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Need advice on how to break down two banks of four.


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I'm in my first season as manager of Malaga in the Spanish Second Division and the promotion push is going very well. At the start of the season I devised a short passing 4-2-3-1 based around the idea of harnessing the power of a wide triangle to drag opposing players out of position and open up space for my CAM and my overlapping fullback. One of my motivations in choosing this style of play was to compensate for a horribly imbalanced squad, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked with just a few tweaks and, interestingly enough, it seems to dominate other 4-2-3-1 possession systems which are very common in the league. Anyway, with the system creating tons of chances as well as being reasonably solid defensively we started to dominate, the board loves me, the players love me, but there is a problem.

I have lost four times this season and three of those losses have come at the hands of teams playing a low block with two banks of four. It doesn't matter whether it is a 4-4-2, a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-1-4-1, my offense, which ordinarily is the best in the league, just seems to shut down. We have trouble progressing the ball and mainly seem limited to low quality crosses as far as chances are concerned. I am genuinely worried that if the AI "figures out" how much I struggle against these systems and every team lines up that way against us, it could jeopardize our promotion chances.

In the latest game I tried out some tactical changes. I switched to a 4-3-3, increased the directness and went extremely wide. They were defending narrowly and I wanted to force them to move around more. The changes created an improvement, but it wasn't enough. We bent their 4-1-4-1, but we could not break it and then lost 1-0 to a set piece goal. In theory my team had been superior, we had notably higher XG after all, but the trouble is that my squad is garbage and cannot win without a flood of high quality chances.

Are there any tactical changes that would make it easier to play against two banks of four?

Additionally, despite my limited resources, I am capable of bringing in a couple of loanees during the January window. Since the ultrawide 4-3-3 seemed to work the best I could look for players who suit that system more, perhaps a highly technical DLP and a pacy striker or maybe a giant target man. What do you guys think?

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It's hard for anyone to give advice without seeing your tactic, post up a screenie :thup:

I wouldn't say you have to change shape to combat other shapes, the 4-2-3-1 came about to go against the 4-4-2 in the first place so a role or team instruction may well be enough  

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This is pure speculation on what is happening in your game but I suspect that if you are having trouble breaking these teams down it may be due to them not giving up much space. I would approach this by trying to control the game looking for 55 percent possession or higher with 85 percent plus passing percentage.

You may be able to achieve this by choosing various team instructions like lower tempo or by making sure there are enough support duties. Also keep an eye on your d-line incase they are trying to break the offside trap, keep an eye out to see if they play an AFa or Poacher. Maybe choose to man mark their playmaker to limit their control on the game or opt for a playmaker where you think you may have space...442 with 2 low banks of 4 may struggle to defend against a dlp in the DM strata.

Next think about how you are going to score you'll probably either need a good target man or a striker who is able to create room for others to get into scoring opportunities. 

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Like Johnny has said it really depends on your formation. Beating two banks of 4 is not hard but different formations will do it in different ways, it will depend on how yours is set up:

I play a 4312 sometimes I focus play through the middle and there are times when I draw them down the flanks. It’s hard to answer your question without a screenshot of your tactic.

Any advice people give you will be broad generalisations at best.

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The only playing instruction I have on  by default is "stay wider" for my full backs.

I adjust mentality and tempo depending on how the game is going.

Christian Rodriguez has been my best player by far this season. He can also play in central midfield, but he seems less influential there.

20220802002847_1.jpg

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Others will provide better advice but with both wide men playing as inverted wingers, you might be compressing the play too much into the centre which will likely suit a team playing defensively. This might not leave much space for your AMC to run into or for your lone striker to operate in. The AF will look to move into channels (IIRC) but with play compressed, those channels are almost non-existent

I would try to stretch their back four horizontally and create gaps between their centre halves and full backs for the AMC and central midfielders to exploit. This would likely involve changing one of your wide AMs to perhaps a winger so he stays wider. Following on from that point, I'd be tempted to have one of your CMs getting further forward to take advantage of any gaps you create. If you have your IW and wing back on the opposite side to the winger that will help stretch things further (with overloads on that side which will force defenders over further creating gaps for players to run into on the other side). If you're IW on the overloaded side is any good he will spot those runs and play cross field balls into the space. Their midfielders will be more on the back foot having to worry about runners from midfield rather than just being able to focus on what's in front of them (as it stands, your CMs aren't really penetrating the banks of four).

You might also consider upping the mentality to positive but remember that will have a knock on effect. For example, the WB(s) on a positive mentality is naturally going to get further forward than he will on balanced and you might want to consider removing the overlap left instruction as the change in mentality might mean that becomes too aggressive.

