Analysing your tactic and spotting problems

tactics-board-501x334

Something which I often see asked around the FM sites and forums is how do people analyse their tactics? How do you spot the strengths and weaknesses of your own system? How to you see what is wrong and how do you fix it? What changes do you make during games and why?

It’s probably the most basic set of questions pertinent to the most fundamental area of the game and, understandably, I think that it’s something which many people struggle with.

I think that the reason it is so difficult for people to grasp is not only that it is a difficult skill; but that everyone has their own methods – none of which are right or wrong. Couple that with a perceived stigma that you might not “know what you’re talking about” and the massively arrogant and ignorant approach of many posters on FM or football websites, and you can understand why people have difficulty in identifying where they are going wrong.

This post, therefore, is going to try and put across a few of the methods that I use in trying to spot issues with my tactics. I’m not the best FM player in the world but I think I do pretty well so whilst I’m not suggesting that I have all the answers or that my way of doing things is “the best”, I hope that anyone who is struggling with their tactics in FM can take a little something from this post… and maybe the rest of you can just laugh at my efforts!!

So, as an example – here’s my effort at a strikerless libero tactic and a friendly against Anderlecht as the case study.

Have a plan

So, taking it from the very beginning, I guess the first thing you should do is have a clear idea of what you want from your tactic. How do you know if it’s working if you don’t know what “working” entails.

I’m a firm believer that almost anything  can work in Football Manager. Whilst many people will tell you that there are a set of rules which must be obeyed for your tactics to be successful, with the exception of the most basic of concepts, this is largely bullsh*t.

Having said that, if you are struggling, then going back to basics and following someone else’s logic might not be the worst idea in the world. I’m bored with basics, though, and so the system which I am trying to perfect is thus:

First passFun, right?

The idea is that the libero steps out from defence to support the midfield with runs from deep and direct passes. The DLP sits deep to cover the gap between defence and midfield with the defensive wingers providing some defensive solidity out wide but also over-lapping the inside forwards when we have the ball. The AMC acts like a deep creative striker – assisting in midfield when required but primarily offensive in nature, scoring and providing assists.

The only significant alterations that I’ve made from the default settings is to change the ML and MR wide play to “hugs touchline”. I want them to stretch the play and, as our sole defensive influence out wide, I don’t want them wandering inside and leaving us exposed to the counter.

That’s not a great description but I don’t want to go into it too much. The analysis is the important part here.

Watch the game

It seems like such an obvious thing to say but watch the game. As much of it as you can. Do you think you could spot all of Stoke’s tactical problems if you only watched their highlights on Match of the Day every week? I use Stoke as an example because they’re so dull that they’re always on last and so you get even fewer highlights. (Hi Mully… what?)

I watch every game on ‘comprehensive’, I know some people watch the full game but I’d just say that you should watch as much as you have time for. At least until you feel that the tactic is working how you want.

I often pause the game to give me more time to see player’s positions and identify potential weak spots. If something significant or strange happens then I’ll rewind the game until the last stop in play and see how it came about. Yes, this is time consuming but if it means that the tactic improves quickly, then it’ll probably save time in the long run.

Tactics creator v sliders

Too big a topic to cover in full but if you don’t think you understand the sliders, then you don’t. Use the tactics creator (TC) and access the wealth of knowledge on the internet to guide you on the descriptions.

Bear in mind that the whole system has been set up using someone else’s logic. It might not always match your own logic but that’s how the system is set up. Disagreeing with the logic won’t change that.

Into the game…

So enough waffle. I picked Anderlecht as the game reckons they are of equal reputation to my Feralpi Salò side, although I think that we should be able to beat them. I also knew they wouldn’t start with 4-4-2 so, making this a little more interesting, they lined up thus:

Anderlecht starting formationBefore I start the game, I basically line the two formations up against each other (one on top of the other) and gauge where numerical advantages will come.

Two strikers plays right into our hands. With our back three, it leaves me with two markers and spare man covering which is perfect.

In midfield, we’ll have a flat 4 against their central 3. I don’t see them gaining much of an advantage here, though, as our AMC should assist with numbers in the middle but, more likely, at least one of the wider MC’s for Anderlecht will get pulled wide in an effort to close down the hitherto free man (MR/ML).

