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  1. I use mainly the following two variants, both in a 4-2-3-1; I use this when I want to dominate the midfield and create more movement and options in opponent's half. 4-4-1-1 and 4-1-4-1 are used when I want to be more cautious/counter-attacking. 4-3-3 is used as an alternative to this 4-2-3-1 for example against another proper 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 that I know the '3' will roam and cut inside. Therefore I want extra protection with a DM without going too defensive/cautious/counter-attacking and switch to 4-4-1-1/4-1-4-1. 1) Control/Positive mentality, from left to right: GK, FB/s, CB, CB, FB/a; CM/s, DLP/d; W/a, AM/s, IF/s; CF/s (I favour an all round forward but sometimes I use DLF/s and F9 depending on the player) 2) Counter/Cautious mentality, from left to right: GK, WB/s, CB, CB, FB/a; DLP/s, CM/d; IF/a, AM/s, IF/s; CF/s Both variant create a tighter midfield unit with the AM/s acting as an advanced #8, which is the key and provides the required balance in all phases/transitions.
  2. @Jack722 I agree that real-life 4-2-3-1 is closer to the 4-2-3-1 DM in FM. This is because in real-life a 4-2-3-1 uses 2x #6 and a #10, which in FM translates to 2x DM and 1x AM. But as in real-life and FM, the main issue then becomes how you plug the gap in midfield and link everything properly (as you said above, the issue of the 'donut' shape; see Portugal v Hungary at the Euros for a great example of this). As such I'd argue that in real-life teams are more often using the 4-2-1-3 or the 4-4-1-1 variants of the 4-2-3-1 family tree. 4-2-1-3 is something I probably like most as it combines the best of a 4-3-3 and the 4-2-3-1 - the movement fluidity and attacking potential of a dropping CF and inside forwards with a controlling midfield in behind. Meanwhile its doing a very good job of mitigating for both formations' main issue - the lack of cover for the FBs in a 4-3-3 (due to the presence of a double pivot) and the lack of natural link between 2x #6 and a #10 of the 4-2-3-1 due to 4-2-1-3 employing what I call an advanced #8 instead. Similarly to using 4-3-3 with both attacking inside forwards and attacking CMs, what is the most often occurring mistake people make when using the 4-2-3-1 is they go for the combination of CMs, AM and inside forwards in FM. Translating to real-life language, this would mean using 2x #8 and a #10 in combination with inside forwards. Then people complain why they struggle to break down opponents and/or are easily hit on the break. I'd say that no team uses such formation in real-life for more than some late in the game charge when being a goal or two down. Bayern M came closest to this under Flick last season as their main formation but as we saw, it produced a lot of goals at both end with close to a record breaking 44 conceded. When it comes to a 4-2-3-1 family three people need to choose between either having a #9 + #10 combination (be it a false 9/false 10 or a proper 9/proper 10) with the wide men being more of a midfielders to provide both defensive cover and passing options. This is the 4-4-1-1 variant of the 4-2-3-1. Or go for inside forwards with attacking full-backs but then either (or even both) of the #10 and #9 need to be dropping deep and creating that space with a proper double pivot in behind. Hence the term 4-2-1-3 of this variant. To me the 4-4-1-1 is the old-school 4-2-3-1 where it was built to get the best out of the #10-#9 combination (Rafa Benitez' Valencia is one of the prime example of this; as was his Liverpool side with a small tweaks in the profile of the #10, the wide men and the double pivot as he was trying to adapt it to the more modern times and tactics). But this was naturally more rigid variant and worked best at the start of the 2000s when teams were still using mostly 4-4-2, so it was enough to have 3v2 in midfield to open them up and create chance. In past 10 years, the 4-4-1-1 variant is reserved for mostly counter-attacking football as naturally it can't provide the same level of fluidity 4-3-3 or 4-2-1-3 (or even a 4-1-4-1) can vs packed defences. But at the other hand, it's one of the best defensive shape as it covers both the flanks and the centre and easily morphs into a 4-4-2 pressing shape (early on to prevent the opponent having easy time to play out from the back) or a 4-5-1 passive/containing shape which is naturally very hard to break down and requires some intricate passing and very fluid movement (hence the need for some hybrid 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation - i.e. the 4-2-1-3 - or for you to specifically target one area and look to overload it and go from there). == As for Guardiola's 4-1-4-1 - no, I haven't tried it in FM. The reason is because I don't particularly like this