Here are my tactics. Notice how I've mellowed as I made it to Serie A, and changed the 'rigid' to 'balanced'. But in the first season, rigid was important. I just wanted the team to do their job. Also notice the trick on the left hand side, if you want your team to learn the tactics faster (maybe it works, maybe not, but I never change my formation).
So why 4-5-1 ? My philosophy is that with a strong defence, you have a strong team. Also it is biased because in previous versions of CM or FM, the computer loves to attack down the middle. So the idea is to stack the central corridors. But for attacking, the option of crossing into the box should catch the AI out . Call me crazy but then count how many goals the D Cs get per season. I sold one to Bayern Munich that scored more than 10 goals in one season from corners and crosses.
But there could be something more important than tactics in FMC, and I believe it is staff members. Remember you only really have 1 coach - your assistant. So get someone awesome if you can. Sacrifice your wage budget for it. And then your kiddies coming through will at least have a sound grounding in the game.
Note that to sign these type of guys, a good trick is to look for retiring players when you do a player search, and nab them for your staff positions by offering them a high wage. £10000 made 39 year old Ronaldinho see stars, he had to take it . I left my director of football as the original one, to save on wages (I get him to do nothing anyways, but didn't want to risk sacking him and having nobody in his place - the game might not like that). The only weak link is the Head of Youth Development, who was an original player in the first season, but I can always sack him later should I need to. The chairman is that crazy tycoon that bought the club.
As for wage structure, no mf in my team is going to be on a higher wage than myself, so I set some limits (which can be revised, depending on financial changes). My current Serie A structure is:
Jizzlers/Jackers and kiddies in the reserves : £0-15000 pw
2 to 3 stars, depending on form/value/caps : £15000-40000 pw
4 to 5 stars, depending on form/value/caps : £40000-60000 pw
Gods (5 stars, best player in team) : £60000-80000 pw
I don't have any Gods yet, but one youngster is a wonderkid who could turn into one. Sticking to this avoids teammates demanding higher wages etc. Lets see this in practice:
Notice how the number 10 (Campana) is listed as a key player, but is only being paid £32000. He's actually not so great (rated 3 stars by Litmanen, got him in season two as a youngster), but in the 4-5-1 he is the most prolific goalscorer, so I let him think he is good, it seems to improve his perfomance . He will be first on the scrap heap if he underperforms because there are too many strikers coming through for this formation in reserve grade.
On the other hand, the number 7 (Verdini) is rated "as the next Paolo Rossi" but can play on the right wing, so that's his spot. And he rotates with Cerci, but every game he plays at least as a substitute to keep him happy. I signed him on a long contract to shut up his unfriendly agent, but Cerci should retire within the next year or so, and then he will be permanent, so should be happy for a contract extension and be in the £80000 bracket.
Puccio, Marcandalli and Campinoti are the only survivors from the 2012-3 starting team, but they are on "backup to the team" wage rate because they are not so good (Puccio is only 1 star and the other two 2 stars). However Campinoti has been the regular left back in the starting lineup, purely because we lack numbers in that position. In the 4-5-1 formation, I find that D L and D R score high ratings in the match reports, so that's fine. I keep Puccio, because DM is a sensitive position if we get injuries. In fact you cannot see the rest of the contracts so I will scroll down:
As you can see, Puccio is unhappy that he has not been starting. I prefer my young promising Brazilian defensive midfielder to him . But I will give him some game time soon and then he will be happy, and I will nail him to a five year contract so that he shuts up for a while.
So treat your youngsters like gold, and rotate them to give them a chance, some might end up becoming gems. In season two I did not get many good youngsters, but sell the useless ones if you can (put release values in their loan deals at half price, it can work - see Nicola Meli above in the transfers).
I believe every player can be good, even if they have low stars, some have amazing characteristics. For example, Campana is a brilliant poacher. As soon as a ball is loose in the area, he will snap it into the back of the onion bag. It will be interesting to see if Campana ever makes the Italian team. I've got Verdini and Garavaglia in that squad so far. Spinetta is turning out to be a master of headers, and Campinoti is a reasonable crosser for a 2 star player. Only if you have some guy performing for two seasons at the 6-6.5 level on average in games, he needs to be offloaded/loaned out. Sometimes you cannot sell a player, so just let his contract run out and then he can choose to stay or leave by themselves, haha.
At the start of each season, make sure you know which players will need their contracts renewed, so look to play those guys a lot. And if you put in a contract extension offer, make sure it is at least 2 months before the end of the season. That way, if something goes wrong (or you have a ******* of an agent to deal with), you will get a second crack at it before the season is over and the player leaves on a free transfer. For good players, renew at the start of the season to avoid surprises.
Hope that helps.