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The Art of Counter Attacking


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Ignore clear cut chances as the way they work in game doesn't actually mean it was an easy chance.

Focus on the players in the build up to moves and see what the positions are like as the players are shooting. Are players shooting because they have no other options? Are the support players offering proper support etc.

They are actualy not shooting a lot (average 10 shots and +- 2 on target) .. i win my games or draw them 0-0(and i'm always the underdog , even in conference) So maybe i'm ok..

Would u advice to use a playmaker(DPL support) won't they(defenders,wingers) use him to much to pass in stead of quickly counter ?

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They are actualy not shooting a lot (average 10 shots and +- 2 on target) .. i win my games or draw them 0-0(and i'm always the underdog , even in conference) So maybe i'm ok..

Would u advice to use a playmaker(DPL support) won't they(defenders,wingers) use him to much to pass in stead of quickly counter ?

They could do yeah because he'd be a playmaker. With the sounds of it you don't need a playmaker though, you need more people looking to take shots. Although 10 shots is the average, 2 being on target is poor though.

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They could do yeah because he'd be a playmaker. With the sounds of it you don't need a playmaker though, you need more people looking to take shots. Although 10 shots is the average, 2 being on target is poor though.

i'll take a closer look to this tonight ,thanks .

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^Video 1 looks like a defensive error, he's out of position, switched off so to speak. Poor concentration perhaps?

Video 2 looks like the team didn't shift over to nullify the wingplay fast enough, the full back is very slow to react, but also the wide midfielder (I'm assuming) has been dragged centrally. Are they playing a midfield diamond that is forcing him to tuck in to defend? If so, that compactness can lead to bucketloads of space out wide for them to exploit.

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The first video it's like your midfield is just stood around watching the opposition players. There almost stood still and don't even move for the ball. The issue starts in midfield not with the defence imo in that video.

In the second video your midfield is very narrow so when the ball gets played out wide it stretches you as there is no-one covering the flank. Because of that you're always playing catch up and can't close the space down quickly enough.

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i realised that, my players always contain the opponent and don't tackle which always leads to a goal.

look at this.

[video=youtube;4zsT-fPFQ80]

my midfield just follow the player all the way into my own penalty box, giving him the chance to shoot and score. my 2 defenders just move away.

is this a bug or something wrong with my tactic?

yes they were playing 442 narrow diamond. how do i deal with that? do i increase the width to counter their fb?

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Well your subjects have nothing to do with this topic really. So might be better creating your own thread and talking about the system you use etc. Because screenshots and videos mean little without proper context to them.

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Well your subjects have nothing to do with this topic really. So might be better creating your own thread and talking about the system you use etc. Because screenshots and videos mean little without proper context to them.

i'm doing counter attacking too.

wondering why my players are letting in those goals instead of trying for a tackle

BwGpMXS.png

my left WM(A) has pi to cut inside, sit narrower and cross less (his crossing attribute is not good)

wanna play him like an inside forward and come back defend at the same time.

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But your issues have nothing to do with counter attacking football. You was just posting random issues before. You're having issues with other things. Please create your own thread for the issues you are having.

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I'm trying to replicate a deep 4231, a modern one that sits deep at times and then counters with pace down the wings like in a Mourinho or Benitez like system, maybe even in Pardew's Palace style!

Here's the system.

Arsenal_Overview.png

I'll explain my choices of TIs - Retain Possession - I like this TI especially combined with Pass Into Space.. I don't want to be constantly hoofing balls into no mans land but a combination of the two should allow me to be sensible with the ball until an option for a killer pass is on. I also thought it might help draw teams out to close down and leave spaces if we were passing the ball around nicely. Play Wider - I want to keep the width and use pace down the flanks, having the W(A) and WB(A) providing plenty of support in wide areas. I also am aware that counter mentality suggests a narrowish shape so wanted to offset this. Push Higher Up - This was another TI to 'offset' the deep line a counter mentality creates. We are still Arsenal and I don't want to be passive and invite pressure.

The Issues - Mainly with my Striker and Attacking central midfielder. When we have the ball and are looking to break quickly I want at least one of them running into a wide channel of space so that we can drag the opposition out of position and then hopefully work the ball into the spaces left open.

Crystal_Palace_v_Arsenal_Pitchanalysis1.png

So here there is a big problem. There is a huge space available but neither Ramsey or Giroud are moving into it and just seem focused with staying centrally. I can't add a PI to 'run wide with ball' or run wider so seem a bit lost. Debuchy of course has no options and get's tackled. I gave the defensive forward the PI 'Move into channels' but it didn't make much difference. I want my striker to be a bit of a Diego Costa type - bullish, hardworking, willing to run the channels and chase balls into the corner if he needs to but can't get it to work.

I changed my stiker to an Advanced Forward reluctantly (I ideally want a support role to avoid leaving him isolated) and in parts it did work - got two goals in a home game against Leicester and at times showed good movement, but at times he was awfully out of place and too far from any of my players. Here are the contrasting traits he showed - good off the ball movement that lead to a goal, and in contrast just plain stupidity to be so far offside when there are wider spaces to run into. Ideally in the bottom picture Ramsey would hit the ball into a channel for Giroud to chase down and therefore we would have time to get other players up the pitch to support.

