crouchaldinho

The 3-4-1-2 - A Tactical Challenge!

146 posts in this topic

Inspired by causeforconcern's challenge thread from some time ago, and also carrying on from my own 'How far can you go with the 4-4-2?' challenge, I would now like to invite all FM tacticians to take part in a new challenge.

Last time out, the challenge involved the 4-4-2 formation, which was undergoing much criticism as being 'outdated' when compared to modern systems. The challenge was to attempt to take a top flight club as far as you could with the 4-4-2. There were many successes as pretty much everyone taking part reached the conclusion that 4-4-2 still had a lot to offer on Football Manager, especially if you had the right players to make the most of the formation.

This time, I suggest having a go at another so-called anachronism - a formation with a back three! No longer as popular as it was in the 90s, it is still used to great effect by some teams, particularly in Italy. So just how far can a 3-4-1-2 formation take us in Football Manager?

3-4-1-2.jpg

I've picked the 3-4-1-2 for a few reasons. Firstly, because it is strongly associated with Italian football, and the use of a trequartista in the AM position, which excites me! Secondly, because with an attacking midfielder and two strikers on the field, it would seem to have great attacking potency. Finally, because I think this will be a great challenge to get working on Football Manager!

First of all, a little analysis of the formation. At the back, we have three central defenders. In the midfield, two central midfield players and two side midfield players. The two side midfielders are possibly the most significant in the whole team, given that they must defensively support the back three, as well as offer attacking width. We're looking for players here who are quick, mobile, have lots of stamina and a high work-rate, as well as being able to offer something in attack. Retrained fullbacks and hard-working wide midfielders will do the job here but you're unlikely to see any out-and-out wingers in this position. Finally, we have a playmaking attacking midfielder, often a trequartista, behind two central strikers.

tactic3-4-1-2.jpg

My rules for this challenge are outlined below.

CHALLENGE RULES

The rules of the challenge are pretty relaxed. I'm happy for people to pick whichever side they feel they can get the best out of with the 3-4-1-2.

The simple aim of the challenge is to overachieve with your club. Whether that means winning the league, winning a cup, or successfully fighting relegation with your chosen side.

The other rules for this challenge are that you must play a 3-4-1-2 formation (i.e. 3CDs, MR, ML, MC, MC, AMC, ST, ST), however the instructions, player roles, advanced choices etc. are totally up to you. The 3-4-1-2 will be your formation and your baseline but you can use any options to change the shape you see on the pitch.

You can use an older Football Manager if you want, so if you are still playing FM09 or FM10 then you are free to continue using that. I know the match engines can be different between versions but I've always believed that good tactical and footballing decisions in each of the games brings the same result - tactical success! The idea here is to share some theoretical principles and ideas. I believe we will all learn something regardless of which of the recent versions are used.

There is no transfer or loan restriction this time, so feel free to make whatever changes to the squad you need in order to suit the formation.

It would be great if people could post up details of how they are setting up and the choices they make for certain games. Screenshots are encouraged. The main aim of the challenge is to share information and maybe some of us will approach things differently and make others think about their own choices.

I would hope that everyone takes the challenge in the right spirit. Please do not attempt to use exploits or cheats because the main thing is the tactical ideas rather than 'winning' the challenge. As such, there is no winner anyway.

Finally, just a reminder that the point of the thread is to see how far a 3-4-1-2 can take you in Football Manager. What I am interested in is just how much success can be had while playing with this system.

This is your chance to prove that you are a tactical master on Football Manager!

No doubt you've all mastered the 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. Now for a real challenge - three at the back! :D

Can the 3-4-1-2 still be effective in the modern game? Just how far can you go with 3-4-1-2?

Anyone interested in taking part? Let me know.

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As I've said before, one of my biggest regrets from FM10 is that I never managed to get a back 3 working well. As any bad workman would, I blamed the tools and said it was the match engine's fault :D I'd love to have success with it though, so I'm well up for trying this. I'll get started on it tomorrow, but I'll be taking to the task with my beloved Liverpool.

