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4-2-3-1, what is your experience using it?

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I usually play 4231 on every football game, however on fm, I find it unworkable, in my experience I can not do very well using a lone striker, i’m not after advice on how to use it, that’s why I put it here and not in the tactics forums. I’d like to no peoples experiences with it.

If I don’t use 442 i’m guaranteed to struggle, in the streams on twitch they all use that cheat 523, I don’t remember seing a successful streamer using 4231.

I normally set it up on fm 18 with standard goalie role, support full backs, standard centre backs maybe 1 ball player, carrilero and deep lying playmaker to keep him away from the attacking midfielder. Then, an advanced playmaker with 2 wingers and a striker either complete or advanced, whichever his more suitable to. 

If anybody, how do you use your 4231s and how successful have you been.

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In FM18 4231 only work well with really strong team. I have much more success with 4231 in previous years.
Any formation that utilize AML AMR in FM18 is a handicapped to your tactic or the player.
For example, Mo Salah will play much much better in a striker position than in winger position.

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I was like you - I never had any success with it at all. Was never confident using it, and so it was never a tactic that 'stuck' for any length of time in a save.

Am currently near the end of season3 in the save, and my first season at Liverpool, and have done well with the 4231 as a high press, aggressive formation. I still concede a goal a game though, but then, my defense is the 'weakest' area at the moment and I need a solid BWM in the central pair.

I have my TI as Close Down Much More, (my version of Klopp's gegenpressy tactic) but dial back the defenders instructions, so DCs have Close Down Much Less as PIs, and FBs are Close Down Less which gives a reasonably solid back line, and the FBs are able to step up and close down the space in front of them. (Both FBs on Support Duty - will switch them to Defend if needed).

Am not happy with my defending though, my saving grace is the other 6  players. The AMC is my secret, he is the playmaker, (AP/S) with AML/R and ST having Attack duties. But then I have the option of Ziyech, James or Firmino in that position. 

Central duo, Keita and Milinkovic-Savic, with Can/Henderson to cover.  Their job to receive from defence, play into the AMC - by which time the three fowards are charging at the opponents back four giving the playmaker options.

So, currently top of EPL by 3 points with 4 games to play, won the League Cup, FA Cup semi to come, and in the Europa League final - so it's been successful, although I am not completely comfortable wit hit yet.

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10 minutes ago, edk77 said:

In FM18 4231 only work well with really strong team. I have much more success with 4231 in previous years.
Any formation that utilize AML AMR in FM18 is a handicapped to your tactic or the player.
For example, Mo Salah will play much much better in a striker position than in winger position.

I have Mo Salah as an IF/A - 25 league goals and joint top-scorer. (Hard to displace Firmino or Solanke in my squad at the moment)

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You going to find hard using 4-2-3-1 with small team, because it needs a good wide players

4-2-3-1 wide and 4-4-1-1 is my favorite formation I rarely used different formation

I set it up with 2xCD(D), 2xWB(s), CM(D), CM(s), AP(s), IF(a), IF(s), CF(a)

Control mentally, flexible

It always successful for me I won treble with almost any teams that fit 4-2-3-1

 

 

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4-2-3-1 is one of my core formations, but as others have said, it requires good wide players at AMR/L and WBR/L and a goal scorer at AMC.  4-1-2-2-1 with 2 midfielders instead of an AMC is a better option unless you have a very strong team

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Same here OP. I can set a successful 442, 41221(DM) , 4411, but there is something in the way they play unfolds with the players starting in the 4231 positions that makes it very hard for me to get right.

If i had to say what the issue is, i guess it would be the lone striker that is almost always on ATTACK (since a SUPPORT role means overcrowding galore). Generally the players on 4231 seem disjointed in a way they never do on the other classic formations

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I've had no issues with my 4231. You need workhorses at FB though and defensively decent CMs (or DMs). The key in the formation is the AMC as he needs to link the back 4/6 to the front 3. When I set up the formation, that's the role I look at most and tweak the most.

