To assist you in setting up the basic framework of a tactic, a host of templates are provided for you to use as a foundation for the way you want to play. Each tactical template sets a series of team and player instructions geared towards a particular style of play; once you’ve picked the one that best suits your plans (the textual descriptions on screen will help guide your choice), have a look at the various instructions set as a result to better understand what’s going on.
What are the differences between mentalities and what do they change behind the scenes?
In keeping with the theme throughout this manual, mentalities – like attributes and many other in-game scales – can be thought of as being scored between 1-20. A more attacking mentality moves the score closer to 20 and represents the fact that the team is being asked to operate in a more attacking manner. Conversely, a Very Defensive mentality moves the scale much closer to the other end. Each base Mentality adjusts a number of tactical settings ‘under the hood’, combined with your Tactical instructions, including intensity of press, line of engagement, tempo, attacking width, directness and time-wasting.
In turn, mentalities also affect the actions of players set to an Automatic duty; a more attacking team mentality asks those players to be more attacking, and they are more defensive if you adopt a more defensive approach.
What are they?
A formation is the distribution of players across the pitch both in and out of possession. Football has developed to a point where the majority of teams play either three, four or five defenders, and then split the remainder of their outfield players between midfield duties (playing in the middle of the pitch) and the attack; players who are primarily there to score goals.
A host of pre-set formations are ready for selection via the dropdown menu with the tactic name on; the ‘Set to Formation’ option then lists a handful of the most prominent formations while also including sections covering all 3, 4 and 5 Defender formations. A 4 Defender formation has two central defenders and two full-backs; 3 and 5 Defender formations are often quite similar with the most significant difference being that the full-backs in 5 Defender formations become more advanced in 3 Defender formations and can often be found as part of the midfield instead.
Most teams line up symmetrically to provide balance and options to move in either direction without becoming unpredictable, but this is not a hard and fast rule, and, indeed, many a formation is adjusted to suit the players at the manager’s disposal.
Players to fit the formation or formations to fit the player?
There are two very basic schools of thought on formations: pick a shape that best suits the players at your disposal, or force your best players into a preferred formation and tell them to make it work. The latter doesn’t provide much flexibility and is likely to result in a certain level of compromise on how much you’re able to get out of each player, but the argument in favour of it is that if the tactic itself is structurally sound and the players do what’s asked of them, you’ll be hard to beat. The former is a more idealistic approach and allows players to fully express themselves in their best positions and roles, but it requires a fine balancing act between individual talents and the needs of the team.
What am I looking at? What does the tactics screen actually represent?
It bears noting that the formation you see on screen represents the team’s defensive shape when not in possession. The instructions you then apply to the team and to each individual impact what they do and where they go when they do have the ball. This is particularly important to consider when placing players in terms of defensive positioning, and areas of potential weakness and exposure.
When a player is assigned a position, a coloured graphical indicator associated with the player’s name on the tactical pitch display shows you the suitability for that position. The colours match the Position indicators outlined elsewhere in this manual, so if a player is being played in a Natural role, the indicator is bright green. If he is being played totally out of position, the indicator is red.
Roles and Duties
Each role carries a text description alongside it that explains the fundamentals of what they’re being asked to do. An additional sentence is appended to reference what happens when the player’s duty changes. A player can have an Attack, a Defend, or a Support duty, ostensibly adjusting how attacking they’re allowed to be within the team’s overall mentality. They directly modify the player instructions to allow for a greater level of risk within the tactic, and those instructions in turn require slightly different attributes. The role selector on the player’s profile highlights the appropriate attributes for that role and the changes in them between each distinct role.
How much does it matter if I play a player in an unfamiliar role?
As outlined in the similar question about playing a player out of position, there are several degrees of how much it might matter. As a rule, it isn’t quite as disadvantageous to play a player in an unfamiliar role as it would be for a different position, as the player is likely to at least still be in the same position on the pitch. The difference between a Box-to-Box Midfielder and an Attacking Playmaker isn’t as marked as the difference between a Central Defender and a Central Midfielder, for example; to use a metaphor, they’re speaking different dialects of the same language, rather than a different language altogether.
That said, you end up with diminishing returns if you ask a player to adopt a role to which his attributes are not suited. Asking a Ball Winning Midfielder to operate as a Trequartista is unlikely to yield positive results as he won’t have the right attribute profile to perform the instructions set for that role. By using the ‘role selector’ on the player profile screen, you can see how much scope you have for asking a player to play a role he isn’t familiar with, and that in turn gives you some insight into how he might perform on the pitch.
