My FM17 Tactic


If you’re here to read about RBLeipzig’s real life tactics, or any proper attempt at recreating the way they’re playing on FM, you’re in the wrong place. There’s plenty of brilliant articles out there analysing what Naby, Werner, Forsberg, Sabitzer and Poulsen are doing offensively and defensively to ensure that they’re probably the most exciting team in world football right now. I’d definitely suggest you have a Google search and read some of them, as any similarity between my FM tactic and the way RBL are playing in the non-FM world is purely accidental.

The match

If you’ve followed the rest of my RBL updates so far, I thought it’d be quite fitting to go through the ins and outs of my tactic in a match that we drew. I’m so over drawing matches of football. It’s the worst.

Anyway, Leverkusen visited the Red Bull Arena in 7th place, one spot above us in the league. A win would have been ideal, seeing us jump them and continuing the challenge for European football again next season. However…


It wasn’t to be. Neither team could make the breakthrough. Yes, I’m giving you a rundown of my tactic in a 0-0 draw. Stick with me, alright?

Match stats


As you can see from the match stats, I wouldn’t say it was a boring 0-0 by any stretch. Our 3 clear cut chances and 4 half chances meant that probably on the balance of play, we deserved to win. I’ll go into some of those later on. Restricting Leverkusen to 7 of their 13 shots on goal being from long range is pleasing to see. It wasn’t the result I wanted, but if you’d offered me a draw in a match against Leverkusen at the start of this save, I’d have taken it. Especially when playing a team with an average age of 22.


So here’s the formation I’ve set out with RBL. It’s what we played with last season, and what we’ve been going with so far this season too. You’ll also see the roles set out too.

Defensively, the thing to call out is that I’ve set up super-cautiously to begin with in the save. Both central defenders are set to cover, and neither full back is expected to get up and support the attack. I’m well aware that this will stunt us at times going forward, but as Alex Stewart continues to point out ‘a clean sheet is worth just over two goals scored in terms of points across the course of a season’. We had the 3rd best defence in the Bundesliga last season, 3 positions better than our final position of 6th. This season, we’re exactly the same. We’ve got the 3rd best defence in the league in terms of goals conceded.

We’ve also got a defensive midfielder sheltering the back 4, alongside the Naby/roaming playmaker role. He’s the engine. He’s dictates the tempo. He wins tackles. He drives forward. He’s here, he’s there, he’s every f’ckn where. We’re far worse off as a team when he’s not playing.

Out wide, on the right we have a wide midfielder on support, and on the left, coming inside, a wide playmaker on attack. The wide midfielder is there to provide width, and also support in defensive duties (remember how cautious I am), while the wide playmaker is our third layer of attack. Drifting inside and forward from his starting position on the left, linking up with Naby, and our forwards.

My first choice targetmen, either Yussef Poulsen or Davie Selke, were both injured for the Leverkusen match, so Werner pushed upfront from his regular slot as our shadow striker, and Forsberg moved from wide playmaker to shadow striker. The premise for scoring goals is simple. Fire the ball at the targetman, he plays in the oncoming shadow striker. Of course, it doesn’t always work out like that.

Team instructions


The eagle-eyed among you will spot that, in what seems like a controversial choice when you look at some of the tactics going around in the community, my base starting tactic does not have any changes to the default team instructions set.

I do have go-to changes during a match depending on the situation. We generally give up the majority of possession to our opposition, so if I want to try and keep the ball a bit more, I’ll go to shorter passing, generally coupled with dropping the tempo. I’ve found as well that going narrower in terms of our width works quite well too, keeping us compact and difficult to break down. I’ll only ever change down to counter or defensive when it comes to the mentality. I find these work well when we want to slow things down, get a hold of a match, or shut things down for our opposition.

Individual player instructions

My previous default player instruction was telling my keeper to pass it out short to my full backs, instead of aimlessly lumping the ball long. However, with a targetman in the side, who’s generally big, strong and good in the air, my keeper can lump it long until he’s blue in the face.

Other than not telling my keeper to pass it short, similarly to our team instructions, I don’t have any individual instructions set out for our players to start off with. That’s not to say that I don’t have a few ones I might set during a match. The wide midfielder role is one of my favourites so far on the game, it’s so editable. It’s my dream to get Oli Burke to stop cutting inside from the right, because then he’d be my ideal player for the role. During a match, I’ll usually instruct them to run wide with the ball, hit the byline, put more crosses in and discourage them from shooting.

I’ll also try and inject some creativity and urgency into Naby’s game too, by instructing him to play direct passes and try and be a bit riskier.


We started the match well, and had our first chance on the board after just 3 minutes.


We’ve picked up a second ball from one of Vanja’s kick outs. Mihalcea in the wide playmaker role has drifted inside, Naby moves forward and we’ve got that central attacking diamond almost in the middle of the pitch. Sabitzer has Leverkusen’s left side pulled out wide leaving a fair bit of space in between young Henrichs at LB and Toprak in CB. Naby, Forsberg and Werner exchange passes before Naby spots the run of Sabitzer.


Ideally, in my opinion, Sabizter will take an extra touch here, hit the byline and fire a dangerous ball across the box for the incoming Werner or Forsberg. Although Leverkusen do get men back to defend which perhaps puts him off. When the shot is saved by Leno, they have 8 players back in their own box defending. It’d have to be a beauty to beat Leno from there.

