FM17’s First Effective Corner Routine

With the release of the FM17 Beta comes the mad dash for the first corner exploit, the scramble to create a good set piece setup and by God, I think I have found one. Before I shall elaborate on how they work (and offering those much-sought-after download links), I shall show you the routine in action.

The observant managers among you (and loyal readers of this blog) will recognize this setup as being one I originally promoted for FM16. That would be factually correct. In fact, all I did in this Beta was import my old FM16 set piece routines to see which ones were still effective. It turns out, this particular one is still quite effective.

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Dear FM16; Kindly Fuck Off

Dear FM16,
It’s been grand. We’ve had a great time together, but I feel the time has come for me to move on. I’m not going to give you the tired old cliché of “it’s not you, it’s me”, because let’s face it, this is totally on you.
I have forgiven you almost all your previous indiscretions, I have looked past your flaws, but I am just done. I could deal with the fact that my defenders turn into vampires the moment a cross-ball comes near into the penalty area. I could handle the numerous patches and subsequent re-tweaking of my tactics.
You see, dear FM16, all this time, I had a mission. I wanted to be the first manager to ever have a stadium erected in his honor on every continent. And you know what, dear FM16? It’s been one hell of a ride.
From the humble beginnings in the Netherlands, taking lowly old Fortuna Sittard straight to the top, winning each and every trophy I could, to the nearly three decades of relentless grinding in South America with Argentine-based Temperley FC.
We hit a rough patch in our relationship when you screwed me out of a stadium in my honor in Mexico, with Querétaro. That hurt, but I was willing to give you yet another chance.
Our time in Africa, Asia and Oceania was great. Maluti FET, Jeonbuk Hyundai and Perth Glory were all great clubs and we created memories that will last a lifetime.
You even game me son. I have never been more proud. My own son, who turned out to be a god as well and stayed with me for nearly three decades in the game.
But I have to ask, you bitch of a game, why did you decide to screw me again when I was so close to completing my mission? Again, things go sour when we go to Mexico. Again, you screw me out of a stadium name that should belong to me, the one and only club legend of Coyotes Tlaxcala.
Is it because I was looking at other games? I’ve always been a fan of Assassin’s Creed and I never hid that from you… Were you afraid I was going to leave you for a younger version of yourself? Babe, if you would’ve let me have this final stadium, this save-game would have lasted forever. I would have kept playing it, even as FM17 was out.
You broke my heart, FM16. You cold, heartless, manipulating bitch… I was so close to achieving this nigh-impossible goal, but with the finish-line in sight, you decide to trip me up and screw me over. This is one final indiscretion I can never forgive, one slip-up I will not forget.
Thanks for all the good times, but we’re through. I am moving on to FM17. I will always have feelings for you, but right now, I really and sincerely hate your guts.
Yours sincerely,

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Danny’s Attacking 4-4-2 Experiment (A Follow-Up to my Definitive 4-4-2)

Scoring late in a game, whilst a tense circumstance for the fans, is usually a blessing, as it puts all the onus on the opposition to try to equal the feat, or else risk leaving empty-handed. With that in mind, I’m sorry I’m a bit late with this post, but I’m sure many of you can understand work getting in the way of your addiction to Football Manager. I’m actually trying to save up to fund some entry-level coaching courses for myself, so in a funny way, it’s all for you guys. Unless I get your team relegated in the future, in which case, sorry for that too.

I received a lot of positive feedback on my previous post, the Definitive 4-4-2, and I was already planning a follow-up where I would attempt to tighten up the defensive aspect of the tactic, as I wasn’t happy with the high number of goals being conceded from crosses into the box. However, a few of you lovely readers surprised me with inquires about more attacking options, specifically with a mind to overcoming weaker teams who would line up defensively. Though I usually focus my efforts on building up those weaker teams, I can understand as well as anyone the frustration of dropping two points you should have had wrapped up with a bow on top. So over the past few weeks, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into adapting my 4-4-2 into a more attacking style of football.


The easiest way to test a tactic against weaker teams was to pick a strong team, so the question was – “who are the most dominant domestic teams in European football right now?”

