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The tactical theory Playing Styles guides analyse playing styles in terms of six main component playing styles. These are:

These component playing styles can be implemented in Football Manager, either individually or in combinations, by using appropriate team instructions and player instructions.

Playing styles that can be implemented by combining the main component playing styles include:

  • Long ball football = offensive football + direct play attacking
  • Pass and move football = offensive football + short play attacking
  • Direct counter attacking football = counter attacking football + direct play attacking
  • Possession football = counter attacking football + short play attacking
  • High pressing football = offensive football + pressing defending
  • Fake pressing football = offensive football + containment defending
  • Aggressive counter attacking football = counter attacking football + pressing defending
  • Cautious counter attacking football = counter attacking football + containment defending
  • High pressure football = offensive football + direct play attacking + pressing defending
  • Fake-press counter attacking football = offensive football + direct play attacking + containment defending
  • Tiki-taka football = offensive football + short play attacking + pressing defending
  • Fake-press tiki-taka football = offensive football + short play attacking + containment defending
  • Aggressive direct counter attacking football = counter attacking football + direct play attacking + pressing defending
  • Cautious direct counter attacking football = counter attacking football + direct play attacking + containment defending
  • Aggressive possession football = counter attacking football + short play attacking + pressing defending
  • Anti-football = counter attacking football + short play attacking + containment defending

Detailed below for each of the component playing styles are:

  • Key non-replicable team instructions - the team instructions that are needed to implement the key primary and secondary methods detailed in the tactical theory. These team instructions are appropriate for use with any system fluidity, as detailed in the System Fluidity guide.
  • Optional non-replicable team instructions - the non-replicable team instructions that can be used to apply the other suitable style-defining methods detailed in the tactical theory. These team instructions are appropriate for use with any system fluidity, as detailed in the System Fluidity guide. The use of them should depend on player suitability.
  • Optional replicable team instructions - the replicable team instructions that can be used to apply the other suitable style-defining methods detailed in the tactical theory. These team instructions are appropriate for use with a more fluid system, as detailed in the System Fluidity guide. The use of them should depend on player suitability.
  • Optional non-replicable player instructions - the non-replicable player instructions that can be used to apply the other suitable style-defining methods detailed in the tactical theory. These are described in terms of the component role types detailed in the tactical theory. The related Football Manager player roles are detailed below in the Summary of Player Roles. These player instructions are appropriate for use with any system fluidity as long as appropriate specialist and generalist player roles are used, as detailed in the System Fluidity guide, and as long as playing system balance is achieved, as detailed in the Playing System Balance guides. The use of them should depend on the player suitability of each player concerned.
  • Optional replicable player instructions - the replicable player instructions that can be used to apply the other suitable style-defining methods detailed in the tactical theory. These are described in terms of the component role types detailed in the tactical theory. The related Football Manager player roles are detailed below in the Summary of Player Roles. These player instructions are appropriate for use with a more structured system as long as more specialist player roles are used, as detailed in the System Fluidity guide, and as long as playing system balance is achieved, as detailed in the Playing System Balance guides. The use of them should depend on the player suitability of each player concerned.
  • Typical tactical roles - the typical tactical roles that are used, as explained in the tactical theory, along with the related Football Manager player roles. Similar custom player roles can also be created using specific player instructions in most cases. These tactical roles are appropriate for use with any system fluidity as long as appropriate specialist and generalist player roles are used, as detailed in the System Fluidity guide, and as long as playing system balance is achieved, as detailed in the Playing System Balance guides. The use of them should depend on the player suitability of each player concerned.
  • Player suitability - player suitability as detailed in the tactical theory. The related Football Manager player attributes are detailed in the Attribute Combinations guide. When choosing a playing style it is also important to consider player suitability for the overall tactical risk level of the playing style, especially when using multiple optional team instructions or player instructions, as explained in the tactical theory.

When combining component playing styles, if the suggested optional team instructions or player instructions contrast then either option can be appropriate depending on player suitability.

1. Core Styles

1.1. Offensive Football

1.1.1. Key Non-Replicable Team Instructions

1.1.2. Optional Non-Replicable Team Instructions

  • Float Crosses, Whipped Crosses or Low Crosses - type of crosses.

1.1.3. Optional Replicable Team Instructions

1.1.4. Optional Non-Replicable Player Instructions

1.1.5. Optional Replicable Player Instructions

1.1.6. Typical Tactical Roles

  • A player who acts as a running or holding central midfield playmaker - player roles include deep-lying playmaker (defend and support), regista (support), roaming playmaker (support), advanced playmaker (MC support and attack), inverted wing back (support) and wide playmaker (support and attack).

