FM 2014 Tactics Guide: The Effect Of Player Movement

FM 2014 Guides

written by Darren Smith

FM 2014 Guide

This is our first FM 2014 tactics guide, a little late I know but there’s a good reason. I’ve been testing tactics on FM 2014 for weeks now, every night and weekend pressing that sticky little spacebar furiously, just to see if my tweaks and modifications have spawned something that doesn’t suck. Nine times out of ten I go to bed disappointed, laid on my back for an extra hour before the sand man comes to carry me away, just pondering where it all went wrong and plotting my next move.

Yes I am sad, one of the many who lose sleep over a computer game. What drives me to continue and persist in the face of defeat is you guys, I get a thrill from creating good downloads and tactics, but also the odd enlightened read, something to change your perspective.

Well, this article certainly won’t provide you with an unstoppable tactic in the form of easy answers and downloads. Instead I want to share a few opinions. Partly on player roles, how they can transform a tactic and I’d like to address everyone’s perception of positional play and player movement. We’ll delve into the age old debate of picking roles for the tactic or picking roles for players.

Please note what is written below is all one example, mainly of how I see tactics but also specific examples to help you visualize how you could form your own system. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer when it comes to tactics, there is just the way that gets you the results you seek. I believe visualizing each players movement is the way forward and I just want to show you how that works for me in one specific example.

FM 2014 tactics guide – Perception of positions

The beauty of tactics in FM is we can all visualize positions, roles and how they interact in our own way. Sure there is a description for each role, but how each player will interact in your tactic, within his position and considering his assigned role can be tough to judge…not to mention we then have the added stress of other players getting in the way of ones open space, or a player being stranded, doomed to lose possession time and time again. The word ‘balance’ comes to mind, find that and you have yourself a tactic.

I have tried to find balance in lots of different systems and using various positional combinations and a pattern has arisen in almost every successful tactic I’ve created this year. I generally don’t position players in ‘the hole’, that being all attacking midfield positions and all defensive midfield positions (ie AMC, DMC, AMR etc.)

For most gamers that can be a bugbear, due to the fact many talented players prefer playing in these positions. There is method to this madness and that comes in the form of a players starting position and his subsequent movement through the three phases of play.

For example, I recently created a flat 4-5-1 which some may visualize as the image below.

FM 2014 tactics guide, defensive positions

However, I see tactics in two stages. The first been defensive and the second offensive, the image above represents how a team will line-up without the ball, which looks very stable defensively and seems to have a lot of bases covered. You’d be right to think ‘well look at those gaps in the attacking third, there’s a lot of space left uncovered. For me that isn’t the case, I visualize the image below as being how the system will look on the offensive.

FM 2014 tactics guide, offensive positions

I have purposely only moved the players that get involved in the attacking phase of play in one way or another. The flat midfield includes four players’ assigned roles to actively move forward during the attacking phase. Suddenly the wingers positioned in MR and ML have become attacking midfielders, the advanced playmaker originally positioned at MC has become an AMC. I think you can see where I am going with this.

To summarize, if I was to give starting positions of attacking midfield to those three players (the MC, MR and  ML,) then defensively we’d be losing out and the system would be far less stable. But because of their roles they naturally move into their preferred positions for the attacking phase of play anyway, which is when they need to take advantage of their best traits. We’ll break this down in the next section.

FM 2014 tactics guide – roles control movement

I don’t see roles purely as an indication of what my players are expected to do in their position, for example, be the playmaker, or score a shed load of goals. I actually focus more on where that role will make my player move. Tactics are all about shape and as soon as that whistle blows, your system will disperse into chaos depicted by the roles you select. As I’ve already said, the formation you select can only dictate where your players start each phase, but once the ball is in play that all goes out the window, roles are how we control the shape of our formation from then on.

