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AK22

Making The Most of Attacking Fullbacks/Wingbacks

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Arguably the most exciting team playing with attacking fullbacks/wingbacks in my lifetime has to be the Brazilian side of the 1990's/2000's, with Cafu and Roberto Carlos bombing down either flank. These guys majorly contributed to the success of this side, making several World Cup appearances, and were both capped well over a 100 times for their country. Having played for major European teams too, they also had distinguished clubs careers, playing well into their late-thirties, thus proving their outstanding fitness and love for the game.

This version of FM, more than ever in my opinion, has made effective wing-play more vital to the success of any team. Many teams are reliant on wingers getting down the flanks, getting to the byline and crossing the ball to the striker(s) in the six-yard box. In previous versions, a more successful formation would be to play a more narrow system and trying to overload the opponent's penalty area. I normally favour a 4-4-2 formation, or a slight variant of, as as a traditionalist, this is how I feel the game should be played. However, when I inherited my Lazio side, there was no way I could use this formation with the players I had (wingers were carp), so had to hit the drawing-board to work out some tactics to use.

My thoughts are, that if done well, you can still achieve success without the need for any wingers in your team, thus relying on your fullbacks/wingbacks to get forward in a similar manner to the way Cafu/Roberto Carlos did. In my current save, in 2023/24 with Lazio, I am having great success with a winger-less formation, utilising my marauding fullbacks as the natural wide players and leaving my creative players to dominant the middle of the park. I do have some quality players in my squad, and have won back-to-back Serie A titles, however, I believe some of the success should be accreditated to the tactics I have employed.

SSLazioLazio_Tactics.png

My DR and DL are not the best players in the world for these positions, in fact they have only been capped 35 times between them by their respective countries. However, they do have the relevant skills to fulfil the duties asked of them and suit the system that I play. Both players are set as wing-back (automatic), with TTB set to mixed, everything else is default. When attacking, these players form a five in midfield behind the two strikers, creating plenty of options for my two creative central midfielders to explore. Opposition fullbacks get distracted by their advance positions, and unless there is a winger tracking back, will be indecisive in whether to move forward and pick up the wing-backs or stay in line with the rest of the defence. If they do move forward, this give my attacking three the opportunity to outnumber the centre-backs and create goalscoring opportunities. Alternatively, if the wingbacks are left unmarked, they can then receive the ball and get the opportunity to fire crosses in from deep, or take on the fullbacks, and try and reach the byline.

Stats-wise my two fullbacks/wingers are not exceptional, however, they do have high ratings in decisions, workrate, positioning, stamina and acceleration, all of which are critical to the role they play. I feel the most important of these is the decisions rating. A poor rating in this field and they would be forgetting their defensive duties and finding themselves at the wrong end of the field at the wrong time. They need to know instinctively whether to defend or to attack.

Three other players play important roles in allowing my fullbacks to be influential in an attacking sense. The defensive midfielder is set up as an anchor man who goes nowhere, and the two centre-backs are set up in a defend/cover combination with zonal marking. The anchor man will sweep up any loose balls in midfield, so there is no need for a stopper who would get in the way and leave my other centre-back exposed to a two-on-one attack. By having the defenders on zonal marking, it will make it harder for the opposition to pull my centre backs out of position, which should send the attacks out wide and give my fullbacks and central midfielders an opportunity to get back before the ball is played into middle.

Obviously, playing this system does have it's pitfalls. With no wingers tracking back for us, it leaves us exposed to the overlapping fullbacks of the opposition. I try to counter this by keeping possession and pressing high up the pitch. This, inturn, can leave to the counter attack where we can be exposed at the back by a quick direct attack. However, with the two centre-backs and the anchor man not going forward, I'm always going to have three players ready to face up the opposition. When playing away to a top team, I'll change from Wingback (automatic) to Fullback (automatic) to ensure their focus is primarily on defence and not caught too far up the field.

