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What Is Team Shape • Football Manager 2018 Guide

Football Manager Guides | Mentality and Team Shape

I have wanted to write a piece on mentality and team shape in Football Manager for a while now. However, I have had a little side project on the go that I wanted to complete before I published this.

This side project is a tool that allows the user to calculate the individual mentality of each player on the pitch in a single view. This allows you to better understand the mentality spread among your players depending on the three primary factors: team mentality, team shape, and the player’s individual duty. Previous to this, I would have to check the player instructions for each player individually to view his mentality, which doesn’t really help when trying to build an overall picture of the mentality and risk spread among the team.

A key point to take away from this is that the mentality of a player is only one small subset of a whole host of parameters that affect a player and the team.

Before I dive into that, I want to talk about mentality and team shape for a bit. If you’re already well versed then there is a TL;DR at the bottom of this post.


Team mentality will determine the overall team strategy and the level of risk your team will take on the pitch. It will set a base mentality for each player, which can be further adjusted through the individual player duty, but team mentality will set the strategy and the starting point for player mentalities.

On the whole, the decision to make is whether you want to play more expansive football and take more risks in order to win the game, or do you want to be more conservative and look to frustrate the opposition? If you want to take a more conservative approach as a manager then the closer to the contain mentality the more conservative you will be. Conversely, the more expansive you want to play and the more risks you’re willing to take, then the more you would slide towards the overload mentality. Typically, however, I would only use the contain and overload mentalities to either close out a game or in an attempt to get a goal at all costs.

More defensive systems

Key characteristics:

  • Lower tempo
  • Deeper defensive line
  • Narrower play
  • Less closing down
  • Shorter passing

With more defensive mentalities, your team will adopt a lower tempo by default. Meaning they will prioritise keeping hold of the ball and look to make a steady progression into the final third, without any real urgency at all. Transitions from defence into the attack will be much slower and more thought out, with passing length reduced to help keep possession the ball. The team will have a deeper defensive line and more lateral compactness. Ultimately, the risks taken are minimal the more defensive you play.

More attacking systems

key characteristics:

  • Faster tempo
  • Higher defensive line
  • Wider play
  • More closing down

With more attacking mentalities your team will take more risks. Your defensive line will be much higher and your tempo quicker. Your team will look to play more expansive football and widen the pitch to take advantage of the spaces available as they transition into attack a lot quicker to try to catch the opposition out of position. Of course, taking more risks means that you’re likely to lose possession a bit more as you attempt more risky passes to unlock the defences.

Everything in between attacking and defending is a balance of risk and reward.

Ultimately, it is up to you, as manager, to decide how you want to set up your team. But a general rule I try to abide by is to leave the tempo, width, passing, and defensive line at the default settings for the mentality I am using. If I need to make adjustments these will usually be at the player level rather than team level.


Team shape throws up a lot of discussion among the community. Unlike mentality, it only affects one team instruction and that is closing down. Of course, closing down can be adjusted by team instructions if you prefer, but essentially the more fluid you are the more your team will close down and the more structured you are the less they will close down.

This is an important observation as your team tends to have more vertical compactness with more fluid shapes and thus it is easier to collectively close down the opposition without them passing around your players and escaping the press. On the flip side, the more structured your shape the less compact you will be and so it is easier for a team to escape the press as your players will have to make more of an effort to cover the man on the ball.

I will also choose my team mentality, formation, and player duties before deciding on a team shape as it is the latter that redistributes player mentalities in order to fit with your overall strategy.

Essentially, more fluid shapes will see your attacking players’ mentalities reduced and the team play more as a unit, moving up and down the pitch attacking and defending together. Whereas more structured shapes will see your attacking players’ mentalities increased, thus creating more space between the lines. It is this distribution of mentalities between the defensive players and attacking players that helps achieve compactness. If there is a bigger spread of mentalities between defenders and attackers than you will naturally see more space between them. Of course, you can achieve various degrees of compactness through player positions and duties, but team shape will further refine this.

A good point to consider when creating a tactic is how you want to defend. If you defend from the front and press the opposition quickly I would tend to use a more fluid shape as your attacking players will have a lower mentality than they would in a more structured shape so they will be less isolated as your defence and midfield will be closer and more compact making it easier to press as a unit and maintain your shape. However, this isn’t a rule to live by, but a guide to why some systems might fail in the defensive transitions because their pressing instructions are not in-line with their player position on the pitch and team instructions.

Another thing to consider here is how the opposition is set up. If they’re deep and compact then more fluid shapes will see spaces to play in reduced as more players fight for the available positions on the pitch. If you’re playing against a more attacking side, chances are they will give you more space to play with so more fluid shapes can help create overloads against the opposition defence to assist in the progression of the ball and possession.

Finally, team shape will also affect creative freedom. Along the scale, the more structured your team shape the less creative freedom given to your team. The more fluid then the more creative freedom will be given to your players.


This is the specific duty given to an individual player; defend, support, or attack. Player duty affects the player’s individual mentality in line with the team mentality and team shape. A players role does not affect his mentality. It is purely his duty and position on the pitch, in line with the team mentality and shape, e.g., a midfielder with a support duty will have a middle of the range individual mentality with a standard team mentality and flexible team shape. With a contain team mentality his individual mentality will decrease and with an overload team mentality, it will increase.

I will generally look at a players duty in line with the job I want him to do. If I want him to sit back, protect and not get too involved with attacks then I will assign a defend duty. If I want him to offer support in transitions, an outlet to circulate the ball and assist with attacks and defence then I will give him a support duty and if I want him to concentrate more on the attacking phases then I will assign an attack duty.