Let’s start with the MC position. Lots of people have asked me to create a tactic using the AMC role, usually based around the 4-2-3-1. The main reason for this is due to the amount of talent that enjoys these positions as their preferred station on the pitch. My issue is and always has been the ease of which your opposition can mark this chap out of the game, combined with the fact he can do little defensively.

I actually visualize my advanced playmaker positioned at MC as an AMC. Makes no sense but his duties are exactly the same, only difference is he starts all phases a little deeper than his AMC counterpart, which gives him more room to move around the pitch and poke openings. Not to mention he has more space in front of him to attack direct. I know some of you may think the AMC option is better because he can easily attack with the striker, pushing beyond the centre backs and you’d be right, but so can the MC, he can attack as far forward as he likes and his natural position during the transition phase will always be ahead of any other MC role, so if you want staggered passing options that base is still covered too.

FM 2014 tactics guide, mc staggered passing option

So, I now have my own version of the AMC position filled, in the form of an MC, but what about the AMR and AML positions that we love so much. I featured them heavily in my tactics for FM13 and to great success. Again, this is a position that just hasn’t worked for me this year. My alternative is the MR and ML positions, just a little bit deeper yet they don’t offer any less going forward and can provide a lot more defensively.

The other negative some may draw is that a player who prefers the AMR position with a role of inside forward will be left footed and can’t work if just dropped back to MR. This isn’t correct though, I have personally done that and seen the player cut inside and attack the defence just as the AMR does. Only difference is his starting position is deeper, offering more defensive stability.

In some cases you don’t even need to set a player instruction for him to cut inside, he’ll naturally do that seen as it brings him onto his strongest foot. As a result, he can choose to cut inside from the halfway line, ergo evading any full backs, or dribble along the flank before cutting inside further up field…this is more flexible than using an AMR, because the winger at MR can cut inside based on multiple opposing formations, no matter where the opposition would stop him going central he can find a way around the problem. The MR has much more room and space to choose the right moment to cut inside and find his way infield unopposed (see below.)

FM 2014 tactics guide, mr movement

And just to cap this section off, a heat map of my flat 4-5-1 in action. The image below shows the average position of each player in my formation, highlighting what I have explained…note we dominated possession in this match, hence the positions on average were more inclined towards our attacking shape, which turns into a 4-2-3-1.

FM 2014 tactics guide, av positions heat map

FM 2014 tactics guide – tactic over players

I have always been a believer in the tactic takes president over individual players. Yes the two go hand in hand, but for me you should always adapt a position around the tactic as opposed to one players preferred role, within reason of course.

This year there is added emphasis on using the right players in the right roles and yet I still find that adjusting roles for players doesn’t work, at least for me. If roles dictate player movement and you wanted that player to move in a particular way within your system then changing the role will change the movement and in turn a system that works.

Of course, you are wasting your time if every single role is filled with players that can’t play the position or fulfill the duties. The ideal scenario is where you can buy new players to suit or at least accept under par performances for a year while the player learns the role and adapts or until a new player can be bought. What I am saying is that its better to maintain the stability of the tactic over one players average rating and performances.

For example, in my Toon Army save I have two players that prefer the wide attacking midfield positions and a role of inside forward. They are not natural in the MR and ML positions either. Instead of changing my system I will make them learn the position I expect them to fulfill. As mentioned both my players like to cut inside, if my tactic didn’t suit that then I’d have a big problem, so its all about finding the right balance and what adaptations you can and can’t expect from both your tactic and your players.

Equally, if like myself you enjoy the movement of a false nine then you are left with a conundrum. A false nine is like an AMC and needs attributes including very good long shots, creativity and passing etc. There is barely a mention of finishing, dribbling and physical attributes, but of course these are very important too as this guy is a striker at the end of the day.

So what do you do, fulfill the requirements of the role, or go for a prolific striker hoping he’ll also play the role well. I ended up going 50/50, having a forward who can shoot reasonably well from range and link up play OK but his main attributes are as a poacher, so in essence he’s a creative poacher I guess. That is just another example of a question I may be asked that can’t be answered, its all about finding your own personal way around problems and if they don’t come off, learn from the mistake.


