Remember when football fans online used to think of Kieran McKenna as something of a glorified PE teacher at Manchester United? That sure feels like a long time ago now! Yes, they’ve drawn a few blanks of late, but under McKenna’s leadership, Ipswich Town really are able to dream of back-to-back promotions. From League One to the Championship and maybe, just maybe, the big time in the Premier League.


Not only this, but McKenna’s Ipswich are playing exciting, attacking football and challenging some tired assumptions of what good football looks like in the modern game.


It sounds like something you’d want to replicate on FM, right? Well, then you’ve come to the right place! I’ve been tweaking my McKenna Ipswich tactics for FM24 for some time now. And I think it’s ready to share with you all. Not only that, it’s a setup that should suit lots of different sides you may choose to manage in the game.


If a breakdown of how Ipswich plays IRL and how I replicate that in FM sounds (TL: DR), the download link is here for you to try out. But for those who want to jump into it. Here we go!



McKenna’s Ipswich are a progressive, attacking team that is a lot of fun to watch. But this does *not* mean they are heavily possession-based. 


A cursory glance at their data in the Championship this season sees them rank just 10th for possession (52.8%). However, they have scored the second most goals in the league and rank highly for chances created, progressive passes, and carries.


We’ve reflected this in our team instructions, with an attacking mentality, a higher tempo, and passing left at default distance. We top this off by giving the players creative freedom to express themselves a bit more.

Ipswich generally seeks to play out from the back before exploding into space with line-breaking passes and carries after breaking through the opposition’s initial press. In doing this, they often utilise the ‘artificial transitions’ beloved by a coach like Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi. So passing into space and dribbling more are essential to making this a reality in FM.


Often, breakthroughs come via the flanks. So you can experiment with focusing playing down the left and right. However, I want to start with flexible and balanced attacks. The player roles explained later mean we work it out wide enough anyway.


When they get into the final third, Ipswich loves a cutback, so I had a lot of success with low crosses, but you can mix this up as you see fit, depending on the match situation.

Out of possession, Ipswich are top in the Championship for tackles in the opposition third. So we want to replicate a punchy high press to prevent short GK distribution and get stuck in triggering. And we want to funnel that press centrally towards our enforcers in midfield, who, by winning the ball in dangerous positions, can then launch attacks against an unsettled defence. None of that works without counter-press and counter-attack triggered, so we do that in the game too.


I’ve gone for a high line to top this all off. But if you find yourself leaking too many goals, maybe ask them to drop off a touch more.


Ipswich nominally line up in a fairly familiar-looking 4-2-3-1 But structurally, we want to split the game into two distinct phases.


Firstly, a patient progressive structure to break the press in which the keeper, defenders, and a deep midfield pivot work the play simply whilst looking for a pass or carry that allows them to break into space for fluid and direct attacks.

When they do break through, they attack in a 5, with LB Leif Davis joining aggressively to hold width on the left. More on him later, but it’s worth flagging for now; that’s why we look for overlaps on that side.


When the magic is happening in the attacking third, we want our rest defence to look something like a 3 + 2. Though the RB can join play when it’s down their side.

It is because we want to emphasise these two different sections of play in FM that we have a back four and two DMs, slightly separated from our attackers, with nobody at the pure midfield level of the pitch.


This leaves space for our DMs and FBs to turn with and carry the ball. And also for our attackers to rotate and drop in from time to time. So we’ll look to ensure that happens when we pick player roles.


Hladky is as involved with his feet as any keeper you’ll see. So we line him up as a sweeper-keeper on attack. I’ve instructed him to distribute with short kicks but give him some licence as to who in the build-up structure to play it too.


Ipswich’s 3 in their 3 + 2 rest defence often looks like a V. So we need to make this work in the game.


At RB, it is usually Harry Clarke, who, as a WB on defend will sit in on the right of that three. But he has the licence to push on and support when the ball is on his side. If we are protecting a lead, I’d often switch him to FB on defend so he picks and chooses when to move forward a little more cautiously.


I want everyone in the build-up to play it pretty simple as we work an opening. So no expansive roles for the CBs are needed; instead, they’re best as standard central defenders. Our RCB, usually Woolfenden, becomes the middle defender, and we want him to drop a bit. So leave him on cover. Our LCB needs to step up higher and wider to cover the gap left by our aggressive LB. So stopper and staying wider suit this.

We’ll come to that LB shortly, but first, our DM pivot. After exhaustive testing, I put both DMs on support. But I tweaked their instructions slightly. The right DM, Sam Morsy, sits a little deeper. But I want him to be able to still turn with the ball and play a bit from deep. DM on support with hold position does this well.


Next to him, I want the second DM to largely be the same and work in a pair. But go forward a touch more without breaking the solidity of the partnership. Another DM on support with get further forward worked best.


