Team Instructions - What do they do? Are you using them effectively?

Team Instructions - What do they do? Are you using them effectively?

Football Manager 2017, like previous versions of the game before it, gives you a wide range of possible team instructions for you to choose from. Are you using them as effectively as you could? What are the common mistakes that people make. How much influence does your 'mentality' and 'team shape' have on the instructions you should use?

FM 17 Team Instructions

As you can see, FM 17 divides team instructions into 3 categories: Defence, Build-Up and Attack with the remaining instructions left unlabelled in the far left column.

Before venturing into creating any tactic, it is essential to read what every mentality, every team shape, every instruction and every player role does (this can be done by hovering over the instruction) as it is not always obvious by the name.

Prior to starting to create any tactic I ask myself how I want my team to play. This sounds simple, but it is one step I believe a lot of people brush over. Do I want my team to attack? To counter? To press high up the pitch? To sit off? I then ask myself how I will need to set my team up in order to get the desired style of play.

It is important to remember that FM has evolved a lot since the halcyon days of Championship manager. It is now increasingly difficult to create tactics that will blow away all comers. That is why your style of play is so important. There is a tendency in tactics that are created by the community for every single team instruction to be used. This may create a great tactic that can win you the league, but it really limits your team's flexibility when the AI inevitably 'learns' your tactic and how to beat it. According to this excellent interview with Sports Interactive’s Tom Davidson in The Set Pieces

AI managers and scouts all have attributes too. They will be watching your team, assessing your tactics and pinpointing your weaknesses. They will be plotting your downfall, so you need to plot theirs.

I've lost count of the number of times I've seen forum posts saying "The tactic worked great for the first 6 months/year, now I can't get a result."

The next thing that is important to consider is that your formation, team shape, mentality, player roles and all of the team instructions are all intrinsically linked. That is to say, every slight change impacts the rest of the tactic. You can see this when selecting one of the instructions.

FM 17 Team instructions - counter

Here I've made 1 change. I've changed from a "Standard" mentality to a "Counter" mentality. Every single variable 'slider' has been affected. In making 1 change to the mentality, the team now plays at a lower tempo, time wastes more, plays narrower, sits deeper, closes down less, and plays more direct.

When I create a tactic I have what I call my "core principles". I decide for example that I'd like to play a high pressure, fast paced game. To achieve this I pick out 2 or 3 instructions that will help me play in that style. For this general style of play I would suggest that:

  • Tempo
  • Defensive Line
  • Closing Down
  • Tackling
  • Passing Directness

are the instructions that will have the most impact on getting my team to play in this style. While you can decide to choose all of these any have your team chase the ball down like madmen at every opportunity, that may be overkill and could actually lead to your team losing shape and becoming less defensively solid.

It is also important to note that there is more than 1 way to skin a cat, and it really is reliant on your personal preferences as to which way you go about creating the tactic that is going to bring your team success. For example:

FM 17 Team Instructions Attack

In this instance I have chosen an attacking mentality and to "close down more". In choosing "attacking" as a mentality, my defensive line has been pushed up, they are told to play nice and wide, to use as much of the pitch as possible and my team are instructed to play at a higher tempo.

On the other hand in this example:
FM 17 Team instructions standard - close down more

I have created largely the same effect, by choosing a standard mentality with a "higher tempo" and "close down much more"

What's the difference?

The differences may only be slight, but they are there. With a standard mentality and higher tempo, the "Take a breather" option becomes unavailable meaning your team need to be super fit to make this tactic work. On the flip side, with a standard mentality the team are instructed to play narrower than the attacking mentality. This should provide fewer gaps for the opposition to pass through and therefore should mean your team is more defensively solid, and more likely to be able to "hunt in packs" effectively.

It must also be noted, that only selecting 2 or 3 team instructions is no bad thing. The default settings can be quite effective on their own. It has the added advantage of allowing you to counter specific threats posed by a certain opposition on the fly.

Team Shape

This causes the most difficulty in my opinion when designing a tactic. It is often unclear as to what each change in mentality actually does and very often the mistake is made that more fluid = better.

Broadly speaking, Team Shape is linked to creative freedom. To draw real life comparisons, a team managed by Pep Guardiola would have quite high fluidity (centre backs can join the attack if they see an opportunity to) whereas Jose Mourinho would favour a more structured approach. Both can be very successful, and neither is right or wrong. It depends on the type of players you have at your disposal and the type of football you'd like your team to play. For example if you have a group of players with high work rate and decisions, they may be ideal candidates to play in a fluid system.

The thing I'd like you to take away from this is that its rare to find a "one size fits all" tactic these days (although some tactics are definitely better than others!) If you find creating tactics difficult, that is understandable, and there are many great tactics available to download (head over to the tactics section of the site to find them!). The important thing to consider when downloading a tactic is "Will it fit my players?" If the answer is no, then you need to either find one that is more suited to your team, or look to buy players that are a better fit.

If you've created a tactic that you think is good, feel free to share it in The Development Zone for feedback and testing!