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Can the Football Manager AI figure out your tactic?

Myth or Fact? Does the Football Manager match engine AI work out your tactic after a while or not? We reveal official insights by Sports Interactive.

By on Sep 12, 2018   25402 views   4 comments
FM Quick Tips - Can the Football Manager AI figure out your tactic?
Have you (also) experienced starting out really well while using a certain tactic, and all of a sudden (possibly half or a whole season later) you're hitting a wall of bad results? It's definitely frustrating, but that can happen.

Some people believe that Football Manager match engine AI eventually figures out your tactic and adjusts accordingly after a while.

Is that a myth or a fact? We scoured community discussions and found the answer, which is confirmed by Neil Brock who works at Sports Interactive.

The AI doesn't figure you out. Simply put, any AI manager in any match adapts to the next opponents it faces. Basically, they target different results (convincing wins, draws, not getting humiliated) and play more attacking or defensive football based on how they view any team -- including yours. Your status in the game changes naturally over time, unless you don't ever under or over perform.

If you over perform, more and more teams may pick more cautious approaches, which may mean you have to work for your space. If you're a top team from the get-go, you will face quite defensive teams every week, which AI managers of Barcelona, Bayern etc all face likewise. This is meant to simulate what is going on in real football, as you rarely see the likes of Burnley going all gung-ho at Chelsea.

A key indicator are the match odds prior, and how they treat you; long shots, equal or favourite. As a side-note, one reason why the "myth" persists is that plenty players download "exploit" tactics someplace. In tendency though they are better defended by ultra defensive AI approaches, as choosing defensive formations/keeping masses of players behind the ball on defend duty plus dropping deep tends to crack over what is being exploited.

It is not the AI "learning" your tactic (I wish the AI in the game was that intelligent). It is a case of the AI adapting to your increased reputation. You are no longer potential relegation fodder to be attacked nor seen as an easy 3 points. And you failing to adapt to this.

More often than not, you were being gifted space as a relegation candidate as teams attacked you. Often, tactics are designed that are able to exploit space, and so you played well. Now that teams are more circumspect with you, they do not gift you space.

You have to create it yourself, and that requires a different thought process (and often a slight tweak to what you are doing). As you go more attacking against newly defensive sides, you start to gift them the space that previously was gifted to you.

If you're a top team, then your rep won't really change and your form will always be good. So there's nothing really more the AI can do.

Now it's time for some official insights on the matter.

Neil Brock:
The AI does not work out tactics. What can sometimes change tactically is that AI teams depending on your own club's league table position and form, will look at you differently.

For instance, if you're say a team like say Bournemouth in the Premier League, a large number of teams, certainly in the top 8 will look at them and consider their own team to be stronger. Because of this they're likely to play attacking formations. Mid-table sides likewise will realise they're stronger on paper and again will attack, but may take a slightly more cautious approach when they're the away team. Lower ranked Premier teams will likely play a balanced formation home and away.

Then let's say by January in your first season, Bournemouth are 5th in the table and have won impressive victories. The AI managers will look at this and realise you shouldn't be underestimated. Teams will be more likely to play a defensive counter based style when coming to play at Bournemouth and be more balanced overall.

Mid and certainly lower sides in the table will play defensively. This means a tactic you had working fine for the entire system is suddenly playing against totally different tactics than in the first half of the season. Many human managers assume that if their tactic is working there's never a need to change it, but fail to take into account the fact the AI will adapt as the season goes on. Tactics however, as said above are not individually worked out.

Do you have to adjust your tactic after so many games working well?

A manager has to realise they will need to adapt and improve their squad as time goes on. You can't just plug in a tactic, press continue and expect to win every game.

Your "winning" tactic needs to constantly be reviewed and updated / tweaked as your reputation grows. A quick look at the manager's profile page will give you the rundown on preferred formations, styles and stuff - but he may adjust slightly to face you because you are on a run of form. You need to look at your opponents and pick players, a formation and a set up to get the best result against that particular team in their current form.

The user already has a pretty large advantage over the AI when it comes to squad building (as simply the AI is never going to have as many options or be as smart as the user until SI make huge technological advances in AI), but you can't expect one tactic to work against every combination of team and setup.

Stam's avatar
About Stam

I started FM Scout for fun in the distant 2004. I'm proud of how this place has grown into a vibrant community and I try my best to improve it every year. Husband and father of two.

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Discussion: Can the Football Manager AI figure out your tactic?

4 comments have been posted so far.

  • sicosimatic's avatar
    It would be nice to get tips on how to update your previously winning tactic?
    I got promoted twice in two seasons with my Magdeburg team. First season as tipped for the playoffs, second season as tipped for relegation, no changes to the tactic.
    Then when I hit the top division I'm doing ok for half a season and suddenly can't win a game.
    This doesn't make any sense and I don't know how to change my tactic to play with an increased reputation?
    But, even if what you're saying is right, once I hit a losing streak my tactic should start working again, right? Because suddenly I'm not favourites for the matches anymore like I was at the start of the season?
  • rasmulisone's avatar
    "If you're a top team, then your rep won't really change and your form will always be good."
    That's just wrong. On FM19 managing Juve I had to change my tactics completely every six months or so after we just fell apart. So frustrating.
  • Stam's avatar
    @redvee35: Thanks mate. The credit must go to the original sources whom I quoted above. I just did the research part and collated some text. Plus the fancy article pic. :)
  • redvee35's avatar
    Fantastic article Stam
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