I tried most roles for these pivot spots, and most proved too aggressive, too restrictive, or made them ball magnets when we really wanted them to be pretty functional. You can experiment a little here if you like, depending on your squad’s midfield options, but keeping it simple was both effective and faithful to real life for me.


It is crucial, though, that both DMs are set to tackle harder. We want them to be aggressive and support the press after it funnels opponents inside. Take this off if they get booked, though. They’ll get booked a lot!


As already mentioned, Leif Davis may be our left back. But he’s also our most potent attacking weapon. Nothing other than a Complete wingback on attack replicates how big a threat he is. McKenna wants him to be aggressive and creative. So set him up to take more risks, dribble more, and cross more too. He’ll reward you for the freedom you afford him!


As a result, on the left wing, we want our player to come inside as an interior and both make space for and feed Davis. An IW on support, sitting narrow, makes sense. But I ask them to cross less and leave that task to Davis outside them. In some teams, this would work well with an AP too, but for Ipswich Broadhead isn’t on the ball as much as his fellow attacking midfielders Chaplin and Burns, so I don’t want us to feel he needs to get the ball too much in a playmaker role.


On the other side, Wes Burns holds the width as a winger on attack (though if he’s not getting enough of the ball in a game, drop him to support and add ‘get further forward’ instead). We want him to be a direct threat, getting to the byline for crosses or driving inside to threaten the goal, so I’m not dictating which way he goes with the ball.


Conor Chaplin, who plays behind the striker, is a big presence on this team for goals and assists. He could be a shadow striker, but I found he didn’t impact things enough when fixated on running in behind. AM on attack worked better. But let him roam, dribble, shoot more, and take more risks. He’s the X factor centrally and has two steady DMs behind him. So why not? Again if you’re struggling to get the attack going, he can drop back on support from time to time in the game.


Up top, George Hirst should probably be a Target Forward on attack with move into channels added on as he’s a pretty mobile threat, irl. But I feel he doesn’t lead the line enough in the game with this role and makes the attack a bit stagnant. Advanced Forward works better, and he does still drop in and use his physicality a fair bit. So let’s go with that!



I always create tactics simply because my inner football nerd loves seeing teams I find enjoyable in real life jump out of the screen when watching the match engine. So huge thanks and credit to online analysts and content creators (like htomufc, Jacob Horsfall & EverydayMUFC2) whose work helped me think about what Ipswich’s playing style should look like in the game.


However, after my Girona recreation, I had lots of Qs about how the tactic performed in a game. The answer is not too bad at all by the way. I had Girona in the CL spots halfway through the season, though I was very aware it could all fall apart with a key injury or two!


So here’s how this setup got on at Ipswich. After half a season with their starting squad in the Championship, we found ourselves comfortably top of the league.

My Ipswich side was mid-table (7th) in average possession with 54%, but managed to comfortably be league leaders in chances created, xG and goals, with high-intensity runs, crosses and opposition third regains all being emphasised in the data too. That’s not too far off what Kieran McKenna is doing in real life at all!


Once again, there’s a direct download link for the tactic here. I’ve also included an alternative variation which emphasises the press and direct chance creation phases of Ipswich’s game to the slight detriment of baiting the press and build-up. Alongside that is a mirror image of the main tactic if you’d rather push on an expansive fullback down the right.


I’d love to hear how you get on with this! Drop me a line on Twitter (@CottageTactico) if you fancy. You can also suggest which teams I should look at next for recreation. I have a few in mind already. But I’m always keen to hear your suggestions. 



9 thoughts on “Mckenna’s Ipswich Town FM24 Tactic

  1. Amazing! I’m an Ipswich fan and it’s great that his philosophy is greatly noticed . Especially in the Football manager world! I think you have nailed this in great depth . Will give this a go.

  2. Best Tactic I’ve used this year tested with Portsmouth and blew the league away with a 122 pints couldn’t recommend it anymore 🙌

  3. Awesome tactic! Would love to see some more or the top championship teams e.g Leicester and Southampton

  4. Awesome tactic! Would love to see more tactics of the big championship teams e.g. Leicester and Southampton

  5. Great tatic in Champ. i have just got promoted with Ipswhich . How do you think the tatic will fare in the Prem, particualry with the attacking mentality?

    1. Hey Sam,

      You might want to try dropping it to positive if you find yourself shipping too many goals. Could also move the RB to a FB of IFB on defend or the RDM to a defensive mentality too.

      If you find yourself with even less possession, an AF rather than Target Man may give you more threat on the break too!

  6. Great tactic. Working wonders with Middlesbrough in the Championship. Still haven’t lost a game.
    How can I get my wingers to cross more?

  7. Very good tactic. However, the attacking midfielder is hardly noticeable. He scores a few goals, but he is never part of the build up. He hardly ever gets the ball. How can I get him more involved?

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