variant and I prefer other tactical approaches (that's not to say it's not a good one or something - it definitely is and there's a lot in it to admire from a tactical point of view - it's just a matter of preference; I'm more of a 4-2-1-3 guy as hinted above). However, I don't think 2x Mezzala is the way go with it. This is because I view Mezzala as something like the Trequartista - a very specific CM which is reserved for a very specific formations/tactics. Both are traditional Italian type of players created to suit their traditional narrow formations - be it some sort of a diamond or a back 3. Mezzala is essentially a CM which pushes into the channels/half-space to help create additional width due to the lack of a support for the full-backs. Which is why the Mezzalla is more suitable for a diamond formations as they employ full-backs instead of a any back 3 formations as the more attacking nature of the wing-backs mean there's less onus on the CMs to drift wider. In a 4-1-4-1 with natural wingers there's simply no need for a Mezzala. With the inverted-fullbacks drifting infield to help control the midfield zone and guard v counter-attacks and the wingers pushing higher and wider to provide the width, the CMs are there to attack and roam through the centre. By using Mezzalas the effect will be the same 'donut' shape but focused towards the flanks. This might be good if you want to overload there but it'll be then harder to break through a packed defences. I think a simpler combination with two attack-minded CMs (but somehow split) is the way to go. For the D. Silva-KDB pair I'd go with a AP/a + CM/a pair while if I had a Liverpool's midfield, I'd go with a CM/a + B2B pair. However, such highly specific tactical approaches require very specific players. Basically you need copies of D. Silva and KDB as they're proper 'free 8s' in that they are both playmakers and attackers rolled into one. On this front, I agree that a Mourinho style 4-1-4-1 is similar to recreate and use in FM. Also, as @zyfon5 rightly noted, I also think FM is a bit behind real-life when it comes to the ME's capabilities to recreate such high specific tactical approaches in their overall movement and passing fluidity.
  3. Great topic and particularly like how @Jack722 made it clearer that 4-3-3 and 4-1-4-1 are very different formations in terms of the overall attacking shape (and to a lesser extend, defensive) and the type of players they're using. Too often I see people go with 4-3-3 but then use all sorts of attacking CMs in combination of attacking wide men and forward (similar is the case when they use 4-2-3-1 with attacking #10, inside forwards and some forward with attack-duty). Then complain why they can't open up defences or they don't create quality chances etc. 4-3-3 should be think of as a 3-4-3 (as it morphs in that shape naturally) and this numerical explanation explains the type of players used: mostly that the DM is primarily a defender and should be considered part of a trio alongside the CB (hence why the HB role is made for a 4-3-3), that the full-backs are really more of midfielders and more often than not the sole wide presence down the whole flank and the the wide men are actually wide forward (hence the term inside forwards). This is precisely why the Total Football brand is mostly associated with 4-3-3; or to say it another way - 4-3-3 is arguably the most suitable formation for the Total Football brand of football. Taking a look at real-life and we can see not many teams using a proper 4-3-3. Real M under Zidane, Klopp's LFC, PSG, Guardiola's Man City half of the time (the other time they're using a 4-1-4-1 and recently sort of a 4-4-2 that is more of a 4-6-0) are prime examples. This is because only these teams have the suitable type/profile of players to rock a proper 4-3-3. Meaning very offensive full-backs/aka wing-backs, controlling CMs, goal-scoring inside forwards and playmaking/creator type of forwards. Most other teams that are associated with 4-3-3 are indeed 4-1-4-1 and not only because they don't press high or something. It's because they use different type of wingers and forwards: more of natural wingers and more of attacking forwards. Speaking of controlling CMs in a 4-3-3, I particularly like the two different 'schools' or approaches of this: specialist ball-players/playmakers or more of hard-working all-rounders who are good at everything but don't excel at something. The former is Real M's approach, particularly during the Kroos-Modric era. The latter is Klopp's version of total football at LFC. Interestingly both approaches reach the same outcome - controlling CMs, attacking wing-backs, inside forwards and false 9 type of forwards but in different way and with different overall brand of football. This is particularly interesting from FM's perspective