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The 2-6-2 Framework. An Approach To Creating Tactics In FM08. - PART II -


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The 2-6-2 Framework. An Approach To Creating Tactics In FM 08.

Part II -- The Rise Of The Flat

For all that have read the first part of the 2-6-2 idea, welcome back. For all that have not, please refer to my first post on this framework as the basic set-up and priciples are described there. Some of the explanations and thoughts behind it will be repeated in this part. But to get the whole thing, a look at the initial post might be helpful.

Before I start, I apologize for being even (muuuch) longer than in the first thread. But I hope it is worth a read. I did some research on how the 4-4-2 is played today. You will find some well-known details put into new perspectives. You may get some new insights into the 4-4-2. At least I did while looking at it more closely...

// The initiating event

My basic idea was to use some current football tactics and strategies in real life and try to translate them into the game. Foremost the so called team defense, in which the whole team is responsible for defending as well as for attacking, and the pressure-cover-balance positioning within that.

The aim was to build a possession based system, tight at the back, using fullbacks as strong build-up players for the attack, supporting good passing and interaction in the midfield and producing chances upfront.

The excerpts from real life have in the first part led to a sum of settings and instructions that developed into a 4-4-2 diamond formation (or 4-1-2-1-2) with mixed passing and a split mentality system with

- 2 DCs fixed on defensive mentality

- 6 players (FBs and midfielders)on variable team mentality

- 2 FCs on fixed reasonable attacking

I was surprised and glad at the same time to get that much of a feedback and at this point I would like to thank all that have tried, used and tweaked this set-up. And even more so, thanks to all those who came up with ideas on how to improve it. Some ideas have made their way into this threat. icon14.gif

// The complication

After publishing the first thread some questions came up, which I would like to answer.

#1. Is this a „super-tactic“?

No, it’s not. And most likely there isn’t any for FM2008. There are several approaches on how to build tactics for the game - and they all seem to work at least to some extent. The 2-6-2 is an idea on how to set up a mentality framework within the team, combined with some logical thoughts about the individual and team instructions that should compliment it. The idea is based on current thinking and observations from real life and tries to translate these advantages into the game. Nevertheless is it possible that it also translates one or the other disadvantage into the game. This might be due to the fact that the game is still game and running on certain parameters. Or that in real life „the“ perfect tactic has not been found yet. Or is it just Murphy’s Law...?

#2. Is this working for every team?

To be honest - I don’t know. The teams I have played with used it successfully, ranging from medium-low first division teams to world-class sites. Others reported great success, too, also with lower league teams. Some had problems with the stability of the defensive line (especially when using slow defenders) or the effectivity of the attackers. Fact is, this framework cannot win every game all by itself, but it can improve the teams performance on the pitch. It cannot enhance the quality of players, but it can help to improve their performance within the system.

But if the system does not match the players it will get difficult. So whichever team you are playing, you need to tweak the settings according to your players and teams attributes, qualities and even your preferred style of play. Again - just as in real life. Just take a look at three of the big four in Premier League. Arsenal, Liverpool and ManUtd all play or played a 4-4-2. But all three teams interpreted it in a completely different way. All with great success at some point.

Same with the 2-6-2. Sometimes you may transform it into a 3-5-2 frame with the DMC/MCd on the same defensive mentality as the DCs, or change the settings for closing-down, zonal-/man-marking and creative freedom to name a few. I strongly recommend a read of wwfans „Tactical Thoerems and Frameworks '08“ icon14.gif , which elaborates on almost all aspects of the possible settings and combinations. With all that in mind, I believe it is possible to make the 2-6-2 framework work successfully for lots of teams. But please - don’t see it as a straightjacket.

#3. Does this work with 8.0.2?

Yes it does. The part 2 setup was tested on 8.0.1 first and after the patch optimized with 8.0.2.

I have also restarted a game with diamond formation and the new update. A revised tactics set with improved settings, further tweaks and explanations is available in the 2-6-2 part 1 thread (page 5). Experience from my testing is that the influences from the patch compliment the 2-6-2 framework very well. - Apart from that I have to say that I think this improved match engine is one of the best the game ever had yet. The development and testing team has done a really good job!

#4. Now the last and most important question (again with regards to wwfan): Does this work for a 4-4-2 with a flat midfield?

The flat 4-4-2 is said to be the biggest challenge in FM. And there are several reasons for that:

1. The formation uses only three strata/zones, while others use multiple ones and therefore have a better positioning on and coverage of the pitch.

2. The three strata build-up makes it more difficult to move from zone to zone on the pitch.

3. Having less contact with the opponents, the team needs better organization - meaning mental stats - in the game.

4. When in possession it is more difficult to form triangles between players as from the first picture they are positioned in line. So the build-up will be elaborate but slower.

5. The gap between the defensive and midfield line is larger than in formations using a DMC and might be exploited more easily.

6. Lots of teams use the 4-4-2 as a standard formation, so countering it with the same set-up makes it more difficult to find spaces to exploit.

So far nothing new for an experienced FM gamer. But now let’s take this challenge and see if and how the 2-6-2 framework compares to the basic principles of a modern flat 4-4-2.

