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The Art of Counter Attacking


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Thank you Cleon for opening my eyes to how FM16 needs to be played. Fantastic thread and very interesting philosophy which has brought the fun back into the game.

Guys this is most certainly NOT a defensive tactic setup at all - 8 games in as Hull City i'm top - scoring 14 goals and conceding just 2 goals. In my last game against a team in 4th I had 24 shots with 14 on target - my only gripe is I only won 3-0.... :D

Nice to see you are making this kind of set up work for you :)

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Great post, JDeeguain. Some great insight. Cleon mentioned the player attributes that he would target as key in players that will work most effectively, but its great to reinforce that. It can really make a difference in how a tactic functions if the players don't quite fit what they are being asked to do. I've used a counter approach similar to the OP with Hull City and run into that. I don't know that I fully recognized it as a limitation, but I definitely do now. The wide defenders are more attacking wingback types than center backs who can play wide and have some speed and dribbling. The wide mids are either more slow playmaker or wide forward types than wide mids with pace. PPMs are another aspect that can come into play, either positive or negative.

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With a few tweaks i'm getting even more out of this, most games i now dominate and my shot completion rate is improving, keeper is distrubing much better as well.

1. Moved both FB into WB(s)

2. Keeper to distribute to Wing Backs

3. Work Ball into box to prevent long balls

4. Anchor man Tackle Hard

5. Low Crosses

6. Both WB shoot less and run wide with ball

7. DF set to hold up ball

Just need to work on crossing as its poor at the moment and most arent successful - would you recommend I cross less / cross to centre??

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This has been a great thread, thank you all for helping me create a style of play that I'm really enjoying.

Currently Brighton, first season won promotion. Second season stayed up, and towards the end of that season with safety guaranteed I began to adopt this style of play. A bit of a disclaimer but it took me almost two seasons to bring in the right personnel to play this way, and my play now in the fourth season is hugely different to when I first started it. Don't start playing this way and think you can do it right away with a 10 Aggression center back or a playmakery winger.

Mentality/TIs are the same as the OP.

However, from tweaking and various experimenting I feel this tactic is slowly become my own, but I still pay great homage to Cleon and to an extent Jambo98, but I'll get to that later on.

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Still looks quite similar to the OP but I make various changes depending on whom I'm facing. Usually both my wingers are on the winger role with support duties and I like them to run at the defences (who as my club rep improves, are getting deeper and deeper), so I look for pace and "knocks ball past opponent" PPM. Against top 4 teams especially away from home I put them back to wide midfielders as I don't want to risk losing the ball from my wingers attempting to take on better quality opposition full backs.

I experimented a lot with the CM/S role, but eventually I kept it as it was. A DLP sat off too much and AP didn't offer me the work rate I wanted.

Defensive full backs are a must. Don't think you can shove a converted winger here and expect fireworks. Essentially just pace/acceleration and standard defensive attributes (aggression and bravery included). Center backs must extremely physical, aggressive and brave too.

The BBM is by far the most dangerous player in the system and it takes inspiration from Jambo98's famous 4-5-1 thread from FM 15 where he discusses in great detail the "Central Winger". A player who can use his dribbling ability to run past the striker. It took over a season of tweaking to find the right PIs and player to make this work. But currently I have Jorge Correa who is just a joy to watch, but I'm getting worried because he has a 20m clause for Champions League clubs. He usually picks up the ball close to the halfway line, uses his PPM "Runs with ball often" to start running at the opposition, ending up in the channels thanks to his "moves into channels" PPM. From this point he either goes wide and puts in a dangerous cross or uses his "Plays one-twos" PPM with the striker or winger to create dangerous movement around the box. I decided due to these PPMs I'd only use one PI "Dribble More". I must emphasise it's a joy to watch, and even in games where the team does poorly or he doesn't contribute goals/assists, Correa is still getting 7+ ratings consistently.

Currently top of the league after 8 games, winning 7 and losing (can't win 'em all) a game to Derby (if anyone could tell me decent ways of defending corners, I'd appreciate it). Conceding only 3 goals, 2 from corners and 1 from Richmond Boakye wondergoal. Kept clean sheets away to Man City and Liverpool.

