Playing Styles – The Attribute Side Of The Game

It’s not only the shape, roles and duties that you choose that determine how you can play either. When creating a tactical style you need to ensure you have players with the correct attributes to play this way. Below is a list of attributes I look for in players if I want to create some of these styles. There not set in stone but remember these are just my opinions and this is aimed at those who might be struggling with the game or need to strip everything back because they’ve become confused.

Once I have a clear plan of what I want to create like I highlighted in both the Starting Point Examples articles I did, I then refer to this to see if the players I have are actually capable of playing the way I want. If they aren’t then I’d revise the roles/duties I had selected and even team instructions. Then I’d try and find a way of progressing towards what I want to create, this could be a short process or it could be a long one. It all depends on what resources you have available and what your team is already capable of achieving.

Defensive

To play a defensive type of game it is important that your team is able to keep the shape at all times. This will make you hard to break down and mean you are well organised. When playing defensive if you don’t keep the shape it will mean you have holes in your tactics and the opposition will exploit them. Plus if you don’t keep shame then the whole philosophy is flawed to begin with. The players must be alert for the full 90 minutes and be on-the ball so to speak. Any lapse in concentration can be very costly especially late in games. It also requires you getting men back behind the ball. Remember also that someone defensive minded will be less ambitious with their passing.

Technical Attributes

Tackling – This is important for all players who will be back behind the ball.

Marking – You’ll want the player’s to be able to pick up their man and stick with him. One slip up by not marking properly and you could start to see gaps appear in your shape.

Heading – Because you’re defensive the chances are a lot of balls over the top and crosses from the wings will be a big issue. So you’ll want the defenders to be able to cope with these. Heading across the field in general will be a big bonus but it’s vital for the defence to be able to deal with aerial threats.

Mental Attributes

To be able to stay focused and keep the team shape players need to be mentally aware of problems and potential problems. So they must have good mental attributes to excel under pressure and reduce the amount of mistakes they make.

Anticipation – Player’s need to be aware of danger before it happens

Composure – The calmer the player is on the ball the less hurried his next action will be. You want people who won’t panic on the ball and give possession away cheaply. Especially when in your own half

Concentration – It’s no use having players who might switch off at any moment. You need them focused at all times.

Positioning – You want them positioned well enough to force pressure if it’s needed. This also helps the players keep the shape of the formation.

Teamwork – As the team will be playing as a defensive unit then it’s important all players are on the same page and working together.

Workrate – Players need to have a good work ethic as they’ll have lots of running about to do. You need the players to want to work hard for the result.

Physical Attributes

Acceleration – You need people to be able to be fast over short distances to cover other players. Or for them to pick up and loose balls quickly. It will also help with getting across to mark a player or to close him down.

Balance – A player who falls over easily and isn’t on his feet is out of the game.

Jumping – This will help in defensive situations. Remember this is needed for the heading attribute and works hand in hand with that.

Strength – Having a high attribute for this will ensure he can hold his own against the opposition should they get close to each other. You don’t want your players to get out muscled and knocked off the ball.

Stamina – You’ll want players who won’t get tired after 20 minutes of a game. The higher the attribute the more they can cope with high level physical activities.

Some might argue that other attributes should be on the list and that could possibly be the case. But for me these are the important ones for playing defensively. A few of you would have probably put decisions on the list and I’d agree to a certain extent. But for me playing defensively is more about getting the players to follow my own instructions I’ve set. So for this reason I omitted decisions from the list.

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A Normal Approach

A normal approach is neutral and doesn’t concentrate on one aspect more than the other. It will provide the right balance between defence and attack. Meaning the players are less likely to take risks defensively or attacking. So this approach is more neutral compared to the others. That doesn’t mean it’s boring it just means it doesn’t favour anything and treat it all equally.

Technical Attributes

First Touch – You want the players to be comfortable when receiving the ball. This prevents risks if they can control the ball at first time of asking.

Passing – It’s important that the players don’t take risks and lose the ball needlessly.

Tackling – The midfielders will need decent tackling so they can win the ball back and start attacks early.

Mental Attributes

Anticipation – This attribute is important for all most everything. So it’s no surprise I think its need here again. Much for the same reasons already mentioned further up the guide.

Aggression – Having a high attribute for this will make the player more likely to get involved in an incident and get stuck in.

Composure – The calmer the player is on the ball the less hurried his next action will be. You want people who won’t panic on the ball and give possession away cheaply.

Decisions – Making the correct decision is important for any good football player. As you are playing a more neutral game its important they make the correct decision.

