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Grid System Tactics for FM 2012

The popular tactic by tactikzz that helped Hulk score 123 goals in 54 matches!

By on Jun 05, 2012   285845 views   72 comments
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FM 2012 Tactics - Grid System Tactics for FM 2012
Before I begin, it really is necessary to read about my grid system concept in order to understand where the ideas surrounding the tactic have originated. I can't stress this enough, as the philosophy and slider positions are all based off a rigid system.

FM Grid System

The ideas surrounding the grid system came about when requiring a method that would enable me to obtain a basic layout of in game sliders, which could easily be converted into a Football Manager tactic. Something out of the ordinary, random and inventive. While there are many ideas within the grid system that have flaws, it was merely an experiment to see if something like it, could be achieved. It was my hope that I could create a system that would start the tactical building process for me, in combination with whatever philosophy it was that I wished to pursue. As that was the hope and end goal, I personally feel that the overall project has been a success. This success has been reflected in the amount of trophies won during the tactic trial testing – so many that I've needed to construct a new trophy cabinet.

The Formation

After the grid system was conceived and produced, my mind began to scrutinise the pros and cons of various formations that I could try to create within the grid system itself. I settled upon a system that would change shape in defence and attack, in as much as my strikers would track back to help out the midfield wide areas. With this in mind, the formation would appear to be a 4-1-2-3, but we only resemble this formation and shape when in possession of the ball.

Formation when in possession.

When we lose possession, I want the wide strikers to track the opposing fullbacks as they advance up the field, so that my fullbacks aren't facing two opposition players running at them down either flank. I'm no chef, but that sounds like a recipe for disaster!

As the wide strikers move back into midfield, we create a formation that resembles a 4-1-4-1.

By pinning the strikers onto the opposition fullbacks, if gives the wide areas some extra support as well as stopping opposing teams from passing the ball out from the back. We negate opposition defences from spraying the ball horizontally along their defensive line, probing their way up the field and into out half, searching for a through ball that might destroy us. Hopefully you can see that by allowing the wide strikers to track opposing fullbacks, we give ourselves defensive stability while forcing the opposition to perhaps change their style of football.

Formation when we lose possession.

The 4-1-4-1 formation is a favourite defensive shape of mine and I'll always try to find a way of incorporating it within any tactic that I create. It offers a flat back four, a central anchor man, a sturdy four man midfield and an outlet upfront. If set up in a correct manner, it creates a very rigid and formidable defensive wall in front of your goalkeeper.

Applying The Grid

Firstly, can I just inform you that I have not tweaked the tactic in any way. What you see is what you get purely via the grid system. Certain aspects like the defensive line were positioned whether I wanted to 'stand off', or 'press' the opposition, but all individual player tactical sliders were positioned purely on what was calculated via the grid system.

With that in mind, I will include a brief run down of the left fullback position so you can see my logical, or random, way of thinking.

Fullback grid system example.

Focus your gaze upon the left fullback position, if you will.

The yellow horizontal line indicates the mentality given to the player – six. In the original tactic (stand off), I didn't want my defensive line venturing too far from their defensive zones, hence the low mentality as instructed via the grid.

The vertical light blue line illustrates creative freedom. The left fullback has been afforded five for this settings, so that he doesn't wander too far off the tactical plan, or roam from his defensive position whenever he desires. A setting of five, allows him to touch the nearest centre back, although quite frankly I don't want him holding hands with the centre back – I'd rather the fullback concentrate on playing. Now, there have been many complaints about the grids way of interpreting creative freedom, and as I've pointed out around the various FM community sites, I simply needed a way of applying creative freedom to the grid system, even if it meant applying it in a bizarre way. You have to remember that the initial system was constructed in one evening and as time has passed, the system has been refined further.