Thanks for the great thread Cleon.

P.S: This season is going kinda great. I've been playing this game for 7+ years and this has been my favourite season. Only 4 goals conceded in the league. Posting this because my squad has become decimated with injuries and I don't think it'll last, the closest I've ever been to the park the tank achievement. Correa is out for the rest of the season :(.

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P.P.S: Yup, it happened. No Park the tank yet :(. Even though we won, we conceded 75% more goals than we had all season to this point. My OCD is annoyed, but I'm being selfish now.

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What a brilliant post :) Thanks for the name check and you know what, i never once considered taking the concept of the "central winger" from last years system and incorporating it here. Thats a great bit of thinking. The one area in my version of this tactic where i have absolutely struggled the most, was the central midfield pairing. Getting the balance right is a real challenge. Also using the BBM in the "central winger" role is also pretty unusual, i would have first thought of the CM(s) type player. But as you rightly say, and have executed, PPM's make or break that role.

As you also rightly say, the right player type is essential to this type of football. Im off now to look at my central midfield pair again :)

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I also wanna echo JDeeguain's post, I think there is so much great info in this thread and has changed the way I've been playing the game. I've got my own thread talking about what I've been doing but its worth acknowledging how Cleons thoughts have influenced how I play.

My basic tactic is now:

HUywVC9.jpg

Highly structured

Counter mentality

More direct

Very narrow

Stay Disciplined

Stick to positions

And I'm currently top of the championship with it. :)

But I do think that I couldn't just plug in that tactic and play without changes, teams play differently to me than they did initially. Me wanting to keep clean sheets and nick a goal every game has brought me success so far, but it gets harder to do when teams sit back. It does however mean that I can use the first 15-20 minutes of a match to suss out whether I have to make a change or not, as I very rarely am threatened in that time.

If I see that they are simply not threatening me at all, I wack up the Width to WIIIIIDE! That usually allows my fullbacks and wingers to really excel and put in crosses for the target man and runners. I chose width over tempo or d-line as a way of being more attacking because it allowed more depth of attack without adding much risk, especially as most teams play 442 in the league, so it counters their wingers.

Then once I get the goal, I switch back to narrow and wait for them to come at me. Then I can switch roles to more or less attacking as I see fit.

And yes, the right type of player is vital, I want to focus on the most physical, tall players I can get, with plenty of pace on the wings. Overall having players in the back and centre who can concentrate all game is a massive part of what is needed because they often just don't have the ball.

So thanks again everyone in this thread.

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Hi there,

I'm struggling with Leeds in the first Season at Premier League. I was able to get the promotion using a possession based football, but now this isn't working very well. So I want to create a new option to have against the stronger teams and the away matches.

The first problem that I have is that all my Wingers are Inside Forwards, so they don’t fit the Wide Middlefield role. Is it possible to use the counter with a 4-1-2-2-1 with Inside forwards, or this is against the objective of the Counter attack because I will have more players in the front?

I was thinking of something like this:

GK (d)

W (s) CD (d) CD (d) FB (s)

DM (d)

CM (s) CM (a)

IF (s) IF (s)

Striker? Don’t know

As TI I don’t have any one in mind, so I will stick with a clear idea and them I will add things…

Suggestions?

Thanks all, and happy Christmas.

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Why can't you use players who are suited as inside forwards as WM's? That's how I tend to set mine up, add cuts inside PI's, gets further forward PI's and he's a IF almost in everything but name.

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Hi Cleon

Fantastic thread it's really helping out, would love to read more about your thoughts on counter attacking.

I'm trying to set out an idea exactly like your 4-1-4-1 but I don't have any wide midfielders at Blackburn Rovers, so I need to utilize two AM's on either flank.

I know you stress that it's important to have two solid banks of defense and midfield, especially in this thread, and that you do not like using wide AM's because they do not track back. Unfortunately I do not have option not to use these wide AM's (damn transfer embargoes).

Can I make this work with a 4-5-1 with my wide AM's? Is it as simple as setting them both to wingers on support duty or will I have to designate new roles for the other positions as well.

Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks alot for your help!

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Cleon, the only motive is that they don't fit in the role, so why should I put them there? The don't know how to defend...

