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Cleon

The Art of Counter Attacking

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This is taken from my blog https://teaandbusquets.com/blog/

There seems to be a lot of confusion with regards to creating a pure counter attacking tactic on Football Manager. I’m not sure why it seems a big issue, especially in the past week, the amount of articles, threads or posts all discussing it they all seem to follow a theme were the people discussing it are confused. So hopefully this article will go a long way to fixing that and teach you the basics of using a pure counter attacking tactic. When thinking about counter attacking football I always think of this quote;

Quote
The accent in the counter attack style of play lays on the defensive team function, with the emphasis being on the defender’s own half of the field and letting the opponents keep the initiative of the game. This is to take advantage of the space behind their defense for the buildup and the attack. – Rinus Michels

Counter attacking football can seem risky at times but it doesn’t have to be. But in order for it to be successful you need every player on the same page and in defence you can’t afford a player who has the potential to be a weak link. It requires you to sit deep and at times, to absorb pressure. That’s why you need to have players who are actually capable of this and ensure they won’t lose concentration, as that it can become problematic.

In order to use it as a full-time strategy it also requires the players to be positioned correctly, this means most of them all back in their own half, bar one or two as a rule. The idea behind counter attacking is you allow the opposition time on the ball and allow them to advance and attack you. This means that when they do and they over commit, you might win the ball back, then you can sprint forward with numbers and try to use this to your advantage due to the opposition giving up space in behind.

So in short counter attack is;

Sitting deep in your own half and staying sturdy in defence. Then when winning the ball back and the opposition has over commit men forward, launching explosive counter attacks to take advantage of the space they’ve left behind. It really is this simple.

So how do we translate this into Football Manager?

Under the hood of the sophisticated match engine (or none sophisticated depending on which side of the fence you are on) counter attacks are triggered automatically on Football Manager. For those of you who remember the old slider system then you’ll recall the old ‘tick box’ for counter attacks. In old terms, the impact of the counter box being ticked was that a counter attack was started when there were less than X opposing players between the ball carrier and the opposing goal. Ticking the box meant that X was a bigger number than with the box unticked, making it more likely that a team tried to catch the opposition on the break when winning back the ball. Well this still exists but is all done under the hood now and has been since the swap over from the sliders to the tactics creator. Most of you will know this already but some might not, that’s the reason for mentioning it.

On top of all of that, these three mentality structures, defensive, counter and overload all lower the threshold of what triggers a counter attack. The defensive and counter mentality structures are very similar the main difference is that the counter mentality is more geared to winning the ball back slight higher up the pitch, so can seem a little more aggressive. So regardless of how you’ve set up with the instructions visible to you, all of this is going on underneath the hood (every time I say Hood I always think of Thunderbirds!)of the game.

On Football Manager 16 there have been quite a few changes that have a positive effect on counter attacking football. The Hand of God wrote about them briefly on SI recently, so I’ll quote him here and save myself a bit of time;

Quote
In addition to that, now all team shape settings incorporate mentality differences between duties (just like the old Flexible setting used to work). So on any Team Shape setting, you should generally see more risk taking and more aggressive positioning from an Attack duty midfielder compared to a Support duty midfielder. One consequence of this is that your duties will have a greater influence on your overall style of play. A team full of Support duties will be far more possession-oriented whereas a team full of Attack duties will try to initiate attacks with much more urgency.

Second, counterattacking has been significantly improved compared to the last several versions. If you’ve tried to play a more tactical game on FM14 or FM15, you may have noticed that it could be a struggle to sit deep and get out of your own half against an aggressive opponent. Play was too focused on what goes on in the final third with certain attributes not being properly utilised in transition play. Now, you will have a much easier time punishing teams that recklessly throw numbers forward, and you’ll also find that implementing different styles requires giving greater attention to player skill sets. On the counter, pace kills, though one-dimensional pace merchants are now more prone to poor touches and errant passes if you try to play it out of the back with a less technical side.

If you take the basics of what we’ve spoke about so far then you’ll realise you need to play in your own half, so this means using a shape that allows you to have numbers in your own half. So the shape you use to make this into a proper strategy is important. One of the more common shapes used for counter attacking football is the 4-5-1. Other good shapes to use are 3-5-2 and the 4-1-4-1. These are all good shapes to use because they pack the defensive position well and the midfield. This means that when you win the ball back you should have players well placed for counter attacks. I’ve just started a new saved game so I can do this little project and the tactic I’ll be using is the 4-1-4-1 because it suits my players. Taking the changes highlighted above for Football Manager 16 into account we should already have an idea of what kind of duties we should be looking at. I’m not to sure how many of you pay attention to the roles and duties the AI uses via various skins and add-ons but as a rule they tend to line up something like this with regards to attack duties;

  • 0-1 in defensive and counter.
  • 2 attacking duties in standard.
  • 3 in control.
  • 4 in attack.
  • 5 in overload.

When thinking about our own duties we should think along a similar path if we are trying to create something specific like a defensive or counter attacking strategy and plan on using it for the full ninety minutes. I don’t believe it matters as much if you are going for a different style or approach but for counter and defensive systems then attack duties should be limited. On a counter system I find it best to never go beyond two attack duties, any more and I feel you lose the balance of the side. Remember that the mentality structure you use sets the team’s baseline as a whole. I think this is where some people (and rightly so) get confused because they then think an attacking duty isn’t aggressive in their approach. That would be a wrong assumption, it’s still an aggressive role it’s just less aggressive than in an attacking mentality structure and so on. As the attack duty will further alter the default base line and make them positioned more advanced because it alters the individual mentality structure of the player and other settings. You can most of these on the individual player instructions screen where you can set the players PI’s. So it’s worth remembering that at the end of the day, an attack duty is still attack minded.

