Whether you love them or hate them, there is no denying the prowess of all-out wingers dash inside forwards such as Arjen Robben and Eden Hazard. Despite all their brilliance, these players are often described as selfish, egotistical and players who don’t work hard in defense by many football fans. Yet both of these players I mentioned have added another dimension to their game, by becoming more aware of their defensive positions and actively contributing to the defensive phase of the game. So some of the best wingers in the world have taken to tracking back and helping out their defenders. Why don’t their FM15 counterparts behave similarly?

In my eyes, there is a sure-fire way you can get your wide players to actively track back and contribute to the defensive phase of play. This method consists of two steps and it helps you to achieve what I like to call Total Defending, which is basically a part of the whole Total Football concept. The positional switching and movement off the ball Total Football delivers has always captivated managers around the world and it’s always been some sort of utopian style people are trying to replicate in FM. The whole concept is based on fluidity of positions, rotations and covering your teammates runs. In this way, players use the movements of their colleagues for reference rather than zones on the pitch.

What people tend to forget is that these same ideas and principles so often associated with attacking can also be applied to the defending phase of football. Fluidity of positions, rotations and covering your teammates, maintaining a tight and cohesive wall of players between your own goal and the opposing team. In an ideal situation there ought to be no more than 25 to 35 metres between the forward line and the defenders. The reason for this is to constrict the space in a vertical sense, hence reducing the distances between players thus making it difficult for the offensive team to pass or dribble through the middle of this compacted space.

The whole idea of Total Football is tied in with the Very Fluid mentality the FM Match Engine uses. This mentality represents systems in which all players are expected to chip in to try and contribute to a general, collective function and in which, accordingly, there is significantly less differentiation between players based on position and role. While this demands a greater degree of versatility and tactical awareness from each of the players, it encourages the team to cooperate closely in carrying out specific tasks while promoting more movement between positional strata and, thus, greater variety and unpredictability in the team’s play. In short, attack as a team, defend as a team.

Whilst this sounds good in theory, will it actually work in the game? Let me talk you through a game of mine and show you. Seeing is believing after all. The venue is White Hart Lane, the fixture is a League Cup tie between Spurs and Chelsea. Two minutes into the game and Paulinho gets his sorry ass sent off for hacking down Fabregas. Now is as good a time as any to defend as a unit and I definitely want my wide players to contribute in order to stop the Chelsea wing-backs from overlapping and murdering us with pinpoint crosses for Diego Costa to drill past Lloris.


Chelsea are flooding the central area, where we are now a man short due to Paulinho’s absence. That means there is ample space for the wing-backs Ivanovic and Azpilicueta to run into. You can see how important it is that these marauding wing-backs are stopped. With my defence and midfield under distress, the wide players need to step up and help out. The above screenshot shows that this actually happens. The Very Fluid setting tells the players to take their responsebility for the team effort and help out.

Will this work all the time? Hell no! Your players need a fair bit of spatial awareness to make this work. This is why you need to use some player instructions as well. Unfortunately, these are not the standard settings you can use pre-game, but these are tweaked instructions you have to set again every match. In-game, you have to instruct your wide players to man-mark their opposing wing-back.


If you’re not willing to use the Very Fluid mentality setting, you could probably suffice with just step two of the whole process, using the player instructions during a match to have the wide players man-mark an opposing wing-back. Sometimes, solving a difficult problem really is that simple.

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Guido is the founding father of Strikerless and main nutjob running the show.


Guido is the founding father of Strikerless and main nutjob running the show.


rodrigo feijó (@pilhoverman) · November 5, 2014 at 10:00 pm

i feel that the only downside to man marking is that your wingers, because of tracking down the opponents, will be at a much deeper position when you get the ball back than if you had them up front the whole time, meaning you can’t quickly send the ball out wide with longer passing – which is one of the best way of making goals in the game: steal the ball, quickly punt to the wingers, put an early cross in.
still, man marking is by far the best means i’ve found of getting good defensive results in the big leagues. and i don’t do it only with the wingers, but often with other players as well.

    James Brewin (@ShadowRaiden) · November 10, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    there is no point in looking to have your wingers so far up all the time. your asking for your team to essentially concede goals all the time because your too attacking.

    asking your fullbacks to handle 2 players each game in both their winger and the opponents fullback is suicide and one of the big reasons many teams concede too many goals.

    you may get a few extra goals but any decent team will have destroyed your team due to having so much space out wide because your wingers arent doing anything defensively.

shylax · November 23, 2014 at 4:48 am

I use a 3 man defensive line and I was inspired to use my wingers to man mark the opposition wingers to create a 5 man defensive line in effect, which works well, but when I have them mark fullbacks (as in a wingerless formation) they tend to stay forward and there’s tons of space open on the flanks.

kynTnaRa · November 30, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Guido, if you had read my Defending in Football Manager 2015 article, this one had the same basic principle with my defending article. Which is asking the attacking wingers to specific marking the AI wide men, to form the more solid defensive formation. The difference is, I ask my two att. wings to mark the AI att.wings. It works wonder for me.

exwind · March 30, 2015 at 5:15 am

I dont think this article is totally right, Hazard tracks back… a LOT… also, pretty much managed to emulate his role on FM 🙂

exwind · March 30, 2015 at 5:16 am

Hazard does track back a lot.

Also Defensive Wingers/Wide Playmakers are the best winger roles imo, placing them too high up the pitch limits how much they can contribute to the game Ive found.

    strikerlessGuido · March 30, 2015 at 5:56 am

    Wingers track back now, they didn’t really at the time I wrote this, which was shortly after the release of the game and with no patches available 🙂

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