‘Playing The Patch’ – The Strikerless 4-5-1-0

I’ve had a few problems with FM15 lately. There’s been a few things that have really been irritating me, particularly relating to player positioning, and how SI have interpreted certain positions. This article isn’t going to be a rant, but there’s several positions that I’ve become very annoyed by. I don’t like AMR/L’s on FM15. I find them largely useless when defending, and for someone as focused on defending (shamelessly a defence first manager) as I am, it’s meant I haven’t used them. Last year, I used them in a very successful 4-3-3 with *coughSalzburgcough* but I won’t use them this year until a patch sorts out their farcical efforts in defence. A bunch of successful teams throughout football history have used what SI would consider to be AMR/L’s, and they don’t act anything like they do in FM15. I also don’t like the positioning of AMC’s. With an ‘attack’ duty, they end up too far away from the rest of the midfield, and again, don’t contribute at all defensively. On ‘support’ they’re too close to the rest of the midfield, leaving me to think why on Earth would I bother using an AMC then? With Stuttgart, Roguljic was set as an AP-S, and he ended up being in the same line as the double pivot when I looked at average positions. If he’s going to end up in the same position as a central midfielder, why am I using an attacking midfielder?

I don’t like the positioning of forwards on an ‘attack’ duty, particularly Advanced Forwards. They go missing far too easily, and don’t contribute to build up play at all. I know the role itself should lead the line, but they should do far more than they do. Diego Costa lead the line last season for Atletico Madrid, but he didn’t just stay on the last man and leave the rest of the side to pass the ball towards him. As you’ve seen with the 3-5-2 with Sturm, I ended up using two strikers on ‘support’ duties in order to avoid this. In addition, I don’t like the positioning of DMC’s. On ‘defend’ I feel that they stay too deep, but I’m not brave enough to use ‘support’ for DMC’s. Also, the CM-D role is fantastic on FM15, and seems to do everything a DMC does (certainly a non-playmaker DMC), so again, I’m starting to wonder why I’ve used one.

All in all, I’ve been a bit miffed. It seems to me that the 4-1-4-1 is by far the best formation on FM15. Obviously it still takes brains to put one together (no insult to those around the FM community who have created some fantastic 4-1-4-1’s), and there are various different ways of playing it, but it certainly seems to be the best that I’ve seen and used. I’m at a point now where I refuse to use one anymore, and I’ll be sticking to that for the remainder of FM15, unless the inevitable patch renders it useless, and therefore challenging to use again.

This leads me onto the actual topic of this article, a new tactical idea. I’ve been feeling myself being drawn back to Strikerless football recently thanks to the fantastic articles that @MerryGuido has been writing (go check out his Strikerless blog if you’ve been living in a cave, it’s fantastic). This has also coincided with a save that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, with Eibar in Spain. I’m not sure whether it’s a save that’s going to stick yet, but I’m using it as a tester to try out a new tactical concept, a Strikerless 4-5-1-0.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 19.24.52Here’s the formation. Obviously, Eibar are pretty low in terms of quality in comparison to many of the teams in La Liga, and therefore I’m having to be pretty defensive. Despite that, I’m actually using quite a few things that work very well on this version of FM15, without resorting to using something that I feel is ‘very strong’ like 4-1-4-1.

I always use a SK, so that’s automatic. The back 4 is also pretty standard, with two CWB-S’s (roles I’ve come to love, even if I don’t completely know the difference between them and WB-S’s – hipster role selection).

When you see all the complaints I’ve made above, you’ll notice that CM’s are missing. Well, that’s because I love them on FM15, and you can cover every single position in the centre of the pitch with them. We’ve got a CM-D to drop deep and cover the DM strata, a BBM midfielder to cover both, and a CM-A to move into the AM strata. The CM-A isn’t a Central Winger this time, as I don’t want him to dribble, I want the team to move the ball around from man to man, rather than allowing one man to dribble more than the rest.