The focal point of this post was to show you all how player movement can transform a tactic. Everyone wanted a 4-2-3-1, well in my opinion they already have it in my flat 4-5-1. I used this thought process to create my best tactic yet and I am trying to implement it into my next tactic also. But how will you use it to create yours?

Well, that should do for now I do hope you enjoyed this FM 2014 tactics guide. Feel free to leave any comments below and as always I’d truly appreciate any shares and likes on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, you can do that by clicking the icons at the top and bottom of the post. Thanks for reading.

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  • Pedro Roriz

    great read darren. this is a great subject for discussion. i also feel this year the familiarity player-role is more important than the previous version and i also felt that balance is the key note to this year’s tactics. that’s why i’m not doing well with 4-1-2-2-1 (a 4-3-3 with wide men) as those wide men offer little it terms of defending if you don’t set them to mark the FB.
    i tried a 4-3-1-2 with 2 WB, 1 BWM, 1 BTBx, 1 DLP and 1 Shadow attacker. my two upfront are a poacher and a false 9. it is really kicking in as the false 9 drops deep, grabing one of the CB’s attention, and the shadow attacker has lots of space to either run to goal or delivering that through pass to the poacher. but that’s it, apart from that, i’m pretty much sucking with other formations.
    have you tried anything with 3 cb as of yet?


    • Darren Smith

      I tried a back three for a very short period but just couldn’t get it to work if I’m honest, tactics are tough this year.

  • Gaurav Chaddah

    Ah Darren what a read mate, brilliant. I agree with that and it’s great to see the amount of depth you put into this. Interesting point about the MR and the AMR… I’ve also seen the AMR playing as a inside forward especially just doesn’t seem to cut it this year, they missed 9/10 chances however the MR position seems to have much more success, I have Lamela for that position and he is up their as one of my top scorers.

    Good point about the 4-5-1 being the 4-2-3-1, maybes I can finally give Chelsea a crack with your 4-5-1 ;)

    • Darren Smith

      Thanks Gaurav, glad you enjoyed the post it was difficult to throw all my ideas into a structured article but we got there in the end :)

  • Gaurav Chaddah

    This article has really got me thinking about trying your tactic with Chelsea but I have a question, basically I have Juan Mata who would play in the AMC role however now I would need to play him in the centre midfield as a Advanced Playmaker, he was all the attributes suggest he can play in that role but it says he is unconvincing in the MC position, same for Willian from AMR to MR, would you just ignore this and just play them their? Hope that makes sense.

    • Karol Sen

      I think that you just have to give it a try, and hopefully after a few games they wil get better on this positions. Of course you have to set those positions i their position training ;)

    • Darren Smith

      As Karol said you just need to throw yourself in and try it. As I wrote its a really tough decision to make between a players preferred role/position and way your tactic most work. They have a lot of characteristics to learn the positions though so shouldn’t take too long. I personally would stick to the tactic and make the player adapt.

    • Pedro Roriz

      i tried it with internazionale, sticking the player to the position despite his ‘red bar’ for that spot on the pitch. it has double effects. i’m talking specifically about rodrigo palacios here: as a ML (winger role) he was really good when decided to cut inside and shoot, but the distance to the goal grew and as he is not fast it crushed his goal scoring form. it also adds up to the fact that he can’t track down FB due to stamina and marking being lowish.
      the upsides were that he made the FB cut inside, since they faced his opposition, and my MC could tackle them. Another good thing is that he could make direct long beautiful passes to the forwards that used the flanks, whilst geting up front just seconds later only to receive the ball back when he was facing directly the box and had little opposition (the CB followed the forward that went to the flank). as he shoots from long range quite often, it became a routine of scoring in long shots form him.
      i’m quite not sure if all in all it was a good or bad move as of yet.

