Best FM 2014 Tactics: The Surprising 4-3-3
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The founder and co-owner of the website, a Romanian Football Manager addict. He’s been playing the game since CM ’97-’98, never missed any of the versions since then. His footballing career stopped before it began, he liked playing the game but disliked having to run around like crazy during the pretty harsh training sessions. He’s a supporter of the Romanian national team, Universitatea Craiova, Arsenal, Barcelona and… the Blyth Spartans! You can contact him at johnny[at]footballmanagerstory[dot]com