Arsenal_v_Leicester_Pitchanalysis1.png

Arsenal_v_Leicester_Pitch_2analysis2.png

Help and suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks!

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Going to give this a go

Any advice for someone who is new to this tactic?

It's not a tactic. It's talking about the concept of counter attacking football. The whole point is you use the ideas from this thread in your own game, that means not copying what I did exactly as the likelihood is it won't work for you as you've missed the whole point of the thread.

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Excellent article Cleon :thup:

I've used a 4-5-1 with the same sort of system and managed to take Derby from the relegation zone in November to the playoff final.

Now to see how my tactic holds up in the Prem.

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I have been enjoying working on using some of these principles, and watching them in action, learning some of the nuances of counter attacking football. Some of my notes / learnings so far:

- The idea of using a keeper with quick throws to help counter attacking failed. I think over 5 games he threw the ball out once. The biggest problem is that when he doesnt feel a throw is on, he reverts to long kicks which i despise. I never expected him to throw it out a large % - Its a low chance that a counter can be triggered that way, but the inability set almost a "second option" in PI scuppered it. I had to change back to rolling it out to defenders. Perhaps learning the PPM, together with a stronger "throwing" attribute might help here

- My main striker has the PPM "Likes to try to beat offside trap". This has had an interesting effect, and at times has pushed us more towards a direct football style, rather than true counter attacking. What i observe is that we can sit back and defend reasonably deep and solid, to the point where the oppostion commit men forward. When we win the ball back, often times Berahino's PPM kicks in right away. He is up against the 2 CB's and possibly 1 FB and he immediately trys to make a run in behind, which in turn encourages our midfield to launch the ball from deep, rather than use fast but shorter distance passing to capitalise on a counter attack opportunity. This can actually be an effective approach at times, but overall i would prefer we did it a little less. We are not helped by Berhino having poor ratings for Anticipation and Decisions, which means he is all to often caught offside :(

- For most managers, there will be some games where this approach just isnt working. The key is being to quickly identify it, and make the right type of changes. For most of us, sometimes you will just get it wrong. In my current save i have run through 19 games now (exact half PL season). Overall i have taken West Brom up to 4th. Overall its going great, but within the seaosn are two 4 nil defeats. Both times i just got it wrong, and/or my players had a bad day. Man Utd came and just outplayed us. They have far superior players, and on that day we couldnt take advantage of the counter. They were just too good, every player on form and rarely giving up possession or space. I also had a bizarre game in the middle of a great run, where we went to Norwich and got smashed. I learned from it, i should have adapted far quicker and not lost 4 v 0 (i made no tactical changes). My point here is that these things happen. Unless you are an elite player of this game, it is highly likely you will make a few mistakes when trying to build a counter system, and you will lose some games. That doesnt mean the overall approach doesnt work. Just view it for what it is - An effective way to approach the game, provided you have the right players and deploy it in the right situations.

- This is absoultely not a "defensive" style. My screenshots will prove that.

Some of my results during a 19 game spell - Specifically look at the disparity between the scoreline each time, and the possession stat.

WAOQbuk.jpg

pAruNty.jpg

7XVG0L4.jpg

ziubPdy.jpg

Please dont post asking for my tactic - 2 reasons. Firstly, this is Cleon's thread and about the principle of counter attacking not about everyone copying tactics. Secondly, my tactic is built for my squad and my situation. It wont work for Cardfiff, for Bournemouth or for Chelsea.

This is just an example to show that the principles of counter attacking can be made to work. They can help you over ahieve.

Cheers to Cleon for the great info, and for the others who input to the thread with constructive information, particularly herne :)

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I’m trying to implement this in a 5212 formation and I’m struggling a bit. I’m managing in the 2nd league of S.Africa so the quality of players isn’t that big buy my central defenders are really good so I want to take advantage of that. I don’t think 5212 is really the best shape for counterattacking but it shouldn’t be the worst … (?)

What I had in mind is 2 CD and 1 BPD between them, maybe as a stopper to get the ball and then start the counters. I had 2 WB(S) on the wingback position ( slightly higher than the normal fullback one, I think that’s how you call it) so they could offer some width. At the MC strata I tried with a CM(S) and a BBM(S). The idea behind them is having two players with high work rate which can do both the defensive and offensive part of the game, with the BBM being the more skilled one and doing a little bit more than the CM(S). At the AM strata is where I had the most problems choosing a correct role, but for the most part I played with an AM(S) just because I thought it would fit best. What I actually want from the AM is to be the type of player who can roam from his position, so a Trequartista can be ok here, but I liked that the AM(S) defends really well and even at times he was remained back behind the BBMs when he went forward. The trequartista would always be forward and sometimes maybe roam too much, but like I said I’m not sure what exactly to pick here. Up front I went with a DLF(S) and DLF(A) and this was a pair that worked really well. The DLF(S) had the PI to Move into Channels and he links really well with the people behind him and sometimes the wingback, he’s exactly the creator I want him to be. The same is valid for the DLF(A) but he is not afraid to dribble and shoot at times, I think this pairing I really got right.

