FM Weekend Predictions #1

Premier League

Tottenham v Liverpool

After a disappointing defeat at Vicarage Road a fortnight ago, it will be interesting to see how Spurs respond at Wembley on Saturday in the early kick-off. Liverpool have made their strongest ever Premier League start, but this will be their biggest test. But with the momentum that they have, I can’t see anything other than a Liverpool win in this weekend’s top flight opener. I think that Liverpool will start strongly and blow Spurs away in this game, and set out their title aspirations this weekend.

FMO Predicts: 3-1 Liverpool

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Bournemouth v Leicester

After a good start for Bournemouth, they face a Leicester side who have been hit and miss so far. They were good against Wolves, and we unlucky against Manchester United and Liverpool. James Maddison seems to be another successful Championship export, performing well so far and could even get an England call-up for the next international games. With two strong teams in decent form, this game is difficult to call. I think it’ll be a score draw, with two good attacking teams and Jamie Vardy back for Leicester.

FMO Predicts: 1-1 Draw

Chelsea v Cardiff

This could end up being a more difficult game to call than it may look on paper. Chelsea’s defence has struggled from crosses, particularly from the left side of the back four, with Marcos Alonso’s attacking ability not being matched by his defensive knowledge. I think Cardiff could cause some issues at Stamford Bridge, with their no-nonsense route one style. However with a player like Eden Hazard on the pitch, it is difficult to bet against Chelsea, who I think will just get past their opposition to pile more misery on the Welsh side.

FMO Predicts: 2-0 Chelsea

Huddesfield v Crystal Palace

These teams only have one league win between them so far this season, and this should make it a big one for both of them. I was impressed with Palace’s transfer business this summer, particularly with Max Meyer, who is a great free signing for them. Obviously Zaha will be huge for them, if he plays I think they will have too much for a struggling Huddesfield side who haven’t really improved their squad after a great season last year. I think Palace will get their second win here.

FMO Predicts: 1-0 Crystal Palace

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Manchester City v Fulham

It is hard to give Fulham any kind of chance in this game really. They have looked good so far, maintaining their attacking style and recording more shots on target than Liverpool up to this point. I just can’t see how they’d keep out the champions for ninety minutes however. City have had a good start, despite drawing away at Wolves. They were unlucky not to win in that game against a newly promoted side high on confidence. Since then they’ve dragged through a win against Newcastle too. I think they’ll be far too much for Fulham.


FMO Predicts: 3-0 Manchester City


Newcastle v Arsenal

After a tough start, Newcastle are very unlucky to have lost three games. They did very well against Spurs and Manchester City and nearly parked their bus all the way to a draw against free scoring Chelsea. I think it may be another one of those days for the black and white army however, as Arsenal begin to find their stride under Emery. They were pushed all of the way by Cardiff but found a way, and I think they’ll do the same here.


FMO Predicts: 1-0 Arsenal


Watford v Manchester United

Despite only being the fifth match of the season, this already feels like a make or break game for Mourinho this season. Watford have been flying so far, making their best start in the Premier League era. They could beat United if they play as well as they did against Spurs. It is obvious that they’re there for the taking after some shocking performances against Brighton and in the second half against Tottenham. It is really hard to tell if Manchester United will turn up or not, but Watford will after the start they’ve made, so I think they can do it at Vicarage Road again.

FMO Predicts: 2-1 Watford

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Wolves v Burnley

Two sides who have had differing fortunes so far this season, and I think that form will prevail in this Super Sunday match. Burnley have really struggled so far, and I can’t see them beating a Wolves team that have carried their Championship winning momentum into the Premier League. I think Wolves will build on their good home form and first win away at West Ham, and beat Burnley at Molineux on Sunday.

FMO Predicts: 2-0 Wolves

Everton v West Ham

Another team that have been unlucky at times, Everton look decent this season. With good additions in the summer and a good manager, I think they will have way too much for a West Ham team that look in trouble already. Pellegrini really hasn’t brought in enough proven Premier League talent, and could be in for a long and hard season back in England. I think it’ll be a home win in this one.

FMO Predicts: 2-0 Everton

Southampton v Brighton

The final Premier League game of match day five is between two teams with identical records so far, and I think the game will be as close as the table suggests. Both teams have had decent starts after decent windows, and I think they’ll both end up around the middle of the Premier League table. I think this game will end as a draw, as both teams put out equally decent performances at St Mary’s.

