Setting Up Tactics for Lower League Clubs

Van Der Berg

Nov 22, 2022
Reaction score
I am a (relative) newbie to the FM series, having played it previously in the time of Championship Manager, back when the game was far less complicated.

I am struggling heavily with managing lower league clubs (something I always loved doing). I think that most of my woes come from my ineptness to come up with an appropriate tactics for my team. I find most of the tactics guides pretty unhelpful, as they quite often tell you 'use this excellent 5-3-2 WB tactics (or similar), for which you need the following type of players...'. Pretty much all of them go top-down, by selecting the tactics and the roles and then telling you what players to fit in. What I want to do is more bottom-up, since in lower division clubs I don't have the luxury to buy/bring players I need. So, I want to devise a tactics which will be most suitable for the players I have. But whatever tactics I choose, it doesn't seem to work and I am playing sub-par.

Case in point: I am in the second season in English Vanarama North with St Albans. The first season was mediocre, I manage to finish mid-table (just about), which is what was expected of me. In the second season, I made many changes in my team, so the team I ended up with had the following composition. The best player in the team is an attacking midfielder (enganche the preferred role, but good in others too). I have a good striker too (poacher) and two solid CMs (advanced playmaker and bbm/bwm). All quite fast and decent in vision and passing. I also have very good central backs. My wingers are mediocre at best, and DR/DL pretty bad, especially offensively. No winger/DR/DL is any good in crossing. So, I figured out that Wing Play is out of question and that my best bet would be playing something like fluid counter attack, focusing on passing through the middle, fast pace (to exploit the pace of my players), work the ball into box (to exploit good passing). Also, low crosses (as my striker isn't particularly physical or good in jumping/heading) and counter-pressing. So, I set my tactics to be 4-2-3-1 (2 CMs, AML, AMC, AMR), with my attacker being a poacher, midfielders being BWM, AP and Enganche. I set short passing. I also set my whole defensive line to be...defensive and not run forward, as they are all pretty bad in that. The result of this was...that I lost all of the pre-season games (literally, all of them, every single one) and made a terrible start in the season. I don't create chances, I don't score, I don't have good posession and am conceding goals left and right. So, something is obviously very wrong...
So, my questions are

1. How do you choose a tactics based on the players you have and how do you set the team/individual instructions? How do you even start with this? Like, for some instructions I think it is intuitively obvious what players you need for them (e.g. to use low crosses for a fast striker not good in heading/jumping, focus attacks through the middle if you are good in the center). But others, like height of the pressing and engagement line, short/direct passing, tempo etc etc, I have no clue where to even begin with. Not to even mention more complicated individual instructions.

2. How to you know which instructions are good for the tactics you use (e.g. if you have a player suitable for some individual instructions which are a terrible match for the overall tactics you use).

3. Is there any detailed guide anywhere for this?

4. Is there any detailed guide for the roles anywhere? The game descriptions are pretty useless. And again, how do you know which roles are suitable for the tactics/instructions you use?

5. How do you 'debug' your tactics? I.e. when you set a tactics and you expect it to work, and then you aren't creating chances, aren't getting shots at the goal, of the few shots you have a very small percentage is in the target etc... how do you pinpoint the part of your tactics that is wrong? What (of the plethora available) data you use for this? For example, how do you know what kind of crosses to put, what kind of passing to use, whether your pressing is working...

And apologies for a very long post.