Best FM 2014 Tactics: The Surprising 4-3-3

FM 2014 Downloads

written by Johnny Karp

The quest for the best FM 2014 tactics continues, I have to admit that I like creating and testing tactics even though it does get very frustrating when things don’t go as planned. I’m pleased to report that this time they did go as planned, even better than I had expected. My initial idea was to create a flat 4-3-3 with 3 central midfielders and 3 strikers up front, but that didn’t work so I ended up creating this…

FM 2014 Tactic Formation and Shape

It’s still a 4-3-3 but there is a regista in front of the defence, two box to box midfielder running the show, two inside forwards and a false nine up front. Mentality was “attacking” in my initial idea but then I changed it to “control” for better balance between defence and attack. Once I had a more or less definitive version of the tactic I decided to test it with Aston Villa, predicted to finish 16th.

The team instructions are pretty much self-explanatory: work ball into box, play out defence and short passing, hassle opponents and use offside trap, high tempo and lo0k for overlap plus run at defence. I won’t go into the endless details of how and why I have chosen those instructions but I will say that I had 13 instructions in the initial version, then narrowed that list down to these eight. If you want details about why I have chosen an instruction or the other please ask in the comments and I will explain.

fm 2014 tactic formation and instructions

There are also some specific player instructions set:

Goalkeeper – distribute to defenders

Midfielders (including DM) – shoot less often, close down more

Inside forwards – dribble more, shoot less often, roam from position

False nine – shoot less often, roam from position

As you can see I tried to reduce shooting from distance while encouraging midfielders to be aggressive and forwards to roam from their positions, trying to surprise the opponents in various areas of the pitch.

The result of all those roles and instructions is a compact set up with short distances between the players (a must if you want to play a short passing game). The two full backs will often overlap the inside forwards while the two box to box midfielders will also overlap the false nine as the striker will often drop back to receive the ball. The two inside forwards will often run with the ball, either down the line or cutting inside to seek an opportunity to shoot.

fm 2014 tactic average positions

FM 2014 Tactic In Action

The two central midfielders are crucial when going forward, they run at the defence and create numerical superiority inside the opposition penalty area.

The screen shot below shows one of these cases, one of the MCs has the ball at the edge of the area while the other breaks free of his marker inside the box. The ball carrier has two options, either passing to the striker or to the MC, creating a chance to score either way.

fm 2014 tactic attacking

The next screen shot shows a case of one of the MCs overlapping the striker. The false nine dropped back to receive a pass while the left side MC runs inside the penalty area to receive a pass. This play resulted into a goal for us and we had many similar ones.

fm 2014 tactic false nine

When defending the three midfielders will create a punch in front of the back four, they will always look to press the opponents and try to get the ball back. The screen shot below shows that the two inside forwards also contribute to the defensive effort while the false nine will also do that from time to time. In this case the pressure was too much for the opponent who decided to shoot from there. You can also notice that our back four moved a bit up, trying to compress the space and leave the opponents offside.

fm 2014 tactic defending 2

Another thing I want to show you is what the regista can do at times. The play below shows our DM plugging a hole on our left flank, the left back was slightly out of position so the DM stepped in to cover the ground. You can also see that the AML travels back along with the opposition right back.

fm 2014 tactic defending

FM 2014 Tactic Results

And now the results… I have to say that I have tried to use counter mentality instead of control for away matches, that went on until the Arsenal match when I decided to start with control in order to surprise them. Never started with counter after that but I did switch to counter during matches now and again, mostly during the last 25-30 minutes when defending a lead.

As you can see we lost two of our first three matches, I guess most people would have called it quits at that point. But I was still pretty sure that this tactic would work as we were incredibly unlucky to lose those two matches. Then we lost another one, at Norwich, and that was quite unlucky as well.

And then my persistence was finally rewarded, we went 10 games unbeaten, defeating Liverpool and drawing with Man City and Arsenal in the process. Then league leaders Everton brought us back down to Earth but the lads reacted with a fantastic string of results, beating Chelsea and Manchester United! The match at Old Trafford was epic, they were leading 1-0 at the break, we were down to 10 men but fought back to win 2-1!

fm 2014 tactic aston villa results

Our best players were Benteke, the striker, with 13 goals, 4 assists and 7.34 average rating, and Albrighton, right inside forward, with 2 goals, 11 assists and 7.33 average rating. I guess we would have been even better off with a good left inside forward…

Probably the best performance was at home against Sunderland, a real onslaught there.

