I would like to welcome my first guest writer to the site – Chris Mason. He started writing about his Liverpool save on #Slack and I really liked his debut in FM blogging. It’s my pleasure to be hosting this series on this site. Please give Chris a follow on Twitter @. He is a genuine, nice guy and it comes across in his writing. From what I have seen this will be a good series, I hope you enjoy.
I should be clear for the outset that I’m already nearly two and a half FM years into this save, so this won’t be a save that you can join from the get-go. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t bring you up-to-date on what has been happening with Liverpool Football Club after I took over from the grand-master that is Jürgen Klopp.
I’ve tried to keep his style of gegenpressing, “heavy metal” fast-paced football. I find it attractive to watch in both FM and in real life, being a fan of Liverpool. I can definitely say that I’ve been taken in by the counter-pressing style which is dependent upon heavy reliance upon teamwork, high work rate and a steely determination to win the ball back quickly after losing it in order to generate scoring opportunities. The board have given me the expectations of attacking, possession football and this style can deliver the attacking element and requires young players with good stamina levels. The board also expect me to be buying young players for the first team. This suits the way I like to recruit within FM too and is a must with this approach.
I’ve applied two tactics primarily, both of which I have borrowed. Nods here go to Daljit (YouTube and Twitter’s @Bustthenet) and MERT on the Steam Store.
My take on Daljit’s Wolves Experiment tactic and my variation on MERT’s ‘Jürgen Klopps’s Gegenpressing’ tactic available on the Steam Workshop
This is a vast change from the norm as to how I would usually operate in FM, as I love to find my own style on FM and typically go for a 4-2-3-1 style as so many Premier League managers have done over the last 3-4 years. However, I could not get it to work as I had in FM14/15/16 against the big teams in the Premier League. They were ripping us apart with ease and it was clear that Europe was never going to be achievable dropping so many points to my main rivals along the way. We were prone to casual sloppy mistakes and weren’t generating enough quality scoring opportunities. In part, in my opinion, this may be down to some slightly under-rated players with the current attributes on offer in the Liverpool team. I am also of the opinion though that the AI has learned to play better against the 4-2-3-1 from the outset and so with the high-pressing mentalities of a number of the Premier League managers, teams can exploit the weaknesses far earlier, way before you can simply buy up all/most of the talent that come through with regens. The AI also seems more intelligent (in some instances!) when it comes to transfers in this save too. More on this in a later post.
The focus of the save
My aim for this save is by enlarge pretty ‘simple’. Return Liverpool FC to the dominance of the 1980’s in both the Premier League and in Europe. I’d like my FM generated face to be printed next to Benítez’s on the giant flag that is swung around on the Kop during home games.
I don’t anticipate being offered any other jobs and would reject any no matter how juicy the prospect.
I hope to be able to use genuine home-grown players to achieve this. However, this is just that, a hope rather than a specific aim/target. This is largely because I’ve never had that much success with regens in the past within my own team and often have to send my scouts out looking for the most gifted 15-18 year olds around the world. My scouts are already doing this across South America, Central Europe, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and North Africa in anticipation of poor future intakes. Always better to be prepared!
Given my tactical desire to counter-press relies heavily upon:
- Work rate
I have concentrated on looking internally at the club for these attributes – and given we’re Liverpool and expectations are for European football – some genuine footballing abilities too. I will though overlook a player if I feel that these three core attributes are not sufficient for my first team (either currently or going forwards).
I also like my forward players (especially the central midfielders) to have excellent vision to see a pass. Once they get control of the ball, I’d like them to be able to release the pass that pushes the team forwards and enables us to work around the opposing team.
With this in mind, here were my transfer for the first season:
I brought in Willems to replace Moreno (aka the Moronic Marauding Moreno) from PSV, and then a series of young players to replace the detritus we have in the Reserves who I hope to be able to develop either for the First Team going forwards or to sell on for profit. I doubt too many names on that list will be new to many of the readers of this post, with perhaps Berge and van der Velden being the exceptions (one of which has already been sold for a tidy profit). Berardi came in as I noticed a genuine weakness with set piece taking within the team and to keep Mané on his toes with some quality competition down the right-hand side. San José and Gómez came in for CB cover as Sakho had his head turned by Barcelona offering him the chance to play in the Champions League. When they said play, of course they meant to be paid £97k/week basic pay watching MSN play with Umtiti and Piqué at the back… (he’s only played 16 games across two and a half seasons so far in La Liga).
Coutinho and Lovren have both had bids rejected for them from Champions League teams, which has turned their heads. I’ve therefore had to promise them that if they stay, I’ll deliver them Champions League football next season. If not, then they’ll no doubt force my hand and want to be sold to a ‘bigger team’.
In terms of success of the team thus far:
In truth, this looks much better than it perhaps should have been. We put together an eight game unbeaten streak running through April and May. Perhaps it was having Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ poem painted on the dressing room wall that made all the difference(?)
I had started the season with my own counter-pressing tactic, but only really gained consistent success after switching to a 4-3-3 with three CMs (CM(A) – CM(D) – BBM), with Coutinho playing AP(S) on the left-hand side (nominally, given how far he cuts inside to wreak havoc) and Mané playing IF(S)/W(S) down the right and Origi upfront on CF(A). This tactic looks to follow similar lines as to Daljit’s tactic with his Wolves Experiment. He doesn’t provide the player roles within the video and I have also changed a couple of things specific to the players that I have in terms of PIs.
The FA Cup never really got going for us after defeating Chelsea with a deserved winner in injury time having been pegged back to 2-2 in the 89th minute. I was genuinely punching the air with both fists Klopp style when Wijnaldum scored the winner. To then lose to Watford over two legs was very disappointing having already knocked out a key rival earlier in the competition.
We also made it all the way to the Final of the EFL cup playing rotated side where I was able to. I had one eye on giving youth players who had a genuine chance of progression/development at Liverpool some First Team action. Grujic in particular benefited from this during that season, making far more First Team games in the PL than initially anticipated, as did Alexander-Arnold (though purely in the Cup)
Thank you for reading, click HERE for episode 2.