With the arrival of Jürgen Klopp in the Premiership, more and more attention is given to one of the major developments in football tactics in recent years; counterpressing. Before Klopp’s move the Premier League, counterpressing or its German equivalent gegenpressing was already hot topic for the football hipsters among us. The act of pressing and closing down the opposition immediately after the ball is turned over has been made popular by managers like Guardiola, Klopp and Heynckes. Just for reference, this is what I mean.

The aim of said counterpressing is to prevent the opposition from counter-attacking, and to win the ball back as quickly as possible. It relies on the team in possession reacting as quickly as possible to the moment of transition when possession is lost. Ideally, a team needs to play as much as possible in the opposition’s half to get them in a low block where their striker is detached from their midfield line. Once they are in this position, it is about having ideal positioning with the ball ergo players in positions where they are impacting the game and finding spaces with the ball but also where they are able to prevent a counter-attack. 

The duality between possession and counter-pressing

The next bit is going to make me sound like a bit of a football hipster, but I do feel it’s necessary to discuss is the link between counter-pressing, possession and strikerless football, because the former two form, in my eyes, absolute prerequisites of a properly functioning strikerless style of play.

A common theme to many teams playing counter-pressing is their shared interest in dominating possession, which isn’t a coincedence. This aggressive approach to pressing and a lust for dominance in terms of possession often go hand in hand, simply because a team that wants to control of the ball as much as possible, will naturally want to win it back as quickly as possible when they lose it. One, in essence, cannot successfully exist without the other. 

Indeed, possession and counterpressing are very much intertwined. If a team dominates possession, then they strive to retain the ball and forge attacks with short, decisive passes. This particular brand of short passing means that teammates have to positioned close together, as a cohesive unit. When and if they are positioned close together, there will always be more numbers close to the ball when possession is turned over, thus effectively empowering the pressing system. After all, the more players there are close to the ball, the more likely the counterpressing is going to be effective.


When we look at the average heat-map for my most-used formation, we can quite clearly see a compact shape, with the wing-backs adding some width to the formation. On average though, the players are positioned less than ten metres apart, which makes it easy to pass the ball around and to gang up on an opponent in possession without leaving someone terribly exposed.


When one of my players is in possession, this is the average situation. There are plenty of players nearby, with a few risky, long-range passing options available to him. Should the ball be turned over, the team can transition from offence to defence rather quickly by aggressively pressing the opponent in possession with two or more players. The transition-phases are generally short, aggressive and decisive, but it demands a lot from the players in terms of concentration, team-play and physique.

The double-edged sword that can be counter-pressing

These quick and aggressive transitions tie into another important element of counterpressing: when to stop pressing? As we mentioned before, counterpressing relies on the defending players aggressively moving towards the ball to close down the forward passing options for the opposing player in possession. When it all goes right, it’s a beautiful thing, which can look a little like this.

What we can see in that video is a match situation with several turn-over moments, where my team loses the ball, quickly presses forward and either wins the ball back or forces the opposition to play a risky pass that can be intercepted. Let’s further examine these moments.


Ferranit, one of our shadow strikers, has just been tackled off the ball, the loose ball has been picked up by the opposing wing-back. Our entire team pushes forward, which makes it rather difficult for the opposing player to pick a pass. The yellow lines represent his passing options, whereas the blue lines represent possible defensive movement to block a passing lane or challenge the recipient of a pass. The ball ends up with the safest option possible, the right winger.


The winger runs into serious trouble. He really has nowhere to go. The presence of a wing-back means he can’t dribble into space without having to take on a defender in a situation where he’d rather not lose the ball, as his own team is transitioning from defence to offence. Most realistic passing-lanes are blocked by my players. In the end, the turnover is forced because the winger tries to dribble his way out of trouble and loses the ball. By closing down the passing-lanes and keeping the space on the pitch limited and our formation cohesive and compact, we force our opponents into making mistakes.


When the next turn-over occurs, the opposing team is pushed back around their own box, again with most easy passing-lanes blocked or under threat of being blocked. The defending side works around the pressing with a long, risky cross-pass, which pays off initially and then results in another turn-over because the ball was difficult to control. As the long ball goes in, the whole process starts again, as the entire team shuffles over, effectively blocking most of passing options. The defenders close in as well and shuffle forward, anticipating the long ball clearance. Quite a lovely concept, isn’t it?

There are a few risks involved with playing a counter-pressing style. These are calculated risks, but nonetheless risks. Counter-pressing looks great when it works, but it could end catastrophically when it blows up in your face. For starters, you rely on your players aggressively closing down the opposition. But what happens when the opposing player manages to evade the press?

Whilst the goal is a bit flukey, it does showcase some of the problems that can occur when an opponent has evaded the press. In this case a midfielder has evaded the press by flicking the ball back. This means that there is space elsewhere on the pitch. When two or more players are pressuring one opponent, logic dictates that one or more players have no direct opponent right now. A team that is quick on the break could exploit such weaknesses. This means counter-pressing can be risky when you’re playing opponents with superior players, who can take on your defenders one-on-one and beat them.


As I mentioned before, the finish is a bit flukey, but the fast forward moves into the space vacated by the left wing-back joining the press. His cross is overhit and comes back off the bar, presenting the other striker an easy chance, but the concept of players being caught out of position is nicely illustrated this way.

A second risk you run when using a counter-press involves the space you give to the opposing team. A counter-press often occurs in the opposition’s final third. This is because a team that dominates possession is generally able to retain the ball inside their own back and middle third with relative ease.  When the ball enters the final third, such teams often encounter a massive wall of opposing players, making space scarce and turn-overs more likely.


In order to maintain the compact shape that makes counter-pressing work, the defence has to push relatively far up the pitch to make the space between the various lines manageable for the other players. This does mean you give away a fair amount of space behind your own defensive line, again something that could be exploited by teams with fast forwards or teams who like a quick break. You tend to concede the odd goal when a cross or direct pass finds space behind the defensive line for a forward to run onto. It’s an inherent risk you take when using this style. It generally looks a bit like this.

The fact that we were liable to concede goals like this was the main reason why I started applying the counter-pressing concept I have in place right now. The best defence is an aggressive offence. If the opposing team is allowed no time on the ball, there’s less chance of a through ball and more time for the defence to reorganise.

One of the side effects I have noticed to the whole counter-pressing concept is the added risk of my players making tactical fouls. A tactical foul is a foul where the offending player knows he will pick up a card and is happy to collect it to prevent the opposition breaking quickly. His side can get back into a good defensive position, and the attacking side has been robbed of a potentially crucial situation. By committing a foul, the defensive side is better off.

In the clip above, you can see Barcelona applying the concept in real life. In the moment they fear a forward is going to flick the ball on in a way that may jeopardise the defensive line, they barge him in the back, committing a tactical foul and allowing the defence time to re-group. This is a problem, the third problem in fact, because you run the risk of your players getting booked too often and missing games through suspension or getting sent off.

The settings required to use counter-pressing in FM16

There are a number of settings that make the counter-pressing happen in FM16. It’s not just a matter of mindlessly ticking a number of boxes, it is a delicate and complex balancing act between various interacting settings and the utilised formation. We’ll start off by looking at the Team Instructions.


The first Team Instruction I want to look at is the Work Ball Into Box setting. Whilst this is a passing instruction, it does impact the way the team lines up on the pitch and thus influences the team shape, which in turn influences the counter-press. If we want to press successfully, we can’t go and give the ball away in silly situations, so I do want my players to work the ball into the box with caution.

Giving the ball away needlessly could cause serious problems, especially when it happens near the halfway-line or on our half. Opting for patient and more safe passes, especially during the transition from defence to offence, tends to minimise the risk of losing the ball, because a counter-press can’t be successfully initiated in these circumstances.