    • Lucijan Troha

      First of all, thanks Darren for a great article. I totally agree that this year player roles are much more important than in previous versions.
      Second, I also was intrigued to try this tactic with Chelsea. And I also am not sure who to use in MC and MR position, but am thinking about a bit different approach. I was thinking of training Oscar for the MC position, Mata for the MR, and Willian for ST as a False nine.
      What do you guys suggest, should i train them like Gaurav suggested or should i stick with what i was thinking?
      I just asking this because i don’t want to ruin any players :)

      • Darren Smith

        You will know better than anyone what they should be trained as. Just look at their attributes and see who suits the roles best based on the required attributes for each role…there’s lots of arguments to be made for different ways of doing it but the logical way is to highlight their key attributes for the role and judge it that way.

  • Johnny Karp

    Great work Darren! Getting the roles right is essential when creating a tactic in FM 2014 and I fully agree that you have to understand player movement in each role in order to know what you’re doing.

    • Darren Smith

      Thanks Johnny, thats the key point for me…roles are more about the movement of a player than the actual role they’ll play ie be a playmaker etc.

  • Unillogical

    I saw some interesting threads on another fm forum last year about ultra defensive tactics. You’d have a standard back 4, but the midfield would be DMs with wing backs as the wide-men, and the ‘strikers’ would be MCs and they had huge success. Which I think from the perspective of how we would want the game to work is a big negative when you consider ‘player roles’ and how they seem to want them to work.

    • Pedro Roriz

      it also happened in the opposite direction. having an ultra forward formation, a 4-2-4 if you will with a flat line across the opposition’s box. the game will see the 2 wide men as forwards and, therefore, you’ll won’t be able to rely on them to defend much. so, it is not possible to have sth like a daniel alves or neymar for barcelona, who are so offensive in some games that they position themselves beside messi or the CF, trying to break the line in speed, and ALSO have them track down and defend in the middle. at least i haven’t been able to do that.

    • Darren Smith

      This is only how I visualize tactics, of course there’s more to it and the players role within the role so to speak is a big part…but for the purpose of creating systems that work and are stable I find that looking at the players movement is the most important aspect, so stripping away everything else helps to do that.

  • lyekh

    Great write up Darren. You have done a great job in explaining how the players role can affect the tactic. I always love it when you write up these guides and tutorials. I guess this is the fun part of the game, testing and experimenting various tactic and players role which is successful. For mw, i always decide on the tactic 1st and adapt the player role to it.

    Like what you say, there’s no right or wrong with this one, it’a a matter of whether the tactics works.

    • Darren Smith

      Thanks Lye, good to see you again btw.

  • Stan

    What an article man….excellent…a great insight in the new tactical model…i failed miserably too trying to create different tactics and finding the best for each save…i findthis years variety and difficulty to be refreshing and challenging….keep up the good work…

    • Darren Smith

      Yeah its certainly a change this year, sometimes frustrating but its probably a bit more realistic than the click and play tactics of old.

  • Divij Jawarani

    One question. Your player roles for ML and MR are wingers or wide midfielders? And also support or attack? Valencia is a boss at MR but that Cristiano Ronaldo just doesn’t want to defend at AML.

    • Brian

      Personally i prefer a tactic with only three defenders, this so i can put a full pressure o the opponents defense

    • Darren Smith

      I used wingers with attack duty. I find that more rounded players tend to perform consistently in that position whereas real skilful yet selfish players have great games but also bad games.

      • Divij Jawarani

        Thanks a lot. I’ll try it surely.

  • pu6elist

    Great reading. I also found the 4-3-3 difficult this year, so I experimenter and ended up with an overload 4-3-1-2, where I had 2 CWB and 2 DLP with support to have the wings covered defensively, the two CB were changing according to the oppositions attack formation and the attack consisted of an withdrawn Treaquista, a Poacher and a False Nine, whose only purpose was to throw the opposing CB’s into chaos. The CM was generally a BWM.