when he still had the Team Shape tactical option and going with Structured of Fluid (which is why I like FM 17&18). Back to Guardiola and him using either 4-3-3 or 4-1-4-1. His Barca team was proper 4-3-3 while for 90% of his Bayern M time and 50% at City, he is using proper 4-1-4-1. It's interesting how such attack-minded and space-oriented manager started using such a bottom-heavy (as we, users of FM would say). But him going back to the past and re-inventing the inverted wing-back role enabled him to make the 4-1-4-1 very much controlling and attacking formation as a 4-3-3 but in a different way. Instead of attacking wing-baks he had touch-hugging wingers providing the width, instead of controlling set of midfield 3 he had the DM joined by the inverted wing-backs to control and guard against the counter-attack; then instead of goal-scoring wide-men, he had goal-scoring CMs (the so called free 8s). The only similarity is the DM and CF positions - both stayed largely with the same roles/tasks in both 4-3-3 and 4-1-4-1. Speaking of 4-1-4-1 I always think of Mourinho's first Chelsea side. This was the prototype of what a proper 4-1-4-1 looks like and why it's different to 4-3-3. The full-backs and the wingers had the perfect blend of defensive cover and attacking width with the FBs (especially Gallas at LB) staying deeper to allow the RB (P. Ferreira) to overlap the inverted winger (initially Duff but later Robben). The attacking thrust was provided by the combination of relatively all-round forward and a goal-scoring #8 - Drogba and Lampard. This was very close to a proper 4-4-1-1 (in terms of their roles and tactical input it was mostly carbon-copy) but the 4-1-4-1 was dictated that Makelele was proper #6 and Lampard wasn't a #10. The other reason was that Mourinho specifically wanted a 4-1-4-1 with a DM to guard and overload the teams using 4-4-2 (which at that time meant 95% of all English teams). When playing FM, I consider my formation mostly based on what type of forward, wingers and CMs I have (in that order). I don't start with some set formation and try to fit my squad in it; it's the other way around. Personally I believe there's no real-life team that uses only one formation and most back 4 teams are actually using all of 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-4-1-1 and 4-1-4-1 more or less. My approach in FM is similar in that I have 3 sets of playing styles (attacking, controlling and counter-attacking) around these most used back 4 variants. So I often have around 10-12 saved tactical presents which I use (some of them more, some less but all come into play sooner or later). Anyway, just want to again congratulate @Jack722 for the good topic. Something similar could be written about the 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-1-1 but it's for another day.
  4. Agree that if we talk about 4-4-1-1 turning into 4-3-3, then Man Utd famous 3-years period with Queiroz masterminding this version, is the prime example. Back then Man Utd's overall formation and style of play were truly ahead of their time. Even if during 2008 we saw the birth of Guardiola's Barcelona, I'd still regard that Man Utd version a bit higher due to their overall tactical flexibility. However, if we're to talk about a proper 4-4-2 turning into 4-3-3 when in possession/attack, then there's only one truly great example - Ancelotti's Real Madrid during the 14/15 season. To my mind it was Ronaldo's last truly great season individually and the first season when he was predominantly used as a proper centre-forward. That shape-shifting formation with Ronaldo and Benzema up top, Isco coming on the left (with Marcelo bombing on) and joining Kroos and Modric in midfield with predominantly Rodrigues (and less often Bale) coming higher and narrower off the right, was indeed a great side too. It was beautiful how they combined the possession and attacking versatility of a proper 4-3-3 with the natural defensive solidity of the infamous 'two banks of 4' approach in a 4-4-2. I was so impressed with it that I used it as my default approach back in FM15 days. However, in contrast to the OP's version, I had a triple-pivot/playmaking unit of Isco as WP/a, Modric as DLP/s and Kroos as DLP/d with Rodriguez/Bale as WM/a (back in FM15 we didn't have the inverted winger role otherwise I'd have definitely use it). Up top, I had Ronaldo as CF/a and Benzema as simple DLF/s to emphasis the need to drop in and act as the link to the midfield 3 and allow space for the roaming Ronaldo and Rodriguez/Bale. Marcelo as WB/a, Carvajal FB/s with Ramos BPD and Varane/Pepe as a simple CB. I really loved the overall positional and possession flexibility that could really break through any kind of opponent and formation; while also remain solid enough to not be easily cut apart on the break.
