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I am hoping to recreate the brazillian box formation in fm18. The problem that I am having at the moment is trying to find resources detailing how the system worked together. I know that around 2010 Uncle Sam wrote an outstanding article about it but I can't seem to find it. I would appreciate it greatly if any of the tactical gurus could point me to a good source of analysis of this formation.


Thanks in advance

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I have now managed to locate the original thread posted by Uncle Sam but would still appreciate any further sources that anybody may know about.

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I still use this on FM18;

Creating a tactic is one of the simplest things you can do on Football Manager, it takes seconds to do it. However creating one that works and is successfully consistent over a period of time is a lot trickier to achieve. Hopefully this article (although I might have to split these into a mini series depending on how long they become) will explain my process and reasonings behind the decisions I make. I’m not saying this is the best or the only way of doing things, as usual, this is just my methods and what works best for me.

Everyone needs an idea to work from, as this allows you a base to build from. If you don’t have an idea of how you want to play then how do you know what changes to make during a game or how can you determine that the tactic and the settings you use aren’t working? If you don’t have a general idea of the shape at the very least, then you simply can’t fix things properly when issues arise because you have nothing to build towards. So it’s a lot simpler and less frustrating if you have some sort of idea in your mind already.

The Shape

Ignore the roles of this shape for a second as those are still undecided. The shape is the important part of the image nothing else.


As I’m playing in Brazil I thought it would be good to go back to traditional ways. Plus it’s not a shape many people write about, at least nothing worth while since Uncle Sam’s spectacular threads for Football Manager 10 and 11. So to be different to what people are currently writing about I selected this shape as the base. Aside from the actual shape I don’t actually have a style or brand of football in mind. This is the tricky bit now as I have nothing to build towards so what happens now? Match analysis is what’s next. But to be able to that I will need a basic set of roles and duties.

To give myself a few headaches and to give us some nice examples of tweaks that I’ll need to do, shall we keep the roles set and use them as a base? That might make things more interesting. I wasn’t going to but as I’m writing this, it might seem best?

Understanding how you are playing on Football Manager is the key to everything from a tactical standpoint. If you don’t understand the basics of how your system works along with understanding its strength and weaknesses then how can you determine if it’s working or not? Not only that but how can you decide what needs changing and more importantly, what you change it to.


I love the quote in the image above from Jed Davies. It’s simple and straight to the point. This can also be applied to Football Manager.

You will have noticed I’ve not mentioned the mentality of team shape that I’m using yet. The main reason for this is that during the last two ‘The Art of’ articles I did, people just copied what I had done rather than reading the article and understanding the concepts and principles behind why something works. So I might mention them at a later date but they’re not important for what I’m writing here. I hope you understand why I’ve done it this way.

If you’ve followed me for a while or seen things I’ve written on the past then you’ll know I always allow the first three competitive games I play to play out on their own. This means I change nothing apart from making substitutions during this time. The reasoning behind this is three games is a big enough sample size to allow you to see and discover patterns of play. What that means is, you’ll have a more general idea of how things work compared to basing any particular changes on one game only. Every team can have a good or bad day. If you make changes before knowing how what you’ve created works (whether that’s good or bad) then you’ll always be on the back foot as you have nothing to compare against. This is one of the reasons I always create a base and work from that. Hopefully this article will shed some light on this.

Let’s take a look at the first competitive game I played.


Those are the stats from the game and as you can see, we ran out two nil winners. However at this point the result is only secondary because we still don’t understand how I play. So we need to focus on that now and learn what’s working and what isn’t. This requires me to watch the entire game back in full. Highlights wont show enough, even on comprehensive.

It’s not ideal just using the game stats to judge if something is working or not because they offer no context to how the game was actually played. However they can give you a quick snapshot of things and give you a few ideas of where to start in terms of analysis. So I even watch the game back let’s have a look at the individual player stats and see if I can pinpoint a few concerns to investigate further.


Already I can see and highlight a few concerns that need investigating further.

  • Keeper distribution seems poor considering he only completed 50% of passes.
  • My defence made a lot of mistakes, a total of nine between them.
  • The full back positions are very demanding as expected and players condition gets low.

Those are the three main points I’ve picked up from the stats so far. If anyone is struggling for a starting point of what to look for in a game then do something like this. That way at least you have something to work towards and look at. I realise it can be daunting at first to analyse a match and understand why something isn’t working and it’s even harder to fix it. But anyone can look at the stats and pinpoint something to look into in more detail.

Now we’ve done that it’s time to actually analyse the game itself. I should point out for those unfamiliar with Santos, I’m the one in the white kits. I guess I should also point out that I don’t focus on what the opposition is doing, not ever. Instead I stick to my style that I’m creating and working on the things we are doing and focus on what we could be doing better. By doing this the game is simpler because I don’t have to focus on two teams as that can cause endless changes and frustrations. By concentrating on my own game plan I can eliminate the opposition more efficiently and with less hassle. Hopefully by the time this article is finished that comes across.


