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Morphing 4231 and 451 into something new

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Each year FM gives me a new chance to try out different things, mainly i stay within mine principles and use mine 451(4-1-2-2-1 DM WIDE) and focus on making different combinations within it to counter specific tactics and exploit certain weaknesses, but as game goes on you are bound to run into trouble, imagine playing a game heavily focused on your AML/AMR positions and then you find your team gets injuries and you are stuck withou your main players ( yeah Mane and Salah Y U NO STAY FIT!?). Since the mentioned gentleman were kind enough to get injured during different periods of time I had something to work with...

Liverpool squad was mine personal challenge to see how it goes cos I consider them one of the best rated teams in this years FM, they maybe don't have BiS players allround but when you look at a team as XI I doubt any team in world has such immense potential and strength in FM(Personal opinion), so I wanted to stay famous HEAVY METAL style of play and above mentioned happened... Liverpool have maybe best RB in world, those stats are something we all lust for since DAni Alves days, and on other hand their LB isn't far behind. They have strong CB's (and lots of rotation options), goalie with great distribution stats, Mid is just superb tho I did made few more signings for the future and let some ppl go since they didn't suit me, and you have one and only Boby Firmino, best allrounded striker(read all purpose striker) we can argue messi is better in F9 roles etc but Messi cant play as Target man(discutable IK) so Boby Firmino in this years FM is something I always wanted from a striker, he can do it all.


Now lets get to tactical business, when you see a 4231 most people are drawn to it by its natural attacking intent and sometimes people end up not being able to pick a role for 1 position to make they from 6 click together, then people see 451 and get amused by its allround potential of sheer power and control in each aspect of game, and get confused when penetration comes in and they get fairly static roles and can't find where to exploit space and start scoring, I like to say I took best of both, but others will judge that, lets see what are the weaknesses of both tactics:



Blue areas are areas where you lack influence, Red area is area which generally gets "overlycomplicated" in lots of systems we see.

To avoid that weakness of the space between MC line and CB line we can use a DM but then we loose a player on some other position and then we loose general impact in opponents half, options are to commit a RB/LB or one/both MC to cover that area and play "double pivot" system, as I personally am not fond of that sacrifice in attacking potential and the fact I'm missing a winger at the time it was impossible to morph into this



Again blue areas are places where you lack bodies and red is something taht mostly gets congested by bodies when you overdo static roles which gets even more congested if you choose a "drops deep" striker role, so to avoid worst tactics and to get best without using a winger in mine case I had to make something new.



So lets start from defense:

SK(A) when you push up high and have a keeper as Becker who can pinpoint throw ball for some neat counters then SK(S) is minimal I would go for, SK(A) is personal pick since I feel Liverpool is a good enough team to deploy this role

BPD(St) I have trust in mine CB's, I know they are fast, I know they can all pass so BPD for some over the top passes from time to time isn't that bad of an idea, generally I would use standard CB(St) for these 2 since BPD does have take more risk hardcoded in his PI's and that can be a real game thrower with some players(Matip I'm talking 'bout you)

L(A) the long awaited role for me, I've been waiting for this for ages, I always wondered about SW strata logic and never found reason behind it, even more when Bielsa had his Bilbao season, I swear that season I was like when is Bilbao gonna play again? I wanna see what that madman does, so when I saw his use of Javi Martinez as both CB and then "upgraded" him to DM as some saw I thought he wasn't DM bruh, thats a Libero from old days but he plays a bit different, such a good player(I wanted to see Wenger make a move back then, but we all know that Coquelin and Flamini are OP when compared to Javi Martinez, right Arsene?) so I figured to include this role, few things he does, he acts as a sweeper in defense which means he has kind of a cover duty(I would desribe it as taht) and in attack he gets further forward and gets involved in play somewhere close to DM strata like a DLP-HB hybrid would (thats mine feeling about him), I don't have a player to "exploit" this role to its max potential, De Rossi at his prime would be mine pick for this role I would love to see that happen, but Im stuck with Van Dijk, and don't get me wrong, he has good PPM's for this role, he can defend, he can pass, he is fast, he is tall, he has it all.

