A Look At Tactics Pt 2: 4231, Schalke

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated my blog with anything. I’ve still got my Schalke save on my computer, but I’ve not played it since April. I’m not sure if I’ll continue it at any point as I’ve been playing about with other saves. It’s there if I feel the need to update it though.

I analysed my tactic while managing Dynamo Kyiv which people seem to have enjoyed, it still gets a lot of hits now. So I thought I’d have a look at the one I’m using at Schalke. I’ve had great success since taking over in 2020. So far I’ve guided them to 4 Bundesliga Titles, 4 German SuperCups, 1 Domestic Cup and 1 Champions League. We also went undefeated in the Bundesliga during the 2022/23 season.

I use a pretty basic 4231 as pictured below.schalke4231


We’re setup with a counter mentality and a flexible structure. I’ve had great success playing counter attacking on FM15, it’s a recipe for success in my opinion.

Anyway, roles and duties are pretty self explanatory. I’ve chosen one attacking full back and one supporting one. In the winger positions, I’ve used the complimentary attack/support duties. My midfield triangle is made up of a destroyer, a creator and an attacker. The advanced playmaker plays more like a second striker, running at the defence and slotting balls through to my wingers/striker. The complete forward is my favourite striker role on FM. The way it interacts with the attacking midfielders is wonderful.

My instructions are also pretty simplistic. I want my players to play the ball into space and run onto it with out superior pace. I want them far away from our goal and I want them to win it back quickly. I want to avoid stupid long shots and as my striker is small but quick, drill the ball into his feet.

With the counter mentality, all the players will drop deeper to defend and we don’t leave much space for the opposition to operate in. I never really use player instructions as I just change the role if the player isn’t doing what I want. My goalkeeper just distributes short to full backs.

So, how is it in action? Here’s the Champions League Semi-Final Second Leg against Man Utd. We won the game 5-0 so there’s enough goals to see. We won the first leg 4-2. They knocked us out in the Semi-Final last season, so I was looking for revenge.

So here’s the line-ups. It’s always interesting to see how the AI sets their tactics up. No real attacking penetration in midfield from United.


Straight from kick-off, we were on the attack. World Player Of The Year, Julian Draxler on a mazy run down the right. You can see the positions our team take up, three men running into the box. Thomson cutting inside from the left, dragging his opposite winger with him and leaving a massive gap for Linkert to run into if the cross is overhit. Bollman is a bit more reserved on the right, but is close enough if needed. Schroder is sitting in the middle of the park with the two centre backs just out of shot.


On this occasion, the attack broke down as Draxler got tackled. Goretzka picked the ball up and Man Utd kept retreating, with eight of their players in the box before we shot wide.

It’s not all sunshine and roses, we do get hit from time to time.


We just lost the ball in the opposition half and their defender cleared to a forward. We’re lucky in that Man Utd aren’t really setup to transition well and there’s only one option on and that’s highlighted with the dotted line. Hit it into space and hope Lukaku gets there. We have five players back to help defend this. Roger did hit the ball into the space and Lukaku did get there, but our goalkeeper met it and our defenders swept in and got the ball away from danger. Roger was the nearest player when Lukaku his the shot and he was just outside the 18 yard box. Oxlader-Chamberlain was arriving about the same time as my left winger.

Despite that brief scare, we actually turned this situation around and got our first goal. We hit Man Utd on the counter from the above clearance.


Man Utd get let down by some poor defending here in all honesty. Vallejo is far too interested in what Halilovic is doing and doesn’t see the run in behind from Kocabiyik. Classic ball watching. The pass however is played right into that big circle where Kocabiyik chests it down, runs into the box and slots home. I’ve no idea what Phil Jones was doing for United. Passed into space and no long shot. Very much a counter attacking goal. This was only 20 seconds after Man Utd had played themselves in with a chance. 1-0

sm4For some reason, I find this sort of thing interesting. Halilovic picks the ball up in his own half. For some reason, the three highlighted players follow him leaving a huge gap.

sm5 sm6

Interestingly, Roberts is the Man Utd left winger, miles out of position.

Remember what I said about the Advanced Playmaker being more like a second striker? This is also why I love the Complete Forward role, he contributes so much. Man Utd are all over the place here and we’re exploiting it. sm7

Our second goal came from a corner. I’ll not bore you with that as it’s really not very exciting. Halilovic got the goal with the assist coming from Kocabiyik, he had three defenders around him with two of them protesting he was offside. Vallejo and Jones no where near him.

After 20minutes of the game, it was pretty clear to see that Halilovic was running the show. He was given so much space to move as Man Utd didn’t have a player capable enough of tracking him.

The next goal was a classic winger to striker, headed goal. Kocabiyik is a regen and has all the attributes to be a world class player. Man Utd again looked shaky.


I’m not all about attacking, defending is important and our defensive shape, not including the BWM, is pretty solid and compact.


Goal number four was setup by a lovely pass from Halilovic. Again, it made perfect use of space and the speed of our attacking players.

The pass. Note Blind quite literally living up to his name.


And the finish. Two players ready to latch on to any possible goalkeeper spill.


Man Utd have now changed to a 4231 themselves, taking Lukaku off and putting on Kristoffer Ajer.

I had made three changes after the goal as the tie was effectively over. We had some big games coming up and wanted to give some players a rest.

The chaos rained on for United as they couldn’t really take control of the game. They were sitting deeper and deeper.

It should be noted that I very rarely change my tactic as the game goes on. If a team really wants to sit deep and park the bus, I’ll drop deeper myself and hit more direct passes. That’s a rarity though.

Statistically, we were great, it doesn’t always give you a full representation of the game, but you get the idea from it.sm12

Halilovic had control of the game and we’ll look at him a bit more. He made 84% of his passes and an outstanding 9 of them were key passes.


He mainly shot from around the edge of the 18 yard box, which is what you’d expect.

sm14His movement with the ball was mainly from the middle of the park when he dropped a bit deeper.


I’ve only used screenshots as I’d likely end up making about 10 videos to demonstrate what’s going on, but you can download a copy of the match and the tactic at the bottom to see for yourself how things work.

The Match

The Tactic



  1. Lie this, James. I remembered last time requesting you to detail th ein game tactic 🙂 and yu did it well, mate. Very well.

    I play FM no longer. And when I did so, i never used CF. As DLF has been my fav role, I always prefer to choose it instead of CF, let alone poacher. But, interesting to read that you mentioned there was nice connection between CF and AP. You see it as a false 9-false 10 combination-like?

    1. Cheers Ryan, much appreciated.

      I’ve been flirting with the game on and off recently. It’s always like that towards the end of the domestic season.

      Very much like a F9/F10 relationship. I’ve tried the F9 and Shadow Striker roles as I thought they’d work perfectly as I had in my head, but this seems to be how I imagine it more. The AP does play quite like a 10 at times, but can definitely break past the striker when needed.

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