Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20

All formations worked very well so far during my Football Manager 2020 save in Mexico. But there is always something in my head and I want to challenge myself. Especially when something works maybe too well. As the 4-1-1-3-1 DM Wide formation, I wrote about some time ago. And it was the best moment to finally try to tweak the formation with three defenders. This is my attempt developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20.

You can move to the Tactics category of the website if you click to the image below to read all the previous tactical posts. Not only from me but also the ones were written by Ed or Rickie alias blackcaesara5.

*If you would find some post without images or with something wrong, just let me know. It’s due to website/hosting/database changes at the beginning of this year. Not everything moved correctly.*

Why this formation?

The main reason for thinking to use some version of the formation with 3 – something – 2 are two strikers upfront.

I know there are many other formations with two strikers but I wanted also play with three central defenders.

As I wrote in the post about 4-1-1-3-1 formation, where I shared my strikers, I wanted to develop them further. All of them. I wanted to give all of them as much playing time as possible. And I know I would not be able to do it with the formation including one striker. Because they are not good enough to play as AMR/AML.

The last thing was I wanted to keep the AM player. At the beginning at least. My aim was to develop current young players for this role. Or to buy some experienced top player for AM position.

I was very close to one but he decided to stay with Monterrey 😎

But that’s a different story.

Central defenders

The decision what roles to use within the back three was not too hard. There are no good enough players for the Ball Playing Defender role. The possibility to have at least one was ruled out quite quickly.

Both right and left positioned central defenders are standard CD(D) roles. But the middle one – I wanted to try cover or stopper duty after a very long time.

The central defender with the stopper duty will push a little bit ahead of the defensive line and he should try to close down and tackle the opponent. That sounds quite well and something that I would like to see if I consider the fact there still be two more central defenders to stop the possible attack…

On the other hand, the central defender with the cover duty will drop a little deeper and he should be useful to stop or clear the balls behind the defensive line. Especially as I decided to move the defensive line higher.

That sounds also useful…

Learning from mistakes

We won three from the first five matches with this formation. We conceded four goals. One from the direct free kick, one from corner kick and two from open play.

The first one from open play was because of the right move by the Puebla striker when they moved to 4-3-3. But the second one, the equalising goal by Monterrey that costs us three points, was because of our own mistake. And also thanks to a good pressing by the scorer.

Castillo received the ball from Bodnarsky but as he had very limited options and support, he passed the ball to Infante, Aguillar stole the ball and converted the solo from the half-line with the one on one finish. In the 88th minute and it ended 2-2 when we were 2-0 up.

Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20
Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20

Briones, highlighted in the middle, was our CD with the stopper duty. But in this case, he should play with any duty but he would not be able to tackle/press Aguillar.

José María Franco played this role during the match with Puebla. He was not able to tackle/press the scorer. He was able to move further up the pitch with his opponent but he did nothing to stop him shooting.

Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20
Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20

In the match against Tiburones, he did it exactly how you would expect it. He stepped up and didn’t allow the opponent to enter our penalty area.

Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20
Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20

I decided to test it further depending on the number of strikers my opponent is using. When they use two strikers, I found it useful to play with the cover duty.

And the stopper duty against one striker. When my team leads by one goal, the opponent press high, I don’t use take short kicks instruction and I’m trying to use the flanks more than central defenders and midfielders.

Double central midfielders

As I’m still living in the world in which I respect the opinion of James/FMPressure there was a no chance to have the defensive midfielder ahead of three central defenders. And I also don’t even use the defensive duty within two central midfielders.

You don’t need a player with the defend duty when you have three central defenders,” James liked/likes to say every time he talked/talks about the formation with the three at the back. And I remember it for quite a long time.

I knew I will have the AP(S) role in the AM slot so I didn’t want another playmaker within the CM pairing.

The decision was I’m using both central midfielders with the CM(S) role. But they have different individual instructions.

One of them has Take More Risks + Shoot Less Often, the same instructions as DLP(S) but without the Hold Position.

