Changing Things Up

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-17-24-48It’s time for something a little bit different. When I first broke through onto the FM Scene, I did so doing tactical pieces only. This can be seen in the early articles on this blog, such as the Central Winger articles, the Mjallby 4-1-2-3-0 and the defensive 4-1-2-2-1. As time has gone on, I’ve started to focus more on the story of my saves, and taking inspiration from other people across the FM Community. This is obviously something I’ll continue with, as it helps me immerse myself in the save I’m actually playing, but at times I feel like the focus I initially had on tactics has been lost.

It’s for this reason that I’ve signed myself up to the Community Formation Experiment over on the Sports Interactive forums (a forum I regularly lurk on, but rarely post). The premise of the experiment is simple. Everyone who enters is randomly allocated one of the standard formations within Football Manager, and your challenge is to create a viable tactic using only the formation you’re given. You can change roles, duties, team shape etc, but the formation itself must remain the same as the one you were given at the start.


Everyone is also required to use the same team and the same database (the current one).

There are a few more additional rules to ensure fairness:

  • Only 2 permanent transfers are allowed, and 1 loan transfer.
  • No limitations on outgoing transfers.
  • The same past experience for managers (international experience and highest coaching badges).
  • No database edits.

So, which formation did I get? As you can see to the right, I drew 3-1-4-2 DM.

There’s plenty of challenges to the 3-1-4-2 DM formation, but considering some of the formations I could have drawn, this is a fairly pleasing formation. Quite frankly, there are some horrible formations that are left in the game by default – particularly those with absolutely no coverage through the middle of the pitch – and I look forward to see what others do with those they are given. I was pleased to have received a formation with a Back 3 as well, as I haven’t used one so far on FM17, but my love for them is well documented.

So, which club will I be playing as? For this year’s edition of the experiment, the Italian side U.S. Sassuolo Calcio has been chosen, for their positionally flexible squad, and good young players with plenty of potential. Also, Domenico Berardi is a Sassuolo player. Sassuolo are predicted to finish 9th in Serie A, so there’s mid-table expectations, but the potential to do far better with the promise the squad has. Still, first things first. The tactic needs planning and developing.

Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 23.43.41 2.pngThis is the basic structure of the 3-1-4-2 as it appears when you select it. A back 3, 1 holding midfielder, a midfield 4 and 2 strikers upfront.

There is one key weakness of this formation, and one that will be my biggest challenge when developing the system. This the red circles in the image to the left, the positions where wing backs would usually be. If I was creating a 3-5-2 system, I would always prefer to have wing backs in this role rather than MR/L’s. However, this is the challenge, and I have to make sure that the wide midfielders can track back and cover these key areas.

Another potential – but more easily solved – issue is that there’s no Number 10 role within the system, shown by the white circle. However, a simple solution for this is to have either an attacking central midfielder to move into this area, or to use a creative deep dropping striker who can move into the 10 space and link the play with the midfield. Ideally, I’ll be able to use both of these to make us dynamic in attack. Berardi could thrive in a creative role upfront.

Here are my other basic thoughts on the system:

  • A back 3 means that I have the ability to be quite aggressive with my role and duty selection in central midfield, aware that I’ve always got 3 men back to cover any errors.
  • The above point means that I can quite probably use a Pirlo-style Regista in defensive midfield to control the game, giving me the runners from midfield that I need to support the strikers.
  • A good number of men back, and two strikers upfront lends itself quite nicely to counter attacking football.
  • The fact that our ‘wing backs’ are at MR/L rather than the wing back slots means that any pressing we get involved in could be more effective.

From all of this information and theory, I need to create a first version of the tactic, a base level from which I can tweak and develop. It may be full of mistakes, but it ‘s a start.


Here is the first draft. It follows much of what I’ve discussed above, with a Regista from defensive midfield, and the use of Defensive Wingers to ensure that we can cover the wide spaces. The midfield is also a basic recreation of the Pirlo – Vidal – Marchisio midfield that worked so well for Juventus several years ago, with the CM-A given the license to move into the 10 space and support the strikers. The Back 3 is very basic – at least for now – with just a covering central centre back flanked by two CD-D’s, and upfront I’ve gone for an ultra basic AF-A/DLF-S combo. It’s a tried and tested combination, and I feel like Berardi could be lethal when given the license to drop deep and run at the defence. For now, Defrel and Matri will have to fill in until Berardi returns from injury. If the DLF-S isn’t giving me enough, there are other creative roles I can turn to instead.

The system itself is set up with a counter mentality, but this is very changeable. I’ve asked the side to pass out from the back and work the ball into the box, and that’s it. Pre-season will be spent reviewing the base tactic, spotting any mistakes I’ve made in the initial setup, and looking at how I can improve it moving forward into the Serie A season.

I’d hoped that this would be a nice side series for the blog, and would allow you all to see how I formulate and develop a tactic. Plus, it should provide me with a nice challenge. I hope you all enjoy reading this, and should you have any questions – or suggestions – about the tactic, or just FM in general, then please do feel free to ask via the comments section, or on my Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you again.


  1. What a great idea. And underlines the true fact that a formation is no more than basic shape and that there are so many options available when building a tactic.

  2. Will be following your updates. I also got given a back three, except mine comes in the form of a sweeper (352 Sweeper). I will be looking forward to see what you do with this save.

  3. Pingback: Draft One

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Alexandra Aspey

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