When my keeper has the ball we can see our overall shape. You can see that both the wingbacks have pushed up and are in line with the defensive midfielders (I forgot to label them on the image doh!). You can also see how narrow we are. There is nothing to worry about here however there are a few things to consider.

  • The wingbacks being doubled up by the opposition.
  • Direct or through balls down the wings.
  • The wingbacks being caught out of position and being too high.

Those are the major drawback of the shape I’m using. That doesn’t mean they have to be massive issues though, we just have to remember it’s our weakness at times. Making them less offensive is not an option, the whole shape depends on them bombing forward and providing width.


This screenshot highlights my first real issue and shows a potential flaw in the roles I’m using. My left sided wingback is caught out high up the pitch. This means the box to box midfielder is shifting over to help him out as is the defensive midfielder. So because of the wingback being caught out, other players have to now give up their roles to cover. This shouldn’t be a massive issue but because I’ve not finalised or worked out the roles I want yet it’s a cause for concern. If we look were the big X is on the image, we can see all of this space is unprotected. Luckily for me there are no opposition players here or I could have found myself in some real danger. My complete wingback would be isolated in such a scenario because he isn’t even aware of the opposition’s wide player by the looks of things. Now I identified the wings as a vulnerable area at the start and because I can’t really have them any less attack minded, then the roles used around them need to compensate for this.


This is the same move a few seconds later. My wingback and defensive midfielder are beginning to regain their positions. But the opposition hit a long ball to their wide man who my wingback is watching. On this occasion he is able to deal with the ball and wins the header. However it highlights how badly exposed he is. Supposed this moe happened but the complete wingback was the one caught high up the pitch? The winger would be in acres of free space.So the first note I make is;

  • Regista role might need changing to protect the complete wingback and offer me better balance.


This is us attacking this time and I see lots of movement.  My wingback on the far side is currently in possession, the deep lying forward drops deep to help him out. So the wingback passes the ball to him then drives forward/ The box to box midfielders also burst forward with speed and intent. You’ll also notice the wingback on this near side, look how advanced he is, almost the highest positioned player on the pitch.


Moments later in the move our shape looks like this. The false nine, deep lying forward and box to box midfielders are occupying the defenders with their late runs. This is creating an overload centrally while at the same time, freeing up the wide players and allowing them to have free space. Just look at the wingback on this side of the pitch.


This is still the same move. The false nine actually checked his run and drifted backwards and took his marker with him. The deep-lying forward is trying to run into the space in front of him at the very same time, that the box to box midfielder is trying to run across goal. This is creating space and movement and making it hard for them to be marked. I’m pleased with what I’ve seen when attacking so far but I’m still only minutes into the game.


My midfield roles still seem far too imbalanced at times and although it is a narrow shape I’m using my players shouldn’t be all to one side like this because it’s leaving me exposed in these areas time and time again. Before I mention my options here and explore the changes that I could make. I guess I need to explain why the shape has the random roles it currently does as I believe, I’ve not done that yet.

Due to me not having a real idea of the style of football I wanted to create, I hope to come up with some kind of goal to focus on. With that in mind, I went with the idea that using two withdrawn strikers would mean that the midfield would be the ones going beyond the strikers and getting close to them. In other words the strikers are the creators and the box to box midfielders are the initial goal threat. That’s the only reason why my roles are set the way they are as it made sense to me. However in practise it doesn’t seem to work when we don’t have possession of the ball.

So now my options are;

  • Make the two defensive midfielders anchormen.
  • Get better balance and change the roles of the box to box players.

In all likelihood I will do both of these if it proves to be an issue over the three games I’ll be looking at. If I do make these changes though then it means the simple idea I mentioned above doesn’t currently work in its present form. But by changing the roles mentioned above, it will have a knock on effect throughout the tactic and using two creative withdrawn strikers will also require changing.

Using two defensive midfielders covers for the fact the wingbacks are extremely aggressive. But I didn’t set them up how you should have because I wanted to create complications as it makes for a better article. I decided to have one as a playmaker when I assigned him the regista role. This allows him to stray from his position and drive forward with the ball. With the few examples I’ve posted above, everyone should be able to see why the defensive midfielders need to be ermmmm more defensive! It’s so they hold position better and when the wingbacks go forward they sit in position and are capable of breaking up attacks and covering the vacated space.

So at the moment I’m thinking about trying this in the fourth game (as I can’t see it improving in the next few games, it’s a fundamental flaw in the roles selected);

  • Anchorman
  • Defensive midfielder on a defend duty.
  • Changing a box to box player to be an advanced playmaker.
  • One of the strikers becoming an advanced or complete forward.

That’s where my heads at for now. I’m not sure if I’ll make them support of attack duties though for the playmaker and forward roles. It’s something I need to think about more. The chances are I’d experiment with both though at some stage.

