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Low Line of Engagement Issue

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Hello, I'm playing in Northern Ireland tier three, and I'm trying to play a stereotype lower league counter attacking hoofball with a 4-4-2.  

I'm using a low LoE to draw the opposition in, but I'm finding they're just playing the ball around in front of my two lines of four with their own front seven or eight until they find an opening and score.  Is there anything I can do about it that keeps to my simple, disciplined counter philosophy?  My midfield is a WM, CM(s), BWD(d) W(a) and my two attackers don't seem to get involved in defence, although in fairness they occupy the opposing centre backs and are hanging around for the counter which seems fine.  My defensive line is standard.

I've tried hard tackling but give away too many dangerous free kicks, tried tighter marking which hasn't made much difference and I'm reluctant to up the pressing above default for fear of being dragged out of position.  I'd also prefer not to up the LoE because when the tactic works it sucks the opposition in and hits them on the counter brilliantly.  It just doesn't work as often as it concedes and while I can see the problem I can't work out what to do about it hence this call for help.

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Okay, here goes, thank you.  I'm rubbish with technology so am typing it:

       AF(a)  TM(a)

WM/W*(a/s)* Cm(s)  BWM(d) W(a)

FB(s) CD(d)  CD(d)  FB(s)


Balanced/cautious/positive *

* depending on opponent strength, home or away etc

In Possession:

Slightly more direct

Early Crosses

More disciplined



Distribute to full backs/Centre backs




Out of possession:

Force outside

Lower LoE


I got help in this forum with the initial setup (thanks) and visually it seems to look as I'd hoped, and going forward is fine - I just don't get to go forward as often as I think I should.  The possession stats show the opposition having anything up to 40% in the central third, which reflects what I'm seeing, which is the opposition continually probing for an opening in front of my two banks of four and eventually getting good chances.  I appreciate with a counter tactic I'm surrendering possession but again I think it's too much.  So I'm either not proactive enough in winning the ball back, or not solid enough to hold out for 90 minutes, and I've no idea which (or both) or what I can do about it.  My players in principle are generally fit for the tactic - I'm in my second season so have been able to bring in players to fit but they're young and although good athletes with okay technical skills, low concentration/leadership and similar mental stats may be contributing. 

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12 minutes ago, DarJ said:

Have you tried using "get stuck in"?

Yes, my not very good tacklers gave away too many free kicks and got punished for it :(   I'm experimenting with upping the pressing a notch from standard, only done it for one match where I managed to disrupt the league leaders enough to only lose to a stoppage time goal when fitness had all but gone.  Maybe I could try pressing with midfielders only and be prepared to sub 3 of them for fresh legs.

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Even with a lower LOE, forwards on Attack duties will look to play higher up the pitch, which might explain why you're still seeing a gap between midfield and your front two.

From a counter attacking perspective, that might be exactly what you're looking for, as they are available for an outball when you win the ball back to break.

The way I see it, you could look at it two ways:

1) Bring the forwards closer to the midfield - you could do this with at least one support duty (e.g. by changing the TM to support) and/or changing the AF to an Attack duty role that doesn't play as high up the pitch (e.g. Pressing Forward on Attack)

2) Encourage your two banks of four to be more aggressive in winning the ball back - you could do this with Get Stuck In, More Urgent, a higher team mentality as a default and possibly removing Regroup.

You could also consider changing your midfield pairing to a CMd and BWMs - this is a fairly subtle change, but the BWMs will press higher up the pitch than your current BWMd or CMs, but will leave you with less of a focus on team shape.

There's not necessarily anything wrong with your system. All of these changes come with a trade-off - they might help with the issues you're seeing, but they could cause other problems as well - bringing the forwards back might dilute your threat, and making the midfield more aggressive might make you less defensively secure, so it will be trial and error.


EDIT - I suppose you could also try a Much Lower LOE with your current attack duties, although that tends to be a more extreme option. I suspect that playing this way on Cautious mentality might be causing you issues - you can generally get away with More Urgent pressing on Balanced with a Lower LOE - it's a nice mix of drawing the opponent onto you then snapping into tackles.

Edited by Mike_Cardinal
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8 hours ago, ThunderCelt said:

Balanced/cautious/positive *

* depending on opponent strength, home or away etc

That's the first mistake - and one most people tend to make - because the mentality affects all other team instructions but does not affect either your defensive solidity or attacking potency. So a mere mentality change is not a kind of tactical tweak that helps you to adapt a tactic to a specific opponent or situation in a meaningful way. 


11 hours ago, ThunderCelt said:

'm trying to play a stereotype lower league counter attacking hoofball with a 4-4-2.  

I'm using a low LoE to draw the opposition in, but I'm finding they're just playing the ball around in front of my two lines of four with their own front seven or eight until they find an opening and score

In order to play with a low block, you first need to make sure that both your defenders and midfielders are defensively reliable players (positioning, tackling, concentration, marking, teamwork, work rate, bravery + jumping reach and heading for defenders). Because with such tactical style, you are willingly opting to spend most of the time in your own half defending. And in order to defend successfully, you need players that are really good at that. Otherwise, the opposition will easily find gaps in your defensive structure.

On top of that, even if your team defends "perfectly" during open play, there is always a tangible amount of risk that you'll concede from a set-piece, given that your players will inevitably concede a lot of them (blocked crosses resulting in corner kicks for the opposition + fouls leading to free kicks in a dangerous area). So you also need to set up your defensive set-piece routines as best as you can. 

All these - along with poorly designed tactics - are the reason why many people think that defensive/low-block tactics cannot work in FM. They can, but there is a lot you have to think about in order to set them up properly.

And of course, there is no point in playing a low-block if you aim at winning the league (or trophies in general). Because defensive football is primarily about avoiding relegation/surviving. And even complete underdogs do not play defensively in every single match. 

In short: do not play a certain style of football just for the sake of it. Instead, look to adapt your tactic to your team's reputation, your players' strengths and weaknesses, your board's expectations and your own ambition as a manager. 

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