I’ve always been a fan of Italian football, and I have an affinity with many of the clubs in the Serie A, including the mighty Giants of Turin, Juventus. Put it this way, I like them enough to have spent what I would consider “too much money” on their pink alternative kit from the 2010/11 season. They are also the current home of my favourite player in world football, Hernanes.

There was the added draw-card of the Italian defensive-bias stereotype. Taking on the staunch and experienced Serie A backlines would be a mighty challenge indeed for the attacking 4-4-2 I wanted to create.

Before we get our grubby little manager-mitts hooked into the tactical discussion, I want to stress that this strategy is based specifically on my Definitive 4-4-2. It is designed to be used alongside the original tactic, using the same players. Therefore, I thought it was prudent to give myself a set of criteria to meet when creating this tactic, and I’d like to share those with you now.

 – Maximum of two positional changes
 – Must play a more assertive style of football
 – Be able to break down smaller teams playing defensively
 – Must retain at least one of the key positions outlined in the previous post (B2B Playmaker, Defensive Poacher, Wide Playmaker)
 – High work rate and cohesion as a unit should still be important
 – Players who play new roles must be able to play the role of that position in the Definitive 4-4-2. Ex: The left midfielder should be able to play the new role of Winger, and the old role of Wide Midfielder

I wanted to create these guidelines for myself for the people who have already started using the previous tactic, and have made signings around that strategy. Because of these restrictions, you should have even more room to tinker and experiment yourselves. As this is a sort of pseudo-challenge save, I’ll be talking a bit more about squad building in this post than in the previous one, and will endeavor to give you some of my thoughts on the sorts of things you should be looking when looking at players for these positions. This is also my third attempt at this challenge, so no, I didn’t get it even remotely working well on my first try😉

Voila! My Attacking 4-4-2!

Ignoring the unfortunate injuries to Hernanes (henceforth referred to in this post as “King ‘Nanes”) and Paulo Dybala picked up in the last game and Bonucci not being registered for Champion’s League matches, here is what I would consider my starting eleven for the home/away season.

At first glance, the asymmetrical formation above doesn’t bear the greatest resemblance to the previous 4-4-2, which had three flat, defined lines of players. But as we all know, formation isn’t everything, and in practicality this shape is incredibly reminiscent of the previous structure. I chose to use both of my positional changes, moving the Wide Playmaker further up the right-hand flank, and converting him to a Raumdeuter. The Deep-Lying forward has moved back into left attacking-midfield and become a shadow striker, whilst the Defensive Poacher has moved into the central striker position, so you can accuse me of bending my own rules slightly if you want. The Box to Box Playmaker and Central Midfielder have also changed sides, the reason for which is quite obvious – you can see that the space we want the B2B Playmaker to exploit is going to be created between the Shadow Striker and the Raumdeuter.

Other than that, the roles of the full backs have changed slightly, to encourage overlapping on the left and more endeavor on the right. The Wide Midfielder has become a winger with an attack duty, giving us a more available option on the left when going forward, and Chiellini has been given a Stopper duty, as I noticed when opposition teams were advancing towards our penalty area during pre-season, they were having far too much space and freedom in the hole between my midfield and defence.

The instructions have changed to reflect a more free-flowing and attacking style of football, whilst retaining the high line and the aggressive closing down of the ball-carrier.

As you can see, the team instructions have had a reasonable overhaul as well, switching to an Attacking mentality and a Flexible team shape, to make sure we’re looking to have more of an influence in the final third, so asserting our influence on the match gets a huge tick on the criteria sheet.

We’ve also shortened the passing directness a peg, and we’ve maxed the tempo. This is because our forward line is focused more on creating space for each other, and we want to overwhelm and break down the opposition’s back line by combining high-tempo play and intelligent off the ball movement to constantly shift the point of the attack. However, the tempo is the first thing I change if I feel we’re over-passing the ball. Depending on how an opposing defence is structured and how well they’re playing on the day, going to a “normal” tempo and giving your players more time off the ball to create space can make a huge difference to your chance creation. At a big club, odds are you have players who are intelligent enough to shift the tempo at the right moment, and “normal” tempo encourages them to do this.

