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Tactical Development Workshop - LESSON 10: Tactical Systems

By on Jan 18, 2022   4207 views   0 comments
Tactical Development Workshop - Tactical Development Workshop - LESSON 10: Tactical Systems
While preparing to present you complete tactical game systems, I have to mention that the FM engine design has two distinct features, which are highlighted in the game statistics:
  • stability,
  • determination.
Since 2007 I've been running tactical tests on successive versions of the game engine, thanks to which I've accumulated an impressive number of almost 22000 rows of data for 24 game parameters, which gives me a database of over half a million records for the 9 formations I've tested.

  • 4-4-2
  • 4-3-3 DM
  • 4-3-3 DM Wide
  • 4-2-3-1 Wide
  • 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow
  • 4-4-1-1
  • 5-3-2 WB
  • 4-1-4-1 DM
  • 5-2-1-2 WB
nomenclature and markings according to Football Manager

The tests so far have covered versions from FM 2005 to FM 2022 and all the theses presented in TDW are the result of the data obtained during these tests.

The two aforementioned features of the resulting data sets allowed a researcher like myself to determine trends and estimate measures of dispersion, which in turn could result in further hypotheses that were then tested.

For those players who are less statistically savvy, I'd just like to say that the knowledge I've gained over the years allows me to construct any tactical style of formation in FM, with results ranging from 50 to 60%.

The tactical systems presented below should be treated as neutral models within the presented styles of play, which means that you are responsible for adjusting them to your players' skills and your opponents' requirements.

This is the last lesson of my series. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Let this be my humble contribution to our niche community, which has become an important part of my life.

Thank you.


In this style the emphasis is on keeping the ball in the offensive third of the field.

The time spent in possession of the ball in the opponent's half must be as long as it is in their own half, with the transition phase characterized by passing the ball forward quickly and only there stabilizing possession.

4-3-3 DM
- High positions of the players after recovering the ball
- Variable tempo of the play
- High technical demands on the central midfielders
- Very high active pressing

4-3-3 DM
- Emphasis on possession advantage
- Very high positioning of players after regaining possession
- Short transition phase
- High fitness requirements

4-1-4-1 DM
- Very high intensity of play
- Lots of passing options on the wings
- Fast forward distance gained
- Active high pressing

5-3-2 WB
- A numerical advantage in midfield
- Variable tempo of the game
- Good positions without the ball
- Aggressive active pressing

5-2-3 WB Wide
- Emphasis on wing play
- High mobility of offensive players
- Possession advantage
- High positioning of players after regaining possession

- Very high position interchangeability
- Very many passing options
- High technical and fitness requirements
- High active pressing

4-2-3-1 Wide
- High game intensity
- Shorter but less fluid transition phase
- Unpredictable movements of offensive players
- Moderate pace of play


The Build-up takes into account long and controlled possession of the ball in the middle third of the pitch and is directed towards those periods of play when the team is looking for opportunities to launch an attack.

Distinctive to this style is the emphasis on maintaining possession in the first period of the transition phase with the ball.

4-3-3 DM
- High control of possession
- High demands on the side players
- Variable tempo of play
- Moderate passive pressing

5-2-2-1 WB
- High fitness requirements
- Very fluid transition phase
- Unpredictable movements of the midfielders
- Numerous advantages in the zones on the opponent's half

4-3-3 DM
- Balanced positional advantage
- Asymmetrical attacking system
- High interchangeability of positions in the game with the ball
- Very high pressing

5-3-2 WB
- Advantageous ball possession
- High passive pressing
- Wide positions in positional attack construction
- Specialized forward roles

5-2-3 WB WIDE
- High patient playmaking
- High technical demands on wingers
- Longer and more rigid transition phase
- Good interchangeability of positions


Teams try to move the ball quickly toward the opponent's goal through the use of long passes rather than continuous ball possession.

Critical to distinguishing this style is the forward distance gained each time a team passes the ball to an offensive partner.

4-2-3-1 Wide
- Positional advantage in the midfield
- High demands on the side players
- Very short and fluid transition phase
- Unpredictable movements around the opponent's box

4-2-3-1 Wide
- Longer transition phase
- High mobility in the midfield
- High positions after recovering the ball
- Good positions for offensive players on the counter-attack

4-2-3-1 Wide
- Very active and mobile wings
- Variable tempo of play
- Lots of passes from the deep
- High technical demands on the central midfielders


A counterattack occurs when a team regains possession of the ball and immediately moves the ball into the attacking area using passing and/or dribbling.

The ball must reach its destination in the opponent's half. This location varies depending on where the ball is recovered.

The speed of the transition from the recovery spot to the destination spot only determines the value of the counterattack.

5-3-2 WB
- Good control of possession
- Fast forward distance gained on the wings
- High mobility of central midfielders
- Deep defensive positions

- Very fluid transition phase
- Emphasis on fast forward distance gained
- Balanced positioning in midfield
- Positional advantage in the opponent's half

- Positional balance in transition phase
- High flexibility in playing the ball
- High technical requirements
- Short transition phase

4-2-3-1 Wide
- High mobility of offensive players
- Numerical advantage in your own half
- Fast forward distance gained
- Low positions in transition after recovering the ball


High pressing means that after a period of prolonged ball possession by rivals, the team recovers the ball mainly in the opponent's offensive third and occasionally in the middle third. In this style recoveries in the defensive third are the exception.

3-1-4-2 DM
- Wide playing positions
- Good control of possession
- Lots of options for offensive actions
- High positions in transition phase after recovering the ball

4-3-3 DM
- Very wide starting positions
- Variable tempo of attacks
- Deep ball distribution
- Emphasis on numerical superiority in zones

- Specialization of forwards roles
- Lots of variations on how to play the ball
- Asymmetrically attacking wingers
- High passive pressing

5-2-1-2 WB
- Narrow and very fast pattern of play
- Emphasis on controlling the ball possession
- Good protection after losing the ball
- The key role of the central midfielders

4-3-3 DM
- Very offensive variant
- Short transition phase
- Wide player positions
- Lots of passing options in the offensive third


Ball control is a possession-based style in which a team attempts to maintain and secure possession of the ball primarily in its own defensive zone (defensive third).

The defensive line has the majority of the play action responsibilities in transition phase with the ball.

5-2-1-2 WB
- Narrow playing model
- Fluid transition phase
- High mobility in the midfield
- Deep low pressing

4-2-3-1 Wide
- Unpredictable movements of offensive players
- Narrow ball playmaking pattern
- Short transition phase
- Lots of passing options

4-2-3-1 Wide
- Patiently playing the ball
- Aggressive pressing
- High activity of the players on the wings
- Few losses in transition phase


The team constructs fast attacks in the flanks to increase the pace and width of the game through sequences of consecutive individual "short possessions" with the sole purpose of passing the ball to their midfield partners by means of crosses or direct passes.

- Emphasis on controlling possession
- High pressing
- High mobility of offensive players
- Good protection in the second line

4-3-3 DM
- High mobility of players in the offensive third
- Passive pressing
- Asymmetrical wing behavior
- Short transition phase

4-2-3-1 Wide
- Maintaining possession in the midfield
- Passive pressing with holding formation shape
- High positioning of players on the offense
- Lots of passing options

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