Liverpool: The Rebuild

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll probably know that I’m a Liverpool fan. It’s pretty traumatic following this team. There are as many ups as there are downs at the moment. We’ve got a great manager, some great players but we’re just so inconsistent.

Every year on Football Manager I start a save with Liverpool and try to revive their fortunes. Success has come and gone and usually a season or two in, I get a bit bored or lose focus of what I wanted to achieve.

Since the Schalke save has reached it’s natural conclusion, I thought I’d take a wee break from writing about Football Manager and get some much needed Fallout 4 gaming in instead. I’m currently signed off work, so I feel a bit refreshed and I’ve decided to write about Liverpool.

My aim is to get them back to being a “big four” team. Back when we were one of the teams that would really challenge at the top end consistently. I want to play a certain style(I’ll get to that in a second), build a squad that can play that style well and I want to be successful. Matching the record of Bob Paisley would do me fine!

Tactics

Every time I talk about tactics, I get nervous and think people will call me out for talking rubbish. In the Schalke save, I shied away from my tactical thinking a bit, but I think I’d like to try and develop that a little, so on that note.. here goes!

I had a bit of a think about what avenue I wanted to go down tactically. I toyed with the idea of a Rafa Benitez inspired 4411/4231, even going as far as to write an article on it. I never posted that mind you. I trialled this in another save and had some decent results. I think if I’m being honest though, at times, it was a bit too disciplined.

Some of the best football I witnessed Liverpool playing was in the second half of the 2013/14 season when we finished runners-up to Man City. I’m not aiming to replicate that tactic exactly, but I’m using it as a base for the style. I’m definitely looking to be a bit more defensively stable.

The 5-1 win over Arenal is where I’ll be picking the team shape from, but the style over the course of the season is where I’ll base my instructions.

First point of grievance, the shape. We were 4141 defensively in that game. Back four, Gerrard, four midfielders and then a striker. Suarez and Sterling dropped right back when required leaving one man, usually Sturridge, up top. Suarez played on the right, Sterling on the left. There’s plenty of analysis of this game online that you can refer to if need be.

On that basis, I’m going to use a 4141 formation that looks like this. It’s more likely to get the wide players to drop deep and create my two blocks of four with a spare man that I require. This is the main reason I’ve chosen it instead of having them in the AM strata. They’ll still push on in attacking phases. Remember, the formation you see on FM is the defensive formation.

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 09.59.36.png

GK- Pretty basic Sweeper Keeper/Defend with instructions to play the ball to defenders and not punt it long. Mignolet’s distribution has always been suspect, but he always played out from the back in 13/14. He never really raced miles out of his box, so I feel the defend duty is the best option. With a better keeper, I might switch this up to a support role.

DR- Johnson and Flanagan got down the right regularly but weren’t loose cannons. Flanno was perhaps a bit more conservative than Johnson. The idea behind the FB/A rather than WB/A was defensive discipline. I’ll keep an eye on this in the future as I might find that a WB/A is better suited.

DC- My two central defenders are just standard centre defenders on defend. Nothing fancy.

DL- Enrique/Cissokho/Johnson all played left back. Not super attacking and not really conservative enough to be just a full back. I’ve gone for middle ground of wing back support.

DM- I guess Gerrard was our pivot. He played a bit like a half back but not at the same time. I suppose a lot of people would choose Regista and sacrifice defensive stability, but I’m not that guy. DLP/D will keep position, play decent passes and rarely go forward to support attacks. It creates a nice little defensive triangle at times and he’ll drop into the defensive line to pickup the ball. The Half Back role spreads the two defenders too wide I find, so this should work just as well.

MR/ML- These were regularly swapped, depending on the opposition and players available. If you think back to the 5-1 win over Arsenal, Suarez played on the right and Sterling on the left. Suarez was like a wide Second Striker and Sterling like a hybrid Winger/Inside Forward. Both players dropped back to form a line of four in the middle of the park with Gerrard behind. Taking their defensive positions into consideration, I’ve used the wide midfield strata rather than the wide forward strata. I’ve used the much more customisable Wide Midfield roles as well to really get what I want out of each player.

I’ve switched sides for the midfield as I feel it suits the players I have better and gives me a better balance through the team.

On the right I’ve setup the Sterling role to be more like an Inside Forward Support and on the left, the Suarez role to be more like a hybrid Shadow Striker/Raumdeuter. They both drop deep and help defensively, which is what I’m looking for in my team. The PI’s used are similar to the more advanced roles described. It might be an idea to have these players swapping during games, that’s not something I’m going to implement though.

