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The Mentality Ladder: Understanding Fluidity and Duty

This Football Manager guide analyzes a practical framework which will help you organize a tactic under different fluidity/mentality combinations and give you tips on applying specific tactical settings.

By on Apr 11, 2014   140501 views   2 comments
Football Manager Guides - The Mentality Ladder: Understanding Fluidity and Duty

The Mentality Ladder, Duty and Other Settings

DUTY, THE ATTACKING PHASE AND THE TASK AT HAND

As attacking play progresses into the opposition half, players will climb up the mentality ladder. As previously noted, duty determines what sort of responsibilities a player takes up as attacking play moves into the final third, and it also determines how quickly they will do this relative to the rest of the team and the likelihood that they will take up responsibilities that necessarily involve making runs into and around the opposition area (i.e., attack duty attacking responsibilities).

Defend, Stopper and Cover duty players are the most reluctant to climb the mentality ladder. As the team enters the attacking phase, these players will initially look to move to and hold their position in the mentality structure to focus on their tactical priority, but as attacking play progresses and more opposition players track back to help defend, they will climb the mentality ladder to cover space and assume responsibilities left behind by advancing support and attack duty players.

When play advances deep into the opposition half, there is a chance that these players will briefly take up support or, on rare occasions, attack duty responsibilities when it is both safe and opportune to do so. This possibility is represented by the "Join Attack" task at the top of the Defend duty mentality ladder. "Join Attack," essentially, represents all the various support and attack duty attacking responsibilities. As such, it is not actually available as a tactical priority (as a player with such a priority would then cease to be a Defend duty player), and given Defend duty players' general hesitancy to move up the mentality ladder during the attacking phase, the responsibility is typically only taken up by players who have very aggressive tactical priorities.

Support duty players will move up and down the ladder as necessary to prevent the attack from becoming too isolated. As the attacking phase begins, support duty players will attempt to quickly move into an area where they can receive the ball and focus on their tactical priority. From there, they will either look to circulate possession among nearby players or, depending on the risk involved and the player's tactical instructions, play the ball forward to an advancing teammate. As attack duty players and more advanced support duty players push the opposition defence deeper, a support duty player will readily move up behind them to prevent the attack from becoming isolated.

When play advances deep into the opposition half, there is a chance that these players will briefly take up attack duty responsibilities when it is both safe and opportune to do so. This possibility is represented by the "Surge Into Box" task at the top of the Support duty and playmaker mentality ladder. As with "Join Attack," "Surge Into Box" represents all the various attack duty attacking responsibilities, and as noted above, this means it is not actually available as a tactical priority. However, given support duty players' greater tendency to move up the ladder compared to defend duty players, most such players with attacking or control-oriented tactical priorities will typically attempt forward runs periodically throughout the match, though as with defend duty players, it is contingent on the availability of defensive cover and teammates willing to take up their current attacking responsibilities.

Whereas other players will tend to focus more heavily on their specified tactical priority in the attacking phase and be more hesitant to move forward once their main responsibilities have been securely carried out, attack duty players will rapidly climb the mentality ladder as soon as supporting teammates are available to help take up the attack duty player's main responsibility. In this sense, attack duty players view themselves as the vanguard of the team's progression, and while they may stay deep to help carry out a defensive or control-oriented responsibility, they will only look to initiate the task in question before pushing forward to create room for teammates to advance.

Thus, just as support duty players with attack-oriented tactical priorities have a greater tendency to get forward themselves, attack duty players with control or defend-oriented tactical priorities will have a greater tendency to wait to receive the ball ahead of the defensive line and look for support before taking on the defence. However, unlike defend and support duty players, attack duty players will readily advance deep into the attacking third with minimal regard for the amount of defensive cover available. In this sense, when it comes to attack duty players, it is the manager's responsibility to ensure the structure is in place to ensure they get forward without compromising the team's ability to defend against counterattacks.

ASSIGNING DUTIES

The specific assignment of duties in a mentality structure will greatly affect how the team's shape develops in attack. In most situations, it's wise to keep a balanced arrangement of duties to ensure no one part of the team finds itself isolated and overwhelmed, and if circumstances demand a reorientation of the team's tactical priorities, altering the team mentality setting (and thus, mentality structure) is the most balanced and prudent option.

