In the last instalment of this feature I achieved the seemingly impossible; finishing a season! But the wheels soon came off and I ended my Liverpool save before entering a period of repeated start / stop / restart, flitting between managing Liverpool or starting out at the bottom with Eastbourne, relearning how to play the game.
Finally though I seem to have found a way to move forward…
Finding a New Itch to Scratch
I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t update this thread until I had something to say but whilst I have remained silent I have been active. Just not always productively.
With the itch of a Liverpool save becoming a burning rash, the last couple of months have been a futile exercise in start / stop saves. Again the same annoying pattern repeated whereby my abandonment of a save wasn’t some results fuelled rage quit but rather a perfectionist, black and white approach.
With his laptop restored, the return to FM of my original LLM inspiration by a fellow player finally convinced me that my future lay away from Liverpool. As much as the desire remained for a long term, youth focused save, the impending start of the new season means that I will forever be chasing my tail, inevitably comparing my side and transfer dealings to Klopp’s. And so I once again dropped back down to Eastbourne.
The old tactical arguments returned. Part of me wants to play a 451 or a 433 but, restrictive though it is, I cannot bring myself to select them as my favoured formation in the manager profile. I wanted to start with 442, even if I subsequently moved on.
Before starting, I read through various forums, taking particular interest in superb threads on the 442 and tactical evolution. With that in mind, I built a basic set up; Flexible with no TIs, a CMD in the middle alongside a DLP on support with 2 attacking wingers and a DF support / AF combo up top. My theory was to not commit too many bodies down field, maintain a defensive block when out of possession and relying on the poor standard of the opposition to create chances.
Mid-October and we find ourselves top of the league, unbeaten in all 14 games played and unbeaten in 19 in all competitions (15 and 20 since this snap was taken).
My Flexible shape became Structured then Fluid, my DLP support became a BBM or CM, my DF became DLF, TM or even CF.
Mid-rant to the wife about 2 dropped points (I like to think she cares), I lamented our loss of form, to which she rather astutely said, ‘Why don’t you go back to doing what you were doing when you were winning?’ Quite.
Perhaps the wheels will still fall off but for now we are flying. My key players are performing well and whilst we are not spectacular at any one thing, we seem to have the ability to get results.
Long term, I fully expect to evolve tactically but I will not ditch the 442 out of some mis-placed snobbery. My one ongoing challenge, which I remember other Forum users also writing about, was getting my DF to drop back to the AMC strata. I may ultimately replace this role with a proper AMC but I will not change when it is working effectively, despite the apparent limitations.
One of the lessons I remember from my Sutton save on FM14 was the need to set yourself targets to keep things interesting.
Having done the whole rags to riches, Conference to Premier League thing with Sutton, I am not interested in repeating the trick. Instead, I have 3 broad goals for this save;
- Achieve a short term target with my current club. This may be promotion, avoiding relegation, achieving European football or winning a trophy. Whatever is is, once achieved I will look to move on.
- Win the top division in England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France. So no pressure then
- Manage Liverpool
The last one is interesting because it kills a couple of birds with one stone. It allows me room to breathe and develop my style, away from the prism of the current Liverpool team, with all the inherent biases that brings. It also allows this to become a long term, indeterminate length save, ruling out the need for wistful glances at FM18 when it comes out that I surely have no need to purchase. And finally it gives me a long term target, something specific to aim for with a goal of closing out my adventure with my favourite club.
A long way to go before we get there of course but for the first time in a long time, I feel back in the game.
Black Dog Watch
The anxieties remain and will need to carefully monitored. I maintain this assumption of tactical ignorance, assuming that others always know better and too often relying on someone else’s solution, rather than evolving my own through experience.
Transfer dealings are always a trigger. Having started as Eastbourne more than a dozen times I had a fair idea of which key positions to fill with which particular players but the fear remained, what of the one I let go? Added to this, what happens when I take over my next club? Will I be able to cope with the pressure of a new set of players, possibly even a new formation? This is catrastrohising, imagining the worst despite no evidence to support the thinking.
I worry about upsetting my players in team talks, always relieved when the responses are green, as stressed as my sensitive centre forward when they come back red. Confusing colour comparisons aside, I recognise this is black and white thinking where something is either good or bad with no grey middle ground.
As much as winning the league, cup or gaining promotion then, these remain challenges for me to tackle and overcome along the way.