Aston Villa vs Sunderland stats

So, I went on until the halfway mark of the season, leaving relegation contenders Aston Villa in second place (maybe 4th if both Man United and Chelsea win their game in hand). Still pretty good for a team that was predicted to finish 16th. With 38 points after 19 matches I guess we had already achieved the goal set by the board, which was to avoid relegation.

fm 2014 tactic premier league table

UPDATE: I completed the season with Aston Villa after publishing the post, finished 4th behind Everton, Chelsea and Man United. Should have finished second but lost 3 out of the last 4 matches due to injuries and some silly red cards.

I was curious to try this with a better team and I gave it a quick go with Barcelona, holidaying through non-league matches. The results were pretty good, even though we played without Messi (injured).

fm 2014 tactic barcelona results

FM 2014 Tactic Download

If you want to give it a go you can download it by clicking the button below. If that doesn’t work for any reason, try the alternative link below that.

FM 2014 Download

alternative download link

Here’s how you install the tactic in FM 2014:

  • Once your download is complete, move the file to the following folder: documents>sports interactive>football manager 2014>tactics
  • Load the game and enter the tactics screen.
  • Click the button to add a tactic and look in ‘archived tactics’, then select ‘4-3-3 control’.

A few things I should mention before wrapping things up: I prepared the tactic through pre-season (you should too), opposition instructions and match preparation were handled by the assistant manager. I should also say that I didn’t make any signings during the summer, just used the standard Aston Villa squad.

That’s about it, hope this FM 2014 tactic gives you good results if you try it. Would it work for any team? I would be very surprised if it would, there’s no tactic that can give you instant results with any team. You can consider the previous line as a standard reply to comments saying “this doesn’t work, I’m 14th with Arsenal”.

Constructive feedback and suggestions are always welcome though.

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192 Comments on "Best FM 2014 Tactics: The Surprising 4-3-3"

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November 10, 2013 12:38

Can you create a 4-2-3-1 pls. i really like your tactics!!

November 10, 2013 12:46

no with 2cms and 3 ams (2 wingers or inside forward with an am)

November 10, 2013 12:54

it would me the world to me seriously because i really like the tactics you create.
pls create one as soon as possible

November 10, 2013 13:12

nicely done! exactly the same as my tactic! except for a few slight differences. run at defence are only for my inside forwards instead as team instruction. and I don’t like to play out of defence, seems too risky unless you have ball playing defenders and balanced DM or CM. anyway, I end up getting 3rd at the end of the season with Liverpool, blooding Sterling on the right, Coutinho on the left with Suarez playing forward. perhaps playing Suarez in a False nine position would have given me better results.

November 10, 2013 13:56

i tired already and failed miserably. can you pls create one for me?

November 10, 2013 14:04

thx a lot johnny your the best as always!!

November 10, 2013 15:26

I have been using this tactic with Atletico Madrid. I changed one of the BBMs to a AP to fit Arda Turan into the team as he is my best player. So far this is working well and helping me to create more chances. Has anyone else tried this?

November 10, 2013 17:28

should be alright. perhaps a DLP will be a safer bet while an AP will open up your defense a bit more at the expense of your offense. do be careful while against much stronger teams though.

November 10, 2013 16:24

Can you tell me what is your general training focus ?

November 10, 2013 16:25

Hi Johnny,

Nice one, I always like your tactics, I will use this one for my first save :)

Thanks for creating it

November 10, 2013 16:39

I guess the significance of the player roles plays a big part in the good old 4-3-3 too…I like the new system so far…lots of tweaking even without sliders…This is a great tactic and when defensive strats tire me(till now i use tactics similar to darren’s) i will give it a try…Great read…

November 10, 2013 19:14

will it work with counter?

November 10, 2013 20:31

any news on the 4231? :P

November 10, 2013 21:40

kk np i will wait

November 11, 2013 07:34

training , match prep ?

