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Help me build a fluid counter-attacking team

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I've been rubbish at FM for three or four editions in a row now, so I'm trying to go back to basics and go through things slowly (with a team I'm familiar with) to figure it out. I'd love a bit of help on the tactical side.

I'm playing as MK Dons in League One and looking to build a fluid counter-attacking system for these reasons:

  • I've disabled the first transfer window and have a few influential/important players who are old and slow but smart and good leaders (Lewington, Keogh, Surman). I figure that lends itself to defending deeper.
  • The team has a pretty high level of technical ability and our best player is an advanced playmaking-type (Fraser). We also have attacking, possession, and entertaining football philosophies. It's going to be hard to fulfill these due to certain personnel problems (slow defence, lack of quality out wide) but I figure we can at least try to pass the ball neatly and pose a consistent threat.
  • We have no good wingers and a surplus of centre-backs and central midfielders and so no real choice but to play with wing-backs. That tends to lend itself to a bottom-heavy formation and transitions (I think).
  • We have two strikers who are reasonably quick and good in the air and I imagine will be most effective with space to play into.

Please feel free to point out the flaws in any of my assumptions.

Here's what I've got so far, built off the fluid counter preset:


A couple of concerns:

  • Can you play like this at home/as favourites or is it too passive?
  • My two roaming midfielders (Fraser and Thompson) are much better players than my wing-backs (who can get up and down and are serviceable on the ball but not going to be game-changers). Any advice on how to get the best out of them? I'm not sure if the mezzala role will take Fraser out of central areas too much, but I don't want us to just attack in straight lines and lack movement.

Any advice would be great. Thanks.

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I would consider your mentality if you're looking to play counter attacking football. 

Cautious will naturally make your players play safe and at a lower tempo. 

For me, if you're looking to play counter attacking football, a positive mentality as this will increase the tempo and your players will naturally be at a higher mentality looking to progress the ball forward. 

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Three things are key for counter-attacking football (whether fluid or simple and direct):

- fast attacking transitions (which is why a low team mentality is not a good idea, as @CJ_Randell correctly noted :thup: )

- low defensive block coupled with the optimal level of compactness (which is the distance between the D-line and LOE)

- the setup of roles and duties that maximizes chances for both of the above to be achieved in the simplest (smoothest) way possible

Which, in more specific terms, means the following:

- do not use a low team mentality (such as cautious or defensive); instead, go with either Balanced or Positive (these two are best balanced and thus make the rest of the tactic easier to be set up properly)

- set up D-line and LOE so that the former is one notch higher than the latter (in low-block tactics, that means standard D-line & lower LOE)

- make sure you have: a) enough players in advanced areas ready to attack the space behind and between opposition lines early during attacking transitions;  b) roles in the midfield and defense that allow for maximum defensive solidity (in conjunction with the aforementioned defensive compactness)

Additional tips:

- no need for a cover duty in the back-line when you don't play with a higher D-line

- if you want to use a playmaker role in a counter-attacking tactic - which is not necessary btw - then better avoid one with defend duty, because you want your attacking transitions to be as fast as possible

- if you use a formation with 2 strikers, play them both on attack duties (in direct relation to having players up front ready to attack the space early in transitions)

One more tip pertinent specifically to your current tactic:

- given that defensive solidity is key for counter-attacking football (as well as any defensive style of play, for that matter), having 2 roaming roles in central midfield is probably not the best idea (referring to the BBM and especially mezzala)

If you have any questions or would like to hear more specific suggestions on how you could set up the tactic, feel free to ask :thup:

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Thanks both, much appreciated. I'll implement this advice and see how things go through the first few games of the season.

Re: the DLP, Surman has great vision and intelligence for this level but no mobility. My idea was to have him pick the ball up deep and break lines with his passing to set the other two midfielders and wing-backs away while just asking him to sit and fill gaps defensively.

What would you suggest to achieve that? DLP-S, CM-D (with 'take more risks' I guess)? There's also regista, but that doesn't seem suited to counter-attacking.

Edited by pandamk
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