This article – FM23: Data and Analysis to Enhance Team Tactics and Formations talks you through how I approach the game and use this data to shape my own tactics. I take a deep dive and discuss how I use the data and analysis to find issues, and attempt to fix them, amongst a whole host of other things too.

FM23: Data and Analysis Introduction

One of the key ways that teams can use data and analysis to improve their formations is by studying game footage to identify areas of strength and weakness. For example, a team may notice that they are having difficulty creating scoring opportunities from open play, and may use data and analysis to identify the reasons for this issue. This could involve studying the positions of their players during attacking phases, and using performance-tracking systems to measure factors such as the distance between players and their movement patterns.

Another way that teams can use data and analysis to improve their formations is by analyzing player stats and team tactics. For example, a team may notice that their formation is not allowing them to maintain possession of the ball effectively, and may use data to identify which players are losing the ball most frequently and where they are losing it. This information can then be used to make changes to the team’s formation and tactics, such as adjusting the positions of certain players or using different types of passes to maintain possession.

Overall, the use of data and analysis in football is becoming increasingly important, and teams are using these tools to identify and solve issues with their formations, as well as to plan for upcoming games. By studying game footage, analyzing player stats and team tactics, and using technology such as performance tracking systems, teams can gain valuable insights into their performance and make informed decisions about how to improve their formations and tactics.

For example, a team may use data to identify areas of the field where they are most likely to score goals and focus on taking shots from these areas during games. Similarly, a player may use data to identify their most accurate shooting areas and work on improving their shooting from other areas of the field.

Stag’s Performance-Tracking

Above when I was talking about real-life football, I mentioned performance-tracking systems on a few occasions. When I’m talking about this in Football Manager terms, I’m talking about things like Stag discusses. I’ll just link to his work as I couldn’t do it justice even if I wanted to. 

Additional statistics in Football Manager?


Statistics – What does “good” look like in FM23?

These should give you an idea of how Stag created his performance-tracking systems and the data provided, to highlight how they work and what they track. When it comes to data on Football Manager, he is the person to follow, so check his work out.

Along with these performance-tracking metrics, wkdsoul (Gaz) also added Stag’s metrics into a tab on an attributeless skin. That can be found here;

This is a great way of using Stag’s excellent data and metrics inside the game making it easier for you. For me, this has been one of the best addition to a Football Manager skin for a long-time. It allows me to get a quick snapshot of the data and how well my players are playing according to the data.

FM23: Data and Analysis

Remember that the data is subjective though and that a low metric score, is fine if you don’t expect the player to be doing those actions which score lower. There is only you who knows what you are wanting from your team and tactics, so the data and what is good for you will differ drastically from the above.

Stags’ work is a brilliant starting point to adapt it for your own saves and decide which metrics are important to you.

Combining FM23: Data and Analysis

Once you’ve got a general idea of what data and metrics you’ll be using then it’s time to try applying this to your saved games by analysing games and the data.

Next Opponent

In addition to using data and analysis to identify and solve issues with your formations, you can also use these tools to plan for upcoming games. For example, you can use data to study the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent and adjust their formation and tactics accordingly.

If you’ve assigned a scout and analyst to scout the next opposition, then in the data hub, the next opponent tab should resemble something like the above. Along with this, you should also have stuff under the team you are facings, team report. You can access that by going to the team you are playing and then choosing the team report tab.

Some of the stuff you see under this tab overlap with the datahub but there is also information here you can’t find elsewhere. So if you really want to understand the opposition and see what their strengths and weaknesses are, then you should pay attention to these pages along with the data hub.

Before we jump back to the data hub let’s take a quick look at the information we can access on the team report page and how we can use that to our advantage.

On the overview above we can see what their best starting 11 is and have a rough idea of what role they play. Then on the right, we have a quick snapshot of the analyst report too. We can see that Sport Club do Recife are performing well above the league’s average metrics. As a snapshot, we can see they’ll be no pushovers.

FM23: Data and Analysis Strengths and Weakness 

If we dig a little bit deeper into the scout report, we can see the strengths and weakness page;

Personally speaking here, I don’t really use this page much but still wanted to highlight it and talk about ways you could possibly use it. The reason I don’t use it is I don’t think a lot of the information in the weaknesses is that helpful to me, especially as I’m attributeless. So I’m aware of my own players too.

