FM18 Possession Tactics Explained
Possession Tactics
Football Manager

Many FM18 possession tactics are based on the player’s intrinsic ideals. This could involve replicating what their hero does, assuming that’s a manager or team.

Failing that, the player could simply impose their preferred style of play. Base your managerial legacy on that tactical engine; it’s almost as detailed as real life.

At face value, it makes complete sense to prioritise ball retention when creating your tactic. It’s seen to be synonymous with having a footballing identity.

Implementing FM18 Possession Tactics

Successful adaptations are hard to come by. The difficulty of creating them can just leave you with an incredulous stare.

Players can hit the ball long, without you telling them to, and shoot from ridiculous ranges. Even if they do manage to keep the ball for once, the opposition often create more chances than them.

In the voice of Michael Owen, you could just tell yourself that opposition players are “outswarming” (sic) your team. You might also take a minute of reflect on the cliché that the tactic makes them vulnerable to counter-attacks.

However, none of that explains why your team can’t be patient and tire the opposition out.

Don't do it!- FM18 Possession Tactics
Don’t do it!- FM18 Possession Tactics.

Why should I bother?

Before we go on to explore this outrageous denial of justice, consider the permutations of implementing an FM18 possession tactic.

I Am the Secret Footballer succinctly analysed the main benefits of possession football. You can’t concede when your team has the ball. The team also retains energy by doing less of the running. Finally, retaining possession makes the team better equipped to probe for an opening and drag someone out of position.

Without these objectives, the relationship between ball possession and scoring more goals than you concede is likely to be lost.

Basic considerations

The most suitable team instructions for FM18 possession tactics are commonly understood. Obviously, ‘retain possession’, ‘shorter passing’ and a low tempo are all advisable. Try ‘play ball into box’, ‘dribble less’ and generally high pressing settings if you want a bonus hint.

However, the marginal gains tend to come from being able to draw opposition players out of position. Just be careful not to leave them too much space for counter-attacks. In such a slow, patient system, those opportunities are hard to come by. If the pass in released too late, the threat’s gone. The player about to receive the ball could be offside or out of position.

The quantity of opportunities can be at the expense of their quality.

4-3-3 Flat- FM18 Possession Tactics
Goals Scored- FM18 Possession Tactics
Opposition Instructions- FM18 Possession Tactics
Corners- FM18 Possession Tactics
Free Kick Routine- FM18 Possession Tactics
Free Kick Routine- FM18 Possession tactics.
How do you solve these problems?

1. Use your formation and team shape to minimise their opportunities to counter-attack. This helps ensure the opposition players start chasing the ball, rather than trying to control space.

For instance, I often use the above flat 4-3-3 when my Everton team are favourites. While the roles are rather aggressive, inviting risky passes, the tactic ensures that enough players are covering. The wing-backs are on defend so they cover wide channels and aren’t set to ‘get further forward’. Hopefully, this mitigates the impact of the ball-playing defenders striding upfield.

In addition, the half-back offers significant protection when the ball-playing defenders filter out wide. Once these counter-attacking routes seem covered, highly aggressive pressing tactics and opposition instructions are less likely to cause chaos. The opposition will worry about my three strikers rather than lick their lips at all the holes in my defence.

Then what happens? They play reactively and defend in their shell. My team probe forward. Eventually their resistance breaks and my team are crowned the kings of possession football.

2. Ensure you have clear ‘out-balls’ in every zone of the pitch.

My above flat 4-3-3 FM18 possession tactic encompasses a similar breed of players throughout. It’s full of ball-playing defenders, deep-lying playmakers, and complete forwards.

Is that because they’re all playmaker-type roles? Partially. FM18 possession tactics are meant to patiently probe the opposition, drag players out of position, and exploit gaps.

However… filling the side with these ‘facilitators’ has another purpose, which I guarantee you don’t know about! Unlike players with more rudimentary roles, these facilitators are always available when the team have possession. Players only run out wide when there’s a clear space to exploit. The complete forward runs behind the opposition defence when the opportunity presents itself.

Design your FM18 possession tactic so that you take extra precautions to keep the ball until the final third. If you don’t, José Mourinho has a point that the team with in possession is the most vulnerable.

3. Use opposition instructions to create even more opportunities.

This might seem crazy, I know. If the opposition manage to exploit it through long balls, you will concede.

That said, if the opposition aren’t constantly worried about your team, FM18 possession tactics are rendered ineffective. It’s important to recover it as quickly and as high up as possible. Be wary of leaving any channels open; only then does your team then pose a sustained threat.

For the purposes of opposition instructions, ‘always’ isn’t taken literally. It translates as ‘always when you’re in a similar zone to them’. I wouldn’t necessarily advise using this setting; opposition instructions are a precarious balancing act. Players can be dragged out of position, giving attackers a free sight at goal. Sometimes, I try only setting them on defensive players, but the results have been… mixed. The exact instructions set should depend on trial-and-error.

4. Spend time setting up set pieces.

Free Kicks

With FM18 possession tactics, your team are likely to be fouled consistently. Obviously, one explanation is that by having more of the ball, they have more opportunities to be fouled. Alternatively, there’s the tiredness of the opposition, their defensive mentality and their aggressiveness.


It follows that free kick routines are important. Furthermore, corner routines are also important. Facilitators filter out wide to create space against a low-block, even if the tactic doesn’t ask them to. This should result in more corners… you get the story. With FM18 possession tactics, you want to maximise the quantity of openings to score.

Why They’re So Vital

The other reason your set pieces are so vital is that the opposition see them as a counter-attacking opportunity. Don’t remind me what that looks like.

From my 37 goals this season, corners and indirect free kicks have yielded 7 of them each. That’s the best in the league in both categories. A well-rehearsed routine can provide so many opportunities from one-off attacks that low-possession sides are notorious for relying on them. Allan Nyom once described Tony Pulis training his West Bromwich Albion team like “militants” on them.

How to Implement Them

My main set piece instructions are displayed above. Like anything, they vary. The crucial feature is having enough players forward to push the opposition defensive line back. This causes confusion, which is invaluable when the ball’s played into a congested area. If balls are played to either post, the attacker’s relying purely on their strength and heading to beat their counterpart. This is usually a 50/50 unless there’s a mismatch. Their focus on making a clean enough contact with the ball to score can exacerbate the difficulty.

Delivering the ball into an area where someone can peel off their marker and create space is the safest bet.