A highlight in the 90th minute with the opposition fullback readying a throw in gives one so much pressure, especially when your team only has a one goal lead. Conceding that equalizer when you thought you were getting your first win in 10 matches hurts so bad.
I used to suffer from this kind of situation so many times until I found consistent ways to minimize the chances of conceding late goals in Football Manager. Following these tips will not entirely prevent your team from conceding late goals, but the number of late goals you give up will significantly go down.
- Lower the team’s mentality. When you are in the lead, the opposition will normally switch to a more attacking game plan, especially when they think they have a chance of getting something out of the game. It is your responsibility then to react proactively, and counter this. If you were on the positive mentality, drop it to balanced or counter, depending on the strength of your team and the opposition you are facing. If you are a huge underdog, dropping the mentality to the lowest will make your team more compact at the cost of not being able to make inroads into the opposition’s half, which can work but is risky since you are only inviting pressure with no means to hurt the opposition on the counter-attacks.
- Change the roles in your team. If your players are on roles that do not contribute defensively like the Trequartista, changing them to something like Attacking Midfielder on support duty or Shadow Striker will help the team defend more cohesively. The same goes for roles that make players roam the pitch, like Mezzalas or Segundo Volante. Change these roles to ones that are more static and disciplined like Half Back, Deep Lying Playmaker on defend duty or box to box midfielder, since the role offers more defensively compared to the mezzala while still retaining some attacking threat.
- Train a Second Tactic that is more defensively solid. I am not a fun of switching my tactic in the middle of the game when I have a lead, but it is sometimes necessary as you are probably not going to see most games out when rocking an attacking 4-2-4 system. The change to a different tactic does not have to be drastic. In the case of the 4-2-4 system, you can simply drag the wingers into the midfield strata to form a 4-4-2. Most wingers should have some competency playing the two positions. You can go further and drop one of the strikers and put an attacking midfielder to form a 4-4-1-1 system. Instead of the attacking midfielder, you can also put in a defensive midfielder to further solidify your defence in a 4141 DM formation. Since the positional changes are only to three or four players, the hit to tactic familiarity should be fairly minimal.
- Make your tactics more structured. If your tactic involves shooting on sight, playing long passes, playing with more freedom etc, changing this and moving to a more ‘boring’ variation of the same tactic will help you concede fewer late goals. Make your players play at a lower tempo with shorter passes, untick the option of playing with more freedom, and also prevent the team from shooting on sight. Add some time-wasting, and playing for set pieces to further increase the time you have on the ball. Remember, you can only concede when you are not in possession.
- Have leaders on the pitch. The team’s mentality plays a significant role in matches, especially in derbies, play off games and finals. If you have no leader on the pitch that other players can rally around, you are more likely to give up cheap goals at the tail end of matches when the nerves get to your players. Check this guide here, on how to pick a good captain for your side. Things to look out for include whether your captain has a good personality like Resolute, Model Professional or Perfectionist as well as a good leadership rating. If your captain can not handle pressure because he has a poor personality like Low Determination or Slack, your team will certainly follow suit and cave in under pressure.
- Make some rotation to your team. As much as you can feel some players are undroppable in your team, replacing them around the 70th mark when they are knackered should be something you do often. Players who are fresh should have the legs to offer more, despite maybe not being as talented as the ones you started the match with. Keeping players on the pitch for too long also puts them at the risk of suffering injuries, further compounding your misery.
- Utilize your shouts. Use the shouts to offer encouragement to your team or demand more from them, depending on both the mentality of your team and the form you are currently in. However, be careful on how you use the shouts, as saying the wrong thing will also have negative repercussions on the team.