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Re: Tactical Challenge #3 - Strikerless by herne79

"The Challenge

Using any team you like (create your own club if you want to) create a successful* tactical system which does not use a "striker" ie., nobody placed at either the STC, STCL or SCTR positions in the Tactics Creator.

* By successful, you should aim to at least meet (ideally exceed) both your start of season media prediction and your Board's expectations. "


This started out as a much smaller write up that was going to be part of that thread but it sprawled and I feel like it could make more sense as its own thread.  So here is my take on creating a strikerless tactic.


The Team


NYCFC - New Yorks newest and technically only team! Yes, I'm taking on this challenge in MLS. I chose NYCFC and MLS because of it being a league that has rules restricting the players I can have, making the tactic more important. As well I thought the makeup of the team suited a strikerless system so that made them my choice. 


The Players

There are a few key players that are going to make a strikerless tactic work. First among them is world cup winner David Villa.










He will be the "striker" in this system. His goalscoring ability will be crucial, but also his technical and creative ability. He might not have the most amazing playmaking attributes, but at an MLS level, it is quite good. 


Another key player for the team and for this tactic is Maxi Moralez. The Argentine is the most creative player on the team and will be able to play in the midfield and be 2nd on the depth chart behind Villa for the "striker" role. 


The Tactic

The tactic takes influence from herne79's own tactic for the challenge but in a much different league and with a different team. 

This tactic seeks to create by having forward running midfielders getting past the "striker" into dangerous areas, and by having the "striker" enter the box unseen and pounce.  the differences between my tactic and herne79's are in the tempo and action I think. herne79's tactic was set up to counter-attack and take down larger foes. however with NYCFC that wasn't going to work as we are one of the larger teams in MLS with a high reputation and expectation. So I needed to find a way to take that idea herne79 implemented and apply it to my team. 

This is what I first came up with. 

Control - I wanted to and knew that the team would need to take charge of games and be more attacking to take on opponents who would sit back and look to frustrate me, so I opted for a control mentality to make the team naturally play quicker and having a more attacking mentality.

Fluid - I wanted the team to be broadly split between to units, the attacking one consisting of the front 5 and a defensive one consisting of the back 5, this was to ensure we wouldn't be caught out on the counter and to bring balance to a team that was going to have a lot of attacking duties. 

Team Instructions -  The team was going to play out of the back, moving the ball upfield purposefully not hopelessly, and work the ball to the dangerous players on our side. That instruction coincided well with work into box, as we don't have any height in our offence and wanted us to work the ball into good goal-scoring areas, not hopeless crosses and wasteful shots from distance. The last attacking TI was, pass into space, this was added to help exploit the space the created by the "striker" coming off the line and creating space. The only defensive TI was close down more because I prefer my defences to be more proactive.

Player Roles/PI's - 

GK - (D) - Distribute to Centre Backs

Rb - Wb (s) 

Cb (both) - CD (D)

Lb - Fb (s) - Get further forward

DM - BWM (D) 

RM - IW (A) - Sit Narrower, Roam from Position

CM - CM (s) - Get further Forward, Roam from position

CM - CM (A) - Move into Channels, Roam from Position

LM - W (A) 

AM - Treq



Expectations - 

My team was predicted to do well this season, predicted to finish 3rd overall and win the Eastern Conference. despite being predicted to do so well, none of my team was considered to be the best in the league at their position, and the team (like most MLS teams) lacked depth in defence. 




During Pre-Season I used the tactic above and it went fairly ok. We lost our first match despite domination possession. The rest of pre-season got better though, despite some bad performances by reserve players costing us many goals conceded, I felt confident going into the first game of the season.


So the first game of the season came as quite the shock...


Beginning of the Season  -

The first game of the season was against Orlando City SC. I was feeling Confident off the back of pre-season and felt that we could take on a new look OCSC who were without Kaka after he retired and had a lot of new players, and we were predicted to win the game quite easily despite being away from home. 


The Actual result was not to my liking though 




We lost 1-0 off a goal from a corner and were not able to generate any offence the entire match, achieving only 1 shot on goal and only 41% possession. Something was not going right.


The next few matches didn't go much better. We were alright defensively but our offence was not clicking at all.


we won 3 out of 5 and drew the other 2 so nothing was dire, but I knew the team could do better, and that 2 of those wins was down to my team having better players than the opposition, not due to the tactic. I knew changes were needed.


