The Santos Experience FM16 – Possible Tactics

I’ve been thinking about what tactics I’ll use on Football Manager 16 for a while now. I was going to use some kind of modern three at the back formation at first but the more and more I think about things, the more sense it makes to try recreating a classic formation. As I’ve already decided that Santos Futebol Clube in Brazil will be my career on Football Manager 16 then I thought why not try to replicate the tactics they used during one of the most successful eras in club football. Os Santásticos is the nickname given to the group of players who were coached by Luís Alonso Pérez (Lula) and Antônio Fernandes (Antoninho) between 1959 and 1974. As this is a long time-line to try to follow I’ve narrowed the actual year down that I’ll be attempting to 1962.

Why 1962?

1962 is an important part of footballing history, not just for the Santos fans but for all football fans because this was the year that Santos won the first treble in world football. A feat that wasn’t seen again until Celtic in the 1966/67 season. More specifically, I’ll be attempting to replicate the tactics used based on one particular match, the 1962 Intercontinental Cup. In which Santos beat Benfica 3-2 at home then hammered them 2-5 away.


That’s the shape and team that was used against Benfica in 1962. It’s basically a 4-2-4/4-3-3/4-2-3-1 depending on the phase of play.

The 4–2–4 formation attempts to combine a strong attack with a strong defence, and was conceived as a reaction to WM’s stiffness. It could also be considered a further development of the WW. The 4–2–4 was the first formation to be described using numbers.

While the initial developments leading to the 4–2–4 were devised by Márton Bukovi, the credit for creating the 4–2–4 lies with two different people: Flávio Costa, the Brazilian national coach in the early 1950s, as well as another Hungarian Béla Guttman. These tactics seemed to be developed independently, with the Brazilians discussing these ideas while the Hungarians seemed to be putting them into motion. The fully developed 4–2–4 was only “perfected” in Brazil, however, in the late 1950s.

Costa published his ideas, the “diagonal system”, in the Brazilian newspaper O Cruzeiro, using schematics as the ones used here and, for the first time ever, the formation description by numbers as used in this article. The “diagonal system” was another precursor of the 4–2–4 and was created to spur improvisation in players.

Guttmann himself moved to Brazil later in the 1950s to help develop these tactical ideas using the experience of Hungarian coaches.

The 4–2–4 formation made use of the players’ increasing levels of skill and fitness, aiming to effectively use six defenders and six forwards, with the midfielders performing both tasks. The fourth defender increased the number of defensive players but mostly allowed them to be closer together, thus enabling effective cooperation among them, the point being that a stronger defence would allow an even stronger attack.

The relatively empty midfield relied on defenders that should now be able not only to steal the ball, but also hold it, pass it or even run with it and start an attack. So this formation required that all players, including defenders, are somehow skilful and with initiative, making it a perfect fit for the Brazilian player’s mind. The 4–2–4 needed a high level of tactical awareness, as having only two midfielders could lead to defensive problems. The system was also fluid enough to allow the formation to change throughout play.
4–2–4 was first used with success at club level in Brazil by Palmeiras and Santos, and was used by Brazil in their wins at 1958 World Cup and 1970 World Cup, both featuring Pelé, and Mário Zagallo, the latter of which played in 1958 and coached in 1970. The formation was quickly adopted throughout the world after the Brazilian success.


So I will be using a shape that resembles both of the above. As FM16 isn’t out yet I don’t know if we’ll have any new roles or not so I might have to ammend my ideas slightly if that is the case. But I’m thinking along the lines of using an offset 4-2-3-1/4-2-4 and I’ll use the roles and duties to manipulate the players positioning instead. This is what I’m thinking of in my head at the minute;



Those are not the roles I will use as I need to put a bit more thought into them and will try to base them on how I believed the players played in the 1962 final. The hardest thing to recreate will be the movement in attack though as I’m not sure how best to replicate it. I am thinking along these lines though;

Coutinho – He led the line so maybe I use some kind of Advanced forward maybe. However he was also very good with the ball at his feet and in small tight spaces. So I could also try a deep-lying forward on attack. I could achieve Coutinho’s style of play with quite a few different roles and use the player’s individual instructions to make his style more refined.

Pele – He basically had a free role. He dropped deep to create space for Pepe to run into then he would make a surging run forward himself. A trequartista might be a good shout for his role. He was a goal-threat but also he could play others in.