  5. Interesting topic. I tend to first classify the different type of playmakers. 1) Passers/recyclers: DLP/d, DLP/s and to an extend AP/s (as with his support duty, he won't be so much of a risk-taker and will wait for more of a clear-cut opportunity to thread a through ball). All of them tend to stay behind play and dictate the play, directing the play to the final 3rd. 2) Creators: AP/a, TQ, Regista and EG - all those are looking to actively 'force the issue' and create chances in the final 3rd. 3) RPM - I tend to view him as a 'transitional' player instead of a traditional playmaker per se as unlikely other playmakers, he is all about roaming and dribbling, not so much passing. Not sure he is best suited to a more patient attacking style as he is too direct with his approach. But he's perfect if you look for someone to lead the charge on the break in a more aggressive counter-attacking styles based on quick pressing and direct attacking. Now, depending on what style of play I'm looking for I tend to use the different playmakers differently. The first group of playmakers (and especially the DLP/s) I tend to use alone only if I'm looking for someone to hold his position in spray passes down the channels in a deep formation aiming to play on the break (4-1-4-1, 4-4-1-1, 3-1-4-2 to name a few). In a patient attacking style looking to boss the play and pin the opposition I don't think any of these playmakers alone would be enough. This is because I think neither of them will provide the required creativity on the ball to actively create chances. Perhaps if I surround them with roles that have free roles and/or increased personal creative freedom in a more fluid approach (i.e. someone who don't have a single attacking spearhead but counts on a few attacking players to contribute equally) I might use AP/s. But in such styles of play I tend to look for another proper creator (i.e. AP/a). If I'm to use a half-back in a patient attacking style of play (be it in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1), I always look to partner him with a DLP/s, as when the HB drops in between the CBs, the DLP/s will look to plug the gap and connect the side in our half. Then I'll always look to have a creator role like AP/a either next to the DLP/s (in a 4-3-3) or ahead/wide of him (in a 4-2-3-1). Another approach I often use is to have a DLP/d at the base with either AP/s and CM/A/Mezz ahead of him (Italy's Euro Approach) or DLP/d at the base with AP/a as the chief creator (be it at CM or AM strata) and a shuttler in between them (CM/s or BBM if I want a bit more mobility). I think the two playmaker roles that need to be used alone - i.e. as the only playmaker role in the side - is the Italian traditional playmakers: TQ and Reg. They're very specific playmakers in that they are given both max movement and creative freedom to influence proceedings as they see fit. So it makes sense to build the whole side around them (as Italians teams used to do back in the days, during the 90s and early 2000s). In addition, they need certain tactical balance to give them the platform to do so in that they need to have space around them but also enough defensive cover to fully let them do their own thing. Think about Pirlo (Regista) at Milan and Juve or earlier periods with Del Piero (or even earlier Baggio) at Juve, Locatelli at Bologna etc, all playing as proper TQ. The South American version of - the ENG - is also a role you look to use alone but in a more methodical and patient style of play as the ENG is immobile role. Think about Riquelme, Veron back in his earlier Argentina days or basically any other Brazil/Argentina #10 up to the period of the mid-2000s. It's interesting how in modern football - i.e. mid-2000s onwards - the first to die out was the ENG as the football become much quicker and such a role/players simply couldn't keep up with the game, especially in the congested final 3rd. They had to either move deeper (as Veron and to a less extend Redondo managed to do) or simply disappear. Then the Italian traditional playmakers slowly but surely gone down the same path as building the whole side around one 'free role' was too easy to nullify. More so when inverted wingers started to become the trend and become