Our first clear cut chance comes after 34 minutes, and it falls to Timo, playing as the targetman today.


Mihalcea loses the ball as he’s crowded out by 3 Leverkusen players while attempting to move inside. The loose ball falls to Halstenberg at left back, who looks for Naby to kickstart the move. When he receives the ball, he really only has a few options.


Forsberg, our shadow striker, has advanced and has formed an almost front two with Werner up top. Naby could keep the ball, and play a short pass inside to no.36, Janelt, however that’s not how we’re playing. Let’s go for goal. The move looks simple and incisive in the linked events screenshot above. Naby dribbles forward, and completely takes 44 and 20 out of the game, and finds Forsberg, who’s spotted the lovely run of Werner and plays a first time through ball to him.

Werner’s 15 for off the ball is the same as our usual targetman, Poulsen, but his superior composure and finishing means he’s a bit more of a danger in front of goal when leading the line. He’s adept at using either foot, however I think his right is his preferred one. If this chance fell to his right, I think it would have been a goal. Another good save from Leno though.


FMPressure gave a great run down of how he used the targetman role on FM16, and there’s a few similarities to how I’m using it here. He’s not relied on as our main goalscoring outlet, that’s usually Werner playing in the shadow striker role. He’s there to win the ball, flick it on, lay it off and be a general nuisance really.

Naby aside, Werner received the most passes against Leverkusen with 70, and also made the most key passes in the match, with 5. No surprise.


Leverkusen are dangerous. Make no mistake about it. They set up in a 4-4-2 formation here, with Chicharito and Volland leading the line. Let this be said, I love Chicha, but he’s bloody scored against me on every meeting against Leverkusen so far. At times, I feel like I give opposition players too much respect and try to combat them with all the instructions. This time, I trusted my system and left it. The result?


I think he was lucky not to be hauled off. We restricted him to no shots on goal, dominated him in the air (he’s got 17 for heading, but only 10 for jumping reach) but his 1 key pass did result in a half chance for away side.


Kampl nicks the ball off Naby and finds Chicha, who looks up and spots Volland’s run. He turns Orban inside out and misses a glorious chance. I’m not sure how the game classifies the chances, but this looks more like a clear cut one than a half one to me. Great save from Vanja between the sticks though.

One final piece of play I wanted to show you is how I set up to defend corners, and it very much involves our targetman. I’m quite vocal on wanting a bit more freedom when it comes to set pieces on the game, I’m becoming pretty infuriated watching tame free kicks get lofted over the bar, or corners not beating the first man. I had tried to inject something a bit different to my attacking corners by playing it short, but it mostly still results in the player coming short firing a cross in.

Anyway, defensively, I really enjoy our set up on corners and I love it when it works out.


It works even better when Poulsen is playing, but the targetman wins the header at the front post, our shadow striker is lurking on the edge for the loose ball, and when he receives it, he releases either of our wide men who are set to stay forward. From defence to attack, simple. I love it.


I would eventually like to make a few changes to the base tactic. First up has got to be ensuring one of my full backs contributes a bit more in an attacking sense. Ideal candidate is the left back, advancing into the space vacated by our wide playmaker on the left.

I want more from the Naby role. Yes he’s our metronome, he’s probably more often than not, assisting the assister, but if anyone has any suggestions on how I can solve a problem like Naby, it’d be very much appreciated.

Hopefully you enjoyed this, thanks for reading! I haven’t included a download link because I reckon this is far from perfect, but if you do fancy trying it out, just let me know either in the comments or give me a Tweet.

9 thoughts on “My FM17 Tactic

  1. I like your thinking, and funnily enough was considering something similar myself. How do the CD(c)s play, are they a lot deeper than a CD(d) would be?

    My only suggestion would be to switch your left back to a WB(s) to encourage him to provide more attacking width.

  2. Hi Chris, really enjoyed this post it’s really interesting because I am trying to get the most out of Andy Carroll in my West Ham save.

    I have Big Andy as the Target Man with Payet as the Shadow Striker behind him but it’s not working for me. I have a slightly different setup with Lanzini as an advanced playmaker on the left and a winger on the right with a central midfielder on defend duty and a deep lying playmaker next to him. I have normal full backs with support duty on both sides and normal central defenders with no team instructions and there is just no link up play whatsoever between any of the midfielders and two forwards and seems very bitty.

    Any ideas on what I should be looking for to improve the tactic?

    thanks, Matt

    1. What’s Payet’s off the ball attribute? Timo’s is 15, I imagine Payet’s is quite good, but I think it certainly helps in terms of the shadow striker’s movement. Got to admit that a few times I’ve changed things to your approach, moving the LM to AML and an advanced playmaker, and the MR to AMR winger, and it just hasn’t worked either. Is your deep lying playmaker on support? Even if he is, what’s his movement like? Is he getting forward enough to provide support and an outlet/creation? This season, I’ve switched things up over on the left hand side, and have my left back as a wing back on support, trying to move into the space vacated by the ML. It’s working quite well so far.

      Thanks for the comment! Let me know what you reckon and how it goes.


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