I haven’t added any TIs and play a Counter mentality with a Flexible Shape. One thing I had in mind was using a Structured shape with TI : Shorter passing, because at times I’m really annoyed with the long passes my wingbacks try.

I think the main problem here might be the AM role and the CM(S). Some of the goals come from very nice plays between the BBMs , AM(s) and the strikes, but most of the goals come from crosses from the wingbacks. Defensively I’m not doing too bad, I’m even thinking of maybe moving one defender to a DM and use him as a regista/DLP but I don’t have the players for it right now and maybe I won’t be so solid.

Like I said, the results aren’t that bad, but I feel that I’m not quite there with the roles or maybe even the starting formation is not suited for a counter attacking style.

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Remember the whole idea is built around having players deep in your own half. You currently have three in the oppositions half. Already that's not idea is it for what you're trying to create? At the very start of the thread I listed the very basics of counter attacking football, do you think your shape currently utilises all of those? I'm not sure it does.

Is there a reason you didn't use a flat 3 in the midfield? I think a 3232 is a much better suited counter attacking shape or even a 32311. It covers the pitch much better and gives you the numbers advantage in the most important area of the pitch, the midfield. That's where the battle will be won or lost. If you only have two midfielders then your likely to almost always get overrun in midfield.

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Remember the whole idea is built around having players deep in your own half. You currently have three in the oppositions half. Already that's not idea is it for what you're trying to create? At the very start of the thread I listed the very basics of counter attacking football, do you think your shape currently utilises all of those? I'm not sure it does.

Is there a reason you didn't use a flat 3 in the midfield? I think a 3232 is a much better suited counter attacking shape or even a 32311. It covers the pitch much better and gives you the numbers advantage in the most important area of the pitch, the midfield. That's where the battle will be won or lost. If you only have two midfielders then your likely to almost always get overrun in midfield.

I think this is where most of my problems in this game come from, I don't really think it all through. I will definitely try a 3232, I even have the players for it because the AM(S) was more of a central midfielder converted to play a little bit forward. What I have in mind is using another BBM in the MC strata.

If this doesn't work as intended I will give 32311 a shot, I had a feeling having 2 strikers might take a lot away from the system I'm trying to implement, that was one of the reasons I chose to have 2 DLF because they track back a little and also offer solutions going forward.

Thanks for this, I definitely have a lot of things to try out

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I actually think a 352/3232 is one of the best shapes around to build a counter attacking system with. I also think it's one of the easiest to get working, that shape suits that style perfectly.

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I actually think a 352/3232 is one of the best shapes around to build a counter attacking system with. I also think it's one of the easiest to get working, that shape suits that style perfectly.

Yeah I just read your blog post again and noticed you actually named 352 as one of the best shapes for counter attacking. Did you mean here the 352 with ML/MR or something like 3232 with 2 Wingbacks? When I think of 352 I usually think of 2 wingbacks and 3 central midfielders, or maybe even 2 DM and 1 AM

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Yeah I just read your blog post again and noticed you actually named 352 as one of the best shapes for counter attacking. Did you mean here the 352 with ML/MR or something like 3232 with 2 Wingbacks? When I think of 352 I usually think of 2 wingbacks and 3 central midfielders, or maybe even 2 DM and 1 AM

The version with wingbacks :)

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The version with wingbacks :)

Ok thanks. Since I'm at work I will be looking for some counter attacking 352s to get some inspiration going, first thing in mind is Juventus in the Conte era but i'm not sure how counter attacking they were because I didn't watch them that much.

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Ok thanks. Since I'm at work I will be looking for some counter attacking 352s to get some inspiration going, first thing in mind is Juventus in the Conte era but i'm not sure how counter attacking they were because I didn't watch them that much.

You could still use Conte to get to understand what he was wanting from his side. You can also find lots of Van Gaal stuff too from over the years. Use them to get an idea of the strengths and weakness and how they worked. Then when it comes to FM you'll have at least some idea of what you're working towards.

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- For most managers, there will be some games where this approach just isnt working. The key is being to quickly identify it, and make the right type of changes. For most of us, sometimes you will just get it wrong. In my current save i have run through 19 games now (exact half PL season). Overall i have taken West Brom up to 4th. Overall its going great, but within the seaosn are two 4 nil defeats. Both times i just got it wrong, and/or my players had a bad day. Man Utd came and just outplayed us. They have far superior players, and on that day we couldnt take advantage of the counter. They were just too good, every player on form and rarely giving up possession or space. I also had a bizarre game in the middle of a great run, where we went to Norwich and got smashed. I learned from it, i should have adapted far quicker and not lost 4 v 0 (i made no tactical changes). My point here is that these things happen. Unless you are an elite player of this game, it is highly likely you will make a few mistakes when trying to build a counter system, and you will lose some games. That doesnt mean the overall approach doesnt work. Just view it for what it is - An effective way to approach the game, provided you have the right players and deploy it in the right situations.

I guess one should also consider the fact that the AI often adapts to a tactic if it's always the same. At least that's my experience, maybe Cleon has made different experience.

I see opposition squads, who p.ex. have played there last games in a 4-4-2 formation suddenly switching their style to effectively counter my tactic, if that tactic had been overly successful in the past weeks.

