As an underdog, nothing beats the ecstasy of beating a stronger team that’s considered the favorite of the fixture.
But securing a point against a better team in FM24 is hard. Beating them is harder.
However, a few smart approaches can significantly increase your chances of clawing a point from the favorites.
Today, I’m going to give you 8 tips on beating better teams in Football Manager 24
Tips to Beat Better Teams in FM24
The recipe to beat a stronger team starts with a solid tactical foundation and heading with the right mentality. So we’re going to start from group up.
Adopt a Cautious Mentality
If you’re the underdog in a confrontation, you want your team to approach the game with a cautious mentality.
This cautious strategy proves effective in games where ball possession may be limited, yet counterattacking is a viable option.
Players defend deeper, soaking the pressure before swiftly transitioning to support the attack near the opponent’s goal after gaining possession.
Teams rapidly advance to exploit openings created by aggressive fullbacks and wingers using short, high-tempo passes.
Fullbacks engage in forward movements selectively, joining the attack when the counter-attack shows potential. In case of failure, players are typically well-placed to handle the opposition’s counter.
Going with a Cautious mentality against an overwhelmingly strong team won’t work all the time. That’s when you should consider adopting a defensive mentality to play in the back-foot.
Focus on Defensive Shape
As the underdog, your first concern should be to focus on your defense.
Stronger teams will always approach the game in a dominant manner, keeping most of the possession and creating more chances. So if you’re not well equipped defensively, you might as well throw away the match.
The fundamental of a great underdog tactic is a good defensive shape which forces your opposition to work harder for a shot on goal.
There’s no defensive tactic that’ll work 100% of the time.
But a good understanding of your opposition’s offensive weaknesses and your team’s defensive strength can save you from conceding a ton of goals.
Luckily for you, I have the right defensive guides to help you deal with different styles of play and different oppositions.
As the weaker side, you want to be defensively strict, tightly marking some major threats.
Tightly marking in-form players allows your team to show him less of the ball, while also completely pushing him out of the game.
It also keeps your players in close proximity to the target which helps your players to quickly close him down if he receives the ball.
So you can easily reduce the impact of the opposition’s key players in the game.
While tight marking can be a great tool to reduce an opponent’s attacking threat, it can also play against your team.
Let me give you an example.
Say, you’ve assigned your left centre-backs to tightly mark the opponent’s Advanced Forward. At the same time, you’ve instructed your left-back to tightly mark the opposition’s Inside Forward.
This makes your two defenders completely occupied in their marking duties. So if the opposition Mezzala makes a run into the left channel, he will be completely unmarked and will have all the time in the world to take a shot on goal.
Going overboard with tight marking can be a recipe for disaster. So you must be smart with your marking instructions.
Capitalize on Attacking Transition
You can only keep the opponent at bay for so long by solely defending your goal. It’s bound to break sooner or later.
So once you’re done setting your defense, it’s time to find ways to score goals.
That’s where attacking transition comes into play.
When you’re playing against a better team, they’ll involve a lot of players in the final third to increase their attacking threat. But doing so leaves them vulnerable in defense, which allows your team space to exploit their defensive vulnerability in quick transition.
So, how are you going to make the most of your attacking transition?
Through counter-attacking. Simple.
Well, first of all, you can’t involve too many players in the attacking movements. That’ll come to bite your team back if they lose possession.
As the underdog, you won’t be making a lot of chances. So your forwards must be clinical to get the most out of scraps.
During the attacking transition, you need to consider your team’s tempo, passing directness, attacking width, and attacking focus.
Optimizing these instructions to play to your team’s strength is key. But you should also take account of the opposition’s defensive weaknesses.
Is your opponent playing a Defensive Midfielder to break up a potential counterattacking threat through the middle? Then go with a wider attacking width!
Are you finding it easier to overrun your opposition’s midfield? Then you should attack narrow, and focus the play through the middle!
