#FM13 Dummy Guide To Tactics


I’ve been thinking of simplifying tactical creation for some time now. Having played this game for over 10 years now, some things have changed but the fundamentals remain the same. This is after all a game about football. If you want success you need to manage right. So where do we start?

You da Man!
The game begins and ends with you. If you don’t have a system you will struggle. You need to decide what formations you will use, and you need to stick by them. Select players based on attributes not out of sentimentality, and above all except when you have failed. When that happens look at the highlights, try and spot the simple things they can all be rectified.

Tactical setup
This thread contains a lot of information about this so I will summarize. Tactics need to have multiple pivots. These are your attacking thrusts. You need to be able to score from multiple ways, but you can’t do these all at the same time, cos you will get exposed. Balance needs to be maintained. So lets break things up using a basic 442.

  • 1. Your system needs a counterattacking and at least a control variant
  • 2. Your system needs partnerships in defense and in support
  • 3. You need to learn how to analyse a game
  • 4. You need to know how to make controlled changes to switch your focus

Lets focus on these 4 points first before we head on to training and match prep.

1. 1. Your system needs a counterattacking and at least a control variant
Get out of the mentality that CA tactics are defensive, they aren’t, in fact, they are basically the go to choice for any side in the game whether you are Manchester United or Mansfield. These tactics are all possession based. If you set passing to short you get patient football. Direct and you get fullbacks with goal assists from deep.

What many people fail to understand is that with simple shouts you can change the whole focus, which I will detail later. When you are just starting out with your team and they haven’t gelled, go CA. Once your teamwork is there or once you start felling comfortable that your side is doing well, go control. This strategy is all about keeping your team in the middle of the park and with simple shouts you can push them higher or drop them deeper. Control strategies are low risk approaches that encourage players to play sensible passes and calculate risk/reward when they attack. How you increase your odds is via shouts.

2. Your system needs partnerships in defense and in support
Time to focus on the 442.
Lets set up our defense first, two orthodox defenders:set them as central defenders. Just keep it simple and set the other two as fullbacks, one on automatic and one on support. For your defenders you need partnerships so make sure they have these attributes. Absolutely, anticipation and concentration for your defenders. One of them must be great in the air, and the other must be a great marker and tackler. This allows them to work as a team. Fullbacks need concentration, passing, anticipation, determination, acceleration and tackling. They need passing if you truly want to have the magical throughball to your wingers.

When you set the tactic up go to the individual marking settings for your defenders and set them to tight marking. This will always make them play close to the shoulder of wingers and strikers. Their acceleration and anticipation will make them hard to beat. They won’t always win, but more often than not, they will make it harder for them to be beaten.

Short passing or direct? They both have their merits. Short passing means you build up play for the back and if you use the shout hit early cross or pass into space, their passing will switch to direct for the through balls when the chance arises otherwise they will play it short. If you want quicker attacks or if the ground conditions dictate you can use more direct. This is where you need to do some homework.

On to our midfield. This is where pivots become important. For your tactic to create chances you need to build them up. We already have fullbacks who can launch attacks now we need players in the middle to do the same. For that to happen you need to create the combinations. You can set up for orthodox wingers, then focus on your midfield engine. This is where it gets interesting simply because of the permutations that are available:

  • DLP and BWM for when you want to go 4411, to make your tactic play like a poor mans 4231
  • Box2Box MC and DLP, a more offensive setup which is marginally better
  • DLP and Advanced Playmaker, a pretty good setup, but demands a lot from your DLP, he wont be able to holdup ball and pass. So you need to untick this option

In my opinion for a 442 formation, I’d probably opt for the DLP and Advanced Playmaker, but therein lies its vulnerability. The fact that your pivots include one player that by default holds up ball makes this a vulnerability. He will win back the ball and hold it up..and if the AI is pressing the midfield as it usually is, this will cause you problems cos he will always have someone in close attendance. It can still work but this is where the most important attribute for this player becomes composure. When the DLP wins back the ball he needs to have the composure and the first touch to play the pass. If his work-rate  and concentration are low struggle you will.

