikers routinely convert one-one-ones IRL? No, they do not. Am I’ve thought for a long time that spectators are too ready to say ‘He should have scored there’, as if (a) the goalkeeper has no say in the matter and (b) there is no (technical or mental) difficulty involved in operation. It does seem to me that there is a sense of entitlement here — our strikers should convert one-on-ones, full stop — that’s unrealistic.
    2. It works both ways. In the online commentaries on FM that I read there’s often, either explicitly or implicitly, a sense of ‘we was robbed’: the ME stopped us winning. But I don’t recall ever reading an account of how a team was saved by the ME preventing the opposition from scoring from one-on-ones. There is a clearly a bias in perception here.
  2. And, in fact, my experience suggests that you can in effect make the ME work in your favour — through the way you defend, attack, and train.
  3. In terms of defence, I’ve discussed with Guido Merry via Twitter (see his post, ‘Sorting out those killer long balls‘) the question of dealing with high balls over one’s defence. These seem to represent less of a danger to my teams than to most people’s. The reason seems to be that I make very little use of pressing. And the (admittedly marginal) relevance here is that we concede even fewer goals to one-ones than would normally be the case. Teams still try playing balls over the top, but the defence is good at dealing with them.
  4. In terms of attack, my solutions involve both individual and team approaches. So far as the individual approaches are concerned, I wonder whether a sense that ‘you can’t score from one-on-ones’ is preventing a sufficiently patient approach to problem-solving. Attributes — notably finishing , composure, technique, and decision-making — still count for something (as do goalie’s attributes). Training, where appropriate, finishing techniques (i.e., ‘preferred moves’), such as taking the ball round the goalie or placing shots, still provides competitive advantage.
  5. In terms of team approaches to attack, I look for other ways to score. In tactical briefings I tell the players I don’t want to see lots of long balls hoofed up. We make frequent use of the team instruction to pass shorter. I also, according to circumstances, use ‘work ball into box’. And, thanks to input from bloggers such as Keysie Rensie, we’ve worked hard at creating competitive advantage through set pieces. Consequently, ‘Play for set pieces’ is an team instruction I use quite often.
  6. Finally, training. First, I offer a general observation, namely that, though tactics are obviously important, my experience of reading blogs suggest that the relative importance of tactics is over-rated. I’d go so far as to suggest that there’s a bias here that runs at follows: when a team problem arises, there’s a tendency to assume that (a) in the first instance, the solution must be tactical and (b) if a tactical solution can be found, other solutions may be discounted. An alternative solution I’d like to highlight here is team training. Training brings long-term benefits but can also be used more often to produce short-term benefits than I suspect is generally recognised. For example, in preparing for a match where I’ve decided to focus on wingers, including ‘attacking wide’ in the training schedule makes a difference. Similarly, if I want the players to work the ball into the box, I find ‘attacking patiently’ is a helpful module. I note that a lot of managers leave training schedules to their assistants: I suggest that a significant step in the solution regarding one-on-ones involves taking control of team training.

Conclusion

Overall, my suggestion is that the optimum managerial mindset here is ‘Don’t get mad: get more than even.’

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