If we were to lose the ball in the situation above, we would have a serious problem, as there is a striker lurking behind the defender in possession. This forward is unmarked right now, a single turnover and direct pass could result in this unmarked forward chasing after a direct pass into space, there is plenty of space because our defenders have pushed up to keep the lines compact and the team shape cohesive. I’d rather have the player in possession opt for a safe pass wide rather than a risky pass down the central area.

The next Team Instruction I want to look at is the Close Down Much More setting. I do want my players to harass the opposition where-ever possible and in terms of sliders (I am old skool like that), this instruction would increase the amount of closing down my players do. I want them to seek out opposing players to win back the ball, cut off passing options or simply allow others time to re-group. Close Down Much More does induce the most relentless form of pressing you can achieve in FM. Sometimes when I used this instruction, I noticed my players being drawn out of position far too often, thus ruining the team shape and the cohesion of the formation, so you could always dial it down a notch.

The next Team Instruction I want to look at is the Use Tighter Marking setting. The Use Tighter Marking instruction pretty much re-inforces the previous instruction. I want my players to get up close and personal and stay with their markers, especially in defence and midfield. Don’t give them time on the ball, don’t give them time to pick out a pass. I want my players to aggressively assault who-ever is in possession, whilst others (Very Fluid setting kicking in) join in by cutting off passing options.

The next Team Instruction I want to look at is the Prevent Short GK Distribution setting. I’ll be brutally honest and say I haven’t really seen much difference with this box ticked and without this box ticked, but I’m just going to leave it in there, just in case. Philosophy-wise, it should be ticked anyway. I reckon it mostly applies to players in the forward strata, which is an area where I generally don’t have a lot of players by default. Still, it feels right to just to keep it ticked if you want to use a counter-press.

Despite not selecting either one, I want to briefly discuss the Stay On Feet and Get Stuck In instructions, since I tend to use both during the season. Whilst I must admit that it may sound counter-intuitive to use the first one instead of the Get Stuck In shout, I assure you it makes perfect sense when you think about it. A player who slides in for the challenge takes two risks, in my eyes. When he mistimes his challenge, he’s down on the floor and will need time to get back and get involved in the game again. That’s precious seconds lost in terms of counter-pressing. Secondly, and that’s speaking from experience here, offensive players are not the most accomplished of tacklers. To have them slide in like maniacs generally generates a fair amount of bookings and injuries to my own players. I’ll have less of that, thank-you-very-much.

On the other hand, sometimes you are facing superior opposition in your matches. When your players are clearly inferior, you run the risk of opposing players evading the counter-press and you have to compensate somehow. Some raw aggression and power could come in useful. Yes, you still run the risk of miss-timed challenges either getting your own players booked or injured or taken out because they’re on the floor, but you have to compensate somehow and in quite a few cases, you manage to intimidate the opposition this way.

That brings us to the Team Shape part of the counter-pressing routine. There is only one setting that I use and it is basically a prerequisite to making this whole concept work.


“Very Fluid” means the team will tend to be more compact (with more creative freedom). Since I want the team to act as a cohesive unit, this makes sense. I am going to sound like a proper hipster for referencing famous real life managers, but bear with me on this one. People like Michels, Cruyff, Lobanovskiy and Sacchi strived for universality, where every player on the pitch takes a collective responsebility for each aspect of the game. Not in the sense that the forward is now tracking back to help with the off-side trap, but more in the sense of for example a forward pressing an opposing defender on the ball, allowing his team-mates either time to link up and help or fall back to take up a more reliable defensive stance.

Anyway, since universality is closely associated with Total Football, it’s becoming a sort of buzz-word. In a way, universality is part of some mythical style of play, which combines the aesthetics of short and intricate passing, aggressive pressing, fluid movement on and off the ball and positional interchangeability with the results that deliver trophies.