Teamwork – It probably feels like I am repeating a lot of attributes and that would be the right assessment. But a lot of them do tie into all aspects of the game as hopefully we are beginning to demonstrate throughout the guide. Teamwork is important in that you want the team as a unit. So anything that requires you to work as a team and not individuals will always require a high teamwork attribute throughout the team.

Physical Attributes

Stamina – This is the only attribute I’d put for this part for the same reasons as the defensive one.

Playing a normal game means teams won’t excel at one particular area of the game. They should try and be competitive in all areas equally and not be ‘really good’ at anything.

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Counter Attacking

Counter attacking is a speciality and requires you to exploit space and get the ball forward fast and early. For this type of play it requires players being deeper than normal inviting pressure onto them before hitting them on the break fast when you outnumber them and have the player advantage.

Technical Attributes

Crossing – Whether it is from deep or the by-line, it’s a weapon that you can use to devastating effects. An early cross to an attacker can instantly put the opposition onto the back foot.

Dribbling – To take advantage of any space that appears you’ll want players who are able to bring the ball forward.

Finishing – To make the most of any move you’ll want to put it into the back of the net.

Long shots – Players sometimes find themselves with a good opportunity to shoot from distance, especially when counter attacking.

Technique – For the same reasons I mentioned in the attacking one.

Mental Attributes

Aggression – Players should want to be involved in everything. This can also help with winning the ball back early and starting quick counter attacks.

Bravery – You don’t want players who bottle it when trying to win the ball back early do you?

Off The Ball – Movement is the key to all attacking formations and play. If an attacking player has a low rating then he’ll be less likely to find a little bit of space and make the right movement to beat his marker before he receives the goal. Sometimes it can be the difference that gives you that extra yard.

Work rate – Players will need to work hard both in defence and attacking situations. They will be up and down the field all day long, so should be prepared to put in the hard graft.

Physical Attributes

Pace – I like to play fast paced attacking football so for me pace is essential. Especially for player’s who like to drive forward and beat their man. It’s important for me that they can reach the top speed. Plus the players will be back and forth all match long.

Acceleration – This will provide that little edge in gaining an extra yard on the opposition. This and pace are very important.

Stamina – As the players will be up and down a lot, they need to be fit.

Strength – Having a high attribute for this will ensure he can hold his own against the opposition should they get close to each other. You don’t want your players to get out muscled and knocked off the ball. It will also help you win the ball back.

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Attacking

Attacking football is all about player movement and how well you distribute the ball. You look to put pressure on the opposition and commit players forward. Then when the time is right you’ll look to carve open the defence with intelligent play and skill. While at the same time been aware of how open you are for the counterattack. This kind of play can be really risky at times though.

Technical Attributes

Dribbling – You want players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet and who can commit defenders. This will help create space and openings.

First Touch – Is vital ingredient for any player playing attacking football. Players who lack good first touch will miss good opportunities for running at defences or important passes.

Passing – You want people in the side who can distribute the ball well to take advantage of situation in the game. Poor distribution will lead to missed opportunities.

Technique – Technique is the aesthetic quality of a player’s technical game – how refined they appear to be with the ball. A player with high technique will be more likely to pull off a tricky pass or a cross-field ball with greater ease than someone less technically able. This in turn affects a number of technical attributes – poorer technique will let a player down.

Mental Attributes

Anticipation – You’ll want the players to anticipate the movement of others around them as well as the type of ball they might be about to receive.

Composure – This will help with how comfy a person is on the ball in hurried situations. So when under pressure from the opposition will still attempt their ‘original decision’.

Vision– For cutting open those defences you’ll want people who are creative. Plus it will help it spotting an opening or a different type of pass.

Flair – This goes hand in hand with creativity so can’t have one without the other.

Decisions – A player should be able to make the correct decision if more than one option is available. As you’ll be attacking then making the right decision is important and will be the difference between a goal and defending a counter attack.

Off The Ball – Movement is the key to all attacking formations and play. If an attacking player has a low rating then he’ll be less likely to find a little bit of space and make the right movement to beat his marker before he receives the goal. Sometimes it can be the difference that gives you that extra yard.

Teamwork – Again this is needed to play as a unit. But if you have a few special talents in your side that might be better playing as individuals then this isn’t as important. But very few teams have that kind of luxury.

Physical Attributes

Pace – I like to play fast paced attacking football so for me pace is essential. Especially for player’s who like to drive forward and beat their man. It’s important for me that they can reach the top speed.

