I’m looking at the Europa League qualification matches and opening games of the season without a real tactic so at the moment. I’ve a few ideas in my head about the style of football I’d love to play and how I would like to shape West Ham’s future. My personal favourite tactic is the 4-1-4-1. It’s always worked great for me in Football Manager in the past, creating a really solid defence and a really strong, free-flowing attack. I would love to stick with it, but I feel like it’s just a little bit boring. With Payet gone, Lanzini is the main man and a 4-1-4-1 does not look to take advantage of some of his qualities. So what do we do? And what else am I thinking?
I would love to go an entirely different route from my instincts and play a back 3. Ogbonna, Fonte and Reid would make a really solid trio. Ogbonna and Fonte are natural ball-playing defenders who would sit comfortably either side of Reid in the middle, as both players favour opposite feet. The left footed Ogbonna should thrive on the left of Ried, while the right footed Fonte should thrive on the right. Ried is a natural Defensive Centre Back in the cover role, and in my opinion, this would work perfectly in the middle of a trio; allowing him to drop a little deeper and sweep any incoming balls which haven’t been picked up by Fonte or Ogbonna. This could work really well when Fonte or Ogbonna move a little higher up the pitch to play the ball, and very different to the back fours I’m used to using
In front of the back 3 I want to decide if I’m playing with wing backs or not. My initial reaction is that it frees up two players to use elsewhere, which could be really beneficial to the team in attack. But realistically, we need wing backs to provide some protection against wingers and or any attacking full backs that the opposition may have, which is a likelihood in the Premier League. With Arbeloa and Byram, we have 2 decent right backs which is likewise on the left hand side as we’ve got Cresswell and the newly transferred Taylor. Playing wing backs on either side in the complete wing back support role, gives the team a good balance in both attack and defence and might provide the team with some width, which we wouldn’t have otherwise.
Between the wing backs, I want to play a defensive midfielder. This is a position we’re not gifted in. Both Kouyaté and Nordveit are average players who do not gift us with much on the pitch. However playing them as ball winning midfielders will allow us to win the ball further up the pitch in certain games, and may provide extra defensive cover if the wing backs are caught out high up the pitch. What must also be remembered is that with Lanzini being our main man we won’t have as much steel in the middle of the park as he’ll be operating in the more attacking areas of the pitch. Without sounding like a José Mourinho clone, I’d be tempted to cash in on Lanzini to get someone in who is potentially more adept to their defensive duties, but don’t worry I’ll find another way… A ball winning midfielder will help us retain possession, launch a counter attack and aid the rest of the team.
The middle of the park is where we have our best talent. Lanzini and Obiang are 2 great passing and creative midfielders. Lanzini is our primary attacking playmaker and that’s exactly where he’s going to be played to get the best out of him. With that we’re lacking bodies in the middle of the park. So to cover for this I’m going to play Obiang as a deep lying playmaker in the role of defend. If we need a bit more creativity I may later change this to support, but at the moment as I make this tactic, the Mourinho in me doesn’t want to take that risk.
The next issue we have is mainly created by longer term injuries. Our only natural left winger, Ayew, is currently out injured for the next 2-3 months. As well as that we only have one recognised striker in Calleri as Carroll is out for 3 to 4 months, and Sakho is out for 2-3. I would love to play Andy Carroll when he is fit, if we can keep him fit. 2 up top I could see working really well, but for the time being, I’m going to play Calleri up top as an advanced forward. This lets him play on the shoulder, chase the ball down and lay it off to teammates and give Lanzini the space to do what he’s best at just behind. That leaves me with one player left to fit in the team. We have a wealth of right sided players, Feghouli is a natural winger, Antonio is a natural wide target man, and Snodgrass is a natural inside forward. I would love to play Antonio is a wide target man. Mainly so that when we play against some of the bigger teams he can mark attacking full backs and use his power against them to win long balls, providing us with an extra counter attacking outlet. If we clear the ball to Antonio, he can hold up the ball before laying it off to oncoming playmakers, before getting inside himself and providing us with a kind of wide second striker/Target Man. Mario Mandzukic vs Barcelona anyone?
Playing Antonio wide would mean we don’t necessarily need as much width on the right hand side. And to give us that extra steel I crave in the centre, playing the right back as an inverted full back, would give us a bit more defensive support in the middle of the park. Obiang could then be used in the role of support as there’s an extra body inside helping Kouyaté. This could be something I experiment with, but at the moment, I think it may be interesting to see where this goes. I’m also give the left back more of an attacking role to get up and down the pitch, and really make use of the space on the left hand side. We can also make the shape a little more asymmetric to help to balance the team a little bit more.
Going into the opening fixtures I want to play quite attacking. I want to exploit Antonio’s role down the right, and really use him to hold up play and get others into the game before drifting inside himself. I want to win the ball back quite quickly to launch those counter attacks and really use Taylor down the left hand side to stretch the opposition and give Lanzini, Calleri and Antonio some space to play in. Will it work? Who knows!
This concludes part one of the tactics post. In another post I’ll be updating the tactic by looking at some opposition instructions, set piece instructions, and with any tweaks I decide to make between now and after a few of the opening premier league fixtures. I’ve really tried to implement something different which I think could work, and only time will tell if it does. If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading,