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Cleon

What Makes A Goalscorer?!

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Cleon   

Scoring goals is easy to achieve in Football Manager, getting regular scorers can be more problematic though. I’ve seen threads and blog posts about not being able to get players to score high amounts of goals before and a lot of them focus on the striker roles. They seem to think if a striker doesn’t score then their role, duty or settings are the issues, when in reality that’s probably the last cause. It’s more than likely due to the type or amount of support they are receiving. So hopefully this article will focus on how to give the strikers the best possible chance of scoring that you can. It doesn’t matter what side, what division or what nation you are managing in, this applies to all sides.

What Makes A Good Striker?

To ensure you have a good goal scorer the first thing you need is someone or multiple people to provide the striker with chances he can put away and provide him with support to pass to, create space or even to occupy an opposition player for him. Without any of these then you’ll struggle to have someone who can regularly score 25+ goals a season.

I’ve already mentioned a few aspects of what is needed to create a goal scorer but here are more;

  • Supply
  • Support
  • Space
  • Movement
  • Roles
  • Duties
  • PPM’s

All the above are what I try to incorporate into every single tactic I create. It’s not easy to do and achieve but then again, it’s not supposed to be easy. What is important though is that through hard work and taking the time to learn how your system works and why, as well as picking up on the flaws it has, then you can get all of the above to work.

In addition to all of that you have to first understand that a two-man strike partnership will vastly differ from a single or three-man attack. In each one the supply and support will be different, as will the space they all use and attack. Then on top of all of that the role and duty used will also determine what kind of support a player needs to be successful. A role that is more creating like a Treq, F9 or even a deep-lying forward will require players getting beyond them as while these roles can still score goals they’re more focused on providing for others rather than being pure goal scorers.

Players who also play a support role will play differently from those with attacking roles and again will need a different type of supply and support. Hopefully over the course of this article I can explain some of these in a bit of depth to help people in their own saves and give them a better understanding of what’s needed.

Understanding The Striker Roles

To start with first though I thought it would be a good idea to have a look at the striker roles and break them down into basic terms, to make them simpler to understand and take some of the ambiguity of the role away, so we can all have a better understanding of what the roles offer.

For me the striker roles are split into three different kinds of strikers;

  • Creative strikers
  • Support strikers
  • Attacking strikers

Some of the roles can overlap into others especially with the change of a duty but I still think it’s a good way of understanding a role, by thinking of them in either a creative, supportive or attacking way.

The Creative Striker Roles

These type of strikers are creators, so they are the support. This means they need players around them who can finish the chances they create. All of these types of strikers will like play and provide other people with the ball whether it be on rushing midfielders, wide players or other strikers. If you use one of these roles then you should ideally be looking at surrounding them with people capable of finishing off chances or at the very least, roles that allow players to get into good dangerous areas so these strikers can pass them the ball.

Deep Lying Forward

This role is all about the link play and its primary goal is to provide a link between the midfield and attack. It’s a very creative role and is often used when you lack bodies in and around the attacking midfield areas of the pitch. The deep-lying forward will look to drop into this space and provide a link as well as looking to create chances for their teammates. You’d look to use this role if you had him partnered with someone more attack minded like an advanced forward or poacher. It could also be used if you had a rampaging attacking midfielder like a shadow striker or even a goal threat from wide like an inside forward.

Support - With this duty the player will be responsible for dropping deep and linking play. They can and will score goals but creating and playing others in is more the focus and aim of the support duty.

Attack – On this duty the player won’t drop as deep as the support one and he will also be slightly more greedy in terms of taking shots or having chances himself.

Trequartista

You can only use this role with an attacking duty but don’t let that fool you. This role will allow the player to come very deep at times, much deeper than all the other striker roles. It’s also the most creative striker role of the lot and while any striker role can and will score goals, this role is purely about creating chances for others and finding space to use. If we were to compare it to the deep-lying forward role, then the main differences would be;

  • Deeper play
  • More roaming
  • More creative

Those would be the three stand out points for me and ones that make the two roles completely different from each other. The trequartista will roam around the pitch constantly and doesn’t really have a fixed position, it will roam looking to both use and create space as well as fashioning chances for their team mates. This role works well when you have people running from midfield into advanced positions or for strike partners who stay high up the field. Due to the role allowing lots of creative freedom and roaming its vital that you commit men forward or have players positioned to take advantage of the trequartista’s style of play. If not he’ll take it upon himself to try to do everything on his own and this can be disastrous at times.

False Nine

This is another role that is only available with one duty – support. However, again, don’t be fooled by this as this role is a very aggressive one. It’s still a playmaking striker role but it also has a lot of emphasis on attack. A better way of thinking about this role is something along the lines of ‘space creator/user’ and someone who is creative yet selfish compared to the other two roles due to their ability of liking to take long shots frequent.

While the false nine can play as part of a strike partnership, they are better suited to lone striker systems or systems that want to utilise the wide players yet still have a striker who can be dangerous in front of goal. An idea use of a false nine would revolve around a system that wanted to make inside forwards an integral part of the system. The false nine drops deeps creating space for them to run into and hopefully dragging his marker with him, which in turn would create the space.

Support Strikers

These differ from creative strikers because they don’t have as much creative freedom or roaming. Don’t mistake this for not being able to create chances though as that’s not true and they can be creative and create lots of chances for their team mates. However their jobs are slightly different as they tend to have a specific job to do.

Defensive Forward

You could argue that a lot of modern-day strikers have a lot of elements of the defensive forward in their style of play. This role focuses on hassling or hounding the opposition’s defenders and giving them little time on the ball to think, or to pass out a pass. It’s quite an aggressive role and comes with lots of closing down.

Support – With this duty they’ll look to pressure the back line and goalkeeper to try to reduce their time on the ball. They’ll also chase down lost balls and always be look to pressuring the opposition.

Defensive - If you gave them this duty then you can expect to see them slightly deeper and see them hassling defensive midfielders or central midfielders who like to drop off the midfield positions and come back into their own halves i.e deep lying playmaker.

This role works well with pure goal scoring strikers or attacking midfielders as the defensive forward is a workhorse and does a lot of the hard work for their partners. While it’s not totally unusual to use them as a lone striker they tend to function better either paired with another striker, attacking midfielder like a shadow striker or inside forwards. You tend to want someone purely attacking getting alongside them or beyond to make the most of this role and what it’s about as they tend to win a lot of balls back quite early and high up the pitch.

Target Man

The good old-fashioned physical striker who focuses on hold up play, knocking the ball down into the path of others and generally being a big pain in the arse for the opposition. The downside to this role on Football Manager is its rather static and not only that, but players looks to utilise them so you can expect to see lots of direct or long balls played into him constantly. If you want to use a system that wants to make the most of the playmakers in the side or that concentrates on any kind of possession game, then you’d stay clear of this role and use a deep-lying forward instead. The long and direct balls into the target man are a real issue at times and the play becomes far too channeled and there is nothing we can do about it, due to it being part of how the role is coded into the match engine.

Support - If the player had this duty then he’d look to hold up play more and utilise his strength and aerial presence a lot more. This means he will look to knock the ball down into the path of the players who are running beyond him in support.

Attack – On this duty he’d lead the line more and look to occupy the oppositions defenders and make himself a general nuisance. This could create space for him teammates to use.

This role is better suited for systems that are set up to play more direct and look to start quick attacks or need to get the ball forward to relieve pressure on the defence or midfield. It does require you having players play off the target man and offering support though due to his lack of mobility.

Attacking Strikers

These are the striker roles that are the more regular goalscoring ones. They rely heavily on supply and if you use any of these roles then you need to figure out how you will get the ball to them and which players will be able to offer support to them. If not, you could find that for periods of the game they can become isolated and spend the game spectating rather than doing anything worthwhile.

Complete Forward

This role tries and combines play from all the different kinds of roles available and probably could have quite easily gone in any of the above two categories but I still feel they are more ‘goalscorers’ than creators or support. Don’t get me wrong, they do all of those things too but for me I still see them more of a goalscorer than anything else.

Support – With this duty they’ll drop off the front line and look to roam about and link play, as well as looking to create chances themselves or others.

Attack - They’ll look to lead the line and will do everything they can, whether it be creative play, hold up play, creating space and so on.

This role can be used in just about any system and with any kind of style that can be created. It can be a quite demanding role though and might need a specific player to be able to pull the role off efficiently.

Advanced Forward

You can only have an attacking duty with this role. The role makes the advanced forward the focal point of attacks and he will also chase down balls and look to put pressure on the oppositions keeper and defence from high positions on the pitch. He stays very high and doesn’t really drop back to link the midfield.

This kind of role works best in a system that has people capable of creating chances from behind the striker or in a strike partnership with a more creative striker like listed above. If you use this role then you’d expect him to be one of the primary goalscorers in the side. If not, then you have a serious supply and support issue.

