Football Manager Tactics Guide to Presets and Playing Style; Possession Football, Counter-Attacking and Pressing Styles
One major issue when creating Football Manager tactics are finding how you want your team to play in order to make your tactic the most effiecient.
Today we will take a closer look on how to create certain playing styles in Football Manager by the use of team instructions. We will also look on what's required of the players for each playing style in terms of player preferred moves and player attributes in order to create a successful Football Manager tactic.
When creating your Football Manager tactic, it will be important for the long run to sit down and look at how you like your team to play, analyze your squad as shown in previous guide and select between; attacking, counter or possession football playing style, which you will base your Football Manager tactics on. The choices are many. How you'd like to play, which playing style you fancy, will be determined by the Football Manager team instructions.
As a natural extensions to the Football Manager shouts, it's time to lay the foundation so you can re-create your wanted playing styles in the best manner! Creating presets will not only be preferable to create how you want to play, but will also be the main tool for adapting your match tactics. Presets can be saved and used in any other save.
No matter which playing style or football philosophy you wish to pass onto your players you will need to understand what's required of them in order to make your tactic successful. You can't just setup a 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1, 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 and expect the players to dominate the match, regain possession high up the field or be good organized in defense. You will also need players who understand your tactic and have the required skills to perform in it. By analyzing the different football playing style and convert their characteristics into Football Manager 2014, we aim to make YOU able to create better tactics!
Introduction to Playing styles in Football - Part 1 of Creating a Football Manager Tactics
Playing Style 1 - Possession Football
Who doesn't love to dominate the opposition team by tenths of shots, a couple of clear cut chances and most importantly a lot of possession by intelligent short passes which in the end opens up the entire opponents defensive line, so your striker can tap the ball back of the net? Okey, I know many of you are somewhat diversed about it. Some would even claim that dominating every match is boring. For me, it's the favorite and preferred playing style; decreasing the opposition teams morale by being superior and tire them out by domination.
Possession football normally uses elaborate build-up where the team looks to pass their way forward looking to tire the opposition out as they have to chase the ball around. Tempo doesn't need to be quick, but passes must be accurate and within the overall plan. Players will take less risks, but can choose to play through balls to the lone striker / false nine or inside forwards. Players will constantely make themselves available giving them the ability to decide if it's right time to enter final third or retain possession for a longer time to unbalance the opposition team furher. Players will be closely linked together making the team able to overload specific areas (where the ball is). These 2 on 1 or 3 on 1 situations will not only make them dominate the match, but can also be used to regain possession quickly.
Advantages of Possession football
By keeping possession, you will eventually make the opponents more undisciplined and impatient. The other team can't score if you keep possession of the ball, so in order for them to regain possession, they will be forced to chase you all over the pitch. This will impact their stamina - tire them out which decreases their ability to concentrate further and increasing the amount of mistakes. Exhausted opponent will further allow you to control the match tempo.
Disadvantages of Possession football By playing patient build-up it may make your attacking predictable. You may have over 60% of possession and dominate the match, but the other team can defend good by staying deep packing the penalty box reducing available space to exploit to a minimum, forcing you to shoot from long or use other tools which may force to increase the risk of loosing possession. Your team may pin the other team back which leaves huge spaces behind the high defensive line for opponents to counter in. Facing a physical team may make it difficult to get the required flow in order to retain possession. This means that possession football may not always be that effective.
So what's required both of the players and your team instructions to utilize a possession football playing style?
Passion4FM's Preferred Match Mentality: Standard / Control
Passion4FM's Preferred Match Fluidity: Balanced / Fluid
Player Requirements to Succeed with Possession Football
In order to utilize a short passing playing style with much possession you will need players who are capable both to retain and regain possession. Winning possession should be done quickly in order to dominate the match and retaining possession should be done by patience build-up, less but correct movements and disciplined players who have both the technical and tactical attributes required to control the ball and pass it.
When creating a possession football playing styles, I guess many of you would automatically think of the tiki taka playing style famous from Spain and Fc Barcelona. You can however play possession football without using the tiki-taka. Possession football only means to dominate the amount of possession. How you play will of course determine the amount of possession, but it's easier to play short passing fotball, which we will talk about in this guide to utilize the style of possession football.