Pepe – Inside forward because he provided the initial support for Coutinho. It would be that or an advanced playmaker but I definitely think he resembled an inside forward more than a playmaker.

Dorval – He was the width, so he stayed wide and hugged the line to give a different kind of option. So he is likely to be a winger on support as he ran up and down the wing all game. However, I might be tempted to move him back to the midfield right slot and then use a wide midfielder with PI’s to imitate a winger. This might make it more solid defensively and replicate the role he played more accurately.

The midfield duo is slightly trickier though.

Zito – He worked hard and preferred to pass the ball rather than move with it. But in FM terms I’m not sure that role would be best suited for him as he was a classic half back but that might make him drop far deeper than needed. Plus it also means I could have to drop him back to the defensive midfield position. It’s not a bad idea doing that if I can replicate his role more accurately though. So for Zito I’ll have to wait before deciding on his role until I see how he plays in the match engine and can see what the issues are.

Mengalvio – Whilst he was the calmer of the duo he could also be more aggressive with the ball at times and could be seen doing long or direct balls to the forwards. It wasn’t unusual to see him hit it long to Coutinho or direct straight to Pele. I’m unsure on the role I’ll settle with but I’m not sure a deep-lying playmaker was his role and might be better off experimenting with a roaming playmaker. The deep-lying playmaker role might be too passive for him that’s why I need to explore it more. He was also capable of scoring goals too.

The defence is a lot easier to get right as it’s just a standard back four really with two very energetic full backs providing width and overlaps. If by some miracle the sweeper role is fixed for FM16 and can be selected from the normal defender positions then Haroldo would be more like a sweeper. If not then I’ll just go with the stopper and cover options for the centre backs.
So with the roles in mind now the system looks (if I make the positional changes I mentioned)  like this;


It looks like a very aggressive formation and it was. During the Os Santásticos years they scored over three thousand goals and averaged over 2.5 goals per game. It still needs a lot more thought put into it though but I wanted to share my thoughts on how I’m likely to set up in the hope someone else also liked this era or knows about it.

The team instructions side of things I’ve not settled on yet. I need to watch a lot more of their games during the coming months to try to replicate them more accurately. Finding footage isn’t that easy though although I have found a few snippets here and there.

So if anyone has any useful links that might help me please let me know 🙂

11 thoughts on “The Santos Experience FM16 – Possible Tactics”

  1. If my twitter was working right now, I would be retweeting the hell out of this. Can’t wait to see how this project develops mate, love how you recreate tactics from yester-year – speaking of which, where would I find your Brasil 1970 stuff?

    1. Sadly not. I don’t put download links as I like to get people to understand what I’ve created and how it works. I used to find that when I did downloads people didn’t really grasp what the tactic was about as they’d skip the article and just download.

  2. I really am thinking. Why didn’t you choose managing as a profession? I think that you could do it in the real world! Your understanding of the beautiful game is frightening! And you couldn’t have done this by only playing FM. I mean really man, WOW! Every time I read your threads, post, or whatever I want to start a new save…but my poor knowledge hold me back….How can I learn it so deeply without playing it? But then how many hours must I spend to learn it? And thousand more questions like these… I am happy with your work, I am sad that I can’t play it like you do even If you say that you are bored most of the time and…OK, I stop now! Thanks Cleon….

    1. Haha thank you 🙂

      I am a coach in real life but football is only my second sport. My current job is much more rewarding though as its with something I really am passionate about, boxing.

      If you want to learn more you just need to experiment. When you use a system try and understand its strengths and weaknesses. The best way of learning though is definitely through trial and error 🙂

  3. So you are a bocing coach? I have played a boxing manager game a long time ago…
    But yes, trial and error is the way! I just don’t seem to get it to work sometimes… I think I will try Sacchi’s 4-4-2 in my new save based on your blueprints. So, any useful links are appreciated!

  4. Brilliant read as ever. I wish I could read this stuff more oftern.

    As for your jobs, someone is missing a trick not having you as an assistant manager.
    As for boxing, I understand the joy of it. I love watching it, practicing the form of boxing and hitting the bag at the gym. My dad used to do it as his job. He lost more than he won though and never took it seriously (training). Long, long time ago that.

    Keep up the good work in all forms!

  5. UEFA B licence…Now, that expains a lot about the way you “watch” games…Let me ask you, in your saves do you start as a UEFA b licensed coach or as a sunday league footballer and how much does it count?

Leave a Reply