I would like to hear other people's opinions on this, as I know a lot of you are favouring formations with wide-midfielder/wingers/inside forward to great success. Are there people using a similiar formation successfully, or have you tried it and failed miserably? I'm sure the success of such formation would be dependant on the players in your squad, and quite possibly, the style of football played in the country you're managing in, so it would be interesting to know about this also :thup:

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Stats-wise my two fullbacks/wingers are not exceptional, however, they do have high ratings in decisions, workrate, positioning, stamina and acceleration, all of which are critical to the role they play. I feel the most important of these is the decisions rating. A poor rating in this field and they would be forgetting their defensive duties and finding themselves at the wrong end of the field at the wrong time. They need to know instinctively whether to defend or to attack.

Agreed, also if you use attacking fullbacks it's quite important that they use the ball well. The last thing you want is your fullback powering 50 yards up the pitch and then laying the ball off to the opponents deep lying playmaker.

I would like to hear other people's opinions on this, as I know a lot of you are favouring formations with wide-midfielder/wingers/inside forward to great success. Are there people using a similiar formation successfully, or have you tried it and failed miserably? I'm sure the success of such formation would be dependant on the players in your squad, and quite possibly, the style of football played in the country you're managing in, so it would be interesting to know about this also :thup:

I haven't used a similar formation no, but with regards to attacking fullbacks and particularly those that become an advanced part of a possession based game, it's incredibly important to set up their ball usage and wide play instructions effectively.

Two very effective but under rated instructions for attacking fullbacks are Hold Up Ball and Cuts Inside. These instructions both tend to get your fullbacks playing the ball infield rather than sprinting down the flank and whipping in a cross, although they achieve this through different means. HUB tells your fullback to slow down a bit and take time to weigh a better option, which will tend to be a midfielder in space, whereas Cut's Inside will ask your fullback to run inside the opponents wide men and produce behaviour more like Evra, or Cole or Roberto Carlos that like to drive at defences almost as wingers or inside forwards.

Genuine attacking fullbacks should always be given the same offensive consideration as any other attacking player, no point telling X fullback to simply "go attacking" if it means he is asked to use his rubbish dribbling skills to sprint down the touchline and use his rubbish Creativity/Technique/Crossing to aim a ball into a packed penalty area.

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I use an almost identical formation: 4-1-3-2 where the middle CM is on attacking duty and the CMs are narrow, leaving only the Wingbacks (auto) on the flanks.

I set up mu pitch to be the narrowest possible and play narrow/through the centre where possible because I try to employ a tight passing game.

My experience might not be very useful to you because I'm a non-league manager with players of very limited ability, particularly mentally.

Nevertheless, both wingbacks frequently get MoM and are clearly key parts of my set-up. They are not blessed with decision-making or, for that matter, defending attributes; however, when caught upfield my DM and DCs compensate well. all my players have 'cross- rarely' - partly because none of my strikers can head (I specialise in nippy little guys) and partly because IRL statistically crosses have a low success rate. The wingbacks will get down the flank and play a short pass inside or (less frequently) play a though ball from deep.

What I think I can say with validity whatever the level you play at, the key to success is not just the quality of the wingbacks, but the players around them. As I've hinted, they thrive because the DM and DCs know how to cover; similarly at the other end my CMs and FCs know how to receive the ball off them to create chances.

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I haven't used a similar formation no, but with regards to attacking fullbacks and particularly those that become an advanced part of a possession based game, it's incredibly important to set up their ball usage and wide play instructions effectively.

Two very effective but under rated instructions for attacking fullbacks are Hold Up Ball and Cuts Inside. These instructions both tend to get your fullbacks playing the ball infield rather than sprinting down the flank and whipping in a cross, although they achieve this through different means. HUB tells your fullback to slow down a bit and take time to weigh a better option, which will tend to be a midfielder in space, whereas Cut's Inside will ask your fullback to run inside the opponents wide men and produce behaviour more like Evra, or Cole or Roberto Carlos that like to drive at defences almost as wingers or inside forwards.

Genuine attacking fullbacks should always be given the same offensive consideration as any other attacking player, no point telling X fullback to simply "go attacking" if it means he is asked to use his rubbish dribbling skills to sprint down the touchline and use his rubbish Creativity/Technique/Crossing to aim a ball into a packed penalty area.

