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Chat Two Banks of Four: An Observation


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4-4-2 and 4-4-1-1 might be the worst defensive shapes for defending deep in FMM. They are good for a high press but not in every phase. I'll explain. 

A lot of teams defend with two banks of four. This article perfectly describes why it's the go-to defensive shape.  https://breakingthelines.com/tactical-analysis/why-the-4-4-2-is-the-go-to-defensive-shape/

The Case of Deep Defending

The four midfielders and four defenders are supposed to form a big lump in front of the goalkeeper as they shift from side to side as a unit depending on the position of the ball. The two CMs cover the center well. The half spaces are supposed to be covered by the wide midfielders.

But FMM fails to do that. Wide midfielders in FMM are not interested in assisting the CMs. They sit on the flanks and watch the CMs suffer. They do not even track back. All they do is leave huge gaps. And even while not defending the half spaces, they don't mark the opposition full back. 

 

The Case of a High Press

Pressing high requires you to choke the opposition in their own half. 4-4-2 and 4-4-1-1 are good shapes for doing that. The front four will literally be in the faces of the opposition back four. But FMM makes things difficult if the opposition bypasses the press. It's the same issue with the wide midfielders. They do not track back. They literally stay high and wide while the rest of the team runs back.

This is what I mentioned earlier. The wide midfielders are only useful when the opposition is building play. They love to disrupt the first phase. But when it's not successful, they don't follow the rest of the team back. 

Conclusion

These issues can be fixed with defensive width and specific closing down instructions for the wide midfielders.

A narrow defensive width should make the two banks of four tight enough to compress space for the opposition.  The narrow defensive width should also affect the positioning of the wide midfielders, so they can come central and not expose the two CMs.

Man marking exists but I don't think it has an effect on the wide midfielders. Making them close down more will ensure that they track back when they lose the ball or keep up with the opposition fullback as he bombs down the flank. 

Wide midfielders as spectators in defensive situations makes defending with two banks of four impossible

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That’s an interesting observation. Thanks for writing it up.

As an alternative, could you move the Wide Midfielders back to Inverted Wing Backs? Then potentially also moving the two MCs into the DMC positions? 

While IWBs ‘should’ move inside when your team is in possession, at least in FMM21 they tended to position themselves pretty narrow out of possession also. This may give better defensive positioning in those opposition half-spaces and also ensure they track back.

May suit a deep defensive long-ball game, with a back 4, another deep back of IWs and DMCs, then a TM and Poacher / Shadow Striker upfront in a 4-4-0-0-2 or 4-4-0-1-1 for example.

Thoughts?

Edited by DanEnglish
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22 minutes ago, DanEnglish said:

Interesting observation. 

As an alternative, could you move the Wide Midfielders back to Inverted Wong Backs? Potentially also moving the two MCs into the DMC positions? 

While IWBs should move inside when your team is in possession, at least in FMM21 they tended to position themselves pretty narrow out of possession also. This may give more defensive positioning in those opportunities half-spaces and also track back.

May suit a deep defensive long-ball game, with a back 4, another deep back of IWs and DMCs, then a TM and Poacher / Shadow Striker upfront in a 4-4-0-0-2 or 4-4-0-1-1

Thoughts?

Makes sense on paper. Might have to switch to an attacking/overload mentality to encourage more forward runs. 

The case of the inverted wingers. They actually look good in defensive situations. Without the ball, they'll sit narrow and move out of the block to press the full back, if the press is unsuccessful, they'll move back inside to defend with the rest of the team. 

The problem with inverted wingers is their on-ball behaviour. They don't get further forward when the team is attacking. They also don't run wide with the ball after receiving.

"Run at defence" may make them run wide to cross but that instruction also affects the CMs too. You don't want your CM or DLP taking on players. You'll lose the ball. They are supposed to keep it simple and spread the ball to the flanks for the wide midfielders to cross.

