FMT – The Basics of Tactics and Training

PART 1 – TACTICS

When you are about to start any game with Football Manager, one of the first things that’s recommended even before you hire/fire your assistant manager is set up a system. This forces you to look at your squad early to address any shortcomings. Take a cursory look at your club and choose a simple tactical system to begin with. Probably the easiest one to start with would be either the 442 or the 4132.

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Over at the tactical screen you will see this. Its essentially every aspect of the tactical creation process. FM full allows you to set your team up with 3 quick tactics, and with FMC you can only use 1. The difference between both versions of the game lie with the fact that FMC doesn’t penalise you for switching tactics. In FMC as long as a tactic is a solid and good one, a team doesn’t need 3 weeks of match preparation to become fluid in it. They are fluid from day 1

So if you aren’t very good with tactics, my advice, go play FMC first and learn to see whether your tactics are solid. In full-fat FM you can always use the excuse that your players need time to be fluid before they master the system, that doesn’t hold for FMC. I frequently hop over to FMC to test a tactic out with Barcelona and Wolves, which are my barometers for tactical stability.

The tactical creator is split up in 6 broad areas: Overview, Player, Set pieces, Opposition Instructions and Analysis

When you go to the Overview screen you basically get this screen It offers up an overview of your tactical system and advice from coaches, personally I don’t use the coaches advice though it can be useful at time. The more important things to note here are:

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You can set it up effectively like mine which shows the stats I typically track, and I look for salient information such as the fluidity of a tactic and the role of a player. When you go to the drop down to select a tactic for the first time you are given a set of templates, this is the 4231 template, and it suggests some basic roles. The important thing to bear in mind here is the (auto) role, thats the one highlighted here.

In almost every cry for tactical help on the forums, the solution generally lies in either a misallocation of roles or a general lack of spatial awareness of a tactic or both even. People generally have a good idea of how they want their systems to play, but they almost always select the wrong role or they don’t take into account how the AI is attacking their space on the pitch. To address this we will now take a closer look at roles

Duties – Automatic, Defend, Support & Attack

Every default tactic has these duties which adjust with the mentality you have set, how well these duties adhere to their mentality is affected by the Shape settings which tell a side how they should be working as a team, players in a team all fulfil different roles within their prescribed duties.

Mentality essentially allocates associated risks for certain roles. For example, if you have an attacking mentality for your tactic, you team generally takes an attacking stance, every player on the pitch is more risk hungry than a defensive system.

This implies that they are willing to do more on the pitch, like try a more risky pass. What they actually do is is determined by their role, a Deep Lying Playmaker for example on a defend role will not move up the pitch instead choosing to anchor himself to the defense and seek out players ahead of him with mixed passes. One on support could move out on the defense cog if an opportunity presents itself.

Roles cover a host of playing positions, and these in turn are either automatic, defend, support or attack. Each affects their position on the pitch and how they all work together as a unit. For too long players have been obsessed with explaining this in terms of sliders and this in turn has caused more confusion for newer players. Lets explain this in simpler terms and avoid using sliders.

When you select a role, his risk tolerance is governed by mentality, this affects how far he will move forward and how deep he will be when he defends. A defend role has a deeper starting point for attacks then an attacking role.

Automatic roles are those roles that get affected by your shape instructions, a Central Midfielder on support is inclined to assist in attack and one who is on defend will rarely join in attacks.

Defend roles instruct players to focus on the defensive aspects of a system. Attack is attack and support tells them to try and do both.

How much players adhere to these is affected by their position on the pitch, the state of the match (ie. With ball in their half or opponents half or without ball), shape which affects how much they work as a team and attributes like teamwork and work-rate I can’t stress this enough, these two attributes will almost likely determine whether your side is working together as a unit.

In the 4231 example we have 3 automatic roles. These are the two fullbacks and one MC. Assuming you have chosen standard which has a 50-50 risk tolerance, a very structured shape tells the fullbacks to not be so creative going forward.

