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Football Manager Guide to Rotating Tactics

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Master Football Manager with expert tactics: Learn to rotate between Attack, Control, and Defend strategies, optimize training, and adapt seasonally.
Football Manager Guide to Rotating Tactics

Football Manager guide on how to create variations of your tactics and how to rotate them over the course of the season.


Prior to FM24, I was a one-tactic kinda guy. Like many of you, I had my 4-3-3 Gegenpress, and it worked all season long, 90 minutes, 50+ games in all competitions. Thanks to SI deciding we were all having too much fun, two factors changed in FM24 to ruin that: the new fatigue system and a smarter AI. Because of this, I’ve gone from being a one-tactic wonder to using all three slots on my tactics screen for different matches and scenarios. As there are still plenty of people in the community with two common complaints (“My team suddenly lost form in midseason” and “my players are exhausted in October”), I’ve written this guide to how I create variations on my tactics, and how I rotate them over the course of the season.

The Basics


Essentially, I still play one tactic but with three variations. I call these variations Attack, Control and Defend, and while there are crucial differences that have very different effects in the game, they’re still largely bound by my core philosophy. This means I can adapt to changes without compromising my tactical principles. Also, by keeping your changes relatively simple, your players gain tactical familiarity quicker as they aren’t training three radically different tactics at once.

You can use any of the three variations as your “main” tactic and the other two for specific situations. For the purposes of this article, I’ll be using my Parma save as an example, where I use my Control variation as my main tactic.

Control


Control Tactics Football Manager

As I’ve said, this is my bread-and-butter tactic for Parma. This is ideally how I’d like to play every game, as it adheres to my philosophies of controlled possession build-up and counter-pressing to regain possession. The intensity is average, so it wouldn’t be too demanding on my players to use this for every match, but over-reliance on one tactic like this makes you predictable, and the smarter AI will figure you out pretty quickly.

Pros:

  • Balanced Approach: Provides a well-rounded strategy suitable for most game scenarios.
  • Less Fatigue: Being an average-intensity tactic, players are less likely to tire out quickly.
  • Tactical Familiarity: Sticking close to your core philosophy makes it easier for players to understand and execute the strategy.

Cons:

  • Predictability: Over-reliance can make your strategy easier to predict and counter.
  • Not Specialized: Might not be aggressive enough against weaker teams or defensive enough against stronger opponents. 

Attack


Attack Tactics Football Manager

This is my first variation, Attack. At first glance, there isn’t a huge difference, but you’ll notice I’ve raised my tempo from lower to higher and increased how often I trigger my press. I use this variation late in games when I need a goal against defensively-minded teams or even in games where I’m the underdog and believe the opposition might be complacent. While I’m still passing the ball short and keeping my crosses low, there’s a greater influence on moving the ball forward quickly. This is achieved with a higher tempo, removing the look for overlap instructions (more on that here) and removing ball-dominant roles like the DLP. Depending on your formation, you might also choose to change formation to go more attacking. For example, you might move from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-4 or a 5-3-2 with wing-backs to a 3-5-2 with wide midfielders. These are the sorts of minimal changes that allow your players to retain familiarity while having drastically different outcomes on the pitch.

Pros:

  • Increased Offensive Threat: Suitable for breaking down defensive teams or catching complacent stronger teams off-guard.
  • Higher Tempo: Faster movement can disorganize opponents and create goal-scoring opportunities.
  • Flexibility: Can be adapted to more aggressive formations without losing player familiarity.

Cons:

  • Potential Defensive Gaps: The increased emphasis on attack can leave spaces in the defense.
  • Higher Fatigue Risk: Continuous pressing can tire players out quicker, especially if used for extended periods.

Defend


Defend Tactics Football Manager

This is my final variation, and where you’ll spot the biggest difference between this and my main tactic. I’ve dropped to a more defensive formation, and changed some player roles and changed my out of possession team instructions completely. This is mainly for defending narrow leads, facing much bigger teams, or sometimes late in the season for seeing out games where I’m completely in control. This is the lowest intensity by far and is handy for letting your players take a breather in game. The goal of this tactic is to be hard to break down, which I achieve by keeping my line of engagement low and keeping my lines compact. The anchorman also occupies the space between my defensive and midfield lines, making it hard for the opposition to find space in this area. While defensively, this is radically different from my other two variants, it retains familiarity by keeping my attacking instructions very similar to my Attack variation. Not only does this keep your familiarity high, but it encourages counter attacks to make sure I make the most of limited opportunities.

Pros:

  • Solid Defensive Shape: Harder for opponents to break down, especially useful against stronger teams.
  • Preserve Player Stamina: Being the least intense, it offers players some in-game respite.
  • Counter-attack Opportunities: Maintains some attacking instructions similar to the Attack variant, allowing for surprise counter-attacks.

Cons:

  • Limited Offensive Threat: Might struggle to score goals or maintain offensive pressure.
  • Potential Over-Reliance: Constantly playing on the back foot can invite pressure, potentially leading to mistakes or lapses in concentration.

Training Suggestions


When it comes to training for these rotating tactics, consistency and adaptability are key. Begin the pre-season by focusing on the core principles shared by all three tactics to build a foundational understanding. Then, as the season progresses, allocate training modules based on the upcoming match. For instance, in the lead-up to facing a strong opponent, emphasize the 'Defend' tactical drills, whereas, before a match against a weaker or defensively-minded team, hone in on the 'Attack' training modules. Moreover, regularly integrate 'Match Review' sessions after games to analyze what went well and where the team needs improvement. This not only boosts tactical familiarity but also keeps players mentally prepared for the diverse challenges they'll face.

Seasonal Adjustments


As the season progresses, your tactical approach should evolve in response to various external factors. Early in the season, when players are fresh, leaning into the 'Attack' tactic might capitalize on opponents still trying to find their rhythm. Mid-season, the 'Control' tactic can maintain a balanced approach as fixtures pile up and fatigue sets in. Towards the business end of the season, especially when protecting a league position or facing high-stakes cup matches, the 'Defend' tactic might be instrumental. Moreover, keep an eye on injury trends; if key attacking players are injured, for instance, it might be more pragmatic to opt for a defensive stance. Always be ready to adjust based on team fitness, morale, and the importance of the fixtures ahead.

Final Thoughts


So there you have it, by using these three variations of one tactic in different matches and situations, I’m able to manage player fatigue and AI understanding of my side far better than in my days as a one tactic wonder. I hope you’ve found this useful and can take some tips on how to add variety to your own tactics.

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FM Blog | FM24: Football Manager Guide to Rotating Tactics
Football Manager Guide to Rotating Tactics
Master Football Manager with expert tactics: Learn to rotate between Attack, Control, and Defend strategies, optimize training, and adapt seasonally.
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