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Help With 5 At The Back Formations

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Hello everyone, just wondering if I could get some help with something...

Currently playing a Journeyman save on FM20, starting with nothing and getting onwards and upwards through building a reputation, etc... In my third season I got offered a job as manager of Preston. Nice club that I (probably controversially for a Blackburn fan) actually enjoy watching in real life.

My problem stems from trying to get a decent tactic working for the team. I got the job in October, so any chance for signings had disappeared, so have to make do with the squad I've got... here's a couple of quick screenshots showing the squad;




So, from looking at the squad when I took... we have 6 Central Defenders in the squad, with 4 of them being four star rated. No clear defensive midfielders in the team, no real wingers, and not much in the way of strikers.

The initial tactic I went with was this;



Overall I feel as a tactic it just feels an... absolute mess, to be honest. This is it in a heavily edited format from when I started, to where I am now.
Initially I had Play Out of Defence, and both Lines of Engagement I seem to recall being a lot lower. Possibly the PF(at) changed to a Pf(sp), and often the AML kept changing roles constantly, due to never appearing to get in the game, and always suffering with an average 6.4 or so rating. Experimented a while with Maguire playing there as a Raumdeuter , with ... inconsistent results.

The overall performance of the team always seemed okay, but never stellar. at the time I attributed this to the team having only won once in the league, and being in the relegation zone. So low moral, no everything. So I felt it was a matter of building form and confidence with a more defensive formation, and hope to squeeze some results to build from there. Goals seemed to come from a lot of places, and I almost felt more like I was riding a wave of luck in each game (penalties, free kicks, lucky deflections, etc), rather than any tactical masterclass on my part.

This is why the team seems to be doing quite well when looking at the recent results. This is how we've fared since I took over in October just before the West Brom game.




On the basis of a glance of that, it looked almost like it was alright, but truth be told throughout most of the games there was a lot of chopping and changing of tactics and formations. This has been a save I've only had a few hours an evening to play, so I forget exactly what I did each game. What I do remember doing is starting with the 5-4-1, or some variation of a 3 at the back system. However, each game seemed to almost conspire to teach me the same lesson;

5-4-1 get's demolished by 4-2-3-1 without fail

Like... every time. I can go into a match being considered the favourite, with a quick glance at the oppositions team showing me that I even have the overall better squad, yet still they absolutely get obliterated against that particular setup. It seems to be the common tactic being used by lots of teams, and I can't seem to find any answer at all with this set up, with 3 at the back, of overcoming it. Here's a screenshot of the last result against Brentford, a game I lost.


Again, potentially looks like a game of fine margins, but at the 40 minute mark I had to drop into the now super common 4-1-4-1 formation. Pushing my usual BPD(St) into a DM role of some variety. At that point I pretty much, magically got instantly back into the game.

To preface, I'm not an idiot... or I don't feel like I am. I can constantly see were the problems arise. It's always the opposition AMR, AML who get all the space and all the shots. Mostly appearing to receive the ball pretty freely out wide, or even more insultingly, just basically strolling into the box from as narrow as a wide player would be. Or they basically have the free space to run in behind my higher WB's. In fact any play on the wing seems to completely undo this setup. I played against a bog standard 4-4-2 Millwall team and they mostly utterly dominated me (I only won due to their poor finishing, and my near enough single shot on goal). Even when asked to press more, my own AML, AMR don't seem to unsettle the opposition fullbacks in anyway whatsoever. So it's always after seeing about 20 minutes or so of the game unfold that changes happen, and more often than not a defender has to play out of position, and we switch to some other formation with a flat back 4 instead. Is this because the higher WB role's are just not set up defensively to press the wide AM roles? Is that why I always lose them? Even setting them to WB(De) had absolutely no effect. In my mind I always feel like it should be the left and right sided CB's who should deal with the AMR, AML's, or is that me being misinformed/stupid/naive/an idiot? Is it as simple as having a Standard Defensive Line or a Lower one to stop that space being exploited? Am I vastly overthinking it?

