Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those FM articles where someone claims that their tactic is ‘the best and most effective tactic you’ll find on FM15’. However, I’m going to put forward my opinion of what is the ‘best’ formation to use on FM15.
Of course, my idea of ‘best’ is going to differ from those that claim their tactic is the best, really meaning the best for that particular team, in that particular league with those particular players and signings. My idea of the best formation relates to the most useful, the most versatile, whilst still being very effective.
So, first off, why do I like the 4-5-1 formation, when it’s largely thought of as such a bland formation, right alongside 4-4-2? Well, this won’t turn into a rant, because those of you that have read this blog will know of my complaints relating to the positioning of AM’s and DM’s, but conversely, my love of CM’s in this year’s version. They’re so versatile in their positioning, and you can make up for the issues with AM and DM positioning by tweaking the roles slightly. For example, as I showed in the Central Winger article (a tweaked CM-A), the CW will regularly move up into the AM strata to support the strikers.
The first reason I like the 4-5-1 is that it’s so solid defensively.
This screenshot is taken from the Sturm Graz save (which I’m still trying to get back into), and a league match against Rapid. We’re 2-0 up at this point, so Rapid really need to push forward, and they are. As you can see, with the roles I’ve chosen we have a fantastic defensive shape. The Central Winger has moved forward to press the opposition midfielder, and the wide midfielders are tucking in, giving us quite a narrow defensive shape, whilst still retaining enough width to cover the sidelines. The DLF-S has dropped deeper and is in a position to help should the Rapid midfielder play it square. Most importantly, the CM-D is acting like a hybrid of a central midfielder and a defensive midfielder. You can see from his positioning that he’s available to cover either space, depending on where Rapid move the ball. This can give us both a flat midfield 5, or a 4-1-4-1 shape. Again, flexibility.
In addition, with the right roles selected on the wings (aka ‘attack’ duties), the 4-5-1 will morph into a far more attacking shape when you’re attacking. This is hardly a groundbreaking piece of information in Football Manager, but with the issues with AML/R defending and tracking back this year, this fact has become even more important. Even with a 4-5-1, where 5 of the midfielders are deep, you won’t have any issues with bodies going forward.
This screenshot is from the same game against Rapid, and you can see the sheer amount of bodies we have forward. Hardly a negative tactic. This tactic is used with the ‘control’ strategy so it isn’t cavalier in terms of going forward, but it does presume that we are the dominant side in the match and therefore, the ones doing the majority of the attacking. The thing that I love about this image is the CM-D circled in white, who is doing exactly what you’d want from a defensive midfielder, sitting in front of the defense, ready to pick up any clearances, or stop any counter attacks.
However, the main thing that I like about the 4-5-1 is how versatile and flexible it is. All the roles and the entire shape of the side can be altered without actually changing the ‘shape’ that shows up on the tactics screen. Therefore, you won’t have any issues with familiarity that you would usually have.
For example, this on the left is the collection of roles that I start the match with. It will morph into a 4-3-3 shape when we go forward, and in defence it constantly switches from a flat 4-5-1 to a 4-1-4-1 depending on the positioning of the CM-D (who certainly needs to be an intelligent player with good positioning).
This is clearly a solid tactic by itself, as you can see above, but say for example it’s the Champions League, and I’m playing a Real Madrid, or a Juventus, and somehow we’ve sneaked a goal to go 1-0 up in the 70th minute. Ridiculous idea I know, but bear with me.
The opposition are clearly going to pour forward at this point, desperate to get the equaliser. The Sturm side I’ve built is very good, with good defenders and a good defensive shape, but against players like Ronaldo, Bale and Modric, this may not be enough, and I’ll probably need more bodies back.
I could switch to this on the right. On the surface, it still looks like a 4-5-1, but with the way CM’s position themselves this year, it would morph into more of a 4-2-3-1, with the CM-D’s staying deeper, and the AP-A providing the passes for the WM-A and W-A on the counter attack. Rather than having just one CM-D staying deep whilst the rest attack, you’d have a far more solid base (with my two best midfield tacklers in Lovric and Wydra), whilst still having some threat on the attack.
If things got really bad and we were still being overrun in midfield, I could switch the AP-A to an AP-S and just focus on breaking down the wings and putting crosses in to the striker (it helps if you’ve go a big fast lump like Super Kev upfront).
I’m a lot less reactive than I used to be on Football Manager (mainly as a result of testing tactics out to write about), but to me, this seems like a no brainer. You end up having a whole set of tactics in one, avoiding all the inevitable issues with the tactical familiarity system in full fat FM15.
This is why the flat 4-5-1 is the best formation in FM15, rather than the best ‘tactic’, because you can actually have 3 or 4 tactics within one formation if you spot the key times during the game when changing the in game shape makes sense. I say it’s the best formation, not because it seems very strong in the way that the 4-1-4-1 does, but simply because if you use it correctly, you can create almost every Back 4 system, and constantly keep the AI guessing.
It certainly fits my Sturm side very well, and I’m going to keep playing that save with this 4-5-1, not only because I enjoy watching it, but because I want to get that save back up and running again and get the motivation to play it. I hope you enjoyed reading my opinions on the 4-5-1, and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask either on here or at @JLAspey.