Hello again, and welcome back to Constanta. You join us at the start of our second season in Liga I, after we miraculously survived the last campaign. In this update we’ll find out how Frank Athlete’s men got on this time, plus I’ll share my process for troubleshooting my tactic when things haven’t gone well. If you need a refresher on what’s happened in the save so far, you can catch up on the series here.

Save Update

I’m still shocked that we got him. What a player he is! I’m starting to feel this is the beginning of the next level now. The only way is up from here.

An extract from the diary of Frank M. Athlete, 19th August 2024

Having survived relegation last year, Frank set about bringing in some new and improved recruits that would hopefully help ease the struggle of fighting relegation this time around. A budget of £150k, combined with some player sales enabled us to bring in Raul Macea from Liga I opposition CFR Cluj as our marquee signing. He’ll play as a Deep Lying Playmaker on Support duty and will look to orchestrate our creative play.

Up top, Montosori (TM-S) and Expedito (AF-A) came in on free transfers as huge upgrades to our current front line, while Italian Davide Riccardi is brought in as DC along with his experience of 28 years. Additonally, Cifor (FB-S) comes in to challenge for a starting place at DL and Tataru will backup our reglar starter Mutiu in goal.

With the team in place, and the season only a few games old, the side were struck down by several long term injuries to key players and so Frank brought in Pesic on loan to provide cover in central midfield, while Cheick Sylla replaces new signing Riccardi who broke his leg in training and was ruled out for half a season. Sylla is actually a huge upgrade on Riccardi and is now easily our best player so maybe things have worked out for the better. Time will tell.

As seems to be the custom now we’re in Liga I, the season got off to a rocky start, drawing away to newly promoted FC Voluntari before successive defeats to FCSB and Hermannstadt.

A win in our next outing brought some security, and although our form didn’t dramatically improve, we were comfortably placed in the league as we reached the mid-way point with a few more wins under our belt.

Farul Constanta 2024/25 – July to October fixtures
Farul Constanta 2024/25 – table at half way stage

As 2024 drew to a close, we endured heavy, yet predictable defeats to FCSB and FC Viitorul, as well as losses to CFR Cluj and FC Rapid, picking up 7 points from our other fixtures as we headed into Christmas and the Winter break.

Form didn’t really improve as the season resumed in February, with the team securing more losses than draws or wins, but there was a pleasing 4-3 victory over Dinamo Bucarestu on the last day of the season which brought hope for our Relegation Group games.

Our mediocre league campaign meant we’d take 13 points with us into the Relegation Group. Last season, 26 points was enough to secure our safety, but owing to the fact the competition isn’t as fierce this time around, plenty of teams were able to steal points from newly promoted Academica Clinceni and FC Voluntari, meaning we’d need points from the other teams to survive a second consecutive relegation scrap.

We started poorly, 1 point from our first 3 games, prompting Frank to rethink his tactics after a torrid season of lacklustre performances. His magic touch worked, as the the boys were able to secure back to back wins for the first time this year in the next games, and would go on to secure another 4 wins to accompany 4 draws from the remaining 10 fixtures.

All told, a points haul of 35 was enough to secure our safety for another year, with the side finishing 4th in the group overall. It still took until the last day to confirm our Liga I status, but Frank was pleased on an improved points tally from last year.

Having secured a third season of Liga I football, Frank has been considering his future as he revisits his long-term career goals. His contract doesn’t expire until the end of next season (June 2026), however it’s clear that given the competitive nature of this division, it’s hard to ever see Farul competing for European football anytime soon.

As such, the 2025/26 campaign will be Frank’s final season at Constanta, and from here on in he’ll be keeping an eye out for any exciting job opportunities that pop up before the season ends. The time feels right to move on, and start challenging for silverware elsewhere, having gotten Farul Constanta to their highest ever league finish and to some level of Liga I stability.

Troubleshooting a Tactic

As I alluded to in the save update above, we had to reassess our tactical approach midway through the season after under performing for too long beforehand.

There comes a point where every tactic needs a tweak or a freshen up, or in some cases a complete overhaul. With that in mind, i thought I’d share my process for how i go about evaluating my tactic, and making necessary changes when it’s not working quite right.

Let me state from the outset, I’m not an expert on tactics – far from it in fact – but I have picked up a few tips and tricks from other players (Cleon, FM Pressure, FMRensie, DGear86 and fmFutbolManager to name a few) and my own experience over the years and so that’s what I’m sharing here. If you’re looking for some advice from people far more qualified than me to help, I suggest you dip into the #fmtactics-chat channel on FM Slack where there’s a ton of people who can give you some pointers and constructive feedback.

But for now, here’s my process to troubleshooting my tactic:

