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Mentality Analysis and the Football Manager Tactics Creator

What is the effect of different instructions, roles and duties on player mentality? My aim is to document the effects to get a better idea of the consequences of my choices.

By on May 09, 2020   4936 views   0 comments
Football Manager Guides - Mentality Analysis and the Football Manager Tactics Creator
I’ve decided to analyse the tactics creator in FM2020 and see the effect of different instructions, roles and duties on player mentality. This isn’t an attempt to find a magic formula, just to document the effects to help give me a better idea of the consequences of my decisions.

Introduction

I’m sure everyone is now familiar with the tactics creator. Below is an example of the default Gegenpress tactical style with a 4-1-2-3 DM Wide formation.



The team as a whole can be given one of seven mentalities
  • Very Defensive
  • Defensive
  • Cautious
  • Balanced
  • Positive
  • Attacking
  • Very Attacking
However, it is worth noting that under the hood, it is likely that mentality still actually has a value in the range 1 – 20, as it did in older versions of the game. ‘Very Defensive’ may correspond to 1 and ‘Very Attacking’ to 20 with the other spread in between, but it is impossible to say. It is however clear that with removal of sliders, SI wanted to add on a layer of abstraction and hide those underlying numeric values.

As well as the players being given specific roles e.g central-midfielder or advanced playmaker, they can also be assigned one of three duties
  • Defend
  • Support
  • Attack
Central defenders are slightly different in the fact that they have the following duties
  • Cover
  • Defend
  • Stopper
  • Support (for Libero role only)
  • Attack (for Libero role only)
In this particular tactic, the team has a positive mentality and a nice spread of player duties. Three on defend, four on support and three on attack. But what do these duties actually mean and how do they affect the player mentality? How do they relate to the team mentality? How do they influence the team fluidity?

Player Mentalities

We can use the player instruction screen to change the role and duty (although it is not possible to select all duties in some roles) of the players and customise specific instructions (although again, it is not possible to add/remove some instructions depending on the role and duty). Below is the player instruction screen for the Carrilero (which is fixed on support).

I’m sure that I don’t just speak for myself when I say that I tend(ed) to focus solely on the role, duty and the various instructions on this page and largely ignored the player mentality. Here we can see that it is positive. It is not something that we can change directly.



So how do we change it?

Well, we can change it by selecting different roles and duties, changing the team mentality and also by adding certain team instructions. It is interesting (and important to point out at this stage) that changing player instructions does not affect the displayed player mentality.

It is this the kind of thing that I intend to investigate and document here.

Mentality Distribution

We will now look at the distribution of the mentalities of the players in the above tactic.



The first thing to note is that the players on support match the team mentality. This is a more or less general rule of thumb that applies in most cases (apart from the more extreme team mentalities). It is then trivial to realise that players on attack will have a higher mentality and players on defend will have lower mentality than the team mentality (and hence players on support).

The second thing to note here is that the players on an attack duty have a very attacking mentality. This is a surprise to me seeing as the team mentality is positive. It skips the attacking mentality and essentially maxes out the player mentality. Therefore, even if you changed the team mentality to attacking or very attacking the players with an attack duty would not increase their mentality (unless their hypothesised under the hood 1-20 rating is increased slightly but kept within the ‘band’ that corresponds to very attacking). It would only affect the players on defend and support.

Finally, it is probably worth keeping in mind that the mentalities on the hypothesised 1-20 scale may well change between roles. So even though an inside forward and pressing forward on attack both show as very attacking, the inside forward may have a mentality of 19 and the pressing forward 18 (these values are completely made up by me as an example!).

Changing the Team Mentality

We will now look at what happens to the player mentalities when we change the team mentality.

Very Defensive



Defensive



Cautious



Balanced



Positive



Attacking



Very Attacking



Observations

Between defensive and very defensive team mentalities, there are no differences in player mentalities (or instructions). The in-game descriptions are as follows:



Reading these descriptions I can only guess that players will play less forward balls and make less forward runs when playing very defensively.

The only difference with cautious is that the sweeper keeper moves up to a balanced mentality. The in-game description is below:



In general it sounds very similar to the defensive description. My only guess is that the more aggressive sweeper keeper tries to start more of the counter attacks.

