Choosing a Tactical Style

The first stage of creating a tactic is to choose a tactical style that suits your players and your personal preferences.

This involves choosing a playing style, formation, system specialisation level and system fluidity level.

Playing Style

Aim: to choose and implement a basic playing style according to how you want your team as a whole to play.

A playing style can be created by combining a core style, an attacking style and a defensive style. You can therefore choose a playing style by choosing each of these individually.

UI:

  • Tactics > Overview tab
    • Team Mentality drop-down
      • Enables you to set a basic core style.
    • In Possession button > team Passing Directness slider
      • Enables you to set a basic attacking style.
    • Out of Possession button > team Pressing Intensity slider
      • Enables you to set a basic defensive style.
    • Tactics drop-down > Presets…
      • Enables you to set a complete playing style including settings for the above three tactical instructions as well as further tactical instructions.

You can set further tactical instructions for your playing style later, including player roles and duties (these are shown on the Formation graphic) as well as team instructions (these are shown on the In Possession, In Transition and Out of Possession buttons).

If you are using a preset then it is likely that you will still need to customise the tactical instructions that it sets in order to ensure that your tactic as a whole is logical and that it is suitable for your players. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you follow the rest of this guide, which will help you to do this.

Further details:

  • Choosing Roles & Duties – to choose suitable player roles and duties for your playing style.
  • Customising Your Tactical Style guide – to review your playing style and choose suitable team instructions.
  • Playing Styles – tactical theory guide.

Core Style

Choose one of the following:

  • 1) I want my team to play attacking football – your team will take a high risk approach by proactively creating, penetrating and restricting space in more advanced areas while applying more pressure to the opposition team, therefore forcing mistakes from opposition players. The directness of build-up play is increased as it develops, with your more defensive-minded players making shorter passes to your more attack-minded players.
    • To implement – select the Positive team mentality to implement attacking football to a moderate extent or select the Attacking team mentality to implement attacking football to a large extent.
      • Alternatively, select the Control Possession (Positive), Gegenpress (Positive) or Tiki-Taka (Positive) preset.
  • 2) I want my team to play defensive football – your team will take a low risk approach by patiently keeping possession, retaining solidity, protecting space and retaining compactness in deeper areas while inviting more pressure from the opposition team, therefore allowing available space to open up behind opposition players which can then be penetrated. The directness of build-up play is decreased as it develops, with your more defensive-minded players making longer passes to your more attack-minded players.
    • To implement – select the Cautious team mentality to implement defensive football to a moderate extent or select the Defensive team mentality to implement defensive football to a large extent.
      • Alternatively, select the Route One (Cautious), Fluid Counter-Attack (Cautious), Direct Counter-Attack (Cautious), Catenaccio (Defensive) or Park the Bus (Defensive) preset.
  • 3) I want my team to play a balance or mixture of attacking football and defensive football.
    • To implement – select the Standard team mentality.
      • Alternatively, select the Vertical Tiki-Taka or Wing Play preset.

Tips for making your choice:

  • Try to choose a core style that is suitable for your team.
  • If you are unsure then just choose a balance or mixture.
  • Go to Team Report > Comparison tab and view the Physical, Mental and Technical tabs. Assess your team’s attributes relative to the grey bars that show your league’s averages.
    • On Physical tick Defenders and Midfielders only.
      • For attacking football – look for relatively high Acceleration and Pace.
      • For defensive football – look for relatively high Jumping Reach and Strength.
    • On Physical tick Midfielders and Strikers only.
      • For defensive football – look for relatively high Acceleration and Pace.
    • On Mental tick Defenders, Midfielders and Strikers only.
      • For attacking football – look for relatively high Flair and Vision.
    • On Technical tick Defenders, Midfielders and Strikers only.
      • For attacking football – look for relatively high non-set piece attributes (all attributes except Corners, Free Kick Taking, Long Throws and Penalties).
  • You can review the attributes of all of your players from the Squad > Players tab by either clicking individual players or selecting an Attributes view from the View drop-down at the top-left of the screen. You can filter by playing positions using the Filter drop-down at the top-right of the screen.
    • Select the Attributes > Physical view and tick the Attackers and Central filters.
      • For defensive football – look for a central striker (ST(C)) who has relatively high Jumping Reach and Strength, as well as, preferably, fairly high First Touch (click on him to view this). Such a player is more likely to suit a Hold Up Ball player instruction when you choose roles and duties later.

