Football manager has a lot of things going on under the hood that are sometimes quite hard to decipher.
For instance, you might want to focus play down the left, right or through the middle, coupled with an overlap or underlap in one area of the pitch.
However, despite setting up everything to your liking, you might find your team is still playing the same way as before you added the instructions, with seemingly no change.
Before you accuse the team instructions of adding nothing to the overall gameplay, you must first understand what the team instructions do, and even how your choice of attacking width adds another dimension to how your players behave in the game.
Focus Play Down The Right, Left or Through the Middle in FM
In the newer versions of football manager, from FM21 and FM22 onwards, focus play encourages players to drift into the half spaces to support the direction of focus. The instruction also tells your team to play more passes into the focus area.
What this means is that, if you instruct your team to focus play down the right, your players, especially the central midfielders, will slightly drift to the right-hand side of the pitch relative to their designated positions and roles, and try to exploit the space in that area.
If you choose to focus play through the middle, then something similar will happen, players moving into central areas of the field trying to exploit the space found here.
It is wise to choose a specific area of the pitch to focus play on, either depending on your team’s strengths, or the opposition’s weaknesses.
For instance, If you know your right-winger has the beating of the opposition wing back, focusing play down his side might be a good way for your team to consistently make inroads towards the opposition’s final third.
In the same vein, if the opposition half back or ball winning midfielder gets a red card, and his position is not filled with another player. Focusing play through the middle might be a good choice in this scenario to fully take advantage of your superiority in numbers.
You can also use the focus play team instruction to get the ball in areas where you have the most strength.
Your team will consistently try to get the ball to this area, which in turn means your best players get to have the ball more often, increasing your chances of winning if they create and convert their chances.
Attacking width will also influence where focusing play “down the right or left” is in relation to your choice.
If, for instance, you choose a “very narrow” attacking width, focusing play down the right or left in this system would still mean operating in relatively central areas of the pitch unlike when you are playing with a “very wide” or “extremely wide” attacking width where focusing play on the right or left would mean operating near the touchline on either side.
A “very narrow” attacking width could be useful when you are focusing play through the middle, and you are playing with a system that has no wide players who would be forced to operate in the central areas of the pitch where they are not 100% comfortable.
Roles in central like that of the Mezzala and Carrilero that tend to drift to the sides of the pitch might override the focus play team instruction, therefore it is best to deploy them in the areas you would want the team to focus their play on.
If you want to use a mezzala and focus play through the middle, for instance, there will be a conflict as the mezzala is hard coded to act as a half winger meaning he will not always be in the central areas of the pitch, as he often drifts to the wing.
In this case, an advanced playmaker, a box-to-box midfielder or even a roaming playmaker might suit your team better. The libero from central defence can also be an effective avenue of exploiting the central areas of the pitch if you have the right setup.
For more on exploiting space, you can read our article on the various choices regarding attacking width in FM, from “very narrow” to “extremely wide” which can give you a few ideas to try when it is time to create your next tactic in the game.