As I mentioned in a previous post, I was in dire need of a Plan B for my strikerless formations. The idea I had was to mix up Stoke City under Pulis, an aggressive, direct style of play, with the fluid motions of the strikerless style I normally play. With opposing teams ceding their wings to us and sitting inside their own box, we needed a sort of targetman to make sure we were able to break down such a defence.
The initial call for help lead to several ideas. I’m not going to take credit for them, because they weren’t my own. The second idea I got was by TheDugout’s Cheeky Deeky, whom you can follow on Twitter as @JLAspey.
I haven’t used one yet, but how much does the Enganche play with his back to goal? I know he’s somewhat static, so could his instructions be tweaked to get what your looking for Guido?
Perhaps, play shorter passes, play less risky passes and hold up ball to kick off with?
As I said on Twitter, this won’t be too dissimilar to the ‘Defensive AMC’ role I’ve been thinking of.
Basically, we wanted a cross-pollination of the targetman role and the enganche role. In a way, it makes sense, as the enganche already encorporates some of the qualities a targetman is supposed to offer to a team.
A targetman is a striker who is the target of passes from his teammates. A good target man will possess the strength to hold up the ball, hold off opponents and bring team-mates into play. Target men are often tall, physical players who operate with their back to goal.
The “enganche” is the term in Argentinian Spanish for a playmaker. The word “enganche” is apparently derived from enganchar, which means in South American Spanish: “to hook”. The idea is that the enganche has to hook the strikers into the supporting cast of players who are there to support them in their efforts. He is the player that receives the ball and chooses how and when to pass the ball to maximise the potential of the attacking movement.
Mix those two up and you get the Targetganche™, or the Withdrawn Targetman I want to see in the game. He will hold up the ball and bring his team-mates into play, choosing how and when to pass the ball to maximise the potential of the attacking movement. Because he’s supposed to be my Plan B, he will be required to offer some physical brutality as well as footballing skills.
In-game, it should look a little this.
Let’s freeze on of the frames from that clip and look at how Vankan is perfectly doing what I really want to see.
If you recall, I wanted a player who could 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 would play with his back to goal to help relieve opposing team’s pressing and allow our runners to link up. I wanted 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.
In the clip you can see Vankan doing all of that. He chested a pass down, before distributing it further. He got on the end of a header to score a goal. He played with his back to goal to receive and control passes. It’s everything I really wanted him to do. His match stats reflect that fact.
The match stats paint a similar picture. Despite not being that strong in the air, Vankan attempted the most headers of any player, won most of them and had 2 key headers, which means he sent a team-mate past the defensive line with one of his flick-ons. Besides the heading, he still managed an impressive amount of passes, he contributed with an assist and a goal and he made the team around him work properly.
Now that we have established that the role-combining can work in reality, I should really point out that the way to get this done in-game is not by over-complicating things in terms of individual instructions. I chose for a formation and only amended three player roles to get this working.
The reasoning behind the front three was relatively easy. If you want players to benefit from flick-ons, they can’t be too far away or a wandering defender can intercept the ball. This ensures that there is always a player nearby to benefit from a flick-on, be it one of the two trequartista’s flanking Vankan, or one of the two central midfielders.
The first role I tweaked was the Enganche role.
I was pretty content with the way he was playing, all I wanted him to do is be more direct in his approach. I wasn’t looking to retain possession, I wanted to get towards goal as soon as possible. I wanted direct passes, preferably into space for the runners to chase after.
The second role I amended was the trequartista role. I had two treq’s in the team, one on either side of the enganche.
The trequartista’s had to move slightly further forward. I wanted the enganche to get slightly behind the two runners, so they could anticipate the path of any flick-on better. Same as before, direct passes are a necessity if you want to get to goal. No possession-based passes laterally, but incisive passes forward. I also want the trequartista’s to run wide when they have the ball, stretching the defence and opening up space for others to run into. Shooting is not an issue, because they are generally 20 yards away from goal when they receive the ball, if they think they can manage a shot, let them.
This style of play appears to work as a valid Plan B for my strikerless style, in the way I intended to play. This does not mean I am ready with experimenting with roles and ideas, but the priority has shifted for now. I have one or two ideas I want to experiment with and I did promise Shrewnaldo a re-evaluation of his wide targetman concept.