Further details:

Attacking Style

Choose one of the following:

  • 1) I want my team to attack with direct plays – when in possession your team will directly penetrate space, mainly creating space by using physical power and forcing defensive mistakes from opposition players.
    • To implement – increase the team Passing Directness slider to More Direct Passing to implement direct plays to a moderate extent or increase it to Extremely Direct Passing to implement direct plays to a large extent.
      • Alternatively, select the Wing Play (More Direct Passing), Route One (Extremely Direct Passing), Direct Counter-Attack (More Direct Passing) or Catenaccio (More Direct Passing) preset. The Park the Bus preset also has aspects of direct plays in its team instructions.
  • 2) I want my team to attack with short plays – when in possession your team will carefully penetrate space and keep possession by cycling possession, mainly creating space by drawing players out of position.
    • To implement – decrease the team Passing Directness slider to Shorter Passing to implement short plays to a moderate extent or decrease it to Much Shorter Passing to implement short plays to a large extent.
      • Alternatively, select the Control Possession (Shorter Passing), Tiki-Taka (Much Shorter Passing) or Vertical Tiki-Taka (Shorter Passing) preset. The Gegenpress preset also has aspects of short plays in its team instructions.
  • 3) I want my team to attack with a balance or mixture of direct plays and short plays.
    • To implement – do not adjust the team Passing Directness slider.
      • Alternatively, select the Gegenpress or Park the Bus preset. The Fluid Counter-Attack (Shorter Passing) preset also mixes aspects of direct plays and short plays in its team instructions.

Your team will play direct attacking football if you combine direct plays with attacking football – your team will focus even more on penetrating space and forcing defensive mistakes than with standard attacking football and will proactively create space by using physical power.

Your team will play long ball football if you combine direct plays with defensive football – your team will focus more on penetrating space than with standard defensive football and will be less reliant on allowing available space to open up behind opposition players due to creating space by using physical power and forcing defensive mistakes – presets include Route One, Direct Counter-Attack and Catenaccio.

Your team will play pass and move football if you combine short plays with attacking football – your team will focus more on keeping possession than with standard attacking football and will proactively create space by drawing players out of position – presets include Control Possession and Tiki-Taka.

Your team will play possession football if you combine short plays with defensive football – your team will focus even more on inviting pressure and allowing available space to open up behind opposition players than with standard defensive football by cycling possession to encourage opposition players forward.

Tips for making your choice:

  • Try to choose an attacking style that is suitable for your team.
  • If you are unsure then just choose a balance or mixture.
  • Go to Team Report > Comparison tab and view the Physical, Mental and Technical tabs. Assess your team’s attributes relative to the grey bars that show your league’s averages.
    • On Physical tick Midfielders and Strikers only.
      • For direct plays – look for relatively high Acceleration, Agility, Balance, Jumping Reach, Pace, Stamina and Strength.
    • On Mental tick Midfielders and Strikers only.
      • For direct plays – look for relatively high Aggression, Bravery and Work Rate.
      • For short plays – look for relatively high Anticipation, Concentration, Decisions, Flair, Off The Ball, Teamwork and Vision.
    • On Technical tick Midfielders and Strikers only.
      • For direct plays – look for relatively high Crossing, Dribbling and Heading.
      • For short plays – look for relatively high First Touch, Passing and Technique.
  • You can review the attributes of all of your players from the Squad > Players tab by either clicking individual players or selecting an Attributes view from the View drop-down at the top-left of the screen. You can filter by playing positions using the Filter drop-down at the top-right of the screen.

Further details:

Defensive Style

Choose one of the following:

  • 1) I want my team to defend with aggressive pressing – when out of possession your team will aggressively restrict space in more advanced areas by applying more defensive pressure (than would otherwise be the case for your core style), therefore forcing attacking mistakes from opposition players which can enable quicker winning of possession, more frequent counter attacks, high pressure counter attacks and more time spent in possession.
    • To implement – increase the team Pressing Intensity slider to More Urgent to implement aggressive pressing to a moderate extent or increase it to Extremely Urgent to implement aggressive pressing to a large extent.
      • Alternatively, select the Control Possession (More Urgent), Gegenpress (Extremely Urgent), Tiki-Taka (Extremely Urgent), Vertical Tiki-Taka (Extremely Urgent), Wing Play (More Urgent), Fluid Counter-Attack (More Urgent) or Direct Counter-Attack (More Urgent) preset. The Route One preset also has aspects of aggressive pressing in its team instructions.
  • 2) I want my team to defend with containment – when out of possession your team will cautiously protect space and retain compactness in deeper areas by inviting more attacking pressure from the opposition team (than would otherwise be the case for your core style), therefore allowing available space to open up behind opposition players for counter attacks from deep after waiting to win possession.
    • To implement – decrease the team Pressing Intensity slider to Less Urgent to implement containment to a moderate extent or decrease it to Much Less Urgent to implement containment to a large extent.
      • Alternatively, select the Catenaccio (Less Urgent) or Park the Bus (Less Urgent) preset.
  • 3) I want my team to defend with a balance or mixture of aggressive pressing and containment.
    • To implement – do not adjust the team Closing Down slider.
      • Alternatively, select the Route One preset.

