Townsend’s Tactics – The origin of the Tactics Truck?

With the CM9798 World Cup just around the corner, he of Roma-save fame Rob Tait has written up a tactics bible to help our competitors decide how to set-up. He’s got some help from a stricken member of the Irish squad…

I’ve recently named my Republic of Ireland World Cup squad and unfortunately (on many levels) Andy Townsend is out due to injury. Luckily Andy has a plan for after he retires, he is going to become a pundit, offering valuable insight into the tactics used during top flight football matches. He has decided to use his enforced time off to develop these skills and help our World Cup bid. He has bought himself a Winnebago from Bill Murray in order to travel around Europe and discover the best tactics for us to use on our World Cup adventure. He’s even named it “The Tactics Truck.”


What Andy wants to know is, should we run a custom formation or one of the CM9798 in-game formations. To find out he is going to visit 6 teams who are all using a custom formation I have found from looking on the internet, thank you internet and thank you people who put these tactics out there. He will then travel back in time to the beginning of the season and watch those teams running one of the in-game formations. Andy only wants to see a Direct style of play, it’s his favourite.

In order to make it as fair as possible I decided to do the following;

  • I copied the save just before the first game of the season so that both times through each team will have the same players with the same stats and the order of games will be the same.
  • I decided to only buy a player if he was really needed for the formation and again this was all done before a ball was kicked so squads are identical. (Well almost but more on that later, Spurs).
  • I tried as best I could to find a squad who had players who fit well into both the in-game formation and the custom one.
  • I played 10 league games minimum with each team.
  • If injuries happened, and they did, Liverpool, then I just accepted this and didn’t sign a replacement. I decided part of what might make a formation good is the ability to move players in and out while still getting results.
  • I didn’t change any of the runs on the in-game formations, I just left them as is.
    As was said above we only played a Direct style.

So to the teams and formations, and a little comparison of the two saves. All the in-game formations are on the left. I really just want to see how the custom formations do against the standard ones after about 10 league games. Would there be any obvious differences in the team’s performance. Let’s look at the stats for each team in turn and then Andy will help us do a final summary, after all this is all thanks to his truck.

From England we have,

Liverpool, with the 4-3-3 attacking formation and a custom 4-3-1-2.


Liverpool signed CM legend Bakayoko for a measly £3.2 million

I loved the custom formation here, I felt like it was raining goals. The first couple of league games started started slowly but then this and it just continued.



We only lost two league games out of 12, both away and both 1:0 to Leeds and Man Utd. It was pretty even against Utd.


We even overturned a 2:0 home defeat to Udinese in the UEFA cup by going to their place and winning 3-0. I felt like we could win every game, we didn’t, but I felt like we could. Even at the point in the season when this happened.


We kept scoring goals, even with Mark Kennedy up front.

The attacking 4-3-3 I did not like as much. The formations are so similar I thought that we would score a similar amount and it started so well, 2:0 and 6:0 victories but after that the goals dried up and I never felt confident of a win. The 4-3-3 just didn’t seem to get the best out of the players. After 12 games of each here are the two leagues and results list.





I would say a victory for the custom tactic. I think I am going to try this one at some point and it seems like it was built for Bakayoko behind your front two. Also David James only conceded 6 league goals so if it can do that for him then it’s surely worth a try.

On to Tottenham, with the classic normal 4-4-2 and a custom 3-4-1-2.


Spurs, I thought didn’t need to sign anyone as they had players to fit both tactics. I was so very wrong.

I had high hopes for the custom tactic here, however after 10 league games I had only won 3 times and two of them were in August. It just wasn’t working and I couldn’t help myself, I had to buy a couple of players to see if it was the team or the tactic. I bought Heidenstrom and Emmers in at the beginning of October after crashing out of the League cup to Middlesbrough. We did win the last two games scoring 5 and not conceding but it was all too little too late. We made lots of chances in some games but even when we scored the other team seemed to score more, which is really the opposite of what one is aiming for.

The classic 4-4-2 normal felt like it worked much better but when you look there wasn’t much in it. I signed Emmers and Heidenstrom again but didn’t play them until October as in the previous game. In all honesty I didn’t really feel like I needed them but I wanted to make it as similar as possible. I didn’t lose as many games with the classic 4-4-2 but I didn’t win any more either.



In- game


All in all both tactics were a bit duff with Spurs, maybe Spurs just aren’t that good at the start of the 97/98 season. To make either tactic work better I think a number of new signings would need to be made. The tactics might also work better if passing style was used but that is just me speculating.

Andy’s off to Spain next and the capital Madrid.

Atletico Madrid, are playing 4-4-2 attacking and custom 3-1-2-2-2.


Atletico signed Welsh central defensive goliath Robert Page for £2.9 million

Both of these tactics seemed to work really well with the direct style and in terms of team performance it was very close with the attacking 4-4-2 edging it on points, league position and goals conceded. The custom bagged you more goals, at close to one extra per game. I love goals and they are the hardest thing to come by in this game yet sometimes it seems the easiest things to give away cheaply. I wonder if a bit of playing with the full back runs and buying some quality in defense would make the custom tactic fly? Vieri and Kiko combined for 23 goals in the custom tactic but only 13 in the attacking 4-4-2. Lardin didn’t take to the attacking 4-4-2 averaging a 7.00 compared to his 7.54 in the custom, others were relatively similar. He’s a pretty good player so if you can get him firing as well that is good.