In addition, there’s MR/L’s who are set to be attacking, and will move into the AML/R zones without having all the problems that AML/R’s have with defending. Up ‘top’ in the AMC position, I’ve gone for a Trequartista after some testing. Initially I wanted a Shadow Striker here to act like a deep striker, but he didn’t get involved enough, and a Trequartista provides much better movement as the 4 players behind him break from deep, with the CM-D hanging back. I may dislike AMC’s at times on FM15, but the Treq is absolutely key to this tactic, and because the AMC doesn’t have a striker in front of him, his movement seems somewhat different.

Clearly, this isn’t going to be the kind of tactic that a team can learn quickly, and initial results weren’t fantastic in pre-season friendlies as I tweaked the roles and mentality of the tactic, (it’s now ‘standard’ one of my favourites from FM14) and re-trained some players. At the start of the season I was still tweaking it, and eventually plugged the right players, roles and mentality together at half time against Real Sociedad, when we were already 3-0 down. We came out far better in the 2nd half though, and eventually went down 3-1. Fairly respectable when you consider Elche lost 7-0 to Barca. The next match was away against Atletico, and we played amazingly. We ended up with more passes into the box than them, had far less shots, but until the 80th minute we were 1-0 up, until a Cerci 25 yarder and a calamitous defensive mistake gave them a 2-1 win (a crash dump later robbed me of that performance). Still, we continued the good form and drew 0-0 with Deportivo, who had started the season well…

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 22.34.58

In the next game, this happened. It was one of those games where you feel like your tactic has really started to ‘work’. We completely outplayed them in the proverbial relegation 6 pointer and the 4-5-1-0 performed exactly as I wanted it to. I’m going to look through the game, look at the goals we scored, and show how the 4-5-1-0 works.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 19.59.23

note: The roles do not show up in the pre-game screen.

Here’s the lineups. Elche set out in the standard Spanish 4-3-3. The roles the AI has used look a little strange, but hey, who am I to judge? We line up in the 4-5-1-0 and look pretty well equipped to battle their setup. We’ve got a good amount of central players to combat them in midfield, and their only real source of width is a W-S and a FB-A, which I feel we can comfortably deal with. I didn’t tweak anything at all, nor did I need to throughout the match.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.11.38

Immediately, you can see how well equipped we are to combat Elche’s attack. Our back 4 has very little to be concerned about, with only one striker up top, and we have the clear numerical dominance. Their AP-A at AMR isn’t threatening us at all, and is almost in line with the FB-S on his side. Our CM-D has dropped back into the DM strata, providing us with even more defensive superiority, and we’ve formed a diamond in midfield. We’ve got a 4 vs. 3 advantage here, and Elche will do well to pass through central midfield. Atletico struggled to pass through us, so at this point I’m very confident that Elche will struggle.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.28.53

After 9 minutes, we really start to threaten. We force them to kick it long from a free kick, and begin our build up. The ball is played out to our Winger Nieto, who makes the run in blue and tries to take his man on. Meanwhile, Dani Garcia makes a run forward to support, as does our CM-A Boateng. Our right midfielder Del Moral also breaks forward, and we’ve already got plenty of runners. Our Treq Berjon however, doesn’t break forward, and instead comes over to help Nieto (making the movement in yellow), who doesn’t manage to beat his man.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.41.09

Nieto moves the ball into Berjon, and makes his own run forward, joining 3 other runners. Berjon draws 3 Elche defenders towards him and makes the pass in blue to Garcia. We’re now 4 vs. 4 in attack and in a position to get a shot at the keeper. It’s fantastic movement from the Trequartista, who gravitated towards the ball, allowing the runners to move past him. Our nominal ‘front man’ is now deeper than 4 of the midfielders, and in a position to create havoc.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.51.36

Garcia makes the correct decision and squares the ball to Boateng. Boateng then spots the run made by the right midfielder Del Moral, and plays him in. Unfortunately, the keeper saves this shot, but we’re already threatening to score, carving our way through Elche, with some fantastic vertical movement past the Trequartista.

