Table of ContentsIntroduction
Breaking the Match Engine
Formation and Roles
OI and MP
IntroductionIt has been harder year after year to get immediate positive results with default tactics in FM, especially if the managed team is an underdog team or even a lower league team (neither all tactics are well accepted in lower leagues). Due to this increased difficulty it’s common to see players frustrated for not being able to achieve their goals and in some cases ending up sacked. This was the main reason I’ve created this tactic.
Under excellent human management and following all the instructions below it won’t be difficult to win any league with any team using this weapon. I personally tried and tested with different sorts of teams, and being a long date FM player, I can say this tactic has been proven to be one of the most successful I’ve ever used, providing you the best of two worlds, scoring for fun and adding up clean sheets.
Don’t hurry to press the download button before read this article until the end because it’s very important to follow all the instructions below. Even if you don’t want to test this tactic I recommend to you stay tuned until the last chapter to learn how to maximize your results, read some useful advises to be used in your tactics, and the most important, enjoy better this game.
Breaking the Match EngineIf you want to smash the others teams and conquer the world in Football Manager with any team, you must have to forget the possession football and the default formations, they simply don’t work at all.
SI increased the influence of the clubs’ reputation in the match engine, so it means if you are managing a big team playing a patient shorter passing football against small teams, you will probably struggle to win matches because the AI managers will adopt a defensive approach hard to be exploited.
The best way to be successful against any team is don’t press them too much high up of the pitch, inviting them to pushing up their troops until your own territory, creating a rock defensive D line difficult to they broke down, meanwhile let them to push up their full backs, and suddenly recover the ball, play long range passes to the strikers taking advantage of the numerical superiority, and finish the deadly counter attacks effectively.
Many users play with this style but they can’t get accurate counter attacks because they are using default formations (4-2-3-1,4-1-2-3,4-3-3,4-4-2) which cause a bad space distribution upfront. Let me explain the issues of these formations.
This is a counter attack using a 4-1-2-3 formation with 2 Inside Forwards and 1 Advanced Forward. Notice that despite of both IF having the “Sit Narrower” instruction, they keep much wider than expected. With this IF´s positioning, it’s harder to counter attack effectively because after one of them receive the ball, the other IF will be totally out of game and the central striker will struggle to deal with the two opposite central defenders.
This is an attack using a simple 4-4-2 formation with 2 Inside Forwards and 2 Strikers. Just like the example above, both IF’s have the “Sit Narrower” instruction and even though they are much wider than expected. These default formations are awful in wide areas because these spots are over positioned by two players occupying the same positions. If the IF receives the ball, he will cut inside to create a dangerous situation, leaving his wing back out of play which benefits the opponent. In the situation above, it would be more reasonable to let the wing back with the entire flank to be exploited by him and the IF sitting narrower near to the central defenders, waiting for a cross or a pass between the defence and midfield.
Notice that the same issue analysed in the 4-1-2-3 counter attack above is happening in the other flank: when the ball is moved to the right, the wide left players will be inoffensive for the opposite defenders. Now, imagine playing with wingers instead of IF’s: in the attacking transition you’ll see the wing backs and wingers moving and performing in the same way (staying wider and with the mission to deliver a cross to the box), this is completely stupid, it’s like having a pair of wingers in each flank.
This is a counter attack resulting in a clear-cut chance using this 3-4-3 tactic available for download. As you can see, one of the midfielders make an accurate long-range pass to a space to be exploited by the left striker, breaking down their defence in a flash classy way. You can also verify that the positioning of the wide strikers is much more correct than the IF’s above explained, they are all completely ready to attack the space behind the defence, receiving the ball in a dangerous area and making the life harder to the defenders and the goalkeeper. This is the most common move with this tactic: wide strikers receiving the ball in the space, dribbling until the line, crossing byline to the centre of the box, and the other strikers finishing the move with a shot on goal.
To sum up, just like in previous editions I’ve found that having pairs in the flanks is useless, the best is to deliver the entire flank to a tireless wing back, able to attack and defend with some quality.
Defensive transitionThis 3-4-3 system is not only more accurate on counter attacking football but also to prevent it. Due to having 3 holding defenders at the back, any long counter attacking balls to the wide areas will be neutralized by the wide central defenders. If the defence were a flat 4 with 2 wing backs (as presented in the majority of formations) these wide areas would be unoccupied in the defensive transition, so they would be key spaces to be exploited by the opponent. In the screenshots below there are two scenarios where it’s clear to see the advantage/difference between defending a counter attack with a 3 at the back defence and with a wing back flat 4 defence. The screenshots speak for themselves so make your analysis and take your conclusions.
