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Football Manager Mobile 2018 Tactics & Strategies: A Complete Guide to Player Roles and Tactics

We cannot understate the depth of Football Manager Mobile 2018, Sega’s latest entry in the popular football management series that started out on PC, but has long since been available for mobile device owners. The new version is currently out on iOS, and for the past few days, we’ve been covering the game as closely as possible, cranking out tips and tricks for beginners, and also listing the top Wonderkids in the game for those who want to start up a youth movement in hopes of making their teams better in the long run. So what’s next, and what topic shall we be covering as we continue our FMM2018 push?

For our next Football Manager Mobile 2018 strategy guide, we’ll be tackling a couple specific areas of the game that could help intermediate to advanced players make the right personnel decisions and choose the right tactics. We’re going to start off with a detailed guide to all the available player roles in the game, and just to clarify, this is not to be confused with positions; center forwards, for instance, may have a variety of roles you can choose for them, depending on their strengths and weaknesses. We’ll also be enumerating a few popular tactics, while offering you some tips on how to make the most out of them.



Goalkeeper: The most straightforward position out of all the 11 spots in your starting lineup. Obviously, the goalkeeper’s main goal, pun partially intended, is to prevent goals from entering the net. He’s also in charge of sending the ball back to an available player on his team, essentially resetting the possession after he stops a shot, and returning possession to his side if he does his job right.

Sweeper Keeper: This is a slight variant of the classic GK position, with the main difference being that a Sweeper Keeper does the work of a sweeper on top of his usual goalkeeper duties. That means he can exit his box from time to time to sweep up loose balls that may show up right in front of the penalty area, and get a counter-attack going.


Sweeper: The Sweeper can be considered the last line, and we mean absolute last line of defense on the pitch. Their job is to “sweep up” any defensive miscues, especially those from the central defenders, and that’s a job that requires good positioning before anything else. Any goal from a Sweeper should be considered a fluke, as scoring simply is not their thing.

Limited Defender: Somewhat more offensively talented than Sweepers, Limited Defenders are almost exclusively focused on defensive duties, and specialize in making sure the ball doesn’t get anywhere near the goal. Not much technical skill is needed for this central defender-centric role.

Central Defender: A “classic” Central Defender is required to help maintain possession and get the ball to the midfield, while, of course, serving as one of the last few lines of defense and not paying much attention to goal scoring.

Ball Playing Defender: These are defenders who tend to play a more involved role in the offensive flow of things — their thing is counter-attacking by intercepting the ball from an opponent and setting up a pass. They aren’t afraid to move out of the defensive zone, and compared to other defenders, their Creativity stats are considerably higher. As such, these are defenders who are fine expanding on their roles by trying to score goals. Their traditionally poor mental attributes, however, make them perfect candidates to do the opposite and score an own-goal, or make any other inexcusable mistake.

Fullback: Fullbacks can be left or right defenders, and are less attack-oriented than Wingbacks, pretty much like American football fullbacks (who block for their running backs) hardly show up on the stat sheet. Likewise, association football Fullbacks are often support players when it comes to the attack, but since they are defenders, that comes before any attack support, and they don’t stray away too far from the players they’re covering.

Wing Back: These are the more offensive-minded left or right defenders, as they tend to push the ball and serve as crossing options. A good WB needs to have above-average stamina, dribbling, crossing, and decision-making, with the latter being important as WBs can often leave their man open en route to costly defensive miscues.

Inverted Wing Back: This is sort of a new role, and while they have the same defensive responsibilities as regular Wing Backs do, the “inverted” part of their name comes from the fact that they try to drift inside to create space for teammates, instead of staying on the wide left or wide right side.


Ball Winning Midfielder: These are typically sturdier, more physical players who get their name by aggressively contesting possessions and trying to win the ball back from an opposing player; Tackling is an important stat for these players. There are times when they may find a good deal of open space and consequently go for a long shot, even if it’s hardly likely to enter the opponent’s goal.

Deep Lying Playmaker: While BWMs largely get by on brawn, Deep Lying Playmakers are the opposite, as they have a more cerebral game plan when trying to gain possession of the ball. They use their smarts to intercept the ball, and unlike BWMs, they don’t need to be good tacklers. They should, however, be good and creative passers, and accurate enough to allow their team to retain possession after it’s won back.

Defensive Winger: Defensive Wingers are used mainly to counter opposing Wing Backs. Aside from playing defense similar to how WBs do, albeit at a higher point in the pitch, they can also move forward and try to get themselves involved in the attack. Such a demanding role requires high stamina, but their unique blend of responsibilities would require them to be strong in crossing and tackling.

Defensive Midfielder: Defensive midfielders are tasked to support the defense by closing down any opposing attackers, thereby providing support to more offensive-minded midfielders while you’ve got possession.

Anchor: Anchors are positioned in the space between the defense and the midfield, and their responsibilities include intercepting the ball, winning possession, and making short passes to their more offensively-gifted teammates.

