On FM Scout you can chat about Football Manager in real time since 2011. Here are 10 reasons to join!

The Teesside Trio 4-3-3 Narrow

A possession based 4-3-3 narrow that is solid in defence and attack. Led Hartlepool to the league title first season.

By on Dec 29, 2022   15359 views   6 comments
Download Now
Downloads: 2083 / Size: 44.2 kB / Added: 2022-12-29
Football Manager 2023 Tactics - The Teesside Trio 4-3-3 Narrow

First of all, these tactics are not miracles or plug-and-play tactics that will see you dominate the ball and score bags of goals. These tactical systems make up a philosophy or DNA of how I want my team to play, I accept that some results are going to be disappointing. Still, with the correct recruitment and training, you can be successful in playing an attractive style of football and punch above your weight.

As the modern game has evolved tactics and philosophies have been reinvented and tweaked to suit 21st-century football. For example, Pep Guardiola has been heavily influenced by coaches such as Johan Cruyff and Marcelo Bielsa who encouraged their teams to play with high energy, flair and interchanging of positions. Thus Pep’s ideas of positional play were born, Peps style dictates that players occupy different zones across the pitch with no more than one player in each vertical or horizontal zone. The idea is to overload the half spaces between the opponent's centre-backs and fullbacks.

When Manchester City have the ball in attack they resemble another classic shape from a bygone era the 2-3-5. To achieve this shape City inverts their fullbacks allowing their free 8s to push up into the half spaces creating the front 5. This shape can be achieved in other ways such as the fullbacks pushing high and the wide players tucking inside whilst the midfield 3 hold their positions. Ultimately what I was trying to achieve was a 2-3-5/3-2-5 in the attacking phase with players interchanging positions to overload and confuse the opposition.

Seasons 1&2

In order to achieve the 2-3-5 shape in my first season, the midfield three consisted of an anchor at the base and two workmanlike central midfielders. This allowed the wingbacks to push high to make the front 5. This worked well in the championship with the team achieving promotion at the first time of asking without using the transfer market.

I did run a simulation with Leeds and you can see the tactic has potential with Leeds finishing 5th with a healthy goal difference, but once again you can see that you tend to win or lose most of the games.

The tactic remained unchanged during the first season in the premier league and it ultimately paid dividends with some good recruitment in the transfer window we managed to finish 13th comfortably avoiding relegation. However, as you can see we lacked the control to keep the opposition out.

Seasons 3&4

Heading into our second season in the premier league there was a lot of transfer activity, bulking out the squad and making some tactical tweaks to tighten up at the back. The double CM was replaced by two Carrillos who would shuttle across the pitch and offer some protection on the flanks. The free signing of Mario Icardi also led to a role change up top with a poacher used rather than the pressing forward. Finally, the fullbacks were changed to wingbacks on support instead of the complete wingbacks previously.

The season went well as you can see more goals were scored and fewer were conceded, but unfortunately, we still finished with a negative goal difference despite registering our first top-half finish in the premier league.

Heading into season four I made some more tactical changes I moved away from the high-tempo play and went to a more possession-based style. The idea being the longer you have the ball the less damage the opponents can do.

In order to facilitate this style of play I wanted fullbacks who were capable of playing a key part in the build-up phase. I found it was better to convert defensive midfielders into fullbacks to achieve this. I also changed the roles of certain positions the anchor was gone and the half-back was in, he would be the metronome in the centre of the pitch making themselves available to receive the ball. The Carrillo combination was changed to the more aggressive pair of mezzalas.

Another 9th place finish was achieved only this time we registered a positive goal difference for the first time in the league. The team dominated the possession stats, but it was a little bit overkill with only 48 goals scored. The balance had shifted too far from being an attacking side to being more defensive and pragmatic in keeping the ball for the sake of it.

Season 5

Not too many additions were brought in heading into the new season, mainly just some shrewd free signings in the defence. The tactic was also tweaked to make the football more entertaining, the tempo was increased and the roles would be tweaked throughout the season. Again the team managed to dominate the possession numbers whilst achieving a top 6 finish and qualification for the Europa league.

