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How to recreate René Marić's 3-6-1 flat formation in defensive situation?

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Hi y'all

A new FM, a new try to recreate the defensive high block/mid block shape that René Marić has written about a couple of years ago. He saw the 3-6-1 as the next step, and in a way, he was right. More and more teams are playing a 5-4-1/5-2-3/3-4-3/3-6-1 hybrid, where the wingbacks push up really high in possession, stay there in transition and only when the ball is the own half, return to their spot. All in all, it seems impossible in FM to replicate those wingbacks' behaviour. A wingback starts in the defensive line and only pushes up when he has no flank player in front of him. Even in the DM strata, he's primarily the 4th of 5th member of the backline.

In his essay (https://spielverlagerung.com/2015/12/06/the-3-6-1-a-logical-step/), Marić describes the roles in his formation more or less as follows:


But first, there's the problem, it's impossible in FM to recreate a simple flat 6 in midfield, because only 5 spots are available. But we could work around that, no? The simple solution would be: 3 cd's, 2 dm's or defensive playmakers in the dm strata, 2 defensive forwards and 2 mezalla's (who're described as runners by Marić) and then a deep lying forward.

If it were a mid block, I'd ideally want as a 'the ball is in the center of the pitch' situation that my forward harasses the backline, that my wingers occupy the flanks, that my double pivot occupies the center and that the runners occupy the halfspace. But that doesn't seem possible.

First try was this: a 3-4-3 wide.


I instructed the inside forwards to go further forward and stay narrower / the defensive forwards were ordered to stay wider. But often more than not, they were in each other's way, standing closely in front of eachother, leaving the halfspaces open. I would be there if my wingers would defind wider and the inside forward - or the other way arround, but alas: the defensive width has an impact on all of the four flank runners.

Another try was using a 3cd-2dm-4dw-mez-mez-dw-1cf tactic, but the mezalla's kept more of a box shape, didn't cut the passing lines in the halfspace.
The same went for a 3cd-4dw-cm-cm-dw-2am-1cf formation. The central midfielders and attacking midfielders form a box, the passing lanes are wide open.

I'd really, really like to be able to defend in the mid zone with the narrow occupation of both flanks, both halfspaces and the middle of the pitch with six pleayers more or less in line.

Which roles in the DM/M/AM strata defind the half spaces by standard? Would an IWB(d) or (s) do that? Doesn't a IF(s) defend and attack the halfspaces more than an (I)W? Or can a WM modified as a pseudo-mezalla and defending and attacking the halfspaces with a wider defending winger in front of him?

I hope you can give me some suggestions.

(By the way: I've read a lot of topics on this, from Ozil's 3-5-1-1 to the three failed replications of Marić's 3-6-1. I hope some FM wizards know how to make one flank player occupy the wide spaces and another flank player the half spaces. Or know how runners in the AM strata defend the half spaces, next to two CM's, instead of forming a box.)

Thanks in advance!

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There are a lot of questions in your OP so I’m a little unsure what you want addressing first or what’s important for you to maintain from the opening shape. 
If you want to defend as 3cbs, why not consider a standard back 4 with a HB in front. Using IWB will then have them stepping inside into this half space you are looking for. 
Secondly if you use IW they will hold wider but then naturally cut inside especially if you add on some roam from position PI. Also find using the IW in the midfield strata gives them much better chances of utilising that half space, whereas when they cut in from the AML/AMR position then they heading into a congested back line, whereas from the ML/R slot, they can attack the half space into the opponent’s midfield. It was for a lot of those reasons I ended up creating this 

Having your players attack:defend half spaces isn’t just about the player roles you give them, you need to have your TI and PI’s spot on to get them to behave as you want. Unfortunately your screenshot isn’t in English so I can’t help with suggesting adaptions to those. 

Ultimately tho if you are attempting to create a formation that doesnt have players in the standard f/b or w/b slots then you are going to have trouble defending the flanks. Remember the tactics screen is how you defend, from there using the correct player roles and instructions you can get that attacking movement you want. A back 3 with a HB in front can help a little but that feels more of a compromise.


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As you've highlighted, you can't really get the defensive shape bang on in the midfield. I would probably compromise with either a 3-1-5-1 or a 3-5-1-1 depending on how high I want to press (he does talk about potentially using one of the more central midfielders to  help the striker in the press). The five would be Winger - Mezzala - Central Midfielder - Mezzala - Winger. DM would be a Halfback, the AM system would be an Attacking Midfielder (probably on support).

