FM 2013 Lower League Guide: Two Tactics Are Better Than One

FM 2013

written by Darren Smith

fm13 lower league guide top image

Welcome back to my three part series, a guide to lower league Football. Before you read on, be sure to check part one by clicking the link below. This covers players and common mistakes made while setting up a new game and preparing pre-season.

Part one – FM 2013 Lower League Guide: Setup and Free Players

Some of you may have a one tactic wonder and the players to make it work, if so don’t read on, but for those who struggle, I have a few goodies to help you along the way. Below are some simple tips to help while making your FM13 lower league tactics.

  • Always make two tactics to start with. One should be a simple direct tactic with two upfront, the other should be more passing orientated and be about bossing the midfield.
  • Try not to make tactics with a fluid philosophy, balanced is much better in the lower leagues or even rigid.
  • Man marking tends to work best in the lower leagues (at least for me.)
  • Your approach to strategy and defensive line could be depicted by the opposition. If the opponents use a DMC then I tend to try counter attacking whereas when they use an AMC I try to control the match.
  • Central midfield does require one no nonsense sweep up machine. Basically someone to go around making tackles and getting the ball back, usually a BWM is best.

There you have a few starter guidelines, I could go on but risk confusing things. So instead, I’ll share my two best FM 2013 lower league tactics.

FM13 lower league tactic: 4-3-2-1

Similar too and based around my Fluid 4-5-1 (which is officially a 4-3-2-1.) The differences are minor but vital to lower league Football. We’ll gloss over those in a minute, but lets start with player roles and formation. Three in the middle means domination in the most used area of a pitch.

You need a great forward with poacher abilities for this to work and I have set the AML and ST to swap positions (this should confuse the opposition) but if the AML can’t score you will need to deactivate that setting. Also if your team seems to leak goals and struggle, drop the BWM to DMC position and make him an anchor man, this should sure things up a little, I had to do this during the first season in BSP and it worked well for tough opponents.

Fast defenders are very helpful and your full backs could make this tactic, their ability and speed really does add something special. The inside forwards will cut inside leaving room for the full backs to overlap and get forward.

fm13 lower league 4-3-2-1 formation

Team instructions

The team instructions are straight forward, following on from my previous tip you want to keep the passing short and simple. Talking of simple, just ask your players to man mark and assign a balanced philosophy, this should cut down on mistakes and mix ups due to your players poor mental ability. If you are trying to boss play and keep possession, you need to be pressing your opponents and closing them down.

fm13 lower league 4-3-2-1 instructions control

The above team instructions include control strategy, this automatically defaults the defensive line to high with an average width and tempo. Only use this during matches you fully expect to win and especially when the opponent uses a 4-2-3-1. Whatever you do, don’t use this strategy against a flat 5 man midfield or when the opposition are using a DMC. In those circumstances you should use the counter strategy below.

The counter strategy also works best for those very hard home matches and sticky away days. With the defensive line dropping deeper, don’t just see it as been more defensive, it can be an effective remedy for drawing the opposition out of their shape. So when the opposition sit back I would use this strategy to try and draw them on before hitting hard at the spaces they have left. The only thing I’d play with is the tempo slider, if this isn’t really working on the counter then adjust to a quicker tempo.

fm13 lower league 4-3-2-1 instructions counter

Last but not least the playmaker is set to the MC position (advanced playmaker role.) This guy will make it happen connecting midfield to attack and finding someone who can run and pass the ball is handy. The target man is your poacher and will be supplied with run onto balls, to try and take advantage of his speed.

fm13 lower league 4-3-2-1 playmaker

Click the download button below for this FM13 lower league tactic and move it to sports interactive>football manager 2013>tactics, then upon loading your game you should see it waiting in archived tactics ready to load.

FM13 lower league tactic: direct 4-4-2

The other tactic I use is a flat 4-4-2 with direct passing enabled. Its very simple in shape and requires a poacher and target man upfront. All balls are launched forward quickly and the two wide midfielders tend to bomb on in support of the front two during the attacking phase, whereas they hold a line with the MC’s during the defensive phase.

Your target man should be very tall, strong and have excellent aerial ability, he will link up play more than anything else while your poacher needs to be clinical and fast. You need one MC to win the ball back and play more of a utility role while the other sits deep and splays passes off to start every attack, be sure to find someone creative with great passing ability. Your wide midfielders may look fairly defensive in this setup, but they aren’t, be sure to find players with plenty of acceleration, great dribbling and good crossing ability.

fm13 lower league 4-4-2 formation

Team instructions

This FM13 lower league tactic sees a more direct style of passing and man marking. I found the control strategy was best which defaults your defensive line a little over half (remember your passing long so don’t need the defense to push up.) You’ll also be playing very quick football and using the full width of the pitch.

fm13 lower league 4-4-2 instructions control

Your target man is very, very important and he is the main source for long balls. Due to his creativity, passing and position on the pitch it makes sense to assign the playmaker duty to your deep lying playmaker. He can then dictate the tempo and direction of the match from the a position that is easily reachable to all on the pitch.

fm13 lower league 4-4-2 playmaker

Click the download button below for this FM13 lower league tactic and move it to sports interactive>football manager 2013>tactics, then upon loading your game you should see it waiting in archived tactics ready to load.