From the strengths, we can see that they have a few relating to goalkeepers. Straight away we know this is a strength and just exactly how by the descriptions. So what we’ve learnt here is;

  • Aerial reach
  • Keepers like to catch the ball
  • They can organise their defence with a strong command of the area.

If we wanted to use this information to our advantage then we know any type of crosses into the box from open play or set pieces will likely fail or have to be very accurate to find success. Now, I play a possession-based brand of football and limit crosses. You can find more about the actual tactic I’m using here, rather than me posting about it here. As it was the last part of this series we did;

The 5-2-2-1: A Comprehensive Guide

So for me, crossing won’t be a big deal as we look to retain the ball and do passes to feet rather than play an aerial game. But if you did play a crossing game then you could find your usual play might not be an effective strategy. It’s something you’d either need to adapt for before the game or (this is what I’d do if it was me) keep an eye on during the game. This way you could see exactly how it was impacting you, if at all.

This is my preferred method of playing, adapting to the game based on the actual context of how the match is playing out. You could do it before the game starts but that’s a lot of guesswork and there’s nothing to say your players can’t be successful. But it is certainly something you need to be aware of and ready to adapt to if it does actually cause issues during the game.

In the weaknesses, we again also see a lot related to the goalkeepers.

  • Bad reflexes
  • Poor at one on ones
  • It suggests they have low handling

So the opposite of the strengths, which means we could take advantage of this by trying to isolate the goalkeepers and get them into one on one situations. We could perhaps try and get our attacking players into areas that will force the goalkeepers to dive across the goal or try to hold onto the ball.

Every set-up will be different how they could do this. But if we are talking about the 5-2-2-1 formation we use, then our two attacking midfielders and the striker will be vital here. Things we could attempt to do here would be;

  • Shoot on sight to take advantage of the bad handling
  • Make the attacking midfielders more aggressive with a role or duty change
  • Pass into space to encourage the attacking trio to run onto the ball, rather than having it passed to their feet.

All of the above would be good ways of trying to test the goalkeepers, reflexes, handling and possible one on ones. It also says the squad in general is poor at positioning, concentration, anticipation, work rate and much more as I scroll down the list. This can all tie into what we do above.

We could also maybe try and take advantage of this in other ways too.

  • Higher tempo
  • More direct passing
  • More attacking width

A higher tempo would see us moving the ball around faster and players being more hurried in their approach overall. This can unsettle the opposition and you can take advantage of any positional issues they have.

More direct passing will also do the same and could take advantage of bad positioning along with a lack of concentration. If the scout is saying they have low concentration then it’s obvious that they switch off and can’t stay focused for a full 90 minutes.

Attacking width can really stretch the player as it increases the positioning between your own players, meaning the opposition would have to account for this somehow. We know they lack concentration and general work rate too. So if we are asking the opposition to do more and faster with the other changes, then we have the potential to take advantage of all the weaknesses I’ve mentioned so far.

I’ll not list all the weaknesses as I’ve already mentioned I don’t use them and just wanted to give you a few brief examples of how we can use this to our own advantage. It’s also important to note there that if you do adapt and make changes to take advantage of their weaknesses then you will likely stray from your own tactical approach and style.

So just be wary of that when adapting to the opposition. If you adapt too much you lose your own identity so try and find the middle ground and correct balance for you.


Now as I’m attributeless this page is useless for me as it doesn’t show anything. But in essence, it gives you the average of all your attributes compared to the opposition. Here you can see how you pit against them based on attributes. The general tab shows you things like average age, international caps and so on. So you don’t really get anything useful from this tab.

On the other tabs though you can see how your defence matches up to the opposition and so on. Then you can even compare physical, mental and technical attributes. This information can be very useful if you want to target certain areas of the pitch. While initially, it compares your defence vs the opposition’s defence, for example, we can still match this up with other areas.

If we know the opposition’s defence has a low average in this category and our attack has better jumping, speed, finishing, heading and so on. We could then perhaps try and target this area to take advantage of it. Things we could try are;

Speed advantage – We can ask players to try and get in behind the opposition more. You can do this with team or player instructions such as passing into space, crossing early or running at the defence more. All of this would allow the player to use his speed. When I’m talking about speed here though I’m purely talking about acceleration.