Though different arrangements of team mentality, roles, formation and playing style may call for different arrangements to achieve an effective balance, all mentality structures should have at least two support duties, two attack duties and three defend/cover/stopper duties among the outfield players. Moreover, these duties should be spread out among the strikers, midfielders and defenders to ensure some degree of movement and stability between the lines. Of course, assigning two attack, two support and three defend leaves three outfield players without a duty.

Traditionally, the general recommendation has been that these spare duties should be assigned in accordance with the team's mentality setting with more defensive team mentalities having more defend duties, more control-oriented team mentalities having more support duties and more attack-oriented team mentalities having more attack duties.

However, there may be circumstances where simply assigning more of one type of duty may prove a better option for refocusing the team's attacking shape to serve a highly specific objective. This should only be done with careful consideration of what you're trying to achieve, and unbalanced mentality structures should never be indiscriminately taken into every match with no regard for the opposition. Unbalanced structures inherently lack versatility (this is what makes them unbalanced), and they all contain glaring weaknesses that will be readily exploited by most opponents.

In terms of the mentality ladder, assigning more defend duties will lead to significantly less deviation from the mentality structure as much of the team's defensive shape will remain intact during the attacking phase. Predictably, this will reduce the risk of counter attacks, but it will also severely blunt the team's attacking momentum and make it difficult for the team to advance the ball up the pitch.

Assigning more support duties will cause more of the team to gradually climb the mentality ladder as attacking play progress. This will give the team more avenues through which to advance the ball ahead of the attacking third, but this will cause either the defence to be more exposed or the attack to be more isolated. If a support duty is assigned in place of a defend duty, the team will be more vulnerable to counter attacks, and if a support duty is assigned in place of attack duty, the team will be presented with less opportunities to successfully play the ball into and around the opposition area, even if there are now more players looking for such opportunities.

Assigning more attack duties will cause the team's shape to deviate dramatically from the mentality structure during the attacking phase (and keep in mind, this doesn't just apply to the player with the attack duty as any drastic movement on the mentality ladder from any one player will have a domino effect on the rest of the team). This will create more options for successfully playing the ball deep into the attacking third, but it will greatly increase the risk of counter attacks and leave less players looking for the best option to play the ball forward as the creative burden of linking the attack is shifted onto a smaller group of players.

Finally, as previously noted, playmaker roles (i.e., the Advanced Playmaker, Deep Lying Playmaker, Enganche, Regista and Trequartista) are considered support duty players for the purposes of the mentality ladder since they all have the tendency to stay deep and support play rather than actually getting forward. WIth this in mind, you should consider assigning an additional attack duty when using a playmaker role with a nominal attack duty, as this will prevent being presented with a dearth of options going forward. Moreover, the specialized nature of the playmaker himself means too many additional support roles may end up being redundant.

DUTY, FORMATION AND ATTACKING SHAPE

An implicit, yet important, concept in all this is the distinction between formation and attacking shape. A mentality structure can be thought of as a combination of the two, and while the football punditry often glosses over this distinction in tactical discussions, it is crucial to understanding how and why your team attacks and defends as it does.

Unless you follow the inadvisable route of simply assigning defend duties to defenders, support duties to midfielders and attack duties to strikers, your team will not attack in the shape of your assigned formation. A common misconception is that a rigid or very rigid fluidity will cause this to happen, but that is not the case. While these fluidity settings will cause your attack to be more regimented by affecting the fine margins of how attack and support duty players prioritize tasks, they will not prevent attack duty players from attempting to get forward or support duty players from following up behind the attack.

Visualizing exactly how your formation transforms into its attacking shape is one of the more challenging aspects of designing a tactic, and in fact, there is no simple way to do this. Much will depend on how your attack shapes around the structure and quality of the opposition's defence, but duty can give you an imperfect sense of how to translate your attacking shape into the nomenclature of formation. In general, attack duties will add more numbers to the striker and attacking midfield strata, support duties will add more numbers to the central midfield stratum and defend duties will add more numbers to the defensive midfield and defender strata. Again, this is a highly imperfect method, but if you're having trouble sorting out how a mentality structure will operate, it may prove helpful.

