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My 4-4-2 Struggles

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Hi there, 

I never claimed to be tactical good however I never struggled so much creating a tactic in FM as I am in the newest edition. I've had decent success with both 3-5-2, 4-3-3 and a narrow 4-4-2 (Counter attacking) in FM 2017, but I can't seem to get the hang of the tactic-part in FM 2018. I struggle to create even the simplest tactic (Admittedly I read Cleons "The 4231 Explained and had a fair season when I first started out testing the tactics, but my current team is no where near capable of playing that style), so I show up here, to hopefully get some advice and improve my tactical knowledge starting with a simple 4-4-2. Ideally I would include pictures but everything falls apart as soon as the match starts, so I instead try to explain my thoughts about how I want to play.

Managing a rather bad team with pretty poor stats I had a dream about playing simple and direct football which would reduce the time where players actually had to think and play. Ideally that would hide their weaknesses and hopefully create some chances out of randomness and counters. I mean; Everyone can run, shoot and fight. That's the core of football. I tried reproducing it in FM, with 4 man in the back who would only think about defending (Defensive Full-backs and defensive/central centre backs). I have then tried a lot of roles for the two guys on the midfield but I can't get the combination to work. Their role would be defending the goal as they try to regain possession and starting counterattacks. In the attack I then had a Target Man and a Poacher to try and work together and have 2 different styles of attackers depending on how the ball arrives (In the air or in the space). I tried several adjustments (Counter/Standard, Flexible/Structured, More direct passing, Pump the ball into the box, Stick to positions, Be more disciplined, Fairly narrow and slightly deeper). Not all at the same time, but to try and fix the issue I saw during the games.

Failing over the entire pitch I'll try narrow it down to a few questions about how to fix my tactics

1) Despite having six people on defend, I concede tons of goals - Both from crosses, counters and regular play trough the middle. How can I avoid this (or at least try to)?

2) My wingers (Winger-Support) are completely invisible. My hope was that they could be a second attacking option if the middle is to crowded. So the defenders had to options: A long ball through the middle or a ball wide to get a 1 on 1 situation out wide and then get a cross in. But that is yet to happen despite many hours of practicing

3) Which roles should my to central midfielders have? Their job is to defend and start the counter attack and then slowly move forward to support the attack if the first try failed

4) And last; Any thoughts on team instructions and player instructions I could try?   

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First of all I think you need calm down, stop chopping and changing and go back to the absolute basics because it sounds like you're desperately throwing things at the screen hoping something works,

You need to look at your squad and decide what they can actually do. Then implement a plan to make that happen and then give it a chance. Keep your instructions really simple and just let them run with it for 5-10 games. All the time just make little notes about what is working and what isn't. Every goal you concede tells a story. Rewind the highlight to the moment you lost possession. Who, how, where, why? If you can fix that then its a start. Next how do they get close to your goal? If you can fix that then you're making progress. Then how do they get a shot on goal? If you can fix that then you're almost there. Just relax, keep it simple.

1. Assess your squads capabilities
2. Decide on a style of play that gives you a fair chance at winning points against teams you should beat
3. Give your players time to understand the system & give yourself time to spot the flaws
4. Rewatch every goal conceded. Write down what happened, to who, where and why.
5. Go back to your system and think about what minor, and it should be minor, change you could make to fix it
6. Start the process again. Watch. Rewatch. Take notes. Fix.
7. Repeat. 

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