In my current setup, I have a very boring CM/D, CM/S and AM/S combo, but they're tweaked in terms of PIs to get what I want out of them. Both CMs are holders, but the one is just a little more aggressive and does get the odd screamer from 25+ metres.

Even the front 3 seem narrow if you look at IF/A, AF/A and IF/S setup, but here also, the wide players have been tweaked. The IF/S players more like a winger with me telling him to sit wider and using right-footed players on the right. They do score more than I would have had from a W/S, though, IMO. And if I want or need something different (not as much of a crossing focus) I put a left footed player there, which gives me more of a goal or through pass threat.

What I love about the formation is the flexibility and the number of different goals and players scoring those goals I can get. It allows me to use the same tactic week in, week out, but just tweak team selection to give variety and an upper hand against opponents. Goal distribution is quite even among the front 4 and even the CMs chips in.

 

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5 hours ago, edk77 said:

In FM18 4231 only work well with really strong team. I have much more success with 4231 in previous years.
Any formation that utilize AML AMR in FM18 is a handicapped to your tactic or the player.
For example, Mo Salah will play much much better in a striker position than in winger position.

In contrast, I find it the best formation to use with a particularly weak team. I modify the template to a very deep formation. The reason is that as my players are individually very weak, the formation allows defence in numbers. The back 4 are protected by 2 DMs and ahead of them are a ML/MC/MR all sitting fairly deep to get behind the ball. Offensively all I need to do is launch the ball in the vague direction of the sole striker to run onto.

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The key has always been the two central midfielder roles. If you put every player (without any runs forward ppm, etc.) on a defend duty (or a role with a "hold position" instruction available), a team moves forward en bloc as it looks like in the positioning screen. The 4-2-3-1 is a top heavy formation thus, with several players already advancing deep regardless of any role. Therefore, there is no specific need to advance much players from deep necessarily.

The AI does poop with it too though. This is off FM17, but as the PSG AI manager is making not only ALL players advance from their position, but also encouraging the wide players to cut inside, the AI is cluttering all that space. That's team sports basics 101, and it translates some decently into FM. Maybe the tactics screen needs arrows that further highlight this (and maybe AI needs to be more clever). Take a look at all the shots that still go off -- it's either set pieces or ranged ones mostly, as defenders are never positionally stretched much and can tackle and engage easily. All of this is making the keeper look invincible when he doesn't need to do overly much really -- and as off FM, he still gets a great rating, as the player team defending deep* doesn't lose (and it could have, regardless).

 

 

* a lot of players don't ever experience any of such match (10000000 shots vs 1) going their way, as all the "cheat" tactics on FMBase etc. are inherently ridiculously attacking, the same tends to go on any site publishing tactics, including the Steam Workshops. Different story for a different day though. :D

Edited by Svenc

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In my current save I’ve just taken Siena from Serie C to Serie A using a 4 2 3 1 which was pretty much that used by Cleon in his guide. I’ve now moved to Sochaux where I’ve been successfully using it for three months. Fingers crossed that it continues to work!

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It can struggle.

Most of the time I have problems with it is when the opposition is playing a defensively minded flat 451 formation.

Sometimes changing the IF role to a W one makes a difference, but not always.

 

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Like any formation, it is only as good as your players, and how sensibly you set it up. It is not a formation I play often, because I prefer to start with a 433 wide which turns into a 4231 when we have the ball. However, I use it when chasing the game or against a weaker defensive sides. I never really had a problem getting it to do what I want it to do.

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It's always been my preference to play a more 'tight' passing game, so having just the 2 MC's (with no DM or high WB or MR/ML support) isn't something I'm that used to either.

But in FM18 I've found playing a little asymmetrical fairly rewarding with Juventus:
<> On the left you go with DL (wingback, attack) DLP/BWM (the left sided MC), and AML on IF.
<> On the right it's DR (wingback, support), AP (right side MC) and Winger (Support).

