Complete Team Mentality Guide: Football Manager

In all my years playing FM and observing the community, I’ve yet to stumble upon any feature that causes as much confusion as Team Mentality.

As an FM blogger, I’ve been working for almost a year to help new and old FM players navigate the intricate world of Football Manager through my blog.

So today, we’re going to break down Team Mentality. 

What it means, and how to best implement it.

What Is Mentality in Football Manager

Put plainly, Mentality in Football Manager signifies the fundamental offensive purpose of the team. It can be characterized as a gauge of the team’s willingness to take risks. 

A higher level of positivity in mentalities encourages the team to take more risks, while a more defensive approach advises the team to take fewer risks.

How Does Mentality Affect The Tactic

Football Manager 24 features seven mentalities: 

  1. Very Attacking
  2. Attacking
  3. Positive
  4. Balanced
  5. Cautious
  6. Defensive
  7. Very Defensive

Three of them are more attacking (very attacking, attacking, and positive), one neutral (balanced) mentality, and three for defensive strategies (very defensive, defensive, and cautious). 

The extremely aggressive and extremely defensive mentalities are not typically used independently but are rather applied strategically during specific game situations, such as when pursuing a goal or safeguarding a lead.

Make sure that the set mentality for the team compliments the team’s tactical instructions. Assigning the team contrasting instruction and mentality will lead them to prefer the team mentality. 

Throughout the 7 different mentalities, your team will see several changes to their tactical approach:

On The Ball Impact

These are the changes you’ll notice when the team has possession. 

Tempo

In football, tempo refers to how quickly a team moves the ball and the rate of player touches.

Depending on your team mentality, the tempo of the game can be extremely high, or more toned down. 

More Attacking mentalities feature an elevated base tempo, intending to disrupt the opposition’s defensive structure. 

On the other extreme, the More Defensive mentality adopts a lower base tempo, prioritizing patience and waiting for less risky attacking opportunities.

Width

Teams playing with an aggressive mentality look to expand the game by adopting a wider attacking width. In doing so, they can maximize support from the wide area, while also stretching opposition defense to create gaps.

This, however, can leave the team vulnerable when getting back into defensive shape. 

On the other hand, teams playing a more conservative mentality(very defensive, defensive, and cautious) will tend to play it narrow.

Doing so focuses the play through the middle, while also allowing the team to be defensively well-positioned.

Positional Discipline

The players in an attacking system will tend to express themselves more by roaming from their position and taking more risks. It’ll often lead them to neglect their positional duties and tactical instruction.

Conversely, a team with a defensive mentality will be more disciplined in their approach and will rarely break out from their position.

That way, they’re less likely to get caught out of their defensive position.

Time Wasting

Similar to the team tempo, your team’s mentality will also impact their time-wasting tendencies throughout the match.

An attacking team will look to push forward without wasting any time, while a defensive team will look to squeeze out every second of the game that they can waste.

However, much of this will depend on the scoreline of the game. 

This means that a stronger team with a cautious mentality will look to amp up their tempo in order to clinch a goal to win or avoid a loss against a weaker team.

Passing Directness

This is where things get a bit interesting.

If you choose to play with an attacking mentality, you’ll notice your deeper players will opt for shorter passing. It’s the more advanced players who will look for more direct passes to break the opposition’s defense. 

The passing directness can vary depending on your midfielder’s trait

Moving on to the defensive mentality, you’ll notice quite the opposite effect at play.

Your deeper players will tend to play it long behind the opposition’s defense, mostly to clear the ball to safety. While the advanced players will look to retain possession with shorter passing. 

The possession map with different mentality in Football Manager.

Off The Ball Impact

These are the changes that take place when the team is out of possession.

Defensive Line

Teams will generally look to push their defensive line high up the pitch when playing with an attacking mentality. 

It allows the team to squeeze out space for the opposition in the middle, forcing them to play out long. 

More Defensive teams will be more reserved and drop deeper to protect the goal. They’ll focus on restricting the space behind the defensive line and avoid getting caught in the counter. 

