A Tactical Brainstorm And Preview

I’ll admit it, I was hoping to have had a tactical piece out by now. Whether that was the FM15 Central Winger article (which is coming) or something altogether different, I wasn’t sure. I was only a few matches away from being ready to do the article on the 4-4-1-1/4-1-4-1 I’d been using with Sturm Graz, but then FM intervened, taking away my star Number 10, and forcing me to change tactics, meaning I hadn’t managed to test the 4-4-1-1/4-1-4-1 enough before writing an article on it.

To compensate for this (and also because I’m missing writing about tactics) I thought I’d give you a preview of what I’m hoping to use down the line on FM15. I’d use it now if I could, but there’s certain elements of the game that don’t work quite as SI said they would, meaning for now at least, they’re largely useless.

First off, I’ll show the formation and roles I’d want to use, before explaining the theory behind it.

Here it is to the left. StScreen Shot 2014-11-21 at 11.31.58ill the 4-4-1-1/4-1-4-1 that I was using at the beginning of the season with Sturm (and looking at the stats, the tactic I’m likely to go back to), but with a few different roles thrown in that will completely alter the way it plays, and hopefully improve it.

The main changes are switching the striker from a CF-A to a CF-S, as I feel the forward’s been a little too isolated, so dropping his mentality should mean he interacts with the rest of the team more, making us far more fluid in possession. I’ve also switched the DLP-S to a Central Winger, as having two playmakers in the midfield is somewhat pointless, and I want more vertical movement from the midfield going past the AMC.

The right back is set as a FB-S, but this is a temporary decision for now, but with what I want to do with the left back, I’ll need extra cover on the right flank.

You can see the movement I want. I want the WM-A to cut inside and act like a deeper Inside Forward. I need the CW to get forward more than the DLP-S did, and hopefully break past the AMCR and get in support of the striker.

The most important change to the current 4-4-1-1/4-1-4-1 is the introduction of an IWB, as it will completely change the shape of the team when we don’t have the ball, and help me refine the style of play I’m looking for with Sturm. Rechttps://i2.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/513o3QmJkGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgently, I’ve been reading Pep Confidential (a book that I can highly recommend, that is probably the best football book I have ever read) and there’s a section where Pep is discussing what he wanted to do with Barcelona had he stayed on as coach. Pep talks about wanting to have a full back that forms a double pivot with the DMC when his teams have the ball. Pep is a strong supporter of having one ‘organising midfielder’ but it is clear that he sees the advantages of a double pivot. Pep ended up going past this idea, and using two full backs that come inside into midfield, in Alaba and Lahm. A player similar to this is something I feel would fit perfectly into my 4-4-1-1/4-1-4-1, helping us keep possession and rotate the ball up to our more attacking players. Having that extra layer in defensive midfield will allow me to be braver with the other members of the midfield, particularly the CW.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 13.43.56This would be the shape whilst in possession, either a 2-3-4-1 or a 3-2-4-1 depending on how you look at it. As you can see, the IWB has come inside, and formed a nice double pivot with the DM-D, meaning if we need to recycle possession across the pitch, then we can. This stability allows me to push the CW high up towards the striker, hopefully making us better in attack, especially with the CF-A now a CF-S

Obviously, with the left back vacating his position, the left flank is somewhat exposed. This means the DW-S role that is already in the 4-4-1-1/4-1-4-1 becomes even more important. He’ll have to work box to box initially to cover the IWB as he makes his way back out to the flanks. I’m even considering retraining a left back to play this role, to ensure there’s a player there with good defending skills.

My thinking is that if we do lose the ball up high, we’ve got such a strong attacking shape, that we should be able to press the ball immediately and force the opposition to kick it long, and win that aerial ball and get possession back. Our only risk is an accurate long pass from a defender to a winger, so that’s something I’ll keep an eye on.

I’ve said many times that I’m not possession centric (I’ve often been happy to let my teams sit back and allow the opposition defenders to pass it between themselves, where it doesn’t hurt us), but I do like my teams to have the ball, passing aggressively, it means we’re dominating the game, and that is something I’m focused on. What’s more, this is also part of my plan to beat the hateful Red Bull Salzburg. We don’t dominate the game anywhere near as much as I would like us to against RBS. And by pressing higher up the pitch, with more men, I feel we can cause them far more trouble than we have so far.

Of course, it’s all well and good coming up with these ideas, if you don’t have the players to play in the roles! Well, I think I do.Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 09.58.15

Klem is hardly Philipp Lahm or David Alaba, but for our level, I think he’s more than suitable for the role. His stats are well rounded, particularly mentally (which I’m a big fan of), and he’s got good attributes in the ones needed for the IWB role I’m imagining. Passing, Work Rate, Positioning etc are all there, as well as his standard left back attributes that will help him should he need to make a quick tackle in the DM position. Klem’s so well rounded that at one point in the season I was considering turning him into a central midfielder, but without any decent cover at left back, it would be pointless. This allows me to get him into central midfield, whilst retaining his position at left back.

