Apart from the budding Andre Villas-Boas’ and Jose Mourinhos of the Football Manager 2012 world, with their own unshakeable philosophy and views, I presume there is a large number of players who create a different tactic for each team they play with. This can be an extremely daunting prospect for a lot of people, even if they have a great footballing knowledge, which most players do. The Tactics Creator has made it easier to make a logical, functional tactic that will allow you to overachieve as long as it is built on solid principles and is adapted to the team. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to create a tactic which works for your team – the way I like to do this is by using the team comparison feature.
I have written an article about the team comparison screen before, and how to use it to adapt to your opponents and pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses. It’s a thoroughly helpful and insightful screen which can also be used to plan signings and improvements and it is no less helpful when creating a tactic from scratch. By the way, if you don’t know how to get to this screen, you get there by going to your squad then clicking on Team Report and then the Team Comparison sub tab.
I’ll be using my 2015 Manchester United side for this example so we’re one of the best sides in the league but the theory applies to all clubs, whatever your level. It’s all about seeing which areas are your strongest and which are your weakest so you can exploit these to your own advantage and hopefully develop a fully fledged tactic – you will need to tweak as you play but you really can’t go wrong if you’re sensible!
I’d suggest choosing a formation before using this feature; select a formation which allows you to get the best out of your best players. Thiago, Wayne Rooney and Marek Hamsik are easily my best players – I like Thiago at AML cutting inside with his dribbling, Hamsik at AMC and Rooney up front so 4-2-3-1 strikes me as a solid choice, especially considering we’re a top team. Clearly, if accommodating my best players would’ve indicated a 5-4-1, I’d have to reconsider because 5-4-1 would probably be too conservative to break down small teams like Bolton or Norwich.
The All Positions tab shows general stats about the whole of your team and can be used as an indicator of your team’s quality (though some are less important). Here’s mine, and some possible conclusions I can take from it:
Some of these attributes demonstrate a side’s quality better than others, as you may notice: Stoke are the most aggressive team in the league but they are by no means the best team, it’s just merely a by-product of their style. I tend to look at Decisions, Passing, Strength and Work Rate here as they can really help you decide on a few things. My team is close to being the best decision-makers and passers in the league meaning it would probably be beneficial to set Creative Freedom to More Expressive; if they have the intelligence to make their own mind up then who am I to restrict them? I’d probably set passing to More Direct because my players have the ability to find long passes and through balls, which are often a better option than tip-tapping around Stoke’s penalty area. With their Creative Freedom high they won’t always play direct and have the freedom to ignore this if they think it’s right. We’re also the leading team for Work Rate, suggesting a possibility to Press More but we’ll have to wait and see the other tabs to see if this is a viable option.
Weakness wise (heh!), we’re only the 6th strongest team in the league but this isn’t too bad. We’re hardly weaklings, but I probably wouldn’t go for man-marking, especially considering our poor-ish Aggression. Don’t take much notice of the others, since they’re too general or irrelevant to make decisions upon, unless you spot something surprising or worrying.
What we can take from the goalkeepers tab is that David de Gea is a LAD. Seriously though, this tab shows that we’ve got no goalkeeper worries. He’s solid in each area but especially helpful are Throwing, Reflexes and One on Ones; the former means that we can certainly encourage him to throw the ball out rather than the generally preferred Defender Collect, enabling us to launch quick counter attacks a la Schmeichel; the latter two are areas where de Gea excels, showing that it would be better to play a high line than a deep one. He is comparatively weak aerially and we’d be safer forcing opponents to find a way over our defence than around it.
The defence tab is incredibly important to a number of the tactic instructions. What you can gather from this tab should affect your starting strategy, closing down, marking and defensive line; my defence looks pretty weak from this screen but this is merely a result of the young age of my defence (the average age is 22.5 years old). A key point to note is that it takes an average of ALL your first team defenders so remember this when one of the attributes makes no sense.
My defence is clearly very fast but not so good aerially so I’d probably go for a high line. I still might be exposed by balls over the top but remembering my team have high Work Rate, I’d expect us to close down the opposition before they can contemplate playing glory balls over the top. It’s certainly a safer strategy than sitting deep because my goalkeeper is weak aerially and I clearly can’t trust my defenders to win the ball from crosses. By no means do I have two John Terrys in my defence.
Their other weaknesses are marking, tackling and strength but they are not worryingly bad, with marking being only 1 point lower than the top team, and strength being just 0.7 lower than Liverpool’s. They are, however, certainly not title-winning quality so I’d definitely consider zonal marking rather than man marking; I can’t imagine my defenders having the ability to tightly mark a Yakubu type player out of the game and instead would be better in a zonal system.
