I just finished season 2032/33, that's 13 in-game years. I've used variations of 433/442 diamond along the years but stabilized and decided to create a legacy with this formation, a dominating and very very entertaining way to play this game. One of the reasons I switch between tactics even though they're working is because I get bored of how we create chances in the same way, even though we keep scoring and winning games, it's like deja vu, predictable.
With this one i don't get that, we come out of defence in many different ways, our strikers partner up occupying different spaces, the AM is such a random figure with great runs and assists, the centre backs go crazy sometimes dribbling upfield and the deep lying playmakers pull some beautiful Stevie Gerrard style passes sometimes that will just make you poop a tear.
Here is what I've accomplished throughout these years.
That's 9 Premier League titles in 13 years. This has been one of the most competitve saves I've ever played with Arsenal, City and United always chasing me down until the last game of the season. They have world class squads and not winning the league every other season (like previous FM versions) is one of the reasons that I'm enjoying this save so much.
Notice how I only won my first Premier League after 3 years, that's because (not only, but mostly) I was tweaking this formation around and finding the best players for each position, trying out different instructions and not hurrying into getting world class players but developing wonderkids and nurturing them into the team. I never tried this tactic with shit teams, I only manage Liverpool so obviously you need top class players because this is a very competitive league with some very good squads so a mix of world class talent and upcoming kids is key.
I kept the legacy of Shankly and Paisley alive with constant wins in the Champions League. Again, other english teams in european finals prove my point about the competitiveness.
This is my last season, 125 goals buddy. I usually surpass the 100 mark but this season was something incredible.
Without the ball: We press high up the pitch conceding very little space and time on the ball to the opposition, you will go nuts with how many balls your CAM will steal in the attacking third and then with 2 passes your strikers are clear inside the penalty box. Our wingers will press their full-backs, our midfield triangle (fits perfect against 4-3-3) will prevent through passes, our strikers don't allow their center-backs to get involved and our back three is ready to cover down the flanks.
If the opposition bypass this press and find themselves in the flanks of our defensive third, don't worry, our back 3 will backup and backup waiting for our double pivot to arrive and prevent play through the middle and our wingers eventually arrive in support so either the opposition switches play fast and gets a shot as quickly as possible or they will soon be overloaded and we'll get our clearance into our front three, and I love those goals: One moment your back 3 are getting countered and the next thing you know, they get the ball back and with a long pass our front 3 are countering back the opposition.
With the ball: Play starts with our centre backs moving the ball around centrally with our double pivot, no hurries, we are in numerical advantage, so if the opposition come pressing in numbers our top class CMs will get the ball into one of the flanks where our wingers have an array of options to choose from: Run the whole flank and get a cross byline or cutback, get an early cross, play one-twos with the CAM or just run at their defence and get a shot on goal. If the opposition defend well and in numbers, the winger will retain possession and circulate back through the CMs or even the CBs.
Attacking mentality of course, we're going for the win every single game trying to get players into space with quick passes and a more direct pasin play in the final third. Everything else are basic instructions of a team that wants to dominate possession, I rarely change them except in very specific cases.
Away against top opposition: Play narrower and higher the tempo and pass directness, so you can hit them on the counter with your 3 man upfield. I remove work the ball into the box as I want more quick incisive play. Sometimes, but not always, I change the Line of Engagement to Standard.
Holding on to a result: I often change to Balanced mentality (no Cautious or the wingers will be late to press). Lower the line of engagement and don't prevent short GK distribution. Stop countering after ball recovery and slow the pace down. That usually does it for me.
2nd Leg games: Champions League produces lots of random weird results and comebacks and is the reason why i break my mouse every once and a while. I am always paranoid when we win 2-0 in the first leg, and I'll be honest with you, I still didn't find the best solution, sometimes you just can't control when the other team gets their mojo on and score 3 in a row... One tactic that's been working for me in tight games is the 3-5-2
It gives me more control over the midfield (more possession) while still allowing for quick attacks down the wings. I change to Balanced mentality and stop countering after ball recovery (I'm leading on aggregate so the idea is to hold on to the ball a bit more, we create less chances but we're never caught in transition either). Keep the high defensive line, the CM's must press upfield or you'll find yourself with 8 players just outside your penalty box and you don't want that.
Roles and Key Attributes
GK - Sweeper Keeper - Support
I give preference to One on Ones and Distribution attributes (passing, long throws, kicking) because he is very much involved in playing out the defence and must be able to find your wingers on the halfway line.Alisson gave me that for many years (retired with 38) and now this kid from youth ranks came along, I nicknamed him after the great Gordon Banks. I like renaming them after football legends.
RCB & LCB - Ball Playing Defender - Cover
Speed speed speed! These guys will cover your wingers and must be able to dribble out of defence efficiently, so Passing attributes are also key. Heading and Jumping Reach are great to defend against crosses but it's not easy to find a defender with top class attributes in these 3 areas, so my advice is start with speed as most of the game their job will be anticipating and sweeping the flanks behind the wingers. I often adapt players to these positions, like this regen Reis, speedy left-back with great physical attributes, he naturally dribbles out of defence and gets in crosses by the halfway line.