Your team will play high pressure football if you combine aggressive pressing with attacking football – your team will focus even more on restricting space and forcing attacking mistakes than with standard attacking football and will spend more time proactively creating and penetrating space due to spending more time in possession – presets include Control Possession, Gegenpress and Tiki-Taka.

Your team will play aggressive defensive football if you combine aggressive pressing with defensive football – your team will focus more on restricting space than with standard defensive football and will be able to more frequently penetrate the available space behind opposition players, with counter attacks in particular, after more quickly winning possession – presets include Direct Counter-Attack.

Your team will play cautious attacking football if you combine containment with attacking football – your team will focus more on protecting space than with standard attacking football and will be able to counter attack from deep to a greater extent after waiting to win possession.

Your team will play parking-the-bus football if you combine containment with defensive football – your team will focus even more on inviting pressure and allowing available space to open up behind opposition players than with standard defensive football by waiting longer to win possession – presets include Catenaccio and Park the Bus.

Tips for making your choice:

  • Try to choose a defensive style that is suitable for your team.
  • If you are unsure then just choose a balance or mixture.
  • Go to Team Report > Comparison tab and view the Physical, Mental and Technical tabs. Assess your team’s attributes relative to the grey bars that show your league’s averages.
    • On Physical tick Defenders and Midfielders only.
      • For aggressive pressing – look for relatively high Acceleration, Pace and Stamina.
      • For containment look for relatively high Jumping Reach and Strength.
    • On Mental tick Defenders and Midfielders only.
      • For aggressive pressing – look for relatively high Aggression, Anticipation and Work Rate.
      • For containment – look for relatively high Composure and Concentration.
    • On Technical tick Defenders and Midfielders only.
      • For aggressive pressing – look for relatively high Tackling.
      • For containment – look for relatively high Heading and Marking.
  • You can review the attributes of all of your players from the Squad > Players tab by either clicking individual players or selecting an Attributes view from the View drop-down at the top-left of the screen. You can filter by playing positions using the Filter drop-down at the top-right of the screen.

Further details:

Formation

Aim: to choose and set a formation that gives your team’s playing system a good structural basis.

UI:

  • Tactics > Overview tab
    • Formation drop-down
      • Enables you to set a formation. You can then drag the playing position icons on the Formation graphic to customise the formation if desired.

A selection of balanced formations for you to choose from is provided below. The formations are categorised according to how attacking or defensive they are (the formation names used here are those that are used in FM).

Very attacking:

  • 4-2-3-1 Wide

Fairly attacking:

  • 4-2-3-1 Wide Asymmetric (select 4-2-3-1 Wide and drag an M(C) down to DM(C))
  • 4-4-2
  • 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow (known as 4-1-2-1-2 in the tactical theory)
  • 5-3-2 WB (known as 3-5-2 in the tactical theory)
  • 5-4-1 WB Wide (known as 3-4-3 in the tactical theory)

Neutral:

  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide (known as 4-1-2-3 in the tactical theory)
  • 4-2-3-1 DM Wide
  • 4-4-1-1
  • 5-3-1-1 WB (known as 3-5-1-1 in the tactical theory) (select 5-3-2 WB and drag an ST(C) down to AM(C) then re-position the AM(C) and ST(C) to centre)

Fairly defensive:

  • 4-2-1-3 DM Wide
  • 4-5-1

Very defensive:

  • 4-1-4-1 DM

Tips for making your choice:

  • Try to choose a formation for which you have good squad depth in each playing position.
    • Your assistant manager’s recommended formation (at the bottom of the Formation drop-down) should have good squad depth.
    • To check your squad depth in different playing positions go to Team Report > Squad Depth tab and select Position Overview (Current Ability) from the Show drop-down. You can view your squad depth in more detail by selecting All (Current Ability) from the Show drop-down and choosing different formations from the Formation drop-down. The stars indicate the current abilities of your players in the relevant playing positions (based on the opinion of your assistant manager, or other coach if selected on the Opinion of drop-down).
  • Any formation can be used with any playing style. However …
    • More attacking formations can help your team to apply more pressure (which can be useful for attacking football and aggressive pressing).
    • More defensive formations can help your team to invite more pressure (which can be useful for defensive football and containment).
    • … You may want to use a formation with two central attacker playing positions (an AM(C) and an ST(C), or two ST(C)s) for direct plays.
    • … You may want to use a formation with wide partnerships (two players on each flank) for focusing play down the flanks.

