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Football Manager Tactics - Tactical Situations

Started on 18 May 2013 by Yamo
Latest Reply on 15 June 2013 by MCFCKEV
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Football Manager Tactics - Tactical Situations - In Game Tactics

This article is in association with Football Manager Academy and you can find Football Manager Best Tactics here.

As part of our Tactics in football manager series we are going to look at how you affect a game by just preparing for the match properly and changing your tactics in game. Hopefully you will learn something about Football Manager Tactics!

In every match I am a firm believer in making changes, some may be slight changes in opposing players instructions and/team instructions to counter an opponent’s strength or weakness or big changes such as a change in formation and players. This article will not tell you how to win matches nothing is guaranteed in football and that goes for Football Manager but I will give you tips and advice on trying to get that edge in tactical situations over your opponent, in game tactics in Football Manager are just as important as your tactics before the game.


In Football Manager you can have three formations for your squad to become familiar with, I feel you need at least two that you will use during the season.

One will be your more adventurous formation, the one you will use as a more attacking mentality. This will usually have at least four very attacking minded players and at max only three defensive minded which usually tends to be my CB’s and/or defensive midfielder.

The second is more of a disciplined and defensive minded formation against the more difficult opponents that are blessed with better players than your team. I use this as a counter, have more defensive minded players on the field than attacking but hit them on the break when they are more exposed.

The third formation is really up to you but I like to have this as a completely different alternative to the other two, use this more like my wild card when I really am on the back foot which I may need to alter my tactics and instructions depending on what situation I am in at the time.

Opponents Weaknesses

Having the knowledge of spotting your opponents weaknesses will show how good a manager you are but if you are more of a novice then this is the reason why you are here on FMA you have come to the right place. If you have an Assistant Manager with good tactical knowledge attribute he can also help you out with his in game feedback and applying his opposition instructions for each player before the game.

Here are a few basic weaknesses I look for in every game, I tend to play with wingers so will always try to buy very good ones. To make the most of my good wingers I will look at their full backs (RB/LB) and if I feel one is weaker than the other I will tend to focus our team passing instructions down that side of the pitch so my good winger will see more of the ball up against their weaker full back.

Here is another tip, not all central defenders are great technically so some may have a very poor first touch and this can lead to potential mistakes. With this in mind I will look at their defenders first touch attribute and any that are very poor I will issue opposing instructions to always close down that defender for any opportunity loose balls my attacking players may pounce upon to then potentially create a chance at goal.

One other tip is if your opposing strikers are slower than your central defenders then play a high line with an offside trap, so even if one of their strikers break the offside trap your defenders should be able to get back in time to stop them going clean through on goal, playing a high line will also keep your attacking players in their half where they need to be and are more effective.

In almost every match your opponents will make substitutions and if you have let your Assistant Manager take control of opposition instructions he will only set instructions for the eleven players that started, so you will have to go back into tactics and either set opposition instructions yourself or ask your Assistant Manager to set them for the subs that have come on. I will always make sure that I have set instructions for their subs regardless if the Assistant Manager is in control of opposition instructions, because for them 1-5 minutes they come on and are waiting to get to the tactic screen to set the instructions for them subs they may have already caught you out.

You may also find they change their formation when they bring their substitutions on, could be defensive minded or attacking minded depending on what the score situation is at the time so I strongly advice you to either alter your tactics instructions or formation to counter theirs as they will make changes to try and counter your original formation or instructions.

Marking & Closing Down

I hate Zonal Marking in real life so in FM I have always used Man Marking. I hardly use man marking for a specific player either, I don’t believe Isolating one of my own players to do such a job but I guess it could be useful for a DM to be instructed to mark an opposing playmaker to try and stop the threat of him playing in through balls to their strikers.

I have already mentioned about closing down certain central defenders but also this has to be used for certain types of strikers. For tall target man type striker you should tell instruct your defenders to stand off to then be able to either let the slow striker turn and then tackle or read the second ball. Fast strikers you want tight marking so they don’t have the time to turn and run passed your defender but instead hopefully your defender will read the ball and intercept or make a tackle before they are able to make a move on your defender. I may also set to tackling hard depending on how good the defenders is at tackling and avoiding fouling them.