The other one should be something between the Ball Winning Midfielder and CM(D). He should stay mainly in his position but he should be able to tackle and close down more.

It’s probably obvious tha the MCL player (the playmaker type) should be a very good in decisions, composure, vision etc. On the other hand, as I’ve used the defensive midfielder in previous seasons, I can use these DM players in the MCR spot for the more agressive role.

The central triangles without Pass Into Space

One of my favourite instructions in the past was Pass Into Space. It was delightful within the 4-3-3 with the flat midfield every time I’ve used it.

But in combination with two CM(S) and AP(S), I saw a lot of intercepted or misplaced simple passes just because they were not straight to the player.

With the AP(S), it’s almost like to have 3 central midfielders. Advanced Playmaker very often drops deep and when I check the passing combination, both central midfielders are usually at the same level. And there were some matches when this player was even deeper than CM players.

Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20
The passing combinations from the winning match against Deportivo Toluca. AP(S) with the number 10.

The aim was to create very similar triangles in the central midfield area of the pitch with the simple short passes between these three. And one of them will pass the ball at the right time to the side where the wing backs will be.

My secondary aim was very easy. These three central players have to offer the support every time to 1) each other, 2) to both wing backs, 3) to Pressing Forward.

In combination with wing backs, both central midfielders and advanced playmaker are able to create shooting opportunities around the penalty area to each other.

Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20
Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20

The picture above is a great example. WB(S) has the ball on the side, passed it to the defender, the playmaker is available and as both opponents’ players pressing, we moved with simple passes the ball back to the wing back on the side.

Meanwhile, the CM(S) player moved a little bit forward, received the pass from the wing back and passed it to the AP(S) in the right time who made it up front and he scored with a shot from the penalty area.


Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20
Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20
Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20

Or this one where the central defender had a simple situation after a long ball and central midfielders moved the ball wide with the simple passes and the playmaker (Villalobos) made the final pass before the finish.

Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20
Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20

Probably one of the best example of all happened at the end of the Apertura 2028/2029. We played the 1st final leg away against Cruz Azul, central defender (number 5) Manuel Briones won the ball after a free-kick and it kicked on the long passage before the winning goal.

This whole situation reflects absolutely everything what I wanted and what I wrote about earlier. Both CM(S) and AP(S) offer support, it’s evident the ball will end on the right side before a cross. They only had to wait for the right time.

Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20
Players: 2 WB(S), 3 CD(C), 4 CD(D), 5 CD(D), 6 CM(S), 8 CM(S), 9 PF(S), 17 WB(S), 30 AP(S).

It started in 63:53 when Briones took the ball after the free-kick and ended in 65:02 with the finish by Ríos.

The up front duo

I’ve usually used the Advanced Forward & Deep Lying Forward (Support) combination in the past. Except the save with Augsburg in the FM20 beta version.

This time, I decided to use the Pressing Forward with the support duty along with the Advanced Forward.

If I like something about the PF(S) role, it has to be the fact the player in this role is able to score regularly but he is very helpful with tracking down and he is able to win a lot of balls around the half-line or in the own half of the pitch.

The support duty is mainly because of the fact he will be deeper and will help more at his own half.

It’s great when this player is able to win the ball and 1) pass it long to the Advanced Forward or 2) pass it short and simple to one of the central midfield players who will decide what next.

One of my players (Garibay in this case) scored three goals in two matches in a row as PF(S) as it works really well together with AF without some extra aggressive pressing. Btw. he played only because Ríos was injured and I gave a chance to other players. It was Garibay’s only three goals of the Apertura because of injuries, I still hope he will recover.

Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20

In my eyes, the PF(S) role could be also very helpful and useful within the counter-tactics. I saw a lot of nice runs through the centre of the pitch (as this role doesn’t have Move Into Channels instruction) and this player is able to find the through balls from central midfielders or attacking midfielder. Like bellow…

Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20

It’s very possible I will sell Víctor Ríos during the 2028/2029 season or in summer of 2029. And I thought about to change AF role to Poacher to keep strikers in the middle of the pitch (same as during the time with Augsburg) and take the advantage of the Focus Play Down The Left/Right instructions.