I know I’ve not listed many examples of other issues from this first game but there is a reason for this. The issues I’ve mentioned are more visible than everything else and rather than complicate things even further, I’ll use this game for those issues only. Everything else can be observed in the remaining two games. If I wasn’t writing this as a guide I’d probably be able to solve and find all issues from this game but that would be information overload. With that in mind I’m trying to slow things down so it’s easier to understand and follow.

I’ll be doing a follow up article for game two and the third one. While I’ll still be looking to see if the above issues persist (which they will) it will only be a brief look and the focus from me, will be on other areas and seeing what I can spot.

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In the first lot of analysis I did, it seemed focus on the two defensive midfielders and the two box to box players. They didn’t seem to link together or do what I wanted during the defensive phases of play. Going forward it looked good though but the midfield was a concern. So I’ll be having a brief look to see if I can spot the same issues as the previous game. But I’ll be mainly looking at identifying different issues rather than focusing on stuff that I already know from the first game. So let’s jump straight in.


From a statistical view we did okay again and were the better side.


I didn’t make subs during this game as I have a few injuries at the minute and have another game to play in three days times, so wanted to keep players fresh for that game. So that’s one of the reasons some players condition got low as I would normally use substitutions. From the above stats though, we can still see that the goalkeepers distribution is an issue same as the last game. Which is understandable as we’ve not made any changes yet. So I’ll make a little note of that again as it’s a regular occurrence and not a one off now it’s happened again.

Another thing we can see is Caju who plays as the left sided wingback failed with sixteen passes. That might not seen that problematic but considering he is one of two players responsible for giving me width, I need to find out in what areas he was misplacing the passes and more importantly, finding out why. If I don’t identify those reasons then I can’t change anything as I’d just be ‘guessing’ and making changes that might not be the right choice to make. So always ensure you have insight into why something happens. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to fix the issue, the important part is first identifying issues, fixing them comes later.

The complete wingback (Daniel Guedes) seem’s to have attempted fifteen crosses yet only completed three of them. This again is cause for concern initially until I can see why he failed with so many.

One more thing that sticks out is Ricardo Oliveira who played as the deep-lying forward. He has had six shots yet only had two on target. This is something that needs to be explored further, especially as my opposition was a side who I expect will have sat deep and by the look of things, offered very little going forward. This might (and I stress might because we still don’t know for sure) show a weakness in my shape with the roles I currently use and it might not break teams down who sit deep. If this is the case then it needs fixing.

Already just from the individual stats above we can see how my analysis of the next match is going go to. I’ve got a couple of things I need to look into and explore in a lot more details, so this is a great starting point.


Seconds into the game and I can already see issues with the midfield again. This time though it shows a distinct lack of bodies in the central areas, which might surprise people considering it’s a narrow formation I’ve used. I think I know why this is happening though. Up until now I’ve not mentioned if I was using any team instructions or not. In actual fact I am, I’m using three and one of those is the roam from position one. I’ll more than likely touch upon the other two at another time. But I believe the roaming isn’t helping in situations like this as the two box to box midfielders aren’t in areas where they can support the strikers. So that not only means the strikers get isolated it means I can’t dominate the central areas. What I need to consider doing is for the fourth game, maybe disabling the roam from position team instruction and see if that makes a difference. It should have some impact but it’s hard to say how big or small the impact will be without actually seeing it in action. But this is the first real note I make in this match.

  • Midfield wandering about far too much and causing a lack of link between midfield and attack.


The above screenshot shows how much better I look when the box to box midfielders are in more central areas. I still don’t think the defensive midfielder and regista combo are doing what I want though, they offer very little at the minute. However the box to box players have options here. Alison is the player on the ball and he has the false nine dropping deep to link with him. When this happens we have all kinds of different options and can really stretch the opposition as you can see below.


When the false nine plays the ball out wide to the complete wingback then we immediately put the opposition into the back foot. These type of things create space and movement and make it hard for the opposition to know who to pick up. I’d rather have late runners than players already high up the pitch, it’s much easier to work with.


You can see what I’m talking about here. The late runners are all unmarked and the deep-lying forward is the decoy keeping the defence busy. If the complete wingback can put a good delivery into the box then all kinds of chaos can happen. Unfortunately he doesn’t put a good ball in and takes one touch too many and loses possession. However if you have players getting into these kind of areas when supporting play, sooner or later the goals will come.

I’m only a few minutes into the game, think around seven minutes in total but I’ve seen the above scenario happen three times already and on those occasions the cross was made and we had chances to score. It’s clear the opposition isn’t really offering much at all in this game and are more than happy to just sit back and soak up the pressure. So I don’t think I’ll learn much from this analysis in terms of how we defend and work when we don’t have the ball. That’s quite disappointing because that’s the trouble I’m having the most concerns with for now but there’s nothing I can really do about that, in this game. What we will do instead is concentrate on the things I mentioned at the very start of this piece.