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I think Van Gaals World Cup base tactic is something to consider aswell. Made and tested this the last hour, on the principles Cleon outlined. Really pleased With the match-engine this year.

Holland_Main_Fixtures.png

Holland_Overview.png

I'm thinking about something a little bit like Juventus played. Debating if I should drop one CM to the DM strata and play him as a regista/dlp and have 2 BBM at CM or have 3 flat CMs ( BBM CM(S)/DLP(D) BBM). I think the strikers I will play as Trequartista and DLF(A) but there's a lot to test when I get home

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So I've taken a new job in the Northern Irish second tier (you can follow my career in the FMCU forum), and have been playing something that's pretty much 90% similar to Cleon's system in the OP with some minor tweaks. It was working pretty nicely at first, but I've suddenly got 3 defeats in 4 and am now wondering whether I'm on the right path.

Here's what I'm doing differently:

- Fluid + More Disciplined instead of Flexible. The idea is to get the lines playing slightly closer together without an increase in creative freedom which would be undesirable at this level.

- Whipped Crosses, because my attackers tend to be quick not tall.

- DM/D instead of A/D, I haven't noticed any defensive penalty due to this really.

- I toy with the ML/MR roles depending on which players I have available, I've used W/S, DW/S and WM/S. In my preferred starting 11, the ML (quick, great crosser but can't dribble; has knocks ball past opponent PPM to offset that) plays as W/S; and my MR is a left-footed player that plays as WM/S.

- Perhaps the biggest change, I *had* both fullbacks as FB/S with get further forward + stay wider + cross more. This was a bit of a cheeky attempt to try to get the best out of the current ME, as I rarely found we got punished defensively for it, plus it added a bit of offensive danger. However recently I've turned off all PIs here and made them both regular FB/Ss, as an attempt to try to lure the opposition out of their positions more. We rarely had men in the area to finish the crosses anyway - unless the crosses met the incoming winger into the 2nd post, which was sometimes dangerous.

- I keep the lone striker permanently as DLF/A, out of laziness tbh.

The rest is exact same as Cleon's.

I'm not terribly concerned about our defending. Our 3 defeats were 0-2 0-1 0-1 where the 0-2 was down to 2 bad backpasses to the keeper, which I'll keep down to a freak event even at this level. The other 2 goals in the other matches were crosses IIRC. It's not like we'll ever keep a clean sheet every single match, so it's fine.

However what I'm very much concerned about is, where are our goals supposed to come from?

- Very rarely have we managed to score through coordinated counter-attacks like intended. Most opposition don't give us much space to do this, but when it does happen and I see my whole midfield rushing forward as a unit, the moves often fizzle out with a bad pass, a bad decision, or they just take too long to move the ball around and the opposition recovers their ground. I wonder if the players at this level are just so poor this is too sophisticated a plan for them.

- Our most dangerous recurring situation seemed to be intricate moves by the middle, that ended into through balls for my B2B midfielder who rushed into the area. However the player I was using as B2B had terrible finishing and composure and squandered most of these chances. I've since swapped him for a better finisher... and we stopped creating these chances.

- I wonder if always having 1 winger, sometimes 2 on the pitch, is actually counterproductive, as we only play a lone striker. Should we stop trying to cross the ball so much or at all?

- Related to the above, I think I made a mistake setting our home pitch dimensions to "narrow". The idea was to make it harder to break us down, as we cover the middle very well with our deep 4-1-4-1 formation. However it might be killing our own attacking plan as we can't find space ourselves, specially down the wings. But I don't believe I can change my pitch dimensions again...

Thoughts? Help? We're still doing okay, just not great. Pre-season prediction was 5th and we're 6th at the moment.

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Whipped Crosses, because my attackers tend to be quick not tall.

Whipped crosses tend to be early crosses from my experience so I'd check this on your save. If that's the case and you play a striker who drops deep then the crosses will amount to nothing 90% of the time.

- Perhaps the biggest change, I *had* both fullbacks as FB/S with get further forward + stay wider + cross more. This was a bit of a cheeky attempt to try to get the best out of the current ME, as I rarely found we got punished defensively for it, plus it added a bit of offensive danger. However recently I've turned off all PIs here and made them both regular FB/Ss, as an attempt to try to lure the opposition out of their positions more. We rarely had men in the area to finish the crosses anyway - unless the crosses met the incoming winger into the 2nd post, which was sometimes dangerous

You could try using wingbacks on support instead if you want a bit more presence further forward.

- I keep the lone striker permanently as DLF/A, out of laziness tbh.

I assume you use a 4141? The striker is vital as he's the lone man upfront. Having on an attack duty might not help when the rest of the side are sat deep either, he could be isolated at times.

- Very rarely have we managed to score through coordinated counter-attacks like intended. Most opposition don't give us much space to do this, but when it does happen and I see my whole midfield rushing forward as a unit, the moves often fizzle out with a bad pass, a bad decision, or they just take too long to move the ball around and the opposition recovers their ground. I wonder if the players at this level are just so poor this is too sophisticated a plan for them.

You can play this way with anyone really regardless of the league you are in. The oppositions players are equally as poor too. I think most of your issue will revolve around the striker though. Maybe pend a bit of time watching how he plays during a match and get him more involved.