Pressing Intensity & Tackling

Attacking-minded teams will press with maximum aggression, constantly closing the opposition down with high work rate and aggressive tackling. 

Such a high level of pressing however can leave gaps in the team’s defensive shape, allowing more composed teams to break through the middle. 

Set the mentality to defensive and you’ll see the team take a more reserved approach during pressing. They will still press to win the ball but will be more calculated in their attempts. 

Defensive-minded teams will prioritize regrouping and maintaining their defensive shape before pressing the opposition

They will also be more cautious with their tackles.

Individual Mentality

Although the roles assigned to the players mostly dictate their individual mentality, the players will still be influenced by the team mentality to a degree. 

A player assigned to cover defensive roles will still show aggression if they are playerd withing an attacking team mentality.

Opting for a more attacking mentality empowers players to embrace a bolder and riskier approach, both when in possession and off the ball. 

In practical terms, players with a heightened mentality tend to engage in more assertive off-the-ball runs, take shots more readily, attempt daring passes, and position themselves closer to provide a swift outlet.

In contrast, adopting a more defensive mentality diminishes an individual player’s inclination for risk. 

This results in a more conservative gameplay, characterized by increased efforts in tracking back, maintaining disciplined and deeper positions, refraining from risky shots and passes, and often remaining behind the ball without venturing into forward runs.

Team Mentalities In Football Manager

Now that we know how the team mentality affects the team’s overall approach to the game, let’s learn about each of them. 

Here’s how different mentality works in Football Manager:

Balanced

TempoStandard
Passing DirectnessStandard
Attacking WidthStandard
Trigger PressStandard

This is the best of both worlds, maintaining proper amount of aggression in offense, while also staying reserved defensively.

By carefully balancing risk and reward, the Balanced Mentality enables a head coach to assess the match situation and how well the team is playing prior to switching to a more specialized tactical plan. 

This serves as an optimal initial mentality for matches anticipated to be evenly contested. 

The head coach can observe the match closely and subsequently make informed decisions to either escalate aggression, exercise caution, or maintain the standard approach if the game is progressing favorably.

I usually adopt a balanced mentality for the first 25 minutes of the match in games that are unpredictable in nature. It helps me weigh up the opposition before implementing any further instructions. 

Normally, I prefer using 3-4 players on defend duty and mostly rely on support players when using a Balanced mentality. 

Advantages

  • Completely balanced on and off the ball
  • Good for tightly contested matches

Disadvantages

  • Doesn’t focus too much on either attack or defense.

Positive

TempoSlightly Higher
Passing DirectnessSlightly Shorter
Attacking WidthFairly Wide
Trigger PressSlightly More Often
Time WastingNever

The Positive approach is most effective in games where you perceive your team as stronger but are mindful of the opponent’s counter-attacking capabilities. 

Teams will look to circulate the ball strategically across the field and thoroughly explore the final third to exploit openings as they emerge.

While full-backs may engage in overlapping runs, and midfielders advance beyond the forwards, such movements typically occur in low-risk scenarios. 

Generally, these players remain cautious, supporting the midfield in possession retention until favorable opportunities arise.

However, the advanced players will make more expansive passes to find a breakthrough. They’ll also be a bit more expressive and take frequent shots. So if you’re not a fan of the unwanted behaviors from the positive mentality, I’d suggest instructing your players to ‘Work Ball into Box’.

The positive mentality is my go-to mentality when I’m the clear favorite and want to dominate possession. So I don’t mind playing 5-6 players on support duties.

Advantages

  • Good for a dominant play
  • Great mentality for retaining possession
  • Calculated supporting runs
  • High pressing

Disadvantages

  • Can be overwhelmed against stronger opponents

Attacking

TempoSlightly Higher
Passing DirectnessStandard
Attacking WidthFairly Wide
Trigger PressSlightly More Often
Time WastingNever

An Attacking mentality works well in games where your team is expected to win and control the ball in the opponent’s half. 

The goal is to use a quick pace and direct passes to take advantage of open spaces near the goal. 

If there’s a risk of losing the ball when attacking, the team might choose to pass the ball around to keep possession.