Those are the passing stats for my left sided wingback Caju. As you can see he is very wide, hugging the touchline almost. However it’s not the received or completed passes I am interested in, it’s the intercepted ones that I need to focus on.


You’ll notice that almost all eleven of the intercepted passes are all quite long range passes. That could be quite telling in it’s own way and showing that he is struggling and hitting it long at times. There could be many reasons for this, it could be a case of a lack of options for him to pass the ball to. Or it could be down to him being put under pressure and being forced into making a quick decision and during this time, he is panicking and just hitting it hopelessly. To know for certain though we need to click on all of these dots on the pitch and view the clips back.

On the stats alone, like I mentioned above it looks like he struggled at times. However viewing the clips back, which took less than a minute to do for them all combined adds the necessary context to them. What this shows me is it’s isn’t a concern at all. Five of the intercepted passes were clearances from deep defensive positions and he looked to clear the defensive lines. This isn’t a bad thing and is what I’d expect, just to take the pressure off us for a few seconds. Another four of the intercepted passes are actually him taking free kicks that didn’t find their target. So again, it’s not a real concern but highlights I might need to work on my free kick routines in the very near future. But that’s an issue for another day. That’s leaves just two which are mistimed passes and after watching what the player was attempting to do, it was the correct decision and both would have been defence splitting passes. So I don’t mind too much as I want players to take risks if they think it’s the right choice at the time. All in all, I’m happy with what I’ve seen and my first suspicions about it being an issue are incorrect. This is why I always bang n about the stats needing context to them.

Next up I’ll look at the complete wingback crossing issue.


Those are his crossing stats for this game. It’s very poor to say the least. Like the examples above for Caju though, I now need to determine why. Although I have a good idea of why already and surprised no-one picked up on it during the first article. A complete wingback provides crosses into the box, but why is this an issue due to the way I’m set up? Remember that I use two strikers who drop deep and don’t really play in the box. So this is expected as I will need to tone it down somehow but first, we need to confirm if this is true or not and the only way to achieve this, is to look at the clips.


These are the clips we will be focusing on and seeing what the issue is. The first two I look at are obvious and are corners that were cleared. Viewing the rest of the clips I can see that he is getting his crosses off into the box at the near post for the deep-lying forward to get on the end of them. However that isn’t happening due to the deep-lying forward normally being marked by at least two defenders. Now this presents an issue as I need attacking wingbacks who are very offensive, yet I can’t instruct him to cross less. I’m not sure I want him to cross less though because if the strikers start getting on the end of these crosses, I will score bagfuls of goals. If the crosses were poor and not causing any danger then I’d be left with no choice but to tone the role down to a less aggressive one. But because they are dangerous I’m left with one real options.

If I instruct the complete wingback to cross to a specific area then that might just solve the issue. What I’m thinking here is asking him to aim crosses into central areas as this is where my players are running to from the deep areas already. It could prove deadly in the long-term if I can make use of these dangerous crosses. So this is the second note I make from this match so far and is definitely something I need to change without question. It could prove a useful tool against the stubborn sides who sit deep and defend with numbers. Being more accurate with crosses could see me breaking them down easier. I have the movement aspect of the tactic already, I just need players to utilise these runs from deep now and this could just work.

The last thing I need to check now is the deep-lying forward.


It might seem like I’m being picky here because the two chances he did have on target resulted in goals, even though one was a penalty. But I think one player having six shots is a lot, especially when you consider I only had eleven shots during the entire game.


These are the four chances I’m going to look at. The first one I looked at was the blocked one outside of the area and on further inspections it doesn’t seem a worry at all because it was a free kick that hit the wall.


That was the second one, it was a ball cut back to him inside the area that he strikes first time. Unfortunately for me though it’s blocked but the move itself, was well worked. The third clip that I watched was the missed target one from outside the box. This one, he got between the defenders and saw an opportunity to shoot as he was free. So he took the shot the first time but it went wide. And finally the last chance is a header that goes wide. I’d still like him to be more clinical if he’s going to have this amount of shots but from his positioning in these moves, he is getting into some great positions and over the season, if this continues, he will score a lot of goals.

This analysis shed a bit of light on how my tactic is currently working but it didn’t offer anything of significant value not really. But I did get a glimpse into how we attack and can improve on a few things. I guess I did learn two big things though so it wasn’t all bad. Those two things were;

  1. The complete wingbacks crossing aim needs altering.
  2. Midfield wandering about far too much and causing a lack of link between midfield and attack.

If I can work on these two aspects for the fourth game I play, then things should improve drastically I’d imagine. However the next game is important now in terms of analysis. In the first game I analysed, it was against a high reputation side who are rated highly like myself. The game I have done in this second one was against a really poor side and the next game, is against someone who is a middle of the road side. Which means (hopefully) we will learn some useful stuff and then I can look at making changes for future games.