I actually discovered this on FM09 with QPR. I had a right back who was left footed. At times he went down the wing and whipped in a cross but more often than not, he ran at the opposition CBl or LB before laying it off to a striker. He also often ran parallel to the defensive back four inbetween the lines thus dragging the defense out of position as they tried to follow him. He promptly passed the ball to a free striker or layed the ball off to my midfielder who could find the open attacker. It made for great football. It was such a shame that this fullback was actually not that great a player defensively or mentally and thus didn't make the first team regularly.

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Some good valid points so far :thup:

SFraser, I'm interested by the fact you would set the wideplay as 'cut inside'. I can definitely see the benefits of the wingbacks making diagonal runs in behind the defence, however I would be concerned that they would get in the way of some of the more natural attacking players and cause a bit of a bottle-neck on the edge of the penalty area. I suppose you could combat this by adjusting the roles of your strikers to get them to drop deeper/push wider. I would be more inclined to keep them in a natural wide position to create more space in the middle for my three offensive minded midfielders to operate. I completely see the benefits of using the hold up ball command to slow their play down slightly and get them to choose a better option when picking a pass, a player with high mental stats could be deadly in this situation.

phnompenhandy, good to see someone in the lower leagues getting success with a similar formation :) I'm a little surprised that a lower league team could adapt to play in such a way, as as you have stated, the players are normally pretty poor and don't normally have the discipline to play such roles. What do you do in terms of mentality and creative freedom? When playing in the lower leagues I would normally play quite rigidly with no/little creative freedom, whereas to get the most benefits out of your fullbacks I would assume a more fluid approach would be best. I do agree that it is essential that you set up the rest of the team in a way to maximise the benefits you get from a narrow formation ie. getting the defensive roles correct, ensuring the supply to the strikers is complimentary to their attributes.

lucatonix, you state that your points are made on the back of an example on FM09, have you played FM11 to see if you can get the same effect? The reason I ask is that I believe the match engine has significantly advanced over the last two years which has led to some people believing that utilising advanced wingers/inside forwards as the most effective way to attack from wide. From your example, I suppose the wingback cutting in on his stronger foot is similar to how an inside forward would play but starting from a deeper position on the pitch.

It would be good to here other people's experiences of this type of system, especially those playing a 4-2-2-2 formation that's popular in Brazilian football, or if you have been successful without a holding DM, which I think is essential to the success of this.

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Some good valid points so far :thup:

lucatonix, you state that your points are made on the back of an example on FM09, have you played FM11 to see if you can get the same effect? The reason I ask is that I believe the match engine has significantly advanced over the last two years which has led to some people believing that utilising advanced wingers/inside forwards as the most effective way to attack from wide. From your example, I suppose the wingback cutting in on his stronger foot is similar to how an inside forward would play but starting from a deeper position on the pitch.

It would be good to here other people's experiences of this type of system, especially those playing a 4-2-2-2 formation that's popular in Brazilian football, or if you have been successful without a holding DM, which I think is essential to the success of this.

I am playing FM11 at the moment but haven't ever really had the chance to try and use it since quite often I want the FB to give the team width since my team plays quite narrow with wingers coming inside etc...

I don't have the personnel to do such a thing with Arsenal atm since I have no fit full backs above the age of 17 apart from Gibbs who is shocking at defending. At the moment I have even had to abandon using wing backs due to having such trouble in this area. All made worse by the fact that I am playing Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool, Inter twice and Chelsea all in the space of 2 and a half weeks.

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My formation 4-4-2 2 CM 2 WB 2 CM 2 Wingers 2 Strikers

I use both wingers and wing backs in the same formation, wingers to cut inside and wing backs to hug the chalk line, I find that the wingers give an outlet option to the midfield and the WBs and they in turn offer support to the front two strikers

Using a very high creativity mixed with a roam from position strategy, these front four players are a real handful for the defence. With the added option of the WBs sneaking up the line I really do get the best out of all my wide players. I will get my strikers on the wing passing inside to my winger and the poor old defenders just don't know where to turn. Without doubt, the wide play in FM11 is much improved and realistic and it gives us all the opportunity to create more variations of tactics.

