Talking Tactics: 2-3-1-2-2

Up until now, we’ve barely discussed tactics. We dabbled a bit in the Ajax save, but here on it’s always been about the pre-loaded tactics. I’ve always naively felt they were better. Also, I don’t like when the top left changes to “custom formation.” But that’s just me being picky.

Anyway, in a twist of fate a few people tweeted me over the summer asking for my suggestions of the best formation. I stuck to my guns, 532 this, 3-1-3-3 blah, but what if I’m wrong? So, I opened the floor to Twitter, and over the next few weeks I’ll be trying out your formations and bringing you the results. The barometer? Trying to beat Man Utd in the first season. A nigh on impossibility. So who do we have first?

A gent by the name of Antonio contacted me via the comments section on the final Ajax blog:


The best tactic you say? Let’s put that to the test. I asked Antonio if there was anything else I should know, but the gist was that it had worked very well for him in Spain and the attacking midfielders should have good positioning. But who to be? Antonio suggested Chelsea…


More from Antonio:

Some more thoughts:

– the postions 2, 3 are hard to find.

2 and 3 normal left and right defenders dont perform there they need to have at least one in defender midfield (check data base), or miedfield defenders with one at right (like gulit) or left (you understand what I am saying?)

– 8 and 11 also somewhat tricky.

If a Player are only Left or right they will not perform they need to be center atacking midfields, if they are bout great. (at leads having 1 at one of the positions).

Interesting, as Poyet meets the AMC criteria but Mark Hughes/Zola do not. With Bakayoko unavailable, Matt Le Tissier would be my next choice but he has a broken arm. So instead I get the Brazilian Matt Le Tissier and future record transfer fee


A 2-1 win over Man Utd in the Charity Shield gets us off to a good start, but Man Utd’s side is a shadow of what they will play week in, week out.

The first game of the season is at home to Spurs and should be a more accurate depiction of what we are.

chelsea 4 - 2 spurs

Dear God, he’s found a formation that makes Tore Andre Flo unstoppable

Off to Anfield next, a further test of the formations credentials

Liverpool 1 - 2 Chelsea

Seems legit. Worryingly Eddie Newton is our only defensive midfielder, and as he’s now out for 6 weeks, I spend £3.3m on his replacement

mark ford signs

Who would have thought he would be so sought after? He’ll fit in nicely.

He makes his debut at home to Leeds in a 3-1 win, Poyet twice and Mark Hughes from the bench. After the match, Flo is ruled out for 6 weeks too. For goodness sake.

The trip to Barnsley is normally a guarantee of 3 points but at 2-0 down with 15 minutes to go, I consider packing the whole thing in. Luckily for me, Denilson and substitute Laurent Charvet score two quickfire goals to salvage a point and our pride, but it is very apparent that Flo’s absence is going to kill us. With that, rookie goalkeeper Nick Colgan is given his P45 to free up a space in the squad and it’s time for that old Chelsea adage: When in doubt, spend.

More dropped points at unfancied Bolton highlight the formations fragility away from home – you are going to concede chances so you need strikers who are ruthless. That said, when it works, it really works


With the Cup Winners Cup a Thursday night pain in the arse, I decide to spend the money on a striker seeing as Hughes is getting on and we need to rotate.

heskey signs

Don’t judge me, he’s a talent back in 1997.

Anyway I’m sure it’s a coincidence that our next match is our first loss.

first defeat

I’m not going to play out the whole season, as I’m not made of time, but here are some things I’ve noticed about the tactic up to the half way point in the season.

  • You score an awful lot of goals with this formation. As well as the 8-4, here are some highlights
    liverpool cup
  • Emile Heskey is an unstoppable freight train from hell.

heskey form

With the formation being direct, physical strikers are the order of the day. Heskey, Flo & Hughes all boast better than a 1 in 2 record

mark hughesFlo

Oh if only Flo didn’t get that big injury. Even Zola’s return is pretty decent despite not being big or pacey


  • You get plenty of red cards and injuries

Unfortunately because you only have two centre halves they get exposed from time to time. Expect a lot of “professional foul” red cards – or that could just be because Chelsea are a bit filthy. Likewise with injuries, it might just be coincidence rather than a result of being direct.

  • Some games incorporate all of the above and more


Send help.

To summarise, this formation is a lot of fun. I have had to shoehorn certain players into it but I think given the time to build a squad, it will be brilliant. Sometimes on this game the “superkeepers” come out to play but I’ve rarely seen that here, you just keep battering them with long balls until you score.

At the half way stage, Chelsea are 4th. Would we be 4th anyway? I’m not sure, but we wouldn’t be the top scorers by a mile (though the defence might be a bit tighter!)

half way table

Have a go of Antonio’s formation and let me know how you get on. It’s getting 8 Bakayoko’s out of 10 from me, we’ll be back next week to see if we can better that. Toodles for now.





34 thoughts on “Talking Tactics: 2-3-1-2-2

  1. Tried this tactic in Season 10 of my save with Real Madrid to try and break the Barcelona stranglehold. My team had a lot of young regens including Schmeichel, Luis Enrique, Robert Jarni, N’Doram, Gascoigne, Gudjonsson, Shearer, Litmanen and Batistuta who weren’t fully redeveloped but we won the treble. Noticed my strikers would get 1 in 2 but most goals were scored by the two attacking midfielders. Added regens of Keane, Zidane, Figo and Rui Costa for this season and will see how it goes

    • I guys, I have a new tactic, this time in Long Ball Style.