Of course, this all sounds perfect doesn’t it? Well, err……not really. There’s no way I can use this tactic right now as the IWB-S role just doesn’t do what SI said it would. The IWB is described like this in game:

Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 10.07.56

This doesn’t happen. Those runs through the centre of the pitch do not happen. A few days ago on Twitter I was told that an IWB was simply sitting on the shoulder of the left sided centre back, definitely not what I want. Hopefully, SI are working on making this role work properly, as quite a lot of people across the FM scene were looking forward to using it, and I’m now considering it important to my tactical setup going forward, in my battle to topple Salzburg.

Hopefully I can manage to use this setup, because I think it will improve the team considerably, albeit with a few signings, particularly a Central Winger. I’ll be updating the Sturm save soon, and I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading about my plans. I hope to get a proper FM tactical article out as soon as I can, as long as FM stops injuring my important players!

As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me.


  1. Jonathon,

    I have a question. As what you say, “My thinking is that if we do lose the ball up high, we’ve got such a strong attacking shape, that we should be able to press the ball immediately and force the opposition to kick it long,”

    How do you instruct your boys so they press the opponent immediately and force them to make mistake? As what I see form my LLM side of Indonesia Super League, my players don’t press at all, no matter how I instructed them to.

    Cheers for your article, mate 😉

    1. Largely the aggressiveness of pressing seems to be related to the setting you actually put pressing on, and your mentality. I’m using control and press more, so I should get some nice controlled pressing, but certainly not frantic. I’d like more aggressive pressing, but first my first season at Sturm, I’m slowly developing my ideas, and fell back on the comfort zone of ‘control’. I think I’ll see how it goes against Salzburg before deciding whether to up the mentality or pressing.

      In FM, you’re more likely to cause them to boot it long than win it back high up as a result of pressing. What settings are you using mate?

  2. I see the closing down in FM 2015 is not working well so far. I have activated all instructions related to closing down, mate. Press more, push higher, much higher, the instructions from Player Instruction. But, they just don’t close down as what I want. At least, the FM 2014 closing down is so far better than FM 2015. Because of this issue, I plan to make a new save with a big boys team, like FC Bayern to see how they react to my closing down set up.

    Btw, I’m using Defensive mentality and Very Fluid for my current LLM club.

    1. I would agree pressing was better on FM14 mate. Let me know if you notice a difference with the big teams mate. In FM15 you don’t win the ball up high, you just force them to kick it long, and win it back that way.

      Nice to see you using a defensive mentality. It’s something I’m sure to return to later on FM15.

  3. Defensive mentality is used because I’m now managing one of relegation candidate of the league I compete. Ok, mate.

    Wait for your another articles to come.

  4. Some similarities with my 4-1-4-1 but also some clear differences, always interesting to see how others interpret the same shape.

    I obviously share your frustration with the IWB given my initial tactical plans. I wouldn’t say your description of what they do is entirely accurate tho. For me, there is no difference between an IWB and a FB(S). It just looks like SI put in the placeholder for the role but forgot to change the code.

    1. The main reason I put in the bit about staying with the LCB was just that I was told on Twitter that they had done that. I would agree that when you see their pass maps and average positions, by and large it is the same as a FB-S.

      I do hope they get the IWB working, because what you had in mind for your 4-1-4-1 looked like it would be fantastic.

  5. Interesting piece. The biggest problem with the iwb and the double pivot you mention from Peps book (I also read and had the same idea as you) is the lack of defensive fluidity. The right back won’t shift across and neither will the right sided centre back to form the nice back 3, so you are left with a dangerously off centre defence that will easily be penetrated. If the team is set to Close Down More the entire defence will then close off the opponents right winger but forget about the left winger, a cross will come in and a free shot on goal will happen.

    It’s been the same on all FM’s and for me tactically is the biggest weak link moving forward.

    1. I have to agree with you. The issue with changing formations from defence to attack doesn’t look like it’s going to change. Having different formations for the attacking and defensive phase would seem a logical solution, but SI haven’t implemented it yet.

  6. Hi there,

    Brilliant explanation for Pep’s concept of playing nowadays. Do you have any screen shot of the tactic that u created?

    Thank u,

    1. I still haven’t developed the tactic, mainly due to issues with the IWB (which I’m not sure SI are going to fix anyway). For now, the idea will have to remain theory, rather than practice.

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