4-2-3-1 Piolismo for FM 21

Friends of Football Manager Guru here is the first tactic developed for FM 21, the new edition of our favourite game. In case you haven’t bought the game yet, we recommend you visit our online shop. Today we are going to analyse the 4-2-3-1 Piolismo for FM 21 developed by our friend Cost Bomber who has kindly allowed us to report the description of the tactic used at AC Milan. With this tactic he immediately won the Scudetto, getting good play and results.

We remind you that the tactic is downloadable at the bottom of the article.


Brief description of tactics

Pioli’s AC Milan have only lost once in their last 26 matches, in the Europa League against Lille (on 23 November). The secret of this success occurred when the decision was made to switch from 4-2-4 to 4-2-3-1, which in the first half with Inter, in the pre-Lockdown return derby, had Milan playing excellent football. In the second mini-league, which ended the 2019-20 season and in these first months of the new season, the trend is always the same: we win almost every time.

But how does Pioli’s Milan play?

  1. High pressure
  2. High intensity of play
  3. Overlapping on the left and movement of the 4 in front with opening spaces

Everything revolves around the figure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. His movements to meet and favour the insertions of the trequartista or the outside players, his touches, his assists and, of course, his goals, make a system of play apparently quite simple, beautiful to see and above all effective.

Everyone moves around him, with the two central midfielders forming a matching pair and the less offensive right wing providing balance and support to the action, benefiting from the desired overload on the left, where we find the raids of Theo Hernandez and forwards adapted to outside attackers, such as Leao or Rebic.

Role settings

This is how Pioli’s 4-2-3-1 will be deployed:

Modulo 4-2-3-1 Piolismo per FM 21

DEFENSE: A goalkeeper who plays with his feet, although Donnarumma isn’t Alisson in that respect, a classic DC like Kjaer flanked by a more attacking DC like Romagnoli. On the right we have Calabria, we’ve set him up as a supporting full-back, but thanks to the offensive mentality of the team, he’ll go on offensive sorties giving us a few goals as well. On the left we have Theo Hernandez set up as a full back. Why in support? Because although the press says he’s only good in attack, in my opinion he helps as much as he can in defence, and this role balances things out a bit. We’ve set him up to shoot more, and he’s scored a few goals from outside the box, just like in reality.

MIDFIELD: Pioli has a well-rehearsed duo of Bennacer (back-up regista) and Kessie, who we don’t set up as a CCQ, his natural role, but as a CC-sub, which gives us the mix of coverage and offensive propensity that balances the module. Tonali and Krunic are the two variants, especially the ex-Brescia player, who is growing a lot and will soon be hard to take off the field.

ATTACK: The 3 behind Ibra are linked to the movements of the Swede. Set up as a second forward, he will come to dialogue with his teammates, open up spaces and provide assists, without neglecting the main thing, which is scoring goals. As in reality, I chose this setting because we do not find an Ibra that makes of speed his best weapon, he will be served on the feet and not in depth (here is the choice not to put other roles that required different athletic skills) and will tie the game with the 3 behind.

On the right, we have the man who gives balance, I deploy Saelemaekers as a supporting winger, who also gives us cover and width on the right. On the left instead, where we will push more, Rebic/Hauge/Leao are certainly more offensive than the Belgian, and their attacking movement (outside striker) will leave space for the raids of Theo Hernandez.

The third is the trequartista: set up as an offensive midfielder, with this role, Hakan Çalhanoğlu has taken over Milan, and in dialogue with Ibrahimovic he has been reborn. He will insert himself in the spaces left by the Swede, provide him with assists, go and find the space to unleash the “shoot more” that I have created for him in my personal settings.


Team setup

Possession phase: the offensive mentality changes some parameters by default, which we will balance by trying to narrow the width a notch, trying to play with more passing and a higher tempo. We will try to set up from the back with the two DCs, passing through the director who will then have to look for and reward the left lane where we will have most of the action with overlaps, and then free up space on the right flank.

On the right side we will look more for the insertions of the trequartista and the central midfielder looking for the forwards, although our fullback, driven by the mentality of the team, if he has space, will also overlap (and fortunately I would say).

Fase di possesso

Transition Phase: Milan is very aggressive when losing the ball and especially with the 2 CC’s they try to recover immediately, helped also by the outside players if we are in an external area of the field. We also set up the counter-attack, because when we go from negative to positive transition Milan spread out in quick counter-attacks using the speed of the outside players. The construction is from the bottom with the goalkeeper looking for the two centre-backs, without disdaining the launch on the wings to launch a fast counter-attack. These 2 situations will also occur in Game

Fase di transizione


Non-possession phase: The defensive line is high but not very high, while the pressing will start close to the opponent’s penalty area. Milan, especially with the two CCs, come in hard on the opponent, but also the rest of the team, starting with the forwards, make themselves felt on the man. It follows that the pressing will be very high.

Fase di non possesso


Team settings

In this video, the action starts with Kessie who has just received the ball from a central defender. He unloads on the right wing and here is the movement of Ibra who comes to receive/open space, favouring the insertion of the Trequartista, in this case Hakan, who is served perfectly in space and goes to finish in the net.


In this other video you can see how he attacks this scheme, with the final goal the result of fast, tight combinations that free the right wing into space.


Tips and variations

TIPS: Obviously, even Pioli’s Milan don’t always play in the same way as the interpreters change and depending on the team, playing against an entrenched Spezia or against Juventus, is slightly different in reality too, or, playing against one man on the wing or against 2, changes both defensively and offensively.

  • Against 3-man defences with only one man on the wing: I widen the width by 2 notches, and put the outside attacker on the right and the right-back as a flanker in support, so that I have superiority on the wings. Against big teams, I can man their outside players with my wingers, especially if I take the lead and want to close any chance of a comeback.
  • Changing the players on the field: Having Ibra in attack or putting Leao/Rebic in, changes the world. FM gives us the possibility, given the same scheme, to customise the role of a certain player, without having to change it every time you put him in. So, in this tactic you will find Ibra as second striker, but in case of his absence, putting Leao you will see him set up as a man in the area to exploit the depth. The same goes for Rebic, who I’ve chosen to put as a pressing forward to make him play the role of first pressure in the opponent’s setting phase, a role I think he does well. Castillejo too, on the right, being left-handed, has set up a different role, I put him as a supporting outside forward, but he could also fit in on the reverse wing.


Results on the field and latest considerations

Like all emulations, the intent is not to create a tactic that breaks the game. The main intention is to create a tactic with a game system that comes as close (as far as FM will allow) to reality as possible.

I should point out that I have only made one purchase, Djuricic from Sassuolo in January, that I have not taken care of personalised or general training sessions, that I have not taken care of press conferences. A whole series of things, which those who are experienced know could have brought me a few more points than I did….

IMPORTANT: I have deliberately removed the sequence of the goalposts, as you will be able to find the best pattern yourself.


Download the tactic 4-2-3-1Piolismo for FM 21

You can download the tactic by clicking on the following link.




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See you next time and enjoy your Football Manager!

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