Best FM 2016 Tactics: Darren’s Lower League 4-1-4-1

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written by Darren Smith

Darren's lower league 4-1-4-1

Hi guys

Welcome to the third edition of our best FM 2016 tactics series. If you struggle for stability in the lower leagues, need a simple formation and fancy a bit of possession this system could be what you’re looking for. A tactic of two halves that creates a lot going forward and remains stable at the back.

Best FM 2016 Tactics: Formation

FM16 tactic 4-1-4-1, formation

A simple 4-1-4-1 deploying five players to attack and five outfield players to defend. The centre backs and half back hold the fort while an advanced playmaker, central midfielder, two wingers and false nine attack. The two full backs get involved in transition play but don’t over commit. You can use attacking midfielders at MR and ML, both can either stick to the flank or cut inside, the players preference will dictate which.

Both MC’s pick holes in the opposition as the false nine pulls defenders out of position for the wingers to arrive late making them hard to track.

Best FM 2016 Tactics: Team Instructions

FM16 tactic 4-1-4-1, team instructions

I wanted a stable system that created chances without been short at the back and the defensive looking shape allows me to use attacking roles and adventurous instructions. This tactic uses narrow width, closes down aggressively and encourages ball retention and discourages wasting opportunities.

I prefer to play with the ball but don’t go overkill as its hard to create gaps if your opponent never get the chance to move out of position. I use retain possession, work ball into box and play out of defence as if I didn’t the attacking minded roles would leave us exposed. Its all about finding balance.

Best FM 2016 Tactics: Player Roles

GK – goalkeeper (defend) – standard goalkeeper

CD – central defender (defend) – typical central defenders as ever, tackling, positioning, strength and heading are key attributes, try and avoid slow centre backs as you can be in danger of the counter attack and passes over the top.

DR/DL – full back (attack) – Fast players required with good defensive ability. Work rate is very important, as is stamina and the better these guys can cross, the more goals will come from wide play.

DM – half back (defend) – This guy can drop back to form a three man defence or act as a shield in front of your defence so he needs to tackle, head the ball, mark and pass. Defensive attributes are best but an all round midfielder would be ideal.

MCR – advanced playmaker (attack) – Your main playmaker, this guy needs to pick a pass, possess technique and vision but also dribble with the ball. I like my AP to have good physical attributes also.

MCL – central midfielder (attack) – An all round midfielder is preferred. This guy needs to pass, create and good finishing ability will help.

MR/ML – winger (attack) – lots of goals and assists from these two players, they have a lot of freedom and you need someone who has vision, flair, speed, dribbling, crossing and finishing ability. Also off the ball is important as the ability to be lost in the box will make scoring easier. The better these two are the more success you will gain and magician dribblers are preferred. You can train attacking midfielders to fill this role and you can also have them cut inside, they will naturally do so if that is their preference.

ST – false nine (support) – Possibly the hardest position to fill. This guy must do it all, he needs speed, dribbling, flair and the usual finishing attributes. Off the ball is very important as is anticipation but don’t underestimate how good passing should be.

General Team Shape

FM16 tactic 4-1-4-1, shape

The image above shows our general shape. The full backs sit ahead of the defensive line but the half back covers. Both midfielders will wait for the ball to reach them or pass them before making a move forward. Both wingers will look for opportunities to get in behind and roam from their position as the false nine can drift off his man pulling the opposition out of shape but also looks to break the defensive line as the ball moves forward.

Passing Options

FM16 tactic 4-1-4-1, passing options

I ask my team to setup narrow and exploit the middle, above shows the sort of passing options this can create in transition. Both MC’s offer themselves to each other, the full backs support and the wingers look to receive a ball over the top. You’ll see both central defenders and the half back sit deep holding the fort.

Defensive Cover When Attacking

FM16 tactic 4-1-4-1, defensive cover when attacking

Another example of the 5 and 5 this system creates. Note the ‘x’ shape showing how well covered we are in all phases of an opposition counter attack. Meanwhile the MR, ML, two MC’s and ST roam around the opposition area trying to pick holes.