I have 21 midfielders in my first team, since I’ve got a number of youngsters who often feature on the bench and come on in the last few minutes for a bit of experience. This data isn’t particularly reliable, then, but it can still show some general trends. We’re not the best team in the league for any attributes here but we excel at Passing, Stamina, Tackling, Technique and Decisions; this indicates to me that we could have a split midfield combination of a passer and destroyer behind Hamsik at AMC. It’s good to see that we have good Stamina, Decisions and Passing here too, which confirms my previous speculation about a Pressing closing down system, Direct pressing and Expressive creative freedom. No real weaknesses either.
Probably our best position as we have phenomenal ratings in some attributes. We are the best finishers, headers (or headerers?) and have the most intelligent movement in the league. Even our worst attribute, Pace, is 14.33, which is probably faster than 60% of defences at this level. We can do whatever we want with an attack like this, it’s probably worth over £100m in value and we have a great deal of freedom – because of the relatively low pace of our best striker, Wayne Rooney, I’d probably opt for a Deep Lying Forward up front which will allow him to roam and move where he wants. Our heading rating will be hard to take advantage of because we don’t have traditional wingers but we could perhaps consider attacking full-backs to overlap. Don’t hesitate to take a closer look at each part of your team on the squad screen to see their strengths beyond those shown on these tabs – a quick check of my full-backs shows that mine have brilliant stamina, decent crossing and good enough mental attributes to allow them to get forward at the right time.
It is only you who can interpret this information as it’s only you that knows your team well enough to say whether these ratings speak the truth (based on your experience of watching matches) or whether they are skewed by an extraordinary player. I came up with this:
Philosophy: Balanced is always a safe option – I don’t feel the need to go fluid since I have Expressive Creative Freedom and I’ve got roles that encourage roaming and freedom anyway.
Strategy: Attacking would be a bit too aggressive for such a weak, young defence. I don’t want to leave them exposed and would prefer a bit more caution.
Passing: We are brilliant passers and as a general rule, better passers should be allowed more direct passing. From my view, what’s the need to restrict good passers by forcing them to play it short? I’d be better off allowing them to hit it forward as soon as they need to, or as soon as they see the opportunity to. The movement of my front players should encourage them to play speedily and urgently.
Creative Freedom: restricting my players would be a terrible idea. They are intelligent decision makers so I’ll give them leeway in their instructions and allow them to use their brains.
Closing Down: good Work Rate and Stamina and pacey defenders allow me to compress the space for my opponents and win the ball early. We’ll be able to stop good teams playing and scare bad teams into submission.
Tackling: as already seen, we haven’t got the aggression and strength to get away with an aggressive style. We don’t really need it anyway – I expect to make most of our turnovers through interceptions.
Marking: we have pace and anticipation rather than strength and tackling, meaning we’ll be better suited to a zonal system; there’ll be less man-on-man battles and more interceptions. Suits us perfectly.
Crossing: good movement up front means we’ll hopefully be able to score a few goals from crosses if we play the ball quickly enough. I trust our heading and finishing ability equally so I’ll leave the choice up to the crosser.
Roaming: the roaming instructions remain the same regardless of whether I change this. I would change the ST and AMC to roam as they’re not by default for some reason. Make sure you check the roaming for some positions – you may be surprised that some are set to roam by default and some are not.
The rest of the instructions I’m happy to leave to their default. I might tweak them a tad if I’m not happy with what I see in the first few matches but generally they look fine. We have the speed at the back to cope with high width and defensive line, and the width were definitely help to create space for our best players as mentioned earlier. A quick tempo will also be fine for good decision-makers like my players, allowing them to exploit their quick thinking and show up lesser teams who might take a split second longer. I like to keep passing set to mixed so I can change based on opposition; Counter Attack is not really suitable and the Offside Trap requires clever defenders that we don’t quite have yet.
I’m sure (and hoping) someone will disagree with my choices here but I’ve based every single one on my own experience with FM and the information from that team comparison screen. This is the route I take when making a tactic but you can obviously take your own, maybe hammering your players into your own philosophy or being reactive. Whichever you take though, these principles hold strong and I’d at least analyse my squad in some capacity.
Please feel free to add your comments on here or on Twitter (@PushThemWide) and offer your views, whether the same or different. Any other feedback or suggestions are welcome too, and we’re always happy to chat about FM on Twitter. Cheers.