Hi all, if you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw my tweet during last Sunday about the “Distribute To Full Backs” instruction which I have set to my goalkeeper(s). When I was on my way to my real life job I thought about it while I was stuck in a traffic jam and I decided to write something more about, above 140 characters.
It was one of the first tactical changes I made after a couple of matches when FM17 arrived. I’m not sure if I saw too many long balls during previous versions but during my first matches with this edition, I grew really frustrated that my goalkeeper started each new attack with a long ball to the half line: that was typically the end of our possession as opponent’s defenders easily get the ball.
When the fifth or sixth match ended and my nervous system returned to normal my next step was to check passing stats of my keeper.
It’s very easy to find out what was good and what was wrong. Just go to player XY profile → Reports → Analysis and then choose match you want to analyse…
…or you can go to specific match → Analysis → Players and choose Passes from the drop down menu. And if you click on the single player icon in the pitch you can watch highlight or linked events.
As I wrote on Twitter, the “Distribute To Full Backs” was probably the most important thing what I could instruct to my goalkeeper to do.
What the game says is: “Distribute To Full Backs asks the goalkeeper to primarily seek out his full backs when distributing the ball from his possession.”
When we take a look at the start of this save, we played without this instruction. Our keeper #1 was 22 years old Stuart Moore.
Let’s take a look some matches. The first one is from October 2016 when we played against Nottingham Forest. We can see 25 passes in the analysis, divided between “completed” and “intercepted”. The first thing you find out is there much more “orange” coloured arrows: that means more intercepted passes.
Sixteen of the 25 passes were intercepted at the half-way line by the opponent’s players. Only nine passes were collected by our players.
It does not matter if it was a goal kick or a long ball after the pass from a defender or a long ball after some more difficult situation after close down play by the opponents almost every ball ended like these…
Here we have four pictures of passing stats by Stuart Moore from October 2016. As you can see in all of these matches he had more intercepted passes. The match against Derby was extreme as he completed only six passes from 25.
I know that the success or failure of passes also depends on the movement of the rest players or on the height, jumping reach and other attributes, but the outcome “long ball all day long” strategy is clear at first sight.
Life with “Distribute To Full Backs” instruction
I think you will agree that I was not able to continue without some changes 🙂 It would very depressing to watch if I did not change things. So, we’re now in March 2021, we’re Premier League club after promotion from Championship and our keeper #1 is Luke Southwood, one of the players from Reading FC academy.
As you can see, he is only one year older than Moore in our example from 2016 but the big difference is his passing attribute – 9. Moore had just 2.
What I changed during the time? Our goalkeepers have instructions Distribute To Full Backs, Fewer Risky Passes, Roll It Out and Shorter Passing.
I don’t want to see so many lost passes and long balls to the half line. I want to build up our attacks if we have the ball. As I play with 4-3-1-2 narrow tactic with the short passing style I want our keeper is able to distribute the ball to the full backs in almost all occasions.
The Roll It Out’ instruction is very simple. As the game itself says it: “asks the goalkeeper to roll the ball out to a nearby player when distributing from his possession.”
I set this instruction because our keeper is able to pass the ball to full-backs in more challenging plays when the opponent’s players close him down or when we have a free-kick from our half and he is able to find the nearest player.
I shared this GIF on Twitter and the change is massive…
Linked events of this goal…
And of course, there are changes in stats as well. This picture is from the most recent game I’ve played so far in this save. It was EFL Cup Final against Arsenal and Southwood had 30 passes – 5 intercepted & 25 completed!
After these changes, I saw big improvements in our overall play. Our keepers were calmer and patient in most situations. They took much more free kicks from our own half so we were able to bring all players into the game and we had more options how to take free kicks.
Last five matches of Luke Southwood and stats of his passes:
- EFL Cup Final vs. Arsenal – 25 completed & 5 intercepted
- Europa League vs. Lazio – 22 completed & 4 intercepted
- Premier League vs. West Brom – 29 completed & 3 intercepted
- Europa League vs. Lazio (1st game) – 26 completed & 3 intercepted
- Premier League vs. Crystal Palace – 12 completed & 1 intercepted
I like to check these stats after matches as there are some differences in matches according to whether we were playing smaller, comparable, or bigger clubs. In the screen from Crystal Palace match, Southwood had the very easy game. We won 4-0 and they had no chances, only two shots on target and they were defending for almost the whole match.
On the other hand, we played Chelsea two weeks before and this match ended 2-2. Southwood was under much greater pressure and his stats were worse.
Back to 2016, when Luke Southwood was 18 years old and he was our keeper #3 and he played mainly for Under 23s. This last picture is from the match against Arsenal Under 23s and it’s the match before the tactical changes. As you can see, his stats for passes were awful, just as in the example with Stuart Moore above…
And that’s all my readers. Many thanks for your support on Twitter and on my blog and thank you for reading this piece.
Thanks for reading, @FMRensie. Take care!