Then we have their flat 5 in defence which is facing nothing, essentially, as we don’t play a striker. Our AML/AMC/AMR combination will be looking to run in behind and across this back 5, though, and my initial impression was that we might have problems if the 5 of them were allowed to play relatively narrow and simply crowd us out.

NOTE – all the videos below are available in 1080p so please select a higher resolution to get the most from them.

Right from kick-off, I notice something incredibly positive:

As the ball is played back from the kick-off, our libero is left all alone. The two strikers go wide onto the centre backs and the Anderlecht central midfield drops off for a very long time before coming to close the libero down.

The Anderlecht defence also drops deep. This goes hand in hand with the lack of pressing and tells me that they aren’t going to hassle my players high up the park. It also means something else – given the rigid lines which they are set up in, the deep line is going to stretch the space between defence and midfield, and midfield and attack. Worth noting.

Finally, at around 0:16-0:18, you should notice the very obvious 2-v-1 that we have out wide. The MLC for Anderlecht hasn’t come wide to support the left back, leaving our MR in acres of room when Tretyak, the AMR, cuts inside. This is further evidenced at 0:35 when Yildiz, the libero that is still wandering around directing operations, comes left and feeds it to Orlando – our ML who is all alone on the left flank and has time to swing in a cross.

Something which I’ve just noticed now and didn’t at the time – pause the video at 0:38. I don’t like that big gap outside the box. I’m a big fan of implementing “the curtain” and having players lurking on the edge of the box to collect defensive clearances – particularly as it looks like we’ll have a lot of crosses in this game.

Unused space - 3rd min

In the 3rd minute, we had this.

First of all, the defence. I’m happy here as my pre-game expectations are ringing true. We have a comfortable 3-v-2 at the back which isn’t stretching our back 3 unduly.

However, going forward there is a massive gap that we aren’t taking advantage of. You can again see how deep Anderlecht are sitting with their fullbacks held back in a flat 5 even when the ball is in our half. Their midfield is flat and narrow and offering very little defensive protection.

We have a 2-v-1 available on the left flank but it’s a long ball to realise it. If we instead had our AMC occupying the shaded gap, he would have acres of room with which to take a touch and play the required pass out to the flank. The problem is – how? I decided to leave the AMC untouched and keep an eye on similar situations – was this a one-off or something that required fixing?

I did, however, make a couple of shouts. With that gap in front of the defence, I didn’t want our players taking speculative long shots just because they had a bit of space 25 yards out. So I implemented the “works ball into box” shout which reduces all the players’ long shots instruction to rarely.

Secondly, I used the “pushes higher up” shout. This is something I nearly always use as I want to narrow the gap between defence and midfield in lieu of using a DM. It should help get the libero higher up the park and more able to support the midfield. Should.

Very quick one this but it’s what persuaded me to leave the AMC as an AM(A) for the time-being. Anderlecht’s goal-kick is headed right back up the pitch and Gramaccia, our AMC, is well positioned to utilise the space that I’d highlighted above. However, he also then sprints into the box to provide a target for the cross. With our lack of strikers, this is exactly what I want from the AMC so I’m loathe to change it. For now.

And it pays off as Gramaccia completes a simple finish to put us one up. It’s truly awful defending really, particularly when 4 Anderlecht defenders try to close down Holub but there you go.

Again, now that I’ve seen it, I really don’t like the wide open space outside the box – particularly when Anderlecht have 3 players available for the counter. I think something should be done about this for my next game.

One of my favourite things in FM is an effective closing down game and this video shows that well.

Despite not using a striker, our high closing down instructions and use of hard-working players in the advanced positions allows us to put pressure on the defence high up the park. In this case the ball has been played back to one of the DC’s and our AMC robs him before Tretyak takes over, goes into Messi mode and scores a beaut.

Incidentally, Tretyak was cutting inside from the right flank onto his left foot. It looks like the Anderlecht defence have then tried to push him out wide with what I imagine is an opposition instruction. Not a bad plan except that Tretyak is two-footed and so can still finish the chance. Just a quick note on the advantage of the two-footed inside forward.

Either way, that side of the tactic gets a thumbs up as something which is working well.

As is the libero, to an extent.

