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Introducing Super-systems in Football Manager

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You may already be doing this in its simplest form. A home and away tactic. Its a system of play. Now what I call Super-systems aren’t too different, they just have a load of options. And thats what Super-systems are in football manager. They are a systematic series of match plans you have that you can turn to when certain conditions are met. Will you be using match plans? You could, which theoretically would make you play like the AI. The AI changes tactics based on time, score or an in game event like losing a player. My super-systems in itself are something the AI isn’t doing at the moment. The tools are there, but for some reason the AI does not use the full suite. We need to observe the game and make astute choices based on how the opposition are playing.

Why super-system and not super-tactic? Scramjet and Diablo are two of the greatest super-tactics in the history of the game. Both ripped the game apart and allowed you to overachieve with almost any squad. With win rates exceeding 80%, you rarely lost a game. Super-tactics don’t exist, the match engine flaws that allow you to consistently score the same way every game against any team simply does not happen 100% of the time. There are good tactics out there, but they all need specific kinds of players in specific positions. You may beat teams better than you some of the time, but not every time. And you certainly won’t be able to get Preston North End hammering Real Madrid 8 nil in their first season.

In my opinion the best way to play the game isn’t to search for that one tactic to rule them all; it’s for your to develop a system of play where you can adapt. And this means having several plans. In the modern game, managers frequently mix things up when their plan A goes out the window, even the AI has a few plans up its sleeve. Why can’t you?

Since the tactical creator was created, I started coining the term “Super-system”. This isn’t just a super-tactic, but it’s a way of playing the game that always us to outperform the opposition within the same playing field as the AI. To be accepted as a super-tactic, it has to win nearly all the time, with at least an 80% win rate. That’s what Scramjet and Diablo were doing. To get this done, these tactics would exploit a major flaw in the engine, and then rip it apart. Another condition for it to be accepted as a super-tactic would be the currently impossible requirement of using obviously inferior players against the opposition. 

Today it’s a lot harder to find consistent match engine weakness, where you can score the same kind of goals in every game in exactly the same way. Scoring from crosses now may seem easier, but these can be still defended. So it’s not a match engine flaw. There are people who claim that 3 striker systems are overpowering, but 3 striker systems have always been strong. My favourite systems have all involved 3 man attacking patterns in the final third leading the charge.

To win games you have to beat an opponent which is willing to play with alternative plans. The opposition starts with a formation, based on some expectation in the game. If that is not met within a certain frame, or if it suddenly finds itself a goal down, it goes to its alternative plan. Away from home, it may start a lot more conservatively and at home it may be more aggressive. 

So in order for us to win with some consistency I suggest coming up with super-system . This is a style of play that I have discussed in most videos. In my Ajax Diaries save on Youtube, I use a super-system and I do the same with Kingstonian in my lower league save. 

A super-system, in its simplest form, is having a Plan A, Plan B and maybe even a Plan C. Sounds simple, but the way you do it may not be very different from me. Some managers have a home and an away system, and that can work. Others play the same tactic but make minor role or duty changes because of some strategic swing they may be trying to achieve.  And others like me combine all three into a holistic plan that’s built around assembling a team that gives you the options you need. It can be done at any level of the game, you just need to come up with a plan.  You can’t develop multiple plans to win without getting some stuff done first.

Here we need to distinguish between changing for the sake of it and making strategic choices. When you change formations or roles without knowing why and win, that’s luck. When you make a change because you want to counter something and win, thats skill. Before you can even begin to come up with a successful system of play, you need to get some things done right, this starts with squad building

Basic Building Blocks of Super-systems – Defensive Midfielder and Wing backs

If you are managing an LLM squad, your choices are limited to what you can find, but remember that attributes make the player. If a defender has the right attributes to play as a defensive midfielder, he can. He may not be the best, but his attributes may be enough to get the job done. So don’t get hung up on role suitability.  The biggest tip i can give anyone is that you will need to think about building steel into your side. So the hunt for players will begin by identifying players who can play as defensive midfielders, or central midfielders who can do a defensive duty,  move up and down in attack. You want to find two who have solid positioning and can do a good defensive job and two more who are more balanced. I am not suggesting fielding all of them, but we want squad that gives us options, allowing us to create our Plans.  

Defensive midfielders who have good positioning, decisions and off the ball make great options for support roles or even attacking roles as well. They can even be retrained as inverted wingbacks. Thats a lot of role options. Why am I focusing on midfield? This is the most important part of the pitch to control.

Having a squad of at least 4 players who can win the ball in midfield makes a big difference in your game. This gives you the option of playing a 4231, 4132, 433, 442, 4141, 3142, 352.  The formations you can ultimately play will depend on the rest of the players you have.