I think the squad Liverpool have is a decent starting point. In Carragher and Agger they have guys who are comfortable playing in the full back roles, so would do well in the side back positions. Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio (if you can ever get the bugger fit) would make good side midfielders whilst in Gerrard and Meireles you have midfielders capable in both attack and defence to play the central midfield roles.

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Since its Italian in nature, how about the use of a sweeper or libero? I had just started a save using the formation with WB instead of wide midfielders but was finding that I was having trouble with getting the WB's up field consistanly enough to add any width. I was finding the libero to be working well.

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Nice thread C, i will have a go at it. i managed to get a 3412 working really well in FM10. The results where really, really good but the football was awful to watch :D. Looking forward to trying it in FM11 to see if the flow looks "cleaner"

The/My key in Fm10 was to let the wingers act like Defensive Central midfielders( or fullbacks holding the ball if you will), perhaps that why it was stable but produced boring football

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As I've said before, one of my biggest regrets from FM10 is that I never managed to get a back 3 working well. As any bad workman would, I blamed the tools and said it was the match engine's fault :D I'd love to have success with it though, so I'm well up for trying this. I'll get started on it tomorrow, but I'll be taking to the task with my beloved Liverpool.

I think the squad Liverpool have is a decent starting point. In Carragher and Agger they have guys who are comfortable playing in the full back roles, so would do well in the side back positions. Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio (if you can ever get the bugger fit) would make good side midfielders whilst in Gerrard and Meireles you have midfielders capable in both attack and defence to play the central midfield roles.

Yes, I'd imagine Liverpool would be a good starting point. Good luck Terk. I'm looking forward to seeing how you get on!

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Since its Italian in nature, how about the use of a sweeper or libero? I had just started a save using the formation with WB instead of wide midfielders but was finding that I was having trouble with getting the WB's up field consistanly enough to add any width. I was finding the libero to be working well.

I'd prefer to go with the flat 3CBs as in the diagram from Lucchesi's book (see opening post) but if you are really set on trying a sweeper or libero then I suppose that's fine. :thup:

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Nice thread C, i will have a go at it. i managed to get a 3412 working really well in FM10. The results where really, really good but the football was awful to watch :D.

Great to see you having a go at it TBH. :thup:

Why was the football so awful to watch on FM10?

Looking forward to trying it in FM11 to see if the flow looks "cleaner"

The/My key in Fm10 was to let the wingers act like Defensive Central midfielders( or fullbacks holding the ball if you will)

Yes the two wide players tend to drop back like wingbacks on FM10 rather than acting dynamically, which was a bit of a frustration of mine. The way I see it, the two wide players should drop back on the side without the ball when out of possession to create a makeshift four, while the wide player on the opposite side presses like a regular wide midfielder, and the 'chain' of central defenders moves across to deal with the threat. That would be the dynamic movement I would expect, rather than both wide midfielders dropping off to form a back five. To be honest, I imagine not much has changed for FM11 but we will have to see. I haven't done any testing. I'm not going to let it bother me too much and I'll just try to enjoy it for what it is, as I'd really like to finally get to grips with a 3-4-1-2 at last.

Hopefully, with the AM plus two forwards, you should be able to get some great attacking football. That's my hope anyway! :)

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Great to see you having a go at it TBH. :thup:

Why was the football so awful to watch on FM10?

Basically because we forced the opponent into making stupid errors(cutting angels really well, denying space and high pressure) and when breaking up these attacks, the ball bounced around too much. It looked rather hilarious.Mind you, this was in key highlights and the rest of the game where we did not make any good chances could have been the most beautiful football one had ever seen..but I doubt it ;D

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I'll be using the TC and I'm intending on setting up something like the following:

GK (d)

CD (d) - CD (d) - CD (d)

WM (auto) - BW (d) - CM (s) - WM (auto)

Treq (a)

DLF (s) - Poach (a)

I really want to use a trequartista in the hole, so that was my first choice. The front two was always going to be something along those lines. In the midfield, I'm ignoring the tactics creator logic and operating with a ball-winner and a central-midfielder alongside him. Two wide midfielders on automatic duties, which will adjust depending on the strategy employed. Then three standard central defenders.

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Does it have to be in that exact format? I don't like wide-midfielders and would prefer to push them up into the AMR and AML position.