1.1.7. Player Suitability

  • Outfield players - high relative overall player ability.
  • Midfielders - perhaps poor marking ability but at least one central midfielder with good marking ability.

1.2. Counter Attacking Football

1.2.1. Key Non-Replicable Team Instructions

1.2.2. Optional Non-Replicable Team Instructions

  • Float Crosses, Whipped Crosses or Low Crosses - type of crosses.

1.2.3. Optional Replicable Team Instructions

1.2.4. Optional Non-Replicable Player Instructions

1.2.5. Optional Replicable Player Instructions

1.2.6. Typical Tactical Roles

  • A player who acts as a running or holding (but not safe-passing) central midfield playmaker - player roles include deep-lying playmaker (defend and support), regista (support), roaming playmaker (support), advanced playmaker (MC support and attack), inverted wing back (support) and wide playmaker (support and attack).
  • A player who acts as a running or holding (and preferably ball-playing) target man attacker - ball-playing player roles include deep-lying forward (support) and complete forward (support), and other player roles include wide target man (support) and target man (support). Custom player roles can be created by using the Hold Up Ball specific player instruction and not using the Get Further Forward specific player instruction.
  • At least one offensive-running (and preferably skilled) attacker, preferably including at least one such wide attacker - skilled player roles include shadow striker (attack), winger (attack), inside forward (attack), advanced forward (attack) and complete forward (attack), ball-carrying player roles include attacking midfielder (attack), raumdeuter (attack), deep-lying forward (attack) and poacher (attack), and restricted-dribbling player roles include wide target man (attack) and target man (attack). Custom player roles can be created by using the Get Further Forward specific player instruction (and Dribble More for skilled players).

1.2.7. Player Suitability

  • Outfield players - perhaps poor relative overall player ability.
  • Outfield players - perhaps poor endeavour and closing down ability.
  • Defenders - good physical presence, aerial presence and marking ability.
  • Midfielders - good marking ability.
  • Central midfielders - at least one central midfielder with good intelligence and passing ability.

2. Attacking Styles

2.1. Direct Play Attacking

2.1.1. Key Non-Replicable Team Instructions

  • More Direct Passing or Go Route One - long passes, wide positioning and high tempo play.

2.1.2. Optional Non-Replicable Team Instructions

  • Float Crosses, Whipped Crosses or Low Crosses - type of crosses.
  • Stick To Positions - disciplined movement.

2.1.3. Optional Replicable Team Instructions

  • Run At Defence - direct dribbles.
  • Pass Into Space - risky passes.
  • Hit Early Crosses - crosses from deep.
  • Shoot On Sight - speculative shots.
  • Be More Disciplined - tactical discipline.

2.1.4. Optional Non-Replicable Player Instructions

  • Crossing players - crosses.

2.1.5. Optional Replicable Player Instructions

  • Skilled players - direct dribbles.
  • Ball-playing players - risky passes.
  • Deep-crossing players - crosses from deep.
  • Shot-taking players - speculative shots.
  • Disciplined players - tactical discipline.

2.1.6. Typical Tactical Roles

  • A player who acts as a running or holding central midfield playmaker - player roles include deep-lying playmaker (defend and support), regista (support), roaming playmaker (support), advanced playmaker (MC support and attack), inverted wing back (support) and wide playmaker (support and attack).
  • A player who acts as a (preferably ball-playing) target man attacker - ball-playing player roles include deep-lying forward (support) and complete forward (support and attack), and other player roles include wide target man (support and attack), deep-lying forward (attack) and target man (support and attack). Custom player roles can be created by using the Hold Up Ball specific player instruction (and More Risky Passes for ball-playing players).

2.1.7. Player Suitability

  • Central midfielders - at least one central midfielder with good intelligence and passing ability.
  • Attackers - at least one attacker with good control, heading ability and hold-up play, and preferably good passing ability.

2.2. Short Play Attacking

2.2.1. Key Non-Replicable Team Instructions

  • Shorter Passing - short passes, narrow positioning, low tempo play.

2.2.2. Optional Non-Replicable Team Instructions

  • Float Crosses, Whipped Crosses or Low Crosses - type of crosses.

