Football Manager Tactics – Building Blocks with Roles

I gotta admit, FM has certainly come a long way, we used to build freaking templates for roles in the game back in the day. It was such a piece of work, we would import these templates, I would upload them and people would go ahead and incorporate them into the game. The problem then was explaining why a few notches here and there could make a huge difference. Today making systems on the fly in the game is so easy, I am surprised there aren’t many people doing it.

Granted the title is simplistic, but honestly its the way I think when I am making a tactic. Whenever I make any system I tend to think of it in general terms, then break it down into component parts and finally I put these all together.  Before you make any system you really need to have a clear idea on what you want to achieve. You absolutely need to know what kind of players are best suited to the system you want to play. Frequently failure comes when you fit a round peg into a square hole. Know the roles, know what players can fill them and adapt your training to enhance their skills.

I’ve already covered the broader aspects of tactical creation here and focused on training systems elsewhere on the blog. So lets get down to the nitty gritty. The first building block we want to focus on is the defense. And you can’t limit your thinking to just the backline, because the responsibility of defending has to fall on the whole team. You have 11 players on the pitch, your goal has to be creating a system that allows you to be fluid going up and solid when you don’t have the ball. This is where you need to think of it firstly in broad terms, then in blocks.

Do you plan on winning the ball back in the opponents half? Nearly everyone says yes, but what kind of mentality systems help you to do that? If you were to use a counter attacking system or a contain system, you need to realize the first priority of your team is to get back into their defensive shape. And, if you lose the ball in the opponents half they may be tracking back. Furthermore, if the ball is lost in the opponents half, there is also a strong possibility that your defensive line will be quite deep. So deep that when the opposition clears their lines, your defenders and fullbacks may not be high enough on the pitch to make their clearance. The ball then gets back with the opposing side and they will build again. One needs to temper their expectations. So know what you get when you decide on the mentality settings of your team. This is why they broad general mentality settings of your team are just as important as how you want your team to play. So now that we know the ball may be lost in the middle of the pitch, what do we do?

Now we look at shapes. If we have determined we want to make a defensive system, your shape becomes important. Lets say we are playing with a 451, which in itself is a defensive system, we need to know that 3 players may not come back to defend, so we have 7 to setup excluding the keeper.

Its easy to set the 7 up, but a lot of people ignore the 3 up front. In my systems I have PIs set up for all 3 of them to close down much more. PI works with TI, so for defensive systems I tend to stay on feet and close down on default, sometimes even less. The goal of any defensive system has to be about holding the integrity of your shape. Aggressive closing down settings in defense will tear you up. Here I would think of my team in 2 blocks. The attacking group which is individually set to close down more and the rest who are on default.

Then I focus in on my defensive backline, If I am playing 4 at the back and I have my 3 midfielders I know I can think of them as one group. I will look at my MCs to close down effectively, but I will be keen on making sure my two defenders don’t get sucked in, so here’s where I split my backline into a Cover/Defend set up. This way one CD covers and the other does the defending.


Once you have set them up, you really need to start tracking their stats. When I am playing I know my fullbacks are expected to do a lot of interceptions, my midfielders a lot of tackling and running and assists will come from a certain group of players depending on my system. If for any reason those are not within acceptable standards, something is wrong with my system. Almost invariably its either down a slight tweak that I need to make or a personnel issue.

Its really simple, and easy to do, most people can get this part done right without too much effort. The challenge comes in transitions, which I have already covered here. Now its time to think of your attack. And this is where people need to start paying attention to the roles on in the game. Understand what each role does and how its supposed to play. If you are not sure what the difference is between a shadow striker and a trequartista, go read the descriptions, or better yet, check the Player Instructions out. Some roles have pre-defined PI’s that cannot be amended so you will know that a TQ never tackles compared to a shadow striker. There will be other differences and each one will help you understand what the role does. I can’t really go into detail on each role because that will take too long.

You can build blocks in other ways as well. For example, if you have a successful 433 formation and  your front line is doing well scoring the goals then you already have a 3 there, if you have supportive fullbacks thats another 2 players. Thats 5 players who have the creative nous to go get goals. Thats one block. Now you can go build you other defensive block, this time you have 5 more : you could set up a 3 man defense with 2 MCs now..and it will work. All you now need to do is make sure the centre isn’t too porous.  Once you understand how to do this, making systems on the fly in games is so easy…especially now with the roles in the game.

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