If your opposition is playing a high defensive line, then go crazy with passes into space to allow your pacey forward to exploit the huge pace left behind the opponent’s defense!
Set Up Opposition Instruction
Although you’re playing an overall better team, there will be particular opposition players who are going to be the main troublemakers.
Similarly, there will be players who won’t be on par with the rest of the squad, making them a good target to force errors out of.
The Opposition Instruction tab allows you to set specific instructions to engage against particular players/ positions.
For example, if the opposition is making a lot of chances on the one side of the pitch, you can show the players on the opposite foot to force them to play on the other side of the pitch.
You can also trigger press on the opposition playmaker, allowing him no room to make defense-piercing passes. This also works to discourage players who have a deadly shooting accuracy to take shots from a distance.
Another way you can take advantage of Opposition Instruction is by throwing rough tackles against players who are struggling with fitness, have poor balance, and strength, and lack bravery.
There are more ways to implement Opposition Instructions, which can get too long for this article. So I’m thinking about writing an entire article on this topic on a later date.
Fine-Tune Individual Instructions
These are ways you can fine-tune your tactical approach, by instructing individuals to play a certain way that may or may not go along with their set roles.
You might want your fullbacks to stay narrower to be better positioned against the opposition’s inside forward during the defensive transition.
Similarly, you may want your midfielder to shoot more often to utilize his superior long-shot ability.
Or you can discourage players to shoot more to stop wasting chances if they lack finishing ability.
Whatever you do, don’t go overboard with your individual instruction. Too many individual instructions can end up restricting the player in their decision-making and can break up your tactic.
I’d suggest observing the match for the first 25 minutes to identify the opponent’s weakness before making those individual tweaks.
Use Data Hub
You can’t go into a game without knowing your opposition first. Neither can you improve a certain aspect of your tactic without having hard proof about your team’s performance.
That’s why you need data.
And for a long time, Football Manager fans had to rely on the very basic sets of data the game used to provide to study the opposition.
But thanks to the introduction of Data Hub in Football Manager, you can now take a deep dive into your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.
The Performance Analyst will be in charge of presenting you all the data you need about your opposition. You can gain useful insights from Data Hub on both attacking and defensive side of the game.
For that, go to your Data Hub tab > Team dropdown > Select Team Performance.
From there you can go to the Ask For dropdown and ask your Performance Analyst for data on different aspects of the game.
You can ask for:
- Defensive Efficiency Data
- Attacking Efficiency Data
- Possession Loss and Gain Data
- Passing Efficiency Data
- Pass Map
- Scoring Data
- Shooting Data
- Crossing Data
- XG Table
And many more!
The great thing about Data Hub is that you can compare your team’s performance against all the teams in the league. And also your opponent!
You can compare your opponent’s overall performance against your team by going to Data Hub > Next Opponent dropdown > Next Opponent Performance.
This will give you a better look into your opponent to develop a strategy to exploit their particular weaknesses for that slight ‘edge’.
Look Into Opposition’s Formation Analysis
Other than Data Hub, you can also gather useful insight about your opponent’s game from their Formation Analysis.
Formation Analysis gives you a good idea about your opponent’s inclination toward particular formations, the types of shots and assists they provide, and the location of scoring and assisting.
This helps a great deal when anticipating the side of the pitch the opposition will look to attack.
But that’s not all!
You can also learn about the areas where they are more prone to concede goals and the types of goals and assists they concede!
Simply go to Data Hub > Go to Next Opponent dropdown > Select Analyst Report > Go to Formation Analysis
And now you have all the information you need about the opponent’s formation and attacking preferences.
There’s no sure-fire way of guaranteeing a 100% win rate in Football Manager. But smart tactical organization and use of data to optimize your tactics as the season progresses can take your team a long way.
Keep in mind that you won’t win against every opponent you face.
There will be teams who play in several leagues above you, featuring world-class players. In those cases, you should focus more on conceding fewer goals than eyeing for a win.
That’s all. Good Luck!