Their risk tolerance governs how far they will go up the pitch. Shouts will affect them as well. Shape affects creative freedom, the lower the shape settings the less creative they become, and the higher it is the more they work together with the rest of the team.

When you increase the mentality from standard to attacking, everyone is affected on the pitch. They move slightly higher up the pitch when they have the ball and they leave gaps behind when they need to defend. The reverse holds true as well.

Some players like me for example never use (Automatic) roles, there is just way too much uncertainty with this particular instruction, and I like to specify what they do. Since attack, defend and support are so clear, I rather just use these roles as they provide more clarity and I know what to expect. When you elect to define your own roles you need to account for spatial awareness on the pitch.

Player Instructions

Within the TC, there is a Player tab. Here you can set up individualised player instructions for anyone on the team, this includes substitutes. You can save these instructions and when a substitute is called up, and if the tactic includes these special instructions, these are adhered to. For example I could set my keeper Ben Foster up with short passing to fullbacks and set the replacement keeper up with kicking to target man.

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Without making any changes to shouts you have effectively created a lot of space. There is now a gap when you attack between the holding midfielders and the attacking group. There is also a lot of space between the inside forwards and the fullbacks. When you are in the opposing half, the inside forwards will in all likelihood cut inside with the ball, allowing the fullback to overlap on support this has the potential of leaving large swathes of space to be exploited on the counter attack.

There is also a gap up front forcing the 2 holding midfielders to do more work covering the flanks as well as the large gaps between defense and midfield and support the attacking midfielder.

Choosing roles effectively requires one to address how we handle space. One way of solving this is by changing roles, turning one of the Ifs into a Raumdeuter or a wide playmaker and another into a supporting inside forward. Another way is to give the AMC a supporting role.

Understanding how these roles affect space is critical in making a stable tactic.

The next element on the tactical creator are Shouts. These need to be used carefully. When in doubt don’t use them, if you want to start using them, use them one at a time so you can understand what effect the are having on your system.

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Without making any changes to shouts you  have effectively created a lot of space. There is now a gap when you attack between the holding midfielders and the attacking group. There is also a lot of space between the inside forwards and the fullbacks. When you are in the opposing half, the inside forwards will in all likelihood cut inside with the ball, allowing the fullback to overlap on support this has the potential of leaving large swathes of space to be exploited on the counter attack.

There is also a gap up front forcing the 2 holding midfielders to do more work covering the flanks as well as the large gaps between defense and midfield and support the attacking midfielder.

Choosing roles effectively requires one to address how we handle space. One way of solving this is by changing roles, turning one of the Ifs into a Raumdeuter or a wide playmaker and another into a supporting inside forward. Another way is to give the AMC a supporting role.

Understanding how these roles affect space is critical in making a stable tactic.

The next element on the tactical creator are Shouts

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Shouts affect how the team plays as a whole and affects the (automatic) roles in your tactical creator. Shouts are a very effective way of making minor changes to your tactic without the need for making wide sweeping changes.

A shout serves to modify an existing role, for example if a player’s role generally asks him to make short passes, a shorter passing shout for the team, will also make that players passing even more shorter. These team instructions work in tandem with the individual player instructions.

Possession Shouts


Go Route One –
 long ball passing, quickly moves ball from back of defense, bypasses midfield as is generally regarded as a low risk way of clearing the ball. Will reduce your possession and requires you to have a good target man upfront.

More Direct Passing
 – These passes can be long or short. Attacking in nature, these are usually forward passes which will be targeted more to your playmakers or attacking players. Leads to quicker transition from midfield to attack, provided your roles are set up. Potentially reduces possession. Requires good passing attributes for it to be played effectively in an attacking system. Highly recommended for a counter attacking system.

Retain Possession
 – A team will recycle passes if it can’t find a breakthrough, short passing will automatically be taken and a side will try and reduce its risk tolerance in order for it to hold possesion. Increases possession of a side. Can be used in all systems.