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Thanks @Outsider23

Looking there, you have a few different options to break down stubborn teams. It looks like you have a nice, patient possession style system 

Some potential tweaks you could make, considering you can go even more patient to try and get the opposition to come out and play and carve out better chances, go a bit more brute force or change a few roles and TI's to attack a little differently 

1) I probably wouldn't go the more patient approach, things look pretty deliberate as they are. The AP to a DLP to dictate play from a little deeper and remove the focus. This would be what I call the draw them out method (which historically in FM, I'm useless at :D

2) A bit more offensive is bumping up to Positive, removing the lower tempo and WBIB. Get things moving a bit quicker, gets balls into the box, bit more pressing, a bit more direct and attacking intent. This would be the brute force method

3) The AP in CM is asking the team to play through him, this probably isn't the strong point of 4-2-3-1, you could change the playmaker to the AMC position where he has a bit of space and time inbetween the lines or, just not use a playmaker at all. You could add a bit more width on the right hand right, so a wide runner, most obviously the the IW(S) on the right to a Winger(S) as teams will be defending their defensive third and having both flank players trying to cut in will congest things. Adding a bit width can help stretch things out a bit. Removing the Focus down the left to grant a bit more unpredictability to your attacking flow. You could even change the AF(A) to a bit more of a fluid role like a DLF or CF to try and distort stubborn back lines. The is the add a bit width and unpredictability method

Personally, I like to have the the most defensive CM in a 4-2-3-1 covering for the more offensive full back. If you have the winger on the right and the supporting CM on the right of midfield, he has a little space to get forward too 

Probably haven't explained that well but like this:

IF/IW     AMC       W

       CMD      CMS

WB                       FB    

The CM(S) helps cover for the Wingback, the Winger running wide with the ball allows the CM(S) to move forward 

2) and 3) would be my preferred ways to go but there are plenty of options to try out    

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15 hours ago, Outsider23 said:

I adjust mentality and tempo depending on how the game is going.

You are definitely on the right track by increasing the mentality, tempo and passing directness (as you wrote in your opening post). 

What are your observations on those adjustments tho?

What I would do in addition is to have more players attack from different angles. There is no reason for being overly conservative if the opposition is just staying back and defend. Having overall more direct runs will open up space for a pass or for other players to utilize that space. 

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9 hours ago, CARRERA said:

You are definitely on the right track by increasing the mentality, tempo and passing directness (as you wrote in your opening post). 

What are your observations on those adjustments tho?

What I would do in addition is to have more players attack from different angles. There is no reason for being overly conservative if the opposition is just staying back and defend. Having overall more direct runs will open up space for a pass or for other players to utilize that space. 

 

I frequently lower the tempo even further and it usually improves things a lot. It gives more time for my players to move off the ball and in many cases it draws opposing players further out of position, though sometimes it will lead to frustrating moments such as players dwelling on the ball in the opposition box. I find it also increases pass completion which is good for my team since keeping the ball is our main form of defense. Generally, if the other team is athletic and aggressive I can't lower the tempo because it results in stagnation and losing the ball more frequently and if the team is much more athletic I may even have to raise it, but thankfully this is a rare occurrence in the second division.

I often kick the mentality up to positive when my team is dominating possession, but not creating much, but I find it helps a lot more on the defensive side of things. On cautious and even balanced mentalities my players are too passive in their attempts to pressure the opposition, especially out wide. I prefer conceding a few more free kicks than watching my players get passed around as if they were plastic cones.

I hardly ever change directness. I don't see any point in lowering it as I feel like it would put too much strain on the attacking movement as well as the decision making of my players. I would increase the directness more frequently, but I feel I don't have the right players for this style, especially since my main striker is a crafty, but slow veteran. Sometimes though, when I increase width I also increase the directness as a way of encouraging bigger switches out to the flanks.

Of course, if I start the game and everything is working perfectly I just sit back and enjoy the ride.

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@Outsider23 So the problem is solved? It didn’t read like if there is anything going wrong in particular.

If you still struggle I would be interested in knowing what exactly your observations are on your teams behaviors. 

 

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20 hours ago, CARRERA said:

@Outsider23 So the problem is solved? It didn’t read like if there is anything going wrong in particular.

If you still struggle I would be interested in knowing what exactly your observations are on your teams behaviors. 

 

Hard to say, we played against a 4-1-4-1 today, but they pressed high and wide instead of sitting in a low block so we beat them pretty easily. Maybe the two banks of four was a bit of a red herring, perhaps I just need to build my squad in such a way that I have more direct options to punish passive teams. In the meantime, I suppose I just have to suffer against those 4-4-1-1 route one types, but we're still on track to go up as champions.

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