It is also important to remember that you do not need to set your formation to your desired attacking shape. For example, playing a 4-2-3-1 does not require playing three attacking midfielders behind the striker. The attacking shape usually associated with the 4-2-3-1 formation can be accomplished with numerous formations given the appropriate assignment of duties, roles and personal instructions. Many real world 4-2-3-1s are better interpreted as 4411s, 451s or even 442s in Football Manager.

RECYCLING POSSESSION

When attacking play breaks down and your players are forced to play the ball back to keep possession, all players will begin to move back down the ladder with defend and support duty players being more inclined to quickly gravitate back towards their tactical priority. Usually, only players with the most attack-oriented tactical priorities will simply drift around looking for space in the box while possession is being recycled, and of course, even they will drop deeper if play is pulled back deep enough to allow the opposition's defensive line to push up.

In general, when off the ball with a teammate in possession well inside the opposition's half, attack duty players with tactical priorities that call for them to be beyond the current position of the opposition's defensive line will either sit on the shoulder of the last defender or drift into available space ahead of the defence.

CENTREBACKS AND THE DEFENSIVE LINE

For centrebacks, your defensive line instructions will also have an effect. For the most part, centrebacks will be highly reluctant to deviate from a position that enables them to maintain a focus on their tactical priority. Therefore, your most cautious centreback's tactical priority will give you a good sense of where your default defensive line will be positioned while your defensive line instruction will control how far they deviate from this position.

A lower defensive line will strictly limit how high your centrebacks will climb up the ladder whereas a higher defensive line will allow them to climb higher than normal, though even on the most aggressive settings, centrebacks generally won't position themselves to do much more than suppress counterattacks. Accordingly, the defensive line instruction has less significance for centrebacks with more aggressive tactical priorities as there is less "space" between the upper limit to which they may push up and the tactical priority towards which they are inclined to drop.

In the defensive phase, much of the above applies in defensive terms. For the most part, centrebacks will gravitate with the rest of the team towards their tactical priority in reconstituting their defensive posture, though your defensive line instructions will determine how likely they are to push up from their default position to collectively press with a high block intended to compress the space in which the opposition can play the ball.

THE DEFENSIVE PHASE

When your opponent regains possession, your team will transition to the defensive phase by reorganizing into its basic defensive shape. In other words, players will descend back down the mentality ladder to their tactical priority with more defensively oriented players typically doing so with more urgency.

However, it's important to keep in mind that your mentality structure mainly determines how and where your players will first attempt to win the ball, but as the opposition's attacking play progresses into your half, your team will respond by climbing down the mentality ladder accordingly. For players with a more attacking mentality, their tactical priority will determine how soon they'll stop waiting to break forward and start tracking back to defend with the rest of the team.

For the most part, the fundamental organization of your mentality structure will hold as this defensive descent down the ladder occurs, so even if your tactic is operating on a more aggressive mentality setting, the structures for the lower mentality settings will provide an indication of how your fluidity setting will affect your defensive shape as it drops deeper.

It's important to note that this means players with aggressive tactical priorities won't be in any hurry to track back into the defensive third. With certain style and mentality combinations, this means your strikers and attacking midfielders will generally stay forward with the intention of initiating counterattacks from recovered clearances or intercepted back passes. Additionally, strikers and attacking midfielders aren't going to be inclined to help central and defensive midfielders cover space behind the ball, so using an abundance of attacking players will naturally increase the likelihood that your defensive shape will contain glaring gaps for the opposition to exploit.

RISK TAKING AND TACTICAL PRIORITY

While the pace and directness with which attacking play develops is determined by several different settings and instructions, a player's tactical priority largely determines the amount of risk they're willing to take to either create a chance or just simply move the ball into a more advanced position. For the most part, a player with a more aggressive tactical priority will take more risks to impose offensive pressure on the opposition and play through defensive pressure imposed by the opposition in order to ensure play advances to an area of the pitch where he will be able to carry out his priority's associated task.

