In Football Manager 2019, I’ve predominantly focused on creating guides, instead of a story or tactical recreations. However, this article will be a combination of guides and tactics; a guide on tactics.
Now in my previous article on training (that can be found here:)
In Step 1, I talk about building your tactic first, and then your training. I decided to link a few articles from the site for good tactics to use. However what if you want something more creative? What if you wanted to create a new tactic or something unique?
In this article I’ll talk you through how to create a tactic from scratch, from player instructions to mentalities. Hopefully it all ties in with the training article and everything becomes a bit easier!
Step 1: Tactics vs Players
Whenever I meet people that play football manager, I usually ask the following question. ‘Do you base your tactics around your players or do you base your players around your tactics?’. Do you go into a team with the idea ‘I’m going to play a 4-4-2 whether they like it or not, or do you work out which players play best in which position and base a tactic around that?
I’ve had varying response from the question with varying degrees of success. Some even say that the player rating system is awful. This is because many players can play in roles that aren’t well suggested in game (But that’s for another rainy day). However I’ve found that the general consensus is the answer to that question is in fact, both.
Step 1.5: The Best of both worlds
What I mean by that is the tactics system is very malleable and can adapt to changes made quite easily. It is also very detailed allowing lots of micro-management to really get the best out of your 6ft 5 inside forward. However paying attention to your key players and playing them regularly and in the right position will tend to get the best results; there is often a balance between the two.
When joining a new club, or re-evaluating over the summer period. Firstly I will often pick out 3/4 vital players in my team (excluding the goalkeeper). Then I try to loosely base a tactic around them.
Knowing things in the following list will tend to make this process much easier:
- How many strikers do you want to use? (1, 2, 3)
- 1 or 2 is usually good, 3 only in really strong teams with good defence.
- Depends on winger/CAM situation and how many strikers you have in total.
- Wing backs vs Full backs.
- In the lower leagues, I wouldn’t tend to recommend WBs due to lower fitness and technical ability but at a higher level can be very effective.
- Be very wary of gaps in your defence in the wider parts of the pitch. Even a full back on support with the wrong stats/player instructions can be caught up the pitch too often resulting in a punishing play.
- Your midfield set up.
- Look at your midfield and work out if your midfield is defence or offence orientated. A defensive central midfield might encourage more attacking wingers or strikers whereas an offensive central midfield might suggest less depth out wide.
For example, in my fantastic Leipzig side; my strongest 5 players consist of a attacking left midfielder, striker, and three defenders (Both Vagnoman and Henrichs can play left back and I often switch them).
As a result I’ve chosen a fairly solid 4-3-3 formation (more on that later) with a flat back four, central midfielders with two more defensively minded than the central ‘playmaker’. Then two attacking wingers with a pressing forward up top that is the legendary Timo Werner.
Step 2: Player instructions
This goes back to the idea in my previous article regarding ‘input = output’. For those unaware:
As with lots of creative or inventory management games (in this case footballers) there is a ‘golden rule’ for success:
INPUT = OUTPUT
What I mean by this is that if you decide to plug in a tactic from a content creator, leave your assistant to run training and tactics and just meander through the season you’ll probably do alright. Perhaps you’ll do a bit better than expected or maybe a bit worse, but you’ll do alright. The important thing is that player instructions are no different. Really analysing your players individual performance and tinkering with PIs could hugely improve your side, but usually the role of ‘poacher’ or ‘winger’ will tend to do the job it describes.
In lower league sides, I never use PIs simply because they aren’t skillful enough to fully execute the instruction. Its much more beneficial in top leagues where small marginal gains make the difference between a champion and a runner up. For example I often tell my skillful ball playing defenders to pass sooner rather than later and don’t stray from your position. You can set instructions for a specific player or the position in general and I find the latter to be more effective as its simply less work for the same outcome if you play a similar team each week.
I won’t be touching set-pieces in this article as we have guides on the site for that already that I’ve listed below:
Some have more detail than others, but if you’re looking to check out more content on tactics then this site is pretty good for that kind of stuff.
Step 3: Analyse, Tweak and Improve
I’m actually linking a very old video made by The Northman back on Football Manager Central. It’s about analysing his teams defeat from back in 2015. Whilst the graphics didn’t age, his thought process has; every time you concede a goal you should be thinking the following things:
- Could I have prevented this goal in the last 10 seconds?
- Was it an issue of my player or my tactic? (Or both?)
- Am I playing a team that is countering me in some way that made it easier to score?
- Why do I take this game so seriously?
This will help you spot patterns in where you are conceding and hopefully go outside and see your family more and you’ll be able to tweak your tactics accordingly. Don’t be afraid to change things especially early on if it doesn’t instantly work. It doesn’t often just click and everyone plays like a god. You can be rash and change the formation or just tweak a role or a player instruction or the mentality. The more different things you try the better understanding you’ll have of what works well in your system and what doesn’t. As a great teacher said to me back in the day: making mistakes isn’t a mistake, not learning from it is.
Step 4: Use all three tactics slots
Arguably my most important tip, don’t just create one formation, use all three and make sure they are well trained. I will often create a ‘default’ tactic and then create and attacking version and defensive version. Therefore I can be use them in certain situations and it has always proven effective. For example in my Leipzig side:
On the left is my main default tactic. I’ll start 90% of my matches using this formation and switch to another one in the match depending on how the game is going.
The central tactic is my control/attacking/chasing a goal tactic and the tactic on the right is a more cautious/reserved tactic that focuses on seeing out wins. You can use the three tactics you have available in unison as I do or create very contrasting tactics to throw off your opponents.