For any team who wish to play a possession football playing style the most important assessments, (but not unique to it) are:
- use a formation which makes you able to have players lined up in as many triangles as possible
- use player roles that fits the style of play (which we will look closer on later)
- possess players with the required skills (player attributes, player preferred moves and so on)
- win possession quickly by pressurize the opponents weak areas.
Preferred Pitch size for Possession Football Playing Style
Playing a possession tactic in the defensive phase requires to decrease space in order to make the player closer connected and ensure they doesn't have to run that much around. By choosing a narrow pitch with short length it will be easier both to defend and regain possession, as well as attacking by covering all areas of the pitch. The pitch size currently used at Camp Nou today is 106x70cm so with this in mind I normally choose a standard pitch size, as I feel the biggest pitch size available is to long, something that favours counter-attacking football for opposite teams.
Possession Football - Required Player Attributes
The main overall technical attributes for this playing style is rather basic. You will need player who can work the ball around when in possession - passing, first touch and technique. Tackling will be important to retain possession quickly. Crossing and long shots is not merely important as dribbling.
A good player in a possession tactic will require far better mental attributes than physical attributes. A good player will require to be in the right position at the right time, make the correct decisions in a number of times, be aggressive (aggression and determination) when not in possession and use his creativity when entering final third. A suitable player for any possession tactic will require excellent anticipation, decisions, positioning and composure.
Possession football requires player with physic too. But it's less demanding than a counter-attacking playing style, but more demanding physically than a defensive approach. The team will need aggressiveness in order to regain possession quickly and have the required stamina and natural fitness to hold out the full 90 minutes. Some of the players will require good acceleration and pace in order to get off his marker.
Player Roles and Preferred Moves for Possession Football
In order to play possession football, there will be some important player roles to look at, but most importantly will the style of play be very much affected by player preferred moves. Below will we briefly look at some of the most suited player roles when creating a possession football playing style.We've decided to only cover the most significant roles suitable for possession football. Other player roles might also work, depending on the individual player's PPM's.
Possession Football Team Instructions
Up to now have we looked at the main requirements of the players utilizing a possession football. Now it's time to look at the team instructions and how to set them up. For me possession football is all about 3 important things:
- Players who stick to their positions - players forming triangles by formation setup
- Create as many 2 on 1, 3 on 2 or even 3 on 1 = many passing options
- Regain Possession vs Retain Possesson
Aggressive football (regain possession) + intelligent players (retain possession by accurate short passes, right movements and good positioning.
Preferred General Training Category: Ball Control + Tactics + Attacking
Playing Style 2 - Counter Attacking (Direct) Football
The best teams must not only retain possession and pressurize the opposition team back to their own penalty box. A good team must also be able to counter attack with quickness, unpredictability and directness. Of course will there be teams who won't be able to switch between different playing styles that easy (as the players requirements and demands are totally different from what they possess). A Counter-attacking playing style can be very proficient to use as it strikes the opposition team when in unbalance.
Counter attacking football is somewhat opposite of possession football and relies very much on a deeper defensive line who looks to intercept the opponents passing play - taking merely advantage of the few seconds when no one has possession of the ball. It's a good playing styles for teams who are outsiders to the title, who often faced better opponents and who wants to utilize their main strength - stamina, aggression, creativity, quickness in movements and utilize a direct passing play. Players will look to play more direct with as few passes as possible to penetrate the final third. Counter Attacking football uses elements of both attacking, defending, short and direct passes. It's recognized by high match tempo leaving the opponents with no time to recover!
Teams who often uses counter-attacking style may find 3-5-2, 5-3-2 or 4-3-1-2 as a favourable formation to use. I've selected these formations just to show the importance of having one "target man" and one more mobile creative player who drops back - often positioned at the edge of area in defensive set-pieces or who puts pressure on the opponents DM (playmaker). Think shadow striker and deep-lying forward.