Here you can see the primary benefit of the play-making libero. Firstly, he is always available for a pass. If at any point the MC’s get into trouble, they can safely play it back to our libero who is comfortable on the ball and in space – and this happens at 0:21 when the DLP comes under a little pressure.

He then carries the ball out of defence and has the passing range, vision and ability to play an intelligent ball out wide to the MR who is doing exactly what I want – holding his position wide and stretching the opposition.

Big thumbs up all round. Right?

Well kind of. Look at the video again and as soon as Yildiz, the libero, gets the ball try to find my AMC.

At 0:22 he is hard up against the opposition defensive line and reasonably tightly marked. He stays like that for the next 5 seconds and only finds a reasonable amount of space once the libero has passed it wide. And yet, for the entire time Yildiz has the ball, there is a 20 yard gap between defence and midfield. Our AMC should be taking advantage of this.

Therefore, I decided to make the change – the AMC becoming a AP(S) rather than AMC(A). He still has the capacity to make through balls but should look to drop deeper and use that space.

But what about defending?

Here you can see a good example of why I am (currently) reasonably happy with the defensive set-up.

At the start of the video, Anderlecht have played a long ball to the right striker who takes it for a run down the flank. With his “stopper” instructions (increased closing down etc), Okoye (my DLC) has license to follow him, close him down and hold him up. Our midfield then has time to get back and support whilst we have a 2-v-1 in the middle with the libero covering the other central defender against one striker.

When the ball is played inside, our midfield close down aggressively – forcing the ball backwards at 0:14, making a successful tackle at 0:19, hurrying the ball-carrier at 0:22, backwards again at 0:25 and eventually injuring one of them. Good work all round. Particularly that injury. Top notch.

As ever, though, there’s a worry in this video. Watch the video again but, instead of watching the ball, take a look at Anderlecht’s left-back – particularly from 0:14 onwards.

Not until 0:29 does he become properly marked.

Had Anderlecht had time on the ball and a player capable of doing so, then the left back would have had far more time on the ball than I’m comfortable with. The reasons for this are two-fold – with the zonal marking instructions that I’ve implemented, the MR goes inside to cover the advancing midfield. Meanwhile, the AMR with his high mentality and teamwork attribute decides that “doesn’t do defending” and stays high up the pitch looking for a counter.

This can be of benefit. We may decide that we are confident in the harrying ability of the midfield to prevent a cross field pass; or confident in the pace of our defence that they will quickly be able to recover the ground. In which case, we’ve got a player perfectly poised for a counter attack.

If we’re not happy about it, we need to make a change… it’s at this point that Anderlecht changed to a 4-4-2.

Defensive set up from GK

Initial impressions are that this probably suits us just fine. As you can see from the basic line-up at a goalkick, we are still 3-v-2 at the back whilst we are man-marking (and goalside for the most part) in midfield whilst the AMC is perfectly poised in the gap that still exists between defence and midfield.

However, then I see this:

Watch our AML and see what he does at 0:11.

Previously, with just one man out wide, the zonal instructions and high closing down worked fine. It didn’t matter if the AML went wandering inside to close down as we were still 1-v-1 out wide with support available from defence if needs be.

However, now he’s wandered to close down the DC and we’re left with a very obvious 2-v-1 down on our left flank. With the remaining “1” being an ML, he is more inclined to close down high and he leaves Anderlecht’s MR in acres of space. A quicker pass from a better right-back would have left us exposed. As it is, we get away with it on this occasion but it needs to be rectified.

Time for a change then and I implement specific man-marking for the wide players: our MR to their ML and our AMR to their DL and the same on the other flank. Does it work?

Well I think it had something to do with us winning the ball back here. Our MR (Aztori) quickly puts pressure on their ML when he receives the ball deep. He has nowhere left to go and no easy pass available (notice our AMR sprinting to mark their DL at 0:10). Anderlecht are then forced to play it long, it’s an easy interception for our libero and we’re on the attack again.

Notice the effect of the AMC dropping deep, too, with his AP(S) instructions helping him to find space at 0:19 and then again at 0:26 where he plays the lovely ball over the top for the MR who is breaking forward. I have no idea how Tretyak doesn’t score. Lovely football though.

So that was the match, how did we get on?

Final stats

I’ll take that.

