FM24 Relegation Tactics: Survival Masterclass

Relegation is tough.

And those who fight to avoid it know it best. However, relegation is not inevitable.

With smart tactical choice and team management, you can fight for your place and stay in the top division. 

Today, we’re going to talk about FM24 Relegation tactics. 

Which tactics are the best to survive against favorites? How should your team play to secure essential points in the table? I’m going to explain it all. 

Let’s dive into it.

The Bigger Picture

Mastering Promotion in football is easy. Staying up is hard.

Teams that are favorites for relegation have to keep their expectations low. Realistically, the odds are high that you won’t end up like Leicester’s dream 2016 season.

In relegation battles, resources are scarce and players lack the required quality. So you need to make the most of the scrap chances.

And that requires elaborate planning and execution. Right from the preseasons. 

Here’s how we’re going to build our relegation tactic in Football Manager 24:

  1. We’ll start off by assessing our squad. Its strengths and weaknesses. 
  2. Next, we’re going to consider 2-3 tactics that can bring out the best in our squad.
  3. We set up training schedules specifically tailored to improve our tactical familiarity.

Now that we have a rough sketch of what we need to do, let’s get into the nitty gritty bits. 

FM24 Relegation Tactics: Player Roles & Attributes

Let’s be realistic. We’re not going to get world-beaters playing for relegation-favorite teams. And we don’t need any!

All we need are certain types of players with certain playing attributes and styles who can get the job done.

To do that, we’re going to start by having a detailed assessment of our team. 

Go to Squad Planner > Reports > Comparison.

You’ll see your squad’s attributes in contrast to the League average. This is crucial to know since this gives you a clear idea of where your team excels and where it’s lacking. 

Football Manager 23 team comparison.

Once you’re done assessing your squad, it’s time to build your team by choosing player roles.

Strikers

Relegation favorites tactics heavily rely on these 3 striker roles:

  1. Target Man
  2. Advanced Forward
  3. Pressing Forward 

Why?

Because these roles suit Physical players and require less technical prowess. 

As the underdog, your team is not going to dominate the game and produce many chances. So, to make sure you get the best output from the very few chances your get, these three striker roles are the best for your teams. 

Advanced Forward

Have fast, pacey forwards? 

You can exploit the opposition’s high defensive line by playing him in an Advanced Forward role. The Advanced Forward will always look to break past the defensive line and sniff out scoring opportunities. 

Focus on player attributes like Pace, Acceleration, Agility, Composure, DecisionsAnticipation, Off the Ball, Finishing, First Touch to pick your Advanced Forward.

Target Man

As for Target Man, you can utilize your burly forward to win direct balls and hold the ball to support his teammate in the final third. 

Target Man works great against a low defensive line as it allows him to win more aerial balls without much challenge from the opposition’s defense. 

He is also a great threat in the box if provided with floated crosses. 

A good Target Man must excel in Strength, Jumping Reach, Heading, Bravery, Work Rate, Balance, and Decisions.

Striker attributes compared to the league in FM23.

Pressing Forward

They are a great option if you’re looking to constantly press high defensive lines from playing out from the back.

The pressing forward will try to win the ball up forward, in dangerous positions. This can significantly hurt the opposition if he is utilized in the right pressing tactic. 

In possession, the Pressing Forward will act as an Advanced Forward and look to find runs behind the defensive line.

A Pressing Forward must possess a high level of Aggression, Bravery, Pace, Acceleration, Off the Ball, Anticipation, Work Rate, Natural Fitness, Stamina, and Strength

Wide Attackers

You’ll see relegation favorite teams in Football Manager mostly rely on 3 different winger roles.

  1. Winger
  2. Inverted Winger
  3. Inside Forward

The roles are heavily counter-attack focused and can help in quick transitions from defense to attack. 

Winger

This is the primary wide-player role that looks to run with the ball toward the wide areas in order to stretch the play. 

Wingers are a great tool for stretching the opposition’s defense by creating width. They also are likely to find more crossing opportunities.

In a standard high-tempo style, the winger will actively make runs through the wide areas and look for passes into space. Using his extreme space, he’ll look to run past the wide defense to create attacking chances. 

A player must have a good level of Pace, Acceleration, Dribbling, Anticipation, Crossing, Workrate, and Stamina to play in the Winger role.

