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How to approach tactics creation (an unofficial "guide" for beginners)

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Before I get to the player instructions issue, I just want to stress that I inadvertently omitted two team instructions in the opening post – Attacking width (in possession) and „Use offside trap“ (out of possession) – both of which can be considered „universal“ TIs, meaning they fall into both the „Primary“ and „Secondary“ categories. So I've now edited the previous post to include these two. For more info, view the „Team instructions“ section of the opening post.


Generally speaking, a player instruction will have more influence on your players' behavior than the corresponding team instruction when the two collide. A player instruction does not literally override the related TI, but rather adjusts it to some extent.

For example, imagine that your team pressing intensity is set to „More urgent“, but then you manually change it to „Less urgent“ for certain players via their PIs. These players will now certainly press less than they would have if their PI had been left on default, but still more than if the Team Pressing Intensity had been set to, say, „Less urgent“. The same goes for passing, as well as other relevant instructions.

However, there is an exception to the "rule". TIs such as "Work ball into box" and "Hit early crosses" - which are by the way mutually exclusive - will affect your players' moves more than their relevant PIs (i.e. frequency of crossing).

In short - the more felicitously you use player instructions (as a complement to team instructions), the more likely you'll be to achieve your desired style of play. Simple as that!

As with team instructions – do not use any PI just for the sake of using it, but only if that clearly makes sense. And be careful not to ask a player to do what he isn't capable of – always take his attributes and traits into account.


A lot of people tend to avoid dealing with OIs, either out of „laziness“ or due to an insufficient understanding of how they actually work. While OIs (arguably) aren't a necessary part of tactics creation, they can be a pretty useful defensive tool when used properly.

OIs can be applied in order to both specifically target particular opposition players (Player OIs) and to affect the way the opposition play in certain areas of the pitch (positional OI) – not exclusively for defensive, but also for attacking purposes.

Admittedly, OIs are not easy to deal with even for more experienced tacticians. You need to consider a number of elements:

- your formation and the opposition formation;

- your style of play and the opposition's style of play;

- weak (and strong) links in your team vs. weak (and strong) links in the opposition team.

Anyway, if you do not feel confident enough on how to use OIs, better leave them out.

In the next (final) post, I will (try to) summarize the principles from both previous posts into more general tactical advice.

Edited by Experienced Defender
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So we've finally got to the summary. Here I am going to just outline the most important principles I believe tactical beginners should stick to until they gain some more knowledge and experience.


In the opening post, I mentioned „tactical balance“ and explained what I mean by the term. Let's remind ourselves for a moment: „Tactical balance is (achieved by) any kind of setup that prevents your team from being too strong in a certain area (or areas) of the pitch at the cost of being (too) weak in some other area(s)“.  

Some of you might now think that tactical balance depends solely on your distribution of duties (across the formation), but that would be only partially true. Distribution of roles is as important as that of duties.

For example, a mezzala on support duty will be more attack-minded than a box-to-box midfielder or carrilero, even though the latter two are also on support duty. Likewise, a complete wing-back on either duty will be more attack-minded and forward-bombing than a standard wing-back on the same duty, let alone an „ordinary“ fullback. I hope it's now clear why I emphasized the importance of roles – and not just duties - for tactical balance.

When it comes not only to roles and duties but any other tactical instruction – team or player – you should take care not to ask any player to do what he is not capable of. Here you need to consider player attributes in the first place, then traits and sometimes even his stronger/weaker  foot.


The first thing I would like to stress here is – refrain from using too many team instructions, especially in your starting tactic (i.e. the one you start a match with), until you've really mastered the art of tactics creation (like our mods Rashidi, Cleon and Herne). Instead, look to use just primary instructions (view the relevant section of the opening post) and only occasionally add some of the secondary TIs (when it would clearly make sense).

If you are not sure what an instruction (or any tactical setting) does, read the in-game description. While these descriptions may sometimes be insufficiently detailed, they basically do provide accurate information.