In truth, Anderlecht didn’t put up much of a fight and came to defend. It will be interesting to see how we hold up against a more adventurous side.

Through the course of the match I identified a few issues with the tactic too:

  • the AMC has a tendency to push too far forward. He may be more effective, when the opposition isn’t using a DMC, if he drops deep into space between defence and midfield.
  • when the opposition have two players on the flank, it may be worthwhile using specific man-marking to prevent the inside forwards from wandering and leaving the defensive wingers exposed.
  • set piece instructions need looked at, no-one “sweeping” in the “curtain” 25-30 yards out. Defensive clearances are likely to be picked up by opposition
  • as above but in open play from crosses.

But we’re not finished the analysis there.

Using the analysis tab and stats

This is something I use a lot and although I wish it was more advanced it can be very effective in pointing out issues with your tactics. Some examples of items I check:

Full time average positionsAverage positions and the heat map is an obvious one.

Here you can see that the basic shape of the tactic is more or less as expected.

The DLP at MLC is deeper than his midfield partner and offers an outball to the defence whilst the inside forwards are slightly in-field from the defensive wingers, allowing an overlap.

We also appear to be making good use of the width of the park as the reddish shaded area is quite wide and well established on both sides of the park. Often you may wish to focus through the middle in a narrow formation but I like to use the whole pitch – particularly against defensively-minded sides.

One thing to note here, though, is that my ‘keeper is very deep in his box and the defensive line is very high with a large gap between. The reason I don’t use a sweeper-‘keeper is that my goalie is painfully slow. The graphic to the right, however, shows that it may be worth considering in future.

One surprising item was the location of the tackles for both teams.

Feralpi tacklesAnderlecht tacklesOur tackle map is shown to the left and Anderlecht’s is shown to the right.

The most obvious item to note is that our tackles are much higher up the pitch than our opponent’s. This is a clear indication that our high pressing game is working well with the high proportion of green dots indicating a pleasing success rate.

Anderlecht, on the other hand, barely made a tackle outside their own half and again reinforces the assertion that they came to sit deep, retain their shape and played defensively.

The last item that I tend to look at is the stats page for your players.

Feralpi statsI then look for anomalies, some of which I’ve highlighted above.

Crosses are a bit of a common topic just now and I recently read a FourFourTwo article arguing that wingers were out of fashion because crossing is ineffective with the best crossers of a ball being accurate around 20% of the time.

For me, a successful cross is so dangerous given the likelihood of an excellent chance being created that I tend to think 1 in 5 is an acceptable risk – as long as you can create enough crosses to “play the odds”. In this case, our two defensive wingers have swung in 36 crosses between them, with just 7 being successful.

So just under 20% success rate. However, we scored 4 goals. 1 assist came directly from crosses. 1 other came from a scramble after an unsuccessful cross. I like crosses.

However, it really is something worth keeping an eye on. Perhaps reducing the defensive wingers crossing instruction to “sometimes” will allow to pick better opportunities for a cross and otherwise recycle possession. Perhaps.

Either way, it’s worth looking into these things. In a similar vein, our AMR has only been successful in 1 of his 5 header attempts. A reason for the low cross completion? Should we replace him with another giant like 6’5” De Angelis who won 100% of his 7 headers? Perhaps, but Tretyak may have lost 4 headers he was our top shot maker…

Conclusion

So before you get any more bored, I hope that has given you some insight into how I go about analysing my tactic during a game, some things that I keep an eye on and the reasoning behind making certain changes.

Like I said at the start, this isn’t supposed to represent “the best way” or be an example that everyone should follow – it’s intended to show you a process, a method that perhaps you could also use to influence your own tactics and matches.

I hope that it has, at the very least, proven interesting.

As ever, thank you for reading and I look forward to any comments or questions you may have.

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32 thoughts on “Analysing your tactic and spotting problems”

  1. Hi Shrew,

    Have been following your blog closely without actually interacting but as I thought this update is awesome, I need to interfer!

    In your first video, what strikes me most is movement from your DLP when your libero moves forward with ball at feet. That’s proper covering.