Defending a counter with a wing back flat 4 defence
Defending a counter with a 3 at the back defence
As explained above, the best way to score a lot of goals is to play counter attacking football, which is provided more accurately with the attacking mentality. This instruction will employ a direct football, focusing heavily on getting players forwards, playing into space and at the same time allowing them to perform with high levels of creativity upfront.
This fluid team shape offers:
- a positive and proactive football
- a defensive system as a unit, with the defenders able to attack providing support in the midfield and the attackers able to defend.
- a free-flowing football with fluidity of movements around the pitch and high levels of creativity.
The width remains as balanced (default) to difficult the opposite approach, with this strategy your players will adopt the necessary width according to what is happening in the game, otherwise after some games the AI managers will try to adopt their tactics to your restricted width instruction. In the screenshots below there are two heat maps from two different games using the balanced width instruction (as you can see both are very different).
The defensive line remains as normal (default) to difficult the opposite strategy: your players will adopt a balanced approach to their defensive line according to the match situation, they will push up higher of the pitch when needed and will be ready to drop deeper if it will be required by the situation. Despite of having a complex 5 at the back system I’ve noticed that the offside trap works well. In many situations the offside trap line is a 4 men line where the wing back closer to the ball close down the winger and the other defenders make the offside line. In the screenshot below, we can see this last situation working.
The general closing down is settled as “sometimes” (default) because of the different individual closing down instructions given to the players. The prevent short GK distribution is activated to force the other goalkeepers to make some mistakes to distribute the ball (the majority of goalkeepers have a bad passing ability).
There aren’t general tackling/marking/dribbling instructions marked because of the individual instructions given to the players.
In the build-up, the only instruction given is to encourage the defenders to play out of defence rather than clear some long balls outside of the pitch. They will try to deliver short passes to the midfielders and wing backs whenever possible but that doesn’t mean they are restricted to do it, they can make some long passes to the strikers if the situation requires it. There is no flank to be heavily explored because of the same reason as the width issue above explained.
The passing directness is mixed not only because this style suits better the attacking mentality but also because of the different individual pass instructions given to the players. I’ve found the retain ball possession option absolutely useless, never use it if you want to win because makes the teams wasting time. Don’t expected to win the ball possession battle, in fact, your team will probably finish the season with 45% average possession.
Creative freedom/ Freedom of movement- there aren’t any instructions given in these sections because these options restrict a lot the movements if selected to be more conservative or fragilize your defence if selected to be more adventurous.
The working ball into the box instruction is the only one ticked in the final third area just to avoid some stupid long shots when there are other teammates in better spaces to shoot. If you have tall strikers feel free to adjust the type of crosses according to their characteristics.
The best way to dribble this edition’s match engine is to defend with a D line and play counter attacking football using:
- 3 strikers able to receive long passes/crosses and make something happen due to their speed and technical skills. All responsible to closing down more the defenders forcing them to play risky passes or making mistakes.
- 2 tireless midfielders with very good long-range pass abilities to move the ball fast to the strikers in order to play deadly counter attacking moves. These players must play with a high intensity pressure to neutralize the inferiority numerical situations in the midfield.
- 2 tireless wing backs, able to play in constant transitions and performing like they were connecting to the electrical outlet, going box to box in a flash.
- 3 central defenders with high anticipation and physical levels to avoid counter attacks, and gifted of good passing/technical abilities to start building up the game properly.
RolesGoalkeeper/Sweeper-Keeper(S) – The original tactic contains a conservative goalkeeper in the goal, even though I suggest to use the sweeper keeper role because works better in this style of football, even though change the role just if you have a player with the abilities to perform as SK.
The original tactic is available with the goalkeeper role because only a few number of goalkeepers have conditions to perform the sweeper keeper role effectively.
The characteristics of a goalkeeper to play like SK are being:
An adventurous goalkeeper with great ability to move out with the ball on feet
Able to initiate some counter attacks making accurate long passes.
Able to play as a libero paying attention to the huge area behind the defence, Responsible to dominate the areas out of the box
Able to making quick rushing outs to solve problems outside the box
A solution for a teammate in case of opposite pressure.
I recommend to change the role only you have a guy with high values in these attributes (minimum 10-12): acceleration, kicking, passing, first touch, composure, anticipation and rushing out. If you are thinking about hiring a goalkeeper I recommend to look at one with the skills above and perform him as SK. The screenshot below shows the individual instructions to give him.