I would say that both tactics have held up well here and either would be a good choice and give you a chance of great things. As was said earlier I only made one signing, if you played for longer and started to identify areas to improve and make a few more strong acquisitions both of these could do really well.

Real Betis, play a diamond and my favourite custom tactic, the 2-3-1-2-2.


Betis signed Swede Par Zetterberg for £1.8 million and highly rated (in this game) Michael Brown for £1 million.

Well what can I say about the custom tactic here. I have used this on many saves, you just seem to score so many goals compared to the AI. When I compared Alfonso and Oli’s returns they were very similar for both tactics 15 in total with the custom and 14 with the diamond. With the custom however lots of other players chipped in which just wasn’t happening with the diamond. Custom goals on the left.


Where this custom tactic falls down is in defense, you concede a lot of goals and the only way to stop this is find real quality defenders, fortunately there are some around early on in the game, Worns, Santos and Page to name a few. The other challenge is the wing back positions, traditional fullbacks will work there, I’ve had great success with Panucci who is a right back rather than a wing back but I’ve also struggled at times to find a player to fit.

The diamond was a little disappointing in my opinion. On CM2 it was my go to formation but I haven’t found it as successful in 97/98. I really don’t like the player behind the front two running back to the middle of the park and I usually remove this run when I use it. It might also suit passing style rather than direct. I was better at defending with the diamond but scored less than half as many goals which for me is just not what it is about. The final thing I will say about the custom formation, and it really highlight it’s strengths and weaknesses is just look at this result, what entertaining mayhem.


Here are the league tables to compare.





A clear win for the custom formation here, 8 more points and no lost games. Sort out the defense and you are on your way to being world beaters. On a final note Finidi George is amazing on this game as that inside right support player. I’ve had him average close to 8.00 at the end of a season, and he does it consistently. If you can sign him do, then play him there and enjoy. Just don’t call him George Finidi like the game does!

Finally Andy is off to Italy.

Fiorentina, playing the 5-3-2 attacking and custom 4-2-3-1.


Fiorentina signed two full backs in Mirko Conte and Francesco Cozza, both rated by League Scout 1 and costing a combined £4.4 million.

Fiorentina were really fun to play with using the custom formation, Batistuta scored 17 goals, he was a one man wrecking ball, the problem seemed to be that if he didn’t score, which was rarely then we didn’t have any other players to get those vital goals. Again conceding too many goals was an issue, too many score draws and not enough wins. It’s another formation that could have some of the runs played around with and also might be helped by having some qualify defenders. It’s worth a try as it seems very free scoring which is what I like, especially if you can find a goal machine to play up top.

Attacking 5-3-2 direct did not work for me at all. I’m not sure why or what happened, maybe I had the wrong players or it needs to be passing rather than direct but I was bad, really really bad. Batistuta got 2 goals, 2 goals in 10 games. I know people love this formation and have made it work really well but it just didn’t work for me this time. I would have been sacked or we would have got relegated, or both, if I had played the whole season like those first 10 games.





So I would try the custom tactic here, with some tweaks and I know that attacking 5-3-2 can work well even though it didn’t here.

Inter, 5-3-2 normal and custom 3-1-2-3-1


Inter signed Dane Morten Bisgaard for £4.1 million.

I did not enjoy either formation with Inter. The custom was solid, we didn’t concede many and we scored a similar amount to the teams around us. After 10 games we were 3rd, two points off the lead but at no time was I excited. I had the best striker in the game up front and he wasn’t getting it done. In hindsight it might not have been the best custom formation for Inter, it had clearly been used very successfully by the person who had it on their website so there is potential.

The standard 5-3-2 is what Inter start the game playing but they make more signings than I did, probably because they have too many non-EU players. It was difficult to get all the best players I had on the pitch. We didn’t defend as well playing the normal 5-3-2, six more goals conceded in 10 games hence four places further down in the table. Normal 5-3-2 might also be better suited to a passing style.





These two saves upset me the most out of all of them, I just wanted to see Fat Ronaldo who at this point in time was The Ronaldo, and for me always will be The Ronaldo, score lots of goals and it didn’t happen. As I said the custom has potential and maybe some personnel changes would get the goals flowing.

So that is it, 12 tactics have been looked at and given the once over. One of the things I like about this game is a number of tactics that can be successful, both in-game and custom. There is a lot of satisfaction in building a team to fit the formation you have chosen especially if that formation brings you goals, goals, goals and more goals. I’m not sure if the less successful formations were due to style of play or just not quite having the right players for the job. I would have to play a season properly and see how it went. It was very interesting to see that moving Lardin from wide left to inside left raised his performance from 7.00 to 7.54 that is only a small positional change that brought big benefits, maybe indicating a small tweak to any formation can have a big effect.

Rating them is hard to do, even with all the variables I tried to control there are still many more that I didn’t. The best I can do is break them down into groups based on my preferences.


All that is left to do is say thanks to Andy for collecting all this information using his Tactics Truck and ask him his opinion regarding our World Cup bid.

Me: So Andy you’ve watched all the matches, what do you think?

Andy: Well Rob I think one of those formations will be the best one to choose. If you want to win the World Cup you will need your strikers to score goals but you don’t want your defense to concede too many. If you can just score more goals than your opponents then you have a chance in every game.

Me: Thanks Andy, that’s really insightful.

Thanks to Rob for taking the time out to solve all your tactical needs. Rob will be back tomorrow with the latest from Roma, or you can catch up with him on Twitter @Taitanator

3 thoughts on “Townsend’s Tactics – The origin of the Tactics Truck?

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