After applying the passing reticle translucently so that you can see the player underneath, hopefully it is clear that a passing setting of five is enough so that he can pass to the nearest centre back and towards the half way line. I want the fullback to play a short passing game, therefore the grid system has calculated the ideal passing length to be five notches. However, when combined with through balls, it gives the player enough freedom to do what he thinks best in various circumstances and situations.

With the settings calculated for one position, the same method and process was applied to the other positions.

Set Piece Routine

I've been privately contacted via email and other sources, numerous times, to include the corner 'exploit' within a new tactical release. It is for this reason why this particular corner routine has been included within the tactic. If you don't like it and feel it's cheating, then take it out and add your own. The only thing that will change is that your striker will probably have around twenty less goals per season (if you have a good striker to begin with).

Let me point out that I have added this 'exploit' rather reluctantly, and it will be the first and last time of doing so. I've added it purely out of request by the community. The corner routine that many people in the community add to their tactics, is a get out clause for appallingly constructed tactics. There are a few obvious names within the FM community who add this routine time and time again and seem to get amazing praise – have a think, we all know who they are. It's not big, it's not clever and yet they are worshipped as tactical gods. Don't worship false idols, people!

I personally just leave everything on default / mixed, crowd the opposition box with bodies and hope for the best. It reflects real life football. So yeah, this is the first and the last time for the corner routine. Ask again and you’ll feel the wrath of the Welsh god Arawn.

Without further ado, let's crack on with the tactical releases!

FM Tactical Grid Tactic – Stand Off

You’re free to have a choice of two tactics. The first of which is a deep, stand off, low pressing tactic, which was the original idea.

Within this tactic, your players will keep a deep defensive line and stand off opponents until a tackle is necessary – keeping their shape. The marking in defensive areas is set to ‘man’, so that they track strikers and attacking midfielders within the deep zones around the eighteen yard box.

It was my very first idea to develop a tactic that I could trial run with weaker club sides, hence the low closing down and rigid structure. This is also why marking is set to ‘man’, so that they utilise such attributes as strength, work rate, concentration and marking. These attributes are more common within the lower leagues, hence why the system might work better there. When you place players on zonal marking, it uses attributes such as positioning, anticipation, teamwork, concentration and decisions, which are harder to find within less skilled club sides.

With all that in mind, did I manage to achieve any success with a stand off approach? Click the screenshots below for larger resolutions and judge for yourself.

LA Galaxy

The first trial run was with the MLS team LA Galaxy. I managed to win the MLS by charging forth unbeaten throughout the entire season, conceding only eighteen goals.

LA Galaxy final league position.

We also managed to clinch the domestic cup, therefore ending the regular season with the double.

LA Galaxy clinch the double.

Landon Donovan ended the season with 44 goals in 43 appearances.

Landon Donovan's final statistics.

Robbie Keane was in fantastic goalscoring form, netting 64 goals in 31 games.

Robbie Keane's final statistics.

River Plate

Argentina was my next destination and to River Plate, who have recently fallen on hard times, relegated to the second tier. Hopefully my tactic would enable us to clinch promotion. We achieved promotion, but also bagged ourselves the Copa Argentina which was fantastic. Another double during the tactic trial run.

River Plate final league position.

As you can see, we finished with over 100 goals scored and 100 points. The three league losses were a disappointment, but we constructed another dominant defence, conceding only seventeen goals.

Copa Argentina victory.

With the double clinched and two more trophies added to the tactic test trophy cabinet, let’s move onto the player statistics.

David Trezeguet final statistics.

David Trezeguet managed to achieve a goal tally of 50 in 37 matches. I won't bother adding the wider strikers statistics this time (to save space), but I will inform you that Fernando Cavenaghi scored 25 goals in 31 matches and Alejandro Dominquez scored 17 in 24 matches.

Swansea City

The greatest test for my stand off tactic.

How would my grid system stand off tactic fare when up against Premier League opponents week in week out? Well suffice to say, we did very well, winning the League Cup and qualifying for the Champions League by finishing third on goal difference – joint second. Absolutely delighted with European qualification and some silverware in the process.