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Before we look at the shape and break it down to see how and why it works, I’d also like to point out the attributes I would look for if I was squad building long-term to play this style of football. I’ll not list every single attribute because no doubt you’ll all have your own ideas. But as a general list here is what I’d go for;

Technical Attributes

  • Crossing – Whether it is from deep or the by-line, it’s a weapon that you can use to devastating effects. An early cross to an attacker can instantly put the opposition onto the back foot. It’s something your wide players should have in their locker.
  • Dribbling – To take advantage of any space that appears you’ll want players who are able to bring the ball forward. It’s important for anyone who will breaking from deep with the ball at their feet.
  • First Touch – When a player receives the ball you want to be confident his touch doesn’t kill the move right?
  • Technique – This goes with the above really. You need to know players are comfortable with the ball at their feet and can use the ball well. A bad technique player could hinder a counter attacking tactic as it means he isn’t good with the ball at his feet. This can impact any kind of difficult passes or passes in general what require a bit of range.

Mental Attributes

  • Aggression – Players should want to be involved in everything. This can also help with winning the ball back early and starting quick counter attacks.
  • Bravery – You don’t want players who bottle it when trying to win the ball back early do you?
  • Off The Ball – Movement is the key to all attacking formations and play. If an attacking player has a low rating then he’ll be less likely to find a little bit of space and make the right movement to beat his marker before he receives the goal. Sometimes it can be the difference that gives you that extra yard.
  • Work rate – Players will need to work hard both in defence and attacking situations. They will be up and down the field all day long, so should be prepared to put in the hard graft.
  • Team Work – You need to play as a unit and this requires everyone on the same page. You can’t always afford to have a selfish player in this type of strategy as they can make moves break down.

Physical Attributes

  • Pace – Especially for players who like to drive forward and beat their man. It’s important for me that they can reach the top speed. Plus the players will be back and forth all match long.
  • Acceleration – This will provide that little edge in gaining an extra yard on the opposition. This and pace are very important.
  • Stamina – As the players will be up and down a lot, they need to be fit.
  • Strength – Having a high attribute for this will ensure he can hold his own against the opposition should they get close to each other. You don’t want your players to get out muscled and knocked off the ball. It will also help you win the ball back.

I appreciate not everyone will have those attributes but that’s why at the beginning I mentioned if I was squad building long-term.

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The Roles

So far we’ve covered the basics of counter attacking football but I’ve missed one important bit of information out so far and the reason for that is, I wanted to talk about it when talking about the player roles as it will make more sense then. When a counter attack is initiated underneath the game what happens is for the players involved in that phase of play, they will see their tempo, mentality and passing all maxed out. So regardless of how you’ve set them up (that’s the important bit here) all of that will go out of the window if the player is involved in the counter attack phase of play. This is why you don’t have to be cavalier in your approach and is the main reason you can have players back behind the ball.

Defence

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It’s a pretty standard back six really with no obvious issues. The only odd thing might be why I selected a wingback for the right sided player but that’s simple, he’s my best player and is very attack minded. While I want to play counter attacking I still want the star players to shine if possible. He will play slightly beyond the rest of the back three when attacking but in front of him he also has a quality player who is focused on defensive duties and more than capable of offsetting his more attack mindedness in terms of the attributes the player has.

The rest of the set up is to keep players behind the ball and to rigid defensively and not allow big gaps to appear or for players to get pulled out of position. My choice of an anchorman for the defensive midfield spot was down to the style I’m trying to create. As I’m building a counter attacking set up I also increase the risk of counter attacks as I commit men forward during these phases. So I wanted someone who was focused on just defending and screening the back four. I don’t want to leave myself open, which is always a risk if you don’t get the correct balance. I believe this choice of role gives me this balance.

Midfield

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It’s important they all play as a solid unit and as a solid bank of four. This set up allows that for the defensive phases of play but in attack phases they should also support the lone striker. The box to box midfielder is important because he is the main link up play from the midfield to attack and is the one who will be the first support player. The others should all support him too though and all offer something different. The wide midfielders should offer a crossing threat, the box to box player will look to get alongside and beyond the striker. Then the supportive central midfielder should be a deeper option who offers support to the box to box player.

Attack

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This is the tricky part of a defensive or counter attacking system that relies on the use of a lone striker. If the striker is too deep then he might struggle to penetrate the opposition's defence. If he’s too high he might get isolated from everyone else due to them being lower down the pitch. It’s difficult to find the right balance here so it’s important you pay attention to him during a game some how. This is the only role in the whole tactic that I do change. If I see that the opposition are sat deep then I’ll use the deep lying forward on an attack duty to occupy the defenders. He still comes deep and creates but he is also an handful for the opposition and doesn’t make life easy for them.

However if I see the opposition are playing a high line then I mix things up and take a slightly different approach.

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I use a defensive striker on a defend duty. This might seem a strange choice for some so let me try and explain my reasonings. When the opposition play with a high line the space I have to exploit is in behind them, so it would make more sense to go with an attack minded striker who can use that space. However remember what I’m trying to create here and the rest of my roles in the setup. I’m conservative at the best of times with this tactic so if I played with an attack minded striker I’d feel he wasn’t involved and would be isolated as the oppositions defender would be high up the pitch and in turn this means less space than usual for my midfielders.

