Battle of the Tactics: The Ultimate Formation | @KingOfTheRooks

Philip is out of action for a few weeks – get well soon my friend. We’ll be back with Lierse to see the finale later in the year but we have a treat of an Andrew experiment in his absence. What’s the best tactic in CM9798? An impossible question you may think but Andrew has been editing…

Following the Blog Squad’s Champions League Manager escapades and the frequent CM Cup the question always lingers…which non-AI formation is the best? Well, here we’ve taken the 10 most popular formations (and some guests) and pitted them against each other in the Scottish Premier League. Feels the best template given they’ll face off with each other more frequently due to the size of the league. So which formations have we chosen?

The Tactics:

So here they are, laid out for you to peruse.

The tactics master @Nikolai features heavily here. He has some very handy strategies when you’re looking for a way out of a tricky situation and can’t quite get things to click. Why these formations? They are either among my most used or have been an absolute b****** to come up against in the CM Cup!

NOTE: (2-3-1-2-2 & 4-2-3-1 will play Champions League and UEFA Cup football respectively – we might have to throw those games)

So, each formation will do battle on at least 4 occasions (cup games pending), two home and two away. We’ll ensure the most in-form/highest moral players are selected for each game. No tactical alterations through games other than:

  • Any player getting a 5 can be removed
  • Where a ‘keeper receives a red card, sacrifice an attacker (unless of course the formation doesn’t need a ‘keeper!)

The player and club stats are all identical. Some immediate flaws would be that the rush ‘keeper supposedly works better with a ‘keeper who has rushing out <10. One to consider a re-run with.

How did it go?

Well…first of all can I just say, that did NOT go as I expected it to.

In the end, the ‘keeperless formation came out on top, but boy was it tight. 2-3-3-2 and 2-3-1-2-2 held the first-place spot for a stage in the latter half of the season. Rush 2-3-3-2 spent 9 weeks on top – the most of any of the formations.

Overall, the more ‘all out attacking’ formations were less convincing when the playing field was levelled; 2-3-1-2-2 and 3-1-1-3-2 having a win ratio of 50.0. The only formation to perform really poorly was VVV 3-2-3-2 spending half the season solidly in the bottom spot.

Some might argue 5-4-2 (No Keeper) is a ‘cheat’ formation. From tests in real CM9798, finding the appropriate outfield player to be the default ‘keeper is challenging (Phil Neville and Winston Bogarde are known heroes of this position).

Home Comforts

At home the attacking formations faired a bit better, with 3-1-1-3-2 coming out on top over the 18 home games. 5-4-2 No ‘Keeper acts as Mr consistency again.

I think the evidence is clear on VVV 3-2-3-2 in that it struggled in the bread-and-butter home environment.

Away Days

Away from home, the formation I expected to be the overall winner, was on top. No formation did as well as any formation at home with the average away points secured per game at 1.2 compared to 1.5 at home.

3-1-1-3-2 (also known as The CharleMagne) did not fair very well away from home. This was very much not anticipated as it proved to be a very decent tactic in the last CM Cup. The fact that an opposing ‘rush’ ‘keeper tactic sits at the opposite end of the away table is very striking.

Vital Statistics – Scatter Charts

It’s worth considering these two scatters side by side. Tactics appearing consistently in the top right of both charts are high risk, high stakes kind of tactics. You’re putting it all on the line Keegan style with the idea that you’ll always score one more.

No tactic appears in the optimal place on both charts, however, 5-4-2 (No Keeper) comes the closest which suggests it is almost a perfectly formed defensive but efficient tactic.

Two of the top 3 are in the bottom half of this chart, which must mean they are getting something right? Surely?


What have we learned? I think the tightness of the table (mostly) tells you that, as a priority addressing the quality of your squad is clearly much more important than the tactic you select.

I found on a test save with these perfect players, you could play the best teams, with a messed-up formation (say all the players on the left of the pitch) and still win. Quality overrides tactical know how.

Significantly defensive or attacking formations don’t appear to work too well away from home. The more balanced tactics with an even split of attacking and defensive players seems to do better (see Rush 2-3-3-2 and 4-3-1-2). 3-1-1-3-2 at home and Rush 2-3-3-2 away ‘looks’ like a perfect combination.

More confused? Quite possibly. Mull it over, the CM Cup is never too far away…

You can follow Andrew on twitter: @KingOfTheRooks

6 thoughts on “Battle of the Tactics: The Ultimate Formation | @KingOfTheRooks

  1. Pingback: Cup Winners Cup9798 – Meet the Teams | CM 97/98

  2. I’m trying these top 2 home/away tactics with Wallsall in DIV3 instead of my usual 5-3-2 and I’m getting thoroughly devastated! The home tactic is so-so, but the away tactic hasn’t won or drawn a game yet and is leaking goals like I’ve never seen before. Currently P20.

    • For every tactic you need the right personnel. These tactics were tested against other human tactics though, not necessarily against AI/Built in.

      • Might be something to it, even though with a good team tactics seem to become secondary. I wonder if this test would play out similar or completely different if repeated.

      • Mate, it’s a fantastic article. Would you happen to have the Players.DB1 corresponding to all of these changes you made to the original Scottish league? I’d love to try this out with more tactics

      • Will need to check. A load of files got corrupted a few months ago. Hopefully it wasnt one of them!

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