CM- Coutinho and Henderson, both still at the club, work hard for the team. Henderson really came good that season and his hard work was missed when he got sent off in the Man City game. His pressing and all round game came on leaps and bounds. I want to play him as a BWM/S, but I think he’s more like a BBM/S. Coutinho popped up with some important goals that season and was a creative influence at all times. Definitely a playmaker that year. I’m thinking that putting him on a CM/A with a few individual PI’s will make him more useful than if he was just an Advanced Playmaker.

CF- Sturridge, for me, was more like a Complete Forward than a Poacher or Advanced Forward. He liked to run with the ball when given the chance, which I always thought he was really good at. He would come a bit deeper at times. He didn’t just sit forward like a poacher. At the moment, I’ve gone for CF/S, but in time, I may change this to a CF/A.

For my mentality, I’ve gone for Control as it’s quite aggressive but is more wary of counter attacks. I’ve opted for a Fluid team shape.

With team instructions, I tend to be using less than ever in FM16. I read a lot of the great articles from within the community and always think I over complicate things, so I’m scaling back. On this tactic, I’m using three. One is more a personal preference, but the other two I think work in with the style from that season. I might add a couple more in future when we get better players.

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 10.34.02.png

More Direct Passing- Gives a slight increase to the speed and width at which we play. As Control is already a fast and wide mentality, this just ups it a little towards the attacking mentality. They moved the ball very quickly that season, so it’s an important part of the tactic.

Close Down Much More/Prevent GK Distribution- The two go hand in hand for me. If I want to press the opposition, I want to do it the best I can. I want to go all out to win the ball back. Will be monitoring my pressing to make sure we’re not going crazy out of position.

Further down the line I may add the following instructions to further enhance the style.

  • Play Out of Defence
  • Get Stuck In
  • Higher Tempo

Liverpool were at times criticised for the pressure they put themselves under for playing out from the back during the 13/14 season. I’m not sure my guys are quite ready for that and I’d rather implement new ideas slowly. Rome wasn’t built in a day and in reality, a new manager wouldn’t implement ten new ideas on his first day in the job. The Get Stuck In instruction is more a preferential thing. It does result in more bookings, but it adds an aggressive edge. I need players with a bit more bravery before I think about that though. Higher tempo would be to further enhance the speed of our attacks.

It’s very possible that as the game progresses, I’ll switch from Control to Attacking. This might mean that the More Direct Passing instruction is removed as well as the Higher Tempo TI.

That’s it. These three instructions are a good base for the tactic and a platform to build upon.

Transfers

First season at Liverpool, I try not to go crazy in the transfer market. More outs than ins usually. I try to focus on what I see as the biggest problems in the squad. There’s no doubt about it, the squad is very unbalanced, so I’ll have to fix that, but most of that work will be done in the second summer window.

Each time I manage Liverpool, my main objectives are to sign a new Goalkeeper and a new Central Defender. I’ve never been a big fan of Skrtel, in the game or in real life. I think in every save for as long as I can remember, Skrtel gets sold first season. Mignolet I can tolerate, but I think there are better keepers available for good money, so I try to get one in as soon as possible.

I narrowed my GK search down to two, but when Stoke wanted £40m for Butland, the decision was made. Timo Horn, £6.5m. Done.

The centre back search was a long one. I scouted about ten of them. I weighed up the good and bad of all before settling on Nicolas Nkoulou from Marseille. I don’t think I’ve signed him on this version of the game. Good defensive qualities, quick and he can pass the ball pretty well for a defender.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 23.09.03.png

Outgoings are always the same for me at Liverpool. Enrique, Skrtel and Lucas. Three players I never use that make big money. Skrtel and Lucas are always well overvalued for some reason. I can never get anywhere near their value in the game, but I’m quite happy to take what I can get. Enrique always seems to get me around £3m, despite being rubbish and only having a year of his contract left. Toure also left on a free transfer. I’ve taken this screenshot from the end of the season.

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 23.09.14.png

Season

It actually took me about 14 games into the season before I decided that I was going to write something about this and go with the system I’d chosen. The idea was for my team to get through the season and finish as high up the league as possible before I could start a clear out and a revolution. The tactical idea should hopefully progress more next season when I’ll have players that should fit better.

We finished third in the league in the first season. We picked up a few defeats along the way, the worst being a 5-1 mauling against Viktoria Pizen in the Europa League. I fielded a weakened team, but still a low point. The high point was a 5-1 smashing of Arsenal where we played excellently. 11 shots with 10 on target and 5 going in was superb.

Benteke and Sturridge managed to score over 20 goals each from the CF position, Firmino chipped in with 15 and Nathaniel Clyne was our chief assist maker with 24.

Next up will see a big shake up of the team as I look to revolutionise the squad. It’s going to be a very expensive summer.

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