So by using a defensive forward I use someone who is a bit of a pitbull, charging around and harassing the opposition's defenders giving them less time on the ball and he doesn’t really allow them to play out from the back. This is important because if you allow high defensive lines time on the ball you get pinned in your own half because it’s easy for them to dictate the game from the back, if they’re unpressurised. This gets rid of that to some extent and brings the striker closer to the midfield and therefore can force mistakes and errors that can lead to the opposition doing misplaced or rushed passes/clearances. At times this can lead to counter attacks for myself.

I must point out though that I only use this approach in the defensive and counter strategies. In more attack minded ones it makes more sense to do the reverse.

Team instructions and player instructions

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As you can see, I don’t use any. The same can be said about the player instructions too, I have none. The reason behind this is I wanted to create something simple to show you all the basic ideas of how to approach this type of football. I also believe that TI’s and PI’s should only be used if you are trying to create a specific brand of football or if you want to refine player actions and their roles. Or you can use them as tools to change games around. Many people (especially on FM16) seem to use every single possible team instruction from the start. But that’s pointless for a number of reasons and one of the main ones is, how do they know or understand how all the TI’s or PI’s all link together and change the original structure? In almost all cases they don’t understand the impact each of them have but instead they use them because they think ‘you have to’. Well you don’t. Use them to create specific styles or to refine things never use them without a proper valid reason. Also understand the impact these will have on how your side currently plays. A proper understanding is needed so you know how the changes you applied work.

So shall we now get on with the match analysis and show you how it all works and why?

This is a game I played against a very strong Newcastle United side in the cup. As I’ve only created this particular save to demonstrate how to play counter attacking football, I’m still in the first season, so I’m in League One still.

6.jpeg?resize=474%2C203&ssl=1

For this game I decided to use a defensive forward for the reasons mentioned earlier in the post. Newcastle have six players inside my half as they try to attack me in this move. As you can see my back four looks pretty solid and because I use an anchor man, when the box to box midfielder steps up to deal with threat, I still have a four man midfield.

A little later in the move;

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I still have a very strong and disciplined back four who are holding their position. The midfield although not as a solid flat bank of four, is still structurally strong and dealing with the threat of Newcastle. There is no immediate threat, not even if they switch play to the other side as my team will just shift across to deal with the danger. I also have all ten outfield players back in this screenshot. You can see how deep the defensive forward is coming which is making him closer to his team mates, which prevents isolation.  The move comes to nothing in the end due to the offside.

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This screenshot highlights the risky side of counter attacking football and why you need the defence to be sturdy and strong. It also shows why I had an anchorman in the side. Look at the positioning of the box to box midfielder, look how far up the pitch he is due to a move breaking down. Unless he is Superman or has The Flash’s speed then realistically he is never going to get back into position. If you don’t compensate for things like this then it leaves you exposed because someone else would have to deal with his defensive responsibilities, which then means someone has to cover for that player and so on. Then before you know it, the whole defensive unit is trying to do someone else's job rather than their own. Luckily I already accounted for this with the inclusion of the anchorman. No matter what system you use it will have flaws or players who will at times fail to recover their positions when the ball is lost, so you need to take things like this into consideration when handing out roles and duties. This is what balance is all about, masking your weaknesses.

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This is the start of a triggered counter attacking move because Newcastle commit five men forward deep inside my own half here. When my defender gets the ball he immediately hits it long to the defensive forward who turns and runs into space. He’s smart here though as he doesn’t do it with great urgency because he knows his teammates are in support.

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Look how quickly we commit men forward. Newcastle’s midfield and defence are disjointed and caught out of position. The defensive forward isn’t in any rush either because he’s on a defensive duty. Due to his, he held the ball up rather than running far with it, just long enough to play in his team mates. Sadly my box to box midfielder doesn’t have great attributes and his first touch is heavy here so gives possession away. But still, it’s a great example of counter attacking football.

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Those are the shots from the game. The four blocked shots that I had (the red dots) were all from free kicks. Newcastle's were all from open play apart from one of their blocked ones. As you can see, they were frustrated at times due to all the bodies I had in my own half. It’s hard to break down a side who defend stubbornly. So some of those efforts Newcastle has that are off target, was down to frustrations due to lack of space opening. That’s good because it means my defence was working how I expected.

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That’s the result and the match stats for the game. Not bad for a little League One side.

The article is dragging on now at almost 4k words. But if people are interested in seeing more on this subject then let me know and I’ll see if I can update and add more when I have the time.

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Awesome, this is the post I've been waiting 10 years for!!

I've slated the game over the years for not really being able to handle counter attacking or defensive tactics.. but more than likely I've just been setting them up wrong. There has always been confusion over how many attacking roles were necessary or what was needed to get players involved in counter attacks.

Funnily enough in my Pulis playthrough this year I've created a very similar tactic, and its working amazingly. I was worried about what role to pick for the striker, as you say, don't want them isolated or too deep. a DLF with attack role or support role seems to work really well, dependant on the player.

Possibly 2016 simply works better with counter tactics however.

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Awesome, this is the post I've been waiting 10 years for!!

I've slated the game over the years for not really being able to handle counter attacking or defensive tactics.. but more than likely I've just been setting them up wrong. There has always been confusion over how many attacking roles were necessary or what was needed to get players involved in counter attacks.

Funnily enough in my Pulis playthrough this year I've created a very similar tactic, and its working amazingly. I was worried about what role to pick for the striker, as you say, don't want them isolated or too deep. a DLF with attack role or support role seems to work really well, dependant on the player.