CWB(S) mine LB role is one of most aggressive roles in game for a simple reason, there isn't anyone there infront of him and I want him to make full use of that width and space on left side, and in defense I want to make him close down until CB's reorganize themselves and then fall back to his slot so I can get a neat 5 man back(yeah sounds like catennacio to me), in attack he will act as a winger tho he will maraud towards their box and contribute in passing game.

WB(A) mien RB is plain simple, I want him to do what mine LB does but, I don't want him to have that much of a freedom as CWB but i do want him to be up there at all times so he provides width for mine (remaining) winger, thus logical solutions were FB(A) which is DC strata exclusive or WB(A) since I have utmost trust in Trent I went for WB(A) without a second thought,.

MEZ(A) mine favorite roll in FM18 was mezzala, he was something people wanted back from FM 12 days(myb even before) the central winger, we all remember Di Maria in RM when he bossed games in that season which kinda fits into mine description of a Mezzala, his duty in mine system is to get wider, provide support to marauding CWB and link up play and since I dont have a winger on that side he will perform a role of one as many narrow systems do.

CM(S) I want mine other MC player to link up mine mid, backline, left and right and attack when needed, so is there a better role then a Henderson filled CM(S)? DLP(S) is too static for me, he would focus more ball to his side, RPM(S) won't provide cover for mine RB, more offensive roles are out of the question, BWM(S) is something I thought of but he is too agressive for mine liking, CM(D) was a thought but, I already have mine Libero who acts like someone from DM strata so making him a pure "HODOR" role is a waste and leads to the issue 451 has with too many static role, carilero is doable but then I felt i would overcomitt myself on one side with 3 players (RW, MCR, RB) while I actually want to release some tension from mine RW, so for me CM(S) felt like a best pick.

AP(S) When I started this write up I thought ahead if someone saw mine tactical preview and fit players in, how many of you dear (proly bored) readers would put Firmino in here? AP(S) has an issue which comes and hits him hard, and that is opposing DM, he can easily mark AP(S) out of game, but if that AP(S) is allrounded player with technique, agility, flair, balance, strength and speed to outmatch most DM's in game with his smart movement, will that happen? That is the reason I put Firmino in here, he has immense workrate and stats that he fits in here perfectly, tbf when I was doing this role and brainstorming i thought of some great 10's and F9's and tried to see for myself do i want another player in ST strata, maybe CM strata so he can surge forward? both of those positions crossed mine mind, but I opted for AMC for simple reason, he can pressure CB's he can pressure DM's he can go to either side, he doesn't have to drop or surge, he is right where I want him, in that "channel" between theirs MC's and CB's just by being there he is pressuring opposition to decide who will take care of him? is it gonna be an MC? CM? DM? Ill add some more info on what i mean in general write up after roles discussion.

IF(S) mine right wing player (depending on mine injury luck I mirrored mine tactic so both Mane and Salah played this role in their respective sides) this is a simple role, cut inside, be there, be a threat, suplement to that AP(S) tuck in that FB for RB make a mess out of their backline just by adding sheer numbers, similar as MEzala does on left he does here, he makes oposition wonder whom to mark, where to go? do they mark IF(S) and leave space for RB? Do they mark him and leave AP(S) free? what about ST then? ou can get the pic

Finally dear (probably sleepy by now) reader final role is ST

ST there were few roles i considered here, if I make him drop, he will make an overload with Mezala, CWB and AP on that side, but if that does happen who is mine pressence in box? RW? and who else? If I make him punch the line, great, Poacher then, but then he won't get involved in game, AF then well AF could work but this is personal prefference, AF will pressure backline, and sometimes I wanna drop a bit and give some breathing room to them, if that happens he will get isolated or maybe he won't be able to influence game enough, I opted for CF as he is "COMPLETE" as name says, he is in mine opinion a Trequartista with defensive responsibility, why do I say this? CF will do it all what any role does, but CF is most unpredictable role in FM by far (some may argue Treq's RMD's etc) but for me CF is the one, he can drop, push, pass, dribble, he isn't told to do a specific thing he is just there to make nightmare for you when you watch the game and yell at him PAAASSS DONT SHOOT FROM THERE PAAAAS FFS or he is there to provide a pass/shoot which will leave you stunned and make you ask yourself how did he see that? I enjoy that gamble, CF is the role that can bring a joy to a hardcore FM fan, he has so much freedom that he might do stuff you have never seen or he might do things which will make you punch a hole trough your monitor, is he a genius or a troll? we don't know....


