Fm18 Dortmund squad

FM18 Possession Style: 4-2-3-1 Formation with Borussia Dortmund

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As the era of FM18 is ending, I have decided to share one more possession tactic I created, which is the possession 4-2-3-1 formation with Borussia Dortmund. This tactic might be the last FM18 tactic written here on FMtrendGames. Our focus now is FM19. Besides, I could not ignore how solid this tactic is. I have tried it with Dortmund, Athletic Bilbao, Arsenal, and Real Sociedad. I have also had great successes with them, but am going to share all the results I got using this tactic with Borussia 09 Dortmund.

However, the playing style of this tactic is almost like this my version of tiki-taka tactic. But this tactic, created in version 18.3.3, is more flexible and tends to make great use of the midfield when compared. Moreover, only teams with good technique, passing ability, and creativity can blend perfectly with this tactic.

Tactic: The 4-2-3-1 Formation

4-2-3-1 formation


Team Instructions

Normally, the team shape and mentality of this tactic is set to flexible and standard, respectively. But I usually switch to control mentality when playing on home ground, and back to standard when on neutral ground (like in cup finals). In Away games, depending on the opponent, I make changes on both the team mentality and shape – sometimes I set to defend or standard mentality with a structured team shape.

This tactic features a high possession style of play and impressive pass-combinations. From the player instructions screenshot above, the team shape is flexible, the tempo is much lower, and the team adopts a balanced approach to wide play.

The defensive line is slightly deeper. This tactic influences the team to close down the opponent as much as possible. Nevertheless, the team stays on feet while tackling. While using this tactic, I notice that it gets the opponent to commit a lot of fouls which result to red cards and penalty kicks.

In the build-up section, the team will play from the back before advancing (i.e. play out of defence). In addition, the midfield is the team’s focus attacking mentality. The passing directness is short passing and the team will aim to pass into open spaces. Keeping hold of the ball is also a priority.

In the final third, the team looks for underlap because this tactic isn’t equipped with two attacking fullbacks. Look for underlap works best with such situation. The team will also work ball into to box (this instruction is advantageous for high deceptive passing play). However, for crossing, low crosses is preferable.

Keeper: Sweeper Keeper (Support)

The good footwork of a Sweeper Keeper (SK) is preferrable for this tactic. The assigned keeper has to contribute immensely in the flow of passes from the back. Any goalkeeper you wish to place in this role must have a reasonable passing attribute.

SK Instructions

Roman Bürki is not a natural SK but he did a good job in this role.

Central Defenders: Two Ball Playing Defenders (Both on Defend)

In the ball playing defender (BPD) role, the assigned player can comfortably hit through balls to the fullbacks or wide players for them to press forward. Presence of these defenders in this tactic does promote the flow of passes. Sometimes, they provide accurate long passes to teammates in the opponent’s third.

BPD 1 Instructions

2nd BPD Instructions

On the defend duty, the defenders’ main aim is to break up attacks by intercepting passes. They have to try as much as possible to prevent the ball from getting into the box. The BPD role, apart from the basic attributes of a defender, requires attributes like first touch, passing, technique, vision, and composure.

Side Backs: Two Fullbacks (Attack and Support)

In this tactic, one fullback has the attack duty while the other has the support duty. As a supporting fullback, he’s to defend more and be able to recycle possession when the team’s attack fails. The fullback will only approach the by-lines when it’s really necessary.

RB instructions

However, the attacking fullback goes forward while staying wide, in order to provide an option for the trequartista who operated in the half space.

LB instructions

Lukasz Piszczek did a good as a supporting fullback while Raphaël Guerreiro showed class as an attacking fullback.

Central Midfield: Deep Lying Playmakers (Support and Defend)

For a tactic to be good in possession football, it has to acquire good amount of the playmaker roles. The Deep Lying Playmaker is one of such roles. The assigned player operates in the space between the midfield and advance midfield. With the support duty, he moves forward a bit. The assigned player is like an all-round midfielder who can dominate the midfield, improve the connection between the defender and striker. However, he controls the transition phase of this tactic and sets decisive passes to the forwards.

DPL support

On the other hand, the defensive DLP rarely gets forward to support attack. However, when it comes to zonal marking and recycling possession, he’s a very important player in this tactic.

Deep Lying Playmaker defend

Side Forwards: Trequartista (Attack) and Winger (Attack)

The trequartista operates in the half space of the pitch. He’s usually quick and tends to drift inside the opposition box. I acts more like an inside forward but he’s more like a dangerous side striker. Christian Pulisic became a great asset for me in this role.

Right trequartista instructions

In the right side, the attacking winger does most of the crossings. He’s very effective in this tactic because he can dribble down the flank, assist, and score.

Winger Instructions

Central Attacking Midfield: Advanced Playmaker (Support)

As optimum creativity is indispensable for this tactic, I added an Advanced Playmaker. The AP also helps in dictating the tempo of the game. Although he has the support duty, he’s usually involved in goals. This is where Mario Götze became a great influence.

AP support

Central Forward: Advanced Forward (Attack)

The Advanced Forward role became a better choice for this tactic after I tried other roles like complete forward and deep lying forward. The assigned player is like an all-round attacker. He can score, create chances, and cross balls. He can operate in both wide and central areas. Moreover, he works exactly the way he works in my park-the-bus tactic. I brought in Andrea Belotti in the January transfer window to give me that service he gave me in my Torino save.

Advanced Forward


Most times, I do leave the general training to my assistant manager while I handle the individual training. However, your match preparations should be set to Match Tactics for some time before switching to Teamwork. Your advanced playmaker should be able to drop killer balls and hit accurate through balls. Therefore, you should train them well in these aspects. The whole players also need to train in making high percentage of accurate passes.


To strengthen the defensive nature of this tactic, you have to engage in specific marking. The screenshot below shows some types of formations. Each position circled yellow has the proper position (labelled under) you should use to mark that particular circled position.

Specific marking

The ones circled blue are optional. For example, in the 4-4-2 formation, if you mark both midfielders and you found out the opposition relies only on the two strikers, then you have to change your marking.

Based on my experience, 4-4-2 formation is a very difficult formation to face using this tactic. Your team might not get a good result.

Opposition Instructions

This tactic doesn’t really need opposition instructions. But you’re free to set a suitable opposition instructions you feel. However, mind you that opposition instruction is set based on the opponent you’re facing. There’s no permanent opposition instructions for all the opposition team you face.

Results and Stats


Pass combination and structure

Download Tactic 

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