Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City Tactics for FM23

Image credit: DiamondLobby

I’ll start by clarifying this: if you’re looking for a tactic that gets you 100 league goals every season regardless of the team you’re using, this is not the one.

In fact, while I have tested this tactic with a couple of teams and found success with it, the idea behind creating it is less about how overpowered it is and more about my team’s style of play while using it.

Like Pep’s Manchester City tactics in real life, you can expect some very enjoyable football if you’re the type to watch extended highlights of your games in FM23, or even the full thing. So, let’s get into it!

Squad

The most important thing to note when choosing a squad of players to use this tactic for is the technical ability of the players.

Now, just how much technical ability is required depends on the level that your team plays at. If you’re playing in the Ligue 2, for instance, you can get away with a less technical squad of players compared to competing in the Spanish La Liga where you’ll find much stronger teams.

The reason for the focus on technical ability is that this tactic requires every player to be heavily involved in build-up play. Well, every player except the striker.

Like Manchester City’s striker, Erling Haaland in real life, your striker might not be needed often during build-up play. As long as he has great movement and finishing ability, you’re good.

However, every other outfield player and the goalkeeper should ideally have good levels of technique, composure, and decision-making. If it’s not everyone, at least make sure it’s most of the squad.

If you’re managing a small club with a small transfer budget, it can be hard to find players that fit the style of play that intend to run with. You can minimize that headache by sorting through the best cheap signings and the best free transfers in FM23 – there are some really good deals in those categories.

Team Instructions

There are three key categories for team instructions when creating a tactic in FM23. These include instructions for the team’s defensive and attacking behavior in possession of the ball, during transitions, and out of possession.

The recommended instructions to replicate Pep’s Manchester City tactics in these segments are discussed below.

In Possession

When your players have the ball, you want your attacking width to be set to “Fairly Wide”. This is because Manchester City rarely plays with out-and-out wingers, especially since the departure of Raheem Sterling.

Players such as Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, and Bernardo Silva are far from the type to hug the touchline, but their starting positions are still fairly wide enough to stretch play when required.

The “Play Out of Defence” option is self-explanatory as we often see City play out from the back with their goalkeeper and center-backs.

Also, the speed of City’s build-up play when stringing an attack together from scratch is usually a patient one. They pass the ball around at a low tempo, focusing on short passes to keep possession and wait for an opening.

In Transition

If you take a quick look at Pep’s profile (attached as the article’s preview picture), you’ll see that the game says his tactical style is “gengenpress”. Personally, I don’t agree with that assertion.

While Pep’s teams may have played some variations of gengenpress in the past, it is not the reality of how his Manchester City team defends and plays in transitions.

They do press, but not at the urgent levels that are representative of the gengenpress style. Even Klopp rarely plays gengenpress anymore!

That said, Pep’s Manchester City team still counter-press when the ball is lost, and they look to counter-attack with urgency if that press yields possession from the opponent’s feet.

In cases where the ball falls to the keeper (usually after a shot from the opponent), he looks to distribute it quickly to start a counterattack.

If your keeper has great kicking ability and you have a player with a physical presence up front, then you may consider selecting the “take long kicks” option during transitions.

If the reverse is the case, you can choose the option to distribute the ball to the center-backs and/or the full-backs instead.

These tactics are reflected in the sample image attached above.

Out of Possession

When possession is lost and the press is triggered, you won’t always win the ball back. This makes it important to set up your team’s defensive shape out of possession to offer protection to the last line of defense.

Manchester City plays with a high line and press from the front, and this is reflected in the “higher defensive line” and “high press line of engagement” in the attached image.

This high press is triggered often, and your attackers should always look to cut the passing lanes of the opponent’s goalkeeper to prevent them from playing out from defense.

Player Roles

In terms of player roles designed to control the individual behavior of the players, follow the guidelines in the attached image.

The goalkeeper‘s role is sweeper keeper. It is a replication of City’s goalie in real life, Ederson, who is well-known for his ability with the ball at his feet.

The fullbacks are both inverted to reflect how Cancelo and Walker were deployed at the beginning of the 2022/23 season, playing close to the central midfield areas. However, Walker’s right-back spot is set to “defend” duty compared to Cancelo’s attack to bring some balance to the defense line.

The central defenders are both set to defend, but at least one of them should be a ball-playing center-back. If you have the players for it, both of them could be.

The defensive midfielder in the “Rodri role” is a regista. It is not the perfect replication of the Spaniard’s role in real life, but I believe it’s the closest to what we have in terms of options in FM23. The regista role is a more aggressive version of the deep-lying playmaker.

The left-central midfielder in the “Gundogan role” is a carrilero shuttling between the lines of the midfield and combining with the left winger the same way Gundo does in real life. Go into individual player instructions and manually include the instruction for this player to “get forward often”.

The right central midfielder in the “De Bruyne role” is a mezzalla that often floats into the inside right channels to whip crosses in, create chances and attack the opponent’s 18-yard box. Go into the individual player instructions and add the instruction for this player to “cross the ball often”.

The left winger in the “Foden role” is an attacking winger controlled mostly by their preferred moves. They can whip crosses in or play passes behind the defense just as well as they can cut in and shoot.

The right winger in the “Bernardo Silva/Mahrez role” is a silky technician that can cut in from the right flank and create chances for themselves and the team.

The striker is essentially a modern version of the poacher. We have them in the advanced forward role to improve contribution to build-up play and also increase the frequency of runs instead of simply waiting for the ball to fall to feet inside the 18-yard box.

For ease of access, a list of the player roles for Pep Guardiola’s tactics in FM23 are as follows:

  • GK: Sweeper Keeper (Support)
  • LB: Inverted Wingback (Attack)
  • DCL: Central Defender (Defend)
  • DCR: Ball-playing Defender (Defend)
  • RB: Inverted Wingback (Defend)
  • DM: Regista (Support)
  • MCL: Carrilero (Support)
  • MCR: Mezzalla (Attack)
  • AML: Winger (Attack)
  • AMR: Inverted Winger (Support)
  • ST: Advanced Forward (Attack)

To set up the tactic easily within your save, you can download the file from this link. Copy it to Documents >>> Sports Interactive >>> Football Manager 2022 >>> tactics.

Next, go to your tactics overview page in-game, choose the option to load a tactic, and select the new file from the tactics folder.

Final Words

In case you’re undecided about which team would be best to test this tactic with, consider having a look at the best teams to manage in FM23.

If you’d like to create your own brand of football with your custom tactic in FM23 instead, have a look at the key concepts behind creating a tactic in FM23.