  1. Leave it alone! The first step on the road to enlightenment is to stop changing your tactic. No more tweaks to player roles or team instructions. Do this for at least three games, no matter who the opposition is.
  2. Switch to Comprehensive. Forget text only commentary, you need to start watching your game highlights in comprehensive mode, at least for the next few games anyway. Pay attention to player positions, their movement, and what they do when you’re attacking and when you’re defending. Hit pause at random times during the match and see where you’re players are positioned.
  3. Post-match party. While you’re still at the match, or from the Tactics screen under the Analysis tab, have a look at any key statistics or match stats from each game. Think about possession, shots taken vs. shots on target, missed passes etc.
  4. Write that down. Take some notes from your analysis and during each game, either when you see something that looks good or, even better, when you see something going wrong.
  5. A bit of self reflection. After a few games of monitoring your performance, start thinking about what you’re actually trying to achieve with your tactic. Saying “i want to win games” is an end result, not a strategy. Instead, ask yourself “how will we attempt to win games”. Think about a real-life example of the style of football you’re trying to emulate. Maybe it’s Klopp’s gegenpress or Pulis’s long-ball routine, or simply pace down the wings vs. long-range thunderbolts? It’s important to be realistic with your approach, and consider all the factors, such as the level your team are playing at and their ability compared to your divisional rivals.
  6. Mind the Trade-offs. For every tactical instruction or setting you implement, there’s likely a negative affect or risk that you add in to your playing style each time. For example, switching passing style to “Shorter” will reduce the risk of misplacing your passes, but you’ll also likely be limiting the team’s passing range in the process. Invariably, it’s these trade-offs that can often lead to your team giving possession away with wayward passes, or being dispossessed as a result of dawdling on the ball. Be sure to consider the cause and effect of your tactic as you analyse the games. Aside from team instructions, think about the formation and the team mentality too as these also have positive and negative implications on your tactic.
  7. Consider the evidence. How does what you’ve seen in your last few games compare to what you’re actually trying to achieve? For example, if you want your big Target Man to score with his head, but he’s goalless in 5 games, then check he’s receiving crosses from out wide to knock in. What about on the defensive? Is there a particular type of goal you concede often? Or a particular area of the pitch you always lose the ball.
  8. Get to the root of the problem. Before you wade in and make changes left right and centre, be systematic in your approach. Consider what other impact your changes might have, both in terms of Team Instructions as well as formation. Maybe the reason your Target Man can’t score with his head has more to do with his poor Jumping attribute, than it does your wingers crossing ability.
  9. Make that Change. Okay, you’ve got half a dozen pages of scribbled notes so you’re ready to start making changes. But before you do, make sure you read the tool tips and descriptions that are built into the game. For example, you might think of your midfield maestro as a Ball Winning Midfielder, but actually when you read the description, a Defensive Midfielder better describes what you want him to do. Similarly, your Cautious team mentality might make sense to you, but in fact a Balanced approach is what will actually work here. If you’re not sure what something does, then try it out. It’s a game remember, and it’s also highly unlikely that you’ll suddenly start losing every match 8-0, so you’ve very little to lose in the grand scheme of things.
  10. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Keep your game highlights on Comprehensive for a few more matches and see what difference your changes have made. Have any of your problems been fixed, or do you now have new problems to consider? Try and avoid making tiny changes on a regular basis, or you’ll find yourself a long way from where you set out, and with no clue how to get back to your preferred style.

As you’ll have noted from our form in February, we didn’t score a goal for four consecutive games which prompted me to review our tactic using the steps above. The 4-3 win at Dinamo Bucaresti was a one-off so i ignored it and used the next 4 games to review our performances in detail.

Here’s how we were set up:

Here’s what I observed from those four games:

  • Our defensive play was fairly strong. Most of the goals we conceded were from exceptional build-up play or long-range screamers
  • 1 or 2 neat passes were often followed by a 25 yard long-ball that almost always ended up with the opposition
  • My goal keeper liked to often try long range passes that would result in us losing possession
  • Our build up play was really great to watch. Nice passing in the middle, finding our wide options who could run forward with pace and cross the ball
  • Almost all our crosses were finding our target man or our poacher
  • Our TM would routinely header over the bar or straight at the goalkeeper
  • Our Poacher would often shoot straight at the goal keeper
  • Our full backs were having almost no impact on the game in terms of attack. I’d previously opted for a defensive mentality for fear of being left exposed at the back
  • Our midfield pair were often seen some way outside of the box and rarely attacking any poor opposition clearances, leaving all of the goal scoring responsibilities to our forwards

And as a result, here are the changes I made:

  • Switched the goalkeeper’s distribution to short kicks
  • Changed the right full back to an Attack duty and the left full back to Support – this should mean the DR gets further forward and overlaps with the left Winger, while the DL also gets forward but not too far to expose us
  • Changed the Central Midfield role to an Attack duty with the intent he’ll get in the box more often and hoover up chances on the edge of the area
  • Switched crosses from Mixed to Low. Since my TM was getting on the end of most of them, but was heading over, i thought lower crosses might give him more chance of hitting the target

And it worked a treat!

  • Form: Played 10, Won 5, Drew 3, Lost 2
  • Goals: 16 for, 13 against (7 in one dreadful game where we were out played all over)
  • Scorers: ST (TM-S) = 5, ST (P-A) = 2, ML (W-S) = 2, MR (W-A) = 4, Other = 3

So there you have it, on this occasion I felt satisfied the changes to the tactic had worked. We still had a couple of seriously bad days at the office, but that’s something I hope we can improve on in the future.

Content Corner

In this section I’ve highlighted some of the content I’ve been consuming of late. There are some excellent content creators out there, some old and some new, and the vast majority of which are all on Slack so I strongly advise you to join that community and check them out here.

  • Best Save Update Blog: this week I caught up on FM Grasshopper‘s exploits in Mexico, with the tale ending with an unexpected twist. Catch up the story here.
  • Best Advice Blog/Article: Tough to choose just one this week, loads of good stuff out there, but FM Samo‘s piece on his approach to training was the pick of the bunch for me. I enjoyed learning about his setup and it’s given me some inspiration to make a few tweaks to my schedules too.
  • Best Audio/Video: Prince William took part in a new BBC documentary that aired this week, about football and mental health featuring interviews with people involved at grassroots level up to professional. Check it out here.

And that’s it for another update from me. Thanks so much for reading down this far, I hope you enjoyed it. As ever your feedback is always welcome either here in the comments, on Twitter or on my Slack channel. If you’re not already on Slack then you’re missing out. It’s free to join, there’s no pressure to post anything, and you’ll find there are some excellent people who you can chat to if you want.

I’ll be back as soon as I can with another update from Frank as he continues to take us Down the Danube.

Published by FM Athlete

I blog about Football Manager. Husband to a patient wife and father of three. West Ham fan and ST holder

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