FMO Predicts: 1-1 Draw


Championship (Summary)

It looks set to be a big weekend for many teams in the second tier of English football. Kicking off with a game in which Garry Monk’s Birmingham must pick up their first win of the season, if they are gonna kick on and do well. Their opponents, West Brom, will be confident after their home win against stoke, and I think this might give them the edge in this game. As a Reading fan, I am wincing at the thought of our trip to Deepdale on Saturday, as Preston will almost certainly record a second league win against us. We have been very poor in every game this season, and I really cannot see us getting the points to stay in the division this year. Another battle at the bottom sees Bolton, fresh off their devastating administration news, at home to QPR. The news of a points reduction will seriously hurt Bolton’s chances in this game, as they are taking on an uphill task for the rest of the season, this could give QPR the chance to pounce for a valuable win.

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FMO Championship Predictions:

 Birmingham 1-2 West Brom

Bolton 0-1 QPR

Brentford 2-0 Wigan

Bristol City 1-1 Sheffield United

Hull City 0-0 Ipswich

Millwall 1-2 Leeds

Norwich 0-2 Middlesbrough

Preston 2-0 Reading

Rotherham 1-2 Derby

Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Stoke

Swansea 2-2 Nottingham Forest

Blackburn 1-1 Aston Villa



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This weekend sees the eagerly anticipated second fight between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez. After a controversial draw decision, these two go head to head once more in Las Vegas in the early hours of Sunday morning GMT. Despite the fact he maybe should’ve been handed the defeat, Canelo proved he has what it takes to compete at the highest level, causing problems for GGG with his explosive and unpredictable fighting style. He’s only lost once and will not be any easier this time. I can see a repeat of the first fight, with Canelo starting well, and I think he’ll take Golovkin to a decision once again, however I think this time GGG will have done enough to beat the Mexican on points in Nevada.

FMO Predicts: Golovkin to win by unanimous decision.


5 Tips for FM Beginners


For many people, FM is a game that is appealing, but also daunting. The hundreds of menus and settings that can be altered allows for great detail, but also great confusion. However, it doesn’t have to be so difficult to begin playing Sport Interactive’s hugely popular management simulation series. So here are five things every beginner should consider when first playing the game.

  1. Play it Simple– It may seem best to leap in to Football Manager, trying to learn every detail of the game. I would suggest that this is not the best thing to do. FM can be as simple or complicated as you like, so it is best to start off slowly. Start a save with your favourite team, and spend a few seasons making your way through the game’s interface using things as and when you need to. The thing that puts a lot of people of the game is its complex detailed approach to management, but this issue can easily be fixed. Using the ‘Staff Responsibilities’ menu, Assistant managers and coaches can easily be assigned using the staff to take activities such as Training, Opposition Instructions, Friendlies or Press conferences for you, allowing any beginner to focus on learning the basics of the game, and developing a love for Football Manager.Picture1
  2. Save, Save and then Save again! – If you’re someone who has never played FM before, you are yet to experience the heart-breaking agony of a save file corrupting with which you have spent hundreds of hours of your life. Stop yourself from this mistake. As a long time, player of the game, I can say that it is quite rare for a file to corrupt, however it has happened in the past. It is very preventable however. Creating two files manually and switching between saving them is probably the simplest, however the game does allow you to set up a three/five/ten file rolling save system in the ‘preferences’ menu. This will automatically save in different files, meaning that if one corrupts you have two others that should be working perfectly. This of course is not an issue limited to FM, but being a game that tends to take up a lot of player’s time, it is particularly crushing to lose a game save.Picture2


  1. Get some Faces, Logos and Kits– Despite FM’s wide and impressive range of licences with leagues and teams, some of the bigger leagues do not have badges, kits or player faces. These can easily be downloaded from sites such as, and easily added to the game. When the files are unzipped and on your PC, then can simply be copy and pasted into the graphics folder of the game in your documents folder. A full step-by-step guide to applying the data packs will be on the website that you download them from. Overall this is easier to do than you may imagine, and adds hugely to the look of the menus, and with the bigger competitions like the Premier League, La Liga and the Champions League it is certainly worth doing.



