Luke’s 4-1-2-1-2 Tactic | Football Manager 2016

My Football Manager 2016 save has been somewhat of a journey, and everyone knows that the journey is the best part! I have led Internacional de Madrid from the depths of the Spanish 4th tier to the giddy heights of mid-table obscurity in the Liga Adelante, using a plethora of tactics, game-plans and strategies along the way!

Although I have not been chopping and changing, rubbing and writing my tactics time and time again aimlessly: I have always planned to build a dynasty, and I can now honestly stay that it is starting to be built. After three and a half seasons of hard work and gutsy displays I have finally been able to introduce a touch – maybe less than a touch actually… – of class, and it has enabled me to form my master plan: my 4-1-2-1-2 has finally arrived in its first carnation.

As I always say in my tactic-related articles: this tactic is most certainly not a ‘plug-and-play’ tactic; it is the first version of a 4-1-2-1-2 system that I have been building towards for a sustained period of time! I cannot, and will not, guarantee that this tactic will work for you: but it has for me, and it should for you…

“So, what’s the plan!?”

Subtitles are exceptionally important, but none more so then this one as it is the question that I ask myself every time I build a new tactical system; in this instance: I had a very simple three-point plan.

  1. DEFENCE: A relatively flat back four, with the occasional marauding run from either wing back is perfect!
  2. MIDFIELD: A narrow diamond split into two component parts, one defensive trio and one roaming offensive lynchpin…
  3. ATTACK: To quote many a Rugby Union fan: “KICK AND CHASE!”

The importance of having a plan prior to building a new system is second-to-none: if you don’t have a vision of what you are building the you have no chance of building it. Essentially, I become a part-time footballing architect on a semi-regular basis; and with all the planning out-of-the-way: it is about time to get the bricks and mortar ready!

“Square holes need square pegs!”

The 4-1-2-1-2 is a formation that is both loveable and loath-able: it can either work like a dream, allowing your side to dominate in the midfield and prosper on the flanks, or crash and burn – leaving you susceptible to being bamboozled by free-flowing movement.
2016-02-21_00001The overriding feature of this system is its narrowness, although seeing it on the tactics screen is slightly deceptive. The simplistic ideal that I had in mind while building this system was to have two fairly grounded players at either end of my midfield diamond, with the two in-between more liable to roam and help their full-backs;this essentially splits your eleven into two: an attacking unit and a defensive unit.

Everyone south of the attacking-midfielder form a compact, multi-faceted defensive wall. Your deep-lying playmaker, central midfielder and anchor man fall almost into line, while the back four sit into two’s with the central defenders and wing-backs acting as antagonistic pairs.

On the flip-side you are left with just three attacking players – which probably leaves you wondering how exactly I score any goals using this system – but they form a formidable threesome. While both forwards look to support, your attacking midfielder will look to get beyond them and latch onto any loose balls or knock downs.

Shape enables this system to prosper because of its simplicity: there is little need to roam if you have all bases covered…

Attacking in three’s means that you need to get the ball from front to back with pace rather than aplomb – and that ideal is realised through the use of team instructions.

2016-02-21_00002When looking back at this screen, retrospectively, two things stand out to me; they are two things that I did not touch. My system operates with a standard mentality and a fluid team shape, it is an option that I have never gone for before – but I am glad that I have deployed it this time round because it is incredibly solid, rather than the sexier option of very fluid/control…

The two most important instructions, however, are that we choose to play in a fairly wide manner but also look to exploit the middle…? Sometimes chalk and cheese, and just general juxtaposition, work like a dream, and it’s probably about time for me to explain why…!

In-Game Analysis! 

2016-02-26_00001As you can see from this screenshot (a screenshot of my Inter Madrid side’s average position map in a 2-0 win over Deportivo) the compactness of my midfield is rather striking, but its sole purpose is to force the opposition out wide, leaving them with just one attacking option. The cross.

The gaps between centre-back and full-back are plugged by the two central-midfielders. So when your backs are against the wall: six men fall back into formation, much like Hull City did against Arsenal at the Emirates in this year’s FA Cup 4th Round tie!



And just like Hull, the sheer number of men in the box will enable you to stay strong and clear the majority of crosses, at least that’s the idea!

