FM19 Wolves Tactic: Emulating Nuno Santo’s 3-5-2 Setup

Creative Team FM19 Tactics, Tactics 8 Comments

In my previous article, which showcased Santo’s 3-4-3 tactic, I mentioned about the Portuguese manager’s current 3-5-2 tactic with Wolves. But for some reason, I couldn’t get the setup to work out well in FM19. Later on, with continuous observation of Wolves’ games this season, I finally arrived at this one. Here in this post, I am going to share more details about the FM19 Wolves tactic I created with the aim of emulating Espirito Santo’s 3-5-2 formation.

No doubt, Wolves are one of the most interesting teams to watch in EPL this season. They have caused a lot of problems for the big teams in EPL. And actually, they are the surprise package. They do things no one thought it’s possible. Irrespective of that, Wolves have a variety of talented players who are simply making history.

Nuno Santo’s Lineup: The 3-5-2 Formation

With the Ball

In general sense, Wolves’ playing style is more of a fluid counter attacking play. This involves moving the ball urgently towards the opposition final third. But, the team moves as a unity. One-twos or combination of passes between teammates can occur as the team moves in a fluid way. The aim is to carry the ball with clear intent.

In Possession

Under Nuno Santo, once Wolves are in possession of the ball, they advance while engaging in shorter passing directness. If a long pass is going to be made, it always comes decisively.

When it comes to build up, Wolves don’t stick to a particular method. They build up play according to the match situation. In the same way, they neither focus their play on the middle nor flanks. What they do mostly is sending the ball to breaking attackers.  

Attacking Animation

An example of how we attack the opposition

Wolves have a way of breaking the opposition defence structure, especially against oppositions playing with a high defensive line. They attack in an intense way. While attacking, the wingbacks push very high up the pitch. This high push makes Nuno’s men very dangerous in the final third. Thus, the formation dynamically moves to 3-3-4/3-1-2-4, with an advanced midfielder heading towards the opposition box.

In most cases, once the team gets the ball, they distribute to any wingback for him to carry out the attack. The long decisive pass can come from any of the ball playing defenders (Willy Boly or Conor Coady), or from the deep midfielder (Neves). Alternatively, in some cases when the opposition plays with a high defensive line, such long pass can find any of the strikers staying upfront to exploit the space behind the opposition defence. These are just how wolves break the opposition defence.

In Transition

Furthermore, when Wolves can’t break the opponent using counter attack or possession game, they play for set pieces. This is where João Moutinho and Neves are dangerous. If you look at this tactic’s in-possession screenshot, you will see I enabled Play For Set Pieces.

Without the Ball

Nuno Santo frequently implements the counter pressing system when the team is without the ball. Both front strikers do usually start the press. They can press the opposition defenders to disrupt their build up or press the opposition deep midfielders to limit their play in between the lines. Moreover, Wolves do press in a more urgent intensity.

Defensive Structure

Dynamically, Wolves defend in a compact 5-3-2 structure. The two strikers stay forward and position themselves for a possible counter attack. However, sometimes one of them (mostly Jota) drops to assist the midfield in defending.

In other words, Santo likes to set a low defensive line. But in FM19, I chose to leave it at standard. This is because a standard line can support the line of engagement press a bit and still hold a compact defensive shape that prevents the opponent from exploiting the space behind.

Out of Possession

However, team mentality can influence the nature of these lines. An attacking mentality (what I mostly use at Home games) will raise the defensive line to support counter pressing while the cautious mentality (what I use on Away) makes the defensive line compact and deep.

Keeper: Sweeper Keeper (Support)

Rui Patrício has been the supporting sweeper keeper so far this season. 

Centre Backs: 2 Ball Playing Defenders (Defend and Cover) and Central Defender (Defend)

Two centre backs in Nuno Santo’s back 3 system are mostly ball playing defenders. Both Cody and Boly have that confidence to play with the ball. Furthermore, they are very good in hitting accurate long passes to breaking teammates.

While both do their BPD duties, Ryan Bennett on the other hand works as a traditional central defender. Sometimes, I play Dendoncker in any of these three positions without changing the roles.

You can select the BPD or CD role for all these 3 positions if you want.

Side Wing Backs: 2 Wingbacks (Attack)

In Santo’s 3-5-2, the wingbacks push very high to support attack. They are more of attacking wingbacks. With Matt Doherty on the right and Rúben Vinagre on left, Wolves were causing a lot of trouble for opponents in EPL. They were even scoring goals.

Though, Nuno’s men have a way of switching plays after getting the opposition to one side. This leaves a huge space for that attacking WB on that side to cause problem. And this works the same way in FM19. The GIF below shows an example.

A mistake: “Overload”, not “Overlap”

Defensive Midfield: Deep Lying Playmaker (Support)

Just like what happens in Tuchel’s 3-5-2 tactic, one midfielder stays deeper. But in this Nuno tactic, Neves works as the supporting deep lying playmaker. His job here is to switch plays or hit through balls to any of the strikers or wingbacks. Moreover, in this tactic, he’s good at initiating quick transitioning with his passes once he wins the ball.

Central Midfield: Ball Winning Midfielder (Support) and Advanced Playmaker (Support)

In the midfield, there’s a combination of physicality and technicality. While Moutinho do the technical work in controlling the game, Dendoncker do the dirty work. His dirt work is important, actually. Because, a midfielder who can challenge the opponent and win the ball back is good for the team. That’s what Dendoncker does.

Moutinho, as a supporting AP, can dictate tempo, switch plays, roam from positions, come as a late runner into the opposition box, and still assist defensively.

In my Wolves save, I was lucky to get Arthur on loan from Barcelona in the winter transfer. So, when I play him on the MCL position, I change the BWM to DLP (S). This worked really well. But I do instruct him to tackle harder.

Centre Forward: Complete Forward (Support) and Pressing Forward (Attack)

The combination of CF and PF is perfect for this tactic in FM19. This is just how Jota and Jimenez operate in Santo’s 3-5-2. Both of them can pressurise the opponent, win the ball, assist, and score. Sometimes, just like in real life, Jota as the CF drops deep to receive the ball or support defensively.

Moreover, while using this tactic with Wolves, I usually play Adama Traoré as the PF. He’s really quick and has an excellent dribbling attribute. I found him really dangerous, irrespective of his insufficient mental attributes.


When it comes to marking, Nuno Santo uses mixed marking. However, in FM19, the screenshot below shows how I set up my marking. This setup is effective and helps in strengthening my team’s defending ability. 

Playing against 4-4-2 is just different

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Comments 8

    1. Post

      Yea. But it’s too early to know which tactic he will use most at Inter. He might switch from 532 later. So, we have to wait and see. But we are expecting to create his tactic in FM20.

    1. Post
    1. Post

      Thanks for the feedback. Well for mourinho, that might be in FM20 if he takes up another club. This will give us an insight of his new tactical approach. We tried his tactical style when he was in united but the results weren’t satisfying, so we didn’t share it.

        1. Post

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