I've been playing FM for years...longer than I care to remember. And despite regularly having success and putting a lot of hours in this year I've found tactics harder to build than normal. Largely because I'm always playing with Villa so largely hamstringing myself from the start, but also that I always play the 41221 (or as it's bizarrely been renamed, the 4141 DM).
Now it's a great shape that's been used by some of the best teams in the world. It's also alluring from an FM perspective, I mean it may sound weird but it just looks good on the screen doesn't it? Then you have the roles...the Wide Trequartista, the Inside Forward, the Raumdeuter...it's full of exotic and exciting options.
However a quick glance around these forums suggests that many people have had similar trouble to me in setting up this particular shape this year.
Of course the 4141 (DM) has plenty of benefits. Firstly it provides balanced coverage fo the pitch, it's good for possession and the DM also provides defensive security. But it also has its drawbacks. The huge gap between midfield and the striker can often leave your team blunt, and the even bigger gap between wide players can leave you horribly exposed down the flanks...especially if you're a weaker team.
And that is the realization I came to this week. The 4141 (DM) is phenomenal for top teams looking to press hard and dominate possession. But what if you're not that type of team, what if you're say... Aston Villa? Well, then like many others on this forum the 4141 (DM) throws up plenty of problems, and almost leads this fictional manager to throwing his laptop out of the window. A solution
My laptop's salvation came thanks to a tough trip to Arsenal in my third season as Villa boss. Up until now I'd done okay with the 4141 (DM). I admit, I save scummed a little as I tried to build a tactic that fitted in Grealish and McGinn and offered some kind fo stability at the back. I had moments where it clicked, but like a golf swing more often than not one small bit would break innevitably leading to the whole thing unravelling along with my sanity.
I'm not proud to say it's a mistake I made every year...attracted by the allure of the 4141 (DM) and the aforementioned exotic roles. But faced with my season in the balance, my enjoyment of the game hanging by a thread, and my sanity ebbing away too something had to change. That something was the formation...
The 4141 (D) is dead, long live the 4141
The solution it turned out was simple. All i needed to do was move my wingers back. I built two versions of this newly flattened tactic, one more progressive for when at home, the other slightly more conservative. I didn't do anything crazy with the instructions though, nor with the player roles which were largely exactly how my 4141 DM was set up. All i did was move the players back.
When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. I'm a naturally conservative manager anyway, and most of my tactics revolved around a low to mid block. As a result the flatter formation should make us more solid. Without the need for exotic roles I also wouldn't have my golf swing problem, where one player's absence caused a cascade effect.
How did it work?
more on that in a moment, but before even thinking about results I wanted to talk about three key benefits of my switch in tactic.
1 - Player performance. I've spent this entire version trying to get Grealish to orchestrate and MCgInn to score and well, I've largely failed. I can achieve one at a time, but never both consistently at once. The problem I've come to realize was the formation. I was asking a posession-shape to perform a counter attacking task, with players who aren't really cut out for it. Now I love McGinn but he's not the fastest midfielder in the world, which means he has a hell of a lot of ground to cover to make u the gap with the striker in the traditional 4141 / 433 shape. Here though he has pleyers around him to help him forwards. The same with Jack. I could make us into a one man team that revolved around him (a case of art imitating life), but to the detriment of the rest of the team. I'd naturally assumed due to its defensive stature the flat formation would make things worse, but it has in fact made them better. McGinn is scoring, Jack is creating and the team is finally purring.
2 - The football. This isn't a criticism of the game, but I found the football being played out by 4141 (DM) to be pretty unrealistic. Sometimes it worked, but it just didn't look like football if that makes sense? I know the ME isn't the most accurate recreation but it looked like something out of a kid's playground. And that's the real thing I've taken from the 4141 flat...the football is good to watch, great even. Honestly it's surpassed anything else I've created for accurately representing a real match.
3 - Results against the big teams. Previous to building this tactic my approach to playing the big boys was damage limitation. I simply couldn't score, let alone having a hope to win. Since the switch...well...see for yourself. The proof is in the pudding, and in this case, the pudding is a football
So as I admitted to earlier, I'd save scummed a bit previously in this save, but this I promise is 100% as a result of my switch to this tactic, and, well it's been quite the run.
There are a lot of wins there. A lot of clean sheets, and a lot of big results against top teams. It's propelled me to the top of the table with a Vill squad that have no right to be there. More success, more problems
of course FM just wouldn;t be FM if it didn't throw a spanner in the works. As you can see I'm not scoring many goals, and as I write this I've just played three games, two 0-0 draws and a 0-1 loss to man Utd. Clearly I have a problem that I am now going to have to work out. It's partly tactical of course. But also partly due to a drop off in form and the sheer quality of my squad (more than half ow which is the same as when you start the game with Villa, and well, let's look how good we've been in real life for comparison eh?). So in conclusion
I realize I'm not offering up anything new here. But just thought I'd share my recent experience for all of you struggling with your 4141 (DM)'s this year. I feel your pain, but there is an alternative. Honestly try it. You might like it!