Tactical Guide by cairo140

Version: v0.0.2 | Updated: 09/06/04 | Printable Version | |


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|            Cairo140's Tactical Guide to Championship Manager 03/04           |
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SECTIONS OF NOTE::: Section II for information on instructions, SECTION III for 
specifications on positional play, SECTION V for an effective guide to 
formations, and section IX, for a Step-By-Step Guide to Success...


                            *      Introduction     *

This guide is designed to give back to the Championship Manager community. Its 
main focus is to deliver a comprehensible explaination of the tactical options 
available in Championship Manager and their applications to real life. It also 
covers the more in-depth aspects of the tactical gameplay in Championship 
Manager. I provide some creative and entertaining insight along the way that 
will make the read both an informative and enjoyable one.

Each section listed in the table of contents will be the exact copy, 
letter-for-letter, in the body of this guide. As a result, all you need to do 
is enter the chapter title in the Find... menu (Ctrl-F) and click find next a 
few times, until you arrive at the section you were looking for.

The Border for all new sections will be in astericks. They are easy to spot and
also look cool. Instances of "Cairo Commentary," my own way to make the guide 
entertaining will be enclosed in a few @ signs. They too, are easy to spot, 
and look cool.

Information provided in this guide will be from many soccer texts I have read, 
namely "Soccer Systems & Strategies" from Jens Bangsbo (ISBN: 0-7360-0300-2). 
And a large portion of the auxilary information is from my own personal 
experience with CM and stories of others. If the guide omits a topic of 
concern, then you have one of three options.

(1) Leave it alone.

(2) E-mail me at cairo140@hotmail.com.

(3) Visit the incredible Championship Manager Forums at 

I strongly encourage you to consult the forum after you read my guide if you 
have not yet done so. Without more blabbering, Enjoy!

                         *    Appeal for Information   *

Obviously, I didn't develop the game; therefore, I will be unfamiliar with many
parts of the game. Here is where I require your assistance if you are an 
experienced Championship Manager player. If you have any interesting insights 
that have to do with tactics in CM and the real world, please share them with 

My e-mail address is cairo140@hotmail.com

A reciept will be delivered with every single tip recieved. You will be given 
due credit for any published submission, and your words will not be augmented, 
filtered, or changed in any way without your consent.

                         *    Terminology to be Used   *

I'm Canadian, so many people who view this guide may be confused with my
wording. Here is a quick rundown for reference.

Soccer: Sometimes, I may use this word by accident and I realize that it is 
offensive to hardcore English soccer (oops) Football fans.

Team/Lineup: I'm not sure how you people say this, but in this guide, the words
teams, squad, and lineup are basically synonomous.

Man-to-Man: Same as man marking.

*General Spelling*: I'm not an American pigdog so you will have no problem
recognizing the Canadian spelling formats, which are very similar to those in


                           *    Table of Contents    *


Appeal for Information


SECTION I - The Basics

(a) Overview of Tactics
(b) Configuring Tactics in CM


SECTION II - Advanced Tactics

(a) Team Tactical Instructions
(b) Individual Tactical Instructions
(c) Set Piece Takers


SECTION III - Specific Roles on a Squad

(a) Goalkeeper
(b) Central Defender
(c) Fullback
(d) Defensive Midfielder
(e) Central Midfielder
(f) Winger
(g) Flankers
(h) Strikers
(i) Sweeper
(j) Free Role


SECTION IV - Formations

(a) Introduction to Formations
(b) 5-4-1
(c) 5-3-2
(d) 4-5-1
(e) 4-4-2
(f) 4-3-3
(g) 3-4-3
(h) 1-1-8
(i) Diablo
(j) Finding the Perfect Formation


SECTION V - Player Attributes

(a) Vision
(b) Finishing
(c) Flair
(d) Stamina
(e) Acceleration/Pace
(f) Dribbling
(g) Other Important Attributes


SECTION VI - In-Game Management

(a) Substitutions
(b) Tactical Changes
(c) Extra Time



(a) Choosing the Right Lineup
(b) Lineup Rotation
(c) Using Your Reserves


SECTION IX - Tactical Management Step-by-Step

(a) Beginner Management
(b) Intermediate Management
(c) Advanced Management
(d) Cheat Management

SECTION X - Conclusion

(a) Conclusion
(b) Terms of Use
(c) Disclaimer

SECTION I - The Basics

                           *   Overview of Tactics   *

Championship Manager is a game of soccer management and success. Every 
calculated move affects the deep CM world. Besides all the wheeling and 
dealing, what else is there to do? Tactics, of course. Sure, you can let your 
Assistant Manager handle everything, but I'll be he pretty much stinks at 
doing your job. The key to create a great tactic is not copy someone else's 
but it is, in fact, to learn from somebody else's. I don't mean to take 10 of 
the world's most successful tactics and piece them all together. I mean to 
learn from the worst and build up.