    • Darren Smith

      Thanks. Interesting formation there, I actually attempted three upfront with movement orientated roles at one point, trying to throw the backline into chaos like yourself but it was an epic fail :)

  • pu6elist

    Just forgot to mention, the three MC’s I had, the BWM (defend) with the two DLP (support) with the right players are “the Wall”. Effectively, with the CWB’s support, I had games when no one was able to pass through (70+ % possession for my side and 0 shots on target for the opposition).

    • Darren Smith

      Sounds very logical, and logic does tend to work in FM, well for the most part. so do you have a flat back four with those CWB’s then three central midfielders and three forwards?

  • Noal

    A lovely read, thanks!

    Your point about formations only being relevant without the ball is very true and I think once people start thinking along the same lines as you they’ll get more joy from tactics.

    It’s early days in my Arsenal save with your 4-5-1 tactic, but it’s looking promising. Giroud has 5 in 3 and really replicates his real life play – dropping off, looking to link play etc. Only Özil, Walcott and Podolski need retrained for the midfield roles, with Cazorla and Ox already very solid in those ML/R positions. I think this formation is a really good example of everything you said in your article.

    It’s 10 am on a day off work here in sunny south east asia, I think it’s time to brew some coffee and load up the laptop!

    • Darren Smith

      Thanks Noal, hope the success with Arsenal continues…get that laptop started :)

  • Lewis

    I’ve only tried a few different tactics with Crewe. 4-2-3-1 didn’t happen for me, 4-4-2 with AML and AMR has done ok at times but I’ve had incredible success with a variation of 4-5-1 using a holding midfielder instead of CM and the AMR/AML wingers. Wingers have been excellent for me and my AFC(Mpenza) scored prolifically in League 1 which I won in my first season. 6 games in to the championship with same tactic and I’m top, Nahki Wells now scoring for fun. Once I establish them in the premiership I will try more attacking again but this is probably the sort of way to go when building a team up.

    • Darren Smith

      Yeah I know a lot of people that have had success with a withdrawn mdifielder and advanced wingers this year, I personally found it too inconsistent but that may e something I am missing, as I said there truly isn’t a right or a wrong in tactics, as long as you can win you’re right.

  • simmo

    Really interesting and thought provoking read. Thinking that little bit more about positions, tactics etc, just shows what a benefit it can bring. And like you say, you set a formation but once the whistle blows it basically changes instantly. Thanks, Darren.

    • Darren Smith

      Thanks Simmo, glad you enjoyed it.

  • Mason

    Good read mate. I too was struggling with tactics on this year’s game, not able to play my favoured style of play (either 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-2-2-1 barca-esque style) however I’ve recently managed to change this and have got them to work. I’m just using CM, DM and AM instead of any of the other roles like AP, DLP, BBM etc and it’s working a lot better now. Personally I’ve just found Inside Forwards totally useless as well! Most striker roles have been a bit disastrous too but Target Man seems to do amazingly. Just wondering what your overall thoughts are on whether SI have made most player roles a bit obsolete on this year’s game? Like I said, I havent got any tactic to work until I just started using basic CM, DM and AM in my central midfield positions

    • Darren Smith

      I agree, there are many roles that don’t seem to work too well or are very similar to other alternatives. I’m not sure if they are obsolete though, purely because I have set preferences when it comes to tactics and maybe my preferences and habits are the problem. For instance I recently saw someone create a Barcelona type 4-1-2-2-1 with inside forwards to really good effect and the IF’s even scored a load, so if they can get it working then the role can’t be obsolete, I just don’t know how to use it lol :) Hence my little bit in the post about there being no wrong or right in tactics.

      Must admit I used to think I had everything pretty nailed down but this year has blown that out of the water ;) Maybe its a good thing, freshen things up somewhat…bloody frustrating though, as I said I can’t stop testing tactics because it bugs me, its like something is there to fix and I can’t stop until it is, I’ve hardly played a proper save yet because of it.