Central Midfielder: A classic Central Midfielder uses his vision and passing ability to provide a go-between for the defense and the attack. Normally, his domain is in the middle third of the pitch, and his job is, as mentioned, to help a team transition from defense to offense. It’s not a very glamorous role for a midfielder, but it’s an important one nonetheless.

Box to Box Midfielder: This basically means end-to-end, and if you consider how long a football field is, you should be aware that these guys need to have top-notch stamina. They’re always on the go as they scatter across the field, doing a little bit of everything from supporting the defense to supporting the attack. While these players are often jacks of all trades except for the high stamina part, they have arguably the hardest role to play on the field.

Wide Midfielder: These midfielders are the ones designated as ML or MR, and with the exception of their place on the pitch, they play similarly to their MC counterparts. If they find some space inside, they can drift inside, and while they can stay wide and benefit your short passing game, they can’t stretch THAT wide to allow for more creative and fancy attacking maneuvers.

Winger: Now this is where you can go far wide in the left side or the right side. As you may expect, Wingers go full blast to the goal in most occasions when they receive it, and would therefore require good speed stats. Their speed makes them ideal counter-attackers, but you should also bear in mind that they aren’t tasked to play defense as much as other midfield roles. That could mean trouble for your DL and/or DR if you’ve got Wingers on the opposing team.

Attacking Midfielder: Attacking midfielders are positioned close to your forwards, higher up than standard midfielders, and that means they’ll need to have some strong technical ability, as well as a solid mental game. They can get their names on the score sheet while playing mostly in the final third, but can mainly create opportunities for their other teammates before the opponent’s defense blocks out whatever space they have to create.

Advanced Playmaker: These guys are as glamorous as Central Midfielders and Box to Box Midfielders aren’t, as they use their creativity and passing ability to fire off clinical passes to the forwards, or score unbelievable highlight-reel-quality goals as they position themselves in the holes between the opponent’s midfield and defense. But it’s very difficult to get the most out of these players, because if they don’t have any other outlet to split the defense, that could be bad news for your team.

Shadow Striker: These are technically not strikers, but rather midfielders who move the ball forward and try to get good goalscoring position as the ball makes it to the final third. As these are also midfielders, Shadow Strikers close down opposing defenders when the ball is not in their possession.


Defensive Forward: While this position may sound like an oxymoron, it’s actually quite a helpful role, as their job is to regain ball possession high up, forcing opponents to make mistakes and help more gifted attackers score goals. They’re more comfortable pressing the opponent’s defense and creating plays, rather than scoring the goals themselves.

Poacher: The job of a Poacher is to position himself in and around the box, waiting for rebounds, crosses, and deflections, and taking advantage when they come along by scoring easy goals into the back of the net. Creativity is not a premium stat here, as they mainly make their own simple moves off the aforementioned opportunities.

Inside Forward: Inside forwards can run with the ball from the right, left, or center to support or get past the other forwards, or can also shoot if the right opportunity arises; pretty much, they’re all about finding that right amount of space to make a good shot. On the other hand, accuracy isn’t always their forte, but when they do score, it’s usually at an important time against teams with tougher defenses.

Deep Lying Forward: Deep Lying Forwards don’t do much scoring as most other forward roles do, as they just sit back when the ball is not in their position, and wait until a central attacking midfielder relays the ball to them. They merely move with the team instead of moving ahead of the team for a better scoring opportunity. You’ll want someone playing this role if you’re using a counter-attacking tactic and want to move the ball around at a faster pace.

Trequartista: One of the more unorthodox roles in the forward spot, Trequartistas excel in the areas of passing and movement, using those abilities to find space and create link-up plays between attacking midfielders and strikers. They can also be spotted in the wings if there’s enough space to go wide. Defensive attributes are obviously optional for these guys.

Advanced Forward: Advanced Forwards are your go-to-guys for the most part, your best-scoring attackers who play off the back of the opposing team’s defenders. They have good pace, and those with excellent pace could even have some one-on-one opportunities against the ‘keeper. Having that electric movement helps them stymie weaker defenders, while taking opponents out of their traditional spots and making room for other offensive options.

Complete Forward: You can’t get more complete than a complete forward, pretty much — these are your do-it-all forwards that are comfortable in most, if not all of the other roles, meaning they can shift from one role to another depending on the opponent. As such, they are jacks of all trades stats/attribute-wise, but are especially good as decision makers. Like the Box-to-Box Midfielders, Complete Forwards have the most demanding roles in their position, as it’s all about good decisions and a good mix of skills.


1. Choose A Tactic That Suits Your Strengths

Before you even go ahead and choose a tactic/formation for your team, you should take a look at your team and ask yourself whether the tactic matches your team’s strengths. You don’t want to choose a 3-4-3 if your weakest players are your strikers, and you don’t want 5-3-2 if you’ve got a porous defensive unit. The team report screen will tell you everything you need to know about your club’s strengths and weaknesses, so check each position, see how good you are in there, and choose your tactics accordingly.