quasi-playmakers (or half creators/half attackers) so the TQ had less space to operate and do his magic. Or when teams started to press more from the front, so Reg had less chance to influence the play from deep on his own. Modern football is all about cooperation and blurring the roles of all outfield players in each phase (not to mention that we now talk about 4 phases - defensive, att transition, attacking, def transition - and each of them doesn't exist on its own as phases started to be blurred too). So you need more players taking part in both the build-up, chance creation and finishing periods. Think about Pep's Barca and Tuchel's Dortmund as teams using different type of ball-players in a more fluid and modern-looking approach. Both would often combine HB, DLP/s and AP/a in FM terms, instead of having one overriding typical playmaker doing it all on his own. Modern football doesn't allow for that anymore. More so when more and more players can do several things instead of having specialist roles as back in the days. Per's Barca will go in the history as one of the all time great sides but if we looked solely on play and not trophies, Tuchel's BVB should be talked much more highly too. Personally I enjoyed them equally as Pep's Barca (and at times even more as Tuchel managed to combine that possession with a bit more bite both in terms of attacking transitions and pressing); especially during the 15/16 season. For him the central zone was properly central to everything so in all his formations during the period (4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and the 3-4-2-1) he would use a central ball-playing trident: Weigl as the HB dropping deep and taking charge of the early build-up phase, Gundogan as the DLP/s connecting the side and dropping deep if opponents were pressing and Kagawa as the AP/a looking to receive the ball between the lines and look for ways to fashion out chances as a proper creator. Add to this Hummels from CB and Mkhitaryan/Reus dropping from the attacking line and they had all 5 vertical lines covered with ball-players which 15-20 years ago could easily be termed as the chief playmaker on his own. The trick was not only they had the other 5 players all able to influence the play in the final 3rd and get into goal-scoring positions, but at least 2 of these 5 ball-players will do so too. It was a properly fluid approach with Tuchel reaching that tactical pinnacle of having at any given time enough recyclers, creators and attackers. Doing so with the old-school playmakers roles wouldn't be possible. Which is why we talk about modern football being more fluid etc. It's the blurring of roles and the fact more and more players assume different roles at any given moment. In FM terms, the only way to achieve this is to have more than 1 playmaker role (with a HB, DLP/s and AP/a trio being lost a must to use) but also have players with very specific skill-set and PPMs to allow for that blurring of their roles (to make the playmakers able attackers and the attackers able playmakers). In older FM version, we could further help achieve that type of football selecting Fluid or Very Fluid Team Shape, something the newer versions don't allow (which is why I'm mostly using FM17 and FM18 If I'm looking to recreate certain style of play; but that's another topic).
  6. Back in the days I've been writing a lot of pieces in various forums. But nowadays my time is limited and won't allow me such a luxury. I'm also not playing FM as often I used to, so there's that too. But thanks for the warm words, appreciated!
  7. Thanks! On Positive mentality both IW/a and IF/a have 'very attacking' mentality but I still think with DLF/a up front, IW/a will be better. Adding Take More Risk and Roam from Position should replicate Berardi well. Insigne in a IF/s role with PPMs like cutting inside from the left, getting into opponent area, one-twos, killer balls, should be enough to replicate him. I'd also add roam from position. About Tis. Using Positive mentality, I think all out of possession settings are fine enough. Only work ball into box, play out of the back (to further emphasis the need for the ball to go through midfield zone and through the playmakers) and low crosses are needed.