// The peripety

So are you ready for a change in perception? Here is a look at the strenghts of the 4-4-2:

1. It offers good balance, giving the team width and depth at the same time.

2. It encourages players to work in pairs in certain areas of the field (FBr + MR, MCa + Mcd etc.).

3. When defending, only the strikers can be outnumbered, as the other zones are equal or more in players.

4. The load of work is lighter, because the players are not placed on the field in relation to their opponents but in relation to the ball.

5. If well-organized, the formation is much more compact (a rule of thumb says, the distance between the deepest defender and the most forward striker should never be more than 35-40 yards). With the 3 sections playing short(er) and close together, the opposition has less space to play in - thus it will be easier to regain possession.

6. The reduced spaces between players allow for an attractive midfield game with lots of variations, beautiful (short) passes and quick, flexible shifts from attack to defense and back again.

7. Defensively the 4-4-2 is usually organized by zonal marking, which assures cover of all areas on the teams own half of the pitch. (Although this very much depends on the quality of the players.)

8. The presence of four players in defense and four in midfield enables the team to cover the entire width of the game.

=> Taking an overall look at the 2-6-2 framework it should support the flat 4-4-2 well. The six players set to the same (team) mentality keep the formation tight. The midfielders can play close together, the FBs move closer to the midfielders and form pairs or even triangles at the sides (see picture below).

On the other hand, the assumption that the 4-4-2 lacks compactness in defense could be critical. A compact defense is the foundation of effective football. So to sort things out, we should take a look at the defensive philosophy of the 4-4-2 as described in lots of sources.

The defensive line in a flat 4-4-2 usually plays without a sweeper, but with four defenders in line. But not excessively, as the DCs play in a withdrawn position compared to the FBs. This semi-circle position is fundamental, because it opens passing options to the FBs when pressured by the opposition.



That is similar to a style the AI uses, when attacking with a 4-4-2 as I observed.


=>Setting both DCs to a fixed defensive mentality and keeping them in the back should work with a flat 4-4-2.

Today, most teams use a ball oriented and active approach when defending, trying to stay as compact as possible.

When playing ball oriented, the whole defensive line shifts to the opponent with the ball. When the opponent reaches the zone of one defender, the closest defender moves forward and quickly disrupts the attack. He tries to pressure the ball and to disturb the player with the ball and/or cuts off passing lanes. The next defender (at times two) covers him, the others provide balance. The areas of the defenders overlap. The FBs can shift almost to a DC position, depending on the position of the opponent in possesion.


The aim is to create numerical superiority around the ball and to make the playing area smaller (closing down), lowering the danger of loosing a 1:1. Together with the midfielders tracking back, the defenders try to surround the player with the ball so that he cannot pass on and loses the ball. Winning the ball then results in a quick shift from defensive to offensive play, often with the FBs pushing up the wings.


In other words: When playing ball oriented, you should make fewer useless efforts to tackle or grab the ball, but instead let the opponent do the runs - while you defend towards the ball.

=> Although some parts of this movement can be simulated with appropriate settings, a complete ball orientation is almost impossible to set up in the game. The players are based on certain positions on the field and more or less stick to them within a certain area. Trying to make them do lateral shifts to the ball is only possible within this area. And rising the closing-down to very high does not make sense at all. So this is the maximum to achieve.

Now comes the crucial part: The closer the defenders are to the ball, the tighter the marking. Close to the ball, the marking is NOT zonal (as „zonal marking“ indicates), but an aggressive man-marking, one-on-one or sometimes even one-on-two! If, for example, an attacker comes close to the penalty area, he needs to be pressured closely and man-to-man. But the larger the distance to the ball, the more the players cover zones.

=> If this behaviour could be translated into the game, we would have the chance to make the defense much more solid. So the question is how to set it up, that the defenders use the zonal defense but man-mark tightly when close to the ball without being drawn out of position?

The answer lies in the running paths of the opponent. When using a setup with offensive minded FBs, we have a huge advantage when attacking, as we have numerical superiority on the wings. But at the same time invite the opposition to play through the middle. That rises the danger of a well-played deep pass into the free space behind the defense.

Although this might be the worst thing that can happen to a flat 4-4-2, it also gives a hint on how to setup the marking for the defensive line within a zonal marking team:

The FBs are higher up the pitch. On the sideline they have one opponent most of the time. And they have to stop him from getting behind their own positions by all means. Because otherwise the opposing winger will be able to run behind the whole defense.

=> Closing down: own half

=> Marking: man

=> Tight marking: yes (or Tackling: hard (when using quality FBs))

The DCs are positioned deeper, they know that most attack will come through the center and will let the opponent run onto them. They have to hold their positions in relation to the ball, otherwise they will get drawn out of position and open holes for the strikers.

=> Closing down: own area

=> Marking: zonal

=> Tight marking: no, in more difficult games yes

A remark to tight marking for the DCs: Using tight marking for the DCs can be dangerous, because they might get drawn out of position. But the better the defenders are, the more it can be used effectively. Especially for harder games with opponents pushing through the center. In these games the whole backline will be more defensively oriented anyhow and sit deeper. So whenever a DC is in danger of losing his position, the other defenders will try to cover the hole. And make the tight marking less dangerous. An example out of the game:


So - will this simulate the ball oriented approach? Not sufficiently. But we can use another setting to move closer to it: the opposition instructions before each game.

All defensive movements of the backline are intended to either mark players or mark space. We can translate this split into the game instructions. The player instructions are set in relation to space. The opposition instructions are set in relation to the players, i.e. the ball. So if we use the opposition instructions accordingly, we can move closer to the approach.