Pace would only be useful if it was a distance of 20 yards or similar, as this is a player’s top speed. In shorter distances, he is hardly going to use this. So acceleration becomes more vital in these types of scenarios. As that is the player’s ability to reach his pace from a still position. But to actually reach the top of his pace he’d require time and distance.

You can apply the above logic to other areas too. Or if you’re the team who is lacking in an area, you can try and reduce the impact. So if we reverse the roles above and you’re the one lacking the speed advantage then here is what you could do to try and reduce the possible weakness.

Defensive Line – This is your best friend when you lack speed. If you believe your players are mentally strong then playing with a high line when you lack speed shouldn’t be a major issue. As the players should be strong enough mentally to be in the correct positions and react better. But if they don’t then it’s likely going to be a massive issue. Mental attributes can offset any physical or technical attributes in my opinion. Mental attributes are essentially how intelligent the player is and intelligence outweighs everything for me.

If your defence is lacking in both speed and mental aspects then perhaps playing a more standard defensive line could be beneficial. As can perhaps use a sweeper keeper to help with the balls that are played over the top of the defence.

You can also still use a high defensive line even if they lack in all areas but perhaps take a more cautious approach and use the following setting;

Drop Off team instruction – This instruction is a defensive line modifier to how you want it to behave. So even if you are using a high line, you can still use this instruction. It then instructs the defensive players to be more cautious when someone is in a possibly dangerous situation. 

The players should drop deeper and be warier of danger. Let me show you a visual of how it should work in the game, to better explain the actions you should expect from the defenders.

I use a high defensive line but in this scenario, we are slightly deeper than usual due to the shape of the opposition and how they set up. This impacts your own defensive line and can push it back. It’s worth noting that even with a high defensive line, it will look slightly different from game to game. So don’t expect high to always mean pushed up to the halfway line, lots of factors can alter the initial position.

So here we can see the defensive line we are holding. The opposition player, Souza is going to drive forward or pass the ball. This is where your defensive line setting kicks into action. If you don’t use the step-up or drop-off more instructions then the defensive line will just behave like usual.

But if you use the step-up instruction then in the image above, the players will be looking to step up at this point. As they know there is possible danger and you’ve instructed them to step up. So they’d look to reduce the space between the ball carrier/passer and play the attacking players offside.

With the step-up team instruction, you are possibly conceding space behind your defensive line to reduce the space in front of them between the ball and themselves.

If we were using the drop-off more instruction then they’ll be more cautious and if no one is pressing the ball immediately, then they’ll begin to drop deeper.  So in this type of scenario, you’d conceded space in front of the defence to reduce the space behind them.

This can be handy for cutting out those direct balls to the attackers or balls played over the top behind your defensive line. Rather than your defensive line remaining high and increasing the chance they’ll get turned and beat for pace, you can minimise the risk of this as they retreat backwards. Allowing you to stay tight and compact.

Jack Joyce who works on the match engine team for Football Manager, also posted about these settings. That post can be found here;

This is just one of the ways you can use this information and try and eliminate such issues. I’ll not write more about this page as I don’t have access to it but wanted to show you how you can use this information in your own save.

Before we move on to the team performance section of the article it’s also worth noting that the stats page of the team report can also be useful.

Here we can get a quick snapshot of the basic stats and who is the best and worse at them. If you click on the little boxes it will take you to the team’s overview page and will have filtered the stats to show you the entire metrics for the team in that particular thing.

You could use this page to find a possible weakness and try to exploit it. Or to identify a specific player, like the best passer, and check what position they play. If they’re a playmaker then you know that the likelihood is, the majority of the play goes through them. You could try and cut the supply off or mark the player tighter to try and limit how influential he could be.

FM23: Data and Analysis Team Performance

When watching a Football Manager game either in real-time or after the match, many things can be looked at to gain insights into a team’s performance. Some common things to look out for include the positioning and movements of individual players, the team’s formation and tactics, and the overall flow and tempo of the game.

For example, when I watch footage of a game, I look at the positioning of the players during the attacking and defensive phases. This could involve analyzing the distance between players, the movements of individual players, and the positions they adopt when receiving the ball. By studying these factors, I can identify any issues with their positioning and movement, and make adjustments to improve their performance.

Or perhaps I don’t change anything and just make either a written or mental note about the things I am seeing happen. It’s important not to be rash with my decisions and change things without seeing why something happens.