Will playing in an unfamiliar role help him learn that role faster?
In short, yes. The more he plays there, the more his attributes adjust to the requirements of the role, and as he should be training in the same role too, he becomes exposed to it on a daily basis. There is no set timeline for how long it can take for a player to learn, instead it depends on his familiarity with the position, the quality of the coaching staff, the similarity of the positions and roles to those he can already play (a centre-back could learn to play full-back roles quicker than a striker role, for example), and what position and role he’s set to play in training. The more of those criteria that are matched successfully, the better chance he stands of learning it in a quicker period of time.
Team Instructions effectively adjust the way your team plays. They operate on a sliding scale between attempting something much more frequently, to much less often.
This controls how wide you move the ball when in possession. A wider approach stretches the field horizontally; a narrower one funnels play through the middle of the pitch.
This instructs your players where to focus their passing. Pass Into Space asks players to lead their team-mates into open spaces with their passing, rather than delivering it to their feet, in an effort to stretch the play and increase the overall tempo.
They can Play Out Of Defence as well as focus their play down either flank or through the middle, and you should set this based on the strengths of your players and the weaknesses of the opposition.
The Passing instructions above set the intention of the pass, the Directness instruction sets how it gets there. A more direct approach sees the ball played forward in a more vertical manner, with increased urgency, moving it from back to front as quickly as possible. Conversely, a shorter approach sees the ball moved patiently from side to side, probing for a way to unlock the defence.
A higher tempo asks players to make more decisions in a quicker fashion, designed to capitalise on situations as they present themselves, and to force lapses in concentration.
The higher the setting here, the more your players look to do nothing with the ball, and take more time over set pieces and dead balls.
When you have the ball in the attacking third of the pitch, there are a host of options for you to ask your players to focus their play on. The focus is on how the ball makes its way into shooting positions.
Mixed Crosses is set by default (except for Tiki-Tika, which uses Low Crosses) but you can change this to focus on high, low, or near post deliveries if it suits your players and/or the circumstances. Play For Set Pieces encourages every player to attempt to win corners, free kicks and throw-ins so as to allow the team to bring players forward for dead ball situations, attempting to command control of the match in that way.
Dribble Less makes the players more likely to pass the ball, while Run At Defence increases each player’s likelihood of dribbling with it.
Creative Freedom is closely tied to your overall Team Fluidity. Be More Expressive increases the overall fluidity score, while Be More Disciplined reduces it.
When possession has been lost
This instructs your players how to react after losing the ball. Counter-Press asks the players to immediately apply pressure with the aim of recovering the ball as quickly as possible; Regroup is a defensive instruction asking them to fall into position and focus on defending.
When possession has been won
Once you’ve recovered possession, you have to decide what to do with it. Counter asks the players to immediately go onto the front foot and seek to take advantage of any opportunities left by the dispossessed opponents. Hold Shape asks the players to adopt a patient approach, keeping the ball and retaining their formation, before building an attack.
Goalkeeper in possession
Distribute Quickly asks the goalkeeper to operate at a quicker tempo when in possession, perhaps to increase urgency or instigate counter attacks.
Slow Pace Down asks the goalkeeper to reduce tempo when in possession, perhaps to control the game or to waste time.
Distribute to Area/Player asks goalkeepers to distribute the ball to a specific group of players on the pitch: Full Backs, Centre Backs, Playmaker, Flanks, Target Man or over the top of the opposition defence.
Roll It Out asks goalkeepers to roll the ball out to a team-mate from hand, rather than kicking it.
Throw It Long asks goalkeepers to throw the ball to a team-mate over a slightly longer distance.
Take Short Kicks asks goalkeepers to take shorter goal kicks to a team-mate positioned close by.
Take Long Kicks asks goalkeepers to take more traditional goal kicks over longer distances.
Distribute to Specific Position asks goalkeepers to seek a pass to a designated position as their primary means of distribution.
OUT OF POSSESSION
Line of Engagement
The Line of Engagement is where the forwards in your team begin to press the opposition to try to win the ball back. In combination with the Defensive Line, it allows you to control the team’s vertical compactness out of possession. The distance between the Defensive Line and the Line of Engagement is the amount of space you’re willing to allow the opposition to potentially play in if they’re able to beat your press and move the ball into attack.
