FM – Mastering Tactics: The Checklist of Instructions

Ok here we are..I just saw another thread on the forums which almost necessitates me dumbing down a lot of concepts. What follows is a checklist of sorts for defensive, balanced and attacking football, and what you need to avoid and achieve, and I am assuming you want to win. Master each aspect of these and you are sorted.


Regardless of whether you want to play possession based on counter attacking, this assumes you want to win and not close up shop.  We will deal with close up shop sometime in the future.

Defensive Checklist:


Understand the impact of Defensive Team Instructions:

Close down TI’s need to be used with care, they displace your system, use player instructions instead on key players so that you maintain the shape

Get Stuck In – great for injuring the opposition, but will turn your players into hurdles, if they are slow or bad, pacey strikers will hurdle over them. Know when to use them and how, again PIs are better.

Tight Marking – Another dangerous TI, this is useless against fast teams with good acceleration they will just turn your defender. Turn your defender means…assume 2 players are close together, the one with higher acceleration, just needs to drop one shoulder and go the other way turning the defender the other way around.

Use Offside Trap – Great for offensive systems which are at least control and higher, dangerous when used with a system with a split back 4, i.e. one defender on cover and another on defend.


Defensive players need conditioning, concentration, anticipation, first touch tackling and marking.

Have you employed effective screens?

You can even defend with only 2 central defenders, just ask my 343 formation, provided of course that the right defensive screen in front of them is doing all the work.


Defensive football is fine, but there is a difference between intelligent defensive and stupid defensive. Intelligent defensive will see you getting the ball out to alleviate pressure, stupid defensive is the Clear Ball to Flanks shout used in defensive formations.

Passing control is great, but you need the players who you depend on to have great balance, first touch, composure, decisions and passing. If a player has low decisions and you are defending deep, and he doesn’t have good conditioning, sooner or later he will get tackled hard. I do that all the time to the AI, so why should the AI be any different against me?

Attacking football Checklist

This is even easier.


Have you clearly established a style of attack? Do you know where the assists are going to come from? If you haven’t then maybe you should think about this first. Have a clear image of how you want your goals to be scored, if you have a clear idea and its not happening..check player for right attributes, then check role to make sure its within a balanced system that allows that role to flourish.

For example. You are playing a system with a DLP and a BBM, and these are your only 2 MCs, potentially the DLP will have low scores cos he will either be trying to win the ball a lot or trying to make a pass, if he is surrounded by ball winners then he will have the space and time to be the god like playmaker you want.


The shout pass into space is a fantastic shout, but it can lead to loss of possession, its use is limited by your players and their roles, if you have no players making intelligent runs then the shout is wasted.


Have you chosen the right players on the pitch for the use of some shouts?

Overlapping play…great shout, but if your players have low acceleration, off the ball, pace, passing and crossing then this is wasted.

If you have opted for a withdrawn striker role, does he have the right attributes to play the role?

If you are using pass into space as a shout, do you have the right players making forward runs, do you have any players making forward runs?


A shout is not a static thing that should last an entire match, its fluid. It changes. If a side is attacking me and defending and I have players with pace and great off the ball, I will use Pass into Space, as attacking teams frequently leave gaps. If I am attacking and my passes are not really connecting then I will not use the shout since space is at a premium.

Do you have the right shape with shouts?

Shape/ Tempo/Shouts/Mentality

There is a curious alignment with these 4. When you have any shape with high creative freedom and high mentality you will generate a lot of movement. So watch your tempo and look at how your runners are doing, you may find yourself facing a lot of offside calls.  Possible sources:

Pass Into Space – this shout will see the ball played behind the Dline or through the vertical channels when this happens, a high tempo setting could see you generate offsides. So drop it to maintain possession.

Defensive shapes require you to have discipline, so heavy closing down TI is not recommended, and furthermore if you are using the Be More Disciplined Shout, please use on rigid or structured shapes, any other shape will see higher creative freedom  and make the more discipled shout seem silly.

Sometimes I feel I should expand these, but honestly thats really all there is to it, if you have checked all of the above when you are making any system, you should be fine. If there is an issue with your game, its probably down to one of these factors. Master each one and you have mastered the game.

A related post on this can be found here… and here

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