Possibly 2016 simply works better with counter tactics however.

I'll not lie, you was the main reason for me writing this after seeing your posts over the past few weeks :D

Next up is the possession issue people seem to have I think. I just need to find the time.

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I'll not lie, you was the main reason for me writing this after seeing your posts over the past few weeks :D

Next up is the possession issue people seem to have I think. I just need to find the time.

Thanks, a lot of the discussion on here has helped me to amend my tactics a bit and its really improved them. I've now gone from my usual 3/4 attack duties, down to 1 or sometimes even 0. I really like the solidity of that, I was always too scared to try that before, but if I consider the style I want to achieve it makes a lot of sense.

You are allowed to comment on that thread as well you know! :D

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This is bloody fantastic. Simple tactic that works perfectly, proving that balance is the key to success. I always tend to use more attacking duties, but seeing this, I am going to rethink my duty selection when creating a new tactic. Could you please post goals from Newcastle match on youtube? I'm curious to see if any of them came from actual counter-attacks.

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Great stuff. Please sticky this, at least for the time being.

For me, the thing I always think when I see people post "counter attacking" tactics asking for help is they try to use TIs and player roles to tell the players how to counter - when they should actually be using the TIs and roles to tell the players how to play when they are not on the counter, as the ME selects how to play during a counter attack. I think that's where a lot of the confusion lies.

Good job Cleon.

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Next up is the possession issue people seem to have I think. I just need to find the time.

Now that you mentioned this, I would really like to see similar posts about possession and pressing. Think Pep Guardiola :D

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Thanks, a lot of the discussion on here has helped me to amend my tactics a bit and its really improved them. I've now gone from my usual 3/4 attack duties, down to 1 or sometimes even 0. I really like the solidity of that, I was always too scared to try that before, but if I consider the style I want to achieve it makes a lot of sense.

You are allowed to comment on that thread as well you know! :D

I honestly wish I had more time to help everyone. Busy time for me atm with the blog and I've just started writing for a really big football site.

This is bloody fantastic. Simple tactic that works perfectly, proving that balance is the key to success. I always tend to use more attacking duties, but seeing this, I am going to rethink my duty selection when creating a new tactic. Could you please post goals from Newcastle match on youtube? I'm curious to see if any of them came from actual counter-attacks.

First was a set piece. Second one was a kind of counter but not as you expect I guess. It was triggered because we had men forward already so it came down to a simple ball from my fullback. And the third was a brilliantly worked one;

[video=youtube_share;9_f9cgf019w]

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Due to the changes in fluidity this year, with very fluid being more compact and very rigid being more spaced out, how would you reconcile the need for a compact team shape with the need for a disciplined team approach? Fluid or very fluid would appear to be ideal for a counter attacking tactic since we want the team to be a compact defensive unit with all players contributing, however, fluid and very fluid have generous creative freedom structures which would seem go against what a counter tactic is looking to achieve.

Would balanced with a "be more disciplined" shout be the best compromise in your opinion?

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Great stuff. Please sticky this, at least for the time being.

For me, the thing I always think when I see people post "counter attacking" tactics asking for help is they try to use TIs and player roles to tell the players how to counter - when they should actually be using the TIs and roles to tell the players how to play when they are not on the counter, as the ME selects how to play during a counter attack. I think that's where a lot of the confusion lies.

Good job Cleon.

Cheers Herne :). I think people at times try and create a style without knowing how the style they tweaked worked. Or they just assume it will work with all the TI's. That's why I like to strip it all back and cover the basics, then if people want to make a more ambitious counter attacking style then atleast they have a solid foundation to work from. Some people just dive straight in without that I feel.

Now that you mentioned this, I would really like to see similar posts about possession and pressing. Think Pep Guardiola :D

haha it'll more than likely be based on why people struggle to have high possession in aggressive mentality structured tactics and show them how to achieve it. This will take some time though as I don't want to ruin my save game (by ruins I mean, I've designed and developed to play a very set way currently) so I'll need to create a new save to demonstrate this.

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Due to the changes in fluidity this year, with very fluid being more compact and very rigid being more spaced out, how would you reconcile the need for a compact team shape with the need for a disciplined team approach? Fluid or very fluid would appear to be ideal for a counter attacking tactic since we want the team to be a compact defensive unit with all players contributing, however, fluid and very fluid have generous creative freedom structures which would seem go against what a counter tactic is looking to achieve.

Would balanced with a "be more disciplined" shout be the best compromise in your opinion?

The fault with that is by going more fluid everyone thinks they can be more creative. It's only a small increase but none the less. Having someone decide to do a hollywood pass or dwell on the ball at the wrong time and the whole counter function falls apart. So you need to consider if your players are really intelligent enough to play in a more fluid system and be trusted to use their own judgement. For me that's always a risk regardless, so I prefer the rigid to flexible route instead. Keep things simple and it means you are still in control of what you instructed the player to do. For me a bit more space between players is fine aslong as they do what I've instructed. Also remember I'm on a lower end mentality structure so players are closer together with the roles they have anyway. I still want them to have space to work in and more importantly I still need the opponents to use this space against me because my whole approach relies on it. If I close that out, then how can I effectively counter?