Poacher

Another role that only allows for an attacking duty. This role is a pure goalscoring role but can also be one that relies heavily on the kind of supply he gets. A poacher sits on the shoulder of the oppositions defence and doesn’t move about much unless you customise the role with player instructions, so he needs a constant stream of support or supply of passes to function and risk not becoming a spectator. If the supply is cut out or he’s marked out of the game then he’ll offer nothing and it’ll be like you are playing with nine outfield players and not ten.

The poacher doesn’t make a great lone striker due to the reasons mentioned above. However, in a system that is counter attacking or defensive then this isn’t always a bad thing. You can find out more about this in the defensive 3-4-3 stuff I’ve already posted on the blog.

Incoherent set ups

Over the last few months I’ve seen a lot of posts talking about their formations and how they struggle to score goals or create chances. Well you can’t have one without the other, so what you need to do is use a system that allows the players to get the support they need. What I’ve done is looked on the forums and looked at some people who always seek help and use their tactic as the examples used in this part. Here is the first shape, ignore the team and players that’s not really important but the shape and settings are important.

14.jpg?resize=393%2C593

The person who used this shape thought it was a logical well-balanced setup but for me just looking at the screenshot I can see multiple issues here with goals. The 4-1-2-2-1 is quite a defensive formation already due to it using a defensive midfield. Then if we look at his midfield he’s gone for a defensive central midfielder who will be very cautious and drop back into the defensive midfield strata. Along side him we have a ball winning midfielder who act very aggressive and close down heavily. This role is very much that of a ‘hassler’ so already we can see that there is a real lack of support going forward centrally. In fact I’d say the midfield is far too negative, why do you need a defensive minded midfielder if you already use a defensive midfielder, regardless of what role you use in that position?

Already we can see that the attacking focus will then be on the striker and two wide players. These three players are going to be responsible for creating and scoring, which with the roles they currently have, will prove a struggle in terms of it being consistent. Let’s have a look at some examples of what I mean;

23.jpg?resize=474%2C213

Already you can see the issue highlighted when we are attacking in the above screenshot. I have no movement or penetration through the centre, all the options I have are out wide and this itself presents two major issues.

  • How do we get the ball to the wings to utilise the support?
  • What happens when we do go out wide, who will then support?

We are already outside so unless my player switches the ball to the opposite flank then the only realistic option he has is to pass to the winger. If he was to then receive the ball, what does he do with it? Remember he has the winger role so that means his game is based on driving forward and providing crosses for the players in the box. Oh but wait! That presents another problem, we don’t use a striker role that allows the striker to play in the box, the tactic use one a striker who drops off the front due to the support role he has. So who can the winger cross the ball to? He has no support at all from the centre due to the system being overly cautious.

Now due to this lack of central play, the winger is found drifting inwards so the fullback then has to drive forward with the ball and come along side the winger, rather than causing an overlap down the flanks.

32.jpg?resize=474%2C207

You see the issue? The two central midfielders should be busting a gut to get forward in support especially in a system that uses a lone striker on a support duty with no attacking midfielder to offer support. The winger dropped deep and came inside too rather than going wide as highlighted. So even if the fullback who is in possession of the ball is able to put a cross in, who is he exactly aiming for? Chelsea are solid defensively and they should be able to deal with any kind of threat from a cross nine times out of ten here.

This leaves this particular tactic with a dilemma as it doesn’t offer enough going forward in the correct areas. Do you sit back and hope you get enough opposition errors and mistakes mixed with the odd brilliance of a bit of individual skill and hope its enough to get by? Or do you actually try to make the system more versatile with a little chance? I know which I would do and speaking of which, shall we see what happens when I change one little thing?

42.jpg?resize=474%2C215

Different side of the pitch in this example but already you can see how more advanced the two midfielders are already, this gives me two new passing outlets high up the pitch. This takes pressure off the inside forward and striker and means we are trying to make players go to him and link up play, rather than everything relying on the striker to do himself. I only made two very basic changes;

  • The central midfielder on a defensive duty was changed to a support one.
  • The ball winning midfielder was changed to a box to box midfielder

Two positive changes that already have a huge impact in what happens in the final third. In the first screenshot above of the similar move, I had no players in these kind of areas.

53.jpg?resize=474%2C213

This is a second or so into the move, you can see that when the ball has come inside to the central midfielder on support. Now we have more options and the striker is less isolated. In fact the ball can easily follow the path highlighted on the screenshot itself. Even if it does, one simple pass to the box to box midfielder and he can drive forward with it himself or have a shot. Either way there are options available that don’t rely on mistakes or a moment of sheer brilliance. This is just one small sample of a system that lacks support players going forward and how they can make the attacking players isolated if they don’t get forward.

Isolation

Every man and his dog seems to use a one striker formation at times. This presents other issues especially against teams who use one or more defensive midfielders. Especially when you consider that majority of users tend to prefer a lone striker on a support role, so naturally this can be problematic. So lets take a look at what things can cause strikers to be isolated.

72.jpg?resize=474%2C683

This is another formation I found knocking around on the forums and instantly I can see the issues this will see in terms of isolating the striker and not offering enough support. Everyone is a creator and there is little movement or runners getting in behind the striker. You can see that instantly without even using the formation. Using multiple playmakers is fine but you also need people doing the simple basic stuff like making runs, getting into the oppositions box, scoring goals and so on.

62.jpg?resize=474%2C181

Here the deep-lying forward is showing how isolated and limited he can be at times, especially when the midfield has dropped off and not recovered properly from the last phase of play. As he is the lone striker, he has to deal with being marked by two centre backs and to make things even worse, the opposition use a defensive midfielder. This means that any space he has to play in will be really limited and he’ll struggle to influence play. Not only that but he doesn’t have enough options either alongside him or more advanced than he is. So what would happen if he does receive the ball from deeper areas? He could find himself marked out of the game, so even if he is lucky and one player makes a mistake, all three of them aren’t going to make a mistake at the exact same time are they?

This means;

  • He lacks support
  • Lacks options
  • Likely to turn over possession easily

So when you build a tactic you need to think of the roles used and how they all play together. It’s no good having everyone set to be a playmaker if those roles don’t link well enough and provide support. Support isn’t only about providing a player with the ball, it’s also about allowing play to build up around him and giving him options for when he does receive the ball. A good way to plan a tactic is to ask yourself these questions;

  • Who is going to score the goals?
  • Who will supply those balls?
  • How will they provide that support?
  • Does the role allow the player to create his own space or does he need it created for him?
  • Will this happen from deep positions or will be positioned high up the pitch?
  • Does he have options behind him, along side and more advanced than he is?

You should be asking questions along those lines and then you’ll build a coherent system that has roles to complement the style you are trying to create. If you can work out were the goals will come from then you build the team around that idea and focus on providing the kind of supply they need. A bad example of this would be that you want the striker to drop deep and link up play so use one of the creative striker roles. But then you go and use wingers whose primary job is crossing and to supply crosses and balls into the box regularly. This is wasted in these type of set ups because you have no target in the box to aim for due to using a striker who plays deep if you don’t use another striker alongside of them.

I’m going to have to cut this off short here as it did start out as a simple short piece but I could add to this forever. I’ve written much more than I planned already, in fact so much so that I’ve had to split the article and I’ll post the other part another time. The next part will focus on two-man systems more and show many more examples of good and bad systems that work. I’ll also include some actual goal scorers and show you how I achieved it and provide clips of the kind of supply that worked and explain why it works. Plus I’ll discuss how certain striker roles don’t suit certain types of play and expand on why they are a bad idea.

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Nice one, I was wondering when this would land :)

The incoherent set up section is my favourite, because it shows the fine line between a good system and a bad one. I was particularly pleased to see that the switches you made mirrored the combination I have in my 4-1-4-1 with Southampton :cool:

I'll try to add some examples of just why my system works for me, as it might also help people to visualise things more clearly :thup:

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OK, so my reason for piggy-backing on Cleon's thread is that an awful lot of what he said resonated with me, and the reason for that is that it is just common sense stuff. FM is not a hard game. People tend to over-analyse stuff and focus too much on stats and not enough on what their eyes are telling them.

My Saints side is now in 2026 and has switched from system to system over these 12/13 seasons. We're now back with our original shape, a 4-1-4-1, but a very different interpretation of the shape to a more pragmatic system we used in the first three seasons. In the OP, Cleon mentions these key components:

Supply

Support

Space

Movement

Roles

Duties

PPM’s

What we often see in the forum is people set out to achieve one half of the game of football; they look to how they can defend or how they can attack, but quite often there is no real holistic thinking and that can be a pain in the arse to overcome as I have experienced it a hell of a lot; it's always best to think about the whole package. With that in mind, our system is this (apologies for the size of the images, no idea how to fix it :D ):

screen-shot-2015-03-15-at-21-11-56.png

It's a 4-1-4-1 because I like its' defensive shape; two backs of four and a DM to nullify a central AMC. That's part one of the puzzle for me - simple as that. Offensively, you'll quickly notice that it appears to be painfully symmetrical, and you'd be right. The vision was for a central trio of core defensive players (DCs and Anchor) to hold position whilst everyone else lumps in. The flanks are clearly a focal point (we also Play Wider), but it is important to mention the balance of central support. With an Anchor you can be brave centrally, and previously I've used a CM (A) alongside a BBM in this formation, but here it isn't needed. How do I know that? I watch matches.