For the FBs opponents the instructions look like:

=> Tight marking

=> Closing down always

=> Show on weaker foot

Translation: The FBs mark an opponent as soon as he gets into their area in own half. In case the opponent has or gets the ball they don’t even wait for him to reach their area but pressure him earlier, while the other defenders cover. In case the winger then moves into the field the FB follows inside while staying between ball and goal (most times the winger won’t and instead plays a backpass - seems to be an AI thing). In case the winger passes the FB, he runs inside to take the closest DC position. In both cases the closest DC moves out to the side to cover the open space on the wing. Nice!


For the DCs opponents (2 forwards or 1 FC + 1 AMC) the instructions look like:

=> Tight marking

=> Closing down always

Translation: The DCs sit deeper and let the attacker come onto them, always trying to stay behind the ball. But when the player reaches their area, they quickly and aggressively try to pressure him. Hard tackling could be another option here, but it falls down against the danger of provoking penalties or free kicks close to the box.

There instructions are pretty common, but together with the player instructions they should make up for a tight defense that simulates ball oriented play.

One thing to be aware of: A really fast striker with good dribbling skills will turn „closing down always“ into his advantage. So when your defender is not really quick and skilled, don’t use it.

On the other hand: We are not playing a 4-4-2, but a 1-4-4-2. The goalkeeper plays an important role here. A flat back defense with the FBs pretty far away from the the goal calls for a cautious goalkeeper, who can also play the role of sweeper. He usually has to play around the 18-yard-line, being responsible to intercept deep passes if played by the opponent (see ball oriented play picture). So good rushing out and one-on-one stats will be helpful and setting him up accordingly will stabilize the backline even further.

=> Mentality: team (assuming your are playing a normal or attacking style)

=> Closing down: mid own half

=> Cross from: mixed

=> Forward runs: mixed (if playing vs. weaker teams or at home, otherwise rarely)

One last word on zonal play. When using it, the position of all players is determined by where the ball is. And not their direct opponent. This requires the players to not only use their feet, but also their head! They have to have a certain intelligence, as zonal play requires them to be proactive, not reactive.

So key stats for zonal defense are: anticipation, decisions, positioning. If these are too low, a man-marking approach for the whole backline would suit them better, relying more on concentration, marking and tackling. In this case, only use tight marking with the DCs for very difficult game situations

Now to the midfield. All midfielders act as kind of filters in front of the defensive line. They have to maintain the distances to the other sections and move and act to maintain the team shape. At the same time they have to help the defense to reduce the oppositions pressing. During the opponents possession they remain closer to the FBs. Together with the wingers and at times the forwards the central midfielders should attempt to arrange and set a block around the middle line.

The aim here is to stop the opponent from playing the dangerous through ball and to make him play lateral passes to the sides instead. That way the team gains valuable time and space - the most important variables in football. Because the defenders can get back into their positions in/around the penalty area and cover all other important areas.

=> Closing down: medium own half to whole pitch

In case the midfielders can’t win the ball, they have to make a tactical foul to stop the through ball, being prepared to get a booking for it.

The wingers must stay in a position, that will not allow them to be passed on the outside. This forces the opponent to pass or dribble in the direction of the center, where it is busier and the chance of loosing the ball is higher. But on the other hand, the wingers have to come infield at times. Either to move into channels while attacking, or to narrow the midfield when defending.

=> Creative freedom: little, sometimes normal

=> Closing down: whole pitch


So the basic goal is to effectively have 8 men back when not having the ball. Defense and Midfield double up whenever the team has to defend. With the pairs all over the field, you have 4 teams of 2 who protect the goal. And on the other hand 6 players being able to attack.


When attacking, the moves and setups for the central midfielders depend on their stats. When the MCd is more defensively minded, he can protect the backline, but the MCa has to stay deeper and use more through balls than runs. He cannot move up the whole pitch often as this would produce a hole in midfiled.

When both MCs are good passers, the MCa can get more freedom to go forward or both can alternate in their FwRs depending on the match situation. This can be very successful when the opposition concentrates and pressures on the creative MCa and the MCd exploits the holes and/or uses long shots. But also in this variation, they have to support the defense. A strong midfield plays for winning one-on-ones an provides chances for the attackers.


In build-up play the midfielders pilot the game. They should make the field big, with players wide on the flanks and depth in the play. In case there is no possibility for an attacking move, they start quick ball circulation and shifting to the flanks. They should always choose a position on an angle to each other and to players coming up from behind.

Key settings MCa:

Creative freedom high

Closing down medium own half

Tackling easy

FwR often (if his stats allow, otherwise mixed)

RwB often

Through balls often

Cross from mixed

Free role yes, if it works with player stats

Tight marking never

Key settings MCd:

Creative freedom low

Closing down whole pitch

Tackling normal

FwR mixed

RwB mixed

Through balls often

Cross from mixed (attacking), deep (cautious)

Free role no

Tight marking yes (for cautious play, watch bookings)

Against strong sides and/or good AMCs the MCd can get a back arrow to the DMC position and use tight marking. FwR should be set to rarely then.

Now to the forwards. Their main responsibility is to finish the play. But at the same time they are the first to defend and press, when the team has to regain possession. The question here is, when they should start pressing. The answer: it depends. On the qualities of the forwards. On the strength of the opposition. On the match situation.

