Having a comprehensive set of match tactics can make a huge difference to the success of your team. Having played through many seasons with these systems, I have a few tips that can make life a lot easier. If you haven't read it already, you should consider reading my Flexible Tactics System article, though these tips apply even if you're just using tactics in the normal way.
Switching between formations can be a pain if you use the default tactics, because the players are repositioned in odd ways. To make things easier when switching tactics in the middle of a match, it makes sense to have the players reorganised so that they are likely to fit the new formation without having to rearrange them.
For example, in the image below my starting formation, 4-2-3-1, is in the middle. Switching to the default 4-4-2 (left) moves the left winger to the striker position, and the attacking midfielder to the left midfield position. It makes much more sense, knowing the players I have, to instead move the left winger to the left midfield position, and the attacking midfielder to the striker position, so that's how I have repositioned them to create my custom 4-4-2 (right).
The way to do this is to first decide which is your base formation. I use 4-2-3-1 as mine because it's the main formation I use, and because it is easily adapted into any of the other formations I want. Having decided what the base formation will be, all the different tactics using that formation must be set up.
Once the tactics using that first formation have been created, the key step is to create the tactics for the other formations by altering the tactics you have just created, moving the players manually rather than using the tactics wizard or standard tactics. This makes sure that the players will be in the positions they are most likely to be comfortable in whenever you switch tactics.
Naming Your Tactics
It helps to have a standardised naming system, mostly because it makes it a lot easier to switch between tactics. In my system I use a format of Formation – Strategy, giving me tactic names such as 4-2-3-1 Control – High, 4-5-1 Attack – Fluid and so on. This makes it a lot easier to switch between tactics because they are sorted first by formation and then alphabetically by strategy in the game.
Set pieces are handled individually for each tactic you create, so if you're going to set them up separately for all of your tactics then you could have a lot of work ahead of you. However, if you create your tactics by altering them rather than creating them from nothing then the set piece instructions from the first tactics will be carried over into the new ones, which means you can save a lot of time and effort by creating the set pieces before adding new tactics.
One thing that can become an issue when using the three preparation tactics approach is that it can take longer for your team to become familiar with them at the start of a season. An effective way around this is to prepare the match tactic you want to use the most along with only two of the preparation tactics until the team is familiar enough with the match tactic, after which you can replace the match tactic with the third preparation tactic. Doing this can increase the speed at which your team becomes familiar with the tactic you use the most, allowing you to reduce the match preparation workload sooner.
One of the most effective ways of tweaking how your team play, in my experience, is through player roles. Even when using one particular match tactic, switching the roles of certain players can have a huge effect. For example, this is really conspicuous with strikers. Generally I set the role to Poacher, but when using particular players against opposition with aerial weakness, setting the role to Target Man can alter the way the team plays to take advantage of the opponent's weakness and the player's strength.
Don't be too set on which roles your formation includes – it's always a good idea to tailor the roles to the strengths of the players you're using. If the role you want to use doesn't fit the player, then that just means you're using the wrong player for the job.
Shouts and Touchline Instructions
Another hugely effective way of tweaking the way your team plays is through shouts and touchline instructions. For example, I often want my team to play fast, accurate possession football, so I use a shout that includes the instructions “Play Out Of Defence”, “Push Higher Up”, “Pass To Feet”, “Play Through Defence”, “Work Ball Into Box”, and “Retain Possession”. These instructions can make a big difference to the effectiveness of your tactics, so experiment with them in friendlies and find what works for you.
If you're the type of person who likes to tweak the tactics to fit the situation, then even without these extra tips the flexible tactics system could save you a lot of time and effort. These tips could help make your life even easier, so that you can spend less time tinkering and more time playing.