Those Who Do Not Move, Do Not Notice Their Chains

I’m rarely one to stand still when it comes to tactics, these days. One idea sparks another, and before I even notice it, I’ve run off down a new path.

This post is intended to detail the outcome of one such jaunt, when — in my quest to implement something new — I became distracted by a shiny, familiar object. Tactically-speaking.

First Things First. Where Are We Coming From?

Earlier in the FM 20 cycle, I collaborated with Guido on an epic set of strikerless tactics inspired by Julian Nagelsmann’s “sharkmouth” principles, which were exhaustively detailed in Live Every Week Like It’s Shark Week.

My Nagelsmann tactic was dubbed PM Haaienbek (“grapefruit sharkmouth”):

PM Haaienbek

More recently, Guido, Gareth Clarke and I collaborated on an equally-epic series of tactics based on a 3610 shape, detailed in The Dirty Half Dozen over at strikerless.

My version of the tactic was PM Haaientand (“grapefruit sharktooth,” to reflect the solitary shadow striker):

PM Haaientand

The purpose of this post isn’t to repeat what has already been said about these tactics. These prior posts speak for themselves.

For years in-game in my Nearly Men save, I enjoyed a run of success with PM Haaienbek and PM Haaientand.

But at the start of the 2042/43 campaign with Stade de Reims, I decided to change gears. I wanted to make use of a particular role that I haven’t really ever made use of.

Still strikerless. Still with a libero. Still operating within the zone of the “sharkmouth” tactical family. Just…with an added twist.

Let’s be honest. The tactic was a muddled mess, in possession.

It was less coherent in the final third than the tactical love child of Louis van Gaal and Tim Sherwood.

Stade de Reims’ march towards a Champions League title was in jeopardy, as was the defense of our Ligue 1 title. We needed a change.

Breakdown? No, breakthrough. Jerry Maguire-style.

Fascinating. But not helpful. And not the scene I was referencing.

Where Are We Going And Why Am I In This Handbasket?

A funny thing happened when I hit this tactical roadblock.

I hit the reset button, metaphorically speaking. I looked at my shape, adjusted the new, unfamiliar position/role, tweaked a few instructions, kept on tweaking things, and there it was.

The sharks were swimming again.

Whether speaking about dinosaurs or FM tactics, Dr. Ian Malcolm speaks the truth.

What we ended up with was a setup that blends the pure “sharkmouth” principles underlying PM Haaienbek with their adaptation to PM Haaientand’s 33310 shape.

An angrier, more aggressive version of both tactics.

In short, it was disturbingly good fun. Lethal in the attack, even with a youthful, inexperienced Stade de Reims squad.

Dubbed PM Haaienhamer (“grapefruit sharkhammer”), in adherence to my manager’s tactical nomenclature, and in homage to Nagelsmann’s “sharkmouth” principles:

In terms of personal instructions: (1) the wingbacks are instructed to “stay wider;” and (2) the shadow strikers are instructed to “close down more.”

As you will likely guess, this tactic is not one for the timid. We will not dominate possession. Our passing diagrams will rarely be sexual, in a Pep Guardiola kind of way. But they don’t need to be.

PM Haaienhamer embraces Nagelsmann’s three “sharkmouth” principles (as Guido and I defined them, at least): (1) a “boxed” front 4, with two 10s supported by two central midfielders who drift into the half space; and (2) aggressive verticality in possession, with purpose; and (3) hyper-aggressive pressing when out of possession.

In terms of the tactical theories, it’s all been said before. This is primarily a reinterpretation of the Nagelsmann tactics we previously devised, just with the dials turned up to 11. An evolution, if you will.

The question many of you may be asking is, does it work? Well, in 2042/43, a ridiculously young Stade de Reims side claimed the Ligue 1 and the Champions League titles, including a hard-fought 1-nil win over defending champions Wolves in the final. Belgium went on to win the Nations League, with a hard-fought win over a top-class France in the semifinals, and a 3-1 thumping of Italy in the final.

[Edit: One tweak that you might consider, is reducing the passing directness to “standard,” which has the knock-on effect of reducing your tempo to “slightly higher.” After publishing this post, further in-game testing demonstrated that this was highly-effective against tough opposition. Whether you want to take your foot off the gas pedal is a question of personal preference, of course.]

Note: I am using a version of Rensie’s near post corner routine, and a long-throws setup developed by Guido for FM 20, reminiscent of his Do You Even Delap? setup from FM18.


At this point, I’ve already written about 10x more than I originally planned on writing.

(We here at FtCS blame Tom Cruise for the length of this post. We encourage you to blame Mr. Cruise, too. It is clearly his fault.)

This isn’t a perfect tactic, although I have IR’d any number of matches using it. For big matches, I will tweak and adjust as any of us would. The most common adjustment is to our pressing — dropping the defensive line and line of engagement, to standard. We may switch to regroup instead of counterpressing, for a short period. We may switch into PM Haaientand, to park an even larger tank in front of the goal. I can’t explain all of this. It’s simply the product of playing with strikerless tactics for years now, often on the most aggressive mentality possible (I miss the days of very fluid/overload on FM 17).

If you want to follow along, I’m currently utilizing PM Haaienhamer with the Belgian national team in my Nearly Men save, while waiting for an eligible club to become available.

If you’d rather join the party, you can download the tactic here: PM Haaienhamer (via Google Drive).

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