  8. Italy is, tactically, the most impressive teams in the Euros so far. So I really enjoyed their game. Here's my interpretation of them: - Florenzi: he wasn't a proper inverted FB as he rarely spent time in MF zone. With Barella tasked to provide roam towards the right, Florenzi was needed to stay a bit deeper and be a passing option during the early build-up play. But once Italy progressed the ball forward and were deep in Turkey's half, Florenzi provided late runs to further stretch the play. So I think WB/s with sit narrower TI should suffice. If he is bombing forward too early with that role, FB/s with the same TI is the alternative. - Bonucci: despite him being clearly the more cultured CB compared to Chiellini, it was Bonucci actually playing the more reserved role here. This was because Florenzi was the actual link-play in the deep zones over that channel, so Bonucci was a simple CB/d in my view. - Chiellini: the one who was tasked to step out of the back and either carry or pass the ball into the midfield zone down the left channel. This was because of the different roles of the FBs: with the LB being more attacking and getting high up early on, Chiellini was needed to be the link man (alongside Locatelli). BPD/d role with 'bring ball out of the back' PPM is needed. - Spinazzola: proper WB/a and as he was always up and down the flank and enjoyed the freedom to use it all by himself (Insigne was roaming infield). - Jorginho: with Turkey applying little pressure he didn't drop in between the CBs at all, predominantly staying just ahead and was closer to the CMs. So A DLP/d role with 'more risky passes' and possible 'more direct passes' should be enough. - Locatelli: the 'in-between' passer, as I like to call the middle CM in a 1-2 triangle. Again with Turkey sitting deep and leaving plenty of space in midfield, I'd say he was more of a AP/s than a DLP/s. He didn't venture too forward (that was Barella's task) nor dropped deep (there was no need with Chiellini and Jorginho having easy time to progress the ball forward), so AP/s role should do it. - Barella: proper Mezz/s role. He was the in-between player between Florenzi and Berardi, doing the link up down the right channel and freezing Berardi to roam infield freely. - Berardi: I think it's between IW/a or IF/a. The former will replicate his wider positioning and that he often stayed wider to combine with Barella. The latter will replicate his diagonal runs and his attacking onus better. Perhaps some merging of the two (using one of the roles and applying Tis) is the best bet here. - Insigne: proper IF/s but we need exact replication of his skills set and PPMs for this role to act exactly like him. He was quasi-playmaker, winger and attacker all into one. - Immobile: very specific role too. He was more often than not staying high up to pin the defence back and leave more space for the CMs and wingers to operate between the lines; roamed the channels to further move the defence around and open up gaps. But he also sometimes dropped deep to lure defenders with him and open up space for the wingers to dart infield. I think A-duty role is needed but not really attacking one. So it's either DLF/a or PF/a but both need 'moves into channels' and probably 'roam from position' to further replicate his movement.
  9. My idea is that because Ibrahimovic will drop deep and be more of a #10, allowing the more mobile players to get beyond him. Given he is really slow, he might be slow to get in the box and be the prime target for crosses. Low crosses are therefore expected to be driven towards the runners who got beyond Ibrahimovic. Low crosses doesn't meant players will never try something else, they'll for sure (plus Milan have some intelligent players who should be able to decide situationally). So whenever Ibrahimovic does get in the box, he should still get some crosses. Plus his movement should mean he position himself well enough to not need the ball being just lumped towards him aimlessly.
  10. Something like this: F9 IF/a W/s DLP/s CM/a == Yes, DLF/s is a bit different but will serve you the same main purpose - to drop in and create space for others while still being able to thread through balls. The difference is that he will achieve this by being a more physical presence and can hold up the ball, something that will benefit the CM/a in particular. The added benefit is that when he turns, the DLF will naturally be inclined to get into the box as late runner. == Your concern is whether such a left hand side will mean decreased overall balance? If so, I would say it shouldn't mean so as you still have a DLP/s and a FB/s at RB to provide enough cover. With IF/a and DLP/s on the left side, you ideally will want to have someone actively getting forward and providing width, so FB/a or WB/a is sort of a must.
  11. Agree here. But then again why would you employ a notoriously attacking formation built for aggressive/dominating pass&move + pressing style and expect increased defensive solidity from it? Such formations defend on the front foot and by pressing, not by looking to quickly consolidate in own half. Or the reverse - employ a deep 4-1-4-1 and ask why it's hard to press from really high with it. Similar is the case with the typical 4-2-3-1 (though here the case is slightly different as with a 2nd #6, the team will have a 4th man - be it 2xDMs or one of the full-backs - behind the ball instead of only 3 as a typical 4-3-3 will). The wide men in a 4-3-3 (and in 4-2-3-1 too) aren't players expected to track back at all, especially in the first phase when you lose possession. Their advanced positioning means they're far better used to press, or at least cover zonally to deny the opposition an easy counter-attacks and force them launch it long (for which your CBs and DM should be able to handle if having the required skill set). Only when the team is deep in our own half will they drop in as not to be left isolated in any potential turnover. As in real football, that's why manager need to flexible and go with the horses for courses approach - using different formations and tactical approach to suit their needs. There's no universal formation or style of play that will suit all needs against all type of challenges.
