Congratulations on your new job, gaffer. It’s tempting to jump straight into your favourite FM22 tactics—choosing the club philosophy is almost the first thing you do, after all—but you need to consider what's right for your club, first. There’s no point expecting Tiki-Taka from your new League Two outfit, or those slow and exhausted journeymen to seamlessly adopt your new pressing game. Familiarity with a new formation can be the difference between a buoyant dressing room and one on the verge of mutiny, and training time might be at a premium.
Your squad should be confident with at least two tactics in FM22, so you can change your approach based on your opposition. For those who like to delegate, do check in on your assistants and make sure that they're training every player with the specifics relevant to their position. You’d be amazed how often they're not.
Width, particularly in the wingback or the new wide full back role, is key this year. The watchwords are, use them or stop them. And with that in mind, here are the best FM22 tactics for this year.
Best FM22 tactics: What to choose this year
The Gegenpress: 5-2-1-2
Klopp’s Liverpool are most associated with the Gegenpress, but its roots go right back to Arrigo Sacchi’s AC Milan back in the late '80s, when the dominance of the Rossoneri was an ever-present feature of the game.
The constant press gives your opposition no time on the ball, and your swift wingbacks—which work properly in FM22—bring the ball up to your attacking three, almost bypassing the defensive core. It’s fluid and adaptable, but you really need a squad full of fit workhorses to do it, not to mention the forwards to take advantage of their possession.
It also requires in-game adaptation; don’t expect it to be a cure-all. Your injuries will mount and your players will become fatigued. The 4-2-3-1 pressing formation is exhausting, with consequences for the later stages of the game and the end of the season. Sticking with a 5-2-1-2 works well but, again, this is a super-high-intensity tactic. Don't be surprised if your Forest Green are struggling with Bielsa Burnout with this Football Manager 2022 tactic.
RDF’s replication of Klopp’s title-winning strategy, practically a 4-3-3 formation, remains sound… but have you the players for it?
Tiki Taka: 4-3-3
It’s death by a thousand passes. Think Pep’s Barca and Spain’s all-conquering Euro/World/Euro Champions. So attractive, so chairman-pleasing and so often leading to you getting walloped if you get it wrong.
It’s essentially a high press followed by high-tempo short passes to cut through defences into space, with the freedom to experiment upfront. But are you up to it? For it to work you need stamina, teamwork, passing, vision, decisions, work rate, first touch, and technique throughout the squad, as well as attacking flair and a colossus of a defensive midfielder. He’ll free up your wingbacks. Train for creativity, decision making, and, obviously, passing, even if you’re swimming in riches.
Control Possession: 4-2-3-1
If you watched the Arsenal of the noughties you’ve seen this philosophy and formation executed to perfection. Then as the years went on, you saw it fall apart in a decade long slow-motion car crash, where they tried to walk the ball into the net with fewer and fewer resources and teams that had long worked out how to stop them.
Their one-size-fits-all approach—if you have the ball, the opposition, whomever it is, can’t score—is theoretically correct, but it requires the personnel, including a clinical finisher to make the most of those few chances and a world-class number 10 through which to funnel the ball. It also needs absolute commitment and patience from fans and owners. Train for passing, composure, and vision, and invert your wingers so they can cut inside.
Fluid Counter Attack: 4-3-3
This FM 22 tactic typifies early Mourinho, when he really was the Special One. It seems defensive, but it’s all a trap to ensnare the unwary. Again, you’ll need fast wing-backs and to get the wingers at the top to cut in, in an inside-forward role, to leave space wide.
It has the advantage of being something that works without world-class players, as long as everyone is pulling in the same direction and tracks back, with plenty of endeavour and stamina. That all-for-one-spirit is essential at the top, too. Ronaldo wouldn’t track back for his new boss at the Bernabéu in a similarly taxing and countering 4-2-3-1 and that arguably cost them the Champions League under Mourinho.
Early Mourinho must hate late Mourinho. In his earlier years the Special One railed against lower league buses parked in the way of his steamroller. Now he tends to be the valet, pulling up in the penalty area. It’s not as simple as all that, though. It requires top marking, tackling, strength, and heading stats.
However, the Catenaccio with wingbacks is a less exhausting and effective counter-attacking formation when it works right. You need wingbacks with pace who'll track back, as well as two swift strikers, one playing on the shoulder of the last man. It just tends to look dour when Klopp, Pep, and Bielsa are doing their thing, but it’s the solution to those problems. Without Drogba’s dominance and Lampard’s 20 goals a season, it just looks like yesterday’s tactic. Not so, at least in FM22.
And last, but not least: 4-4-2
It’s not glamorous, but everyone knows how it works, and sometimes tactical familiarity is a boon. There isn’t anything going on that your players shouldn’t be ready for and aren't easily trained in. It’s widely mocked as too defensive, but it really isn’t.
It’s defensively solid, but it’s whatever you want it to be. Ask Simeone at Atletico, or even the 4500-1 Premier League Champions. Leicester soaked up the pressure, and hit on the break, with Mahrez on the wing moving inside to make a sudden 4-3-3. Not every team has Kanté to cover that of course, or Vardy in his pomp, but when those players were absent the formation and tactics were still rolling over the opposition.
Mind the space between your three lines, make sure you’ve one central midfielder tasked to go forward and the other to defend, and watch for an attacking midfield of three outnumbering them.