I'll go out and admit it... the key to winning games is your personnel, but the
key to getting the most out of your personnel in CM is none other than your 
tactics. Tactics are an assembly of gameplans that a team shares going into a 
game. Tactical changes are often made to accomodate game events or to counter 
the opponent's tactics. Like many things in life, tactics is a chess game; if 
you staticly copy one's opening, then that is by no chance a guaruntee of 
success, but if you learn from the ground up, bit by bit, you will find your 
ultimate success. You must learn to adapt, and open up your mind to others. 
That is what will make you a great tactician.

The tecnicalities of tactics are simple. You have a formation, a lineup, and 
your instructions. The rest of this guide will be written assuming you have at 
least a basic understanding of the concepts of lineup, formation, and the rules
of the game.

                         * Configuring Tactics in CM *

Your team selection screen and the tactics screen is where you will be handling
your tactics and tactical changes. Your team selection screen can be accessed 
through the tab with your name on it in the menubar (by default on the left 
side of the screen). Through there, you should select your first team squad. 
Notice that the reserves and youth squads are also selectable, but those will 
be dealt with later.

When you get to your first team selection screen, you should see a menubar 
where you can select from Traditional, General, Contract, Selection 
(recommended), Other, and Attribute Views. Here is an overview of the 
selections and their functions.

Traditional - The way to view the greatest amount of players on the screen. 
There are two players to a row, and the information appearing next to the 
player can be changed with the View... menubar. This is the default view when 
looking at other teams, and the View... menubar is selected to display the 

General View - This view is basically used for just one purpose - to find the 
players on your team from a specific country. This is a modified version of the
(in my opinion) superior Selection format. Finding players from a specific 
country is useful to check on work permit status.

Contract View - This is and overview of how much each of your players gets 
paid, and the extent of their contract. This format is used to identify players
with expiring contracts (especially on opponent teams) and to identify possibly
overpaid players to be transfer listed.

Selection View - This is, in my opinion, the best and most convenient format to
view your players in. You should align the players by selection by clicking the
PK'D column header in the upper left corner of the selection screen. This way, 
you can easily find a player in a given position, and can isolate the players 
who have not been selected. Also, using this format, you can organize the 
players by appearances (notice that, in this case, a start counts as as many 
appearances as a substitution). This can help efficient lineup rotation and 
keep your entire team match fit. Another useful tool in this view are the 
Recent Form tab (with up to 5 numbers e.g. 5-6-6-5-7 or 3-6-6) indicating 
which players are hot and which players are not. Finally, you can sort by 
value. A pretty meaningless way to sort, but can help determine which players 
are "better."

Attribute View - The most efficient view for comparing your players attribute 
for attribute. If you are prepared to set your penalty shooter list, this is 
the place to go. Just sort by Attacking>Penalty Taking, and then write down 
the first 7 names. Likewise, you can find ideal set piece takes for corners, 
free kicks, and throw ins, without having to scroll through every player's 
personal information screen.


I never sort by value just because it is a poor judge of just how good a player
is. Martin Keown, in the game is better than Sol Campbell (both Arsenal), 
but is valued at 10 times less because of his age. Also, a player with a soon 
expiring contract will have a lower value too. On top of that, a low-value 
player on a hot streak can be much better that a high-value player in a slump.


Moving, on, to access the actual tactics section, you must click the bar on the
bottom labelled "Tactics." This will take you to a screen with your lineup on 
the left, and your formation on the right. Whenever you want to change your 
formation dramatically, I recommomend that you remove all players of their 
positional assigments, so you can see the acutal positions instead of squad 
numbers and names on the tactics screen. 

On the right, you can move positions around. Use the left click to move the 
position, and right click to encourage a run in any particular direction. On 
the left, if the lineup card is empty, switch the positional buttons (DR, GK, 
FC, etc) so they are aligned the way you want them. Remember that this is the 
exact way you will see the lineup card in a match. It's easier to see your 
midfielders beneath your defenders and your attackers beneath your midfielders 
in order because it's easier to manage in-game. 

If you already have a full lineup card, then you can switch around the squad 
number buttons in the tactics screen to change their position (NOT their spot 
on the lineup card). There are two menubars in the upper-right corner where you
can specify instructions; they will be explained in the next chapter.