So I will convert a WM as a IF?

And, one more thing, almost all don't know how to play as a RM or LM, just as a attacking.

Well consider this - as WMs, they may not be that effective in defense as they don't have the skills. But at least they are in a position to be helpful defensively. They will at least try to contribute. As AML/AMR they aren't positioned to help defensively and role-wise, won't be expected to help as much. So would you prefer to have them at least trying to help maintain the defensive solidity or leave it to the other players to defend? As Cleon points out, a 4-1-4-1 formation isn't required to play on the counter, but if the intent is to maintain defensive solidity and then counter when the opportunity arises, it does make sense to have as many players back helping.

You also have to think that an IF-type player is likely going to have skills that are helpful - even necessary - when on the counter attacking. Pace, dribbling, crossing, and finishing ability.... These will help make the counters more effective. A player who is more strictly suited as a wide midfielder might be a CM who can play out wide, but may also lack some of those same attributes. So they may help more in the defensive phase, less in the counter-attack.

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The best way of thinking is that a player isn't necessarily a WM or an IF - he is what you want him to be. You can easily just retrain people positionally so you have a fantastic player with all the IF Key Attributes, who is capable at ML/R, or vice versa. Better still, you can look beyond the Key Attributes of individual Roles and train players on hybrid attributes which gives you the best of both worlds.

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Thank you bigpapa, Jambo and Cleon for your nice replies. I'm usually a lurker on here, and to receive such nice messages from people who's guides I've followed for years now is leaving me for a lack of a better word, giddy, and that's probably the saddest thing I've ever said in my life so let's get on with the post.

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One could say this was a great season for a team predicted by the media to finish 8th. So close to the double, the nearly men. 2 points off the title, FA Cup finalists and the lowest amount of goals conceded in the league by a distance. 23 clean sheets in 38 games for Timo Horn. But if it wasn't for this awful, awful spell over Christmas where 7 players (mostly first choice) of my 23 man squad were out for mostly mid term length injuries (1/2 months) in addition to some players getting unsettled by bigger clubs and playing dirt, it could of been so much better.

Sometimes the game doesn't want you to win:

eb232f9be4f1adc5753a11a5292adce3.png

That's 13 goals conceded in 12 games, including 2 to lower league opposition. Compare this to 11 goals conceded in 35 games either side of that spell and you can see that it wasn't a coincidence. I think it goes to show that no matter how good your gameplan is, there's so much more to FM than just getting your tactics right. My squad building during the summer was awful, having only 23 capable first team players was a dumb move on my part. I thought with no Continental competitions I'd get away with it, but there was a time where all 3 of my strikers were injured and I was playing Cheryshev up front. Who, to be honest actually performed quite well in the role and has given me something to ponder for the next season. But it was telling that as soon as most of my players we fit again (March), we started routinely keeping solid. Sometimes you're just being dumb, which is why you're losing games. It's not your tactics.

For Next Season:

The winger roles must change back to WM. Our crossing stats this season were atrocious and our strikers are relatively small, so they'll be WMs with dribble more instruction. Orrrrr, I could sign myself a good old fashioned target man for some variation. We'll see.

I need to sign more English players, the squad quotas kicked me in the ass. It's rare however to find English players to fit my system.

I experimented with more defensive set-ups towards the end of the season and beat Man Utd 3-1 a week before the FA Cup final, and in the final they beat us in Extra Time thanks to an error. Could be something to use in tough European games next season. It's the same as I have only my WMs are attacking, my CM/s turns into DLP/s, I turn on possession shouts and play narrower. The central winger remains.

Oh and some sort of silverware would be nice. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

The Central Winger

Correa got a nasty injury that kept him out from November-March time (see bad run of form, a factor?). I had Jeff Hendrick in the squad but to maintain my title challenge he just wasn't going to cut it. I went out and panic bought Gianni Imbula. He likes to run with the ball through the centre of the pitch and get into the opposition area. Unfortunately he has problems settling in and never really got going, he's one for next season for sure. He had glimpses of Correa brilliance in the role, but too often his decision making was poor and I guess that's down to his personal issues.

