Introducing Kenneth

Two years ago I was reading a book on Louis van Gaal’s tenure at Ajax and it inspired me to try and create a specific, quite complex, system in FM14.  It failed.  Quite spectacularly.

Last year, I decided to try and create the same system in FM15 to test the introduction of the “inverted wingback”.  It failed.  Even more spectacularly when it turned out that the “new feature” of inverted wingback didn’t actually exist – it was just a regular fullback and SI fooled you all.

So this year, being the glutton for punishment that I am, I decided to try it again.  Here goes…

To save you reading through the two articles from my previous attempts, the idea goes something like this.

See, not complicated at all.

Essentially, I want a 4-1-4-1 shape when defending and 3-3-4 when attacking.  Is that too much to ask for?  All this would be really, really simple if it wasn’t for one thing – I want two players to be in the fullback positions when we’re defending and in central midfield when we’re attacking.  This is the only bit which has, thus far, proven impossible.

There is nothing whatsoever that can be done to override FM code to get anyone playing in the DL and DR slots to come inside into central midfield when we have the ball.  It is impossible.

The rest of the tactic is fairly easy.  A focal point striker (#9 in the video) up front, not a targetman but a player who can hold it up and play others in., primarily the midfield runner from deep (#10).

Two wide players in midfield (#7 and #11) to stretch the defence and hold their position near the touchline, a controlling playmaker (#8) in the middle and a defensive midfielder (#6) who drops into the backline to let the centrebacks (#4 and #5) split wide when we have the ball.

All fine except those fullbacks-cum-midfielders (#2 and #3).

Oh and if you’re wondering where “Kenneth” comes from in the title, you can thank @Slightly Askew.


So why try it again if it’s failed so spectacularly two years in a row?  Well… mostly because I like to procrastinate endlessly and tinker unnecessarily but also because I’d hit an odd spell in my game where the defence had fallen apart, a few players were coming to the end of their contracts and it occurred to me that it might be an apt time for a complete overhaul.  An overhaul with an end game in site.

So I put up a poll on twitter, the vast majority of people agreed that they’d like to see me give it another shot and here we are.

Thus far, it’s proven to be as problematic as my last two attempts.  As FM Analysis correctly pointed out in his last article, the shape you see on the tactics screen is the shape your team will (roughly speaking) assume when you are defending.  With it proving impossible for me to get DR/DL players to move into midfield when we have the ball, the key, probably vital, problem I have is how to get my players to occupy these same spaces when I don’t have them placed here on the tactics screen.

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I’ve moved through various versions of Kenneth so far and, having given up on the DL/DR positions after version 1, am now focussing on a tenuous workaround.


Pretty early on in the experiment I gave up on the “two centrebacks and halfback dropping into defence” idea when we had the ball.  With the three deep “midfielders” sitting in front of them it was just a waste of a man and we needed more impetus going forward.  This player was then moved to become an extra midfield runner which has worked well.

I do, however, continue to use the 3 central DMs – the idea being that the wider DMs are the “replacement fullbacks”.  The anchorman role is about right for what I want them to do when we have the ball and doesn’t let them get too advanced so they can get back into position when we lose it.

In addition to this, and this is the key bit, they are asked to specifically man-mark the opposition wide player on that side so that, hopefully, they drop back into the orthodox fullback area when we’re defending.  Does it work?  Sort of.


Here the anchormen and the opposition player they are supposed to be marking are ringed in red.  There’s a very obvious issue there – they are not goalside of their men.  This is entirely the wrong position to be in and incredibly dangerous.  It’s basic schoolboy stuff and, were I not trying something so unorthodox which the AI couldn’t be expected to anticipate, then I’d blame the man-marking coding – which I already dislike, if I’m honest.

And this wasn’t an isolated incident.  These are all of Admira Wacker Mödling’s chances in a 3-1 win over them a few games ago:

The problems always come in wide areas, primarily with opposition players goalside of the anchorman on that side being chronically out of position.

With such obvious problems in defensive positioning, my next idea is to use one of the best defensive tactics – possession.  If we’ve got the ball then they can’t score, simple.  The three DMs is a really powerful tool in this as they provide a solid base for recycling possession if a player in advanced areas gets into trouble and are often in good positions to intercept opposition clearances when we’re camped in their half.

By reducing the tempo, shortening the passing range, using the “work ball into box” shout and having fairly conservative roles like the anchormen in deep positions we’ve been pretty successful in retaining a lot of the ball and I’m pretty pleased with our shape in attack.

on the ball

This is exactly where I want the anchormen to be when we have the ball.  The player in possession, Petsos, is our Regista – the controlling playmaker.  He has the passing range to cause the opposition problems with our five offensive players ahead of him.  The anchormen are offering the “out ball” – an easy, safe pass to retain possession if he gets in trouble.  Simple.

