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Implementing my tactical style

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With the recent sackings in the premier league, I started looking at how different managers play and I started asking myself if I was to manage IRL, what would be my tactical identity so, in the middle of the night, I picked up my iPad and started writing down basic ideas.




To come up with my tactical style I took into consideration 3 main things:

What teams do I like to watch and why: The answer is pretty straightforward because the only teams I watch every week are A.C. Milan and Liverpool so I’m very familiar with how they play. With Liverpool I love the high energy direct football they play, they can turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye and while some teams seem to focus too much on possession they are not afraid to go direct.

With Milan, it’s a bit different maybe because that’s the team I support so I’m more intrigued by the way the players combine and interact with each other. They have had a lot of injuries this season so they have had to play different players and each player brings something different. Tifo did an excellent video on how they use their fullbacks which you can find here


What has been my experience playing FM: Since I’ve been playing FM my approach has always been defence first, so I’ll always sort out the defending part of the tactic first while I scrape wins until I’m happy with it then I start looking for how to improve the attacking aspect, basically I would rather win 1-0 than 6-5 or 6-4.

What is my personality: I believe that the managers’ personality plays a big part in how they play. If you look at the likes of Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp, you can see the energy, the passion and the aggression in them which is exactly how their teams play.

So for me, I’m shy, reserved, when I enter a room I like to get a feel for the room first, read the room, listen and talk only when I have something to say or when I’m being asked something and that is how I play FM. I come in with a plan, start a little more conservatively and watch how both teams are playing then make changes according to what I see.


I’ve not talked about formation yet and that’s because it’s the least important piece of the puzzle for me, the formation would probably change a lot depending on the team at my disposal but the tactical style would be the same and in FM terms, the tactical style is just the sum of your team instructions because that is what will determine how your team plays.


The tactical style



Putting the pieces together, this is what I’ll be going with. The general idea is to build from the back slowly to encourage the opposition to press so if we bypass the press we can then play a little bit more direct and we’ve taken away the 2 or 3 players that initiated the press. When we don’t have the ball we want to wait for them in our half where we will press intensively and hopefully we win the ball and start our attack.

  • Lower line of engagement: The idea is to wait for the opposition in our half and press them intensely there, hopefully, they will over-commit players forward so when we win the ball back we have a lot of space to attack.
  • Counter & counter-press: I started with regroup and counter but in some games I saw that when we lost the ball in a decent attacking position if we had pressed immediately we could have won the ball back and had a good chance to score since most of our players were forward anyway.
  • Roll it out: This is just so we don’t want to lose the ball while playing from the back
  • Play out of defence: Like I said earlier, we want to build slowly from the back and invite the opposition to press.
  • Slightly more direct passing: This is just so we move the ball quickly from front to back to take advantage of the space we’ll have when we win the ball.


The formation



As I said earlier, the formation is the least important part for me, there was no reason behind going for the 442, it is just a formation I’ve never used before and I wanted to kill 2 birds with one stone. I’ve never managed a semi-professional or amateur team before and I’ve never played a 442 so to try this out I decided to play a 442 with an amateur team in the Norwegian 10th division thanks to the database made by @XaW.

As you can see it’s just a basic 442 where the front 6 are asked to close down more. The idea is to stretch the opposition vertically with the W-a and PF-a. I’m happy with the right-hand side but I’ll probably be making some changes on the left-hand side as we are very conservative there and the IW didn’t perform well. Going into next season I might change the IW to a W-a and the PF or the PF to an AF, the only reason I have a PF is because I wanted him to be a bit more involved in the build-up on the left-hand side.

Looking at some data

The season was played pre-patch so keep that in mind.

Goal and assist type:




Despite FM 22 being called the crossing simulator and headers being powerful, most of our chances came from through balls and we scored only 5 goals from corners and 10 goals from headers.

Defensive actions:





Defensive actions are tackles, interceptions, fouls etc. On the left-hand side, you can see that of my Norwegian side and on the right-hand side, you can see that of my Mila side where I play with a higher defensive line and higher line of engagement. 

We know that before the recent patch there was a problem with attacking teams not closing down opposition defenders effectively so the zones look similar but even with that if you look closely on the left-hand side you can see that the defensive actions are deeper than those on the right 94% in our half compared to 90% with the Milan team and just 6% over our halfway line compared to 11% on the other side so this shows me that it’s working how I expected.

Possession gained:



This zone map compares where we win the ball compared to that of my Milan team that plates higher up the pitch and once again, you can see that it’s only 10% above the halfway line compared to 14% and 91% in our half compared to 87% on the other side.

XG table:



I’m adding this one just to show that even with this conservative style we created more chances than any other team and we conceded less than any other team.


In conclusion, this was just what was going through my head and I wanted to try it out and to those who are convinced that gegenpress is the only style that works, hopefully, this shows that you can be successful playing with a more counter-attacking low block style.

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Great start! Will follow with interest, since I am quite similar in my approach to football and Football Manager in general. 

My constant struggle is to replicate the tactic of Swedish team AIK, where 1-0 means game over (haven't lost a game when they took the lead since 2017-ish). 

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