Cheryshev

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This man is a monster and from now on the template winger in my system. Signed from relegated Aston Villa for 10m, he won player of the year in the Premier League and I wouldn't be surprised to see him nominated for the Balon d'or. 35 apps, 15 goals and 13 assists. As mentioned previously, he even went up front for a couple of games during the bad spell and actually excelled. My right winger, Ray Bereens, has been a proflific assister in his two seasons at the club, but I now have a 30m budget and see what the perfect winger is capable of. I'll very harshly upgrade him. The wingers are such important roles in this team in the attacking phase, I need the very best.

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Fantastic post Cleon. I tampered with counter attacking in FM15 and found a degree of success using it with Sunderland although I think a lot of it was pot luck. Like you said I was one of those who felt like I had to use team instructions and perhaps I over complicated things, I have been using a similar tactic to the one you detailed in your article with zero team instructions although I have altered some of the roles to better suit the players at my disposal and things are going well so far!

Once again thank you very much for posting this!

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Its in early development but I have been testing a counter tactic that involves man marking. Now the whole team isn't man marking but I let some of my players man mark the opposition key guys. I want you guys to know also that it is important to trust your scouts when they scout your next opposition. That way you can keypoint which guys you need to mark. Against Newcastle, I know who to mark thanks to the scouts. I man marked high rated Haidara with Sadio Mane my right winger. I also knew that Moussa Sissoko and Georgio Wjnaldum were both wingers that are always good in this game so I allowed my full backs Matteo Darmain and Marcos Rojo to mark them. Later in the game, I also noticed Papiss Cisse was getting some CCCs in, so I told Schweini to go back and man mark him. Basically, with this system, I nuturalized the attack of the Toon.

Counter/Fluid

Fluid because I wanted everyone to partake in the transition to attack

SK (s)

FB (s)-CD(d)-CD(d)-FB (s)

W(a)-CM(s)-RPM-W(a)

SS(a)

CF(s)

I ignored the reccommendations from the OP. I used as much as 5 attacking roles and got a good counter tactic in the same 4-1-4-1 shape one time. This time, I decided to use 3.

SK (s) - Roll It Out, Distribute to CB, Distribute Quickly

It would be a waste not to use De Gea as a sweeper keeper. He has the attributes for such a role.

FB (s) x 2

Just two disiplined FBs that will help the attack but serves to defend first.

CD (d) x 2 Pass It Shorter, Ease Off Tackles, Close Down Much Less

The last line of defense which are expected to do nothing but that.

W (a) x 2 Roam From Position

A hybrid of a winger and an IF. Both wingers I use has PPMs Cuts Inside and Runs With Ball Often. Hopefully, this helps us to be more lethal...and unpredictable on the break.

CM (s) Tackle Harder

A more defensive disiplined CM but one that is not afraid to support the attack.

RPM (s) More Risky

A defensive playmaker that sprays the long balls and the killer passes. I ALWAYS play with one. Makes any counterattacking tactic much more spicier in my opinion :)

SS (a) Roam From Position

A False 10. One that is not afriad to bomb forward to be an option when counterattacking

CF (s) Move Into Channels

The jack of all trades. His link up with the SS will be vital.

TIs:

Play Out Defense/Work Ball Into Box

I want some patience on the attack. Don't play hoof ball or hit long shots for the sake of it.

Exploit the Flanks

The wingers needs to be the guys that carry the team because they must use their pace to go at defenses.

Stay On Feet

No stupid fouls are needed. Especially when you are man marking.

Whipped Crosses

Crosses are an option in order to seek out my front 1.5 who are decent in the air.

I'm having a go at more games but so far, so good

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W (a) x 2 Roam From Position

A hybrid of a winger and an IF. Both wingers I use has PPMs Cuts Inside and Runs With Ball Often.

-So ,what he does in game more often ? he runs wide or he cuts inside ?

-why u didn't choose a WM(A) , see what he does ,and then decide the P.I.s ?

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-So ,what he does in game more often ? he runs wide or he cuts inside ?

-why u didn't choose a WM(A) , see what he does ,and then decide the P.I.s ?

