Cutting corners (1).
Don't be fooled by the sepia image - I reckon you can still do useful things from corners in the latest version of FM. Photo: planetradio.co.uk. Effects by lunapic.

Cutting corners (1).

I like to start at the very lowest levels in my Football Manager saves: there’s something earthy about a Northern Irish third division match in front of about 40 hardy souls, all long since inured to the disappointment that their teams bring them. savcs

In the future, I’ll talk more about this, and how I am doing it, but the point of this website is to use data in order to gain an edge in FM, in a win-at-all-costs kind of way – the mentality is more José Mourinho in the decade from about 2003, in that it doesn’t matter what I have to do to succeed, so long as I succeed. Purists will argue that a management simulator, is a management simulator, is a management simulator, and should be treated as the video game it is, but, from my perspective, the relative triumph of leading the 11th-best team in Northern Ireland’s bottom league to seventh place, means I am unconcerned about what taboos I must break.

Essentially, then, I have heavily modified FM’s database, creating in the process 48 identical teams, with identical, unsackable human managers, and a squad full of identical players, whose every attribute is 10.

It doesn’t matter how hard, or how badly, they train – their attributes won’t rise, or dip, below 10 (even though in the screenshot above, it claims that some have risen, they haven’t.) Every one of the 64 players, in the 48 squads, is similarly frozen. Every player, and, thus, every team, is exactly as good as its opponent, and, thus, any interesting outcomes I do manage to observe, are to do with the formations, roles, duties, team instructions, and player instructions, applied, and not to do with the the fact that one the teams has vastly superior resources to its opponent.

As someone from England, raised on a diet of Graham Taylor’s national team of the early 1990s, one of the other things I can measure in FM, is the effect of set pieces – specifically, on this occasion, attacking corners. The late Taylor may have lamented his team’s inability to knock it, but he did love a good inswinging free-kick or corner. This preference wasn’t simply him deciding what he liked, and sticking rigidly to it in spite of evidence to the contrary, because he was more intelligent than that – he observed what worked, and what didn’t, in a real-world, pressurised version of what I’m trying to do here.

So, what types of attacking corners do work in Football Manager 22, then? Again, briefly, I set my edited teams up (I just allocated them a number), with identical 4-4-2 formations (in the hope, as above, of cancelling out any statistical noise), then created 48 different attacking corner routines, and ran FM22 in holiday mode, for a full season. Once I’ve ascertained seems to work best, I’ll run another season, with unsuccessful routines removed, and replaced with ones which are similar to whatever brings success.

As we can see, teams 3, 45, 5, 48, and 23, were in the top 10 or so per cent of performers in the season-long test I conducted. But, what are they actually doing?

Team 3, who are the joint most-successful from attacking corners, are aiming at the near stick, with a man lurking there, another one attacking the far post, and two others in the area.

Team 45, the other most-successful team, with seven goals in their 47 matches, are also going for the near post. There’s a man attacking the near post, someone else lurking there, and a far-post lurker. There are two others in the box, looking to cause problems.

The next three teams, the first of which is number five, managed five corner goals in their 47 fixtures:

This time, the ball’s being slung at the edge of the box, where there’s a man waiting to receive it. There’s someone waiting for it to arrive at the far post, a player quietly biding his time in the vicinity of the near post, and another pair getting forward into the area.

What about team 48?

Well, this time, they’re looking to hit the six-yard box, and the area itself has a lurker on each post, someone attacking near, and, again, two others doing their stuff.

As for 23?

This is another setup aiming for the edge of the box, with a lurker and an attacker on both posts, and another player in the area. We’ve two men outside the box, waiting to pick up scraps.

It’s useful information, in the sense that I know I am looking to find a routine which can score more than seven goals a season, but, as nice as the screenshots of the routines are, I wondered if there was a better way of expressing it. I don’t know whether the below is better, but it is different:

KEY: sb, stay back; gf, go forward; lnr, lurk near; lfr, lurk far; np, near post; fp, far post; loa, lurk outside area; edge, edge of area.

What we can observe is that nobody marks the keeper, at all, and nobody ever comes short to the corner-taker, either. I confess to a feeling of disappointment about the keeper-marking. I see it as such a staple of lower-division football – getting in the keeper’s face, blocking his vision, crowding him out. Seemingly, though, it’s not something you need in Football Manager 2022. Mixed, and short corners don’t cut it, either – make your mind up, and get it sent to the near post, the edge of the box, or into it.

I wonder if I can use that information, to beat seven goals in a season? We’ll find out after I run some more tests.

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