You can see a few hold-overs remain from the Definitive 4-4-2, including the aggressive closing down of the opposition, and the higher line. I’ve also decided to use an offside trap to help snuff out counters from quick forwards – my center backs position themselves just inside our own half while the full backs like to sit a few meters further forward, so the central partnership is in a perfect position to push beyond the half way line and play a lurking forward offside should a long ball come flying over our defenders’ heads, and I can trust our vice-captain Chiellini to be smart enough to lead the line to do this.

The team’s shape directly after kick-off.


An example of the team’s shape as we shift into the attacking phase of play.

In the first image above, which takes place just after Hellas Verona’s kick-off, you can see that the team (white on black dots) goes to a shape that is almost identical to the one they take up in the flat 4-4-2. In the second image, however, we’ve just transitioned into the attacking phase of play, and you can see that the shape is far more dynamic. You can see the Central Midfielder holding his position just ahead of the defensive line, moving into the space behind Hernanes, the B2B playmaker, as he supports the attack from a paddock of space he’s found just beyond the center circle.

Pereyra, playing as the Shadow Striker, has picked up possession and has players moving forward to his right, space to move into on his left, and two sound passing options behind him in Hernanes and Sturaro. He could just as easily look to create an overload on Verona’s right center back by playing a one-two with Morata as he could look to play a through ball into the channel, or lay the ball off for Hernanes to hit from range. This attacking dynamism is an evolution of the Counter-Pressing approach found in my original 4-4-2. The versatility, hard work and intelligent play is still there, but now we’ve added a degree of fluidity and flair to give us more options when creating chances, so cohesion and work-rate get a tick, as does the ability to break down opposing defences.

Now, you guys know I love to talk about my key players, and since it’s the only criteria left, I think we should get right into it. Cue screenshots of things only FM players would understand.

He clearly can’t train, but boy, can he play!

As a player, Dybala doesn’t meet the final criteria – he cannot, without retraining, play as a Wide Playmaker. However, this tactical change was made with Andrija Zivkovic in mind, who can play Raumdeuter just as well as he can play Wide Playmaker. Dybala is simply the best option for this position when I use this formation, however, when I play the flat        4-4-2, I use him as the Defensive Poacher, and Zivkovic or Cuadrado play as the Wide Playmaker. If you are at a big club and can get your hands on Dybala, I can’t recommend him enough, as he can play a number of roles across the two respective tactics.

The young Argentine is operating in much the same way as the Wide Playmaker would in the Definitive 4-4-2. When we run a play through him, he creates in an almost identical fashion, but when he isn’t on the ball, he’s now looking to get into the area, substituting the need for him to play from the right side of midfield for the freedom to act as a third striker. He still uses his movement to find and create space, and he’s still capable of driving in from the right wing and finding a killer pass, but now he also looks to have a telling impact in the box. He is less of an outlet outside the area, but this space is now occupied by the B2B Playmaker, who has Dybala to thank for every inch of space he finds.

King ‘Nanes as the B2B Playmaker

Speaking of the Box to Box Playmaker (tick off “at least one of the key positions must remain” criteria), King ‘Nanes has added his own flourish to the role, bringing something that Lewis Cook didn’t – a vicious long-range shot. As you can see, the individual instructions remain the same (although he has a little more license to pass long), but the player’s attributes are skewed more toward attacking.

At smaller clubs, Abdou Diakhate has been a reliable goalscorer for me from the B2B role, thanks to his reliable finishing and his physical attributes giving him the legs to overlap the forwards and get one-on-one with the keeper. Hernanes has a similar impact on the scoreboard, but it is thanks to his stunning technique and ambidexterity. The term “Box to Box Trequartista” wouldn’t be an inappropriate one, as he is a constant goalscoring threat from inside the hole. The ability to move forward with the ball still remains, though this time, his dribbling is based more on technique than speed, and he does have the anticipation to contribute defensively. Whilst he isn’t prolific, he’s more than capable of winning the ball back for himself. In short, he performs the role of an Advanced Playmaker or Trequartista, whilst not giving me any reason not to ask him to do a job at the back as well.

