I don’t remember the last time I paid attention to set-pieces in Football Manager. I know I should, and I know the extra goal contributions could probably have seen me secure more titles than I have in my time of lethargy. This year, as I stated way back in 0.1 | DE HERSTART, utilising set-piece routines is a key part of the slower, more hands-on, pragmatic approach I’m taking to the save.
I didn’t start this process very well.
I made this routine on both sides, slapped it onto each of the three tactics, and bang…. Set-piece prep done! With the save starting almost as soon as FM22 released, near post corners were huge. I didn’t really look into proper routines though, I just set Robert Mühren to attack the near post and aimed all of our corners there. I didn’t keep track of numbers sadly, but I don’t remember Mühren scoring many from corners, maybe 3 or 4 of his haul for the season came this way. In terms of defenders getting forward, Brian Plat scored 4 all season with Mike Eerdhuijzen getting 2, and Damon Mirani didn’t trouble the scoresheet at all. It didn’t exactly set the world alight, and yet I barely noticed, and certainly didn’t address it. Work to be done, for sure.
Going into season two, the board decided to add some new requirements to our club culture. For the purposes of this post though, the one of note is ‘Make the most of set-pieces’. There was no chance of getting it removed, especially as it’s of preferred importance, and I’ve never successfully removed even a favoured requirement. Luckily, I had an ace up my sleeve.
If you’re up to date with the posts you’ll have already seen Brendan, but I haven’t really spoken about how lucky I was to find him. Signed on a free transfer from Waasland-Beveren in Belgium, he was the first to join the club and despite looking very good felt like a risk – mainly because of his horrendous (5) natural fitness which leaves a huge hole in his Volendam DNA. However, the positives he brings mean he was worth bringing in anyway. As well as being a generally talented defender and versatile player, he offers an incredible aerial threat, hence his mention here.
6’7″ tall, with 15 Heading and 18 Jumping Reach make him an x-factor that many weaker Eredivisie sides simply won’t have. Making the most of the threat he offers is undoubtedly a key component of our survival mission, and so far, nearly half way through the season… I haven’t.
Not a single goal from a corner after 11 games, even with Brendan starting 10 of them. Why? Because all I changed was putting Brendan at the near post, even though updates have made near post corners far less effective. I’ll be honest, I actually forgot that set-pieces were a part of the club culture for a while. After what happened to me with Watford in the FM21 beta, where I was sacked after promotion for failing to uphold the culture, I was so concerned about defensive stability that set-pieces were left to stagnate a bit. Now that we’re into the extended winter break for the Qatar World Cup, I’ve had a proper look and set some proper routines.
THE NEW ROUTINES
I’ve created four routines for each side of the pitch; near post, far post, 6 yard box, and short corners. For the most part they’re identical on either side, but there are some small tweaks to account for different takers from different sides. The aim for all of them is to put the ball on Brendan’s head, it would be silly to try and do otherwise really. I’ve then tried to put another good header of the ball near him, usually Mühren, with his CB partner at whichever post he isn’t at. I’ve got no idea if they’ll work well or not, but with the routines now in place I can focus more on tweaking them depending on our line-up or opposition weaknesses. Also, with multiple routines loaded, I got this pop up for the first time ever in my illustrious(!) FM career.
6 YARD BOX
OVER IN THE NETHERLANDS…
It’s been a tough start to life in the Eredivisie. We recruited to suit the 5212 shape that we ended last season with, but truth be told, it wasn’t that convincing in the Eerste Divisie and it wasn’t getting us results early on this season. Pre-season was really good in that shape though, with a 4-1 win over AZ Alkmaar the highlight, and in the first two games of the season we also looked okay, desperately unlucky to lose to a 96th minute Twente winner, before a 2-2 draw with Heerenveen where we looked like having victory secured until a 92nd minute Marc Navarro own goal. From there, performances started to go downhill, and after 9 games we were down in 16th with just one win.
With the help of loanee Lars Dendoncker (one of three Deadline Day signings alongside Blendi Idrizi and Thijme Verheijen) we’ve started to turn things around. With Robert Mühren the only attacking player really producing and nobody capable of playing well at right wing-back, I wanted to switch back to a back 4 shape but I’ve struggled to get consistently strong performances from a number 10 in the 4231, and we aren’t in a position right now to carry a position. A switch from a double-pivot to a single-pivot has allowed the 8’s a bit more freedom, with Dendoncker as a Half Back protecting them. It’s only been three games so far, but they’ve been two very good away wins against Utrecht and Heracles Almelo, plus a convincing 7-0 win in the first round of the cup.
These wins have elevated us to 12th in the table, a position I’d be thrilled to occupy at season’s end. I’d sell a kidney for it, truth be told. Our lack of goals is a concern, just 9 in 11 games, but with set-pieces hopefully now part of the repertoire and the midfield given more license to join the attack I’m hopeful that record will improve. With a new shape, I’ve had a small reassess of the squad and moved some players around, and will probably look to start the below line-up where possible unless we can secure some January deals.
Thanks for reading, and until next time, tot ziens!