The WM (A) players on the flanks are both instructed to behave like IFs. They move centrally on the ball, and that would clash with the CMs if their Roles were too aggressive. Instead, the MCs have the same Roles / Duties as Cleon assigned when balancing the Incoherent Setup above, and what these combinations give is a decent secondary wave of support to the team. Given the movement of the WMs, it wasn't critical from a purely offensive perspective to have immediate supplementary support from the MCs, but it was important to have a central presence to recycle the ball to the WMs, CWBs and ST, as well as to get in and around the box where the opportunity arose.

Let's look at some examples. Against Burnley in the FA Cup, we won 4-1 away with lone striker Thomas Maier netting a hat-trick:

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-20-45.png

How did he do that? Burnley in 2026 are an established top ten team in the PL on my save. By no means the hardest team in the world to face, but no pushover. They used a narrow 4-4-2 diamond, so how did Maier manage to take 11 shots, get 7 on target and convert almost half of those on target efforts?

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-27-00.png

Goal One

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-33-05.png

It's all about support. Maier is central, with the WMs Lemma and Schneider in line. CWBs are Edson and Nelson, Makelele ( I know :cool: ) is Anchor, Banks CM (S) and Nicolai is BBM. Lemma and Schneider are occupying the Burnely DL and DCR. Their DR is moving over to close down CWB Nelson. Nicolai is distracting both their DM AND their deeper MC, so Maier can run across his man and slot in, which he does. Cross, run, goal - and all because his team mates create the space for him, because they are up supporting him:

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-35-32.png

Goal Two

This is not much to do with support, but a lot to do with the Complete Forward Support combination. I know that I want my lone striker to link play, to roam, to drop off, but also to attack the ball. Here, there is little sign of support. It's a breakaway goal, but note how Maier has intelligently dropped off the DCs......

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-37-40.png

What do those yards give him? Room to build up momentum when attacking the cross:

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-40-04.png

Goal Three

So far one goal as a result of supporting movement and one as a result of striker's instinct, accurate supply and good attacking positioning.

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-43-03.png

Above, you have 4 Saints players in the box (the three usual suspects, plus Walker - who replaced Banks at CM (S) ) plus the CWBs (Taubate is on for Nelson) and BBM. Walker is key, as two Burnley players are drawn to him. He's one of the MCs who is supporting play and would never have been this advanced in the original Incoherent Setup Cleon revealed earlier. By being here, he creates a channel of space for a pass to Maier:

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-46-53.png

Above all of this, it is clear that you need variety. On occasions, Maier, or his rotational alternative Gomez, will not have the spaces created for him by his team mates - so you need a central striker Role who can not only finish, but can link play, drag defenders aside and contribute a bit of supply and space for his team mates. You need a mixture of players who can score and assist because too many eggs in one basket is only ever one injury or suspension away from costing you:

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-50-46.png

Strikers are Gomez and Maier, who each have contributed 9 assists. Medvedez, Ozturk, Walker and Banks operate in the MC slots (alternating from match to match) all all contribute to chance creation and conversion. Out wide, Schneider, Lemma, Garcia and Misischi operate from the ML/R positions, whilst CWBs Zitinho and Taubate also feature among the top assist makers.

A good striker is more than just a goal scorer, and a good team is more than just a good striker.

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THOG   

Just read this again and it's a terrific model for what tactical advice on here should ideally look like.

I'd like to see a whole series on different kinds of incoherent set-ups. Another one that comes to mind is the opposite of the one you posted here: top heavy formations where everyone pushes forward and there's no one controlling play from deep.

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Just read this again and it's a terrific model for what tactical advice on here should ideally look like.

I'd like to see a whole series on different kinds of incoherent set-ups. Another one that comes to mind is the opposite of the one you posted here: top heavy formations where everyone pushes forward and there's no one controlling play from deep.

That's one I see a lot. Also static formations with a set of roles selected that usually all hold position or don't really move dynamically. Or predictable wide-play.

I know there's exceptions to the rule, the 4-3-3 IF/F9/WB combinations for example.

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Rashidi   

Saves me doing another thread will add on high block with forwards here as well to add another dimension

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felley   

Brilliant stuff all round here.

I recently had a eureka moment in terms of attacking supply when perfecting a 4-1-2-2-1 system of my own. My midfield three were an Anchorman, BBM at LCM and AP(A) at RCM and I was pretty happy with how they were functioning in sharing defensive responsibilities in the middle, as well as creating chances for my front three of - from left to right - IF(A), CF(A) and W(S)...

What stood out though was the low contribution of the Inside Forward in terms of goals and assists and when watching him closely, he seemed to squander so much by going hell-for-leather at the defence when a little more restraint was required. After testing out a support duty, I came closer to the eureka moment when watching the interaction with the BBM at LCM. In attacking transition, the Inside Forward would often receive the ball and instantly make his move inside - crowding the area that the BBM could exploit later in the move. Sounds like a small detail, but it blunted the left side of my attack and brought the IF into an area that he could be dealt with easily, with the added effect of leaving my striker isolated. I decided I needed a more patient role in this area that would time runs better and look to play in the BBM... a playmaker, if you will...

That was it. An Advanced Playmaker at AML. This caused a chaos-theory-style-knock-on-effect (too many hyphens?) which lead to me ditching the AP(A) at RCM in favour of a CM(A) - I felt one playmaker was enough - in turn leading me to switch the Complete Forward to a support and the Winger to an attack duty. A further bonus was much better link-up with the WB(A) at LB.

These changes quite simply transformed my tactic as play now builds on the left side; the right side offering spatial support for the striker in terms of occupying players with aggressive running. The CF(S) now has much more space in the area, a nascent strike partner in the form of the CM(A) as well as the BBM, AP(S) and WB(A) arriving later as extra layers. In the best games, I have scored a variety of goals: crosses from the Wing Back, through balls from midfield, long shots from players in acres of space... all because I adjusted the supply to my forward and always considered multiple routes to goal. I guess that's the essence of understanding your attacking system and how your striker/strike partnership is just one part of it.

Anyway, looking forward to the next bits, Cleon.

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Rashidi   

Gonna add on to this thread, because I find that a lot of people choose the wrong roles for strikers, and its usually down to them not understanding what you can achieve with each role. I think this is important because this leads to incompatible instructions and a completely unbalanced system, and this is usually down to failing to understand how the strikers are meant to play within the parameters of their roles.

Here I am only focusing on the strikers and not on the wide AMs you find in 41221 systems. This applies to any striker playing in or around the penalty box. Each striker has a position number which is rated from 1-8 with 1 being the highest placed striker in the group. So a striker with a 1 by default would be standing further in front than one who has an 8 rating. The grid also shows which players have instructions defaulted into their code. For instance, a Trequartista can't tackle hard, its hard coded for him not to be a tackler, it doesn't mean he will never do it, it just means that you can't specifically tell him to tackle hard, and the shout won't apply to him. By understanding where these players fall on the grid you should be able to see if this applies to your system.

Where a role has the option between attack and support, I have chosen attack, so that we can compare each role consistently.

strikers-grid-1.jpg?w=665

This lists out all the strikers in the game and the highest position they can occupy in relation to each other, so when you want to choose a player to be the highest point of an attack, the player who will be furthest away will always be the Advanced Forward. I am ignoring the effects of player preferred moves in this illustration.

If you only wanted to see what positions support players occupy on a pitch then

strikers-grid-2.jpg?w=665

This has implications for playing a high block strategy, if you choose to go down that road, then only some roles give you the option of selecting close down much more and hard tackling, and if you want to do High Block, these are the roles that you need to use.

If you wanted to create vertical movement in and around the box, then you also need to select roles that allow for that or you can include them in a players ppm. Sometimes a player may not have the ppm then the role itself will encourage him to do vertical runs, but once again attributes like off the ball, acceleration, decision, anticipation, teamwork all play their part too.

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Cleon   
OK, so my reason for piggy-backing on Cleon's thread is that an awful lot of what he said resonated with me, and the reason for that is that it is just common sense stuff. FM is not a hard game. People tend to over-analyse stuff and focus too much on stats and not enough on what their eyes are telling them.