The second role that I find very handy is the wing back role. For this role i do not specifically go out looking for wing backs, I actually look for wingers, who can dribble, cross, have great off the ball and fantastic acceleration for their level. Now when I find these players then make a decision on whether they have the firepower to play as inside forwards or wingers. If they have low finishing, I immediately retrain them to be wingbacks. Now I have at least one flying wingback. Remember, the defensive midfielders, they’re the steel that allow the retrained wingbacks be the sharp end of the sword.

Being able to think creatively about the roles your players can fulfil is the first and vital step in building any kind of super-system. After I get this done, I worry about the rest of the team, and i can tell you this much. You get this right the rest is easy, cos you’re looking for people to either lock down the flanks, attack space and score goals or create chances for others. You will notice that top teams around the world, usually have a very strong wingback or a superb midfield. Manchester City have Fabian Delph who is a defensive midfielder who plays as an Inverted wing back, Kyle Walker who bomb down the flanks, and options in midfield to either creatively break down a side or lock them down. The use of an IWB allows them to add security in midfield allowing David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne to boss midfield.

BUILDING SUPER-SYSTEMS

In order for you to build your system you need to understand how your team stacks up to the rest of the league. In my Getting Started with Club series, I always do a Squad Comparison, where i compare the team to the rest. Here we want to find out our weaknesses and strengths. Randomly choosing formations won’t work, you need a strategy that gives your strikers a steady supply of good deliveries. And, you need to think of ways to attack other teams areas of weaknesses.

For example, I like to find out the positioning and acceleration attributes of defenders. And over the course of the season I will try and find out how vulnerable each team is down the flanks.  The reason is simple: In football, the wings are one of the best places to overload. You want to overload one side of the pitch allowing your attacking wingbacks to romp down the other. This gives us one attacking option, and it’s one of the deadliest in football. When wing backs get into dangerous crossing positions, it usually allows more players to attack the box. So if my wing backs have great acceleration and crossing, they can beat defences with poor acceleration and positioning, and get themselves into the perfect position to deliver a good cross. Its no wonder that since FM15, my wing backs have consistently achieved 20+ assists in a season.

Now we look at how we can build play up on the other side of the pitch with players who can hold the ball up inviting the opposition to the, thereby pulling a defence out of shape. With my defensively minded midfield, I know that we will have good positioning to win the ball when we defend, I now just need to think of of areas of midfield I need more creative players on.

4132 Super-systems

4132 Super-system

After we have a created the basic squad requirement, we begin formulating our plans. We can either go with one tactic or a combination of options. Understanding what all your players can do becomes vital. We can start with this 4132, its a simple system. Every system has strengths and weaknesses. You need to know what your tactic can do, and how it is vulnerable to certain systems. The 4132 is great defensively but can struggle if you don’t do enough to protect the flanks. If you can sort this out, you can launch quick counters using the two man strike force to lead the way, or you could even push up and camp and get one or more fullbacks to attack the flanks. Knowing how to tweak it is a matter of knowing how the opposition tactic is going to play.  If the AI is building play down one way, you could decide to lock down one flank and go down the other. You could place ball winners in midfield on the side they have playmakers to give their creators more pressure. Sometimes what we need to do are simple fixes. There are plenty of little things your system can do, understanding how to do them will give you a system of play.  Let’s take a few examples ultimately building up to a super system.

Plan A

We can start with it on Standard/ Structured, which will allow fairly fast transitions without overcommitting too many players in attack. It’s not a risky approach, but we haven’t overcommitted to attack, depending largely on our two strikers to do something with the ball.   Here our Plan A is to suss the opposition.

When things don’t go according to plan, we need to understand why before we make a change. It could be as simple as a player underperforming or as complex as a failure to build play up successfully from defence into an attempt at goal. Here we need to pay attention to transitions, identify where play is breaking down, and then ask the question : Is it underperformance, or is the other side, simply not allowing us to play?  I have done things like swapping roles around to create a mirror image of my tactic. Here it could be simple thing like a playmaker is being shut of the game because of aggressive closing down on one side of the pitch, so i just move my system around and go down the other side.  

This is a simple change but it requires me paying attention to whats going on and why. Other things I could do, would be to increase Shape to get more players involved in transitions.

Plan B

Raise Mentality, Change Duty to push our wingback into attack

If we find that we are not getting enough of the ball, then we want to step it up. Perhaps our players aren’t trying early to close down an opponent. A mentality change, affects closing down, defensive line, passing directness. So a shift in mentality increases these elements.  We can also add a bit more bit and get the wingback higher on the pitch. We leave our defensive line unchanged to compensate for the risk we are taking and we hold back a shape change.