I will change my closing down team instructions regularly, for more attacking teams I Press More, defensive teams Stand Off More and if they are a mixture or play more in midfield than my formation its set at default. If I am also winning by two goals or more with 20 - 30 minutes to play I will use Stand Off More to slow down the players rate of condition.

You’re Weaknesses

It may not be a weaknesses in your team but what can be seen as a weakness against your opponent, like vice versa to the Opponents Weakness section with the full back and wingers scenario. If you do feel one of your full backs may not be good enough defensively against an opposing winger than make sure he has support such as playing a more defensive minded RM or play your attacking RM with a less attacking role. Try to make minor changes to make your team a stronger unit, anything you do to avoid conceding against a strong opponent or anything you can do to try and score against a more weaker opponent.

It is a tricky situation knowing what to do when winning by only one goal with 10-20 minutes to go. I will only keep my formation the same if I am the dominant side with no threats at my goal but looks just like a matter of time before I score a crucial second.

If that is not the case I will change to my counter formation which normally has a DM midfielder to support my defence but also offers an outlet for me when defending. It is normally a formation that packs the midfield to be able to keep possession as well as playing a deeper line to avoid long balls over the top that may catch out my defenders.

I will also change my team instructions to more time wasting; with the defensive line deeper I will also play my more solid defender as a stopper to allow him to get to them high long balls first. With only five 5 minutes left plus stoppage our mentality will change to defensive to simply hold on to that small margin because if they did score now it would be unlikely for my team to have time to score another one after. I will admit all this is not a certainty that it will work but works more often than not, there is nothing certain about football just like tactics in Football Manager.

Losing in a match

Unfortunately this happens in football just like Football Manager but what can we do to try and avoid this? I have some theories some may work some may not but that is the game of football management. One is to use your shouts, for me I don’t use them but James does so visit his Shouts Article when its up soon.

Don’t call me Mystic Meg but I can usually tell how the game is going to pan out by the first 15 minutes of a match this may be different in your game however but with my formations this seems to be the case. So if I feel my opponent is doing better than myself and do go one down early on clearly something is not right with my tactics and I have to make changes right away, there is so many options it could be so I will go through how you can find out what’s going wrong.

Sometimes a defender or more than one have decided to have an off day, you have two options wait till half time and try an avoid conceding a second to then try motivate him for the second half or option two take him off right away to avoid another mistake by that defender. I prefer the second choice as it is more unlikely from my experience you can change their performance round unless the defender scores from a corner or something, has been known plenty of times once the player makes one mistake quite often will make another at some point.

There could be something in your team instructions that is helping your opponent get forward easy, such as playing a high line and your dominant defender is getting beaten so change to a more deeper defensive line. It could be your direct passing is getting easily cut out and is why your opponent’s possession is more dominant so play shorter passing. Just finding where you are going wrong in the instructions can make a huge difference.

Possibly could be as a big a problem with your formation, you are playing 4 midfielders against their 5 and can’t keep hold of the ball, so change your formation or players around so that you can either match them or put you players in holes where their midfielders are not such as AMC or DM’S.

If you are still not seeing any benefits to your changes and/or go 2-0 down you may as well go for broke, play attacking and if still losing with 20 -25 minutes to go then change mentality into overload you have nothing to lose now, if only loosing by the one goal you may still have a chance to get a goal back once you have changed to a more attacking mentality without going into overload or any other drastic measures but then change to overload when time is starting to run out so say with only 10 – 15 minutes remaining.

As I have already mentioned before, none of this is a given its just advice from my own experience in playing the game but allot of it is either common sense or good general football knowledge. You may find only some advice may work with your own mentality, formation or instructions we are our own manager’s at the end of the day. I would love to hear your views on this guys. Enjoy!

This article is in association with Football Manager Academy, and the original can be found in the link above. You can find our Football Manager Best Tactics seres here.
Nice Article ,

The possibilities with tactics and formations in FM is endless any thing could work ,its all by trial and error ....
some nice info there, good post, good post
2013-05-18 13:24#102222 cena : Nice Article ,

The possibilities with tactics and formations in FM is endless any thing could work ,its all by trial and error ....

I know what you mean however the match engine is a fixed thing, the details don't change so clearly there is a set formula which will work.
Top guide this, I have to say winning by a goal I always seem to conceede late on and is so frustrating, using these tips have helped me alot.

Thanks Yamo, also ill check out that best tactic series for sure.

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