One season six football formations: A brief analysis of my favourite tactics

I’m usually loyal to the notion that familiarity and routine leads to success on Football Manager 2014 and everything else but this season in Serie A at AS Roma I have tinkered with all sorts of formations, using three at the back, one striker, wide midfielders/ narrow attacking midfielders. Probably the only extreme I haven’t tested out this season is a strikerless formation as I’m very skeptical about that based on prior use.

This post will hopefully help anyone wondering what formation they should use and struggling to understand what makes each one so different.

I’m only 14 games in to the season but I must have tried at least six formations by now, generally using the same mentality, and my chopping and changing doesn’t appear to be having a negative impact but it’s difficult to tell.

Without further ado let me introduce you to my formations and how they work:
41212The narrow 4-1-2-1-2 (diamond) is a safe option most of the time for pretty much any team in any league. It has defensive solidity with four defenders and a midfielder sitting in front of two centre backs and an additional three midfielders which help retain possession and make it hard for the opposition to create chances. It seems to provide a brick wall which is very difficult to break through.

Furthermore, it has attacking threat via the attacking midfielder and two strikers. This formation suits a counter attacking style and a control style in my opinion, nevertheless, I believe it is flexible and can be stretched and moulded to your ideas.

However, this shape can be vulnerable to wide formations so if you do not have full backs you can trust you might want to try something else.

The inspiration: Liverpool and Chelsea were the two clubs in my mind when I thought of using this formation. With Liverpool’s success in the Premier League this season using a ‘diamond’ formation with a ‘perfect triangle’ in midfield, Brendan Rodgers’ tactics have been readily pundited about and I wanted to test something similar.

I also remember years ago when Jose Mourinho was in his first spell managing Chelsea the Pensioners played in this style and my team, Manchester United, always found it very difficult to conquer. Frank Lampard was a key part of Chelsea’s system then and if you decide to try it it would be beneficial to have your own goalscoring midfielder.

32212When I first stumbled upon this formation when tinkering with using three defenders I thought it was the perfect mix of attacking threat and defensive stubbornness. It worked brilliantly for around 10 games but eventually its effectiveness seemed to run out of steam. Although I have found a formation that is even better suited to my ideas I would recommend you all to try this. It does have a bit of everything and few apparent weaknesses.

451 narrowThe narrow 4-5-1 or narrow 4-2-3-1 is a shape I had fantastic success with in Football Manager 2013. It seemed so balanced and allowed me to use three attacking midfielders. Like many other football fans I think players who ply their trade in this position are the best to watch and tend to be more gifted than those in any other position on the pitch. They have skill, can usually dribble, pass, create chances and to be truly great, score goals consistently. The players I think of when I imagine this position on the pitch are, for example, Ronaldinho, Zidane, Rooney, Riquelme and Totti. They are a rare breed and I am sure you can see why I would like to play three in the same team! Looking at the tactic again though, one questions if it is responsible to have so many creative and attacking players in one side.

The inspiration: It is a great idea to do your homework on teams in the game not just in real life. On FM13 I played against Paris Saint Germain in the UEFA Champions League and they were using the above shape. They kept the ball so well, created chances and defended solidly. I knew there was something special about this formation and decided to use it with Genoa and huge success followed. Another in-game giant, Manchester City, were using it too and doing really well. I saw how they fit five brilliant midfielders in to one team as well as a fabulous striker. From memory, I think they had Marek Hamsik, Samir Nasri and David Silva as the three attacking midfielders, with Yaya Toure and Paul Pogba in centre midfield and Sergio Aguero up front. Not too dissimilar to how they play in reality really and very easy on the eye.

352Now to my favourite tactic at the moment while I am managing AS Roma in Serie A. I thought I had reached FM tactic nirvana with my earlier mentioned 3-2-2-1-2 but I jiggled things about a bit again pushing the two defensive midfielders in to centre midfield positions.

In essence the shape is only one chess piece away from a 4-4-2, the only difference is it uses an attacking midfielder at the expense of a defender. Without the AM(C) I could play a flat back four which I would be much more comfortable with but this way I can push seven players in to the opponent’s half and when I use the ‘hassle opponents’ instruction it can be a great way to win the ball high up the pitch which is so important in modern football. When we do win the ball high up the pitch there is usually a healthy number of teammates to pass to.

The inspiration: Plenty of Football Manager bloggers have experimented with three-at-the-back formations. It is also the staple of Antonio Conte’s fabulously balanced Juventus side. I am used to using four defenders so I was excited to try it.

This is how it looks from an elevated camera angle:

352 vs milanAs you can see Shu Sai, the advanced playmaker, is exactly where I want him and there are plenty of passing lanes. My left wide midfielder (WM) is making a forward run, I have two deeper midfielders, and I have two strikers occupying AC Milan’s centre halves.

move breaks downThe move breaks down as Shu Sai is caught in possession but I have three centre backs as cover and Milan find it hard to get numbers forward quickly possibly because they have had to sacrifice attacking players to mark the numerous players I have in advanced positions.

brick wallMy two centre midfielders, blessed with natural pace, recover and Hubers’ run is cut short and we regain possession.

second goalI am playing this game as I write and we have just scored a second goal on eight minutes. A simple mistake from Milan’s right back in closing our left midfielder, Del Genio, when he is already marked, leaves space for my talented striker, Izaguirre.

second goal.PNG 2Izaguirre uses his pace and skill to beat Milan’s centre back (described as a ‘dangerman’ pre-match) and cuts back for my advanced playmaker to slam home in ACRES of space. I believe the shear amount of intelligent and quick players surging forward in this tactic causes chaos in the opposition’s defence and it is great to watch unfold.

In conclusion I worry about the lack of an anchor man or deep lying player constantly sitting in front of my back three and despite the pace of my midfielders, it will result in losing goals sometimes but the positives of this formation far outweigh the negatives for me. And even if the opposition can score, I can usually go one better. Moreover, I am happy with our ability to defend the wings against most teams including the 4-4-2 formation. As long as my WMs work hard in defence as well as attack we can cut out passes before opponents’ wingers have a chance to do damage.

Thanks for reading, follow me on Twitter so you don’t miss a blog! @FMScrapbook

Categorized: Tactics

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