Winger attributes in Football Manager 23.

Midfielders

For midfielders, we’re going to pick the underdog roles for the each of AM, CM, and DM positions:

Central Attacking Midfielder

There are few underdog teams that prefer the use of Attacking midfielders. Even so, they can be a great attacking weapon behind a two-striker forward line. 

  1. Attacking Midfielders
  2. Advanced Playmaker

While they almost occupy the same space and operate in a similar fashion, there are some key differences.

Attacking Midfielder

The Attacking Midfielder roles usually look to dominate the space behind the forwards, looking for defense-piercing passes, while also supporting width play. 

They also won’t hesitate to shoot from a distance if gifted with opportunities.

Advanced Playmaker

An Advanced playmaker on the other hand will make his way into the final third and create goalscoring opportunities from there.

The role restricts their freedom for shooting from long range too often. 

Relegation teams struggling with goalscoring opportunities can utilize an Attacking Midfielder to strengthen the attacking element of their game. 

Defenders

Quality defenders are scarce. It’s even harder to find so in relegation favorite teams

And somehow, the defenders are the most crucial role in the system as they have to deal with most of the pressures from the stronger teams. 

This means that you can’t go wrong at picking your defense. And you need to do it right!

You don’t require those all-rounder modern defenders who can do everything! 

For your rest defense, you need to pick players who possess exceptional Strength, Jumping Reach, Balance, Agility, Aggression, Bravery, Concentration, Work Rate, Marking, and Tackling. They must be capable of defending all sorts of crosses in the box.

Defender attributes in FM23.

As for your fullbacks, they must possess adequate Pace and Acceleration with a blend of defensive and offensive attributes. 

FM24 Relegation Tactics: Tactical Setup

Now that we’re set on the player roles, it’s time to organize our relegation tactic. 

We got 3 options:

  1. The 4-3-3 DM Wide Formation
  2. The 4-4-2 Formation
  3. The 5-2-1-2 Defensive Formation

These formations give your team the best defensive options while also opening up better attacking chances. 

Let’s get into the details. 

Disclaimer: These tactics and formations are not 100% foolproof. The opponent you face, mid-match tactical tweaks, quality of players, morale, etc impact the effectiveness of the tactic. So don’t think that adopting any of these will completely fix your problem. 

The 4-3-3 DM Wide Formation

First off, we got the widely popular 4-3-3 DM Wide formation in FM24. 

The 4-3-3 DM Wide formation in FM24 allows a balanced distribution of the players throughout the pitch. It utilizes a DM to screen the defense while the wingbacks get forward to add width to the attack

4-3-3 DM Wide formation setup in Football Manager 23.

Playing with 3 forwards, the team can press high to cover a lot of ground and win the ball. It also allows great mobility for both vertical tiki-taka and standard tiki-taka.

Using a high defensive line in this setup works extremely well to restrict space for any buildup play. 

But WATCH OUT! It can be really vulnerable against throw balls and fast forwards!

Here’s how the team sets up:

In Possession

The team instruction for an underdog 4-3-3 DM Wide formation in FM24 are:

Approach PlayPass Into Space
Attacking WidthFairly Narrow
Creative FreedomBe More Disciplined
Crossing TypeMixed Crosses
Passing DirectnessStandard
Tempo Higher Tempo

With the possession won, the team will look to charge forward towards the goal as quickly as possible with a higher tempo play. 

Once they reach the final third, the players have the freedom to play it any way they like. Their decision-making and composure come to play in this situation. 

Passes into space will be targeted toward the wide area for the wing-backs to run into. The inside forwards and advanced forwards can also capitalize from such passes behind the defensive line. 

However, instruct the players to stay more disciplined and not try anything fancy. It’ll keep the players from taking any risks which can backfire heavily.

In Transition

During the defensive transition, the aim is to keep counter-pressing against teams who like to play out of defense. 

However, if the opposition likes to hit quick counters, then take off the counter-pressing instruction.

After winning the goal back, the goal is to quickly transition from defense to attack with quick counters. 

Instruct the keeper to distribute the ball quickly to your full-backs and centrebacks to keep hold of the possession. They will be in charge of progressing the ball.