My winger does either oft the two. I didn't choose a WM (a) because I really didn't need to. My PPMs on the players were enough combined with the W (a ) role

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I have a few pics to share..but do not know how to do it...I was looking at FAQS...and nothing...

so i played 63 matches and scored 122 goals and allowed 27...with formation 4-2-3-1

win 49

draw 7

lost 7 win percentage 77%

in one season with Partizan Belgrade...I could have less to lose...but I could not because I was in champions league with..Juventus..FCP..Olympiacos..

I passed first phase but suddenly Galatasaray beat me at home 0-2...then draw at their house 2-2...and this is the end of my story in champions league...

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I've adopted this counter-attacking approach after having decided to start as Montrose in Scotland. Poor squad with not a lot of money, so not a lot to work with. I've found the style defensively very solid, but doesn't seem to offer much going forward. I watch matches on Comprehensive and sometimes Extended and, though there isn't a great amount of acceleration/pace in the team, they don't seem to move the ball quickly at all. It's quite an odd thing to see. Not entirely sure what shouts/decisions to make to rectify this, or whether it is because of my poor players?

Thanks for the article, Cleon.

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I have a few pics to share..but do not know how to do it...I was looking at FAQS...and nothing...

so i played 63 matches and scored 122 goals and allowed 27...with formation 4-2-3-1

win 49

draw 7

lost 7 win percentage 77%

in one season with Partizan Belgrade...I could have less to lose...but I could not because I was in champions league with..Juventus..FCP..Olympiacos..

I passed first phase but suddenly Galatasaray beat me at home 0-2...then draw at their house 2-2...and this is the end of my story in champions league...

It does tell you in the FAQ's how to upload screenshots so not sure if you really looked or missed it?. This is taken from it;

How do I add screenshots to the forum?

You use the link the image hosting site gives you (you can't upload to SI it needs to be an image hosting site like imageshack.us or

http://imgur.com/) and then you add it here using the 'image' option on the options when you post. So you click the 'image' icon, choose from URL and add the link you got from the image hosting site into the empty box. Also untick the box that says 'Retrieve remote file and reference locally

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I agree with Jean ,

playing with counter attacking mentality you can achieve even higher possesion % stats ,in combination with much lower tempo ,push higher up ,more closing down ,shorter passing easier than a control mentality.

But if you play counter attack or not its another issue....

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I agree with Jean ,

playing with counter attacking mentality you can achieve even higher possesion % stats ,in combination with much lower tempo ,push higher up ,more closing down ,shorter passing easier than a control mentality.

But if you play counter attack or not its another issue....

+1

It's not uncommon for my Brighton team to have 60% possession at times as teams drop back due to my rising club rep. But don't discount still being able to play counter attacking football. If for a second the opposition thinks about attacking me, I have the pace and the guile to exploit it right there and then. If they don't, they're pinned in their own box and it's quite unlikely I'm going to concede on the counter because I'm not over committing either. It's a war of attrition almost. But as the cliché goes, if you don't concede you don't lose games. I'm happy with that personally.

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First time poster who is struggling with FM16, I've played various incarnations of FM over the years and usually end up playing possession 4231. After reading this post I'm determined to make 4141 counter a success. I played a season with Carlisle following the basic principles laid out in the post, sacked. I put the failure down to personnel and also not being able to successfully tweak the tactic in game when I'm on top with possession. What advice would people offer to push on and win when heavily on top? I use no ti or pi and play counter flexible. How much of a change in dynamic would switching to standard make? I'm about to start again with Carlisle following the same principles but would like a bit extra tactical nous.

Thank you in advance.

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i have a save that i play only 4-1-4-1 counter flexible with success ,the only TI i use is higher tempo and occasionally i adapt the width.

But i have a good side , i don't know if Carlisle has the players for it.

I usually have 2 attacking roles.

I think its not necessary to change the mentality

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  • 2 weeks later...

Jonathan Wilson's piece in The Guardian today is great food for thought on possession vs counter-attacking, proactive vs reactive tactics, perhaps most appropriate in this ongoing discussion. The article suggests what's been promoted in the great recent Tactics Forum threads - these dichotomies are not really black-and-white choices.

Link: "The Question: What is Attacking Football?"

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I'm struggling with a 442 counter.

