This is likely to be the last planned part of the ‘Creating A Tactic’ series before I move on and make a start on the Ajax series you are all patiently waiting for. I might end up writing more about the W-M when I pick up the Paysandu save and start playing again if I feel I can add more things that I perhaps feel I missed out mentioning throughout the series. But nothing is planned. In this last piece, I will be explaining how the W-M formation works with the roles I use and focus on the relationship between the roles and duties used.
The roles and duties have changed quite a bit since the very first article. I’ve evolved it along the way to get the most out of the system. So here is what the roles and duties look like now.
This is the system I now use, the arrows represent the movement of players when we are in possession of the ball and attacking. I spoke about some of the changes I made already. The ones I discussed in the earlier articles were;
- Complete wing-back
- Central Midfielder
But the two I never spoke about where;
- I swapped the Complete Forward to a Deep-lying Forward.
- I also changed one of the Half Backs to an Anchorman.
In one of the earlier articles, I touched upon the striker role is a bit of issue with some of the other changes I had made. I think it was in the inverted wing-back vs complete wing-back article. This change was a direct result of changing the wing-back role as I felt the complete forward role was going wide far too often and wasn’t really central when I needed a spearhead. The deep-lying forward holds his position better even though he has moves into the channel instructions activated. One of the reasons for this is because the deep-lying forward has the holds position instruction activated. So while he might look to move into the channels at times, for most parts he’ll stay more central.
I’ve moaned about strikers, in general, these past few months. We need a more generic role that allows full customisation of the settings. It’s ridiculous that we are now approaching FM20 and still don’t have a striker role we can fully mould to suit our needs. All the current options all have some major flaw with them. Far too many come with hardcoded instructions for moves into channels and so on.
The second change that I’ve not really spoken about apart from a sentence in the last article is the anchorman. The main reason for this change is I felt that two halfbacks are overkill. They both end up doing the same thing, chasing the same balls and so on. Another part of the reason for switching the role was to protect the midfield now both my central midfielders are aggressive. It’s a pre-emptive measure to steady up the middle of the pitch and have someone who is positionally strict, so he can cover for the more aggressive players.
Now I’ve covered the changes and the reasons behind them let’s take a look at some match analysis to get a real feel of how everything all links together.
I won’t lie and pretend that the way I play isn’t risky. I spoke about risk vs reward earlier in the series and I’m a bit risk taker, as you can see in the screenshot above. If you checked out the team instructions I use above, you’ll see that I use a high defensive line and a high line of engagement. So the behaviour you see in the screenshot is my own doing, I can make the impact less if I really wanted to. I can drop the players further back by lowering the line of engagement and dropping the defensive line. This would then see the anchorman and the half back, drop deeper, as would the attacking players too.
A lot of people don’t like giving up space on Football Manager and try to play the perfect game. This is impossible, you can’t cover every inch of the ground and you can’t stop the opposition from shooting at goal. You can have some say on the kind of areas they shoot from though, which I’ll talk about a little further in. The space I give up in this system is part of my strength as I want the opposition to venture forward and attack me. This then allows my own players more space to work with when we win the ball back. This is why I’m aggressive in my approach above.
Due to us being aggressive presser of the ball and having a lot of bodies in the oppositions half, it means that when they have the ball, the players can be quite aggressive. This is because of the line of engagement we use, which determines the starting point for the press. Even though I don’t use an aggressive mentality, the players are still hounding the opposition in their own half. It’s just my players starting point isn’t as high.
This means that when the opposition does get the ball, they have little time on the ball. Which then allows my side to force them into making decisions quickly and this is what I see happening, often, in the screenshot above. River Plate has hit the ball long to their striker because they didn’t really have many other options or the time to pick out a better choice. When this occurs my anchor man and half back can easily drop back to cover and help out the lone centreback.
Even if the opposition used two strikers, one of the anchor or half back would have stayed behind and aided the defender out. But because neither of them had any kind of defensive duties, they were allowed to get further forward, to begin with.
Although this does have a downside when the keeper gets the ball. The defender, anchor and half back become really narrow. It looks bizarre and is something that is improved in future versions but just look at how narrow things become.
Once the players have come narrow, they do spread out a bit afterwards. But you’d think the game would be intelligent enough to not allow all three to become this bunched up wouldn’t you. When the three players do start spreading a little wider it does allow for some nice build-up play though.
In this short video, we can see a little bit of the build-up play that the defence does. The defender, anchor and half back all pass the ball around patiently, then when the opportunity arises play the ball to the inverted wing-back. He then drives forward towards the centre of the pitch, creating space and forcing the opposition back. Nothing really comes of this move but this is the behaviour you’ll often see from the inverted wing-back.
