Before I’d achieved an unbeaten season with Dortmund, I genuinely thought it was impossible.
Each year, we’d lose a game in an away game against some dodgy mid-table side and I’d whinge before not playing Football Manager for weeks. To me, anyone who achieved an unbeaten season was either ridiculously lucky or ridiculously good at the game.
But it turns out, maybe not.
Achieving a constant upwards progression under strict financial constraints is incredibly rare in real-life. However, this is Football Manager and it’s a damn site easier. Despite making a £15m profit on transfers, as well as performing a complete overhaul, we were able to turn 14th position into 6th.
Following a horrendous start, we seemed to be battling relegation rather than fighting for a top-half finish. After game-week 15, we were in 15th place. But a 2-1 win against European contenders Lazio turned our season around. After that point, we only lost twice in Serie A; a very much undeserved 3-0 at Napoli, and a placid final day performance at the San Siro against AC Milan.
In all my years of playing Football Manager, I’ve never achieved a completely unbeaten league season. Until mid-March, we remained unbeaten in all competitions and I was getting pretty excited at our chance. Then came a loss against Conte’s Bayern (who we’d battered 6-0 and 4-1 earlier in the season). We went on to win the league very comfortably, as well as adding the DFB-Pokal to the trophy cabinet.
With an average of +2 Goal Difference *per match*, it’s fair to say we destroyed the German league.
After looking over a number of incredible regens in my conversations with other FM users on Twitter, I decided I quite enjoyed it. Perusing through pages of imaginary footballers who don’t even exist in my own cyberspace seems a weird way to spend my afternoons, yet there’s something oddly addictive about the whole thing.
And so I decided to create this article/plea. I’m looking for your best ever players on any edition of FM; be it CM01/02, FM14 or anything else. Submit your three best and favourite players of all-time. They can be regens or real players. If we have enough submissions, I’ll create a best XI and potentially a substitute bench. Extra points for detail on the player themselves, such as playing history, awards, etc. It’s your chance to brag, and someone will actually care!
note: we’re likely to get a load of striker submissions, so keep that in mind if you want to get a player in the XI.
note 2: you’re welcome to add in a few other players who you don’t want me to consider for the XI. Anyone who has an interesting story or looks a good player would be welcomed, however, please do make it clear which players you want to be considered.
My first applicant is Joe Hargreaves (FM11, Arsenal).
Yes, yes, it’s a striker. I know. But I simply had to include Joe Hargreaves simply because of the fact he was my first great regen on any FM. FM2011 with Arsenal was the first time I’d got into a long-term save on any version of the game and Hargreaves came into the side relatively early on, and quickly became one of the keys to European and domestic success. However, the main reason I’ve included him is for his ridiculous 2025/26 season, where his league stats were; 38 games, 49 goals, 12 assists, 12 MoM, 8.23 average rating — the best seasons I’ve ever got out of a striker. It seems odd that he scored so many goals given his low composure but he created so many chances for himself through his combination of dribbling and finishing, which allowed him to be wasteful. The trigger for years of obsessive FM playing.
The next man in is Nicolas Dalmolin (FM13, Wolves).
Those who are regular followers of the blog will know exactly why I’m suggesting Dalmolin — the inspiration behind a 4-2-3-1 tactic I used for the best part of a decade (see: https://fmcoffeehouse.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/exploiting-space-the-inverse-wing-back/ and https://fmcoffeehouse.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/tactical-analysis-crooked-4-2-3-1/ for more info). Dalmolin, like Hargreaves, came into the team relatively early and was with the team through it’s step into stardom. He finally retired after 16 long years at the club, and despite long periods of frustration through injuries, finished with 570 appearances in the gold of Wolves.
And finally, Miguel Cuevas (FM13, Wolves).
Having selected the first two for largely emotional reasons, I’ll go for Cuevas because of his machine-like efficiency, either at CB or DM. With four seasons out of his six at Wolves, Cuevas achieved an average rating of over 8 — three of these occurred consecutively. If you’ve read my 4-2-3-1 tactical analysis, then you’ll know it was essential the DM was defensively able, given the attacking nature of the LB in the tactic. Cuevas did this incredibly, and also mopped up play in central midfield. He was the key to the best defensive unit I’ve ever had on any FM, when we went a season conceding only 14 goals in 2024/25. The season after, we conceded only one goal at home. Despite being ousted from my Wolves Best XI, I consider Cuevas my best ever player.
Thanks for the tremendous response to the first part of the article. I hope this gives you a better idea of how you can use the tactic yourself.
As ever, no one tactic is suitable for every formation and tactic you come across. And that’s much the same with the crooked 4-2-3-1. It’s vitally important to consider the opponent whenever you play, and so I’ll highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the formation against other opposing shapes. Note that you’ll have to go into a lot more detail than this in order to guarantee success – shape is only a basis of a tactic.
I’ll be using a Manchester United side as a basis in order to show the different players you can use in each role. I haven’t made any changes to the starting squad apart from the signings of Arturo Vidal and Leighton Baines.
For years my Wolves side had played a variant of the popular tika-taka football style implemented by Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side during his time at the Nou Camp. As well as this, the squad was built around home-grown talent rather than big-money signings. And whilst this has been largely successful (the side has won the last eight consecutive league titles), a change was necessary. For years my ultimate goal has been to complete an unbeaten league season. Despite all the trophies, cups and awards, it has always eluded me. Be it a shoddy 1-0 loss at the Emirates or a 3-1 thrashing at Old Trafford, I’ve always struggled away at the other major English clubs. My possession-based football has always come unstuck away from home, and I felt it was time to re-create something a bit different in a bid to complete that illustrious unbeaten league system.
Over the past decade and a half of managing Wolves I’ve had a number of incredibly talented players come through the ranks. With this, I’ve had to adapt and tinker with my system over the years in order to ensure they fit the shape and style of the play. It’s led to me creating some very interesting tactical roles, and a number of those fit into this system. I’d like to think they complement each other.
This combination of interesting roles and talented players has really piqued my interest in Football Manager, and this in-depth analysis is something I’ve been thinking of doing for a while. It may not be your style of football, but I’d like to think that it’s still worth the read regardless.
Welcome to the second part of this Match Analysis special, against Real Madrid in the 2025 Champions League Final. I’ll try to quickly recap on the pre-match analysis whilst also telling you the things I’ve altered from my usual tactical setup.
– hard pressing on Civet (Civet was targetted in the media before the game and is already known as Real Madrid’s most error prone player).
– Martinez (LAM) pushed out wide onto wrong foot to make the most of his poor crossing (he’ll want to come inside as he’ll be set as an Inside Forward but hopefully Malfleury, my RB, can push him outside).
– Malfleury set to bomb down wing – very attacking – Cuevas switched from LDM to RDM to cover incoming Inside Forward threat (this was because Miguel Castro, Real Madrid’s LB, has very rarely pushed forward from LB in the past).
– Neto told to ‘hug touchline’ to put pressure on opposition LB.
– made Emir Sen (LB) more defensive to deal with attacking threat of Arthur Huet (Real Madrid RAM).
– got Daniel Santa Cruz (B2B mid) to close down Michael Peters (dangerman in the centre of Real Madrid’s midfield – think a more technical Yaya Toure).
– shorter passing and lower intensity (it’s been a long hard season and all that) and we’re the much better passing side.
– make Cuevas anchor man rather than defensive midfielder in order to cover Malfleury’s runs.