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Breaking into the Top 4... is it even possible??

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So I'm currently managing Nuneaton Town in the Premier League at the end of the 2034/35 season. We've finished 13th, 7th, 5th and 7th in our seasons in the Prem. But as we are nearing the end of FM18 I really want to push on for success, be it domestically, in the Champions League, or ideally both. Its now or never at this point. Attached are the last two seasons league tables when we have been "contenders".


The current tactic and philosophy

Tactically, I want to play fast paced, attractive, attacking football with an intent to score goals whilst maintaining a solid defence. So this past season I have played the following 4-4-2 as it allowed me to play some of my best players in their preferred positions and fitted my philosophy.image(6).thumb.png.bb5e2fce9dfe386999411add35fbae1b.png

It has been quite successful against most sides regardless of ability more often than not, but at times it has seen us dominated by sides, be it Manchester United or Wolves. By dominated I mean we have given up 20-30 shots, with few long shots, whilst managing less than 8ish, mostly long shots, ourselves. Any idea how to solve this? And are there any glaring issues with the system? The blank spaces in the tactic are positions I think I need to strengthen during the window.

The key players

These are some of my key players (please feel free to say if you think they are not up to the level I want and if so, why?):

Roberth Mauretimage(3).thumb.png.16158279c170d9b382abb04f8f98deba.png

Our best central defender, regular targeted by big clubs, but I usually manage to persuade him to stay. Does he have the potential to play as a BPD to add another dimension, or would I be better off keeping him as a standard CD?

Steve Pursehouseimage(5).thumb.png.5b89507b5cbc953d01325bdad147dc58.png

Club captain. The English N'Golo Kante. I adore this man. Simple as. Currently play him as a CM-D, will be in the holding role due to his limited attacking technical ability, but superb in a more defensive role. Simply beautiful, nothing more to say.

Héctor Castellónimage(2).thumb.png.c21c9008a33faa38810951504f548c42.png

My other hero. Signed for £2.2 million 3 and half seasons ago, since then he has achieved 47 assists and scored 35 goals, performing best when employed as a W-A in the midfield strata. He has been the top assister in the league in two different seasons. Hero.

Ryan McAllisterimage(4).thumb.png.aa03626e80fbf64ff938a2eb8286e042.png

Probably best suited to wide-left role when using a central midfield two due to his 9 tackling, but would be very good in a midfield 3 - I can reference his performance as a MEZ-A in my World Cup winning England side of 2034. But for The Boro he has played well as a WP-A, with 9 league goals and 9 league assists. Could be retrained as an attacking midfielder long term as well, but I like him from the left as that WP ideally.

However, there is a player I struggle to fit into the system...

Mauro Arendimage(7).thumb.png.3956d9631ac16d290fc6c1f08c0df8bd.png

Now, whatever to do with Mauro? Only really excels in passing (17), long shots (16), first touch (18), anticipation (18) and vision (16). Alot of his other stats are pretty average, if we're brutally honest. I think he might have a future in the currently vacant support striker role, and he has played there well, albeit briefy, before. So should I try and shoe-horn him into the eleven? And if so where? What position? What role? And at whos expense?

For context I have a transfer budget of £87.75 million and a wage budget of £1.1 million p/w, with probably £90-£110 millions worth of asset to sell. I am looking to sign an attacking left back, a centre back, a support stiker and an out and out goalscoring stiker for the starting eleven. What key attributes would you suggest for these positions and what would be the minimum attributes you would consider?

So please all feel free to tell me how you broke into the top 4 and how I could apply this to my save, what you'd do with my tactic (roles, positions, formation (442, assymertric 4411, etc), mentality, shape and TIs) and are my "stars" up to the required level? Please be harsh, but constructive.


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2 minutes ago, OJ403 said:

Not being funny or anything but this has been up since Tuesday and the entire forum has ignored it. Why? Is there any chance anyone wants to give me any advice?