- I wonder if always having 1 winger, sometimes 2 on the pitch, is actually counterproductive, as we only play a lone striker. Should we stop trying to cross the ball so much or at all?

Wingers are pretty pointless in any system where the striker drops off the front or support can't get up to the striker fast enough. After all the bread and butter of a wingers game is crossing.

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I'm thinking about something a little bit like Juventus played. Debating if I should drop one CM to the DM strata and play him as a regista/dlp and have 2 BBM at CM or have 3 flat CMs ( BBM CM(S)/DLP(D) BBM). I think the strikers I will play as Trequartista and DLF(A) but there's a lot to test when I get home

How about

CM(S)-B2B-Reg, 2 WB(S) and up fron DLF(A)+DF(D) ?

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How about

CM(S)-B2B-Reg, 2 WB(S) and up fron DLF(A)+DF(D) ?

Not exactly sure what you mean, the regista can only be at DM but yeah I've been thinking about having a regista and CM(S) and BBM at CM or just 2 BBMs, will try to figure it out at home.

Up top I'm settled on having a DLF(A) because thats how I think Llorente played and also I have a player who is exactly that type. The other one I guess I will have to think about more, will start as a Trequartista, might also try DLF(S), F9 and DF.

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Whipped crosses tend to be early crosses from my experience so I'd check this on your save. If that's the case and you play a striker who drops deep then the crosses will amount to nothing 90% of the time.

You could try using wingbacks on support instead if you want a bit more presence further forward.

I assume you use a 4141? The striker is vital as he's the lone man upfront. Having on an attack duty might not help when the rest of the side are sat deep either, he could be isolated at times.

You can play this way with anyone really regardless of the league you are in. The oppositions players are equally as poor too. I think most of your issue will revolve around the striker though. Maybe pend a bit of time watching how he plays during a match and get him more involved.

Wingers are pretty pointless in any system where the striker drops off the front or support can't get up to the striker fast enough. After all the bread and butter of a wingers game is crossing.

Thanks, that all makes sense. I'm using a 4-1-4-1 formation yes. It's frustrating because I wanted to take some of the concepts in this thread and make my own system, not just copy yours, but I just inherited a squad that fit that shape perfectly, and then as I tweak things and find issues I lean more and more towards the exact same settings.

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On a completely alternate point, purely just for the sake of discussion as I'm not going to try this, how would people set up a 4-4-2 and would it be a viable shape for this game plan. I tried it earlier on my career (a counter-attacking 4-4-2) but that was before reading this thread and I had some different ideas that now I can see why they wouldn't going to work - ie I had a winger pushed up to AML, a handful of different players on attack roles etc. I think it could be harder to pull off as you would always have one man less behind the ball but probably not entirely impossible, and probably a better shape to take use of classic wingers and crossing into the area as a key part of your game plan.

I'm thinking something along the lines of:

GK/D

FB/S

CB/D

CB/D

FB/S

DW/S

CM/S

DLP/S

DW/S

DLF/A

DF/D

?

Might be a bit too static though. But it's hard to add penetration from midfield (with for ex. a BBM) without then disrupting your defensive shape as you don't have a DM.

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Back with feedback. I'm undefeated in 9 games now after taking your advice and enjoying the save more than ever. I watched when I was at work some videos with Conte's 352 and read some analysis on zonal marking and decided to create something similar

So I went for 3 CDs ( CD(D) CD© CD(D)) 2WB(S) 3MC(B2B DLP(D) B2B) Trequartista and DLF(A). No TIs, Counter, Flexible

It's working really well so far and I feel that I really understand what each player has to do. I was lucky that the amount of videos with Conte's Juventus is pretty large.

Once again thanks for all the positive advice Cleon

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Back with feedback. I'm undefeated in 9 games now after taking your advice and enjoying the save more than ever. I watched when I was at work some videos with Conte's 352 and read some analysis on zonal marking and decided to create something similar

So I went for 3 CDs ( CD(D) CD© CD(D)) 2WB(S) 3MC(B2B DLP(D) B2B) Trequartista and DLF(A). No TIs, Counter, Flexible

It's working really well so far and I feel that I really understand what each player has to do. I was lucky that the amount of videos with Conte's Juventus is pretty large.

Once again thanks for all the positive advice Cleon

I'm glad you are now playing the way you want and understand the shape you use. I think understanding what you use is the real key to having success on FM :)

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One thing I noticed was that the DLP does so much work in my system and it's really important to have a good player there. He misses some passes at times which makes me think that the role is really good there but I just don't have the quality ( 2nd league S.Africa). He usually has all the space to figure out a good pass but sometimes he's just meh, thought about moving him to DM at first so he would be less pressured but then I saw that pressure was not really the problem. I'm thinking of maybe trying another role there which isn't a playmaker, maybe tweak a CM(D) to try risky passes but not attract that much of the ball.

Another thing I realized was that I had such a wrong misconception about what defenders have to do in a 352. I always thought that maybe the central defender was supposed to be a better passer and start things from there, but after reading a lot yesterday and watching the game, I think the RCB and LCB have to be good at passing and composure because most of the times they will pass to the Wingbacks. Yesterday I saw quite a high amount of passes missed from my lateral center backs, and they were supposed to be easy passses to the wingbacks but like I said, the quality is not really there in that department. This was another reason why I considered the DM, so he could get closer to the defenders and pick the ball up from there.

