#FM15 So you wanna be a LLM

Lower League Management has its moments, if anyone who has followed my adventures, I used to hone in on Dafuge’s Challenge in the Sports Interactive Forums, where you would need to follow strict rules regarding player discovery and club selection, to pick a newly promoted conference side with the objective of chronicling your growth as a manager at the club.

It was singularly one of the most engaging experiences I’ve ever had in the game. The downside of playing the challenge was absorption, at the cost of everything else. The challenge is one of the most immersive ones I have ever played, and for as long as i can remember I was a loyal member of that rare breed of managers who love to scrape for scraps and proudly wear them like badges. LLM is certainly quite the challenge and it can be made even harder if you choose to follow the strict rules organisers set, or you could create your own little world where you become Johnny A, aspiring manager with a dream. How can one turn that dream into reality?


Many managers look at finances first and this is where the first colossal mistake happens. Why look at finances when you haven’t even identified the club’s DNA. You absolutely need to know how you want your side to play. People will always suggest you play defensive at the outset. My advice pick a system that values speed!.  So if you find a striker who has 9 for finishing and 17 for speed and one who has 12 for finishing and 6 for speed, I’d settle for Speedy.

You see, I love setting up systems which exploit counters. Set up a system which can afford to launch these demons at teams such as the 41221 or even the flat 433. Then you lock down your defense with the right players.

And this is where the DNA is critical, you need to know what the baseline attributes are for the league, easy to find out from the clubs squad page which has a profile comparison with the rest of the league for the various attributes. If you are in the conference having 10 as a baseline puts you firmly in the average category.

So if I were using a 4312, where I needed 3 hardworking midfielders, I’d immediately look at Pace, Strength, Tackling, Passing, Jumping Reach. This would probably be my baseline for attributes. Once I find like a group of players who are at 10 for these then I shortlist them. There is no need to make a bid. This is all done on the first day when I sign on the dotted line. A lot of this in LLM style can only be done via your own scouts knowledge and having the “fog” turned on.

Scouting is going to be an issue at some clubs so you may need to approach the board to do a public trial day, this helps too to identify new talent. Shortlist them too. Now onto the next part.


And this is the single biggest facet of LLM many don’t get. It isn’t about finding the best talent, its about weeding out the worst. You need to quickly identify what your wage budget is, then take a long hard look at your squad, you’ve already set up your DNA, so you should know who’s below the borderline and who isn’t.

Know your system, and then start looking lowering your costs, you may need to identify players who should be given their walking orders. Now is not the time for you to go mental on coaches yet. Chances are in LLM if you can afford more than 2 coaches your club must be rich by LLM standards and you’ve failed to pick a true LLM challenge. C’mon go for broke!

Make sure you’re always operating below the wage budget, this means exercising close control on wages, you must make sure you don’t fall into the trap of escalating wages caused by dubious wage % increase clauses, so make sure you don’t include them, paying them slightly more in terms of goal bonus is still better in the long run for costs, you can even give them a bonus for reaching the finals of something you know your side never will. Somehow the players aren’t intelligent enough to know the difference, if it helps keeps the costs down, who cares. LLM management is all about getting one over the players at your benefit.

From this group of players you want to plan for the long term, some of your players could become out-performers, thats always possible in some tactical systems, so keep that at the back of your mind once the season ends because you will need to rejuvenate your side. And if you manage first time promotions, their value goes up, so you can sell them for more, who doesn’t like money when you are poor?

This means you always need to have enough players but don’t go mental, play smart go to bigger clubs and beg to take in LONG TERM loans, you’d be surprised at who you get. And this is where you bridge the gap in your clubs DNA.


When it comes to tactics people say the wierdest things. I have heard people say, “a side in LLM should only play direct passing cos they need to hoof the ball”, others have said that you need to play rigid cos they don’t have enough imagination to play creatively. Both are wrong.

When it comes to tactics, numbers are relative to the league you are in, its been that way since 1992, when Champ Man was played, Yes, there have been changes, today you can’t use Mansfield Town to hammer Real Madrid 8-0 like we could in 200 in a friendly in your debut season in charge, but the attribute system is still fundamentally the same. If you look at the league there will probably be a median scale of 9 for the whole league for say pace, and your side could be a 8. That could mean you are a proud member of the Slowest Turtles In the Isle’s, but in your league you are just shy of average. In relative terms you may not be as fast as Sterling, but you can keep up with James Milner. So in the league you are in, you are average. What you want to be is above average in your league. So find the attributes that are important for your style of play and start scouting players who can fit that bill. This game is and will always be a numbers game.

