When it talks like a hipster and does things a hipster does, it must be a hipster. Lord, I know can sound like a hipster cunt at times so just brace yourselves for some more name-dropping and throwing around fashionable phrases like it’s nothing. This article will focuss on verticality or as non-hipsters would call it, getting towards your opponents goal as fast as possible.

Over the last few seasons many people have fallen in love with Barcelona’s tiki-taka style of football. With Guardiola’s departure to FC Bayern, we’ve seen the Bavarians employ a mix between the more direct style Heynckes implemented and Guardiola’s own possession-based style. Either way, possession seems to be crucial, as its importance is preached ad nauseum, with Pep even mentioning he was amazed his Bayern side lost in Madrid, despite dominating possession.

Now I am not blind to the importance of possession, but as I mentioned earlier, sometimes keeping the ball just isn’t enough to break down a defence. The problem with possession is that, while having the ball is certainly more desirable than not having it, you force the other team into sitting deep in a low block defence. This is the bane of possession-orientated teams such as Barcelona and Spain and to a lesser extent, Pep’s FC Bayern.

In order to overcome this incessant and repetitive obstacle, the possession team must provoke the opponent with the ball either during a rapid counter attacking transition or during the build-up phase. This is where verticality comes in. Simply put, verticality is a reference to a style of play where the ball is brought from back to front as quickly as possible using short passing combinations.

In FM-terms, it means training the same formation and mostly same style of play, but instead of shorter passing, you select the more direct approach. How this looks in-game? Let’s look at a few match clips.

The idea of verticality is actually ideal for a strikerless formation. If you can win the ball with counter-pressing, you open up the opposing defence with one or two passes towards your mobile midfielders, whilst if your opponent drops back, they basically give up half the pitch to you, allowing you the time to provoke opposing players out of position, before exploiting the space that is opened up.

Ideally, you want to create a situation where players have to move out of their preferred defensive zones to combat a threat, preferably in a way that makes them face their own goal. The first part of this concept means that either the entire team has to shift along to prevent space from opening up, which basically never happens. The second part of this concept means that opposing players are less quick to transition from defence to attack when you do lose the ball, you are minimising the risk of a counter-attack whilst increasing the possibility of a successful counter-press. Let’s look at another clip.

From beginning to end, it took us a mere 20 seconds to score a goal, with some direct passing into space and luring players inside to combat the threat of several runners through the centre. Combine the traditional elements of my strikerless formation with a more direct approach and you have an idea of what I mean with verticality and how to use it in FM14.


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Guido is the founding father of Strikerless and main nutjob running the show.


Guido is the founding father of Strikerless and main nutjob running the show.


Paul Cullen · April 29, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Looks amazing! Care to share the tactic used in the vids?

    strikerlessguido · April 29, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    I intend to release some more download links in the near future, yes.

Fraser · April 29, 2014 at 5:09 pm

I’m really struggling in the FM community to know who is right and who is wrong. There are so many differing opinions, ways and methods when it comes to everything tactical.

In an aim to fully understand this part of the game. I am going to start a new save with Man Utd in the hope if bettering David Moyes’ attempt with the Red Devils this season and improving my knowledge along the way.

I would be very much greatful to you for your help Guido as, reading through your threads, you seem to make the most sense to me.

Can I count on you?

    strikerlessguido · April 29, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Feel free to ask away, mate. I don’t know everything, but I try to use a methodical approach in what I do and it seems to work for me.

Fraser · April 29, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Is it worth trying to implement a strikerless formation with Man Utd? I think it would suit the likes of RVP, Mata & Rooney, but may not suit Herandez, Welbeck and maybe even Valencia.

    strikerlessguido · April 29, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    I reckon it can work. You can use a wide strikerless formation as well, so Valencia wouldn’t be a problem. Hernandez and Welbeck can be sold to raise some money to strengthen your midfield.

Fraser · April 29, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Do you think a 424? RVP and Rooney as the AMC’s, Valencia on the right as a winger and Mata on the left as an inside forward perhaps.

I’m not the best on role picking at the best of times, but I want to play the high pressing attacking football that you have achieved.

I am better at other areas of the game. Sorry if I’m being a pain.

    strikerlessguido · April 29, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Could probably work, provided you can keep the midfield sturdy. Your squad is good enough to sort it.

Fraser · April 29, 2014 at 7:56 pm

I think Carrick and Fellaini could provide a solid enough base.

What roles and duties would you go for personally?

    strikerlessguido · April 29, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Midfield? A ball-winning defender and a DLP. Upfront, SS and Enganche, two IF’s on Support. Two wing-backs on Support and two defenders.

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