After 26 games played we were top of the Premier League by a solitary point, but slipped away as Manchester City were too powerful. We inflicted one of their three defeats throughout the season however, so that was extremely pleasing.

Swansea final league position.

Here is the screenshot which documents the League Cup win.

Swansea win the League Cup.

Marco Ruben was my only signing at Swansea, as I needed a central poacher that could slot away chances. He managed to amass as many goals as he played matches – 43 goals in 43 games.

Marco Ruben final statistics.

Other stand out players were the wide strikers, Sinclair and Dyer, with 41 goals between them.

FM Tactical Grid Tactic – Press

Having created a successful 'stand off' tactic, I tried it out with Barcelona, to see how it performed within a giant of world football. Even though I beat Real Madrid 7 – 0, in many of the matches we stood off far too much and the opposition were basically playing the game on a level playing field. We needed more fight to impose ourselves on the opposition, and so, the pressing variant was formed.

It is my philosophy that larger clubs need to press and instil fear into opponents. You have the better players and better players do better things when they have the ball. I needed to tweak the grid tactic into a pressing alternative. Therefore, if you require that your team press the opposition, then this tactic should serve you well.

Zonal marking has also been introduced here throughout every defensive player. Teams who usually press the opposition are, as already highlighted, some of the better teams, with better players. Therefore they can get away with, and play, the zonal marking system.

I have only tested the tactic over two days with FC Porto, but anyone who has been following me via Twitter will know that I have achieved some amazing success. I must stress though that this tactic has only had a trial run with FC Porto, so it probably needs further testing. Having said all that though, I managed to achieve the quadruple, beating Barcelona twice in the process.

FC Porto

Here is the league table. We finished undefeated with a great amount of goals scored. If I have one disappointment, it was that we finished the season on double figures conceded. With only a handful of matches remaining we went from single to double figures. I can only blame this on fatigue as a few players were in need of a rest.

FC Porto final league position.

I finished the entire season unbeaten with FC Porto, within every competition entered – if you ignore being eliminated via a penalty shoot out in the Taca de Portugal 6th Rnd. I won’t post my entire seasonal fixtures here as proof, as the image when stitched together will be very large. If anyone wants proof however, feel free to ask.

So, going undefeated throughout the entire season only meant one thing. We won the quadruple.

FC Porto clinch the quadruple.

FC Porto managed to win the Portuguese Premier League, Portuguese Cup, European Champions League and European Super Cup. The two European trophies were clinched after beating Barcelona, twice.

Here is the European Super Cup victory over Barcelona.

Beating Barcelona once.

And here we have the Champions League Final screenshot.

Beating Barcelona twice.


This man needs his own section because he was absolutely phenomenal. What he managed to achieve is legendary, regardless of the amount of goals scored. I've witnessed him dribble past four players only to score. I've seen him score an overhead kick in the box after a pin point cross. I've gazed upon a mazy run from the half way line, past three players, only to cross to the back post for Danny Welbeck (on loan) to score. The guy is simply amazing.

To top it all off, he scored a whopping 123 goals in 54 matches. Yes you read it correctly…123 goals.

Hulk's final statistics.


Tactical Help

Well done for getting this far! I'll summarise player positions here and what you might want to tweak.

1) Your central striker is your main source of goals. He is the focal point during the corner exploit (grrr!) and he is always available for a through ball played through the centre, either off the wider strikers, or the central midfielders.

2) The man marking throughout the 'stand off' version can be tweaked I'm sure. If you are managing at a higher level and have faith in your players holding their zones, then feel free to change it to zonal.

3) Your strikers in general all need to be quick to feed off any through balls. Dribbling, agility and balance etc are all welcome here. You know the drill, quick, dribbling flair players will thrive here as they break the defensive line time and time again.