I've also noticed that too many people are paying attention only to how they're gonna attack the opposition, while pretty much ignoring the defensive side of the game; or simply believing that it would be enough to have good defenders, and they will (hopefully) do the (defensive) job on their own. I'll just say that – nothing could be further from the truth. Because defending is a responsibility of the entire team, only the levels of that responsibility will vary from player to player (role to role).

An assumption that defending needs to be aggressive in order to be successful is no less problematic. While high levels of pressing intensity and pushing the lines of defense and engagement higher up can work nicely for certain sides and/or against certain types of opposition, it is at the same time a double-edged sword. Because in addition to applying a lot of pressure on opposition, aggressive defending based on too intensive pressing makes your players (including defenders) get out of position more than they would have with normal or lower pressing intensity and thus compromising your defensive shape, which in turn can (easily) be exploited by more skillful opposition.

Defending-wise, you also need to know that certain in-possession team instructions can make your team defensively vulnerable if you aren't aware of what they actually do. TIs such as overlaps, underlaps and focus play down the right/left  - among other things - increase the mentality of your wide defenders (fullbacks or wing-backs) somewhat, whereas focus down the middle does the same to CBs, DMs and defend-duty CMs.


Imagine that you've finally managed  to create a decent tactic you are pleased with. You play a match and get a fantastic result. Then you play another match and win again (or get whatever is considered a good result in the given case). You naturally start to think – „this tactic is great, I'm not going to make any more changes“. But guess what – you play the next match with the same tactic and get smashed. What happened, for God's sake ?!?

There are a couple of potential reasons:

- this last opposition played a different style of football than the previous opponents you had defeated, so your once decent tactic was simply nullified by their tactical style;

- a few of your players aren't quite consistent performers, so they failed to play as well as they did in a previous match;

- you rotated some players, but failed to recognize that these new ones aren't suitable enough for the roles played by their predecessors

This is why you always need to take some time to analyze the next opposition, but also your own team, and see if certain adjustments should be made to your primary tactic from time to time (including adjusments during matches as well). Of course, the better the team you are managing is, the less often you will need to tactically adapt to (most of the) other teams. However, even then you should do at least some basic analysis, because even the weakest sides can have some „lethal“ tactical weapon in their meager arsenal that you failed to discover out of laziness.


There is no set-in-stone „rule“  suggesting that you can play certain styles of football only if you use certain types of formations. In fact, you can combine  any style with any formation. However, the truth is that certain formartions are more suitable for certain styles than others. For example, top-heavy systems - such as a standard 4231 (with CMs) or 424 – work better  with possession or attacking-based football; likewise, bottom-heavy formations – e.g. 4141 (with flat midfield four) or 4213dm wide – are the more logical choice when you want to play a more cautious game.

Therefore, you can play some sort of defensive football using a 4231 (or even 424), but it can prove very tricky to find the right balance of different tactical settings for this to work. So my advice would be to avoid this kind of combinations until your tactical knowledge and experience has reached a sufficient level. On the other hand, playing more attacking football with a bottom-heavy formation is a less risky option, simply because you have more bodies protecting the defense should the things go wrong. So if you want to experiment, then better try the latter.


Speaking of „experiments“, I would advise tactical novices to create a so-called „experimental save“ , where you would pick a decent mid-table team and learn the art – or rather science - of tactics creation through trial and error. Why a mid-table team? Well, if you manage a top side, the quality of players might make up for potential flaws in your tactic(s), so you will likely not get the right picture of how good you are as a tactician. On the other hand, managing a poor side will require a considerable level of tactical proficiency that you – as a beginner – are certainly lacking at the moment.

So if you do give an experimental save a try, don't be too obsessed with results, but rather look to learn from mistakes as much as you can. And even if you get sacked, do not panic. Just start another experimental save and enjoy the game again!

Edited by Experienced Defender
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