And offensively we’re doing fine.  Yes there are always improvements to be made but early signs are positive and I think this side of the tactic will work out just fine.  The stats from that Admira game bear it out.

admira stats

And so we return to the crux of the issue.  Defending.  And it’s here where I’d like to open it up to you.

Do you have any ideas how to get the “false fullback” / anchorman role working?  Different roles?  Completely different position?  Personal instructions?  Anything, literally any suggestion is welcome.

If you want to play about with the tactic yourself to find a solution then please do –  you can download it here.

I’ve also added two polls to the bottom of this post.  Knowing what you do about the tactic just from the above, I’m interested to know what mentality and team shape people think I should be using.  If you could vote for your preferred option I’d be obliged, if you wanted to leave a comment explaining your choice then I’d really appreciate it.

In fact, any comments will be gratefully received.  I’m determined to get this to work and I’m concerned that it’s simply going to prove impossible.



Author: Shrewnaldo

Addicted to Football Manager, addicted to football, probably addicted to Irn Bru

9 thoughts on “Introducing Kenneth”

  1. Hi mate, great writeup as usual. Just a thought, why not move the wide midfielders down to the WB or FB roles and set them as complete wingbacks on attack? That way they will move way up the pitch when in possession, but have some chance of marking the opposition wide men (in the current ME) in a goal side fashion. The anchormen could then effectively double mark by using the man marking you already have or take care of an opposition full back. Given you are playing slow tempo and short passing, this should give the complete wing backs the time they need to get up the field in possession.


    1. Hi and thanks for the comment.

      It is something which I’ve considered previously but I’ve tried not to go down that route so far because I think it will detract a little from what I’m trying to achieve. Primary reason for this is it will leave me with only one player on each flank when defending and my hope with the 4-1-4-1 defensive shape is to have two. I hadn’t considered still using the specific man-marking instructions to double up so I’ll have a think about that.

      Failing that I could always just leave the 3 DMs central and rely on the numbers in the middle to deal with any crosses, similar to what I had in my Toulouse save on FM12.

      Something to think about, thanks.


  2. Hi Shrew
    Longtime player if FM, first time commenter. In Fm2014 I had a system that utilised a sweeper/libero, 2 centre backs, a half back and a regista. The sweeper and half back combo seemed to force the centre backs very wide so that on a positional map, they looked like fullbacks. Could solve your problem here but different ME so could also be useless…It may not give you the shape you want in attack but could stop you needing fullbacks. Something to think experiment with.
    Glad to see you back writing, keep it going


    1. Hi Tete, thanks for the comment – honoured to have drawn you out of lurking 🙂

      I hadn’t thought of that. Kind of like a diamond in defence:


      Like that? I’d be worried that I’m wasting a player in defence and that the back 3 wouldn’t be wide enough when we’re defending. The halfback should sit in front of the defence when we don’t have the ball so it’d just be 3 with 1 in front, right? I’ll have an experiment in the close season and see what happens. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Intrigued by this. How has it worked vs teams using 442 diamond and width comes from overlapping FBs or WBs?
    Seems that the DMs at the A position need to be pretty pacey and very positionally aware.
    I’ve been employing @FMAnalysis Twente tactic. To great effect. Unfortunately IWBs when caught up the field in leave the HBs somewhat confused if opposing teams use attacking CWBs in that 442 diamond system.


    1. Hi Vico,

      Thanks for the comment.

      I’ve only had two games against narrow teams – one friendly where they played narrow 4-2-3-1 and I dominated completely. The other was a flat 4-3-3 against Dukla Praha in the league. I really didn’t fancy leaving my back 2 against 3 out-and-out strikers so I folded and dropped one of the DMs into the DC line. Comfortably won 3-1 in the end but I got the wide midfielders to man mark the opposition wingbacks. That worked out pretty well.


  4. I believe I have been able to replicate what you’re trying to accomplish (after countless hours of effort) to a reasonable degree (albeit, I am still playing FM14, so the man-marking might work slightly differently).

    My setup is as follows:

    W(A) CM(S) CM(D) CM(S) W(A)
    CD(D) CD(D)

    When attacking, the half-back drops back and you get the 3-4-3 diamond.

    Now, there are quite a few man-marking instructions:
    – CM(S) (on either side) are set to man-mark the opposition’s wingers/wide midfielders.
    – The CM(D) and the AP(A) both mark one of the opposition’s central midfielders, forcing these two players to be positioned inline with each other (as seen in the 4-1-4-1 shape).
    – The W(A) (on either side) man-mark the opposition’s fullbacks (this isn’t necessarily necessary, but I like how it works).

    Try it out!


    1. Thanks. I’m surprised the CMs are able to man-mark the wide men effectively. I tried this with the DMs and their marking was just abysmal, too often letting their man get goalside and leaving huge gaps between them and the centre halves. I’ve kind of moved on now after giving up but will give it a shot in a friendly or something. Thanks.


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