Ball Playing Defenders (Stopper) – the BPD are a vital part in the team’s build up play because thanks to their passing and dribbling abilities they will bring the ball out of defence in the flanks; force the other team to bring a player to recover the ball; and finally, unlock a passing line option to be explored.
Thanks to these moves and the good passing ability, the whole defensive opposite strategy will be compromised so it will be easier to attack.
To perform these tasks, the central defenders must have these attributes (minimum 10-12): first touch, passing, technique, composure, decisions, vision, acceleration and pace. It is also very important to have good pace/acceleration because they will deal with some pacey players in the wide areas.
But of course, the main centre back attributes are also very important: heading, marking, tackling, positioning, anticipation and so on…
To give more safety to the defence I recommend to put a left footed player on the left and a right footed player on the right.
Central Defender (Cover) – this centre back will be more cautious in his game so he doesn’t need to have very good technical attributes, even though, having a good passing and first touch is always a bonus.
In the build-up process, he will deliver a short pass to the near teammates and he will try to dribble less to avoid the risk of losing the ball to the strikers in central areas.
Alongside the BPD, he should be someone who dominates in the air, providing a presence in both boxes.
He needs to be a truly warrior because he will cover the other defence partners in the counter attacks and he will also clean the mistakes made by them. This player must have high: jumping reach, heading, strength and bravery.
IMPORTANT: if you have the sweeper keeper role activated, I recommend to change this centre back to a CD (stopper) without changing the individual instructions.
Wing-Backs (Automatic) – the wing backs have the mission to both attacking and defending with quality in order to give some balance to the team.
In the attacking transition, they are authorized to get further forward being the owners of the entire flank: when possible they will cut inside to force some marking mistakes in central areas, even though, if they see wide spaces open, they will dribble the ball until the line to deliver crosses into the box.
They need to be pacey and high work rate/stamina players in order to recover faster their defensive position and also to deal with some runs made by the wingers. I recommend to play a left footed player on the left and vice-versa.
I highly recommend to invest a lot of money in wing backs with these abilities because they are a 2 in 1 package; they are full backs and wingers at the same time being key members in this tactic. Don’t be afraid to pay crazy transfer fees for these complete players, they will worth any cent.
Central Midfielders (Support/Attacking): these midfielders have the mission to contribute both defending and attacking with quality. Their main task is to perform a varied range of roles during the match according to the situation being responsible to provide an industrious link between all the sectors. They are authorized to: make a long-range pass only seen by a DLP, provide the non-stop dynamism of a B2B, to close down the opponents with the intensity similar to a BWM, and to work between the channels like a mezzala.
The support midfielder will try to wisely balance his attacking/defending responsibilities according to the situation, while the attacking minded midfielder will be more adventurous getting forward often to more advanced areas.
Both tasks require players with high stamina and work rate (minimum 12-14) to neutralize the numerical inferiority in the midfield. It’s also very important having players in the midfield with good technical skills and high values in the majority of the mental attributes.
These are the players’ natural roles I recommend for each duty:
Support: BWM, B2B, DLP, Carrilero.
Attack: AP, RPM, B2B, Mezzala.
Advanced Forwards - their main functions are working between the channels to
provoke disorganization in the opposite markings system and unlocking spaces for the teammates and themselves. The wide strikers must be pacey because they will attack the spaces behind the defence, receiving and running with the ball down the wide/middle and providing crosses to the other strikers. The fastest and skilful these players were the more accurate will be the counter attacks. The central striker needs to be your best goal scoring player because he will be the guy with more opportunities to score. It’s very important to play with a left footed player on the left and vice-versa.
Individual TrainingGoalkeeper: Goalkeeper
Regardless if he is performing as a GK or SK, put this player on GK individual training because it´s more accurate in terms of training the most important attributes for this position. Focus more on developing the goalkeeper role attributes shown in the training menu. If you are performing with a SK also pay attention to: passing, first touch, composure, acceleration, rushing out.
Central Defenders: BPD
Insert all central defenders in BPD training in order to improve their technical skills, but don’t forget to pay attention to heading, marking, tackling, positioning, strength, jumping reach. Having a pacey defence is always a bonus so improving the pace/acceleration could also be a good idea.
This task requires complete players so develop all the important attributes to perform the CWB role, even though I highly recommend to take a special look at: pace/acceleration, stamina, dribbling, crossing, technique, positioning, tackling, off the ball.
Central Midfielder (Support): DLP and B2B
If he is young (u23), insert him on B2B individual training to help him developing his physicality.
If he is over 23, insert him on DLP individual training to help him developing his technical abilities.
Central Midfielder (Attacking): AP and RPM
If he is young, insert him on RPM training to help him developing his physicality
If he is over 23, insert him on AP to refine his technical ability.
