Inside Forwards as Wide Midfielders by Foxo

This post is written by Foxo from The Away Stand. There’s a number of similarly great articles on TAS so go and check them out!

If I were to say to you, have you ever thought about having your highest mentality player in midfield, you’d never have thought about it would you? We all know, or should do after the exploits of FM11, how effective inside forwards can be in an advanced winger role, even on the default “role” settings.

However what happens when you take a winger who would make a great inside forward, put him back to ML or MR and turn his mentality right up, while putting the inside forward settings on through player instructions? Well you’ll just have to read on and find out.

Let’s give our ML/MR a role of wide midfielder. This is entirely academic as almost all the instructions are now going to be changed. The inside forward settings at AML I use look like this and transposed onto the MR winger you get these settings, as you can see a lot of box clicking and adjusting sliders, but you’ll notice one key difference. The mentality of the inside forward has been put right up to maximum.

This however means that the player you do this with has to have a few key attributes. Usually when you’re looking for a player you look for either Off the Ball or Positioning. In this case, I want to look for both, in addition to stamina. That makes two former players of a particular English club very very good at doing this role. They are Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez, formerly of Liverpool. On this game they are at Liverpool, so I am going to play the same 5 games twice. In the first instance, Kuyt will play AMR and Rodriguez AML, both on default inside forward settings (minus the long shots, in a simple 4-2-3-1 formation, as is often seen on FM these days. In the second instance, I am going to play Kuyt at MR, and Rodriguez at ML, with altered mentality and inside forward settings. This will be with a formation of 4-4-1-1, in a bid to minimise any possible differences, no other roles will be changed or altered, nor any players changed except in case of injury.

The 5 games are the opening 4 games of the Premier League season and the League Cup. They are widely varied and some quite tough, starting with QPR at home, then Scunthorpe away, Chelsea at home, Newcastle away and finishing with Bolton away.

In the first instance we will look just at results, an on the surface analysis, by which we can tell that the 4-2-3-1 results are far worse than the 4-4-1-1 results.  The Chelsea result in particular stands out in the 4-4-1-1 results.

4-2-3-1 results 

4-4-1-1 results

Average positions are a key factor in the difference of success of the formations. In the more attacking variant, Lucas is the main difference. Playing at BWM on the left of midfield, the lack of defensive capability of attacking wingers, means that he drops deeper than Adam, who also has to drop deeper, who he is meant to be playing alongside. This is what caused two of QPR’s goals and Chelsea’s winner. The defence also has to drop deeper than the settings want it to, as is indicated by the defensive variant.

Attacking Variant Average Positions

However, when the wingers are brought back into the defensive variant, Lucas has a more advanced role, alongside Charlie Adam, both on the attacking side of halfway. Conversely, this has impacts on other areas of the team. The defence pushes up as the instructions state, and Suarez resumes a more central role, not having to cover for Lucas.

Defensive Variant Average Positions

Both Suarez and Carroll failed to score in the attacking variant, as so much focus was on the two advanced wingers. Suarez had a poor 5 games, and Carroll had an even poorer 5 games. What the defensive variant achieves is a more solid team unit. It is best seen using these tables here, with the centre backs left out as they are unaffected mostly by the changes.

With the 4-2-3-1 it is apparent that both Maxi and Kuyt are the key players, but overall the ratings are poor, (Maxi’s is boosted by a hat trick v Scunthorpe). The pass ratios are better though with the 4-2-3-1 than with the 4-4-1-1, however the difference in the effect on Suarez and Carroll is marked.  Both, along with Kuyt and Maxi, score and assist plenty, with Lucas now involved in the attack. The wingers cover more distance than previously, and their lower average position increases defensive stability shown by less goals conceded.

Attacking (4-2-3-1) stats

Defensive (4-4-1-1) stats 

Overall, this is just a first attempt at showing this using real life players. I use it on my 2020 save with newgens, and it works a treat. It goes to show that the base formation does not have to be attacking, to give an attacking edge to the game, it is perfectly possible using instructions.  You won’t have two massively stand out players on the wing, but your attacking unit will all contribute nicely, while your defence will be under less pressure.

5 comments on “Inside Forwards as Wide Midfielders by Foxo

  1. It’s an interesting idea. I play with a 4-2-3-1 with two inside forwards, and sometimes feel that the striker — an attacking DLF — probably doesn’t get as many goals as he could, although the attacking AP that sits behind him scores well. Couple of questions though:

    1) I noticed that your “wide midfielders” don’t Cut Inside. Why’s this?

    2) How does possession compare between the two tactics? I try to play extremely possessive football, and while I’ve not properly compared the means, it seems that in the defensive variant passing accuracy decreases and there’s ever-so-slightly more dribbling (except for the wingers). Neither of which are great if I want them to pass the ball around.

    • Hey, thanks for noticing that, that’s actually a mistake on the screenshot, they were cutting inside! Must have screenshotted it prior to ticking that box, apologies.

      In answer to your second question, the possession is an average of 2.4% less. Thats 56.6% for the attacking 4-2-3-1 and 54.2% for the defensive 4-4-1-1. I didn’t really notice the increase in dribbling in the match engine, but given the small difference that’s maybe not surprising. I think FM is a little subjective on what it considers to be a “dribble” worthy of counting. As for the pass completion percentage, I think that could be tweaked by using individual sliders on the players with the lower pass completion that you could possible affect. Obviously with the lone striker you’d expect Carroll’s to drop without two ever present wingers behind him, I think the key issue with the passing is the wide midfielders and the AMC, maybe lengthening the passing of these (especially with a target man up top) would increase the percentage. Currently they are happy to play on the ground through balls to Carroll, which obviously isn’t his strongest trait, but works over shorter distances.


  2. Great post. I am going to experiment with this in my counter attacking Deep 4-2-3-1 … one question though – can you explain the logic behind moving the wingers deeper?

  3. Infact, interestingly I have had a lot of success playing a 4-2-3-1 where the ‘2’ are DMCs. Aaron Ramsey (retrained) plays as the DMCr as a Deep Lying Playmaker (Support) and set as the team’s playmaker. The only tweak is that he has maximum mentality, to encourage him to launch ambitious counter attacks quickly. Ramsey’s form has transformed my team and he won European Player of the Year in 2014.

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