    Funnily, I am playing a strikerless 4222 box in Brazil and my CB-DMC box sometimes looks exactly like your Lib-CB-MCL diamond/box. 2 out and out wingers (converted attacking wingers playing in WBL and WBR spot ) and 4 central attackers movong freely between lines. Quite different formation but same attacking principle I’d say

    Anyway, I like the idea of the libero but I am yet to try it out. Basically, I almost always playing either with a defensive box (2x CB + 2x DMC) or a defensive diamond (3x CB + 1DMC) with out and out wingers at WBR/WBL and 4 attacking players either in box (2x MC+ 2x AMC or 2x MC + 2x ST or AML/AMR + 2x ST) or in diamond shape (MC-AML/AMR-ST)

    Do you think an attcking libero would work well with a central DMC? I do think a MC dropping deep is a far better option as it allows initial space for your libero to work into.

    Very good post.

    1. First of all, thanks for reading and thanks for the comment. Always nice when people comment so that I know someone is actually reading my material!!

      Secondly, a good spot with the DLP covering the forward runs of the libero. It certainly is a recurring theme of the tactic and something that seems to have been implemented well by SI.

      Re the use of a libero and single DM, if you check the Dugout link that I posted above, Cleon has just posted about his problems with using a DM in that he occupied the space he wanted the libero to break into. He has, instead, pushed the DM up to the MC line and made a central 3 in midfield. If I’m not mistaken I think I advised him to do this some time ago but we’ll keep quiet about that 😉

      It’s the obvious weakness in the tactic, though – the gap in front of defence where a DM would usually sit and Cleon seems to have overcome this pretty well by using a DLP at MC and different types of midfielders at MRC and MLC. Seems like a good compromise.

      I have to admit that I’m missing the security of the DM but if you want to make the most of a libero then I think you need to leave the gap and try to mitigate the space in other ways.

  2. For me, it does feel more instinctively more secure to have a player between the DC and MC lines, but you can get away with a three or even two man MC line if set up correctly. In that Dugout thread, I was pleasantly surprised by how solid my flat 4-3-3 was early in my Barcelona save, and that was entirely due to a very good DLP (D).

    Cleon’s tactic with the flat midfield five is a very subtle blend of roles based on the qualities of player he has available. I tinkered on a couple of saves last night to try and achieve similar using roles to suit my players, and it died resoundingly on it’s posterior.

    I’m trying to now find a shape which strikes a secure balance between a back three and central numbers in midfield. I suspect it will end up being extremely similar to my Libero tactic, but with WBs pushed up to DW, as they will be more effective in snuffing out the threat of opposition wingers early. That’s the theory, anyway.

    1. 😀 “died resoundingly on its posterior”…

      I guess over time you become “attached” to certain systems and there are just certain thing that I like – a back four with a ball-playing DM to protect them who is physical enough to boot a few people; a winger; a trequarista / someone in the pocket; and attacking fullbacks / wingbacks.

      The problem is that I love the idea of a libero and I really want it to work but I just think I prefer the 4 with a DLP…

      I actually think the 4-1-2-3-0 is probably my favourite shape that I’ve ever used. It’s flexible and provides near endless options. There are still a lot that I want to try with the 4-1-2-3-0 too – like a “targetman” at AMC.

  3. Smashing article.helped re-ignite my passion for FM after a long lull.hats off
    P.S
    Looking forward to your first CL triumph 😉

    1. Thanks Hugo, always nice to see a returning reader and commenter!

      I wouldn’t be so certain about the Champions League… Montella at Man Utd seems to have taken them to another level.

  4. Great article! Using a Libero is something I’ve never considered on FM13 or any FM really. Definitely going to look more outside the box when creating new tactics from now on. Maybe that’s what is making my current save’s go stale! Excitement of the unknown helps I think. Looking forward to more!

    1. Thanks, always nice to think that people can take something useful from my articles although the formation is moot. I could have been using 4-4-2, 4-5-1 or 1-1-8 – the point of the article is the analysis.

      Having said that, using a “more interesting” formation helps to attract a readership who may switch off when they see “yet another 4-5-1”. 🙂

  5. great post once again! honestly ive felt stupid reading some on the things on the dugout etc etc about tactics but this has given me a few ideas what I can actually do!!! cheers!!!

