Football Manager Attacking Width: How Does it Work?

Football Manager attacking width instruction dictates the area of the pitch that will be the focus of the attack. It helps teams emphasize their attacking efforts in certain zones of the pitch to either constrict or create space. 

With different levels of widths available, mastering this strategic element can give you an edge over your opponents. 

In Football Manager, you can set 5 different levels of team width:

  1. Narrow
  2. Fairly Narrow
  3. Standard
  4. Wide
  5. Extremely Wide

In this guide, we’ll explore the intricacies of Football Manager attacking width, its impact on your team’s tactics, and the pros and cons of each option. 

Get ready to fine-tune your attacking strategy and lead your team to glory on the virtual pitch.

How Does Attacking Width Impact The Tactical Style in Football Manager?

Attacking width in Football Manager impacts the team’s tactical style by determining the horizontal positioning of players during attacks.

Attacking Width tactical instruction in Football Manager 2023.

The chosen width influences the team’s penetration strategy, with a narrow formation potentially struggling against compact defenses that park the bus and a wide formation providing better crossing opportunities. 

How the players position themselves also influences the team’s defensive stability. 

Defensively, a narrow tactic contributes to stability, while a wide approach can leave gaps and expose the team to counterattacks. Most of the times, the instructions are automatically tweaked with the setting of team mentality in FM.

The choice of attacking width should consider the team’s strengths, personnel, and the opposition’s defensive structure. Overall, it shapes the team’s approach to build-up play, penetration, and defensive solidity in Football Manager.

Very Narrow Fairly Narrow StandardWide Extremely Wide
Playing StyleVery much CompactCompactStandardStretchedVery much stretched
Focus AreaStrictly CenterCenterMixedWide AreasStrictly Wide
Passing StyleVery Short PassingShort passing Standard PassingDirectMore Direct
Crossing OpportunitiesVery fewFewBalancedMoreA lot

Very Narrow Attacking Width

A very narrow width instructs the team to concentrate its attacking play even further toward the central areas of the pitch. 

This style aims to strictly congest the middle of the field, creating intricate passing triangles and overwhelming the opposition’s defense. 

Players get to create compact passing channels and triangles in a narrow width play.

Compared to a Fairly narrow approach, it’s much more focused on the midfield. Plus, the players will mostly ignore playing in the wide areas even if presented with the opportunity.

Functionality

The very narrow attacking style functions by

  • Instructing players to operate in close proximity, leaving minimal space between each other. 
  • Encouraging quick passing combinations and precise movement off the ball. 
  • Overloading the central areas and disrupting the defensive structure
  • Creating numerical superiority
  • Opening up passing lanes for penetrating runs.

It suits teams without wide players, emphasizing intricate passing and movement in tight spaces. 

Technically sound players with great ball control and awareness are the ones who dominate in such a playing style. 

Two-striker formations like 4-4-2 diamond narrow, or a single striker supported by advanced playmakers work well with this narrow passing system.

The 4-4-2 narrow diamond formation is highly suitable for playing a compact midfield game.

Counter-attacking teams that rely on long balls to a fast striker can also benefit from this style.

Advantages

Playing in a very narrow style offers several advantages. 

  • Creates superior control in the central areas
  • Helps in patient build-up play
  • Hard to close down passing lanes
  • Promotes fluid movements, making it harder to man-mark
  • Attracts opposition defense to create spaces to exploit

Firstly, the congested central areas enable players to establish superior control and retention of the ball. 

The short distances between teammates facilitate quick passing exchanges, promoting effective ball circulation and patient build-up play.

Moreover, the close proximity of players in a very narrow width creates opportunities for intricate interplay. 

Formation of tight passing triangles allows for quick one-touch combinations, making it challenging for opponents to intercept or close down passing lanes. 

This style can lead to fluid attacking movements and disorient the opposition’s defense.

Additionally, the very narrow formations can exploit gaps between defensive lines.

The concentration of attacking players in the central areas attracts opposition defenders toward the ball, leaving spaces for attackers to exploit with well-timed runs. 

