To continue our guide to Opposition Instructions in Football Manager, the time has now come to look at specific types of player roles and positions advantageous to considering applying opposition instructions for. I’ll delve deeper into the matter by looking at which opposition instructions works against certain types of players and how you shall go about dealing with specific players and/or positions.
Frankly, you’ll get a better insight into using Opposition instructions in Football Manager as I share my strategies when facing specific player roles, positions or types of player.
Hopefully, you’ll get a deeper knowledge of how to counter specific player types by understanding which Football Manager opposition instructions to apply when.
Table Of Content
- 1. Why Using Opposition Instructions can be beneficial?
- 2. Opposition Instructions in Football Manager
- 3. How to deal with players and roles using OI’s in Football Manager?
- 3.1 Creative Playmakers / Midfielders
- 3.2 Deep-Lying Forwards & Target Forward who drops deep
- 3.2.1 ST / AMC Partnerships
- 3.2.2 Lone-Striker Systems
- 3.3 Forward Aerial Threats
- 3.4 Great Crossers
- 3.5 Quick Agile Dribblers
- 4.0 Taking Advantage of Specific Weaknesses
- 4.1 Building Out from the back
- 4.2 Injured Players
- 5.0 Passion4FM FM22 Position Opposition Instruction Template
What to do against creative midfielders (e.g playmakers)?
A creative playmaker* will thrive when he’s able to move freely between the lines and pick out passes and/or shots as he wishes. I’m of course talking about the players with sublime Technique, Passing, Vision, Composure and Flair. These press-resistant players, who controls the tempo of the game and is the heart of the team’s playing identity in possession of the ball. These magnificent players who can carve out beautiful through balls and smart forward passes at a wink of an eye, can be a thorn to deal with.
Stopping or hindering their influence on the game can be difficult, especially if they also possess physical power, Work Rate and Aggression – like most modern complete-midfielders have. Just think of Leon Goretzka and his sets of skills.
A player with sublime technical abilities, great understanding and awareness of the situation can quickly avoid being caught in possession. If their got world-class Decision-making and Anticipation, it might seem impossible to stop their passing game. Even though, there are ways to reduce their effectiveness.
One solution to limit their impact on the game is to use a specific man-marking or tight marking system. By sticking close to the player, you can reduce the time he got to do some purposeful with the ball. By staying particular close to the creative midfielder you’ll be able to make it more difficult to play passes wherever he wants. He might favour to play the ball to the wingback who darts forward, or the attacking midfielder in front of him but by denying space and time to pick out these passes by blocking his vision and the most obvious passing options in front of him, will benefit you.
Because, what will happen when the player has someone breathing down his neck?
He will most likely receive the ball with his back towards the goal, or must turn and lay off passes to players positioned in a line below him making him unable to advance play into final third in the manner he wants. But tight marking alone won’t hinder him from eventually threading through balls between the channels or finding teammates.
By using show the ball onto his weaker foot and tackle him harder you can further reduce his effectiveness.
By trying to avoid the player to get the ball, or frustrate him when he receives it, you can limit the attacking effectiveness of the opposition team. In this regard, tackling hard and showing the ball onto his weaker foot could be the best strategy to force the player to make a rushed decision.
Using show onto foot in this case looks to deny him the most obvious passing options. The aim must be to deny him the chance to pass to players in goalscoring positions, right? Perhaps your analysis has revealed that there are two players in the opposition team with frequent pass combinations that helps to progress the ball into the final third, or into dangerous chance-creation positions.
TIP! By clicking the individual player on the pass map, you’ll receive deeper knowledge of the frequency of their passes to other players within the system.
Denying these passing options and forcing him to play more inaccurate passes can be done by showing the ball onto his weaker foot – and away from dangerous attacking threats. Forcing him to pick out passes to teammates in less dangerous position (e.g. force passes outside or backwards) ensures that players with less technical skills and creativity has to do the job instead.
The weaknesses of creative midfielders?
What’s often the case, is that these players often lack the Strength and physical power to stamp their mark on their game. Some might even lack Balance and Work Rate meaning they will be fragile for hard tackles as they are rather stationary or got poor Bravery and doesn’t enjoy a physical game. This might work to your advantage, as it will be easier to take them out of the game by bringing the game into a physical battle.
What’s often the case with creative midfielders? They are tiny and slender right?! They will most likely shy away from physical battles due to their physic and instead rely on their improved quick-thinking to come out on top.