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4 hours ago, dazza11 said:


Having your players attack:defend half spaces isn’t just about the player roles you give them, you need to have your TI and PI’s spot on to get them to behave as you want. Unfortunately your screenshot isn’t in English so I can’t help with suggesting adaptions to those.


Thanks for your answer! The importance of the defensive shape isn't necessarily to attempt a pure recreation of the article; it's because I'm a football coach myself and it's the formation I use myself. I get the offensive behaviour and patterns that I want, but defensively, the four wide players end up on top of each other, and I really like the flexible chain of six where every lateral zone (wing, halfspace, center, halfspace, wing) can be covered - and having a double pivot as well.

I've seen that inside forwards defend the halfspace more easily when the double pivot is in the DM strata. I've toyed with a 5-2-3 DM, but the problem is that the wingbacks don't press high, even on max. pressing. We defend way too deep.

I don't think it's impossible to recreate the defensive movement I want, but it's like you say: TI's and PI's need to be spot on. I'll translate my TI's:


In possession:
Much shorter passing
Attempt through balls
Much higher tempo

In transition:

Without possession:
Push opponent to the wings
Much higher defensive line
Much higher line of intervention
Extremely urgent
Hard tackling
Offside trap

I've created the narrow shape to make the inside forwards defend more narrow, but unfortunately, the defensive wingers do the same. Is there a way to make the wings in one strata defend wider and the wings in another strata defend narrower? That's what I'm looking for. Could lowering the team mentality help? (I've used 'Attacking' as I prefer a really high tempo game.)


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I suspect what you are trying to achieve isn’t possible in fm but What about stay wider on one set and sit narrower on the other? Yes they are in possession instructions but at least that means there initial starting position and behaviour will be to stay wider/narrower? 

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I've trailed this before in brief, random one season long saves.

Simply the defensive shape is impossible - you cannot have a line of 6 in midfield. Therefore, compromises must be made.

I interpreted the shape as four central players with two wide players, which I put into a few shapes:

• 3-2-4-1 comprising of two DMs, two CMs, a ML and MR. This was my more aggressive shape. If I was really pushing for a goal I occasionally pushed the 4 into the AM strata.

• 3-4-2-1 comprising of two DMs, two CMs, and a wing back on each side. This was slightly more defensive and was rarely used.

• 3-3-3-1 comprising of three DMs, a central CM, a ML and MR. This covered the centre in a more conservative and typically used as a counter attacking system with unrushing SVs in the wider DM slots. If I was holding a lead I often went to this with the ML and MR dropped back as wingbacks, or my 3-4-2-1.

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I've just spent all morning playing the same match over and over with my current beta save, testing out different variants of tactics to try and see what i can come up with.

In all I tried:

3421 with DWs, CMs, and AMs (with a variety of PIs)

523 with WBau, SVs and IWs (in the M bracket)

3223 with WMa, SVs, IWs (in the AM bracket)

3223 with Wingers in AM slots, WMs in the ML/MR slot, SVs

3223 with Wingers in AM slots, IWs in the ML/MR slot, SVs

3151 with WMas, Mez, CMd and a DMs behind

3241 with heavily custom Carrilerors, WMs and DMs

Going off my notes, as I didn't manage to get screenshots from everything, I managed to get a nearly perfect off the ball shape with this tactic:


With PIs of Get further forward, stay wider, and cross from byline on the Wing-backs, and pass it shorter, take more risks, and sit narrower on the Inverted Wingers. My notes of positioning say: 

"With the ball: perfect 3six1 imo, IWs a little wide not too much more advanced than the rest of the midfield. Forms a nice band."

However, without the ball: "Not right. Looks more like a 541."

I realised then that the 3six1 (my six key on my keyboard is broken, forgive me) needs to be the defensive/pressing shape, with players stepping up. This is not possible with players in the WB slot, as rightly pointed out above. 

I then tried the various attempts doubling up on wide AM and wide Midfield players, switching between IWs/Wingers/WMs in different brackets. The best I managed was to get a rather uneven band of  six in defence, but with bunching of the wide players. 

My best effort was with this tactic:



The WMs have run wide with the ball, stay wider, and man mark opposition wingbacks.

The DMs has get further forward.