The combination between your two midfielders will form the pivot around which your central attacks will come from. Having a DLP with good passing, adds to the variety cos he will be able to switch flank attacks, but this shouldn’t be your priority at the start so just worry whether he does the simple passes first. Whats important is winning the ball and playing it out to the flanks and to the other MC. Now lets look at the other MC and what it can offer. If you use an APM, the choice of DLP becomes critical, and to give the APM support you can opt to have the APM on support instead of attack. This forces the APM to be close to the DLP so he has an outlet.

If you find that you need to press higher up the pitch, you can get the DLP involved by setting him to support. He will still drop into the defensive hole but will go up when the opportunity presents itself.

What if you were to use a B2BMC? These midfielders are automatically support players, and they act as shuttlers between midfield and attack. The single most important attribute for this players is decisions thats the driving force for them to trigger their creativity, which in turn unlocks their ability to run at defenses. This is probably one of the hardest positions to get working right because successful B2BMCs require a lot of attributes, 18 if I am not mistaken from having acceleration to run through channels, vital to have first touch or they are pointless pivots. So if you are going to have a B2BMC make sure he has the aerobic and physical abilities. Its a tough ask and there arent a lot of players who can fill that role. Its not critical cos the APM is a far better choice.

An APM is a wise choice because you can have a combination of a Deep Lying Forward and an advanced forward. The DLF will play as a false nine, dropping deep to pull out markers, and if you choose the right one you will also see him pulling up to 4 defenders, to leave space for a APM or a B2BMC to exploit.

Having a DLP is almost mandatory in a 442 because you need someone to act as pivot from deep and having an APM or a DLP gives you another pivot up front. So imho its best to have a combination of a DLP, APM or B2BMC, a DLF and an Advanced Forward. Other managers have used a poacher and thats fine, whats more vital is how you’ve set up your midfield and your defense. Once you have set these up make sure you have a DLF and then you can combine that with a poacher or an advanced forward. A poacher will generally stand on the shoulder of defenders and an advanced forward will act like a targetman. Wingers..leave em as wingers.

3. You need to learn how to analyse a game

Now thats a bog basic 442. Its time to analyse what you need to do in the game. For a deeper analyses please refer to my thread on heatmaps. For more basic things to look out for you can also refer to this thread where I explain what I did with Stafford and then broke things down as a basic guideline.

Essentially you are looking at heatmaps to determine your defensive lines and how your forwards stack up vs the opposing defenders. If your defenders are too high up they will be turning around and chasing down through balls. Remember last season when City demolished United 6-1. Thats how it was done, which is why Fergie went counterattacking for their 3-2 win this season. So if you find that your defensive line is too high, its time you dropped it if you find your players too high up. Choice 1, drop deeper. Choice 2 Change strategy.

When I analyze a game I always pay attention to rating fluctuations. If a player goes from 7 to low 6s..its very bad. If it goes down to 5 you absolutely have to do something. If your whole team is averaging below 6.5, the other team is doing better than you. If you are doing above 6.8 you are doing marginally better. So once you’ve seen the ratings, its time for you to analyse where things are happening or going wrong. When players are not playing well as a pair then its usually tactical. So if a fullback and a winger arent doing well, it usually means that that particular flank is being overrun. If the MCs are doing poorly then it means their passing is shot. So ratings are very important. You could once you’ve mastered the basics just look at ratings and commentary highlights win a game, but until you learn how to analyse the game thats an unwise route to take, which is why many recommend watching on comprehensive till you grasp analysis.

Another area you want to pay attention to is pass completion rates for your offensive pivots and for your DLP or BWM their passing rate as well as their tackling % completion rate. If for instance your wingers are running too far ahead they get isolated and players need to play long direct passes to them which are easily intercepted. So visual attention to detail is important. So pay attention to:

  • Pass Completion rate for MC
  • Tackling rate for DLP
  • Successful Headers for DC
  • Cross blockages by your fullbacks  Your fullbacks can block a lot of crosses, how you do this is entirely based on your defensive line, so your strategy needs to be right. Wingers will beat your fullbacks sometimes and that is where your DCs need good concentration, anticipation and jumping to clear the danger.
  • Pay attention to how the AI is attacking you, is it coming down the flanks, middle or both?

I will add more on how to handle all this soon..I need to go and sleep now…*yawn*


  1. Back2back promotions with Luton, third season in & 2 points from a possible 30!!!
    A rethink on my strategy may be required methinks!

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