Pass into Space
 – A side will look to play the ball into space for players to attack. For it to be successful you require players with good decisions, passing and off the ball ratings. There will be more off the ball movement by players and this can be modified further if players have the get forward player preferred move (ppm), switch play to other flank, runs into channel ppm. This shout can lead to loss of possession if the team doesn’t have the attributes to pull it off. Incredibly effective in counter attacking, and defensive systems where opposition sides are attacking and leaving large spaces. Effective against a 4231 and 424 systems. Can lead to lower possession numbers and is considered an attacking shout.

Work ball into Box
 – A possession shout where a side will attempt to reduce its long shots and its crosses in an attempt to get the ball into the box. Is a shout that can be used in concert with other possession shouts to further increase possession numbers in a side.

Play out of Defense
 – Useful in systems which employ no Deep lying playmaker. When a side uses these shouts, defenders pass the ball around themselves and into the middle to build up play. If player instructions are set up for direct passing, it has the potential of being a wasted shout. It can be used to increase possession provided a team is already on either direct passing or short passing.

Clear ball to Flanks 
– This shout has the potential to reduce possession and is employed when you have suitable flank players who have been instructed to get forward either via PI’s or their roles. Requires good passing, and is also a useful shout for counter attacking sides. It however can lead to loss of possession.

Hit early Crosses 
– Any player whose role dictates that he crosses will take deep crosses when the opportunity presents itself. Useful if you are defending deep against an attacking system that leaves large gaps. Requires your attackers to have good off the ball, anticipation to get themselves into position. Unless their roles dictate they run forward early, this can be a wasteful shout for sides who want to dominate possession.

Float Crosses
 – Effective shout for sides that have taller attackers with better jumping and heading than the rest. A floated cross can be headed down into the path of a poacher or a midfielder arriving late into the box or a attacking forward who has instructions to hold the ball up.

Whipped crosses – These are not targeted to specific players, instead it serves to drill a ball across the face of a goal.

Low Cross
 – Similar to a whipped cross, except that these aren’t drilled.

Run at defense 
– increases the likelihood that players with good dribbling skills will take on players and try and beat them by dribbling past them. Unless your players have that skill, you could be wasting possession or running the risk of them being injured from hard tackling defenses.

Shoot on Sight
– Instructs your side to take a shot at goal at the earliest opportunity.

Penetration Shouts

These shouts generally affect which area of the pitch passes are drilled to, or how players should be attacking spaces.

Exploit shouts all affect the area where direct/long passes will be made to exploit space and require you to have players with the necessary attributes to benefit from them otherwise this could lead to a loss in possession.

In all these shouts the relevant flank will see an increased likelihood players will make forward runs to. For example an exploit flank shout will see flank players like AMR making earlier forward runs and deeper players making direct passes for them to exploit.

The overlapping shouts have the effect of reducing the forward runs of the players in the middle of the pitch and increasing that of the flank players. The only exception are players who have been specifically told NOT to make those runs via PIs.

Shape Shouts

These shouts affect the width and how deep your tactic becomes. Pushing the defensive line of a tactic reduces the distance between midfield and defense, but increases the gap between defense and your goal. Dropping your defensive line reduces the gap between your goal and defense and increases the gap between midfield and defense.

You can create a walled defense by increasing your defensive line for a defensive tactic, but it also creates gaps behind your defense that can be exploited, conversely you can reduce your defensive line to cut out space that can be exploited, but this does have the effect of isolating your attack. When using these shouts bear in mind the gaps you create as you will need to address how you seek out your players for a pass.

Defending Shouts

These shouts govern how your players address threats. Increasing closing down has the effect of increasing the zonal marking area of a player. When a player is giving higher closing down instructions, he will run around more. This can be beneficial in a lot of cases and can be used both in defensive as well as offensive systems. The shouts here affect the team as a whole. You can elect to specifically tell a role to close down much more without having to use the team shout.

