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Help a newcomer with my first custom tactic? 3xF9 in a 5-2-3 (or maybe a 3-4-3 ...or 3-3-1-3? ...it's unclear)


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Hi all!

A couple of disclaimers up top:

-I'm very much a newcomer to FM and Football in general, though I've played a lot of OOTP and other sports management sims. Apologies in advance for silly questions/not knowing terminology/etc.

-Yes, I shamelessly use the editor because I like learning new games by having the freedom to mess around however I like. Yes, I know Moukoko/Ugarte/Assuncao will never play in the VNL North. No, it's not boring for me (yet) to win every game by stupid margins - I'm building for eventual promotions anyways. And yes, when I want a real challenge I'll start a new save with less/no editor use. Later for the gatekeeping, please - let a noob enjoy messing around. [That being said, I am hoping to play this tactic in a more 'honest' save once I've refined it a bit, so please feel free to give advice that's more general/based on avoiding editor use, not so much about my specific players or this specific team.]

-Apologies in advance for the wall of text. I tend towards the 'information overload' style of communication, but I've tried to break it into parts and space things out decently enough. 

~~~

Ok, so here's the quick backstory: being a fan of somewhat unorthodox strategies and free-flowing formations (I play a lot of Ultimate Frisbee personally IRL), I decided to build my first teams around the idea of Total Football from back in the Rinus Michels/Cryuff/etc. days. I started off by downloading a bunch of pre-made tactics from various sites that attempt to faithfully re-create various teams from this style/era (Ajax, etc.), and it has been a lot of fun. So, I'm now deciding to try my hand at making a custom tactic from scratch that's somewhat inspired by these, but not directly copying them. The result, so far, is this mess:

Spoiler

912026681_ScreenShot2021-09-14at2_10_02PM.png.d997b57c5cada1a51aa15a7c1674f691.png

Player instructions are as follows (beyond the default for their role/settings):

-Center F9: roam from position, move into channels

-Side F9s: run wide with ball, stay wider, roam from position

-BBM: get further forward

-RGA: get further forward

-BPDs: stay wider

[Note: the keepers in all the screenshots should be set as sweeper keepers (support), I had them set differently by accident when taking the screenshots.]

~~~

A few caveats/foundational principles I'm working around:

-Extreme fluidity/positional switching is the priority since that's the TF hallmark; as such, each of the front three has a 'swap roles' situation set up: center F9 swaps with the Regista (might change this to swap with the BBM, thoughts?), and each side F9 switches with the corresponding CWB

-I want to use a Libero in central defense, ideally in 'attack' mode, because that seems to be a classic hallmark of many old TF teams

-I want to use 3xFalse Nine, because... Well, why not? What could be better than one F9? Three of them! Also, I was inspired by a recent meme on the r/footballmanagergames subreddit, not going to lie. The F9 role supposedly switches pretty fluidly all over the field like the tactic wants, so why not have as many as possible?

-I don't mind (and in fact rather like) the idea of players having to fit very strange/specific skillsets and play all over the field - for example, the F9/CWB combo is not one I see a lot of players having naturally, but there's surprising amount of overlap in the required attributes, so I figure players can be re-trained to fit this tactic over time. Same goes for the F9/Regista setup. 

~~~

I tried to do a 3-4-3 to stay true to the original TF ideas, but in FM doing this with a Libero seems to inevitably leave the tactic with glaring defensive weaknesses - bright red patches all over the defensive third. No good. So, this led me to a 5-defender formation (4-defender doesn't allow Libero, and while some tactics I've seen use a central BPD to approximate it, I want the genuine article if possible), where the wings are major offensive players - hence the two CWB roles. (Note: I can shore up the weaknesses in the attacking third somewhat by setting them both to 'attacking,' but that downgrades the team fluidity from 'very fluid' to just 'flexible' so I decided against it for now; advice on this point would be welcomed though.) So... it almost seems like I sort of just accidentally re-invented the 3-4-3? I'm not quite clear on that. Moving the wings up to be WMs doesn't seem too bad, but it seems to weaken the defense a lot (especially with the Libero on 'attack') without much upside.

My thinking on the remaining positions:

-BBM: plays the full field, constantly switches between offense and defense, etc. Seems to fit the tactic? I have also considered a roaming playmaker instead. I see a lot of Mezzalas used, but they have to be off-center and I'm drawn towards midfield symmetry when I don't have wingers. Maybe that symmetry isn't important and I should have a Mezzala anyways? The F9-Mezz swap seems to be a classic TF thing? (For this same reason I have the two midfielders stacked vertically, not horizontally - thoughts on this? It seems to weaken parts of the midfield a bit, but I don't know how important that is vs. symmetry and other considerations.)

-RGA: honestly not sure, but from the description I think it fits the general idea of the tactic? Not quite as far back as the DLP, so maybe less likely to crowd the Libero? I've read some people say that Liberos and any sort of DLP/RGA/etc. can be problematic, and others say it's fine if you're careful about the formation and instructions and such. Can only be played from the DM spot, so if I go to horizontal midfielders this role will have to change obviously. 

-BPD(cover): not sure on this either, but this seems to fit the tactic too of including the defense as relevant parts of the offense; 'cover' seems important given that the Libero is on 'attack,' but maybe I'm thinking about that wrong and they should be on 'defend' or 'stopper.'