The results

Its all well and good me saying these two tactics work well, but we need some proof. Well, during my first season I mixed it up between the 4-4-2 and 4-3-2-1 depending on my opponent, form and many more factors. This felt like a tough season but turned out to be far from it as Gateshead topped the BSP with ease.

fm13 lower league finish bsp

I then managed to strengthen the team getting a poacher in Derbyshire and amazing winger in Rosado, both on loan might I add. This extra quality meant I could settle on using the 4-3-2-1 alone and it worked wonders as we topped League Two.

fm13 lower league finish l2

You may be wondering how and when to use the above tactics, well a lot is common sense and the rest is a little research, all of which will be covered in part three of this FM 2013 lower league guide. Just remember there are no easy answers now, FM has changed and we all have to start thinking on our own, all I want to do is offer the tools to help aid your thought process. I’ll leave you with a bit of touchline shout advice.

FM13 lower league touchline shouts

Another massive part of this years game are touchline shouts, if you have the perfect tactic or know how to adjust your sliders then they are better left alone…but 90% of us should be using this tool. Here’s how I’d approach the touchline shouts while in the lower leagues. I’ll name a scenario and offer the appropriate reaction.

  • Players making sloppy mistakes and opposition bossing the play: Get stuck in and retain possession.
  • Having lots of chances and missing easy opportunities: Change your approach, so if you are playing narrow then play wider and pump ball into box, if you’re playing a very wide game already with plenty of crosses then play narrower and work ball into box.
  • Taking too many long shots: Work ball into box
  • Opposition sitting so deep there’s no space to attack: Drop deeper and play wider
  • Constantly been attacked down the wing: Play wider and get stuck in
  • Your defense keep getting caught out, with the opposition striker getting in behind: Play narrower and drop deeper

Well that about does it for today, I hope you enjoyed part two and found some of this post helpful. If you missed part one, we covered setting up your game and signing the best lower league players, just click the link to read. Part 3 should be ready next week and covers match preparation and how to change the course of a game. Until then, thanks for reading and please feel free to comment.

Part one – FM 2013 Lower League Guide: Setup and Free Players

Part three – FM 2013 Lower League Guide: If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes

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  • andrew

    Listened your podcast the other day…good show.
    Does this mean, that you haven´t given up completely on FM13? ;-)

    • Darren Smith

      Hi Andrew, I haven’t given up yet no…I’m still learning about the new ME every day and hopefully adjusting, I said that is we bossed L2 with Gateshead then I’d find renewed patience and faith which happened so I’m still at it mate.

  • Gaurav Chaddah

    Hmm, interesting stuff there mate, after taking your advice a few weeks back I created a direct 4-4-2 and it did work, during the second season I didn’t use it once and we just about managed to win the league, not like you did though, it seems like slowly you are getting closer to working everything out.

    In league 2 currently things are frustrating for me, mainly because I took a risk in the summer with signing more young players but hopefully those shouts and a couple of tactical fixes can help me charge up the table, great read again and looking forward to part 3.

    • Darren Smith

      Thanks Gaurav, its tough but I think I’m slowly getting there. For tweaking in game there’s two categories, one for when you have a great team that just can’t take their chances or the other is when the game is more even and you need to stop the opposition, you need to work out which of these scenarios you are in during each match then logically try and fix the problems from there using shouts and or targeting opposition players and areas to stop play.

      • Gaurav Chaddah

        Also Darren, what is that skin called, one that is displayed when your showing the tables?

        • Darren Smith

          Its the Steklo skin, but not the default background, you can change the background by clicking the settings icon in the top left corner of the game, this os only available in the Steklo skin I believe.

  • gaz

    Guys has anyone given you feedback on the new layout? personally the new tiled layout is not a good look infact it has a negative affect it does not draw you in like the previous layout used to, dont want to sound negative just thought you may have been getting similar feedback if any at all

    • Darren Smith

      As far as I’m aware we’ve had no feedback at all, but thanks for the opinion.

  • Sploge811

    hi just curious is the match engine the same classic mode or full mode?made a good tastic in full mode just wondering if there is any difference in them??? i know u can’t do team talks and so on in classic mode… but will there be a difference in tactics used too or game play?? thanks great site by the way very helpfull :D

    • Darren Smith

      As far as I’m aware they are the same but you also can’t do opposition instructions I don’t think so that could also change your approach.

  • Ryan Noon

    Hi Darren,

    Great guide as usual, however, in the first tactic you include advice on this tactic specifically you say against “4-2-3-2 sides”….I’m assuming you meant 4-1-3-2? Slight nitpick but just wanted to be sure before I trial this tactic.



    • Darren Smith

      Thanks Ryan, sorry about the misleading mistake. It was meant to read 4-2-3-1 which to clarify has a flat defence, 2 MC’s, 3 AM’s and one ST. I’ve corrected the mistake now, thanks for the heads up.

      • Ryan Noon

        No probs Darren, just read through it again and 4-2-3-1 makes more sense.