My Saints side is now in 2026 and has switched from system to system over these 12/13 seasons. We're now back with our original shape, a 4-1-4-1, but a very different interpretation of the shape to a more pragmatic system we used in the first three seasons. In the OP, Cleon mentions these key components:

Supply

Support

Space

Movement

Roles

Duties

PPM’s

What we often see in the forum is people set out to achieve one half of the game of football; they look to how they can defend or how they can attack, but quite often there is no real holistic thinking and that can be a pain in the arse to overcome as I have experienced it a hell of a lot; it's always best to think about the whole package. With that in mind, our system is this (apologies for the size of the images, no idea how to fix it :D ):

screen-shot-2015-03-15-at-21-11-56.png

It's a 4-1-4-1 because I like its' defensive shape; two backs of four and a DM to nullify a central AMC. That's part one of the puzzle for me - simple as that. Offensively, you'll quickly notice that it appears to be painfully symmetrical, and you'd be right. The vision was for a central trio of core defensive players (DCs and Anchor) to hold position whilst everyone else lumps in. The flanks are clearly a focal point (we also Play Wider), but it is important to mention the balance of central support. With an Anchor you can be brave centrally, and previously I've used a CM (A) alongside a BBM in this formation, but here it isn't needed. How do I know that? I watch matches.

The WM (A) players on the flanks are both instructed to behave like IFs. They move centrally on the ball, and that would clash with the CMs if their Roles were too aggressive. Instead, the MCs have the same Roles / Duties as Cleon assigned when balancing the Incoherent Setup above, and what these combinations give is a decent secondary wave of support to the team. Given the movement of the WMs, it wasn't critical from a purely offensive perspective to have immediate supplementary support from the MCs, but it was important to have a central presence to recycle the ball to the WMs, CWBs and ST, as well as to get in and around the box where the opportunity arose.

Let's look at some examples. Against Burnley in the FA Cup, we won 4-1 away with lone striker Thomas Maier netting a hat-trick:

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-20-45.png

How did he do that? Burnley in 2026 are an established top ten team in the PL on my save. By no means the hardest team in the world to face, but no pushover. They used a narrow 4-4-2 diamond, so how did Maier manage to take 11 shots, get 7 on target and convert almost half of those on target efforts?

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-27-00.png

Goal One

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-33-05.png

It's all about support. Maier is central, with the WMs Lemma and Schneider in line. CWBs are Edson and Nelson, Makelele ( I know :cool: ) is Anchor, Banks CM (S) and Nicolai is BBM. Lemma and Schneider are occupying the Burnely DL and DCR. Their DR is moving over to close down CWB Nelson. Nicolai is distracting both their DM AND their deeper MC, so Maier can run across his man and slot in, which he does. Cross, run, goal - and all because his team mates create the space for him, because they are up supporting him:

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-35-32.png

Goal Two

This is not much to do with support, but a lot to do with the Complete Forward Support combination. I know that I want my lone striker to link play, to roam, to drop off, but also to attack the ball. Here, there is little sign of support. It's a breakaway goal, but note how Maier has intelligently dropped off the DCs......

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-37-40.png

What do those yards give him? Room to build up momentum when attacking the cross:

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-40-04.png

Goal Three

So far one goal as a result of supporting movement and one as a result of striker's instinct, accurate supply and good attacking positioning.

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-43-03.png

Above, you have 4 Saints players in the box (the three usual suspects, plus Walker - who replaced Banks at CM (S) ) plus the CWBs (Taubate is on for Nelson) and BBM. Walker is key, as two Burnley players are drawn to him. He's one of the MCs who is supporting play and would never have been this advanced in the original Incoherent Setup Cleon revealed earlier. By being here, he creates a channel of space for a pass to Maier:

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-46-53.png

Above all of this, it is clear that you need variety. On occasions, Maier, or his rotational alternative Gomez, will not have the spaces created for him by his team mates - so you need a central striker Role who can not only finish, but can link play, drag defenders aside and contribute a bit of supply and space for his team mates. You need a mixture of players who can score and assist because too many eggs in one basket is only ever one injury or suspension away from costing you:

screen-shot-2015-03-25-at-20-50-46.png

Strikers are Gomez and Maier, who each have contributed 9 assists. Medvedez, Ozturk, Walker and Banks operate in the MC slots (alternating from match to match) all all contribute to chance creation and conversion. Out wide, Schneider, Lemma, Garcia and Misischi operate from the ML/R positions, whilst CWBs Zitinho and Taubate also feature among the top assist makers.

A good striker is more than just a goal scorer, and a good team is more than just a good striker.

Brilliant post that hammers home the basics for me. It also points out that variety is important and your play is happening through various different people which is great, because if Maier had a bad game you'd not be fully relying on him. Yes he's an integral part no doubt but with the kind of support and supply he gets any of the others could easily pop up with the goals needed. I think this is one of reasons I see people struggle on these forums because they tend to channel all play towards one particular player and then when he has a bad game or is marked out of it, they struggle to find the goals needed to win game.

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Cleon   
Just read this again and it's a terrific model for what tactical advice on here should ideally look like.

I'd like to see a whole series on different kinds of incoherent set-ups. Another one that comes to mind is the opposite of the one you posted here: top heavy formations where everyone pushes forward and there's no one controlling play from deep.

Top heavy formations is actually one of the examples I use but saved for the next instalment. In fact it was the classic 4231 narrow that I wrote about as almost everyone seems to struggle with that one and always end up with a team split into two bands so always struggle to provide support to the front 4. A lot of the settings used in this system always seem to have the MC's attacking too or use adventurous roles and don't realise how vital it is to keep them more static and deep.

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Cleon   
Gonna add on to this thread, because I find that a lot of people choose the wrong roles for strikers, and its usually down to them not understanding what you can achieve with each role. I think this is important because this leads to incompatible instructions and a completely unbalanced system, and this is usually down to failing to understand how the strikers are meant to play within the parameters of their roles.

Here I am only focusing on the strikers and not on the wide AMs you find in 41221 systems. This applies to any striker playing in or around the penalty box. Each striker has a position number which is rated from 1-8 with 1 being the highest placed striker in the group. So a striker with a 1 by default would be standing further in front than one who has an 8 rating. The grid also shows which players have instructions defaulted into their code. For instance, a Trequartista can't tackle hard, its hard coded for him not to be a tackler, it doesn't mean he will never do it, it just means that you can't specifically tell him to tackle hard, and the shout won't apply to him. By understanding where these players fall on the grid you should be able to see if this applies to your system.

Where a role has the option between attack and support, I have chosen attack, so that we can compare each role consistently.

strikers-grid-1.jpg?w=665

This lists out all the strikers in the game and the highest position they can occupy in relation to each other, so when you want to choose a player to be the highest point of an attack, the player who will be furthest away will always be the Advanced Forward. I am ignoring the effects of player preferred moves in this illustration.

If you only wanted to see what positions support players occupy on a pitch then

strikers-grid-2.jpg?w=665

This has implications for playing a high block strategy, if you choose to go down that road, then only some roles give you the option of selecting close down much more and hard tackling, and if you want to do High Block, these are the roles that you need to use.

If you wanted to create vertical movement in and around the box, then you also need to select roles that allow for that or you can include them in a players ppm. Sometimes a player may not have the ppm then the role itself will encourage him to do vertical runs, but once again attributes like off the ball, acceleration, decision, anticipation, teamwork all play their part too.

Thanks for this Rash, I can actually chop off the bit I wrote now about this and cut down the walls of text :D. This post is brilliant because its simple, straight to the point yet so in depth at the same time. I expect a lot of people should have a 'penny drop' moment with those tables and realise how important the role they use for the style they are creating actually is.

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Cleon   
Brilliant stuff all round here.

I recently had a eureka moment in terms of attacking supply when perfecting a 4-1-2-2-1 system of my own. My midfield three were an Anchorman, BBM at LCM and AP(A) at RCM and I was pretty happy with how they were functioning in sharing defensive responsibilities in the middle, as well as creating chances for my front three of - from left to right - IF(A), CF(A) and W(S)...

What stood out though was the low contribution of the Inside Forward in terms of goals and assists and when watching him closely, he seemed to squander so much by going hell-for-leather at the defence when a little more restraint was required. After testing out a support duty, I came closer to the eureka moment when watching the interaction with the BBM at LCM. In attacking transition, the Inside Forward would often receive the ball and instantly make his move inside - crowding the area that the BBM could exploit later in the move. Sounds like a small detail, but it blunted the left side of my attack and brought the IF into an area that he could be dealt with easily, with the added effect of leaving my striker isolated. I decided I needed a more patient role in this area that would time runs better and look to play in the BBM... a playmaker, if you will...

That was it. An Advanced Playmaker at AML. This caused a chaos-theory-style-knock-on-effect (too many hyphens?) which lead to me ditching the AP(A) at RCM in favour of a CM(A) - I felt one playmaker was enough - in turn leading me to switch the Complete Forward to a support and the Winger to an attack duty. A further bonus was much better link-up with the WB(A) at LB.

These changes quite simply transformed my tactic as play now builds on the left side; the right side offering spatial support for the striker in terms of occupying players with aggressive running. The CF(S) now has much more space in the area, a nascent strike partner in the form of the CM(A) as well as the BBM, AP(S) and WB(A) arriving later as extra layers. In the best games, I have scored a variety of goals: crosses from the Wing Back, through balls from midfield, long shots from players in acres of space... all because I adjusted the supply to my forward and always considered multiple rules to goal. I guess that's the essence of understanding your attacking system and how your striker/strike partnership is just one part of it.

