FM20 FM20: Tactical Styles

Not all managers are tactical masterminds. Luckily, Football Manager helps those managers out that can't spend the time building their own tactical. Tactical styles are templates that give you a head start and a visual 2D representation of how it will play out, from Tiki-Taka to Parking the Bus. Equally, veteran players can tinker their tactics as much as ever to create the style they desire.

Control Possession

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If you want to control possession and patiently wait for an opportunity to penetrate the opposition’s defence, you’re going to need to play a high line with a fluid formation. In other words, your side will be comfortable adapting their position depending on the situation. This high press, the high-intensity style will be tiring, but it’ll be harder for the other team to charge you down consistently for 90 minutes.

Suggested formations:

  • 4-2-3-1 Wide
  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 5-2-2-1 WB
"A tactic that focuses on retaining possession and pressing high to win the ball back. Looks to play out of defence and create chances through patient, short-passing build-up play."
Gegenpress


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Popularised by the Liverpool boss, Jürgen Klopp, the Gegenpress is another positive tactical philosophy that will test your club’s training regimen. This style is all about harassing the other team in their own half, ruthlessly pressing loose balls. Gegenpress can leave you vulnerable at the back, however, so you’ll have to place considerable trust in your team’s pace, stamina, and ball retention.

Suggested formations:

  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-2-3-1 Wide
  • 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow
"Gegenpressing relies on every player in the team working hard and, above all else, being fit and mobile enough to press the opposition immediately after losing the ball."
Tiki-Taka

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An attacking and positive strategy, Tiki-Taka places on emphasis on short, rapid passing and a high defensive line. Possession should rarely be relinquished and it’s unlikely your every player will have more than a couple of touches of the ball before releasing. A style popularised by Pep Guardiola, it relies on players being patient on the ball to build-up play from the back.

Suggested formations:

  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-2-3-1 Wide
  • 5-2-2-1 WB
"Tiki-Taka places the emphasis on the short passing, extreme pressing and movement, waiting for space to open up as opponents lose focus. An extreme variant of the Control Possession style."
Vertical Tiki-Taka

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Vertical Tiki-Taka is more direct than its tactical sibling made famous by the Spanish national team. The key difference is a focus more on direct penetration than patient side-to-side passing. Effectively both this and the more traditional version of this tactic are more focused versions of the Control Possession style.

Suggested formations:

  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow
  • 5-2-1-2 WB
"A quick passing style of possession and movement, with a narrower, more direct approach than the standard Tiki-Taka."
Wing Play

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Wing Play features a focus on width as the ball is spread as quickly as possible to the touchline, with full-backs busting a gut to overlap and offer an offensive outlet. Pacey wingers that can offer a handy ball into the box are just as essential as the tall strikers capable of converting them.

Suggested formations:

  • 4-4-2
  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-2-4 Wide
"Players will look to get the ball out wide as early as possible, while full-backs will look to overlap and exploit the wide areas. Once the ball is out wide, the main focus will be to cross the ball into the box"
Route One

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In the lower leagues or as an under-the-cosh away side this can be a useful counter-attacking style. Just soak up opposition pressure and play a lofty ball right where it hurts. Fast and patient forwards are recommended. If you’re managing a club battling it out amid the highest echelons of the game with fans paying through-the-nose to see their team, play this tactical style and you should expect a revolt.

Suggested formations:

  • 4-4-2
  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-4-1-1
"The aim is to try to play the furthest forward pass available, with the intent to penetrate the opposition's penalty area as early as possible."
Fluid Counter-Attack

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You’ll be inviting pressure from the other team in your half when it comes to the Fluid Counter-Attack tactic. Once the opposition has over-committed your midfielders and forwards will be looking for gaps and vulnerabilities quickly. In layman’s terms: your side will be less inclined to stick rigidly to their position in their mad dash to get forward.

Suggested formations:

  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-4-1-1
  • 5-3-2 WB
"Looks to draw the opposition forward to leave them vulnerable on the break. Players will be fluid on the counter, trying to combine with each other and carry the ball with clear intent."
Direct Counter-Attack

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The crucial difference between this and the former style is the strategy with which your first XI counters. Here the attacking passing is more direct and structured, which is something your players will need to know inside out from training.

Suggested formations:


  • 4-4-2
  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-4-1-1
"Draws the opposition forward to leave them vulnerable on the break. Players will look to move the ball forward as quickly as possible on the counter-attack to exploit spaces in behind."
Catenaccio

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The Catenaccio style relies on an airtight defence to frustrate enemy attacks. Your team will need to move as a solid, impregnable unit, so your side will have to boast strong communication and defensive skill. Catenaccio translates as ‘door-bolt’ from the Italian, which gives you a pretty good idea of what this tactical style is all about.

Suggested formations:

  • 5-3-2 WB
  • 5-1-2-2 DM WB
  • 5-4-1 WB Wide
"A defence-focused style that primarily looks to deny the opposition goalscoring opportunities. A Libero is traditionally deployed to offer cover behind the defensive line."
Park The Bus

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Used often as a pejorative term, Parking the Bus is the philosophy of the footballing philistine; it’s for teams that are well aware their chances of victory are slim. With a backline so far back it'll look like a wall for the opposition, your players will be looking to waste time at any opportunity, slow the pace of the game to a standstill, and disrupt the opposition’s flow.

Suggested formations:

  • 4-4-2
  • 4-1-4-1 DM
  • 4-2-3-1 DM
"Players will look to get behind the ball and protect their defensive third, focusing more on the clean sheet than on possession."
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