First half with the ball


Second half with the ball 


And off the ball: pretty similar both halves


Shape is good although it is a shame that the double pivot dissapears a little. Might be worth trying offsetting the DM. Footedness and traits are also super important here- I have left footed ML and MCL and right footed MR and MCR. The CMd was right footed and the DMs was left footed. In the second half I told them to mark their respective footed side centre mid (playing against a 532). So the idea would be that the CMd (no. 99) moved right and the DMs (six) moved left. This seems to have worked a little when I compare teh 1st and 2nd half off the ball maps.

Btw the tactic is decent (although I know we are focussing first and foremost on shape and spacing). xG of 1.7-0.8 (4-0 final score) against 7th placed Sampdoria at home. Because I was so keen to try and get the shape and spacing right I had to leave out some of my good players and play others slightly out of position (not enough left footers or mezzala types in my squad). But it seemed to have worked alright regardless.

Fixing that double pivot and I think this is not far off what you are wanting. I might start by shifting the DMs over to his dominant footed side and adding stay wider along with Get further forward?

Edited by Flußkrebs
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@Kcinnay Hope you don't mind me tagging you, excited because I think I've nailed it here:

Off the ball


With the ball (a lovely double pivot!)




PIs as above, but I took off the get further forward on the DMsu (his higher mentality means he'll push up in line with the CMd anyway). I added the opposition right centre mid man marking to the CMd but I am not sure that is necessary. Focus play down the left- in the new match engine, as @Rashidi explained, focus play causes players to drift and look for passes over that side. I played around with and without this and it means the CMd drifts left enough (in possession) to stop too much bunching and properly form that double pivot. 

I also added run wide with the ball to the right sided Mezzala to try and make space for the incoming DM. Focus play down the left unfortunately means that the right sided Mid seemed to drift a bit narrower rather than staying super wide. I added cross from byline to try and help (but also Deulofeu is not a proper winger really. So if you try with a different player it might help). 

We won 3-0 again btw ;) (xG 1.4-0.4).

Have a little play, obviously the tactic can be flipped depending on the footedness of your players. Traits like run wide with the ball might be useful here (especially for the CMd). Have a try with and without some of my forces as well, but I think this is decent :) 

Edited by Flußkrebs
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Is that at a specific point in the game or did you just use the averages?

Personally you should grab a screenshot from a specific point of the game that shows how your team transitions, that way you get a more accurate picture. I am glad you found my explanation of focus play helpful

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49 minutes ago, Rashidi said:

Is that at a specific point in the game or did you just use the averages?

Personally you should grab a screenshot from a specific point of the game that shows how your team transitions, that way you get a more accurate picture. I am glad you found my explanation of focus play helpful

Very good point Rashidi- here are some more helpful in game situations (from the second half, when the recommendations I have made are all in play).

Playing out from the back, the ball has gone from Goalkeeper, to LCB, to left Mez, to Left Midfielder, and the Complete Forward has dropped deep and to the left to receive the ball. He then wins the corner.


Pressing structure- right side Mezzala (no. 10) stepped up to press their left centre back (19). He then played the ball over the top to 18, their right sided centre mid. 38 (left Mezzala) goes to press. As you can see, there is a solid band of six, with my wide midfielders marking their wingbacks. The double pivot (albeit situationally a little positionally suspect) sits in the centre of the park. This provides us numerical superiority during all phases of the press, as our mezzalas are free to close down their man, safe in the knowledge that there are two covering players. This particular move ended with a reaching ball from the opposition which went out for a goal kick to us.


Attacking transition- A sloppy clearance from their right wing back leads to our left centre mid (i.e. the CMd) recovering the ball. He then plays it back to our left centre back.


Switch of play to right Mezzala


Some nice interplay and 1-2s before a first time pass over the top from our LCM (CMd) to an onrushing LM who hits the post1750618350_Leftwidemidfielder.JPG.8d76ed72cca601e95c536400ea282181.JPG

The double pivot is clear to see, with Mezzalas advanced but very much covering the half space. My right mid has tucked in narrow (as he likes to do) which may also be a downside with the focus play down left, I am not sure.

Because I dominated this game and have thrown a tactic together with v high pressing (plus the new highlight UI, which I personally find very user unfriendly) I struggled to find instances of a solid chain of six in a mid block. 

Here is a decent example where they have taken a throw in inside our half. Our right Mezzala has stepped up to mark the free man who received the ball from the throw, and the rest of the team has shifted across. This leaves a 3 (one player doing some dodgy marking and not holding the line very well...) and then a midfield chain, with the right mezzala stepping up like I say. Hopefully that is clear. 