Acceleration – This will provide that little edge in gaining an extra yard on the opposition. This and pace are very important.

Agility – Provides the player the ability to turn fast if needed. Ideally all attacking players should be agile when playing an attacking game. As they’ll be receiving the ball a lot and sometimes might find themselves with it when they wasn’t expecting it.

Those are the basic playing styles but there is much more to this as you can also have the more technical types of football.

The Passing Game

Over the last few years lots of teams have gone possession crazy with the likes of Barcelona and Spain both settings the tactical trends. This type of game often involves a slow meticulous build-up of play where the ball is patiently passed around the pitch, often being played out from the back. The aim is to keep possession at all costs until an opening is created and there is a possibility of a shot at goal. This does require highly technical players who are composed on the ball so they can keep the ball at their feet until an opening occurs. It also requires patience and needs to have runners so you can do something useful with the ball. Having possession is easy but can you create something that retains possession and uses it in dangerous positions? This part is hard and might require a lot of time watching games and seeing how the players and roles interact with each other.

Technical Attributes

First Touch – You need people who can control the ball and won’t risk giving it away by having an heavy first touch.

Passing – You want people in the side who can distribute the ball well to take advantage of situation in the game. Poor distribution will lead to missed opportunities.

Technique – As you are creating a passing game you need to ensure you have players who are comfy with the ball at their feet and can actually do stuff with it.

Mental Attributes

Anticipation – You’ll want the players to anticipate the movement of others around them as well as the type of ball they might be about to receive.

Composure – Quite a vital attribute for me this as someone with low composure will have their decision making rushed and could become flustered if they are being pressed/closed down heavily or have little time on the ball. You don’t want players who are likely to panic to have lots of possession as they will likely always be forced into making a quick decision that they aren’t capable of doing correctly.

Concentration – Players need to be switched on for the full 90 minutes, any lapse of concentration could see them making more mistakes and these can be costly especially if you intend of retaining possession.

Vision– Again this is important as you need a player to be able to see his options around him. Someone with low vision is unlikely to see all the available options and could miss seeing the obvious choices.

Decisions – Low decisions will mean the player is picking the wrong choices more often than he is the better choices. So the higher this attribute the better. You don’t want the player to decide to dribble if passing was the better option do you?!

Off The Ball – You need players who are able to move around and find a bit of space so they aren’t static. This will help keep possession if players move around losing their marker etc as it means the player on the ball will have free options around him to pick out a pass.

Teamwork – Again this is needed to play as a unit. But if you have a few special talents in your side that might be better playing as individuals then this isn’t as important. But very few teams have that kind of luxury.

Physical Attributes

Agility – Provides the player the ability to turn fast if needed. Ideally all attacking players should be agile when playing an attacking game. As they’ll be receiving the ball a lot and sometimes might find themselves with it when they wasn’t expecting it.

Balance – You don’t want players who can’t stay on their feet to see much of the ball as they’ll give possession away far too cheaply. You have to be confident that players who see lots of the ball don’t fall over or go to ground easy.

Strength – Not everyone needs this but it can be a good idea to have a few physically strong players in the side especially in those positions where you might need the player to be creative and get stuck into certain battles. The higher the attribute the better as it means they should be able to shrug certain challenges off and not lose the ball so easily.

The Direct Style

A lot of FM users tend to think directplay equals long ball but that’s not true at all. Direct play is different because it means getting the ball from A to B as quickly as possible with the aim of finding a teammate who can then try to finish quickly or maintain possession (were as long ball is more about hitting it in the hope one of your players can hold it up). Passes seen in direct play can be all different kinds of passes, they can be on the ground passes, high passes and so on. The aim is to exploit a sudden weakness in the oppositions formation such as a player being in the wrong place or being out of position. Or it could be you’ve created a great bit of play and some space has opened up so you look to get the ball to the player who is taking advantage of this as quickly as possible.

Technical Attributes

Crossing – You want players who are able to cross the ball quickly whether it be from the byline or from deep. It can help you get from route A to B a lot quickly.

First Touch – Players should be able to control the ball first time. This will enable you to quickly try and do the next required action as the ball would be under control. A low first touch attribute could mean the touch taken is too heavy and the player could lose a few vital seconds in trying to recover or even lose the ball.

Passing – You want people in the side who can distribute the ball well to take advantage of situation in the game. Poor distribution will lead to missed opportunities.

Technique – Technique is the aesthetic quality of a player’s technical game – how refined they appear to be with the ball. A player with high technique will be more likely to pull off a tricky pass or a cross-field ball with greater ease than someone less technically able. This in turn affects a number of technical attributes – poorer technique will let a player down.

