FM22 Analytics, tactics and soccernomics
Off the back of the last post we know that although things are slowly getting better, we still have a some problems which we need to fix asap if we want to achieve the first aim of this Girona save: beating Machin’s 10th place finish in their first season in La Liga after promotion.
Simply put, we needs to create more chances and we need to score more goals.
I would image, however, as with most things football, it won’t be as cut and dry as that…so let’s dive into the data hub and see where the issues lie.
The General Performance chart gives us a high-level view of how things are shaping up. As predicted, the commentary tell us that going forward we suck:
We score less goals per 90 than average (0.55 less in fact), our xG is lower than average per game (0.32 less), we have 1.91 less shots a game than the average team and when we DO finally manage to get a shot at goal, we’re 6.22% less accurate than average.
On the positive side though, our pass completion ratio is right on par and our expected goals against (xGA) is pretty damn good thanks to a revamped defence.
So it’s simple – we need to have more shots, with more accuracy and therefore we should score more goals.
But, how do we do that when we can’t go out and buy new players? And even if we could, we’ve only got £800k to spend, so we’re hardly going to get a world beater who’ll singlehandedly transform our season.
Let’s start by breaking it down.
We can’t create more chances if we don’t have the ball. We aren’t a possession based team so I’m not going to check possession stats, but we DO want to know if we’re winning the ball often enough?
No. We aren’t. Whilst we’re doing an average job of looking after the ball, we’re doing quite poorly when it comes to winning it.
From the Possession Gained chart you’ll also see we mostly win the ball just in front of our own 18 yard box. I think we need to be less passive and increase the percentage of balls won just inside our own half. Looking at the same Possession Gained chart from last season, we can see a 6% decline in balls won just inside our own area and a 3% drop for just inside the opponents half:
Makes sense, right? The higher up we can win the ball, the more goal scoring chances we can create.
• Increase counter pressing from more often, to much more often.
As we’ve recently adopted a lower line of engagement I’m less worried about becoming over stretched and leaving gaps AND about it effecting stamina too much. It should trigger more pressure when the opposition gets to the half way line.
• Change one of the strikers to a Pressing Forward.
It’s a role I’ve never been able to get any production out, however, the king of the Pressing Forward, Matty Aqua, pointed out that Kalimuendo could fit the PF-S quite well. As our AMC is on a support role as well, I’ll try a PF-A first and see how that works.
• More aggression in midfield.
By using one of our more physical midfielders in the B2B role (Fuentes, Kebe or Thuram) the positional range should give them plenty of opportunities to challenge for the ball.
Now would be a good opportunity to looks at the players defensive actions for the roles through the middle of the park:
Clearly, we need massive improvement from Kalimuendo, although I have been playing him in the deeper striker role as a DLF of a F9.
I will change the Box to Box to a Mezzala if the battering ram approach isn’t working in games and we need a more subtle, creative approach, in which case, Aleix Garcia and Alex Baena will be main players in that role.
When it comes to actual tackling, we win a very good 80% of our tackles, but are attempting a very low amount – what we need is some South American midfielder with aggression of 18!! Or Roy Keane.
The obvious answer to increase the number of tackles is the get stuck in instruction – however, I’m reluctant to use this but will do if the above changes aren’t showing signs of working.
So now we’ve won the ball (hopefully) we need to make sure we can get it into dangerous areas. Looking at where we attempt most of our passes, we can see the bulk is in our own half, which on the face of it is fine as we aren’t an aggressive team, however, to create more chances we have to get that 14% in the opponent third up towards 20%. Otherwise, our improvements won’t be enough to get us to even average in terms of chances created and goals scored.
Thus far, we’ve been playing on standard passing and mostly on a positive mentality because we’ve been looking for a quick transition upfield. This approach clearly isn’t working (possibly due to the lack of a top class target man) so I think we need a more measured approach. Therefore, I’ll drop the mentality down to balanced and passing range down to short. I’ll keep the tempo at Standard though as I don’t want us to turn into a possession team, I still want to get the ball upfield at a decent tempo. I would be tempted to go to a higher tempo if we had a higher quality midfield.
The 3-4-1-2 we’re now using should be excellent for achieving these aims due to all those beautiful triangles.
You can see from the above just how important the wingbacks are in this formation, and takes me back to the passing combinations I pointed out right at the start of this journey. When we have the ball in out half they form a passing triangle with their CB and CM. As the ball progresses upfield they then must form a passing triangle with the CM and the AMC or Striker.
