Your formation is fundamental to your tactical system as it sets the starting positions on the pitch for each of your players and gives you a basic framework around which to form your tactical system using team and player instructions. These instructions will refine the positioning of your players, as well as determining their movement and behaviour. However, your players will still base their positioning on the structure of your chosen formation.
As such, the selection of your formation and your other tactical instructions are heavily interlinked, and certain formations may or may not be suitable for certain tactical styles.
Advice on how to create a balanced formation that suits your desired tactical style, and therefore your players, is given in the Structuring Your Team guide. However, you may find that you need to adapt your formation as you develop your tactic.
1. How to Set a Formation
At the top left of the Tactics Overview screen you can select a preset formation for a new tactic from the Create New Tactic drop-down. You can also change the formation of one of your already created tactics in a similar way from the Tactic drop-down.
Alternatively, you can simply drag and drop the player kits on the formation diagram as desired to create your own formation. You will notice that the name of your tactic changes as you do this to give an accurate description of your new formation.
You can then assign a player to each position in your formation using the Pick Player drop-downs or by dragging and dropping players from the list.
The coloured star next to each kit on the formation diagram shows you the selected player’s familiarity in that position, with red indicating ineffectual. The coloured circle indicates the player's supposed ability in that position, which is based on his ability star rating and his position familiarity.
Once you have set a formation it will start to be learned by your players during match training when you continue the game, along with some of the team instructions settings used in your tactic. You can set up to three formations to be learned in this way using your three available tactics slots, and it is advisable to set at least two. This will give you some flexibility in the formations you can choose, which could be useful against different opposition teams or when certain players are unavailable.
If you have created more than one tactic then you will need to select the appropriate tactic first before making changes to its formation or other tactical settings.
2. Choosing a Formation to Suit Your Players
Generally, the best approach when selecting a formation at a club you have just joined is to choose one that suits the players you have available.
As discussed in the Assessing Your Team guide, you can start by identifying your best players and then positioning them where they are comfortable.
For example, if you have a number of good central midfielders, but few or no good wide attackers, then a narrow formation such as a 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow or a 4-3-1-2 Narrow might be appropriate.
On the other hand, if you have good wide attackers who can play in the wide forward positions then you might choose a 4-3-3 Wide or a 4-2-3-1 Wide in order to make use of them. The DM variants of these formations could be used if you have central midfielders who prefer playing in defensive midfield.
As well as considering the players that might fit into your first choice eleven, you will need to make sure you have enough players to provide backup in each position. However, in time you will be able to sign new players, both first choice and backup, and build a squad to suit your chosen formation or formations.
3. Adapting Your Squad to a Desired Formation
An alternative approach to that discussed above is to mould your team to fit a formation and style that you want them to play. This can be achieved by signing players to suit and also by training players in positions that they are not quite fully familiar with. Bear in mind though that making large scale changes in personnel may be difficult, particularly on a tight budget, and the new team will require plenty of time to blend together. Instead, a more gradual rebuilding of the squad may be preferable, while you use a different tactic in the short term to get the most out of the players you have.