Advantages of Counter Attacking Football
By organize the team to defend deeper, you will draw the opposition team up on you, forcing them to leave huge spaces to exploit behind their defensive line. The opposition team will of course look to score goals by unpredictability = risky play. By taking advantage of their willingness to score and attack, they will have a tendency to forget about defending, which you can use to your advantage - hitting when players are out of position - in unbalance, as opponents wingbacks are creating attacking width and they have few players behind the ball. The tempo of the game may eventually tire the opposition team out, making it easier to create late goals. Players will look to close down players early which makes the opposite players little time on the ball.
Disadvantages of Counter Attacking Football
As always, when lowering defensive line, you will increase the probability for the opponents to strike at goal. When facing a technical good team it may be difficult to regain possession at all. Players will need excellent understanding of play and take what ever chance they got in order to attack. This extremely risky play, your players are forced to take, when having possession of the ball, may often increase probability of mistakes being made. Counter-attacking football will be both physical and mentally demanding as the high match tempo (required to succeed) may backfire tiring out your own players as well. Since your team is forced to play with much width and stretch the formation, the opponent will have more spaces to exploit between the players making it easier for a team who plays possession football.
So what's required both of the players and your team instructions to utilize a counter attacking football playing style?
Preferred Match Mentality: Counter
Overall Required Skills of Players in a Counter-Attacking Style
As briefly mentioned, counter attacking play looks to intercept moves and look to break play by a good organized defense who close down ball players quickly. The best thing about the counter attacking playing style is that you can utilize space behind the opponents defensive line by quick players with much flair. It will let your players have much space to run into, which is important to take advantage of pacey wingbacks, wingers or strikers.
This means that this playing style will let the opposite team have possession of the ball. Regaining possession will be far more important than retaining it. Of course could there be times in a match where retaining possession is important for a team who merely plays on the counter as well, but the main focus will always be to win possession when opposition team is unbalanced. You have to decide where you want to win the ball. How high your defensive line should be is more of an issue about letting strikers have available space to run into behind the defensive line rather than defending from your own penalty box, which is more resembled to the anti football ("parking the bus" style of play).
Re-creating counter-attacking football can be focused on four areas (two defending and two attacking):
- counter from defending set-pieces
- counter from defending superiority: one on one situations / pressurize to force mistakes
- attacking with short, but more direct passes vs longer direct passes with as few passes as possible
- attacking quickly by stretching the formation and exploit space in middle or wide
For any team who wish to play a counter attacking football playing style the most important assessments, (but not unique to it) are:
- use a formation which makes you able to take advantage of vertical movements of players
- use player roles that fits the style of play (which we will look closer on later)
- use tempo and width according to what's beneficial at the moment;
understand how to analyze the match and make the necessary adjustments in order to tire the opponent out and create spaces to exploit.
Preferred Pitch Size for Counter-Attacking Football Playing Style
Playing an counter attacking tactic requires to increase space in order to utilize and exploit spaces both between players and behind opponents defensive line. By using a wider pitch with long length you'll try to stretch the opponents formation and increase the amount of spaces to exploit, which is needed to play a direct playing style.
Counter Attacking Football - Required Player Attributes
Of course will any player need the same technical attributes as using a possession style of play. But most importantly when using a counter attacking play are individual skills tied to the overall tactical understanding, (which is of course important for any tactic). When defending will the players require excellent; marking and tackling, while in attacking situations they will require good dribbling, crossing and long shots depending on their positioning on the field (of course).
A good player for a counter-attacking tactic will require to be mentally strong. He will be tactical intelligent and understand the benefit of working with the team. He should be mentally strong when defending - peeling off the pressure. Since defensive organization is the key, the players will require good positioning, team work, work rate and concentration. They will also need a decent level of aggression, but shouldn't push up too much as it may leave space behind them. That's why decisions and composure is even more important for all players. When being in possession of the ball the players will require excellent creativity, flair and off the ball in order to be unpredictable when attacking.
This playing style can be physical demanding as well as mentally demanding. Players will require good strength in order to compete with their markers. When counter attacking they will need acceleration and pace in order to get by their marker. Since players will often run with the ball, they will also require good balance. Last but not least playing an counter-attacking style which shifts between low movement to full speed can be very exhausting. Players will in overall need good stamina and natural fitness to withstand the full 90 minutes.