When we move up to balanced the player mentalities move up one ‘notch’ compared to cautious and directly reflect the player duties e.g. players with a defend duty play defensively, players on support play a balanced game and players with an attack duty play attacking. The in-game description is shown below.


As we can see, this is certainly a standard way of playing with players doing what is expected of them according to their roles.

The positive mentality also sees all players move up one mentality ‘notch’. At this point, all players with an attack duty are maxed out in terms of player mentality (i.e. very attacking). The in-game description is shown below:



It seems that the DMC and DC stay on a cautious mentality in order to guard against the counter while the players with a positive mentality (full-backs and centre midfielders) will try and push forward when safe to do so.

As we move up to an attacking team mentality, this causes the players with a defend duty (DC and DMC) to move up to a balanced mentality.



It is clear from the in-game description that forward runs and forward passes are increased across the team.

There is no further increase as we move up to the ‘max’ with a very attacking mentality. All players keep the same mentality they had with an attacking team mentality.



From the in-game description it seems that forward runs are further increased.

It is worth noting that the intensity bar also increases as the mentality increases, as would be expected. However, this can also be increased through team instructions such as tempo, passing directness and harder tackling. Rather interestingly, it does not seem to be massively affected by the pressing intensity.

Team Fluidity

As we saw in the introduction, the fluidity of tactics are displayed on the tactics screen and it changes as the team mentality changes. Both defensive and very defensive mentalities result in a structured fluidity while the rest are flexible. In previous versions of Football Manager the fluidity could be controlled, in FM2020 it is more of a rating of the tactic that can not be controlled directly and comes about from the combination of roles and duties.

As far as I understand it, a more fluid system keeps all players moving together in harmony around the pitch, contributing to all phases of the game and leading to more compactness. A more structured system keeps defensive players focused on defending and attacking players focused on attacking.


Flexible

The fluidity can take one of the following values
  • Highly Structured
  • Structured
  • Flexible
  • Fluid
  • Very Fluid
In recent versions of Football Manager, we cannot directly control the fluidity as we could in earlier versions and instead it is essentially a label for the tactic. We saw how it can change as the team mentality changes. For example, in the above tactic it changes from structured with very defensive and defensive mentalities to flexible for all others.

What else makes it change? Roles? Duties? In fact, it seems to be completely determined by duties, more specifically, the number of outfield players with a support duty.



So in the above tactic, there are 4 outfield players on support and a positive team mentality giving a flexible fluidity.

I originally suspected it was to do with the number of players in the team sharing the same mentality, but it does not appear to be and seems to simply depend on the number of players on support.

We know players with a defend role will focus on defending and players with an attack role with focus on attacking, while players on support will help out with both. Therefore, with more players on support you can imagine more of the team moving up and down the pitch together as a more fluid (and more compact?) swarm. With more highly structured tactics, the defensive players will tend to stay back while the attackers push forward.

This is not to say that more fluid tactics are necessarily better, you just need to keep an eye on the number of players on each duty to prevent some players becoming isolated.

Player Mentalities by Position

In this section, we will document how the player mentalities for each role and duty change as the team mentality changes. This is summarised in the tables below. They are grouped by duty as it can be seen that the player mentality is generally independent of role and relies only on duty and team mentality.

However, seeing as under the hood the mentality could still be in the range 1-20 (as it was in older versions) then roles and duties showing the same description may have slightly different actual ‘numeric’ mentalities.

Goalkeepers



Full-backs



Centre-backs



Note that for Attacking and Very Attacking team mentalities, defenders on Cover have a lower mentality than those on Defend/Stopper. For lower team mentalities, defenders on Stopper have a higher mentality than those on Cover/Defend.

Wing-backs



Defensive midfielders



Central midfielders



Wide midfielders



Attacking central midfielders



Attacking wide midfielders


Note that the inside forward role is more attacking than all other roles. This appears to be unique behaviour across all positions.

Strikers



Effect of Team Instructions

We will now look at how team instructions can affect the player mentalities and these are split into two groups
  • Players in wide areas (overlap, underlap and focusing down the flanks)
  • Players in central areas (focusing play through the middle)
These team instructions (overlap, underlap, focus play down the left, focus play down the right, focus play down the middle) appear to be the only team instructions that affect player mentality in a visible way.