  1. Try out some Mods– The steam workshop page for FM2018 is a great place to find mods that will enhance your playing experience. With database transfer updates that keep up to date with the latest moves in real life you can always have the right players at the right team. Other more unrealistic, challenge producing mods can be used for creative save ideas. These include the two updates below, on the left is a legend update that adds historic players to the database, allowing you to poach them as an uprising wonderkid, and watch them rise to a footballing great. The right is an update that switches FC United of Manchester and Manchester United, reversing the facilities, status and finances of the two clubs.


  1. Remember Player Roles! –When starting off, it is easy to overlook the importance of certain things. When you have your formation, starting line-up and team instructions sorted, you may think your tactics are finished. However, the role you assign to each player may be just as important as the rest of the setup. Having a player with a low passing or composure stat set as a ‘Ball Playing Defender’ could lead to mistakes or poor performances. On the other hand, having a full back with great pace, crossing and stamina as a ‘Defensive Full-Back’ is a bit of a waste of talent.





The Best Tactics in FM: 4-3-3 Xmas Tree

The Best Tactics in FM18- The Christmas Tree

With the central attacking midfielder becoming a more and more important position in football, the Christmas tree variation of the 4-3-3 is one that gets the best out of these types of attacker. It is a formation in FM that has created three high scoring players in the team, with the below screenshot an example of the tactic, illustrated through the use of Real Madrid. It’s a system that I have used at points in many saves, and has always led to my teams being both protected at the back and potent in attack.


The Formation:

The tactic lines up with a back four, then three central midfield players behind two attacking midfield players and one striker, creating the tree shape. The full backs will need to provide width in attack, offering overlaps to the central midfielders and AMs. The central midfielder in the three will most likely be the one who is the most defensive, the player who will drop deeper to cut out passing moves and to protect the back four. The other two will either help in build ups or get forward to get involved in attacks. The two central attacking midfielders will need to do work both inside and out wide in order to create chances, they will also be required to get in behind, as the striker holds up the ball and looks to lay it off to them in space.

In Defence:

This tactic suits a pressing style, starting from the front three. They all will try and close down defenders and force them into errors, allowing for the other two attackers to launch counters when they win the ball back. The front three being close together allows for concentrated pressing as a unit, as they aim for interceptions and turnovers high up the pitch. The back four will need to be protected by at least one central midfield player, otherwise the defensive system can be based on personal preference. In Casemiro, Madrid would have a strong ball winner and defensive midfielder, in my save with Chelsea using the 1995-96 update (link at the bottom of the post) I played this tactic. I used Didier Deschamps as the defensive midfielder in the three, with either Di Matteo, Lampard or Wise alongside him in more attacking roles.


The ball winning midfielder frees up the other two central midfielders to get involved in attacks, whilst covering the back four.


In Attack:

Going forward this tactic allows for three central attackers who all can get into attacking positions. With the second striker role applied, this player will almost be another centre forward, who will get beyond the complete forward. The advanced playmaking will find space and pick out the other two. This worked wonders with my retro Chelsea side, with Zola and Poyet combining with Vialli to create a lot of scoring opportunities.


At the end of the second season I signed Poyet to give us a strong scoring threat from behind the striker, he outscored Vialli to become our player of the season, with 27 goals in all competitions, and 10 assists. His superb 19 finishing stat and great long shots, ‘off the ball’ and heading stats making him a vitally important component in this tactic.


Another important player was Gianluca Vialli during this Chelsea save. He scored 50 goals in all competitions across the first two seasons, playing as a complete forward. Great service from other players combined with his good finishing meant that he became a prolific striker, leading us to great success from the lone centre forward position.


Scott Minto was terrific in this system, with attacking full backs imperative to the tactic, in providing width and crossing for the centre forward and attacking midfielders. He has created 16 goals from the full back position in two seasons, with Dan Petrescu offering similar threat from the other side of the back four. The Romanian managed to get a huge 30 assists across two seasons in all competitions. This full back presence in attack is vital for this tactic.

Player Roles:

Most of the player roles can be changed depending on personal preference or the suitability to the players in this system. The attacking midfielders can be set to whatever role will get the best out of them, and the same is true of the left and right midfielders. With Madrid, I suggested using Kroos and Modric as either deep-lying or advanced playmakers, who create openings for the attackers. However, with Chelsea I used a Box-to-box midfielder in Dennis Wise, who gets involved in attacks. The more important roles are that of the middle centre midfielder and the striker. The more defensive midfielder works well as a ball winning midfielder, or as a defensive midfielder. The striker seems to work well as a complete forward, as an all-round striker is needed. He needs to hold up the ball well, and also press. A target man or advanced forward may also still work, but the striker himself needs to be good both technically and physically in this system.


