Today forget everything You have learned so far about strikers in Football Manager.
The key for winning games is scoring, and in Football Manager, as in the real life, it requires two things: shooting and efficacy. No tactics can teach the striker to be efficient, however it can help in creating goal chances.
The choice of available roles and duties in FM made an attack on the opponent’s goal possible practically from every line of each formation. There are many roles allowing us to aggressively and offensively enter from the deep field to the hole or even to the penalty box.
Straight from the midfield line it can be done by the box to box midfielder, but also advanced playmaker or central midfielder (both with attack duties), or even roaming playmaker, provided he will be left with enough free space in the centre.
There will be more about that in the next lessons of our Tactical Development Workshop, in which we will put attention to the second line. That’s not all.
Watchful students probably remember from our lesson about the defensive block, that both the full backs and the libero can rampage in the hole, often contributing to the win of our team.
Most effective defenders and midfielders can even reach dozen goals from the action during a season (not counting goals from set pieces), but all of them together are not able to create more than 20% of goal chances.
Those may be important goals, key goals, even historic goals, but there won’t be many of them.
I will tell even more: if you utilize your strikers and attacking midfielders correctly, goals scored by the players from the other formations won’t have any meaning.
How to do that?
POSITION, MOVEMENT AND DIRECTIONThe title gives it all away. In the Football Manager engine there is very clear specificity regarding three elements of the striker’s craftmanship, directly connected with the given role.
In accordance to the orders (role + duty) our striker will take different initial positions on the pitch (meaning position just after transition phase, at the early stage of the action development), will seek for a free space in a different areas (movement without the ball) and – having the ball – will move in different directions.
Those tendencies are so strong that they determine game statistics, pushing player attribute values to the background and reducing their influence on the player performance (sic!).
In the extreme cases striker with much lower attributes (2 stars) set in a correct role, will achieve on the pitch significantly better stats than his 2-fold better team-mate (4 stars), who was given an inappropriate role.
This trend is so strong that deviation of the results obtained during the tests of the strikers were amongst the lowest observed by me amongst all analysed game aspects!
The key in this case is not the observation of the phenomenon, but its cause. Observed trend should have its justification.
Why in a certain match poacher behaves much better than an advanced forward?
Why the trequartista in certain circumstances is always more effective than a complete forward?
Patient and tedious analysis of various possible correlations has long not been giving any effects. Sometimes it's darkest before dawn. I have been looking for the wrong thing at the wrong place, until one day I noticed the presence of...
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER...on the pitch. Neither the change of the opponent defenders’ roles, nor the height of their defensive line, tight marking or pressing has such an influence on our striker as the presence of rival’s defensive midfielder.
Without any exceptions, all the strikers, no matter which role is given to them, will behave differently in the presence of one opponent’s DM than in the presence of two DMs or in case of their absence.
Those differences are so much determining, that one can risk a following thesis:
Before we look closer at the behaviour of different strikers, let’s establish some facts.
Position, movement and direction of own striker one can predict with the amazing precision knowing:
- Opponent’s defensive formation,
- Our striker’s role and duty,
- Roles and duties of surrounding him partners.
Your opponent’s defence influences in the greatest degree the initial position of your striker.
In each of possible roles he will set up slightly different but the greatest changes in his POSITION are related to HOW MANY DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDERS are in the rival team and what are their roles on the pitch.
On the other hand, MOVEMENT without the ball, his looking for possible play, seeking for free space – all will be resulting from THE ROLE we give him. THE DIRECTION of his attacks will mostly depend on HIS PARTNERS – their positions and their participation in the offensive action.
Watchful student will surely understand that the simplification above serves to the Author only to better explain different behaviour schemes attributed to different striker types in Football Manager.
In details the amount of bilateral connections between mention elements is much bigger, and their influence on certain statistics not to be underestimated.
However, to allow an inexperienced tactician find a way in a maze of so many dependencies, relations, interactions and influences, it’s better to simplify some matters moving the dominant factors in certain matters to the spotlight.
- Position of the striker on the pitch -> results from the setting of the rival’s DM or his absence,
- Movement of the striker without the ball -> is the result of his role and duty,
- Direction of the attack on the ball -> is the result of his partners’ behaviour.
We will describe the first two points during this lesson. Third, biggest one, we will leave for the sixth lesson, then we will also discuss attacking midfielders.
We have eight roles we can give to our strikers in Football Manager. If there are any clear similarities between them (regardless of the player’s attributes), they are mainly associated with the movement without the ball. It is hard to find correct words describing the character of those similarities.