  6. Well, I’ve been playing FM since the 2005 edition, with medium sucess, and now I can understand why… you spent more time analysing that game than I can account for in almost a whole season… thanks for puting it in perspective form me, and for showing a new level I didn’t think existed in FM

  7. This is a brilliant article. I love analysing the game and looking for areas to improve and play beautiful football. You’ve certainly highlighted some areas for me to consider. I’m currently trying 3 at the back with my beloved Torquay. We can’t quite find a Libiero so we’ve gone risky for league 2 and have 3 ball playing centre back, 2 stoppers 1 covering. I’m somehow top halfway through the season and i feel really positive about making changes to the tactic because of what you’ve highlighted here.

    I like it as a tactic as it also allows me (on a tiny torquay budget) to sign 4/5/6 top quality centre backs to fill the defence rather having to sign 4 full back and 4 centre backs – the money saved on those 2 players allows for a better quality of player.

    I’m unsure about wingers though i don’t mind an inside forward with this tactic as they naturally come inside and link up with the AM and AP, but i’m playing with a soul striker and it seems to be a waste to rely on a cross to finish well-worked moves up the pitch.

    Anyway, thanks for this article is very motivating

  8. Hi Shrewnaldo, I have lurked around your blog for a while now, and I just wanted to say that your work is definitely appreciated. I have gleaned a lot from reading through your posts, particularly concerning finances and developing players, and to the analysis of tactics that you have posted here. I had a question about the pre-match lineups, and the concept of imagining your formation on top of another team’s formation.

    I am playing as FC Eindhoven, who are predicted to finish 14th in the Jupiler. I have decided to go with a counterattacking tactic and try to focus on conceding as few as possible. The squad is actually made up of a number of talented youngish players, and I have a few decent strikers with pace that I hope can score a few goals for me on the break. But specifically, I wanted to ask about how you would think to stop an opposition in a standard 4-4-2 using my formation. I am also playing a 4-4-2 style, but with a DM, two Defensive Wingers, and a CM (AP) in the middle. I tend to leave both of my fullbacks with a defensive duty.

    Obviously the opposition has a 2 vs 1 against me directly in the center of the pitch , so I might think to play narrow to try and work against this. It may also be beneficial to play forward through the middle since the opposition is not using a DM. But then again, I can also see where playing wide may create a lot of space against this setup. I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts about my line of thinking in this case. This formation always seems to stump me, and I tend not to change up much when playing against it, but I don’t necessarily think that is the best way to approach it.

    1. First of all, thanks for the comment.

      Looking at your tactic, it’s hard to tell too much without considering the approach of the opposition. For example, are they committing their fullbacks forward in attack or simply letting the wide midfielders create the width? I’m assuming that they have one attacking and one defensive central midfielder within the 2?

      Does one of the opposition strikers tend to drop off the line? I’m assuming this is the case and that your DM tends to pick this player up, leaving you with a marker and a covering defender – which is fine. The problem then comes with the 2v1 in the middle and the opposition being able to dominate the game in the middle.

      How do you play your own strikers? Again, I assume that you have one of them drop off the line to link midfield and attack?

      With defensive wingers and defensive fullbacks, I would suggest that you don’t have enough attacking intent out wide to create many issues. With just an AP in the middle, you don’t have a lot of vertical movement through the centre of the pitch either and are leaving attacking to your strikers.

      I’d guess that you get a lot of 0-0’s and 1-0 losses where you concede a lot of possession but only 5-8 shots on target a game. Right?

      Personally, I’d be tempted to let your fullbacks support a bit more and use your ML/MR in a more attacking sense. With a counter strategy they’ll still contribute defensively.

  9. Fantastic article! I have loved reading your various articles and they have helped me improve a great deal. However I am currently in my second season with Cardiff and have been playing 4-2-3-1. I have a talented young side yet I have been struggling this season to win games.

    What has been most frustrating is that my team seems to ignore my instructions. My players are not giving my CAM the attacking options he needs, often not following my tactical plan and not getting into space or dragging the defenders out of position. My RW for example despite instructions to hug the touchline will consistently cut inside which tends to restrict the space of my CAM. I often try and get more players involved to give my CAM more options, such as getting the full backs more heavily involved but this causes problems the other end with me leaking goals. And even when I do craft chances and dominate my opposition I find my players do not take their chances and i end up losing 😦 . My players are more than capable of beating a lot of the teams in the premiership and my tactics, when obeyed by the players, seem to work yet I continue to struggle.