Also the reason I went for a CD© between the 2 CD(D) was to form a sort of a triangle in the defensive shape of the defenders, but it's not really exactly what I wanted. I think a sweeper there might do it but I never really used one so I'm a little bit skeptical.

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Is an AF(a) incompatible with a counter-attacking system? I'm playing a counter-attacking 4-4-2 with Red Star (should walk the league - so trying to draw opponents out, underdog in Europe so trying to stay tight at the back). All is going OK at the moment using DLF(s) and AF(a) up front... apart from the AF(a) isn't getting many goals.

I'm beginning to think that using the AF(a) is keeping the opposition pinned back so he's not able to exploit the space in behind (he's a classic Michael Owen, fast, good dribbler and finisher but not good at linking up). If I change his role to something a little less aggressive, maybe we'll be able to draw opponents out and he can then exploit the space. Any ideas?

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Whipped crosses tend to be early crosses from my experience so I'd check this on your save. If that's the case and you play a striker who drops deep then the crosses will amount to nothing 90% of the time.

You could try using wingbacks on support instead if you want a bit more presence further forward.

I assume you use a 4141? The striker is vital as he's the lone man upfront. Having on an attack duty might not help when the rest of the side are sat deep either, he could be isolated at times.

You can play this way with anyone really regardless of the league you are in. The oppositions players are equally as poor too. I think most of your issue will revolve around the striker though. Maybe pend a bit of time watching how he plays during a match and get him more involved.

Wingers are pretty pointless in any system where the striker drops off the front or support can't get up to the striker fast enough. After all the bread and butter of a wingers game is crossing.

Sorry for continuing a moan but I've tried taking in all of this advice and it still didn't help. Played another 5 matches and we could only score 3, 2 of them against a lower league side in the cup. At this stage I'm not really looking for a solution anymore as I've lost all faith in this season, more like reporting on what I'm seeing and promoting a bit more discussion.

So what I did was to revert my ML/MR roles permanently to WM/S, remove Whipped Crosses, made one of my fullbacks a WB/S (the guy on the right that had decent dribbling/attacking skills), took a serious look at my strikers and have been toying with a couple different roles, DLF/S, DLF/A, DF/D. I even dropped my DM/D to a A/D after watching 2 full matches and realizing sometimes my centre-backs were 2 vs 2 against the opposition strikers and needed some help. So effectively all I have different at all from your opening post's 4-1-4-1 is the following instructions Fluid / More Disciplined; and I've given the following PIs to my MR: more risky passes / shoots less often (he was taking a ridiculous amount of speculative long shots); and my ML: more risky passes / gets further forward (the idea was to have 1 wing runner help out the ST to get less isolated). All the rest is the exact same.

Here's what I realized from watching the full matches:

- the striker on DLF/A did indeed get a bit isolated, but switching to DF/D or DLF/S doesn't seem to have helped my cause much. I think a large problem is the abilities of my strikers and not so much the role itself. I've got 3 players - a 37 year old whose technicals/mentals are good but his physicals are poor, I found he rarely touches the ball as he finds himself late to every single challenge. Then there's Chris Trussell who I hired as the best of my forwards in theory, he is much more involved however he squanders so many plays in even simple square balls out to the wings it's silly. He cannot pass at all. Then my 3rd striker is similar to Trussell except he has 1 in passing, so he's even worse.

- From the full matches I watched, I didn't ever see us trigging the coordinated full-team counter, apart from when the opposition is up for a corner and loses the ball. This is the only situation I regularly see all my players rushing forward, except the moves invariably always always fall apart, as someone makes a bad pass or takes too long with the ball. So effectively 95% of the time we're either 10 men behind the ball; or playing an extreme dull possession game where we pass the ball side to side until someone makes a bad pass and loses the ball (and it's not even risky passes most of the time, often they miss simple square balls); or until someone loses their cool and strikes a ridiculously speculative long shot. Having taking off the winger roles we do not longer cross the ball (to be fair it's not like there was anyone in the area, as you said), so it looks as if we've now got even less options to score, not more. I'm considering switching to have 1 winger again, we were better.

- Notice we do have pretty decent passers for this level in the midfield strata; and most of the time we play a ML, a ST (Trussell) and some MCs with some pace. Apart from the issues with the abilities of the strikers, it's not like our players are completely, absolutely unsuited for counter-attacks. This is why I feel perhaps the plan just doesn't fit the level of Northern Irish 2nd tier football. All-season long almost all the goals I've seen at both ends have been ridiculously scrappy nonsense, like a cross to the area and the keeper spills it, or a bad backpass, or a rebound or whatever. It really does feel like at this level the most important thing to do is to get the ball into the opposition area and mistakes will happen. Whereas our plan pretty much never puts the ball into the opposition area, therefore we cannot ever take advantage of this...