~~~

I also have a weird variant of this that's supposed to be... I guess a 3-3-3-1 without wingers? I basically just drop the two extra F9s back to become Mezzalas, one on each side to act as semi-wingers. I imagine I might use this as a 'second half, up by several goals, almost-park-the-bus' type of strategy. It looks like this:

Spoiler

334256219_ScreenShot2021-09-14at3_12_16PM.png.0e291dc33e3b431cd922fc678277728e.png

Obviously, I doubt we'll score many goals with this, but the defense looks solid and there's at least a non-zero chance of still scoring. Perhaps the BBM should be moved to an AM or some sort, but again this is the most heavily defense-focused variant. Once again, I can shore up the attacking-third weaknesses by shifting the CWBs and/or Mezzalas into 'attack' mode, but this comes at the cost of fluidity and some defensive presence:

Spoiler

847141017_ScreenShot2021-09-14at3_12_38PM.png.7b25ba4cf5358a1b4f9d684c5468b64c.png

(Note: setting the CWBs to attack but the Mezzalas to support at least gets me to 'flexible,' but still not fluid or very fluid like I want.)

~~~

Whew, ok. That's the information. Thanks for reading, if you're still here. 

Any and all advice is welcome! I like to learn by drinking from the proverbial fire hose, so bring it all on.

Some specific questions:

-Is the RGA a good fit for this strategy, and can it play safely with the L(At)? If not, how should I reconfigure my two midfielders?

-How should I be thinking about the trade-off between more fluidity and better field coverage? Both in this tactic specifically, and in FM more generally.

-Do my settings for in/out of possession and in transition look ok? What might I consider adjusting, and why?

-Do my player instructions make sense/look ok? What might I consider adjusting, and why?

~~~

Thanks in advance for any and all input! 

Edited by el_gringo_4
typos, etc.
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I'm not an expert on the subject but have you tried maybe and reverse your thinking and thought about where they are defensively positioned first and then work from there? Something along the lines of :

            SKsu
     BPDde  Lat  BPDde
WBsu                  WBsu
         BBMsu CMsu
IWsu        SSat      IFsu

Not something I've played but would be interesting to see how I plays out.

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4 minutes ago, Justified said:

I'm not an expert on the subject but have you tried maybe and reverse your thinking and thought about where they are defensively positioned first and then work from there? Something along the lines of :

            SKsu
     BPDde  Lat  BPDde
WBsu                  WBsu
         BBMsu CMsu
IWsu        SSat      IFsu

Not something I've played but would be interesting to see how I plays out.

Thanks for the response! I'm not quite sure I know what you mean by 'thinking...about where they are defensively positioned first,' but the formation you sketched out looks interesting. So basically: swap the BBPs to defend mode, change the CWBs to WBs, make the midfield horizontal with a CM instead of the RGA, swap the center F9 for a SS, and then swap the extra F9s to an IW and an IF?

