Why is 3-5-2 such a popular FM formation?

3-5-2 football tactics strategy concept formation

In recent years the most popular FM formation has been the 4-2-3-1, which many have used to great effect to dominate the game. We have previously looked at the 4-2-3-1 formation and why it is so popular.

However, there is another formation that has proven nearly as effective in FM 23 and that is the 3-5-2. In this article, we will be looking at the tactical set-up and the slight variations of the 3-5-2.

Why the 3-5-2 is a popular FM 23 formation?

In most FM games down the years, the 3-5-2 formation has proven popular, as it is a formation that gives you an all-important balance between defence and attack, which is vital for any successful team. Not many teams can field ultra-attacking formations and be successful unless you are Manchester City and your head coach is a certain Mr Guardiola.

However, in Football Manager most ultra-attacking formations fall flat on their face, even with the best squad of players. There needs to be some balance in a formation and a team, with the 3-5-2 you get that balance.

How is the 3-5-2 formation set up?

josephvy 3-5-2 tactics

For this article, we will be using JosephVY 3-5-2 AMC as our example formation. The three centre-backs provide that defensive stability, while the wing-backs provide support for the defence, as does the defensive midfielder, while the volante in midfield on attack will help out in defence, but also contribute to the attacking play.

The main attacking players in the formation are obviously the shadow striker and the two advanced forwards. The fact that four players are on attacking duty gives your team that cutting edge and makes sure your team offers a potent attacking threat.

The key roles

Like in every tactic, every role can be key to the success of your team. However, from our experience of the 3-5-2, here is what we feel are the key roles to making this formation work:

The Wing-backs (on Support): They play a key role in this 3-5-2, as they provide the width, which is lost if you don’t play with wingers. When we have used the formation the wing-backs have been a solid supply line of assists and even chip in with goals, as on one recent save both wing-backs produced over five goals and assists each over the season, while also supporting the backline.

One player who has been brilliant for us as a wing-back in this formation is Stuttgart and Croatia star Borne Sosa, who has a knack for producing regular assists.

The Volante (on Attack): The Volante is primarily supposed to be a relatively defensive role in the centre of the park. However, the attacking duty means that the Volante gives the best of both worlds, as he is good at winning the ball back, but will also contribute in an attacking sense. If you have the right player in the role then it can prove to be the key role in the formation.

A good example of a player that arguably fits perfectly into the Volante role is Newcastle and Portugal’s midfielder Bruno Guimaraes.

The Shadow Striker (on attack): The Shadow Striker on our previous saves has been both a regular goalscorer and also a player who has led the assist chart. Unlike a playmaker, his goal isn’t really to create. Instead, his job is to come from a deeper position and be an attacking threat. Usually, they will come short for the ball and combine well with other forward players.

It is often difficult to sign a quality player to play the Shadow Striker, without spending big. However, one player who has been highly effective in this role for us has been Arsenal’s versatile attacking midfielder Emile Smith-Rowe, who thrived in the role for many seasons.

A variation on the 3-5-2

3-5-2 tactics flat three midfield

When it comes to a variation of the 3-5-2, it doesn’t offer the greatest variation. However, if you want to adjust the formation, then the most likely tweaks you can make are in midfield, where you can move the Shadow Striker back to a deeper position, while also moving your two main central midfielders into more advanced positions.

This formation can be both more attacking and more defensive than the JosephVY 3-5-2 AMC, depending on your central midfielder’s role in the formation. Your changes to the formation will also depend on the players available to you.

Would we recommend using the 3-5-2 formation?

For us, the 3-5-2 is the first formation we turn to if we want to move away from our favoured formation of 4-2-3-1. Like the 4-2-3-1, the formation is the one that gives us the best result in defence and attack.

It doesn’t just produce defensive results, it can work very well to create entertaining football and ultimately lots of goals, especially if you have the right players in key positions.

Do you like to use the 3-5-2 formation on your FM 23 saves?