I had a 2nd striker in Sturridge and lured Lautaro Martinez mine way at half season to play that ST role, sometimes when I was using mine youngsters even Firmino got his share of playing there...



So why did a put out a 523 formation (FM says its 523) and called it Morph between 451 and 4231? Well lets get over the details:

4231 weaknesses are distance from MC to CB line and distance from RB/LB to RW/LW how does this negate them?

-Libero removes that lack of player in DM by joining attack and adds numbers in defence when ball is lost so the DM weakness isn't there anymore

-Fullback to Winger distance, playing Fullbacks(I call them like that regardless of the strata they take) in DM strata (so called WBL/WBR) makes them join attack faster, and by giving them offensive minded roles they will join attack faster during transitions, left side is something you often see in narrow systems ie Lazio, Juve etc and right side is something you see in teams that have quality fullbacks and winigers ie pedro-Alves back in days Marcelo-Roki(CR7), Trent-Salah, Bellerin-Walcott,, wait wut!?

451 weaknesses were the lack of player in that AMC slot and again distance between wings and Fullbacks

-AMC slot filled there is a player there now and DM slot is still there in Libero since he will occupy that position



So anyone who has calculator at home can say HUH 4231 has 4 players up fron and 2 MC's behind you have 3 players and 2 MC's that is no 4231 you liar, yes but no.

The simple math I used is this mine striker is well a striker but he is offset to a side and told to stay wider to encourage him to be a bit more like where an IF(A) would finish his run then where a Striker would be during the match, and on other hand mine CWB will provide width like a winger would do and mezzala can link them both up to the rest of the team, idea is movement of a team as a whole, ie in 451 you would get more numbers in mid by moving F9 in there and then you will get superior numbers idea here is whole team tries to do a +1 in a zone at all times.

In defensive phase there are 5 true backline players in middle there are 7 players 7! and that is when CF does a decision not to drop in and punch ahead instead, in offensive phase when ie cross gets in from lets say left you will have 3-4 players in box and 1-2 around, cross from right you have 4-5 players in box and 1-2 around...

In attacking phase I want mine team to have options, 451 has that neat F9 movement that many of us like he drops and lets others get ahead of him ie Messi-Villa, Eto'o-Henry sort of thing but here no one drops you already have a withdrawn player which is AP, on other hand in 4231 you can outdo opposition by sheer numbers, CWB(S) joining in adds width and Libero steping up adds depth teams you face have too manu factors to account whom to mark and when when you move the ball, by roles and duties and positioning of players you can make overloads on either side and add to confusion to unlock the other side, or why not unlock the middle? 

In mine personal opinion I made this as a backup backup plan when i faced injury issues and I had the luck of foresight that I had players bought who can play in those roles,

This is a tactical write up, it isn't about results its about a try to make something new and out of ordinary, mine TI's change during the matches depending on whom am I facing, do i need more width? less? more urge to pass the ball? Do i wanna lock mine side up? Do I want to exploit certain weakness? Do i wanna step off a bit and allow them to go further up the pitch, many factors as you all know.

I made this because of mine squad issues but since i quite enjoyed the playstyle I got and movement off the ball Im thinking of building up a squad and starting a whole new save with this tactic in mind, am I glad I watched Bielsa and his madman moves now...

For all that were courageous enough and had the spare time to read share your thoughts if you have any, maybe I'm playing with a overpowered team, maybe this won't work with some other sides, maybe I just had luck, and maybe this saved mine season out of sheer luck, you never know what happens in FM under the hub, but damn I love it when FM forces me to do things from scratch and denies me of playing mine best XI all the time.


