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Need help building a successful tactic with Red Star FC in FM2020

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Red Star is a fascinating club playing in the French third division (Championnat National). It is one of the oldest sports team in France, dating back to 1897, and its history tells a bit of the history of football : originally a bourgeois entity referencing the Red Star line of boats, its symbol is now that of working class and antifascist groups. They are located in the popular northern suburbs of Paris and play in the stade Bauer, named after a communist doctor murdered by the collaborationist French police. Their games are knows for basically having antifa parties in the stands.

The problem is I cannot get them to win. The situation is that they're expected to win the division ; however their team is good but has no stand out player or skill. If you look at their report, it says its strengths are :

- Balance.

- Strength.

- Flair.

- Composure.

- Courage.

And in weaknesses, they lack defensive depth and speed.

I have no idea what kind of tactic to build with these guys. I tried several combination and barely last half a season before the board of director gets angry. I played QRM in the same division before and won the championship (they were expecting to end 11th) by relying on the wingers' superior speed, so in theory I'm a decent FM player.

Moreover, I'd be happy to learn what you guys would build based on those strengths, which are very vague to me.

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14 minutes ago, artough said:

I tried several combination and barely last half a season before the board of director gets angry

Can you post at least one of those "several combinations" (tactics) in the form of a screenshot, so that we could see where potential weaknesses of your tactic are? Then we can discuss potential changes that can help to improve the tactic. 

The info you provided is too little to be of any use. 

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Since your board expects promotion, you're probably one of the stronger teams in the league. However, using Lower Line of Engagement and Lower Defensive Line means you're trying to play a counter-attacking game, as you're standing off the opposition and allowing them possession in your half. You'll be winning the ball on the edge of your penalty area, which isn't the most optimal spot to launch counters from.

Since Passing, Decisions and First Touch seem to be on the weaker side, I can see why you've opted for a more direct game. Drawing the opposition out is fine, so I'd recommend bumping the Defensive Line up to Standard or Higher, and the Line of Engagement to Standard. This will give you a mid-block that can lure the opposition up with the aim of winning the ball back in midfield rather than the edge of your penalty area. You'll stand a greater chance of hurting the opposition with counters starting from midfield.

To achieve this style, you only need a few In Possession TIs. Right now, your TIs are encouraging your team to waste possession as much as possible. Extremely Direct Passing, Pass Into Space, Higher Tempo, Hit Early Crosses, Focus Play Down Left/Right and Extremely Wide are going to see the ball pumped forward to the flanks at every chance. These are difficult passes and not suitable for building attacks, especially in games that require more patience. I would recommend the following tweaks:

  • Extremely Direct Passing > Standard or Direct
  • No Pass Into Space - this is a situational instruction that only works well if the opposition are giving you space. It's not something you should have on all the time.
  • No Focus Play Down Left/Right. There's no need to encourage more wing play when your width already does this.
  • Extremely Wide > Wide or Fairly Wide. 

Alternatively, you can use Standard/Shorter Passing combined with Narrow Width to encourage your team to be closer together and play easier passes, so you don't lose the ball so easily. 

For the other TIs, Be More Disciplined can help if you team is being too adventurous on the ball and ignoring easier options, but is another instruction that's best not used for every game. Run At Defence can be good if you're playing against stubborn deep blocks or having difficulty progressing the ball up the pitch, but for a team looking for quick transitions, it's better to leave it off. A pass will always move faster than someone dribbling. Play for Set Pieces is unnecessary because it'll just slow your attacks down. Finally, Overlap Left/Right could be okay, but you need to be watchful of the positioning of your wing-backs and getting caught in transition. So to sum up:

  • No Be More Disciplined
  • No Play for Set-Pieces
  • No Run at Defence to start with, but could be used in certain situations
  • Keep the Overlaps but watch out for leaving too much space

As for roles and duties, they look okay. Only things I would tweak would be changing the Winger (A) to a Winger (S), so he can play earlier crosses to the Advanced Forward and Inside Forward, and changing the left Wing Back (S) to Wing Back (D) or Full Back (S), just for more protection on that side. 

Edited by Jaye
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Thanks for the great answer ! I ended up playing shorter with a higher defensive line. I noticed playing offensive yields a lot more results, if I play a more defensive mentality the other team just comes and comes forward and I get hit by shots outside the box. Right now I'm cruising in the league.
I ended up reading that Balance and Strength are good for posession since it makes it harder to remove your player from the ball.

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On 07/11/2020 at 05:23, artough said:

Sorry about that, I'm so used to games requiring a complete reinstallation to change a language that I had not even considered it. It turned out to be so simple...

Here it is.





Quickly looking at it, Change one of the wide attackers to support and make his fullback attack, make the fullback on the wingers side a fullback and not a wing, set GK to some type of sweeper.

Lower passing, lower tempo,remove run at defense and hit early crosses (make these changes to individuals, not the whole team), remove be more disciplined, remove overlaps, remove distribute quickly, make your lines at least average and take off tighter marking. 