Best FM 2016 Tactics: Results

Championship with Wolves

FM16 tactic 4-1-4-1, league table

I know Wolves have a good squad and I did sign the great Zivkovic and Ajer but 114 points is still a great tally. We also reached the latter stages of both cup competitions and were unlucky to miss the FA Cup semi-final.

Team Stats

FM16 tactic 4-1-4-1, team stats

Just wanted to demonstrate how well we did in possession and how many efforts hit the target.

Player Stats

FM16 tactic 4-1-4-1, player stats

The above shows how vital your wingers are to success, the false nine needs to chip in with the most goals but both full backs have an impact on the assists also.

Best FM 2016 Tactics: Top Tips

  • This has been tested for patch 16.1.1, we cannot predict whether this will work in future patches due to potential match engine changes.
  • As with any tactic it needs loading at the start of pre-season and don’t sign a whole new team, these two things will see you under perform not because of a poor tactic but because of poor management. Preperation is very important you need a squad full of match fit players and good team chemistry to make any system work.
  • Pre-season:  General training – team cohesion  with high intensity for half and the then train fitness at high intensity.
  • During Season: General Training – balanced, Match Preparation – take assistants advice and judge by form.
  • For opposition instructions use your assistant manager or coach with best tactical knowledge, not any less than 12 for tactical knowledge and instructions will suffer.

Best FM 2016 Tactics: Download

If you would like to give the tactic a try, follow the instructions below:

FM 2014 Download

1. Click the download link above and download the file.

2. Once the file is downloaded move it to the following folder documents>sports interactive>football manager 2016>tactics

3. Now load the game as normal and enter the tactics screen.

4. In the tactics screen, click the tactic you currently have loaded then select ‘load’ from the drop-down menu

5. Select ‘Darren’s lower league 4-1-4-1′ and click  load.

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to leave a comment. Hope you enjoy :)

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38 Comments on "Best FM 2016 Tactics: Darren’s Lower League 4-1-4-1"

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You tested with one of the best teams in the division AND you signed some of the hottest prospects like Ajer or Zivkovic. Hardly a meaningful test, is it?
It’s a shame since tactic could be really good, but such test don’t provide any useful info.


Why is it a waste? It proves the tactic does work, I picked Wolves as they had the most suitable players. I am now in my first top flight season and sitting 4th halfway through. I did also test this with Sheffield Wednesday and got very similar results walking to the title.

I do not understand what your point is? If the tactic doesn’t work then fair enough, but you haven’t even tried it.


Great tactic, en route to promotion with Fulham. You mentioned you’re now playing in the Premier League and you’re in fourth place. If you used the same tactic in your second season, where there any tweaks to adapt it for top flight football ?


Glad its working for you. I kept the tactic as it is for the second season.


Great, thanks. You should check Fulham, they also fit very well on this tactic … all you need to buy is a DM and a MR/AMR. I didn’t managed to buy Ajer and Zivkovic unfortunately for these positions, the big clubs jumped on them right away.


I used with Maidstone United and I came 1st in the Vanarama National South and i’m now 2nd in the Vanarama National but I have lost my last few games and I seem to struggle away, any tips or advice?


Without seeing what happens in the match engine or understanding what issues you may have with the squad its impossible to offer advice, best thing to do is put highlights mode into extended and really look at whats going on…although it could just be a dip in form and player related.


Any other teams in the championship that this would be good for?


A number of them but no matter who you go with there will need to be some signings. Just look through the roles and see who has relevant players. I think Fulham and Reading would work quite well off the top of my head.


Hi guys,

I want to try this tactics, but I wonder if it works on 16.2.0.

Darren ?


It does if you have the right squad yes.


Hi Darren,

thanks for the reply!
I will test and share the results.

