NOTE: I wrote this piece for The Byline, the official Football Manager blog.
Click HERE to read the published version, and a huge thanks to the guys at Football Manager for the opportunity!
Game management is becoming more and more vital as the tactical side of football continues to develop. For every manager who develops a revolutionary style, there’s an antithesis who aims to react to their opponent and adapt their own system to get results.
One of the most under-utilized, but potentially priceless features in Football Manager 2021 replicates this process – Match Plans.
Match Plans are a fairly simple concept, but provide a huge range of possibilities and allow for such efficiency that game management can easily become an essential part of your management repertoire. By setting instructions to carry out in different situations within a match, the team will automatically adjust their playing style without the need to micromanage this in every match.
CREATING A MATCH PLAN
As shown above, the Match Plans screen can be found in the Tactics menu. From here, multiple different plans can be created – my recommendation would be to create one for each tactic.
From there, team instructions can be added to a wide array of in-match situations, depending on the scoreline (drawing, or winning/losing by up 1-3 goals) or the duration played, split into the following:
Once the in-match situation has been chosen, it’s time to start formulating the plan. The tactic being used can be changed to either of the other two slots currently being trained, or the formation of the current tactic can be changed (bear in mind it will be set to the default roles of that formation, which may not suit). As well as that, all of the team instructions available to a tactic can also be added. Any conflicting instructions will be overridden so it’s best to try to use the match plan to tweak the current system to the situation, not overhaul it.
More than one situation can be added to each match plan, so there’s plenty of scope to cover multiple eventualities. Once the match plan is fully fleshed out, it’ll look something like the following:
SOME HANDY USES
TAKE IT EASY, LADS!
Even the fittest of sides can’t go at full tilt for a full 90 minutes, especially if they’re being asked to play a high tempo, pressing system. Why not take the opportunity to give the lads a breather by having a more passive approach for the 10 minutes after scoring a goal? Not only will it help with the side’s condition, but it will also provide extra protection against an immediate reply.
The alternative of course would be to push hard for 10 minutes if your side concede. Push high, press aggressively and play fast, direct passes to try and take advantage of any complacency from the opposition.
CHANGE OF SHAPE
With the ability to work on three different systems in training, a flexible enough squad can move seamlessly between shapes with very little disruption. Using this effectively can be a huge advantage, and in the example above, going from a 4-1-4-1 to a 4-4-2 and chucking another striker on for the last 20 minutes can help to chase the game. Just remember that match plans can’t automate substitutions, so make sure you remember to stick the big man on!
SEE IT OUT!
A goal up, and the clock ticks 85 minutes. It’s time to sharpen up and just make sure the job gets done.
Sure, you could make the same adjustments manually time after time, but the essentials of holding onto a 1-0 lead generally stay the same with such little time remaining, so why not automate the process and set up a park the bus tactic, and then use a match plan to make it kick in towards the end of the match? Again, personnel changes will have to be made, but there’s no chance of missing any vital team instructions.
Used correctly, match plans can not only be a time saver, but can also turn defeats into draws, and draws into wins.
Who doesn’t want that?
Thanks for reading.
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