Invincibles – Short-term vision

Even though I’m building towards something, we can still start implementing some of those ideas we have straight away. Then as I buy players and strengthen the team, the tactic should become more refined over time. Due to what I am trying to create, the players themselves that I buy and develop are the important part and the reason why I can’t implement this style straight out of the box. Players will need specific player preferred moves to get the types of behaviour I’m trying to recreate. The hardest part to get right in this whole setup will be the Henry and Bergkamp roles. Without question, those will be the ones that create the biggest headaches. But we can start implementing some of our ideas now.

In the last article we looked at what the long-term aim was tactically. In this article we will be looking at what tactic I can use in the short-term as a foundation for what I’m aiming for in the future. For those of you who was familiar with the Football Manager 2015 version of this I wrote you’d know that I already had a base we could work from. Due to already working out a base on a previous version of the game, that seems a good starting place for now. Those unfamiliar with it, here is what I’ll be using;


The mentality that I’ll end up using long-term is likely to be something higher than counter attack. The reason behind that thinking is, last year I found that counter was far too deep at times. But for now, counter attacking is ideal and I’ll use that to see how it goes.

Arsenal played a 4-4-2 system or a lopsided 4-2-3-1 depending on how you look at it. Although it was quite fluid and players moved around a lot and morphed into different shapes as they played, Wenger’s system is often translated as “Flexible” in FM. He likes players to express themselves, but also sees it as a team game. That’s why we have set the team shape as we have.

As for the team instructions Arsenal thrived on through balls. Lots of goals came from some kind of through ball that’s why we have pass into space.  From what I can remember and what I’ve seen, Arsenal whipped crosses across the box with real pace for Ljungberg, Henry & Pires to get on the end of.

The Arsenal players played a high tempo game even though they used to sit deep waiting for counter attacks. They were quite direct at times and moves the ball around with urgency, that’s why we’ve gave them high tempo. The players also roamed from positions and were allowed to be more creative in their thinking. So that explains the other team instructions we’ve used.

Before we look at the actual shape I use, I should mention that there are several shapes I could use here. I could use a 4-4-2, asymmetric 4-2-3-1 or even a 4-4-1-1. I decided to keep it as a flat 4-4-2 though because people seem to struggle getting these to work, especially as a its a shape that has no defensive midfielder to offer protection. Plus I think it’s the shape that represents Arsenal Invincibles the best, especially the defensive shape. However I do realise others will have their own take on the shape, but this is mine.


The striker roles are likely to change when I get the right type of players that I need because neither of those roles really represent Henry and Bergkamp. Having them both on support duties might surprise a few people but we need to remember, that Arsenal were really strikerless initially as both strikers would drop deep and in Henry’s case, he would go wide.

On the left side of midfield we have the wide playmaker which is the perfect role to replicate Pires. The only player instruction he has is dribble. I’m not sure if a support duty will make him far too deep though. Having him on support will allow the left back to overlap but it might not create the desired play we need in the final third. This is something we will need to keep an eye on and see how it goes. But I suspect that at some stage the support duty will be changed to an attacking one. I’m also considering giving him more risky passes instruction to help provide more killer balls to the strikers, especially the complete forward.

The right side of midfield, the wide midfielder role is set up more like an inside forward. He has these player instructions;

  • Sit narrower
  • Cuts inside
  • Dribble less
  • Cross less often

Ljungberg wasn’t a great dribbler and Arsene Wenger knew this, it’s why he reigned it in. He was more about being a runner, using space and getting on the end of chances. That’s not to say he didn’t ever dribble because he did. He just wasn’t known for his dribbling nor did he do it frequently in comparison to other players.

The roaming playmaking role is the role used by Patrick Vieira. He was quite creative yet a destroyer at times when needed. He was equally comfortable with bringing the ball forward or getting stuck in. In Football Manager terms, I think this role is perfect for him. Alongside him we have a no-nonsense central midfielder on a defensive duty. Gilberto was called the invisible wall for a reason. He was a highly intelligent player who wasn’t what you’d expect a ball winner to be.

With the defence I’ve gone for the standard of what’d you’d expect.

As you can see based on the article I wrote before this one, I’ve already started implementing some of the ideas. I’m not going to get too hung up on if the playstyle doesn’t replicate Arsenal that closely at this stage though. The reason for that is I’m starting in League One so expect to have quite a different squad a high number of players incoming and departing over the next two years. That doesn’t mean I can’t plan ahead though, so in the next article I will focus on long-term transfer targets who can fulfill the roles I need. It’s never too early to plan ahead and identify players who could enhance the style you create. By planning now when you do have some money to invest in the side you already know your targets.

The above are the basics I’ve started with based on what I’ve used in the past. I’m likely to keep changing things until I get settled though and I will be highlighting the full process of what I change and why, as and when it happens.

Just remember the above is not the Arsenal Invincibles, it’s just the base we’ve created which will help build towards the Invincibles. It’s really important I hammer that point home. If not the comments section below will be fun 🙂

20 thoughts on “Invincibles – Short-term vision”

  1. Once again top stuff Cleon, though i have a suggestion about the MR. I would have made him WM on support duty probably with gets further forward and the PI’s you mention. The attack version of the WM has more risky passes a thing that Ljungberg didn’t do.

  2. I like the setup so far of the 2 forwards, while I agree with you that you will need to refine those roles, I think having both forwards on a support duty is almost crucial to the way the entire system plays. I could perhaps see one on attack duty at some point, but I think you’ve got that aspect spot on.

    In my tactics with 2 forwards, I’ve more often than not left both on support duty as I almost always end up trying to replicate this Arsenal side.

    Good article again, looking forward to the next one!

    @Nikos, I think Freddie was actually pretty good at threading through balls, maybe they weren’t “killer passes” but he had a decent weighted through ball if memory serves. I may be remembering wrong though 😉

      1. Control is too attacking they played nothing like that. It was more counter to standard because they were always deep. Control plays high up the pitch with a high line.

  3. On every version of FM I make a tactic based on the Invincibles.
    This year I changed it up using the Henry role as an AML Raumdauter.

    My version (I am using with Villa now and am in 2023)

    FB (L) – attack
    FB (R) – support

    WP L – support
    BB or BWM depending on opponent
    CM D
    W – attack

    AML – Raumdauter

    CF – False nine

    Counter – Flexible / Much higher tempo / Low crosses

    Working very well (then again I have the proper players to match)

    1. You’re on the wrong blog if you are wanting download links. You seem to miss the whole point of the series, well done.

    1. It’s not an add on it’s a modified panel. If you find a skin that uses kits though you can take the panels from that. I can’t remember which panels they are but a quick Google search should shed light on it 🙂

  4. Reading the bit about Pires and his style, it seems like you’ve missed a key word, ‘less’ or ‘more’? It’s killing me and I need to know which it is! Haha.

    “On the left side of midfield we have the wide playmaker which is the perfect role to replicate Pires. The only player instruction he has is dribble.”

  5. I stand corrected, 😀 I think exploit the left flank would be a good shout as aresnal used to get the opposition to focus on pires,cole and henry freeing up Ljungberg and the bison.

    1. Edit Alot of analysis of invincible season shows Gilberto left side others show viera guess its gonna be some classic motd episodes tonight lol

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