This tendency remains consistent regardless of where a player happens to actually be on the mentality ladder. In other words, even as players move up and down the mentality ladder to carry out different tasks, they will still persistently gravitate towards their tactical priority via higher or lower risk decision-making. Thus, for example, players with attack-oriented tactical priorities will look to play the ball out from a precarious defensive position rather than simply hoofing it clear while players with defend or control-oriented tactical priorities will be more inclined to pass the ball around in the opposition half rather than attempt to force a half-chance.

Again, though numerous team and personal instructions can affect the details of a player's decision-making, a player's tactical priority will give you a very general indication of how they'll behave at various points along the mentality ladder. Defensive-oriented players will mainly focus on keeping the ball well clear of the defensive third and minimizing the risk of being hit on the break. Control-oriented players will mainly focus on keeping the ball circulating through a certain area of the pitch until they see a clear opportunity to play it forward (assuming, of course, this opportunity conforms with their tactical instructions or, failing that, personal tendencies as a player). Attack-oriented players will show significantly less regard for maintaining possession as they focus on simply moving the ball up the pitch and into the attacking third (again, in accordance with their other tactical instructions and personal playing tendencies) .

This relationship is largely what makes a particular task or responsibility that player's priority. While I have so far emphasized that mentality structures are dynamic with players shifting up and down the ladder to take up different tasks when appropriate, this does not mean a player simply loses sight of what he's primarily supposed to do when circumstance demands that he does something else. Players with different tactical priorities will play differently even if they happen to be on the same rung of the mentality ladder.

The influence of tactical priority applies to duty as well. Though attack duty players will all attempt to push play into the opposition area, their tactical priority will influence how they go about doing this. Thus, for example, an attack duty player with a lower tactical priority will be more risk-averse than another attack-duty player with a higher tactical priority, even if they are both currently attempting to, for example, penetrate gaps or overload a defender.

ROLE, FLAIR, AGGRESSION AND TACTICAL PRIORITY

Again, in the most practical terms, a player's tactical priority reflects the degree of risk they're willing to take to perform any given action on the pitch. This includes getting forward, passing, dribbling, shooting, tackling, basic positioning and basically every conscious act that a footballer might perform. The attacking priorities in the upper third of the ladder will, thus, lead a player to take more risks to move the ball up the pitch, create chances and promptly regain possession. The control priorities in the middle third of the ladder will lead a player to try to balance risks in various aspects of play. In general, this will lead him to emphasize maintaining possession, as he will neither be too wasteful with his passing in the opposition half nor too hasty to clear the ball from danger in his own. The defensive priorities in the lower third of the ladder will lead a player to limit risk with a greater emphasis on simply preventing opposition chances and holding onto the ball when not under pressure.

Role mainly functions by increasing a player's preference for performing certain actions over others, so in terms of tactical priority, it can be thought of as modifying the acceptable level of risk that a player is willing to take to perform a specific action (e.g., dribbling, passing, tackling, shooting from distance, etc.). Of course, no setting will make a player a mere robot. Players will deviate from their role's instruction if the action in question appears to have the highest potential benefit and the risk is low enough. However, as risk naturally escalates with a phase of play culminating in an attacking move, the collective effects of tactical priority and role will become more pronounced.

The basic level of risk-taking established by a player's tactical priority is further modified by a player's expressiveness. A player's level of expressiveness is controlled both by their flair attribute and tactical instructions. A higher degree of expressiveness will raise the maximum risk a player is willing to accept to perform specific types of actions when in possession. In effect, it will primarily make the player more likely to attempt ambitious, higher risk actions to achieve greater benefits in attacking play.

Notably, by counteracting the more restrictive tactical instructions imposed by roles, it will also cause a player to be more likely to deviate from their role when they perceive it as beneficial.
A team's fluidity setting has a significant influence on the expressiveness of players. More fluid settings will encourage players to be more expressive while more rigid settings will encourage players to be less expressive. Thus, in more fluid settings, players will generally be more ambitious in how they choose to carry out their tactical priority and will deviate more readily from the confines of their role (especially if the role imposes numerous restrictions on how the player plays), whereas players in more rigid settings will be more disciplined and methodical in how they choose to carry out their tactical priority with less deviation from any restrictions imposed by their role.