So the idea is that we move more players out to the right side and the MC, AMC, DR and AMR play more of a shorter pass-and-move kind of strategy, with the option to whip heavier crosses into the box to find the ST or AML.
On the left we just suck all the players out of there and the AML drifts inside, leaving a massive gap for the DL to get down into space.

To make it all work the DLP in midfield sits behind the play and basically just works the ball from side to side.

The kicker to making it work is actually the ball skills on your ST, AMC and the attacking MC, because they are the ones receiving the ball under pressure and being tasked with moving it around or looking for those killer passes to slide one another into the box or get a Winger/IF in behind the defensive line.

Now maybe Juve are just so strong that it doesn't matter what formation you play in Serie A, but this got us into the Champs League Semi's in my 2nd season there. 

Anyway, just throwing this out there because you don't always need identically symmetrical formations. Sometimes teams find it tough to defend if your wide players aren't making the same moves. 
And with the ability to set up multiple tactics, it's extremely easy to have a variation where you switch sides or change to be more symmetrical. The cool thing about playing IF and Wing's is that you can find players suited to play both since it's often preferred to be using the same foot (ie a Right-Footed Winger likes to dribble and cross from AMR, but may also like to dribble and shoot or play a through ball from AML as an Inside Forward).

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2 hours ago, sporadicsmiles said:

Like any formation, it is only as good as your players, and how sensibly you set it up.

To be fair this is pretty much true for any formation, not just the 4231.

I enjoy using it because it gives a lot of options when moving forward.

 

the 2 mc's, amc & striker enable pushes through the centre

with 2 wingers you also open up the potential for overlapping down either flank and with 1 wide player as an IF you start overloading the centre instead

it's very non-1-dimesional

 

it is a fairly offensively minded formation though, even if you only have 1 attacking duty so defensively it can be quite weak at times, oddly mostly from the flanks.

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remember 4-2-3-1 can be played with 2 central MC or 2 central DMC. Additional does one or both of  you AM wingers play inside or as true wingers.

With attacking full backs you can over load the opposition full back.

It can be  interesting to play more offensive and defensive if player home or away with central or deeper central midfielders

Your AMC could be an attacking midfielder, a creative midfielder or a shadow striker. Many options with this formation but as with football with any tactic you need to have the right players in the right positions. Choose a formation that best suits your players else buy players to suit the formation you want.

 

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2 hours ago, MrPompey said:

It can be  interesting to play more offensive and defensive if player home or away with central or deeper central midfielders

Hmmm ....  I like that thought. I’ll give that a go.

Edited by Hovis Dexter

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If using the more defensive 2 DMC's, setting up with counter-attack will keep the opposition on their toes ;). Its an easy change also perhaps if looking to defend going from 2 MC's or to 2 DMC's to hold a lead or  to reverse it to 2 MC's if wanting to go a little offensive away from home

Alternatively if wanting to go defensively either with 2 CM's or 2 DMC's you can bring that AMC back as an MC else sub him for an MC which helps pack out the central midfield  area more.

In ether case I'd look at results over half to a full season rather than just a few matches

 

 

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22 hours ago, Snorks said:

I have Mo Salah as an IF/A - 25 league goals and joint top-scorer. (Hard to displace Firmino or Solanke in my squad at the moment)

Same here, IF/A, he got 30 league goals, 45 goals total, 15 assists, Balon D'or and UEFA Player of the Year - in 2017/18.

So yea, Salah is absolutely deadly as an IF/A with the proper tactics. I had great success with both 4-2-3-1 and a 4-1-2-3 DM Wide formation with the DM as DLP, and the 2 CMs as Box-to-Box and Mezalla. Meant there were more players pulling back into defence, but the Mezalla would belt up the pitch to act in a quasi-AM playmaker role.

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14 hours ago, RodentofDoom said:

To be fair this is pretty much true for any formation, not just the 4231.

I enjoy using it because it gives a lot of options when moving forward.

