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FM20 tactics: best tactics and how to implement them

What tactic is the right fit for my team? We walk you through the best FM20 strategies

What are the best FM20 tactics to use? Just like last year’s entry in the football coach simulation games franchise, there are a number of options available to you. For first-time players, choosing what system to employ can be a daunting prospect. You have to take lots of details into account and, even then, you might not find that you’ve selected the right one to give you those all-important victories.

That’s where we come in. Having put plenty of hours into FM20, we’re well placed to give you expert tips on what tactic to implement and how to get the most out of them. No matter what league you start your journey in, there’s something here for you.

We’ll show you what the best mentalities are, as well as various approaches, formations, positions, and attributes to help you forge a winning tactic. Whether you’re managing a top side or a relegation threatened outfit, you’ll want to look at the best FM20 tactics and how to use them properly. Without further ado, then, let’s dive in.

How to build FM20 tactics

Your first encounter with FM20 tactics will come via the tactics tutorial. If you’ve got this turned on, your tutor will explain the basics of building a tactic to you.

Before you head to the tactics screen, though, you should start by looking at the Squad Depth’s ‘All Positions’ section on your Team Report tab. This will give you an overview of your players’ best, or preferred, positions and their star rating in those positions. You’ll see who your star men are, and what position and role they favour. This will be your starting block as you want your best players in their best position to do the most damage.

It’s worth taking VAR into account while building tactics, too. If the technology is present in your league, playing the offside trap, pressing the opposition, or counter attack ability will be affected. Check out the ‘rules’ section of your league to see if VAR is present and alter your tactics accordingly.

Yet to pick it up? Read our FM20 review

Finally, don’t be afraid to make a custom tactic. The preset tactics are there to give you an idea of how to play, but don’t be concerned about tweaking them to favour your approach. You can also use the preset tactics to give you a flavour of how to play, and then build a tactic from scratch using the ‘custom’ option at the bottom of the list.

All FM20 tactics and how they work

Here’s a list of the core FM20 tactics you should base your own on, and what formations and players make them tick.

Control possession

Suggested formations:

  • 4-2-3-1 Wide
  • 4-2-3-1 DM Wide
  • 5-2-2-1 WB

This works best with teams who have ball-playing centre-backs, quality playmakers, and strikers who are solid all-rounders – it’s an increasingly popular tactic in English leagues right now. Every player will have to be comfortable on the ball, and require high stats in first touch, passing, off the ball, technique, decisions, and composure. Solid stamina and teamwork are necessary too, so that your team moves together as a unit.

Best FM20 tactic - gegenpress

Gegenpress

Suggested formations:

  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-2-3-1 Wide
  • 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow

A philosophy popularised by Liverpool’s Jürgen Klopp that roughly translates to ‘counter press’, so you’ll need players with superb stamina, natural fitness, work rate, and anticipation. It’s ideal for teams that play on the front foot, squeeze the opposition, and win the ball high up the pitch. Any weak links in your side could cause issues, however, and you’ll have to be aware of long balls that could lead to goals being conceded by your side.

Tiki-taka

Suggested formations:

  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-2-3-1 Wide
  • 5-2-2-1 WB

A tactic that clubs like Barcelona are famous for. Short, quick passing will allow your team to progress rapidly up the field and make the most of your opponents’ wayward concentration levels. You’ll need players with very good passing, stamina, decisions, technique, agility, and off the ball to successfully implement it. A solid tactic for sides that lack height as the ball is played along the ground.

Best FM20 tactic - vertical tiki-taka

Vertical tiki-taka

Suggested formations:

  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow
  • 5-2-1-2 WB

Unlike Tiki-taka, the vertical tiki-taka relies on a more direct approach. You’ll still play your way up the field, but you’ll do so between the lines rather than side to side. It requires similar attributes, but it also helps to have players with good pace and acceleration who can stretch the opposition and create space for your playmakers.

Wing play

Suggested formations:

  • 4-4-2
  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-2-4 Wide

Have you got wingers with amazing crossing abilities? Do you have a towering centre-forward, poacher or midfielders that dash into the box? Wing play might be the one for you. Instruct your players to focus play down the flanks, and ask your full-backs or wing-backs to overlap to create two-on-one situations. Make sure you have wingers and full-backs with good numbers in crossing, dribbling, stamina, acceleration, agility, and technique.

Route one

Suggested formations:

  • 4-4-2
  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-4-1-1

The Sam Allardyce approach. Pump the ball long to get up the pitch as quickly as possible. You’ll need a target man striker to hold the ball up and wait for support, and it doesn’t hurt to have a speedy striker playing off them. Alternatively, an agile, pacy forward who can run in behind is just as effective. Perfect for games in the lower leagues or if your strikers are stronger or quicker than opposing defenders. This can be a strong counter to the gegenpress.

Fluid counter-attack

Suggested formations:

  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-4-1-1
  • 5-3-2 WB

This one is all about soaking up pressure, winning the ball back, and hitting teams on the break. Acceleration, pace, decisions, and composure are vital to make this work effectively. Your players will stray from their positions during the attacking phase, though, so ensure they have good work rate and stamina to get back into formation if you lose the ball.

Direct counter-attack

Suggested formations:

  • 4-4-2
  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-4-1-1

As fast-paced as the tactic above, but with an emphasis on getting the ball forward quicker. It relies on similar attributes, but players with good vision, passing, and technique are also necessary to play the right ball. Perfect for teams looking to spring an upset against a bigger side.

Best FM20 tactic - Catenaccio

Catenaccio

Suggested formations:

  • 5-3-2 WB
  • 5-1-2-2 DM WB
  • 5-4-1 WB Wide

The famous Italian defensive tactic. This frustrates opponents by restricting the space between your defensive lines and squeezing individual talents out of the game – something Ronaldo’s currently experiencing in Serie A. Good positioning, concentration, teamwork, anticipation, and stamina are required to hold off opposing attacks and, potentially, nick a 1-0 win through one of your own chances.

Park the bus

Suggested formations:

  • 4-4-2
  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide
  • 4-2-3-1 DM

The English version of Catenaccio, albeit made famous by the Portuguese José Mourinho. This restricts goal scoring chances for the opposition too, but it relies on time wasting as well to disrupt the flow of the game.

You can perform smash-and-grab victories using this tactic but, be aware, against the best sides you might come unstuck if they work their way around your defensive set-up. Alternatively, it’s good for the last five minutes of a game to hold onto that slender lead.

And there we have it, the best FM20 tactics and the types of players you’ll need to make them truly sing for you. If you like to plan ahead then you should check out our FM20 wonderkids guide so you can start building a squad for the future. Of course, these are just the classics and we really do advise customising them to suit your team’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you want to play from the wings but don’t have a particularly tall or strong striker then consider shuffling your midfielders higher so you can get more numbers into the box.

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