    Sorry for this depressing rant but i was wondering if you might have any tips or have suffered anything similar before?

    1. First of all, thanks for reading and the positive feedback.

      I guess you mention a few points so I’ll try to take them one at a time:

      1. Players not following your instructions.

      What is your tactic familiarity? Until your players have full familiarity there may be some unexpected results.

      Do your players have any contradicting PPM’s (i.e. cuts inside) which may be over-riding your tactical instructions?

      What about the impact of creative freedom or roaming? A default W(A) has ‘roams from position’, for example (I think).

      2. Attacking fullbacks v defensive stability.

      This is a balancing act, really. Depending on the respective reputations of the clubs, you might be able to get your fullbacks forward but a more adventurous team will look to exploit the space. What about using one to attack and one to sit? Have you heard of the ‘Nike defence’? There are a few details here https://footballmanagerveteran.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/den-haag-patience-is-a-virtue/

      3. Options for your CAM

      Again, tactical familiarity, as well as team cohesion, can have a factor here so that’s worth looking at.

      Also, do you have the right player here? Worth considering attributes such as decisions, anticipation and creativity as well as the usual passing etc.

      Sometimes a backwards pass is a positive one. Worth considering what retaining options your CAM has to recycle possession and develop some space.

      I hope some of that helps?

  10. shocking and great article. i could not use properly my game plans which are untraditional you know. (in cm 03-04 maybe lol) what about training methods for instance to your libero?

    1. The training in FM14 is very different to back then. Now it’s very much just a case of picking the role that you want the player to fulfil and then the game does the rest. It’s incredibly dumbed down, not unlike the rest of the modern versions of FM.

      I can barely remember CM03-04. What keeps you playing it?

  11. I’ve been playing FM for a good 10 years now and have finally come across a blog that is really worth reading! I’m no expert at FM but this is exactly what I’ve been looking for, for the the good part of a decade 🙂 Where have you been?! HAHA. Fantastic post!

    1. Thanks very much, I really appreciate the comment! I’ve been hiding here and there for the last decade or so, I can only apologise for not making myself available sooner 🙂

  12. Hey,
    I am currently playing fm15 with bayer leverkusen, and it is not working out for me. I try different formations(4-2-3-1 DM wide, 4-2-3-1 wide and 4-1-2-3 DM wide) to no success. I have many good DMs and quick wingers who like to cut inside, but few creative players. I want to make the 4-2-3-1 wide formation work, but i have no idea what instructions to give(short/direct passing, narrow/wide width) When i play this formation without DMs i always get feedback that the gap between defence and midfield is too big, even though i give one (and sometimes two) of my CMs a defending duty. How can i fix that? My player roles are as follows:
    FB(s), CB(cover), CB(stopper), FB(s)
    CM(d) BWM(s)
    IF(a) T(a) W(a)
    AF(a)
    Do you have any tips?

    1. It’s possible that your three AM’s are playing too high up the park and therefore isolated from your two holding midfielders. With all 3, plus the striker, on attack duties then there’s no-one looking to drop deep and link with the midfield. I’d consider using an AP(S) or a false nine or something to help link.

      I’d also just ignore the in-game “help”. It’s usually complete nonsense. Just watch the game and figure out if you’re happy with it.

      1. Thanks for the reply. I have tried giving my AMC the AP(s) duty. And i have actually performed a bit better recently. I still have little possession though. Would it be smart to use shorter passing since the general passing ability in my team is poor? I have previously used direct passing in order to start quick counter attacks with my lighting quick wide men. But they tend to just cut inside and lose the ball.

        I have very good wingers, but my AMC is also good, and the only creative player in the team. Should i focus the passing through the middle to put him to best effect? If yes, should i then also use the spesific instruction “play narrower”? Those two instructions sounds linked, but if you think about it, wouldn’t it be better to focus passing through the middle, BUT tell them to play wider to stretch your team so that your AMC gets more space?

        I really want to understand and master the tactics part myself instead of just downloading a winning tactic someone else made. But no matter how much i read on http://www.guidetofootballmanager.com i cant seem to get it to work..

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