I hope it won’t be an overuse to say we can place those eight roles in the following areas:
- POINT (SPEARHEAD) – players moving always along the defence line, bound to the position of the central defenders, attacking at the spot from the advanced positions, looking for a free space in a relatively small area, rarely leaving the opponent’s hole;
- HORIZON (AREA) – players moving along whole defence line, not bound to the position of central defenders, attacking widely, looking for a free space on the whole width of the pitch, often changing positions;
- VERTICAL (CORRIDOR) – players moving between the defence and midfield lines, bound to the position of central defenders, attacking from the deep, looking for a free space presumably in the middle zone of the pitch.
A classic representative of a spearhead and a classic example of how the presence of DM changes the behaviour of a striker.
P sticks to the line of central defenders looking for a free space between them, but mainly behind them, so – against his name – he is a perfect solution for the higher defence line.
He doesn’t participate neither in defensive play, nor in a distribution. He is constantly waiting for the final pass and probably that is why the presence of a single DM greatly reduces his manoeuvre field and the number of potential chances to score.
If You play a single striker formation, and You want a player to press on the central defenders (position), but also to look for the free space in a different areas (movement) and therefore to have more chances to score, I advise You to switch to the advanced forward (see below).
Interestingly, if the second DM appears on the pitch, our P comes suddenly to life. His mobility increases, and preserving the high initial position he starts to look for some place near opponent’s full backs, which instantly increases his potential to score.
However, simultaneously increases the number of offsides, so for this formation of the opponent it is worth to have the player with high “off the ball” attribute.
ADVANCED FORWARD (POINT)
Called out advanced forward plays very similar to P with only one difference: he seeks for a free space in a bigger zone, and shrugs off defenders not only in the direction of the goal, but also opposite, so one can notice his participation in the distribution during initial phases of the positional attack.
Nevertheless, he will still be the player staying close to the rival’s central defenders and waiting for the final pass.
He tolerates defensive midfielders (it doesn’t matter: one or two) much better than P, however while playing against two defensive midfielders, he has a tendency to double the position of his teammates playing on the flanks (wingers and full backs) and to deeper return for the ball.
Strong and tough player on this position can efficiently absorb two defensive midfielders, often forestalling them on the pitch and in the tackles, but with the harm to the number of scoring chances.
Then one must have a player in the team able to supply him in that task. Good solution would be then an offensive midfielder in the role of shadow striker or winger as an inside forward.
TARGET MAN (POINT)
Paradoxically, target man is a striker without the flaws of P and AF, in the same time behaving quite similarly on the pitch.
However, this similarity relates only to his high initial position and looking for a free space (movement) because his direction with the ball is obviously opposite.
Target man will always require someone to play the ball to in order to finish an action. He will have much less occasions to score than P or AF.
Target man is a striker unimpressed with the presence of defensive midfielders, and in any configuration of theirs he notes similar statistics. He is also a striker absorbing DMs in the greatest degree, thus allowing midfielders to freely create the action, though in each case observed by me it required playing from the deep.
The main failure of the target man is the fact that regardless of the team instructions his presence will increase the number of long, direct passes.
Even when commanded short passes, retaining possession and playing out of defence, while target man is present in the squad, a significant number of actions will be finished with the long pass to him.
We can call trequartista a seeker for a free space. He’s splendid in off the ball movement.
It’s perpetually and tirelessly moving striker, untouched by defensive midfielders, instruction of tighter marking, high defence line or attempts of an aggressive pressing.
In each circumstance he will look for a free space on the pitch. If an opponent seals one zone, T will move to the other.
To choose this role for the striker without ordering passes into space is a misunderstanding. It’s like cutting of gas supply.
Failure of this role for the striker is surely its unpredictability, T will smoothly adapt to the situation on the pitch. So it is hard to plan his behaviour not knowing the exact playing style of opponent’s defence.
Similarly to the roles described above T initially stays high on the pitch close to the rival’s defenders. But right after transition phase he changes position in search for a free space.
Note! His movement on the ball is to the highest degree correlated with his partners’ behaviour, so T moves differently having inside forwards or classic wingers on the flanks. We will see him in a different place, when he will be backed by the attacking midfielder, advanced playmaker or shadow striker.
Rumours about his ineffectiveness are the fat fish tales. If all his teammates will get the roles of playmaking and supporting with passes, your T will start playing in a smaller area and will in a flash transform into advanced forward.
COMPLETE FORWARD (HORIZON)
While analysing the statistics and behaviour of the complete forward I could not resist the feeling of déjà vu. I have called him once “lazy guy” in a joke and that’s how he connotes until today.
I would not bet a big stake for this, but I would not be surprised if smart programmers from SI while creating CF had copied vast code fragments from target man (position), deep lying forward (movement) and advanced forward (direction).
