The Basics

In FIFA MANAGER 12 we have loads of possible constellations why your team plays good sometimes and why it doesn’t other times. Like in real football, a portion of luck and chance, call it what you want, is also part of the equation.
Almost every coach out there has already witnessed that great heights and success are often followed by misery and despair, even though the work with the team, the tactical orientation or the teams’ spirit might not have changed at all.
You won’t always be capable of turning that tide, but there is a series of options and tricks that’ll help you minimize the chances of failure.

A Concept!

A good tactical concept is always focusing on the players that are available to you. There have been many coaches who tried to fit players into a concept that they simply are not made for. The player will meet the concept’s requirements only if he is suitable for it. As fascinating as a running route or passing play might look on paper, players will always have to translate it into action. Rudi Völler already found out, that you cannot demand from a set of “Malta legs” to play “Brazilian style football”. This is a fact which can also be transferred to FIFA MANAGER, so the first question should be:

Who are you and what are your strengths?

A good coach knows his team by heart. Who is fast, who is rather slow but offers a perfect positional play? Which one’s the weak foot, who’s creative, who has a good overview, can my winger even be used for defensive tasks or are his defense skills simply too poor? Is my central midfielder capable of being the main man on the pitch, or will I demand to match with him having a rather rough time anyhow? These are the issues a coach has to regard regularly. But before we go in to detail, we try to get a first overall picture and face the notorious question of the…

Formation

Take a close look at all the players you have available, if you do not plan to (or don’t have the funds) buy a whole new team. Investigate each player, find out about their strengths and abilities and create a formation that fits them and which you want them to “fill out”. Note that players will only perform accordingly if they have already mastered the position they are supposed to play on. You should consider thoroughly how many players you want to teach playing a new position, it may be more practical and promising to not consider this step and rather move the position a bit to fit your players’ skills. Take a look at your subs’ bench and check whether you got enough substitutes for all positions. Does it make sense to put three center forwards on the bench because you have them in your squad or does that make you susceptible to opponents’ attacks due to a lack of defenders?

The overall goal is to put together a homogenous formation, each part (defense/midfield/attack) should be built around one key figure that is interconnected with the other key figures. Around them, the rest of the team can be assembled according to their abilities. A young up-and-coming offensive winger without solid defensive qualities can be compensated more successful if you position a strong defender behind him or equip him with a solid central midfielder. You can see this at Bayern Munich, to give an example. Robben and Ribéry both are not famous for their defensive qualities. But with the strong defensive midfielders (e.g. Schweinsteiger and Tymoshchuck) and the left and right backs (e.g. Lahm and Boateng) their defensive weakness can be often successfully compensated. The better balanced your starting lineup is, the fewer weaknesses will present themselves during the season.

However, during a season you might want to have some plan-b versions of this formation in cases of injuries of key players, international matches you want to approach more defensively or if you prefer a more offensive version when playing national cup competitions against weaker clubs. Don’t hesitate to use the preparation period to experiment with different variations of your formation; there’ll always be room for improvement. If you have finally decided on one or several formations, dig deep into your reserves.

The Philosophy

Let’s assume your choice is the currently very popular 4-2-3-1 formation. You now have to figure out the roles of your right and left midfielders; are they constantly delivering crosses for the tall striker (good heading skills might come in handy) or are they supposed to rather go straight and score on their own? Their skillsets play the most important role to find out which of these two roles they’ll most likely be able to play, but the other team mates play an important role as well because teamwork is even more important. It’s practically useless to put a small, fast and very skilled LM on the pitch, if your central midfielder has poor passing skills and can therefore not play adequate passes to the winger. And if you don’t want to use crosses anyhow, how much sense it makes to play with a classical target man Rule of thumb should be to only demand actions from your players that correspond with their actual abilities. 

Abilities and their direct effects (field players)

Shot Power
Linear influences the power of a shot.

Long Shots
Defines the accuracy of a player’s shot from 20+ meters.

Dribbling
Defines both the repertoire of skill moves as well as the chances of their successful execution.

Technique
Influences all skills the player has on the ball as a secondary value.

Crossing
Influences timing, power, sharpness and accuracy of a cross as well as the chance of a successful cross. It also includes whether a player can bend a cross around a defender or whether the defender will block it.

Creativity
Influences the chance of direct passes, chips and through balls as well as their success rate.

Finishing
Used as a secondary value for headers in the box, a primary value for shots fired in the box. Influences the possibility of whether the player can pass the keeper with a shot or not.

Free Kicks
Influences the accuracy of free kicks.

Corners
Influences all the aspects for a corner that are applied for crossing (timing, power, sharpness and accuracy of a cross as well as the chance of a successful cross. It also includes whether a player can bend a cross around a defender or whether the defender will block it.).

Penalties
Influences the accuracy of penalties.

Passing
Influences the success rate of short passes as well as the selection of possible receivers. The higher this value, the higher the chances of a risky pass, but the success rate of this pass rises simultaneously.

Long Passing
Same as for Passing, only regarding longer passes.

Flair
Influences the overall chance of a player performing a “special” action. This might be a dribbling, a chip pass or a through ball. Whether it finally comes to this move also depends of the level of the respective skill. The chances of a special dribbling will decline if the skills Dribbling and Technique are rather low.

Tackling
Influences the chance of a successful ball conquering after a tackling without foul play. Also influences whether blocking or obstructing player in possession of the ball are successful.

Man Marking
Defines how fast and how accurate the defender reaches the perfect position to take the opponent out of the game.

Headers
See Shot Power, only for headers.

Touch
Defines how fast a player can trap a free ball (after a pass) and then how fast he can execute a dribbling or a through pass etc.

Forward Runs
The higher this value is, the higher the chance that a player will abandon his position to go forward, for example to be open to receive passes.

Acceleration
Defines the time a player needs to reach his maximum speed.

Speed
Defines the maximum speed a player can run at.

Work Rate
Influences the readiness of a tired player to perform sprints.

Strength
Influences the outcome of tackles or tussles as well as their defensive measures (as a player controlling the ball)

Agility
Influences Dribbling as a secondary value and also has an impact of the speed of changes of direction.

Jumping
Regulates the possible height a player can jump.

Stamina
Defines the speed at which a player loses energy.

Anticipation
The higher this value, the faster a player will be able to determine his position on the pitch in various plays and the better he will interpret these roles.

Aggression
Influences Tackling as a secondary value. A higher level means a higher chance of a risky tackle.

Composure
Secondary value influencing various skills such as tacklings.

Concentration
Secondary value for several skills like the penalty or the chance of a goalkeeper of catching easy balls with his hands.

Decisions/Judgment
Secondary value for several skills such as Tackling or Long Passing.

Determination
Secondary value for skills like shots, Headers or Tackling.

Team Work
Secondary value for Anticipation.

Consistency
Influences the chances how often a player performs action that correspond with his general ability level (position level, skills)

Intimidation
Secondary value for the goalkeeper for penalties as well for all actions that are related to one on ones.

Leadership
Necessary for the selection of captaincy. Highest value = team captain, second highest value = number two. No direct influence on the 3D match.

Abilities and their direct effects (Goalkeeper skills)

Crosses
Succession rate of intercepting or catching crosses.

Handling
Decisive skill for a goalkeeper which often determines whether the goalie can pick out crosses by either punching them clear or collecting them.

Goal Kicks
Influences the precision and distance of a goal kick. Kick-outs are on the other hand are part of the skill Long Passing.

One-on-Ones
Regulates the situation when the goalkeeper rushes towards an attacking player of the opposing team. The higher his skill, the higher the chance that he can collect the ball without committing foul play.

Positioning
Defines how fast the goalkeeper can retain the perfect position on the pitch.

Punching
Regulates the strength when a goalkeeper punches the ball away.

Shot Stopping
Influences the speed of reaction of a goalkeeper. The higher this value, the better and faster a goalie can estimate the flight path of a ball and time his jump accordingly.

GK Throw Outs
Defines the distance and accuracy of a throw out.

Form of the day

Every player has his own form value which is a result of his performance in previous plays, his training efforts but also his morale etc. The lower this value is, the higher the chances are the player will perform below his capabilities. Countermeasures to re-gain the form are both training sessions and appearances on the pitch. This effect can however also lead to an opposite phenomenon, that the player can also perform better or beyond his normal level if the form is respectively high. That’s why it is very important to look at a player’s capabilities very carefully before making a fast decision without proper prior investigation. As in reality, you need at least a couple of games against different opponents to be able to determine a player’s repertoire and capabilities. Even top notch players can suffer not only from some poor games but may find themselves in a phase where nothing really works. Injuries, loss of morale and other factors outside the 3D match can contribute to such a phase. 