High pressing (upfront !) aggressively tries to prevent the opponent from starting the play. It can be very effective against weaker teams or when leading. But playing a good side it won’t make much sense as the defenders will have the ability to keep the ball and play dangerous passes or start a counter.

Medium pressing starting in the oppositions half needs a clever midfield with high anticipation and forwards with good heading stats, because the team will aim to play balls into the box. The midfielders will try to force the opponent into long balls, relying on the defense to win the ball back quickly. As soon as the opponents leave their half, the team presses harder to regain possession.

The tactic here should be based on possession, attacking via the flanks and higher creative freedom.

Lower pressing is a more cautious tactical behaviour. It delivers better cover for the defenders and is more difficult to break through. The attackers can move in larger spaces and should have speed and/or good finishing attributes. A good header can also be used, but is not mandatory.

This should be used when leading the game or the opposition is strong and the team has to be more cautious or is not in a perfect condition.

When having the ball they should try to maintain possession in order to let the rest of the team get out of the defensive positions. All of their movements are intended to either create space or run into space.

The forwards work as a unit and should have a central starting position, with at least one as high as possible. When receiving the ball they should stay in central positions whenever possible. That keeps them closer to the goal, making them more dangerous. And it also leaves the flanks open for the wingers to support the attack.



And the last thing on the setting: get the set pieces right. The 4-4-2 today relies heavily on the effective use of corners and free kicks.

// The climax

To make a long story short, the setup for the flat 4-4-2 is the same as with the diamond using 2-6-2. The mentalities:

GK - team

DC - defensive (3)

DC - defensive (3)

FBR - team

FBL - team

MR - team

MCd - team

MCa - team

ML - team

FR - attacking (17)

FL - attacking (17)

Team mentality can be influenced via the team instructions slider. That way the mentalities of the central players can easily be tweaked according to the style of play, the opponent and the game situation. Even without changing the whole tactics.

I am using 4 standard setups at the moment:


- with medium tempo, a high defensive line and offside trap ticked. For all games where opposition is not too defensive minded or home games. Team mentality is 16, which is 2 clicks into attacking


- with wider play, medium def line and almost slow tempo. For more difficult or defensive opponents. Team mentality is 14, if not creating enough chances, higher.


- with normal to narrow width, deeper def line and upper normal tempo. For the same situations as before, plus at home against teams being 3 to 5 places below in the league table. Team mentality is 15, for tougher ones 14.


- with lower tempo medium time-wasting and def line and lower medium tempo. For a possession based game with quick attacks against difficult opponents. Team mentality is 13, sometimes 14.

For more details on when to use which setup please refer back to the part 1 threat, page 5.

Although initially thought, setting the team mentality slider to „defensive“ is not a sufficient measure to, defend a lead, to lock up the defense at the end of the game or to try to cope with the AIs gung-ho-style 4-2-4!!! Testing has shown that.

Therefore, setting down team mentality to lower normal or defensive and the well known measures like reducing width, tempo, RwB and FwdR and using high time-wasting and tight marking are more than helpful. This would make for a 5th setup (shut-up) if needed.

In my 4-4-2 setup I use short passing at the moment. This works perfectly with the tight midfield of the 2-6-2 and even with a wider play as the triangles still open up. I have tested the short passing with a weaker side, it also did work although the team did not try to play Arsenal style and used some nice direct balls.

For the team instructions I used a lot of descriptions from wwfans „Tactical Thoerems and Frameworks '08“ with some tweaks and good success. For player instructions a mixture of them and settings according to the player’s individual strengths and preferred moves. Which are close to the ones shown in part 1 of 2-6-2. Here are two examples:

The Control Settings:



The Counter Settings:



You also get an idea of the individual settings when looking at the revised diamond tac-files available in the first part of 2-6-2, page 5. If you encounter any problems with the compactness of your defense, here are some tweaks that might help:

- rise closing down for FBs

- lower DCs mentality 1 notch

- put MCd on tight marking or(!) man-marking when playing tough opponent

- reduce creative freedom for MCd

- give MCd an barrow to DMC position

- put DMC on same mentality as DCs (-> 3-5-2 frame)

- up closing-down for MCa and MCd (watch out for fouls)

- reduce tempo

- put team passing more to short side

And here again, all opposition instructions I am using:

For the opposing wingers: Tight marking, Closing down always, Show on weaker foot.

For the strikers: Tight marking, Closing down always; if playing against a really fast and creative one only Tight marking.

For a central AM and MCa: Tight marking, Closing down always, if he is identitfied as danger man and my DCs have good tackling stats Hard tackling.

If a DMC or a FB is named danger man: also Closing down always.

For the GK: Closing down always.

// The retardation

On training: I also reworked the training for this approach, to have the stats rise a little faster and use some more physical training in workload optimized schedules. It’s going ok, but still could use some improvement, so I won’t go into detail on this. But I still believe that a good fitness level is important for this approach as the team will be in a constant movement. Also a high fitness level can give the team an edge at the end of the game, when the opposition’s stamina lowers.