I did have a great season with a newgen winger who scored 26 goals and had 20 assists in 33 games. So I am a big fan of the wide players. Pace always, always helps and it would be naive to overlook this but this version of FM beautifully incorporates the skills of dribbling and strength into the winger equation, I have a 6'3 winger with only 13 pace but he is made of iron and has dribbling of 18-19, try getting the ball of this lad...

Good post AK22...

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I can definitely see the benefits of the wingbacks making diagonal runs in behind the defence, however I would be concerned that they would get in the way of some of the more natural attacking players and cause a bit of a bottle-neck on the edge of the penalty area.

That's probably the one of the best things you can get your full backs to do on this version of FM if you're not set up to turn in crosses. Generally, players aren't keen enough to find an overlapping fullback with a pass, so you can't get them playing like Dani Alves and stretching play properly, so, in my opinion at least, the best thing to do is have them run at the defence and try and win a penalty. This is how I get most of my penalties. It works surprisingly well, especially with traditional wingers who do stretch the defence.

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phnompenhandy, good to see someone in the lower leagues getting success with a similar formation :) I'm a little surprised that a lower league team could adapt to play in such a way, as as you have stated, the players are normally pretty poor and don't normally have the discipline to play such roles. What do you do in terms of mentality and creative freedom? When playing in the lower leagues I would normally play quite rigidly with no/little creative freedom, whereas to get the most benefits out of your fullbacks I would assume a more fluid approach would be best. I do agree that it is essential that you set up the rest of the team in a way to maximise the benefits you get from a narrow formation ie. getting the defensive roles correct, ensuring the supply to the strikers is complimentary to their attributes.

They don't have the mental attributes for creative freedom, roaming or fluid philosophies; I stick to balanced/default. My squad is always below the divisional average for flair, too. The movement of the wingbacks is thus fairly predictable - but effective. They take the ball down the line to about level with the penalty area and lay it off to an attacking CM, or slip a longer pass to one of the forwards.

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I managed it by playing a narrow midfield (three CM's) and latterly by playing wingers on their opposite foot, cutting inside and creating room.

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I actually had a bit of an experiment triggered by the success Fabio was getting at LB for my United side. He cut inside so often, scoring and assisting, but I worried that his attributes weren't the most creative and that he was stopping my creative players having space (and even having the ball). So I decided to retrain two of my young, fast, creative DMs as wrong-sided FBs.

They all had decent fullback attributes in pace, dribbling, anticipation, positioning, marking and tackling. But also they had very high passing and creativity stats. I set them up with moderate mentality. Mixed RFD, Mixed RWB (as long as they didn't have the PPM runs with ball), Rare LS, Often TTB and Rare Crossing.

Unfortunately, whilst it worked to a certain extent, I didn't like the way it made my team play so I didn't stick with it. Give it a go though, you may like it.

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Arguably the most exciting team playing with attacking fullbacks/wingbacks in my lifetime has to be the Brazilian side of the 1990's/2000's, with Cafu and Roberto Carlos bombing down either flank. These guys majorly contributed to the success of this side, making several World Cup appearances, and were both capped well over a 100 times for their country. Having played for major European teams too, they also had distinguished clubs careers, playing well into their late-thirties, thus proving their outstanding fitness and love for the game.

To chip in with a tactic that also uses fullbacks a lot for attacking you should look to Uncle Sam's Brazilian 442 thread

KUTGW

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SFraser, I'm interested by the fact you would set the wideplay as 'cut inside'. I can definitely see the benefits of the wingbacks making diagonal runs in behind the defence, however I would be concerned that they would get in the way of some of the more natural attacking players and cause a bit of a bottle-neck on the edge of the penalty area.

Interesting that I should read this thread this morning as this is something I was experimenting with last night. I play a 4231 (MC's/AMLR's) and have Bale as WBL and Modric as AML. Last night I set them both to cut inside (whereas Bale has been normal till recently). WHen one cuts in, the other stays out.......... Which was great. That is what i wanted and it works that way. I am SURE this will have something to do withdecisions, off the ball and team work......

Regards

LAM

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For some reason I can't get my wingback to work the way I want. I'm managing Genoa, so I have Rafinha as DR wingback/attack and Marco Rossi as MR wide midfielder/defend. The idea is that Rossi should align with the other 3 defenders (he has the same mentality as the central defenders and the left fullback) while Rafinha speeds down the wing offering a wide option to the creative midfielders.