4) Opposition instructions should be automatically embedded within each tactic, meaning that you shouldn't really need to do them yourself. Please check that your wide strikers are specifically man marking the opposing fullbacks and that the opposition wingers for each team are shown onto their 'weaker foot'. Like I say, this should already be included within the tactic, but please make sure.

If facing a team who play three central defenders at the back, your wide strikers will specifically man mark the outer centre backs. This is not ideal, therefore set your wide strikers to man mark, tight marking 'no'. If the opposition team change to a back four, then specifically man mark the fullbacks as usual.

As for the opposition instructions themselves, I always made sure that the wingers were shown onto their weaker foot. Deep wingers, common in say, a 4-4-2, or advanced wingers / inside forwards. Any attacking wide player should be shown onto weaker foot. This is set within the tactic, but opposition teams change formation during a match.

5) You're never going to win each and every game based solely on a tactic. Things sometimes go wrong – own goals, players 'switching off'. This is to do with the in-game player attributes, and not 100% the tactic – attributes like concentration and decisions etc. Player management and team talks are a big feature in Football Manager 2012, so try and make sure your team go into each and every game on high morale. You will create chances, but you need your team to believe they can slot in the goals.

6) Make sure to plug in the tactic during pre-season and let the team become fluid in all areas. During most of my trials I kept match preparation on 'very high – teamwork' to quickly progress through the season. It did me no harm at all. During the Swansea save however, after the tactic became fluid, I switched to 'defensive positioning'. Experiment with these settings.

7) I've never moved the players into different positions. If I had world class wingers, I simply retrained them to be strikers and stuck with them (James Rodriguez at FC Porto, for example). They operate down either flank anyway, much like wingers. If you move players around, I have no idea how the tactic will perform, so do this at your own risk.

Tactical variants included

As you've already seen, there are two tactical variants. One is the stand off version, the original, and the other is a pressing alternative, trialled at FC Porto to great success. Try them both and see which one suits you best. Remember, the central striker is your main source of goals.

I hope you can achieve the same, or greater success.

About the Author
TACTIKZZ runs the Football Manager Tactical Newspaper blog, where he discusses various tactics and theories spanning much of football's illustrious history. Follow him on Twitter.

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Discussion: Grid System Tactics for FM 2012

72 comments have been posted so far.

  • Man UtD_777's avatar
    Where did Hulk play with you?? ST and what? poacher or RW and winger?
  • stephenpmcmanus's avatar
    The two wide strikers are both set to zonal marking, tight marking-no, is that correct shouldn't they be set to man Mark? so they track back the opposing full backs?


  • gary_shaw1991's avatar
    Asif you've rambled on about all that grid bull crap and all you've done is glitch corners hahaha sucks if you fell for this.
  • mendez's avatar
    when i put the tactic in the tactics folder what do i do ?
  • ConmanHD's avatar
    ConmanHD12 years ago
    Great tactic, going to give it a bash with my tottenham team. First time using a classic tactic though, I was wondering if you could post a screenshot with the roles each player has, like the normal tactic creator so I can strengthen my squad based around the roles and attributes needed?
    thanks for the good work!
  • ENGLISHDUBS's avatar
    Cheers Stam, got it loaded up to my game :)
  • Stam's avatar
    @str8siick: If you go to Player Instructions on each position you'll see which attributes are the most important. You can either sign players based on these attributes or tweak the player roles and duties to fit your current squad strengths.
  • str8siick's avatar
    hey m8 witch type of players i need to use with this tactic?
    can you give me an exemple for every role?
  • chrisR86's avatar
    Hey everyone!
    I heard about this tactic on Facebook, and I thought I would give it a try (it's pretty much my ideal of a tactic, but I have never been able to go through all the work, I am only a player since 2011).
    I chose Borussia M'Gladbach, season 2011/2012. I saw the screenshots (Porto, LA, River) and figured these teams had high expectations. So I was like, heck I am going to try this with a mid-table team, season 11/12.
    M'Gladbach's prediction is 13th. It's a fairly alright team (they actually did a good season irl but that wasn't really predicted) with 2-3 nice players(Dante, Reus, Stegen) and a 1.2M€ budget for transfers.

