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Hello, I'm looking for some help with a lower league 4-3-3- please.  About a decade in I've taken over Dover, who have just been relegated to the National South.  My best eleven fell naturally into a 4-3-3 so I've taken the risk of changing from my usual 4-4-2 to try a formation I've never used before and I'm floundering a bit.  I've just played my first season with the side and finished seventh; a little below the media prediction of 4th, but enough to satisfy the board who only asked for a play-off place.  

So, the season hasn't been a failure but I do think I should have got more from the team, but I can't work out what.  I've achieved my aim of creating a patient possession based tactic, but it's too blunt in attack.  My defence was among the division's best despite being susceptible to counter attacks, but the goals for column is mid table despite dominating possession, so is there anything I can do with this tactic to give it a bit more bite while maintaining a decent defence?.  Setup:



IF(a)                           W(s)

    BWM(s)      CM(a)


Wb(s) CD(d) CD(d) FB(s)



The only PI is for the CM(a) to take more risks because he's creative.  I originally had him as an AP(a) but on balance I needed him in the box more.

The BWM becomes a BBM against weaker sides.

Mentality: Balanced

In Possession: Shorter passing

In transition:   Distribute to full backs/Counter Press

Out of Possession:  Higher DL/Higher LoE/More urgent pressing.



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2 hours ago, ThunderCelt said:

I've achieved my aim of creating a patient possession based tactic, but it's too blunt in attack


2 hours ago, ThunderCelt said:

is there anything I can do with this tactic to give it a bit more bite while maintaining a decent defence?

Is the patient possession approach still a must or can be changed into something more progressive?

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9 hours ago, Experienced Defender said:


Is the patient possession approach still a must or can be changed into something more progressive?

No, I'm open to other approaches.  I thought as I was trying a new formation I'd give something other than my usual direct high tempo game a go but I'm happy to abandon the experiment if necessary.

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It is curious because I am playing with Wrexham at National League and I had the same "goals issue". In general the team played very well, but we had 12 ties during the season, which is almost 1/4 of the matches. And on most of those we played well, but the players just kicked the ball outside at every opportunity. I was using a very similar 4-3-3, although mine was more focused on counter attacks.

I  don´t have enough elements to comprove that, but I think it has to do with the quality of the players and to the use of the single striker without an attacking midfielder. I always think that a lonely single man upfront may be a heavy burden for LLM teams, and I don´t trust strikers from the wingers neither a true CM AT as a second/first striker on those divisions. I could never made them work properly and I always have the same problem - the team attacks, dominates games, but we fail to score.

So I don´t know for sure, but you are not alone on the "attack blunt". Besides rethinking the playing style - which of course can be done - maybe you can consider changing the formation, either to a striker/AM pairing or a two striker one. I would really consider that option.

Edited by Tsuru
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3 hours ago, ThunderCelt said:

No, I'm open to other approaches

If so, these could be tweaks for you to try and see what happens:


IFsu                                   Wsu

BWMsu    CMat


FBat     CDde   CDde   FBsu


NOTE: The right back would ideally be played as an IWB on support, but I fear that in a lower league you probably don't have the right type of player for such demanding role.

In terms of instructions, I would start with the following tweaks:

- switch the mentality to Positive (to encourage a bit more willingness for risk in attack and also allow players more freedom of movement and creation)

- switch passing from shorter to standard, but then tell both CBs and DM to pass shorter in their PIs

- distribute to both CBs and FBs in transition (so as to give the keeper more options)

- counter-press is always potentially risky, so use it with caution

- I would also consider dropping the LOE just a notch (to standard), both for better compactness (especially since you use aggressive pressing) and more space up front to be potentially exploited

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Thanks again to @Experienced Defender for your advice.  Here's an update, as promised.  I'm twelve games into the next season with one more point than at the corresponding stage last year.  That's better than it sounds, because I lost some of my better players in the summer so my team is weaker, and also some dropped points are down to my in game management mistakes.  The football also looks more fluid so is more enjoyable to watch.  I'm winning against the better sides, who want to make a game of it, and against bottom sides who can't cope with my team's better players.  My main struggle is against mid table 'bus parkers' who I can't break down as I can't get enough men forward and don't have enough individual ability to create chances from nothing.  I'm thinking of reverting to 442 or 4231 against teams like that.

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5 hours ago, ThunderCelt said:

I'm thinking of reverting to 442 or 4231 against teams like that

A mere change of formation is unlikely to help. Watching carefully what happens during a match and making small, gradual and logical tweaks is a lot smarter option. 

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Apologies for resurrecting this, but any suggestions for my problem breaking down mid to lower table sides are welcome.  If I use the above tactic 'as is' or try being more aggressive I get caught on the break and end up drawing or losing to the fewer good quality chances the opposition creates.  I've tried being more cautious/patient in terms of lowering the mentality/passing length/tempo etc, and less aggressive roles and duties, and keeping an extra man back at attacking set pieces, but often end up playing stale goalless draws against sides I'm better than man for man.

I *think* the problem is my left back with an attack duty as counter attack goals are often from his side of the pitch, but he's so important going forward on an overlap I really don't want to sacrifice that but I can't work out how to provide cover for his forward runs.

I've no problems against better sides who are happy to come out and play - in fact I reckon I get more points against better sides than against strugglers.


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Actually, I think I've sorted this.  I've:

* Gone wider, to stretch the opposition

* Lowered my defensive line, to prevent balls over the top

* Lowered my troublesome LB to support, which does enough to fill the hole he left

* Shortened  my passing, to keep possession 

That all seems to let me keep possession and probe for openings without having to worry about being caught on the break by long balls, so means I can give my midfielders more freedom to help my front three, with full backs providing support too.  Against weaker sides the probing with the numbers of bodies I can release combined with  continual possession is enough to give me an eventual breakthrough.  Against stronger sides who want to play, the original version stillborn fine.

As tactics are my blind spot, both in FM and in real life, I'm quite chuffed to have worked this out. :cool:

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