A B2B Playmaker more in the vein of what I outlined in my last post would certainly be just as effective, and before I sold him on, Paul Pogba was very capable in this role. In fact, for the record, I still prefer the more defensive run-and-carry playmaker. However, I’d rather be able to show you one of my favourite real-life players and talk about a different way to use the position than just say “put the same player here again cause he’s still good.” And let’s be honest, when you’re at a big club, you want to give a little bit of lee-way to that player who can hit an absolute screamer from 30 yards.It’s one more tool in our attacking arsenal.

Alvaro Morata as the Defensive Poacher

I’d like to finish on the changes to the Defensive Poacher. At first glance, Morata is the perfect player for this role. He has the pace, the work rate and the finishing that I look for, and he either has or can easily learn the PPMs required to encourage him to get in behind the defensive line and use his pace to his advantage. With Pereyra in shadow striker behind him, the strike partnership is almost identical to the Definitive 4-4-2’s Deep-Lying Forward/Defensive Poacher strikeforce. However, in this save with Juventus, I’m also lucky enough to have a talented striker by the name of Mario Mandzukic.

Mario Mandzukic as a Defensive Target Man

I believe I may have mentioned this in my previous post, but this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to put my idea of a Defensive Target Man into action. As you can clearly see, both Morata and Mandzukic have the requisite mental attributes to fulfill the “defensive” part of the quota – and Morata himself is certainly a threat in the air. They both close down opposition defenders and force a long ball when we’ve lost possession. However, as strikers their style of play is completely different. The key to this difference is that whilst Morata comes packaged with the “Knocks Ball Past Opponent” Player Preferred Move, Mandzukic has the “Plays With Back To Goal” PPM. Experienced FM players will know that, with the right tactics, one player with one PPM can completely change how a team plays.

When Mandzukic is on the park, it’s no use expecting him to drop the shoulder and beat the last defender to go one-on-one with the keeper. He just isn’t that kind of player. So rather than try to ship him out, I decided to make the most of the talent I had available. Mandzukic clearly has the potential to be an assist machine in this system, as the amount of movement we have going on behind him means he’ll always have a player overlapping him as he holds up the ball, and a player in the hole to pass to. Pereyra and Dybala become fantastic outlets for him on the overlap, whilst Hernanes can get on the end of a lay-off and smash the ball toward goal. His skill at playing as a central pivot can also give you the flexibility to change around the positions – Morata can play as a shadow striker, more focused on getting goals than creating them. Pereyra can play as a Box to Box Playmaker, looking to pick the ball up in deeper areas and use his pace and dribbling to drive at defenders. Alex Sandro can switch up his crossing, floating balls into the area for Mandzukic to get his head on.

The point here is not to tell you that you should have lots of different options – at a lot of clubs you’ll be restricted in the amount of quality transfers you can make, or the players you have that can fit into this system. Rather, it is to remind you to look closely at the talent you do have at your disposal, and think about how you can get the most out of it. This is something I’ve been guilty of many times this year, and it’s something I’m trying to change in the way I play the game, and moving forward as I look to get into real-life coaching and management.

Here’s a screenshot of the tactic without distracting injured players in there, or to imagine your own players in there😉



So. That’s it! You can stop reading now! Unless you want to hear about some future pieces of mine? You do? Okay!

As I mentioned a few times in the main body of the post, coaching is something I want to try out, and figuring out how to articulate my ideas first into a simulation, and then into words so I can explain them to other people, is a huge part of that process for me. I also hold myself to very high standards when I write, and frankly, I’m out of practice, so sitting down to create more pieces is practically a given.

I already have three projects I want to do when FM17 hits, so on top of giving me some feedback and letting me know how you got along with this tactic, if there’s a particular one you’d like me to work on first, feel free to mention it in the comments.

The two clubs I support in the ol’ real world of football are Newcastle United and Melbourne Victory. Well, I guess you could count the Socceroos in that. Both of my domestic teams have had tactics that they’ve stuck with for a decent while now, and I’d like to try both in FM17 and see what makes them tick.

