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Foxy

Historic Tactics In FMM: Ramsey's Wingless Wonders


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The 30th July 1966 is a date etched into the minds of all English football fans as our finest hour and it’s something we never let the other nations of the UK forget. This article is going to be my attempt at recreating the tactic that Sir Alf Ramsey used on that momentous day against the Germans and see if I can bring World Cup glory to the nation using a 52 year old tactic.

The History

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Last year I did two articles were I tried to recreate historic tactics on FMM17. The first looked at the “WM” formation that Herbert Chapman used during the 1930’s at Arsenal and the second was the Brazilian World Cup 1958 winning 4-2-4. The 4-2-4 developed from the “WM” as well as other ideas around the time and the tactic Ramsey used and which got dubbed the “wingless wonders” was created as a reaction to the prevalence and success of the 4-2-4 during the 60’s so I think all three article tie in quite well. Many of the top teams used the 4-2-4 to great effect including Brazil and also the Celtic team which won the 1966 European Cup and two years later the Man Utd team which did the same. The problem the 4-2-4 had was that it left you very open in midfield and unless you could get the ball to the two wingers they were ineffective especially with teams using a flat back four with the fullbacks marking the wingers out of the game, in fact Ramsey was quoted as saying “To have two players stuck out wide on the flanks is a luxury which can virtually leave a side with nine men when the game is going against them.” he was worried about the age old problem England have and that’s being outmanoeuvred by more skilful teams in midfield.

In giving himself the extra bodies in midfield he started to develop a 4-4-2 but with a narrow diamond midfield but he kept this specifically for tougher opposition during the tournament . During the warm up games he experimented with a lopsided 4-3-3 where he kept a winger on one side and dropped a man back into midfield as well as using a 4-2-4 to compare the differences and to see which was best for the team and also to hide his new ideas from watching scouts. Once the tournament began he still used the lopsided 4-3-3 during the group stages to moderate success as they played out a 0-0 draw versus Uruguay and then 2-0 wins against Mexico and France.

Once the knockout stages began Ramsey moved to the diamond midfield as they took on Argentina in the quarter finals. The game was a physical battle but one that England came out of with a 1-0 win thanks to a Hurst goal and Nobby Stiles marking Argentina’s star man Onega out of the game. Stiles, who played at the bottom point of the triangle as an anchorman, was again the key man in the semi-final as he nullified the threat of Portugal’s Eusebio. This game is considered England’s finest performance of the tournament as they progressed to the final with a 2-1 win against a very skilful Portuguese team containing probably the 2nd best striker in the world behind Pele, Eusebio.

The final is the most famous match in English football history and even more so with Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous commentary as Geoff Hurst slammed the ball into the roof of the net for England’s fourth and his hat-trick goal.

   

Spoiler

 

The Germans took the lead in the final following a mistake by LB Ray Wilson but the German midfield two of Beckenbauer and Overath simply couldn’t cope with the numbers in the England midfield and they were reduced to playing long balls forward and giving away possession. With Alan Ball and Martin Peters dominating the midfield this gave the two full backs Ray Wilson and George Cohen the chance to venture forwards more as well. Despite England taking a 2-1 lead the Germans did what they do best and found a way to equalise from a dubious (based on what was considered a foul in the 60’s) freekick in the final moments and take the game to extra time. England’s third goal is famous for the fact that no one truly knows if it crossed the line or not but what it also shows is how England used it’s extra men in midfield to its advantage. A long hit and hope ball by Germany was headed away and Stiles picked up the 2nd ball and played a long raking pass forward for Ball to run onto in plenty of space and cross for Hurst who controlled, turned and shot with the ball coming off the underside of the bar and before bouncing behind or on the line depending on your nationality. His strike partner Roger Hunt was convinced it went in as he celebrated instead of trying to follow up the rebound to score himself as you can see in TV footage of the goal.

Spoiler

 

Hurst’s hat-trick goal right at the end of extra time was the icing on the cake and England had won there one and only World Cup.