My long-term aim for this system is to fully implement the ‘false winger’, a role that isn’t on Football Manager – but can probably be manipulated into place using trickery, player instructions and preferred moves. And it is for that reason that I have elected to use two blatantly juxtaposing team instructions: ‘exploit the middle’, but play ‘fairly wide’ – a falsified sense of width is vital if my long-term aspirations are to be realised. The ‘false winger’ is not a role widely captivated, in many ways it is the Jordan Lukaku of ‘false roles’: it is the lesser brother, but it is a role that can be used to great devastation if perfected. The idea is to get your central midfielders in positions that are almost un-markable by zonal-systems, but also tricky to press – essentially: they sit in between the lines, they are no-one’s man.


Above is a prime example of why I want to implement the ‘false winger’, they create an imbalance – much like the false nine does in the centre of the park. Salva, the central midfielder in possession, has just received the ball from his wing-back and is in a pocket of space; both the anchor man and other central midfielder have pushed into the middle; and that has left our number 3 with acres of space along the left flank!

Execution at this level (the second division of Spanish football) is an issue at times, and in this instance the play broke down following an awful – but intelligently planed – cross-field ball to our wing-back, but that isn’t really the point. Getting my two central midfielders to act as false wingers on a sporadic basis has enabled us to reap the benefits both offensively ans defensively.

SIDE NOTE: This is the first occasion where I have tried to analysis my system more deeply, your feedback on how I did would be greatly appreciated 🙂

“Practise makes perfect!”

Sunday League football is brimming with clichés, metaphors and expletives, but very few are more profound than “practise makes perfect” because it can also be carried over to life (and of course Football Manager). If you decide to give this system a go on your save my advice to you is to heavily focus on tactical training until the tactic is at least familiar!


It is always good to aim for perfection, but don’t ever expect it – and certainly not instantaneously! Cracking a tactic takes time and tweaking, your team will be more likely to prosper if they are familiar with their formation – its common sense really…

“Into the Deloran! Enghances et al…” 

I plan to bring out more variants of this system as I move forwards with it with Inter Madrid, my plan being to make subtle changes to the very top! The first change that I intend on making is the implementation of an enghance because of its ability to work between the lines as a play-maker, something that will certainly help this system’s offensive capacity…


My 4-1-2-1-2 system is available for your perusal and usage, just follow the instructions stated below and its yours!


  • Follow the link to MediaFire – a fantastic, safe data sharing site – and download the file.
  • Place the FMF document into: Sports Interactive – Football Manager 2016 – Tactics
  • Finally, load up your save; go to the tactics screen; and load up ‘Luke’s 4-1-2-1-2′!

I hope that my tactic brings you success on your quest for eternal glory on Football Manager 2016, and if you would like to update me – and many other fellow FM Addicts – on your progress do not hesitate to follow us on Twitter; join our Facebook Group; or comment on my Page’s Wall! Besides that: thanks for visiting…

There are 11 comments left Go To Comment

  1. Kevin6666 /

    what OI do you use?

    1. Luke / Post Author

      Not too sure what you mean by that Kevin?

  2. aworldexpedition /

    OI is short for opponent intstuctions

    1. Luke / Post Author

      Oh! I always tackle harder on every one of their players! That’s about it really, I stick to my assistant’s advice,.

  3. Kerem Demirsoylu /

    do you think this will work with Everton?

    1. Luke / Post Author

      As I have said: this isn’t a plug and play tactic – but with your players it should work well.

  4. Crago /

    Going to give it a try with stoke in 3rd season lots of different players I’ll let you how I get on

    1. Luke / Post Author

      Nice! All the best mate!

  5. alfalupus /


  6. Shelby Alright /

    Hey Luke. You got a few formations written up -e.g. 5-3-2, this one 4-1-2-1-2 and that unfinished strikerless combo 4-2-1-3. They all read nicely and all make me want to follow your themes. I Can’t decide between ’em except maybe this one appeals a tad more.
    Which one have you enjoyed more?

    1. Luke / Post Author

      Personally – I’m a huge fan of the 4-3-3, it’s by far the most successful and easiest to tinker. This would be second with the 532 in third!

      Strikerless was great fun, but the save file unfortunately corrupted!

      Glad you’ve enjoyed the articles – they’re what I like to write.

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