Tolga Uyan

hi darren, good tactic tbh. I’m any idea to change f9 role ? I have good AF or CF(support,attack)


If I understand correctly you want to change the F9 role. That is a very important part of the tactic, you could try changing it but it would change the system too much to be considered the same so I wouldn’t recommend it.

Tolga Uyan

Yeah sorry for typo. I’v changed f9 to TM with high crosses. Also changed Hb to Dm. Works well on udinese. First season 3th place after awful start of the season. You should give a try. Thanks for the reply.

lee melvin

i like this formation, but the amount of teams that come out to defend and hit me on the counter attack is really frustrating. it may just be my centre backs, or the fact that my wingers haven’t got brilliant finishing, but it leaves me seething quite often. it has so far prevented me promotion to the top division, but I’ve been possession wise consistently the best team in the league. any suggestions or tips?


I haven’t used this in a little bit and am not convinced it is as successful in patch 16.2 as in the previous. Might be best to try finding a new tactic if you are struggling for goals.


Would this tactic work as low as the conference north or is it too complexed for that standard?


It worked OK for me with FC United. You may need to look at the defensive side of set pieces though. Set all players that are ‘go back’ to man mark and move two from the wall in free kicks to man mark also. Oh and have someone on the edge of the area for corners too.


Cheers, giving it a go. I really struggle when it comes to searching for players at this level, did you sign anyone with FC United?


Before you try it Varun, I have emailed your profile ask him to show you the email (its for you both) and message me back.

As for signings I got Charlie Collins, Danny Morton, Jakobsson for free as well as William Bailey on loan.


Works like a charm!
I won Sky Bet League 2 with Pompey without any problems. I got Kelechi Iheanacho on loan from Man City and he is fantastic F9!
Once again Darren, 10x!


Used this tactic with Millwall and won League 1. Finished 6 points ahead of second and won the st johnstones paint trophy as well. Started season very well going unbeaten for about 16 games form dipped after that losing about 7 games in total in the league and a few draws. Found that it was very easy to get chances on goal but better standard of player would have meant more goals than we got. Overall tactic is brilliant and looking forward to trying it in the championship in my next season!

Chip Thompson (@Thompson_film)

Hey man, do you reckon this would be decent for a lower Prem side? I’m thinking Watford, Bournemouth, Norwich etc. Thanks!


Playing as Nottingham and won the Promotion in first season. This itself an achievement considering the transfer embargo on Nottingham and the limited resources :)


Gutted. Got sacked from York after keeping them up 2 seasons in a row! Went to Doncaster who were rock bottom of the football league and 9 points from safety, I chose this tactic… First 5 games very very poor results 1 point I think I got! However when it got to January I signed more Suitable players to the formation who were actually
Worse than my players going off ratings! And they did a much better job… Went on a 10 game unbeaten streak but the damage was already done I was relegated but kept
My job! Thanks for the tactic!!


[…] sure you read about the tactic in detail here. It is important to ensure you get every detail right in order to the most out of the […]


Big fan of this tactic, started a game with Wycombe being promoted in first season through the play-offs. Went into League One and struggled, ended up getting sacked. Failure on my part in buying poor players. False Nine a hard position to fill. Went to Gillingham after this and sorted the team out, finished Ninth after being 18th in March when taking over. Came second in the League next season, found pushing the MR and ML up to AMR and AML helped support the striker and scored more goals. Currently three points clear in January in League 1. Got my scouting network expanded at the end of promotion season, found value in players abroad. Recommend Faissal El Bakhtaoui from Dunfermline as a False Nine. Scores and gets assists as well. Perfect for League 1, 2 level. Thanks for the tactic.


[…] the 4123 here it is similar to the 4123 but a bit more sensible but lethal when it wants to be Best FM 2016 Tactics: Darren's Lower League 4-1-4-1 • FM StoriesFM Stories Reply With […]


hello darren. is this your 15/16 season rating? and how much did u buy zivkovic and ajer mate. bcause i playing burnley and hardly to buy decent player.