Anyway, looking forward to the next bits, Cleon.

This sounds like you took the time to learn how your system works and to understand what each player is doing in defensive and attacking phases of play. It might take a little bit of time to do at first but it's worth investing the time early in my opinion because later in the season(s) it can save you much more time in the long run due to you knowing how you should be playing. I feel a lot of users don't have this connection and understanding, they use a tactic but don't really understand what it should and shouldn't be doing. You though, seem to actually think about the roles and changed them to be more complimentary for the players around them which is great :)

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I am guilty of the top Incoherent set up! In my defence I was playing around with things, won the first game 4-0 and thought I had stumbled upon something with more defensive roles but different strategies. Defensively it was decent but you are right it didn't score goals in the next few matches hence why now it is in my Recycle bin!

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Cleon   
I am guilty of the top Incoherent set up! In my defence I was playing around with things, won the first game 4-0 and thought I had stumbled upon something with more defensive roles but different strategies. Defensively it was decent but you are right it didn't score goals in the next few matches hence why now it is in my Recycle bin!

That formation is naturally defensive, you was being far too negative with the central midfield pairing when there was no need due to using a DMC. You can afford to have them be more attack minded without really losing anything defensively :)

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Rashidi   

One thing that I can't reinforce nearly enough, a goalscorer is only as good as the combination around him. If you are playing a 433, whilst your trio is important, its also important to consider how you want the trio to get serviced. I have a set of tactics that utilise 3 man and 2 men in certain configurations, and in every case, I tend to default to what I know works first, rather than attempt any creative crazy.

There;s nothing to stop a TQ working with 2 F9s, its what's coming up behind them thats more important. Get the gist of how goals will be produced and you create your 20 Goal scorer, in fact I would even go as far as to say that any dual striker system must see at least 40 goals scored between them and if you have a 3 striker pattern, or 2 Strikers and 1 AM, then you need to toss in 20 assists a season as well. This applies to all tiers of the game.

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Cleon   
One thing that I can't reinforce nearly enough, a goalscorer is only as good as the combination around him. If you are playing a 433, whilst your trio is important, its also important to consider how you want the trio to get serviced. I have a set of tactics that utilise 3 man and 2 men in certain configurations, and in every case, I tend to default to what I know works first, rather than attempt any creative crazy.

There;s nothing to stop a TQ working with 2 F9s, its what's coming up behind them thats more important. Get the gist of how goals will be produced and you create your 20 Goal scorer, in fact I would even go as far as to say that any dual striker system must see at least 40 goals scored between them and if you have a 3 striker pattern, or 2 Strikers and 1 AM, then you need to toss in 20 assists a season as well. This applies to all tiers of the game.

Funny that you should mention this as I'm writing about this exact thing right now for this thread. I use a system that used 1 striker, two AMC's (AP and Treq) and a IF and had just taken this image to show how they all play close together and link up very well;

15.jpg

This shows you the options available, the space and time that some of them have. This is against a side who use two defensive midfielders too. And the stats from the overall season reinforce the point you make in the final bit of you post about assists and scoring. Just look at these stats and the key passes;

Santos.png

Options, options and options. If you create chances you'll score a ton of goals, you always will. Look how creative and clinical my striker is, not only can he score but he's also a team player and creating chances for the runners from deep.

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Another thing to be mindful of is the basic balance of the attack. There are still quite a few over aggressive systems in circulation which get posted in this forum or others, where there is simply an imbalance of Duties. You just don't need to flood the box with bodies, because all that does is congest the area through which you need to shoot in order to score. Instead, all you need are players to drag defenders out of shape, a free man, and a recycler; goals one and three in my examples depict that fairly well.

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Cleon   
Another thing to be mindful of is the basic balance of the attack. There are still quite a few over aggressive systems in circulation which get posted in this forum or others, where there is simply an imbalance of Duties. You just don't need to flood the box with bodies, because all that does is congest the area through which you need to shoot in order to score. Instead, all you need are players to drag defenders out of shape, a free man, and a recycler; goals one and three in my examples depict that fairly well.

This is probably the biggest mistake I see in peoples set ups, they crowd the area that is needed for scorers to operate in. So at times players have no room to do anything due to not having that half of second needed for a shot or to shift ball to his other foot and so on. I always score more goals when the box is clear and people arrive from deeper positions rather than starting in higher positions. It's the reason why my DLF above (Barbosa) both scores and creates so many.

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Raniel3   
Just read this again and it's a terrific model for what tactical advice on here should ideally look like.

I'd like to see a whole series on different kinds of incoherent set-ups. Another one that comes to mind is the opposite of the one you posted here: top heavy formations where everyone pushes forward and there's no one controlling play from deep.

This. Brilliant thread

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I always score more goals when the box is clear and people arrive from deeper positions rather than starting in higher positions.

Yep, I think the key things in the build up to a goal are:

1. Space in front, created by movement / distracting runs

2. Support behind

Some systems I see posted are the exact opposite of that, so there are loads of people high up the pitch and nobody behind offering an easy out ball. When that happens, you tend to get the high shot counts, low shot accuracy (high blocked shots) and low overall chance conversion. You need to let the players have the space and time to make the right decision.

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Cleon   

I'm nabbing that last post to include in the next bit :D

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felley   
Yep, I think the key things in the build up to a goal are:

1. Space in front, created by movement / distracting runs

2. Support behind

Some systems I see posted are the exact opposite of that, so there are loads of people high up the pitch and nobody behind offering an easy out ball. When that happens, you tend to get the high shot counts, low shot accuracy (high blocked shots) and low overall chance conversion. You need to let the players have the space and time to make the right decision.

Completely agree with this. It's the timing of the runs that can really hurt the opposition as a man arrives later in the move in lots of space, or from another angle that changes the pivot point of your attack. As in my example a few posts up, the right side attacks earlier with the left side following later, meaning the opposition has to deal with two principle waves of attack from either side. It really has been a eureka moment for me in terms of layering attacks.

I'm not sure how helpful this is to others, but I have been thinking in terms of numbering my players by when they arrive to supplement the attack. This could be a little abstract and it does simplify something which is much more dynamic in practice, but it's maybe good for a quick reference when layering your attack. So in my 4-1-2-2-1, it would look like this:

2cnczew.jpg

1 arrives first in the attack, with 8 arriving the latest (if at all in my example).

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Completely agree with this. It's the timing of the runs that can really hurt the opposition as a man arrives later in the move in lots of space, or from another angle that changes the pivot point of your attack. As in my example a few posts up, the right side attacks earlier with the left side following later, meaning the opposition has to deal with two principle waves of attack from either side. It really has been a eureka moment for me in terms of layering attacks.

The whole concept of layered attacks is a great one. My system isn't a good example of a well layered system like yours, but then it isn't intended to be. However, the concept of layering is another simple and logical way of creating variety, and variety creates different spaces, different runs, different angles and different opportunities.

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THOG   
Top heavy formations is actually one of the examples I use but saved for the next instalment. In fact it was the classic 4231 narrow that I wrote about as almost everyone seems to struggle with that one and always end up with a team split into two bands so always struggle to provide support to the front 4. A lot of the settings used in this system always seem to have the MC's attacking too or use adventurous roles and don't realise how vital it is to keep them more static and deep.

Yeah, the tactic in the OP got me thinking more about setting up a 4-3-3 in a double pivot or back three set-up (with the HB slotting in... though the role is admittedly bugged right now). It's something you can do, but the risk of isolating the striker makes it a lot more difficult. When I first looked at that tactic, I thought "it's Barca without the support and movement." But how do you get that while still opening space for a creative striker to orchestrate the attack without simultaneously isolating him? It's a delicate balance, and it underlines why you should be careful trying to set up an extremely demanding system with any random club. You can risk isolating Messi because Messi is a one-man support diamond. With Diafra Sakho, you need to compromise.

There;s nothing to stop a TQ working with 2 F9s, its what's coming up behind them thats more important. Get the gist of how goals will be produced and you create your 20 Goal scorer, in fact I would even go as far as to say that any dual striker system must see at least 40 goals scored between them and if you have a 3 striker pattern, or 2 Strikers and 1 AM, then you need to toss in 20 assists a season as well. This applies to all tiers of the game.

Good post. The more I've studied real world tactics and conversed with real coaches, the more I've realised that the answer to any tactical question that begins with "Does anybody..." or "Can you..." is "Yes but..."

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(with the HB slotting in... though the role is admittedly bugged right now)

Just curious what the issues with the half back role are? I like the idea of the role because I like to play with more attacking wingbacks but if it's not working correctly maybe I should avoid it.