Complete forward will always take relatively high initial position near central defenders, but already in the transition phase will change it depending on the team instructions.
In positional attack (slowly and from the deep) we will notice him going back and helping in creating the action, while in the counters (quick and wide) he will be going to the flanks, where is much more free space.
In mixed and balanced playing styles he will prefer the middle zone, though unlike P he won’t be waiting behind defenders’ backs, but will constantly roam in the hole creating both passing options and opportunities to enter the penalty box.
That style results in the difficulties while playing against defensive midfielder, who greatly reduces T’s field of manoeuvre and causes deterioration of the stats. Interestingly, against two defensive midfielders CF gets a lot of vigour, leaves the middle zone and actively looks for a free space on the flanks.
You will often witness CF overlapping your winger, or exchanging passes with full back.
DEEP LYING FORWARD (HORIZON)
Deep lying forward is probably (along with central midfielder) the mostly underestimated role in the recent Football Manager editions. Personally – I utilize it wherever I can. Main reason standing behind its unpopularity is probably the name.
An average FM player expects from his striker 30 goals per season, starts being satisfied with 40 goals, and begins boasting after reaching 50 goals. “Deep lying” in the name suggests that it will be easier to find the striker on own half than near the opponent’s goal.
Nothing farther from the truth.
DLF always stands very high, evenly absorbing central defenders and defensive midfielders. Moreover, he is the only known to me FM striker preferring help in the distribution than positioning in a good spot to attack.
This means we can count on him when playing both through the middle and through the flanks, which means less losses and – above all – an additional passing option and more troubles for the rivals.
After conclusion of the transition phase DLF will position as the classic AF, hunting for the opportunity and looking for the free space, but that’s not all.
If the rival crowds the middle zone, DLF will draft to the flank looking for the free space there, and when the rival sets wider, DLF will play near the middle of the pitch.
Playing against defensive midfielder he often performs the pre-emptive movement dispossessing him of the ball in the defence, and looking for the free space in the attack in other areas. Against two defensive midfielders he plays similarly.
The amount of run kilometres increases, but the stats of his shots and passes do not change significantly.
A pretty universal role, though in own and team’s glory days will probably deliver half of already mentioned numbers of goals, and still under the condition of spending every spare minute on the pitch.
Certainly will provide as many assists. Appreciate deep lying forward in FM.
FALSE NINE (CORRIDOR)
This striker performs so much short sprints, that SI should consider introducing profiles of better 100m sprinters to the game. I see Usain Bolt as an ideal false nine.
Moves almost exclusively in the middle of the pitch, even the presence of two defensive midfielders doesn’t discourage him from doing so, but he continuously withdraws to the back of the field and returns to his position.
In the extreme case of certain Spanish team exchanging 40 to 60 passes, F9 can vigorously run out of and back again to the opponent’s penalty box seven times.
This results not only in drawing central defenders from their zones, but also creates a possibility to enter from the deep field not only to F9 himself, but also to attacking midfielders, box to box midfielders, central midfielders or inverted wing backs.
He plays marvelously against defensive midfielders, which must play close to own defenders leaving this way more space in front of and on the sides of the penalty box.
In defence they are perfect candidates for the pressing on the line of deep distribution and for the quick recovery of the ball.
PRESSING FORWARD (CORRIDOR)
Pressing forwards is the player setting deepest from all reported roles, however with one important exception: when playing against two defensive midfielders, your PF will position relatively high close to central defenders, and won’t participate in the initial construction of the action.
Only when the action switch to the positional attack, PF will withdraw to the line of attacking midfielders and will look there for a free space.
So don’t be surprised, when while playing quick counterattacks your PF will score as often as AF, and sometimes even more frequently, because without the ball he is in the better initial position for the potential attack than AF, who constantly keeps close to central defenders.
PF disrupts the rival distribution (even to the zone of the own hole), in the enemy’s transition phase presses on rival’s goalkeeper and defenders, so in case of the quick turnover is in the best offensive position from the whole team.
He is also useful when his teammates enter from the deep, but his biggest asset is his work performed on the rival’s hole, with high pressing in case of the loss of the ball, while on the ball he creates an additional passing option and lures defenders out of the penalty box.
RIVALSIn accordance with the proposed rules of choosing the formation (see Lesson 1) your new team will require sometimes totally new attitude.
Each time try to answer the following questions as accurately as possible, which will allow you to determine the attack style of your team, and thus the shape of the offensive formation, and therefore the best role for your forwards.
• In which zone of the pitch you are stronger or equal to the rivals?
• How to utilize most efficiently your key players?
• Which formations do you have to face in the league and how do the opposing teams’ managers tend to play (always record the number of DM’s and three CD’s in the formation)?