‘David onthoofdt Goliat’, attributed to Hans Collaert. From the collection of the Rijksmuseum.

Du Malone writes: Thinks are going well. You’re riding high, stringing results together. Your next match is at home, against a team at the wrong end of the league.

Anybody with much experience of FM knows what is likely to happen next. In fact, sometimes it feels as though there is nothing you can do to avoid a ‘shock’ home defeat.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I like to create protocols for dealing with specific situations. For example, earlier this year I wrote a protocol for playing against a team that’s gone down to ten men.

So recently, having yet again been turned over by a team from the bottom, I turned my mind to creating a protocol designed to avoid such an outcome. It’s very much in draft mode at the moment, although early indications are that it might add value.

Here is the sequence of steps that I’ve come up with so far.

  1. Begin the anti-David strategy with the team talk at the end of the previous match. Look for signs of complacency. Challenge performances that are not-awful-but-below-par — say, 6.5, 6.4.
  2. Use press conferences as a way to communicate with your players in order to combat complacency. It’s going to be a tough game; the other team are strong opposition; etc.
  3. Look for nuances in players’ form. For example, a player’s ratings might have gone 7.0, 7.0, 6.9, 6.7, 6.7. In the usual course of events, this downward trend might not warrant a reaction from you. But with the boy David on the horizon, there might be a case for gently suggesting that the player needs to raise his game a little.
  4. Do all the good things you normally do, only more so. For example, if you like to prepare for a match by analysing opposition data and making tweaks, be extra diligent in your preparation. I think that when one of my teams has been turned over by a David, the complacency has perhaps started with me: my attention might have wandered from match preparation, opposition instructions, etc., to other things — scouting, for example.
  5. Be wary of naming an unnamed team. One or two changes might signal to players that nobody’s place is guaranteed. Look to leave out players whose hidden attribute for consistency is poor. Be wary of having a team chock full of balanced types: they’re unlikely to be much use if you need to turn things around in-game.
  6. Look to bring in one or two players who have a point to prove. Have a look at match ratings in recent reserve team matches to see if anyone’s seriously coming into form.
  7. Use the pre-match team talk to try to banish complacency. Often I like to use the ‘carry on where you left off’ option: but Goliath vs David matches might not be the occasion for that. Instead, I tend to go for ‘Good luck’, implying the game’s not in the bag.
  8. For individual players, I might say that ‘I want to see a good game’, though this has to be handled with care because brittle or sensitive types can react against it.
  9. Needless to say, performance and body language then need to be monitored during the game. For talks during and after the game, I try to forget about the status of the opposition. If, for example, we scrape an unconvincing 1-0 win, well, we’ve overcome a hurdle so I’ll say it’s a good win rather than not good enough.

As I say, this is a work in progress. Perhaps there’s something to be done with team training? Naturally, suggestions welcome.

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