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Cleon   

Part Two

I believe it is much easier to get a strike partnership to work due to the interaction you can have between the players. You can have many different combinations ranging from little and large, creative and finisher, two creative types and so on. In modern-day football a partnership doesn’t have to be two strikers either, it could be a striker and an attacking midfielder or a striker and inside forward and so on.

No matter what save game I am playing or what tactic I use, I will always look to make some kind of partnerships throughout the attack and this approach has always served me well. Let’s take a look at some of the stats from a few different saved games that I have.

SFC.png?resize=474%2C194

In the above screenshot I lost the three most influential players during the season. I lost my top scorer with 34 goals in 22 games. One of the other players I lost was a rampaging winger with 15 goals and 21 assists in 26 games. And the final lad I lost was my deep-lying playmaker who have 4 goals and 10 assists in 19 games. But even on the screenshot above you can see I had goalscorers and plenty of assists spread throughout the team.

Here is another screenshot from a different saved game;

SUFC.png?resize=474%2C221

Again I have regular scorers and the assists are spread out through the team. But it’s still the same as above, lots of people involved and helping out the scorers.

This is another screenshot from another saved game;

Santos.png?resize=474%2C223

A different league, different save yet the same result, lots of goals and lots of players involved. Whether you want one scorer or multiple scorers they all need the same things. So let’s take a look at how I achieve this on my saves.

Creating Chances

As I’m at home I don’t have access to all my saved games because I use certain ones for when I’m at home and at work etc. Don’t ask me why as I’m not sure I could give a reason other than its something I’ve always done lol. But I do have access to the Santos save, so shall we remind ourselves how I’m set up so we can look at possible partnerships I have when going forward.

1970.png

The first thing you should notice is the use of four creative roles all in a same kind of area. You would be forgiven for thinking I have no support or runners at first glance but we actually do. The use of the creative roles was due to me trying to replicate a real life tactic.

Teams that don’t have regular creators in the side will fail to score goals or only score goals that are mistakes or good bits of individual displays. Sheffield United are currently like this in real life and we lack someone who can create or fashion chances for other people. The same thing happens on FM, a creator doesn’t need to be a playmaker, anyone can create all it requires is a basic pass, it really is that simple. Getting players into positions to supply others is a lot tougher though to put into practise but the idea behind creating chances itself is simple. Let me show you a few examples of my set up and how we create chances.

22.jpg?resize=474%2C215

The above screenshot is me in possession of the ball and attacking. It shows you people creating space, people using space and someone to supply a simple ball that causes all kinds of trouble. The RPM is actually a BWM, I got that wrong on the screen.

15.jpg?resize=474%2C209

This is the exact same screenshot but with a different view. Do you see how the attack is linking all together and all the options I do actually have. Not only that but players are actually in space and this is against a side using two defensive midfielders.

24.jpg?resize=474%2C213

The above is moments later in the move. As you can see I have no-one initially in the box but that isn’t a bad thing at all because my side don’t really cross the ball so it would be wasted. The player circled is the one in possession of the ball and is being forced out wide. While the striker and inside forward are in really good positions with space to move into, realistically the ball isn’t going to reach them as it would need a cross. In another system this would be a major issue and the move would end by either a wild shot, losing possession or attempting a needless cross that my players would never be able to win. But I don’t have this issue, why not? Well that’s simple, I have factored this into the system I use because it’s something I saw happen a few times. So the advanced playmaker is actually set up to be the spare man in these situations due to the movement he creates once he has passed the initial ball.

33.jpg?resize=474%2C215

Seconds later this happens, the advanced playmaker is free. He has no marker or anyone who can get close to him. The trequartista stops with the ball, turns and passes in back inside and automatically takes out the three players who went across to deal with him. While at the same time, the striker and inside forward are both occupying the oppositions defence. Can you guess what the advanced playmaker does next?

[video=youtube_share;HiTNfkYE1hk]

A very well taken goal. The reason for showing this goal was that I was just this second (at the time of writing) having an exchange with Rtherringbone on the SI Forums and I said;

I always score more goals when the box is clear and people arrive from deeper positions rather than starting in higher positions.

And he replied with;

Yep, I think the key things in the build up to a goal are:

  1. Space in front, created by movement / distracting runs


  2. Support behind


Some systems I see posted are the exact opposite of that, so there are loads of people high up the pitch and nobody behind offering an easy out ball. When that happens, you tend to get the high shot counts, low shot accuracy (high blocked shots) and low overall chance conversion. You need to let the players have the space and time to make the right decision.

And I agree with him. I think this goal highlights those key things and shows them in practise. My front four and the midfield all work together. The striker and the inside forward occupy the defence. The trequarista is the one who initially creates space with his movement. Then the advanced playmaker is the one who is using the space that was created. And to top all of that off, this move all started with my deep-lying playmaker who linked them all together and allowed the move to happen.

The next screenshot is a different move but a similar situation.

43.jpg?resize=474%2C213

Here the box if far too crowded and full for anything to happen. This isn’t a bad thing though because again, I have the options of someone outside the box to pass the ball to. The deep-lying playmaker drives forward then cuts the ball back into the path of the advanced playmaker who again, is in acres of space and has time to finish the chance off;

[video=youtube_share;JTF6Rglndhk]

There is a lot more stuff that I could talk about in this system but then I might be here all day, I might expand on them over time but I didn’t want this to focus that much on my own saves as such, but I did want to share how the side links up and the roles the attackers have. This is only a small sample size though and just one example. Before I go further and talk about another incoherent system that fails to achieve the above, I wanted to briefly mention PPM’s.

Player Preferred Moves

If you watch games to get an understanding of how the system you have created and use works then over time you’ll notice the odd little things that can be a huge advantage if you know how. In the Brazilian 1970’s tactic that I created I began to notice that against teams who attacked me, my deep-lying forward would find lots of space due to him dropping off deep and roaming around. I also noticed that my centre back seems to have little pressure on him so this got me thinking about how I could try to utilise them both to start quick attacks if the defender deemed that the correct decision to make.

With this in mind I then began thinking of ways I would make it work in my advantage and decided I’d use a ball-playing defender and player preferred moves (PPM’s) to try to achieve this. Now I’ve not yet learnt this to every defender nor have I learnt it to every player that I use as a ball-playing defender. I don’t want everyone to play the same as I like different options for different types of games. So I trained one specific player to do a specific job.

13.jpg?resize=474%2C214

In the above screenshot my ball-playing defender is quite intelligent on the ball, he has good anticipation, teamwork, decisions, technique and passing. So with this in mind I taught him the player preferred move – Tries long-range passes to try to launch quick attacks if he sees fit. I tend to use him more against the sides who attack me rather than sit deep, as I know they’ll push up and leave numbers short at the back. While knowing that my deep-lying forward can be a handful and due to his own personal attributes, he can play a very direct game if needed and play a bit like a poacher at times. So I can make use of these kinds of balls. I could use him as a poacher but then I’d lose a bit of his identity during games as he often drops off, looks for space, links play and pushed forward. If he was just a poacher he’d be more likely to stay high but it could still be effective in this kind of scenario.

But one of the reasons this works well is my striker is fast, like Usain Bolt levels of speed, so I’m confident he will latch onto any long or direct balls and stretch the opposition especially when they aren’t deep. Here is a perfect example of what I’m talking about;

[video=youtube_share;vCwQqF4BdqI]

I see this happen often against these type of sides and you can see that one simple ball can cause them all kinds of issues and really put them on the back foot. This is just one small example of how you can use PPM’s to help you supply strikers with quick thinking balls. There are other PPM’s and combinations that could work too but I didn’t want to turn this into an article about PPM’s although I might do a more specific one at a later date as it’s a massive part of how I play.

These are just another dimension to tactic building and how you might potentially be able to capitalise on things in your own save. You don’t have too obviously but I felt it was worth mentioning and giving you all a different take on creating chances.

Incoherent System

Above I gave you an example of a tactic that tries to offer a bit of variety and provides plenty of options for players. So now for balance, I thought I’d pick apart an issue with another tactic that people seem to have trouble getting to work.

54.jpg?resize=401%2C592

I’ve purposely chosen this tactic as it is very top-heavy and it lacks someone who can control the game from deep. So you’d expect it to be good when it has the ball in the final third but struggle to get the ball to the attackers for large parts. Any kind of creative play from deep will be down to the trequartista who will drop very deep. But when he does drop deep this should present an issue which I’ll hopefully see.

63.jpg?resize=474%2C211

While the formation is a top-heavy one this screenshot shows the opposite, the more vulnerable side of what happens when the trequartista drops deep and roams about from the central areas. The most two advanced players become a bit isolated and have to come deep in search of the ball themselves.

73.jpg?resize=474%2C200

Due to the trequartista being the main creative outlet in the side and him dropping deep, then when the ball is won back you’ll often see players in these type of positions. Look how narrow the front four are. Now this wouldn’t be a bad thing if this was the initial phase of play as people would have time to advance and provide support, but this is the actual end of the move. The striker and trequartista are far too deep here and that leaves the job of attacking to the attacking midfielders. Which is an issue as they should be the ones getting into the scoring positions but here he has no option but to shoot from deep.