Team Instructions

Once again there is a lot of personal choice involved. The most important instructions are in the build-up department, for example the ‘play narrower’, ‘exploit the middle’ and ‘look for overlap’ important in utilising the attacking midfielders, attacking full backs and strikers. I had good ball playing defenders in the back four, so with Chelsea I decided to play out from the defence to the midfield and onto the attacking three, but with strikers who can win headers and hold the ball up it can be possible to play a more direct style if that suits the team more. The obvious pressing instructions will be needed if you want to counter-press from the front, and passing into space will help with quick breaks and to open up opposition defences to create space for the attacking players.


Player Instructions:

The box-to-box midfielder could be told to move into channels if the full backs aren’t getting involved enough, this could help create chances from out wide. The full backs are important in the attacking system. I set attacking instructions to my full backs in my Chelsea save.


With the full back ‘getting further forward’ and ‘staying wider’ he will offer width to the attacks, with the crossing occurring more often to the centre. This will create a huge amount of goals from out wide in this system, adding to the goals scored by the attacking midfielders and centre backs.


This tactic is great for the use of good attacking players, who like to get forward and create and score goals. It is well balanced, with great support for the defence with three centre midfielders in front of a flat back four. The team attacks well through the middle and out wide, and providing you have the players to play in each position this system can be absolutely perfect for your team.

Blog Save: Reading FC October and November

Reading Save: October and November

It is fair to say that after a fantastic September, leaving us in the playoff positions, the next two months sent us crashing back down to earth. If I’ve ever questioned how realistic Football Manager is, then the eight-game winless run (in which we threw away leads in half of the matches) well and truly put that beyond doubt. Watching the 2D dots make countless defensive howlers and blunders couldn’t have made me feel like I was sat in my seat in the Madejski Stadium any more.


After beating top of the table Birmingham at the end of the previous month, October began with a draw at home to Millwall. We took the lead through Marc McNulty in the fourth minute, before conceding to Jed Wallace in the eighty-eighth. This set the down-beat tone for the next couple of months. The famously prolific Patrick Bamford proved he could score outside of Teesside by smashing a hat-trick past Vito Mannone in a 3-2 defeat to Leeds in which we lead twice, leaving us in free fall down the table.


The embarrassment of the defeat to Leeds wasn’t the only bad news, as Vito Mannone was ruled out for the next few games. His replacement, Sam Walker, was forced into making his Championship debut for the club in a 2-2 draw at home to Sheffield United, in which Iceland international Bodvarsson rescued us after falling behind twice. He then scored an equaliser in another 2-2 draw at Portman Road, as we came back from 2-0 down against Ipswich. The next two games signalled the low point of the season so far. It looked like we had finally gained some momentum from out comeback against the Tractor Boys, as we took a 2-0 lead through a Bodvarsson brace inside twenty minutes against Blackburn, but goals from Bradley Dack, Peter Whittingham and Jack Payne sunk us back down to our bad form.

As if that wasn’t enough, during the game our Icelandic hero was injured. Being the only player keeping us within the top half of the league, it was probably inevitable that we would struggle through the next few games, especially as our other two strikers (Sam Baldock and Marc McNulty) had also been injured, and were just recovering from minor knocks.


This lead to a dreadful display in Berkshire against Swansea, who were Twenty-Second in the table, but comfortably beat us 2-1. The next game against QPR was just as frustrating, as another injury to Sam Baldock left me with just one first team striker, so I switched back to my first 4-3-3 formation, and played McNulty with Obita and Aluko (with Barrow injured as well). This did well for us at the start of the game, before yet again throwing away a lead in the dying seconds.


Switching to a 4-5-1 with the David Meyler as Ball winning defensive midfielder allowed us to defend well against top of the table Norwich, managing to hold the in-form team in the division to a 0-0 draw at the Madejski. This ended a pretty awful two-month spell that has seen us drop from fifth in the table to thirteenth. Although we are just five points from the playoffs, the form we are in makes it look unlikely that we will finish anywhere near them.

However, with January now just around the corner, we do have a whopping £1.1 Million to spend in the transfer window, which will probably mean that when we offload some of the dead wood, we can bring in a few free signings or loans in the winter window. This will hopefully give us a strong end to the season. Before then though, we have a difficult Christmas period, with six games in December.