Next build the tactic to take advantage of pace. Finally when you are playing do it the smart way, ADAPT. Take the one tactic, and if you faced with a side thats playing fast down the flanks, then make sure your fullbacks are on support.  You ONLY NEED ONE TACTIC, but you need to be aware when to make small tweaks, I mean really small.

These are the very basics of LLM management, more to follow.


  1. Lovely!

    I’m hoping to pair this with your 4-1-4-1 when it’s released and have a go at rags-to-riches save. 🙂

  2. Rags to Riches, then you need to follow the model I used at WBA, which used a system that had 3 strikers, the moment one of them bagged 20+ goals, clubs came calling. I sell him for loads of cash, repeat the same thing the next season. At one point I had like 4 strikers on the roster and 3 more youngsters. I think I made a total of 200+ million from selling these players. One of them alone got me like 80m.

    1. Oh, the financial part has never been a problem, nor suitable player recruitment.
      I’ve had an approach where I only focus on determination, anticipation and decisions in lower leagues and it’s worked well. The alternative, which I also sometimes used, was to focus on physicals, most notably pace, as explained above in your post.

      My main problem are tactics. That’s just a pure struggle and no amount of good transfers can help me if I don’t have a reliable tactic which will help me overachieve by its own in the long run.

      1. Choose a tactic thats simple, something you understand, for a long time all I played was a 41221,then it morphed into a 433 with a flat 3 and finally when i was good enough it became a 4312 and i started hammering. Its about long term planning. You play to the strengths you have and start building, finding the best quality in the team you start with is always the biggest challenge, which is why I always pick speed.

      2. That 41221 you showed in two videos, do you think something like that can be used with Counter mentality?
        When you talk about countering per se and when I read it on SI forums, it can be confusing.
        Counter-attacks in the traditional sense for me have always been: low block- quick transition-direct passing-high tempo.
        However, on FM Counter is a possession based thing; yes, the high tempo rush triggers when you catch the opposition with their pants down, but generally it’s not what I described above. If you want fast play and direct passing, you have to “counter” by playing Control or even Attacking; meaning getting the ball quickly high up and “counter” them immediately. Then, in turn lefts you exposed with such a high line so it’s not traditional countering like I described either.

        I gathered all that info from SI tactics forum and it’s very baffling at times.

      3. Yes you can, most systems are fairly easy to mod to counter/defensive. The first thing people need to understand is that counterattacking exists hardcoded into the engine. So if a situation presents itself during the course of a game that benefits from a quick counter, you will see it happen, provided you havent’ done anything to screw it up. For instance, you’re defending off a corner, and you decide to leave everyone in the box, then you don’t get counters off a failed corner. But, if you leave 2 strikers up front pacey and strong, and you leave the best passer in your team lurking at the edge of the box or just outside, you will see counters. The set up is important. What you read in the forums, is usually pieces of information, all of it true, but in different contexts. Counter is merely a mentality framework that mods the passing instructions of players, you can affect these in your favour by doing several things.

        Furthermore some systems can naturally present counter situations, the 41221 is a good example. If you were to employ say a centreforward who is strong and plays a bit more advanced or two pacey inside forwards or one pacey inside forward and a winger on the opp flank and you are playing a counter attacking system. Several things happen without the need of any interference on your part. You are naturally deeper and the shape will see players in the advanced areas. The problem happens when managers compound matters to prevent counters. This can happen with the use of shouts like Retain Poss and Short passing, both of which shorten passing to its lowest number. Then with your team already on counter, players take a less risky approach. This results in either short passes to themselves or hoofed balls.

        Personally I like taking the counter strat which Sporting and WBA did in their first few seasons, but I made some small changes. I stuck to counter but i did several things different:
        I didnt mess with d-lines…no need for xtra pressure

        I also asked my fullbacks to take more risky passes or play direct. Up front, they did the High Block and also player direct. This had the effect of seeing deep balls played from flanks to my inside forwards who were already in attack. Choosing the right players in those positions was vital, I always favoured pace acceleration crossing and finishing, cos I knew, once they were through the goal was on.

        When my team started getting better, the counter…moved to control and eventually attacking…same strat but this time with attacking, I didnt’ need the hoof from the fullbacks, but I certainly changed the TIs accordingly. For counter I would get my team to tackle hard and default closing down for TI, but for the front 3 they would always do a High Block via PIs.