3 minutes later, we went 1-0 up.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 20.59.29

Nothing too complex to begin this move. Boateng moves the ball into Ekiza, who plays the direct pass into Del Moral. You can see the strange shape we’ve forced Elche into at this point. It’s still their 4-3-3, but we’ve turned it into something completely different with our movement and passing.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 21.03.44

Del Moral then holds the ball up a little and plays it into Berjon, our Treq. From here, he’s got plenty of runners to aim for. In particular, the BBM and the left winger have both got loads of space, with Elche trying to press us over on our right flank. That’s not going to work.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 21.04.20

For some odd reason, the BBM Garcia holds his run, but our left winger Nieto continues, receiving the easy pass from Berjon and sticking it in at the near post past the keeper. 1-0. These screenshots and my descriptions really don’t describe how lovely this goal was to watch, and it was exactly the type of football I want to see. Who thought a 4-5-1-0 would be defensive?

After 27 minutes, we went 2-0 up.

This is the first video I’ve ever uploaded to this blog, so I apologise for it not being great quality. It would be better quality, but for some reason FM15 won’t let me upload to YouTube, so SnagIt has been used. I want to show the next two goals so I can analyse them, and also show you quite how fluid the football we play is.

This goal shows quite how important the Treq is to this tactic, as he is included in all aspects of the goal. He combines with the left winger Nieto, before collecting the ball and moving out wide, pulling one of Elche’s central midfielders with him. A lovely exchange between the left back, the BBM Garcia, and Nieto ends up with Berjon in front of the goal, and he sticks it in the far corner. It’s flowing, positive, attacking football. It’s not suicidal though, and we still have 4 men back should Elche manage to get the ball and counter attack.

This one, I am particularly proud of. It’s one of the nicest goals one of my teams have ever scored on Football Manager. The ball starts off at a throw in and works itself around most of the team. It’s not frantic, but it is very patient (a result of the standard mentality, we keep the ball well when we have it), and when the ball moves up to the Treq, that’s when it comes to life, as our CM-A plays it to Del Moral (the right midfielder) who plays it through to Berjon to finish off the move. It’s absolutely lovely football, finishing them off and securing a massive 3-0 win early in the season. Berjon was also absolutely outstanding as the Treq, scoring 2, assisting 1 and making 5 key passes.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 22.34.41

As for how we coped with them defensively the rest of the game, I think this shows it best. We made it look oddly easy, and most of Elche’s shots were from corners or free kicks. To contrast that, the majority of our shots were from inside the box, after nice build up play.

Clearly, this 4-5-1-0 has potential, and I’m going to continue using it with Eibar, before deciding whether the save is worth writing about. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my thoughts, and I apologise for the semi-rant at the start. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.


  1. Great article mate, will include it in my weekly round-up! I completely agree with you on the AMR/L offering bugger all defensively, I have just learned to live with it and sometimes the fact they are still cheating on the half-way line gives me a great counter attack alongside a false-nine. I’d hate to play full back behind them though!!

    1. Thanks mate!

      I think that’s the best way to use them really. If you’re playing counter attacking football (a future project of mine), having the wide players high and wide will work very well. It’s like SI have assumed that all AML/R’s play like Ronaldo and Bale and contribute nothing defensively.

    1. That’s a good point, but AMR/L’s on ‘support’ don’t really provide the vertical movement I really want. Personal taste though. Thanks for the comment, apologies for my late reply!

    1. Hi Paul,

      I haven’t provided a download for this tactic, as my articles are usually intended to generate ideas for others.

  2. Lovely tactic! Tried to replicate it myself… the build up play, pace, I achieved all of that. One thing I can’t achieve is through balls to trequartista leaving him in front of the goal…

  3. Hello, what team instructions would you suggest with this tactic if I aim to counter attack? Struggling to create a tactic to defeat better opposition.

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