Stafford Rangers – Tactical System (Attacking/Defending)

A quick recap. The Stafford Rangers story will attempt to show how I deploy a tactical system into a game that can be used with any team. I call my system Tikanaccio. The elements of the system include:

  • Selection of Players
  • Selection of Coaches
  • Setting up the right tactical plan
  • Using performance indicators to assess how well your team is playing

Essentially what I plan to do with Tikanaccio is to show that a tactical system requires a good understanding of managing the right player for the right task, and making the right decision at the right time. The hardest phase is the early phase of the system when you are getting the players for the system. Eventually over time you will start using muscle memory, cos you will know who goes where, and what you need to do to make it work. I have already discussed how i select players and coaches. What follows is a continuation of my tactical system.

Attacking Setup – Passing

Now if you use the tactical creator, you can opt for a shorter passing style. Now for most people who aren’t familiar with the match engine, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist, stick with the tactical creator. What you need to understand is that the passing setup there can work. However for lower league sides you’re better off never using Mixed passing.

Mixed passing demands a lot of decisions. After all you are telling your player to decide whether its going to be a short pass, long pass, through ball etc. So with a weaker team I almost always choose short passing as a rule but I make one major change. I also tick direct passing on my entire attacking group and set it to the first notch,which should be the shortest form of direct passing.

So I go through my team and set passing to one for everyone from the GK to my MCd or DMC. Then I set direct passing on the rest of the team. By doing this I have effectively removed any SHOUT that is tied to passing. That means I can never use the Clear to Flank option, which i dont really mind. I’ve done a spreadsheet that shows what shouts affect on another page in this blog. Cleon also has a good post on the forums describing what each shout does.

Its vital that any person who messes with the tactical creator understands that by aimlessly ticking every shout you end up with a potential train wreck. A good example of this is what lordelmo1 from the forums posted. He adjusted the team settings in the tactical creator and then attempted to use every shout, and couldnt get a win. If you have read my blog on shouts you will probably be able to see exactly where he went wrong.

Now that we know what we are not supposed to do, I will elaborate further. The team has been set up and I know I need to use two passing systems in my team.

Lets start with my 451 formation.

I have 3 pivots in my team : my 3 midfielders. Understanding their roles will help me decide who will fill that slot and how they will pass.

There is going to be a B2B midfielder and a BWM. Essentially I need the BWM to keep things simple, for now with this team all I want him to do is provide a screen, challenge players and to distribute the ball to either the B2B player or the AMC (4231). If its a flat three he will be the deep lying playmaker and the BWM will be in the middle. The BWM is going to have a passing of 1. I dont want anything fancy from him, i just want him to concentrate on doing his job. Others can worry about through balls and hollywood passes.

If its my 4231 formation then he will be able to pass it to  the other midfielder beside him or to lay it off to the fullbacks who should be doing overlapping runs beside.  In the 4231 formation and the 451 formations, this pivot is static. Play revolves around him and not through him. He does not do hollywood passes. Instead he becomes the screen, he holds up the ball and lays it off to other players who have the more creative roles.

Going back to the 451 formation, I also now want to make some modifications. I want my MCd(BWM in the 4231) to play deeper than the rest and I want him to be on the same mentality as the the DC, that way he should drop deeper. So i set his mentality up to mirror the dcs.

For my other attacking pivots I leave their passing on direct, these attacking pivots are not static, they are expected to roam from position. In my 451 formation only the B2B midfielder and my inside forwards will roam, and the tactical creator automatic setup is spot on. So i won’t be making any adjustments.

The tactical creator does not need adjustments if you are going to play it the basic way. However I want to make my tactic unique and my own, after all its my own system. And I know that whichever team I manage I can translate this system to them without too much of a fuss.

Having set up my passing patterns for the whole team and that tweak to mentality for my holding player. I now need to identify which player can sit in that role. To do that I just go to the Ass Man Report view of the screen and add two more views, Passing Percentage and Passing. Over the course of the next few friendlies. The players who have the best passing % in that role will get a start. I also do the same for the holding players, for whom I use determination and tackling.

