Football Manager 2021: What are the best formations and tactics to use?


Starting to think about the best Football Manager 2021 tactics to use? Already determined that you will just use the same formula that worked so well in last year’s edition?

Well, Sports Interactive has decided to incorporate new upgrades that will likely make your previously unbeatable formations irrelevant.

Indeed, armed with a new Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ‘touchline tablet’, you are able to analyse tactics and formations in greater depth.

So, with this in mind, PC Gamer took a closer look at some of the best tactics and formations to use in the new game.


4-3-3 Tiki-Taka

First up is a rather attacking, possession-based tactic. At the same time, however, it does not neglect defensive responsibilities.

This system is widely associated with the famous World Cup-winning Spanish side, as well as Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona team.

Tiki-Taka incorporates pressing, which is focused on winning the ball back high up the field. Once possession is regained, Tiki-Taka focuses on a high tempo, short passing game that is designed to create scoring opportunities.


The players required for this type of system to work need to have high stats in stamina, teamwork, passing, vision and work rate.

A top-class defensive midfielder is also crucial to protect the back four and set off attacks from deep, think former Spanish and Barcelona midfielder Xavi or the current man in possession at the Catalan club Sergio Busquets.

Liverpool Title-Winning Tactic

This next tactic is modelled on Jurgen Klopp’s 2019/20 Premier League title-winning formula. It gives your wide players (wing-backs) in the mould of Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold and (inside forwards) the freedom to cause the opposition all sorts of problems.

In short, your wide players are the main creators, but you will also require a false-nine striker, similar to Roberto Firmino, to drop deep to link up with your midfield and in turn pull defenders out of position.

This allows the inside forwards to exploit the space created and fashion chances for themselves or others.


Star players of the team require high stats in first touch, passing, composure, decision and finishing.

4-2-3-1 Control Possession

This 4-2-3-1 formation is ideal if you have a world-class number 10 in the form of Kevin De Bruyne or Bruno Fernandes for instance.

This control possession method also enables you to have a more methodical approach to progress up the field and focus on shorter passes to retain possession.

What is vital, though, is that your number 10 has the best stats in terms of decision-making, composure, vision and that ability to pick the right pass at the correct moment.

You will also need to deselect any tactical instructions that go against patient build-up play such as ‘counter’ and ‘distribute ball quickly.’


Finally, it is important to drop your line of engagement and defensive line back to prevent quick counter attacks against you.

4-2-4 Custom Tactic

This tactic will most likely be good against lower league defences.

In order for it to work well, your wingers will need to have good crossing and dribbling ability in the form of Jadon Sancho or Riyad Mahrez.

The strikers will also need to have excellent finishing, composure and heading, just like Dominic Calvert-Lewin for Everton at the moment.

Using this formation, however, may leave you open to counter attacks, so you will need to play a high defensive line, lay an offside trap and ensure your keeper is adept at being a sweeper keeper.


5-1-2-1-2 Vertical Tiki-Taka

This formation is good to use if you do not have particularly great wingers, but have quality wing-backs. The downside to this tactic, as England in the Nations League found out, is that it impacts on your goal output, although it does make you sturdier at the back.

You can, however, also focus your play through the middle and use your advanced playmaker to team up with your two central midfielders to overload the middle of the park. This is something that works well for the world’s number one team Belgium.


Real Sociedad 4-1-4-1 Custom System

Finally the 4-1-4-1, which is modelled on Real Sociedad manager Imanol Alguacil’s tactics.

It effectively has four central midfielders, with the full backs providing the width for your team. You might, however, need to switch your side’s mentality from positive to balanced or cautious depending upon the opposition that you come up against.

The players you have also need to be technically gifted to pass the ball into space for your full backs to run onto. It helps, therefore, that Alguacil has someone like David Silva to call upon to ensure that this tactic is successfully implemented.


So there you have it, some of the formations that could successfully guide your team to glory!

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