That really isn’t what I’m after. I want all players to take equal creative and defensive responsebility during all stages and phases of the game, resulting in a very fluid style of play. Because of this style of play and by pushing up the defensive line, I try to keep the lines compact. This means the players can press without being too concerned about leaving huge gaps behind them. So in my eyes, a Very Fluid setting is a necessity if I want to keep a tight and cohesive formation through-out the match, because the defenders have to think of their positioning when attacking and the forwards have to contribute defensively by pressing.

That brings us to the Mentality part of the counter-pressing routine. I generally use all settings, depending on the match and the settings, but my favorite setting has to be attacking.


If you want to press aggressively, you have to have players high up the pitch to actually achieve this. Look at the description. Look at what it says on the tin. “Win and … dominate possession in your opponents half.” It would make no sense what-so-ever to maintain a more cautious approach, when this is the kind of pressing you hope to achieve. If you want to counter-press, you need to get men high up the pitch and I do believe Attacking is the best Mentality setting to do so without compromising defensive stability.

The attributes required to use counter-pressing in FM15

The key to successful counter-pressing lies in the mindset of your own players, without an instantaneous change in the mentality of the player from an attacking mindset to a defensive mindset, the moment to counterpress is lost. Counterpressing in itself is not a particularly revolutionary tactic in the wider scheme of football history, but the recent rise of teams like Barcelona, Bayern and Dortmund being able to execute it effectively has made it one of the more fascinating developments in current football tactics.

That means I am looking for players with high Determination, Work Rate, Teamwork and Decisions, whilst high Aggression probably isn’t a bad thing either. These mental attributes are especially important for the players in the midfield line. I am going to quote an FM-Base article here for the definitions of the various attributes.

Decisions is one of the most important attributes in the game. A player is constantly presented with options, and the decisions attribute controls if the player chooses the best option. It also controls how and when an option is performed. Decisions is what, when and how.

A low Determination attribute means a player ‘gives up’ earlier. High attribute means the player would fight until the end.

A low attribute for Work Rate means the player would not spend too much time in off the ball decisions, and rather wait for an opportunity to arise instead of trying to create the situation himself. A high attribute means the player would make himself available and involve himself in play as much as possible.

A low Teamwork attribute means the player will put his own best interest before the best interests of the team, like trying to shoot for goal instead of passing to a team mate, even though the team mate might be in a better position to score. A high attribute means the player would base decisions on what is best for the team, not what is best for himself.

You can see it makes sense to have players with high attributes like these, since it improves the chance of them being actively involved in the counter-press.

Because all of this running and challenging players is pretty demanding, you are looking for players who can last an entire match, so high Stamina is probably a good idea. The higher the Stamina attribute is, the longer a player can keep going without getting tired. It’s fully connected to the match condition of the player.


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.


David · November 19, 2015 at 8:07 pm

Great article, super relevant too. I just want to ask about two instructions you didn’t seem to touch upon:
Run at defence: With this on, I feel like I see my players running too much, taking risks and losing possession more often.
Play wider: I was under the impression that this would increase the space btween the players making passes harder.

    strikerlessGuido · November 19, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Those instructions are related to the offensive part of the tactic. Strikerless football relies on making use of space, which means you need to generate movement as well. This is where the dribbling comes in. The wider play is aimed at stretching a defence, so space opens up.

      David · November 19, 2015 at 8:33 pm

      Ah I see. Thanks for the reply!

      strikerlessGuido · November 19, 2015 at 8:36 pm

      No problem. Hope the previous comment made sense.

MANUMAD · November 19, 2015 at 10:02 pm

This is just what I have been looking for!

Two things:

1) I always thought that gegenthingy was all about compressing space. So setting the width to very wide is a bit surprising.
2) Same thing with tackle hard.

    strikerlessGuido · November 20, 2015 at 6:18 am

    The rather wide setting is more about being an offensive threat as well, trying to stretch the defence. Like I said, balance, if you win the ball and can’t create shit, it’s no use winning the ball in the first place.