Now you have a base for this team for the tactical shape you’ve chosen. A 4231 is a good possession system and can be a good counter system as well, but possession should be the main theme. You have many players in advanced positions, allowing you to keep the ball better and counter with more players high up the pitch, but not defend as well. Both wide defenders being wingbacks will possession somewhat easier but defending much harder as WBs is told to get further forward. I’d also change your attacker to a Support striker, most likely a pressing forward.

The 4231 is an excellent high pressing side because of this. Given your players mental strength and good stats for pressing (work rate, stamina, strength, aggression) you could be a high pressing side, looking to keep possession and press them out of possession. If you want to go this route I’d lower one or both of the passing length and tempo, remove counter and take pass into space off, and set up a split block (this is done by keeping your pressing intensity at the mid line, but then manually going to each of your attackers and your CMs and turning this pressing intensity up. This will make your front players press while your back players wait for long balls and clearances). You can also turn counter pressing on, but this could be dangerous. If your fullbacks get caught high up the field you’re liable to give up 3v2’s against 4231 which seems to be the AI’s proffered formation.This will give you a team looking for ball progression, but still safe with the ball. If you follow my tips on roles, you should be well set up. 

If you want to play a more counter heavy side, which I would heavily advise against in this FM, this can be done by making 3 of the front 4 ATK, rather than the 2 I suggested earlier. You can keep pass into space to exemplify this. You’re going to suffer in ball retention as once the ball gets to 3/4 of your attackers you’re liable to lose possession, but you will counter more often. If you go this route, I’d set your line of engagement lower but keep the DLine on normal. I’d still take counters off probably, but you may be more successful with it with more players on ATK.

I advise against using the counter instruction because, if you look at how fm works with mentalities, it will realistically just make your Sup and Def players more attacking as your ATK players will already be at Very Attacking. This will go poorly with either tactic as you’ll either quickly give up possession, or you’ll commit fullbacks and the CMd to the attack momentarily, lose the ball, and quickly give up a 3/4 v 2.

Realistically if you’re supposed to win the division and you don’t have incredibly quick attackers up front, I wouldn’t go for the counter. Teams are going to sit off you and are very happy to pass the ball around in their half, making it harder for you to find counter attacking opportunities and harder for you to get the ball and score. The possession system will reliably work the ball into dangerous areas against teams sitting off, and will negate a lot of the opponents ability to counter when paired with a high press. 

When I am #1 in a division I find I have a fatal flaw that often details my seasons. I’ll start the season with a balanced (in terms of roles and duties, not mentalities) tactic ready to win with quality, strong team play, and set pieces, and then feel my offense isn’t dominant enough and start getting slightly more attack minded, and introducing instability in roles and duties causing familiarity to drop and performances to follow. If you’re projected #1 in a division, don’t do what I do.


Start the season with the strong, balanced tactic, and then make match up specific changes mid game. I would advise watching the first 30 minutes, then making changes based around what you’re observing and what the statistics are telling you. Look at your possession percentage and shots on goal specifically. If I’m watching for the first 30 minutes I will see if the opponent is pressing me, If they are, how do I break it (front three, distribute to centerback or dlp. Front two, distribute to fullbacks. I will see how their offense operates and if I see a dlp in the DM position I might tell my 10 to man mark to stop this. Once you stop viewing and are looking at stats, If possession is greater than 65% turn on one or two or counter, pass into space, be more expressive, or tick mentality up to Attacking possibly but be careful with the mentality change. If I see possession less than 40%, I’m ticking tempo or passing down a notch and removing any of the offensive Team Instructions I mentioned above off. If you see you’re not getting many shots, or too many shots, tick shoot on sight or work ball into box respectively.

Making these changes in game will allow your whole club to build familiarity and development around the roles you choose, and you won’t have to worry about losing it and struggling, as well as allowing you to hone your tactic and your per game responses.

I just realized I never mentioned team width. I’d go slightly wide for the possession system with the inside attacking winger on slightly narrow instruction. If you go counter make them both wingers/ inverted wingers on wide or slightly wide. 

Sorry for the long read, I hope it helps.

Edited by Sloak
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Can you explain the following:

1. Why did you opt for the 4231 formation specifically?

2. Does your choice of lower lines of engagement and defense mean that you want to play a defensive brand of football? If yes, then why? 

After you answer these 2 questions, I can give you more concrete advice. 

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Thanks everybody for the input. I ended up winning the National with a possession-based game, with two attacking wingers and a support advanced forward. I appreciate the discussion.


On 09/11/2020 at 10:17, Experienced Defender said:

Can you explain the following:

1. Why did you opt for the 4231 formation specifically?

2. Does your choice of lower lines of engagement and defense mean that you want to play a defensive brand of football? If yes, then why? 

After you answer these 2 questions, I can give you more concrete advice. 

1. To take advantage of my (limited) squad depth and best players (all attacking wingers).

2. Originally it was to create space and offer counter attacking opportunities. But I'm quite the noob at this.

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