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Tactical guides FM21

How to improve your tactics

Lazy Nov 9, 2020 Last modified: 24 Nov 17,743 views

This guide will give you tips on how to spot flaws in your tactics and fix them.

This article is for those who like to build their own tactics, but don’t have a clue on what to do when their tactical choices won’t seem to work. We will teach you how you could be improving tactics. But before we begin we would like to emphasize that there is no such thing as the perfect tactic. Every squad and every match is different.

Would you like to learn how to create a basic tactic? Check out our special guide.

Use a notepad

Seems like a logical and maybe a bit too easy. But trust me, using a notepad can seriously help you to improve your tactics. This will not only allow you to draw your tactical ideas, but also write down important situations during games. You can use these scribbles to alter your tactic later on.

During a game a lot will happen on the pitch and you will be remembering some stuff. But we can all agree that you will forget most of it. Using a notepad could make it easier to keep track of your tactics. If you don’t like using a notepad, you can always use excel or word to keep track.

Observe the match engine

First thing you will need to do is to learn how the Match Engine (or ME) reacts in of your version of Football Manager. Just set up a new game, choose a side like FC Barcelona or FC Bayern, have your assistant manager pick the players and play a few games. That way you can easily spot some patterns in the ME. For example Football Manager 2016 had a lot of goals scored from crosses because the full backs tend to cut inside when defending, leaving too much space for wingers/wide players.

Knowing these situations when building a tactic, could change your choices.

Use the 2D match engine

The 3D view in Football Manager is a great addition to the game, but to spot tactical flaws has been made a lot more difficult. When you try to build your tactic, use the 2D Match Engine. This has a great top view of the pitch, showing every player who is on there. Using the 2D engine will allow you to closely watch how players react when they have the ball, and how they react without the ball.

Don't use instructions

Worry about the correct formation and the correct Player Roles first. Tweaking team & player Instructions is something you have to check and adjust later on after you have played a couple of matches.


Don’t create a formation based on your own ideas from the start, but create one that matches the available players in your squad. It is nice and all that you want to play in an attacking 4-3-3 formation, but if you do not have the players for that formation, you can’t expect to win a lot of matches. Your first formation should always be based on the available players. You can create a second of third formation based on your own ideas (you can buy players for that in later stages of the game off course).

Player roles

What ever you do; do not trust your assistant manager when assigning the specific Player Roles. There is a tool in FM that u can use to View the needed attributes for each specific role. Check every players’ profile to check the roles that suit their attributes. The level of the club you are managing will determine to minimal demands for each and every attribute. Ideally the attributes should all be at least 15 or higher.

When you are picking player roles, you will have to consider your team shape. Your Team shape is one of the most important aspects of creating a good tactic in FM. Setting up Player Roles will have effect your Team shape when you have the ball, but also effect your Team shape when you do not have the ball. So keep in mind that roles will have to be complementary to each other.

In an example: If you play a Complete Wingback on the left side, you can’t play a Left Winger as well. These two will move in each others way, giving your opposition the opportunity to get an advantage. So when you play a Complete Wingback, make sure you either play an Inside Forward, or no player on the left wing at all.

Player instructions

If you ask too much of a player, your team performance will suffer. If a player is lacking qualities for an instruction, just do not use it! Instead; try to work around that instruction by either other instructions or even give the player a different role. When you are evaluating your tactic (by using stats, see the next tip), you will quickly see who is messing up and who’s instructions you either have to alter or someones role you will have to change.

Use statistics

After you have played 4-5 matches during the preseason, use statistics to find flaws in your tactic. Football Manager uses a lot of different stats, which can be used to tweak your tactics. By using statistics you can see:

  • who loses the most balls or misplaces the most passes
  • which players delivers the most crosses? Is this the player you want to cross the balls?

By using statistics like this you will be able to pinpoint the problem much more easier. Because after you have found out which player loses the most balls, you can ask the next question: why is he losing the ball? Is it because he doesn’t have any options? Or is it because he is playing a role that does not suit his abilities?

Need assistance on analyzing statistics? Sign a Data Analyst.


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