    And I must say, wow. Granted I am pretty sure I did an alright recruitment, I have to say that the season went totally awesome most likely because of this tactics.
    So thanks a lot for that. This is an AMAZING tactics, that I strongly recommend but by taking a "normal" or humble team. Better to add your own touch as well, than just using Barca and scoring 160 goals with Messi :)

    Here is a screenshot of the final table of season 2011/2012. I crumbled in the end of the season, losing important players due to injuries and losing 3 games. I also lost against a poor team in German Cup, strangely :)

    These are my 11 most used players

    The scorers. Note that I don't have a main scorer that reached 40+ goals. But you'll notice that I got 4 players that have from 14 to 23 goals in Bundesliga. This is due of switching strikers a lot (I didn't know my strikers much, so I gave them a chance quite often)

    PS : text is in French, sorry.
  • Stam's avatar
    @ENGLISHDUBS: Extract the .tac files from the .zip archive and move them into your FM12 tactics folder: Documents\Sports Interactive\Football Manager 2012\tactics
    Then you'll find it in your tactics screen to load and use.
  • ENGLISHDUBS's avatar
    Hi, i've never downloaded a Tactic before, but am interested in this one.

    I'm using steam with the latest patch.

    I assume its not just a case of pressing download, and then finding the Tactic on my current save???
  • Stam's avatar
    @Roberto.Mancini: Don't be aggressive mate, Tactikzz is one of the good guys. I personally appreciate his research and I feel his tactic is a proven success. Besides, he didn't claim to be a genius. People who tried this had great results at any given league. They call him that and it's probably justified too.

    I haven't tested it for myself, but we have received raving comments in social media. In some cases, this tactic ruined the joy of winning for people as they just couldn't lose. As a result they came up with their tactic to make the game feel more realistic. The impression I get is that this outsmarts the game's ME AI.
  • Tactikzz's avatar

    "Football for circus can only be played in FM ,nowhere else."

    I don't agree with this.

    I would argue that "football for circus" should be kept to the circus, no? The last thing anyone wants is for a clown to think that it's ok to start infiltrating the footballing world. I mean think about it, they could potentially use elephants as central defenders or even goalkeepers! Elephants may be large enough to instil fear and panic amongst opposition strikers, but they are terribly slow and lack a distinct understanding of the technical aspects held within football.

    Keep these weird fantasies to yourself. Football played within a circus should't "only be played in FM". If you want to play football while at a circus, then fine, but leave it there! These weird thoughts of yours could spill over, encouraging Sports Interactive to release the next managerial simulation - Circus Manager 2013.
  • Roberto.Mancini's avatar
    Football for circus can only be played in FM ,nowhere else .Try to make the same goals against 5-4-1 .Try to make the same chances against serious opponents who play tight .Try the same tactic in Serie A .You score 9 goals in the open spaces and you claim that you are genious .I doubt if you can bring cagliari in the top 6 in Serie A .I have make wonders with minors and you speak for premier league which is a football circus .Like Bundesliga ,5-6 goals per game .Show us some serious way of working apart from making 3d geometry ;)
  • Stam's avatar
    @hiltonio: Move the .tac files into your FM12 tactics folder:
    Documents\Sports Interactive\Football Manager 2012\tactics
  • drazen's avatar
    This tactic is great! I won with Serbia World Cup ... in 1/4 finals I eliminated France, in 1/2 finals I eliminated Brazil. In the final spain fell, 4-1, even though I had one player less than 37 minutes. All the matches I won relatively easily, and with convincing results. Let me remind you, all with Serbia!! My main striker Dejan Lekic, became the most efficient scorer ever at the world championships. You can look at the profile, nothing special. The perfect tactic. CONGRATULATES
  • Beurling's avatar
    I'm playing this tactic with AFC Telford in Blue Square Premier. We are tipped at 20th place, but i'm in the lead after about 26 matches by 11 points! Got a striker on free transfer, Couñago, he has scored 44 goals in those 26 games, just sick if you ask me :p 26 games: 21 wins, 3 draw and 2 lost, scored 91 and 19 against cannot believe it really. So yeah, it will work in ANY league people :-)
  • hiltonio's avatar
    hi guy's i have a little problem, once i have downloaded the tactic where do i find them in game i'm new to this game so a lil help would be greatly appreciated.
  • Tactikzz's avatar