- I could switch to a 2 ST formation and play out-and-out wingers to get the ball into the area, but I wonder if all my strikers are so poor why should I play 2 of them? This is the main reason I settled on a 4-1-4-1 anyway, again I wasn't trying to end up on an exact same copy of Cleon's Sheff Utd team on purpose. We had a surplus of full-backs and wingers/wide midfielders, and a lack of strikers even after hitting the transfer market. Strikerless then, maybe? Now that would make us even more toothless...

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Is an AF(a) incompatible with a counter-attacking system? I'm playing a counter-attacking 4-4-2 with Red Star (should walk the league - so trying to draw opponents out, underdog in Europe so trying to stay tight at the back). All is going OK at the moment using DLF(s) and AF(a) up front... apart from the AF(a) isn't getting many goals.

I'm beginning to think that using the AF(a) is keeping the opposition pinned back so he's not able to exploit the space in behind (he's a classic Michael Owen, fast, good dribbler and finisher but not good at linking up). If I change his role to something a little less aggressive, maybe we'll be able to draw opponents out and he can then exploit the space. Any ideas?

What role are your wide men on?

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Sorry for continuing a moan but I've tried taking in all of this advice and it still didn't help.

No need to be sorry, you're doing it in a constructive way :)

Played another 5 matches and we could only score 3, 2 of them against a lower league side in the cup. At this stage I'm not really looking for a solution anymore as I've lost all faith in this season, more like reporting on what I'm seeing and promoting a bit more discussion.

In those games at any point have you watched them back to see why the players aren't scoring? I'd look at things like player positioning, support options in the final third and see if its an issue getting through the oppositions defence because a lack of options or a lack of supply.

So what I did was to revert my ML/MR roles permanently to WM/S, remove Whipped Crosses, made one of my fullbacks a WB/S (the guy on the right that had decent dribbling/attacking skills), took a serious look at my strikers and have been toying with a couple different roles, DLF/S, DLF/A, DF/D. I even dropped my DM/D to a A/D after watching 2 full matches and realizing sometimes my centre-backs were 2 vs 2 against the opposition strikers and needed some hel

I'm replying as I go along so sorry about the question above asking if you watch matches, you've just stated you did. Have you nitced if this change as had any knock on effect for the build up play?

- the striker on DLF/A did indeed get a bit isolated, but switching to DF/D or DLF/S doesn't seem to have helped my cause much. I think a large problem is the abilities of my strikers and not so much the role itself. I've got 3 players - a 37 year old whose technicals/mentals are good but his physicals are poor, I found he rarely touches the ball as he finds himself late to every single challenge. Then there's Chris Trussell who I hired as the best of my forwards in theory, he is much more involved however he squanders so many plays in even simple square balls out to the wings it's silly. He cannot pass at all. Then my 3rd striker is similar to Trussell except he has 1 in passing, so he's even worse.

It's good you've identified the issue and know the cause of it. In my possession thread I have had to make a subtle change and make my IF an attack duty instead of a support role due to him being too poor to lead the line on his own. Maybe just maybe you need to push someone closer to your striker with the use of an attack duty to take some of the burden off him? This can be done by a positional change or via an attack duty.

- From the full matches I watched, I didn't ever see us trigging the coordinated full-team counter, apart from when the opposition is up for a corner and loses the ball. This is the only situation I regularly see all my players rushing forward, except the moves invariably always always fall apart, as someone makes a bad pass or takes too long with the ball. So effectively 95% of the time we're either 10 men behind the ball; or playing an extreme dull possession game where we pass the ball side to side until someone makes a bad pass and loses the ball (and it's not even risky passes most of the time, often they miss simple square balls); or until someone loses their cool and strikes a ridiculously speculative long shot. Having taking off the winger roles we do not longer cross the ball (to be fair it's not like there was anyone in the area, as you said), so it looks as if we've now got even less options to score, not more. I'm considering switching to have 1 winger again, we were better.

Have you considered playing with more expressive shout active, so players might b a bit more proactive? Also you play fluid and while this will push the lines closer together it might not actually be a good thing. You could be killing your chances because there is little space between your own lines. If that's the case then you might not trigger counters or players might be far to close to each other at times rather than allowing them a little bit of space. It's space what creates movement you see but if you don't have enough space this will impact the movement and limit it.

- I could switch to a 2 ST formation and play out-and-out wingers to get the ball into the area, but I wonder if all my strikers are so poor why should I play 2 of them? This is the main reason I settled on a 4-1-4-1 anyway, again I wasn't trying to end up on an exact same copy of Cleon's Sheff Utd team on purpose. We had a surplus of full-backs and wingers/wide midfielders, and a lack of strikers even after hitting the transfer market. Strikerless then, maybe? Now that would make us even more toothless...

RTH created a new formation and it ended up almost identical by accident too, so don't worry about it :D

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What role are your wide men on?

My midfield looks like this

LM = WM(s)

MCL = CM(d)

MCR = CM (auto)

MR = WM (a)

Theres a bit of hole between the AF(a) (playing on the right of the front two) and the MC behind him. I'm thinking this is to do with the CMs automatic duty. I really want him to get forward and help the AF(a) out, but concerned about leaving the other MC to do all the dirty work...