Team Tactics

Team tactics can only be successfully translated into action if the formation allows it. If I am defending with every player on the pitch and all players are in my half and the box, an offside trap will not work, simply because of space issues. How is my team supposed to tackle aggressively if I put the commitment to low? How is an effective short pass play supposed to work, if the distances between players are too far? The best passing skill will not help, if the players are too far away from each other. Especially with all the detailed tactical options, the principle of trial and error is recommended. Do not give up too early or stick to one tactical version only because it worked one time. You have to make observations over the course of several games to find the fitting settings for your team.

Crossing
Here you can define both the position (by-line/mixed/deep) from which players should do crosses and also the kind of crosses (always low/mixed/always high) they are supposed to play the most. However, keep in mind that a player will in the end decide what to do based on his skills and the situation in the game. A player will most likely not do a low cross if he expects a defender to deflect it. Furthermore, a player will not play an early cross from midfield if there is no striker to receive it or if his crossing level is too low to guarantee the success of such a cross. These setting should therefore match both, players and the system.

Passing
Again, two variables can be changed here, the length (short/mostly short/mixed/ mostly long/long) of passes and the category (cautious/patient/normal/direct/risky) of passes. Both settings influence the player’s decision which teammate he will pass to and how he will play the pass. So you should only choose direct passing, if your players have a sufficient passing level, because a poor passer will always hesitate to play a sharp pass between two defenders if he knows the ball will most likely not reach the intended receiver.

Playing direction
Every time, a new attack game is started (through kick-offs or the like), this setting comes into motion and will decide how the attack will pan out from a directional point of view. Therefore, you have several options /all/left/center/right/left-center/right-center/wings) to decide how the build-up of the game is supposed to start. Again keep in mind that it also depends on the situation and the players you use. Not every attack or goal kick will be according to this preset, but the team tries to fulfill this command quite often. This option is also linked to other options like the playmaker you select, so make sure they are all fit together, otherwise chaos may prevail. Also take a look at the player levels on the side you favor.

Defensive line
The defensive line (very deep/deep/normal/high/very high) sets the tone for the whole team. If the defensive line is very deep than the midfield and attack will be deeper than they are normally situated on the pitch, in order to avoid large gaps between the single parts of the team. A common mistake is to not match the defensive line with the running routes of the rest of the team. If you choose to set very offensive routes for your midfielders and forwards which lead to a very high position of these two on the pitch, the gap between them and the defense will be very huge. This opens large gaps in front of your defense, easy to penetrate by opposing forwards, especially if they are playing with three strikers who will combine their way through your back four. Another common mistake is to set the defensive line very deep against offensive opponents to bring home a close victory or to maintain a draw. This can turn into an invitation for your opponent to perform permanent pressure on your defense. The longer you apply this tactic, the more chances the opposing team will generate, eventually leading to conceiving unwanted goals. It is far more successful to choose an offside-trap or at least a more offensive orientation of the team – the opponent cannot score a goal, if you are in possession ;-)

Closing down
This option lets you decide when the team actively attacks the opposing players (defending third/own half/all over) and does not simply stick to their positions. Your players will only be capable of running these extra miles, if their energy and fitness are pristine and of the commitment is at a respective level.

Commitment
Commitment regulates the readiness of your squad to do runs at a maximum level (low/medium/high) and go the extra mile. It is not recommended to play with high commitment for a whole game, because exhausted players are prone to injury more likely and an exhausted team will not perform impressively in the last part of the match against a fit opponent. Always check twice when you choose which level of commitment during a game.

Time waste
If this option is selected (never/last min when leading/always when leading), the player in possession will ignore all other instructions and play the secure pass at all times. This can come in handy if you want to be easy on your team concerning the next match. On the other hand, your team might get I trouble and might be pushed back (see defensive line).

Target man
The target man will more often than not tend to run forward if the own team is in possession. This is useful if you operate with high and long balls or crosses from the wings. If you are playing with two strikers on one line, like in the classical 4-4-2 formation, you’d also want to activate the option “free role” (individual orders -> right click on the intended striker -> special settings). Thus, the striker is not bound to his opponent and can already lie in wake for the ball.

Playmaker
The playmaker is preferred by his teammates as a pass receiver. He should of course be equipped with respective passing skills to properly interpret this position involving frequent passing and a good overview. If you have a balanced midfield, it can make sense to not choose one playmaker but to divide the build-up to more than one player.