Tactics and Formation Analysis

In addition to looking at player positioning and movement, I can also watch games to study the team’s formation and tactics. This could involve analyzing the team’s overall formation, as well as the specific roles and responsibilities of individual players. By studying these factors, I can identify any issues with the formation and tactics, and make adjustments to enhance their performance.

Overall, when watching a game, there are many things to look out for, including player positioning and movement, team formation and tactics, and the overall flow and tempo of the game. By studying these factors, I can gain valuable insights into their performance and make informed decisions about how to improve and what our real weaknesses are.

My focus here is purely on what my own team does, I don’t pay attention to the AI or what they’re doing. If my team plays like how I’ve instructed then we’ll be successful. I want to force my style of play and tactics on the AI. I don’t want to be the one who is always adapting and losing sight of what we are building.

That doesn’t mean I won’t change things but for 99% of things, I only change if something we are doing, isn’t working.

FM23: Data and Analysis General Performance Data

Now we can move on to the data hub and show how I use it to see how we are performing.

These are our metrics at the end of the season for our first season in Brazil’s top division the Brasileirão – Série A. At first glance, the metrics don’t look too bad although we seem to be underperforming in a few of them. This is where things can get tricky when learning how to interpret this data. There are a few things we need to account for here;

  • Expectation
  • Squad Quality
  • Playing Style

We were a newly promoted side who were expected to get relegated straight back to the Brasileirão – Série B. But we didn’t, we managed to stay competitive throughout the season and beat expectations. That doesn’t mean we dominated though or had a squad capable of dominating every aspect of the game. We focused on specific aspects to excel at, which we will discuss further in the article.

The quality of the squad was always going to be an issue. Last season the chairman sold our four best players for around £25 million and only gave us £500k to replace them. Which was understandable as we were haemorrhaging money at an alarming rate. Nonetheless, we managed to bring in a few decent players on free transfers. No one is really spectacular but enough to give us bodies and replace the positions we lost. Although the quality of those brought in wasn’t as good as the ones I lost.

I then had to decide how we were going to play at the start of the season. The season before I’d changed our playing style from a low possession one to one that craves possession, which I linked a little earlier in the article. It worked well over the season and got us promoted. So I decided we’d stick with that style.

What this meant was, to stop the opposition from hurting us with the ball, we have to retain possession at all costs. We didn’t have the quality in the side to go toe to toe with other teams as there’s some real heavyweights in this division. But if we dominate possession and time on the ball, we eliminate a lot of the opposition’s threats.

Playing this way would also allow us to attempt to keep it tight at the back and if you can keep clean sheets, then you always have a chance of gaining points. All you need is to take your chances and be clinical at the other end and you have a winning combination. This is what we attempted to do.

So the key points for our season became;

  • Retain possession at all costs
  • Keep clean sheets
  • Take our chances
  • Don’t be reckless overall

Now if we go back to the polygon above we can see I completed a lot of passes. We had a really high shot-on-target ratio which shows we aren’t being wasteful because we also had a higher goal-per-game ratio compared to the rest of the league too. Yet our expected goals were lower than the rest of the league’s average as were our shots per game.

Overall I’m happy with our general performance overall initially. But while we are clinical it seems, the actual shot quality we have is quite poor. At some point, this will work against us. There is only so far and for so long that you can have success with poor shot quality, regardless of how clinical you are. Sooner or later the goals will dry up and those 1-0 wins we’ve had this year could become 0-0’s or even losses if our defence isn’t as strong too.

So we need to make a note of this and delve deeper into the reasonings behind why it’s way below the league’s average. The low frequency of shots doesn’t bother me so much, as this was our intention. But perhaps we are keeping the ball more than we need to be. Yes, we’ve managed to overachieve this season but that happens when the things that went n our favour this year, start going against us. We will be in major trouble.

This is why we have to study the context in which you win games and play in general. You can have a fantastic season as I have but still be poor. If you want any type of consistency over a large period of time then you need to build a foundation that allows it. I’m not at that point yet and have lots of work to do.


You can see we attempt passes at a rate much higher than the league’s average. We can also see the areas we are attempting the passes from. Due to us playing out from the back there aren’t any real surprises here and the 24% and 37% of passes in these areas should be expected. We have an image now that shows we seem to attempt the most passes just before the halfway line.

There don’t seem to be many passes attempted deep in the final third of the opposition’s half though. 6% seems really low, is this a contributing factor to the low quality of chances I mentioned a few moments ago? It seems like they could be connected. There are many reasons why this is happening though. 

