Mentality On FM – This is taken from the Football Manager Playbook;

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One thing you will have noticed that I’ve not spoken about yet is the team mentality. The reason for not mentioning this topic yet is because, for me, it’s the least important part of the whole tactical creation. I know other people value this aspect as being really important and that’s fair enough but for me, I want to keep it simple.

In simple terms, the mentality is the base attacking intent of the team. This may be described as a measure of risk-taking. More positive mentalities instruct the team to take more risks, and more defensive ones instruct the team to take fewer risks. Essentially it’s a risk modifier that affects a number of other teams and player instructions like width, passing directness, tempo, line of engagement and defensive line. The higher your mentality the more risk your players are willing to take in these specific areas of the game.

The team mentality also impacts individual player mentality, you can see the change this has on the player and his role by going to the player on the tactic screen, clicking the position, and then clicking his player instructions. You’ll notice when you change team mentality his own mentality is adjusted to reflect the change.

Like I said above, rather than overcomplicating things and making out mentality more complex than it actually is, I always play with a balanced mentality. This doesn’t mean I don’t take lots of risks or play conservatively, I can still be as attacking if not more than someone who plays on an attacking mentality. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? But not really if you think about it. It all comes down to efficiency and how you use the ball and make the most of it. Being more aggressive doesn’t equal more attacking.

I’ll show some analysis of how mentality changes impact the 4-2-2-2 box formation when we get into the actual analysis parts. But for now, some time ago I wrote this about the 4-2-3-1 and it should give you a good grasp of why I play with a balanced mentality with actual examples. I have debated adding this or not but I think it is useful and relevant to tactical building and because I’m trying to show step-by-step what I do, I think it fits.

For the purpose of this analysis, I compare a balanced mentality against an attacking mentality only.

Now, these average position images might confuse people at first and you’ll think I’ve got them the wrong way around.

Mentality On FM

That is the attacking average position map which looks deeper than you might imagine. There is a reason for this and we will come around to that a bit later in the analysis.

Mentality On FM

Believe it or not, these are actually the average positions for the players in the standard mentality structure that I am using. Yet it’s more attacking face value and players are positioned a lot differently compared to the first screenshot I posted. A lot of the players are more attacking. The average positions are interesting in both screenshots.

You’d have expected the attacking mentality to be a lot more aggressive with the average positions for when they had the ball (the purple icon with the number in it). Yet it’s actually the standard mentality screenshot which looks more aggressive. In the first image, you can see even the defence is deeper when out of possession too.

There are a number of reasons why it could be like this;

The attacking mentality is making defenders hit the ball earlier than normal as they look to hit the front players a lot more quickly decision-wise than you’d see in the standard mentality. This is entirely plausible. In the standard mentality system players likely have more time and spend longer on the ball, meaning they move upfield much more because they aren’t looking to rush play.

In the standard system, players seem to be more spread out, especially in the central areas. One of the reasons behind this is likely the initial space a player has. In the standard one, the space is likely in front of the players, meaning they have time to work the ball and play with it at their feet. In the more attacking system, that space likely doesn’t exist due to its aggressive nature. The higher mentality should on paper push them further forward but as you can see in the images, this isn’t happening. This suggests the space isn’t there and the players are having to drop deeper to find space or by them being closer to the opposition players, it’s involuntary pushing them deeper and negating the actual attacking mentality.

Those are some of the reasons why this might happen and are the likely causes. But now let’s add some more context and briefly show the match stats to see if there is much difference between the two.

Attacking Mentality Stats

Mentality On FM  

You can see I won the game 1-4 and despite the scoreline, I was incredibly lucky in terms of the score. An own goal and two goals on and after 90 minutes really flattered us. We played well on face value with the score but that doesn’t tell the true story.

The individual stats show us a little bit more about how the players play. Interestingly I notice the keeper’s pass completion and have just realised that I’ve not actually set it up so he distributes it to the defenders. I’ll have to look into this more and see if his long distribution is worth the sacrifice for passes completed if it puts us on the front foot quickly.

The player’s condition is also in the low 70s for most people. I’ll need to compare this with the standard mentality and see if there is a drastic difference.

