FM24 5-2-1-2 Formation: Detailed Guide

The 5-2-1-2 formation in Football Manager 24 is a defensively focused formation that’s equally threatening in attack. 

Jose Mourinho’s adoption of the tactic in AS Roma has seen its resurgence in the game, and it’s a pretty solid one against two-man forward tactics.

With three at the back, the 5-2-1-2 offers great defensive solidity, building a strong base for buildup play. It looks to dominate the midfield with 2 central midfielders while creating attacking chances through the middle with two strikers and one attacking midfielder.

The formation seeks to dominate the midfield, maintain possession, and create scoring opportunities through intricate passing and intelligent movement. 

The 5-2-1-2 formation in FM24

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the intricacies of the FM24 5-2-1-2 formation, its tactical nuances, strengths, weaknesses, player roles, and tips to maximize its potential.

FM24 5-2-1-2 Formation: Strengths & Weaknesses

Here are the strengths and weaknesses of the 5-2-1-2 formation in FM24.


  1. Defensive solidity: The presence of three central defenders provides strong defensive coverage and stability at the back, making it difficult for opponents to penetrate.
  2. Midfield control: The two central midfielders allow for effective ball distribution, control, and build-up play.
  3. Wing-back threat: The wing-backs offer width and create overlapping runs, adding an attacking dimension to the formation.
  4. Compactness: The formation promotes a compact shape, making it harder for opponents to exploit spaces between the lines.


  1. Vulnerable flanks: The lack of wide midfielders can leave the flanks exposed, making your team susceptible to counterattacks down the wings.
  2. Transition from defense to attack: The compact midfield can make it harder to quickly transition from defensive situations to launching effective counterattacks, potentially hindering the team’s ability to catch opponents off guard.
  3. Over-reliance on wing-backs: The success of this formation heavily relies on the performance and stamina of the wing-backs, who are responsible for both defensive and offensive duties.

Expect your wing-backs to be overwhelmed against teams playing with a lot of width. The lack of wide players in this tactical setup is one of the huge setbacks of this formation.

The 5-2-1-2 Defense is being stretched wide from the wing.
Width play can lure my defense out of position, creating space towards far post.

However, if you can successfully implement trap the opposition inside to force play through the central, this tactic can be highly explosive.

As for the attacking phase, the 5-2-1-2 heavily relies on fast forwards capable of receiving direct balls from the back. The two advanced forwards up front have to have good cohesion to find goalscoring chances through the other. 

It’s a great formation to use especially if you’re a team fighting for relegation in the league.

FM24 5-2-1-2 Formation: Team Instruction

The team instruction for playing the 5-2-1-2 is pretty straightforward. Let’s check them out. 

FM24 5-2-1-2 Instructions: In Possession

Starting off with In Possession instructions, the team is expected to play a standard tempo throughout the match. 

This means that the team will take a balanced approach in attacking transition. With not many wide options up front, it’s best to take a fairly narrow buildup approach utilizing the midfield.  

The In Possession team instruction tab for the 5-2-1-2 formation.

Players in the system will look to play out of defense most of the time, looking for opportunities for breakthroughs.

Here’s what the general instruction will look like for a 5-2-1-2 formation in Football Manager:

Build-upPlay out of Defense
Crossing TypeMix Crosses
Attacking WidthFairly Narrow
Passing DirectnessStandard
Tempo Slightly Higher Tempo

Additionally, you can demand your players to pass to open spaces and dribble more to take advantage of certain situations. Although the 5-2-1-2 is not suitable for vertical tiki-taka, it can make up for a really good tactic for wing-play.

FM24 5-2-1-2 Instructions: In Transition

In the transitional phase of the game, the goal is to quickly break the opposition with defense-splitting passes for the advanced forwards to exploit.

GK Ball Distribution Distribute to Centre Backs/ Fullbacks
Ball DistributionDistribute Quickly
When Possession Has Been WonCounter
When Possession Has Been LostCounter-Press

Like any other tactics in modern football, the revamped 5-2-1-2 tactic puts high emphasis on counter-pressing to win the ball back as soon as the team loses possession.

And once the ball is won back, you can look to counter immediately.

But there’s a catch.

Hitting counter-attacks can be effective in a 5-2-1-2 formation only if your team is able to win the ball back high up the pitch. In dangerous positions. 

This catches the opposition defense off-guard, giving your team a better chance of capitalizing on the possession turnover. 

However, press-resistant teams won’t give up the ball that easily in their own half. If your team fails to win possession high up the pitch, the opposition will be better prepared for a counter. 

And with no wide players up front, your options are limited.

That’s when you should consider taking a standard approach instead of looking to counter immediately.

The In Transition tab for the formation.

I always prefer my goalkeeper to distribute the ball to either the center-backs or the wingbacks. This helps the team retain possession and build up from the back. 

FM24 5-2-1-2 Instructions: Out of Possession

Without the ball, my team focuses on restricting the space in the midfield, closing down passing lanes, and restricting play through the middle. 

Defensive LineHigher
Line of EngagementMid Block
Trigger PressMore Often
Pressing TrapTrap Outside

Due to not having too many attacking players up front, I prefer to adopt a mid-block line of engagement to keep a compact team shape. 

This keeps my team from committing too many forwards up front while pressing, leaving space behind for the opposition midfield to exploit. 

The higher defensive line helps my defenders to press high up the pitch, covering the wide areas. Such assurance gives my wingbacks an adequate chance to push up and stretch the play. 

However, playing a high line makes my defense vulnerable against through balls and pacey forwards. 