Player Roles and Preferred Moves for Counter Attacking Football
Below will we briefly look at some of the most suited player roles and the most beneficial preferred moves for each formational line, when creating a counter attacking football playing style.
Counter Attacking Football Team Instructions
Now it's time to take a closer look on the counter attacking play and how to set up team instructions and presets in order to play on the counter. For me counter attacking play is focused about these important areas:
- getting the ball fast forward and let midfielders play vertical passes to supporting strikers
- play passes into space for midfielders and wingers to run onto - stretching the formation when attacking
- Exploit space on flanks by using quick, creative and technical wingers
- Sit "deep" and wait for opportunities to intercept passes and break
*Sit deep will depend on circumstances as you can play on counter by winning the ball near the half way line.
Preferred General Training Category: Tactics + Attacking
Playing Styles 3 - Attacking Football
We won't cover this section as in-depth as above as much have been said in the section about possession football and counter-attacking. Attacking playing style focus solely on using a formation which allows attacking width and where players roam around covering each other when defending and looking for space when attacking. An attacking approach is advantageous when you are looking for goals and you want to utilize players creativity and flair. They won't no longer adhere to the tactical instructions, but are more expressive. The match tempo is higher and individual skills is more important than team work, disciplined movements and holding a good tactical defensive shape. Here we want a good attacking shape, but it shouldn't be as distinct as the other football styles. Players will instead use distinctive united movements in order to penetrate the final third, where players roam around and are unpredictable.
This football style is all about overloading the opponents and pin them back to their on penalty area. Formations with 2 or more strikers are common, but in modern times has 4-2-3-1 been used to play attacking football. Attacking football can be resembeled by utilizing wing play with the use of many overlaps and players taking generally more risk. Midfielders will look to get into the opposition area and defenders will perhaps join the attacking build-up dictating tempo and move the ball around from one flank to another. Attacking football often uses elements of the above playing styles in order to play totally unpredictable and more varid in the build-up phase.
As with counter-attacking play, players will need excellent creativity and flair in order to be unpredictable when entering final third. Players who have possession of the ball needs good decision, dribbling and finishing, while those without the ball needs good off the ball, agility and anticipation in order to cover for others - or simply move in the right direction. While counter-attacking play aims to create as many clear cut chances as possible, an attacking football playing style hopes those clear cut chances finds the back of the net with a lot of shots on target.
Preferred Match Mentality: Attacking / Overload
Preferred Player Moves for Attacking football
- Hugs line
- Play one-twos
- Knocks ball past opponents
- First time Shots
- Cuts inside
- Gets forward whenever possible
- Likes to lob keeper
- Places shots
- Tries Killer balls often
- Gets into opposition area
- Shoots with power
- Likes to round keeper
- Moves into channel
- Attempts overhead kicks
- Runs with ball often
- Likes to try to beat the offside trap
- Shoots with power
Preferred General Training Category: Attacking + Ball Control
Attacking Football Team Instructions
In this example have we taken into account that attacking football uses similar player roles as possession football and counter-attacking, and varies between short, direct and long balls passing style in order to penetrate the final third depending on the player roles you possess.
This is how I recommend to set up team instructions in order to attack opposition team.
In order to make your playing style even more unpredictable, and if you uses wingers, the shout "allow wide wingers to swap positions" can be useful. It combats the opposite teams man marking of your most quick and creative players. Also "look for overlap" will be a great tool to get more crosses into the box or just to exploit the space on the flanks. You will also notice we have put the defensive line high up, this can be lowered in order to create more depth when attacking - creating more space between your lines for your players to roam into. But the defensive line should be high in order to put pressure on your opponents when you'll need to regain possession quickly, similar to high pressing football.