Adjustments -  

I noticed during the analysis of my matches that my left winger (Rodney Wallace) was receiving many more passes and having way more touches than my two keys players, Villa and Moralez. Almost at times, he was having as many touches as the two of them combined. Now, this would be great if I wanted a tactic with flying wingers sending crosses into big goalscoring strikers. But this tactic didn't have a striker so something needed to change there.


first changes came to the left side of midfield. I switched Wallace from a W(a) to a WM(a) with the PI to dribble more as he is very good at beating his man, and to roam from position. The next change was to Moralez, switching him from a CM(a) to a MEZ(a). This allows him more creative freedom and has better link up play with the Left mid. That was all for positional changes but TI changes were needed as well.

The TI's needed to be reworked to make the team better at breaking down opponents and to better utilise our key players. Thus I added exploit the middle, to focus the play through the centre where Villa and Moralez are. I also got rid of play out of defence to hasten our passing and make us more direct, and added low crossing since we had no height in our attack. To the defensive ti's i added tighter marking to force more turnovers and to stop the oppositing being able to pass through us. 


All these additions really helped quick off a great run for the team and we started scoring. For a closer look into that, we will look at my 4-1 win over Columbus Crew SC.


Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 10.51.08 PM.png

Edited by Cruyffsheirs
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The second goal of the match was a well-worked goal that attracted players to one side of the field then switched play and capitalised.

Here we see David Villa with the ball after my left mid has won a header. He doesn't have any options ahead of him so opts to pass it back to Moralez, his partner in footballing creativity. Moralez does have passing options ahead of him, and this small exchange between him and Villa has gained the attention of most of the Crew defenders.


He finds a good pass forward to McNamara (my CM(s)) in tons of space. Now the opposition back line is cut out and in panic mode. McNamara attracts the left back towards him leaving my IW(a) Medina (who btw is my top goalscorer) wide open. McNamara slips a pass into him Medina finishes to put us 2-0 up.


This goal is an example of what I wanted out of this tactic, the ability to score in ways that didn't involve midfielders breaking past my Treq, and having my team be able to probe and break down defences. In the next section, I will show some chances from this match that, if for some better finishing, would have made this a huge victory for NYCFC.

Edited by Cruyffsheirs
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There where a couple chances that really should have been goals I'd like to highlight.

The first is from a movement commonly associated with strikerless formations. The Treq dropping deep and picking out onrushing midfielders in goalscoring positions.

Here we see David Villa with the ball and 2/3 Crew defenders nearby him. He is looking up field for passing options and notices Moralez making a run between the rightback and right centre-half. Villa sends a brilliant ball to him and Moralez finds himself going in to get a clear shot on goal the ends up going just wide. This is the benefit of switching Moralez from a CM(a) to a MEZ(a), as he find for himself or making good passes from that position.  


Edited by Cruyffsheirs
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The last chance I want to mention came near the end of the match and showed how the Treq himself can get goals in this system.

The ball starts with Herrara (the CM(s) this match) in lots of open space, he moves the ball to the danger man Villa. Villa see that there is a pass open to the rushing winger Medina, plays it, then follows the movement into the box where he is able to move in out of sight of the central defenders and pop up for a header at the back post that he send straight at the keeper. I have found time after time that Villa, and everyone else that has played in the Treq role has been able to come into the box late out of sight of the central defenders and have chances and score goals which I wanted to have happen from this tactic as I wanted our talisman Villa to be able to contribute to the teams goalscoring not be just a playmaker.


Conclusion - 

This challenge has made me think deeper about my tactics and re-examine how I can achieve a desired play style. This time around I used TI's much differently than I usually do, the initial set up with playing out of the back and with me at times even adding shorter passing, is how I normally set up my team to attack and I rarely ever dictate how I want my team to cross. But I noticed that I had better chance creation this time around by not doing short passing out from the back but by focusing my play through my playmakers, and the focusing my team of low crosses has actually had a drastic impact on my teams attack contributing to many goals for my team and even forcing the opposition into conceding a few own goals.

Thanks for reading! this is my first real tactic right up so I hope it was ok for my first one. And I'd like to thank herne79 for the challenge and inspiration :)

Edited by Cruyffsheirs
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5 hours ago, Cruyffsheirs said:

This challenge has made me think deeper about my tactics and re-examine how I can achieve a desired play style.

Good job.  You saw you had issues, looked at what the problems were and came up with ideas to fix :thup:.

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