Plan C 

Raise Mentality, Change Shape to Fluid, Change Duty, Increase Width

Assume the opposition don’t want to leave their half.  We could go camping, by changing shape we get more players in transitions because more of them are closer in terms of mentality. We get the wingback to go more attacking and we increase width to encourage our players to use the flanks.

Plan D

Formation Change

A formation change is not always recommended, but sometimes you may need to do it because of circumstances beyond your control. Here, you need to understand why you have to make the change. Let’s take a random example. Maybe we were in game where the opposition are playing with a 4231 and are able to get their fullbacks high up the pitch delivering crosses. This is a bad thing, cos anytime you see fullbacks bombing up in a 4231, you are in trouble. Its a weakness of the 4132, so we have our extreme plan, switch to a 433.

Narrow Super-systems

433 Narrow

Why switch? Here my 4132, will obviously be weak against teams that romp down the flanks, the 433 is actually a pretty interesting counter, because the 3 man midfield can handle a 2 man midfield, depending on the  number of support roles in the final third of the 4231. Either way, the 3 man strike force now has the capacity of keeping their backline at bay. There are various permutations of a 433, the orthodox one and the more conservative 41221. Here we can easily put pressure on their backline, keep their fullbacks in check and try and reassert. The good thing here, against an attacking 4231 that leaves gaps with attacking backs, our 3 man strike force will have spaces they can exploit.

To give some context, in a recent Champions Cup knockout game against Chelsea ( the game calls it “Champions Cup” not me)we had to put this to practice. We started the match with a 4132 and took the lead against their 343. We scored a beauty of a goal through patient buildup play and conceded one from a counter attack. 

Seeing that the opposition were having free rein down the flanks, I decided to switch it up and go to a system using the same players that focused attacks down their flanks. We were hoping now to get their wide midfielders back defending thus isolating their 3 man attack force. 

We managed to put the pressure back on them, and got the winning goal from open play. A truly memorable win by Ajax over Chelsea away from home. Our changes were calculated to target their fullbacks and side midfielders, it was a super-system with options.

FM 18 Supersystem

Ajax Supersystem

When we have a squad with depth we have options, one of my favourite ways of playing is to be able to switch a 4132 to a 4312 or a 433 .The beauty of some systems is that you can easily morph at will. The reason why most people hesitate is because they worry about tactical familiarity. When you keep the 3 man midfield and just change a few things around, most of your partnerships remain, furthermore, you also get a chance to change the emphasis of play. There’s one thing I am absolutely sure about, most of you are already playing with your own super-systems. What are you using?

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About BusttheNet - Rashidi (204 Articles)
Rashidi is an mod from the SI forums who began this site as a way to collate all the information and guides he's written for Football Manager over the years.

1 Comment on Introducing Super-systems in Football Manager

  1. I am very keen on having multiple plans and reading the game.

    In order to be in any form of successful on FM you need to consider where is ur enemy’s weak points and what are their strengths.

    I fail to remember how many times a bad run is down to overlooking the oppersition scout report.

    Stats tell a story and it’s worth keeping a keen eye on the oppersition hot streak in form too.

    My favourite system is a 4-1-2-2-1 because it’s so versatile.

    I have options of playing out from the back using the left as my fly trapper then exploding on the right and here’s how.

    I would start with an AML on AP Su a DLP Su next to him in CML position then a CMR on BBM Su (get further forward) AMR Winger Att
    And finally a ST on AF At.

    And to add veriaty in seeking a goal I would add LB Wingback or Complete Wing Back on At this works best when the team shape is narrow and u ask the wingback to play wider when the team has the ball this.

    MASSIVE TIP!!!!!!

    When u ask a wing back/full back to get forward as an attacking outlet for the team make sure too reduce the team passing to shorter and definitely work ball into box.

    Why?

    Because if you ask a full back to use lots of energy bursting forward only to find that a fellow defensive player proceeds play to ball very long on defensive mentalities or the midfield too play it long on attacking mentalities both mentalities mean that the full back is irrelivent in the attacking 3rd on a passing more direct passing styles!

    It’s very easy to over look minor details that provide head hitting walls like a woodpecker wondering WHY CAN’T I SCORE

    Since I have noticed these things I have been playing nice football out the back with wing backs supporting the attack and then using a more direct/structured method and holding bull backs in position when we are comfortable or the oppersition is attacking me in numbers.

    Direct passing is risky as it allows oppersition lots of free recycled possession.

    I advise more direct play to be used with caution but get it right it’s the most powerful powerplay ever!

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