  12. The False 9 is a very specific role and needs a really specific style and overall tactical balance to work out properly. The main asset of the False 9 is that it drops deep to create space in behind. So the first consideration is to secure players who will get in that space, ideally 2 as only one might be easy for the opponent to handle. You can do that by having both wide men dart infield (IF/a) or one of them coupled with a proper runner from deep (CM/a). In addition, while it can surely thread a through balls, the False 9 isn't really a creative on the ball because of their support role, meaning their mentality will be lower. I always think of the False 9 as a AP/s type of play with the added benefit of it being a bit more mobile/roaming (while the AP/s is a more pivot/static type of role). This means you need to ensure someone else takes on the creative mantle and be the proper risk-taking creator in your side (someone like AP/a, TQ or to lesser extend Mezz/a). If you have a more physical - instead of nimble and dribbling-oriented - player, I'd suggest to use the DLF/s role instead. Anyway, back to your tactics. The first variant lacks bodies closer to the False 9. The RW will go in behind but he will do generally from wide areas, offering more verticality instead of diagonal runs (or he will do them only late on, probably when the defence is already set). The IW/a is the only player adding the required movement to benefit of the False 9 dropping deep. Mez/s will be drifting into the channels and will look to support the W/a instead of getting in behind the False 9 and into the box. Also, with both a DM/d, DLP/s and a FB/s, you can be a more aggressive with the LB and play with with attack duty. The 2nd variant is the same. Now the Mezz/a will go even higher up down the inside channel, opened up the deeper positioning of the W/s, meaning the opposition's LB and LCB might be force to come out more. This should leave a bit more space for the MEZ/a to then hit the box, which will gain you a bit better attacking balance. Again you can be more aggressive with the LB. But given the Mezz is attack-duty and often will be in the final 3rd, I'be inclined to use DLP/s here to offer extra stability and more natural link option through the middle when building up from behind.
  13. I had a bit of time this morning and gone through Milan's squad; and it's indeed a very versatile one. After a bit of thinking, here're a few variants I'd be inclined to use with them: 1) Sort of a flexible/versatile 4-3-3 with width on both sides, runners coming from deep and wide to go around and beyond Ibrahimovic who will be the attacking pivot. Here you can be even more flexible and make Calabria FB/a to provide the width with either Castilejo or Diaz more of creative in-cutting wide men to add even more numbers around Ibrahimovic (probably best against 4-4-2/4-3-3 formations). 2) More patient/possession-oriented 4-3-3 for those games where you're wary of the opposition (especially if they play 4-2-3-1) but you don't feel going with a properly defensive/counter-attacking approach is needed. 3) Versatile 4-2-3-1 with width coming from deep, both wide men in-cutting to add bodies around Ibrahimovic and the main creative onus being on the #10. Alternatively, you can play the #10 as more of a supporting player who drops deep to further open up space higher up (probably best if the opposition is packing the midfield zone) with Kessie then adding numbers forward from deep as a Segundo Volante.
  14. Play him in a limited (in terms of movement) but creative role that aims to drop deep and send passes to runners getting beyond him from various angles. DLF/s role should suit him nicely in both 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, ideally with runners from wide and deep. Milan have quite a versatile squad, so it should be relatively easy to set this up.