November 11, 2013 07:52

Hey Johnny…I find that my F9 is taking way too many long shots. He’s rated 3.5 stars for the role. Best I’ve got. Any ideas?

November 11, 2013 09:00

The first thing I noticed was what seemed to be an abundance of team instructions but in fact didn’t complicate things at all based on those results :) Villa looked like a nicely compact unit and a 4th place finish is very respectable.

November 11, 2013 19:30

Wow those results are outstanding! i support villa aswell so I no what im going to be doing after this. Thank

November 11, 2013 23:26

I have a tactic that you may want to review? Where do I join the queue if there is one?

November 12, 2013 00:47

Could you remake this tactic to this new FM14 system?

it was by far, one of the best tactics i’ve ever used

November 12, 2013 15:14

Great work mate, seems like a solid tactic and I’m sure I’ll give it a go at somepoint.

November 12, 2013 23:20

Just an opinion. Is this tactic “best” suited for a top team or a average team in PL compared to the 4-5-1 tactic of yours?

November 13, 2013 00:45

Thanks Darren for this great job. I’ve tried this tactic with the season started with Espanyol and it’s really working great. I’m on the cup’s final (with Atletico and Valencia on my way) and 6th on the Liga at just 3 points from the champions league. What I like the most is that seems that almost everybody in the team can score and without being so weak on defense. Really working.

I sold Moreno for 20 m € and I got Balanta, Samper, Lucas Romero and Zivkovic. Not bad for a team without transfer budget.

November 13, 2013 03:59

Thanks for the tactics. I made a few tweaks (retaining possession at home), changing one of the BBW to DLP and the Regista to Anchorman for more forward action at home. Pretty nifty, but tends to invite a lot of pressure at the last 25-30 minutes. Switching to counter to defend a lead seems to do the trick :)

Alexey Petrushchenkov
November 13, 2013 07:42

Looks better than your previous Tiki-Taka tactic – more chances, better defence. Can’t find a proper SK though. Guess Szczesny is ok with this role, but I’ve sold him to Barcelona right before reading this article =)

November 13, 2013 11:59

Do you use counter mentality when you play away against very good teams (or you a being an underdog) ?

November 13, 2013 18:58

Say if you are using a player like Lamela on the right, to take full advantage of his fantastic ability could you change the amr to attack instead of support?

November 13, 2013 20:13

This tactic is awful. I played it with Southampton, in seven games I lost 5 and 2 draws. It really sucks. Worst tactic I ever played

November 13, 2013 22:35

what kind of players would you use in box to box roles? i mean more defensive or more offensive oriented? maybe you could provide some examples. thanks

November 14, 2013 22:12

I have been using this tactic with aston villa like you, did good results, its still early but gone unbeaten to chelsea and united.. but the thing that im worried about is too much injuries, every single match i got one player injured with this tactic.. training is average, and i rotate players.. so far 8 players injured including benteke, so is this tactic depending on high stamina or something becouse on other tactics i dont get injuries that much..

Sangeet Narayan
November 15, 2013 13:58

What about the instructions to full backs???

November 16, 2013 11:34

Is it important that the keeper is a sweeper keeper?

November 16, 2013 12:07

Ok thanks I won my first game 8-2 away to Crystal Palace the team seem so aggresive and the overlap helps for crossing Delph is immense he grabbed a hatrick. Hopeful i’ll have a successful season.Have u done any more seasons?

November 16, 2013 12:55

I appreciate the time gone into this, but it worked terribly for me. If you don’t have 2 players who are good in the inside forward position, there is no point trying this tactic.

November 19, 2013 15:24

Pretty nice tactic mate! your hard work made Newcastle finish 2nd in my first season. 2nd season, 6th.. Its a little tricky tactic though.. One thing i cant understand, is that my strikers, dont get average rating anywhere near 7.. Cisse: 16apps,3goals.. Doumbia:14apps 4goals.. i cant figure this out.. ive also tried to change their roles, in case they fail to play as False9 in this tactic, but again, too low performances.. Any advice??