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Interesting, I used this tactic playing the old CM's, hopefully I might find some time to give this a go.

What team are you managing Crouchy?

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Does it have to be in that exact format? I don't like wide-midfielders and would prefer to push them up into the AMR and AML position.

I'd prefer it if people were to stick with the 3-4-1-2 as defined in the OP. Otherwise, if you start to change things it ceases to be a 3-4-1-2 and becomes something else entirely. The one exception is the use of a sweeper for those who would like to experiment with that.

Interesting, I used this tactic playing the old CM's, hopefully I might find some time to give this a go.

What team are you managing Crouchy?

Nice one Higgins.

At first, I was thinking of just trying this out on my current St. Albans City save (FM10). But now, I'd very much like to give it a run on FM11 and see what has changed in the match engine. I'm thinking of perhaps running a small test save with Spurs actually because my immediate thoughts were of Gareth Bale in one of the wide roles, and van der Vaart behind Defoe and Crouch.

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crouchaldinho, I´ve experimented a bit in FM11 with different formations (three at the back + wingback or wide midfielders) and sadly I have to say that anything changed from FM10. The wide midfielders always form together with three central defenders the five at the back. I don´t know, if SI wants this purposely, but the wide mids shouldn´t act like that. Then you end with five players at the back versus two forwards (I suppose this formation should´t be used against one forward at all) as it´s a total waste of bodies. You will get outnumbered in midfield easily, although in theory midfield should be your biggest advantage in this formation.

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That sucks Los_Culés. I was very much hoping that there had been some improvement on FM11 and some much needed dynamic positioning engineered to stop the static dropping back of the wide players. :(

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I really like this idea Crouchaldinho, I have just seen your thread and now I simply can not stop thinking about it! Some tactical diagrams, thinking, marking problems are bumping regularly in my head, friendly challenges like this make the game even more fun, I am in :thup:

I have not pick a team yet, Spurs are a good side to lineup like this I guess, with, as you said, Bale as a wingback / winger hybrid, ...well I a still wondering :)

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Glad to have inspired you NakS. Good luck with whoever you decide to take up the challenge with! :thup:

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crouchaldinho: Maybe we should write to SI to solve this issue. I really hope this thing isn´t purposeful, the ME shouldn´t treat wide mids in 3-5-2 as wingbacks. I know, that in Europe there are very few good teams if any that play variants of this formation, but eg. in South America it´s still pretty used formation and I would like to recreate it. However if you want to create something like Roma played under Capello, it´s still perfectly possible IMO.

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May give this a go :thup:

Got nothing left to play as im stuck in mid table obscurity in the 2nd division of Finland so nothing to lose and a gorgeous AM who fits in the Treq

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crouchaldinho: Maybe we should write to SI to solve this issue. I really hope this thing isn´t purposeful, the ME shouldn´t treat wide mids in 3-5-2 as wingbacks. I know, that in Europe there are very few good teams if any that play variants of this formation, but eg. in South America it´s still pretty used formation and I would like to recreate it.

Yes, well I think if we can get some screenshots about how the formation is falling down, then maybe we can post in the bugs thread and get them to look at it for FM12.

The FM match engine seems very much geared up to the flat back four. But you are right, these formations are still very much used in certain countries, and even in the lower leagues here in England. I've seen my local team, St. Albans City, use this formation a couple of times. Also, I went to see the Egyptian national team playing England earlier in the year and saw how the back three can work in practice with an international side.

However if you want to create something like Roma played under Capello, it´s still perfectly possible IMO.

Any thoughts on how you would set this up?

This is my one disappointment with recent FMs - I haven't once got a formation like this working to my satisfaction in the match engine. :(

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May give this a go :thup:

Got nothing left to play as im stuck in mid table obscurity in the 2nd division of Finland so nothing to lose and a gorgeous AM who fits in the Treq

Good to hear it seanydude. Good luck! :thup:

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crouchaldinho: It shouldn´t be hard, because if I remember correctly, in Roma´s formation Cafu and Candela really acted like wingbacks not like wide midfielders and ME handles wingbacks correctly. I would set it as following: three center backs (the middle one a bit more defensive than the other too), two wingbacks, two central midfielders (I would give them defensive mentality, they should be aware of space behind them, but they shouldn´t start in DM position to be able to begin pressing earlier, they should be workhorses (ball-winning mids), like Zanetti, Emerson and Tomassi were), one AMC - Totti and two poachers (Batigol, Montella).