When Possession Has Been LostCounter Press
When Possession Has Been WonCounter
Distribute to Player/ AreaDistribute to Center-backs
Goalkeeper in PossessionDistribute Quickly

Out of Defense

The 4-3-3 DM Wide formation in FM24 asks the players to go absolutely bonkers while pressing. 

Set the Trigger Press option to Much More Often.

If the opposition lacks enough physicality in the midfield and attack, you should ask your forwards to force the GK for long distribution.

Without the ball, the team looks to position themselves high up the pitch with a high defensive line. This gives them better chances of winning the ball and closing down any buildup play.

The high line of engagement also shuts off any chance of playing out from the back. It also pressures the opposition defense and midfield to make costly errors high up the pitch. 

If you’re confident about your team’s superior tackling ability, enable the Get Stuck In option. Otherwise, instruct your players to stay on their feet.

Trigger PressMore Often
Defensive LineHigher Defensive Line
Line of EngagementMid Block
Pressing TrapTrap Inside
Cross EngagementStop Crosses

The 4-4-2 Formation

Strong at Defense, Stronger in Offense. 

Yes, the 4-4-2 Formation, not to be mistaken as the robust 4-4-2 Narrow Diamond, is a highly solid tactic for any side fighting for relegation in FM24.

Not convinced?

Here’s how I am going to sell this tactic:

Balance: The 4-4-2 formation is a very balanced formation, with two strikers up front, two midfielders in the middle, and two full-backs and two center-backs at the back. 

This gives the team good coverage of the field in both the wide and the central areas.

Counter-attacking: The 4-4-2 formation allows the team to quickly transition from defense to attack through direct passing.

Don’t have quality midfielders in your team? No problem!

The two strikers up front are used as the receiving outlet for the long ball and do the heavy lifting. Just punt the ball to them.

It’s the perfect route-one setup if you ask me!

Solidity: The 4-4-2 formation is also very solid defensively, as the two center-backs are well-protected by the two midfielders through the middle. 

Oppositions will have a hard time progressing through the middle and making any real impact.

4-4-2 FM23 relegation tactics

But wait, your wing is also secured!

Thanks to having the wide midfielders and fullbacks covering the flanks, the risk of being exploited from wide areas is also significantly reduced.

Now that we’ve established the advantages of the 4-4-2, here’s how to set it up.

In Possession

In possession, the aim is to get the ball to the target man to flick the ball and create chances for the advanced forward. 

Classic route one football.

The team will maintain a high tempo, pumping up as many long balls as possible to keep the opposition breathing.

Hitting early crosses can also be vital in such a setup as it adds another element of threat for the opposition.  

Final ThirdHit Early Crosses
Attacking WidthFairly Wide
Crossing TypeMixed Crosses
Passing DirectnessDirect Passing
Tempo Higher Tempo

The wide players will mostly look to sit deep and support the attack from there. So there’s no need for playing passes into space. 

Plus, in combination with direct passing, the pass-into-space instruction will only lead to playing more low passing success and more possession turnover. 

In Transition

Instruct the goalkeeper to kick the ball long, toward the target man. 

However, if your goalkeeper doesn’t possess the best kicking ability, you might want him to play it short to a defender with good passing range to do the job. 

In the defensive transition, the team will counter-press to keep the opposition from gaining momentum. 

And in the attacking transition, the aim is to launch the ball long for a quick attack.

When Possession Has Been LostCounter Press
When Possession Has Been WonCounter
Distribute to Player/ AreaTarget Man
Goalkeeper in PossessionDistribute Quickly

Out of Defense

We’re going to set up the defense slightly differently than the 4-3-3 DM Wide here. 

For the 4-2-2 Formation, our Defense is going to position itself slightly lower, maintaining a standard defensive line

As for the line of engagement, we’ll set up a mid-block with our two forwards to press more reservedly and force the opposition wide. 

We’re going to set our pressing traps to force the opposition outside and instruct our players to actively stop crosses inside the box. 

It’s simple, but a way better and more secure defensive setup than the 4-3-3 DM Wide.

Trigger PressMore Often
Defensive LineStandard Defensive Line
Line of EngagementHigh Press Line of Engagement
Pressing TrapTrap Outside
Cross EngagementStop Crosses

The 5-2-1-2 Wingback Formation

Why not try the Jose Mourinho way, eh?

