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Outwit your rivals with the best Football Manager tactics

best fm20 tactics
(Image credit: Sports Interactive)

What are the best FM20 tactics? Naturally, one of the biggest keys to success in Football Manager is creating a winning game plan. It’s also one of the hardest parts of the game to get right, with countless factors involved, spanning everything from formations to team instructions. 

That said, there are plenty of things you can do to improve your chances of success, and that's before I get on to helping you out with the best FM20 wonderkids (or the best FM20 bargains, if your chairman isn't flush with dosh) you should sign. Below, I’ve detailed some of the key tips you’ll need to win more matches with the most effective Football Manager 2020 tactics, as well as the best formations and preset styles to employ.

How to decide the best FM20 tactics for your club

If you’re new to Football Manager or haven’t played it in a while, the tactics options in this year’s game can appear overwhelming. There’s a lot of depth to the system in FM 2020, but these basic tips should help you get started in creating a successful strategy. 

Analyse Your Team Report

The first thing I do after joining a new club is visit the Team Report menu. Here you can identify both the strengths and weaknesses of your current squad, which allows you to discover which team instructions and tactics might be worth using. You can also visit the Squad Depth screen to arrange your formation based on the strengths of your players in certain positions.

Listen To Your Scouts

Ahead of every game, you’ll get information from your scouts on upcoming opponents. The ability to identify which formations the opposition struggles against, as well as the method in which they typically concede goals, is immensely useful. You can also view their strengths, weaknesses, and biggest danger men, so you know where to bolster your starting XI. 

Use The Selection Advice Button

A new feature this year is the ability to seek selection advice from your staff. This is slightly different to the “quick pick” button - selection advice provides you with detailed feedback as to why each player has been selected. You also get this advice sent to your inbox ahead of every game, so consider using it to build fitness and form, and help discover your best XI. 

The best FM20 tactics and formations

(Image credit: Sports Interactive)

While it's possible to find success with pretty much any formation in Football Manager 2020, there are, at least traditionally, more effective than others. The following list contains some notable highlights:

4-2-3-1

  • Best tactical styles: Gegenpress, Control Possession

The 4-2-3-1 (wide) is a great attacking formation for talented, high-level sides. It suits popular tactical styles such as the Gegenpress, which requires seriously hard-working players to pull off successfully, as well as teams who like to control possession and dictate play. 

There are more defensive versions of the 4-2-3-1 as well. The DM version, which works well with a ‘park the bus’ strategy, pulls everyone back into more defensive areas aside from the lone striker, which is used to reduce opposition threats. This can prove effective against stronger sides. 

4-4-2

  • Best tactical styles: Wing Play, Route One

The traditional 4-4-2 is my go-to strategy for managing lower league teams. It can be used in a variety of scenarios and for both defensive and attacking sides. It’s also an ideal and balanced starter tactic for newcomers to the series.

I prefer using the Wing Play tactical style with the 4-4-2, taking advantage of the width it allows to generate attacks. If you lack proficiency out wide, try switching to a diamond formation and opting for something like Route One, Vertical Tiki-Taka, or even Gegenpress.

4-4-1-1

  • Best tactical styles: Counter-Attack, Route One

A slight variation on the 4-4-2 is the 4-4-1-1, which replaces one of the strikers with a shadow striker or attacking midfielder. It’s one of the recommended formations for both the fluid and direct counter-attacking tactical styles. Employ a high tempo for this one. 

If you prefer something a bit more defensive, try dropping the two midfielders into defensive positions, and then convert the shadow striker into an attacking midfielder. This provides extra cover at the back, but still allows you to counter at pace, and in numbers. 

5-3-2

  • Best tactical styles: Fluid Counter-Attack, Catenaccio

The most crucial components of the 5-3-2 formation are your wing-backs. You’ll need pacey and hard-working players in these positions—particularly when adopting a counter-attacking style—as they’ll need to burst forward and assist in creating goals. 

Equally there's Catenaccio, which is a more defensive 5-3-2 approach. It still requires good wing-backs, but aims to slow the pace down and attack with less urgency, relying on direct passing to generate chances.

All FM20 tactics

(Image credit: Sports Interactive)

When creating your tactic, you’ll be presented with a list of tactical styles. These are optional, preset strategies that come equipped with tailored team instructions and player roles. Keep an eye out for the thumbs-up icon next to the tactical styles that best suit your squad. 

Control Possession

  • Suggested formations: 4-2-3-1 Wide, 4-1-4-1 DM Wide, 5-2-2-1 WB
  • How it works: Retain possession and create attacks through short passing.

Gegenpress

  • Suggested formations: 4-1-4-1 DM Wide, 4-2-3-1 Wide, 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow
  • How it works: Press the opposition instantly after losing the ball.

Tiki-Taka

  • Suggested Formations: 4-1-4-1 DM Wide, 4-3-2-1 Wide, 5-2-2-1 WB
  • How it works: Similar to Control Possession, but with intense pressing

Vertical Tiki-Taka

  • Suggested formations: 4-1-4-1 DM Wide, 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow, 5-2-1-2 WB
  • How it works: A slightly more direct and narrow version of the Tiki-Taka.

Wing Play

  • Suggested formations: 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1 DM Wide, 4-2-4 Wide
  • How it works: Use wide players to generate attacks where possible.

Route One

  • Suggested formations: 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1 DM Wide, 4-4-1-1
  • How it works: Focus on long balls and early crosses to create chances.

Fluid Counter-Attack

  • Suggested formations: 4-1-4-1 DM Wide, 4-4-1-1, 5-3-2 WB
  • How it works: Advance up the field quickly with short passing.

Direct Counter-Attack

  • Suggested formations: 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1 DM Wide, 4-4-1-1
  • How it works: Advance up the field quickly with more direct passing.

Catenaccio

  • Suggested formations: 5-3-2 WB, 5-1-2-2 DM WB, 5-4-1 WB
  • How it works: Deny goalscoring opportunities with organised defending.

Park The Bus

Suggested formations: 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1 DM, 4-2-3-1 DM

How it works: Get behind the ball and defend the net at all costs.