This can be done via the individual Player Instructions Panel. Some roles are locked out and changes can’t be made since these would essentially devalue their roles and thereby dilute them.

Using these shouts can have the effect of increasing the likelihood of players getting more tired and run the risk of them getting injured. You can use them but be aware that these shouts have the effect of displacing your overall shape, and its especially true for very fluid systems.

General Shouts

These shouts are self explanatory, the ones that stand out are the more disciplined and more expressive shouts. These shouts allow your side to hold their shape or forgo their shape based on the game situation at that current time. Tempo Shouts are good to use, however these too need to work in concert with your overal passing and tactical shape of your system. A high tempo shout makes a team move the ball around much faster or increases their overall movement across the pitch, however it has the added effect of decreasing the players conditioning over the course of a game. Take a breather is a good shout to take if you want to hold onto the lead, and slow a game down. Other shouts that stand out and haven’t been covered include stay on feet which is also a fairly good shout to use in an attacking system since players are told not to go to ground too easily thus forcing a team to find their way around them with passes. However when using this shout if your team has low concentration or anticipation and teamwork, a ball could be worked around your side for easy shots at goal or a player could dribble his way past you without hindrance.

Once you’ve set all these up you can then go to the Set piece creator, here the best advice is to leave it at default, most people do, there are some who use it to score a lot of goals, and to get that done, you basically go through your side, scour it for good set piece takes or good headers and put them in the positions you think are the best goal scoring ones.

Analysis

Once you have played a few games you can begin to take stock of how you are doing. There are various ways of doing this, you can drill through your ratings on take a look at the Analysis tab of the tactical creator. You need to leave your tactic on the default tactic you have chosen though for it to reflect the tactic that you have used.

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This will break down how your system has done against other systems used by the AI, information like where your assists are coming from help you determine if your system is working true to form

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One of the coolest features about Analysis is comparing how two different players played against a specific team. Here I am comparing my current fullback against his future replacement against Liverpool 2016 and Liverpool 2017

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When you are evaluating WHY your system doesn’t work, this analysis tab can be an invaluable aid. It can show you how your team performed in the last match, and you can analyse how your team has worked together over the course of a season. It lets you see how your tactic has been doing, whether its creating the right kind of chances or whether it needs drastic improvement.
In this particular example I was trying to analyse how both players’ heat seeker missiles were doing against the same opposition, whether these kind of attacks were useful and whether I should use them again in the future.

The Analysis tab also contains detailed head to head stats including highlights of recent games. Use them when you are in doubt.

END OF PART 1 – PART 2: Basics of Training

 

 

 

6 comments

    1. Using a lot of shouts at the start affect a lot of things and when you play badly you won’t know which shout is the problem. The first thing you should do is understand which shout affects what on the pitch.

      Sometimes I use 3 shouts at other times I use like 5. There is no set number. What you need to do is look at your own tactic. Think of shouts as tweaks to ur style of play.

      If I were to play a short passing game with a narrow formation like a 4312 or a 4132 I will never use exploit flanks. If I want to play attacking football but my fullbacks tend to get exposed I will hardly overlap.

      So you see your tactic and the situation you are in guide you as to the shouts you should use.

      When in doubt start with a few.

    2. It all depends on how much you want to achieve. There is no magical number, but you absolutely need to know how it affects your side. That is the most important thing about shouts. Sometimes I use as many as 10, sometimes I use only 3.

  1. At first I have to apologize for my under-average English 😉 This is one of the most important and useful guides about the FM I’ve ever read. There is only one thing you have left out: how PPM affect the PI and so the tactics. Some user who have problems with setting up their tactics often forget the PPM.

    Keep on the good work and greetings from Germany 🙂

    1. I don’t think pp should be everyone’s first concern setting the tactic up right frequently doesn’t require PPMs to work. There are some ppms that have the effect of helping certain PIs. For example doesn’t dive into tackles works well with setting hard tackling in PIs

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