That's probably an objectively better strategy with better field coverage (wingers/IFs are important/good to have in general, obviously), but I really do want to focus on figuring out how to make 3xF9 work if possible. 

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If you're just starting out with FM (and indeed football in general) then my advice is keep things simple - at least until you have a fair idea of what things actually do.

You seem to have started from the opposite end - a somewhat unusual formation and pretty much every tactical setting there is.

Start with a more familiar, real life formation such as the 442, 4231, 4123DM and so on.  FM is designed as a game to reflect real life, so that's probably a good starting point.

As far as Team Instructions ("TIs") go, they tend to be used to either define a certain style of play (for example you would pick different TIs for a possession based tactic as you would for a counter attacking tactic); and/or to address specific issues you may notice during matches (for example if you want your team to slow the pace down).  If you don't have a certain style of play in mind, then choosing zero TIs is perfectly viable as a starting point to which you can add later as your knowledge and experience increases.

Starting with few (or no) TIs has the added benefit of helping you identify what might be causing certain issues on the pitch.  That becomes increasingly difficult the more TIs you use, especially if you are inexperienced.

And finally when it comes to picking your player roles and duties, refer back to your formation and how you think your players may move around and interact with each other.  So if you want to stick with 3 strikers for example, which out of those 3 is attacking the box and which is coming deep to pick up the ball?   If nobody is actively attacking the box (hint) then perhaps changing one of those strikers to have an attack duty might be a good idea.

TL;DR - when starting out, keep things simple.  The Tactic Creator is a toy box stuffed full of all sorts of fun looking toys, but you don't need to play with them all at once :).

PS - don't use a Libero behind a Regista (or anyone for that matter).  A Regista is like a conductor, guiding everyone else.  A Libero will just get in his way and works best when there is nobody directly ahead of him.

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5 hours ago, herne79 said:

If you're just starting out with FM (and indeed football in general) then my advice is keep things simple - at least until you have a fair idea of what things actually do.

You seem to have started from the opposite end - a somewhat unusual formation and pretty much every tactical setting there is.

Start with a more familiar, real life formation such as the 442, 4231, 4123DM and so on.  FM is designed as a game to reflect real life, so that's probably a good starting point.

As far as Team Instructions ("TIs") go, they tend to be used to either define a certain style of play (for example you would pick different TIs for a possession based tactic as you would for a counter attacking tactic); and/or to address specific issues you may notice during matches (for example if you want your team to slow the pace down).  If you don't have a certain style of play in mind, then choosing zero TIs is perfectly viable as a starting point to which you can add later as your knowledge and experience increases.

Starting with few (or no) TIs has the added benefit of helping you identify what might be causing certain issues on the pitch.  That becomes increasingly difficult the more TIs you use, especially if you are inexperienced.

And finally when it comes to picking your player roles and duties, refer back to your formation and how you think your players may move around and interact with each other.  So if you want to stick with 3 strikers for example, which out of those 3 is attacking the box and which is coming deep to pick up the ball?   If nobody is actively attacking the box (hint) then perhaps changing one of those strikers to have an attack duty might be a good idea.

TL;DR - when starting out, keep things simple.  The Tactic Creator is a toy box stuffed full of all sorts of fun looking toys, but you don't need to play with them all at once :).

PS - don't use a Libero behind a Regista (or anyone for that matter).  A Regista is like a conductor, guiding everyone else.  A Libero will just get in his way and works best when there is nobody directly ahead of him.

Thanks for the reply! You're probably right, although FWIW I do have at least 100+ hours in the game by now (still very much a noob, but not literally 'I just downloaded FM today' or anything). I did play a number of seasons with different teams and different leagues just running the standard control possession/tiki-taka/gegenpress/wing play/counter-attack/park the bus/etc. tactics that come with the game. Some seasons I literally didn't touch anything (no TIs, etc.), then I started tinkering a little bit around the edges with some satisfying results. Same thing with the pre-made TF tactics I downloaded: at first I didn't adjust anything, and then eventually I'd start tweaking things a little bit here and there to see what happens.