The Wingless Wonders In FMM

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As with many formations of teams both nowadays and in the past the basic shape can be hard to pin down and it may be shown in different ways depending on the source and that is the case here as I have found it shown as a midfield diamond as above as well as Ball and Peters pushed alongside Bobby Charlton to make a 4-1-3-2 or Charlton dropped back in line with Ball and Peters in the centre midfield. Having read how the team played and then tried to match the players roles to the roles we have in the game I feel like a diamond midfield is best suited to what I can do in FMM.

 

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The Player Roles

Goalkeeper: Gordan Banks was a fine shot stopper and a commanding presence in an age when goalkeepers didn’t get the protection they do these days. I have gone for a standard goalkeeper role here.

Full backs: As I mentioned earlier in the match versus Germany the two England fullbacks Cohen and Wilson found plenty of space to get forward because of the dominance in numbers England had in the midfield. I have gone for wingbacks here to try and achieve the same thing but they will play in the back line just as they would have back in ’66 as they would have had to content with the out and out wingers they faced in the German team as well.

Centre backs: I have gone for a CD and a BPD to mirror the style of players Jack Charlton and Bobby Moore were. Bobby Moore was the captain of the team and one of the greatest footballers England has ever produced. Had he been around today he would have been very comfortable in the modern game as he was calm and confident on the ball as can be seen in the clip above of England’s fourth and final goal. Instead of booting it anywhere up the pitch in the final seconds of the game he has the composure to pick a perfect 40 yard pass for Geoff Hurst. Jack Charlton was your typical uncompromising centre half who was brought into the team to provide cover behind Moore when he moved up the pitch.

Anchor Man: Nobby Stiles was the the unsung hero of the team as he provided vital cover in front of the back four and was crucial in wins against Argentina and Portugal as he nullified the star men of both teams. He was a beneficiary of Ramsey’s change of system as he wasn’t considered to have the all-round game in play in a midfield two.

Centre Midfielders: This was where I had the biggest debate with the roles. I have a BBM in the Alan Ball position on the right as much of what I have read talks about how Alan who was only 19 in 1966 was the engine room of the side and covered every blade of grass during the game. Alongside him was Martin Peters who was described as the complete midfielder. To me that means he could do a bit of everything in both attack and defence and I did consider a BBM there as well but I felt that CM would be more of a realistic assessment of his role in the team.

Attacking Midfield: The undoubted star of English football at the time was Bobby Charlton who was younger brother of Jack. He had to drop deeper in this new system that England deployed but he was always a goal threat especially with his thunderbolt long shots and because he would have joined up with the strikers I have gone for the SS role here.

Strikers:  Ramsey was a manager who knew his own mind and when star striker Jimmy Greaves got injured before the group stage Geoff Hurst was brought in. Despite not being as talented as Greaves, Ramsey found that Hurst offered more to the team with his strength, aerial ability and his holding up of the ball so when Greaves returned Hurst kept his place in the team. I have got the Hurst role down as a TM in my team.

Hurst’s strike partner for the final was Liverpool’s Roger Hunt despite many fans and the press calling for Greaves to play. Hunt is still Liverpool’s all time league top goal scorer and was renowned as a quick and clinical striker. I think AF fits the Hunt role perfectly.

Team Instructions

Spoiler

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This can be the hardest bit to work out with these reconstructions as there isn’t a huge amount to go on. As you can see from the above screenshots I have kept things quite simple and balanced in the team shape with only narrow being selected here so that the team remain compact as Ramsey wanted them to be. In defence I have kept it all neutral with the only big decision being the tackling. Obviously the rules on tackling were more relaxed back then and tackles that would be a red today weren’t even given a yellow but England weren’t considered a dirty team so I think normal reflects that. In attack I have chosen early crosses as wing back’s in those days weren’t the converted wingers they are nowadays and they would have been very focused on their defensive duties so wouldn’t have gone too far forward to cross the ball. Passing style is mixed because as we have seen with two of the goals England would play the longer ball when they needed to.

So we have the tactic but what is the best way to test it? In a World Cup of course!

