Football Manager 2020 Pairs and Matches Guide | FM Scout (2023)

Football Manager 2020 Pairs and Matches Guide | FM Scout (1)

That's itthe ultimate guide to the pairs and combinations that make up your team and tactics in Football Manager. Created bylahama3Posted on the official Sports Interactive forums and reprinted here with permission.

Updated for Football Manager 2020

This is the 5th version of the Pairs and Matches guide rewritten for FM20.

I can't even remember when I wrote my first guide, but it's been a few years since I started playing Football Manager. I hadn't particularly thought about doing any updatesmy previous instructions, but before you know it it's been 5 years since I last wrote a guide and it might be time to get back to the proverbial pen.
Some of what you read in this guide is the same as last time (so an update), but there islots of new information for everyoneto get stuck.

First, most importantly,There is no "right" or "wrong" way to play FM. Of course there are ways to make it harder for you and ways to make it easier for you, but there are many ways to play the game. I'm not just talking about tactical styles, but how you adapt to challenges, how you create variation, and how you turn losses into ties and ties into victories.

I generally maintain a consistent playing style with a balanced system.Football Manager just got smarter; It's harder to break sides, you're penalized at halftime for leaving gaps, and you can't just press play and expect to win every game.

This guide contains some useful things for you., but there are so many brilliant writers, bloggers, vloggers and contributors to discuss; For this reason I've eliminated the sections on in-game management and team briefings - many people are much better at this than I am.

I focus on what is most natural to me –get a balance setup together. Everyone who had something useful to share helped make me a better manager. I hope this makes you a better manager and I hope you doshare what you have learnedand keep contributing to the FM community.


Pairs and Combinations: Balance

First, let's define what we're talking about here, because it iscentralwhat I do as a manager. What do I mean by that?Balance means having a team that manages to maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknessesThis is achieved by covering as much of the field as possible and fulfilling all the key functions that a team needs to utilize.

How do we achieve balance?

Really simple, it's all about using your roles and features to distribute your team well, create different types of chances and have a coherent defense strategy.

In terms of roles, this means the number of defensive, support and attacking roles and how they are distributed on the team. This largely determines how aggressive your team is in terms of forward runs, tackles, and risky passes.

Roles should be spread both vertically and laterally on your team—that means not having all offensive roles at the top of the field, and not all on a single flank.

Having all of your attacking roles too high on the pitch creates a disconnect between defense, midfield, and offense. If you have all of your attack roles on a flank, you can leave big gaps in backattack while being robbed of penetration to other areas of the field.

Let's look at some examples:

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This is a bad example of using dares as it creates large gaps between each area of ​​the field. Defenders are all at the back, midfielders are isolated, and attackers are all at the front.

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parts list
This is a much better example of using rolls, where different areas of the team fall and advance, creating different angles of attack. The middle and both sides also have a penetrating element.

What difference does each duty make?

There's a reason I haven't said how many of each Duty to use - how the duties are distributed affects your team format.The more support tasks you have, the tighter your team becomes– This can be useful when trying to sit compact or move in a pack to support a pressing or possession play. Below is a rough guide of how you might distribute your roles (excluding goalkeepers):

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Remember, this is a guide; other systems may work, it's just to help give you some balance! You might also want to make some situational changes (e.g. at the end of the game).

What else do I have to consider when assigning tasks?

A few sentences above we covered lateral tasking, which means you don't have all of your attacking roles on a single cross or in the middle, so let's take a general 4-2-3-1 example and think about some key partnerships after (after all this guide is about pairs and combinations)…

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Because of this, we've already talked about not overloading all of your attacking roles at the top end of the field. In this example we are trying to balance 2 offensive roles and 2 supporting roles in the last third of the field. I tend to think of it as both a quartet and a series of couples.

I have attack duty on one flank and support duty on the other, it helps change attack angles. My middle pair also shares an attack duty and a support duty - they can also be reverse paired very easily. A forward on offense duty with a supporting AMC in the back can also work well - consider whether you're trying to open up space behind a defense or push in depth.

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In this case, the flanks are set up to offer different types of opportunities. The right flank has a natural overlap created by right-back going through right-back. The left-back will offer more possession power to the left-back and central midfielder due to his support duty.

Of course we must (and will) deal with the implications of roles later; For now, I'm just showing how task sharing can positively improve team balance!

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In this case we have a balanced midfield with role distribution. All central midfielders must play at least a defensive role to provide protection for the defence. In this configuration, the midfield will be fairly close together but will have a mix of passing, penetration and positioning.

This is where roles can be mixed to create different strengths – a supporting role in DMC with a defending role in MLC can create confusion with the opposition as to who should score and how influential they will be in possession.

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Pairs and Combinations: Goalkeeper

Goalkeepers are an essential part of your team's tactical lineup. Your spread and sweep are significantly tied to your team's overall playstyle and the players on your team. A well-prepared goalie can greatly improve his team's performance by making a three with a critical save or interception from a single point.


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Your goalkeeper has several distribution options. He can act as a creative presence or tend to play it safe. The options are as follows:

  • unroll
  • throw away
  • short kick
  • long step

A short distribution option works well with the game building behind the scenes, and works especially well when you have a good creative outlet, such as:Ball-playing defender, APlaymaker deep lie, or oneDirector, which can help create chances from deep position and maintain possession.

You also need to consider which players are in the room to receive the ball. Yourpagesare often the players most likely to have time on the ball, even though their passing angles are limited by long play. On the other hand, a defender can have a wider range of passing angles but can come under pressure from opponents more quickly.

A quick shot option supports a more direct counterattack approach, seems to accommodate half-backs/wingers (who naturally have more space in the back), and helps speed up play from behind much faster. You can also ask your goalkeeper to spread to the flanks at the same time to improve this style of play.

The long-kick approach significantly adapts to a larger physical option on the field. if you play oneTarget personor onebroad target man, these are very good options for long deals - they also work well when your team is under pressure at the back and you are struggling to play the ball at the back. This can take the pressure off and put your team in a more comfortable area of ​​the field.

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Your goalie can also help control the pace of play and hold the ball for long periods of time when trying to slow down play or maintain the advantage. He can dish it out quickly when you're trying to keep the pressure on in play or desperately chasing a goal.

Agoalie sweepIt can provide more creative open play options and its distribution suits a defensive counterattack play.


Agoalie sweepwill sweep in front of and around the penalty area. He can make up for a high line and breaking the offside trap. a normal onegoalkeeperHold position much longer and are therefore more likely to sit behind deeper defences, claim crosses and distribute the ball more confidently.

When you have a higher line, it may be more appropriate to try and slap the opponent forward to the ball, rather than standing and turning to a shot that gives the opponent time to get into position.

It may be less important to perform agoalie sweepif you have oneSweeper/Libero, or if you have a defender on aRoofObligation.

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Pairs and Combinations: Central Defense

This guide looks at your central defensive setups and how to maintain a cohesive backline. I'll discuss your common central defensive duo and then the less common central trio.

Par Central

You have 3 main defense roles and 3 main defense roles to choose from. The roles are as follows:

  • defender in the center
  • clueless defender
  • Ball-playing defender

The tasks are as follows:

  • defender
  • Stopper
  • collect

The roles are fairly similar in most cases, and the defensive spread is the most significant difference between the roles.

Öclueless defendersimply clears the ball as far away from the goal as possible - ensures that you don't get possession from behind, but can transfer possession to your opponents more quickly and put you under constant pressure. A good idea when your team is unable to keep the ball on the baseline.

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Ödefender in the centerdistributes the ball to nearby teammates, helping you keep possession on the defensive line and calmly distribute the ball into midfield. There is a risk of gaining possession in defence, but you can ease the pressure on your defense by maintaining possession, building up attacks and distributing the ball to midfielders who can influence play in the middle third and finals.

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ÖBall-playing defenderwill try to influence counterattack opportunities by playing direct passes to players next to or in front of him. He can also help the team maintain possession with his superior passing and passing skills, although he needs to be quite creative and a good passer otherwise you can dangerously and cheaply give away possession if your player attempts overly ambitious passes that he's used to is unable.

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You can pairpointless defendershow they don't affect balance or overall passing structure as they just play straight ahead and focus on clearing their lines; Likewise, you can pairCentral defenderswho simply play a short passing game.

ÖBall-playing defenderHowever, he plays through balls and attempts more progressive passes due to his heightened creativity, which suits teams playing on defense.

Ball Playing Defender can easily be combined with onedefender in the centerThis works because the centre-back can help maintain possession on defense by passing to their more creative partner, rather than deflecting the ball like a sane defender and his "safety first" approach.

have twoDefenders play ballYou can see your defenders attempt risky passes, but if you have the people for it, go for it!

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Roles offer variations in defensive approach and can significantly alter the balance of your defenses. Odefend dutyis the standard approach aimed at defending as directed by the team in terms of covering and pressing, holding the defensive line and winning the ball when appropriate.

ÖCork Serviceaims to kick early to engage the opponent and regain the ball quickly. If it works, it could eliminate the hazard sooner, before the player has a chance to define themselves. On the other hand, if your player is flipped or passed, they can expose their team and make room for their opponent by passing in front of their defensive line.

Öcoverage obligationis dropped to try to catch any player who breaches the defensive line. This can give your opponents more time and space right in front of your unchallenged defense, but it can also prevent your opponents from pushing forward and keeping up with their runs without a player, reducing your chances of getting a clean shot from behind .

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You can play most reel combinations in the backline, but most importantly, you should not play pairThe corkor a couplecover defenders. ÖThe corkwill free up a lot of space in the back, and thatThe lawwill give a lot of space in front of the defense and often stop fighting for the ball.

Both pairs are also bad at exposing their offside trap and leaving space behindfull turnor behind the defenders, thrown aside by the defenders.

Ödefender defenderPairings tend to stay in line better and are significantly better at maintaining form and playing an offside trap. OStopperThe duo tend to exaggerate each individual's best qualities, with an aggressive full-back attacking the ball early and closing space for opposing strikers, and the covering half-back able to balance the individual's aggressivenessStopperwith its excellent positioning and pace.

ÖStoppercan make up for itcover attorneyDeeper positioning and sometimes lack of aggression to close spaces in front of defenses. This pairing can cause problems maintaining the offside trap as defenders don't always hold their line, allowing their opponents to exploit gaps.

Central trio

When playing 3v defense you need to consider the impact of wingers and their positioning. If your centre-backs/wingers are very offensive, your centre-backs need to be able to close the gap. Having a Defender 3 can keep a player off the flanks or central zone of the field, and if that Defender 3 can help with that offensive deficit, it's useful.