Aggression can be thought of as the defensive counterpart of flair. While flair modifies a player's tendency to attempt more ambitious actions in possession, aggression will increase a player's tendency to take risks when out of possession. Specifically, a highly aggressive player will look to get directly involved in defensive play at every opportunity with a greater willingness to get stuck in and risk fouls. On the other hand, a more passive player will tend to sit back and help the team maintain its shape while waiting for clear cut opportunities to dispossess opposition attackers.

As tendency attributes, neither flair nor aggression are necessarily good or bad, though you should carefully consider how they might affect the system you are attempting to put in place. Players with high ratings in these attributes are often a poor fit for roles that demand a high level of tactical discipline while players with low ratings may prove too cautious for roles that call for a player to take charge and improvise when necessary.

ROAMING, FREE ROLES AND MENTALITY STRUCTURES

The roaming instruction controls what is often referred to as positional fluidity, so not surprisingly, roaming and fluidity are often confused with one another. However, though the distinction between the two may appear subtle on the first glance, they are quite different. As noted in the introduction, team fluidity represents more of a general principle of tactical organization that controls how many players will focus on a given task at one time and how closely players in different positional strata will work together to carry out their individual responsibilities.

However, while fluidity is largely a managerial concept that serves as an abstract and somewhat esoteric representation of a set of more mundane instructions, roaming is a much more simple footballing concept that applies to an individual player. In short, the roaming instruction gives a player more freedom to break from the team's basic shape to open up play or provide positional support for a teammate.

To a great extent, this will cause a player's lateral movement to be much more dynamic, though in terms of the mentality ladder, roaming can be thought of as also making a player's movement up and down the ladder much more erratic and unpredictable in relation to the rest of the team and, by extension, the mentality structure. Thus, a roaming player will be much more likely to take up responsibilities well outside the basic organizational framework specified by the team's mentality, fluidity and duty settings.

Notably, the team fluidity setting does not affect how many players are permitted to roam. The amount of roaming permitted is primarily determined by the mentality setting, though certain roles will always be permitted to roam by default. Thus, both very rigid and very fluid systems can accommodate high levels of positional "fluidity."

FLUIDITY, SHAPE AND EXPANSIVENESS

As you may have noticed in the prior sections, more fluid settings do not necessarily equate to a greater gap between the tactical priority of forwards and the tactical priority of the deepest defender, only the number and degree of the distinctions in tactical priority between various roles and positions. While fluidity will affect how "vertically" expansive or compact your team's shape will be at various points in attacking and defensive play, both sides of the continuum give you options.

In fact, the fluid and rigid settings are actually mirror images of one another with "Very Rigid" and "Very Fluid" resulting in a generally more compact shape while "Rigid" and "Fluid" result in a generally more expansive shape ("Balanced," on the other hand, offers more flexibility).

But again, fluidity merely modifies other tactical settings at the most abstract level. In terms of defining the team's shape for the various phases of play, fluidity is only one component along with formation, duty assignment, role, etc.

FLUIDITY, GENERALISM AND SPECIALISM

Ultimately, no matter how compact or expansive the shape, all teams attack and defend as a whole to the extent that the entire team will collectively climb up and down the mentality ladder in accordance with a specific organizational framework (or rather, mentality structure). In other words, no player ever wholly disconnects from the broader activity of the team, and even the striker who discourages overlapping runs by roaming into gaps in the defensive line or the defender who cautiously recycles possession from deep within his own half can be said to contribute to defence or attack to some degree.

Fluidity, in this sense, is not a question of whether a team coheres as a single, cooperative unit during a given phase of play. Fluidity simply determines how many different tasks the team will usually be focused on carrying out at any given moment, or in terms of the mentality ladder, it determines how many positions or rungs the players occupy at any given moment. A more fluid system will usually have the team focused on less tasks as a whole with more players focused on carrying out a specific task. A more rigid system will have the team as a whole focused on more tasks with less players focused on carrying out a specific task. In both cases, the team will be structured around a group of core tasks of a certain type (i.e., defensive, controlling, attacking as defined by the team's mentality setting), but more rigid teams will typically have a greater degree of stratification between different positions and roles.