      • Mason

        True I guess, no role is obsolete if you have the right tactic for it.

        Same! I was getting quite bored of last year’s tactics though because I knew that I could create a tactic that would win me everything with almost anyone straight from the off with only a few signings (Will hughes most of the time lol) but this year’s tactics are totally different. It’s a good change I think as regular players of the last few would probably just breeze through it if they kept it the same and complain that it’s too easy!

  • Animesh

    I had the same feeling. I started my Tottenham save with my tactics from FM 13 which won me tons of stuff, then I was losing to Cardiff :( . Still working on it.4-3-3 seems to be working for me for now, I hope it continues working :P

  • Topcu baba

    It seems really good tactic. I’ll try it, but I want to learn that, which roles did you give to other 2 MC players ? Thank you.. :)

  • Pingback: FM2014 Taktika kalauz: A játékosok mozgásának hatásai | Magyar FM Fansite()

  • Jonathan Atkinson

    I used this as Hull City, my home club, and worked great. I only signed Whittingham, and signed lukaku Amos on loan too.

    • Darren Smith

      Thanks, hope it continues to work for you.

  • Jonathan Atkinson

    Just asking, do you still have your scarborough career? Cos it might be intresting to post the PL to Conference N&S

    • Darren Smith

      I don’t I’m afraid, had a new laptop since then and didn’t transfer the file.

      • matt

        I’ve played with a target man kozak 20heading and timo werner AML AMR 2 wingers and I’ve had nothing but joy been in top 4 with schalke for 5seasons won league 2,also done the same with man utd won title 3 year on trot,gt boring tho, need to let ronaldo and co play amr aml postions running at the defence

        • Lewis

          It will always get boring if you manage a big team. It’s too easy. Try going a team with no money in the lower leagues and build them up. You’ll get much more satisfaction when you start winning premierships and champions leagues.

          • Darren Smith

            @Matt Not sure if that comment was in reply to something, but if not as I said there is no right or wrong answer in tactics, just what works for you. So while at the moment I probably wouldn’t try your style if it works for you then that is great and its the right thing to do.

            @ Lewis Again not sure who you’re replying to there as the comment doesn’t refer to anything said above.

          • matt

            Yeh been there done it over the years ha took bristol rovers to premiership thing with me like savin on the wages never really replaced huntelar 20goal man

  • Chris

    Hi mate,really good read. I have been playing fm for years now but have never struggled with tactics as much as i have on this years.
    Im am a Liverpool fan and have been trying to start a game with them but they dont really have any decent wide options and there cm options are limited. Can you suggest any options other than the stated 4-5-1 above.

    • Darren Smith

      I must admit I think a lot of other have struggled too, including myself on the whole. I don’t think it helps that the game seems random too, its hard to tell whether its a glitch or the tactic that isn’t working sometimes, more so since the most recent patch. I don’t have any other tactics that are currently working I’m afraid.

  • Reza

    Hi Darren,
    are you guys doing a tactical review this year, simmilar to the index on fm 13. have created a tactic, and was wanting a second opinion of how it could be improved or where weaknesses were with it.

    • Darren Smith

      We will be doing that this year, though I personally want it to be more about finding brilliant tactics and analyzing them for the community as opposed to fixing other peoples tactics as the latter doesn’t offer much to the readers really. But we’ll see how its approached sometime in February I think.

      • Reza

        Ah ok, well it’s got me unbeaten in the championship up till now (25 games) scoring pretty freely and equal best defence. Will keep my eye out and see if I can submit it. Many thanks.

        • Darren Smith

          OK mate. The games so tough at the moment to get a consistent tactic so hoping the reviews will unearth something.

          • Reza

            I can agree with you there. The thing I have normally found is that if you use the same tactic with the same mentality the AI finds a way to work through your tactics. I have found changing mentality helps with this on a game to game basis.