ABall-playing defendercan help with creativity deficit uCentral defenderscan help preserve the property. This is worth considering, but your players' suitability for their roles is important. The real art with the 3 on the back, however, comes with the distribution of roles.

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The general theories are that you can keep your entire defense aligned by maintaining your offside trap and form and keeping everything on Defend duty. They can have stoppers on the side who approach opposing players to avoid crosses and leave two full-backs in the middle to challenge the opponent, with the covering halfback able to track the runs of players behind the stoppers. You can also reverse this, using a stopper to close the space in the middle, forcing the ball to play wide, and capping balls in channels to allow opposing wingers to chase after.


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Your other tactical option in a three-way defense is to use aLibero. Because of the feature's positioning, it is best suited for use with only a defending pair.The libero is a creative option, who breaks into midfield from his deep starting position to dictate the game. This suits a defender with good intelligence and technique who can help boost numbers in midfield.

With an attacking libero you have to consider where another defensive player might come from - when you have a defensive 3 with aggressive wingers and a libero you may find that you are simply leaving two central defenders behind to deal with counterattacks. In the inverted configuration, the defensive midfield role provides the extra reassurance that might be needed to accommodate a libero.

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half back

Öhalf backfalls between the CBs in possession, creating a three-way defense. This behavior occurs mainly during build-up, as soon as the ball advances to the last third, it can take further front positions similar to an anchor. Outside of ball possession, he sits in front of the back row and behaves like a regular DM.

The halfback is also only appropriate in front of two halfbacks, as a third halfback would cause problems with his defensiveness and upset his natural propensity for depth. This allows you to play more aggressive quarterbacks, with the halfback providing additional cover against the counterattack.


Your defensive roles affect your defensive spread, and your duties affect your defensive approach.Compliance with duties looks better on the line, comStopperecollectFeatures useful in closing tandems and tracking spaces and races, but at the cost of their offside trap.

It's important to consider the space you're freeing up on the flanks when playing 3 in defense, and consider your approach to possession and your player's individual skills when evaluating your roles and role choices.

Pairs and combinations: Central midfield

Now the engine room, the creative nerve center, this is where things get really serious. Good decisions in this area of ​​the field win games, bad decisions lose games - simple. By central midfield I mean all defensive, central and offensive midfield lines. There's a lot of room for variation here, and your choices should be heavily influenced by your playstyle. A central midfielder must generally meet all of the following requirements:

  • defensive security
  • dynamic race
  • Technical control and creativity

defensive security

That's a pretty broad term. The first thing you need to understand is how you're going to defend - generally it's a choice between putting pressure on the opponent or staying in shape. Of course, there's a lot more nuance than that, but that's what defines it - join opponents to deny them space, or provide a solid barrier to prevent them from breaking through.

That's not to say you can't have a hybrid, too. While I'm more of a recommendation than "can't do it," I would strongly recommend that you always have a defensive duty in central midfield. There are ways to have dynamic running and technical control on your team that come from places other than midfield, but you simply have to include defensive safety as your first priority in midfield.

A brief overview of your options and whether they fit press-based or form-based systems is as follows:

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You may find that theAnkereBall-winning midfielderare the only roles that are truly suited to only one type of defense system. OAnkerIt was designed to protect space, specifically the "number 10" area of ​​the playfield, so it doesn't inherently close. When used in a pressure system, it is likely to create gaps by not putting pressure on the man. ABall-winning midfielderit's the complete opposite, not only will he protect space, he'll go after players to deny space, meaning in a form system he'll clear areas you're trying to occupy.

Defensive options are available in defensive and central midfield. Typically, pressure systems include more players in front positions on the field. Shape-based systems typically have players in lower ranges. Along with your roles and duties, the form of your team can play a very important role in how well you defend.

A 4-1-4-1 has a naturally compact defensive form, with a midfielder sitting between the lines - meaning you can afford to be a little more adventurous with your roles and duties if you wish. If you're only using two central midfielders, you might need to consider being a little more defensive with their roles and duties. You can't allow a single central midfielder to do all the defensive work in midfield.

Dynamic race

This is another issue that is affected by how your team is playing. Those who tend to play on the counter need good ball carriers and an aggressive run from deep. More direct teams may be less dependent on runs penetrating the area, but may need individuals who can pose a threat from a distance or catch balls on the edge of the area. A possession-based team may be more focused on using the ball, but still need an effective run to provide the movement to support possession use - this run may be a little less aggressive but still needs to capitalize on opportunities.

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The position of the players makes a difference in the type of games they make; Typically, players seated in runs from deeper positions tend to make more aggressive attacks on goal, while those seated in forward positions generally tend to rely on short runs closer to goal or in lateral positions. Some of your runners could be the ones aggressively charging past the attackers or following your team and covering great distances to make themselves felt throughout the field. You can characterize them as "sprinters" (aggressive runs ahead of defense) and "endurance" runners (keeping up the energetic pace of the game).

Players who are aggressively advancing can benefit from having a backup partner to provide cover if they are caught on the field. For example onesecond steering wheelIt is aAnkerfit because they both naturally sit lower, but the second wheel advances aggressively while the anchor covers the remaining space.