The problem is that eg. in Brasil, some managers play with wide mids instead of wingbacks. The main difference is that they stay higher up the pitch, and when in possession they can also move inward, they don´t have to hug the touchline all the time. Then the quasifullback (the outer DC) move wide and provide an option.

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Interesting thoughts Los_Culés. Sounds spot on to me regarding Roma's set-up. :thup:

I've got some match engine observations coming up next.

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So, first of all, here we see the classic problem: the wide players immediately retreating to make a back five.

TottenhamvPAOKTVView.png

In this case, the central midfield player has just sprayed a ball out to wide right. I'd expect the number 3 wide player to be further up the pitch and the number 7 wide player to tuck in to make a makeshift back four, with the three central players shifting across to the right.

In this case, what happens is that the two wide players take up their static positions as fullbacks and then the number 3 eventually goes to close down. It's a reactive movement rather than dynamic and proactive.

Much the same problem in this screenshot:

TottenhamvPAOKTVView-2.png

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This next screenshot shows how the wide players and defenders line up in a back five and just how narrow they look.

TottenhamvPAOKTVView-3.png

They just don't react in a dynamic way to the play going on around them:

TottenhamvPAOKTVView-4.png

The wide player receiving that pass ought not to be free to run on to the ball like that. It's frustrating to see the Spurs number 3 just sitting in the fullback position and a back five with only one player to deal with.

In my opinion, the wide player on the flank where the ball is should be higher up the pitch and reacting to the play. Meanwhile, the wide player on the opposite side should tuck in and the three centre-backs should shift across.

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Next, here is a frustration with the way that the wide players react while in possession

TottenhamvPAOKTVView-5.png

The player in possession in a central position is looking for a wide passing option but the number 3 doesn't give it to him. He ought to be 'on his bike' as 'Arry would say! The number 3 should be breaking forward and getting into a good position for a pass but he just sits and dwells in that position.

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This is another perfect example of the static back five 'bug':

TottenhamvPAOKTVView-6.png

Why are the wide players forming a back five in this scenario? You've got five players marking one man in this screenshot and the opposition have the ball in their own area!

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Another screenshot of the lack of penetrating runs from the wide players:

TottenhamvPAOKTVView-7.png

Defoe has the ball and is waiting for Bale to overlap for the pass out wide. It never comes and so he is forced to go it alone.

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How attacking are the wide midfielders?

This is using the 'attack' strategy so they are both attacking and forward runs often.

I also did some testing with 'control', which sees both wide players on mixed forward runs, and that really exacerbates the problem.

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This is another example of a wide player hanging back:

TottenhamvPAOKTVView-8.png

In the end, the forwards often have to go into the channels in order to create the width that you would expect from the wide midfielders.

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One other problem I have been having - quite unrelated to the formation (at least, I think so!) - is the fact that my playmaker isn't getting as involved in the play as he should do. He doesn't seem to be the focal point of the play and doesn't receive as many passes as I think he should.

It could well be a problem of my tactics or perhaps the player in question but I'm sure I read somewhere that this is a common complaint on FM11. Can anyone fill me in?

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I don´t think I can help you here, cos I guess your playmaker is your AMC and I don´t play with AMC playmaker, but I can offer you some solutions.

1. Don´t play with playmaker :D. Eg. in Roma´s formation Totti was/is more trequartista rather then playmaking n10.

2. If you want to have AMC as you main playmaker, give him defensive mentality and fwd mixed or rarely. He should look for the space more. Todays world is full of defensive, tight marking midfielders, so your AMC might doesn´t have enough space in front of opposition defence to thrive as he is easily marked. I know, defensive mentality might sound strange, but my MC who is on defensive mentality plays great, always free to receive passes (and I don´t have him ticked as playmaker) and the defensive mentality is also assuring that he doesn´t play holywood balls when not necessary but he rather choose simple passes and waits for the right opportunity to play killer balls.