 

the 2 mc's, amc & striker enable pushes through the centre

with 2 wingers you also open up the potential for overlapping down either flank and with 1 wide player as an IF you start overloading the centre instead

it's very non-1-dimesional

 

it is a fairly offensively minded formation though, even if you only have 1 attacking duty so defensively it can be quite weak at times, oddly mostly from the flanks.

Indeed, although some formations are better at hiding bad players than others. There is not really anywhere for a bad player to hide in a 4231, every player needs to be performing their duty admirably for it to work (as an example, 433 wide often allows me to play a sub-par DMC without too much worry he will ruin everything because the job he is assigned for me is very basic).

I agree that it is a very versatile formation, which can be utterly lethal in the right hands. Still, I tend to avoid it because it is just a bit too aggressive on a base level for my liking. It is all personal preference though, I prefer to build something solid defensively and then work on making it work on the attacking phase. Others probably prefer to the do inverse. There is no right way to play!

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13 hours ago, sporadicsmiles said:

Indeed, although some formations are better at hiding bad players than others. There is not really anywhere for a bad player to hide in a 4231, every player needs to be performing their duty admirably for it to work (as an example, 433 wide often allows me to play a sub-par DMC without too much worry he will ruin everything because the job he is assigned for me is very basic).

I agree that it is a very versatile formation, which can be utterly lethal in the right hands. Still, I tend to avoid it because it is just a bit too aggressive on a base level for my liking. It is all personal preference though, I prefer to build something solid defensively and then work on making it work on the attacking phase. Others probably prefer to the do inverse. There is no right way to play!

I agree with that entirely- one of the reasons I rarely used a 4231 - but having got the Liverpool job I thought I'd try and get them playing Klopp-like and that was the formation that seemed to fit best.

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My experience with the 4231 in this fm version is the following.

-I started a save with SD Huesca, gained promotion in the first season to spanish first division using a 4123.

-First two seasons in La Liga the media predicted I would go back down. I finished 14th and 11th I think.

-I switched to 4231 in the third season, finished 4th, finished with 0 points (...) the CL group playing against FC Porto, Man City and RB Leipzig.

-Fourth season I finished on 5th with the same tactic and qualified to Europa League groups. Currently I'm in the preseason.

No wonderkids bought, I just used the ingame scouting system to find players. My side is one of the weakest in La liga. I just need the players to battle against the top 4 which in my save are Madrid, Atletico, Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona. For that I need to build the reputation in the european competitions. If you guys want, I can post pics with the tactic.

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4231 is one of my fav formations on FM18

Whilst i get the gist of some posters intentions... You are wholly wrong anyone who said "yes but you need this type of player at this position" 

4231 can be successful with many different combos of roles... If your roles tie in nicely with how you need to play i. E. In good synergy with your overall mentality and TI... AND you consider your stature (whether you need to be more aggressive or more cautious) then you can have success. 

Its a great formation as it covers a lot of the field (about as best you can do with 10 outfield players) along side the 4123.

You can use it for attacking, or high block or possesion. Very malleable. 

 

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I think sometimes people are too rigid with the 4-2-3-1 formation. I've tried it so many times and failed with it, as by playing 2 cms and 3 AMs I believe it destroys the balance of the team. It's far too attacking so only works with top teams.

I'm currently playing with a 4-4-2 formation which essentially works like a 4-2-3-1. I have my left winger playing in an AML position but the right winger playing deeper in ML. Rather than an attacking midfielder I use a deep lying forward on support who drops into the holes where the AM would be whilst also getting further up when off the ball.

Like all tactics, you need the players to suit it. Build a tactic to fit your squad, and then you can start buying/developing players to fit the tactic you want to use later.

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the key to a 4-2-3-1 being successful is the players in the centre. Which are the 2 CM and AMC. 

You need very good players in that position to be 3/4 there to make the tactic successful. the other 1/4 is having very good AML AMR.