Technical control and creativity

As with dynamic running - you CAN get this from places other than central midfield with the first question to ask - how are you going to play? When playing head-to-head with only two central midfielders, they may need to prioritize other aspects of their midfield performance. Possession-based styles almost always require at least a fair amount of technical and creative work in midfield.

The technical control can be done from different areas of the midfield. A Regista, for example, has complete freedom to receive the ball from defense, move around in space (laterally and vertically), and make killer balls or play passes that break through midfield lines. A trequartista does pretty much the same thing, but in the last third floating in space, waiting to make the matador or fold or be available for a double.

You can use multiple star players to try and take technical control in different areas of the field. For example, a deep playmaker and an advanced playmaker can allow your team to make progressive passes into the final third and try to dominate space wherever it's available - this can be useful when opposing teams are strong where you traditionally like to play in the Ball.

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Technical Control isn't just someone who likes to pass forward or through balls; This can be reflected in players who like to dictate pass and pace in build-up play, those who are constantly looking forward, players who run in advanced positions, and those who want to drive with the ball at their feet. You will find that some players appear in multiple rosters as they can fill multiple roles within a team.

Creativity is conquered not only by working on the ball, but also off it; those that land low, dodge wide, or move into space nests can knock opponents out of position or overload in other areas.

The trequartista has a lot of lateral movement that goes beyond running around. This can help generate overhead for third parties across a wide range. A hook stays in the "Number 10" field without making a sideways movement. As we've already discussed, this can attract opponents and make room for teammates.

The tradeoff between a trequartista and enganche versus, say, an advanced playmaker is that while the off-ball movement is better and provides an outlet for transition, it usually means they don't make a huge defensive contribution, which is a real one can be challenging if you it's a high pressure side. You need to build this into the roles of the rest of the team. You may need to pick two more defensively conscious players to make up for this.

Also consider the influence a player has on your pace. More direct creators will increase your pace - which may not help if you are playing a controlled possession style, alternatively a considered passer (ex.

There's no specific "this will" or "this won't" work, but all of your choices about style, background, roles, and responsibilities should complement each other.

No wide players

Some central midfielders also need to take some responsibility for the width of the team. This is sometimes true in a three-man midfield and almost always in a four-man midfield. The game with 4 central midfielders is a big battering ram in midfield that forces the defense with big numbers.

Obviously these numbers need to offer plenty of creativity and forward motion as well as a hard working defensive power that offers some relief to the lack of top players in most of these systems. However, being able to flood the most important area of ​​the field with players who offer stability defensively but have the advantage offensively and numerically is a huge advantage. The most obvious ways to set this up is by using a Diamond midfielder or a Box midfielder.

It's important to stress that width is something you need to consider both defensively and offensively - does it have to come from your full-backs/full-backs that are moving forward quite aggressively, or can you use the lateral movement of central midfield roles like the trequartista ( who saves him), the mezzala (who shoots him away with and without the ball) or a carrilero who paces up and down in midfield.

As much as you love possession or dominating midfield, you need distance, if only to stretch out opponents and create more space to play. i.e. ball possession, ball exit, dribbling, form of defense etc.).

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There are several different positions you can use for a box midfield, with two pairs of players in attacking, central or defensive midfield. A simple way to distribute roles and duties here is to remember that you need a more defensive pair and a more offensive pair of players. Bring that decision back to the essential functions of a midfielder: defensive security, dynamic running, and technical control and creativity.

In a Diamond midfield, AMC is at high risk of being kicked out of the game, so you have two choices. You can use it to lure in opponents and then use the space they free up (e.g. with a hook or advanced playmaker (support), or you can make sure it has good lateral or vertical movement to get away from opponents to get away or to lure them with him A trequartista moves in wide spaces, a dark forward tends to push forward aggressively. You can also consider the attacking midfielder who can make vertical and lateral movements depending on the situation.

Another function of four-man central midfield systems is that they allow for a high degree of specialization in midfield. For example, a goalkeeper or defensive playmaker can benefit from additional defensive help from teammates, while the ball-winning midfielder can feel free to press on the ball, knowing there are other players in sensible positions to cover if he does is exposed.

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Pairs and combinations: width

Your wingers consist of full-backs/wingers and midfielders/wingers. Teams have two wingers who must work in partnership, or a single winger. The background you use will have a significant impact on your choice of role and task in the broad areas. A lone winger has more responsibility and should be able to contribute in all areas of the game, while a pair of wingers can specialize and get a more balanced line-up.

Sacrificing top players is a way of having more defenders or midfielders to gain control of the ball or territory. As much as the outsiders are used, they can contribute to possession play, creative play or your goal scoring or even your work rate and defensive ability - this applies to all positions on the flank. A quarterback who stays in excellent forward positions is a great asset, as is a winger who falls back and also makes tackles.

lonely outsider

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Many systems in soccer use only a single natural width source on each flank. Italy is a nation that tends to distrust football or at least
Don't use wings. Italy also traditionally uses a lot more "threes in defence", meaning the easiest place to find the extra man to deploy in the system is usually on the flanks.

When a player is tasked with dedicating all of their offensive, defensive, and supporting play to their flanks, they must be able to:

  • Step forward and give width
  • pursue and maintain a good defensive position
  • Follow the game, be a constant exit on the flank to maintain possession
  • provide a source of penetration over wide areas

All in all, this is a heavy workload to consider. The other big concern is where to place your lone player. The formation you have chosen is
your team's defensive form, so you need to consider how far away you want your only full-back to be. If they sit further back, they offer a safer defensive form, if they sit higher up, they may be able to press faster in large areas or pose a faster counterattack threat.

The higher you play with your single wide man, the more likely he should be to retreat, which you can factor in for more conservative duties. I have suggested the following Roles and Duties (RIGHT) to add breadth, power, defensive stability, and operational speed to a single player.

The reason the wide midfielder and winger only play in support roles is because they need to provide width in front of them but also lean back into the space behind them. An attack service will be less inclined to pursue enough, a defense service likely will not provide the breadth needed in lone far man systems.

You'll also notice that some features like the Inverted Wing Back & Wide Playmaker have been omitted from this list; This is because they don't offer width. By nature they walk in, which only blocks a team that calls for a wide exit.

Broad partnerships

Playing with two wide players together gives you a lot of options. First, think about how you want your team to create the most chances and how your players should behave as a result.

Some of the wingers can move into central areas and help your midfield dominate while the other winger provides width on the flank. Some pairs operate in wide areas, sometimes overlapping, sometimes with a player providing an exit or cross from another area (e.g. a deep, a backline).

Typically, in a wide partnership, you almost always have players in the DR/L positions, as the tangible benefits of playing the WB positions are often diminished when you play other wide players right in front of them.

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They can use combinations where one lateral player goes inside to aid midfield dominance or put players out of position while the other front player goes forward and maintains width. The player types that come into play are inverted back, wide guard, inside attacker, etc. – I want to reiterate that you really need to make sure one of your wingers stays open to further expand the field; This can be the advanced player or the deeper player.

You can use two wide players who stay wide, who rely on overlaps to create space, and the players in question trying to attempt crosses from different positions (eg.

Overlap is of course created by a player making a lot of forward runs (typically those with attack roles and some with support roles) from deep and an advanced player moving inwards or with a lower role (e.g. support or maybe even defense), what this encourages are more forwards to push forward - the point is that you can overwhelm the opposing full-back (especially if the opposing winger doesn't back down) or create confusion as to which defensive player is taking over which of your players.

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You can also use a typically traditional pairing, with a smaller back duty and a more offensive front duty. This provides defensive cover and an outlet for the more offensive player. His wide play in this case will be based more on reaching straight into the last third to deliver crosses down the middle while the FB connects behind to give him a passing option.

A good idea for your team balance is to have an attacking defender (regardless of role) and a support on one flank, with a supporting defender on the other flank behind an attacking player - again another way of working with attack angles, different widths and different crossing or overtaking positions. Variety is important when you're struggling to break sides or create chances.


First, plan how many outside players you will use before deciding on their roles. If you're playing a single player, you can't allow him to do just a defensive job, he has to provide a way out. Keep in mind that they also need to have a good defensive position to start off, or be able to track and defend. Double width men should work in combination, making sure they don't get in each other's way but still being able to provide overlap and overheads.

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Pairs and Combinations: Forward

In the last section, we discussed wingers in separate sections based on whether they are playing solo wingers or in pairs. This doesn't work so well for attackers. The term “attacking partnerships” includes not only the front midfielder(s), but also the wingers and attacking midfielders who have a particularly close connection to the central striker(s). All attackers have a partnership of some sort, even individual attackers require supplies and connections from some
description to work.

Over time, football has evolved from specialized to universalistic role theories, with roles demanding more from each player to meet additional requirements. The need to find and create space in modern tactics has also necessitated the need for unconventional partnerships.

In this guide, I'll be looking at different types of pairings, from single forwards with AM layer support to a more conventional attacking pairing. Again, I hope this guide makes it clear - your role and duty choices, as well as your partnership choices, need to complement your overall playstyle.

For example, having a target man on a team with a lot of possession trying to play tiki-taka doesn't make sense - it just results in random long balls that the entire team doesn't see. Likewise, a false nine on a straight side that uses lateral play makes little sense - it just won't get the ball in the expected central areas with back-up runners.

You may also notice that I discuss the types of options you have here, but I don't provide a reference chart for specific combinations. A lot depends on your playing style, the individual characteristics of your players, the formation you use and the types of chances you create.

Parceria "Big Man" - "Little Man"

Many partnerships have been built over the years to get the most out of the players' physical abilities. A tall player can provide an effective target by holding the ball or making passes to a faster teammate or playing him from behind.

The taller player typically plays lower, kicking the ball, and winning dogfights, although it's possible for the taller player to go higher, throw the ball back into space, or to a teammate who comes slightly lower but in rhythm. The smaller player may attempt to penetrate from behind or into gaps, often created by the larger attacker hitting a defender's ball.

These partnerships often rely on good deliveries and crosses from wings and full-backs, or long balls from deep. These pairs usually lend themselves to fairly simple tactics. They are usually combinations of Target Man and Poacher. While an advanced forward can offer a more rounded version of the poacher and the taller forward can still be effective in a more rounded role if they have the skills e.g. Deep lying forward or full lying forward.

This could also work with attacking midfielders in support. A strong lone striker such as Target Man or Complete Forward can be supported by an Inside Forward, Space Scout, Shadow Striker, or Attacking Midfielder, who can attack the area from deeper areas and make better use of speed and/or movement. It's worth noting that on systems with no players in the AM row of the field, you can replicate this with a central midfielder (attacking) or mezzala (attacking).

Creator - Sagittarius

Probably the most common form of partnership in football. This could simply be a case of one attacker sitting a little lower than the other to deliver passes and balls to their more advanced partner to score goals, or manning defenders to give their partner more time and space. The creator can be a forward or a midfielder positioned to effectively help the attacker.

This type of system can be based on a range of attributes, not just necessarily physical, but technical and mental abilities are becoming increasingly common in creative partnership cases. It's a fairly versatile style of football but has a slight bias towards more creative/possession based systems as opposed to direct and attrition football - however its versatility can be applied to many different systems.

The most balanced roles for this type of partnership are deep forward and forward forward, however a complete forward can be an exceptional creator or goalscorer (or both), usually marked by duty. A poacher is obviously a good scorer but gives his support partner fewer chances in return. A pressing forward is becoming increasingly important in modern football – despite the full range of roles available, it will act similarly to an advanced forward offensively.

A terrific creator, a trequartista needs someone capable of attacking the space and opportunities they create. He can work in the ST or AMC positions, but an advanced playmaker or hook can also be an excellent, deep creative force to deliver a goalscorer in front of him.

Some features are multifunctional - they support both creating and scoring goals; Advanced Advanced, Complete Advanced, and Deep Advanced are also good examples. The difference between the 3 roles is; The Advanced Advance stays high, tracing the line in channels, trying to make room and returning the pass if necessary. The complete striker tends to have more distance moves, and the deep striker is more central, falls deeper, and holds the ball higher than a forward striker. The main thing to consider here is what kind of odds you want to create. Possession-based teams may prefer a deep forward, while an advanced forward suits a faster attacking style.

The inside forward can be an excellent creator in a support role with outside angled balls for a breakthrough, while in an attacking role he can attack the space left in front of him by a more creative forward in a more advanced position and be a prolific goalscorer .

This is especially true for a space interpreter who is threatening goalscoring from wider positions, slipping into channels and deploying a potentially creative presence. Raumdeuter could theoretically work effectively with multiple attackers from support services.

False Nine - False Ten

The system of false nines and false tens relies on the center forward going deep and trying to lure a defender in with him or simply give him or a teammate space to attack and destabilize the defense. The false ten aspect is the front midfielder who digs deep into empty space to emerge as significant or top scorers. The main and most obvious way to achieve this is to choose a partnership between False Nine and Shadow Striker that connects well in the last third and tends to match significantly a system based on ball possession and complicated movements.

There are other features that can mimic this effect, sometimes pulling away or just seeking space. The attacking trequartista will naturally move, making space for players to attack, and this in turn can cause defenders to follow or leave space. The Trequartista can also deflect wide, while the False Nine is much more prone to dropping lower to attack a deep defense or outplay an advancing player.

The deep forward and full forward (support) show similar tendencies, falling low and playing with their backs to goal, but they are better at holding the ball and taking up more space on the field. They also have more defensive discipline than a trequartista, which can be an important consideration for many managers.

Regarding alternative “false ten” players – the center forward or spacer on the flanks can attack the space vacated by a low falling/wide defending forward, leaving the full-backs with the dilemma of following the player and going wide to open space, or leave it to centre-backs where they can gain space even before they are pursued. Attacking midfielders can push into the box to support attacking moves but are less suited to a productive goalscoring role than the others described.

The reverse winger has some similar moves to the inside forward on the ball, but fewer similarities off the ball, making him less suited to be a goal focus. Similar to the Big Man and Little Man partnerships, the forward can really tear a defense apart - even a central midfielder (attacking) and mezzala (attacking) can make a huge difference.


Remember to split your roles to create a good move. Base your attacking chances on multiple attack routes to prevent single-minded tactics being rendered useless by the opposition. His offensive partnerships and connections extend to the AM line as well as general creative and executive support from deeper midfield positions. Your partnership needs to support your overall playing style, as an inappropriate role can lead to incoherent attacking play and ultimately a failure to score.

Football Manager 2020 Pairs and Matches Guide | FM Scout (30)

Pairs and Matches: Building a Team

This is the point in the guide where I show you how to start building a team, which isn't as easy as it sounds. As a starting point, we need to evaluate the squad – as a whole and individually; I need to understand what the team as a whole is doing well and what the key players on my team are doing well.

I usually use Arsenal as an example, but this time I'll take a team you're probably not familiar with - FOREST GREEN ROVERS. Rovers have been in league football since 2017, with a reputation built on their eco-friendly principles. They're also my local club these days, so I've developed interest and support for the club.

So first of all, my squad as a whole is the first party to be evaluated. I need to know what we're doing well, what we're doing badly, and that will suggest possible playstyles to me; Of course, not only do we need to understand which styles work best, but also which areas of the team we can trust the most. In the overview of all positions, it is noticeable that we have the best passing ability in the league - we can play that clearly, either through control of the ball or through concise and faster passing.

Our inferior first touch is not good and suggests we are in danger of being pressured to lose the ball. It's also clear that leadership and aggression are bad, suggesting that assertive defensive tactics are harder to implement overall. Our suboptimal teamwork is not good for any style of play as it is key to defensive organization, pressing patterns, attacking movements - you name it, teamwork makes everything better!

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Next, let's take a look at our goalie unit as a whole. What I'm looking for here is an indication of whether goalies prefer to play behind a high line (one-on-ones and reflexes) or dominate the penalty area behind a deep defense (space dominance, handling, power of the ball).

I also look at how we can distribute the ball to support direct distribution or play from the base of the team. Given our strong header and individual skills, it's clear we could support either option at this point. Our powerful kick can come in handy, allowing for a quick back-to-front transition.

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Then to defense, where we look at concepts similar to goalkeeping—we support play behind a high line (pace, acceleration, and tackles) or a deep defense (positioning, coverage, header, jump). Our defense is pretty strong overall.

Our jump isn't spectacular, but neither is our acceleration - overall this defense looks organized and strong. I'm inclined to say that good organizational qualities make us fit for a deeper defense, but if the rest of my squad plays well I'm confident we could pull through at this stage.

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Hopefully you've heard me talk enough about the importance of midfield by this point over the years. Now we have to see how our midfield behaves. Passing again looks positive for midfield, but otherwise midfield looks decidedly average - we're clearly not suited to winning the ball aggressively, albeit due to our poor tackle and teamwork.

Our technique and poor decisions also don't make us a great team to keep the ball, so we'll probably be more effective if we have space to play. It's quite complicated at this point, but it's clear my midfield won't be very reliable.

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Finally, a look at my attackers as a group. This shows some surprising trends - we're a decidedly fast team (although our higher pace than acceleration suggests we're faster over long distances than short distances. Our movement is good, but our intelligence is very poor, as is ours Jumping and Heading - Obviously we weren't built for floating crosses or physically challenging opposing defenders.

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It seems pretty obvious to me that our midfield can pick up a pass but not hold the ball effectively and that our forwards can only play on the break - so deep defense and a counter-attack system seems to be the way forward at the moment. What I do need to consider, however, are the outstanding individuals that are available to me and how best to use them within a structure that fits the team as a whole.

Finally, we also have to pay attention to the depth of the squad. For example, if we have a system built around side raiders but only have a single player who can fill the role on each flank, we need an effective plan B or we need to reconsider a system based on effective squad depth.

Especially at Forest Green we seem to have good opportunities in goal, in central defense and in both wing positions, which confirms our assessment that our defense is the strength of our team. We seem to be less well positioned in the lateral positions. We seem to have ample body in midfield and attack, with AMR clearly having two very strong options, with MR looming as a notable drawdown - this could influence my later choice of formation.

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The final piece of my puzzle is reviewing the standouts on my team. Each team will have around 3-5 players who should be considered stand out players. In my case they seem to be:

  • Aaron Collins – AM (RLC), ST (C)
  • Elliott Frear – WB/M/AM (L)
  • Liam Shephard – D/WB (R)

In addition, we have six other core team members to watch out for:

  • Carl Winchester – DM, M/AM (C)
  • Nathan McGinley – D (LC)
  • Farrend Rawson – D (RC)
  • George Williams – M (RL), AM (RLC), ST (C)
  • Joseph Mills – D/WB (L)
  • Matt Mills - D (C)

Aaron Collins

Football Manager 2020 Pairs and Matches Guide | FM Scout (37)
Best suited as a right AMR, as a winger, although his crosses and dribbling are below what I would expect from a winger and actually his attributes appear to be
more of a striker. Fast, with decent technique and finishing, he fits into the game as an advanced forward.

Elliot Fear

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A quick left-hander who wants to play on the left side of the field. His crosses and dribbles are also good, so he essentially needs to be played as a winger to maximize him.

Liam Schaefer

A very effective winger with a very balanced game. He's good in many areas, although he doesn't excel in one particular area. I also have to take into account that he won't be available to me in my first season due to a long-term injury and I have to take that into account before I build a system that is completely dependent on him. It has PPMs to help it progress, so it should at least be a support requirement on any system I use it on.

Karl Winchester

Football Manager 2020 Pairs and Matches Guide | FM Scout (39)
A bit like a Swiss army knife. His passing range is pretty average, but he has good workrate, talent, stamina, and decent technical and tackle skills. By him
The best role is that of a box-to-box midfielder, where your PPMs also help you move forward and with the ball.

Nathan McGinley

Football Manager 2020 Pairs and Matches Guide | FM Scout (40)
A talented defender with a really balanced game and very encouraging technical ability for a second tier defender. He is left-handed and likes to take the ball away from the defence. He can also play as a centre-back.

George Williams

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Williams is technically sound with good talent. He adapts to play as a right wing or reverse wing on the left flank. His PPMs suggest he wants to come from either flank, but this can add variety when playing as a winger. He can also play offensively and use his technical skills as a false nine or use his decent pace as an advanced forward, although it's not his strongest position.

Farrand Rawson

A very good centre-back, more physical than McGinley and less technical. Rawson is right-handed and looks like he could complement McGinley very well. He adapts to playing as a central defender or as a no-nonsense full-back.

Joseph Muehlen

Football Manager 2020 Pairs and Matches Guide | FM Scout (42)
Mills is an excellent full-back who likes to run up left. Like Shephard, he does a lot of things well, but he doesn't have a single particularly noteworthy aspect of his game.

Matt Mills

Joseph's brother Matt is another excellent central defender, but much more like Rawson. He is physical but not fast, with a lot of aggression. He seems best suited to play as a centre-back but is very skilled as a centre-back. He's also an excellent stopper, adding another tactical dimension. His age means he's a less important part of my long-term plans.

tactical style

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So it's time to make a decision on how to set up this team. My assistant recommended Ward Play, Route One, and Direct Counter as options we could handle. Of course, since we can't press effectively or control the ball dominantly, we have to look for more direct and/or counter options. We have a certain technical quality in our key players and in defence, so I'm wary of just running the ball forward.

Wing play takes advantage of our strong defenders and wingers who prefer to play wide rather than intervene, although given the lack of aerial threat we would only rely on low crosses for attacks. Route One seems less suitable as we don't have an effective target man and don't complement our good full-backs. The direct counter suits us when we play on a lower line of defense and attack, which means we don't have to press as hard, although it doesn't offer as many opportunities to play incisively.

My other consideration is to play a fluid counter that encourages the team to run more to defend deeper areas and aims to play in transition. With the added consideration of my team's decent transition pace and ability to play on defense, this looks like my best bet. I might also consider wing play as a plan B option.

Education, roles and responsibilities

The part you're reading about how I put it all together. Any roles and duties I choose must fit my playstyle. I use shorter passes, so I don't need a no-nonsense quarterback to pump long. My team is called upon to counterattack, so I tend to choose more support roles on my team and/or choose a formation that naturally has players in deeper areas. My team is asked to run on defense so I have to choose roles that can carry the ball.

When choosing my formation, the suggested options are 4-1-4-1 DM Wide, 4-4-1-1 and 5-3-2 WB. I'm ruling out the 5-3-2 option because a lot of my strongest options are wingers, so I want to use a broad partnership in my team. I tend towards a 4-1-4-1 DM wide as it allows me to use my wide players in positions that suit them best (i.e. as AML and AMR rather than ML and MR).

Football Manager 2020 Pairs and Matches Guide | FM Scout (44)
The default setting for the DM Wide system is 4-1-4-1.

Now I'm going to use the key players I need to use and see what the team balance looks like as a result. After that I only have four positions left on the field, including goalkeeper. I have two options in goal, Jojo Wollacott is better with his feet, Adam Smith is better in the air - I'll go with Wollacott for now, but I have a low transition threshold here.

In the DM role I have to make a choice between Ebou Adams who is defensive oriented or Lloyd James who lacks mobility but has good technical ability - I will pick Adams for now but I will again use this as a decider feel for the game. In general, I have to point out the lack of quality in this position.

Football Manager 2020 Pairs and Matches Guide | FM Scout (45)

The final central midfielder role is a roaming playmaker by default, although I have many other options to consider. I tend to use a support roster as it makes the team form more fluid and compact and provides information to the offensive, defensive and rotating teams.

My remaining midfield options are James Morton, Lloyd James and Kevin Dawson; James we talked about is technically excellent but not particularly mobile so we can look at him as a deep playmaker playing in front of him or as a central midfielder (support) to try and hold the game.

Football Manager 2020 Pairs and Matches Guide | FM Scout (46)

Dawson is well suited to a supportive role because of his work pace, teamwork and energy. He is well balanced and can play well as a box-to-box, carrilero or mezzala midfielder. Morton has good technical ability, is fairly balanced but less dominant physically. Morton can play as a mezzala or central (attacking) midfielder, or most other midfield roles.

This will likely be a game-to-game decision, or even one I might have to make in-game with substitutions to change the flow of a game - right now I'm picking Dawson and trying him out as a carrilero in transition up and down go and support the team - I'll use it as a mezzala as well and see which one works best.

Playing Dawson or Morton as a mezzala or central midfielder (attacking) could work well if we were playing Williams as a false nine with the forward going deeper and the central midfielder going forward, but that wouldn't be my default for a team that speed based transition from back to front (but since we're playing a flowing counter style rather than a direct counter this is much more relevant to consider what this type of combo/movement can bring to the game) time - as always we have to draw You are considering Plan B & C, not just A). The false nine is very effective in this formation, penetrating the free space that remains in the central zone of attacking midfield.

The final role switch from the default system is to make Elliott Frear a winger as it suits him so much better, although it helps to know that I have an Inverted Winger option for George Williams on the left. We have defined several support roles as well as automatic roles for both sides.

Since full-backs go further than full-backs, we have to consider whether they complement the full-backs or work against them. If you're referring to the wide player section, I'm wary of using wings with wings, but as long as you know they're not operating in the same space there's less to worry about.

I'll use Shephard at full-back (support) and Mills at full-back (attack) with the opposing roles playing in front of them - again this is how we create natural overlap on the ball, but we also benefit by making sure that in the transition phase some players tend to be available at the back, while others try to open up space behind opposing defenses (forward and right wing).

The relationship between a ball-playing halfback and an attacking halfback shouldn't be underestimated - by having McGinley next to Mills, we give McGinley the opportunity to play cross balls or get in space in front of Mills (hopefully behind the opponent) to go forward – this supports the counter element of this team. We also have a handy analytics heatmap to see how effective this is (see above).

My alternative system, which offers more technical control and movement, combined with a deep playmaker in lower midfield (where he's protected by not having to run much - because we don't press high, the other midfielders move forward in transition and we sit deep so that it doesn't get stuck on the turn) and in the last third a better combo works centrally (see above).

In the end we achieved what we set out to do – achieve balance!

Much luck!

Football Manager 2020 Pairs and Matches Guide | FM Scout (47)

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