Space is one of the most valuable commodities on a football pitch and a tactical principle designed to create more of it, namely positional play, has become one of the most popular in elite football in recent times.
As is often the case, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has been at the forefront of this trend. Essentially, the idea of positional play is players adjusting their positions on the pitch to help ‘find the extra man’, giving the ball-carrier more passing options and allowing the team to move the ball quickly and effectively up the pitch.
In Football Manager 2024, positional play is making its mark. Big improvements to player rotations – the concept of players moving into other positions while your team is in possession – in the Match Engine will have your teams playing like the best.
Adding an extra man to the attack
One of the most popular formations in modern football, the 4-2-3-1 takes on a new lease of life in FM24.
Take a look at the formation shown below as an example. Here, you’ve got a Segundo Volante and a Defensive Midfielder at the base of your midfield and then an Advanced Playmaker in the 10 slot. In a match in FM24, this is what your team’s shape looks like out of possession.
With these player rotation changes, the Segundo Volante will have the freedom to push up and join the attack as a second 10 behind the striker when your team is in possession.
Here’s where the positional play changes come to the fore. The Advanced Playmaker will recognise the forward movement of the Segundo Volante and will shuffle across to open up more space for him to operate in, thereby effectively giving you a four-man unit behind the striker.
Let’s take Manchester City as an example with Mateo Kovacic as the Segundo Volante and Kevin De Bruyne as the Advanced Playmaker. Here, De Bruyne will move across to accommodate Kovacic pushing up and even though Phil Foden on the right is set up as an Inverted Winger, he’ll start start from a wider position to allow Kovacic to support the attack.
This will give you a 4-1-4-1 shape when in possession, generally meaning a numerical advantage over the opposition defence and better chances for your players to get more effective shooting chances away.
Also, with more support, your striker will have even more support and options for link-up play. That usually means goals and what do goals mean? Trophies.
Bringing intelligent defenders into the mix
FM24’s player rotations aren’t just limited to midfielders and wingers, though. The new Inverted Full-Back and improvements to the Inverted Wing-Back mean you create more fluid shapes across the entire pitch.
The 4-3-3 shown below is a simple enough shape but with these upgraded defenders, your build-up shape looks a lot different.
In this system, Kyle Walker at Inverted Full-Back will tuck in to become a third central defender and Josko Gvardiol at Inverted Wing-Back will push up to support Rodri in a two-man defensive midfield pivot.
With more cover in behind them, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva will drive further up the pitch to support the front three.
Jeremy Doku and Phil Foden will, as in the example above, stay wider, meaning you’ve once again got a four-man attacking unit supporting and linking up with Erling Haaland in the final third.
That gives you something that looks a little like the below when your team is in possession.
What these positional rotations give you is tactical flexibility. With more intelligent player movement, your team’s shape will dynamically adjust between the different phases of attack, giving you a better ability to play through the lines and overload the opposition in the attacking areas, giving you the best chance to win trophies on football's biggest stages.
Football Manager 2024 is now available to purchase here.