Which is why 4231 is not meant to be played by lower but only top tier teams.

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7 minutes ago, upthetoon said:

the key to a 4-2-3-1 being successful is the players in the centre. Which are the 2 CM and AMC. 

You need very good players in that position to be 3/4 there to make the tactic successful. the other 1/4 is having very good AML AMR.

Which is why 4231 is not meant to be played by lower but only top tier teams.

Nonsense. As I said above, it works perfectly well with lower teams so long as you adjust the midfield to 2xDM, an MC along with ML and MR.

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14 minutes ago, upthetoon said:

... Which is why 4231 is not meant to be played by lower but only top tier teams.

I’ll echo @phnompenhandy‘s nonsense comment ... I took Siena from Serie C to Serie A using a Cleon’s version of 4-2-3-1 but with a normal DL

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The 4-2-3-1 as set per default structure in FM is a very attacking one, so if you have better players it'll do well, but you can be exposed because it does leave great big spaces on the pitch.

I think Sky, BBC MotD are a little guilty of lazily showing so many teams as playing 4-2-3-1 in this attacking framework when it simply isn't true. In practice for many teams the midfielders will be much deeper, with the wide players also tracking back, more like a 4-2DM-3 (across midfield strata)-1.

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For me, the combination of DLP-s and CM-d works very good in a 4231. Both roles have 'hold position' as a default instruction. I prefer to use a DLP instead of an AP in the attacking midfield strata as he gets to see more of the ball and he's very involved in the build up.

The top 4 players are enough to break any defense.

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I'm the opposite, i find this the best formation to use in this version. The version i am using now is a slightly asymmetric version and goes like this:

                  F9

IF(s)          AM(a)

                                  W(a)

          DLP(d)    RM(s)   

WB(a) CB(d) CB(d) WB(s)

                  GK

 

 

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1 hour ago, upthetoon said:

the key to a 4-2-3-1 being successful is the players in the centre. Which are the 2 CM and AMC. 

You need very good players in that position to be 3/4 there to make the tactic successful. the other 1/4 is having very good AML AMR.

Which is why 4231 is not meant to be played by lower but only top tier teams.

Maybe that's just the players you had available to you ...

 

I've had some reasonable success with the formation in LL2 with Cowdenbeath, and the quality available at this level isn't too dissimilar to that found in the VN/S

My most effective players were generally the 2 wide players & the striker

 

I don't always use the same role/duty combination from one match to the next, offhand I've used 4 roles in the striker position with this formation

DF, DLF, P & AF

and I've done similar changes with other positions too on a match by match basis.

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1 hour ago, Lord Rowell said:

The 4-2-3-1 as set per default structure in FM is a very attacking one, so if you have better players it'll do well, but you can be exposed because it does leave great big spaces on the pitch.

I think Sky, BBC MotD are a little guilty of lazily showing so many teams as playing 4-2-3-1 in this attacking framework when it simply isn't true. In practice for many teams the midfielders will be much deeper, with the wide players also tracking back, more like a 4-2DM-3 (across midfield strata)-1.

Yes, that's a fair point. Maybe the default FM template is too attacking; I was assuming the posters commenting would adapt their tactics to the players at their disposal and the level they'd be playing at.

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Having said I’m currently successful with 4-2-3-1 I’d like to add that this is only time I’ve had any success with an ALM, AMR and STC. I’ve never managed to get any form of 4-3-3 to work with wide AMs and one STC and I’ve been playing the game since FM14 ... it probably simply means that I’m crap at FM.

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3 hours ago, phnompenhandy said:

Yes, that's a fair point. Maybe the default FM template is too attacking; I was assuming the posters commenting would adapt their tactics to the players at their disposal and the level they'd be playing at.

I think it is what it is and people just need to realise that is a very open set-up. If people want to be more compact, pick a different shape.

I should add by the way I have made the mistake I'm writing about myself previously. So, not meaning to be judgemental & all that :)

Edited by Lord Rowell

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