What happens instead is that Rafinha stops running when he gets to the height of Rossi, and the action keeps going without anybody pushing down that flank until the ball reaches the outskirts of the box, then one of them eventually would decide to make an useless run =/

The setup of the team:

GK Goalkeeper / D

DR Wingback / A (tweak: hug touchline)

DCR Central Defender / D

DCL Central Defender / D

DL Fullback / D

DM Deep Lying Playmaker / S [primary playmaker]

MCR Central Midfielder / A or Advanced Playmaker / A

MCL Ball Winning Midfielder / S (tweak: cross rarely)

MR Wide Midfielder / D

AML Winger / A

ST Advanced Forward / A (tweak: cross rarely) [target man]

Balanced, Standard, More Disciplined, Zonal Marking, Drill Crosses

time wasting @ last notch of sometimes before often

Basically it should look like a 4-1-4-1 (DR, DCR, DCL, DL; DM; MR, MCR, MCL, AML; ST) when defending and 4-2-3-1 (MR, DCR, DCL, DL; DM, MCL; DR, MCR, AML; ST) when attacking. The defending phase works as intended, the attacking one is a failure.

Any idea?

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Pakito,

Check the following... Are the WB's set to "run from deep = often" ? Do they bunch up with your wide midfielders in the attacking phase ? Are you losing possession when in the attack phase ? Have you given the enough attacking clicks on the sliders ?

Also "run with ball = sometimes or often" will help a bit.

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Pakito,

Check the following... Are the WB's set to "run from deep = often" ? Do they bunch up with your wide midfielders in the attacking phase ? Are you losing possession when in the attack phase ? Have you given the enough attacking clicks on the sliders ?

Also "run with ball = sometimes or often" will help a bit.

WBR's "run from deep" and "run with ball" are both on often, has the same mentality as my AML and ST (last click of "normal" before "attacking"), plus "cross from byline" on "often", yet yes, it basically stops the forward runs when he gets next to the wide midfielder instead of overlapping... I don't necessarily lose possession, just the right wing is left completely empty so the ball always has to go thru the center or the left =/

I'm gonna try to give him an even more attacking mentality, but I find it strange cause with the same exact settings when I play 4-3-1-2 the wingbacks constantly bomb up all the way to the byline as they should =/

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Bah, strike everything, it just clicked now on its own without touching anything. 9 crosses (for comparison the left winger got 4) of which 1 assist, 8.3 rating... maybe it just needed some time for the tactic to get working properly and I'm still in preseason.

Here's some screenshots from the analysis (average position and crosses), see the difference between the first 3 and the 4th match:

http://img809.imageshack.us/img809/6498/1bmcross.png

http://img190.imageshack.us/img190/493/1bmpos.png

http://img706.imageshack.us/img706/4519/2mucross.png

http://img33.imageshack.us/img33/2081/2mupos.png

http://img189.imageshack.us/img189/5953/3osacross.png

http://img818.imageshack.us/img818/1116/3osapos.png

http://img5.imageshack.us/img5/1395/4galacross.png

http://img580.imageshack.us/img580/6697/4galapos.png

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Forgive me if I'm not speaking the same language here, but could you not just put Rossi at RB and play Rafinha at RM? That's the sort of behaviour you want right? You could then have them swap positions maybe?

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Well, two things:

1. Most importantly, I want to see the overlapping happening cause it's beautiful :D

2. Plus, second season and further, with the team getting better, I'm gonna add the option of using an inside forward/advanced playmaker in Rossi's place (El Shaarawy), while still keeping the attacking wingback, with the back line switching between 4 men when defending and 3 when in possession... basically having a more defensive setup for the hard games and a more attacking one for the easy ones. So I'd rather keep the overlapping wingback in the defensive tactic for consistency reasons =)

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Well, two things:

1. Most importantly, I want to see the overlapping happening cause it's beautiful :D

2. Plus, second season and further, with the team getting better, I'm gonna add the option of using an inside forward/advanced playmaker in Rossi's place (El Shaarawy), while still keeping the attacking wingback, with the back line switching between 4 men when defending and 3 when in possession... basically having a more defensive setup for the hard games and a more attacking one for the easy ones. So I'd rather keep the overlapping wingback in the defensive tactic for consistency reasons =)

But having Rossi position himself in line with the rest of your defense whilst Rafinha plays as the right winger isn't really overlapping. I thought overlapping was when the wide midfielder is in a reasonable attacking position and the wing back runs past him thus either taking away the defender or leaving a free wing back to whip in a cross.