// The denouement

Now, finally, we come to the end of the drama. Here are the results. I have played this setup in 8.0.1 with Valencia once. The games:


Played it again, a whole season while being „on holiday“ with „use current tactic“ (=counter):





Played it with Arsenal for half a season in 8.0.2 with some minor tweaks:





In mid December, Adebayor has 17 league goals in 12 appearances, 6 continental goals in 4 appearances...

After all that I believe the 2-6-2 framework does work with the flat 4-4-2.

Sorry, for taking that much of your time. I didn’t have enough of it to make it shorter. I hope this thing helps you and your 4-4-2 in case you want to give it a go. If you like give me some feedback on how it works out.

Cheers. icon_smile.gif

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Thanks guys. Glad, you like it. My fingers are still down to the bone... icon_wink.gif

So, in case you have any questions, just go ahead.


Yes, the fact that it worked while being on holiday was probably the most astonishing thing for me, too. But keep in mind - that was before the 8.0.2 patch! (And my assistant manager had better stats then...)

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gOOd work icon14.gif

a simple question:

i belive , there s a link between "passing stye" and "width" on FM series; and real life of course. (maybe i wrong ?: )

u play very short passing style and the other hand use wide style. i think, this is not a probem for a good team (and good players of course, has good passing rating like fabregas), but what about the weaker teams? i think there're too many loose ball on wide style with short passing. again, am i wrong?

thank u, and sorry for bad english icon_smile.gif

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Hi onur7.

You are right, playing a very wide style and using heavy short passing is contradictory. But you have to see it in connection with the formation and the mentality framework.

In the flat 4-4-2 the midfielders are pretty close together. So short passing for the MCa and MCd should not be a problem, even with weaker players. Same for the DCs, as I want them to build up from the back and simply pass to the FBs or the deep lying MCd (instead of playing useless long balls to the strikers).

All of them are in pretty close to each other, as the mentality framework keeps them close together. And in a constant movement to open passing options. That's the trick behind it. icon_wink.gif So playing wide just makes the playing field a little bigger, in case I want to draw the opposition out and makes the FBs overlap.

For the FBs I use passing slightly higher than that btw, low mixed. This can also be used for the wingers. Then your main build-up players are more variable.

When I played it with a weaker side, they did not have problems with that. When I played wide, they used a more variable passing by themselves. I also tried it with lower mixed passing - that works too, in case you don't want to rely on the passing abilities of your team.

I only tested it once with direct passing (before patch). But that fell down. I guess it's because it doesn't match the framework, as the wide players won't be up the field all the time.

So try it, if you like. And if you see that the short passing doesn't work, set it to mixed. icon_smile.gif

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Brilliant post zagallo. I'm trying to create my own flat 4-4-2. Not going so well needless to say. However after reading this I will try to create one using some of this stuff you have gone into great detail with.

Again thanks for the amazing post and effort.


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Again, great job!

I haven't had that much time to play after 8.0.2 but I was impressed with the approach you created. And now you have also implemented it to flat formation with success!

Have you given any thoughts on using playmaker with this flat approach? I implemented it to diamond and it worked pretty well but I personally think it should fit even better to flat 442.

Keep up the good work!


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Hi yugular.

Thanks. No, I haven't used a playmaker yet. I'm not so much into that - mainly because until now I never saw a dramatic change in the game using it. But on the other hand there is no reason not to use one, if you have the right players...

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Great work again zagallo icon14.gif

Your posts have made me think alot about mentality settings, as I lean towards the "Rule of One" from defenders to attackers, yet arguably my most effective system has shared your own thoughts of Def-low, Mid-mixed, Att-high.

I posted my "favoured" tactics, similar to your own, along with a "RoO" based set. Perhaps unsurprisingly, due to the extremes I employ sometimes in the first tactic, the feedback wasn't great. All I can put that down to is that people have'nt looked hard enough at the player attributes suited to the roles I employ. That's something you've explained wonderfully in your post.

A "Rule of One" based tactic set should normally suit users who don't worry too much about marrying player attributes to roles deeply, whilst your 2-6-2 settings (and my more adventurous formation), really need to focus on key player attributes.

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Genius post my man, I've enjoyed reading both this one and part 1, which is where I created the base for my formation. I play a standard 4-4-2 now with farrows on the wingers only and a back arrow on 1 MC to become a DMC. I'm playing with Rennes and after tweaking and settling into a playing system for season 1 (finished 7th) and then getting the right players for the job in season 2 (1st, by a point) and having it right in season 3 (league by 16ish points, Champs League, French League Cup) it has become excellent.

My only concern is I'm losing a lot of possession, i'm winning games by 3-4 goals but having 32-36% of the ball, but hey, i'll get there.

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Thanks raith_revival. Sound good to me. icon_wink.gif

Don't worry about the possession stats, if you succeed in the games. I once read a statistics from a guy who analyzed football matches in Europe for the last 20 years or so. He found out that only in about 50% of the games the team with higher possession actually won. So it's still a 50:50 chance, no matter how high the stats are... Sounds illogical, as the team who doesn't have the ball can't actually score. But these are the numbers.

Now to the tactics. I feel that after playing with the framework for a while, the opponents not only tend to play quite laid-back and defensively, but also use high time-wasting and safe short passing around the midfield line. As the central midfielders in the 2-6-2 are not on high closing down but on own half, they won't pressure them there heavily. That leads to high possession stats for the opponent. Although they don't do any attacking moves. They even don't move when I drop the def line and open some space for them. When watching this in full length, it really gets annoying.