You've done fantastically to get where you are... but the question is really obvious :D of course you can get top 4/win leagues.

In essence in the year you are in... you are now the equivalent of say Everton are in season 1... and many users will have gotten top 4 or won leagues with Everton in the first few seasons of their saves.

Because of the granular way you will be allowed to upgrade your facilities etc I suspect you are still a 'small club' but the game mechanics around scouting good players for a solid tactics are more than enough for you to keep improving.


In terms of your tactic... I personally wouldn't use a 442 with playmakers and instructions to play shorter. But when you've obviously had success with it... do you want our advice on completely back to the drawing board? surely not, you are best placed now to tweak it based on what you see in the games or trends over a season


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you've taken 442 - where you are short of central players, but doubled up on the wings - and compensated for it by going narrower, but then you try and play it like a possession tactic? slower (work ball into box, look for overlap) and shorter?

I've taken the 442 and emphasised it's core by playing wider and more direct.

Do you think your players are good enough that you can, like my team that season, play to the strengths of a tactic, .... or compared to your league rivals do you need to still be cautious and compensate for the weakness of the tactic?

and playing devils advocate, if so... is 442 the right formation at this stage of your save?


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So since the OP I've dropped shorter passing. Essentially WBIB is ticked as I found my players shooting from distance when it wasn't on, so it wasn't necessarily that I want to work the ball into the box, its more that I don't want to shoot from distance, if you see where I'm coming from. Similair reasoning applies to the overlap: my left WP-A ignored the overlapping left FB-A. These TIs aren't particularly a reflection of what I do want to see, they're more a reflection of what I don't want to see.

I think we are good enough to play our game rather than preventing others playing theirs. In summary I have a pacy right winger (Castellón), and two extremely technical left sided players, my left midfielder (McAllister) and my CML who isn't screenshoted in the OP. All of my full backs are competant at getting up and down and supporting attacks, but I don't want to over commit them both. My new striker is pacy, technical and has 16 off the ball, but only 11 anticipation, atm he is playing as an AF-A, but is his anticipation too low for it? If so what role do you suggest? And I'm thinking of using Arend as my support striker due to his quality technical and mental attributes.

So in summary:

WBIB and the overlap: Keep them to compensate for issues, or how else could I solve them?

getting the best out of my stars: How do I get the best out of my technical left side, direct right and ST who can do everything well but anticipate?

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7 minutes ago, OJ403 said:

WBIB and the overlap: Keep them to compensate for issues, or how else could I solve them?

i prefer wingers in a 442, they generally have better crossing, dribbling, technique, flair and vision than full backs. the main strength in turnover is the width of 442. You have 2 strikers in the box and potentially the winger on the opposite flank coming in.. so crossing makes sense as a good means to score.

In isolation, I bet you get some nice moves and patterns with the WP cutting inside and feeding the overlapping LB (with Southampton i have Tadic on the right as WP and Cedric FB(a) going past him... but that's a 4141 counter formation where i don't have enough bodies in advanced positions to play a direct crossing game... the overlap allows time for runners from deeper to transition i.e. a BBM)... but in terms of overall strategy is it more effective than playing a simple crossing game? my 442 that i linked was as basic as it comes, but one of my most successful tactics on FM18.


if your WP/AP is your best player... why not change to a 4123/4231 and go more possession based... use a winger on the right for the direct speed and a bit more craft on the left with an attacking full back?