As a side note as well, just to ask... The other thing I really don't understand with a tactic that has the same back 5 configuration as I've shown is how all the in game analysis shows that near all of my play comes from the wings. Even if I have 3 central midfielders, and 2 strikers, all central style roles. Even with the team asked to focus play through the middle, I see absolutely nothing happening in that area as the main place of build up. Would I literally have to change the WB's into IWB's to see more focus in the middle of the pitch?

I feel like this as a setup and tactic is almost the only real option I have to work with considering the squad, without upsetting everyone about playing time, etc.. Pretty much for the entirety of this season I can't see shifting too far from this, because brilliantly my predecessor signed 3 of the 6 CD's in the summer, meaning (bar loaning them out) I can't even shift half of the defenders. The other absolute shitter with taking this job is that the clubs vision is to play possession based attacking football, but somehow do that with the squad I've got. Like, can I even play that style of football with no dedicated DM's and an abundance of CD's?

So yeah. I suppose the tldr; version is... helping with a 5-4-1 and struggling to get into games against 4-2-3-1 mostly, but often just creating much of ... anything. Consistently that is.

Edited by SuperBiggles

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52 minutes ago, SuperBiggles said:


First, don't use tight marking together with high DL. In fact, don't use tight marking at all, unless you want to play a rather defensive style of football (tight and compact with a bottom-heavy formation). 

When you select certain instructions, you need to know exactly why you want to use them. Let's take the "Hit early crosses" for example. It's an instruction that suits counter-attacking and fast/direct attacking styles of football. But (the rest) of your tactic is completely opposite - with lower tempo and hold shape, you are certainly not looking to play any fast and/or direct type of football. Therefore, either remove early crosses or remove hold shape and lower tempo. All of them together do not really make much sense.

With the combo of higher DL and standard LOE, you have a good/optimal level of (vertical) compactness, which is good :thup: The only question is if your defense (especially CBs) are good enough to play safely with a higher line (and bear in mind that the mentality also affects this). If you don't have issues with opposition balls over the top (too often), then you (probably) can play on a higher DL. 

In terms of roles/duties, the front three are set up nicely (IWsu, Wat and PFat is a good combo) :thup:

However, the rest could/should be slightly rearranged. 

I would put the mezzala behind the attacking winger, whereas the DLP would move into the mezzala's position, so as to create some nice interplay with the IW and WB on the left. And I don't think it's necessary to have the DLP on defend duty. Instead, I would play the WB behind the mezzala on defend duty and ideally/preferably in the IWB role (but keep in mind that IWB is a more demanding role than ordinary WB). 

The other (more attack-minded) wing-back can either remain WB on support (or automatic, if you want to customize his behavior a bit) or be changed into WB on attack (which can be a bit too risky though, if the player does not have the right set of attributes, such as acceleration, pace, decisions, anticipation, stamina, work rate, teamwork, determination etc.). 

And I really don't think you need more than one BPD (if any), especially in a lower-league side.

So this could be a setup to go with:


IWsu                                 Wat

DLPsu   MEZsu

WBsu/au                      (I)WBde

CDde  BPDst  CDde


When it comes to team instructions, it would depend on the style of football you want to play - or rather, the style(s) of football your team is capable of executing. This setup of roles and duties is not ideal for hard-core possession football, so either some hybrid style or counter-attacking one. But that's something you need to decide after careful deliberation.


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1 hour ago, SuperBiggles said:

In my mind I always feel like it should be the left and right sided CB's who should deal with the AMR, AML's, or is that me being misinformed/stupid/naive/an idiot?

In modern football - and by extension the FM game - defending is primarily zonal. Which means that an opposition player will be marked/covered by your player whose zone of (defensive) responsibility he has entered. Therefore, there are no strict markers (even if you tell a player to specifically mark an opposition player/position, he is not going to do that in a literal sense). Defending is a collective responsibility, so your players' defensive actions/behavior will vary from situation to situation. 

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