    If facing a team that play, for example, a flat 3-4-3 formation with no wingbacks, then you strikers will man mark the wider opposition defenders. The game forces them to do this. However if facing any opposition formation that employs fullbacks or wingbacks then you don't have to worry, as your wide strikers will man mark these as already embedded.

    Their marking instructions will / should always say that they are specifically man marking fullbacks or wingbacks
  • autogene's avatar
    Hi Tactikizz

    Great Tactic, im using it for Newcastle and had a good start PL 8 W6 D1 L1 FOR 19 AG 6

    Just a quick question, in your opposition instuctions you state:

    "If facing a team who play three central defenders at the back, your wide strikers will specifically man mark the outer centre backs. This is not ideal, therefore set your wide strikers to man mark, tight marking 'no'. If the opposition team change to a back four, then specifically man mark the fullbacks as usual."

    I faced a team who had three central defenders so i went to change it to Man Mark and Tight Marking as NO but it was already set to this! when im facing teams with four defenders should my wide strikers Man mark option say "yes" ??
  • Stam's avatar
    @phillip1444: It should work regardless of patch version.
  • phillip1444's avatar
    can this work for any of the patches or just one specifically?
  • Tactikzz's avatar

    Sure. Scoring that many goals and winning every trophy imaginable will become boring, for some. It depends what people want out of the game. I simply made the tactc to follow on from an idea / theory that I had. If it worked, then great. If not, then the idea simply didn't come to plan the way I hoped.

    As it's worked out well it's been a success, in as much as people seem to be enjoying it. It's not my style of tactic, as I like creating systems that are more realistic. High possession tactics, or tactics that get the best out of attacking wingbacks etc. Tactics that in some way mirror real life football. Having said that, if I just want to play a quick FM game, buy a few players and whiz through a season, then this tactic fits the bill.

    Thanks for saying what you said by the way. :)
  • Guinness2228's avatar

    I started a new game with Man United to try out your tactic.
    I used the press as my starting tactic and stand off as my second.
    In pre season games I had normal results that you would expect from an MUFC pre season (3-0 4-4-0 etc). Due to the normal results I wondered if this tactic was as great as it sounds. I didn't sign anyone by the way. Anyway I played against Man city in the community shield and battered them 9-1 with Rooney as my central striker scoring 6 and wide guys scoring the other 3 :) crazy result I then played prem games against Aston villa Tottenham and Liverpool, won all games scoring 19 goals in the process and Rooney scoring 13 of them. So far this is an amazing tactic you have created and probably the best ever so far. For that a massive congratulations to you mate. I have created my own tactics and tried a lot of others over the past 3 years and I honestly can say NONE of them compare to the success yours can potentiall y bring. Just a quick question for you, do you think that having such results will get boring over time?
  • Tactikzz's avatar

    No, sorry. I'm not posting this article in its entirety anywhere else. Or allowing anyone else to post it. While this sounds harsh and somewhat bossy, it's simply because of the many people who have ripped my work already.

    It's really depressing when you see your hard work being flogged all around the world, while others take the credit for your hard work. If people hadn't have ripped my tactics, and my articles in the past, then I would be be more relaxed about it. As it stands it's better to be safe than sorry and harsh but fair.

    Mindless idiots have forced my hand, therefore the reigns have been tightened.

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