How to Develop Your Tactic on Football Manager 2018

Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 22.42.11Yay, more content. 20 points if you can figure out who virtual me is this year.

After my article on the Sweeper Keeper, I finished off the second season of my save with Bournemouth, finishing 2nd in the Premier League and winning the Europa League for what I dubbed ‘Little Baby Bournemouth’. However, I never really fell in love with that save, and as a result once I’d finished the second season I decided I wanted something new. I’ve been discussing with several members of the FM Community about how I don’t enjoy Football Manager as much as I used to, especially compared to my save with Bayer Leverkusen on FM15. Thiago, I’ll never forget you. ❤

I decided to look at three teams I’ve never managed properly before on Football Manager, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool and AS Monaco. I then took to my Twitter (@JLAspey) with the options, and opened a poll to decide where I was going next. Thankfully, Dortmund won the poll with 39%, so I’m back off to Germany.

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I want this save to serve largely as a think tank for me. So rather than standard save updates, I’ll be focusing on the larger issues that arise as I play through. I’ll still update on how I’m doing as I post about the save, but it won’t be solely focused on signings etc. My thinking is that it will keep these updates different and more educational as well.

One of the first important steps when starting a save is devising your first tactic. It can have a large effect on how the save goes moving forward. One bad tactic can severely sap your enjoyment of a save, whereas the opposite is true of a good one. With Dortmund the majority of advice articles or videos out there suggest that 4-2-3-1 is the way to go, but I really didn’t want to do that, being that 4-2-3-1 absolutely terrifies me. What I really wanted to try was 5-2-3, hearing that it’s extremely effective on this year’s version. This was the 5-2-3 I came up with. My theory was that I could use the DLF’s as ‘hybrid roles’, acting as pseudo playmakers and wingers, ideal for players like Götze and Pulisic.

Screen Shot 2018-04-13 at 18.46.46

Errr…. we’re meant to be Borussia Dortmund lads.

However, this was what happened when I used it. We just beat really poor teams far lower than us down the footballing pyramid. Clearly, something was wrong here that I needed to figure out. When I looked at the average positioning from the game (something I’d been keeping an eye on during the games, but I rarely make immediate changes) the issue was clear, there was a massive gap between our forwards and our midfield, making it very difficult for us to get the ball forward. If you can’t get the ball forward, it’s extremely hard to score, which is the name of the game.

This left me with two options to link the midfield to the attack. Option One is to increase the attacking nature of the central midfielders, meaning I can retain the front 3 that I want with my hybrid forwards. Option Two is to drop the hybrid forwards back, giving me the link with the striker that I want. It also allows me to keep the DLP-D, BWM-S double pivot that I’d gone for, which I quite liked in front of the Back 3.

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In the end, I decided to go with Option Two, and created this more standard 3-4-3. It still retains the 7 most defensive (nominally) players from the 5-2-3, but switches up the front 3. I’ll explain my thinking behind it:

As the AP-S, Mario Götze will float inside from the left, allowing new signing Toni Lato (all of Dortmund’s left backs start the game injured) to overlap down the left side. Furthermore, as he floats inside and moves into the left half space he’ll also link up with other new star signing Kasper Dolberg, who will drop and float around from the striker role, which has now been converted to a CF-S rather than an AF-A, as he will now have to get involved in the build up.

On the right side, I’ve gone for a Winger on ‘attack’ duty in order to stretch opposition defences – in theory. With a BWM-S, currently another new signing in former FM wonderkid Lorenzo Crisetig (again, key midfielders start the game injured, particularly Julian Weigl), pressing and making tackles on his side, I can afford to be a little bit more aggressive on the right side.

Other than that, everything’s pretty basic. The Wing Back’s on ‘support’ duty provide width, and I’ve gone for a very standard Back 3, with a covering Ball Playing Defender, in another new signing in Matthijs De Ligt, who I intend to be the mainstay in defence for the seasons to come. Note: Burki’s only a SK-S because I’m not sure if I trust him enough to be a SK-A yet.

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Much better.

Almost immediately, our play looked better, and Dolberg was actually getting involved as the striker. By the time we played Rhede, we were comfortable with the tactic and I’d plugged all the players that I wanted into it. The result was a 9-0 win, with Schürrle and Philipp (who came on for Dolberg, and proved to me that I can dump Batshuayi and his £70k a week wages) both bagging hat-tricks. My goal for this season is simply to finish 2nd in the Bundesliga, and to ensure that I have a tactical framework to move forward with, so this was extremely pleasing to see (though being a friendly, I took it with a great big heap of salt). The reason for that? Next up – Bayern München.

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Going into the game, this had been the shape that we’d grown into through the three friendlies. As you can see, the connections between the players are much, much better. I’m not one of those that bangs on about this in real life football, but in FM it’s extremely effective so here we go – there are lots of triangle shapes that can be made from our shape.