Mikka · November 19, 2015 at 10:07 pm

To anyone who came here just to download the tactic, I STRONGLY suggest you take time to read the whole article, it’s quite worth your time.

Guido, now the only thing left would be that article on how you tweak/maintain this tactic throughout the season, depending on the opponent, in-match situations etc.
Even the tiny part of it you touched upon, “get stuck in or stay on feet”, was interesting to read.

You mentioned using all mentalities during the season. An article of what, when and why would be FANTASTIC.

Thank you for this. 🙂

    strikerlessGuido · November 20, 2015 at 6:18 am

    Yeah, that’s one of the next articles I’m planning, tweaking and adjusting during games 🙂

sgevolker · November 20, 2015 at 9:37 am

Great as allways Guido 🙂
Tweaking during games is for me very interesting too.


    strikerlessGuido · November 20, 2015 at 9:59 am

    I’ll start working on that 🙂

      Dieho · November 20, 2015 at 10:06 am

      I’m also one of those who would love to see that kind of an article. It would complete the picture regarding this tactic and its proper use.

      Mihai · November 20, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      Another vote for tweaking.

      It’d be great to see your take on dealing with different opponents, or getting back in a game when the scoreline isn’t in your favor.

Sandokas · November 20, 2015 at 7:53 pm

Hey i have 1 question in what you recommend to use in training and OI?


    strikerlessGuido · November 20, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    I barely ever use OI, training is focussed on cohesion and attacking movement.

      Big Al (@MrNP) · November 21, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      would it not make sense to use OI’s to enhance the closing down. Personally I like to add this OI to close down oppo Defenders and DM’s.

      Also, Roam from Position – I understand why it’s there and why freedom to roam is key for the pressing players, but it could be said that by having this as a TI, “holding” players, e.g. DM, CD’s, may leave their position too readily. A possible alternative could be to ensure key pressing roles high up the pitch have Roam (and possibly even more pressing, where available) as PI’s and remove the TI?

      strikerlessGuido · November 22, 2015 at 9:35 am

      I suppose that could reinforce the whole concept, but I just never use OI’s. The roaming instruction is actually in place for the attacking phases and isn’t necessarily linked to the pressing. The roaming doesn’t influence the pressing, I think.

Bob Broughton · November 21, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Great article, I would love to see how this would work in a 4231, I’m gonna try and adapt it and see what I can do! Any tips on this?

    strikerlessGuido · November 22, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Inside Forwards, a Shadow Striker and a False Nine.

      Dan Elson · November 22, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      and how would you set up the midfield? 2 in CM? Cms/BWMd?

      strikerlessGuido · November 23, 2015 at 7:13 am

      I’m pretty happy with the midfield setup I’m running right now.

      Dan Elson · November 22, 2015 at 9:09 pm


      could you possibly screen shot how you’d set up a 4231?

      Thanks 🙂

      strikerlessGuido · November 23, 2015 at 7:13 am

      I really don’t play with strikers… Like ever… If I were pushed to do so, I’d stick the Enganche upfront as a False Nine and move both Shadow Strikers wide as IF’s on an Attack setting. Leave the rest as is.

Feddo · November 21, 2015 at 9:25 pm

Nice one guido!! Quality work as it is, but I’m also gonna vote for an tweaking follow up. Not that I want to put any presure on you (sorry couldn’t help myself :-p)

Stuart · November 21, 2015 at 9:34 pm

Fantastic stuff Guido. Excellent work as always

sia · November 22, 2015 at 8:36 am

Liverpool play strikerless VS chelsea & City.
Liverpool tactic 3 key point:

1)Run,run,run,player can run.
2)quick & fast.
3)don’t care about Pass Completion rating,kloop just want fast,super fast ! City got 81.2% Pass Completion rating,Liverpool only 70.6%.

can you try to make one Kloop Liverpool tactic?

    strikerlessGuido · November 22, 2015 at 9:37 am

    I could, but they insist on playing with nasty old strikers and well… this is Strikerless 😉 Seriously though, I can try, but no promises made.