Here we have the mezzala in possession of the ball. The complete wing-back is keeping the width down this left side of the pitch. So the role is doing what I wanted when I changed it from an inverted wing-back earlier in the series. What the mezzala can and can’t do here doesn’t really matter for now as I want to highlight what the roles I use in defence do and how they help and support attacks. This is a good example of what the complete wing-back does. It’s nothing fancy, it’s just simple.
I’ve just won the ball back in the above screenshot. The inside forward plays the ball to the half back who then plays it to the inverted wing-back. Again it’s nothing elaborate or special, it’s just basic defending and passing. However, I also have options here, which allows us to play out from the back. The defender can also be utilised if the opposition presses us due to him currently being the spare man.
A few seconds later in the move, we see the above happen. What is happening here is the inside forward and the central midfielder is about to block the opposition players from getting close to the inverted wing-back. This allows the inverted wing-back to drive inside because the pitch suddenly opens up for him. It also brings the deep-lying forward into play, as he now becomes a passing outlet.
Due to this kind of stuff happening frequently, the inverted wing-back is an integral part of how the defence links up with the midfielders and the striker. He also created space and uses space with his constant driving inwards and him sitting and playing narrower than the complete wing-back over on the right side of the pitch.
The complete wing-back is more of an immediate direct threat with his running and width that he provides the team. This allows the other players in the side to look for him in higher areas of the pitch initially. Compared to the inverted wing-back who is more of a threat from deep because of his running from deeper areas and driving into central areas.
We can also play some really nice football from the back which starts with the keeper. Rather than trying to explain, take a look at this video which shows how effective we can be by playing out from the back.
It’s also a great example of showing people create space, attacking space and the squad's movement in general. I have people creating space, running from deep to support the attacking move and so on.
This move also starts with the inverted wing-back recovering the ball and playing it to the keeper.
Having options when breaking forward is what my midfield has in abundance. It’s like a swarm at times, with how quickly they break forward and just overwhelm the opposition. To give you a better example of what I’m talking about, take a look at this video.
Just look at how quickly we attack when winning the ball back off the opposition. This is one of the reasons I don’t play on higher mentalities, as you don’t see this happen as often. But on the lower mentalities, its something that you see happening more frequently. A blistering counter-attacking move.
Not all the play is rushed though, the team, in general, can also be really composed and pass the ball around until space opens up for them.
The mezzala and the central midfielder on an attack duty, are devastating in the set up I use. Currently, this season (2025) the central midfielder has 21 goals and the mezzala has 32. They’ve both played the same amount of games which is currently at 38. Let’s take a look at why both roles score so many goals.
Once again we see the complete wing-back playing very close to the touchline and making a run down the wing. This means that the oppositions midfielder tracks his run and drops back. The mezzala is quite wide too and the inside forward is also deep. The inside forwards positioning is why I use him on a support duty rather than an attacking one. I want him in these deeper areas initially and linking up with the more attack-minded mezzala and complete wingback.
Due to the opposition player following the complete wing-back, this creates space and time for the mezzala and inside forward. They already had both of those anyway but this allows them even more. Now if you note the central midfielder, he is also unmarked.
When the ball was played to the anchorman, he then played it into the path of the central midfield which opened the pitch up and allowed the central midfielder to drive forward. I have people making runs towards the box or people who are already there. One of these players is the mezzala. Once the central midfielder starts making his run across the goal the mezzala is already busting a gut to get into the box. So when the ball is played to the inverted wing-back, he crosses the ball into the box and the mezzala slots the ball away.
This is just one example but it happens often and sometimes it’ll be the reverse of this and the mezzala will create the run/distraction and the central midfielder will score.
Sometimes the inside forwards will both create and score a goal. One example of that can be seen in this clip.
The complete wing-back links up with the inside forward down the left side of the pitch. Then when the inside forward receives the ball, he plays a fantastic weighted pass into the run of the other inside forward.
Another example of how we attack can be seen in this clip;
In this move, we see the keeper play the ball to the halfback who then hits a direct ball the inside forward. He then plays the ball to the deep-lying forward who runs as far forward with the ball as he can without losing possession. In the process of doing this, he is able to draw the defenders with him. Lot’s of space is then created because he’s run both the oppositions centrebacks ragged with his initial run. This leaves the oppositions fullback exposed and he is ball watching and totally unaware of the movement of my inside forward on the left side of the pitch. A simple ball is then played by the deep-lying forward and the inside forward finishes off the move with a goal.
If then add all of this play together, you get the picture of how the W-M plays and all links together. I hope all the clips and screenshots have shown you the many different ways we attack too. There isn’t really one set way of attacking, we have plenty of options which are varied. This is the difference between a good tactic and a great one. If play is predictable then at times you might struggle with consistency. But if you attack and score goals in multiple ways, you’ll tend to be fine on most occasions.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the series.