So what I did was trying to build a special tactic ("pressure") against it with high closing down in midfield an upfront and harder tackling. Just using it for some quick interceptions and not the full game. But I didn't test it enough to give you sound feedback. Think that might be a way to deal with it.

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Originally posted by ObaMartins09:

Hi Zagallo.

Could you possibly post screenshots of the possession and the attack ones? So I can create all 4. icon14.gif

Also, is the shape of the formation a standard 4-4-2 no arrows?

Hi Oba.

I can give you the team instructions. These are the only ones available to me atm as I am not on my own computer.

Putting the shots of all the settings together would take quite some time...

But I was thinking about uploading a set with tactics some time next week. Makes it a little easier for me and you can take a look at all the details. But you will still have to tweak... Ok?

Anyway, here are the team instructions.





Have fun.

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Originally posted by zagallo:

Thanks raith_revival. Sound good to me. icon_wink.gif

Don't worry about the possession stats, if you succeed in the games. I once read a statistics from a guy who analyzed football matches in Europe for the last 20 years or so. He found out that only in about 50% of the games the team with higher possession actually won. So it's still a 50:50 chance, no matter how high the stats are... Sounds illogical, as the team who doesn't have the ball can't actually score. But these are the numbers.

Now to the tactics. I feel that after playing with the framework for a while, the opponents not only tend to play quite laid-back and defensively, but also use high time-wasting and safe short passing around the midfield line. As the central midfielders in the 2-6-2 are not on high closing down but on own half, they won't pressure them there heavily. That leads to high possession stats for the opponent. Although they don't do any attacking moves. They even don't move when I drop the def line and open some space for them. When watching this in full length, it really gets annoying.

So what I did was trying to build a special tactic ("pressure") against it with high closing down in midfield an upfront and harder tackling. Just using it for some quick interceptions and not the full game. But I didn't test it enough to give you sound feedback. Think that might be a way to deal with it.

I think I need to look into my closing down/defensive line as i'm being out possessed and conceding more chances than I'm creating. It feels like i'm counter attacking every week when i'm not, its quite concerning.

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I don't know if judgement would make much sense as the match engine has changed from 07 as far as I know.

And this was developed for 08. - But you can tell us how it works. That would be very interesting. icon_smile.gif


I will post them some time the coming week. And no, I am not from Brazil. Why?


Sorry about that. Maybe lower closing down for the team a few notches and set your def line to mid/lower medium. If possession is low you might also reduce tempo and/or rise time wasting reasonably.

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Thanks so much for this most excellent thread Zagallo, it's really impressive how much depth you go into to explain things. It's refreshing to see the tactical nuances of specific team/player instructions laid out so comprehensively as opposed to the more common "set to xyz and wing it" approach.

I'm playing in Uruguay (isseemonsters challenge) at the moment and last couple of seasons I've been pretty successful with a 5-3-2 based solely on wwfans TT&F, but this season I hit a wall - the AI got wise to my tactics and I couldn't buy a win in the opening stage. So I redesigned a 5-3-2 based on your principles and from the few games I've played so far I've been really impressed.

I had to make some pretty sweeping adaptations, most notably in the defence, but the basic principles are the same. I use a man marking system (always) for the left and right DC's + wingbacks, with the central DC on zonal and usually providing the cover, but this guy is also on 3 mentality in most circumstances. To make it work the DRC and DLC need good marking, tackling, height, jumping etc while the DC (or SW) needs pace, acc, and really good mental stats (positioning, anticipation, decisions etc). Using opposition instructions like you suggest is pretty much essential.

Offensively (because of the extra DC) the AMC/MCa doesn't need to defend so much so you can get away with setting him to 17 mentality. What you end up with is a 3-4-3 framework rather than a 2-6-2, but the AMC and/or DC/SW can be switched to team mentality depending on the opposition. Anycase, so far so good. icon14.gif

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I know it's different but I lost my 08 disk so had to revert back.

I must say your ideas work extremely well on 07. I am second with Freiburg using your ideas. As soon as i find my 08 I'll post results.

But the fullbacks seem to work very well with my wide players. I have done minor tweeks so it works for 07. I seem to score alot of goals and my team seem very organised.

Mate i think your very clever and it would of took me ages to develop these ideas.

But you have angered me. You have made me try even harder to find 08 with no luck. I think i threw it away as last time i was it it was between some sheets. Stupid wife and housework icon_wink.gif

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Used your defensive settings in a friendly against Liverpool (I am Southampton, first season, current squad). Liverpool didn't get a single shot at me the first 45 minutes.

I know it is just a friendly, but from what I saw it was a lot of promising things.

KUTGW icon14.gif

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Originally posted by zagallo:


Sorry about that. Maybe lower closing down for the team a few notches and set your def line to mid/lower medium. If possession is low you might also reduce tempo and/or rise time wasting reasonably.

Zagallo, seems I fixed it, slightly anyway. To coincide with my teams defensive outlook, the creative freedom of my wide midfielders was reduced to the bottom end of normal.

I've increased this, which has started to give me more possession, but ultimately start to concede a few chances. Oddly, my last two games in the league have resulted in me going behind and coming back to win late on in the game. I think this is also due to my changes. To get back in, i've had to push the defensive line further up and narrow my play a bit.

Have you experienced anything like this?