Specific Player Instructions: Dribble more, Shoot less often, Stay wider
CB - Central Defender - Stopper
Anticipation and Concentration. This guy will be the first to press the opposition CF when we lose the ball and they try to play long so he needs to get there first. Strength is a must and yes you got it, speed! I had Florentino playing here for several seasons, even though his heading ability wasn't that great he was intercepting every ball coming into his area of action.
Specific Player Instructions: Take fewer risks
RW & LW - Winger - Support
These are not full-backs buddy, these guys are natural attacking players with great work rate and determination as they need to go up and down for the whole game. Forget tackling and marking and heading, these are bonus attributes. What you're looking for is Pace, Dribblng, Crossing, Decisions, Anticipation and Off the Ball. They will be responsible for most of the team's assists and will score 10 goals per season easily. Alexander-Arnold was a dream here for many years until he lost his pace and I moved him to central midfield, he had the defensive AND offensive attributes.
Specific Player Instructions: Get further forward
RCM - Deep Lying Playmaker - Support
This is your most defensive player, good positioning and defensive attributes first, but Passing, First touch and Vision must be 15+ because they will be responsible for switching play and against top opposition they will play under pressure and must be technically able to get out of tight situations.
Specific Player Instructions: Pass it Shorter, Dribble less
RCM - Deep Lying Playmaker - Support
The playmaker. Passing, Vision, First touch is a must, but also Dribbling, Off the ball and Long Shots. I overlook defensive attributes but Work Rate is important, he must get back down quick if we get countered. I had Milinkovic-Savic doing this with devastating results for years. I want this guy to stay wider when we get the ball, this is important. You can test it yourself and you'll see the difference when playing out of defence. If he is wider the LCB will get higher up the pitch to provide support and the LW wil bomb forward and this guy will have more space and time to find the best passing option.
Specific Player Instructions: Stay Wider
AM - Attacking Midfielder - Attack
Less of a playmaker, this guy must be a workhorse with technical ability. He will recover many many balls high upfield (Firmino). Don't worry if his rating isn't that high, he is very important because he is the guy who assists the the guy who assists, get it? The game doesn't seem to rate that but I pay attention to these details. He won't come deep to get the ball, he will drive forward centrally as the forwards split wide and he will create many many chances, more importantly, he will pull defenders and overload specific areas that will give your CMs more time on the ball. Dybala was brilliant for me here. Now i got this guy Aguirre (what ridiculous attributes!!) who doesn't get too many goals or assists or overwhelming ratings but he is so important, he's like a creative N'Golo Kanté, intercept and pass, priceless player.
Specific Player Instructions: Take more risks, Hold up ball, Roam from position, move into channels
RF - Advanced Forward
This is the guy who will make runs behind the defence once you recover the ball, he will drift wide and he will pull defenders away. He will be your top scorer. Mbappe delivered me 40+ goals per season bar one where he got injured. You're looking for Finishing, Off the ball, Composure and Pace, everything else is a bonus. It's important he stays wider as he will open up the space for the AM and the LF.
Specific Player Instructions: Run wide with ball, Roam from position, Stay wider
LF - Complete Forward - Support
The more technical forward able to hold up play but also run the channels. I have my son playing here now (so proud) but for many years Fábio Silva was superb in this role. He will drop deep and help get the ball into the flanks while the other striker plays off the shoulder of the defensive line, this combo is very effective. Vision and Passing attributes are essential.
Specific Player Instructions: More direct passes, Stay wider
Tips and trends:
Don't move your wingers into wing-back position. Do not pussy out on me!! You're winning 1-0 and you want more safety on the back? Change to 3-5-2 formation but do not move the wingers back, you will lose the high press quality and your double pivot will be running sideways chasing the ball in midfield. Gasperini does not approve.
Cautions mentality, NO. This is an attacking formation supposed to score plenty of goals, dominate possession and create many many chances. If you're happy with the scoreline then change to Positive or Balanced, stop countering after winning back possession and even lower the tempo. But cautious mentality no no buddy, Gasperini does not approve.
This is a long-term project. Don't be afraid to play your undeveloped youth ranks, don't go spending the big bucks just because you can, save them for a player that will make a difference, a world class footballer that will grant you consistency. I bought Florentino
Set-Pieces: I found out 2 in-game seasons ago that long-throw-ins are sooo dangerous. At first I had the CBs attack that first post area and they were scoring so consistently, hitting the bar, creating half-chances. Then I tried my 2 strikers there and the effectiveness continued. Don't bother about long throw attributes or heading ability, just put it long and get at least 4 bodies in the penalty box, easy goals buddy.
Rotation is key. Keep two wingers for each side on the bench, it's important to keep them fresh, very very important. I can tell you I have 22 world class players in my 23 man-squad, I can switch them around and performance levels remain the same. That's because they're happy because I rotate the starting lineup very often. Apart from Mbappe, my main CB and my main CM, if a player is below 95% match sharpness I have no problem rotating them. This way you'll have a very competitive squad able to fight in every competition throughout the season
Have fun. This is an anti-boring tactic. Be patient, find yourself the right players and stick to your ideas. Don't tweak around much, find what works and in time you will find a balance between goals scored and conceded.