--------af-a-------dlf-s

--wm-s--dlp-d---cm-d----wm-a

--fb-s---cd-d-----cd-d-----fb-s

---------------gk-d

The only team instruction is pass shorter and I'm playing on highly structured, I feel that the mentality may be problematic but I've played on structured ad flexible too without any improvement.

Is the problem too many attack duties? Or too defensive in the centre?

The goals I'm conceding are primarily from the centre of the pitch

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Is it possible to use this tactic on the long run? I'm torn between having a go with this approach or with a 3-4-3 based on the 'defensive arts' thread.

I prefer using the 4-1-4-1 but will this setup fail if I use a big club (eg. Arsenal, Chelsea)? Does it have the capacity to be an effective setup against teams that will play a defensive game?

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The problem is largely the use of two strikers. The AF will ALWAYS be up front and high up the field, so that immediately reduces the number of times a counter can be triggered.

Thanks RTH, would a dlf-a alleviate that problem? or is it the fact there's permanently two strikers pinning the defensive line back?

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Is it possible to use this tactic on the long run? I'm torn between having a go with this approach or with a 3-4-3 based on the 'defensive arts' thread.

I prefer using the 4-1-4-1 but will this setup fail if I use a big club (eg. Arsenal, Chelsea)? Does it have the capacity to be an effective setup against teams that will play a defensive game?

It's viable, because it is still effective against more Defensive Mentalities too. Going and attacking a defensive side is often a poor idea, so being a bit deeper and more patient will still lure them out.

Thanks RTH, would a dlf-a alleviate that problem? or is it the fact there's permanently two strikers pinning the defensive line back?

I think really a front two of any combination will be problematical because whilst the DLF will drop deepish in defensive phases, he'll still likely be on the attacking side of the AI midfield. If you want to Counter in the FM sense, you need to get as many players deep and behind the ball as you can.

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Thanks Cleon :thup:

This has inspired me to start my Villa save again and try to create a more solid tactic.

My biggest worry with the villa squad is the WM(S) positions. I have Grealish, Gil, Traore & Sinclar who are all more suited to playing in the AMR/AML positions, although they are blessed with the pace to suit Counter Attacking football. Will be interesting to see how they perform.

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Thanks Cleon :thup:

I have Grealish, Gil, Traore & Sinclar who are all more suited to playing in the AMR/AML positions, although they are blessed with the pace to suit Counter Attacking football. Will be interesting to see how they perform.

I'm playing Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott as my ML/MR, neither of them have high ratings for the position according to my assistant, but more importantly, both of them have the attributes required to play there just fine. Both get forward when they need to. I think people are too hesitant to drop the AML/AMR to the ML/MR strata because they think that the player is "unsuited" for the position. You'll get a much more defensively sound tactic with just that change of dropping wingers to the midfield instead of AM strata without losing any of the advantages in my opinion.

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Thanks Cleon :thup:

This has inspired me to start my Villa save again and try to create a more solid tactic.

My biggest worry with the villa squad is the WM(S) positions. I have Grealish, Gil, Traore & Sinclar who are all more suited to playing in the AMR/AML positions, although they are blessed with the pace to suit Counter Attacking football. Will be interesting to see how they perform.

I currently use Grealish as a WM myself, he is fine :) What matters is attributes not the positional rating.

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I'm playing Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott as my ML/MR, neither of them have high ratings for the position according to my assistant, but more importantly, both of them have the attributes required to play there just fine. Both get forward when they need to. I think people are too hesitant to drop the AML/AMR to the ML/MR strata because they think that the player is "unsuited" for the position. You'll get a much more defensively sound tactic with just that change of dropping wingers to the midfield instead of AM strata without losing any of the advantages in my opinion.

I have always used AMR & AML but it makes sense that dropping them deeper makes you more defensively solid.

I currently use Grealish as a WM myself, he is fine :) What matters is attributes not the positional rating.

Thanks Cleon good to know Grealish can perform in a deeper role.

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Started my Villa save and so far after a slow start the tactic is working well. Extremely happy with 8 points from the first 6 games considering the fixtures.

Schedule_%20%20Senior%20Fixtures_zpshtzmamjb.png

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