Stalybridge and the 4312

Guest author @BusttheNet is back with the follow-up to his Movement Into Channels article. That article can be found below.

Masterclass: Mastering Movement of Players Into Channels

The 4312 is one of my favourite tactics in the game. Frankly speaking it can be extraordinarily strong if you can handle the weakness of the horizontal channel between the midfield tier and the back line and its lack of cover down the flanks.

It is also one of those systems that make a good case for showing vulnerable horizontal and vertical channels. When sides defend with a holding playing in the defensive midfielder tier, they can make it challenging for the attacking midfielder to exert his influence.  I like using it because the flat 3 midfield is fantastic for poor sides.

When you are side punching above your weight, you want to try to disrupt the middle of the park, making it hard for the opposition to gain any traction with their build-ups. However its requirement of having midfielders who have good positioning and off the ball can be difficult to meet. And when you become a good side, you end up facing sides playing defensively against you forcing you to think of ways of getting more bodies into attack.


What I have decided to do is do a big series of videos and posts that are all interlinked, as I begin a journey with this newly promoted side on their quest to play with the 4312. Within this series I will deal with one main theme, handling channels – vertical and horizontal, while I am setting up this system.

Along the way we will develop a system based on the players we have and hopefully end up with something I can use without changing things too much. Ideally I hope this experience is one that will lead to a wider discussion on how different people approach attacking movement. FM19 has made some improvements in final third movement. No one denies that final third movement in counter attacking or overloaded situations can be good. The only issue most people seem to have is against a defence that is “stacked”. By stacked we are referring to a situation when the you are deep in the opposition half and the opponent is defending in their area.

So how will this develop?


There will be 5 videos and 4 posts. The videos can be found on my youtube channel  These will also be linked here. I will also have posts that can be found on the SI Forums and at

The evolution of the 4312 happens in the Championship season with Stalybridge and begins from the 29th Episode. And, with the benefit of hindsight, I will analyse how I play and the mistakes I made.

The articles and videos are inter-related and hopefully they show how I entered the Summer of Shining Stupidity basking in its sunshine. While I looked ok in some matches because I was adapting, this was a train wreck waiting to happen. I kept ignoring fundamental issues, like managing channels between players, both vertical and horizontal.

Each post is followed by a video where you will see me playing a game, in fact in one show i am blowing away opposition way better than us, but i refused to even acknowledge the danger, in fact, i subconsciously predicted what I was going to do, and it's actually in the show. I only realised it much later when i was writing the series.

The series starts with a Mastering Movement article that deals with Move Into Channels, then I have 4 articles with related videos as well that show the evolution of a 4312. The first 3 shows have a play through.  For those who want the TLDR version just jump to “Lessons Learnt”video, which is basically a summary.  


The goal of this series of posts and videos is to share my experiences, and hopefully engage with everyone here to see how common these mistakes can be. 

By using video and written material, I am hoping to make this easier for everyone to grasp. Play through are used to show how the movement of the various versions of 4312 can look like. The written posts serve to be an analytical looks at systems.

Where possible I will use skins to show roles and duties, however these are only done to for illustrative purposes so everyone can see how they affected the channels. This is important to capture in hindsight. 

As an engagement exercise, I hope that the mistakes i made judging vulnerability of vertical channels will be helpful and since it is across several platforms I hope we get some quality engagement via a dialogue here.

We begin the series with a written guide on Movement, and i also do a video guide for the same thing. These articles are also available at

Episode 1: Squad Building for the Championship I deal with our newly promoted side in the Championship. We analyse the squad and proceed to bring in players. I decide on how we should be playing based on what has happened in pre-season including two wins over similar opponents in our league. My initial tactic already has flaws that I haven't even bothered to acknowledge, I refuse to look at my own attributes to see what the spread is, so basically I am playing like someone would who had downloaded a tactic and played with the best players who could in his squad. Issue: I still wasn't using the best players in my squad making some simple selection errors.

Episode 2: Spot My Stupidity-  We are still trying to work things out. There are flaws in the system, but somehow or not the romantic in me, still wants to have his cake and it eat too.  I play another game this time against West Brom, I still ignore the fundamentals, but I also begin to recognise some squad weaknesses.We identify who should be playing. And we start looking at training sessions for the team. We play a match against Preston, and by the end of the show, I seem to be finalising my squad choices.

Episode 3:  Forgetting the 6-second Move- In this show i explain how we scored a goal in 6 seconds. The same player scored twice. We then head into the next match, change the system to something else thinking we will do the same thing again. What did I do wrong here?

Episode 4:  Lessons Learnt Post Match Analysis shows that I am going to be in trouble if I keep things up, so we make fundamental changes to our system. This episode has no play through, instead its serves as a look at what happened in the last few games leading me to a version of our 4312, that fixes the problems we have with the system. I explain what the problems are as I walk through the bright lights of enlightenment.

How do you shut your side down so that you do not suffer from Hazard runs through the middle? When do you know that you can exploit Hazard runs through the middle. What roles work together creating overloads? How can you influence defenders to move to one side and create space on the other?

The journey to build the 4312 revealed different things:

  • How using different elements of defensive shape can affect your horizontal and vertical channels 
  • How certain Team Instructions create vulnerabilities in your vertical channels
  • How can we achieve a compact defensive unit while attacking aggressively in the opponent’s half?

These are just some of the themes that developed over the course of the series, so if you are keen on joining the discussion, hop on over  for a deeper discussion.

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