You’ve put together a strong team, you’ve trained them up, set a formation and tactics and told them what you expect to see; now all that remains is for them to go out onto the pitch and bring home the victory. If everything has gone according to plan then match day should be an enjoyable spectator experience and you’ll get away with an encouraging word at half-time and maybe a substitution to rest one of your star players when you know the result is in the bag. If things go wrong then you’ll need to do a lot more than that.
Managing a Match
Unless you are very confident that you are the stronger or the weaker team then start the game with a Standard strategy and wait to see how things develop. Picking the wrong approach from the kick-off can ensure a nasty defeat and if you find yourself three goals down at half-time you are going to struggle to turn things around.
You have a wide choice of different angles on the action in the TV view. I like the Touchline camera view personally and I don’t bother with replays but you can set the controls up however you like. You can also check on various stats and player health as the match progresses. To save you from having to exit the action and go into the Tactics screen you can select Quick Tactics and Instructions from the menu at the top left. The Quick Tactics are handy when you want to make a quick substitution or try to lock down an opposition player who is giving you trouble.
In the Instructions menu you’ll find you can change your overall strategy. If you start off with Standard but find you are being relentlessly attacked then switch down to Counter, for example. You’ll also find a big list of Touchline Instructions that you can shout to your players. These are great for making quick tactical tweaks and reacting to the action on the pitch. Use them fairly sparingly though because chopping and changing too much is liable to have a detrimental impact on your team.
The most powerful tool at your disposal during matches is the ability to make substitutions. With the right substitution at the right time you can make a big impact on the pitch. It should be obvious but when you are choosing your bench, try to cover as many positions as possible in case of injury and always include a goalie. It may be tempting not to, because you’ll rarely want to substitute your keeper, but on that one occasion when he gets injured or sent off you’re going to be in serious trouble if you don’t have a goalie to sub on.
Sometimes players are just going to have a nightmare. The sooner you realise it and sub them off, the better. If a player makes a big mistake early on it’s quite unlikely they’ll recover to have a good match so consider subbing them.
You will probably find that you’ll sub attacking midfielders and strikers the most. They are likely to tire towards the end of a match and the right substitution up front can snatch a draw or win for you from a losing position.
Remember you still have the option of giving an individual team talk when you bring a player on. Telling a player that they can make the difference for you can have a good impact if they’re feeling down about not being in the starting line-up.
Even if the match goes perfectly and you find yourself a few goals up you are going to want to consider making substitutions to rest players. It depends on your system but you’ll find full backs, wing backs and wingers will probably tire the quickest, along with attacking midfielders and strikers. If there’s no need for a tactical substitution then check the physical condition of your players and just sub off the lowest rated. This could help prevent an injury and ensure they are fit for the next match.
You may also have a youngster that you want to develop. While they may not be ready to start a match subbing them on can be a great way of getting them some experience. Just pick your time carefully, 3-0 up at home is a lot more sensible than when you are 2-2 away.
Remember when you sub a player on to change the role if it doesn’t suit them. If you sub on a youngster who would make a great poacher but he’s replacing a target man who is great in the air then you’ll need to change the role or he’ll try to play like the player he is replacing and probably have a bad game.
At any time during the match you can pause the action and take a look at the Split View, Analysis and Stats tabs. They are all handy for checking up on how your team is faring and finding out whether certain players are not pulling their weight. You can also check up on where you are having success in terms of attacks and where the opposition is breaking through on your goal and make some tweaks accordingly.
This process is also just a part of watching the game. By watching the action you’ll soon see that all your attacks are focussed down the left and that the opposing right back is not handling it, or that your opposition is finding too much space in front of your defence. You may then want to tell your team to focus passes down the left wing, or bring a defensive midfielder on and tweak your formation to deal with the opposition threat.
It’s also worth checking this info after each match as you may identify a pattern that needs to be addressed with a new formation, different tactics or a new signing.
Managing a match in Football Manager 2012 is a lot of fun and it’s very satisfying to change the course and get the result you want, but inevitably there will be matches where it just doesn’t go your way, that’s football. If it all goes wrong then just pick yourself up and focus on the next game.