The ‘play out of defence’ instruction most visibly affects the goalkeeper distribution during a match without affecting the mentality. He will tend to take short goal kicks, most usually utilising the new rule and passing to the centre backs inside the box. This obviously then goes hand-in-hand with playing a ball-playing central defender.

Players in Wide Areas

The table below shows the effect of the following team instructions on players playing in wide areas
  • Focus play down the left/right
  • Look for overlap
  • Look for underlap
All mentalities are for a balanced team mentality.



Of course, the instructions are side-dependent. Focusing play down the right will not alter the mentality of players on the left and vice versa.

The last five columns show the player mentality with different combinations of team instructions. A pink cell shows that the player mentality has reduced compared to the base mentality without any team instructions. A yellow cell indicates the mentality has remained unchanged, light green indicates the mentality has increased by one notch and the darker green shows when the mentality has increased by two notches.

Observations

  • The overlap and underlap instructions appear to affect player mentalities in the same manner. Presumably these instructions affect the game under-the-hood in different ways. For example, maybe overlap will cause attacking players to pass more towards the flanks, while underlap will cause them to pass more towards the middle. This is pure speculation based on the really old games when you could tell players to pass L/C/R (if I remember correctly).

  • Focusing down the flanks (without overlap or underlap) generally increases the mentality of full-backs and wing-backs by one notch (+1) whereas wide-midfielders and wide-attacking-midfielders remain unchanged in terms of their mentality. Maybe under-the-hood other players are encouraged to pass towards the flanks. Again, pure speculation.

  • Adding overlap or underlap (without focusing down the flanks) reduces the mentality of wide-midfielders/attacking midfielders by one notch (-1) apart from defensive-types already on a defensive mentality. Meanwhile, the mentality of full-backs and wing-backs are increased (+1) apart from those already on an attacking duty. This obviously allows the full-backs to run forward up the flanks and overtake the more attacking players.

  • Focusing down the flanks and overlapping/underlapping reduces the mentality of the wide-midfielders/attacking midfielders in the same manner as just overlapping/underlapping i.e. these instructions do not ‘cancel out’. However, the mentalities of full-backs/wing-backs are increased. Those with defensive or support duties by two notches (+2) and attacking by one (+1).

Players in Central Areas

The following table shows the effect of the ‘focus play through the middle’ team instruction on player mentalities. All mentalities are for a balanced team mentality.


Observations

  • This instruction only affects the GK, DC, DMC and MC positions.
  • It only affect the MC positions with a defend duty.
  • Applying the team instruction increases the player mentality of the affected roles by one ‘notch’.
There may be further changes under the hood, such as pass direction, but it is not possible to say for sure. If we speculate that the number of forward passes a player makes is determined by his mentality, increasing the mentality of these central players will make them more likely to pass forwards (i.e. up the centre of the pitch) rather than sideways (e.g. to the wings).

Summary

Each player in a tactic has their own individual player mentality that is affected through a combination of team mentality, player role and duty and several team instructions settings.

  • Players with a support duty tend to have the same player mentality as the team mentality.
  • Changing to an attacking duty tends to increase the player mentality (up to a saturation value dependent on role/duty).
  • Changing to an defending duty tends to lower the player mentality (down to a saturation value dependent on role/duty).
  • The number of outfield players on support determines the team fluidity.
  • Increasing the team mentality will generally increase the player mentality (up to a saturation value dependent on role/duty)
  • Decreasing the team mentality will generally decrease the player mentality (down to a saturation value dependent on role/duty)
  • Defenders with a 'Cover' duty have a lower mentality than those on Defend/Stopper for higher team mentalities.
  • Inside-forwards have higher mentalities than other roles in the same positions.
  • Focusing down the flanks only affects the mentality of players in the full-back and wing-back positions.
  • Focusing down the flanks increases the mentality of full-backs/wing-backs.
  • Overlap and underlap instructions generally increase the mentality of full-backs and wing-backs.
  • Overlap and underlap instructions can decrease the mentality of wide-midfielders and wide-attacking midfielders.
  • Overlapping/underlapping as well as focusing down the flanks gives a ‘double mentality boost’ to full-backs and wing-backs.
  • If you are looking to make your wide-midfielders and wide-attacking midfielders more attacking, do not use these instructions and instead focus on changing roles and duties.
  • Focusing play through the middle increases the mentality of players in the following position GK, DC, DMC and MC(Defend).


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