The cover defender in a 5-2-1-2 formation is sweeping up through balls in Football Manager 24.
My Cover Defender in a high defensive line is able to predict the opposition through-ball and react to it quickly.

To deal with that, I look to trap the opposition outside towards the wide areas. This significantly reduces the threat of upcoming long balls behind by defensive line. 

As I have 3 capable center-backs guarding my defense, I don’t really have to worry about any threats from crosses. My defenders can easily defend crosses them thanks to the numerical advantage in the box. 

The Out of Possession tab in FM24.

FM24 5-2-1-2 Formation: Attacking Roles

With Roma, I prefer playing both Tammy Abraham and Dybala as Advanced Forwards to utilize their pace and attacking movements.

In certain situations, I can revert Dybala into a more Deep Lying Forward role to drop deep and help in the buildup. 

Another example of this would be Tottenham Hotspurs under Jose Mourinho. 

Harry Kane tends to drop deep and receive the ball, allowing Hueng Min Son to find space to run into final third and look for goals. 

This tactical choice also lures the opposition defense towards the deep-lying forward, opening up space for the wingbacks to overlap. 

The following Forward combinations work best in 5-2-1-2 Formations in Football Manager:

  • Advanced Forward – Advanced Forward
  • Advanced Forward – Deep Lying Forward(Support)
  • Advanced Forward – Target Man (Support)

With an attacking midfielder playing behind the Forward duo, the formation can turn to 5-2-2-1 at times if one of the strikers looks to drop deep.

This youtube video will help you understand how it works:

FM24 5-2-1-2 Formation: Organizing the Midfield

Mostly shadowed by the emphasis on Attack and Defense, the midfield in a 5-2-1-2 primarily focuses on winning the ball and playing it up to the forwards to create attacking opportunities. 

A system like 5-2-1-2 doesn’t require any technically gifted, creative midfielders to dish out key passes for the attack. But it certainly demands defensive midfielders with good positioning and pressing qualities. 

You can either pick a defensive midfield, or a central midfield pair for this formation. 

If your preference is ultimately defensive compactness, then prefer a defensive midfield duo for your formation.

A Ball Winning Midfielder on support duty, paired up with a DM on defend duty can be a great place to start. One will charge down the opposition from breaking into the midfield zone, while the late will hold his position and focus on intercepting the passing lanes.

They will mostly sit in front of the defensive line, providing a defensive shield. 

For a Central midfield duo, you have the following pair options:

  • Ball Winning Midfielder(Support) – Central Midfielder(Automatic)
  • Ball Winning Midfielder(Defend) – Central Midfielder (Support)
  • Ball Winning Midfielder(Defend) – Box to Box Midfielder
  • DLP(Defend) – Box to Box Midfielder
  • Central Midfielder(Defend)- Central Midfielder(Support)

FM24 5-2-1-2 Formation: The Use of Wingbacks

By utilizing overlapping wing-backs, the 5-2-1-2 formation aims to provide width in attack and stretch the opposition’s defense. 

Overall, the primary goal is to create a well-structured and dynamic team capable of both stifling opponents and creating goal-scoring opportunities.

While playing out from defense, the wingers on attack duty will station themselves further up the wide areas of the pitch. Almost like a winger.

The 5-2-1-2 formation wingers are expanding the field, creating spaces.
The wingbacks in the system look to stretch the play, forcing the opposition to play wide and create huge spaces in the middle.

When the possession is lost, they will initially look to win the ball back immediately, before dropping deep to defend. 

During the attacking phase of the game, the wingbacks will actively look to stretch the opposition’s defense by forcing the wide defenders to press them. This creates gaps in their defense, making room for the Advanced Playmaker to run in the channels. 

They are also a great crossing threat in wide areas. If the opportunity arises, the wingbacks on attack duty can also pop up into dangerous areas, finding chances to score. 

FM24 5-2-1-2 Formation: Defensive Instructions

With 3 at the back on a high defensive line, I have to play the central center-back on a cover duty.

This instructs him to station himself slightly behind the defensive line, clearing up deadly through balls.

Defenders intercepting through balls in FM24.
This was a close one! My center-back on cover duty barely made it and intercepted the through ball.

The other two center-backs push up the pitch to win the ball and restrict space for passing through the middle. 

Make sure to set up the individual pressing instruction of the Center-Back on Cover duty to “Press less often”. It’ll keep him from unnecessarily going forward to press the opposition. This will ensure that your rest defense stays stable.

How to Defend Against A FM24 5-2-1-2 Formation

The standard 4-3-3 DM Wide can be a good formation to defend against a 5-2-1-2 formation in Football Manager 24. 

It can utilize the wingers in the system to stretch the three-man defense. In addition to that, the winger and wingback combo can overwhelm the opposition wingbacks, instilling dominance in the wide areas of the pitch. 

Make sure to play your DM as a Half back to drop deep into the defense to create a 3-man defensive line. 

This is especially effective against a two-forward system that can easily take advantage of a 2-man defense. 

Another way you can defend against the 5-2-1-2 formation is by adopting a lower defensive line

Long balls will be ineffective against such positioning and trapping the wide players inside will significantly reduce their attacking threat. 

Parting Words

That’s all about FM24 5-2-1-2 formation.  Hope you enjoyed this short(kinda!) read.

If you want more tactical guides, I got a detailed guide on 4-4-2 Diamond formation in FM! Check that out!

Anyways, it’s been a pleasure talking about tactics after a while. 

Have a great day.

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