November 21, 2013 08:02

Check out a post on fmbase by the username of jonathansmith. With the post called 352 D-WING(match engine breaker). This tactic is fenominal i have tried with top teams in prem and champ in england wiv relegation battle mid table and title challenge n this works for all of them. Seriously check it out it is sweet

November 21, 2013 17:10

Hi Johnny!

What adjustments would you normally make to for example team instructions if your team is behind? Thanks

November 27, 2013 03:57

Hey, iv been playing fm since day one, CM and all that, and i hate to say…but ur tactic is sick, im even ashame to admit as i always do my own thing but this time i was struggling, i got ur tactic and im 23 games unbeaten with Napoli with a average team… well done.

November 29, 2013 16:54

What about for crossing the ball is there any specific instructions for this? Thanks

December 5, 2013 12:29

What do you if you team is behind? what changes du you make on you tactic ?

December 7, 2013 03:46

Does this work on the lates patch?

December 10, 2013 09:13

I’m trying this with Sutton United, have tried similar but with two DLPs in CM and a playmaker as AM with ok results. I used the DLPs as I wanted them to win the ball back and clean up to avoid being hit on the break but like your use of regista and two more attacking CMs.

Ricardo Ledo
December 10, 2013 15:07

Hi Johnny,

First of all thank you for the detailed tactic and instructions. I basically followed to the dot since I don’t have much time to investigate around by myself (busy familiar life :)).
I chose the team of the city where i was born and raised in Portugal. This team is in the last division possible, something like National Conference League and I’m going half way of the season in 2nd place.
What I noticed is that the results are a little bit unpredictable. For eg. I won against the 1st by 3-0 and the next game i lost against the last one by 3-1.
So basically my question is: Is this tactic applicable also for lower level teams such as this one i picked? Or should i need to “tweek” it to adapt to a “different reality”
Once again thank you so very much for the excellent thread and tactic. They’re very good.

Alexey Petrushchenkov
December 11, 2013 15:30

Hello. Is there any profit of using my forward as CF(support) and not F9 in your model? Still can’t get the plot of this new player role…

December 14, 2013 21:08

Hi Brill tactic im using it with stockport all iv done is take high tempo off and I running away wiv the league! Target man aswell instead false 9 lower league are not ready for false 9’s

Jason hart
December 16, 2013 12:37

Will it work with a target man instead of a false nine?

Chris brown
December 16, 2013 12:40

Could I use this with a target man instead of a false nine?

Alexey Petrushchenkov
December 16, 2013 17:10

Hello again, John!

Have you tried to add “Be More Expressive” and “Roam From Positions” tactical features? Guess it can be good for a high-profile team with a lot of creative players but unfortunately I can’t see the difference and my ball possession slightly decreased (played 2 months with these 2 new add-ons).

Best regards, Alexey.

December 17, 2013 04:19

hi jhonny karp , i am a big fan of urs and darren and i love how u guyz create tactics and it works like a charm , i am currently using ur tactics with Blackburn and it working very well and I am on Top of standing ..
could u give some insight about the training for both team and individual ..for team how mutch should the slider be

December 17, 2013 17:25

Hey Johnny! I am also a fan of yours for a quite some time now. Here is my review so far of the tactic. I’ve been using it from the get-go in my Freiburg save and I am now 10 games into the second season. We started the first season very well and by the winter break we were 5th in the league, through the group stage of the Euro cup and still in the cup. By that time we had some extraordinary results like beating Valencia 7-0 in Spain and returning from 3 goals down to win 7-4 against Dortmund again away. But after the winter break all hell broke loose and we’ve only won one game. I don’t blame the tactic for that 100%. Despite being a veteran in this game (playing since the mid ‘90s) I probably did something wrong. Also after watching the goals I must say that something is wrong with this version cause players just walk through my defense and score. And my defense ain’t that bad. Also bigger teams were unsettling our players so I had to sell some of them. So far in the second season we’ve been doing again well, being… Read more »

December 17, 2013 22:24

Hi Johnny Karp.. i am about to try your tactis but i wonder how el ahmadi and westwood can contribute? should i just play them both as BBM role or can i change the role? since both are considered AP.. thanks John