Constant movement and interchanging of positions can confuse defenders and create goal-scoring opportunities.

Disadvantages

However, playing in a very narrow attacking width has its drawbacks. 

  • Lack of impact in the wide areas
  • Ineffective against a tightly congested defense
  • Can easily be trapped outside
  • Difficult to stretch the defense.

One notable disadvantage is the lack of width in the attacking play. With players tightly packed in the center, there is barely any threat from the flanks. 

This can make it easier for opponents to defend, as they can focus their efforts on congesting the central areas and denying passing options.

Furthermore, teams employing a very narrow attacking span may struggle against opponents who defend with a compact and disciplined structure. 

It’s also easier to render the tactic ineffective in the final third by trapping the team outwards, forcing them to move to wide areas.

The lack of width makes it difficult to stretch the defense horizontally and create spaces for penetration. 

Teams may face challenges breaking down well-organized defensive blocks, requiring alternative strategies to unlock compact defenses.

Fairly Narrow Attacking Width

A team adopting a fairly narrow attacking width focuses its attacking play through the central areas of the pitch. 

This style aims to utilize the central areas of the pitch and create space for intricate passing combinations and penetration. 

Popular among possession-focused teams, the fairly narrow shape is an effective setup to dominate the midfield game. 

Functionality

The fairly narrow attacking style functions by encouraging players to stay closer to each other and combine their movements centrally.

  • This tactical configuration overloads the central areas of the pitch, overwhelming the opposition’s defense by creating numerical superiority. 
  • The players’ close proximity facilitates quick passing and intricate build-up play, breaking through defensive lines.

Note that the players will still move the play to the wide areas if given the opportunity for a counter in a fairly narrow setup. 

Formations that prefer a narrow width mostly look to utilize multiple forwards and midfielders. 

Although the instruction still emphasizes playing in the middle of the pitch, it also allows the inclusion of wingers. Preferably inside forwards, inverted wingers, or raumdeuters.

Players in a fairly narrow system must possess a great command of the ball. But they must also be capable of operating in wide areas if forced outwards by the opposition. 

Try to focus on the following traits if you’re playing a fairly narrow width:

  • First Touch
  • Passing
  • Technique
  • Anticipation
  • Composure
  • Off the Ball Movement
  • Agility

Such high technical demands makes this tactical style almost impossible to implement in lower league tactics in FM.

Suitable player attributes for playing in a narrow attacking width.

Playing with such a width favors players who can operate in tight spaces. They might not be that fast, or physically dominant, but they can play in close proximity and organize intricate build-up play. 

Advantages

Playing in a fairly narrow attacking width has the following advantages:

  • Increased ball retention and control.
  • Quick combination play
  • Create high-quality goal-scoring opportunity
  • Low possession turnover
  • Low defensive risk
  • Quick transition from defense to attack

Firstly, it allows for increased control and retention of the ball in the central areas. This facilitates quick combination play, enabling teams to create goal-scoring opportunities.

The main goal of playing a fairly narrow shape is to exploit the space between the opposition’s defensive lines. The narrowness of the attack draws defenders inward, creating gaps for forwards or attacking midfielders to exploit with penetrating runs. 

In addition, the compactness of the attack also allows for quick transitions from defense to attack, catching the opposition off guard.

Maintaining a narrow width also helps in defensive circumstances. The players have to cover less ground to get back to their defensive shape once possession is lost. 

Disadvantages

However, there are also disadvantages to playing in a fairly narrow attacking width. Here are the shortcomings: 

  • Reduced threat and impact on wide areas of the pitch
  • Limited crossing opportunities
  • Ineffective against compact, low-block defenses
  • Harder to create gaps and stretch the opposition’s defense.

One major drawback is the lack of width in the attacking play. With players focused centrally, there is a reduced threat from wide areas, limiting the opportunities for crosses or diagonal balls. 

This can make it easier for opponents to defend against, as they can focus their defensive efforts on the central areas.

Additionally, teams employing a fairly narrow attacking width may struggle against opponents who defend deep and narrow. 

