The 4-2-3-1 – The Analysis

In the first part of the series we discussed the system we’d be using and I spoke about how I thought the roles would all link together and play. So now I need to explore and see if this is the case and see if I am suffering any of the issues I mentioned in the opening article. For this part I’m just going to dive straight into a bit of tactical analysis to see if my ideas are working or not.

In case you’ve forgot the shape and settings I’m using, or to make it more accessible without searching the older articles, here it is;

If you've not read the first part yet you can find the link for it here; Part One

You can see here that the attacking central midfielder comes quite deep and the winger is positioned deep as well. This is down to both those roles being support ones and using a standard mentality structure. However if you notice the wide players, if they were to receive the ball now then they’d be in a good position to attack. But they only have the deep-lying forward to aim for. Everyone else would be playing catch up. Would this be an issue? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how quickly the attacking midfielder and Segundo Volante can get up alongside and offer support. So we need to see the move played out further.

A few seconds later in the move we have the wingback going on the outside of the winger, while the winger cuts inside. It’s worth pointing out that my winger Copete has the moves into channel PPM. So at times he cuts inside ever so slightly when he has the ball and isn’t as wide as he is sometimes. If you look at his positioning while he has possession of the ball, you can see he has plenty of space and time. You can also see the opposition reacting already with three players moving to cover the danger.

By them doing this, it opens up space for my Segundo Volante to run into. When the opposition player (2) shift across then the Segundo Volante has free clear space to run into and exploit. If this happens then a simple ball from Copete and the play switches from the right hand side of the pitch to the central left areas. Which would then bring the deep-lying forward and the inside forward into play. And that is without taking into consideration of what the attacking midfielder will be doing.

Or if Copete wanted he could feed the wingback in behind him. So options are a plenty here and it's still early stages in-game itself. The signs so far look good but because the game is still in the early stages it doesn’t mean this is a frequent occurrence. For that, we need to analyse the frequency of this happening.

Copete did switch the play and passed the ball to the Segundo Volante which opened up the pitch. Look at how clustered the opposition have become in the central areas due to the quick change of play. Stretching the opposition is always good. It also means that my inside forward has space and time. Seconds later he passes the ball to the striker who was dispossessed but I like the movement throughout this move. It shows we are creating space and using it wisely so far.

One thing that could be problematic though is my attacking midfielder, he is really deep during the whole move. Him being deep isn’t an actual issue as such, it’s more the fact he hasn’t gone further forward and offered support to the striker. This is likely down to the quick switch of play from one side to another. As well as catching the opposition out of sync, your own players can also miss the phase of play. Now I’ve noted it though I can check to see how often it's happening as it could be an issue or it might be nothing. However we need to acknowledge it could be problematic.

This is a completely different move, this time my wingback is the one starting the attack. The only real passing outlet he has here is the winger. However if the wingers gets the ball then he will be surrounded by the three players I’ve marked out on the screenshot. This actually isn’t a bad thing though, well it is for the winger but for the attacking midfielder and the Segundo Volante this is really good. A huge amount of space is about to appear around the attacking midfielder.

We again see the winger forced inside here because he is marked two against one should he try beating his original marker. But by coming inside he makes the opposition player shift across to deal with the threat, but all this does is give Lucas Lima acres of free space to play in. The inside forward is already anticipating what will happen and looking to make an early run due to being unmarked. When Lucas Lima gets the ball he then has three options he could do with the ball.

  1. He can drive forward with the ball at his feet.
  2. Pass is to the Segundo Volante who is unmarked and has lots of space and time.
  3. He can try the more direct/long risky option and try to play the inside forward in early.

Either way we have options in the side and not only that, but we are creating a shit ton of space for players to run into.

In this example I know the wingback started the move but I don’t feel he is pushing on enough in these early stages. It’s something I need to keep an eye on in the next few games. In this game my winger being forced inside isn’t a hindrance and is actually helping. It’s worth noting that sometimes having a player marked so closely and tightly isn’t always a bad thing. You can see the options I am creating and how the players are using this to their advantage. If the player wasn’t marked and went down the wings then I might have less initial options to start with.

I’ve seen the player go down the wings a few times already in this game so he is doing what I’m expecting and is not a cause for concern. If he was always coming inside even when he wasn’t forced to do so, then I’d look at the why and try to correct the situation.

My winger Copete picks the ball up deep in our own half this time. But it’s becoming pretty clear how important my attacking midfielder is to making the side function. He’s basically a natural playmaker with how he is involved in play. Everything that is happening in the side is mainly going through him. In this screenshot the wingback is actually giving us width and making a surging run to get beyond the winger.

When Lucas Lima the attacking midfielder receives the ball, he then has options yet again. Copete will move forward and offer support, he also has the wingback making the run down the wing. There is also the Segundo Volante offering the deep option and is totally unmarked as he would be, due to being so deep and away from play to begin with. This actually doesn’t mean he is uninvolved though as you’ll see next.