What you have described in your second point is I think an example overlapping run.

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Hopefully someone can help me with my L/RB's, whenever i see the replay of goals i concede my L/RB are always in the center of the park, their never out wide watching the player who's cutting in from the wing and they get in behind and either score or set up the goal and i've tried everything in the players instructions but nothing works.

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Hopefully someone can help me with my L/RB's, whenever i see the replay of goals i concede my L/RB are always in the center of the park, their never out wide watching the player who's cutting in from the wing and they get in behind and either score or set up the goal and i've tried everything in the players instructions but nothing works.

Have you tried lowering their closing down to about 4 so it reads as "own area" this helps to stop them being pulled out of position and zonal marking also helps to keep them in the right place...

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Have you tried lowering their closing down to about 4 so it reads as "own area" this helps to stop them being pulled out of position and zonal marking also helps to keep them in the right place...

Tried this as well but still getting taken out of position, it never happened when i was in lower leagues then as soon as i got to prem my defence as gone to pot.

Even tried it with better teams and still same issues

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What formation are you playing? Perhaps it is because they are being doubled up on. If so then it's not the FBs fault but the tactic allowing them to be exploited. In the Prem the opposition is better and so are able to exploit this more effectively. If this is the problem you need the wingers if you have any to do more work defensively. If you don't have any then you need your outside CMs to move outwide at times to help out the full back (hence increase their closing down).

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What formation are you playing? Perhaps it is because they are being doubled up on. If so then it's not the FBs fault but the tactic allowing them to be exploited. In the Prem the opposition is better and so are able to exploit this more effectively. If this is the problem you need the wingers if you have any to do more work defensively. If you don't have any then you need your outside CMs to move outwide at times to help out the full back (hence increase their closing down).

Or you need to play a defensive midfielder to cover for the fullback when he leaves or pressure players that double up on him. A defensive midfielder can give astonishing improvements to your defense and if you have the right player can still contribute to your offence quite nicely.

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I'm playing 4-1-3-2. My midfielders help the back four out and help cover the FB's but they are still coming into the center of the box and getting in between the CB's.

My last match against West Brom my LB is out wide and instead of picking up the man he just stands there and lets him receive the ball and the ball goes to other side of pitch and then instead of tracking back with that player he walks into the middle of the 6 yard box and i then concede a goal from where he should have been.

When the ball was switched to the other side my RB is in field as well not picking anyone up out wide either

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Also last season when in the championship i beat Spurs, Arsenal and Wolves from the prem in League cup and they had full strength teams and this issue didn't happen, just happens when im in the prem, two seasons back let in 107 goals because of this and letting goals in from corners

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Fbs do get beaten. What your FB might be doing is realising he's lost the battle and come inside to pick up a spare man so that CB can go over.

If the CB has too low closing down, he's less likely to shift across to cover a beaten FB.

Just a suggestion.

There's also the possibility that your FB is just a bit rubbish :D

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AK22...many thanks for a great post.

I have been struggling for months to make a Diamond 4-4-2 that works a la Norwich City/Paul Lambert, and I used your tactic as my basis for a new save with Oldham and its working a dream. I kept your Team Settings, Defence and Anchor man settings as you described, and I tweaked the GK to sweeper keeper with shortest passing, no creative freedom and defender collect to help keep the possession game.

For the centre mids I went CM - support, the AMC I vary between lazy flair merchant TQ or hard working AMC depending on who's fit, and the striker roles seem to work best as Poacher for the pacy, less rounded striker type and Advanced Forward for strikers with better all round ability and experience. No OI, use shouts like Retain possession, pass to feet and work ball into box when ahead and wanting to boss a game/see it out.

Thanks for the inspiration.

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