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Unleashing FM23: Mastering Positional Play with a Unique Tactic - Cornishball 1-4-3-2-0

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Discover a unique and effective tactic for FM23 with this deep dive into mastering positional play. Learn the roles, players, and principles behind it
FM23 Tactic - Cornishball META 1-4-3-2-0

Mastering Positional Play: A Deep Dive into a Unique Tactic for Football Manager 2023 by Jack Cornish.



This one isn’t from the test saves I’ve been doing, but rather from my long-term passion saves. Am I aware of how ridiculous this looks? 10000%

That said, a lot of time has gone into preparing this tactic, which draws inspiration from several of my other favourite tactics. It works incredibly well for me, but only because I have a team carefully put together to play in this style, and because of the hours spent knowing how to manage this system throughout matches. Does this make me a good manager? Not in the slightest, but intimately knowing your squad and the way your tactics work (both in theory and in practice) makes a huge difference.

The Tactic


Cornisball 1-4-3-2-0 FM23 Tactic

“Systems no longer exist in football; it's all about the spaces left by the opposition. You must be quick to spot them and know the right moment to strike, have the courage to start the move even when pressed” - Luciano Spalletti

I’ve posted on here before about the principles of Positional Play that form the core of my playing philosophy. The object is to “move the opponent, not the ball” (Guardiola), and above all else requires footballing intelligence. Each phase of the game is one by creating positional and/or numerical superiority, and while this formation might look strange, the roles/instructions etc, ensure that I am creating these superiorities all over the pitch.

I modelled my defensive approach (in principle rather than shape) off of Eddie Howe’s Newcastle United. My players will attempt to put pressure on the keeper when they play from the back (only realised I forgot to put the instruction on here). If we fail to force a mistake and regain the ball, my players move quickly back to a mid-block, where they will attempt to funnel the ball wide before pressing intensely, using the pitch boundaries as an extra defender, while a numerical superiority in the centre of the pitch makes it very difficult for them to attack through the middle. If we fail to win back the ball here, then my team form a tight, compact block, making high-quality shots against us very difficult to create. The Libero & Sweeper Keeper combine very well to shit out the annoying through balls, which are already rare due to tight marking of the DMs and MCs.

In possession, we are very versatile. My ‘keeper (usually Diogo Costa, signed for his ability on the ball) is my first attacker. If the opportunity is on, he’ll distribute quickly to the player he best determines can launch a quick, ruthless attack. Usually, though, we play out from the back, patiently passing the ball around our defensive third looking to bait the opponent into a high press. Then as soon as they are drawn out of position, it’s lots of quick passing, rotations, and shadow runs to quickly play through the press, with players breaking into the space behind, or overloading the wings before dangerous cutbacks and back post crosses.

Not only is this football highly effective, but it’s also thrilling to watch. Plus, as an added bonus, it has the sexy rotating diamonds I love so much!

The Players 


• SK-De: Newcastle already have a ‘keeper that I rate really highly. Nick Pope is an absolutely phenomenal shot-stopper, and also one of the best sweepers out there. Unfortunately, though, as much as I love him, his distribution is poor. Because of this, I sold all my other keepers, relegated Pope to my Cup Keeper, and brought in Diogo Costa. Hands down my favourite keeper in the game; he’s 22 and yet to reach his prime, but is already an amazing distributor of the ball, as well as being a great shot-stopper. He is absolutely perfect for the way I like to play - a true midfielder in this horizontal 2-7-2

• L-S: An important role in this team, as he is the most deep-lying outfielder… he is so much more than a defender, though, and with all the rotations in this team, can often crop up as the most advanced player (with someone else dropping back). I decided to retrain Marcus Thuram for this role, as he is very aggressive in looking to win back the ball (not the tackling/marking attributes most people want for a defender, but perfect for my system), and has amazing physicals. The only thing that would make him better is a quarterback range of passing. Thuram is a finisher: he’s the final outfielder defensively, but is also on hand to finish attacking moves.

• HB-De: The Half Backs in this tactic are absolutely essential. They are a solid foundation from which we can build our attacks, while forming the double pivot in my central overloads. I needed players that are physical, but also with good technical ability and the desire to assert themselves on games. They also need to be comfortable as Segundo Volantes, firstly because that helps a great deal in terms of the rotations in this setup, but also because one of the other tactics we frequently play features 2x VOL Attacks. Both these players are strong in the tackle, and great progressors of the ball, particularly through dribbling. Both are also instructed to swap with the CARs, adding another feature to the rotations.