RECOMMENDED FM14 ATTACKING TACTIC:
Football Manager 2014 Attacking Tactic Cobra 3-6-1 - A Teamwork Tactic influenced by Jürgen Klopp and Antonio Conte
Playing Style 4 - High Pressing Football
High Pressing football is yet another football style which can be used with any of the playing styles above. It's often used in order to regain possession quickly both when using a possession tactic, attacking tactic or to some degree counter attacking tactics. This is said, because counter-attacking tactics often uses fake pressing (don't know if this is even possible in Football Manager?!), and to some degree harder tackles in order to pressurize the opposite players. High pressing is how close you tell your players to position themselves according to the player with possession and uses aggression and determination to regain possession of the ball.
High pressing is often used in any tiki taka possession tactic, but also for attacking tactics similar to how Bayern Munich plays. It aims to close down opponents quickly and let them have little time on ball. High pressing football can be achieved only by the formation (where I find 4-2-3-1 the best), or by setting the defensive line correct according to the opposition team - match analysis is needed.
The success of High pressing football is the only one which depends on how you setup opposition instructions as well. High pressing focuses mainly on protecting your defensive line by letting the first and second covering line do the dirty work (midfield and attacking line). Using a formation with at least 3 central midfielders will be necessary. Player roles such as ball winning midfielder, defensive midfielder support, regista, defensive winger and defensive forward is some recommended roles to use for high pressing football.
Preferred General Training Category: Tactics
High Pressing Team Instructions
High pressing football is also more of a phase rather than a distinctive playing style similar to the tiki taka or the anti-football utilized successfully by Egil Drillo Olsen and the Norwegian national team (in it's glory days)
High pressing can be used to win possession and is a great shout to use if you struggles to retain possession.
Playing Style 5 - Parking the bus / Anti-Football
Even the best teams must defend from time to time. Some teams are more often forced to it than others. The football playing style parking the bus is solely about defending rather than attacking. Players will look to defend in units with as few spaces to exploit as possible. As the opponent is often stronger than you, it forces your team to drop the defensive line all the way back to your own penalty area, so it's no space behind their defensive line to exploit. Parking the bus is often a case of letting players work in groups by marking the opponents key player or defend zones. The low defensive line and tactical approach is used to compensate for less speed in defensive line and less technical abilities in attacking line. As for any style of play it's about using your strength to combat specific weaknesses.
Since the team defend deep and are penned back to their own penalty area, due to their lack of technical abilities to play their way out of defence, the players are often forced to play long balls in order to counter the opposition. A long ball passing style is also a great option when facing opponents with stronger midfield than yours. Anti-football uses most often formations with a lone striker, such as 4-5-1, 5-4-1 or 4-2-3-1.
Advantages of Defensive football
By parking the bus, the opposition team may need to use extraordinary skills in order to get by your players. They may be forced to use crosses and long shots in order to get shots on target, as the penalty area is packed and space is tight. It may also be the only solution to counter specific key players or strength of the opposition team (such as strikers with raw speed and are excellent off the ball). By playing a defensive football you may increase your chances of saving a point rather loosing three. Parking the bus can be one way to recover physically, but is mentality more demanding.
Disadvantages of Defensive football
Your team may be so penned back that creating own chances is almost impossible. If players haven't the correct player attributes for this playing style and the mentality to handle that pressure over 90 minutes all those shots can quickly lead to leaking goals. Since your team plays solely according to the opposition team it may be difficult to adjust the mindset from defensive to attacking when it's needed. It will all come down to risk versus reward, as retreating to own area will definitely increase the chances of goals behind.
Preferred Match Mentality: Defend / Contain
Preferred Pitch Size for Defending Football Playing Style
Playing an defending tactic requires to decrease space in order to make it harder for the opposition team to penetrate your formation. Little space and deep defensive line will make sure there are few spaces between players for opponents to exploit. By playing with a very narrow width and short length (can also be long), the opposition team will need to use their extraordinary indivudal skills to get by your players. The strict shape and tactical intelligent of your formation and players will give the opposition team a hard time. The opponent will dominate possession, but it only requires one chance to score a goal!
Anti-Football - Required Player Attributes
Parking the bus is often called anti-football as it looks like your team isn't interesting to play a fluid exciting attacking football, which often is resembled with possession football and direct passing play used when counter attacking. Players are only looking to defend at all cost, which is reflected in the required player attributes for anti-football playing style.