Blog Save: Reading FC August and September

Reading Save: August and September

After the pre-season preparations, we finally began our Championship season with Reading away to newly promoted Rotherham, at the New York Stadium. At the end of September, we now currently sit at fifth in the table, inside the playoff positions. With a mid-table finish our objective at the start of the season, we are certainly overachieving so far, with our fast passing and possession based counter attacking system struggling early on, but gaining success as the games have gone on.


We began our season with a good result, winning 2-1 against Rotherham. We controlled possession well, finally managing to create chances in the second half, and scoring the second from a corner.


Our second win of the season came in extra time against League Two opposition Forest Green in the Carabao Cup. Our first home game of the season ended in a 0-0 draw, as both teams struggled against two well performing defences. We then got handed our first defeat of the season at the Hawthorns, as a strong West Brom team unsurprisingly proved too much for our team. Our form took a turn for the worse after this disappointing result, as we drew 0-0 at home once again, to Middlesbrough. Swansea then easily beat a second-string Reading team in the League Cup, before a very disappointing defeat at Villa Park.


The inclusion of Jordan Obita at left wing was successful as the game began. He got into better crossing positions during counter attacks, creating more chances than Aluko or McCleary had seemed to in their starts in the league. His corner lead to a goal from Liam Kelly, before a second from Bodvarsson was assisted by Obita. However, the game changed when Andy Yiadom was shown a straight red card. This unfortunately seemed to unravel our great start to the game, as Villa clawed the game back to 2-2. Obita’s edge of the box shot then gave us the lead once more, but a leveller soon followed. Finally, in stoppage time Agbonlahor winner finished off a spirited 10-man performance in the second half.

However, after this disappointment our fortune turned around, and once again Jordan Obita carried Reading to our first League win in over a month at home to Bolton Wanderers.


We are still unbeaten from the Villa game at the current point in my save, with a win against Brentford away from a solitary goal from Ryan East, an academy Central midfielder who I brought on into the Regista role for Liam Kelly. He was promoted from the under 23s after an injury to Leandro Bacuna, playing in the cup and being on the bench in the league.


We then got held to a draw away at Preston, before going behind at the Madejski to Hull City. I then switched to a 4-4-2, bringing off the advanced playmaker for Sam Baldock, who’s two goals helped us turn the result around to get the win.


Obita’s inclusion in the team had helped us greatly in August and September, so with Omar Richards and Tyler Blackett struggling in the league, I decided to utilise his ability to play as a wing back, by tweaking our formation. I also wanted to get both Marc McNulty and Sam Baldock into the team, therefore I switched to a two up front formation.



This tactical switch meant that we could have both a left back and a left winger that was in form in Jordan Obita. Aluko, McCleary, Blackett, Yiadom and Richards were all struggling, so this asymmetrical system seemed to fit the team better. The new formation got off to a good start, with two wins at the end of September against Bristol City, and unbeaten top of the table Birmingham.

This good run of form left us fifth in the table, and within three points of the automatic promotion places going into October. The form of crucial players like Liam Moore, Liam Kelly and Jordan Obita helping us into this high position, we must hope that they can continue to perform as we continue through the season. John Swift in truth has been disappointing, yet to score a goal and with just one assist to his name, he hasn’t had the effect I hoped he would as an advanced playmaker.

The next two months will be crucial as we head towards the Christmas packed fixture period. By the end of the next post we will know whether we are overachieving, or if we are genuine playoff contenders.

Blog Save: Reading FC Pre-Season

Blog Save: Reading FC- Pre-Season

 For the first save of my blog, I thought it would only be right to start with my team, Reading. They are my local team, and I’ve had a season ticket at the Madejski Stadium since I was twelve. One promotion, one relegation (in depressingly close proximity to each other) and two play-off final defeats later, it is time to change around the fortunes of Reading FC. It is a club, and squad that I know better than any other, so Reading were the natural choice as I begin my first FM Overload blog save.

The Squad:

Having disabled transfer budgets for the summer window, below is the squad I have to work with until at least January.

Squad Pic

The squad is quite large, with decent depth for a mid-table Championship side. The goalkeeping department will be interesting, with Vito Mannone struggling in the season’s opener in 2018/19, and making a few errors last year. The signing of Sam Walker with give him competition, as an established football league number one goalkeeper.