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This is the final match analysis of the initial first three competitive games I’ve currently played. After I’ve looked at this game then I’ll start to think about what changes I need to make for the next game I play. I’ll likely write about the actual changes and what impact they have had in a separate article when I get the time.

Here are the stats from the game.


And the individual stats from the game.


Unlike the other games we have analysed so far, these stats don’t actually tell me much because nothing really sticks out as being out of the ordinary at first glance. Maybe the crosses? But that’s the only thing I could think of based on this screenshot. This can make it trickier when analysing the game back because you don’t really have anything to pinpoint. So what you need to do is look for general issues instead, this requires watching the entire game obviously, so you can see if you can spot any kind of issue or potential problems.

Straight away in the match I notice the midfield issues that we’ve spoke about during the past two articles. But I don’t really need to show any more examples of those issues, as we’ve covered those a few times already.

The first potential issue I spot is this;


One of the issues with using a withdrawn striker is they start deep and this allows the oppositions defence to keep it’s shape. It also gives them little defending to do because they have no-one to mark. It also means that when my deep-lying forward gets the ball in these types of situations, he can’t really do much. That’s because he has two markers around him and the defenders are well placed to deal with any runs he makes. Both the box to box midfielders are behind him, so they’re not offering any real support here. And the false nine isn’t pushing the defensive line back either.

If this is happening regular then it’s obvious I will struggle to score goals because I’ll not be able to break the oppositions defence. It might require me to look at changing one of the roles for the strikers, to get a better balance and to occupy the defenders. This would likely either push the defensive line back or would mean one of the defenders would leave their position to mark one of the striker. If that happened then it could create space and movement elsewhere on the pitch. Plus if you make someone mark, then they always have a choice to make and it can force the opposition to move from their initial position.


This is still the same move. When the deep-lying forward passes the ball out wide, the opposition’s defenders have started to make movements to cover the danger. This means gaps have appeared and the defensive shape of the opposition is changing. I still think the deep-lying forward or the false nine should be more aggressive in these scenarios. I have no-one centrally deep in the final third, were the X is. It seems like I’m currently relying on fast switches of play to the flanks or waiting for players to do a bit of individual magic. That’s all good and well but if you rely on individual skill then what happens if the player has a bad game? So I need to see if this issue persists throughout the match and if it does, then need to correct it so we constantly create and are a goal threat. Rather than waiting for that one player to have his moment.


The regista who is circled, has just played a long ball to Arthur who is the false nine. It was a brilliant ball and showed great vision from the player. However it does have a drawback because none of the supporting midfielders can get up alongside play fast enough. This means that one simple ball like this might catch the opposition off guard but at the same time, it’s also isolated the strikers. So again we come back to the first issue I posted above and relying on the players to have a moment of magic because they have zero support at all. Making a striker role change is looking more appealing the more I watch this game. The other option is to make sure my midfield don’t do these types of balls to frequent. Plus I’ve already mentioned I need to change the midfield, so this type of situation might not happen depending on how I adjust the roles. It’s definitely something I need to keep an eye on though, especially after the changes I’ll make.


That is me attacking and just look at all the bodies I have going forward. Most might not think anything is wrong here but for me this is playing into a counter attacking sides hand. My defensive midfielders should not be this advanced. I don’t mind that they are supporting attacks as such, it’s just the high positional play that’s an issue. While I do have two centre backs holding their defensive positions, this won’t really help when I lose the ball if the opposition has players in these areas. I like to have different types of cover to reduce the chances of counter attacks. If the defensive midfielders were on defensive duties then they’d be covering the exact space I need them to. But because no-one is currently there, if the ball is cleared or someone dribbles out from the back with it, then one of the defenders will have to step up to deal with it. This will then leave the lone centre-back exposed. Something I want to avoid doing.


Another example of how a direct ball which is a good and clever ball, isolates my striker. The complete wingback plays a direct through ball to the deep-lying forward who runs onto it. However when he runs onto it and controls the ball he doesn’t have anyone to aim for and nowhere to run with the ball. The issue here is the false nine is to deep and isn’t in the correct area where he can benefit from these types of situations. Ideally he should be more advanced were the marker is on the pitch and be making runs between the centre-backs. This is something I’ve noticed a lot during the past two games inparticular, so it means it does need changing. I have a few options to explore here;

  • Change the false nine’s role.
  • Play shorter passing
  • Ask the players/team to stop playing through balls

Those are the things I should be looking at changing to begin with. I’m not sure which route I will go just yet but I am leaning more towards the striker role being changed, to begin with.

I think I’ve seen enough of this game already to know how it plays out, I’m seeing the things I mention above and in the previous two articles time and time again. So what now? Well changes are needed that’s for sure.

So in short, the summary of the issues so far are;

  • Provide better midfield balance.
  • Have a striker who stays higher up the pitch.
  • Roaming, I need to disable this TI.
  • The roaming could also be down to the role, as it’s set by default on the box to box midfielders.
  • The complete wingback needs to have a cross aim set.
  • Goalkeeper distribution is shocking.
  • Defensive midfielder might need a defend duty.
  • The regista doesn’t cover the space vacated by the complete wingback when he pushes forward.