2.2.3. Optional Replicable Team Instructions

  • Roam From Positions - roaming movement.
  • Dribble Less - refraining from dribbles.
  • Work Ball Into Box - refraining from crosses and refraining from shots.
  • Be More Expressive - creative freedom.

2.2.4. Optional Non-Replicable Player Instructions

  • Safe-passing players - safe passes.
  • Byline-crossing players - crosses from the byline.

2.2.5. Optional Replicable Player Instructions

  • Roaming players - roaming movement.
  • Restricted-dribbling players - refraining from dribbles.
  • Restricted-crossing players - refraining from crosses.
  • Restricted-shooting players - refraining from shots.
  • Playmaking players - creative freedom.

2.2.6. Typical Tactical Roles

  • A player who acts as a (preferably ball-playing) central attack playmaker - player roles include advanced playmaker (AMW and AMC, support and attack), trequartista (attack), enganche (attack), complete forward (support and attack) and false nine (support).
  • A player who acts as an offensive-running wide defender and another player who acts as a running or holding wide attacker on at least one flank, so as to form an overlapping partnership - offensive-running wide defender player roles include full back (attack), wing back (support and attack and complete wing back (support and attack). Custom player roles can be created by using the Get Further Forward specific player instruction. Running or holding wide attacker player roles include wide midfielder (defend and support), winger (support), defensive winger (defend and support), wide playmaker (support and attack), advanced playmaker (AMW support and attack), inside forward (support) and wide target man (support), along with similar wide and off-centre central midfielder and central attacker player roles if relevant (for example, in three-man central positional structures when using lone wide players).

2.2.7. Player Suitability

  • Wide defenders - at least one wide defender with good endeavour and off the ball movement.
  • Midfielders and attackers - good off the ball movement, control and passing ability.
  • Central midfielders - at least one central midfielder with good intelligence and passing ability.
  • Central attackers - at least one central attacker with good intelligence and passing ability.

3. Defensive Styles

3.1. Pressing Defending

3.1.1. Key Non-Replicable Team Instructions

  • Closing Down More or Closing Down Much More - closing down and high line.

3.1.2. Optional Non-Replicable Team Instructions

  • Use Offside Trap - stepping up.

3.1.3. Optional Replicable Team Instructions

  • Get Stuck In - tackling.

3.1.4. Optional Replicable Player Instructions

  • Hard-tackling players - tackling.

3.1.5. Player Suitability

  • Outfield players - good closing down ability.
  • Defenders - good mobility and perhaps poor physical presence, aerial presence and marking ability.
  • Central midfielders - at least one central midfielder with good marking ability.

3.2. Containment Defending

3.2.1. Key Non-Replicable Team Instructions

  • Closing Down Less or Closing Down Much Less - sitting off and deep line.

3.2.2. Optional Replicable Team Instructions

  • Stay On Feet - tackling.

3.2.3. Optional Replicable Player Instructions

  • Easy-tackling players - holding off.

3.2.4. Player Suitability

  • Outfield players - perhaps poor closing down ability.
  • Defenders - good physical presence, aerial presence and marking ability, and perhaps poor mobility.
  • Midfielders - good marking ability.

4. Summary of Player Roles

Detailed below are the Football Manager player roles that relate to the component role types referred to above, as long as the player roles are used with their default specific player instructions.

Custom player roles can also be created for most component role types by using specific player instructions as detailed below.

4.1. Roaming Players

Players given the Roam From Position specific player instruction.

4.1.1. Central Midfield

  • Regista (support)
  • Roaming playmaker (support)
  • Box to box midfielder (support)

4.1.2. The Flanks

  • Complete wing back (support and attack)
  • Inverted wing back (support)
  • Wide playmaker (support and attack)
  • Raumdeuter (attack)

4.1.3. Central Attack

  • Trequartista (attack)
  • Complete forward (support and attack)

4.2. Skilled Players

Players given the Dribble More specific player instruction.

4.2.1. Central Midfield

  • Roaming playmaker (support)
  • Advanced playmaker (attack)

4.2.2. The Flanks

  • Wing back (attack)
  • Complete wing back (support and attack)
  • Inverted wing back (support)
  • Advanced playmaker (attack)
  • Winger (support and attack)
  • Defensive winger (defend and support)
  • Wide playmaker (attack)
  • Inside forward (support and attack)

4.2.3. Central Attack

  • Advanced playmaker (attack)
  • Trequartista (attack)
  • Shadow striker (attack)
  • Advanced forward (attack)
  • Complete forward (support and attack)
  • False nine (support)

4.3. Restricted-Dribbling Players

Players given the Dribble Less specific player instruction.