Newcastle begun playing a 4-4-1-1 under the awful Steve McClaren, and despite him getting the club relegated, Rafa Benitez, blessed be his name, has stuck with the same shape, despite many pundits suggesting he’d experiment. I’d like to try and replicate this tactic and see if we can figure out why the 4-4-1-1 was such a failure under one manager, and is (currently) a modest success under another. On top of this, I’d like to see what some other viable tactics could be once I get my hands on Rafa’s Newcastle United.

Similarly, Kevin Muscat at Victory inherited a side from Ange Postecoglu that was built around the 4-2-3-1. Muscat won the League and Grand Final double in his first season at the club, and the team followed it up with a disappointingly low finish last season, using the same system. There have been calls from many fans for a fresh tactical approach, but Muscat has just recently kicked off this season’s A-League campaign with the same team shape and mentality. I’d like to find out what makes the Victory’s 4-2-3-1 tick, and see how it compares to similar systems in Europe. I’m hoping it will be an interesting look for some of you into Australian football at the same time.

Finally, I want to see if I can translate my favourite tactic from the last few FIFA titles into FM – The Triforce. A flat back 4 with an inverted triangle attack, a center mid at the point with a fast and fluid front-five.

Thanks for reading, and remember, you can find the links to this tactic below!

Steam Workshop:


Danny’s Definitive 4-4-2 (A.K.A. My Magnum Opus Ain’t Perfect)

Ah, the 4-4-2. Title winner. The bane of the naive manager. The bread and butter of every Dad who has ever put his hand up to manage his son’s under-12s side, and suddenly found himself out of his depth. One might describe it as the herald of the modern age of football. The old-school love it, the hipsters love it, and thanks to sides like Leicester City and Atletico Madrid, it’s picking up a brand new following among the future managers of tomorrow.

For me, it’s a formation that I’ve worked on perfecting throughout the course of FM16, and now I’d like to present it to you, fellow managers, as my send-off to this season’s title. As fine a representative of my year of successful saves, my heart breaks and my many frustrated “Ctrl+Alt+Delete > End Process” cycles as I can think of.

The 4-4-2 at Leeds United in the first season. New signings are Dunne and Zivkovic.

This image shows the first successful version of my tactic. It was from this point that I have to admit, I overdeveloped the strategy, making more and more tweaks for different teams and different players when I already had a solid system that I was working from. I mention this as something to bear in mind, as the point of this post is not to give you a world-beating strategy, but to share the insights I’ve gained from what I’ve done right and what I’ve done wrong with this tactic to encourage all of you to be adaptive, to be versatile, and to be innovative. No manager, whether in the real or virtual world, gets it right every time. The important thing is having the ability to self-actualize and reflect to make you and those around you better.

Obviously, the strategy takes a lot of cues from Leicester City’s title-winning 4-4-2 shape. This tactic was largely developed whilst watching them play week-in, week-out. I noticed a lot of tactics popping up on the Steam workshop claiming to be “Leicester 4-4-2” tactics, and I remember always thinking “you just haven’t got this right at all.” So this strategy stemmed from my own attempts to re-create the exact 4-4-2 Ranieri’s Leicester used to win the title, and a lot of those influences remain in this current iteration.

The team instructions from the “base” iteration of the tactic.

The key to this strategy is hard work to achieve an overall team performance. The main thing I want to accomplish when I use this tactic, aside from getting three points of course, is to have my players work for each other, and thus get the best out of my “average” players. Strong mental attributes, especially Work Rate, go a huge way towards making this tactic tick over and produce results. As you can see from the image above, we’re looking to constantly be pressuring our opponents, from the defensive forward always unsettling the opposing defenders, to our back line pushing high up the pitch and constricting the space that opposing teams have to play in. I expect almost every player on the pitch to pull his weight and work hard, and maintain his concentration.

But I know you’ve had enough of me prattling on about the principles of the 4-4-2 already. After all, you’ve won the Premier League with Accrington Stanley. You know how the most basic formation in football works. What you really want are some juicy hybrid roles you can try out in your own formations. What you want are key positions.

Well look no further my Striker-disinclined brethren. Lets get into the breakdown.

