Having the strikerless style pretty much tailored to suit the strengths of my team, I have dominated the Dutch league and Europe over the past decade or so. More and more teams are changing their style to try and combat my strikerless formation. On the one hand, that’s a huge compliment to my effective style of play, but it leaves me in need of a plan B. With many teams now fielding dedicated holding midfielders to specifically man mark my attacking midfielders, I am struggling. Add to this the fact that their defensive lines are often parked on the edge of their own penalty area, and the AI has effectively eliminated those factors that make my strikerless tactics work. Opposing teams will crowd the center of the pitch with defenders and defensive midfielders, leaving no room for my central attacking midfielders to run into. Having the wingers cut inside is obviously not working, as they just add more bodies to the mass of players in the center, so a plan B is needed.
The solution could be simple. With the center of the pitch so crowded, my team is given free reign of the wings and crosses generally fly in from all angles. However, with most of the attacking midfielders suited for strikerless football being small, fast dribblers and not huge, bulky targetmen, I’m not making the best of these crosses. So far, my attacking midfielders have all been similar types of of players. They were clever, a good passer, and creative. They thrived with the ball at their feet between the lines and often found pockets of space between the opposition defense and midfield.
I wouldn’t be writing this post if I did not have an idea for a plan B, but I need to tweak it to make sure it works. In this case, I have taken a page out of Tony Pulis’ playbook for a plan B. Basically, Stoke City meets strikerless football. Most of Pulis’ ideas can be easily applied to a strikerless formation, with one notable exception. The targetman. By definition, a strikerless formation cannot field a traditional targetman upfront, instead opting to field a sort of withdrawn targetman.
I want a player who can beat opposing players for headers and contribute with flick ons, and hold up the ball by controlling aerial balls played into his chest. Such a player will play with his back to goal to help relieve opposing team’s pressing and allow our runners to link up. I want this player to play a typical targetman role about 15 metres deeper than where a targetman usually plays. He would pair up with a shadow striker or trequartista making runs forward to get on the end of a flick-on or get the rebounds from the headers.
I even have a player who could be ideal for the role I envision. Meet Alessandro Dall’Osta.
Now the main issue would be, how am I going to create a withdrawn targetman role? All ideas and suggestions are welcome, with more info to follow soon.