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I'm mainly a lurker on these forums, but thought I needed to come out of the shadows for a bit in order to ask for some help with my 4-3-2-1 possession based tactic.  I'm playing FM16 as Arsenal and currently in the 3rd season, having won the league in the first season using a 4-2-3-1, but got bored of that somewhat conventional formation and decided to try something a bit less common, settling on a 4-3-2-1 as below:


                   AMa     APs

             CMs     DLPd    BWMs

     WBs      CDd      CDd       WBa


Mentality is standard, team shape flexible.  TIs: shorter passing, play out of defence, dribble less.  PIs: AMa - move into channels, CMs - close down much more, BWMs - hold position, WBs - close down much less, WBa - close down much less, GKd - roll ball out, distribute to centre backs/full backs depending on opposition formation.

It's defensively fairly solid, but struggles for good chances and goals especially against defensive opponents who don't press high up the pitch.  I used the formation for the whole of the second season, eventually finishing 3rd in the league, although we did win the Champions League where opponents were not so cautious against us.  The general idea of the tactic is firstly to be solid defensively, the idea being to try to channel opponents' attacks down the wings so that they are forced to put in a low percentage cross, or if they do try to attack down the middle they should be outnumbered and we should be able to either win possession or force a long shot.  Generally speaking, that approach works as we conceded the fewest goals in the league, but also scored way fewer than any of the other top teams.

Offensively my intention is to patiently work the ball up the pitch to attack via three main avenues - the DLF dropping deep creating space for the AMa to attack, the DLF making a run behind the defence, or a cross/cut back from one of the wing backs to one of the DLF, AM or CMs making a run from deep.  However, in practice it seems that we can usually work the ball up the pitch as I wanted, but we then seem to get stuck with the ball just outside their area, with nobody able to find any space or opportunity for any defence splitting passes.  The end result is usually that the ball is put out wide to one of the wing backs who put in a cross to a crowded area, which is not meant to be my primary way of attacking, more as the last option if all else fails, but it seems all else does fail far too regularly.  Doing that also rarely results in any particularly good chances.  Does anybody have any suggestions as to how I could make the tactic more effective against defences which sit deep?  I have tried playing deeper/reducing mentality in an attempt to draw them out, however this seems to reduce our risk taking too much in the final 3rd, making it even harder to create good chances.  I have also tried raising mentality to try and attack a bit quicker before the defence is able to set up properly, but this usually results in the ball going forward too quickly and the striker and attacking midfielders end up being rather isolated.

If it helps further, my starting XI is Cech, Ricardo Rogriduez, Koscielny, Stones, Bellerin, Jorge Pereira, Julian Weigl, Lars Bender, Alexis Sanchez, Ozil, Giroud.

Apologies for the slightly long post, but wanted to include as much detail as possible.  Any advice gratefully received.

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Well, your overall tactic, as well as players' role/duty distribution, seems pretty okay to me. Sometimes just a couple of tweaks can be sufficient to make things work. I would change the passing TI to mixed for example, to encourage players to be more creative when looking for best passing options. Playing with some more Width could also help. I'd also turn the "Dribble Less" TI off and leave it on default. Instead, you can instruct certain players to Dribble Less via PIs.

As for roles & duties, here is one of possible options:


SS           AP(s)

MEZ(s)    BWM(d)   CAR

IWB(d)      CD     BPD      FB(a)


If it still doesn't work the way you wanted, maybe Fluid instead of Flexible would be worth considering, to make your attacks less predictable with more players involved. However, don't apply all these tweaks at once, but step by step, and then look carefully to observe what has changed and to what degree.

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Thanks for the advice, I'll give some of those a try and will see what happens.  I am playing FM16 though, so can't use either Mezzala or Carrilero roles.

Despite reading plenty of stuff about shape, I've always found it to be somewhat of an enigma as I struggle to notice what effect changing it actually has, hence why I've left it on flexible, but will certainly give it a go if the other tweaks don't get it working to my liking.

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