So, looking back to our midfielders, who’s looking after the ball?
Thuram is clearly the best with the ball, and is shining in the deep lying playmaker role. Kebe having a good completion rate is also a nice surprise as he’s the least gifted with the ball as his feet, especially considering he’s attempts the second most amount of passes.
Fuentes, the natural choice for the Box to Box role when it comes to attributes, has a good completion rate but doesn’t complete as many passes as Kebe, and neither does he carry out as many defensive actions per game (5.2 vs 4.3) so I’m going to make the decision and give Kebe the starters role and it’s up to him to claim it or let Fuentes back in.
Interestingly, the three players who’ve played in the AMC role are all performing poorly in the passing stats. Essahel, the youngest of the 3, has a good pass completion ratio, but none of them are getting on the ball anywhere near enough. Hopefully the change to shorter passing and the balanced mentality will mean the ball won’t bypass them as much and they can get on the ball much more.
When it comes to what our midfielders do in the final third we can see that when it comes to shooting, Essahel again is the pick of the 3 AMC’s in terms of getting shots off, whereas both Baena and Saiz have a better xG.
As far as the assisting chart goes, it’s frustrating because Saiz and Garcia are both on set pieces, which aren’t taken out of the key passes metric, so the data is more or less useless for them both as it’s skewed.
The one to watch for the rest of the season will be Thuram: he’s played most of the season on a defend duty, but over the last few he’s been changed to a support duty so I’m expecting his key passes per 90 to increase much more as he’ll be getting further upfield.
We’ve covered how we’re hoping to get the ball into out opponents final third more often but we’ve mainly talked about passing. One of strengths last season was our crossing. We finished the season ranked 4th for crosses with a completion ratio of 27%.
This season we’re ranked 15th and are completing just 21% (despite the chart below saying 22%). This could be for a few reasons, all equally as important:
- The increase in standard of defenders in La Liga.
- Us not getting into the final third enough
- Stuani not getting as much playing time, leaving us with 2 strikers who aren’t anywhere near as good in the air.
I’m happy with the starting wingbacks we have, in Junca and Cruz, so all I’m going to do here is experiment with low and whipped crosses, in the hope that getting the ball upfield more and then the speed and agility of Bustos and Kalimuendo means they can react quicker than the central defenders marking them.
All that’s left is to look at the people who’ll be on the receiving end of all these amazing chances we’re hoping to create.
With both strikers only being 5’9″, you can see why the cross completion stats aren’t great!
The initial thought I had when looking at them is that they’re both very similar, however, I think with another look we can see there is subtle differences and I’m hoping that they will work well together in their new roles.
Both are quick with good finishing attributes and both are very technical, so getting them out into the channels would be beneficial as they should be able to beat their defenders for pace.
Kalimuendo is more creative though, and aggressive, so the Pressing Forward role, being a little deeper than an Advanced Forward, should suit him well.
We have glimmers of hope here. Although all our strikers are taking less shots than average, it’s nice to see that Bustos and Kalimuendo are both hitting the average line for xG per shot – and Gallar, who has just returned from a lengthy injury is quite a bit above the average. So, I think if we can get them good chances we should see some the ball hitting the back of the net more often!
Now we know which changes we want to make, I think it’s important we amend our training schedules so the players get to work on this new style, even though it’s not massively different.
Here’s what I’ll be adding:
More intense pressing:
Transition press is the main session for pressing, and physical training (rather than endurance) will work on stamina, fitness and work rate without pushing the players too hard as the business end of the season.
More midfield aggression:
Defending works in tackling, whilst attacking wings not only works on the defence’s anticipation and marking, but also allows our attacking unit to work on crosses, heading and finishing.
Better passing and ball progression:
Possession and Ball retention should do the job here and help us make better choices as well making sure the pass meets its target.
Attacking as a team:
The general attacking session should get everyone on the same page and attacking shadow play will also help the players learn the shape and progressions.
Creating and finishing chances:
Chance creation, chance conversion and shot stopping are not only ideal for what we need, but also they allow for secondary AND tertiary individual role training, which is vital for the players working on their individual training focus and learning new traits (so I’ve spread these across three different days).
Let’s do it…
I don’t think there’s anything more to do other than make the changes and get on with the games.
Wish me luck.