Standard Mentality Stats


We created a few more chances but overall there isn’t much difference between both sets of match stats and the score. We won the game 1-3. The times of the scoring were better though and it looks like we didn’t leave it to the last minute or rely on our own goal. Could this be a sign of the way we attack? Possibly.

I think the biggest noticeable difference is the condition, players seem to end the game with a much higher percentage left compared to the attacking mentality one further up. This is expected because they are less gung-ho in their approach and should conserve energy better. But due to the average positions above, it wouldn’t have surprised me to see it a little lower than it actually was.

The goalkeeper’s distribution is still the same as I played the match the exact same way with the exception of one being done with an attacking mentality and one without.

Attacking Mentality Match Analysis

Here we can see just how much space there is between the fullbacks and the inside forward on my left-hand side. It’s quite the distance and one simple ball from the opposition’s fullback to the wide player takes out my inside forward from this phase of play. It puts me on the back foot immediately because now my midfield has to shift across and deal with it or my fullback is left with a 1v1 situation. Or alternatively, my inside forward could try and sprint back to make up the ground he has lost.

If you want that to happen then it seems pointless having him so high, to begin with. You could play him deeper by the use of a different mentality and help him conserve more energy as well as reduce the space. We can also use the player’s settings or role/duties to manipulate this but that brings up a host of other issues and isn’t really an option for this demonstration. The reason being is I need and want this space that appears just not as much of it. Space and time are what will win me the game by creating intelligent movement.

Here we have my left wingback Zeca on the ball. Instead of driving forward with the ball, which he can do because he has the space available and the time ahead of him, he is already looking to launch it to the strikers. However you can see the striker and inside forward aren’t positioned the best, nor are they really making a run forward, especially the one in front of him, that’s the inside forward he is launching the ball to. This is an issue as this inside forward is going towards the sideline rather than away from it. So when the ball is played what can he really do as he is going away from the goal? Not only that but the opposition has plenty of cover to now allow the fullback to be caught in a 1v1 situation.

This is a rushed decision and my side is wasting good opportunities where the player can venture forward more. Instead, they’d rather look for the longer option regardless of how those players might be marked or what positions they are in. This is because the mentality is also a risk factor, the higher the mentality the more likely a player will take risks, or as most people would say, do dumb shit. I’m not saying on the lower mentality there isn’t a chance that this doesn’t happen as it very well could. However, if you’ve set the roles up correctly and have the right balance in the set up then it’s less frequent that you’ll see this happening. Whereas currently, this is very common to see.

At times when this kind of pass works, it’s great and we look deadly but it doesn’t happen enough and for the most part, wastes the move or just cheaply gives possession away. Another thing is that when this happens, it also means the striker or inside forward isn’t making those dangerous runs because they’re not getting the chance to do them. Instead, they get backed into corners or are surrounded by too many of the opposition’s players. So trying to move the ball forward quickly isn’t always the best for this reason. It also makes it harder for the supporting players to catch up with play and that is often why you might see people say things like their striker is very isolated and not getting a good supply. It might not be for this exact reason but it’s likely it’s something along these lines.

In this situation, we have a move where the wingback is pushed on and is offering width. Then the inside forward is making a run forward too as is the striker. However, my Segundo Volante who is on the ball (Yuri) is driving forward with it but he has no real support as players are positioned too high on this occasion or surrounded by players who can easily cut out the pass or make the tackle. This is the downside of an attacking mentality when players get positioned too high, it means they have limited space to work with due to the high starting points.

It also makes it incredibly difficult for the player on the ball to pick out a pass and often sees him just crack a shot from distance. Which happens on this particular occasion. I also see posts relating to this and people pointing out the good positions they think my inside forward, wingback and even striker have taken up. I guess they have if you look at it but when you add context to it and the player’s position on the ball, it’s clear to see he is isolated with what he can do. The attacking side of things is cut off from him. Not all the time though and it comes back to the frequency aspect of how often something happens. You’ll find that in attacking setups this is much more common.

In this screenshot, we can see why my defence is deep and that is because the opposition striker is very deep in my half, admittedly we’ve just won possession but we won that at the halfway line. So we see that the defence is deeper than everyone else and likely too deep. This is because of the space the striker has, he’s making them stay deeper than they should. Also, using the Segundo Volante role doesn’t help here as we have possession of the ball so are already looking to attack. And it’s a role I want to use, however it looks like it’s too aggressive for this setup and how attacking it is. He is making more risky decisions and being overly aggressive. The role is very aggressive, to begin with, and then the added mentality isn’t helping the situation. He’d be better by playing deeper and slightly more cautious than usual.