The signing of Andy Yiadom gives us depth at right back, with Chris Gunter as my main choice. The rest of the defence looks good in depth, with maybe defensive ability lacking at left-back, with Jordan Obita and Omar Richards two academy products who are stronger going when going forward. Liam Moore not leaving can only be good news for the club, and Tiago Illori and Paul McShane are good options in the Championship.

The central midfield area looks average, with players like Dave Edwards and Pelle Clement struggling last season for Reading. John Swift hasn’t performed consistently since 2016, and Liam Kelly’s long passing is either incredible or incredibly frustrating. The signing of David Meyler, who replaces the hot headed (and quite frankly useless) Joey Van Den Berg, is a good one. He offers leadership, defensive support and character in the squad.

With many wingers at the club, it will take a while to work out the best pairing. Mo Barrow was excellent last season. The best winger to sign for Reading since Garath McCleary. He is still at the club, and on his day, is better than any other player we have. Unfortunately for Reading fans that day only ever happens to be against QPR every other leap year. Sone Aluko disappointed as our record signing last year, but must be given another chance this year. With players like Callum Harriott and Yakou Meite both returning to the first team from injuries and loan deals respectively, there is fierce competition out wide in this squad.

 Two big signings in Marc McNulty and Sam Baldock have hugely improved the striking options for us this season. Replacing the retired Yann Kermorgant, these two will fight out with Iceland’s Jón Dai Bodvarsson for the main striking position.

This squad is decent, but not really strong enough to expect a top half, or playoff finish. A solid mid-table first season will be a decent result with the lack of financial backing the club has given the squad.


At the start of pre-season, I decided that this squad would be best suited to a 4-3-3. This is the formation that I will begin the Championship season with, offering us balance and protection of a somewhat shaky back four.

Tactics 1.png

I went for a counter-attacking system, that relies on passing out quickly from the back. With centre-backs such as Liam Moore and Tiago Illori who are good at playing out, this will offer us the opportunity to break away quickly without having to play route one football. The good central midfielders we have will be crucial, picking the ball up from the defenders and driving forwards before looking to pick out the wingers. With the “Pass into space” and “Play wider” team instructions, the wingers hopefully will get opportunities in behind the defence, to be picked out by Liam Kelly or John Swift. The striker will be a complete forward, who will need to act as a target man when the wingers look for crosses, but may also need to get in behind when we launch a counter attack. I used a Regista in the deeper role in the midfield three in pre-season, but David Meyler may be used there as a ball winner in bigger games in the league to offer more cover and support for the back four. I may even use the Irish international as a ball winner on the right of the central three, alongside Swift,with Kelly behind.

Pre-Season Trials:

With budgets disabled for the first window, my only recruitment opportunities were trials, with the view of signing players on free transfers in January. I decided to offer opportunities for two central midfielders to play for us in pre-season. The first was Royals’ legend Steve Sidwell, a Ball-Winning-Midfielder or Mezzala. The second was young PSG academy product Lorenzo Callegari.

Sidwell Callegari

Planning to play passing and central midfield based football in the new season, I thought that the 19-year-old advanced playmaker could offer cover for players like John Swift, with good passing, first touch and technique stats. He can also play as a regista, which we could have utilised in a 4-3-3 formation.

Callegari 2.png

Callegari is certainly a player that I will look to bring in when we have the funds to pay his signing and agent fees, with good potential and the ability to be crucial in a passing team.

Pre-Season Friendlies:


Our results in friendlies improved the further we went through pre-season. After starting off with a draw against the Under 23s, we went to the Netherlands for a tour. Two wins and two draws followed, as we struggled against first division Dutch sides. Ratings wise it was the front three that struggled, with the midfield all reaching at least 7.0s. Kelly and Callegari specifically played well, completing more passes than any other players in all games. Vito Mannone got injured late on in the tour, leaving Walker in goal for the remainder of pre-season. The return to England showed a turn in fortune, as we won four and drew one of our games against lower league opposition, and finally Antwerp at the Madejski Stadium. Overall it was a decent pre-season, as the team improved in the tactical setup with which we played, as we progress towards our season opener away at newly promoted Rotherham United.

The Best Tactics in FM: 5-1-1-3

Best Tactics in FM18- The 5-1-1-3

Since Antonio Conte’s switch to a back three at Chelsea in the 2016/17 season, similar formations have risen to popularity in the English football for the first time since the 1990s. This has translated into the world of Football Manager. The formation below won me the Bundesliga in my first season with Bayer Leverkusen. A system that offers defensive cover as well as width in attack, the 5-1-1-3 feels very well balanced, leading to great results in my save.