 

The perfect wide midfielder in a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 should have the aggression of a defensive winger, central positioning of an inverted winger in very defensive situations and the "running down the flank" trait of a winger. 

Watched a lot of 4-4-2 recently. Burnley, 13/14 Atletico, Lille and others. The wide players work very hard. 

Edited by Mr Phalanx
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Hmmm ...just did a quick test + it suggests you are right.

Started a new save as Crystal Palace, setup a friendly away at Bayern (so they should dominate us). Tried a couple of ‘two banks of four’ setups with an IWB, but none had the intended defensive shape which you described.

SUMMARY:
You are right that WMs stay wide and too high up. IWBs are an improvement on this, but still do not protect the half spaces. So your conclusion about ‘two banks of four’ essentially seems to be correct 👍 


Edit - added some comments / screenshots into setup A.  
 

Setup A:
442 (with the ML moved back to IWB)

Spoiler

Team Formation

8780CA47-CFA7-4FCD-B081-F6ABF2E70AC7.thumb.png.7fd8a6f9efa9c6988c4d38ca54af307b.png

 
In-game Positioning

CBDCF379-6698-4200-91EE-8B7E0FC1F34D.thumb.jpeg.b4d73b96ed163ad4d80e241fb22823bd.jpeg

At kick-off, our WM (bottom of screen) stays wide + does not tuck-in.

However our IWB (top) does sit deep + tucks-in more centrally! Great.

D93E4E27-5399-4051-A02A-F7EA2C5971FF.thumb.jpeg.1616b48729d856b51c1df0a432f4ed6b.jpeg

2D5DF34F-0119-468A-AC2C-301C33D003C2.thumb.jpeg.daec84a8043a8ce7f6f5d731ce9c8ddb.jpeg

BUT while the IWB sits deeper + more centrally than the WM, unfortunately the IWB still does NOT protect the half space.

 
Setup B: 
442 (with IWB + 2 DMCs)

Spoiler

Team Formation

5CE97199-1320-43D7-91CC-A8807D0A7D86.thumb.png.83fe1661cfe61d0835a726a1d1b350b7.png

 
In-Game Positioning

6E838095-0958-49ED-9586-2513EA677774.thumb.jpeg.44ab5f3860333aba5e6400ddb2c6994d.jpeg

2C029841-8FF4-4916-A8FC-B222F24DCFEC.thumb.jpeg.554f6cf85d484a7fce35afe84ea5d012.jpeg

Here the IWB (top) isn’t tucking in, doesn’t protect the half-space, and stays relatively wide just in front of the DL. Not good.

Have kept the MR as a WM just to show as a comparison. He’s still way further out wide.

 

General Tactic:
For all Setups above

Spoiler

5A96D1B3-E404-4AE7-948B-CA8E8FB59A5B.thumb.png.f8ab599c2d1ef11569f0cb681b906c91.png

7D06E14F-467E-466F-AFAF-E89218BA01E5.thumb.png.0147534edb3c8de0ed25bbb65dc926e4.png

844111DA-DC5A-4137-AD44-E3D77C1C5A28.thumb.png.c0f1db4e2934bca37738a6f747d4d718.png

8A28AF9B-6F10-4FAC-B3D1-7149A9377398.thumb.png.309e84fd213c10b9e08c550e9311055c.png

 

Edited by DanEnglish
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The closest solution to a workable defensive 442 that I can think of is a 4-3-1-0-2, with a back four, three DMCs (all Anchormen?!) and one MC (B2B?) with two up-front.

Theoretically that’s kind of a 442 (hmmm... kind of) and theoretically should cover the gaps / half-spaces - though I haven’t tested it.

Thoughts?

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1 hour ago, DanEnglish said:

Hmmm ...just did a quick test + it suggests you are right.

Started a new save as Crystal Palace, setup a friendly away at Bayern (so they should dominate us). Tried a couple of ‘two banks of four’ setups with an IWB, but none had the intended defensive shape which you described.