That would then provide two things. One would be to cover for the defence and pick up the opposition players who are playing between my centre-backs and the defensive midfielders. Secondly, it should allow the defenders to push up more because the defensive midfielders would become responsible for picking up the striker instead. At the minute due to the aggressive nature, the defensive midfielders push up and leave the defenders playing as a separate unit from the rest of the side. Again there are ways to combat this slightly by the use of different roles, maybe an even higher defensive line but I’m supposedly already playing with those anyway. And changing roles defeats the purpose of what I’m creating and how I want to play.

Another thing happening in this screenshot is that Nilmar, who is my inside forward is the one who won possession back and as soon as he gets the ball he is already looking to hit the striker with those more direct/long balls. The issue with this is when that happens my striker becomes isolated or the ball is cut out by the opposition defenders. Support is lacking because Nilmar is supposed to be the support player. Again if he looks around though, he has space and time to play and decides against it. You can see when we get the ball my players are looking to get the ball forward as fast as possible. This is what mentality does on the higher ones, players take more risks and look to get the ball to the front players in the quickest, fastest possible way.

Yet again another situation where the side is looking to get the ball to the front far too quickly again. This time we see Yuri do a long ball up to where the inside forward is. Typically the ball is cut out and instantly we are on the back foot again. We aren’t being clever with the ball at all and aren’t using it wisely. When these kinds of passes are pulled off properly it’s a thing of beauty but it happens nowhere near frequently enough. Not only this but it’s making the whole side deeper than it actually should be. Every time we get into situations like this, the same thing happens. We look to go from the front to the back in the quickest possible way. But because the ball gets cut out time and time again players are always deeper than they should be. Hence the average positions we saw at the very start.

Here is another perfect example of what happens when we attack recklessly at speed and without precision. The ball is lost and a simple ball back into my own final third means my defenders yet again cannot push up because they have to deal with the opposition striker who stays high up the pitch. It’s killing my play because it’s not precise and well-thought-out football. The players highest up the field are isolated or drifting too deep because the rest of the side just cannot push up and are being bogged down.

It just goes to show though that because someone is meant to be positioned high up the pitch because of his mentality, doesn’t mean he is. All sorts of factors play a part in why he might be higher than normal or deeper than usual. So far in the examples, you see players dropping off the front for two main reasons;

  • Bogged down and can’t move upfield because we move the ball too fast for anyone to catch up. Going from a to b quickly isn’t always beneficial.
  • The second reason is, that it’s hard to find space so players come deep in the hope of finding it.

It’s like a never-ending cycle, for this game at least. We still won the game and scored four goals but like I pointed out at the start, the scoreline is flattering when you take into consideration the own goal and the two very late goals. On a different day, this could have been a 1-1 draw without those bits of luck.

I’m not saying never to play attacking football with this shape, far from it. It’s more about understanding how the shape plays on different mentalities and how it differs. If you want to play attacking football then play it. Just beware of how everything links together. Also, remember that attacking doesn’t always translate to attacking.

Standard Mentality Match Analysis

It’s early in the game but you can see how deep my entire side is. Not only that, but my defensive midfielder is also picking up the opposition striker meaning my defence can stay intact and start moving higher up the pitch. My side is closing down and chasing the ball but I think you can already see how the small difference of the defensive midfielder picking up the striker is helping my back line and freeing them up, so they can push higher up. This is allowing me to reduce the space the opposition has in my own half as the defence is moving advanced upfield towards my own midfielders.

Nilmar has the ball and this time drives infield because he isn’t rushing. And my Segundo Volante is in acres of space in the centre of the pitch and is a little bit more reserved in the build-up play and isn’t looking to attack constantly when we get possession of the ball. He’s being more clever in his play.

Due to the team, not all advancing forward and beyond the ball, it means we actually have space to run into and people creating and using space as we all move together. In this picture, we have Yuri who can drive forward with the ball or play two different kinds of ball. One is a through ball straight down the middle for the inside forward to run onto. Or he can play it straight into the patch of the inside forward which is actually the more risky pass in this scenario due to how the opposition defender near the inside forward is positioned.