Edited by Flußkrebs
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@Flußkrebs Wow, amazing work! I adore your commitment to try and test multiple formations, shapes and settings. Thank for that! I think you've nailed it indeed, your tactic provides a great framework. It's good to see that it seems to be possible to create a chain of six in the defensive shape. In possession, it's easily done, multiple formations allow the creation of a pure 3-6-1, but defensively, not at all.

It would be better if we had more options, formationwise - or if we had more options for defensive positioning. A 'stay wider' or 'stay narrower' PI for the defensive phase would solve a lot. For example: IRL, some teams who defend in 4-4-2 make the back 4 spread wider than the midfield 4 - or the other way around. In FM, that's not really possible. Another thing that's lacking is the pressing behaviour of wingbacks in the DM strata. The back three is very popular IRL, and lots of teams combine that with a high press. But to achieve that, it's essential that the wingbacks press very high in the opposite half and don't form a back five too early - which doesn't happen in FM. Seeing RB Leipzig or Atalanta press in FM isn't even close to real life due to the defensive behaviour of the wingbacks. In my opinion, WB's in the DM strata should defend way much higher in the opposite half. The difference with a FM back five is negligible.

What I'd really like, is a PES-like possibility to move positions 'freely' on the tactics board, with some zonal restrictions ofcourse. It should be possible to push inside forwards more to the middle, in the halfspace, it should be possible to get two DM's/CM's inbetween two MEZ's.

Those thoughts aside: I'm gonna toy around with your settings, try to create a tactic that presses and defends like I want. I'll get back to you!

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A first update: the things I tried to get rid of where the asymmetric formation and the specific marking. I like it when my players double up, ball oriented, act as a swarm of wasps - and a 3-6-1 flat is perfect for that compactness.

What I'm trying to do, is to use a 3-2-4-1 formation all the time and make sure the two DM's sit inbetween the MEZ's, even without possession. Another thing about the chain of six in a medium or low block is that you don't create gaps in the line when someone steps out for a light press due to OI. An example:
















An open play situation. We're Genk (in blue). The inverted wingback had the ball and my left MEZ Toma steps out of the chain to force a long ball to the center, thanks to the OI. Behind him, you clearly can see the chain of five in perfect order. DW(s) Munoz - MEZ(a) Limbombe - DM(s + get further forward Heynen) - DM(s + get further forward) Eboué - DW(s) Uronen. At that moment, we played with a balanced low block, no tight marking.














Another example, now from a set piece, directly at a free kick situation, with attacking mentality, high line, tight marking. I tried the extreme mix of two SV's (a) and two MEZ's (a). Even then, you have the chain of six, although it bothers me that the two blonde guys are in the middle, whereas the most left blond guy (Toma) is the left MEZ and the guy next to him (Eboue) is the left SV.

Later in the game, I tried both DM's as regista's with get further forward. Something to explore further.


In the first attempt of the game - which I used only for trying whether a 3-2-4-1 framework could provide me a 3-6-1 in defense at all, you could see some nice patterns in open play. Here, my right MEZ presses the ball and the chain of five is behind him in correct order, ball oriented.

In an earlier game against Eupen, I used a 3-6-1 with two SV's (A) and two MEZ's(s) for something more than 20 minutes. It gave a nice average defensive shape.


You see, it's a chain of six, but as I was using it to press more (therefore, I played 5-2-3), you saw the MEZ's step up first in the halfspaces, closely backed up by the defensive wingers and the SV(s).

Thinking about the player descriptions of René Marić and his case study of the Chelsea squad, I would prefore to stay close to 'logical' roles that fit types like Matic, Fabregas, Kanté. I'd prefer a defensive playmaker, but the hardcoded hold position would make him not push up, probably.

Some questions.

- For the the requested defensive behaviour, would it be better to play with a narrow defense (which I instinctively prefer) or a wide defense?  Or keep things neutral?

- I added 'be more expressive' to increase fluid behaviour and the stepping up of the DM's. Is that a good idea? Or would 'be more disciplined' help the MEZ's to defend wider?

- Does MEZ(s) or MEZ(a) make a difference in their tendency to drift wide and defend the halfspaces? Does mentality have an impact on that?