This custom tactic is very deliberately an attempt to 'throw myself in the deep end' as it were, because that's how I like to learn once I have a basic footing. Throw everything at the wall, make a giant mess, learn from the mess, then throw more things at the wall, but slightly better the next time. Like, does the tactic I put together have at least a modicum of an understandable/general sense of purpose ('keep the center of the pitch extremely strong and dynamic, force opposition outside and press them heavily, then let chaos basically reign once I get the ball back to create defensive confusion and scoring opportunities'), or is it just a total mess with no rhyme or reason whatsoever?

The TIs and specific player/role instructions are also mostly copied from other TF-inspired/replicating tactics, I didn't just start from scratch on those. Seems like every single example I've found has things like pass to space, play out of defense, low crosses, higher tempo, wide/extremely wide, be more expressive, higher defense/engagement lines, use offside trap, etc. The player-specific 'roaming/stay wide' type instructions are somewhat custom, but that's because a key weakness of the tactic seems to be its overwhelming focus on the middle and lack of dedicated attacking wingers. And I also saw them a lot in TF tactics I downloaded and played with earlier.

Also, I'm curious to learn from how veteran players would approach this specific creative tactic-building question (maximum fluidity/positional mobility, three F9s, and a Libero - then go from there) because it helps me learn not just specifics, but how to think about more complex tactics/out-of-the-box stuff in general.

You're probably right that having three strikers on 'support' duty is a bit silly, even if that's a core idea of the tactic. Could this be remedied by moving the Regista to an AM position (since I need to get him out of the way of the Libero anyways), or do I really just need to bite the bullet and accept that one of the F9s should become a SS or something similar? Or perhaps I could move both midfielders to a horizontal setup as CM(At) or advanced playmakers or something like that? I really don't want to mess with the 3xF9 if possible :lol:

How much room do I need to give a Libero? Am I ok if I just move the DM to a normal midfielder, or do I need to clear out the entire midfield as much as possible (move both to wingers or something? that seems extreme and risky leaving the center too open)?

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F9 is exactly that, a "false" 9. That is, someone who starts up front and moves into midfield to allow runners past him into forward positions, confusing defenders and pulling them out of place. No one is attacking the space your three F9s are leaving behind, crowding each other.

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When building a tactic I always follow a simple path. 

  1. Identifying my desired style of play (looking at the squad, board expectation, media prediction, personal preference)
  2. Picking a formation that suits my desired style (balanced or top heavy if I want to be aggressive; balanced or bottom heavy if I want to be more compact / cautious)
  3. setting up roles, duties and a mentality that is the closest to my desired style of play. 
  4. fine tune with TI / PI

it is important to understand, that the backbone of your desired style of play is coming from point 2+3. TI and PI are just second and third layers of tactical instructions that can help you to slightly adjust your style. They are not meant to completely define your style of play. 

easy example: if you want to press high, aggressive and play forward with tempo and creative freedom. You can just pick an attacking mentality with a balanced or top heavy formation and you will get exactly that without any TI‘s. 

And now you can start to adjust to your liking. Don’t want your defensive players to be direct with their passing? Pick play out if Defence. Want to protect yourself against balls over the top? Then lower defensive line. and so on…

it’s absolutely counterproductive to click every possible instruction. 

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I saw that single DMC + single MC formation a lot in FM20, usually in the form of a 4-1-3-2 Wide formation. It worked well, but I find it breaks realism for me. I think most central midfielder pairings would spread out horizontally. Perhaps Leeds sometimes makes and exception in some sort of strange 3-3-3-1, but that comes with some obvious drawbacks regarding central inferiority.

Similarly, three F9(s) roles in a tactic feels wrong. It might work, of course, but it breaks immersion for me. Someone in the team needs to be attacking the box, especially with four support duty midfielders/wingbacks behind them.

Simple switches to make it feel more realistic:

  • Give at least one of the wingbacks an attack duty
  • Give at least one of the forwards an attack duty
  • Split the central midfielders horizontally rather than vertically

By the way, I did try that strange Leeds 3-3-3-1 formation in FM20 (with AML/AMC/AMR/ST instead of three ST and an MC). It failed miserably. We couldn't keep the ball, and teams repeatedly carved us open on counters -- again, a bit like real life Leeds.

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