The emphasis is on moving players forward and into open areas, giving them the freedom to be creative and express themselves.

Advantages

  • Direct and high-tempo
  • Imposes more pressure on weaker opposition
  • Pushes more players inside the final third to attack
  • Extreme pressing
  • More risky passes
  • Aggressive tackling

Disadvantages

  • Can lead to high possession turnover
  • Leaves the defense vulnerable
  • Higher line of defense can be exploited with long balls
  • Too much aggression leads to high amount of bookings

More Attacking

TempoWide
Passing DirectnessSlightly More Direct
Attacking WidthMuch Higher
Trigger PressSlightly More Often
Time WastingNever

This one is the ultimate Gung-ho approach to any game. 

It’s for times when the team has to go all out to score a goal. 

The goal with a More Attacking mentality is to crowd the opponent’s final third by playing faster and more direct attacking strategies. 

Recycling possession becomes a tool to break through the opposition from a different angle. The main focus is on sending players forward into open spaces to generate chances to score.

A visualization of chances created with different team mentalities in FM.

This also means that defending is a major afterthought when the focus is all on attacking. 

Advantages

  • Complete chaos in attack
  • Extremely high pressing
  • High rates of possessions won
  • Crowds the opponent’s final third
  • Extremely high tempo and passing directness

Disadvantages

  • Can tire out the players easily
  • Leaves the team highly vulnerable in defense.
  • High risk of being sent off

Cautious

TempoSlightly Lower
Passing DirectnessStandard
Attacking WidthStandard
Trigger PressStandard
Time WastingSometimes

This Cautious plan works well in matches where you think you won’t have the ball much but can counterattack effectively. 

The idea is to have players defending deep but ready to support the attack when the ball is near the opponent’s goal. 

Short, high-tempo passes are utilized to move the ball forward rapidly to exploit spaces left by aggressive fullbacks and wingers

Fullbacks will only push forward to support if the counter-attack looks promising. And if it fails, the players are usually better positioned to deal with the opposition counter. 

Advantages

  • Vigilant in defence
  • Can easily spring up on the counter
  • Exploit spaces left by the opposition’s wingbacks
  • Players can quickly regroup after possession turnover

Disadvantages

  • Won’t engage many players forward when attacking

Defensive

TempoSlightly Lower
Passing DirectnessSlightly More Direct
Attacking WidthFairly Narrow
Trigger PressStandard
Time WastingSometimes

A Defensive mentality is useful in games where your team is expected to lose, and you anticipate the opponent putting a lot of pressure on you. 

The goal is to have players defending deep, limiting space in your own half, and slowing down the game to frustrate the opposition. 

It relies on sending direct passes to the forwards, followed by rapid and sharp passing, to score goals on the counterattack.

Advantages

  • Defensively focused
  • Restricts opposition space
  • Direct, low-tempo passes
  • Measured counter attacks

Disadvantages

  • Less attacking aggression
  • Can invite tremendous pressure for lack of attacking intent

Very Defensive

TempoSlightly Lower
Passing DirectnessSlightly More Direct
Attacking WidthNarrow
Trigger PressSlightly Less Often
Time WastingSometimes

The goal of a Very Defensive match mentality is to annoy the other team by making the playing area smaller, taking it easy, holding onto the ball, wasting time whenever possible, and kicking the ball far when there’s no safe option.

Unlike a defensive approach, the team doesn’t look to hit the opposition on the counter. Instead, they will mostly choose to play it safe and prevent the opposition from scoring. 

Because keeping possession and causing frustration are the main priorities, more players than usual will stick to defending rather than moving forward.

Advantages

  • Looks to focus solely on restricting opposition goals.
  • Wastes time and frustrates the opposition

Disadvantages

  • Absolutely zero initiative to launch a counter
  • Can invite tremendous pressure
  • High possession turnover

Conclusion

Hope this guide cleared up any confusion you had about Match mentality in Football Manager. 

Still, got doubts? Well, leave a comment! 

Unlike most other blogs, I do reply to comments!

Have a great day.

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