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I don´t think I can help you here, cos I guess your playmaker is your AMC and I don´t play with AMC playmaker, but I can offer you some solutions.

1. Don´t play with playmaker :D. Eg. in Roma´s formation Totti was/is more trequartista rather then playmaking n10.

When I said playmaker, I meant trequartista. Sorry, should have been more specific.

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I feel for you Crouchadinho. It's why I asked if I could push the wide midfielders into the AMR and AML position. If you do that, it solves the back-5 "bug." But alas, it would not be the 3-4-1-2 as we would want to see. The ME needs fixing if such a formation is going to work the way it's suppose to work.

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I think some micro-management can help.

If you set your fullbacks to full pitch closing down, and specific man-marking, then they'd push up to mark the highest flank player. When playing against 4-1-2-1-2 you'd than have to depend on full-pitch closing down in hope that the FBs will push up and help the midfield battle.

Ultimately though, the ME needs to be better if such a formation is going to work. It is why I never use wide-midfielders without fullbacks.

P.S. Congratulations on your 10k post! :thup:

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Thanks Kawee. I was hoping that the 10k post would be something witty, entertaining or failing that maybe profound. Turns out I missed the main event! Nevermind!

I'm not sure the closing down would help, to be honest. The specific marking wouldn't really solve the problem either. To me, it's a positioning problem, where there is a lack of dynamic and proactive decisions from the two wide players.

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I've decided to give this a go. I've selected Arsenal and will see how it goes. I'll get back to you with feedback later tonight.

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No, it won't solve the problem. The only thing it does is, as we all know, make the midfielders defend from higher up the pitch. It's an imperfect artificial half solution. At the end of the day, as you say, the positioning must improve. Right now, it seems the wide midfielders drop deep into the defensive full-back position regardless of what was happening on the field.

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I think I may have found a pretty good tactic. I just won the Premiership with Arsenal using this formation.

Picture1-5.png

Picture2-5.png

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Just a thought.

I remember from a thread last year about 3-5-2 formations that a suggested remedy for the 'static back 5' problem was to set the wide midfielders' mentality as far to the right as possible. I seem to recall that this appeared to have a beneficial effect and I wonder if it would be worthwhile trying it out in the 3-4-1-2?

Obviously as a solution it's a bit of a bodge up - rather on the lines of my maths, where, if I ever do get a sum right it's because two mistakes have cancelled each other out! But it might be a solution worth trying until SI sort this problem.

Edit: Going to try a save with a 3-5-2, setting the wide players as defensive wingers and their mentality as attacking as possible. Whilst this is not, of course, taking part in the challenge as such, I'll post any observations I make about how they behave, as it may be helpful to people.

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Hi there,

Your screens reminds me some of the problem I have faced using my 31231 formation which was in the first place a 31411, moving up in the AM slot make it better regarding defensive duty of my wide players.

As others I have seen the same back 5 issue, whatever slot (FB, WB WMidfielder) if you don’t have a guy behind in the wide area, they just slot back to form an „at least“ 4 defensive line. I’ll come back later to make a proprer analysis and add some thoughts if needed in your other thread in the bug forum. (BTW I have picked Roma in a FM2011 save.)

When it comes to defensive positionning, you have mainly 4-5 tools.

Default position is not working as you pointed out.

The defensive line will just delay the problem, at the end of the day when opposition has come to establishde possession you will have your back 5.

Mentality can play a role here, but it seems to matter much less than default position and marking setting, a highish mentaly may help as Kawee said you counter a problem with another.

Closing down is not the way to go, that I am sure of, because it needs to be triggered by how close an opponent player with the ball is. And it is reactive actually, not the best solution for a positioning tool as it has to be too late.

Marking setting, IMHO the best (less worst) tool available even if it does not work properly in our very case. I do agree it is not the solution.