SECTION II - Advanced Tactics

                         * Team Tactical Instructions *

In the upper right corner of the tactics screen, there will be a menubar 
labelled, "Instructions." From here, you can access the team tactical 
instuctions. These are very simple to configure and can do a lot to change a 
game. Here is a rundown of the instructions and their functions, and their 
strengths and weaknesses. -IMPORTANT- The descriptions provided here outline 
the effects that this will have on your TEAM, not in particular the effects 
associated with the individual player.


PASSING - There are four options here.

Direct: The most basic type of passing. This forces your players to pass only 
into open lanes. It, as a result, decreases the rate of which your players will
look to lead a reciever and the rate of which your players will look for a 
reciever long down the field. An inefficient form of passing, in my opinion, 
but if your players are giving away too many balls to interception, this may 
be the ideal way to go. The plays will not be pretty, but you will reduce 
mistakes in your game - a good way to begin a season.

Short: The favored way of passing for most teams in the EPL. This passing takes
advantage of a team's individual talent. This form of passing encourages small 
forward runs and lead passes. As a result, you will open up many holes in the 
game, even for your opponent. Choose this if your players are secure at short 
passing and first touch, and are versatile at using both feet. This style of 
passing dramatically reduces the chances that a player will perform the 
chuck-and-pray. As a result, many players (and many defenders) will end up out 
of position beacause of the speed of this style of play. Therefore, teams using
this style of passing must have players with excellent positioning in addition 
to passing versatility.

Long: This style of passing is used by many Italian teams and lower division 
teams, because those players are less adept at dribbing the ball. They can run 
much faster than they can dribble. As a result, this form of passing 
discourages holding onto the ball. This is an exciting style of football, 
but it bound to cause a lot of turnovers. Giveaways in a game will be, on 
average 2-3 times more than what you would have using short passing. 
Fortunately, all those giveaways will be in the opposing zone. Once in a while,
you will get an amazing long ball play, and that will be exciting and quite 
successful. If you have slow defenders proficient with only one foot, then 
long passing may be the style for you. To maximize efficiency, long ball teams 
look for players will lots of vision and acceleration. Defenders also tend to 
get less tired in this style of passing because they hold on to the ball for 

Mixed: This is a simple combination of those styles of passing. It basically 
leaves the style of passing up to the individual. If you have very stupid, 
young players, then you should stay away from this, and give the players more 
instrucitons and less choice. If you have a fast team with vision and high 
morale, letting the players handle their passing style is a good choice.


Focus Passing


This gives you the ability to tell your playres to concentrate on a specific 
part of the field in which to conduct their passing. The options are:

Down the Centre: This is very useful if you players have much dribbling skill 
and little crossing or technical skill. Passing down the middle is no-doubt a 
game of quickness and flair. Teams like Arsenal excel at this sort of play 
because of their flair and individual talent. Because of the traffic in the 
middle, using this avenue of focus passing works very well with acceleration. 
If you plan on using the centre, designate many players to try through balls 
more often. Note that vision in this style of passing is imperative only among 
your midfielders. Because passing a long ball down the middle of the part is 
an easy giveaway, defenders play a lesser role in this style.

Down both Flanks: This is good for teams who use wingers with lots of crossing 
ability and acceleration. In the game of CM, passing down the flanks is 
effective with long passing. This style of focus passing makes things happen 
quickly. Most counterattacking teams choose to use the flanks to pass. If you 
are one of those teams, make sure you have at least two good wingers with 
crossing ability and pace, and make sure you have midfielders with set piece 
skill and fullbacks with vision.

Down Left/Right Flank: This is effective in two situations. First, if your 
opponent lacks greatly in one side of the field (i.e. If they only have one 
good fullback), you should try to fully exploit that side with pure speed. 
Also, if you have a playmaker on your team, encouraging passing on his side 
will encourage set pieces through this player. If the player is just a master 
header/finisher, encourage passing on the other side, and encourage crosses 
from players on that side to the far post.




Remember that adjusting this option does not particularly change your team's 
tendency to close down. It is just how hard your players go into a tackle when 
they see the chance. Here are your options:

Easy: The standard style of tackling, players will tend to avoid changing
directions in order to tackle. This means that you will get a very low tackle
success rate; however, an opponent will rarely run free of a player. I find that
with this option is preferred with teams who have more speed than tackling
ability. You will rarely see slide tackles, but you will expect to be outshot
with this style of tackling.

Hard: This is obviously the most aggressive style of tackling. Teams with good
tacklers choose this option when they are behind, because hard tackling wins
the ball more often and more quickly. The only downside is that when it fails,
the opponent has plenty of room to run free. When using hard tackling, expect
to see many more yellow and red cards and slightly more injuries for your team.

Normal: The mix between the two, players will go in for the tackle hard, but will
rarely slide tackle. Use this option when your opponent has excellent set piece
and finishing talent.