I don’t think I’ve missed anything have I?

Fixing these issues will be tricky because if you remember at the very start of the first article, I talked about having a basic of idea of how you want to play. Well I still don’t have one, so I don’t have anything to aim for. I wanted the articles to shape the way we play and show you just how much harder it is, when you have no clear plan or vision. It’s the long way around in doing things and is very difficult to get right. It should make interesting reading though right?!

Providing better midfield balance, hmm this will be hard and might need me to analyse matches again. So it might take me three or four extra games to sort out. However I am thinking that maybe a central midfielder on attack or even support might be a better fit alongside a box to box midfielder. I don’t want to do massive overall changes to begin with because how can you keep a track of all of them and know if they’re working or what impact they now have on the style? It’s a long drawn out process. You can do them all at once if you have a fantastic understanding of the game, but because this is a walkthrough of how to approach things, then I’m keeping things simple for the reader.

The striker role, I might go and use a pure poacher. He’ll not provide me much movement but the players around him are full of that at the minute. So someone who plays on the shoulder of defenders will be good and give them something to worry about. It’s something I will keep an eye on though and if I feel he’s getting isolated, I’ll look at changing the role again.

The roaming issue is easy to fix as I’ll just disable the team instruction for it. Plus I’ll have changed one of the player roles, so that might have a huge impact on it too.

I’ll also change the goalkeepers ball distribution straight away. I’ll ask him to roll the ball out to the defenders. I’m also tempted to use the play out of defence shout, but that will be a decision I make on the day of the next game just before I click continue.

The defensive midfielders are giving me the biggest headache as there are many possibilities and routes I could go. I do think however, that changing the regista to a deep-lying playmaker on a defensive duty will be the way to go though. And also change the other defensive midfielder, who is currently on a support duty, to a defensive duty. These two small changes should see me provide better cover for the wingbacks when they get forward and allow the central midfielders, to get forward more without the risk of me lacking numbers at the back.

Those are all the changes I’ll be making and then it’s back to square one, with learning how the tactic works and plays out during the match. I’m not sure how many more analysis bits I’ll be writing though. I guess it depends on how popular they are or how useful people are finding them. So if you enjoy them and want more let me know in the comments below and if enough people are interested then it’s something I’ll consider doing more of.

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In keeping with the recent theme of finishing past projects off, this is another one of those articles that should hopefully complete The Art of The Brazilian 4-2-2-2 Box Formation. This article should tie up a few loose ends left over from the previous three articles about this tactic. If you can’t be bothered to read the previous articles then the short story is this;


That was the shape I was using and the exact roles. I didn’t (at least I don’t think I did) reveal what instructions I was using because I didn’t want people to copy something that was flawed and not finished. I will be revealing them later in this article though. The above system was then played for several games and I wrote about what issues I was facing and explaining what I might need to change. The gist of the changes needed are summed up in the third article but for those of you who aren’t bothered reading the good old stuff here are the issues I faced;

  • Provide better midfield balance.
  • Have a striker who stays higher up the pitch.
  • Roaming, I need to disable this TI.
  • The roaming could also be down to the role, as it’s set by default on the box to box midfielders.
  • The complete wingback needs to have a cross aim set.Goalkeeper distribution is shocking.
  • Defensive midfielder might need a defend duty.
  • The regista doesn’t cover the space vacated by the complete wingback when he pushes forward.

With that said, you should now be up to speed at where I ended things currently minus a few important bits of analysis etc.

This article will now focus on what I did to improve these issues above and explain how the tactic currently works now (or how it worked at the time of writing this a few months back).


That’s the mentality and team shape. I also use two shouts;


Those two shouts are a constant. I do add others depending on how the game is going, for example, if I feel the game is getting away from me and that the opposition are having too much time on the ball, then I’ll add;

  • Higher defensive line
  • Close Down more

I move those to the maximum setting allowed. Obviously it’s not that black and white and the context of how the game is being played out is vital but as an example, that is what I’ll tend to use.


The roles in this current setup that I use doesn’t change that drastically from the image at the very start of the article. However the impact that these roles now have inside the system I’ve created is huge and in a good way. So rather than my usual analysis were I focus on things that are wrong, we’ll look at what the roles do, how they link up and what they offer. This will help build the big picture in what is essentially a big jigsaw. The roles and duties on their own mean very little unless you understand how they interact with everyone else.

It’s taken quite some time over the season tweaking this and tweaking that based on how I’ve seen the roles and duties interact when watching games. When creating a tactic this is the place you should start first, finding the right roles and duties. The rest should come secondary I believe.

The Defence/Width

This was the easiest part of the tactic to get right. I simply needed the defence to function in two ways;

  • When defending be solid and compact.
  • When attacking the wingbacks have to provide width.