SUMMARY:
You are right that WMs stay wide and too high up. IWBs are an improvement on this, but still do not protect the half spaces. So your conclusion about ‘two banks of four’ essentially seems to be correct 👍 


Edit - added some comments / screenshots into setup A.  
 

Setup A:
442 (with the ML moved back to IWB)

  Hide contents

Team Formation

8780CA47-CFA7-4FCD-B081-F6ABF2E70AC7.thumb.png.7fd8a6f9efa9c6988c4d38ca54af307b.png

 
In-game Positioning

CBDCF379-6698-4200-91EE-8B7E0FC1F34D.thumb.jpeg.b4d73b96ed163ad4d80e241fb22823bd.jpeg

At kick-off, our WM (bottom of screen) stays wide + does not tuck-in.

However our IWB (top) does sit deep + tucks-in more centrally! Great.

D93E4E27-5399-4051-A02A-F7EA2C5971FF.thumb.jpeg.1616b48729d856b51c1df0a432f4ed6b.jpeg

2D5DF34F-0119-468A-AC2C-301C33D003C2.thumb.jpeg.daec84a8043a8ce7f6f5d731ce9c8ddb.jpeg

BUT while the IWB sits deeper + more centrally than the WM, unfortunately the IWB still does NOT protect the half space.

 
Setup B: 
442 (with IWB + 2 DMCs)

  Hide contents

Team Formation

5CE97199-1320-43D7-91CC-A8807D0A7D86.thumb.png.83fe1661cfe61d0835a726a1d1b350b7.png

 
In-Game Positioning

6E838095-0958-49ED-9586-2513EA677774.thumb.jpeg.44ab5f3860333aba5e6400ddb2c6994d.jpeg

2C029841-8FF4-4916-A8FC-B222F24DCFEC.thumb.jpeg.554f6cf85d484a7fce35afe84ea5d012.jpeg

Here the IWB (top) isn’t tucking in, doesn’t protect the half-space, and stays relatively wide just in front of the DL. Not good.

Have kept the MR as a WM just to show as a comparison. He’s still way further out wide.

 

General Tactic:
For all Setups above

  Hide contents

5A96D1B3-E404-4AE7-948B-CA8E8FB59A5B.thumb.png.f8ab599c2d1ef11569f0cb681b906c91.png

7D06E14F-467E-466F-AFAF-E89218BA01E5.thumb.png.0147534edb3c8de0ed25bbb65dc926e4.png

844111DA-DC5A-4137-AD44-E3D77C1C5A28.thumb.png.c0f1db4e2934bca37738a6f747d4d718.png

 

 

Noice.

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57 minutes ago, DanEnglish said:

The closest solution to a workable defensive 442 that I can think of is a 4-3-1-0-2, with a back four, three DMCs (all Anchormen?!) and one MC (B2B?) with two up-front.

Theoretically that’s kind of a 442 (hmmm... kind of) and theoretically should cover the gaps / half-spaces - though I haven’t tested it.

Thoughts?

Will try this. But while 3 Anchormen will close down spaces in the box, the only outlets will be the strikers. Long balls down the middle may not be sustainable. The shape looks good for shutting out the opposition completely. Or if you're uninterested in scoring more goals.

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22 hours ago, Mr Phalanx said:

Will try this. But while 3 Anchormen will close down spaces in the box, the only outlets will be the strikers. Long balls down the middle may not be sustainable. The shape looks good for shutting out the opposition completely. Or if you're uninterested in scoring more goals.

You are right. That 4-3-1-0-2 approach (with 3 Anchors!) would be a very ‘limited‘ approach. Perhaps suitable for hanging onto a lucky one goal lead? Or hoping for a 0:0 draw? Or just to minimise how much you get beaten by.