By trying to affect their morale by going in strong on him, you can limit the strengths he impose on the game.
What about triggering press?
Their Anticipation, Decisions, Teamwork and Vision alongside their technical abilities to execute passes (Passing, First Touch and Technique) can beat any aggressive press. This is why I’m rather cautious with asking players to Trigger Press Always on creative players. Frankly, it depends whether I got sufficient cover in my system to trigger press on them, in addition to the individual capabilities to recover into a defensive positioning if press is bypassed.
Then it depends on his position in the central midfield and the roles of his midfield partner.
Still, applying a pressing trigger on these so-called creative midfielders can be beneficial, since it reduces the time the player has to execute a pass, shot or a cross. If you’re facing a 4-3-3 with two creative central midfielders (think Xavi and Andres Iniesta), one solution is to trigger press on the player with least Composure and First Touch and tight mark the one with best vision, dribbling and Passing.
How to deal with Deep-Lying Forwards & Target Forwards?
The ideal Deep-Lying forwards and Target Forwards are players who possess great Strength, Heading, First Touch and Off the ball. Their natural behaviour is to drop deeper by coming off the front line and move into pocket of spaces between the lines of the opposition’s defensive and midfield lines. They like to hold up the ball, lay off passes with quick-flicks and spray passes to teammates wide of him, or behind him.
These players often got great Balance, First Touch and Strength to shield the ball and keep possession regardless of pressure. Their Teamwork and Work Rate makes them a valuable asset in the attacking build-up as they try to bring players out of position which the team then can attack in.
To combat the DLF or TF, you need to consider the roles around him and whether they play with a striker partnership or lone-forward system. Then you need to consider whether they will look to play through the centre or utilize the flanks by getting in crosses.
TIP! A quick way is to check the level of Heading for the forward(s) and the Crossing and preferred foot of the wide players.
Sometimes, you don’t necessarily need to address the specific player but limit the amount of quality passes he receives, where and when he receives them.
By taking into account the DLF/TF’s Off the Ball, Aerial Abilities and quickness you can decide on the best actions to take.
As these players tends to play with their back to goal, one way to hinder their effectiveness on the game is to force the ball onto his weaker foot, especially if he’s a lone striker. By reducing his style of play into a predictable player who lays off passes to certain players on the outside of the centre channel it could bring a higher chance to intercept the ball path by your central defender or fullbacks.
To Tight Marking or Not?
Instructing your players to tight mark the DLF or TF depends on the opposition team’s system and use of player roles. In fact, it all depends whether he got support in or around him either by an attacking midfielder in close proximity to him, or featuring in a striker partnership.
ST / AMC Partnerships
Tight marking or triggering press on the DLF or Target Forward can be especially hurtful to your defensive structure if the opposition team uses an attacking midfielder (SS or attacking AMC) behind him. This combination is often used in 4-4-1-1, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-2-1 and 3-4-2-1 systems where movements and runs comes from behind.
In situation like this, the DLF or TF will simply drag the defender out of position and create a devastating hole in your system the AMC can run into when he drops deep. In fact, he doesn’t even need to drop deep to create holes in your defensive line. He could simply possess excellent mobility: Off the ball Movement and Work Rate!
To deal with this, I recommend to;
Solution: Tight Mark Never and Not Set any Trigger Press instructions
The situation is somehow different when you face a lone-striker or single centre-forward with no support from the attacking midfield area. It could be a 4-3-3 / 4-1-4-1 formation that relies on intricate passing patterns and creating numerical overloads (most often down the flanks).
Tight marking the lone-forward can be effective to increase your chances of blocking the shots he takes or force him to lay the ball off so he won’t have a chance to turn and dribble with it.
He will need to work harder to get the necessary space required to receive the ball but don’t forget the fact that they often master the art of playing in small pockets of space. It’s best if they receive as few passes as possible or make them highly predictable in possession of the ball.
My strategy when facing a lone-striker is to instruct my players to Tight Mark him. Then, you can reduce the accuracy of his passes and shots by Show Onto Weaker Foot.
You can also use Tackling Hard to avoid him getting a chance to spot ideal passing options and opportunities for a shot on goal but since his positioning is closer to the goal, any fouls made can result in a potential goal-scoring opportunity as the chances of free-kicks in dangerous positions or penalties increases. Without considering the risk, ‘Tackling Hard’ on its own can be effective.
Tackling Hard on a Forward who does not possess the Composure, First Touch or Balance to get control of the ball, or he lacks the Agility, Acceleration, Dribbling and Technique to effectively use his weaker foot is can be especially useful.
Coupled with showing the ball onto the outside of centre, tackling hard can force the player into an area of the pitch where it better enables you to win possession one to three moves ahead. The player might try to avoid tackles and loosing possession by running with the ball even deeper onto the pitch giving your players better circumstances to get stuck in.
How to deal with the Aerial Abilities of a Forward
On the contrary, a DLF or TF is often better in the air than attacking the area behind your defensive line by quick bursts of sprints and great movements. If your analysis further depicts an opposition team that will rely on wing play to attack you, you need to find a way to reduce their effectiveness in aerial situations.
Personally, I tend to consider the wide players best role, preferred foot relating to their position and their abilities in Crossing, Dribbling, Agility and Acceleration and Pace, as well as the Forwards abilities in Heading, Jumping Reach, Strength and Height before deciding on my approach.
Since you might expect the opposition team will attack you by getting the ball into the flanks and deliver crosses into the box, my strategy in these situations is to force the opponent to play in a different way than they had planned for!
My aim is to force them to play through the centre by targeting the players around the foward by applying necessary opposition instructions on the wingers and fullbacks to limit the forwards abilities to do what he’s best at; to dominate in the air. Learn more about my strategy in the section about how to deal with great crossers.
Even though you need to take into account the comparable attributes of your defenders Heading, Jumping Reach, Strength, Man Marking and Height, it may be advantagous to ‘Tight Mark Always‘ in these situations.
While you try to challenge the player with physic and one-on-one battles the whole idea with tight marking the player is to make it more difficult for him to jump into the air and head the ball uncongested. With a player marking him, the accuracy of his headers will hopefully reduces.
To decrease the number of crosses into the box, it’s essential to consider the OI’s you select for the players around the forward. Let’s look at how you could deal with great crossers.
How to deal with great crossers?
Regardless of the opposition team possesses a forward with sublime aerial abilities the team might use roles who tends to cross more often. It could be a 4-2-3-1 with fullback on one side and an wing back on the other. It could be a 3-4-3 with a defensive winger or an attacking winger. Any opposition will use one to two roles who wants to get crosses into the box as way to attack and open up your defense.
A good crosser is most likely to have a stronger foot similar to the side he’s playing on (left foot at left flank) and wants to get to the byline to cross into the box. The case could be slightly similar for a full-back besides that he wants to cross from deep. No matter the role of the player in the FB or WB position, you would like to address their strengths in somehow similar way as their default behaviour is to run wide with the ball, cross more often and get to the byline (WB-A, CWB-A).
Great crossers can be identified by great skills in Crossing and Technique. Some might even got great Agility, Dribbling and Acceleration to quickly get past your defensive line and into space – making them especially difficult to pick up.
Even though you’d like to consider the aerial threat of the attacking players inside the box – the opposite winger, strikers and perhaps even the attacking midfielder, I find it useful to set up positional OI on the wingbacks to force play inside to deal with great crossers.
Here you got several options to counter these threats. You can increase the defensive width to force opposition inside by editing the team instructions and/or use position opposition instructions to show ball onto the opposite foot of their playing position.
My strategy is to hinder their capabilities to get into opportunities for a cross by instead making sure they make more diagonal passes towards the centre of the pitch. Perhaps even they will look to switch play to the opposite flank, lay off passes to teammates behind him or retain possession to a player positioned deeper on the pitch – giving you the ability to intercept these longer passes.
If the situation should be that the opponents have great crossers but lacks the height and aerial strength to make crosses into a useful attacking strategy, then ensure the opponent needs to rely on their crosses as the main way of attacking you. Force the opponent outside! Show the ball onto the players strongest foot (right foot if right flank) and experience a huge number of crosses that probably won’t end up nowhere.
This is especially effective if the opposition team possess technical gifted players in the centre of the pitch but lacks the height, Heading, or physical power to win those one-on-one aerial battles.
Additional ways to counter great crossers and wide players
Showing the ball onto their opposite foot of their playing position is not the only tool to use.
In addition to forcing the player inside or outside depending on their strengths, I find Tight Marking these players gifted with great crossing abilities. While you need to consider the player’s overall capabilities in Acceleration, Pace, Agility, Flair and Dribbling, asking players to stick closer to them reduce their impact on the game.