All the attributes are important for both midfielders, even though, prioritize to train the passing ability. If you are on the market for midfielders, prioritize hiring players with high passing ability, because the highest this value the more accurate will be the football produced.
Advanced Forwards: AF and CF
If he is young, select the CF training to help him developing a huge variety of attributes
If he is over 23, choose the AF training to help him refining his scoring skills.
I highly recommend to adapt wingers/IF to play as wide strikers in this tactic, this process will take a while even though it will be rewarded in the future.
Player TraitsI recommend/disapprove the following traits for each role:
Recommendations. Uses long throws to start counter attacks, avoids using weaker foot (only if he has a weak left/right foot and can’t develop it)
Ball Playing Defenders
Recommendations: bring ball out of defence; likes to switch ball to another flank
Disapprovals: refrains from taking long shots (only if his ability is really low)
Recommendations: gets forward whenever possible; plays one-twos;
Disapprovals: plays no through balls; stays back at all times
Central Midfielder (Support)
Recommendations: plays one-twos; arrives late in opposition area; likes to switch ball to another flank
Disapprovals: stays back at all times; plays no through balls; runs with ball rarely; shoots from distance
Central Midfielder (Attacking)
Recommendations: gets forward whenever possible; plays one-twos; tries killer balls often; gets into opposition area
Disapprovals: comes deep to get ball; stays back at all times; plays no through balls; runs with ball rarely; shoots from distance
Recommendations: moves into channels, plays one-twos; gets into opposition area
Disapprovals: static target man, runs with ball rarely, plays no through balls
Opposition Instructions/BriefingDon’t use any team instructions and don’t let your assistant manager to guide any instructions. Always ignore the advises of the assistant manager during the match. Otherwise the tactic won´t working properly because the individual tackling, closing down and marking will be modified creating conflict with the team instructions. Let the match briefing under assistant manager orientation.
Match Preparation/General TrainingInsert the tactic into all 3 tactic slots available to make the tactic familiarity growing faster.
Don’t change the general training.
During the pre-season set the match preparation exclusively to “Match Tactics”.
When the tactic familiarity reaches almost the maximum then change the match preparation to "Att. Movement" and set the training as it's shown at the screenshot below and keep it during the entire season.
- After the game starts, check your players who don't speak the language of your league. After signing a foreign player verify if he doesn’t speak the native language of your league. If they don´t speak it, send them to intensive language courses to learn the language in order to increase the communication with the other teammates. I’ve found this trick helps the performance of the players in the pitch, and contributes a lot to counteract the low adaptability levels of some players.
- Set a minimum of 6 friendly matches with very small reputation teams during the pre-season. It will be easy to defeat them with large results and therefore your players will increase their morale levels. It helps to start the first league matches with an excellent morale to dribble the low chemistry your players have at this beginning stage of the game.
- Try to do some rotation especially in matches with low class teams or at less important competitions, but don’t change the whole starting eleven otherwise your team will probably falter.
- In the game, you can shout your players every 10 min.
When you score or concede, you can shout again regardless of spending 10 min.
Shouting affects the result a lot, so you should shout in the game.
For example, when you concede, select push forward or demand more, and you’ll increase the chance to score in the next minutes.
- Please notice that all positions in the tactic have the “Tackle Harder” instruction which means that you need to control your players’ tackling during the matches in order to avoid getting a man sent off so if during a match you see that someone of your players gets booked (yellow card) then go to the tactic menu and add the "Easy Off Tackles" instruction to this player or otherwise there’s a high risk that this player gets a second yellow card (sometimes your assistant manager makes this recommendation during the match so take it to don’t waste time changing menus).
- In case of some your players receive a red card:
If you don’t need to score, remove the central striker and change the mentality to control in order to provide a better stability to the team.
If you need to score, just remove the central defender and push down the wing backs to make a flat 4 at the back, but don’t change the individual instructions.
- This tactic requires to both wing backs and central midfielders spending a lot of stamina, so it would be better to substitute those players at around 65/70% match condition to avoid injuries.
- If you like to develop wonderkids to become real beasts, try to tutor them using players with high levels of professionalism. These are the best personalities to tutoring: Model Citizen, Model Professional, Professional, Fairly Professional, Perfectionist, Resolute, and Spirited.
- Try to develop the players’ weaker foot at maximum possible, I found it very useful.
IMPORTANT: this job was made exclusively to break the current match engine (18.2, in January) so I can’t promise that these tactics will work with the same accuracy in further updates. If you have any questions or suggestions fell free to present them in the comments section below.