2. Don’t Limit Yourself To One Tactic

So you’ve chosen a tactic based on your strengths — should you stick to it for all of the season or against every human opponent you play, in the interests of keeping things simple and giving yourself less complications? We’ll have to answer in the negative, as different teams may throw you off at first by having an edge over you in one area or another. As such, you should have at least two or three tactics to match your lineup, allowing you to switch things up in the event of a tougher or more skilled opponent. It also helps if you keep things as unpredictable as possible when playing PvP matches against human opponents!

3. You Can Also Change Tactics In The Middle Of A Match

FMM2018, as any good football management game should, allows you to bring a number of subs with you to the game. Once you bring in a sub, the player he’s replacing cannot return to the pitch, so be sure you’re absolutely sure before you substitute one player for another. Also keep in mind that your tactics may have to change, depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the sub you’re fielding.

Another reason to change tactics in the middle of the match is if your initial tactics aren’t working. Shaking things up at halftime is a good way to show up any kind of opponent (may it be human or AI), but be careful NOT to shake things up too much and too often, as that’s often a recipe for off-form players, and a case of “much ado about nothing” as your team ultimately loses the match.

How To Play The 4-4-2

The 4-4-2 is probably the most “classic” of all the available tactics, and while we’re not sure if you noticed, it happens to be a rather ubiquitous tactic in the English leagues, especially in the lower levels. This is the setup that arguably gives you the best balance of offense and defense, so if you’re not sure which tactic to start out with, then you might as well give the 4-4-2 a whirl.

However, choosing this tactic does not automatically guarantee you a greater chance of success. You still need to choose the right players for the right roles, and examine each player’s attributes to make sure you’re not asking them to do something they’re not good at. For instance, let’s take a look at the midfield — when assigning roles to the central midfielders, you should assign them to support roles, or have them play a more defensive role, since the best offense, after all, is oftentimes a good defense. One way you can go about this is by having your central midfielder play a “ball winning midfielder” role, or “advanced playmaker.” And when choosing roles to support the defense, there’s the “inverted winger” option as a good choice.

There are different individual flavors, so to say, of the 4-4-2, aside from the plain vanilla version that we normally recommend for first-timers. You can make it an offense-oriented take on the 4-4-2, or take the defensive route, but once again, it’s best to keep things as simple as possible if you’re a newcomer to FMM18.

How To Play The 3-4-3

As the 3-4-3 has four midfielders and three forwards, this is the type of formation you want to go with if you want to control possession time, and if you want a shot at scoring more goals. Like the 4-4-2, there are different ways to set up your 3-4-3 formation, regardless if you want more defense, or if you want even more offense.

Although the obvious tip here would be to make sure your forwards are offensively proficient for the best chances of running up the scoreboard, there are a few other lineup-related tips we should mention for those who prefer this tactic over others. You need to prioritize stamina and pace when selecting your left and right midfielders, as you want them to provide support for the defense; you may also want to have them play defensive wingers or wingbacks, depending on what your opponents have on the wide sides. And since you don’t want to allow as many goals (or more goals) than the ones you score, it’s important to have there skilled defenders as the final line of defense before the goalkeeper.

For further making the most out of the 3-4-3, you should remember that it’s all about ball control here, having the lion’s share of the possession time. Take advantage of your offensive strengths by ensuring that your midfielders’ and forwards’ passing stats are well above average. Remember, you need smooth passes that connect if you want to score more goals!

How To Play The 5-3-2

In a 5-3-2 formation, you’ve got five defenders at back, three midfielders, and two attackers, an arguably perfect setup for anyone who’s looking to counter-attack. It’s important that your midfielders (and everyone in general) are blessed with good fitness and work rate stats, as that allows your team to be active without losing most of their stamina when it counts the most. To prevent your opponent from scoring easy goals, the same applies in FMM18, as compared to other versions of the game — your centre backs should close down less frequently, while your fullbacks should close down more often. Up front, any role would suffice for your two forwards, just as long as they press and close down. Be sure that your defensive midfielder is especially skilled in relation to most of your team, as well as a good passer. And don’t forget to assign someone to be a ball-winning midfielder! Some have suggested that such a player doesn’t really have to be good at anything except winning possession (hence his designation as a BWM), but that doesn’t mean you should be fine with letting a scrub play this role.

How To Play The 4-2-3-1

Moving on to the more unorthodox formations, the 4-2-3-1 is an interesting formation, as it allows you to focus on the offensive side of things, while also being able to switch to a more defensive take on the tactics if you’ve got a high-powered opponent. And as you may have probably guessed, this is a tactic that favors teams whose wing players are among the most talented on the lineup. Of course, you need to have a versatile centre forward who’s capable of scoring in more ways than one — you’ve got to make the “1” in “4-2-3-1” count, after all! This could mean making your wingers support your centre forward by playing “inside forward.” Just like in the 4-4-2, having your central midfielders play more defensively or provide support to your defenders is a great way to avoid being counter-attacked by a talented offensive team.

Like we mentioned, the 4-2-3-1 works regardless if you prefer tons of goals or prefer making sure your opponent doesn’t score goals. Go try it out for yourself if you’re tired of the standard 4-4-2 or the more offensive-oriented 3-4-3; it might be worth your while.