• WB-At: On the right, Trippier (and understudies Ashby & Fresneda (and versatile rotation option Jacob Murphy) is a key creative influence, stretching play down the right, putting in some dangerous crosses (my highest assisting player), organising the defence, and often among the goals with his overplays and underlaps often getting him into lots of space. Just Trippier doing Triopier things, really - simple but effective. His (and the others as well, to be fair) attributes are very well-suited for my rotating diamonds.

On the left, Alan Saint-Maximin is my first choice. By no means a traditional wingback, Maxi excels in this role, running at defences and being a really important attacking outlet. He’s adept at drawing out 2-3 defenders, which considering the tactic is all about creating and exploiting space… a crucial player! Surpringlyneffevtice in his defensive responsibilities as well!

• CAR-Su: This is one of my favourite midfield roles… the movement they have, and the way they find the right pocket of space to be in that somehow makes them super effective in attack, transition and defence. Seriously, such a powerful base role, then when you add the PIs to make them more attacking, and more proactive off the ball… one of the best roles for sure! (They also feature in my Double Volante tactic). John Bae, these might possibly be the true Todocampistas!! On the right, Jude Bellingham is my first choice. Why? Because it’s Jude Bellingham - the lad can do everything and more!! On the left, Joe Willock… not really needed to upgrade him as he’s been so reliable, although Federico Valverde is tempting as he’d be perfect in the role, or maybe Bernardo Silva, Alex Scott and Sean Longstaff are really high-quality rotation options.

• RPM-Su: Not a role I use very often… probably because I’m stupid! A player that dictates the tempo of the game, and contributes heavily on attack, defence and transition… a great role in and out of possession. Bruno Guimaraes, in this role… a player that is incredibly press resistant, has great vision, good variety of passing and a top dribbler; it’s a match made in heaven! Elliot Anderson is the player that rotates into this role (as well as the wide attacking roles… or anywhere, really!) and is also a dream player to manage! Similarly gifted and with a high potential, just a little more attacking-minded.

• IF-At: My main ‘Finishers’ - these players press high out of possession; while in possession, they act as wide strikers, sitting narrower than a traditional AMR/L, but with the freedom to find space. They are quick, strong, good dribblers and lethal finishers. Isak is one of the biggest goal threats in this game, and is perfect on the left! Kvaratskhelia is probably the closest I’ll have to Messi without having the Goat himself - the control, the dribbling, the passing… probably the deadliest pairing in football (although Osimhen, Haaland or Mbappe would also fit perfectly in this system - believe me I’ve tested it in other saves!). Garang Kuol is proving to be a very exciting player to step in as an understudy for both these forwards.
 
One final feature to mention - all players that have the option are instructed to “Cross Aim Far Post.” This results in cutbacks galore, and lots of amazing switches to an overloaded back post, equating to easy goals and my team scoring for fun, even on days we struggle to get out of first gear.

Final Notes


Even though I use this team/tactic regularly and to incredible effect, I do rotate on occasion with a 3-2-3-2-0 Wide Double Volante tactic (see my NAPOLI post) and a 2-3-3-2-0 Wide (I have a post on this to - I’ll put both in the comments though). This depends on opposition and other factors, but all fit well together as a part of my philosophy.

With that in mind, this screenshot isn’t actually from the main save, which features this squad and tactics, but in a new save - one where I have transferred the squad over, and will exclusively play this tactic (hence the lower familiarity which is less than ideal for such a tactic l). The purpose of this is to collect data, screenshots of player positions in the match engine (2D & 3D) and results. So for people that want all that, I shall prepare a part 2, or include them in the comments of this post, but it shall take a while playing coiled seasons to collect all the data!

Anyway… I hope at least one person has gotten through all these mad ramblings of a lunatic. I look forward to the love, and, more likely, the hate/bewilderment on this one! Maybe should have included a trigger warning.

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FM Blog | FM24: Unleashing FM23: Mastering Positional Play with a Unique Tactic - Cornishball 1-4-3-2-0
Unleashing FM23: Mastering Positional Play with a Unique Tactic - Cornishball 1-4-3-2-0
Discover a unique and effective tactic for FM23 with this deep dive into mastering positional play. Learn the roles, players, and principles behind it
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