Where do you begin with Football Manager 2021? Do you immediately transfer list some players to raise some funds? Sort out the training routine? Or do you find the best formations and tactics that will see you to glory throughout the years? If you’re anything like me, it will be the latter.
Finding the right tactic to go alongside the perfect formation is most of the fun when it comes to Football Manager 2021. Due to just how many permutations and tweaks you can have on a simple 4-4-2, many players turn into mad scientists each year when coming up with the perfect tactic to win the lot — and then lose at home to Fulham. It is the Football Manager way.
Here are our picks for the best tactics and formations in Football Manager 2021. Bear in mind that your players will need to adapt to these new tactics through training and matches, so they may not immediately be great with them. In addition, depending on your squad’s attributes, they may not be best suited to the pressing and high intensity tactics, so try to make your tactics work for your players, not the other way around. Also, as one final caveat, the AI may adapt to your tactics over time, so it’s important that you try to have multiple tactics trained at once.
This tactic is intended to replicate Carlo Ancelotti’s early tactics at Everton in the 2020/21 Premier League season that saw them fly up the table. While that might have turned sour for them, Carloball could offer something pretty different for you tactically this year.
The big thing with this tactic is its emphasis on wingers as playmakers, meaning that you need someone who can cut in from the wing and play a killer pass or switch the play. It also overloads the middle of the park with midfielders to provide some defensive stability and to congest the play.
The only way it falls down, as it did in real life, is that the wings can you leave you super open to a counter-attack. If you want to score loads of goals and don’t mind conceding some, Carloball is the way to go this year.
Listen, you probably knew gegenpress would be here when it comes to discussing the best Football Manager 2021 tactics. It’s silly just how effective it is this year, as it was in Football Manager 2020. Wouldn’t make sense to make it less powerful when Liverpool rampaged to glory last year with it.
And of course you have to go with a 4-2-3-1 to make the most of the press. This tactic takes advantage of a high line to constantly keep opponents pinned back, as well as strong tackling to dispossess anyone dawdling or the ball or opponents who aren’t as physically strong.
So, what are the downsides of gegenpress? Well, you need to either have really physically fit players or get lucky to not get any serious injuries throughout the season. How intense this tactic is will probably make you change personnel around all season, so bear that in mind.
This Football Manager 2021 tactic is for all the role-players out there. Care to relive Leicester’s incredible Premier League win in the 2015/16 season, often seen as the biggest upset in sports history? Well now you can. Sort of.
That season was truly a lightning in the bottle moment for an entire league and probably even sport, but this tactic looks to replicate that trophy-winning season as best it can. You will need a fast striker to play off the shoulder of a defender, like Vardy a trequartista in the mold of Mahrez, and someone who will fight for every ball like Kante, which doesn’t come cheap.
If you have all that and a whole lot of luck, you may be able to emulate what Leicester did, but it’s just a solid, unspectacular tactic all the same that will work best for teams lower table teams. It’s always lovely to see a 4-4-2 out in the wild.
This tactic is touted as helping Brentford to win the league by its creator, but what really is it? Well, it looks like it heavily depends on ball retention and also simply being able to outscore the opposition with just a wild emphasis on attacking over anything slightly defensive.
What that means is that you’re probably going to need your front three to have a good game to see out a win, though it looks like your DLFs will play a bigger part in setting up the advanced forward. Have two strong strikers flanking a quicker, more lethal striker and you should see the goals float in.
Also, while this is all-out-attack by default, you might be wise to swap to a cautious mentality when playing against big teams away from home, or to help you see out a match. Also, the instructions to get stuck in and constantly press will mean yellow cards and knackered players.
Another super attacking-focused tactic for Football Manager 2021, this “destroyer” tactic is intended to do one thing: score you an absolute tonne of goals. It varies things up a little bit with deeper wingers than usual so that they have more room to burst into on the break.
It’s so focused on wing-play, in fact, that it kind of asks your midfielders to work more as muscle in the middle or simple water carriers rather than playmakers, which means you should probably invest in some strong midfielders with high tackling attributes if you want to pull this one off.
As with all other tactics that depend on high lines and engagement, this tactic may leave you very vulnerable to the counter-attack and can be very physically demanding over the course of a season, so you will need plenty of squad depth.
Obviously, the kind of tactics that work in the Premier League may not work in League Two, League One, or maybe even the Championship. Players just aren’t as fit, so the intensity of gegenpressing goes out the window and overlapping wing-backs are pretty hard to get, at least any good ones.
Enter Lower League Legend 4-4-2, a tactic that is much more direct than the others you will find most commonly used in Football Manager 2021. With the technical level being far lower the further down the divisions you go, it becomes more about strength and, really, being able to just get the ball forward and put in a crunching tackle.
With a target man to hold the ball up and some fast if not brilliant wingers, as well as a cheap striker and some rock solid defenders, you should fully expect to see yourself climbing up the divisions as time goes on. Don’t expect much in the way of beautiful football, though.
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