After spending the sum of two years playing Football Manager I still really struggle to translate my ideas for playstyles into the game’s tactics creator. I often lean towards a formation partly because it’s symmetrical and its shape is pleasing on the eye – a ridiculous reason probably. But the game allows us to make a complex mix of choices and I find it very difficult to visualise how my team will play just by looking at the tactics menu. What’s more, for every player you move around the pitch to strengthen your attack or defence, you weaken the area he was moved from and it can be difficult to accept this. But I think I might have worked out how to put my plan in to action…
- Start by brainstorming everything you want your tactic to include. Maybe you want marauding wing backs, a Pirlo-esque playmaker or a sweeper keeper. Do you want supporting wingers who prefer to cross than get in to the box or do you want them to run at defenders and try to beat them with skill a la Bolasie? You might like the idea of using a big target man. Get all of your ideas on paper and work from there.
- Arrange a friendly to get an idea of how your new tactic will work but remember it takes time for your players to become familiar with a tactic. You can do this at any point in the season. I find Nike Academy are usually available for a game and they’re not great so it’s also a confidence booster.
- Start with the basics. I’m a perfectionist so it’s very tempting to try to add every team and player instruction before I play a game. It might be better to start with a few simple team instructions and add more, plus player instructions, as you come to understand your tactic. Choose a formation, a mentality and a team shape. Your team instructions will be at their default settings, such as ‘normal’ defensive line and it shouldn’t be too risky to leave them alone for the first few games. If one of your key philosophies is to play possession football then choose ‘retain possession’, sure, but try not to overcomplicate matters at this early stage.
- Decide if you’ll be an attacking or defensive team. Ultimately, every team is one or the other. Consider what your choice will mean. To what extent will you be offensive or defensive? There are numerous ways you can gain a defensive advantage, such as using a ball winning midfielder, defending deep, closing down or not closing down to keep your shape. Maybe you’ll use ball retention as a way to prevent the opposition from scoring. If they don’t have the ball, they can’t score.
- People say Marouane Fellaini isn’t ‘a Man United player’. If there was a certain player, who played a certain way, who personifies the sort of football you want to encourage, who would it be or how would they play? Then look for these qualities in all of the players you buy. Maybe aggression is important to you or you might want a team of very technically-gifted players.
- Find a template you can work from. Chances are, if you’ve had an idea for a tactic, it will have been done before to some extent, so use it to build your new system. uMAXit Football on YouTube make some easy-to-follow explanations of the way well-known teams play. It’s exciting to try to make your team play in a completely original way without using any examples but it’s much more difficult to pull off. I’ve chosen Chelsea’s 3-4-3 (calling it this as you all know what I mean) as inspiration, because I haven’t used a three-man defence for a while and it’s clearly a strong gameplan when using the right players.
If you take anything away from this article, I’d suggest remembering that you can’t make a successful tactic just by tinkering in the tactics creator. You should use external resources too and use other areas of the game, such as matches and match analyses, to decipher what is and isn’t working so you can continue to sculpt your ideal system. Everyone plays the game differently though so however you set your team up, keep having fun.