Closing Down


Closing down is favored by some, and despised by others. Here are your options:

Always: This instructs your players to go full on for the ball whenever they see
a potential opening. This, when used in conjunction with hard tackling, forces
plenty of quick turnovers, plenty of injuries, and plenty of mistakes. The
advantage to closing down all the time is that your players will have to run
around the field less because you don't have to worry about a full-on attacking
sequence from your opponent. With always closing down, you should expect no
opposing attacking periods longer than one minute or so. Whether the attack ends
in a turnover or a goal will depend on the talent of your players. Tackling and
decisions are imperative to closing down.

Never/Stand Off: If you players are fast or very bad at tackling, this is a good
option to choose. If players are instructed to Stand Off, then they will follow
the opponent down the pitch, but will rarely go in for the tackle. This prevents
a breakaway, but also allows the opponent to travel very easily into the zone, or
to the touchline for a cross. This option is best to be avoided by worldclass
teams and leagues because almost all forwards and midfielders will have 
excellent set piece and crossing capability.

Own Half Only: I think that this would make more sense if it were "opposing half
only," but what are you going to do. This basically encourages your defenders to
close down, but for your attackers to back away from the forecheck (hockey term
defined by trying to force a turnover in the attacking zone). The only case this
instruction makes sense is in an individual instruction, which will be explained
in a later section.




This one is all-important. I actually believe that all of the other options can
become obselete if you go into a game just selecting a mentality. Anyway, here
are your options.

Ultra Defensive: Useful for counterattacking teams. This is used very well in
conjuntion with smart defenders with much heading talent. When going
ultra-defensive, be absolutely sure that you have one good, fast, forward,
because without that, you will never score any goals. When playing
ultra-defensive, a sweeper is essentially useless because you will have at least
one free central defender, who will naturally position himself to handle the
sweeper duties. Ultra defensive play is used in conjunction with direct passing
on the defenders, long passing on the midfielders, and run with ball and hold up
ball with the lone attacker. The ultra defensive style is very much like what the
Greeks used to win EURO 2004, and as a result, has become ever popular.

Defensive: Because Italy uses this style of play, I am very biased against it,
because Italy tends to be very unsuccessful in international play. Anyway,
there's not much to say here. It's just halfway between ultra-defensive and

None (Normal): This is in the middle. Used my 75% of all teams.

Attacking: This is pointless.

Gung Ho: A funny word. Using gung ho with a 3-4-3 will score fewer goals than
ultra defensive with a 0-0-5-5. 


Offside Trap


obvious. This instruction encourages your players to advance a tiny bit in
order to encourage an offsides call. Naturally, if you use a sweeper, this is
useless. If you plan on playing the offsides trap, make sure that you have smart
defenders who also have good heading skill and positioning. Offsides trap is most
effective when used against a long-ball team.


Zonal Marking (Instead of Man-to-Man)


This assigns your players to mark a zone on the field instead of a man. If you
are playing a team who is much more skilled or equally skilled as you for most of
the season, you should almost always zone mark. It is best not to switch around
man and zone marking. Just stick to one. Zone marking generally requires less
individual talent, but it is more succeptible to teams who play through the
centre (like Arsenal). Also, using zone marking will get your players less tired,
because they can stay in the same general vicinity for an attacking sequence by
the opponent. The largest downside to zonal marking is the counter- or the quick
attack. When this happens, whole zones can be left empty. Some may argue that
this would be better than having man open, I argue that open zones are very
obvious and easy to find.

Naturally, man marking is more succeptible to outside attacks. Also, man-to-man
defense will make your defenders more tired, and less organized if they are not
great players. In general, choose man only if you have a squad full or world
class players.


Counter Attack


Despite its lure with the word (attack), this is an option you want to stay away
from if you are an attacking team. This instruction forces your players to draw
back to about a quarter of the field, and wait for the opponent to advance. When
they do get deep inside your zone into scoring position, THEN you start to attack
very quickly, hoping to strike the opponent with fewer defenders than you have
attackers. NEVER use counterattack if you have less than 5 defenders (4 is
excusable in very specific situations if you have all worldclass defenders).

Generally speaking, the only situation you should EVER use counterattack in is:

IF you have a great defense and not so great set piece offense.

AND IF your opponent has a poor, slow defense,

AND IF the opponent has aggressive forwards

AND IF the opponent has an agressive game style,

THEN, and only then, you should counterattack.


Men Behind the Ball


Roughly equivalent to playing ultra defensive. This tells your players to stay
behind the ball in attacking sequences for your team, and also for your players
to avoid tackling if there are fewer than 3 defenders behind them. Never use
Men Behind the Ball in conjunction with Offsides trap, because you will get
your defenders very tired, and very frustrated.