Man marking
As soon as your team loses possession of the ball, each player has one logical opponent he will look after once your team is in the defensive position. This also depends on the closing down settings. If this is not enough for you and you want to have certain players under very special “protection”, you can use this setting to do so. You have to keep in mind that a detail will also cause probable wholes in your formation when the player he is supposed to guard falls back or changes sides. If you play with back four against one striker, it is recommended to assign one of your central backs as a man marker. The possible wholes this may tear into your formation can then be closed with a defensive midfielder who is drawn back respectively.

Marking target
This instruction functions in a similar way as man marking, the difference being that not a single player is marking the desired opposing player, but the player that is nearest to him and the logical choice. This setting is very effective against strong wingers or effective playmakers.

Goal kicks
This setting is responsible for the length of goal kicks (short/mixed/long). Bear in mind that depending on the setting you prefer, you also must have a player on the respective position you can receive and handle the ball.

Corners
Same procedure as for goal kicks.

Offside trap
A well organized and well-practised back four can exasperate even a strong opponent with the help of the offside trap. In order for the offside trap to work, quite some factors have to be considered. In order to do this, you need to look at team work, tactical skill of the offside trap but also the positioning of the single player. If you have rather slow central backs that were to loose running challenge, the offside trap is recommended. The defensive line must be positioned accordingly, because a very deep defense will not be able to keep the opponent in check – the offside trap would be rendered inoperative.

As you can see, a single setting or option is not as effective as you might have thought. It is the combination of the right ones that will make a good team strategy. The playing direction can be analyzed isolated from the playmaker. Successful closing down all over the pitch requires high commitment; high crosses are only effective if your strikers have good heading skills and fast short-passing game makes players with proper passing skills mandatory. You always have to look at the big picture without forgetting the details. 

Routes

To start, we assume that every player on the pitch has his position which he takes and orientates towards. In addition to that, you have the possibility to add running routes in order to set an offensive and defensive target position.
Make sure, the running routes are not too long and the distance to his original position is roughly identical in offense and defense. If you have a left midfielder running forwards to the center to fire shots from there but also is supposed to clear balls as a DM you might want to consider changing him to a central midfielder. In this way, his routes would be shorter and more effective.
If you assign your left and right defenders to run forward on every occasion, do not wonder why they are exhausted after a short while. In this case, it would make more sense to let them play as LWB/RWB or allow the forward strides only temporarily and/or on one side.
Another option is to only define the routes to the halfway line and then set the player’s forward runs (right click on the player to open this table) to sometimes or often. Frequently, the offensive routes are rather long, the defensive ones very short. Avoid that by simply choosing a more offensive overall formation and positioning of the players. The ideal scenario shows the player as a central point between the two routes. This guarantees that both final points of his work rate are within his reach – everything beyond these points will require additional higher commitment and thus fitness and energy.

Individual orders

In addition to the above described team features, tactics and routes, you can assign special orders to each player on the pitch to further emphasize their strengths and conceal their weaknesses. Both a player’s type as well as his abilities give us an explanation which individual orders are useful and which ones can be put into action.

Position bias
This value defines the work rate of a player on his regular position (strict/normal/creative). It is suggested to allow the offensive players to interpret their role in a more creative fashion in order to unfold their full abilities. If you play with two central defenders and don’t want to use man marking, you can enlarge the work rate of them and thereby minimize the space between them.

Tackling
This setting determines how most of the tacklings are carried out (careful/robust/aggressive). An aggressive setting does not entail constant foul play; it rather regulates the readiness of a risky tackling in order to clear the ball, e.g. a sliding tackle from a difficult angle or a far range. Only well-skilled defenders are capable of interpreting this aggressive tackling setting.

Forward runs
Can be set to never/sometimes and often and determines the frequency of how often the player will choose to engage in offensive activities. Instead of drawing a right back’s running route across the whole field, you can better control his offensive focus with this setting. This way he will not automatically run forward every time the team gets possession and thus save fitness and energy. He will also not leave holes in the defense every time he moves forward. Another benefit of this adjustment is that you can enforce your stronger side even more. If your preferred passing direction is the right side of the pitch, the respective players should also have the liberty to participate in the forward game.