Yuri passes the ball through the middle, so basically a through ball for my inside forward to run onto. Now had the side not moved together and at a relatively steady pace, this move wouldn’t have happened. Or if it was on a higher mentality than standard, the chances are the ball would have been played the first time from Yuri instead of him driving forward a little with the ball at his feet first. Our play now is more dangerous because we are playing as a unit, all of the team moving up and down the field at the same time. This is one of the reasons why the average positions in this mentality structure are actually higher than the attacking ones. Because we are moving and working as a cohesive unit.

Bruno manages to get onto the end of the ball but is fouled literally on the edge of the box and we win a free kick in a dangerous place.

In the attacking section further up, I showed the inside forward playing closer to the opposition’s fullback(A) and leaving my own wingback exposed and susceptible to 1v1 scenarios. However now, we can see my inside forward is much deeper and inside my own half picking up the opposition’s wide player. This means my wingback is free and can recover any loose balls or pick the player up should my inside forward not get the ball. Less pressure on the wingback is great as it means he is less likely to be exposed. Not only this but if he wins the ball back, he can also run with it down the wing and channel, which would put the opposition on the back foot.

I win possession of the ball back here deep inside my own half. But if you look at my players’ positioning, it’s not bad because they have space. The left-sided inside forward and the deep-lying midfielder are already doing their job. The inside forward is pushing up behind the fullback into where the space is. While the deep-lying forward keeps the two central defenders busy. Yuri the Segundo Volante can be seen unmarked in the centre of the pitch. So my defenders play him the ball.

Yuri passes the ball to the attacking midfielder, Lucas Lima. He then hit it the first time into the path of the inside forward because he was already aware of his run. Now Bruno Henrique is onside and away causing them all kinds of problems. You will have noticed that in attacking mentalities the space is in front of the opposition players and when playing on lower mentalities or using players further down the pitch, then the space exists behind the opposition. This is a prime example of what I’m usually talking about. Due to me being deeper this makes the opposition higher up when they break forward. So when they lose the ball we get situations like this and I can hit them with clever counterattacks or clever direct forward balls.

There was no chance of this happening on the attacking mentality because the player was either too advanced or forced to come deep because he was marked, bringing the marker with him. Also because it encourages getting the ball forward quickly, Yuri might have bypassed Lucas Lima in this move and looked to hit the striker or even the inside forward much earlier. This can make moves break down. On this occasion though we are more calculated in our play and it’s not rushed. Instead, the players are deciding when to take risks and the risks they do take are more likely to be successful.

This is the same move just shown from a different angle to better illustrate it. The inside forward Bruno Henrique drove forward with the ball when he received it from Lucas Lima. You can see that the opposition centre-backs have been split, one of them has gone very deep leaving the striker alone in space. While the other one has gone across to deal with the inside forward. Now Bruno Henrique can do a simple sideways pass to Ricardo Oliveira who has lots of time and space. He drives forward a little bit after receiving the ball and lets go of a fierce shot which flies past the goal by inches. It’s a brilliantly worked team move which should have seen a goal scored. It all started with my central defender too.

I’m not saying people can’t play on higher mentalities far from it. But you have to realise how they differ from the lower mentalities. Not only this but it’s vital you understand how the mentality works with the roles and duties you use. If you use aggressive roles and an aggressive mentality like a Segundo Volante on an attacking mentality, then you’ll see him venture forward constantly with disregard for any danger he might be leaving behind. While on a lower mentality you should see him play slightly differently and work better and make more intelligent runs and passes. He will still take risks but those risks will happen as and when he believes the right time to take them. Rather than allowing the mentality of the team to decide he should do it more frequently.


  • Cleon

    Cleon is a distinguished figure in the Football Manager community, known for his tactical acumen and profound understanding of the game's intricacies. With a penchant for sharing knowledge, Cleon has authored "The Football Manager Playbook," offering a deep dive into crafting effective tactics. He's the brains behind the well-regarded blog "View From The Touchline," where he elucidates on football philosophies, game strategies, and more. Beyond the written word, Cleon engages with enthusiasts through social media, making complex football management concepts accessible to many.

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