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It depends, of course. 

If you have a player of Messi ability in the lower leagues... You build around him to a large extent, however my approach 99% of the time is tactics first... Then find the right players. Of course this can take time depending on your budget and league rules for transfers etc... So there has to be a balance when you start. 

Irl Emery has come in to Arsenal and set on playing his way... But it feels like we dont have the right players for it... It may cost us heavily if either the team or manager dont adapt quickly. Given a couple of transfer windows though id 100% expect him to play his way (or the highway) and if guys like Ozil dont want to change and put the work in, they will be dropped. 

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Personally, I prefer to adapt my overall tactical approach (including the formation) to the players I have at my disposal. It does not mean that each single player will play each single game in his "best" role (or even natural position), but I generally tend to avoid using players in positions in which they aren't at least competent to play. If I lack enough natural and/or accomplished players in a specific position and don't have transfer money to buy one, then I look to retrain someone for that position. 

What I never do is "forcing" my players into a tactic/style of play they obviously aren't suited for. For example, I may like the way in which Liverpool plays, but if I manage a team that is much weaker, I'm certainly not going to ask them to play like LFC.

 

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I'm with Westy on this one. Build a tactic that you want to play, and then put the players who are best suited to play there into it, and strengthen the areas where your players are weakest for that system. I find this helps on a number of fronts. Firstly, if you have a defined tactical idea, then you already know how you want to play and it helps to spot problems when first designing a tactic, and makes spotting trends in the way you play easier.

Second, since you know what you expect from each role, it is easier to examine players to see if they can play there. For example, I like to play with a dynamic attacking central midfielder, and I know that he is going to have to have good off the ball, decent finishing, decent vision, and it helps if he is good at tackling also. Or if I know I will play with a higher line, I will know that I need defenders who are not slow and have good acceleration because I know there will almost always be space in behind me.

Thirdly, it helps define how you will train your younger players so they can slot directly into your first team. You will be able to spot early which players should be suited to which role, and get them on training to improve those attributes whilst also being able to tutor them to get desirable PPMs. 

Finally, it helps define a transfer policy. I rarely go into a transfer window not knowing exactly what I am looking for. I will know which area of my squad needs to improve and I can target players accordingly. That means I can identify those players I am interested in early, shortlist them and already know who I will bid for and have an idea of how much I am willing to spend (and how much they cost). Of course, sometimes a player becomes available who you cannot say no to, but in general I like having a focused transfer policy. 

There are times, of course, when I will let players determine how I will play, if I find it appropriate. In my current save I have 4 players who play attacking roles (STC or AMLR) who are extremely fast, skillful and have good OTB. I am therefore very happy to change to a counter attacking setup when I am playing against a big side where this may have some traction. Sometimes you have to adapt to take advantage of a strength that you did not originally have (in this case, 2 youth academy players who came through at the same time and changed the complexion of my attack). 

I do not think there is a right way to do this, though. Sometimes you have to be pragmatic and make the most of what you have (lower leagues with a player who is a beast in the air? Lots of crosses and balls to his head).. Sometimes you can afford to build something more slowly. A mixture of the two is probably the most sensible way to play.

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