Defensive Arts – The Beginning

I know I said I’d not start this until the patch was out but the bug has bitten me and I couldn’t resist waiting. So I’ve downloaded a date update to give me the new players at Sheffield United so I can finally crack on with my long-term English save at last, my other long-term game is in Brazil with Santos and while I dislike playing in England, I can’t help but want to manage the Mighty Blades!

There are two big myths on this version of Football Manager and they are, it’s impossible to keep clean sheets and you can’t use tactics that aren’t attacking or any that use low defensive lines. Those are simply not true and you can play that way and be successful, you just have to understand what you are creating. Some styles of play can be harder than others to create but that is not the same thing as something not working. This article will focus on how I expect the 3-4-3 I highlighted in the previous article works or doesn’t work. Remember I’m writing this up as I go along so I’m still unsure if what I outlined previously will work off the bat or if I need to adjust or change any of the roles I mentioned.



I only use player instructions for one player and that is the goalkeeper, here are the ones I use;





The way I see the tactic in the first article working is like this;

  • I expect to keep clean sheets.
  • The poacher is likely to be the prominent goal scorer.
  • I would think that the defensive forward will be more assist orientated than an actual goal scorer
  • I’m unsure of what the deep-lying forward will offer but it should be a mix of goals and assist
  • The defensive wingers should be heavily involved with attacks and defending

Player instructions I have only started with them for the goalkeeper to begin with until I can gauge how the tactic works. The goalkeeper instructions are simple, short passing, roll out and play to centre backs. This is to help retain possession and reduce the chances of him hitting it up field needlessly.

Those are my thoughts on general play from the players, I expect the things mentioned above to be prominent. But this is only some of it, how about team instructions?


The team instructions above will be what I use as default to enhance the style that I am creating.

  • As I’m playing defensive I want to ensure I stay compact and players are in the correct positions, so that’s why I’ve selected to play narrow.
  • I want my playmakers to be the most creative people in the team so this is why I choose be more disciplined, as this lowers creative freedom.
  • It’s important I don’t give possession away needlessly as we will be quite deep so I want to build from the back, this is why I use the possession shouts I’ve chosen.

These are the ‘base’ shouts if you like and what will help me refine the style that I’m trying to create (hopefully anyway). Depending on what kind of opposition I’m facing and how the game is going I might change the shouts. I expect that playing defensive could be problematic against certain sides who also play deep and the game could be very standoffish between both sides. So to combat this I could possibly use slightly more aggressive shouts like;

  • Push higher up
  • Close down more
  • Higher tempo

I will still be defensive even with these shouts, I’ll just be slightly more pushed up and playing at a slightly higher tempo. I shouldn’t lose much from the style I’m trying to implement, so these are definitely options to use based on how the performances are going. These could also be used against sides who are just overpowering me defensively, as theoretically it should help relieve a bit of pressure and give the opposition more to think about.

Against sides who are dominating the midfield you might see me take a different approach, I could use;

  • Lower tempo
  • Drop deeper
  • Pass into space

Those shouts added to the existing base ones would allow me to slow the game down and play deeper while using through balls to get in behind the oppositions midfield.

All of the above are just potential things that I could possibly use, I just wanted to show people who you still have options even when playing defensive football. I’ve seen a few people when talking about defensive football have the wrong idea about it and think it’s all about absorbing insane amounts of pressure, but there are many different styles of defensive football and isn’t one set way to play. The style I’m creating is just one type, there are many more I could have just easily created.

Depending on time restraints I am thinking of writing up analysis of every single match I play. Would that be something people are wanting to see? That way you’d see how it plays against all kinds of formations, different levels of oppositions, different kinds of weather conditions and much more. If I think it’ll be worth it then it is something I will try to do, so please leave a comment below if you’re interested in reading it.

The next part of this article will focus on the parts you are all waiting for, the analysis and seeing it in action and discussing the positives and negatives and then talking about what changes I might need to make and why.

16 thoughts on “Defensive Arts – The Beginning”

  1. If you have the time, I’d love to read analysis game by game initially. All my tactics are gung-ho attack like crazy and I would love to learn more about setting teams up defensively. I already love the concept of base team instructions that you add to depending on the situation, never played that way before. Great start mate, as ever.

  2. I would also love to see analysis of every game and wanted to say I’m really glad you decided to make a defensive tactical thread in FM15 as well. I’ve always been a fan of good defensive systems so will be following this closely

  3. I’d love to read analysis of every game if you can find the time for it.
    Really enjoy the blog as a whole, keep up the great work!

    1. Fluid wouldn’t really work as everyone would be more creative and the key to being solid is to make sure players only do what you want them to do and to ensure they stay in the correct position.

  4. Currently employing this tactic with Dover Athletic. Playing some lovely posession football, and keeping goals scored down, but not really taking chances as freely as I’d like. May be down to the caliber of the players.

    1. Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been a bit busy the past week or so. I will be playing solely using defensive strategy for every single game and not changing 🙂

  5. Ok, Looking forward to seeing how it works. It’s posing problems at Dover, using the players I have, but potentially need to devote more time to analysing my squad and the opposition

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