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4-4-2 Diamond Narrow in FM19: How to create a free-scoring army

I’ve always had the same problem on Football Manager. My teams either don’t create many chances, and rely on long-range shots, or become exposed to counter-attacks. And I’m supposed to be good at this game. 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow in FM19.

Lately, I’ve been facing both of those problems.

If you look at my recent results, they’ve been decent, but below my WBA side’s potential:

Looking at the extravagant transfer business that will take in January, I simply must create something unbeatable. The tactic must be free-flowing; defensively solid while not minimising any risk-taking.

The inspiration for a 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow came from my brother His possession tactic in South African football has this formation; his first attempt at playing the game in years, out of boredom, managed to inspire my tactical choices. I was also inspired by watching Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side whitewash their opponents so consistently, and a general hatred of wide players.

I’ve done far too much tinkering. A plethora of roles and duties has been tested in the build-up to this article; it’s a hard balance trying to keep a tactic simple, while ensuring that the players do EXACTLY what you want. I’ve now settled with this:

The tactic- 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow in FM19

This was the basis of my tactic against Brentford, although the instructions were tinkered with slightly. The roles are basic. However, they enable the players to follow my instructions, while breaking the opposition’s lines between defence and midfield with their dynamism. The purpose of any role is to add to my instructions with subtle runs or behaviours. To underlap my false nines, I wanted vertical runners who are not primarily playmakers.

When you give players arbitrary instructions or behaviours for no discernible reason, the tactic often becomes confused and disorganised. I don’t have a set tactic, which I recruit around and build for three months. If I did, perhaps most of the team instructions would be confusing? That said, my WBA team’s collective identity is its most important facet.

Watch how my midfielders make their own luck with their forward runs:

You might think that my midfielders, with such attacking duties, will stay forward. Yet here they kept their positions defensively, to prevent Brentford playing the ball to their midfielders:

Counter-attacks were a problem, but there are steps you can take to mitigate them. As with any diamond formation, opposing wing-backs can have too much space:

As you can see, my high line is a problem. So is my static centre-backs. They were both on cover with a PI of ‘close down less’, making it strange that Baugmartl stepped out. However, in the second half, I took ‘use tighter marking’ off and didn’t concede any chances or goals. For the future, I have made a few other changes:

  1. Centre-backs are no longer ball-playing defenders. Watching parts of the game back, my ball-playing defenders gave the ball away far too much trying defence-splitting passes. You might not notice this in real time, when only the most notable highlights are showing. I want them to keep things simple and lay the ball of quickly to more creative players.

  • The back four now have all a player instruction of ‘hold position’. It balances the three at the tip of the diamond all having players instructions of ‘get further forward’. If they’re ever caught out, having enough men back to restrict your opponents is vital for their recovery. Hopefully, centre-backs are now less likely to step out and full-backs are more likely to cover any spaces.

  • To stop counter-attacks quickly, we now tackle as aggressively as possible. The team ‘get stuck in’. Players ‘tackle harder’. Opposition instructions dictate that every opponent should be tackled hard and shown onto their weaker foot. Hopefully, our aggressive squad rotation should ensure players are fit enough to not get sent off too often. However, that is obviously a concern!
  • I can’t wait to try this in fourteen days!

    Why our attack clicks- 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow in FM19

    However, in our attack, I have only described how our midfielders help us score. They bomb forward from deep, get in the box when the ball is being played around it, and underlap my false nines. They worked exceptionally well because they were all on the same wavelength. When you have an attacking central midfielder paired with lots of deep playmakers, everyone can be unsure of what they’re doing. When the central midfielder runs forward, do the others come with him? Who does he pass to?

    People misunderstand the false nine. They’re expected to always sit in the number 10 hole, as a faux-attacking midfielder. However, in FM19, like any striker they run forward when midfielders drive towards the box. The false nine comes deep instinctively when your team first gain possession.

    Therefore, if an attacking central midfielder’s isolated, the false nine wouldn’t normally drop back to support him driving forward.

    Striker options- 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow in FM19

    So, why I have two false nines? I want my strikers involved as much as possible and absolutely don’t want hopeful balls hit behind the opposition defence at any time. False nines and poachers are the only striker roles that don’t move into the channels. My false nines won’t make it their sole responsibility to get into difficult positions, to draw opposition defenders out of position and hold the ball up.

    Instead of doing that and losing the ball a lot of the time, they can drop deep and drive forward with the ball, while fellow attackers flood forward to complement them. That creates far more of a conundrum than the 50-50 balls strikers contest when they move into channels.

    This also has implications when you lose possession. Although false nines aren’t set to press urgently, or provide midfield bodies out of possession, they don’t stay forward in the channels to provide an out-ball. My team have more instant protection when the opposition attempt to play the ball out of defence.

    Narrow shape- 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow in FM19

    I’ve explained how my 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow provides a vertical threat. How about the lack of width?

    Grandsir ended up firing in a low cross for his partner, Reinier. With dynamic player roles, a wide team shape and instructions to dribble, you can mitigate the impact of a lack of width. The full-back also has a lot of space to carry the ball forward in this formation.

    Long-term implications- 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow in FM19

    Since I’ve started writing this, I’ve noticed one problem, which is excruciatingly difficult to avoid. Against great counter-attacking sides, 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow is a difficult formation to use. Naturally, the opposition have an abundance of space out wide. Your front two don’t normally have the inclination to track back, with a number 10 directly behind them. Making your side more structured and direct by telling your front two to get in behind the opposition defence and your midfielders to defend could work. Your central midfielders would have to cover wide areas. However, I am not sure of any roles which satisfactorily do this.

    Overall, the 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow can easily overwhelm weaker opponents. With midfielders storming forward, ahead of the strikers, there are nearly always underlapping options and at least three attackers directly engaging the opposition defence. It is also a great formation for keeping possession; the players are close to each other, and there enough lines to move the ball forward without attempting anything too risky. However, with so many players in similar areas, finding the right balance of roles and duties can be frustrating. Furthermore, trying to work out a system which reliably defends against top counter-attacking sides is exhausting.

    Over at FM Scout, there’s a detailed breakdown of how to use this formation. There, is recommended to set your team to restrict your opponents, by dropping deeper and playing narrower. Obviously, it doesn’t only recommend that, but you get my point! It might be worth trying if you’re out of options.

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    Written by Ben

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