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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28 Comments on "FM 2013 Lower League Guide: Two Tactics Are Better Than One"

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

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.


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


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

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.




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.


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?


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… Read more »

Hi :)

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

Thomas Metcalfe

Will this tactic work in league 2 and above?