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Thanks guys for the feedback. Good to hear it works for you.


First time I hear from a 3-4-3 frame. Very good. icon14.gif


Second with Freiburg is not that bad... wow. So go ahead, find your disc and try it with 08. Good luck! icon_wink.gif


Great. Keep me posted how it's going in the league. What passing style do you use in the framework? Shorter/mixed or direct?


Thanks for the update. No I haven't experienced that. I had games where I was 2 behind in half-time. But that was when I picked the wrong tactic for the opponent... Did I get you right, that you use a defensive setting? If so, that will be the reason for your problems!

If you use the player settings described and set team mentality to defensive or lower normal you will concede no matter how good your team is. The defensive mentality does not work with this framework unchanged. Don't ask me why, but the whole team plays way too deep then and will get overrun. I am looking for a solution - seems like it has something to do with closing-down and the def line. But in the meantime you could use a mid normal team mentality and reduce FWD and RWB for the FBs. That should work.

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Thanks for the good work! I've been reading the translations of the theses submitted for the top level Italian coaching badge published by Reedswain. It provides a lot of depth around the tactical issues you discuss (plus they have ones for just about every formation imaginable).

My question for you is whether you've noticed improvements in the flat midfield 4-4-2 versus your original diamond 4-4-2?

I notice that I concede less with the diamond as the DM is better positioned to filter out attacks through the middle. In the flat 4-4-2, if one CM is beaten, the other often times fails to get into position to address the threat. In that case, the DC will step up and provide space for the opposing strikers. As well, in Serie A, teams like Roma and Milan often play with several banks of players (4-3-2-1, etc.) that can take advantage of the flat 4.

Your thoughts?

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Hi deardo.

The answer is so-so. And I haven't tried both set-ups with the same team. But fact is that the multi-strata systems are easier or let's say safer to play - in FM as well as in real life. That might be why, looking at real life, lots of successful teams nowadays play with a DMC. In Italy as you say as well as in England, Spain, France or Germany.

The benefit is that the midfielders are positioned behind each other, offering more support for and between the adjacent lines and providing a better coverage of the whole pitch. As the most common standard for many teams is the flat 4-4-2, having a better positioning on the pitch can give you an advantage. That also happens in the game. So if you have the right players (foremost a good DMC), the chances of being successful are higher.

The way I see it at the moment is that the diamond is more and more used as a variety of the 4-3-3 and therefore offers more attacking options. A lot of the good AMCs are really good goal poachers while the playmaker role moves to the DMC (see Milan for example). Together with the FCs, the AMC forms an attacking triangle that is able to play very variable. The DMC is the brain in the back and the wide midfielders have to do the work around the center - carry the balls upfront or stop any opponent who tries to enter their own half. That can work really well...

On the other hand, the diamond positioning opens a hole in center midfield that can be exploited. Especially when the AMC is too offensive minded and doesn't fulfill his defensive duties. Or the wingers play too wide and don't get back and a little inside the pitch when out of possession. Also the distance between the players can be larger, the reason why I use less width with the diamond. Here the flat 4-4-2 has an advantage as the midfield line is tight, covers the whole width and can be used as the first line of defense that is more difficult to break through. Here the qualities of the whole backline need to be quite good to make it work and the set-up has to be a slightly different one as you might have read in the post.

So to sum it up, I think both formations have their advantages. For FM the diamond should be easier to play, even with teams of less quality. But playing a short passing game with a flat 4-4-2 and a good team is just a pleasure to watch - and can still be rewarding. icon_wink.gif

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Hi zagallo, I was looking at your tactic and I'm very impressed.

It's what I have been trying to create but I can't cos I'm tactically bad. However, looking at the screenshots I noticed that you have target man ticked and set to pass to feet.

I know Adebayor is strong and passing to feet suits him but what about 2 fast players like Andrew Johnson or Jermain Defoe? How would you set them up?

Am I right that I should make them have low closing down? What other things can I implement to suit their playing style as I don't want balls going over the top.

And must I set up opposition instructions EVERY match? Or only against the strong teams?

Good job again, and looking forward to the set of tactics!

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Hi lw_85.

Thanks. Well, if you use two fast strikers I would still set it to pass to feet. Run onto ball works well if you stand deep and play direct through balls often. But I wouldn't recommend to use it as a standard, but maybe for counter and sure for shut-up tactics. My concern would be the loss of possession when playing run onto ball. The players will try to get the ball upfront often, no matter if the strikers are in a good position or not. If they are not, you loose the ball. This set-up creates less interaction and passing.

So playing to feet I'd try to set them up differently to make the game more variable and probably have one come deeper. Suggestion:


FwR mixed, RwB often, hold-up ball often, through balls often, no long shots, creative freedom high, cross from deep, lower mixed passing. And use him as a deeper lying target man.


FwR rarely, RwB mixed, long shots mixed, through balls mixed, no hold-up ball, low/medium creative freedom, cross from byline, short passing.

Team crosses would go to the side of FC2. Regarding closing-down I'd also split. FC1 to low mixed, FC2 mixed (attacking) to upper mixed or low often (control). That should produce some pretty good interaction between the two, surely depending on their stats and preferred moves. In your case, I'd use Johnson as 1, Defoe as 2.

Other question: Yes, I use opposition instructions in every match. Don't want to have any surprises happen vs. weaker teams...