The FM 23 Tactic

To be successful in modern football one thing has become apparent you need to have the ball. Teams that dominate the ball tend to be the most successful teams across the big European leagues. It’s now tough to play a pragmatic game, look at Jose Mourinho one of the most successful coaches of all time and he is now labelled as being outdated and unable to adapt to the front-foot-positive football played by Europe's elite clubs.

Depending on the opponent's shape determined the tactic I would use, each of the three tactics I use are a variation of the 4-3-3. The main tactic is described as a 4-3-3 narrow in-game and consists of three out-and-out forwards without wingers.

The aim of the tactic is to create passing triangles and diamonds all over the pitch employing the principles of positional play and well as using a spare man to play out from the back.

The single pivot is critical to the system coming deep to collect the ball, they are the team's metronome always being available to receive the ball under pressure before progressing the ball. This is essentially the Busquets role, the half-back drops deeper allowing the centre-backs to go wider in the build-up giving the full-backs the freedom to push high and wide.

It is often difficult to find decent fullbacks for a good price. What I did was sign wingers and defensive midfielders who had the attributes I was looking for and retrain them into the full-back position. The wingbacks are supported by the mezzala pushing into the right half-space and on the left by the dynamic running of the box-to-box midfielder.

The false 9 drops deeper to help link up the play and can create overloads in the centre of the pitch. This allows the midfield runners to get beyond and exploit the space vacated by the false 9. Two complete forwards flank the false 9 and can drop deep and link the play as well as run in behind ruthlessly exploiting any space left by the opponent's defenders.

With the ball the team aims to overload the half spaces to disrupt, confuse and outnumber the opponents defenders. Against Southampton we have 5 players in the box with the LB able to drive into the box before cutting it back for a tap in.

The RB has tucked inside with the halfback moving across to cover the space left behind by the LB. The CB pairing have 2v1 against the striker stopping the quick counter over the top.

Again the width comes from advancing fullbacks, they ensure the team has five attackers. The midfielders and outside forwards overload the half spaces unlocking the defence to create the goalscoring opportunity.

Without the ball the team aims to limit space by cutting off passing lanes, whilst pressing smartly to funnel teams into areas where the ball can be turned over for quick counters high up the pitch.

The Southampton defender has very few options on the ball due to being surrounded by our forward players. The press leads to a turnover in the final third which results in a goal being scored.

Here is another example away to Leicester, the man on the ball has very few options or time in the ball due to the intense press. With their back to goal they only have the option of playing risky passes back, this results in the turnover and goal.


Currently in season 6 and I am sitting 2nd in the Premier league. The team is scoring more goals whilst still dominating the possession numbers.

Manchester City were well suited to the tactic and were able to win the league by 6 points despite losing 3 of their last 5 games.

With PSG as you can imagine they were dominant winning the league comfortably whilst having 71% possession and the best attack and defence.

Not to worry I also ran a test with Hartlepool who were expected to be fighting relagation. The results were fantastic winning the league at a canter whilst dominating the possession stats.

Download Now
Downloads: 2083 / Size: 44.2 kB / Added: 2022-12-29
Your content on FM Scout

We are always looking for quality content creators, capable of producing insightful articles. Being published here means more exposure and recognition for you.

Do YOU have what it takes?
Like & Subscribe

Like our Facebook page & Subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Discussion: The Teesside Trio 4-3-3 Narrow

6 comments have been posted so far.

  • femto555's avatar
    Tactics works wonder for my ongoing Wrexham save. The write up was informative as well. Cheers dude
  • Stam's avatar
    @Boroboy: Great to see you here again my friend. :beer:
  • Gaffa92's avatar
    great write up and detail, gonna give this ago in my MTK Budapest save as I have like 5 really good ST's lol
  • Rydo1888's avatar
    This tactic is class! Well done and great insight into your thinking
  • PatrickMannen's avatar
    Amazing tactic, amazing explanation and amazing inputs. Good luck in your save and congrats for your work.
  • culturedleftpeg's avatar
    really good explanation and detailed analysis
FMS Chat

hey, just wanted to let you know that we have a fb style chat for our members. login or sign up to start chatting.