        Keep up the good work,


        PS. Will there be a guide on the Head of Youth Development role at all?

        • Darren Smith

          I don’t think there will be, its kind of common sense TBH and we don’t have much more to offer than what people are already doing, but who knows, if we find any little tricks then there will be a guide at some point.

  • Sp3aker

    Could do with a far deeper break down on the tactics to be honest, more in line with other tactic creators. You need to put in the desirable attributes for each position. For example, for your tactic what are the best full back attributes? Or centre back attributes?

    It’s a decent breakdown, but missing a hell of a lot of information.

    • Darren Smith

      To be completely honest, this is a three part guide, each part is 1000 words plus, so I had to keep the information as simple as possible to avoid readers switching off. Also, its very obvious what attributes are important for each player, you just check which are the key attributes for that role, if I was to wipe the readers ass so to speak (I’m not been rude there btw) then this guide would be more than 5000 words and most wouldn’t read the full thing. This is a guide to help gamers who have played higher up the leagues but struggled when attempting LLM. Its not for a complete newbie who’s struggling full stop.

      But rather than me been negative, I’ll try and break the mold here, what information do you need about the tactic and I’ll try to add it if I feel its required.

      Just remember this is more about providing resources, ie downloads for quick fixes, then it goes into detail on other areas that I feel are very important, as said, there’s got to be a limit to the length of a guide, or no one will read it.

      • Sp3aker

        Not really to be honest. If you look at jassar’s tactical introductions they contain more information and less words. It’s not “wiping a players arse” as different attributes are required for different tactics even in the most mundane of roles. You may prefer playing with limited defenders for example, meaning that you would be looking more at the strength/tackling/heading side of the game. Alternatively you may require a number of ball playing defenders as your centre back, which throws up an entirely different group of necessary attributes. Deep line not needing any pace as opposed to a high line is another. Things such as this affect even a GK’s attributes if you are looking to play a sweeper keeper.

        It is those little things that are the difference between achieving decent results with a tactics, and great results with a tactic.

        • Darren Smith

          I don’t know who Jassar is or what site he writes for TBH so I can’t comment on that, but I can on your opinion of the attributes.

          While I know what you are trying to explain, these tactics were created with simplicity in mind, they rely purely on the attributes that each role demands (that is how I like my tactics, to suit numerous sides and players) and that is easily found and most gamers know them already. I guess acceleration would help the CB’s but thats it for attributes that aren’t already part of the main group required for each role, no special hidden attributes required, thats my experience anyway.

  • WokingKid

    Hi mate , Good work on the guide! But I couldn’t get the hang of it :( I tried a Gateshead save using the above formations but i’m loosing way too many games. I’m using the 4-3-2-1 for home games and 4-4-2 for the away ones.
    Can you help me out please?


    • Darren Smith

      This is a three part tactic, have you read the other three parts also? And these tactics are examples of what I made work with my team, but as the different parts of this guide demonstrate its all about finding the right tactic for your players also.

  • Robert Spencer

    To get your players to play football the proper way in the lower leagues is basically impossible.. however after having watched match after match in real time and in full and experimenting with various formations and strategies i have to say that this is true in the conference north or blue square bet north BSN league.

    I have been having a lot of trouble in lower league management in football manager 2013. The best tactics i have found to use in general terms is precisely this..

    Set up a default 4-4-2 using the tactic creator. CHANGE NOTHING.
    Once created, change the strategy to VERY RIGID, and the Mentality to CONTAIN.

    You may think, ‘ohhh i cant do this because i wont score many goals..’ however, this will not be true.

    You will actually get your team to behave like proper footballers. What i mean by this is that your players will play a ‘low risk’ game, and generally hold on to possession and play in a way that means there will not be constant changes in possession. If your player runs out of ideas they will hoof the ball clear, but this isn’t a bad thing. In-fact playing on the counter attack is much more effective when playing in this way. Because any forward pass or ‘risk’ will have more purpose.

    You will automatically be extremely hard to break down because of the mentality and strategy settings across your team.

    If you do manage to concede a goal before scoring one, then i would by default change your playing style to OVERLOAD, VERY RIGID

    Reply to this little comment string if you have any success trying this! I managed to get 6 wins out of 10 with 3 draws and one defeat. My team are pretty rubbish aswell, playing with Vauxhall Motors in the BSN.

    • Darren Smith

      While I see what you are saying I think you’ve gone to extremes there and its the general tactic to suit the team and the opponent that really matters this year, just adjusting the strategy and philosophy may work short term but it isn’t the answer long term, with every team.

  • paul

    Hi :)

    On your team formation photos you have under each players names their % and their average rating. How do you do this?!? Thanks!

    • Darren Smith

      Thats just how they appear in the tactics screen for me, I didn’t do anything to get it this way.

  • Thomas Metcalfe

    Will this tactic work in league 2 and above?

    • Darren Smith

      It should but depends on your players really.

      • Thomas Metcalfe

        What do you mean by that?

        • Darren Smith

          Depends on whether your players suit the roles in the tactic, same as any tactic really.