82.jpg?resize=474%2C211

A different move but yet again more of the same. How is the player supposed to break through the oppositions defence? Where can he realistically go with the ball? Support is too far behind and there’s a real lack of support yet again. It’s only the front four who are even attempting to do things from an offensive standpoint. The balance of the whole system is fundamentally flawed with the roles they’ve used. The support and creativity are all in the wrong areas.

Shall we take a look at what happens when I change a few roles around to offer better balance in attacks and to give us options going forward….

I’ve made a few small changes to the roles;

  • The trequartista is now a shadow striker
  • The right sided attacking midfielder is now an advanced playmaker
  • The ball winning midfielder is now a central midfielder with a defensive duty.
  • The original central midfielder on a defensive duty is now a deep-lying playmaker.

The reason for these changes is that the midfield pairing in any type of 4231 is the key to its success in terms of attack and defence. If they are too adventurous you’ll be badly exposed centrally, so its vital you get the balance correct. It is also beneficial to have someone deep who can pull the strings to make the most of the top-heavy attack you have. This is the main reason I used the deep-lying playmaker role, to take that pressure off the trequartista and switch it around, so we could use a more attack minded attacking midfielder, hence the Shadow Striker.

101.jpg?resize=474%2C182

This screenshot already shows an improvement for me because the player running with the ball has options ahead of him. The deep-lying playmaker passed the ball to the shadow striker who is driving forward. Before, in 90% of situations the person running with the ball from these areas was ahead of everyone else so had no forward options only backward ones.

111.jpg?resize=474%2C213

A few moments later you can see the next stage of the move, the full right hand side of the pitch has opened up for the fullback to use. The shadow striker has also passed the ball centrally now to the advanced playmaker and is bursting his gut to get forward. Already this screenshot is showing the positive reactions of the players from a few simple role changes.

Options and options and what’s needed for players. If you want a goalscorer the key to creating them is to use roles around him that allow for the type of striker to flourish that you have used in your system. It’s why understanding the tactic you use is fundamental for long term success so you aren’;t relying on individual brilliance or mistakes from the opposition. Things will be a lot better if you yourself can create, supply and finish chances off icon_smile.gif?w=474

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shirajzl   

screen-shot-2015-03-15-at-21-11-56.png

We've talked about this formation in another thread, but since it's here know it feels suitable to ask a few questions.

How tied are team mentality and striker isolation problem? In other words, in the setup above, what would be the most advisable mentality(s)?

In the past I've tried to create something like that, but with Counter mentality and the problem was always the same, but with two sides of the coin:

a) if I use a support striker, he drops too deep, gets the ball and we can't get out of our half, because we're all pressed.

b) if I use an attack striker, he stays up, but all my team does when in possession is lump it forward to him. He sometimes gets the ball, but have no one to lay it off to.

I've used your tactic with both Standard and Control and I've also seen the team playing long balls to the striker, but it seems to work a bit better because the entire team is positioned higher up the pitch.

Generally speaking, a 4-1-4-1 is defensively solid by its nature, but what would be the most viable mentalities to use it with?

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We've talked about this formation in another thread, but since it's here know it feels suitable to ask a few questions.

How tied are team mentality and striker isolation problem? In other words, in the setup above, what would be the most advisable mentality(s)?

In the past I've tried to create something like that, but with Counter mentality and the problem was always the same, but with two sides of the coin:

a) if I use a support striker, he drops too deep, gets the ball and we can't get out of our half, because we're all pressed.

b) if I use an attack striker, he stays up, but all my team does when in possession is lump it forward to him. He sometimes gets the ball, but have no one to lay it off to.

I've used your tactic with both Standard and Control and I've also seen the team playing long balls to the striker, but it seems to work a bit better because the entire team is positioned higher up the pitch.

Generally speaking, a 4-1-4-1 is defensively solid by its nature, but what would be the most viable mentalities to use it with?

Arguably it is less Mentality, and more Team Shape which would affect the degree of isolation experienced by the striker. However, because that guy is on Support, it means that when we transition from defence to attack, he'll generally be close enough to his team mates. When it comes to "isolation", you need to be able to determine whether it is an issue or not. It can be perfectly fine to have a guy 30+ yards up field on his own, because if his task is primarily to link play once the ball is in the final third and occupy defenders up until then, then he's still contributing in that way. It is only an issue if he is intended to be a key early outlet in the system who then brings his team mates into play.

With this formation, I personally would never use an Attack Duty up front, but I'd happily use any Mentality; it depends on how you want to play.

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I find it interesting how you can set the same base formation differently by using different roles and achieve success in more than one way.

I've been working on a 4141 set up that led me to winning back to back titles.

Down the flanks I had CWB S / W A on one side and CWB A / W S on the other. I went for a regista in the DM position, and a pairing of CM A and DLP S in the centre mid positions. I put the CM A on the same side as the W S so that in theory there was room for him to move into. Up front I have a DLF S. I think my striker ended with nearly 40 goals and a ton of assists, the CM A got 20 goals and plenty of assists too. Quite often I found the wingers getting on the end of goal scoring chances too.

I had originally tried all attack duties down the flanks which worked against teams that tried to attack me but stifled space for my players when the other team dropped back and held position.

I also tried a combination of duties in the middle (although the CM A was a constant throughout as I felt with a lone striker I needed someone breaking from deep) and settled on the ones above as they gave me the double pivot type effect I was looking for.

Fantastic thread as ever Cleon!

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burdinho   
Completely agree with this. It's the timing of the runs that can really hurt the opposition as a man arrives later in the move in lots of space, or from another angle that changes the pivot point of your attack. As in my example a few posts up, the right side attacks earlier with the left side following later, meaning the opposition has to deal with two principle waves of attack from either side. It really has been a eureka moment for me in terms of layering attacks.

I'm not sure how helpful this is to others, but I have been thinking in terms of numbering my players by when they arrive to supplement the attack. This could be a little abstract and it does simplify something which is much more dynamic in practice, but it's maybe good for a quick reference when layering your attack. So in my 4-1-2-2-1, it would look like this:

2cnczew.jpg

1 arrives first in the attack, with 8 arriving the latest (if at all in my example).

Thank you - I love this and it's a good way of appreciating the chronology of arrivals into the box

Such an amazing thread, thank you all

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Cleon   
Another amazing thread from Cleon. We are fan of your article :)

Thank you :)

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Kawee   

Is there a striker role that drops deep and move around (roaming) to be heavily involved in the buildup play, but still make aggressive runs when the ball is higher up the pitch? None of the support roles allow "get further forward" PI, and CF (sup) which is probably the most aggressive, forces your striker to also dribble a lot.

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Cleon   
Is there a striker role that drops deep and move around (roaming) to be heavily involved in the buildup play, but still make aggressive runs when the ball is higher up the pitch? None of the support roles allow "get further forward" PI, and CF (sup) which is probably the most aggressive, forces your striker to also dribble a lot.

Treq and F9 are both involved in build up play and can make aggressive runs.

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Great stuff. Even though I have set up my current system, I’ve learned a lot. Especially from incoherent setups posts and Rashid1’s spreadsheet.

Can you give me an insight. If I am to have a player, who is too greedy to be a F9(a role I often use now), but perfectly suits TQ role (ST position), what roles for attackers might fit in a 4-1-2-2-1 formation to make him effective. Now I play IF(A)-F9-RMD and it works perfectly, but have a chance to get a quality TQ, so I’m thinking, should I buy him or not?

Thanks

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This is the most insightful thread I have read in a long time. I have struggled getting my strikers scoring regularly and having good midfield ratings and assists on this version. Even though I have had good success, this thread has made me think a lot more. I'm playing with Arsenal in my 4th season. Even though I have won the league twice, its hasn't really clicked into gear for me. I went to bed scratching my head and read this whilst at work. Instead of 'pushing everyone up' I now try to open and create space to exploit. Moved to a fluid 4-1-4-1 with my striker on CS and my AWM fill the space he creates. Everyone is scoring and playing well. It feels a lot more organic rather than forced and going to be caught on the break. I feel hopeful of reeling in the now 6 point gap after winning 8 games on the bounce.

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Cleon   
Great stuff. Even though I have set up my current system, I’ve learned a lot. Especially from incoherent setups posts and Rashid1’s spreadsheet.

Can you give me an insight. If I am to have a player, who is too greedy to be a F9(a role I often use now), but perfectly suits TQ role (ST position), what roles for attackers might fit in a 4-1-2-2-1 formation to make him effective. Now I play IF(A)-F9-RMD and it works perfectly, but have a chance to get a quality TQ, so I’m thinking, should I buy him or not?

Thanks

This is far too broad of a question really and impossible to give you an answer. Although if something works perfectly why change? You shouldn't change things for the sake of it imo.