What I’d do here is either make a mental note or write it down, so that later on, when we start the match analysis, I know what to look for. 

  • Not many final third passes attempted
  • Low shot quality

Those are the main two factors we need to explore in more detail. It’s possible they’re both linked and part of the same issue. But we won’t know that until we start the analysis.

This just confirms what we already knew, that we have a high pass completion rate and we pass more than any other side.

This screen is interesting as it gives us a little more insight into if our possession game is working or not. We lose possession less than any other side in the league which is a good indication of our playing style working. It shows we aren’t losing the ball much and reinforces the passing completed scatter graph.

Our possessions won per game is low though but that is likely due to us retaining the ball way above the average. Meaning we don’t have to win the ball back as much as other teams in the league.

I suspect our winning possessions just before the halfway line is a byproduct of our pressing game. As we use a high defensive line and aggressive press, it’s these sorts of areas I would expect us to win the ball back. Especially when our midfield is the strongest area of our tactic. I’d be really worried if we didn’t dominate this area. We seem to be doing well winning the ball in deep areas too.

A player records a lost possession any time he loses the ball in any way, be it a failed dribble, incomplete pass, going offside or any other action that results in his team losing possession. So this is again expected due to the 5-2-2-1 formation we are using being strongest in central midfield areas. This is where we have the most players at any given time, so losing possession here is expected.

It’s also worth noting that I also use ball-playing defenders too as they can often attempt to launch defence-splitting passes. Or risky passes in general from deep areas into the kind of area where we are recording lost possessions the most. It could be worth double-checking this when we do some match analysis to confirm if this is part of the issue or not.

Teams producing a high number of final third passes against us are likely down to the high defensive line we employ. The way we play high up the pitch makes this a vulnerable area for is, if the defensive line is breached. This could be from being caught high up the pitch, balls over the top or their own defence-splitting passes.

I don’t think the numbers against us are that worrying though and seem to be in line with other teams who finished near the top of the table. We can be pretty happy with these metrics I feel and they don’t reveal any major issues.

Finally, we have the passing dynamic scatter graph that could be another indication of our press working. Teams complete a low number of passes against us which could be related to a number of things, all of which could be down to our tactic and playing style.

One of those is that the press is working and we aren’t giving the opposition much time on the ball. Which is making them hurry their passes and not be successful. It could also just be down to the fact of us having the majority of the ball share too. Meaning the opposition isn’t having the time in possession compared to the league’s average, due to us dominating the ball.

Defensive Analysis

Now it’s time to look at specific areas in more detail to see if we can spot any issues or things we need to work on.

We are quite solid defensively and have bodies in the way to block shots, so the defensive structure seems to be working. Us making fewer clearances than other teams isn’t really an issue as it is part of our tactical setup. We’ve instructed the team to play out from the back. So when the ball is won back, we are likely trying to pass the ball around rather than lumping it up the pitch or into the stands.

A defensive action metric is a statistic that measures the number or effectiveness of defensive actions taken by a player or team during a game. This can include tackles, interceptions, clearances, and other actions that help prevent the opposing team from scoring or advancing the ball.

While we have made less than the average for the league on defensive actions, we are doing them in the areas you’d expect. 38% in and around our own box. Playing out from the back could be another factor as to why we are below the league’s average as it we don’t do clearances often or it could be down to something else. I’m going to make a note of this and add it to our list alongside 

  • Not many final third passes attempted
  • Low shot quality
  • Defensive actions

I don’t think it’s a major concern but I want to check just to be sure a little later on.

The article is becoming really long here, so I’ve no real choice but to split it up. If I don’t there are going to be other 5k+ words and that is likely too long to retain your attention.

In the second part of the article, we use the data discussed above to work out if our tactics are working and what we need to improve on. While also taking a deep dive into actual matches and seeing how the data lines up with what you see happening on the pitch.

We tie it all together. For example, do you want to know if your press is working and use the data to confirm it is while watching a game? Or want to know how I use the data to decide team instruction changes?  We have it covered and so much more.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the first part.













  • 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.

5 thoughts on “FM23: Data and Analysis to Enhance Team Tactics and Formations

  1. Great stuff. Been a playing FM for 30 years and still struggle with the data analysis and how to change things.

  2. And with the lack of goalie stats analysis how you can calculate its performance?

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