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This is taken from my blog http://sisportscentre.com

There seems to be a lot of confusion with regards to creating a pure counter attacking tactic on Football Manager. I’m not sure why it seems a big issue, especially in the past week, the amount of articles, threads or posts all discussing it they all seem to follow a theme were the people discussing it are confused. So hopefully this article will go a long way to fixing that and teach you the basics of using a pure counter attacking tactic. When thinking about counter attacking football I always think of this quote;

Counter attacking football can seem risky at times but it doesn’t have to be. But in order for it to be successful you need every player on the same page and in defence you can’t afford a player who has the potential to be a weak link. It requires you to sit deep and at times, to absorb pressure. That’s why you need to have players who are actually capable of this and ensure they won’t lose concentration, as that it can become problematic.

In order to use it as a full-time strategy it also requires the players to be positioned correctly, this means most of them all back in their own half, bar one or two as a rule. The idea behind counter attacking is you allow the opposition time on the ball and allow them to advance and attack you. This means that when they do and they over commit, you might win the ball back, then you can sprint forward with numbers and try to use this to your advantage due to the opposition giving up space in behind.

So in short counter attack is;

Sitting deep in your own half and staying sturdy in defence. Then when winning the ball back and the opposition has over commit men forward, launching explosive counter attacks to take advantage of the space they’ve left behind. It really is this simple.

So how do we translate this into Football Manager?

Under the hood of the sophisticated match engine (or none sophisticated depending on which side of the fence you are on) counter attacks are triggered automatically on Football Manager. For those of you who remember the old slider system then you’ll recall the old ‘tick box’ for counter attacks. In old terms, the impact of the counter box being ticked was that a counter attack was started when there were less than X opposing players between the ball carrier and the opposing goal. Ticking the box meant that X was a bigger number than with the box unticked, making it more likely that a team tried to catch the opposition on the break when winning back the ball. Well this still exists but is all done under the hood now and has been since the swap over from the sliders to the tactics creator. Most of you will know this already but some might not, that’s the reason for mentioning it.

On top of all of that, these three mentality structures, defensive, counter and overload all lower the threshold of what triggers a counter attack. The defensive and counter mentality structures are very similar the main difference is that the counter mentality is more geared to winning the ball back slight higher up the pitch, so can seem a little more aggressive. So regardless of how you’ve set up with the instructions visible to you, all of this is going on underneath the hood (every time I say Hood I always think of Thunderbirds!)of the game.

On Football Manager 16 there have been quite a few changes that have a positive effect on counter attacking football. The Hand of God wrote about them briefly on SI recently, so I’ll quote him here and save myself a bit of time;

If you take the basics of what we’ve spoke about so far then you’ll realise you need to play in your own half, so this means using a shape that allows you to have numbers in your own half. So the shape you use to make this into a proper strategy is important. One of the more common shapes used for counter attacking football is the 4-5-1. Other good shapes to use are 3-5-2 and the 4-1-4-1. These are all good shapes to use because they pack the defensive position well and the midfield. This means that when you win the ball back you should have players well placed for counter attacks. I’ve just started a new saved game so I can do this little project and the tactic I’ll be using is the 4-1-4-1 because it suits my players. Taking the changes highlighted above for Football Manager 16 into account we should already have an idea of what kind of duties we should be looking at. I’m not to sure how many of you pay attention to the roles and duties the AI uses via various skins and add-ons but as a rule they tend to line up something like this with regards to attack duties;

  • 0-1 in defensive and counter.
  • 2 attacking duties in standard.
  • 3 in control.
  • 4 in attack.
  • 5 in overload.

When thinking about our own duties we should think along a similar path if we are trying to create something specific like a defensive or counter attacking strategy and plan on using it for the full ninety minutes. I don’t believe it matters as much if you are going for a different style or approach but for counter and defensive systems then attack duties should be limited. On a counter system I find it best to never go beyond two attack duties, any more and I feel you lose the balance of the side. Remember that the mentality structure you use sets the team’s baseline as a whole. I think this is where some people (and rightly so) get confused because they then think an attacking duty isn’t aggressive in their approach. That would be a wrong assumption, it’s still an aggressive role it’s just less aggressive than in an attacking mentality structure and so on. As the attack duty will further alter the default base line and make them positioned more advanced because it alters the individual mentality structure of the player and other settings. You can most of these on the individual player instructions screen where you can set the players PI’s. So it’s worth remembering that at the end of the day, an attack duty is still attack minded.

With these changes you talk about, would you in a defensive set-up have a back four all on Defend duties. I know other people talk about needing to play through lines and needing movement?

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This is a great article, thanks Cleon for writing this. I just got Brentford promoted to the Premier League, so I can use any help possible to keep them up.

Just one small question about your tactics: why do you use Wide Midfielders for the LM/RM roles instead of classic Wingers? What are the advantages/disadvantages of each?

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With these changes you talk about, would you in a defensive set-up have a back four all on Defend duties. I know other people talk about needing to play through lines and needing movement?

Why all four on defensive? How did you reach that conclusion? I'd just use the base I highlighted above for the counter set up. That's why throughout I mentioned defensive and counter setups and not just counter. It's because both are really similar. If you can get either a counter attacking or defensive tactic to work then you can easily do the same with the other. Just think of them in the same way but remember everything will be slightly lower if on a defensive structure.

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This is a great article, thanks Cleon for writing this. I just got Brentford promoted to the Premier League, so I can use any help possible to keep them up.

Just one small question about your tactics: why do you use Wide Midfielders for the LM/RM roles instead of classic Wingers? What are the advantages/disadvantages of each?