This instructs the defenders as to how high they should position themselves when the opposition have the ball in their own half. You can also set whether or not to Use Offside Trap, although this should generally be used in tandem with a higher line, else opponents will be able to make their move from positions closer to the goal and with a reduced risk of being caught offside.
This instructs the team how much of the width of the pitch they should attempt to defend within the structure of their formation. A wider approach covers more of the pitch but leaves larger spaces between each man; a narrower one allows the opposition to keep the ball on the periphery of the penalty area but then floods central areas in an attempt to protect the goal.
Marking and Tackling
Use Tighter Marking asks every player to get closer to the player nearest to them and engage in the tackle, rather than standing off them and allowing them to receive the ball without a challenge being made.
The urgency of your press dictates how successful your Defensive Transition and your Line of Engagement are, but it also needs to fit snugly with those instructions to be possible in the first place. An urgent press from a deep defensive line and a deep line of engagement is somewhat counter-productive as you’re already allowing the opposition to move up the pitch.
Reduced urgency doesn’t mean they won’t press at all, but it does mean that they’ll do so in appropriate situations, rather than persistently and frenetically.
Prevent Short GK Distribution takes this a stage further and assigns forwards to man-mark defenders who might receive the ball from a goalkeeper looking to pass the ball short, rather than kick it long.
Stay On Feet asks the players to remain upright when challenging for the ball; Get Stuck In increases the chance of them going to ground to try to win it.
In addition to your overall team instructions, you can designate instructions to any individual to tailor their playing style specifically. The ‘Player’ sub-tab presents a screen that allows you to configure instructions on a player-by-player basis, as well as configuring rules for anybody who happens to feature in that position in the team.
For example, if you click on the Defensive Midfielder slot on the formation graphic in the left sub-panel (‘Tactic’), you can customise Role, Duty and Instruction commands for the positions regardless of who plays there. You can also add members of your squad to the ‘Instructions For’ sub-panel towards the bottom left of the screen and set up further instructions on a case-by-case basis.
Furthermore, selecting any of the players in the ‘Instructions For’ section allows you to quickly toggle between using the instructions set for the position or for the player. The Position/Personalised toggle switch in the panel directly underneath the player’s name achieves this.
The rest of the screen is devoted to attributes and feedback on the performances of the player currently selected in that position for the team.
The instructions available for assignment vary by position and are split into a number of areas but, for the convenience of finding and utilising them from the lists in this section, they have been grouped into areas of greatest similarity. Each instruction acts as a modifier to an instruction already set for the player by the role and duty assigned to him.
When Opposition has the Ball
Pressing Intensity determines the urgency with which the team goes about trying to regain possession. A more urgent approach encourages the player to make the effort to harass any opposing player who has possession in hope of forcing a mistake and regaining the ball. Less urgent pressing instead asks the player to stick to their position when defending and make it hard for the opponent to break them down, rather than risk being caught out of position.
Mark Tighter asks players to stick particularly closely to their assigned opponent in defensive situations so as to limit the space they have in which to attack the ball.
Tackle Harder encourages players to be forceful and combative when challenging for possession.
Ease Off Tackles asks players to consider the ramifications of an aggressive mistimed tackle and instead encourages them to pick their moments in a more timely fashion.
Mark Specific Player focuses on a specific opponent to mark.
Mark Specific Position focuses on a specific position to mark, regardless of the player occupying it.
When Team has the Ball
Get Further Forward increases each player’s chances of making forward runs.
Hold Position reduces the freedom for a player to move from his assigned position. The team’s overall Fluidity still governs how often he does this.
Stay Wider encourages players, primarily those in wider areas of the pitch, to stay as close to the touchline as possible in a bid to stretch the game over the full width of the playing surface.
Sit Narrower asks the player to stay in the central areas of the pitch, either to exploit a weakness in the opposition or to consolidate defensively in a bid to keep the opposing threats on the periphery.
Move Into Channels instructs central players to find space between their assigned positions and the wider areas. It also allows players in some wider roles, like Raumdeuter, to move inside to exploit the same spaces.
Hold Position asks players to stay with their assignment instead of moving into space as they see fit.
Roam From Position gives players the freedom to leave their designated position within a team's basic formation and instead find pockets of space in which they can be more effective.
When Player has the Ball
Hold Up Ball asks players to turn their back towards goal and retain possession before bringing team-mates into play.
Run Wide With Ball encourages players to move into wider areas of the pitch when in possession in a bid to stretch the opposition and disrupt their shape.