This is the same move as above just a little later in the move that’s all. Lucas Lima passed the ball to the Segundo Volante who hits it first time into the channels and my wingback gets on the end of it. It’s another quick switch of play which immediately puts us on the front foot.

We can see that its four versus three here giving us the advantage. The wingback, Ferraz, receives the ball then drives forward and puts a cross into the box. It goes across the goal but unfortunately no-one gets on the end of it, on this occasion. But it’s all good as its showing we attack in numbers when the opportunity arises. Also in the example the Segundo Volante and attacking midfielder aren’t really involved in the next phase of play. Although both were vital in the early stages.

I don’t always need every player involved in every single aspect of play, especially with moves like this. It also means if I had lost the ball here, I had sufficient cover in the midfield still and didn’t overcommit and leave myself open for counter attack. Having five or even six players forward at one given time, distorts the balance you have in the side and can be very risky. On some occasions it might be needed but not in this instance.

It’s one of the reasons why creating a balanced tactic is vital for consistency. Not only that but you want a variety of ways to attack so your play isn’t predictable.

I don’t want to fill the article with analysis overload and focus on too many areas at once as I don’t think that is helpful at all. But so far, considering this is the first game I’ve played I’ve seen enough positives to think everything will work as I thought it would. However remember this was just one game and in the next one, it might play completely different to what it did in this game.

While I did spot a couple of issues with the attacking midfielder being very deep at times and the wingback possibly not being attacking enough, I’ll be making no changes for the next game. For those of you who have followed my stuff for a while, you’ll know that I only tend to make any changes based on a bigger sample size. Normally as a rule that is three games as it starts to give you an idea of how the system works and what issues you have. So I’ll be looking for issues with the wingback and the attacking midfielder during these next two games.

However while the attacking midfielder was deep, which is what I half expected with the role and duty he has, plus the mentality I use. Everything the side did went through him and he was pivotal in everything we did. So I don’t believe him being deep will be a major issue going forward. But it might mean I need to rethink or slightly adjust if I feel I don’t have enough immediate support in the central areas. But we will have to see how the next few games go.

In the next article I’m unsure whether to analyse game two and three or jump straight to an article that shows how the players behave different on a higher mentality  from a positional sense, and why I prefer the deeper versions of the tactic which I mentioned in the earlier posts. This would allow me to compare the defensive shapes and the attacking ones and show you exactly why one is better than the other for both phases of play.

So let me know below which article you’d like to see next.



40 thoughts on “The 4-2-3-1 – The Analysis”

  1. I would say that if there’s not much you find going wrong with the tactic it would be better to go and show the difference between the mentalities and the different positional things.

    Of course doing both is always preferred 😉

    1. That is likely to be the next one as I guess that was the overall aim of the series for me, to highlight and document why lower mentality (and deeper versions) are more superior and offer you everything the attacking ones do when going forward. However they offer you much more defensively and that’s the key difference. So highlighting and discussing this makes sense.

  2. Great article Cleon, as always! Please make the higher mentality comparison, I’m so excited about that. Thanks for creating such content 😛

  3. I’m interested to see how it will work with your (& mine) preferred 3 at the back. I’m going to try the formation above without the DLF to see how it works. Maybe change the AM to a SS so we have a 3 pronged attack and everything else building / supporting from deep.
    I agree with you that coming from deep seems to catch the opposition out more so hopefully this will work.
    I’ve been playing 3 at the back with the 2 up front but although very tight at the back, I’m hoping to score more with 3 across the front.

  4. Cleon, I’m with you in the lower mentality. When I play something above standard mentality, I just dont like what I see. Play is rushed, players dont wait enough for the support/runners to come and try to save the day with stupid running or long shots.

    I can say that I fail with pretty much any tactic when playing on higher mentalities.

  5. Cleon,

    Do you feel that the supporting DMC may sometimes be so high up the pitch in situations where you’d be better with someone deeper to recycle ball possession and try to attack again? For example against teams who sit deeper and you’re near their box but there isn’t much options ahead to pass the ball.

    1. Having the DM deeper than the rest of the side would make for a gap and cause a split. Making it harder for him to recycle possession. You could use a deeper one if you wanted but for how I’ve set up, he wouldn’t be able to do much with he ball and would be isolated for most parts as everyone else moves into a lot more advanced areas meaning he’d be too far away from play to recycle possession.

  6. Quick question Cleon, I’m using the tactic just wanted to ask why AM not AP. Won’t an AP possibly attract more players there by freeing up others? My current AM also hangs back too much thinking of trying him as a Trequartista.

    1. I thought I mentioned this in the article? I didn’t want the play to be forced like it would if I used a AP. I didn’t want a focus bias and people passing to the AP. So I went for a AM and people are playing through him because they choose to and not because its forced by the playmaking role. If I change the role, I’d have to change the entire set up as its set up to play a specific way.

