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Article Historic Formations in FMM - The Chapman WM.

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Historic Formations - Herbert Chapmans ‘WM’

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I hope that this will be the first in a series of occasional articles that take formations and tactics from the history of football and try to use them in FMM.

Herbert Chapman is considered as one of the first true football managers. He would manage Northampton Town, Leeds City (they folded in 1919 and Leeds Utd where formed), Huddersfield Town and Arsenal. During his time many football teams where picked by committees of board members and the manager was merely an office job. There was also minimal tactics or game plan and only very basic training. Herbert Chapman was a new breed of manager who took complete control of the team from tactics to transfers. Chapman is most remembered for his time as manager of Arsenal who he managed from 1925 up to his death in 1934. He joined them from Huddersfield (after being offered double the money in wages so some things never change) where he had won the title the previous two seasons. During his time at Arsenal he implemented rigorous training regimes, floodlighting at Highbury stadium for training (he supported the idea of night matches but the FA wouldn’t sanction them) and was even involved in the design of Arsenals kit (including numbered shirts) helping to implement the famous red and white they still wear today. It took Chapmans Arsenal 5 years to win the league but by then he had perfected his tactics and Arsenal went on to become the dominate team in England over the 1930s winning five league titles (2 under Chapman) and two FA cups.

The name Herbert Chapman is synonymous with a formation known as the ‘WM’. As is often the case Chapman didn’t invent this formation but he was the one who perfected it. In 1925 the FA changed the offside rule which meant instead of three opponents players being needed between the goal when the ball is played it became only two. Chapman originally didn’t adapt to this change and stuck with the 2-3-5 formation most teams used at the time. A 7-0 lose to Newcastle who used a new tactic of dropping one of the midfielders known as half backs at the time back into defence to become a centre back. Chapmans innovation was to bring the inside forwards back into the attacking midfield position. The two diagrams below will show the changes he made. The names of the positions are what they would have been called in the 1920s and 30s.

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The WM in FMM17

I have started out with something which I think is a decent representation of the Chapman WM. We are talking about tactics that were used 90 years ago but I have tried to base it on what I have read in researching this article. Chapman used wingers that cut inside from their wide position so what we call inside forwards today. It is also thought that Arsenal were one of the first teams to use playmakers especially from deep positions. Arsenal where famous for their counter attacking football but I have stayed away from clicking counter attack as I’m not convinced that would be good with only one CB. Direct passing should bring a certain amount of quick counters. Monreal played as a FB not a WB. Committed passing was a must as I don’t think players held back in the 1920s!

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The first game I played was vs Man Utd.

We lost 1-0 in what proved to be quite a dull game. Zlatan scored an excellent 20 yard strike after 1 minute. I have a couple screenshots that will show my thoughts on this set-up.

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We look pretty solid at the back here especially as Man Utd aren’t committing many men forward. The area I have ringed is a worry point for me. My 2 attacking midfielders aren’t very interested at tracking back and this area is wide open to a team that wants to attack it.

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I don’t think any graphics are needed for this one. We are on the attack but we have a complete lack of width in the team. The two FBs have tucked in and are playing more as the wide CBs in a back 3 would play. Up front the inside forwards are doing as expected and have moved into wide striker positions. This means all our play is being funnelled into the centre of the pitch and Man Utd look very strong in the their defensive third.

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The game was pretty even with only Zlatans piece of magic separating us. We had more possession which was probably because of the numbers we had centrally and plenty of shots. We never created a clear cut chance in the game and many of our shot where from outside the box which reduces our chances of scoring. I think this was because we lacked an outlet out wide so all our attacks where funnelled towards the wall of defenders Mourinho put up.

Game 2 was vs Bournemouth

I made some changes based on what I saw in the last game. We won 2-1 in an end to end match.

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The team instructions stayed the same. I moved the IFs back to see if they would start a little wider instead of being on top of the striker who played DLF so he would drop back into the hole and hold it up for the IFs to join the attack. The midfield pair stayed on the same roles but dropped back into central midfield to fill that gap. I did consider a BBM instead of the but decided I didn’t need him dropping to far back as we have 2 DMC.

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We are on the attack early in the game and straight away you can see that we still don’t have a great deal of width to the team. The gap in midfield has been closed with the CM much closer to the man with the ball. The AP has moved into a more advanced midfield position and is a good option for a pass. Bournemouth played with 2 up top which was a good test of only having 1 CB.

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Sorry theirs a lot going on in this picture. Let’s start with the IFs who are ringed in black. They have stayed forward and are giving the FBs of Bournemouth something to think about and stopping them from joining the attack which is good. My FBs have tucked in and we look like we have 3 CBs (ringed in red). This leaves the flanks open for the Bournemouth wingers to attack. If the ball goes out to the wings the FB can move across to stop the cross but this can cause confusion in our defence and we are in danger of being overloaded at the back. In this instance our numbers in midfield help as they snuff out the danger.