A wingers bread and butter is putting crosses into the box and getting to the byline. I don't have numbers around the box to feed off a crossing game so the striker would be isolated as he drops deep. I also don't have the immediate goal threat from midfield either. So I prefer a WM who isn't really good at one job specifically but does a bit of everything. Think James Milner, he can do a bit of everything but his workrate aside you couldn't list anything he excelled at. This is kinda the same logic :)

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First was a set piece. Second one was a kind of counter but not as you expect I guess. It was triggered because we had men forward already so it came down to a simple ball from my fullback. And the third was a brilliantly worked one;

I really like second one, while third one lacks the beginning of the counter. :( Execution was perfect in the final third.

haha it'll more than likely be based on why people struggle to have high possession in aggressive mentality structured tactics and show them how to achieve it. This will take some time though as I don't want to ruin my save game (by ruins I mean, I've designed and developed to play a very set way currently) so I'll need to create a new save to demonstrate this.

Just stating what I'd actually love to read :D

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I really like second one, while third one lacks the beginning of the counter. :( Execution was perfect in the final third.

Just stating what I'd actually love to read :D

They always miss important bits off the clip highlights unless you do it manually. I've just done the full move for you though, but it's just a normal well worked goal :)

[video=youtube_share;oUMybk1xc1Y]

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Do you recommend inverted feet for the Wide Midfielders (right footed player at LM) or a classical setup (right footed player at RM)? If they don't cross a lot then inverted should make some sense, right?

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Do you recommend inverted feet for the Wide Midfielders (right footed player at LM) or a classical setup (right footed player at RM)? If they don't cross a lot then inverted should make some sense, right?

They do cross though, like I pointed out above they do bits of everything. You can go inverted if you want I guess but why complicate something that is about simplifying things? Some times I think people try being far too clever and complicating things needlessly. If the user is comfortable with how his system works and can see a benefit in it then sure, but I can't see the point in adding an extra layer of complexity when it offers no real benefit in this system. But maybe that's just me :D

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Why all four on defensive? How did you reach that conclusion? I'd just use the base I highlighted above for the counter set up. That's why throughout I mentioned defensive and counter setups and not just counter. It's because both are really similar. If you can get either a counter attacking or defensive tactic to work then you can easily do the same with the other. Just think of them in the same way but remember everything will be slightly lower if on a defensive structure.

Ok. I play slightly differently, I use a 4-4-1-1 working as 4-2-3-1. Away from home I will either use the 4-4-1-1 on Standard or 4-4-1-1DM on counter. As a genral set-up though I would have 3 attack duties, one would be my WB, one is my Winger and my Tq. Would you advise me changing atleast my winger to support on a counter set-up?

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Ok. I play slightly differently, I use a 4-4-1-1 working as 4-2-3-1. Away from home I will either use the 4-4-1-1 on Standard or 4-4-1-1DM on counter. As a genral set-up though I would have 3 attack duties, one would be my WB, one is my Winger and my Tq. Would you advise me changing atleast my winger to support on a counter set-up?

I spoke about this in the article and said I'd never have more than 2 attack duty players. If i did, then I wouldn't be confident of triggering counters correctly as I could be more aggressive than needed. This could upset the balance of the side. And considering you'd already have a striker and AMC advanced. If you think you can get away with it and have the numbers behind the ball to trigger counters and to deal with the opposition without letting goals in then fine. But You need to understand how your system works before you decide that. The third screenshot I did in the match analysis covers why you need to know if you can cope or not.

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I spoke about this in the article and said I'd never have more than 2 attack duty players. If i did, then I wouldn't be confident of triggering counters correctly as I could be more aggressive than needed. This could upset the balance of the side. And considering you'd already have a striker and AMC advanced. If you think you can get away with it and have the numbers behind the ball to trigger counters and to deal with the opposition without letting goals in then fine. But You need to understand how your system works before you decide that. The third screenshot I did in the match analysis covers why you need to know if you can cope or not.

Ok thank you. I've been struggling with my counter system and this might be why. With my control set-up used mainly at home with my 4-4-1-1 it works fine with 3 attack duties. Last year it worked fine on counter but like I say on FM16 I've been struggling.

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Top stuff. Let us know, why do you prefer ''flexible'' team shape. I know ''very structured'' is your favorite. Isn't it better choice to keep things simple ? What do you think when choosing team shape ? Also, I wanna know this set-up is enough to win for you. I know you are good one with watching games, I follow your articles. I guess u did some changes when you are watching games but I wanna know these if possible. Again, thanks for great article.

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hi cleon great article as always;

dou you think can work this system on fm15 (4-1-4-1 ,counter flexible, 2 wb (s) etc.. ) or is exclusive for fm16 ?

thx !

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Top stuff. Let us know, why do you prefer ''flexible'' team shape. I know ''very structured'' is your favorite. Isn't it better choice to keep things simple ? What do you think when choosing team shape ? Also, I wanna know this set-up is enough to win for you. I know you are good one with watching games, I follow your articles. I guess u did some changes when you are watching games but I wanna know these if possible. Again, thanks for great article.

I changed nothing during the games nothing at all. If I did I would have documented it as it would render the article useless if not :D

I also answered the first part of your question in post 13 :thup:

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Thanks Cleon, adapted my tactic based on these principles and enjoying more success going forward. Still struggling to defend against deep crosses but could be my players.

If I wanted to make this system more adventurous, do you think an Attacking style coupled with a deeper backline/less closing down would have similar results?

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Thanks Cleon, adapted my tactic based on these principles and enjoying more success going forward. Still struggling to defend against deep crosses but could be my players.