Due to the shape I’m using my only source of natural width comes from the wingbacks, it’s probably the most important part of the whole system. The attacking nature of this system is reliant on these two providing support to the front players, if not I’ll become very one dimensional and narrow which is easy for teams to defend against. So it’s vital that the two players are doing as you expect if not you’ll tend to have a tough time and really struggle.

The shape is very versatile and can morph into many different formations depending on the phase of play. Remember than on Football Manager the overview of your tactic is your defensive shape and then the roles and duties you use change how it behaves when attacking. So it’s possible to turn your shape into a 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 4-5-1 and so on depending on the roles you’ve used.


Straight away from the kick off you can see that the shape is already changing as the wingbacks push up and the two defensive midfielders drop deeper to offer as a passing outlet. The wingbacks are stretching play and offering width.


Seconds later in the move, Zeca receives the ball out wide as we stretch play. When he get’s the ball he now has options as to where he can run. He also has passing options in the form of the advanced playmaker, advanced forward and even the other wingback if he decided to switch play. Due to the opposition using a narrow 4-2-3-1 formation, it means play can be stretched even further as this is unmarked space that the oppositions full backs don’t seem to be covering. Their two central midfielders might attempt to come across and cover but realistically it’s an impossible task and will be far too late once they get anywhere close to the wingback.


This is still the same move just moments later. Zeca the left sided wingback passed the ball infield to Lucas Lima who then switched play to the right hand side. I don’t want to dwell on what the midfield or attackers do too much here because we’ll be taking a look at them in a short while. For now I’m concentrating just on the wingbacks and showing how they offer width. So while the Brazilian Box formation may be narrow, we are making the full use of the pitch and creating space. A quick change of play to the opposite flank always causes issues for the opposition no matter how well organised they may be.

Here is the move in full;

That’s just one small example of what they do and offer but it should give you an idea of how important they are in the system. I’m not over selling them when I say they’re the most important aspect. Even if they don’t cross the ball you still need the width to stretch play so they can then pass the ball infield.

The Defensive Midfielder and Regista

The two roles here differ drastically from each other and both offer me very different things. The defensive midfielder is the player who keeps it simple. He doesn’t over play the ball, he isn’t that venturous. In fact it would be hard to spot what he does when you watch a game because he does all the little things that teams take for granted. There is a certain under appreciation to what he actually does because it’s all basic stuff that you’d expect him to do. That’s fine though because that’s what I need, this then allows the others players around him to be more extravagant if they wish. The defensive midfielder is the backbone of the midfield and without him the roles infront of him wouldn’t work as well. I didn’t bother showing any examples or grabbing any screenshots because it wouldn’t really show anything. When we attack, a lot of times he drops back in line with the two centre backs to form a back three though and I have a screenshot to highlight this;


The benefit of this is that when the wingbacks push on, I don’t get exposed at the back by quick attacks as most sides use two or three attackers at the very least. So by almost having three centre backs it keeps me solid and allows the wingbacks to push on. While it’s nothing ‘special’ that he does it’s one of the little things that makes the side tick the way it does and allows the system to play in an attacking manner without giving up too much at the back.

The Regista gives me a different option, he is actively seeking the ball and linking the defence to the more advanced players from central areas. He’s also more creative with his passing compared to the defensive midfielder. It’s not unusual for him to try a longer range of passing or even through balls during a match. And while he might be in the defensive midfield strata it’s not unusual for him to clock up the key passes throughout a game. Normally Thiago Maia is my Regista but in this game I used Alison because I wanted more bite defensively from the Regista.

In general though the Regista is the main playmaker in the side and the one player who keeps everything ticking over.


When he gets the ball he generally tends to have a lot of space and time like in this example. This means he can pass sideways, backwards or turn while on the ball and be more proactive in his passing. It’s not unusual to see him hitting the ball into the channels for the advanced forward to run into and work, which he does in this instance.


If like above he plays it down into the channels this opens the whole of the midfield up and allows me to have late runners into the box unmarked. This creates short term chaos because who picks up late runners to mark? Normally no-one because the opposition are already retreating into their defensive positions or even deeper. The most important aspect of a good system for me is options, movement and space. Without these things you’ll struggle to break sides down eventually. That’s why I try and incorporate these things naturally into the system because it’s what separates an okay tactic from a very good one. In the above screenshot both strikers are the decoys forcing the opposition back which opens up the space for the advanced playmaker and central midfielder to run into. Then all I need is the striker to cut the ball back across the box and I should create a chance and possible score from it. I score so many goals in this fashion throughout a full season. And it all starts with the Regista……..

The Advanced Playmaker and the Central Midfielder

These two players are often the late runners we touched upon above. That’s not all they do though but that is one of the main aspects of their game. My two central players here, chip in with a few goals from time to time. In fact the advanced playmaker scored 17 goals in 48 games which isn’t  a bad return for a midfielder.