Cut Inside With Ball asks wide players to look to come into central areas when running with the ball, driving inside their opponent and heading towards the goal.
Shoot More Often encourages players to attempt a greater number of shots when posed with potential chances, rather than looking for a pass.
Shoot Less Often asks players to retain possession and remain patient in search of a more opportune moment at which to finally shoot.
Dribble More encourages the player to run with the ball more often.
Dribble Less asks players to primarily pass the ball around and not attempt to beat opponents individually by way of taking them on.
Shorter Passing asks players to adopt a shorter passing game and primarily retain the ball with a patient approach.
Standard Passing asks players to adopt a sensible style of passing correlating to the game situation.
More Direct Passing asks players to adopt a direct passing game and primarily get the ball into advanced areas of the pitch as quickly as possible.
Cross From Deep asks players – most typically full-backs, although not exclusively – to set up crossing opportunities from deeper areas on the pitch rather than waiting until the ball is in the attacking third.
Cross From Byline asks players to get the ball as high up the pitch as possible in wider areas before attempting to cross into the goalmouth and penalty area.
Cross More Often encourages regular delivery into the penalty area from wide positions.
Cross Less Often asks players to retain possession longer rather than attempt to cross.
Aim Crosses At
Aim Crosses at Near Post asks players to deliver their crosses into the near post area.
Aim Crosses at Centre asks players to deliver crosses into the middle of the penalty area.
Aim Crosses at Far Post asks players to deliver their crosses towards the far post.
Aim Crosses at Target Man asks players to deliver their crosses in the general direction of a designated target man.
Take More Risks encourages players to increase the number of low-percentage through balls in the hope that one or two of them will unlock the opposition defence in a potentially decisive manner. It does not ask the player to try riskier passes than he would normally consider, though as a natural by-product of attempting more low-percentage passes, this might occur.
Take Fewer Risks asks players to play fewer through balls and only attempt them when the opening is much clearer.
This screen allows you to configure default opposition instructions to apply to any position on the pitch. These are applied ahead of every match, but you can tweak them before kick-off depending on the team selection and shape of each specific opponent. Alternatively, they can be delegated to the Assistant Manager.
Tight Marking, Pressing Intensity and Tackling all act the same way as described above but while focusing on one specific player outside of the Team Instructions as a whole; Show onto Foot asks the team to ensure that an opponent isn’t allowed to use a particular foot, and is instead forced into situations where he perhaps has to use his less favoured option.
The success of these instructions is determined by the relative ability of the player tasked with the instruction compared to his direct opponent, the tactical balance of incorporating it into the instructions given to the player and the team, and the overall head-to-head tactical battle between the two teams.
Selecting the ‘Set Pieces’ sub-tab allows you to set up your dead ball instructions. Each set piece type guides you through a visual presentation of your set piece instructions and takers. Each position is visible on the pitch with a series of available icons either when clicked on or dragged away from the current position. You can drag an icon to another area of the pitch (only areas with an indicated ‘landing spot’ are accepted).
Good set pieces can be the difference between winning or losing. Taking advantage of the numerous dead-ball situations that occur in matches can work massively to your benefit.
Primarily you need to identify your best corner, throw-in, and free kick takers. Each of these have their own attributes, so initially look for as high an attribute as you can in each of these specific areas. If your squad isn’t blessed with any particularly capable players, consider bringing one in. Once you’ve identified potential takers, you can start narrowing the selections down. A good free kick taker also needs good Crossing if the attempts are not direct at goal, since the free kick most likely needs to be put into a dangerous offensive area.
Throw-in takers should have a good Long Throws rating to make full use of the situation, but they also need to have good ratings in Strength and Balance to get a really good throw away.
When selecting Penalty takers, much of the above applies. Your regular penalty taker should have a high Penalty Taking attribute in addition to good Finishing and Composure, although these carry less weight in the overall decision-making process. Penalty Taking as a standalone attribute is what you need to really concern yourself with. It may be that you’re forced to use players who aren’t natural penalty takers when it comes to shootouts, so look at the next most important characteristics; mentally strong, capable players who strike a ball well and make a good decision.
Multiple players can be selected for set-piece duties in the same way as described in the Captaincy section. Select the desired player’s table row; drag then drop into the appropriate set-piece menu. The ranking is hierarchical and follows in order if the top player is not on the pitch at the time.