Tight marking is something I always set on the opposition’s wingbacks (WB) and/or fullbacks (FB) in the position OI template. It aims to make my wingers to track back in the defensive phase and minimize the chances of 2v1 happening down the flanks.
By Tight Marking these players, you will reduce their number of available passing options – normally to the central defenders, defensive midfielder, central and attacking midfielders.
Which other opposition instructions you use will then depend on their level of player attributes relating to quickness, creativity and technical skills with the ball at their feet.
What to do against Quick, Agile Dribblers?
A player possessing Acceleration, Pace and Agility in the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Sadio Mane or Adama Traore can brilliantly escape press and at a blink of an eye leaving your defender in the dust with a graceful touch and spin around him with a eye-catching trick.
While Tight-Marking these players may at times hinder their abilities to control the ball uncongested, it will be difficult to keep them under control as they will use their Flair and Off the Ball movement to try to avoid his marker.
One issue, is their unpredictability and Technique with the ball at their feet. A sprint or a quick turn with their body and they manage to get their foot on the ball, or move the ball outside the diving defenders reach.
The best is to instruct your players to avoid diving to the ground and instead stay on their feet by opting for the Tackling Never instruction (which is the similar to Ease of Tackles). By asking your players to be more disciplined in the hunt for possession by asking them to Never Tight Mark and refer from Triggering Press the first marker will ensure he keeps a bit of distance – making it more difficult to run past any defender coming up against him.
In fact, you let him run with the ball and instead tries to control which areas of the pitch he runs into.
A great method is to use the sidelines as a defensive tool reducing the playing field and possible passing options. By showing the ball onto the left foot of a left winger will force the player to run wide with the ball. Close to the touchline, the opponent will be restricted to a very small room to maneuver.
He either needs to beat his marker from share acceleration and pace where every touch on the ball is brilliant otherwise it gives an opportunity for a tackle or trying to close him down, or he needs to turn and lay it off to a player behind him.
The passing options he has when running down the touchline is often few and not ideal. His overall aim is to get to the byline so let us push him towards it. A study from 2011/12 for the Premier League revealed that the average number of crosses needed per goal was 20.5%. The player topping the crossing successful rate in the Premier League as of 2021-2022 season is Trent Alexander Arnold with 51 successful crosses from 173 attempts.
This means that 3 out of 4 crosses is most likely to end up into nothing. While I haven’t made any study on crossing in Football Manager, it paints a picture that as long as you got sufficient cover inside the box, a players Anticipation and Positioning should help to defend against crosses.
Solution: Never Trigger Press, Tight Mark Never and Show The Ball Onto Outside
Taking Advantage of Weaknesses in the Opposition Team
In the last section of this guide to opposition instructions, I’d like to take a quick look at types of OI’s to apply to take advantage of specific weaknesses within the opposition team.
It’s not only about dealing with specific player’s strengths but a great way to get something out of your next match is to target a specific player in such a way that you can use it to your advantage.
For anyone who have downloaded the Passion4FM Barcelona Tiki-Taka tactic, I assume you’ve seen how I use opposition instructions as a pressing strategy to regain possession quicker and dominate the match, as I literally look to determine how the opposition players behave once they are in possession of the ball.
With this approach I want the match to be played on my own terms!
Let us know take a closer look at my approach to opposition instructions in Football Manager.
Build Out from the back
The next match sees you coming up against a team to prefers to play out from the back. You might have identified that the goalkeeper is poor at Kicking or Throwing the ball, or they uses a ball-playing defender in their tactics. Perhaps your football philosophy is based on high press and trying to win the ball as high up the pitch as possible. Regardless of your strategy, one method to try to regain possession and make the opposing team rather predictable with their play.
One method is to create a position OI template where you Trigger Press on the entire back line of the opposition team, even the goalkeeper. By triggering press on the opposing defenders, you’ll instruct your players to close them down immediately after a loose touch, or when they got the back to the goal and got poor overview of what’s happening behind them.
This will be a signal for your attackers and attacking midfielders to close them down. Alongside triggering press always on the back line, it’s useful to force your players to show the ball onto their weaker foot – which is another pressing trigger.
My positional OI template reveals that I like to force play inside for both the fullbacks – meaning their passes will look to be played through the channel my wingers control. The basic idea is to make them predictable when playing out from the back and block off passing options to advance play.
You can do this by Tight Marking the player’s with the best Passing, First Touch, Vision and Technique within the defensive line.
Another method that relies more specifically to taking advantage of weaknesses in the opposition team is to try to make their play as predictable and inaccurate as possible. If the opposing defensive line includes players with poor Composure, First Touch, Decisions and Vision you can force play to go through that player.
This means that you force the goalkeeper and defenders to look to play through that play by Never Tight Marking him. When the player is in possession of the ball you would like to instruct your team to Trigger Press immediately. Due to his poor Composure and First Touch, he will find the situation so uncomfortable that he either hoofs the ball long, or plays a loose ball that can more easily be intercepted deeper on the field.
The aim with triggering press in these situations is to increase the probability of mistakes and poorly weighted passes that can help to regain possession faster.
Taking Out Players; Injuries & Morale
Knocks and minor injuries are impossible to avoid in a physical game football is. When a player condition and morale drops you can try to take advantage of their physical and mental state by applying Hard Tackles as a player OI.
While trying to take out injured players is poor sportsmanship, it might be the marginal gain you need to get the points you need.
My FM22 Opposition Instruction Template
Opposition instructions are a great way to deal with specific players, their abilities and traits. It can be used to combat their main strength or force them to rely on their weaknesses. It can be used to limit a players time on the ball, the space around him or make him move into a specific area of the pitch, or finally, force passes to be made to specific players. It can help you target the best player of the opposite team by going in hard on him or force the opponent to rely on the creativity of a player that isn’t as good as their main playmaker who you man-mark closely.
The setup of opposition instruction is all about limiting the space and time for the opposite player with the ball. It looks to put the most pressure on the opposing defensive line, in order to win back the ball as quickly as possible as high up the field as possible.
No matter if you decide to set up specific opposition instructions for specific players or use this template for opposition instructions per position, there are some valuable things to notice, especially in regard to the show onto foot instructions.
- I look to force the player with the ball within the opponent’s defensive third to pass the ball inwards, providing a circumstance where central midfielders, wingbacks or inside forwards can intercept the ball patch.
- In the opponent’s attacking third I look to force the wide players with the ball to move outwards. This means that he will most likely run down the flank and be more disconnected with the rest of the team than if he moved inwards. By letting him move down the flank, you entice the player to cross the ball and recover possession inside own penalty box. It also gives your own players the time to get back into a defensive block and can be the difference between conceding a goal on the counter and regain possession in your own half.
- The above statement relies on the player role of the opposite wide player to be an inside forward who naturally wants to cut inside, and the wide player has not the crossing abilities and preferred foot to do it well. At these scenarios will the striker most often be better on the ground than in the air. If the wide players are more like a traditional winger and the striker is more like a target man, featuring strength, high level of jumping reach, high level of heading and are higher than your central defenders I look to force the wide players inwards. As you may have noticed, I try to force the player to act opposite of his natural behavior for the role he’s playing in.
At all other circumstances, I want players to be pushed inside into my pressing trap by showing players on to the opposite foot of their playing area (for example onto left foot for the right fullback or right foot for the central midfielder left. You will notice that I have not set up anything for the AMR / AML position. Here I use specific instructions for the player depending on if he is likely to cut inside or cross from the byline. It partly depends on the inside forwards dribbling abilities in relationship to acceleration and balance. Poor balance makes me favor hard tackling but closing down will depend on his dribbling capabilities. High dribbling and acceleration might force you to set closing down to never.
Below I’ll share a opposition instruction template for combating specific positions that you might like to use.
Note! I put as much pressure on the second and third line of defense and as much pressure on isolated player positions such as GK, sweeper, single holding midfielder, and central defenders/midfielders.
The circumstances where it may be favorable to set specific closing down for a certain player is in scenarios where the player records lots of assists, a possession completion ratio of around or over 90% and looks set to be the main playmaker.
In these circumstances I prefer to tight mark their main creative player – their playmaker – and tackle him harder to limit his time on the ball.
Opposition instructions can be an effective way to target specific player’s strength and weaknesses. Despite you should avoid applying too many opposition instructions at once, you can use them to help with building a more solid defensive structure that aims to regain possession by making the opposition team more ineffective and predictable in possession of the ball. With these strategies and methods to set up instructions for players and position, you’re one step closer to gain momentum in the next upcoming match.
How do you apply opposition instructions in Football Manager? Do you got some specific methods that works time and time again? Use the comments field below to share your approach to applying OI’s.
I’ll be back before you know it with more Football Manager tactics guides and tips for how I play the game. Stay tuned for more FM22 Guides and Tactics coming your way!