The Withdrawn Targetman Mk. II – Re-Inventing The Role

Last season, I mentioned my desire for a new kind of role in FM, the Withdrawn Targetman. I basically 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 making runs forward to get on the end of a flick-on or get the rebounds from the headers. In a nutshell, I want the role Fellaini plays for Utd at times or how Cahill plays for Australia and Everton.

“But Guido”, I hear you ponder. “Did you not come up with the Targetganche?” Indeed I did and for the FM14 Match Engine, this role pretty much solved the problem. The static nature of the Enganche role combined well with what I was looking for, especially when paired with one or two fast runners beside him. So why am I writing this post? Because I feel the urge to improve and innovate, because I’m not happy with how it’s going in FM15.

Please note that I am definitely not underperforming and that the strikerless style is still very much alive and kicking ass, but it’s just not sparkling as much as it did in FM14. For me, that’s down to the role of the Withdrawn Targetman not working the way I want it too. The Enganche drops slightly deeper back this Match Engine, despite my instructions not to, which leaves him isolated and playing silly backpasses instead of being the advanced attacking pivot I want him to be.

With many teams now fielding dedicated holding midfielders to specifically man mark my attacking midfielders, I am struggling at times, especially against team with superior players. Add to this the fact that the opposing defensive lines are often parked on the edge of their own penalty area and that the Enganche was often too far away to effectively link up with the runners, 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. I need to re-invent the role to make

The solution should 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. Bear with me and enjoy this brief match clip of how I want the role to function.

I’m still tweaking and fidgeting with the role and concept, so this is still very much a work in progress kind of project, but you can expect a more in-depth post soon.

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