Tactics in Football Manager 2011 are broken up into separate methods of instruction: Tactical Shape/Formation, Team Instructions, Player Duties, Player Roles, Player Instructions and Touchline Shouts. The immediate issues to deal with when building a tactic are your players. You need to decide how they’re going to fit into your tactics or if you’re going to build a tactic around what you have at the club. Sometimes, this decision is made for you, so it’s best to review the squad fully and see what attributes your players have and how effective they’d be in a specific role, then begin to piece your tactical shape together and if you need to, hit the transfer market for some reinforcements.
The starting point of any tactic requires you to firstly assess your players and see who and what you’re working with. After you’ve done that, you should have some idea of what kind of formation you’re going to play. Most people tend to opt for the dependable 442, the more attacking 433, or the more defensive 451. These three tactics are the more popular shapes, but none of them have to dictate the way you chose to play the game. You could, for example, go with the 451 which offers strong defensive numbers and overcrowds the middle of the pitch (at the expense of attacking support for the lone striker) and could opt to be overly attacking and push high up the pitch, you don’t necessarily need to sit back and counter-attack or play defensively just because your formation suggests it should be a more defensive tactic.
The overall thing to remember when selecting a formation is that you should take into account who you have in your team and the strength of those players. For example, if you don’t have strong wingers it’s obviously better to deploy your team to work through the middle of the pitch, solidify the midfield and look to get the stronger players on the field – although, not at the expense of playing players out of position. It’s highly inadvisable to play weaker players just because they fit your preferred formation – if you can’t replace the weak players, look to create a shape which has balance, but also potency; don’t give the weaker players a role which they’ll struggle to impress in, give them minimal duties and responsibilities and focus the tactic to get the better players more involved.
Philosophy is a hugely important aspect of the tactical setup. It defines the behaviour of the players. Basically a fluid style of play would have the players playing the game more to their specific personalities, defenders would attack more and attackers might come back more – much like the way Rooney plays in his free role at Manchester United – except the whole team would play in that manner. A rigid style of play would be the complete opposite to the fluid style, forcing the players to do exactly what you’ve told them – but this can have an effect on their creativity and improvisation. These settings will operate within the parameters of a player’s personality though, so don’t expect someone like Berbatov to start defending off the line during an opposition counter-attack, if you’re set to a more fluid setting; Their Mental attributes obviously still come into play.
Strategy dictates the behaviour and mentality of the team, as well as the movement of the players and their positioning. It’s not an overly complex setup procedure, so it’s worth experimenting with in some friendly games so you can see first-hand how the setting affects the team’s approach to taking on the opposition. Strategy triggers the movement of the mentality and positioning sliders, which will create a different spacing system between each player – for example, if the players were very defensive, they’d be much closer together – hence less gaps in-between each player; if the players were very attacking, they’d be much further apart – hence wider gaps in-between each player.