I've developed this method over the last three versions of FM. The full, separated approach was something I knew would work from the beginning, but didn't have the motivation to make, so I've worked up to creating it by advancing the set of tactics I used over a period of a couple of years. The result perfectly fits the goal, giving me a huge set of different tactics that mean I can tailor my match strategy to fit each and every game without ruining the team's tactic familiarity.
I currently use a system including 40 different match tactics, 18 of which my team have perfect preparation for, with the other 22 spread out between 765/800 and 695/800. Some of them are only slight variations on others, but they cover a broad range of different situations, and the technique could be used just as well with more unusual sets of tactics.
I'll describe how and why the system works, then explain the fully separated system, briefly outline two less effective versions of the system, and finally I'll explain in simple terms how to create the system yourself.
Remember, this system is only as good as the tactics you use it to prepare. Perfect familiarity with a rubbish tactic still leaves you with a rubbish tactic!
How It Works
The key to having flexible tactics is understanding how the tactics familiarity system works. Other people have gone into this in a lot of detail, so I will only bother explaining it to the level needed to understand my tactics system.
You can train three tactics at a time, allowing your team to grow familiar with eight different aspects of each of those tactics. The more familiar they are with them, the better they will perform.
Of the sixteen different tactical settings within the Team Instructions panel, only seven affect the familiarity. The formation itself is the final one of the eight aspects that your team needs to become familiar with. That means that individual roles, specific player instructions, and the remaining nine tactical settings can be altered as much as you want without affecting your team's preparation.
Your team can be familiar with three different settings for each of the eight aspects, one for each of your prepared tactics, but the thing that makes my approach possible is that these aspects are dealt with separately. This means that you can mix and match the different settings your team is familiar with to create a huge number of different tactics, for all of which your team will have perfect or very high ratings.
A huge amount of the customisation for each tactic should be done through altering the player roles and instructions, so it's best to think of the tactic familiarity as more of a way of getting your players used to the broad outlines of your strategies. That way, you can really get a lot out of your tactics, keeping your opponents on their toes and keeping your team working smoothly.
The fully thought out system can take a lot of effort to set up, but it is hugely rewarding once you get it all sorted out. The key is creating tactics specifically for match preparation to separate the familiarity training from the match tactics.
These preparation tactics each use one of the team's main formations and one each of the different settings or slider levels that are used in the match tactics, as you can see below. For the sake of simplicity I have also set specific values for the other sliders, but that's not strictly necessary. It's best to create three preparation tactics to ensure the ideal possible flexibility, but this method will also work with only two.
Those preparation tactics, once the team is fully familiar with them, mean that the team will have 800/800 familiarity with any tactics using any combination of those settings. The screenshots below are examples of different match tactics created using combinations of the settings from the match preparation tactics shown above.
To add a bit of extra flexibility, I haven't limited myself to match tactics with 800/800 familiarity. I've also created a set of match tactics with a fourth formation, and some with different strategies that I may use less often when the situation arises. I've still used the same slider settings, so the only things lowering the familiarity are the strategy and the formation. These match tactics still have very high familiarity levels, between 765/800 and 695/800, so the team still plays very well, and they add some real variety that can help win difficult games.
My current version of this system includes 3 preparation tactics and 40 match tactics using the 4 formations and 10 strategies listed below. The system would work with any number of tactics – in theory you could have hundreds. I have based my tactics on the strategies provided with the game, and adapted them to create different versions that fit with the playing style I want for my team.
Formations: 4-2-3-1, 4-3-2-1, 4-5-1, 4-4-2.
Strategies: Attack – Fluid, Attack – Pressure, Contain, Control – Deep, Control - Medium, Control – High, Counter, Defensive – Pressure, Defensive – Standoff, Overload.
The basic system is what I initially used to give a little more flexibility than just the standard three tactics that the preparation system appears to limit you to. All that this involves is separating the strategy from the formation, giving a set of nine complimentary tactics, three for each formation.
As an example, a basic tactic system using 4-4-2, 4-5-1 and 4-2-3-1 with Attack, Control and Defend strategies would give you the following nine tactics: 4-4-2 Attack, 4-4-2 Control, 4-4-2 Defend, 4-5-1 Attack, 4-5-1 Control, 4-5-1 Defend, 4-2-3-1 Attack, 4-2-3-1 Control, 4-2-3-1 Defend.
To have 800/800 preparation on all nine tactics, you just need to make sure that at all times you are preparing one tactic using each formation, and one tactic using each strategy.
This can be slightly harder to keep track of than the separated system in terms of preparation and selecting the right tactic for each game, as it is less clear which of the tactics need to have set as the match preparation tactics. It's a lot less time consuming to set up however, and if you want just a little tactical boost without much effort then this could be a good way to go.
It's also possible to have a system that mixes principles from both the separated and the basic systems described above. In effect, it's a case of creating a Basic system of nine tactics, and then creating some extra tactics that use different combinations of the settings used in the three main strategies (or extra formations if you're not bothered about having slightly lower familiarity levels).
This means that as with the Basic system it's less time consuming to set up, but gives you a bit more flexibility. It's the hardest to keep track of though, because you'll have to remember exactly which of your strategies/formations you actually want to have as your preparation tactics, so really there is little advantage to using this system instead of the separated system.
How To Create The Separated System
The first step is to decide which settings you want to use in your tactics. The eight aspects you need to decide your settings for are: Formation, Strategy, Passing Style, Creative Freedom, Closing Down, Marking, Width and Tempo. Fortunately, because there are only three different settings each for Passing Style, Creative Freedom, Closing Down and Marking, all you really need to consider are the Formation, Strategy, Width and Tempo settings of your system.
If you're not sure what settings to prepare, then you should go with a range of different settings similar to the ones I have in my preparation tactics, since these give a lot of flexibility to create a wide variety of playing styles. If you already have a successful match tactic that you don't want to alter, just use the settings from that match tactic as one of the three options and you'll have no problems.
Once you have decided which formations and settings you want to be the core of your system, you then create the three preparation tactics using those settings.
All you then have to do is create the match tactics themselves. When you're making them, you have to make sure that the settings you use are exactly the same as the ones used in the preparation tactics (unless you're deliberately sacrificing familiarity for a slightly different setting or formation).
After creating both the preparation and the match tactics, you must set the three preparation tactics as the current and backup tactics in the squad tactics page. These must always be left untouched, as they are the core of the system that makes sure your preparation is always at it's maximum level.
When selecting a line up for a match, you switch the current tactic to whichever preparation tactic features the formation you want to use for the fixture, so that the players you select are in the correct positions. If you plan to use a match tactic that uses a formation that isn't one of the three you have prepared, just select the most similar preparation tactic and be careful to choose the right players.
After clicking the “Submit Team” button, you then navigate to the tactics overview page and choose the match tactic you want so that your team is using the correct strategy.
When you're switching match tactics in game you can now quickly and easily change from one to another to suit the flow of the game, making it a lot less time consuming to react to the situation at hand. Don't be afraid to slightly tweak the settings in match if you feel like it, because small changes won't affect the familiarity too much.
Separating the preparation tactics from the match tactics is actually more realistic than only having three complete tactics set in stone that your team uses in games. In real life, coaches drill their teams to focus their training on different aspects of their game plan, and then bring it all together in a huge variety of different ways. The most successful coaches can alter their tactics slightly to counter their opponents' strengths or focus on their weaknesses, and this can easily be done in FM.
I'll soon post a follow up article with some further tips that make managing these systems easier, but this should be enough to get you started. Hopefully this system will allow you to have far more flexibility in your tactics selection, and help you create a far more successful team.