 I took charge of the three lions to see whether a new crop of wingless wonders could bring home the cup. I am writing this before I play the tournament and my prediction based on the final qualifiers and friendlies is that I will do Ok against the weaker teams but we will get found out towards the latter stages of the tournament when we come up against teams that will have the talent to exploit the wide areas.

This isn’t a career post but if you want to read a cracking England World Cup career I recommend you check out @Woody after you have finished this article. I will put a link at the end of the article.

I used the tactic in every game with the only changes being the obvious one’s of going more attacking if I was behind just as England would have done.

We took on Brazil in the first game and I have a couple of screenshots from the 1-1 draw that show a couple of the things I have mentioned above.

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This screenshot shows how narrow we played and it worked quite well against a Brazil team that had no wingers either in the 4-3-3 they played. I also think it mirrors well with this screenshot from the actual World Cup final which shows the narrowness of the England midfield.

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I mentioned how Nobby Stiles was used to nullify the attacking threat of the opposition by sitting in front of the back four and you can see this in action here as Eric Dier (no 6) is cutting off the passing routes between Neymar and his other two strike partners.

We progressed through the group stage with that draw versus Brazil and then wins over Slovakia (3-1) and Senegal (2-0) to win the group. I forgot the season changes during the tournament so I can’t get any stats from these games except the Senegal game.

Spoiler

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What I was finding is that we weren’t creating a large number of shots on goal because we were very easy to defend against in central areas and lacked the width to get down the side of teams but we were being quite efficient in putting away the chances we had.

In the first knockout stage we got a good win over Portugal to set up a quarter final with Italy but Injuryies to Harry Kane, Ashely Barnes and Tammy Abraham meant I only had Rashford left as a fit striker with everyone else out injured so Joe Gomez had to go up front in this game (he did score though) and the Italy game.

Spoiler

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It was the usual story for England with an heroic defeat at the quarter final stage with Alexander-Arnold becoming a national pariah by getting sent off.

Spoiler

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One problem this game highlighted was that with no wingers my strikers kept drifting wide which wasn’t didn’t seem in keeping with the ’66 team where Ball and Peters played both in the centre but would then push out wide when England had the ball. I did test with using wide midfielders but that was the opposite problem as they didn’t come into the centre enough so it is a limitation with the match engine and the roles we have available to us unfortunately. The screenshot below shows the problem as our make shift target man Joe Gomez has the ball out wide when I would really want him in the box to get on the end of the cross it is nice to see the SS getting into a striker position though.

Spoiler

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 So unfortunately I couldn’t replicate Sir Alf Ramsey’s success with this tactic but I think the real beauty of what Ramsey did was he found a way of using the players he had available to him that got the best out of them and exploited the weakness’ in the opposition. He was never afraid to make a big decision if he felt it was for the benefit of the team such as not playing Greaves or picking unfashionable players like Stiles and Jack Charlton who didn’t win his first cap until he was 30 when he made his debut versus Scotland in 1965. These decisions put him at odds with the FA and at times the fans but ultimately he took on the impossible job and made the impossible happen.

Link to @Woody World Cup career

I hope you enjoyed this article and thank you for reading. y

 

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Nice write up mate.

Really makes you thinking differently about how we view tactics.

Even back then they still had abit of complexity about them but still being simple to implement. 

Well done.

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Great article once again @Foxy, well researched and well implemented but there is only so much you can do with the 3 scums (I mean lions) :P

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Trying to forcefeed our FMM players with real tactics is one of the things I love about this game. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't but the ride is what keeps lots of us going. 

Quality article, Fox 👍 

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The 2018 Article Of The Year Awards

They think it's all over, it is now! 

Sensational work @Foxy, this is top draw work and super interesting. The information from real life and in game is fantastic and right in line with what I enjoy, well done mate!

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Thank you for all your kind comments.

These are my favourite articles to research and write but I'm well aware they aren't everyones cup of tea and I dont expect high views for this. I can live with that as I do what makes me happy and one article like this with a few 100 views makes me happier than 10 clickbait articles with 3k views on each one but knowing that others enjoyed it as well is always a bonus😀

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