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I see where your coming from but my WP-A isn't an issue. He got 9 goals and 9 assists in the league last season. And I do indeed get some lovely moves with him and the FB-A. Tbh that part of my tactic is set in stone, as is the W-A on the right, presuming I stay 4-4-2 of course. And McAllister (my WP-A) can't actually play as a AML rendering your suggestion pretty problematic, to say at the least.20180906_154507.thumb.png.01443d9bbc67cdfc3ad045ccb77ed136.png

This is my system at the back end of preseason. I am unsure on all of the TIs, shape and mentality to be honest and the feesibly could change to contain/highly-structed to overload/very-fluid or anything inbetween. The 4-4-2 formation could be changed as well, but I would like to keep the 4-4 bit if possible. Also, my two central midfielders and my two strikers roles/duties are up for debate. In all honestu it is only the WP-A, FB-A and W-A I don't want to change. I want to play positive football that doesn't leave us too exposed at the back and without too much worry about possession to a Pep extent but more a "it'd be nice" a-la Klopp approach to it (probably above 40ish%).20180906_153531.thumb.png.1bbfb33c0d1bf8f6a724bc4e4a997894.pngAnd this is my striker I mentioned. What would you do with him? His strength are circled in red, and his major weakness in blue. I bet you didn't anticipate that, he certainly didn't 😂😂20180906_155824.thumb.png.ccf0f3101389b700ae0639bbf53f485b.pngAnd this is my left back. I have done the same circling with him. The dribbling is not a major issue as he tends to pick up the ball in the final 3rd, with little distance to travel into a crossing position. He also doesn't need to combine this with flair to take opponents on as McAllister has typically drawn their full back in, leaving Khodadadzada (just think how much that'd be worth on scrabble) with space to move into freely. I think he's capable of providing width on the left

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42 minutes ago, OJ403 said:

And this is my striker I mentioned. What would you do with him? His strength are circled in red, and his major weakness in blue. I bet you didn't anticipate that, he certainly didn't 😂😂

:D bet you got half way through circling then realised it was silly using red! but you recovered well.

he's a finisher... I'd his composure quite low as well as anticipation... id want to put the ball on a plate for him. crossing doesn't require as much intelligence as playing on the shoulder of defence for through balls ;) 

44 minutes ago, OJ403 said:

And this is my left back

very good player... Lopera in my Leverkusen series was an amazing RB... if you really wana play through a fb/wb i just wouldn't do it in 442. in 442 it's great to have the best players possible... but you don't want to tailor a 442 around getting the most out of a FB .. it's not the strength of the tactic (in terms of trying to get in top 4... like i said, in my Southampton save where im expected mid table and im playing counter... yeh i can be patient and use Bertrand and Cedric... but with the big clubs? Need to break down defences before they settle)


50 minutes ago, OJ403 said:

I see where your coming from but my WP-A isn't an issue. He got 9 goals and 9 assists in the league last season

decent return for a WP... but I'd question; would a winger contribute more? Would playing a less possession orientated style mean quicker transitions (which I'd deem necessary in a 442 as you become a stronger force in the league).

at risk of sounding like a broken record... and this is user preference but based on my experience;

if i'm the best team in the league or want to be .. or i'm one of them... i play  aggressive (high line, closing down,) and then either a wide formation 442/532 WB where i focus on crossing with 2 strikers and pacey wingers or wb. Or i play possession where i have playmaker but plenty of bodies getting in support of striker i.e my 4231 also with Leverkusen.

I think you have to fully buy into a tactical strategy now... if you go 442 with caution you may remain a nearly man (with too many draws). to come 4th you need what, 25 wins/ish? ... doesn't matter if you lose 10 games, so you can be a bit gung ho.

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I see what your saying and kind of agree, but I'm going to persevere with the 4-4-2 until the December/January kind of time. But I might still go more attacking, attack is the best form of defence and to win you just have to score more goals than your opponent. Plus with my CBs, RB and CM-D I have four more defensive players. However I will prepare a plan B that I will trial in cup and Europa League games.

I could move McAllister inside as a MEZ-A, I used him there really well as England and we won the World Cup. I'm thinking perhaps a 4-3-3, or maybe I could reinvent the more unconventional system I used with England. It had a standard back 4 with a more attacking RB, then a flat 3 across midfield (DLP-S, BWM-D, MEZ-A), then a trequartista at AMC and a W-S at AML, with and AF-A offset as an right sided striker. What do you think?

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