If I wanted to make this system more adventurous, do you think an Attacking style coupled with a deeper backline/less closing down would have similar results?

You change the whole dynamics if you wanted to do that with an attacking style and is something completely different. That would be for another topic completely I feel because it's not even similar. You'd be taking one extreme and going to the other end of the scale, complete opposite approaches. But in short no they wouldn't be the same.

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Cheers for this post. Answers a fair few questions I have, even though some of the answers are a bit weird to me (that's not your fault though).

So, are there formations that just flat-out wont work properly with the counter setting? Like 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 4-4-1-1 etc

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Cheers for this post. Answers a fair few questions I have, even though some of the answers are a bit weird to me (that's not your fault though).

So, are there formations that just flat-out wont work properly with the counter setting? Like 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 4-4-1-1 etc

Well any that already has many players in the oppositions half like a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 aren't really going to have players in the deep positions like highlighted above are they? Those shapes are better suited for controlling games and utilising possession rather than counter attacking. Remember the shape you see on the screen is your defensive shape.

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Some of the recent threads talking about defending and countering already have him working on a 4-1-4-1 counter, so this is wonderfully timed. Fantastic article and I'm sure its gonna help a lot of managers.

Quite encouragingly (for me), this all fits with how I was already approaching things. I do like seeing the actual roles you are choosing and why, especially up top.

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I know you want to keep it simple but wouldn't it make sense to use the 'Pass Into Space' TI? Our main goal is to sit deep to have space ahead of us - so why not instructing our players to use this space with the TI?

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Great write up. You have explained the knowledge and basis of what I more or less stumbled upon. The actual reason of not having many attacking players, I "worked my way there" til the look on the pitch "felt" right, not really knowing WHY it was working.

Question on attributes, off the ball is more important than positioning for defensive/counter strategy? Can you give a brief explanation of why one would be preferred over the other and how it affects the results on the pitch?

Which leads me to....

I focus on Crossing, Dribbling, First Touch, Passing; Anticipation, Composure, Concentration, Decisions, Positioning, Team Work, Work Rate; Acceleration, Pace, Stamina, Strength. (And always try to have Natural Fitness above average always). How would you think these differences influence the play of the game? My philosophy is defense first, defense second, counter third if it is "safe" to do so...

Appreciate your contributions to the community.

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I know you want to keep it simple but wouldn't it make sense to use the 'Pass Into Space' TI? Our main goal is to sit deep to have space ahead of us - so why not instructing our players to use this space with the TI?

Because like I mentioned in the article this already happens automatically when a counter is on for the players involved. So why would it make sense to ask players to always do this when the point is to disciplined and keep out shape, then attack when the opportunity arises? How does using this TI constantly help achieve that? Who are they passing to exactly when we are deep? We have no players advanced enough for through balls initially.

So no it doesn't make sense at all :)

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Cleon, fantastic read and this has convinced me to strip my tactics back to basics... i play as Basingstoke, got promoted to the Vanarama National but been sat there for 4 seasons just escaping relegation every year.

I've always liked playing counter on FM and this has perked my interest again as i have been struggling with making it work, looking forward to making the adjustments you have laid out.

My skills set of my team is very poor and struggle having no pace and seemingly thick players!

KUTGW

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Question on attributes, off the ball is more important than positioning for defensive/counter strategy? Can you give a brief explanation of why one would be preferred over the other and how it affects the results on the pitch?

It's not more important. Defensive players needs positioning and attacking players need off the ball. Off the ball is listed (although I did point out that I didn't list all as I'd be here all day) because when you have a counter attack on, you need to have confidence that the players can use the space and time their runs well. After all that's what counter attacking is, all about the movement of players running from deeper positions into more advanced dangerous positions.

I focus on Crossing, Dribbling, First Touch, Passing; Anticipation, Composure, Concentration, Decisions, Positioning, Team Work, Work Rate; Acceleration, Pace, Stamina, Strength. (And always try to have Natural Fitness above average always). How would you think these differences influence the play of the game? My philosophy is defense first, defense second, counter third if it is "safe" to do so...

It can't really be answered without context and seeing the players. Because attributes alone don't really tell you how it will influence something when you talk about them in isolation. It's the player's overall attributes that will influence play as such. So players might have high attributes for all those you listed but if he has low decisions it means very little, as he'll not know how to use all his tools correctly. That's why I said when squad building long-term I'd look for the attributes mentioned because it would aide what I wrote about. All I have from you is a list of attributes with no context. That doesn't mean I want to see how you play, it just means, it's an opened ended question that only you can answer because;

A - Only you have access to your game.

B - You say we play similar but that can still be very different.

C - To know how something influences something, you have to view it. Different attribute combinations will make players different, even if its only a subtle change like 1 attribute point. Then their are PPM's, player personality and so on.

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Cleon, fantastic read and this has convinced me to strip my tactics back to basics... i play as Basingstoke, got promoted to the Vanarama National but been sat there for 4 seasons just escaping relegation every year.

I've always liked playing counter on FM and this has perked my interest again as i have been struggling with making it work, looking forward to making the adjustments you have laid out.

My skills set of my team is very poor and struggle having no pace and seemingly thick players!

KUTGW

Nothing worse than being stuck in a league where you aren't making much progress. I once got stuck for 5 seasons in a league with no progress with Sheffield FC due to a lack of funds and having a squad who should have been 2 levels lower. Good luck, hope you turn it around. :)

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Well any that already has many players in the oppositions half like a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 aren't really going to have players in the deep positions like highlighted above are they? Those shapes are better suited for controlling games and utilising possession rather than counter attacking. Remember the shape you see on the screen is your defensive shape.