        I hope that helped

  3. I’m beginning (or I think I am) to learn quite a few things from you, mainly how to switch the same tactic from control/attacking to counter, so pardon me if I have more questions, which I do. 😀

    Firstly, you described how to change a classic 41221 from control/attacking to counter.
    TIs would be Work the Ball into Box to prevent long shots, Play out of Defence to stop the hoofing, Whipped Crosses for sharpness and quickness, Get Stuck in to cut their attacks as much as possible and Prevent GK distribution, which I don’t understand why you left on? Player Wider as optional, too. Have I got the logic right?
    You explained how to counter with strong guy+pacey IFs/Ws, but is it possible to make the RDM-F9-IF version of the same tactic counter the same? I mean, that way you don’t have an AFa high up, but a an F9 who drops deep, which is one less player up front to quickly get the ball to.

    Secondly, I watched your 4141 and it’s really helpful, the transition from more attacking version to more countering version. I’m starting to see the patterns in a way you do these transitions.
    One difference between 41221 and 4141 was that you didn’t make your fullbacks take more risky passes and play more direct like you described above. Is the reason for that because 4141 doesn’t have players high up on the wings, like IF/W/RDM to pass to? Sorry for asking obvious stuff to you, but I’m trying to understand instead of just copying. 🙂

    1. OK…for the shouts play out of defence whipped crosses work ball into box..they stay for all my systems

      When attacking I tend to favour a pressing game more since i am in the opponents half and I dont want them sliding in and committing cos going to ground is 1 less man to cover.

      So in attacking systems I tend to close down much more and stay on feet.

      When I go counter we are sitting back, so there is no need to press hard anymore since they are coming at you. This time because we are closer to our defensive line, we need to commit to tackling so we tackle hard, instead of closing down hard. Closing down hard in our own half will have the effect of pulling us apart, holding the shape now is more impt.

      Yes its possible to emplouy the same 41221 with a counter/control system to, in fact i have following on the logic i just listed. In fact I would prefer to play an F9. However i would probably go with a really strong physical player when playing counter. When he drops deep that RMD can attack the space behind him and so can the inside forward.

      An advanced forward could work too, but then the RMD now becomes….redundant in a way since his space is almost always occupied, in which case I would favour a winger on one side and perhaps an inside forward on the other to cut inside. So you could play this in 2 distinct ways, depending on who you have.

      One other thing I didnt’ cover this in the video, in some cases it may even be preferable to deploy a flat 3 in midfield and jsut ask the DLP to (D), give him the ppm to drop deeper when not in possession, and then you have the player who can mop up a clearance from the opposing side when they clear the ball from defense.

      In this case u will need a DLP who has all the right attributes.

      In the 4141 I used, I had my fullbacks take less risky passes, because there isn’t a need to launch those balls, the mid strata is so close to the defense. So taking more risky passes wouldn’t be a good idea. In the case of the 41221 I would use more risky passes because we have AMs and an f9 in the other half. Now here I would check if I needed to depending on how I want to play. Do I want possession or am i not bothered. I have played with direct passes with my fullbacks on many occassions, even with a 442 when I was playing defensively. My replication of Atletico featured fullbacks who would launch ICBM passes from deep in our own half to a DLF upfront. It was awesome.

      So a lot of the time I make these kind of considerations when I am making PI changes

  4. Good, so I understood the reasoning behind TIs right. The only thing I don’t get is why you left Prevent GK Distribution on when you moved to Counter in that 4141 video?

    As far as PIs go, on to the midfield triangle. You employ DLPd – BWMs – CMs (dribble more PI) in 41221 and DLPd – BWMs – APs (dribble more PI) in 4141.
    You touched upon DLPd above and its possible move up + the PPM. You also showcased an example with BtBM instead of a BWMs, which then clashed with the other central midfielder. Thus the change to make him a BWM made him cover a different part of the pitch and behave like you wanted it.
    What you didn’t touch upon and I’m curious about; why the difference – CMs in 41221 and APs in 4141? You explained in both cases that you want a player in that position to actively support the forward (thus dribble more), but what are the other reasons for choosing CMs in one and APs in the other system?

    1. The difference between the CM and the AP was simple, its their role in the team. The CM is pretty much generic and for me to get him to play the way I want I would have had to fiddle with the PIs, but in the the case of the AP, those instructions are already included. Furthermore in a 41221 there are two advanced wide players on the flanks who can lend support to the lone forward, however for a 4141 its different, he’s more isolated. I never wanted to lose control of the space behind the lone forward hence the AP.

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