I mean, you can’t go wrong with it for sure!

The 5-2-1-2 is the ultimate defensive tactic for any relegation side looking to secure survival in the league. 

The 5-2-1-2 formation set up for relegation teams in Football Manager 23.

With 3 center-backs guarding the backline, you’re risking nothing too sinister. 

This allows the wide players to push high up the pitch to support the attack without worrying about covering their defensive duties. It makes up for a great wing-play tactic and also possesses the threat of playing two strikers up front!

Here’s how to set up the 5-2-1-2 tactic in Football Manager 24:

In Possession

First thing first, we’re going to make sure that we use the width of the pitch as much as possible. 

This will help us stretch the opposition formation with the wide players and create enormous spaces through the middle.

We can either approach the play by hitting early crosses, given our attackers are capable of reaching those.  Or we can take a neutral final third approach and create plays from the byline. 

As far as our passing freedom goes, we’ll maintain a standard passing directness and can play passes into space. 

High-tempo football is not a requisite for the 5-2-1-2 relegation tactic in FM24. But given the intensity demanded in the top leagues, it’s best to adopt one for quick transitions.

Against teams playing with only one forward, I feel comfortable playing out from the back for better buildup play. 

You can also instruct your players to Run at Defense, given they’re capable dribblers.

Final ThirdHit Early Crosses
Approach PlayPass into Space
Attacking WidthFairly Wide
Crossing TypeLow Crosses
Passing DirectnessStandard
Tempo Higher Tempo
BuildupPlay Out of Defense

In Transition

The three at the back can be heavily exposed if you look to counter-press a press-resistant team in a 5-2-1-2 formation.  

Due to not having too many wide options, oppositions can easily break through the middle if you commit too many players up for pressing. 

So it’s best to adopt a balanced pressing approach during the defensive transition.

To complement the width play, instruct your keeper to distribute the ball to the full-backs.

When Possession Has Been WonCounter
Distribute to Player/ AreaCenter-Backs / Fullbacks

Out of Defense

The security of playing three at the back in the 5-2-1-2 formation allows you to adopt a high defensive line without risking much. 

However, it’s wise to not play with a high line of engagement as it can leave your midfield completely exposed. There are simply not many players to cover the midfield in a 5-2-1-2.

I would also instruct keeping the pressing instruction to standard and not go bonkers with it. 

Try to force the opposition to the wide areas. This will make them look for more crosses.

Don’t worry! With 3 at the back, your defenders are more likely to deal with crosses better thanks to their numerical advantage in the box.

Trigger PressStandard
Defensive LineHigher Defensive Line
Line of EngagementMid Block
Pressing TrapTrap Outside 

And that’s all about the best relegation tactics in Football Manager 24. The focus should be on maintaining a solid defense first. Once the defensive solidity is ensured, you must shift your focus to chance conversion. 

Wondering which tactic to adopt? I think this can help:

TacticStrong AgainstWeak Against
4-3-3-DM Wide4-2-3-1, 4-3-34-4-2
4-4-2 Standard4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-2-44-3-3 Narrow Diamond,
5-2-1-2, 3-5-2
5-2-1-2 Wingback4-4-2, 3-5-2, 5-2-3 DM Wide4-2-3-1, 4-3-2-1

Watch Out!

Make sure to take the following things into consideration:

  • Adopt a low defensive line if you’ve slow center-backs with poor Anticipation, Stamina, Aggression and Workrate.
  • Focus on buildup play rather than counter if your squad lacks quick players.
  • Avoid “pass into space” against fast teams.
  • Don’t instruct your players to trigger more press if they lack stamina, natural fitness, and workrate.
  • Don’t Press with a High Pressing Line of Engagement with a one-man striker.
  • Avoid Direct Passing with a one-man forward tactic.
  • Play with a Cautious mentality when playing against slight favorites.
  • Play with a Defensive mentality when playing against huge favorites.
  • Adjust the number of duties according to the team mentality.
  • Play with a narrow width against teams that heavily focuses play through the middle.

That should be all!

I’ve also prepared an in-depth take on the 5-2-1-2 formation in FM24. You should go check that out!

If you find yourself defending a small lead against strong teams, don’t hesitate to sit deep and park the bus

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’ll be back with more exciting football manager guides.

Have a great day!

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