Well yes and I already knew this but it does seem that, for people first coming to the game for the first, quite a few aspects of this are poorly explained. I mean, most teams in the PL use a 4-2-3-1 so your average PL fan playing FM16 as their first FM is probably going to select that formation, even if they wanted to go counter. I don't think many would go "well, actually I need to choose a 4-4-1-1". No one really logics things out that way.

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Yeah, PPM's tend to be the bane of my existence. Spend more training time unlearning PPM's cause they make good "on paper players" stink... Would have thought I'd look at them more closely before signing folks, but "all the pretty colors" on attributes are my "crack"... (In League 2, have Man U as a Parent Club, their 4* loanee in my mid is crazy good, except he thinks he can shoot the ball from our own byline, result 0 goals, 4 on target, 24 off target in 8 games, two more months of this...)

As far as the same, yet different, completely understand. I might put together a thread when I finish off my "learning save". I'm happier with a 0-0 draw than a 2-1 win, which is why I say defense first, defense second...

Thanks for the feedback

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It's an excellent thread which does a great job of explaining a playing style that many people were approaching from the wrong angle. If the possession thread does half as good a job ad this, then it'll be well worth the wait.

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Great work, Cleon :applause:

Playing with such defensive responsibilities is new to me. Particularly in midfield. My initial thought looking at that set up would be the striker is horribly isolated but you make a very good point about the effect on responsibilities when the counter-attack kicks in. Bravo!

Counter-attack is absolutely devastating this year.

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Well yes and I already knew this but it does seem that, for people first coming to the game for the first, quite a few aspects of this are poorly explained. I mean, most teams in the PL use a 4-2-3-1 so your average PL fan playing FM16 as their first FM is probably going to select that formation, even if they wanted to go counter. I don't think many would go "well, actually I need to choose a 4-4-1-1". No one really logics things out that way.

Then take it up with the developer? Nothing I can do to fix this so not sure why you're bringing this up? Plus if you already knew why did you ask the question? :D

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Yeah, PPM's tend to be the bane of my existence. Spend more training time unlearning PPM's cause they make good "on paper players" stink... Would have thought I'd look at them more closely before signing folks, but "all the pretty colors" on attributes are my "crack"... (In League 2, have Man U as a Parent Club, their 4* loanee in my mid is crazy good, except he thinks he can shoot the ball from our own byline, result 0 goals, 4 on target, 24 off target in 8 games, two more months of this...)

As far as the same, yet different, completely understand. I might put together a thread when I finish off my "learning save". I'm happier with a 0-0 draw than a 2-1 win, which is why I say defense first, defense second...

Thanks for the feedback

Ah not one of those magpies who see shiny things and must have it are we :herman::D

It's an excellent thread which does a great job of explaining a playing style that many people were approaching from the wrong angle. If the possession thread does half as good a job ad this, then it'll be well worth the wait.

Cheers RT :)

Great work, Cleon :applause:

Playing with such defensive responsibilities is new to me. Particularly in midfield. My initial thought looking at that set up would be the striker is horribly isolated but you make a very good point about the effect on responsibilities when the counter-attack kicks in. Bravo!

Counter-attack is absolutely devastating this year.

So you're using it to good effect? And cheers for the nice comments.

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Well yes and I already knew this but it does seem that, for people first coming to the game for the first, quite a few aspects of this are poorly explained. I mean, most teams in the PL use a 4-2-3-1 so your average PL fan playing FM16 as their first FM is probably going to select that formation, even if they wanted to go counter. I don't think many would go "well, actually I need to choose a 4-4-1-1". No one really logics things out that way.

Well, define 4-2-3-1?

This is my "4-2-3-1" I'm currently using with Espanyol to great effect with a Counter mentality, no TIs and a few PIs (such as telling one of my WMs to cut inside for variety):

5fq9kz.png

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Amazing read.

I still have one question on my mind though,

Why didn't you use structured or highly structured team shape? What led you to choose flexible?

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So you're using it to good effect? And cheers for the nice comments.

This was my attempt.

ptB9zA6.png

I initially set this up as a 'Plan B' for playing against top, top sides and tight Champions League games during the demo and noticed I tore them apart. We came to the same conclusion on shape, given formation is defensive shape 2 banks of 4 is the way to go.

As I mentioned, your idea of the more defensive roles in midfield is new to me. I was careful to ensure my MR/ML got forward to support the attack adequately.

It seems a few others have enjoyed success with a similar style. Experimenting with a newly promoted PL side is on my 'to-do' list so I'll give your midfield set up a try. I actually didn't take the save above much further. The Arsenal side is very good this year and almost zero challenge.

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Amazing read.

I still have one question on my mind though,

Why didn't you use structured or highly structured team shape? What led you to choose flexible?

I didn't want the players to be too rigid and at the same time didn't want them to be too expressive. So I just want bang in the middle to get the correct balance of what I wanted. It's nothing intricate or enlightening I'm afraid :). If anyone is ever in doubt about their own team shape just play it safe and leave it at default.

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Then take it up with the developer? Nothing I can do to fix this so not sure why you're bringing this up? Plus if you already knew why did you ask the question? :D

Meant that I already knew the 'formation screen is the defensive' shape bit. Not really sure why I brought it up, just one of those things about the game that befuddles me and it just weirds me out some times how people act like this stuff is normal. Sorry for taking it out on your thread :thup:

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