With limited movement in the flanks, it becomes challenging to stretch the defense horizontally and create gaps for penetration. Teams may find it difficult to break down compact defensive structures, requiring alternative strategies to overcome such challenges.

Standard Attacking Width

In Football Manager, the Standard approach looks to balance the attacking play by using both the central and wide areas of the pitch. This is the default attacking width in a custom tactical setup. 

It’s also the most commonly adopted attacking approach due to its final third flexibility in FM

This style aims to strike the ultimate balance, providing equal focus to play wide or narrow depending on the circumstances. 

It creates space for overlapping full-backs, wingers, or wide midfielders to deliver crosses and exploit the flanks. 

At the same time, it also gives the central players to impact the game with their long-range passing. 

Functionality

The Standard width functions by encouraging wide players to hug the lines and stretch the opponent’s defensive line horizontally. 

This creates gaps in the middle, allowing attacking players to make penetrating runs into the box. 

Formation for playing a standard width.

Oftentimes, an inverted winger or inside forward is used to exploit the space created by a supporting wing-back.

If outpaced in the flanks, this formation can also look to impact the central areas of the pitch by making clever passes into space to attacking players from the middle. 

Additionally, instructing full-backs or wing-backs to overlap and provide width in the attack enhances the team’s ability to create goal-scoring opportunities.

Advantages

Playing in a standard width offers several advantages. 

  • Creates attacking chances through both the central and wide areas.
  • Utilizes the spaces areas to stretch the defense
  • Creates crossing opportunities
  • Makes effective use of wing-backs
  • Draws pressure away from the midfield

The wide players in the formation stretch the opposition’s defense, creating more space in the central areas for attacking players to exploit. 

This forces defenders to cover larger areas, potentially leaving gaps in the defensive structure.

Moreover, the use of width in the attacking play allows for greater crossing opportunities. With wide players hugging the touchline, they can deliver accurate crosses into the box, providing scoring chances for forwards. 

Crossing, Through Ball, and Passing frequencies for different attacking widths

The presence of overlapping full-backs or wing-backs adds an extra dimension to the attack, creating numerical superiority in wide areas.

Additionally, a standard setup can help open up the middle of the pitch. By drawing defenders away from the center, spaces can be created for midfielders to make forward runs, providing additional options for attacking play.

Disadvantages

However, there are cons to playing in a standard attacking width. 

  • Increased vulnerability against counterattacks
  • Defense is less focused centrally
  • May struggle to create gaps against formations using Defensive Midfielders.
  • Difficult to penetrate centrally

One potential drawback is the increased vulnerability to counterattacks. With wide players positioned higher up the pitch, there is a risk of leaving space behind for opponents to exploit on quick breaks. 

Teams must be mindful of defensive organization and have players capable of tracking back to cover defensive responsibilities.

Furthermore, a standard attacking width may struggle against opponents who defend with a compact and narrow structure. 

Wide Attacking Width

Wide attacking setup looks to utilize the full width of the pitch to create attacking opportunities. This style aims to stretch the opposition’s defense further, forcing teams to open up their defense. 

It uses the aid of full-backs to act as a support for the wingers to maintain the attacking width. 

Functionality

The wide attacking style functions by instructing wingers and wing-backs to hug the lines to provide extra width in the attack. 

This stretches the opposition’s defensive line, creating gaps in the middle for other players to make penetrating runs.

Attacking players stretching the play using a wide width.

Additionally, encouraging overlapping runs from full-backs or wing-backs further enhances the team’s ability to create scoring opportunities from crosses.

Pace, Acceleration, Antipation, high-work rate, Crossing, and Technique should be highlighted in a player playing in this setup.

Advantages

Playing with a wide width allows you to create space in the central areas of the pitch by pulling the opposition’s defenders wide. This opens up passing lanes and channels for attacking players to exploit, potentially leading to more goal-scoring opportunities.