Mental Attributes

Anticipation – You’ll want the players to anticipate the movement of others around them so they can pick out the runs or see where the player will end up in able to get the ball to them without wasting time.

Vision – If you are being more direct and looking to make things happen quickly, then vision is vital as you need players with the ability to see all of his available options.

Flair – This will allow certain players to attempt the more difficult types of balls or the more spectacular ones.

Decisions – A player should be able to make the correct decision if more than one option is available. As you’ll be attacking then making the right decision is important and will be the difference between a goal and defending a counter attack.

Workrate – Players will be expected to run, make movement off the ball, work the channels and in general be a workhorse. Having a high work rate will mean the team has work ethic and seeing as you are attempting to move the ball from A to B in the quickest possible safest way then you need players who can work hard.

Physical Attributes

Pace – This will help for those players who have to chase the ball or are expected to run onto certain balls.

Acceleration – This will provide that little edge in gaining an extra yard on the opposition. This and pace are very important.

Agility – Provides the player the ability to turn fast if needed. Ideally all attacking players should be agile when playing an attacking game. As they’ll be receiving the ball a lot and sometimes might find themselves with it when they wasn’t expecting it.

Parking The Bus

This is where a team invites the opposition to come at them and aims to soak up the pressure. When the ball is lost, the team retreats back to it’s own half of the pitch and only attempt to win the ball when the opposition moves over the halfway line. Two distinct lines or units of players close to their own penalty area mark the opposition. This approach differs from the defensive one as the aim of parking the bus is to make it as hard as possible for the opposition to break you down. The emphasis is on not conceding above all else and this can come at the cost of any attack play. It can also be a very risky dangerous strategy to use if the players aren’t capable.

Technical Attributes

Dribbling – For the odd occasion where you might find yourself out of your own half then having someone who can run with the ball at their feet can be a good way of relieving pressure.

Marking – Players need to be able to stick to their man and be capable of dealing with him and sticking with him..

Tackling – You’d expect players to be doing a lot of tackles during the match and if you want to have more chance of winning those tackles cleanly without giving away dangerous free kicks or picking cards up then you’d want as high as possible for this attribute.

Mental Attributes

Anticipation – Players have to know their surroundings and need to second guess what the opposition players are going to do next before it even happens.

Composure – This will help with how comfy a person is on the ball in hurried situations. So when under pressure from the opposition they will still attempt their ‘original decision’. This is important for this strategy as it will revolve around absorbing an intense amount of pressure.

Concentration – Every single player needs to be switched on as you’ll be deep in your own half, normally camped on the edge of your own area. So any individual errors can be costly as the likelihood is they’ll be no second chance to attempt a recovery.

Decisions – It’s really important that the player can pick the correct decision. You don’t want him to suddenly decide to leave his position and go chasing someone who isn’t no threat do you? The decision attribute affects everything the player does so its vital he can always choose the correct decision more often than not. So you should aim for as high as possible.

Positioning– If this is low then players will be incorrectly positioned between the ball and the man they are marking. This could lead to things like players being the wrong side of the player they are marking or it could mean they aren’t in the correct position to begin with. This can actually cause the team to lose its shape or for an hole to appear, even if its just the one player who is positioned wrong. Everything has a domino effect and if he’s out of position and can’t recover then that mean someone else will have to but then who is going to cover for him?!

Teamwork – Again this is needed to play as a unit. But if you have a few special talents in your side that might be better playing as individuals then this isn’t as important. But very few teams have that kind of luxury.

Workrate – hard working players are an essential part of this strategy, you can’t afford luxury players who aren’t willing to put a shift in as this could cause huge amounts of issues.

Physical Attributes

Pace – On the rare occasions you venture forward you might find that if players are slow then they struggle to regain shape and fall back into position when possession is lost.

Acceleration – This will provide that little edge in gaining an extra yard on the opposition. This and pace are very important.

Strength – You need to be confident enough that someone isn’t going to get charged off the ball easily especially if its happening close to your own goal.

Aggressive Pressing

Teams try to win the ball back as quickly as possible wherever it be on the pitch and as close as possible to the opposition goal. It does require the whole team to push up at the same time as the pressure is placed on the opposition player. So playing as a unit is essential so roles and duties should compliment this style of play if not it can cause you massive issues. Teams who play this way also tend to use the offside trap due to how high up the pitch they tend to be playing. This strategy and style of play is mentally and physically demanding.