1: The Box to Box Playmaker

Your B2B Midfielder is usually the player who is the engine of your side, and that remains true in this shape. When you think about a box to box midfielder, you think about strong and assertive defending, intelligent breaking up of opposition moves, and somehow having the pace and stamina to end up with the ball in the opponent’s box less than a minute later.

What I’ve attempted to do is make my Box to Box Midfielder one of the main playmakers in the side, filling that gap between him winning the ball in defence and him turning up in the 18-yard box. This is one of the biggest hold-overs from Leicester City’s shape and structure. Think of the way Kante would make a tackle or interception, and when he didn’t have Drinkwater immediately next to him to lay the ball off to, he’d simply start running forward with it, driving through the heart of midfield with speed and control to kick start a counter attack.

In a way, it’s a different type of direct football. If you told me I could move the ball 60 yards up the pitch and gave me the choice of having it passed from the foot of a defensive midfielder, or having it carried there under the control of one of my players, I know which option I’d choose.

An out-and-out box to box player generally isn’t all that common in a two-man midfield partnership. This is because you generally leave yourself short in the center of the park compared to your opposition, and you want to make sure you have your numbers in that area available when necessary. This is also why it’s important in a 4-4-2 that your forwards are willing to drop back and link play between the midfield and the attack. What we want from our B2B Mid is to use his work rate and his stamina, as well as his reading of the game, to become an advanced playmaker when we are on the attack. Essentially we want to achieve two midfield roles for the price of one. The Box to Box Midfielder needs to perform his defensive duties, then drive through midfield with it himself into an advanced position, unsettling the opposition with his direct play, and instantly adding another body to the attacking effort. In short, he needs to be a very strong physical and mental player, with good technical attributes in tackling and dribbling to boot.

Part of the reason I decided to use Leeds to display this tactic is because I wanted young Lewis Cook to make this role his own. You can see he has the perfect starting point for this style of play.

The way we want to achieve this is by giving the player individual instructions and preferred moves that reflect this style of running. Get Further Forward and Dribble More are the most important instructions, and Runs With Ball Through Center and Runs With Ball Often are must-have preferred moves. I’ve also found that Tries To Play Way Out Of Trouble encourages the player to take on a forward run from deep more often, and is very helpful to have on a gifted technical dribbler, however I wouldn’t hurt yourself trying to get it tutored onto a player.

Ideally, you should be looking for this player to run with the ball, and end up assisting the attack from inside the hole. It’s easy to overlook the Decisions attribute with this player, but it is extremely important, to help him execute his preferred moves at the opportune moment. When he performs well, he forms a solid partnership with both the CM (Def) further back, and the Wide Playmaker in the final third. If he has strong finishing, The Gets Further Forward PPM will encourage him to become a goalscorer too, making runs beyond the Deep Lying Forward to get on the end of through balls. Depending on the player you use to fill this role, you can use preferred moves like Arrives Late In Opponent’s Area very effectively to add completely new dimensions to this player’s game.

Honestly, I’ve never had as much fun molding players for any position as I have this one.

2: The Wide Playmaker

While the Wide Playmaker isn’t as versatile as the Box to Box Playmaker, he nonetheless occupies a seldom-used role that is worth analyzing. Especially since he racks up a ridiculously obscene match-rating in almost every match, provided he has the right attributes for the position.

The astute among you will have noticed that I signed the young Andrija Zivkovic from Partizan Belgrade in my Leeds save, even though I was clearly trying to show the 4-4-2 with as standard a starting team as possible. Leeds United aren’t gifted with much transfer money at the start of the game, so I’m sure it seems like a strange decision to splash the only cash I had on one 18 year old. The best explanation I can give you is that those millions of Pounds/Euros/Dollarydoos reflect how highly I value this position.

Andrija Zivkovic is like a discount Martin Odegaard and he fits this position almost perfectly.

Veterans of the Strikerless blog will no doubt remember the “Central Winger” hybrid role. If you imagine the inverse of that, then you have a good idea of what the Wide Playmaker is all about, except that it’s a little more conventional given that it actually, you know, already exists as a role in the game.