I didn’t really have a settled central midfielder though and used four different people in that position over the season. However between them they got 11 goals between them over 50 games. It was more about me just using players to fill the role until I find someone suitable to hold the position down as their own.

One of the main differences between the advanced playmaker and the central midfielder is their positions when attacking. While both do run from deep, the central midfielder is slightly deeper out of the pair which gives me a staggered midfield. This is a good thing as it means I have players attacking from different angles and arriving in and around the box at different times. Although at times the central midfielder can be one of the highest people up the pitch. My midfield is quite unpredictable and versatile.


Due to the advanced playmaker (Lucas Lima) having the player preferred move of tries killer balls often it impacts his passing accuracy at times but it’s also a good thing. He can hit the channels like in this screenshot and put the opposition on the back foot or he can see other options that haven’t happened yet just to him being very forward thinking. I love this PPM on players in the attacking third, it automatically creates space and opens up the game. It can be annoying if it fails though but I’m a firm believer of risk vs reward. I speak more about this in the articles I posted last year called Enganche vs Enganche which you can find on the blog.

In this screenshot we can also see what I was on about with the central midfielder taking up very advanced positions and almost playing as the second striker. Him and the deep-lying forward have basically swapped roles for this move which makes it hard for players to be marked because they’re always interchanging positions.


Once Lucas Lima passed the ball he then bursts a gut trying to support the attack and catch back up with play. Again this is good stuff because it gives me another passing options and supports the player if he isn’t able to get a cross off. If you look at the image above, if Lima doesn’t support play then the wingback has no option but to cross the ball and this could be wasteful. Instead by having someone keep up with the person on the ball it opens up more options and gives the player on the ball other things to consider. Which hopefully means you are less wasteful and keep the ball moving about and allows for you to probe and build from the middle again if he gets picked out. It’s all about support and options 

The Two Strikers

These are here to simply score the goals and finish off chances that others create. That’s not to say they don’t create for themselves because they do, but with the players behind them they get gifted chance after chance whether it be from crosses like at the start of the article or from being picked out by the Regista or advanced playmaker. Over the season I used 3 strikers and they scored a combined 103 goals between them. It seems simple but in this set up it is, just finish the chances you get. These are the two players who make what the rest of the team do actually mean something.


Here we don’t have the ball but it’s still important to show you how high they stay initially because it gives me options for what happens next. The deep-lying forward does normally drop much deeper at times but that’s normally when play is actively around the areas he’s in and not the other side of the pitch. By having one attack minded striker it means he stays high up the pitch and occupies the opposition’s defender. So if we do get the ball back we can immediately be direct and look to get in behind them. I don’t care for possession or anything in this system, I just want to score goals and win while being solid.


This is seconds later and you can see how we’ve sprung into action and how the advanced forward is positioned ready to swivel and run in behind the defender.


This is the end of the move and you can see that the deep-lying forward is just about to run into the box and slot the ball home. A lot of people like to have strikers who drop deep and focus too much on link up play but here I focus on one staying high up the pitch to give me these exact type of scenarios. Having someone high up the pitch who is attack minded gives you a direct outlet, which can give you a great advantage at times. I know I use two strikers here so can afford to have both. However if I was using a lone striker formation I tend to follow this logic and it serves me well;

I tend to prefer support strikers against teams who defend deep because the space isn’t there to push up. So you have to drop off the front to find or create the space. Against sides who push up I do the reverse and use an attacking role/duty because they space you have to play in is in behind the back of them.

My strikers do give me other dimensions as well that I’ve not mentioned but the article is starting to drag on now and becoming close to 3k words which is overkill. I’ve explained how the system works generally now anyway so hopefully this ties up and loose ends that were left from the previous few articles.

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Awesome  - thanks Cleon

I loved your "Art of" threads and this will be a massive help.

I am currently following your forged in steel series with a great deal of anticipation - it has actually inspired me to try and emulate a class of 92 type situation except at Spurs.

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For a bit of fun I've also been rocking with this for a while just for the pure carnage it creates



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Ahh- I see the Carrilero there which I was thinking about- I have tried to the box a few times and never managed to get it working well because I would get killed down the flanks. I had some success using a BWM-D in the left DM slot and BWM-S  in the MCR slot to cover for the WBs, but then I lost the attacking shape I wanted out of the box. It looks worth a new try with the new roles and possibly I need to not try a box with teams below the conference :D

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48 minutes ago, Cleon said:

For a bit of fun I've also been rocking with this for a while just for the pure carnage it creates



Oh Wow - I have a very similar midfield 4 - the only difference being I have a DMD instead of the VOL Support - the only problem I am seeing is that the Carrilero and Volante attack often seem to occupy the same areas

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Used a similar approach and shape to great success in FM17. Haven't tried it yet in FM18 but the new roles should make it all the more interesting and fun. Might create one as a third tactic when I start a new save.

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