  7. Started a game with Liverpool based on this roles. The question is which role i should give Salah. He in best as a inside forward on the right. Is it possible to just change the W (s) to IF (s) ?

    Tried him in the winger role for a preseason game, and he did really well. So maybe he works in that role.

    1. It depends what you want. You have to remember that the formation I posted is set up for me and my players and is set out to do a specific thing. So even changing one role means you will have to change something elsewhere.

  8. Hello mate, Great write up looking forward to seeing more. One question in the article you say your winger (Copete) has the PPM move into channels. I take it this is the roam from position option?

    I came here to read as i can’t seem to get anything to work Tactic wise in this years FM. I am going to try this out without the roam from position selected until i hear your feedback.

    Keep up the excellent work.

    1. Thanks 🙂

      Move into channels is the space between a centreback and fullback. It’s not actually a roam from position option, that now is in with the player instructions you can modify 🙂

      1. I am using this now and im finding the defence is getting cut open through long balls, is the TI’s still as you have put them in the pic; Defence much higher line etc.

  9. You probably know this but Lucas Lima has “drop deeper” ppm so that accounts for him being so deep all the time.

    If you’d change him to an AM on attack duty would he act more as an AM on support?

    1. Aye I know he has it. And if he was on an attack duty he’d drop deeper due to the PPM but he’d still play the role slightly different due to higher mentality etc

  10. Great post again. Please write about higher mentalities. Actually it will be very good if you can show us a tactic which uses attacking as the mentality. Thanks again.

  11. The 3-5-2 is excellent against 442 & 4231 etc. Handles the forward line brilliantly. The on target shot ratio is high & brings me a comfortable win most games.
    Great tactic!

    I then use the 4231 against anyone with a lone striker to control the midfield / occupy their heavy defence more.
    I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of shots wasted but I’m struggling to identify why.

    Have you noticed that in your save & managed to spot why?

      1. Hi Jon
        No instructions at all apart from what Cleon uses in his “forged in steel” thread.

        Only change I make is against top teams where I switch wing backs to support from attack & if they are set up to attack then I’ll go counter rather than standard.

        It all backs up what cleon says about the formation / roles being more important than the mentality. If I go on control / attack I don’t appear to have the room to move. Much more dangerous when runners come from deep.

        Definately worth a try.

  12. Hey guys, sorry to post this, i really like this way of going about a tactic but i am really struggling with long balls over the top. I am wondering on what other people have PPM’s on players too. Any help is much appriciated

    1. It seems because of the higher line. Maybe drop it deeper if conceding too many or maybe put one CD on cover.
      Best thing to do is change one instruction or role, watch it for 2 to 3 games then see if it helps.

  13. First of all, thanks for sharing your expertise with us: it’s very interesting!
    I just can’t understand why this 4-2-3-1 deep is working for you but not for me… Poor attemps on goal, poor defending and lots of yellow cards… It’s strange because I’m coaching quite a good side. Where could the problem be?

    1. Are you playing as the same team as me? If not that is why, this is designed for my side. The idea behind the series of articles is not to copy, but to demonstrate how it all works. Did you read all the articles based on this subject I did?

      1. It’s a little bit complicated to make myself clear. So, I’ll just reply that I got your point and that – of course – I was not trying to discredit you or to complain because I copied and it’s not working. By the way, I read all the articles you wrote, not only the ones about the 4-2-3-1 formation.

  14. Interested to know if/or what you changed about the tactic to correct the am being deep and/or winback not being being attacking enough?

    I’ve tried the tactic, and although I’ve won the first 4 games of the season without conceding, the attack has not been very efficient. Struggle to get the wide men going, and wonder if you have any tips there? How do I know I’ve got the right width? And also the team being too high at certain times (defensive line deeper or lower mentality to counter or defensive?).

    Seen some comments say the striker gets isolated. I think it relates to the above, doesn’t get much to work with. My side has created at least 1-2 ccc’s in those games, but my striker (the big guy in Blackburn) has not been on the end on most of them.

    My IF and AM also has ppm’s comes deep to get the ball, dunno if that changes anything?

    Great article btw!

    1. I didn’t change anything. Have you read the rest of the articles in this series?

      As you’ll see getting the wide players involved is not an issue. In fact the tactic is created and based around the IF and making him the main goalscorer. So the play from the wide players, means they are heavily involved.

      The defensive line shouldn’t be high at times? As its a standard mentality and uses two defensive midfielders. When you use defensive midfielders the defensive line naturally becomes deeper. Maybe your issue is players?

      What comments have you seen about the striker becoming isolated? That again doesn’t happen, he is heavily involved as you’ll see in the Inside Forward article.

      Your AM having that PPM is fine as does mine. But it’s not so good on your IF when he is supposed to be higher up the pitch attacking the space that is unmarked. If yours is dropping deeper then it doesn’t help the team.

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