For example I’d go for a named individual marking with my wide midfielders. But I’d not go for strict, because I still want my wide midfielders to be on the wing most of time (onöy wide players) and not track inside forward in the middle of the pitch where you are supposed to have at least 1 spare man with a CB (not ideal I know). Especially if the opponent have attacking fullbacks AND wingers, you can be overload on the wing with overlap for example.

The thing is on which opponent’s players do you want to lock? On wingers (AM slot), no point doing this IMO, as they are very likely to be high up the pitch pretty soon (RFD often), maybe in this case I’d go for the zonal loose.

On wide midfielders, maybe it can help a bit, but as usually they still have RFD often, here an named individual loose (somebody ever tried this combo, with the named individual, not even sure it worked the way I described it?) can make them lock earlier, and then track back

Against a 41212, with attackings fullbacks, lock on them, if it works can be a solution as usually both opponent’s strikers drif wide, but hey you have 3CBs :) should not be that a problem.

Well, just wanted to share some toughts I had in the sub this morning, not sure specific marking setting matters with this back 5 issue as Crouchaldinho said, I tend to believe a guy with 10k posts :) (congrats BTW)

I suggest as well to put on screenshots, the „player-should-have-been-there“ position with a big flashy dot or something, I’ll do it tonight, I am at work right now so can not really play the game.

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Good past NakS. Look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Well, just wanted to share some toughts I had in the sub this morning, not sure specific marking setting matters with this back 5 issue as Crouchaldinho said, I tend to believe a guy with 10k posts (congrats BTW)

Thanks! :) But don't make the mistake of linking post count to a good poster. It's quality and not quantity that counts. Haven't you ever been to OTF? ;):D

I suggest as well to put on screenshots, the „player-should-have-been-there“ position with a big flashy dot or something, I’ll do it tonight, I am at work right now so can not really play the game.

Good idea, I'll try to do that in future. :thup:

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I think I may have found a pretty good tactic. I just won the Premiership with Arsenal using this formation.

Well done! :thup:

It goes to show that this can still be a good tactic on FM, despite our concerns about the representation of it in the match engine.

Care to share your set-up here?

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OTF? Well TBH, I have never been there! I know what yo mean with post counts, I aware of that :), it was both a "wink for your 10k" and a "you may be right on this one (marking)" :thup:

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OTF? Well TBH, I have never been there! I know what yo mean with post counts, I aware of that :), it was both a "wink for your 10k" and a "you may be right on this one (marking)" :thup:

Haha! Cheers! :D

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Right, just got going with this. My formation set up is the same as you have, Crouchy, except for one change. Instead of a ball winning midfielder (defend), I've plumped for a central midfielder (defend). I've just played my first friendly, so admittedly the players aren't comfortable in the formation yet, but immediately I've run across the same problems.

In this screenshot we have a flat five strung across our penalty area, marking one (offside) opposition attacker, and still leaving room for the opposition winger to be found with a simple pass. Luckily for us, opposition winger can't cross and put his effort straight into Pepe Reina's arms.

Flat5.png

In this screenshot, the wide midfielder on the right is further up the pitch than on the left, a good start. He should make the run indicated by the black arrow, giving Gerrard the option of the pass indicated by the white arrow. Unfortunately he decides to stay where he is and Gerrard attempts a shot from distance which sails wide of the post.

OnYerBike.png

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Right, now on to our first goal. In the first shot, we see that Alex, my newly signed trequartista has dropped deep to find the space and taken a pass from my CM(d), Meireles. From this point I would have liked to see either one of the wide midfielders make a forward run and occupy one of their wide defenders (I've only just realised that I've forgotten to add the black arrow for the right sided wide midfiedler, screenshot fail :()

Treq.png

Neither of them does, however, but good play from my DLF (Kuyt) sees him drop deep, bringing a central defender with him, take a pass from Alex and quickly move it onto my CM(s) (Gerrard). At this point my right sided WM (Johnson) should be 'on his bike' to stretch their defence even further.

DLF.png

Johnson doesn't make that run, but because of Torres' movement and Gerrard's passing ability we still manage to make something of it. Gerrard threads a pinpoint pass through to Torres who, as you would expect from this position, finishes neatly into the corner. What I can't get over, however, is why both of my wide midfielders are only just over the halfway line.

Poach.png

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