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Great stuff. Even though I have set up my current system, I’ve learned a lot. Especially from incoherent setups posts and Rashid1’s spreadsheet.

Can you give me an insight. If I am to have a player, who is too greedy to be a F9(a role I often use now), but perfectly suits TQ role (ST position), what roles for attackers might fit in a 4-1-2-2-1 formation to make him effective. Now I play IF(A)-F9-RMD and it works perfectly, but have a chance to get a quality TQ, so I’m thinking, should I buy him or not?

Thanks

I think the easy answer here is, don't sign him. There is little point in signing a player who doesn't fit in with what you want to do. I don't get why a player who is too greedy to be a F9 is going to be a perfect TQ.

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the SLC   

this is a great thread. not being good at creating tactics due to not really understand what i am reading i thought this was a great thread. easier to understand.

make space = goals scored, right!

with this in mind i decided on this tactic. i am in season 4 so it probably is easier to create a tactic due to players at my disposal but this attempt was not really about high scoring games staying undefeated. it is simply to get my strikers to score.

i opted for this formation as i quite like it

1HxuhIH.jpg

the idea is BPD push forward with forward passes for quick transition. i have the tries long passes ppm training at the moment(thanks cleon!!)

the DLP roams looking for the pass. the CMa pushes forward to help with the attacking phase. the BBM does a bit of both. the wingers just run up and

down the flanks to supply crosses all game. The two strikers constantly on the move creating space for each other and the oncoming midfielders.

im hoping these team instructions help with the idea?

7xEHpoo.png

have only used this for 4 games. winning all 4 and scoring a total of 17 goals. with 12 goals coming from the 2 forwards so in some respects it is working

Im wondering what you guys think of it? some advice good and bad would be great as this thread is fab and would like to contribute somehow

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the SLC   

i stuck with it. a few changes made. DLF to CFs removed the push higher up shout.

played 13 games

won 12

drew 1

scored 48

conceded 10

contribution from strikers 33

i have to say i am really enjoying this tactic

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smajliss   

I was manager of Southampton since 2016/2017 to 2018/2019. You can see that Lukaku scored only 15 goals in first season, 13 goals in second season, but 40 goals in third season. All I need to do is change everything :-) ...

08608445A7F04031CD3CECAC55220B4B20BC4AA9

In first and second season I used this tactic .. He was very cut off from midfield and did not have enough crosses .. there are only 2 players which provides him crosses (full backs)

3404AE87698796721E05AB5D1DD8C0475DE29A78

In third season I used this tactic (I won Premier league in this season) .. There are 4 players which provides him crosses (full backs and wingers)

B7904A762886AC4367E1F073FE592AD525AB1D49

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Jyuan83   

First off, great article! Really loved the detailed explanation behind creating a goal-scorer. The examples used were that of a striker role but what if i want my inside forward to score the most goals in the team, would the same principles still apply? I am asking this as i am struggling to get them score more than 6 goals a season. I am guessing that since they are not in an advantageous position as a striker, scoring goals might be an issue and therefore much more support than usual might be needed to get them up to 20 goals a season? So between an inside forward and a raumdeuter, which role would be more sensible in using to achieve better goal-scoring performances assuming they both get the same kind of support?

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Cleon   
First off, great article! Really loved the detailed explanation behind creating a goal-scorer. The examples used were that of a striker role but what if i want my inside forward to score the most goals in the team, would the same principles still apply? I am asking this as i am struggling to get them score more than 6 goals a season. I am guessing that since they are not in an advantageous position as a striker, scoring goals might be an issue and therefore much more support than usual might be needed to get them up to 20 goals a season? So between an inside forward and a raumdeuter, which role would be more sensible in using to achieve better goal-scoring performances assuming they both get the same kind of support?

It might be a different position but all of the above is still applicable and what you need to do, to ensure you get goals. It's probably even more important to create space though for players who play wide when you want them to be the main scorers. That's the only real major difference. My raumdeuter scores around 30-40 goals a season because the tactic is built around him and allows him to score goals. There is no best role between inside forward and raumdeuter, it all depends on how you've set up and both are equally able to score high amounts of goals.

Like I've tried to make out throughout the entire thread, the role someone is isn't that important as anyone can and will score goals. What's important is how you build your tactic and how you channel that play to the people you want to be the main goalscorers. This is the most vital aspect of any tactic. Figure that out and anyone will score.

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this

Off topic, but it's surprising that you use Will Hughes as a B2B. How does he get on?

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Cleon, is there anywhere that all of your postings/articles are collated together? Always an enjoyable read.

I'm currently trying to get a 4-2-3-1 to work with my Blackburn side in 2019. I had an idea in mind, which I'm finding hard to implement (in terms of it playing how it does in my mind).

My main strengths are my wingers, who although less effective as inside forwards are playing that role within my system. They are both quick, one is good on the ball, the other not quite so technical. I'm going the route of my striker coming deep, the IF's advancing on and having them played in - with the treq looking for space and opening gaps and the wing backs providing width.

Set up is

gk (d)

cwb (s)

cd (d)

cd (d)

cwb (s)

dlp (d)

cm (s)

Treq (a)

IF (a)

IF (a)

Dlf (s)

Flexible/Counter

TI's

retain possession/shorter passing/push higher/lower tempo

Keeper distributing to centre backs, who are both have decent passing and composure. Had been playing with attacking Cwbs but found they were never used as passing options and were often caught too high up the field. Trying them on support to see how this effects things, or would I be better putting them on FB (a) so they offer overlaps but don't play so wide?

I see the front 4 as the main source of goals, with the dlp and cm offering an 'out' ball and staying deepee. I have real problems with the IF's offering no threat and constantly running in to blind alleys and being outnumbered. The treq also sometimes comes extremely deep and too close to the cm...

As ever, any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Cleon   

All my posts can be found on my blog www.sisportscentre.com

I don't really like the front 4 in your system there is no variety at all. In fact, you have 4 players all looking to occupy a similar type of space to each other. The two IF's and DLF would be better suited if there was no AMC because as it stands you have the DLF dropping into the same space the AMC is in and have two IF's trying to use the same space. I know the treq will drop deep but when you're in possession they are all still fighting for the same kind of space.

If the Treq drops too deep for you then why not change his role? What do you actually want from the AMC, what is his job? Remember though that you also need to factor in the striker because if it's a playmaking type of player you want in the AMC slot, then do you really want a playmaking forward?

You see the front 4 as the main source of goals and that's fine. But how do you see them scoring those goals? and were do these chances come from? In other words, how are the front 4 interacting with each other exactly?

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All my posts can be found on my blog www.sisportscentre.com

I don't really like the front 4 in your system there is no variety at all. In fact, you have 4 players all looking to occupy a similar type of space to each other. The two IF's and DLF would be better suited if there was no AMC because as it stands you have the DLF dropping into the same space the AMC is in and have two IF's trying to use the same space. I know the treq will drop deep but when you're in possession they are all still fighting for the same kind of space.

If the Treq drops too deep for you then why not change his role? What do you actually want from the AMC, what is his job? Remember though that you also need to factor in the striker because if it's a playmaking type of player you want in the AMC slot, then do you really want a playmaking forward?

You see the front 4 as the main source of goals and that's fine. But how do you see them scoring those goals? and were do these chances come from? In other words, how are the front 4 interacting with each other exactly?

Thank you.

I suppose what I ideally want is the two IF's to be the major goal threat, with the deep forward dropping off to play them in and create space. My other thought was to have the amc as a shadow striker, to create interplay between him and the striker. I thought this may muddy the waters too much, with the ss and if's all occupying the same area. Same reason as I didn't use an advanced fwd as I didn't want the front 3 all clumped together in the box. In theory, I wanted the trequartista roaming around looking for space but as you say there is too much similarity with the dlf and they step on each other's toes (seems pointless having two players with the same job, supplying the IF's, and it didn't offer the interaction with the striker thay I wanted). Perhaps then I should remove the treq and replace him with a SS or AM (a), to create interplay with the striker and use one IF as a raumdeuter to sniff out the space, relying on the DLF as the main creative influence in that front 4.

I suppose I shied away from a raumdeuter as none of my wide men seem suited for it...I have had making two IF's work seem very difficult though. Tried one IF and one winger, the winger got a couple of goals but just wasn't what I wanted in my tactic.

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Great thread - brilliant work put into this.

In terms of goalscoring - is anyone else struggling with breaking down the dreaded 3-3-2-1-1 formation ALOT of teams in this years edition is defaulting to? At this point (season 6, 19/20, Premier League), I face this horrible abomination of a set-up around 10-12 games a year. And every time it's the same. I DEMOLISH them in quality, pegging them back into their onwn third. Spend 70 minutes pounding their wall, before they score a fluke from a set-piece or a blunder at the back. Half of the times, I'm not even able to create anything worth mentioning against this set-up.

Any tips on getting my striker and/or widemen (inside forwards) to actually produce against this sort of idiocy?

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