      If you want to a have a go with it, please contact me

      • i really liked your 23122. did wonders for hereford, pls tell me about this new one

      • 3322 long
        X X
        X X

        X X X
        X X X

        4arrows, all 3 defensive midfilds to the atacking midfild, and the center back down.

        The strikers need to be good or have gooddefensive numbers, heading, positioning and tackling.

        And the atacking midfiels need to be balanced with good defensive numbers.

        Love to discuss tactics, please tell yours.

      • The defensive miedfilds are open.
        The atack miedfiels are close, and the defenders are also close

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  10. Have just rediscovered this old favourite during lockdown. What would you say was the most effective tactic you used? Trying to take Doncaster to the premier league!

  11. Just rediscovered this favourite during lockdown. What would you say was the most effective tactic? Trying to take Doncaster to the premier league!

  12. I’ve been using a 4-3-2-1 for a long time now. It’s the same as the basic 4-3-3 but with the FL and FR pulled back so you have 2 ‘second strikers’. Works well, and is similar to the 4-2-3-1 you tried with Arsenal before. Just started a new game as Sporting Lisbon and am winning every game. Picked up lots of cheap Scandinavians who are doing great eg. Matthias Jonson, Jesper Lyung, Thomas Gravesen, Magnus Kihlberg etc etc.

    • Hi, Greg!

      Got curious about your tactic. If it similar to the 4231, in your 4321, the 3 MC have the arrow to defensive midfield? And the two AMC, have arrows into attack? 😊

      • Hi,

        In my 4-3-2-1, the defence is a normal back 4 with fullbacks pushing up to midfield. The 3 central midfielders have no arrows, just leave as normal. The 2 forwards are in the AMC/FC position, side by side, with a lone striker ahead of them. Sometimes I vary it and have the middle CM with an arrow down to DMC, and sometimes the forwards with arrows forward.

        Also, I always use passing and try to get players with high technique, passing, dribbling, flair and creativity. Trying to make the team as beautiful as possible!

        A tip: this tactic works best if your striker has excellent Off the Ball and Shooting. He’ll get a lot of chances that way. Also, the middle CM needs to be a ball-winner with high Tackling, positioning, determination, strength etc. Think Roy Keane, Marc Emmers etc.

        Have fun!

  13. The 2-3-1-2-2 tactic is awesome. You MUST play direct style, if you use passing style then it’s inconsistent.

    It is totally dominant, and players perform extremely well (if you follow the article’s instructions on what attributes you need).

    However, I also find it goes a little bit weird in big cup finals.

    In my pandemic save game (with Siena) i’ve used the tactic exclusively and i’ve dominated the Serie A (which i pre-edited so all teams have maximum reputation).

    However, despite 2 seasons in the Chamiopns League, winning all 6 group games and strolling through quarters and semis – i’ve lost the final twice 1-0.

    Also lost the two-legged final of Copa Italia (vs Atalanta) in strange circumstances. Leading after a 3-0 win away from home…. we totally capitulated at home 4-1!!!!! Tactics were unchanged, players unchanged, but copped 25 shots against, versus our 1 shot for – and this was my team that won the Serie A with about 6 games remaining…

    So does the tactic not work in finals?!?

  14. Re: Antonio’s new formation: This is good! – I have been using a similar one for a couple of years – similar to the Brazilian ‘Box’ system the only difference is I have 2 DC’s (arrows running back to the SW position – like the 2-3-1-2-2) and 4 DMC’s – the arrow’s running up to the FC position (with no one in midfield). Doesn’t work in every country though, I play Direct Style (but in some countries Passing style is better – never tried Long ball – will do now though!)


    x x x x
    x x

  15. Just using Antonio Tactic and take Albin Rovers from division 3 to Primier in 4 seasons. Excellent tactic players enter good on the game and value of players Increase and I can make some profit in lower league. Some injuries during this process on first years.
    Will play now on main division.

  16. I will going to try, the 41122 Long.
    Long ball is chaleging.

  17. This tactic has been great for me. I’m in the 02/03 season with Doncaster and I just beat Utd 7-1 and Madrid 5-2 in the CL group stage. United pipped me to the title last year after Liverpool beat me on the last day of the season, but I beat them in the fa cup final and won the league cup too. Halfway into the current season and I have a 10-13 point lead over Utd. Got a bunch of regens, Vialli and Weah’s regens have been good but the real star has been Rai’s regen in the right amc position.

    • So I managed the perfect season with this tactic, winning the septuple (charity shield, league cup, world club cup, European super cup, league, FA cup and champions league). Notman and Rai’s regen in the amc position, bergkamp and klinsmann’s regens up front. Klinsmann’s regen had a fantastic season, getting something like 45 goals and 35 assists.

      I left Doncaster after a while as the club couldn’t deal with the increased wage demands of the players. Had a barren number of seasons with a much weakened Man Utd but got them back to glory eventually. For those of you who are unscrupulous like me, I realised that getting rid of the goalkeeper and sticking another player in central midfield shored up the defence a lot.

  18. I’m always kind of skeptical about CM tactics in general, since no matter which one I used the game either:
    -made me crush everyone for no reason
    -made me lose to everyone for no reason

    At least that’s how I remembered it. So, I decided to give this tactic a try with Leyton Orient.

    First season, started crushing everyone, finished top of D3.
    Second season, continued crushing everyone, finished top of D2.
    Third season, continued crushing everyone, got to top of D1.
    Started losing to everyone and dropping like a brick.
    Finished P7 in D1.
    Fourth season, continued losing right from the start with the same team that lead D1 last season (several players in/out, but the core of the team kept.)
    Currently dead last in D1, 8 points clear of 23rd place with 1 victory out of 20 games.

    So still the way I remember it 🙂

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