So my attacking system has been set up. I have 3 pivots, one static anchor of sorts and 2 fluid pivots. I have also set up inside forwards and set up the passing patterns for the team. I expect to see decent passing options and lots of movement in my 4231 formation. More conservative options in my 451 and my False Nine formation will essentially just be the same as the 4231 except i just drag them down, and in my shouts I just push up higher and look for overlaps.

Time now to look at tackling


When it comes to defending, its actually not that hard. What I cant seem to understand from the forums is why so many people struggle. I have received loads of emails from people and the common denominator in most of them is misuse of the tactical creator or a complete misunderstanding on how to translate defending into the game.

Defending well requires several components. In real life, we need players to be strong, tactically aware, determined and disciplined. Defending systems require a high degree of discipline, if your back-line doesn’t keep shape its easy to exploit a through ball. If you lunge in all the time you risk picking up a card, but worse still you afford the opposition more space to pass the ball around.

What a lot of people forget is that the Spanish Tiki-Taka system started out as a defensive system. It was a way to keep the ball and to move the ball back quickly within a short time frame. It was played as a narrow system where passing triangles were within 8 yards of each other. It had 2 deep defensive midfielders and play would revolve around midfield pivots that could launch a 40 yard pass to switch the focus of an attack. In their system, absolute discipline is needed. Players are required to be within range of the ball carrier and they need to face the ball carrier for the system to work. Aimlessly lunging of tackles hardly happens, instead opposition passing lane options are controlled by disciplined closing down of options, and not just blind tackles.

Its not hard to get that done in Football Manager. For one thing, half the work is already done for you via the tactical creator. When the tactical creator was first made, I was asked what my opinion was. I remarked that an attacking team almost always has a higher defensive line marked with higher closing down. They will close down further on the pitch, but the best teams actually close out passing lanes. And some other teams may force teams to channel their passes where they want them to go. So if i was worried about an opponents flank attack, I would have several options, tightly mark them or have a flank attack of my own or just keep my fullbacks in check and tell em not to make overlapping runs.

The idea here is that you need to find a way to either nullify an opponent or give them something to worry about. If you are the weaker side and decide to take on an opponent on their ground trying to play the game their way, you will lose, or get a heart attack as the game swings.

In FM, what managers need to understand is the concept of closing down. Closing down isn’t tackling, its the act of shutting down passing options. The more you close down the more space you are likely to give up, furthermore the more aggressively you close down the more tired your players become. Tackling is different. Its just the act of stopping a player. If you are using a zonal system, there are danger areas on the pitch. A players defensive attributes define whether he will make the challenge or not and how well he does it. So you need to look at these attributes, one of the most important attributes is determination. Other attributes include, tackling, bravery, stamina, strength. His preferred player moves (ppm) are also important. If he has “lunging in” as a ppm you may want to be careful.

Now the tactical creator has already set this up for you. For any mentality setup you want, closing down has already been done for you. You may want to tweak it slightly if you choose, but doing so nullifies other shouts. Personally mine are on default. I do make adjustments once in a while, but very rarely.

The adjustments you may want to make involve tight marking. Tight marking further limits the oppositions passing options, and for this reason alone I will use it when I need to shut down opposing fullbacks. To do that I will on occasion set it up on my inside forwards and on my fullbacks. Thats about it.

In a game if I need to exercise more disciplined defending, I plan on just using Opposition Instructions. Defending is notoriously simple. If you use OI by picking specific danger men, it can help. I typically use it on AMCs, or MCs who are playmakers. I will also set it up on the opposing goalkeeper so he doesnt have time to find players.

Since I have not done too much my way of personal instructions, I will need to pay attention to matches and this will be my priority:

  • OI players who have high pass %
  • Use shouts like play narrower, since it now only affects width and not passing
  • Use overlapping runs when i want to go forward, otherwise not and then switch play to middle and set up tight marking for wingers and change fullbacks to defend if i am under fire from flanks

The basic tactical setup is done.


In essence I have basically made an attacking system revolve around 3 pivots, my formations can exploit the middle and the flanks and I expect my STC to be a deep lying forward thus giving me more goal scoring options. My passing options will allow me to tweak the corner setup routines for quick counterattacking since the players are on direct passing.

When defending I have opted to go with the Control strategy, I have not touched the closing down instructions, effectively using what the TC has provided. My only changes will come form Opposition Instructions, Shouts and selectively setting up tight marking.

Next up some friendlies.

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