I should write PI's for the end if someone actually finds interest in this (highly doubtable):

SK(A) - none

BBP(St) - Stay wider on both

L(A) - none

CWB(S) - none

WB(A) - none

CM(S) - Hold position, close down more

MEZ(A) - Close down more

AP(S) - Roam from position, Close down more

IF(S) - Roam from position, Close down more, Sit narrower

CF(A) - Stay wider, Close down more, Mark specific position (DR)


Marking instruction for STCL is a try to allow their CB's to have the ball until they get near AP(S), I want to allow them to leave the dead zone and Im pressuring close passing lanes and hoping to force a mistake there or to make them go with long ball...


Sorry for all the typos and I hope some of you actually enjoyed this write up (and mine bad humor)

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Example of why I don't mark CB's and what can CF(A) do with just moving and laying off balls:


 heinrichs is here on the ball and Lautaro is getting ready to press him and close his passing lanes, Ox (no 11) has closed the pass option to other side of the pitch and only safe options are CB's


Panzo here has few options, heinrichs is viable at the moment, but other lanes are blocked and in addition Trent has improved his position since he safely returned to his position now he will stretch himself to cover that flank from a trough ball, Pavard is getting ready to cover front and Van Dijk will cover behind and he is moving forward o catch their striker offside


Panio decides to move with ball and see if any option becomes viable, but finds himself in even bigger problem, since Heinrichs is now cut out and he is getting closed down from the same side, Lautaro is both blocking a lane and closing player on the ball now other lines xcept CB and GK ones are now completely cut off


Notice few things here, Panio opted for ball over the top which Pavard gets to, notice positioning of CWBs he was high up pressing and helping MEZ and CF, now he has a good position for our counter, while Trent on other side has a deep starting position from which he can still help with defence in case of possession loss and he can get ready to push up, mid players are now starting their back movement in order to support the player with the ball, but....


A wild Libero appears, he does his biding, his role is exactly this, he is now in safe space since the striker opted to close Pavard down instead of cutting passing lane, Van Dijk can now carry the ball out of defence, notice the positionong of midlefield and how CWBs stood his ground ready to charge down the flank, mine other CB on right side pushed wide in order to provide a passing option in case of pressure...


Transition starts, Van Dijk moves the ball up while other mid players come to support him, now you can see the diamond between mine MC's AMC and Libero, they are opening few passing lanes while initial press is avoided since their strikers are out of place now


Now Trent and Robertson start their run, they are both runing as Woodburn (deployed as AP(S)) is in position to pick out few players, whole right side is open and Trent is overlaping from get go while Ox will get a bit narrower to offer a passing option in case that the ball goes to his side...


Woodburn dribles forward while Robertson stays near line and offers both width and a threat to surge forward, but its already all over, mezzala is switching places with him and going inwards while AP drew 3 players with his movement, Lautaro singled out opponent on the edge of the box both Ox and Trent are in channels and ready to attack the space 


Lautaro makes a run towards left side and Woodburn plays him, while he gets near corner line he draws opposition to him while Robertson now exploits that fee space, on other side AP offers backpass on edge of area while Ox and Mezzala are  on other side ready for cross


Lautaro plays backpass to Robertson and he is now ready to drop a whiped ball on far post where OX is all ready to tap it in and score a goal....


From starting press to successful defense and a goal...

Issues I had in this particular game:

I committed too many fouls and allowed set pieces, their goal came from a set piece with a good long shot from heinrichs

Allowed a lot of corners since I opted for mine 2ndry GK which I want to develop he isn't the best one yet but I have high hopes but their shoot on sight policy was a nuisance at some times since I wasn't that confident as I would be in Becker,



80% or so of mine SoT were from inside penalty box and we had quite a number of shots on goal

pressing part was good and rendered their attacking movement from open play generaly useless 

we had good transitions esp on compact part of game where i opted to play normal def line and much lower engagement line which makes it easier to win 2ndry headers and to draw opposition out


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