Du Malone writes: Recently I’ve been reviewing my collection of the blog posts that I’ve particularly liked — the list of links is here — and reflecting on the question, ‘Out of all this fine content, which contributions have most affected the way I actually play?’

In my previous post I highlighted a couple of posts about playing from the back. Here I switch the attention to the other end of the pitch.

Again, I include some pre-FM20 content: though analysis can’t simply be carried over from one edition of FM to another, equally it doesn’t automatically lose all pertinence the moment a new edition arrives.

Solving strikers

Strictly speaking, the first piece isn’t a blog post at all. Rather, it’s an article from the digital magazine Latte Quarterly. Which provides an opportunity to say, if you haven’t yet discovered this publication, I encourage you to do so: it’s consistently well edited and designed and the topics covered are pleasantly varied.

The article I have in mind here is Solving strikers by SoggPlaysFM. To my mind, the piece is a nicely structured essay. It starts by identifying a problem, namely that the author’s strikers have stopped scoring. It then, in turn

  • portrays the strikers
  • outlines the tactical context
  • reviews the potential of various strike roles
  • explains the solution expected

The author concludes: ‘While I didn’t quite solve my striker issues in the way I initially hoped, I unlocked the rest of the team…My strikers create space for other players to sneak in and score’.

I like this piece for several reasons. First, it doesn’t just snatch at solutions. (‘The solution might not always be where you first though[t[].’) In particular, it doesn’t just blame the player and assume that the answer lies in team selection or player acquisition.

Neither does the piece just consider single solutions. Rather, it probes the way that such problems typically require rounded thinking. In that way, it resembles the pieces I reviewed in my previous post.

I first stored the link to SoggPlaysFM simply because I thought it might come in handy when I encounter a problem with strikers. But in fact I’ve found the value of the piece goes beyond that: I’ve found it helpful to apply the structure of the thinking to other parts of the pitch.

The general lesson I’ve learnt is, ‘When confronted by what appears to be a localised problem, consider how SoggPlaysFM might go about solving it’.

Finishing chances

The second piece is Finishing chances, sub-titled ‘How can I stop my forward finishing like Torres at Chelsea?’, co-authored (in 2015) by Guido, Jonathon Aspey, and diegomendoza1969. It begins with the following problem:

‘Every year you get games where you absolutely dominate proceedings but end up bemused, bewildered and sometimes downright enraged. How on Earth did…your forward line…fail to put a ball past the opposing goalkeeper?!’

These authors too resist the temptation to snatch at solutions. For example, it’s easy just to blame the tactics — yet the tactics are succeeding in producing chances. Similarly, it’s easy just to assume you need to ‘buy better forwards’: as the authors note, ‘you can’t be buying new forwards every time you struggle to score’.

Instead, the piece seeks to solve the problem by exploring a range of aspects, namely

  • tactical factors
  • mental factors
  • skill-related factors

I’ve found their observations under each of these headings helpful, but the area I found most enlightening was that on mental factors. In particular, I found myself dwelling on the discussion of complacency — how it features and what to do about it.

If, from the various insights this piece affords,  I had to select one take-home message, it would be that complacency was more of an issue in FM that I’d appreciated. This has certainly been an insight that I’ve found applicable to subsequent editions.

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