Maybe (and this is not likely) you could have a long ball approach upfront to 2 ST (a TM and Poacher) - but the opposition DCs would need relatively lower aerial, aggression + strength than your TM - perhaps some lower leagues?

Or alternatively instead of having 2 upfront, you could have one Winger and one TM (or Poacher) in an asymmetrically formation. The winger would be the outlet and you main (only?) source of assists. May work for someone like Crystal Palace with Zaha on the wing and Benteke alone upfront. Is unlikely to prevent you from being relegated though.

Going back to your main point - it would be interesting to have an extra / new role, similar to what you described - perhaps ‘defensive wide midfielder’ - similar in concept to the ‘defensive full back’ - who sits narrower (to defend the half spaces) + who is more cautious / defensive (to sit deeper out of possession + protect the back line). Would be nice for this type of tactic, though not sure what you’d want from them in-possession.

Just some random ideas 🙂

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1 hour ago, DanEnglish said:

You are right. That 4-3-1-0-2 approach (with 3 Anchors!) would be a very ‘limited‘ approach. Perhaps suitable for hanging onto a lucky one goal lead? Or hoping for a 0:0 draw? Or just to minimise how much you get beaten by.

Maybe (and this is not likely) you could have a long ball approach upfront to 2 ST (a TM and Poacher) - but the opposition DCs would need relatively lower aerial, aggression + strength than your TM - perhaps some lower leagues?

Or alternatively instead of having 2 upfront, you could have one Winger and one TM (or Poacher) in an asymmetrically formation. The winger would be the outlet and you main (only?) source of assists. May work for someone like Crystal Palace with Zaha on the wing and Benteke alone upfront. Is unlikely to prevent you from being relegated though.

Going back to your main point - it would be interesting to have an extra / new role, similar to what you described - perhaps ‘defensive wide midfielder’ - similar in concept to the ‘defensive full back’ - who sits narrower (to defend the half spaces) + who is more cautious / defensive (to sit deeper out of possession + protect the back line). Would be nice for this type of tactic, though not sure what you’d want from them in-possession.

Just some random ideas 🙂

New role? Maybe. Individual instructions for the wide midfielder to tuck in without the ball? Maybe.

Recently, I tried something in the Welsh lower leagues. 

DFB  CD  CD  DFB

WB  DM  DLP  WB

           BBM

           P/AF

Proper 4-4-1-1.

Based on these roles only, it's a very defensive setup. The entire team excluding the striker is deep. The starting position of everyone else is low enough. This is the perfect low block structure. Two banks of four that are vertically compact. There's no space between both lines.

But things look different when you set the mentality to Attacking/Overload.

The setup already ensures that you will mostly be deep in your half and defending your box. But the mentality is what  affects the transition from defence to attack. 

After winning the ball, everyone will look to get forward quickly. The high mentality majorly affects three things as you are on the counter.

- More speed and more intensity while transitioning + passing directness. Perfect for your fast striker who's waiting for that long ball over the defense.

- The BBM literally becomes the second striker.  Without the ball he'll join the rest of the team in blocking space in the area. He'll be just on top of the two banks of four, chasing players around like Ulloa of 15/16 Leicester or Burnley's Ashley Barnes. But when the ball is won. He'll get forward as quickly as possible to join the striker. All thanks to the high mentality.

-Wingbacks become wingers. The High mentality makes the wingbacks aggressive with the ball. They'll run down the flanks to cross.

The tactic is 50/50. It could look good. It could look bad.  But the setup naturally keeps things tight. Long periods of defending without the ball due to setup. But higher mentalities makes it threatening. 

 

The way they defend their box is nice to watch though. The wingbacks made a difference. The wingback role is still somewhat a defensive role, so it helped in covering the flanks+ half space. They tracked back and joined everyone. 

Narrow width makes it better. Everyone will stay so close to each other. You'll the two banks of four shifting from side to side as the opponents try to penetrate. It's the best way to recreate deep defending. 

-

 

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