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We see again how narrow we are on the attack. I have ringed the forwards in black. Look how close they are together and that they are all being picked up by defenders. It would take a miracle ball to break down the defence in this instance. If I changed the FBs to WBs I would expect our left WB to be where the arrow is and that would help with providing more width to our attacks but could leave us very exposed at the back. On this occasion we look pretty well set at the back with our DM shielding our CB.

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Again it was a pretty even game. We had more shots but didn’t create any clear cut chances despite scoring 2 goals. The interesting stat to me is that we never completed a single cross. I doubt we put very many crosses into the box due to us being so narrow.

 

I decided to play one more game vs Middlesbrough and see if I can correct the problem of a lack of width whilst keeping the ‘WM’ formation. The game finished 1-1.

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I changed the IFs to wingers to provide more width in attack and changed Giroud back to a TM as it’s his best role.

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We are on the attack here with Sanchez dribbling into the box. We have a better spread of players than before where everyone was standing on top of each other. This cross lead to our goal as Sanchez crossed in for Giroud to head home.

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We are on the attack in the final minute and again you can see we have much more width to our attack. Ozil passed the ball out to the left flank and then got into the box for the cross. Although we didn’t get a goal we opened up the opposition defence better than in previous games where we needed the perfect killer pass to open them up.

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 We actually managed a clear cut chance in this game. It was pretty even again as reflected to the score line but I was more encouraged by what I saw in the game. The added width from the wingers made us less predictable in attack and it would be how I would move forward with this tactic.

 

This article wasn’t about creating a killer tactic but to see how an historic formation would work in game. I’m sure that with some more tinkering and some additions to the squad it could be made to work. It must be remembered that it took Chapman 5 years to build a team and tactic that worked perfectly as one. Arsenal from this period where often described as a machine this is testament to Chapmans methods that he created a team that worked so perfectly together.

 Herbert Chapman goes down in history as one of Arsenal greatest managers and footballs great innovators and it’s because of people like him we have the game we know and love today. Had he been born 100 years later I’m convinced he would have fitted in perfectly with modern football.

I hope you have enjoyed this look back at an historic formation and thank you for reading.

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Very interesting read and clearly a lot of work put into the research and background.

Great concept, well illustrated and written.  I look forward to the next few.

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Brilliant again mate, quality is going up every article you post. Great layout, thoroughly enjoyable analysis and just a pleasure to read. Hoping this becomes a regular series.

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25 minutes ago, Massey127 said:

Very interesting read and clearly a lot of work put into the research and background.

Great concept, well illustrated and written.  I look forward to the next few.

 

15 minutes ago, samhardy said:

Brilliant again mate, quality is going up every article you post. Great layout, thoroughly enjoyable analysis and just a pleasure to read. Hoping this becomes a regular series.

 

14 minutes ago, mcandrew003 said:

Great work!

Thank you guys (y)

I have some more tactics I plan to do but I'm always open to suggestions as well. It doesn't have to be from 90 years ago but don't want to do 21st century.

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That's what I enjoy the most in FMM trying to recreate specific styles of play for specific teams or such as this make old or odd or new tactics work.

Great read!

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Very Interesting! I've always been interested in such formations! Really interesting to see how historic formations do in the current era!

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Brilliant work mate, another golden piece!

Replicating real life tactics is one of the aspects that intrigues me the most in Football Manager.

I'm wondering if your defensive plan would have less "holes" if you opted for a combo of Regista and Anchorman or Regista and Halfback for your central midfielders. These 3 roles are the most efficient/effective on the defensive end, on regular FM at least. 

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2 minutes ago, Jeroenvk94 said:

Seems like a solid tactic, I'm going to give this a go in my Dortmund career.

Would be very interested to see how you get on with it. I preferred the 3rd version with wingers as it gave more width in attack but I would try making the CM into a BBM to see if he would get into the box more often and create better chances.

3 hours ago, Stam said:

Brilliant work mate, another golden piece!

Replicating real life tactics is one of the aspects that intrigues me the most in Football Manager.

I'm wondering if your defensive plan would have less "holes" if you opted for a combo of Regista and Anchorman or Regista and Halfback for your central midfielders. These 3 roles are the most efficient/effective on the defensive end, on regular FM at least. 

Thanks Stam glad you enjoyed it.

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10 minutes ago, fuddledfoxFM said:

Would be very interested to see how you get on with it. I preferred the 3rd version with wingers as it gave more width in attack but I would try making the CM into a BBM to see if he would get into the box more often and create better chances.

Thanks Stam glad you enjoyed it.

Well if you don't use wingers and you keep a compact playing field, the main thing is to adjust your passing settings. In a small field you're going to use short passing through the center. In your settings the passing was direct, perhaps that might've been the thing.

However I play Dortmund, so I need to use the wingers, I have plenty ( Reus, Dembele, Schürrle, Mor, Brandt )

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Another amazing piece of writing dude, thoroughly enjoyable read once again.

The depth you put in is amazing and it's implemented very well, and like you say, it's not about creating that killer tactic, its about the history of the game that brought us all here (football not FMM)

Keep up the excellent work dude

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12 minutes ago, Taff said:

Another amazing piece of writing dude, thoroughly enjoyable read once again.

The depth you put in is amazing and it's implemented very well, and like you say, it's not about creating that killer tactic, its about the history of the game that brought us all here (football not FMM)

Keep up the excellent work dude

Thanks mate. I had lot fun researching and writing (yes sad I know😉) this so expect few more of these

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17 minutes ago, fuddledfoxFM said:

Thanks mate. I had lot fun researching and writing (yes sad I know😉) this so expect few more of these

Can't wait mate, wish I had your passion

You ever need a research assistant my wife is an excellent researcher (knows nothing about football but can research anything) 

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10 minutes ago, Taff said:

Can't wait mate, wish I had your passion

You ever need a research assistant my wife is an excellent researcher (knows nothing about football but can research anything) 

Passion didn't know I had until I started doing this writing. 

If Mrs Taff could get me a 300 word report on the tactics of the Japanese team of the 60s by 8 tomorrow morning that would be great 😉😂

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7 minutes ago, fuddledfoxFM said:

Passion didn't know I had until I started doing this writing. 

If Mrs Taff could get me a 300 word report on the tactics of the Japanese team of the 60s by 8 tomorrow morning that would be great 😉😂

She'd love too

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Nicely done.  I have a couple of suggestions if you want to play out a few more games:

  1. Switch passing style to "short".  Direct passing style seems very ineffective on this engine.  In fact, everything except short is suboptimal in my experience.
  2. With short passing style, I think you'll find that width isn't as important anymore.  The engine does seem to respond well when you have wingers but IFs often work decently as well.  Could also try running APs who stay a bit wider than IFs.
  3. With that in mind, I'd suggest trying the following (using tactic #1 for placements): WB-CD-WB, DLP-DLP, AP-CM*, IF-CF-IF.

*I think AP-AP would work well also

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7 minutes ago, veerus said:

Nicely done.  I have a couple of suggestions if you want to play out a few more games:

  1. Switch passing style to "short".  Direct passing style seems very ineffective on this engine.  In fact, everything except short is suboptimal in my experience.
  2. With short passing style, I think you'll find that width isn't as important anymore.  The engine does seem to respond well when you have wingers but IFs often work decently as well.  Could also try running APs who stay a bit wider than IFs.
  3. With that in mind, I'd suggest trying the following (using tactic #1 for placements): WB-CD-WB, DLP-DLP, AP-CM*, IF-CF-IF.

*I think AP-AP would work well also

Like you I tend to prefer short passing. I went with direct as from what I had read it seemed that would of been more the style that Arsenal would of played back then. They where famous for their counter attacking football but I didn't know how the game would react to 1 CB and playing counter so I felt direct passing would be a better option. Certainly if I played this more to my own style I would use short passing but I still think I would have at least 1 wide man as a winger to get some width into the side.

Would love to see you give your set up a go with El Ejido as you move to a more attacking style with them.

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4 minutes ago, fuddledfoxFM said:

Would love to see you give your set up a go with El Ejido as you move to a more attacking style with them.

I've considered using a WM set up in the past but I don't believe the engine handles it really well when players are right next to each other vertically on the pitch (as you have the midfield in tactic #2&3).  I've actually been wanting to try a MM formation which, I think, should work pretty well on this engine with the right players.

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6 minutes ago, veerus said:

I've considered using a WM set up in the past but I don't believe the engine handles it really well when players are right next to each other vertically on the pitch (as you have the midfield in tactic #2&3).  I've actually been wanting to try a MM formation which, I think, should work pretty well on this engine with the right players.

I did notice with #2and3 that the midfield where tripping over each other at times but wasn't able to capture any decent screenshots of it happening.

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Hmm... I'm wondering in the W attacking part of the formation would work if we implemented more of a modern back 4 or back 3.

I've once used a tactic of 3 up front, FL, FC and FR, managing to force the FL and FR to stay wide. I think it was the DLF role, so they'd stay wide, slightly deep and feed the ball to the main striker. This would probably make my suggested formation of a modern back line and a W attacking block works, but it could also make the WM formation work as well.

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This was an excellent read and I hope the first of many about historical tactics! I enjoyed the style of you writing and thought referring back to the original tactic and Chapman throughout made it very clear what you wanted to say. More please Foxy!

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Should try some of the ancient formations 1-1-8, 1-2-7 and 2-2-6

The first Scottish tactics from the first international games

The Pyramid...2-3-5

The Danubian School...Variation of 2-3-5

The Metodo...2-3-2-3

And 3-3-4 and 4-2-4

These can be found on wikipedia on the football formations page

 

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16 minutes ago, Fozz_Quaker said:

Should try some of the ancient formations 1-1-8, 1-2-7 and 2-2-6

The first Scottish tactics from the first international games

The Pyramid...2-3-5

The Danubian School...Variation of 2-3-5

The Metodo...2-3-2-3

And 3-3-4 and 4-2-4

These can be found on wikipedia on the football formations page

 

It just so happens that one of these will be my next article. I'm just not going to say which one;)

Also they are not so ancient as I think @BatiGoal has used all these at some point!

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