With it, you get to:

  • Create more spaces and defensive gaps.
  • Populate wide areas for crossing opportunities
  • Switch the play from one flank to the other
  • Break tight defenses

It’s one of the best tactical approaches against teams that look to sit deep and defend with a low-block formation. They are forced to shift towards the flank with the ball, leaving huge spaces in the opposite flank. 

Moreover, the use of width allows for effective crossing opportunities. With wide players positioned close to the touchline, they have better angles to deliver accurate crosses into the box. This can be particularly beneficial when the team has tall and aerially dominant forwards who excel at attacking crosses.

Additionally, a wide attacking shape can create overloads on the flanks, overwhelming the opposition’s full-backs and forcing their defense to spread thin. 

This can create gaps and mismatches in defensive positioning that can be exploited through quick passing combinations and intelligent movement off the ball.

Teams playing a Segundo Volante often look to create attacking opportunities with clever runs through the middle by creating spaces with the help of wide players. 

Disadvantages

One potential drawback is the increased risk of leaving space behind for opponents to exploit on counterattacks. 

Wide attacking width leaves you:

  • More exposed in defense
  • Too much reliant on playing through the wide areas
  • Less dominant in the central area

With wide players pushing high up the pitch, the team must be mindful of defensive transitions and ensure adequate cover is provided to prevent exposing the defense.

Furthermore, a wide tactical shape may struggle against opponents who defend with a 5-man defensive formation, aided by covering defensive midfielders. This makes it hard for the wingers to make an impact in the flanks.

Such an approach can play into the hands of teams that prefer to defend centrally, making it challenging to break through their defensive lines. 

Pace, Acceleration, high work rate, crossing, dribbling, and anticipation are some of the attributes that your player should excel at.

  • Acceleration
  • Agility
  • Anticipation
  • Work Rate
  • Crossing
  • Dribbling
  • Technique

Extremely Wide Attacking Width

An extremely wide attacking width in FM looks to stretch the opponent’s defense to its absolute limits by utilizing the widest areas of the pitch. 

This style aims to create significant space and overload the flanks, providing ample opportunities for players to deliver crosses and exploit the gaps. 

Functionality

The extremely wide attacking style functions by instructing wide players to position themselves as close to the touchline as possible, hugging the flanks.

This extreme width stretches the opposition’s defense to its maximum extent, forcing their players to spread thin and creating gaps in the middle for the attacking team to exploit.

The team stretching the defense and creating gaps for attacking runs.

The midfielders in look to drift wide to support the wingers. They aim to make an impact from flank to flank with direct passes.

Advantages

Playing with an extremely wide attacking width offers several pros. 

Firstly, it creates a significant amount of space in the central areas of the pitch, allowing more opportunities to make penetrative runs into the channels. 

The wide positioning of players draws defenders towards them, creating gaps and openings that can be exploited by midfielders and forwards making runs into the box.

Moreover, the extreme width enables wide players to deliver crosses from advanced positions, increasing the likelihood of finding teammates in goal-scoring positions. 

By stretching the defense to its limits, the tactic create more time and space for players to deliver accurate and dangerous crosses into the box.

Additionally, the overload created on the flanks can overwhelm the opposition’s full-backs, forcing them into difficult defensive situations. 

The constant threat from the wide areas can lead to defensive mistakes and mismatches, allowing the attacking team to capitalize on one-on-one situations or create numerical advantages in those areas.

Disadvantages

However, there are cons to playing with an extremely wide attacking width. 

One potential drawback is the increased vulnerability to counterattacks and spaces left behind in defensive transitions. 

With wingers positioned so high up the pitch, there is a risk of leaving gaps for opponents to exploit on quick breaks. Defensive discipline and organization become crucial to prevent exposing the defense.

Furthermore, an extremely wide tactic may struggle against opponents who defend with a compact and narrow structure. 

The extreme width can play into the hands of teams that prioritize defending centrally, making it challenging to break through their defensive lines. 

One More Thing…

Not all attacking width instructions are compatible with every tactical formation out there. So it’s best to observe how different formations function while implemented with specific playing style.

That’s all. Keep safe!

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