FM16 5-2-1-2 Tactic: Defensive Wall for Struggling Teams

Everybody has been in a relegation battle on FM at some point. This tactic will help you overcome your relegation battle and beat the drop. This is the 5-2-1-2 Defensive Tactic Guide for FM16.

I've been playing Football Manager for a couple of years now and I have tried a range of different games. I've been on the successful end of seasons with promotions through the tiers but also been involved in few relegation battles.

On FM16 alone I have had games with Weston-super-Mare, Stoke, Bournemouth and Crawley where I have been in the thick of relegation battles and defied the odds. In 2 seasons with Stoke (during a Sir Alex Ferguson Challenge) I was predicted to finish last but both times beat the drop using this tactic. For Bournemouth I managed to fight my way through an injury scare and beat the drop with a few games to go whilst in League 2's relegation battle for Crawley I managed to beat the drop on the last day.

The above image shows the table from my first season with Stoke in a Sir Alex Ferguson challenge. 

There has only been one time when I have failed to beat the drop with this tactic. In a season with Weston-super-Mare where I got relegated from the 6th tier but was given a new contract and offered a league two job at the end of the season, proving the fight for survival was always against the odds. In the end that relegation battle came down to 1 point in which I failed to beat the drop.

The table from my second season where there is an obvious improvement with me finishing 12 points better off.

So with this the evidence of the tactic working shown above lets get into the workings of the tactic itself.

All in all the tactic is pretty simple. You use a flat back 5 supported by a midfield two who will add extra support at the back but provide the spark going forward. The key to the tactic relies in the player roles though, they need to be just right in order to get the defensive stubbornness and threat on the counter.

Player Roles

Goalkeeper: Defend
Left Back: Wing Back Defend
Left Centre Back: Limited Defender Defend
Middle Centre Back: Limited Defender Defend
Right Centre Back: Limited Defender Defend
Left Centre Midfielder: Box to Box Midfielder Support
Right Centre Midfielder: Deep Lying Playmaker Support
Centre Attacking Midfielder: Shadow Striker Support
Left Striker: Defensive Forward Support
Right Striker: Advanced Forward Attack

For the full backs it is key to make sure you have pace from both sides, they will provide the width in the attack by overlapping and hitting on the counter. Setting them to be wing backs means they will break forward but they will also perform their defensive duties.

For the centre backs the tactic works better with 3 limited defenders, they focus on defending only and making sure to get rid of the ball. However you can set the middle centre back to be a Ball Playing Defender and he will be the creator of moves forward. It is good to make sure at least one of your centre backs is quite quick so they can recover for any mistakes all balls over the top.

In midfield the box to box midfielder is key to the whole tactic. You need somebody who is strong in physical attributes. They will be the runner in midfield and provide the support all over the pitch so you need someone with high stamina, strength, pace and natural fitness. In my Stoke career I found that Kante was the perfect player for this role, physically he is fantastic.

The other midfield roles relies on somebody who is more technical, somebody who can move the ball around with ease and pick out a fantastic pass. I've used a number of players in this role but most recently I've used Youri Tielemans who 3 seasons in has 16 passing and technique, the perfect player for the role.

The shadow striker role requires someone to link the play, he will interact with the defensive forward and either create chances or take chances. You want somebody who can finish, take long shots but also has good passing and physical skills. They will be the key creator in the side. I've used Rodrigo De Paul, George Boyd and Martin Odegaard in this role throughout different careers.

For the defensive forward you want someone with similar physical attributes to that of your box to box midfielder. He will do most of the work up front leaving your advanced forward to take most of the chance. Again I have found Shane Long is the perfect example of someone to fill this role. He doesn't have the greatest technical attributes but physically he will do everything you could need from a defensive forward.

The advanced forward is someone who will be your best player technically. Someone who has great finishing and heading meaning they can score any chance that comes to them. The best example I have found of this is Charlie Austin who has 16 finishing and 15 heading 3 seasons in. He has been my top scorer for my first two seasons despite only joining in January of the first season.


All in all it is pretty simple. The aim of the tactic is to get the ball forward quickly and press when you don't have the ball. There are only 4 tactical instructions (pump ball into box, look for overlap, close down more, more direct passing) but it can be tweaked little bits dependent on the game.

For me I found that when playing better teams (such as your top 4 in the premier league, promotion challengers in other leagues or teams in form) it can work to set the tempo to high and drop the defensive line back at bit to make sure people stay back and get the ball forward as quickly as possible.

It is a tactic which provides defensive stubbornness but also creates goals when needed. I've found some fantastic results using this tactic such as beating title challengers Manchester City 4-0 with Stoke or champions Manchester United in my first season 4-2.


To download this tactic click on the button below and then go to the Sports Interactive folder in your documents. Then select Football Manager 2016 - tactics and save the file in that folder.

When you load the game you then go into the tactics screen, click to set formation then select Load and select the saved tactic.

[Download ##download##]  File Size : 39.95kb / Date Added : 13/06/2016

On one last note, thank you for reading my first post on Football Manager Blog and if you liked it please follow me on Twitter: @fm_saddler



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Football Manager 2017 Blog: FM16 5-2-1-2 Tactic: Defensive Wall for Struggling Teams
FM16 5-2-1-2 Tactic: Defensive Wall for Struggling Teams
Everybody has been in a relegation battle on FM at some point. This tactic will help you overcome you relegation battle and beat the drop. This is the 5-2-1-2 Defensive Tactic Guide for FM16
Football Manager 2017 Blog
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