The Formation:

The above screenshot shows how I used the formation for the majority of the season. A midfield pairing of Bender and Aránguiz offers both defensive support and attacking capability. I had Bender as deeper DM so that he can offer cover when the more attacking midfielder and wing backs push up, although Lars does still get into attacking positions occasionally in this formation. The two wing backs being pushed forward is probably the thing I change most in this tactic, bringing them back to their deeper position against tougher opposition to make sure they’re not caught out by world class wingers.

In Defence:

Defensively this system lends itself to an almost counter-pressing style. The wingers and striker need to close down, therefore in some bigger games I have used Volland as a defensive forward to press the centre backs hard. It is important that the front three all press to win the ball back and counter together, offering options when one of them win the ball. The wing backs are expected to get back to defend as well, therefore it’s important to have players in those positions that are athletic enough to do so. The defensive midfielder is important in supporting the back four, cutting out passes and winning the ball back on the edge of the box, before launching counters through short passes to the Box-to-Box player in front of him. The main thing that helps defensively is the fact that this team has three very good centre backs, who are fast and able to cover the wing backs out wide without getting beaten easily. This system may struggle with lower level centre backs who aren’t very athletic.

In Attack:

Despite being a counter attacking tactic it is also important that the team keep the ball, and play through the defence quickly. Therefore, having two Ball-Playing-Defenders is vital. Tah and Tolói are excellent in this system, with great passing and composure stats allowing them to quickly turn defence into attack without hoofing it. The box to box midfielder is also crucial, carrying the ball forward through midfield after it is won back. Having one with good passing and dribbling is very important. The wingers in this team are probably the main reason that this tactic is so successful however, with Brandt and Bailey scoring a combined 32 goals in all competitions in my title winning campaign. Their pace means they get in behind very well on the counter, and both of them having good finishing means they score a lot of goals. When they are unable to get in behind, the wingers both overlap (being on ‘attack’), allowing for overlaps and chances for them to cross to the striker. The striker also has to be athletic, but also must be a good finisher as counter attacking leads to important chances, especially in big games. In matches against teams like Bayern or Dortmund, my team would only have two or three shots on target, meaning that a lethal finisher is vital to the chances of winning. Once again therefore this may be a tactic more well suited to top level teams, with quality players needed throughout the team.

Player Roles:

The player roles I used were pretty much the same as in the screenshot. As mentioned previously, roles like the BPD, Box to box midfielder and Complete wing-back is pretty crucial to the style of play. The central centre-back being a Defensive centre back is more of a personal preference really, an out and out defender in the heart of the back three always seems to work well on FM. Any defensive midfield role can work, I tried Touloulan as an anchor man but it wasn’t as effective as Bender as a DM. The wingers should be just whatever they are natural at, an inside forward if they like to cut inside, or a traditional winger if they play on their natural footed side.

Team Instructions:

Most of the important team instructions are evident from what I have previously said, ‘Play out of Defence’, ‘Retain Possession’ and ‘Close down more’ are the most important. The others that I used can be seen in the screenshot. Mainly the instructions that tell the players to keep the ball are the most important, this system is unlikely to work if the team loses the ball at the start of every counter attack, as it isn’t built on long balls to strong and tall strikers, differing to other counter attacking system.

Player Instructions:

The front three are all set to ‘Close down more’ in this system. I also have the Box-to-box midfielder set to ‘Dribble more’, to make him charge forwards with the ball in counters, this once again means the dribbling stat of the midfielder is important. I also have Brandt set to get further forward to make sure he is in the position to get in behind on counters. The defensive midfielder has the most instructions, as shown below:

5113 Player

These settings make sure that when he wins the ball back he doesn’t try long balls to launch breaks but instead lays off to wing backs or the other midfielder. The hold position instruction also makes sure he does not get pulled out as he is there to protect the back four.


This is a great tactic for high level counter attacking teams. It is not a defensive, boring and negative style of counter attacking, but uses quick movement and wing play to open up teams on the break, much like Chelsea in 2016/17. It may only work for high level teams however, as less technically and physically able players will struggle to perform the roles needed of them. But if you have the players, this tactic can be great fun to use in FM18.