Accordingly, fluid systems are associated with generalism (also referred to as universalism), the idea that players should be more versatile and intuitive in their play while cooperating closely to carry out specific tasks. The greater number of players focused on or closely supporting specific tasks means the team has more options available for successfully carrying out each task. However, it also means the team may progress up the ladder in a slower, more disorganized fashion while the players themselves are more likely to be called upon to carry out a broader range of tactical responsibilities during a single phase of play. This is why it's recommended that managers who prefer a more fluid system make more use of the more generic roles that are designed to carry out multiple tasks.

In contrast, rigid systems are associated with specialism, the idea that players should focus on a more refined set of skills and tactical instructions to optimize their ability to carry out specific tasks. The smaller number of players focused on or closely supporting specific tasks means the team can typically progress up the ladder in a faster, more efficient manner with players less likely to deviate too far from their tactical comfort zone, but reversing the benefits and drawbacks of a fluid system, it also means the team has fewer immediately options available for successfully carrying out each task and can become disjointed if one link in the chain is effectively targeted by the opposition or just simply under-performs. And this is why it's recommended that managers who prefer a more rigid system make more use of the specialist roles that are designed to optimize their ability to individually carry out specific tasks.

Expressiveness, as discussed above, is also an important aspect of this distinction. More fluidity promotes more expressiveness which, in turn, encourages players to take the initiative with higher risk actions and deviate more from restrictions imposed by their roles. On the other hand, more rigidity promotes less expressiveness which encourages players to adhere to the restrictions imposed by their roles and stick with the plan set forth by the manager.

In this sense, rigid structures promote a system-oriented approach to the game. Players adhere to a more restrictive style of play with the assumption being that the aggregate effect of adhering to a more coherent plan will ultimately prove more beneficial than the aggregate effect of simply letting players follow their intuitions on a moment-by-moment basis. In other words, the rigid, system-oriented approach asserts that the whole is greater than its parts with the best possible sequence of play not always resulting from the "best" option in an individual moment of play.

In contrast, fluid structures promote a more player-oriented, intuitive approach to the game. Players adhere less to the restrictions imposed by the system with the assumption being that the aggregate effect of players intuitively responding to dynamic situations will ultimately prove more beneficial than the aggregate effect of expecting a strictly defined system to adequately adapt to every possible context. In other words, the fluid, player-oriented approach asserts that the collective depends on the ingenuity of the individual to effectively adapt to the chaos of a football match with the best possible sequence of play rarely resulting from attempting to impose order on what is essentially an exercise in disorder.

THE COUNTER ATTACK PHASE AND THE MENTALITY LADDER

A counter attack phase is initiated when your team gains possession and the opposition has left itself exposed or overextended with a lack of defenders between the ball and goal.

The counter attack phase effectively overrides your mentality structure by causing all players to assume the highest position on their respective mentality ladders and temporarily focus on overloading the opposition defence. All players will immediately begin climbing the mentality ladder with an extreme level of urgency, and only defend duty players will hold off from attacking the opposition's third (though even they will be to do so if there are sufficient number of teammates behind them). This temporary alteration of the mentality structure will continue until the opposition regains possession or gets an adequate number of players back between the ball and goal.

All teams, regardless of style and mentality, will enter the counter attack phase when the aforementioned conditions are met. The frequency of counter attacks will mainly be determined by the way your tactical settings interact with those of the opposition, though some team mentality settings encourage players to enter the phase more readily.

On the Defensive, Counter and Overload mentalities, teams will be more inclined to enter the counter attack phase when there are a slightly greater number of defenders between the ball and the goal. In the case of Defensive and Counter mentalities, this better enables these more defensive mentalities to alternate between more cautious build-up plays and fast breaks without needlessly giving away possession. Moreover, since more defensive mentalities allow the opposition to come deeper, counter attacks will usually have more depth to work with going forward. Thus, even if the opposition has slightly greater numbers behind the ball, there is a good chance their defenders will be scrambling to cover a large expanse of space ahead of their goal.