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I have had to re buy fm 08. It will take two weeks to arrive.

My Freiburg team are getting better and with a few tweaks, i reckon i can win this. Good post. How long did it take for you ta make this post. As i wanted to do this in 07 but struggled with screenies so when my new game comes i can make one regarding other formations! thanks for a great post icon_biggrin.gif

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Zagallo, excellent post again mate. i had already implemented a lot of your 262 ideas from the diamond into a flat 442 and our tactics worked out pretty similar, but i really like your thinking on opposition instructions and it has made the whole tactic much tighter.

I played my own version of this with Villa and finished fifith without making a transfer. Currently second season i am top after beating Blackburn, Chelsea and Man City and only conceding 1 goal. Thanks for this it is in my mind as good as the RoO ideas from 07 and by far the best tactical post i have seen.

Just out of interest have you tried any other formations because i am developing a 4141 based on your ideas that is working really well away to tough teams. I like the idea of having wingers that will defend when needed and become strikers when we are countering...just beat chelsea 3-1 away with it, but i'll let youknow after more testing.

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Interesting approach. Have you tried using a 3-6-1 framework? By setting a MCd back with the DC's, it sort of incorporates wwfan's theory of keeping a MCd back to help the defense. And giving one of the forwards the team setting might help him come back and get balls. Just a thought.

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zagallo if I'm seeing right you're not using the defoult 4-4-2 (DL, DR, DC, DC, ML, MR, MC...) instead you use this odd formation with (DC, DC, WBL, WBR...)

I don't see a reason why exploit weeknesses of ME with this kind of cheat formations. if AI can do it (and it can) we can do it also. all this can be done in the defoult 4-4-2. without cheating (it is cheating for me). you only must put more effort to team and individual instructions. you can manage to play 4-1-4-1 in defense and 4-4-2 in attack with DEFOULT 4-4-2, with no barrows at all. it's not that hard icon_wink.gif

I see what you're trying to put together but that can be done with using defoult formation as well. and AI's doing it all the time. that's a chalange!!

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Originally posted by Mitja:

zagallo if I'm seeing right you're not using the defoult 4-4-2 (DL, DR, DC, DC, ML, MR, MC...) instead you use this odd formation with (DC, DC, WBL, WBR...)

I don't see a reason why exploit weeknesses of ME with this kind of cheat formations. if AI can do it (and it can) we can do it also. all this can be done in the defoult 4-4-2. without cheating (it is cheating for me). you only must put more effort to team and individual instructions. you can manage to play 4-1-4-1 in defense and 4-4-2 in attack with DEFOULT 4-4-2, with no barrows at all. it's not that hard icon_wink.gif

I see what you're trying to put together but that can be done with using defoult formation as well. and AI's doing it all the time. that's a chalange!!

Those first picture aren't the formation he's using. He's just using those diagrams to describe what the formation should look during different situations in play.
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Originally posted by Mitja:

it says starting formation. not with/without ball... hope not couse that would be really disapointing.

Right, he's trying to illustrate how a real life 4-4-2 operates using the tactics editor in FM. Look at the starting formation picture again, why the F would you play with out strikers?
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Hi guys. I'll give you the download link in a few minutes.

Just to clear a few things up beforehand:


Thanks. Good to hear it works for the 4-1-4-1. - No I havent't used it with other formations. Was quite busy to get the 4-4-2 sorted... But from the feedback I got to the diamond, it has been transformed into several formations like 4-1-4-1, 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 successfully.


Same thing here. No I haven't, but others did. And it worked well. Escpecially for teams with weaker defenses. I actually would prefer a 3-5-2 then, because the individual settings of the strikers already give one of them the chance to drop back. So you don't have to use team mentality for one to reach this effect. But you can if you like. (And btw, thanks for trying to convince Mitja of the obvious. icon_wink.gif )


Sorry, Uncle_Sam is right and this not a cheat. I am using the default 4-4-2 with farrows for wingers. As you say and I did in my post, that falt 4-4-2 is/was the challenge. And not to create some fantasy-formation. The pics in the inital post were meant to show the semi-circle formation the flat 4-4-2 uses in the play. In real life as well as in the game, when the FBs are on an attacking mentality and the wingers have farrows. I used them to clarify that although the basic formation is flat, it still produces important triangles on the pitch when being in possession, starting or running an attack. The next picture in the post underlines that, showing the AI's positioning in the same situation.

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Guys, the wait has come to an end. This is the download link for a zipped folder with all tactics, my training schedules and a ReadMe with all details on how and when to use which set-up and the framework:

262zagallo_flat442 by zagallo

Although I'm not a friend of creating and using about 38 tactic files to cover every single possible match situation, you will find some more tactics than the 4 basic ones described in the inital post. There also are 3 special tactics for certain game situations, described in the read me. Plus a basic set-up for a defensive tactic how I think it might work. The latter is not tested sufficiently yet, but may give you a hint on how to translate the frame into a defensive style. Btw, the 4 basic tactics have been optimized slightly compared to the first post's pics...

And please remember: Adjust the tactics to your team and players (unless maybe you play Arsenal)! This is not a download and win tactic. The tactic files should either be used a basis for tweaking - or even more so as examples for how to possibly set up all details. Some more on that can also be found in the ReadMe.

Well then, feel free to load it. And enjoy. icon_wink.gif


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