4.3.1. Central Defence

  • Sweeper (defend)
  • Central defender (defend, stopper and cover)
  • Limited defender (defend, stopper and cover)

4.3.2. Central Midfield

  • Defensive midfielder (defend)
  • Ball-winning midfielder (defend)
  • Anchor man (defend)
  • Half back (defend)

4.3.3. The Flanks

  • Limited full back (defend)
  • Wide target man (support and attack)

4.3.4. Central Attack

  • Enganche (attack)
  • Target man (support and attack)

4.4. Ball-Playing Players

Players given the More Risky Passes specific player instruction.

4.4.1. Central Defence

  • Libero (support and attack)
  • Ball-playing defender (defend, stopper and cover)

4.4.2. Central Midfield

  • Advanced playmaker (support and attack)

4.4.3. The Flanks

  • Advanced playmaker (support and attack)
  • Inverted wing back (support)
  • Wide midfielder (attack)
  • Wide playmaker (attack)
  • Inside forward (support)

4.4.4. Central Attack

  • Advanced playmaker (support and attack)
  • Trequartista (attack)
  • Enganche (attack)
  • Shadow striker (attack)
  • Deep-lying forward (support)
  • Complete forward (support and attack)
  • False nine (support)

4.5. Safe-Passing Players

Players given the Fewer Risky Passes specific player instruction.

4.5.1. Central Defence

  • Central defender (defend, stopper and cover)
  • Limited defender (defend, stopper and cover)

4.5.2. Central Midfield

  • Ball-winning midfielder (defend)
  • Anchor man (defend)

4.5.3. The Flanks

  • Full back (defend)
  • Wing back (defend)
  • Limited full back (defend)
  • Wide midfielder (defend)

4.5.4. Central Attack

  • Poacher (attack)
  • Defensive forward (defend and support)

4.6. Crossing Players

Wide players given the Cross More Often specific player instruction.

4.6.1. The Flanks

  • Full back (attack)
  • Wing back (attack)
  • Complete wing back (support and attack)
  • Winger (support and attack)

4.7. Restricted-Crossing Players

Wide players given the Cross Less Often specific player instruction.

4.7.1. The Flanks

  • Limited full back (defend)
  • Inverted wing back (support)
  • Wide playmaker (support and attack)
  • Advanced playmaker (support and attack)
  • Inside forward (support and attack)
  • Raumdeuter (attack)

4.8. Deep-Crossing Players

Wide players given the Cross From Deep specific player instruction.

4.8.1. The Flanks

  • Full back (defend and support)
  • Wing back (defend)
  • Wide midfielder (defend)

4.9. Byline-Crossing Players

Wide players given the Cross From Byline specific player instruction.

4.9.1. The Flanks

  • Wing back (attack)
  • Complete wing back (support and attack)
  • Winger (attack)

4.10. Playmaking Players

4.10.1. Central Defence

  • Libero (support and attack)
  • Ball-playing defender (defender, stopper and cover)

4.10.2. Central Midfield

  • Deep-lying playmaker (defend and support)
  • Regista (support)
  • Roaming playmaker (support)
  • Advanced playmaker (support and attack)

4.10.3. The Flanks

  • Inverted wing back (support)
  • Wide playmaker (support and attack)
  • Advanced playmaker (support and attack)

4.10.4. Central Attack

  • Advanced playmaker (support and attack)
  • Trequartista (attack)
  • Enganche (attack)
  • Complete forward (support and attack)
  • False nine (support)

4.11. Disciplined Players

4.11.1. Central Defence

  • Sweeper (defend)
  • Limited defender (defend, stopper and cover)

4.11.2. Central Midfield

  • Ball winning midfielder (defend and support)

4.11.3. The Flanks

  • Limited full back (defend)
  • Central Attack
  • Poacher (attack)

4.12. Hard-Tackling Players

Players given the Tackle Harder specific player instruction.

4.12.1. Deep Central Midfield

  • Defensive midfielder (support)
  • Ball-winning midfielder (defend and support)

4.12.2. The Flanks

  • Defensive winger (defend and support)

4.12.3. Central Attack

  • Defensive forward (defend and support)

4.13. Easy-Tackling Players

Players given the Ease Off Tackles specific player instruction.

4.13.1. Central Attack

  • Trequartista (attack)
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