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My midfield looks like this

LM = WM(s)

MCL = CM(d)

MCR = CM (auto)

MR = WM (a)

Theres a bit of hole between the AF(a) (playing on the right of the front two) and the MC behind him. I'm thinking this is to do with the CMs automatic duty. I really want him to get forward and help the AF(a) out, but concerned about leaving the other MC to do all the dirty work...

If you are playing a counter attacking system then I presume you dont change your match strategy from game to game? If that is so then I'm not sure why you would use an automatic role for your cm?. You would probably be better suited to use something like a DF D and then a DLF A as your front two.

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I refuse and am stubborn to deny a base 4-2-3-1 some stinging semblance on the break! Some posts refer to a deep central midfield pair in the DM strata. This requires holding roles for the pair. I suggest roaming playmaker and deep lying playmaker, as the roaming playmaker is probably the closest a role can get to a box-to-box midfielder. However, thoughts of a completely defensive role such as anchor man or half back would seem unlikely to penetrate well during the transition and final third phases, and yet the OP's message is clear that traditional ideas of what works and what doesn't are being argued. Not only that, but the distinction between tactics and style of play are in discussion here. Working with a base 4-2-3-1 formation, I refer to the Pairs & Combinations document. Referring to that only yields ideas and ideal principles. I ask again for a fleshed out discussion aimed towards this base formation, in hopes that this formation, which has carried my underdog teams to greatness in FM15, could show some potential. :p

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I refuse and am stubborn to deny a base 4-2-3-1 some stinging semblance on the break! Some posts refer to a deep central midfield pair in the DM strata. This requires holding roles for the pair. I suggest roaming playmaker and deep lying playmaker, as the roaming playmaker is probably the closest a role can get to a box-to-box midfielder. However, thoughts of a completely defensive role such as anchor man or half back would seem unlikely to penetrate well during the transition and final third phases, and yet the OP's message is clear that traditional ideas of what works and what doesn't are being argued. Not only that, but the distinction between tactics and style of play are in discussion here. Working with a base 4-2-3-1 formation, I refer to the Pairs & Combinations document. Referring to that only yields ideas and ideal principles. I ask again for a fleshed out discussion aimed towards this base formation, in hopes that this formation, which has carried my underdog teams to greatness in FM15, could show some potential. :p

You should check this out on my blog it's part one of a mini series that I posted today

http://sisportscentre.com/keeping-it-simple/

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Back with some more feedback.

A bit after my post I hit a little it of a slump where my players didn't manage to create quality chances. I looked at the matches in full and realized that there were times when my leftbacks launched longballs towards the strikers, same with my B2Bs launching through balls for the F9.

Just as a reminder my shape right now is 352

CD(D) CD© CD(D) - LWB(S) RWB(S) - B2B DLP(D) B2B - DLF(A) F9(S)

I replaced the Trequartista with a F9 because he drops more and links the play better and felt it played more like how Tevez did for Juventus. After watching some of Rashidi's videos I decided to analyze my games using prozone and realized that the wingbacks were wasting a lot of passes by going directly for the strikers and also sometimes where crossing from way too deep. The first thing I did was add Short Passing and solves some of the problems with a lot of longballs; I know it won't solve all, sometimes players at this level go for the hoof-ball and I have nothing against that, chances can come from there. Then I wanted to solve the crosses from really deep and heard Rashidi saying that Work ball into box also reduces crossing, so I added that after some games as well. It made things a lot better

But still, I had a feeling that I'm not creating that many quality chances so I looked again and noticed that at times the 5 " midfielders" would be too flat and that's why the wingback was going for the long balls into space for one of the strikers. Sometimes the B2B would not be in the desired positions but would rather hang a bit back. I decided to use is some of the game "Get Further Forward" for the 2 B2Bs and already I saw a difference. Few games later I added "Move into channels" to both of them and things kind of clicked I think. I beat the league and club record of unbeaten games(20), winning a lot of 1-0, 2-0s but also drawing some. I like this a lot, this is the type of football I enjoy, a patient and safe one and winning 1-0 and 2-0 is just the best for me. But there are things I noticed that still need work and maybe here you can help me a bit

Against oposition that really press me, like the 4312 and 433(3ST) I seem to have a hard time. Most of my draws come against these sides because I hold them back but I'm not able to score.

After reading your post again I noticed that the reason you sometimes use a DF(D) is against sides that sit a little bit higher, so I'm thinking now about maybe changing the DLF(A) to DF(D) but i'm not sure how this can work coupled with a F9. Also I was thinking of maybe dropping shorter passing against them but I don't want my players to lose the ball alot by trying the long passes.

I'm 1st right now in the league so things are going really well, that's why I'm trying to ask for some suggestions; getting promoted would be huge.

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Remember that the strength of the 352 is the wingbacks. Against the sides you struggle to break down have you considered having them more aggressive to provide with and to make the opposition defend more?

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I tried playing a little bit more wide but as a team. Other than that I did try using Complete Wingbacks one game to see if there was a big difference but on a support duty and as far as positioning goes the difference wasn't huge. I will try moving them to an attack duty in this type of games, I guess I was just refraining from using that "mentality". Maybe changing them to attack and also changing the DLP(D) to a CM(D) so he doesn't attract much of the ball might also be a good idea? So they won't be tempted to switch the ball to the center of the pitch too early?

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