  15. This is in interesting topic. My approach to FM is always to relate it as much as possible to real-life football tactics, strategies and general football common sense. From that perspective I've always viewed the DM strata as the #6 position and the CM strata as the #8 position (note: I mean position here, not role). In a typical 4-3-3 you have 1xDM and 2xCMs and from a real-life football language this means 1x#6 and 2x#8. Hence the talk of a single pivot formation (same goes for the 3-1-4-2, for example). Similarly, in a typical 4-2-3-1 we talk about 2xDMs and 1xAM, hence the talk of two sixes/double six/double pivot and a #10 (there's a less common 4-2-1-3 variant which sees 2x#6s + a #8 but it's really rare; still it's interesting to note that Mourinho's Spurs often resembled this variant when Ndombele was ahead of the double pivot; Mancini's Man City also used this variant with Yaya Toure as a roaming #8 ahead of the Barry-De Jong double pivot). Where it gets interesting is that position and role and sometimes the same but in other times they're different. For example, the typical #6 is the more cultured DM role (which in FM is either DLP/d or half-back depending on how you want to build-up from the back; with the DLP/d we talk about a proper single pivot, while with a HB role we talk more about a back 3, hence the need to see the CBs fan out wider while the HB drops in between). However, there are other #6s who are far more different. For example, the Italian interpretation of the deep-lying playmaker - ie the Regista - or the South American interpretation of the all-action #6 - i.e. the Segundo Volante (which is closer to the European interpretation of the #8; with the only difference is that it's part of a double pivot). So when we talk about DM or CM strata and potential benefits/drawbacks from a FM perspective, we need to consider basically the whole outlook of our tactics, including the structure in both defence and attack. For example, in a typical 4-2-3-1 there are certain, more commonly used, variants: 1) the double six + #10 scenario: where you have two ball-winners, with possibly one of them a bit more willing to step out and join the midfield zone and a creative #10 (this was the initial application of the 4-2-3-1, from the start of the 2000s with Rafa Benitez' Valencia a typical example of this with the Albelda-Baraja double pivot behind Aimar); 2) you push the creative #10 deeper as a DLP/s alongside one ball-winner, freeing the #10 to play a more attacking role (i.e. the False 10), which is suitable especially if you have creative wide men aiming to cut infield and create instead of either (or both) being secondary attackers. A typical example was Rafa Benitez' Liverpool with the Mascherano-Alonso double pivot behind Gerrard as the 10. Of course, modern tactics allowed for increased number of combinations which produced some interesting combos in the 4-2-3-1. For example, Mourinho's Real Madrid saw a creative holder (Alonso) alongside a more destructive runner (Khedira) behind what I call a 'ten-and-a-half' player in Ozil. Again, Mourinho's 14/15 Chelsea saw a proper holding midfielder (Matic) alongside a really creative and mobile partner (Fabregas) with the #10 being the sort of destructive/balancing player you'd usually see at #8. From FM perspective, DM vs CM strata is all about what type of formation and roles you'd like to use and how they combine from a defensive (how you cover/deny space) and attacking (how you create and exploit space). That certain roles can be used at both DM and CM position/strata is because some roles can be used in both a typical 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation (among other formations). Take for example the DLP/s role. It's a typical role of the, let's called it that way, modern 4-2-3-1. Once the old school creative #10 started to die out, they were pushed wider or deeper. The DLP/s role is for those who moved deeper (at #6 position) but played a more patient style and were a bit more static. But in a 4-3-3 you can still have a DLP/s role but from a #8 position. Think about Xavi at Guardiola's Barca, Kroos at Real M (under Zidane) or what Locatelli did last night for Italy. This is often a role that is used when the DM/#6 is the type who either: a) often drops in between the CBs, so you need one of the #8s to come a bit deeper too to link the play; or b) you have a technically limited DM/pure ball-winner who you can't trust to help with the initial build-up phase, so you need one of the 8s to drop in and compensate (that is if you're set on playing out from the back of course). In relation to the OP's query about a 3-4-2-1 formation (like Tuchel's Chelsea), I'd say it's 2x#6 (but different roles) and 2x#10 (again with slightly different roles). So from FM's perspective it's having 2x players at DM strata and 2x players at AM strata. I'd say no real-life formation uses 3-4-2-1 or 4-2-3-1 with 2x players in both CM and AM strata. It's just not a defensively viable way to structure your side. On this front, I'd ideally prefer SI to have made this clearer and kind of 'forbid' using certain formation and/or roles in certain positions. Like you can't use a Segundo Volante role in a single pivot formation (as the whole point of this role is to use as part of a double pivot) or that you can't use a Regista at CM (again, as the whole point of this role is to have a really creative #6 to give some spark of the otherwise very defensive and deep-lying Italian formations of older eras; basically the reverse Trequartista). I'd argue such a move would've spared plenty of people plenty of headaches when constructing their tactics.
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