Further details:

System Specialisation Level

Aim: to choose a system specialisation level according to how you want your players to play as individual ‘parts’ of your playing system.

You will implement your system specialisation level later (see further details below).

Choose one of the following:

  • 1) I want my team to use a more specialised playing system – your players will play as individuals to exploit their strengths and cover their weaknesses.
    • To implement – choose roles and duties with generally higher responsibility specialism levels.
  • 2) I want my team to use a more generalised playing system – your players will play as a single unit with nearby players sharing positional responsibilities.
    • To implement – choose roles and duties with generally lower responsibility specialism levels.
  • 3) I want my team to use a balance or mixture of a more specialised and more generalised playing system.
    • To implement – choose roles and duties with mixed or balanced responsibility specialism levels.

Tips for making your choice:

  • A more structured playing system can be more interesting to choose player roles for as it places more importance on the individual contributions of your players.
  • A more generalised playing system can make it easier to create your tactic as it allows you to think of your team as being more like a single unit.
  • Try to choose a system specialisation level that is suitable for your team.
  • If you are unsure then just choose suitable player roles and duties on a player-by-player basis and this will give you a suitable system specialisation level.
  • You can review the attributes of all of your players from the Squad > Players tab by either clicking individual players or selecting an Attributes view from the View drop-down at the top-left of the screen. You can filter by playing positions using the Filter drop-down at the top-right of the screen.
    • Select the Attributes > Attacking/Defensive views.
      • For a more specialised playing system – look for big differences between high and low rated attributes for individual players (ignore Free Kick Taking and, for central players, Crossing). Such players are more likely to suit higher responsibility specialism levels.
      • For a more generalised playing system – look for small differences between high and low rated attributes for individual players (ignore Free Kick Taking and, for central players, Crossing). Such players are more likely to suit lower responsibility specialism levels.

Further details:

  • Choosing Roles & Duties – to implement your system specialisation level by choosing appropriate player roles and duties. This provides details of each role and duty’s responsibility specialism levels.
  • System Specialisation Levels – tactical theory guide.

System Fluidity Level

Aim: to choose a system fluidity level according to how you want your players to interchange within your playing system.

You will implement your system fluidity level later (see further details below).

Choose one of the following:

  • 1) I want my team to use a more fluid playing system – your players will mix play up with nearby players interchanging attacking and defensive positional responsibilities.
    • To implement – use more support duties (say, six to eight outfield support duties).
  • 2) I want my team to use a more structured playing system – your players will play in an ordered manner with individual players focusing on either attacking or defensive positional responsibilities.
    • To implement – use fewer support duties (say, zero to three outfield support duties).
  • 3) I want my team to use a balance or mixture of a more fluid and more structured playing system.
    • To implement – use a moderate number of support duties (say, four to five outfield support duties).

Tips for making your choice:

  • A balance or mixture of a more fluid and more structured playing system can make it easier to choose balanced player roles and duties.
  • Try to choose a system fluidity level that is suitable for your team.
  • If you are unsure then just choose a balance or mixture.
  • Go to Team Report > Comparison tab and view the Mental tab. Assess your team’s attributes relative to the grey bars that show your league’s averages.
    • Tick Defenders, Midfielders and Strikers only.
      • For a more fluid playing system – look for relatively high Anticipation, Decisions, Teamwork and Vision.
  • You can review the attributes of all of your players from the Squad > Players tab by either clicking individual players or selecting an Attributes view from the View drop-down at the top-left of the screen. You can filter by playing positions using the Filter drop-down at the top-right of the screen.
    • Select the AttributesAttacking/Defensive views.
      • For a more fluid playing system – look for average to high ratings in both attacking and defensive attributes for individual players. Such players are more likely to suit support duties.
      • For a more structured playing system – look for average to high ratings in either attacking or defensive attributes for individual players. Such players are more likely to suit attack/defend duties.

Further details: