Back by popular demand, we are taking a look at a new set of custom tactics in FIFA 21. Today we will be examining a completely different philosophy from my normal 4-4-2 safe place in the 3-4-1-2 formation. The 3-5-2 has once again emerged as a popular option in FUT… primarily due to managers seeking a “fun” option, in response to the return of drop-back-Danny’s once again plaguing competitive game modes. However, I found the 3-5-2 to be incredibly reckless and often felt like I was simply rolling the dice with that formation. I realize that many have found success, but for me, it was just too much of a gamble. However, the 3-4-1-2 … which is essentially the same idea... but slightly more narrow in the back three and more condensed in the midfield three, has been a revelation for me. I call it the anti-drop back and you can truly put the pressure on deep-lying opponents in this formation, without feeling like you are jeopardizing yourself defensively. With that in mind, let’s dive in:
For me, it is everything FIFA was meant to be… swashbuckling football without completely throwing the kitchen sink at it. Living on a knife-edge without compromising opportunities to win. The formation really allows users to get 5 - 7 players in attack while always having 5 - 7 ready to defend. Most importantly it provides you with options that normally do not open up in more traditional formations. I really, really enjoy playing with this formation but have always used it in Div 1 Rivals, then reverted back to the 4-4-2 during Weekend League for fear of losing out on Elite. However, having had a nightmare result last weekend I think I am ready to take the plunge and dive into this formation with both feet this coming weekend… I’ll update you on how it goes.
While the image reads “BALANCED,” the result is certainly not that. Jurgen Klopp once referred to his gegenpressing counter-attacking football as Heavy Metal Football. Well if that is Heavy Metal then the 3-4-1-2 attacking style is Metallica accompanied by the San Francisco Orchestra. Metallica; because the attack in this formation is borderline violent as you progress down the pitch… players running everywhere, tiki-taka midfield play, and the end result of five players attempting to find space in and around the box, while two more patrol the perimeter… madness! Yet, still there is the San Francisco Orchestra; there are a rhythm and pattern, constant movement and options for key passes to play that just feels like Poetry in Motion. Defensively, it is a bit more subdued and I like that compared to the 3-5-2 where I felt like I was always operating in chaos. The midfielders (Cover Wing) do a fantastic job of closing down lanes and attempt to funnel the play back into the middle of the pitch. Yes! You read that right. I want my opponent in the middle of the pitch because that is where I have the numbers. When I had my CM’s on Cover Center this meant my outside CB was always responsible for my opponent's winger during their own counter-attacks and this left me exposed in the middle. Now, my CM chips in with the job until my LM and RM return to take care of business… and then my CMs return to the center of the pitch for support.
I have found that 5 width in attack is the perfect balance for my wingers and keeps them wide enough to provide a consistent outlet; while at the same time keeping them close enough to the center of the pitch to help in defensive transition. I also went with 5 width in defense after a lot of experimenting. In the end, I found that sometimes I would be defending, and even with come back on defence, my wingers would be chilling on the touchline hoping for the best. With 5 width they are more likely to get involved in defence and this has really bolstered my backline with the added support.
Not quite as adventurous as the 7 depth, I play in the 4-4-2 formation… but 6 is still a healthy number... the reason being that without your CMs dropping back into the correct spaces, you can leave yourself incredibly exposed with this formation. The ball down the line or an over the top switch can quickly turn into a frantic scramble back into the box, alarm bells ringing the entire way. However, I still like the 6 depth allows the early press to still be effective and when your CMs are on it, and the CBs are tight to attackers, it can be a suffocating experience for opponents.
With Players in the Box set to level 8 the idea would be that a lot of my players are finding their way there eventually. This creates a Get In Behind style of instruction for the wingers, but they wait until the ball is in the attacking third to really press the issue. With Get In Behind as an instruction, I found my wingers were constantly absent when trying to play out from the back and it caused a huge headache. However, as I said, it is key to this formation that the wingers arrive on the scene to break down the wall of defenders that have been set during your build-up play.
ST #1: Speedster (whoever is the fastest) → Bal. Width - Get in Behind - Aggressive Int. - Bal. Support
ST #2: Playmaker (the other option) → Bal. Width - Mixed Attack - Normal Int. - Bal. or Def. Support
CAM: Basic or Come Back (based on opponent strength) - Get in Box - Stick to Position - Norm. Int
Wingers: It is important to have wingers that can both contribute to attack and are capable defensively. I am not dead set on actual defending statistics though. For instance Sadio Mane is one of my favorite players in this role, with only 44 Defending. What he does have is a load of pace, stamina, and strength, making up for the odd missed tackle.
LM: Left Footed → Come Back - Cut Inside - Balanced Support - Get in Box for Crosses - Normal Int.
RM: Right Footed → Come Back - Cut Inside - Balanced Support - Get in Box for Crosses - Normal Int.
CMs → Stay Back Attacking - Balanced Cross - Normal Int - Stick Position - Cover Wing
CBs: (70 Pace Min: I like a left footer on Left CB if possible) → Stay Back Attacking - Normal Int.
GK: Comes for Crosses - Sweeper Keeper
My problem with FIFA is that I attribute fun with winning too often. I play 4-4-2 because it is balanced, I play 7 depth to try and stop opponents keeping the ball for hours, but in general, the formation is so I can win … finish Elite … get rewards… have a stronger squad to try and win more. But when I just sit down to play for enjoyment I can always count on the 3-4-1-2 formation to create fun based on set up alone. The idea that the match might finish 5-3 is an exciting prospect and I never score more than when using this formation. Having tinkered and toiled with this formation for weeks to write this review, I feel like I am ready to branch out and give it a go in Weekend League. I am expecting the worst, but maybe a fun weekend will be more of what I need. Let me know if you give these tactics a try. I received a lot of positive messages about the 4-4-2 Tactics and comments on improved finishes in WL using them… I hope that this will do the same, with that added ingredient… fun! Cheers for reading.
3-4-1-2 Custom Tactics Video: