Why is 4411 the Best Formation on Football Manager? | FM21


Posted on December 6, 2020 | ⌚ 4 min read



It has been said that the 4411 is the poor man's 4231.

I couldn't disagree more.

Since the formation on the tactics creator is the defensive shape, the 4411 as shown in the tactics creator on FM is in fact THE 4231. In my opinion, the 4411 is one of the most used formations in real life football, but one that is criminally underused in Football Manager.

In the 4231, the wide attackers are positioned against the opposing wide defenders. This brings an advantage of keeping the wide forwards a moment away from pressuring the wide defenders should they receive the ball.

However, a moment of technical brilliance from the opposing wide defender (a dribble or a pass) could expose a gaping hole behind the wide attacker. A fullback would have to step and cover this space, but then, the team is already at a disadvantage.

These issues are demonstrated below, where Szoboszlai is already exploiting the massive space behind Sarr. The white RM is also enjoying the space behind Kent.

Therefore, I see that the 4231 is the ultra aggressive variant of the 4411, used by hardworking, pacey and skillful teams that properly execute and maintain a high press.

The 4411 avoids these issues, although it have its own shortcomings just like any other formation. However, these shortcomings are, to me, more acceptable and easily remedied than the issues caused by top-heavy formations.

Strengths and Weaknesses of a 4411

The many advantages of the 4411 include:

  1. Simple and Neutral

    The 4411is quite similar to the 4-4-2 and is similarly easy to learn and implement. Also, the neutral positioning of the players in a 4411 means it is neither ultra attacking nor ultra defensive, providing a solid base to exert control over the proceedings.

  2. Balanced

    The 4411 is a perfectly balanced formation that does not place a lot on particular players. It requires the entire team to be involved, and divides the responsibilities between pairings all across the field.

  3. Protects the Flanks

    Unlike most top-heavy and narrow formations, the 4411 actually provides a good base to protect the flanks, having two players manning each side.

  4. Solid in the Center

    Although you can be outnumbered in the midfield, especially if the AMC is a Trequartista, the 4411 can lock down the center if done right. Actually, most defensively solid teams in real life defend in a 4411 or a 4-4-2 shape.

On the downside, a 4411 can leave you exposed at the back if the fullbacks are too adventurous. Moreover, if you don't setup the player roles in the middle properly, you can get overrun in the middle.

The central midfielders should be hardworking above all. The Ball-Winning profile of players work well here, coupled with a more rounded midfielder I'd love to have a sort of a perfect Kante-Henderson pairing in the center to destroy opposing attacks and help transition the ball to our attackers.

Forwards also have to be in top form. Besides the late runs by the wide players, the central striker and his creative partner are your consistent threat, and they need to be in top form most of the time.

4411 - My Best Tactic for Football Manager 2021

I have recently written about how I reached to my favoured 4411 formation and playstyle on Football Manager. I had a lot of success in the beta. However after the full release, I restarted my Brentford, applying the same ideas and philosophies, to massive success.

We ran away with the league, scoring second most and conceding least. We had a great EFL Cup run, losing to Man Utd in the quarter finals on penalties, after knocking out Man-City in the previous round.

Individually, we had some massive success:

We are currently doing well in the Premier League:

The Tactic

I have tweaked a bit from the baseline I have used in my playstyle post. Nothing drastic, but allows the team to be more solid and offer a bit more threat.

Player Roles

  1. Goalkeeper: SK-D. Since we defend high, I expect the GK to sweep up the through balls played behind our defense.

  2. Central Defenders: CD-D & BPD-D. A quite standard pairing, allowing one to be BPD for a bit of creativity from our defense. Key attributes to look for are pace, acceleration and the mental attributes, especially anticipation, concentration and positioning. In my setup, I look for pacey defenders that could cover a massive space behind them.

  3. Right flank: FB-S & WM-A. For reasons stated above, I opted for a more conservative pairing on the right, a fullback coupled with a hardworking wide midfielder. I expect the WM to offer a bit of everything, while the FB offering protection, going forward when needed, without compromising his defensive duties.

  4. Left flank: WB-S & IW-A. On the other hand, the left flank should be more aggressive, with regular overlap from the wing-back. The inverted winger should have the inside forward profile, with high dribbling ability, to wreck havoc to defenses. The space vacated by the IW should be naturally exploited by the WB-S without the need for any additional instructions.

  5. Central Midfield: DLP-D & CM-S. I look to have two workhorses in the center. Ideally, the deep midfielder should be creative, and his partner should be of the box-to-box type, able to perform all sort of roles in the midfield.

  6. Forwards: AM-S & TM-A. This was the hardest part to get right. I prefer target men to all sorts of players. I believe that a striker playing alone upfront should be strong enough to hold the ball for the rest of the team. However, I look for a Complete Forward profile for that role, offering pace and dribbling ability beside his heading and physical ability. The player in the hole, on the other hand, should balance his "knitting" role with helping out the midfield to avoid being out numbered.

I am quite satisfied with our play, as we offer a lot of variety as we go forward. Our defensive play is impressive.

However, this isn't a plug and play super tactic. We struggle against 1 AM + 2 ST formations, and teams that play deep and attack with direct passes. Changes are required to counter such systems. I personally drop the CMs to DMs, and micro-manage our pressing and defensive lines. How you counter specific threats is up to you as a manager ;)

Finally, I leave you with a couple of goals scored by this setup.

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