Rather than use their pace and speed in the middle of the park to run at the defence and surprise the fullbacks by coming wide from inside, the Wide Playmaker looks to use their passing, vision and technical ability to create by cutting into free space in the middle of the park from wide positions on the pitch. Whilst experienced defenders will be used to this in the modern game, the idea is that he initiates his moves from deeper positions than an inside forward does, usually from the space on the wing between the opposing winger and full back. Either running diagonally with the ball into the center of the pitch to catch the opposition off-guard, or drifting narrow without position to lose his marker and influence the attack as an attacking midfielder, this player is entirely occupied with causing problems for your opponent.

Zivkovic Receives.png
Andrija receives the ball wide and looks to take on the opponent directly inside of him.
Zivkovic passes.png
Here you can see Andrija has beaten two opponents to get the ball into a central area before playing a pass.

In our 4-4-2, our Wide Playmaker is the only player given complete freedom from the structure – even the Box to Box Playmaker is expected to maintain his position within the team shape when we’re defending. It is important to have a talented full-back in behind him, as he does leave a lot of space on the right side, and the Central Midfielder (Def) also picks up a lot of the defensive onus in return for the freedom that the Wide Playmaker enjoys. If you find that your opponent is exploiting this space, don’t hesitate to make changes. Changing the Central Midfielder to a Ball Winning Midfielder or even a Box to Box Midfielder can help to break down these left-sided threats.

It can be difficult to find suitable players for this position as it isn’t widely used, but if you scout Riyad Mahrez you’ll develop a pretty good idea of the sort of player you should be looking for. Personally, I look for Flair and Dribbling as much as I look for Passing and Vision, as I like my player to have the capacity to take on defenders as well as just finding the right through ball. Acceleration and Decisions are thus also quite desirable.

Tries Killer Balls is a PPM you should pick up as soon as possible, as well as Cuts Inside From Right Wing. Having a left-footed player is preferable, however I’ve done just as well with right-footed players in this position. In any case, it always benefits playmakers to be good with both feet, so I wouldn’t agonize too much over which foot is the player’s strongest.

3: The Defensive Poacher

The Defensive Poacher is the second hybrid role in the team. This player is your Jamie Vardy. Fast, hard working, clinical and clever, the Defensive Poacher uses preferred moves to amplify his goalscoring ability over that of a regular defensive forward.

The game suggests that the Defensive Forward role is mostly a creative one, which we know from players like Vardy and Deeney is not necessarily true. The essence of the Defensive Forward is that when off the ball, rather than walk back with the defensive line and prepare himself for the next break, he uses his pace to close down the opposing defenders and midfielders and give them less time on the ball to think, looking to force a mistake or a long ball forward that his own defenders can mop up, giving possession back to his team, or at least disrupting the opposition’s attacking tempo. This kind of hard work from your forwards is absolutely vital in a 4-4-2 formation.

Where the “poacher” part of this role comes in, however, is how the player is expected to operate once he has performed that closing down duty. Once the opposition have moved possession forward from their backline, Troy Deeney often begins to operate as a Target Man or a Deep Lying Forward, using his strength and size to his advantage. A-League fans will be aware of Melbourne Victory player Besart Berisha, who does similar, using his intelligent positioning and awareness of the game to compensate for his lack of pace, almost like a Trequartista, but still having the engine to close down on opposition defenders for 90 minutes.

Souleyman Doukara has a great starting point to become either a Defensive Target Man or a Defensive Poacher, but he still has a lot of work ahead of him!

Jamie Vardy, on the other hand, acts more like a traditional Poacher, operating on the shoulder of the last man and using his extreme pace to get on the end of through balls and long passes from the backline. In our 4-4-2, this is the kind of play we want to emulate. Again, a physically and mentally gifted player is what you’re looking for in this role. On the technical side, you want a lethal finish, but you can get away with not much else. You can completely ignore the game suggesting that tackling is an important attribute for this player. Work Rate, Stamina, Acceleration and Pace are your four crucial attributes, but high Determination, Aggression and Anticipation are also very important. On top of this, any attributes you’d usually want in a poacher, like Balance and Composure, are also desirable traits.

What you really need to make this player shine, however, are the right PPMs.