In the case of Overload mentalities, this merely ensures that your players break forward at every opening.

On a Contain mentality, the team will be more inclined to keep possession and hold up the ball in advanced positions when possible, so counter attacks are less likely to occur.

On a Standard, Control and Attack mentality, counter attacks are less likely to occur after winning the ball in a deep position. Since these mentalities already encourage relatively quick build-up play, the players will be more inclined to carry out a more elaborate build-up at a faster pace, though the counter attack phase will still be initiated if the opposition has left its defence badly exposed. Additionally, since you will typically go up against more cautious opponents when using these mentalities, it ensures your side won't simply bomb forward directly into an entrenched, well organized defence when a more considered approach is necessary.

On these more aggressive mentalities, the counter attack phase will be more likely occur when an attacker manages to win the ball in an advanced position or if you happen to be playing an open game against another aggressive opponent. As such, if you want to facilitate more quick breaks on these settings, you will need to ensure you have attackers pressing the opposition's deep-lying midfielders and defenders.

PRESSING AND THE MENTALITY LADDER

Closing down settings function by modifying a player's willingness to break from the defensive shape to press an opponent on the ball. For the most part, it determines how quickly and how far a player is willing to venture forward to close down the opposition, but as with other settings, this is relative to the risk and reward involved. A player's tactical priority will give you a good sense of the default point in the defensive phase at which a player will start pressing the opposition as well as the manner in which they go about closing down the opponent (e.g., promptly diving into a tackle or methodically restricting space from a comfortable distance... or any degree in between).

Accordingly, there is no fixed location on the pitch which will always prompt a player to immediately close down the opposition. There are always limits to how far a player will venture from their defensive position, even if they have an aggressive tactical priority and are assigned to press higher. Generally, a player won't venture too far beyond the zone defined by the team's defensive shape unless there is both sufficient positional cover behind him and a sizable, undefended gap between himself and the player with the ball.

PASSING AND THE MENTALITY LADDER

Various instructions and settings will also have an effect on how quickly players move up the mentality ladder. More direct and riskier passing will cause the ball to move up the pitch more quickly, often causing the midfield to be bypassed altogether. This, consequently, will cause players to move up the mentality ladder more quickly.

In previous versions, passing risk was controlled by the "through balls" instruction, but this name often created the misconception that it only referred to attempts to play the ball behind the defensive line. Now, this instruction is referred to as the more appropriately general "risky passing." Telling a player to attempt riskier passing increases their tendency to attempt passes behind or between defenders with the intent of getting the intended recipient beyond his marker. Thus, less risky passing will encourage players on the ball to wait for options to drop back and make themselves available for a pass while more risky passing will encourage players to play the ball through gaps in the defence (though not necessarily beyond the defence as a whole).

PRIORITY ALTERING TEAM INSTRUCTIONS

Some team instructions will have a direct effect on your mentality structure.

"Exploit the Flanks" will increase the tactical priority of your fullbacks or wingbacks while effectively giving them all an attack duty. While the alteration of tactical priority is variable depending on your team mentality, the idea is that it will essentially encourage your fullbacks or wingbacks to operate more like wide midfielders.

"Exploit the Middle" will give a more aggressive duty to all central players other than keepers, sweepers and centrebacks while giving a more cautious duty to all wide players. Thus, defend duty central players take up a support duty, support duty central players take up an attack duty, attack duty wide players take up a support duty, and support duty wide players take up a defend duty.

"Look for Overlap" works much like "Exploit the Flanks" with the added effect of wingers and wide forwards being given a more cautious duty to cover for the more aggressive fullbacks and wingbacks.

"Take a Breather" effectively instructs everyone to drop down to a more cautious duty (i.e., attack duty players become support duty players while support duty players become defend duty players). In practical terms, this encourages your team to just sit back and avoid moving play into the attacking third.



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Discussion: The Mentality Ladder: Understanding Fluidity and Duty

2 comments have been posted so far.

  • paolope83's avatar
    Great job Stam. A useful and perfectly written and shaped guide. Kudos
  • Ziechael's avatar
    As per usual, a world class summary(/detailed breakdown!) of one of FM's vaguer areas.
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