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Tactical flexibility


Andre Villas Boas <3
Feb 24, 2009
Looking through this tactics sub-forum, all I see on here is ''United emulation'', ''Barca emulation tactic'' etc and it did get me wondering. Obviously for every team, you need to tweak your tactics based on the opposition you're playing. Some people just stick a tactic in, and hope it does the job against all types of opposition but some of us managers are really detailed in preparing for a game.

What I was interested in, you have your base tactic, for arguments sake we will say this is 4-2-3-1. Say one week you have Stoke away and the next you have Swansea away (The two teams chosen due to the massive difference in football styles), do you just use the same tactic for both games and hope for the best and make the opposition worry about your game, or do you actually go really in depth and analyse both clubs style of play, key players and then tweak tactics/mentality etc from there?

Random thread I know, I just thought it might throw up some interesting discussion in the tactics forum, other than ''How do I play like Barca?''



Well for me, during the 4-7 days I have before my next game, I usually do the following;

  • Have a meeting with the backroom staff, see what they have. Usually I will ignore it since some of them are irrelevant and just listen to things such as poor form and what PPM's should/should not be kept.

  • Change the Match Preparation, depending on the opponent. I read a guide not long ago about what Match Preparation you should deploy in terms of the team you are playing (so for example, if you are heavily against the odds/massively odds-on, tick Team Blend, since you have a 90% chance of winning). Then I see the scout report, and look at what he has said.

  • Go onto the opposing team's screen, analyse their squad and see who is injured, suspended, best and worst players. And, alongside that, use the scout report, to deter who will be a big threat and who will be a weak link. I then check the Tactics Screen to see what formation and who was played last. It gives me a generalised idea of what space I should be focusing on or opening up.

  • Lastly, I go onto the Information screen, and then check Facilities for the current size of their pitch. Usually it will be mentioned in the scout report, but not with much depth and need to see what the numbers are. So, for example, 110 x 68 means that it will be direct and a long pitch, put in a deep line so that their quicker players don't take advantage.

Once I've analysed the opposition, and it comes to match day, according to the odds I may have a chat with the players (i.e. from how they did in their last game). Then I just tweak the tactic slightly, not by formation, but just by the height of the defensive line, width and tempo of play.

Then look to the roles and see what would be beneficial. Ideally, if they have a threat in the centre for example, I will apply a Ball-Winning Midfielder to nullify their game and restrict them from gaining anything. Mostly after that it's just the case of tweaking the goalkeeper's distribution, passing of most players and their Creative Freedom, as well as menalities.

All in all - regardless of how successful the tactic is or who the opposition are, I almost always tweak the tactics to suit the game. It takes a little effort, but it's worthwile, especially when you win by a good margin.


Jul 19, 2010
I tweak my tactic depending on who I'm playing*, and what players I have available. I have a set formation (4-2-3-1) that I "change". I've played with two wingers and 1 AMC because the pitch was big, and played with 3 AMC's and no wingers because the pitch was small.

*Mostly the tweaks are from playing Swansea at home, then playing Real Madrid away. Unless pitch size, injuries or key opposing players, I won't tweak tactics for every single team.


Staff member
Feb 15, 2009
Yay, actually a tactical thread that i like!

I have a philosophy that i stick to, but i use shouts to adjust from side to side and within match to match, occaisonally i will change a role too. I also play with 2 formations (though i have a 3rd so i can have 3 mentalities).

As for emulating a side, My style emulates the current united side, though i have been playig this way since FM10.

This is why im glad scouting is getting overhauled for FM12 becase i pay attention to a side's strength and weaknesses


Shelbourne Researcher
Feb 14, 2010
I stick with the same tactic mainly but each role is tweaked to each player so I change roles if I make changes. I try to sign players that will fit into my tactic though. It has worked well for me and it doesnt look like letting up so I dont change. I tend to ignore the opposition scout reports these days as they never used to benefit me. Will try it out on the new FM and see what happens


I think what scares some FM players is the need to put in so much work, then, every game or so, make little tweaks. That tiring effort, then lose a game at some point, and then perhaps blame it on the AI/match engine/players/whatever makes them lose interest. They then go find a tactic on a forum that has large success and they pertain the idea that if it's so good, you don't really need to do much else other than choose the right players.

It loses the sense of being involved and giving that hands-on approach that, players such as myself, love. That's why you find "ultimate tactic" "unbeaten x games tactic" and what-not. Eight or nine times out of ten, you will not have to tweak it at all - stick the players in and watch.

Plug 'n play.


Feb 21, 2011
I am waiting for the new shout system, then I can easily change my approach to another with one shout.

In-game tweaks are also important. When you score your opponent will change to attacking, which also means that they press harder. At times like this, you should have another tactic you can change to so that you can deal with the problem.


Feb 19, 2011
I stick to the 4-5-1 generally, but in case I am struggling to break the opposition, what I usually do is shift to the 4-2-3-1 and press harder than ever so that I can force them to make a mistake or I can end up creating my own chances. Usually works well for me.

Also, tweaking depends on the team. The teams at the two extremes of a table don't need much tweaking. It's the teams in between which take a lot of time and effort because for example, Aston Villa playing Sunderland at Villa Park and at the Stadium of Light makes a huge difference. Home/Away, player form, injuries, players available, pitch size etc etc. all play a role in mid-table teams.

Also, I've noticed many say their team is suddenly undergoing a slump after a roaring season till then. Usually around Jan-Feb. Alternative tactics and lighter training method usually help.


Nov 18, 2008
I think you tactic flexibilty is very important I tend to pick 3 formations that are easy to tweak for example 4-2-3-1 you can have two dmc, two cms, left heavy, right heavy, three amcs (which seems popular) but I usually wait untill familiarity looks healthy then I start acting like a proactive manager planning before every game, try and use mind games which is hit and miss usually a miss for me. However my stragtegy stays the same possession (weak opposition) or counter style (strong opposition)


May 29, 2010
I've gone down the same road as a lot of people. Previous to 11.3, I could normally find one tactic that could just own and was "plug n play" (not downloaded mind). On 11.3 I passed about 10 saves before I had to change my ways - the Pc started to catch on to my master tactics accordingly and I started finding that my team just couldn't break down narrow formations.

Ever since I have used two very differeny formations which can still be used with the same first 11. As a result just before the match and after I click submit team, I see which formation to go for. Big big success has ensued.


Apr 9, 2011
It usually depends on the team I play with. With lesser teams I prefer to have different tactics for playing at home, away, weaker teams and all that. Usually those differ in formation too. Lately, however, I've been playing with ManU and - inspired by SFraser's threads on the SI forums - I've created a very free tactic, allowing the players to pretty much do whatever they see fit. Of course I do make changes in between matches, for example Rooney and Chicharito are different roles, but in the end playing a different player will bring the desired effect: Ryan Giggs and Nani will play a very different game with the same instructions, as will, say, Valencia and Piatti or Hargreaves and Scholes.

The great advantage is that this gives me great flexibility while it gets the best out of my players - if I'd specifically set up roles for certain players I doubt others would perform as well. Another advantage is that because I haven't manually changed any of the width, depth and tempo sliders I can use shouts to influence the whole team. While playing a weaker English side I might tell them to push higher up, hassle the opposition and exploit the middle, while in the midweek match against Roma's 4-3-1-2 I'll drop deeper, play narrower and look to hit them on the flanks.