In FM, balance is important (as in football itself) and once I’d seen this shape, I knew we had something promising moving forward that I could develop. However, Bayern would be an entirely different challenge to Rhede…. obviously.

We set up in the 3-4-3 with the lineup you see above (Pulisic had been injured). I was ideally looking for Dahoud at DLP-D (the role Weigl will play when he returns – Dahoud will move over to the BWM-S role) and Götze to control the game. Bayern set up in their standard 4-2-3-1 shape with an XI of:

Ulreich; Kimmich, Hummels, Süle, Rafinha; Vidal, Tolisso; Robben, Müller, Ribéry; Lewandowski

So strong, but probably not ideally first choice. Still, we’re not technically at first choice either due to injuries to key players such as Julian Weigl and Marco Reus, so it’s all fair.

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Firstly, here are the match stats, and it’s pleasing to see that they’re very even, but in our favour. We’ve had 10 shots to their 8, of which 2 of ours were on target to their 1, and we’ve just shaded possession. I’m not looking to solely keep the ball at this point, but it’s still nice to see that we can have more of the ball than Bayern at this point, even without specifically focusing on ball retention. That will come later. Of course, match stats are only one part of the story – Brazil’s match stats looked really good against Germany in the 2014 World Cup – how did the match itself go?

We need to dive deeper into the shots that were taken by both sides firstly. Here are our shots taken during the game. Although our ratio of shots in the box isn’t fantastic, we’ve still got more shots in the box than outside of it, including an amazing move which led to a chance for Kasper Dolberg which he fired into the post.

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One-on-one with the keeper, Kasper Dolberg fires against the post in the 48th minute.

Conversely, these are Bayern’s shots throughout the game. As you can see, Bayern did hit the post, but this was early on in the game. A second shot was had inside the box from Robben, but Bayern never really threatened at all, as seen by their shots outside the box. Defensively, it was a very pleasing performance against the best team in the Bundesliga.

In the attacking phase, I said that I wanted Dahoud and Götze to control the game, and they did just that, making 138 passes between them. Furthermore, Dahoud was awarded player of the game. Dahoud’s passes were largely focused on the left side, but he did float over to the right side when needed. As the match progressed, it was clear he was a large part of why we were controlling the game against Bayern. Conversely, Götze’s passes were largely focused on the left side, but the fact that he completed so many passes as our highest playmaker, and particularly in the left half space is very promising and shows that Götze is linking our play together very nicely – clearly an improvement on the 5-2-3. What was also very encouraging to see was that Crisetig in the BWM-S role completed 62 passes, even more than Dahoud made, showing that we’re passing the ball well in our double pivot and using it to switch the play well. So, how did the match actually finish?

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A nice start.

In the end, our dominance did show, as we came away with the DFL-Supercup as 1-0 winners, although our goal was scored from a corner. However, on the balance of play, I think we can say that we were the better team, and the change from the 5-2-3 to the 3-4-3 has made a massive improvement to our play. Those of you who have read my saves before will know I’m typically cautious, and I’m still aiming for 2nd in the Bundesliga this season, before looking to really challenge Bayern from the second season onwards.

Screen Shot 2018-04-13 at 21.25.05.pngHowever, this article is called ‘How to Develop Your Tactic on Football Manager 2018’, and I’m still not 100% happy with the system. I would like to develop more possession (although I will need to assess that against weaker sides than Bayern), and I want to get more out of the right sided player. Marco Reus will likely play this role when he returns from injury, and alternate with Christian Pulisic. The stats show that Schürrle received the ball a lot throughout the game, but I feel he could have done more with it. As a Winger on ‘attack’ duty I don’t expect him to be making lots of passes as his game is to dribble, but I’m considering trying him out as an IF-A (which will suit Reus more) to see if this can get him involved and combine more with Dolberg. I’m also looking to get more out of the BPD, because Matthijs De Ligt only made 21 passes through the game, and whilst I’m happy we’re not messing around with it at the back and progressing the ball forwards, I want De Ligt to be more involved in the build up, because he’s capable of far much more.

However, that’s all information for another article as I look to develop the tactic. I’m really enjoying this save so far, and it’s nice to be back in the Bundesliga. So, until the next update thank you very much for reading, and should you have any questions about this save, the tactic or anything else FM related, please do not hesitate to contact me either in the comments section of this blog, or on my Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you once again for reading.


      1. I had press more, push higher up and work ball into box. However I’ve devised another system that I’ll be writing about that has proved to be far more effective so I wouldn’t advise using this.

    1. I’ve been using the same ones for years. The logopack and facepack are from sortitoutsi and the kits for this year’s Bundesliga are from FM Scout.

  1. Pingback: Getting Going |

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