Players required mostly marking, tackling and heading in all lines. For the lone striker up front he will require good first touch and long shots in order to support midfield and be a threat from his deep positioning. As long ball and very direct passing style is often preferred players need excellent passing and technique in order to deliver accurate distance passes.
Defending at all cost is very though mentality. The players must always be focused - one tiny mistake or one second of low concentration - may lead to goals behind. A good player for this style of play will most importantly have good positioning, team work, concentration and composure. This means that they should be tactical intelligent and disciplined - sticking to their own area, covering fellow teammates and acting as a unit.
A player for defensive football will most importantly require good strength. They may lack other physical attributes but have enough stamina and natural strength to work in the tiny space and support the striker when long balls have been launched. Since we look to play very direct passing play, the players will require good jumping reach and height in order to dominate all phases of play.
Player Roles and Preferred Moves for Anti-Football / Parking the bus
Below will we briefly look at some of the most suited player roles and the most beneficial preferred moves for each formational line when creating a football style similar to parking the bus.
Long Ball Passing Style
Counter-attacking football is much about playing direct. While the players in an counter-attacking playing style merely uses through balls with elements of more direct balls from defensive line to attacking midfielders or lone striker from time to time, playing a more long ball passing styles is often the only solution for a team who plays anti-football. Players will often have to clear the ball high up field as soon as they have regained possession of it. As the team defends deep, it will be necessary to have a lone striker who can hold up ball until the midfield supports him. The forward will require good height, jumping reach to compete in aerial situations and good first touch in order to get control of the direct ball and feed it to supporting midfielders. The long ball will be the solution to how you can move your team up - push out your defensive line from the penalty area and recover from extensive pressure (both mentality and physically).
This passing play should only be used for stretched formations where the team defends deep and the striker positioned near the half way line.
Parking the Bus Team Instructions w/ Long Ball Shout
Up to now have we looked at what's required of the players in order to utilize a defensive approach that "parking the bus" is. Re-creating this football style focus more on keeping defensive shape and don't take any risks rather than expressive football.
As an important tool to be an attacking threat long balls is often used.
In our shout to playing defensive football we have not selected crossing type, but floating crosses should be used if having a tall and rather slow forward with good off the ball and anticipation.
Note that the crosser should have good crossing and anticipation in order to see the forward running into position.
Preferred General Training Category: Tactics + Defending
Formations used in this article shows player positions and ideas rather than fully working tactics with compatible player roles. Some player roles might not work with eachother - this has not been tested when writing this guide.
Adapt Match Tactics by Pre-determined Shouts - Presets
The match situations will be different for every match. No opponents are similar and no opponents will play the same style of play against you. Below will we quickly go through some favorable shouts to use according to different match situations, which can be used together with your preferred team instructions. Some of them will change your preferred playing style entirely, while others may add a new element in your attacking build-up. Everyone will look to exploit specific weaknesses in the opponents formation and or playing style.
This preset is often used when opposition plays narrow (perhaps without wingers). There are huge spaces to exploit and will give you opportunities for more crosses or overlapping players - using that creative outlet to create more chances. This shout is preferable when opposition parks the bus and are playing a defensive patient play. The idea behind this shout is to narrow your formation so wingbacks or wingers gets more space to run into on the flanks. This shout is also favourable to use when your team is generally stronger than the opponents on the flanks.
Similar to the above shout, but opposite is the opportunity to exploit weaknesses in the middle. This shout can also be used if your team is stronger than the opposition team in midfield. Here you'll want to stretch the formation and create larger space between your player positions vertically.
Score A Goal
Chasing for a goal late in game often forces you to take some necessary actions. You might want to abandon your preferred playing style and try every required actions in order to get an equalizer. Un-locking a solid defense could be a problem. By taking more risks you can increase the propability of goals being scored. Here you will also make sure to analyze the match to see if you have better solutions such as playing with more depth, substitute a under-performing striker or add more players to the attacking line, or even simplier utilize crosses or direct passing style. Below is our FM14 shout score a goal which will make your players take more risks and be more unpredictable when attacking. When chasing a goal match mentality should be changed to attacking or overload.