FM21 | Next match only

Do you consider tactical changes for just one match when you know you’re underdogs? Or you just have some feeling it won’t be your day? I’m the same, especially after the promotion to the top tier in my current save with GAIS. It’s not about the complete tactics overhaul in my case. I like to make small changes. Did it pay off? Let’s talk about the Next Match Only feature in FM21.

It’s one of the traditional 1000+ new features of the new edition. You can’t see this button within a normal Tactics screen but it appears in the Tactics screen before you will enter the match.

One of my favourite things within this save in Sweden is that our season is based by the calendar year. There is a long time between the seasons and I have a lot of time to think about several things.

And the transfer window is also a long one so you can count it as a positive thing too despite I like to have my movements early.

And there is also a domestic cup before the league campaign starts. Three more matches in the group stage which you can consider as other friendly matches to test your own things if you don’t have big ambitions to win the cup.

That was exactly our case.

We won our group after a draw with Elfsborg and wins against FC Linköping City and Helsingborgs IF (finally!). And we got AIK in the quarter-final. One of the big clubs in Sweden. Despite they are not the title candidates right now, I knew they can hammer us.

Meeting with the opponent

As I mentioned, I’m not the type of FM player who would change the formation completely. I like how my 3-5-2 is developing within this save. How the roles are working and how our players are performing.

That means I am happy to ignore one of the advice within the Tactical Meeting before the match. My assistant suggested switching from 3-5-2 to a 4-2-3-1. One of the reasons was to use newly signed Vladimir Rodić in a different role in a wide position specifically. But I signed him to play as our main pressing forward (more about it in a different post).

Another part of the advice usually is the opposition instructions but I’m using rarely too many as my assistant suggests.

It’s only about pressing intensity – always within their playmaker or the deeper central midfielder. But only if some of his attributes are not good enough and our pressing can cause him issues.

I took nothing from this screen. Not because of I would not trust to my assistant but mainly because I felt he is not right in this case and I will make my own changes (same as in 9 from 10 occasions, but that’s a different story).

But also because of the bug in the left bottom corner where the Expected Tactic widget appears and it always shows the 4-4-2 formation no matter of the opponent and their tactic.

Finding the main threats

When I check their schedule screen with my fixture view including the formation, the game suggests they used 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow formation in all previous matches in the Svenska Cupen.

It’s also the preferred formation of their manager – Willy Sagnol. Yes, that one.

I was sure about one thing when I checked some of their previous matches before our match against them and from seeing their tactics.

Both wide defenders will be high up the pitch and they will provide a lot of runs forward, many crosses and also a lot of support.

Eric Kahl (LB) is one of their best-rated players just behind Erik Ring. This young winger or striker scored 4 goals and made 2 assists in the Svenska Cupen group stage matches. All as the pressing forward. That means we need to take care of him properly.

FM21 | Next Match Only
AIK formation before the match

Let’s cover it

I’m not using many team instructions in my tactic. I like to use Higher Defensive Line and Higher Line Of Engagement. It worked perfectly with three central defenders while one of them is playing mostly with the Stopper duty.

But knowing we face attacking-minded wide defenders + two strikers + AM player + we are underdogs, I decided to make small tweaks for next match only.

Both defensive line and line of engagement switched back to Standard and we used Cover duty instead of the mentioned Stopper duty.

And both our WB players changed their duty to Defend instead of Support. The main reasons are (probably) obvious.

  • WB(S) is more attacking-minded with Get Further Forward
  • WB(D) is instructed to Hold Position and he doesn’t roam from his position too much
  • WB(D) is also instructed to Take Fewer Risks

I also switched our passing from standard to shorter and I hoped it will lead to shorter and safer passes between WB players, DLP(S) and CM(S) as both these central midfielders have also Hold Position instruction.

FM21 | Next Match Only
WB(S) vs. WB(D)

More patience, bigger stability

All the things above were done with one aim – make us less vulnerable and make us more compact and solid in the defensive line.

I didn’t want to allow our players too much freedom same as against weaker sides when I expect our own domination and the fact we will be the team who will dictate the tempo of the match.

If I would use the team fluidity in the game, it’s connected to what I wanted to do – to be more structured.

Main tactic (left) vs. tweaked tactic (right)

In-match changes

I did fewer changes during the match than I expected before the kick-off as I thought we will be absolutely no danger in the attacking phase but we were even too adventurous in my eyes.

I forgot to mention that I didn’t set some opposition instructions in the end. Not even again wing-backs or again Erik Ring at the top.

The simple change from the stopper duty to cover duty was enough. Same as the support/defend duty change for both wide players.

I made three tweaks during the second half and extra-time (spoiler klaxon!). I set our passing to Much Shorter and our tempo to Much Lower.

It was mainly because of the fact that most of our players were out of energy during the extra-time and I wanted to slow down the game and frustrate the opponent. With a frequent time-wasting in the extra-time 2nd half as well.

The last change was PF(A) to PF(S) mainly to help midfielders with pressing, tackling and winning the second balls in the later stage of the match.


It resulted in the 0-0 draw after the first 90 minutes and it remained goalless also after the extra-time. And the match went into penalties.

I was lucky that the best penalties takers (Rooney, Eriksson) were still on the pitch and the other players have a good combination of composure and penalties so we were lucky and we won 5-4 on penalties because one home player missed.

We were able to stop their best players, mainly their best striker Erik Ring who was almost invisible. And I like how many their crosses we were able to block.

The clean sheet is always a good sign as well.

I mentioned above why the hold position and shorter passes can help us with the passes between WB players and CM(S)/DLP(S). The passes graphics don’t work in FM21 as it doesn’t show properly but the numbers are in the analysis (not sure if they are 100% right as the stats don’t work properly).

If I wanted more passes between each other and more triangles, it went well. Blixt and Rooney on the right side & O’Rilley and Snib on the left side.

FM21 | Next Match Only

Comparison with previous matches

The main thing I was interested in even before the match was how the average positions of the team will look.

I was pleased the main aims worked well. Our players sat back patiently, our defensive line was much lower and we were able to stop all the attacking efforts of their offensive trio.

But mainly, our wide defenders were able to defend/block much more shots and crosses after their duty was changed.

FM21 | Next Match Only

Comparison of two cup matches. Left – against Linköping as favourites, right – against AIK as underdogs.

*Please ignore the bugs in this picture as there are the same teams twice and I had to select FC Linköpings City at the right side. It’s not my fault that there are some bugs for several consecutive years despite many people reported them. Btw. this picture is like a treasure, it took me only five attempts and the game restarts to make it work.

I also want to share one picture. It’s in the Team Report/Match Analysis where you can find the last 5 matches and some positives and negatives. I selected matches with Elfsborg (1-1), Helsingborgs IF (2-0) and AIK (0-0).

All these matches were against favourites and teams with a bigger reputation and better players. In all these matches I reduced the defensive line against two strikers and switched CD(St) to CD(Co).

You can see some nice positives here related to this – opposition touches to goals ratio, opposition goals from shots in the penalty area (0 goals from 29 shots inside our penalty area).

FM21 | Next Match Only

What’s the point of Next Match Only?

Despite I saved the more cautious tactic, I can use the Next Match Only in the future whenever I will want to change just one thing. The one specifically found and prepared against a specific opponent.

I know we could do the same even in the past without this feature/button but ask yourself how many times you forgot about that one thing you changed for that one match and you forgot to revert it back…

I didn’t forget now, it all reverted back to the original for the next match.

And that’s the time when it starts again.

FM21 | Next Match Only

Take care…

Click HERE if you would like to read previous posts from my save with GAIS.


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

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