It looks like the strikerless bug is slowly but surely spreading, which means I get to do these reviews more often. It hasn’t even been that long since the last review and there’s already a new one lined up. Chris Darwen, also known as @comeontheoviedo on Twitter, has submitted a 4-3-3-0 tactic he created for reviewing purposes, so once again I dove into a save-game to see what makes it tick and how it performs.
Table of Contents
Instead of some long and winded introduction by yours truly, I am just going to be a lazy slob and let Chris introduce the tactic himself.
Hello mate – have a look at this when you get a chance! The point of this is to win the ball back as early as possibly then shift it through the lines at pace, finally looking to draw their defence out and slip someone in behind. Stuff you taught me, basically. At the back, the CWB’s are vital as they provide the overlap and width. I have one BPD who I try to have bringing the ball out with the dribble more PI. I took the idea from your recent post.
The other is standard – both on cover as I don’t want them engaging in tackles. In midfield, playmakers, playmakers everywhere! I’ve recently fallen in love with AP’s and they feature heavily and are scoring goals too. The DLP is there to provide depth to the midfield and work with the back two, as standard. The SS’s are awesome. The central one roams all over the pitch, the other two work the channels. What you see is them popping up deep, midfield runs past them, they link, change, move and before you know it one of them is making a classic third man run and is in on goal. It is great to watch. I’ve been using it for 12 games, won 11 and lost the other 1-0 where we missed about 8 great chances. This might be my actual favourite tactic of all time!
To get a proper impression of what makes this tactic tick, I played eight games. I made sure there was a nice variety in the level of opposition as well, so I would be able to provide fair feedback.
The results are not bad, though not spectacular either. Taking into account the draws were achieved with red cards on our side, it’s decent enough.
These eight matches provided me with a lot of statistical information I wish to share with you. For all you statistic buffs:
We went down pretty hard against Real Madrid, this game is the only negative match statistics-wise. The other games show match statistics that prove the team was pretty dominant and in control of things. Overall, the tactic is rather solid, without being spectacular. We’ll look more closely at some of these statistics in the “Pro’s”-section of this review.
The basic shape
When we look at the basic shape, there are no real surprises. The team lines up as a 4-3-3-0 on paper, and that’s what it looks like on the pitch. The wing-backs push forward quite a bit, as do two of the three central midfielders. Despite all three attacking midfielders having the same role, the central attacking midfielder pushes slightly further forward, thus forming the most advanced player in a wedge-shaped line.
Basically nothing odd to see here, or at least, nothing we couldn’t expect after seeing the line-up and roles.
The typical, highly mobile style of strikerless football
I am in love with the silky-smooth passing and energetic runs on and off the ball, the synergy between the various lines within the formation, all culminating in a move that breaches the opposing defence and hopefully results in a goal. Well, this tactic delivers that kind of football. Arguably, Chris has taken my own handiwork as a starting-point and built his tactic around that frame-work, but it’s still a different tactic to the ones I build, yet it has that characteristic strikerless feel. Just look at this.
Fluid passing, nice runs and a quick attack, culminating in an easy goal. You can’t hate football like this, it’s just aesthetically pleasing when moves like these unfold on your screen. I’d definitely consider it a major plus of this tactic.
The set piece routine is up-to-date
Managers, coaches, players and pundits alike often make reference to the importance of set plays, which can be a crucial means to force in a goal when things don’t look good during open play. Set plays by their premeditated nature offer a relatively consistent level of defensive and attacking opportunity and by looking at the effectiveness of teams against a variety of different opponents, we may be able to start to characterize what constitutes good set play defence and attack. This tactic has a good setup. We’ve scored around 30% of our goals directly or indirectly from corners.
You can’t argue with results like that. It’s a good setup and it’s a default setting for this tactic, so when you download it, you’re guaranteed to bag a few goals this way. With so many set piece routines floating around, any tactic lacking such a setup is just missing out.
The tactic is just unbalanced
I like a balanced tactic, one where offence and defence are balanced towards the same task. This tactic simply isn’t. There are primarily attacking roles involved, in fact seven out of the ten field players are committed to attacking. With so many players pushing forward, the moment your team loses the ball, they will have to track back quite a bit to prevent the other team from scoring goals. When players are out of position like that, they often resort to fouls to delay an attack or just stop it dead in its tracks. That results in symptoms like these…
Those are just the cards from the six Serie A matches I played. With 23 yellow cards in six games, this tactic is averaging 3,8 yellow cards pro match. That’s quite a lot. As I mentioned before, the tactic is just unbalanced. It’s completely geared towards attacking, which means situations like this one tend to happen quite often.
The wing-backs bomb forward, the two central midfielders are involved in the attack, so that leaves you with two defenders and a single central midfielder to hold the line defensively. In the above situation, the defensive side clear the ball long towards a flank where a fast forward can run onto the ball and hold it up for midfielders to link up. Now in this instance, the opposition is not really committed to hitting you on the break, only leaving one player upfront with no support. Now let’s see what happens when the other team does leave more than one player upfront.
The next opponent has left three men upfront, which means the central defenders are outnumbered. The wing-backs are tracking back, but a direct approach is rather effective here. A long ball towards the deepest forward or one of the two players playing in the hole between defence and midfield will give them plenty of time on the ball to start a counter-attack. This is definitely a risky situation, one you want to prevent by balancing the formation. Let’s see how this turns out though.
The forward heads the ball on for the other player to run onto. With the wing-backs still tracking back and just having taken up their positions, their backs are turned towards the onrushing forwards. The central defender who gets beaten for the flick-on is out of position as well, leaving the opposing player with plenty of space to surge into.
In this example, the opposing forward skips past left-back Holebas and tries to take on the central defender. The forward is brought down and the defender gets booked. If the forward had been less selfish and looked for a pass towards one of his team-mates, it could have resulted in a clear cut chance for the opposing team. In this example, we played Genoa, which is, with all due respect, a fairly weak opponent. Stronger opponents will slice through your defence in situations like that, which results either in goals conceded or even more bookings. It’s no coincedence that in both games we drew against team with strong forwards, we conceded red cards because our defenders had to make last-ditch tackles.
That’s Real Madrid tearing through our lines in a similar situation. Notice how fast they convert from defence to attack. The corner is cleared, the wing-backs are out of position so the flanks are exposed. Bale receives the ball and outpaces his defender, making the most of the space between our lines. The finishing is a bit flukey, but this is what happens when you face top class opponents. In summary, the team is unbalanced, especially when they have to switch from attack back to defence. A midfield with three playmakers on it isn’t helping much in terms of these turn-overs.
The attacks are one-dimensional
The strong point of most strikerless formations is that there is a degree of unpredictability to it. The players are constantly mobile and are feeding off each others movements both on and off the ball. So what happens when alot of the players have the same role and are making the same kind of moves? The attacks become predictable and certain areas of the pitch become congested. Instead of exploiting space, players are getting in each others way, denying their team-mates space or blocking passing lanes.
Just look at the positioning of the forward three. It’s not unusual for a shadow striker to drop slightly back, but you need some sort of presence upfront to launch the shadow strikers when they make their run, someone to bounce the ball off. When all three players have the same role, they generally start their runs together, which can look menacing and overwhelming, but it’s ultimately fairly predictable and easy to defend. More often than not, they get in each others way, which makes some of the attacks looks clumsy.