Once again a member of The Away Stand football manager forum was the first to get his tactic in for a review so that makes it two in a row for the site as I took the time to examine Lewis 4-2-3-1 Counter, a system that provided interesting results in terms of stretching the opposition and using direct passes to dissect the opponents defensive lines.

The System

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As you can see Lewis has chosen to leave a distinct gap between the midfield sections with two deep lying defensive midfielders effectively screening a defence that has very little attacking intent. The attacking four on the other hand are set as purely offensive tools. This 6/4 split is the key to making a counter attacking strategy effective and strong.


Creator: Lewis

Style: Tactics Creator

System: Deep 4-2-3-1

Site: The Away Stand


Fiorentina 4 – 0 Chievo

Palermo 1 – 0 Fiorentina

Fiorentina 0 – 0 Lecce

Roma 1 – 1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina 1 – 0 Milan


Streak: WLDDW

Win%: 40%

Draw%: 40%

Loss%: 20%

Average Shots at Goal: 12.6

Average Shots on Target: 5

Average Clear Cut Chances: 1.4

Average Possession For: 47.8%

Average Possession Against: 52.2%


The Defensive Base is Solid

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I never start a review with the first positive being a compliment on the defensive but this time I felt the setup merited being highlighted first. As you can clearly see in the above screenshot the team is under pressure from a Chievo attack but the two defensive lines have not only maintained their shape they have also maintained close connections meaning the AI simply has no way to play through them. Each opposition attacking player has a defensive marker in close proximity ready to close down any passing avenues should they be used. For me this is near perfect defensive organisation.

Not Being Afraid to Play Direct

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As fans of football I’m sure we all love the way that Barcelona play the game with plenty of possession and short sharp passing. I do think however that at times the average FM player loses sight of the fact that there are other ways to set your team out that can be equally if not more effective. The ball doesn’t always have to circulate through the midfield before being fed into the strikers feet. In the above image you can see that our right back is in possession. I have highlighted the positions of our three advanced midfield players but the key is that the right back decides to play the direct pass into space for the striker. By choosing to hit a precise pass into the space behind the AI defensive line we have neutralised the entire AI midfield and turned defence into attack in a single easy movement.

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Once again here our left back is not afraid to hit the early direct pass releasing one of our runners into space. Direct passing has its place. It can keep the opposition off guard and create quick and numerous opportunities for our players to threaten the opposition goal. You can see that as the ball is released in behind the defence we have not only the player in the channel advancing but one in the centre. The direct pass has cut out the opposition defence and led to an easy scoring opportunity.

Excellent Stretching of the AI Defence

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I wrote an article a while back (which will appear on this blog in due course) that examined the importance of creating gaps in the AI’s defensive setup in order to allow your deeper runners to release into. This tactic creates these gaps in abundance and at times to devastating effect. As you can see the ball is on the right wing with our right back. The right attacking midfield player has moved across to offer a passing and support connection but the right back instead chooses to play the ball into the space behind the defence. Now our striker is running off the back of his marker (Juan) who will be attracted towards the ball. As he does the second defender has to choose whether to cover the striker or stick with the advancing midfielder. The left back cannot offer any effective support because he too has an advancing midfield player to content with. As you can see the opposition defence has been stretched to near breaking point. If you watch closely whilst using this tactic then this is a constant theme.


At times the Defence can be exposed when higher up the field

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If it’s unusual for me to start writing a review with a positive defensive point then it’s entirely normal for me to start the negatives with a defensive weakness. In part that’s because I have a natural tendency to build tactics that are primarily solid defensively, believe me when winning 5-0 conceding a goal will make me entirely unhappy. This may seem an odd negative point given the positive response I made above regarding the defensive system but it bears pointing out anyway. When teams are able to draw the defence out of its natural deep shape it’s relatively easy for the AI to beat the system. Above we can see that despite Hernandez being confronted by our right back the right centreback Gamberini has decided to close down as well. In doing so he has stretched the defensive connection between himself and his defensive partner. This stretched connection means that Hernandez simply has to drop a simple pass over the top into the gap for a quick attacking player to exploit the space and leave us totally exposed.

At times the Striker is too Isolated

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Playing direct football is effective, Indeed I stressed that point above. You can however meet resistance when a team is happy to sit deep and deny you the space to hit your searching passes in behind their defence. Here you can see the ball is being circulated between our deep defensive pivot but the AI have closely marked each of our three attacking midfield players. There is no obvious passing connection but given our ability to go direct the ball in behind should be an option. The striker has drifted out wide anticipating that a sharp diagonal movement will allow a pass released into space. The AI defence has happily dropped deep though and indeed the left centreback has intelligently adjusted position a few yards back to prevent the angle of the strikers run.

What Would I Change?

It was pointed out to me by Keith following the last review that I mentioned negatives but never really offered any possible solutions. Before I do so though we must remind ourselves that the beauty of tactics within FM is that everything is subjective. What may appear obvious to me may seem counter productive to another. That said I am more than happy to offer a couple of suggestions.

The beauty and indeed strength of this system is that it’s so diverse. The 6/4 split between defensive and attacking players is extremely evident and I would make it even more so. When I mentioned your defence showing a tendency to become exposed when playing higher up the field then I would prevent them from doing so. Drop your defensive line deeper, drop the mentalities of the defensive player and adjust the closing down of the centerbacks so that they no longer feel the need to close down. In short tell your defence to defend. In the first positive I showed how effective a unit they can be when they sit in and deny the AI the space to play through them.

As for the attack I do truly appreciate the effectiveness of the direct game. At times though the striker can be exposed. This means that you may have to be slightly reactive when you are facing a team that is happy to sit back and try to make you play through them. Your advanced playmaker is the one that could make the difference. His starting position on the pitch is such that were he to advance he gives the AI an immediate and very obvious problem. Should they continue to sit back or should one of the defensive players step out to deal with the oncoming threat. As they choose to step out (as they will, believe me) then the direct pass is once again opened up as the striker has a little more room in which to work.

In short Lewis thank you for the tactic. It’s always nice to see a fellow FM user that is not afraid to go against the tactical norm and allow their team to play effective direct football.