ByMarlon McDonald, writer at
Umm... are you going to drink that Skooma?
Marlon McDonald

Believe me, I know #FootballManager can be a very intimidating to those who haven't already fallen for its insanely nerdy charms. From the outside, the game and its multitude of facets—contracts, setting up teams, talking with the media and not actually playing a game of football—can be daunting.

But to the initiated, there's nothing quite like discussing tactics and formation, and then booting up Football Manager to test whether your new genius footballing method will set the game's world alight. I live for these moments, hence why I thought I'd bring it to the page.

There's constant discussion online regarding the best formations for specific styles of play in Football Manager, and over my time with the game I've come to find that less can actually mean more. More goals that is! Come with me now as I ramble on about—

The Best Tactic For Scoring All The Goals In FM17

The Strikerless 4-1-2-3

I had a difficult time trying to get my forwards to function efficiently in a "gegenpress"-like 4-2-3-1 in #FM16. My number 10 was utilized as an advanced playmaker, whilst I had two inside forwards flanking him. My forward was your standard advanced forward, beasting a line through the centre of defense.

My "gegenpress" 4-2-3-1
My "gegenpress" 4-2-3-1

I noticed that teams, especially when playing away, became increasingly prone to playing a deeper defensive line with three centre backs and two defensive midfielders slotted in between two wing-backs. With that, naturally, my striker and number 10 were both feeding off scraps, and barely managing to scrape an overall rating of 7.0 come the full time whistle.

Gegenpress team instructions
Gegenpress team instructions

My wingers were able to cause some damage on the flanks due to the space the opposing wing backs would leave when tracking upfield. But, thanks to the major presence in the opposition's centre, my wingers (or inside forwards as I would always use them) found little hope cutting into the middle to open up space for chances.

My centre midfield did a great job of holding onto the ball and distributing it as well as they could, but I was sorely lacking an end result from my free-form, tiki-taka play. And my striker was simply wasting opportunities. So, with that in mind, why not just remove the dead weight and have three attacking midfielders in his stead?

Three's A Charm

I like to have a team that comprises of strong, fast, technically gifted passmasters that can ping the ball around however they see fit. Who doesn't, right? They have to be malleable too, because long gone are the days when a footballer should be limited to only one position on the pitch.

I opted to go for a deeper defensive line so the team can get the ball back in our end and get it forward as quickly as possible by foot. No hoofing the ball and hoping for it to land at the feet of one of my lads. Play out of defense, retain possession and play damn fast football. There's no point in selecting "be more expressive", because they should be anyway with a liberal mix of flair, vision and passing.

Strikerless team instructions
Strikerless team instructions

Onto the three-pronged spearhead. The attack consists of two second strikers and an advanced playmaker. The AP can also be deployed as an enganche or an attacking midfielder, but basically there should be someone in the hole spraying balls about. As dirty as that sounds.

The interplay between these three players up top, at best, is electric. Short, looped passes, nifty turns, it's like watching Messi, Neymar and Suárez on a good day over at FC Barcelona. Sensational interplay in a relatively narrow formation.

For me, the box to box midfielder is the most important position on the pitch. Your BBM has to have enough pace, stamina, creative and technical attributes to be able to bomb it up and down the pitch for over an hour, mopping up attacks and creating ones, too (that's usually why I like to train an attacking midfielder in that role).

With an active BBM you have four players already dedicated to providing attacks, with the BBM arriving late to keep the ball in the opposition area. Your deep lying playmaker (DLP) will hold his position and bring your BBM or AP into play with simple short passes, leaving a run into the opposition half much later. Which is perfect for a long shot specialist.

Just ahead of the defense lies the ball winning midfielder, the beast at the back, who has no issues in tearing through any opposing force that stands in his way. He does nothing but protect your back four, or the back two if you prefer to have your wing-backs tearing up the pitch in support of the attack. I don't in this particular formation.

I like to have my wing-backs inverted, meaning they cut inside the pitch which causes more option for short, speedy play and disrupting defenses with pure pace and confusion.

And finally my central defender and ball playing defender combo is probably the weakest aspect of this tactic. Vulnerable to classic 4-4-2s, if the other team swarms my defense, goals will unfortunately be scored against me as a swift forward will nip in behind my stopper and catch my BPD sleeping.

It's happened on numerous occasions, and has lead to me uttering not very nice things to my monitor.

The Greatest Team The World Has Ever Seen

This formation has led me to wipe the floor as Arsenal FC. I've won everything, man, and have the biggest superstars at my disposal. And so can you!

That's why I'm going strikerless in 2017. What about you?

What's your preferred formation in Football Manager 2017?