Wanna be good at FM? What’s your club DNA?

Club DNA is the building block of success

Before you can turn your team into a billion dollar club, before you can even consider winning titles, if you haven’t thought this through, then you will always wonder why your team is underperforming. Club DNA in my opinion is the single biggest factor in Football Manager that contributes to success.

Club DNA is a topic I’ve covered on Youtube, but it’s not something I’ve dwelt on in the blog. Today I aim to start something about that. Northern Irelands defeat at the hands of Poland in their opening Euro 2016 tie triggered something in my subconscious. The Irish along with Romania had successfully qualified from a group that included the Faroe Islands, Hungary, Greece and Finland. By topping the group they had confounded pundits and surprised many. What the Irish had in buckets was grit, and no-one in my eyes epitomises this more than their Southampton based player – Steven Davies. An ethos built on handwork can only take you so far, as Poland taught them in their Euro group opener. The Poles may be rich in quality, but the Irish leave their hearts out on the pitch. I doubt the Irish will get past the group stages, they will need to find a way for the team to keep better ball possession and try and work themselves more frequently into positions where they can play to their strengths – set pieces. There is something to be learnt from this. The Irish overachieved because of their hard working ethic, and its the same with FM.

In Football Manager, success only begins when you have a clear understanding of the kind of football you want to play. The common issue I keep coming across is a failure to distinguish between attributes and style of play. Many managers seem to think that having a solid working tactic should be enough. They see me using a 532 and then flood my email with requests for my game save or my tactics hoping to use the same system with their team. It won’t work.

Before you consider the style of play you want to use, understand first the kind of team you have. Look at the side with a fine tooth comb and gauge their personality. Do they have the heart of lions, or are they going to fold the first sign of trouble? My sides have been overachieving every edition of Football Manager, and the first thing I do in every edition is look at my squad and nail down work-rate. If you are planning to overachieve with an average squad like the Irish, work-rate is vital. Then I look at attributes like strength, stamina and acceleration. I don’t care if we are technically gifted, I just want to make sure I don’t need to sub my key players at their 50th min mark because they are jaded. These attributes become key for my defenders and for my support players. And then I start taking a look at other stuff that will influence my style of play. Do I want players who can switch and dictate attacks? I look for passing and decisions. Do I want players who can play in an attacking system high up the pitch and be aware of their context all the time – I look at concentration and anticipation. Do I want my players capable of attacking space all the time – off the ball. Ever wondered whats the last thing I look at? Potential ability stars.

Club DNA is the first factor you need to nail, it influences your results on the pitch. This in turn influences player development. If you are winning matches and your youth are playing in them, then assuming you have the right facilities, they will develop well. It also helps you decide who will stay in your club to play a part in your first 11. This in turn along with your results sets you up for a profit making transfer system. Its the first step, get it right.

Top coaches all over the world, don’t simply seek out the best players, they seek out the players who will fit into their system. The system isn’t a tactical configuration, it’s the style of play they need to adopt. So if you ever find yourself in trouble in a game, take a look at your team. If the DNA is right, then it’s your tactic. And that’s a lot more fun to fix.


  1. Fantastic article Daljit, one thing I see you mention a lot is bravery & first touch but you don’t mention them here, is there a reason for that? Thanks

    1. They come later, for me. At the core of all my teams that over achieve is always workrate. Its the one attribute it has in common. And if you want an over-achieving team its the most vital attribute imho

  2. Thanks mate, it’s the one thing I struggle with because before I know it I end up with a list longer than my arm, you may have seen me writing about my struggles in the forums. I’m making a real effort to go back the beginning and watching all of your videos whilst making notes. I’m determined to make this work because it would be so much more enjoyable. Is there any chance you could put up some of your templates for download just so I have a base to go off.

    My intention in watching your videos is to watch them actively and make notes and to jot down what changes you made. I am hoping this will help me, I really struggle to identify things the way you do.

    So, to go back to this post, other than these ‘tier 1’ attributes if you like, what would you then class as ‘tier 2’? Let’s imagine you took over Rayo for example and you have these attributes sorted. To then be able to expand on them and try win things what attributes would you look for in each of the duties? I assume it would just be more technical ones to run alongside the over-acheiving ones?

    Thank you, I absolutely love your work, I have spent so many hours reading your work.

    What I really like is the 4312 you had at WBA, I saw on your videos ‘pre season 1’ you talk through it so I am going to try replicate this in FM16 as you explain everything. I can get on with playing the game and setting up my filters to track attributes the way you do.

    1. Attributes depend on your style of play and the system you want to use. In FM15 the flying wingback was king, nothing really has changed in FM16, except this time you need an even harder working midfield. So if you are electing to use a 4312, the key in making it work is finding the right hardworking midfielders who can help protect the flanks. Then you will also need the right kind of fullback.

      I usually advocate that people start with a 442 or a 4411, there is less room for making critical mistakes in player selection. Even with WBA and Torino now, I take a long time before going to my favoured 4312 system. Torino has dabbled in the 4312 at the start of the 4th season, but each time I come up against a system that uses fullbacks and Inside forwards I elect to go for something easier like the 4411. And even then, its much harder. So the 4312 would be really hard with an average side. You need really good players for that, and to make it very effective first touch, anticipation, positioning, acceleration in your fullbacks and this is not easy to get.

