How to Beat the 4-4-2 Formation in FM19

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How to beat the 4-4-2 formation? Well, this is the kind of question I have seen a few times in this site search query. I didn’t know other people face the same kind of problem I face. Well, I didn’t know how to answer such question back then because I could not find the solution. But now, I will answer this query in this article.

If you have played FM18 really well, you will notice that it’s difficult to beat teams using the classic formation (like Atlético Madrid, Valencia, RB Leipzig etc) on their home ground. Sometime, it’s even a bit difficult to beat such teams on your own home ground. Personally, once I see the team am facing is using 4-4-2, I always get annoyed.

Well, I thought this will be different in FM19, but it’s not. Such teams are still a big challenge. I often ask myself what’s special about this formation. You might have probably asked the same thing. But, I will tell you what’s special about it and why it’s a tough (I think it’s the toughest) formation to beat in FM18 and FM19. I will talk about how to beat this formation in FM18 later in another article.

Why is it Special?

Well, I think the 4-4-2 formation is very dynamic for the AI (not for you, sorry). It is the best formation that adapts easily to any tactic the AI employs. As you may know, the AI (Artificial Intelligence) is your opponent. When you are playing against teams using this formation, whichever philosophy or playing style you use, the opponent (AI) usually finds a way to counter it. But with other formations, the AI doesn’t find it that easy to counter your tactic.

This doesn’t mean you can’t beat the formation. Some factors can help you beat a team using this formation easily. For instance, if you’re using Man City, you can easily beat (both in home and away games) teams like Charlton Athletic or Almería if they are using 4-4-2.

How the 4-4-2 Formation Works When Used by AI

Here’s what I noticed about this formation when playing against it. I will pick three aspects: defence, attack, set pieces


Example of the defending structure of AI 4-4-2 formation.

Defensively, the classic 4-4-2 is very strong. When playing against it, the AI uses both the 4 defenders and midfielders while defending. Actually, the 4 midfielders do most of the defending. The two strikers are not usually involved in defending. Moreover, while defending, they go strong on tackles and tend to stay narrow to compress the central areas as much as possible.

Because of this defensive nature, this sometimes forces your team to go wide. But going wide can trigger a lot of mistakes from your team especially if your tactic attacking width is narrow and you’re playing a possession football. Now, what kind of mistakes do I mean? If your player wants to make a pass that’s supposed to influence your team to attack narrowly, seeing the opposition defensive nature, he sometimes gets confused. This will make him lose the ball to an opponent while holding it. Again, if he tries to go wide, he may make an incomplete pass, thereby causing a counter-attack.

You may be wondering what will happen if you choose a wide attacking width under a direct playing (like counter-attacking football or gegenpress) style. The AI will readjust and start playing possession style. Trust me; you do not want the AI to hold possession of the ball constantly. In other words, to prevent your team’s counter attacking threats, the opponent will set the defence line to stay deep.


The opponent usually do attack quickly and effectively. This is where the two central strikers do all the damages. They barely help in winning the ball back; rather, they stay forward and wait for a direct long pass from deep. Whenever your team loses the ball, the opponent will quickly send the ball the strikers. If your central defenders don’t mark them properly, whenever the ball is sent high up, the strikers will get one-on-one chances with your keeper.

Set Pieces

The 4-4-2 formation is really good in set pieces when used by AI – both in corners (defend and attack) and free kicks (defend and attack). I really don’t know how the AI does it, but it knows how to take advantage of set pieces. In FM18, it is very tough to prevent the opponent from taking advantages of set pieces. This is because they can easily turn your attack free-kick or corner into their deadly counter-attack. But this situation is not that rampant in FM19.

Best Way to Destabilise AI 4-4-2 Formation

The best thing you can do to destabilise or completely neutralize the opposition’s playing style is to do these:

  • Starting from in-possession, in-transition, out of possession, and set pieces, you need to carefully set up a tactic that can prevent counter-attack.
  • You need to pick a formation that can dominate both the midfield and flanks.
  • And you must mark them properly; man marking is better.

Now, I am going to show you the formation I do use against 4-4-2 and my marking setup.

The Defensive 4-2-3-1 Formation

As you can see from the screenshots above, my defensive line is lower while the line of engagement is much lower. I set it this way to weaken their counter attacking threats. When they send those long balls from deep to their strikers, it won’t be deadly anymore. Also, this set up will compress space, preventing them from playing comfortably.

Furthermore, as you can see, I use counter-press, offside trap, tighter marking, and more-urgent pressing intensity. They all contribute in weakening the opponent dynamic style.

In terms of the 4-2-3-1 formation roles and duties, I chose inside forwards because they operate in the half space. They do make themselves available for the midfielders (especially the one with the support duty) to find. In addition, they do help in dominating the midfield. While they operate that way, the wingbacks will offer width in case there’s need to go wide.

Remember, my attacking width is standard and the passing directness is standard too. The aim here is to balance our play. You can read the full details on how all these roles work on this formation here.

For the best mentality to use, I usually use cautious in away games. Sometimes I use the balanced mentality in home games.


You can see, for example, how my team marks the opposition using the 4-4-2 formation in the screenshots above. I use mixed marking. However, the best thing is to man-mark the two central strikers, the 2 central midfielders, and the 2 wingers. The screenshot below shows each position you can use to mark the opposition.

Set Pieces Setup

This is how I set my defend set pieces in order to make it very difficult for the opponent to score directly. You can find the rest of the setup in the tactic file when downloaded.

Using this 4-2-3-1 tactic will give your team the best fighting chance against teams using the 4-4-2 formation in FM19. Feel free to give us a feedback using the comment box below. If you’re interested in writing your own experiences with football manager, click here to join our team of authors and start sharing your contents on this site. ENJOY THE GAME.


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