Likes To Try To Beat Offside Trap, Moves Into Channels and Knocks Ball Past Opponent are unequivocally the most important for the Defensive Poacher, as well as your choice of finishing PPMs. Shoots With Power or Places Shots coupled with Tries First Time Shots will turn your Defensive Poacher into a truly clinical forward. Likes To Round Keeper or Likes To Chip Keeper are also good PPMs to pick up early, as your striker’s pace and tenacity to get behind the line will see him in a lot of one-on-ones with the opposition goalie. Pick whichever is best for your player based on whether he has good Dribbling and Flair.

Doukara Pounces.png
Here you can see Doukara has beaten the offside trap and is in on goal, without even having any of the PPMs! We can expect a lot more of this sort of play with the right training.

Experimenting with the Defensive Forward has been a lot of fun for me this year, and it’s probably the role that I would consider as giving you the best base for creating a hybrid player. Provided you have a striker who fills the requirement for a Defensive Forward, with the right preferred moves you can very easily mix in other positions he’s proficient in to make a truly potent forward.

Closing Thoughts

Well, there you have it. Another year of Football Manager, and I’ve finally written about one of my tactics. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing some of my thoughts on my own work (hey, all the successful managers have big egos!) They didn’t get much coverage in this piece, but I will say that a strong defensive backbone is really crucial in this side. I’ve found that the tactic does leak a few more goals on average than the likes of Atletico Madrid do. But I haven’t spent a year making a perfect tactic – I’ve spent a year creating something that I can be proud of sharing with you guys (aww), creating something that I can use to initiate discussion and exchange ideas with other like-minded people. So hit me up with what you think about my tactic, let me know how you’ve adapted it. If you’ve managed to get a False-9 to work better than a Deep Lying Forward then let me know, because that change cost me a European competition when I was managing in Germany. And if you can figure out a more sound defensive approach then I’d be really keen to hear about that too.

Feel free to hit me up at my casual email, if you want to get into direct contact with me. I’m pretty new (comparatively) to Football Manager, and I’m looking to work on my writing and my media integration too, so let me know how I can improve for the next time I write for you guys!

You know, I’ve kind of realised putting together this post that I’m a lot like the players I like to have. Lots of personality but no real technical execution.

Cheers mates, and regards,


You can find the tactic on the Steam Workshop here:


Inside My Mind 03; The First Round Of Tweaking

As we continue looking at the process of creating a tactic, I have stumbled across the greatest hurdle of all; the fine-tuning of the tactic. Your tactic looks great on the drawing board, you’ve thought it all through and you think it will work. That is when reality sets in and you actually have to test the tactic, adjust it where necessary and tinker with it to see if you can improve the concept. I dubbed this the greatest hurdle of all because you have to watch the games, analyse what you see, assess the probable cause and come up with ways to remedy whatever is wrong.


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The Football Blogging Awards

I generally don’t ask for much from my loyal followers, because I don’t want to turn Strikerless into a clickbait or advertising site. However, I figured I might have a crack at a Football Blogging Award in the category “best football gaming blog.” It never hurts to try, no?

Anyway, if you want to vote for me, you can do it either via Twitter or via a website. If you want to use Twitter, simply tweet the following message.

I am voting in @TheFBAs for @MerryGuido as the Best #Gaming Football Blog

Eventually, it should look like this.

If you want to vote on the website, use this link. You don’t have to vote in each and every category if you don’t want to.



I’ve been meaning to write this up for ages but never really found the time until now. This is my take on a strikerless formation featuring a libero, something I wanted to try for a while but had to wait until I found a suitable player to retrain as a sweeper. This came towards the end of my tenure as C.D. Torrevieja boss, I had some of the world’s best players at my disposal and it seemed the perfect time to give this a try.

Before I get into the tactic I have to say I would have never been able to get this to work without the sterling work of Guido on this site, particularly Project Arrowhead and The Four Horsemen, and another tactical write-up I borrowed/learned from As Cunning As A Box With A Tail On It Calling Itself A Box over at the higher tempo press. If you haven’t read the articles I’ve linked here you should do yourself a favour and check them out.

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