It's not all like I want at the moment, but I'm close. And: in the game I seriously played (the experimental game ended 1-2 for us, very lucky we were), we were defensively really solid. 0,3 xG, 4 shots against, only 1 on target, where we had 1,01 xG, 13 shots, 4 on target.

I look to expand this trajectory further and be able to provide a framework for a symmetrical 3-6-1 without having the need to focus play down to one side in possession.

(Oh, and: bravo to FM21. DW's now actually defend like offensive WB's should do. They press high up but aren't afraid to track back at right back when the ball's really close to goal. In FM20, a three man defence that wasn't heavily focussing on possession would get hammered on the flanks, now the wide CD's and the wingers do their job perfectly, assisted by the DM's. PI's, TI's and OI's now clearly make a difference. Suggestions are welcome!)

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It looks a really interesting system and you seem to be getting it to work, couple of comments though.  Unless it has changed for FM21 hold position and get further forward PIs are WITH the ball instructions, i.e. they don't effect the players positioning on defence.  Similarly, the Mez movement into the half space is a with the ball instruction and as such probably doesn't change their defensive movement.  The only instructions I can think of that might be worth considering is the defensive width setting and I think, though people with better knowledge can correct me if I am wrong, that individual player mentality will also effect defensive position with higher mentality players defensive positioning being slightly higher.

Edited by WhyMe
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15 hours ago, WhyMe said:

The only instructions I can think of that might be worth considering is the defensive width setting 

I also thought about this. I had it on standard defensive width but if I used a 3241 like @Kcinnay then I'd be tempted to try wider (or force inside as its now called).

15 hours ago, WhyMe said:

that individual player mentality will also effect defensive position with higher mentality players defensive positioning being slightly higher.

On 17/11/2020 at 04:32, Kcinnay said:

two SV's (A) and two MEZ's(s)

I think this is the key. @WhyMe was correct when he said that 'hold position' and 'get further forward' are in (team) possession PIs. But the mentality of say a DPLs or DMs behind (as I had it) a CMwith pressing relatively high meant that they would step up into the line of 5 to form that Six to press the ball. I am not sure what the whole version of the tactic base you are using now is but personally I'd be instinctively against using 2 Mezzalas on attack in front of DM/SVs on support. Because then they will start higher up the pitch/in the mid block and press higher. Maybe this makes sense in a normal tactic but if part of the aim is to simulate that single line structure then I don't see when the DMs would ever be in line with the Mez's. But you have tried it so let me know what you think.

On 17/11/2020 at 04:32, Kcinnay said:

Does MEZ(s) or MEZ(a) make a difference in their tendency to drift wide and defend the halfspaces? Does mentality have an impact on that?

In defense? Well the Mez(a) will position themselves higher up the pitch and probably press more (depending on team mentality). And they are hardcoded to get further forward. So it depends what kind of attacking shape you want to see. personally I'd use Mez(s), but aware that if you are using Defensive Wingers you will be lacking final third penetration. That's why I opted for WM(a).

On 17/11/2020 at 04:32, Kcinnay said:

- I added 'be more expressive' to increase fluid behaviour and the stepping up of the DM's. Is that a good idea? Or would 'be more disciplined' help the MEZ's to defend wider?

I am 90% sure that BME basically just tells players to think on their feet/be creative/use a little flair when they or the team have the ball, especially in the final 3rd. Whilst BMD will tell them to stick to the tactical roles/instructions that you have given them. 

Players obviously are relevant here (do you have attacking players with the requisite creativity/imagination to turn on 'expressive'?). I'd leave them off for now. I am not entirely sure on what your tactic looks like but Be More Disciplined will basically have wide players running up and down the lines, your mezzalas running the channels, your Segundo Volantes running straight forward (exaggerated a little but you get the point). So I'd only really think about it if you are not happy with how the team is spaced and behaving in attack. Be more expressive will probably have your DMs behaving a little more marauding and interchanging with the Mezzalas, drifting wide etc (dependent on the player's attributes/traits) but like I said mainly in attack. I don't think that it will effect defensive behaviour much.



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  • 11 months later...

And at last, in FM 22, you can make inside forwards (and maybe some other roles in the AMR-AML position) defend the half spaces, on average and in specific situations. This is the defensive average of my 5-2-3 DM WB formation. Two times WB(A), two times IF(s), central midfielders are BWM(s). A very compact 3-6-1 with a mid press that plugs all the essential holes on the pitch. Happy me!




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