      1. You are master of FM,I have a couple of questions I answered myself, ok DNA club in your clips you say that some attributes are key and this is indisputably true, but it happens that some others influence the game, which is that if you miss the key player changes whole style of play..If the main attacker is injured there are no victories and his replacement if some attributes are missing, forget about the victories..where did I not find that as an explanation, what about when the best are missing?

      2. Attributes are relative. The game is event based. So different attributes are important at different times. Did your team win because they scored more goals or because they were better at defending. Did you score your goals in open play through a fast break or did you score goals in patient buildups. One needs to be able to look at things objectively. Sometimes I can score 7 goals against a team and then in the next match against the same team I could struggle.
        Could this be because I failed to understand which phase of the game was more important?
        For example we can score goals but we are also conceding a lot which attributes are important then? Why am I conceding goals? Is it because we are being ripped through the middle or because we can defend from set pieces. In both cases the attributes for each are different.

        The attributes that are important will be based on your style of play and what you expect. In the 442 I am playing now. I expect to defend in my own area and hit counter attacks down the flank and deliver with crosses, the important attributes for us now have shifted from my “Liquid” systems which depended on through balls.

  3. All my plans thrown into disarray already, I appreciate what you’re saying and how a system has to be thought about later down the line once you have the players. I have so many irks, personal ones:

    Use Rayo as an example:

    1) When setting a DNA, at what point do you add in other attributes to the initial basic list?

    2) Knowing which role training would hit those areas, I notice in WBA you tended to use general roles, BBM, CM, CF, CD, is that all you do?

    3) Over thinking things, like you, I like to micro manage but it’s tactics which really make me feel stupid, I wish I could create my own tactic, I don’t know what to look for to change things.

    Did you create a 4411 in FM16? I know you did with Stafford which by the way is how I found you, I justt want to start a bloody save but all these things irritate me, watching your videos though have been so inspiring, you’re incredible at this game, wish I could be like you, must be so rewarding.

    Is there a chance you could maybe even email me some tactics so I have the basic templates?

    I am going to watch your Torino series again and try to spot what shouts you use and when/why, I notice you tend to have a basic shape and then you simply change up shouts, if I did that honestly it would just be me clicking things and not understanding it.

    Anything you can do to help me is appreciated.

    1. Most of the systems I used in FM15 are usable in FM16. I always used general roles because these can be customised. To make your own tactic you should start simple. Each one of my Torino saves shows my systems and in my earlier Torino saves I actually go through the tactics. I created a 4411 on Torino, in fact season 3 was played on 4411. You can even use Ross’s 442 tactic and start using that as a base. I have no plans on uploading tactics atm.

      Most of the users who have uploaded the FM15 tactics say only minor changes need to be done to fit their sides

      1. Just seen it on the downloads, do you talk about Ross’s tactics on any videos? If so, which one please? Thanks 🙂

  4. Another thing, do you think the tactics you used in FM13 such as the 4411 can still be used the same way, what I would love you to do is to set out a tactic, include pi’s / ti’s / ppm’s then I can go away and focus on this so I can recruit based on these things and target these things in my training plans.

    1. No worries, I will re-watch the videos, I just watched the Geylang one where you played the 4141 Peppy, I like the way it plays. Sorry, where might I find Ross’s 442 tactic? I’ve not seen that I don’t think.

    2. You need to understand the reasons why someone uses those instructions. Simply translating this into your own team won’t be enough. The use of CRA and understanding how they apply to different duties will give you an idea of why they may not be performing well, and looking at transitions will tell you when this is not happening.

      So you need to understand these 3 principles first

      1. Thanks for all your replies, on that note the CRA note, may I ask a question, I am taking my time with a full fat version save where I have took over Ascoli, I am really taking my time to analyse my squad but I wonder in what priority do you look at attributes, for example your CRA attributes for Torinio would be way too much for little Ascoli so how might you prioritise them for the following:

        -Centre Back

        -Full Backs

        -Midfield Centre

        -Wingers/Wide Midfielders



        PS – I am now re-reading all of your Stafford updates!

  5. Which particular video do you talk about it? I watched the first 5 Torino videos and those don’t mention it ?

    1. I cant remember but for most of the season I played a 4411, i can’t remember which show I focused on explaining it. Most of the instructions are default for the PIs and the TIs are clear in the game

      1. Thank you Daljit, appreciate it, just watched your replication of Leicester video, superb how you keep it so simple yet do well!

  6. I consider my self a causal FM player. Whilst i spend a lot of hours on the game i still think the only way to success is to buy world class players. I only look after few key attributes per position and that’s it.

    I have no idea where to start with Club DNA. Granted the above article helps to a degree and your videos but its very much based on your style of play.

    For example: Promoting say to a higher division there is no way my team can control games due to opposition quality. So what would be a basic counter attacking DNA ?

    Maybe there’s been an article in the community covering what attributes are needed for what style but i must have missed it. But i certainly dont know how to translate a style to DNA

    thank you for you time, the content and videos are brilliant

Leave a Reply