Saving and Exporting Routines
You can now save, export and re-use set piece routines for free-kicks, corners and throw-ins. From the ‘Routine’ view menu to the top right of the pitch display area on the Set Pieces tab, you can ‘Create New Routine’ and, once you’re happy with your configuration, revisit the same menu to ‘Save Routine’. The ‘Load Routine’ option then gives you the facility to import previously saved routines, while there are also options to save and load in bulk, remove routines, or reset a particular routine to the default options.
You can have a maximum of three routines for each side (left and right) and each scenario (defend and attack), leaving you with a potential total of twelve routines for each set piece type. If you have more than one routine, your players rotate between them throughout the match, as circumstances dictate.
Match Plans and Instant Result
Where applicable and where set, your Match Plans are carried out by your Assistant Manager depending on any given match scenario. These plans can be tailored to your own personal tastes and triggered whenever you see fit (including a host of scenario-based possibilities), allowing you a fairly dynamic range of criteria to implement when a particular circumstance occurs.
The ‘Create New’ button takes you step-by-step through creating your Match Plans. Let’s run through one example to familiarise you with the concept:
Step 1: Introduction
Step 2: Choose a Template – choose when this Match Plan should come into effect. A range of scenarios are available for you to pick from.
Step 3: Choose a Defensive Approach – decide how defensive you want the team to be when this Plan is in effect.
Step 4: Choose an Attacking Approach – decide how attacking you want the team to be when this Plan is in effect.
Step 5: Save Match Plan
Step 6: Choose Starting Tactics – choose your starting tactic for when this Match Plan is in use. This tactic will be the foundation upon which other changes are made.
Step 7: Choose a Mentality – similarly, your starting mentality will then be adjusted based on your Match Plan.
Step 8: Auto-Select Team – decide whether or not your Assistant Manager picks the team for any match where this Match Plan is in force.
Step 9: Substitutions – decide when, if at all, you want performance-based substitutions to be made.
Once you’ve set this up, you can further tweak things based on specific scenarios. For example:
1. Select ‘Add Scenario’.
2. Select a Match Strategy; for this we’ll use ‘Winning by 1+ goal’.
3. Select the time period you want the plan to apply to. Let’s choose ‘in 75-85 mins’.
4. We’re now in a position to ask the Match Plan to be activated when leading by at least one goal in the last twenty minutes of a match. At this stage, you now get to choose what Tactic and Mentality is deployed in these circumstances, as you seek to preserve the advantage late in a match, or perhaps kill the game by adding to the lead.
5. Touchline Instructions may be added to complement the above. They issue new Team Instructions, as if you were making the changes in the full Tactics screen.
The powerful scope at your disposal theoretically allows you to set up several plans to be automatically used throughout a match, as you have the ability to cover almost every conceivable situation. Plans can be overridden by your changes from the touchline, and the combination of the two should leave you well-positioned for anything and everything that can possibly happen over the course of ninety minutes.
Should you wish to skip over the match and instead generate a result, you can use the Instant Result button. When doing so, you are presented with a set of Match Plans for your Assistant Manager to bring into play depending on any given match scenario.
At the start of every season you will receive an item in your Inbox asking you to confirm a captain and a vice-captain for the coming season. Once selected, they appear at the top of the ‘Captains’ panel in different colours to the rest of your squad.
If you do wish to change your captain, select the newly desired player from the drop-down list. If you wish to add players in a hierarchical order of which they should take the captain’s armband, select their table row and drag and drop them into the list. The same method applies for re-ranking them, but you can do this from within the right-hand side panel.
When considering your captain, one of the primary things to look for is a high Leadership attribute. Anyone with 17 or above here should immediately be considered as a candidate, but there’s more to look at than just that. Your captain should be mentally strong enough to be a capable leader of his team-mates.
On a player’s ‘Personal Information’ screen each player has a Personality trait. A ‘Born Leader’ is an ideal candidate for the captaincy. ‘Determined’ and ‘Model Professional’ are also desirable. Also consider the player’s age and experience –he’ll ideally have been at the team for a few years and been in football long enough to understand what it is to captain a team – and their place within the Team Hierarchy. A Team Leader or Leading Player is likely to serve as a better captain as they have already ascended into a leadership role within the changing room and, by and large, carry the respect of many of their team-mates with them.
A good captain improves the ability of every player in the team, with the potential for them to exceed their ability on occasion. A poor captain results in those same players not playing to their full capacity. Your choice matters.