This study has thrown up some interesting observations that I’m going to share with you. Note that these have not been verified by SI, and short of a UI bug, they have come from what the mentality bar within the player instructions tell me. This study has looked at the thousands of combinations or mentality, shape and duties available and will highlight the trends of how these impact player mentalities on the pitch.

Note that the overall team strategy will still affect proceedings, but shape and duty will adjust the distribution of mentalities, as you will see.

ChartDefender copy.png

Key: The blue bars represent a defend duty, orange is support and grey attack.

This is where it gets a little confusing. The above shows the progressive mentality of a wide defender. I have tracked the progression of mentality at both extreme ends, contain and overload. Everything in between follows the same trends until they meet in the middle.

As we move the team shape from highly structured (from the left) to very fluid (to the right), you can see there’s a clear increase in individual mentality for higher team mentalities, i.e., attacking mentalities. The reverse is true for lower team mentalities, i.e., defensive mentalities; although less prominent. For example, on a contain team mentality a defender with an attack duty will have a higher mentality in a highly structured shape than very fluid. Conversely, on an overload team mentality, a defender with an attack duty will have a lower mentality in a highly structured shape than very fluid.

Now if we compare this to a more attacking player, a striker, there is a very interesting difference, which helps to explain how vertical compactness is achieved.

ChartStriker copy.png

Key: The blue bars represent a defend duty, orange is support and grey attack.

You saw that defenders with attack duties increased in mentality the more fluid you play, while defend duties remaining fairly level. Attackers on the other hand are the opposite, with attack duties remaining fairly level the more fluid you play but defend duties reduce in mentality. This is what creates compactness in fluid shapes.

As a general rule of thumb, I will look to my team shape to drive three things: vertical compactness, creative freedom and closing down options.

Now, onto some other observations.


It may shock you to learn that deciding whether or not to give players in the final third an attack duty has an effect on the mentality of your other players. For example, if you play a standard 4-1-2-3 DM Wide, and you use a support or defend duty for your three advanced players, the deeper players have a small bump in their mentality depending on your overall team mentality.

This predominately occurs when you use more attacking team mentality without attacking duties on your advanced players. As you can see from the above, when the striker has a support duty rather than an attack duty, the players in the defensive and middle thirds have a bump in their mentality.


Your passing focus will also have an effect on the mentality of certain players in certain positions.

Much like the above, if you use the passing instruction of exploit the middle or exploit the right or left flank, you’re also increasing the mentality of the players in the defensive third and in that zone, i.e., if you exploit the middle, your goalkeeper, central defenders and defensive midfielders will have a bump to their mentality and if you exploit the flanks (either or) then your wide defenders and wingbacks will have a bump in their mentality.

You can see here where I have selected a specific ‘focus’ from the right when I change from none, through exploiting the middle and finally both flanks, the mentality of the players change.


I know this post will probably cause a bit of controversy and kick-back, however, it is important to view this with an element of objectivity and bear in mind this is purely a look at how players individual mentality is adjusted by the three primary options: mentality, shape and duty. It does not look at how players will interact with each other through team instructions, and it won’t calculate anything else, e.g., creative freedom. If you view this as a simple tool to view a players mentality, to save you from opening up each player instruction individually, then you cannot go wrong.

Simplistically team mentality sets a default set of player instructions and a baseline of mentalities across the team. Creating your overall strategy. Individual player duties further solidify the individual mentalities and set out how the player will participate in each phase of play. Finally, team shape then redistributes these mentalities across all positions, adjusting the mentality spread from front to back. Once you have this, it is a case of setting your player roles and instructions to further define the player movement, positioning etc.

Now, onto the calculator, so you can view your own setup. Please do bear in mind that I have manually captured over 2,000 mentality values directly from the game. There is no export function. So it is possible that I might have made an error somewhere here. Initial testing is positive, however, if you do spot anything, please do let me know in the comments below.

The Player Mentality Calculator for Football Manager

If you want to have a go on the mentality calculator yourself, please use responsibly, and if you have any questions do let me know. I don’t know how long I will keep this online for, that will depend on the reception it receives.

Happy calculating.

Oliver Jensen


    1. Hey, thanks for the comment. Unfortunately I don’t speak Italian, and don’t know anyone who could do that. Does google translate struggle? I’ve tried to write in as plain English as possible.

      1. It is very good explain,I would like to look back on the mentality, an experienced manager feel the mentality when to use .. I played yesterday (and am manager Sundeland), away against Coventry who is on the last or lasting table, scout me in the mail that it is best to matche the preparation being, the defensive postion, however, i ignore the matche prepartions is the attacking move, the mentality I chose was the control shape structure and it was a full hit of 3: 1 win, i want to say that i played by some rule and the logic and advice scout I would play defense and maybe lost. I knew I had better control over the game and eventually I won. I went top of the season and I was first on the table long but for some unknown reason the team started to fall badly on the table for 7-8 places, I should have find the reason why I miss a match for the game .. I think I found the winning formula and I move towards the top again .. my formations is 4-2-3-1, some of the tips I read about were tactical, to change tactics, it it is in some cases necessary to change some of the things within the tactics itself, in the analysis of tactics I have noticed that one of my central midfields in relation to other teams has a precarious creativity role-advanced playmaker it is the player who is the best in my team and the problem that does not I can kick off the team, but that was what I had to do and my environment looked like this: cm-support, ball winner -defend, then I got a better game, lost the creative midfield and the balance in the midfield game,first my step be stoping lose games and I fixed thiese,first we playing draw then 2 match we puresuit for promotion

Please leave me a comment below.

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