Technical Attributes

Marking – Players need to be able to stick to their man and be capable of dealing with him and sticking with him..

Tackling – You’d expect players to be doing a lot of tackles during the match and if you want to have more chance of winning those tackles cleanly without giving away dangerous free kicks or picking cards up then you’d want as high as possible for this attribute.

Mental Attributes

You basically want as many mental attributes as possible here.

Anticipation – Players have to know their surroundings and need to second guess what the opposition players are going to do next before it even happens.

Composure – This will help with how comfy a person is on the ball in hurried situations. So when under pressure from the opposition they will still attempt their ‘original decision’. This is important for this strategy as it will revolve around absorbing an intense amount of pressure.

Concentration – Every single player needs to be switched on as you’ll be deep in your own half, normally camped on the edge of your own area. So any individual errors can be costly as the likelihood is they’ll be no second chance to attempt a recovery.

Decisions – It’s really important that the player can pick the correct decision. You don’t want him to suddenly decide to leave his position and go chasing someone who isn’t no threat do you? The decision attribute affects everything the player does so its vital he can always choose the correct decision more often than not. So you should aim for as high as possible.

Bravery – You don’t want players who shy away from challenges, tackles or who only enter those situations half arsed. You want committed players who aren’t afraid to get stuck in.

Aggression – A little bit of aggression is useful as the player will look to involve himself more which is ideal for a high pressing game where you want to impose yourself on the opposition and give them little room to breathe.

Teamwork – You want to press as a unit plain and simple!.

Workrate – Hard working players are an essential part of this strategy, you can’t afford luxury players who aren’t willing to put a shift in as this could cause huge amounts of issues.

Physical Attributes

Acceleration – This will provide that little edge in gaining an extra yard on the opposition. This and pace are very important. I’ve not listed pace this go though as in situations like this players should be pretty close to the ones they are closing down anyway so this is where acceleration is more useful because its the initial burst of speed a player has.

Stamina – One word, Vital! This strategy is very energetic and players are expected to consume lots of energy. So if their stamina is low then they are very unlikely to finish the full game.


Natural Fitness –
If you’re using this as a full time strategy then having players who have a high attribute for this will allow them to play more games in a shorter period of time as its basically a players recovery rate.

16 thoughts on “Playing Styles – The Attribute Side Of The Game”

  1. Think this will be very helpful for many people, Cleon. Good effort. Actually linked someone to it already!

    Interestingly, we’ve picked many of the same general team attributes for the possession-centric, high-pressing approaches; although I hadn’t really considered bravery as I’m not sure I want players getting “stuck in”. I’ll be trying to encourage them to stay on their feet rather than fly into tackles, although I guess this is aggression rather than bravery… something to think about.

    Anyway, good effort.

    1. Cheers Shrew. Hopefully people find it useful as I often find people ignore the attributes at times and focus on the player more than the style they are creating.

      Nice to see we think alike in the attribute selection we look for too. Do you often look for specific attributes during your long term save and squad build with the style in mind?

      1. Yeah, I informally used the before but then tried to make it a bit more prescriptive in my Alavés save last year and I’ll be doing the same thing with my Rapid / Austria game this year. I identified a set of 5 “primary” common attributes and then 5 “secondary” common attributes with different required values for each at any given age. https://footballmanagerveteran.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/so-lets-try-this-again/

        It might be a bit too prescriptive but we’ll see.

  2. Hugely impressive work (as always). I’m so impressed by the quality and quantity of the content you produce.

    I think I might be printing this post out and using it to create some filters and views in FM.

    Thanks for all the help you give the FM community 🙂

  3. Really inspiring article – raised a few questions about my usual approach.

    And a few regarding special attributes too:

    – As I understood you, crossing can be a useful attribute for central players, especially in a counter attacking system. Did I get you right here? I always viewed it as a wide player only attribute.

    – I usually try to fit my players into the roles I want them to play by PIs. If my Wing Back can’t dribble, he is asked to dribble less. Lately I wondered if there’s a way to adjust a player who isn’t brave. I brought in Gil Romero who has excellent stats for CMd/Anchor Man but has just 5 points in Bravery. Should I ask him to tackle harder as this will compensate his natural unwillingness to do so? Or should I ask him to do the opposite as this is what he likes?

    – How much information does a player take into his decision process? Does he know his team mates’ strengths and weaknesses?

  4. Hi cleon! A question… if i set my team with a defensive mentality and then tell the team to close down much more i have to focus my attention to attributes for a “defensive” football or the attributes “aggressive pressing”? sorry for my english, i hope you understand my question!

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