Crossing Frequency
Can be set to rarely/normal/always. In order to do a cross at all, the way has to be clear and a receiver must be in place. If these conditions are met, you can control the frequency of crosses with this setting. If you rather aim at controlling the game, the normal setting suffices. If you are behind and want to use the sledgehammer, put it to always and the wingers will fire in cross after cross. If you have a rather low-skilled winger, you can also impede him from losing the ball in risky dribblings when you force him to do crosses instead.

Run channels
Highly recommended when you use an uneven number of forwards against a flat back four and one (or more) of your strikers has a decisive advantage in speed. On the downside, the chances of running into offside are logically higher than normal, especially if the opponent plays with an offside-trap.

Hold up
If you are rather defensive in your overall formation and have a target man who is almost on his own in the front, you can use this setting to buy time for his team mates to push up. In connection with midfielders that are good shots, it can be very effective if the striker holds the ball in front of the penalty area and then passes back. This of course requires a striker with respective strength and skills at the ball.

Dribbling
This setting encourages the player to go for the direct challenge with a defender. Though many players are already aimed at forward runs and dribblings due to their set of skills and abilities, the activation of this setting is not needed at all times. Playing a pass here and there can also be the right thing to do.

Free role
This command allows the player to move as he wants in the defense. He can position himself as he prefers ion order to best interpret his position, he does not need to stick to his direct opponent. This makes sense, if your striker is shielded quite effectively by the opposing defensive or if you don’t want your playmaker doing too much defensive work. But remember that this means a weakening of your defensive force.

Go forward at set pieces
If your team has defenders with high heading skills, you can order them to go up front at set pieces such as corners or indirect free kicks in the respective range of the goal. After the set piece, when the defenders have to get back to their positions, which might take longer than you hope, you’ll have a disadvantage and a possible prone to fast counter attacks. So be careful whom and how many defenders you want to have in the box.

Long shots
This option has a similar effect on players as does dribbling. If a player already has good long shot skills, he will already try to fire shots from a wider range more often than others. If you now also activate this option, he might shoot every time he gets the chance, instead of playing a pass or doing a cross.

Been there, done that - now what?

Still, it is not enough and you lost a game? The AI on the other side of the pitch is not waiting for a debauchery to happen and tries to fight back as good as possible. The AI has the same options, settings and tactical adjustments you have at your disposal. We received word more than once from our community that they lost a game in the closing minutes which was already “won”. 

AI never sleeps, also not in the last minute!

The computer adapts his tactics constantly according to the actual events on the pitch. If you substitute players, the computer takes a look at the changes that result and will create respective countermeasures on its own. If the computer is facing a possible defeat but wants to win the game, it will try more risky formations and higher commitment. This is why you have to monitor the game at all times and also analyze the computer and how he plays, so you can react in case of emergency. This also means that you better substitute your favorite player if he doesn’t perform accordingly and thus represents a weakness. In addition, it is safe to say that no two teams are alike. Some teams will be crushed by your system and won’t stand a chance, others might force you to change your tactics and try another angle.
Finally, and that is why we all love football, there is the chance that nothing you do will lead to a positive result. Take a look at the international tables and you will see what I am talking about…

But I just wanna play!

No problem, this is why we also have the assistant coach which can be assigned to deal with all team-tactical missions and settings. He is working in the same way the computer does which gives you extra time to spend on the many other areas in FIFA MANAGER 12 and you can still watch the 3D matches.


We wish you the best of luck and success in your FIFA MANAGER 12 career

FIFA MANAGER 13

© 2014 Electronic Arts Inc. EA, EA SPORTS, and the EA SPORTS logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Electronic Arts Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries. All Rights Reserved. Official FIFA licensed product. "© The FIFA Brand OLP Logo is a copyright and trademark of FIFA. All rights reserved." Manufactured under license by Electronic Arts Inc. The Premier League Logo © The Football Association Premier League Limited 1996. The Premier League Logo is a trade mark of the Football Association Premier League Limited and the Premier League Club logos are copyright works and registered trade marks of the respective Clubs. All are used with the kind permission of their respective owners. Manufactured under licence from the Football Association Premier League Limited. No association with nor endorsement of this product by any player is intended or implied by the licence granted by the Football Association Premier League Limited to Electronic Arts. Player names and likenesses used under license from The International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPro), national teams, clubs, and/or leagues. All sponsored products, company names, brand names, logos, stadia, sponsor's names and other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.