Emiliano Ozuna case

One of the reasons why I didn’t want to change our formation in terms of removing AML/R positions/roles was I liked my main players here. I wrote about both of them in the past so the regular readers won’t be surprised I’m talking about Emiliano Ozuna and Sebastián Osorio.

While the Colombian 31 years old Osorio was degraded from the AMR number one choice to the AMC number three choice, Emiliano Ozuna proved how the game can be unpredictable sometimes.

Osorio played a low amount of matches in comparison with the previous years and he wants to go for a loan…

Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20

Ozuna was our main winger in the AML slot for the whole save so far. If I ignore his Marking, Tackling and Positioning attributes (9, 8, 8), the rest of the attributes are solid for WB(S) role.

He made 21(5) appearances in the Apertura 2028/2029, scored 6 goals and made 8 assists in all competitions. There could be many better options for this position/role. And I know it. But from the sentimentality, I already offered him the contract extension.

Conclusion and the changes I made during one calendar year

As I already mentioned, I’ve used the Pass Into Space instruction at the beginning. It’s gone.

  • Pass Into Space instruction removed.

I also had Higher Tempo here but in combination with More Urgent Pressing and Counter, our team was everywhere around the pitch but also very prone to be hit by the counters when a lot of our players were pressing.

  • Higher Tempo removed
  • More Urgent Pressing Intensity removed

I’m not using a lot of team instructions overall. It would be weird to have more than two or three in possession ‘category’. (For me of course, we all are different)

  • Focus Play Down The Left & Right added

We also used the Take Short Kicks instruction as I thought it will be useful same as we had it with the Half Back within 4-3-3 DM Wide but it was the same with and without it. Most of the passes go to one of the central defenders. Without this instruction, both WB(S) are wider and there are more options to pass it.

  • Take Short Kicks removed

And that’s all that I did base on watching the games during the Clausura 2027/2028 and the Apertura 2028/2029. I only experimented with the individual instructions for both central midfielders, as I wrote earlier.

That means, this is how the final tactics look like.

Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20
Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20


There are some screens with the results from the mentioned two parts. Both main WB(S) players had 8 assists in the Clausura 2028/2029 after I added the Focus Play Down The Left & Right instructions.

It’s for the first time of this save when someone different than central midfielder has more or the same amount of assists. But there is still Gilberto Erick Serrano who had also 8 assists as CM(S).

Both left WB(S) players, Ozuna & Islas, are third and fourth-best goalscorers with 6 and 7 goals respectively. The goals were divided between 19 players during the Clausura 2028/2029 and 13 players made at least one assist.

As always, thanks for reading, @FMRensie.

Don’t forget, you can join FMSlack via THIS link. My channel is #fmrensie but there are many other interesting channels to talk about FM.


A Football Manager addict and lover for many years. You can follow me on Twitter or in Football Manager Slack – #fmrensie channel.

6 Replies to “Developing 3-4-1-2 tactic in FM20

  1. Hi mate, do you have had good results with the AMC?, because I have tried several players and they have not given up as I expected.

    1. It really depends on what you want from the player in AMC position in my eyes. In this case, I wanted to have AMC player very close to my central midfielders, that’s why I decided to use AP(S) role as the player in this role is able to move deep to get the ball and he helps with the ball distribution and the passing play between midfielders and to move the ball to the sides. And it worked like this.

      But if you want a lot of goals or assists from this player, my answer is NO, there were always other players with better stats in terms of goals and assists. But it depends on the roles you are using. I can imagine Shadow Striker can be much better in this position to get goals & assists with the right set up.

      I also always wanted to try AM(S) – as he has no individual instructions – and make him a very aggressive type of player close to the Pressing Forward thanks to the individual instructions but I didn’t have time and the opportunity to try it. Maybe in FM21.

  2. are the only player instructions those of the two CMs?

    how much would the tactic be affected by using a BWM / DLP combination?

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