MANUMAD · November 22, 2015 at 9:07 am

1. Thank u for the replies (seen other peoples pertinent and helpful points and your replies to them also).

2. Its quite a coincidence for MIKKA to have asked u to expound on your idea by discussing tweaks cos thats exactly what im doing. I downloaded the tactic and i started trying to transplant parts of your ideas off it to tactics that im setting (not necessarily strikerless ones). The idea is to take a basic 451 with a flat central 3 midfielders as a starting point and then have 4/5 pre set TIs (gegen/contain for protecting leads/defensive/tiki taka etc) to use in match according to developments. The 451 was chosen as its the easiest to tweak in match eg by dropping one of the cms to anchorman etc.
3. Did Man Utd play a strikerless 4222 against Watford yesterday for abt half an hour?! Yes they did!

    strikerlessGuido · November 22, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Strikerless is a valid strategy. People may not like it, but it has its uses.

    As for the tweaking, there are so many ideas you can use. The DM-role is one that is very open to tweaking, as different roles and players can lead to different accents in the style of play. A regista offers more penetration compared to the DLP, whereas you can use a BWM or Anchorman if you want to have more safety and security in place.

      MANUMAD · November 23, 2015 at 10:04 pm

      I like a DLP at DM cos he offers defensive screen as well as keeps/recycles possession. I usually use both a DLP and and AP in tactics that I make with the idea that it helps for possession.


Fletch · November 22, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Coming forward I always look a threat using this tactic. I definatly have goals in me. Sadly, (and I am not sure whether this is the aim of the tactic) I simply do not dominate possession, on average I must get around 40-45%. Most worryingly though when teams break against me you can see them scoring bucket loads. I will look to use this in final minutes when I am chasing a goal but as a tactic to use over a season I think I would be very inconsistent but I appreciate the OP for sharing this.

    strikerlessGuido · November 23, 2015 at 7:14 am

    Low possession scores are not uncommon, but I tend to win a lot, so it provides me a sturdy basis to work with and tinker.

Mark Evans (@sparky_mufc) · November 22, 2015 at 4:23 pm

This is fantastic, Ive been struggling with the tactics on FM16 but after reading this, given me some thought on my formation. I’m playing a 4-4-2 diamond narrow with the following roles

GK – Defend

DR- CWB Support
DC – CD Defend
DC – CD Defend
DL – CWB Support

DM – DLP Defend

CM – APM Attack
CM – CM Support

AM – SS Attack

CF – CF Support
CF – AF Attack

Could I get it working with this formation and do you feel I have the right kind of balance?


    strikerlessGuido · November 23, 2015 at 7:14 am

    The lack of width could be an issue. With players moving wider to challenge opponents, your team balance ends up disrupted.

Mihai · November 22, 2015 at 10:20 pm

Good one!

The only problem is, the opposition keeps finding spaces behind my defensive line and they keep scoring. I have started all my last five games by scoring first, only to end with four draws and one loss. I’m thinking it must be something with my defenders, right? What else could it be?

    strikerlessGuido · November 23, 2015 at 7:12 am

    If the opposing team has strong wingers, I do change the CWB’s to FB(s) to combat this problem.

    Mikka · November 23, 2015 at 9:39 am

    That’s where the tweaking article comes in, Mihai. It’s exactly for those reasons many of us have asked Guido to write such an article. 🙂

      Mihai · November 23, 2015 at 8:15 pm

      I already play with FBs set on Support, while in the center I got two LDs, Cover and Stopper. Maybe it could be that my defensive line is as high as it can go (unlike yours, which is set to Normal in the screenshot above).

      Anyway, thanks for replying and, as Mikka said, we are all waiting for the article on tweaking.

      strikerlessGuido · November 24, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      I’ve started working on it.

      strikerlessGuido · November 24, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      That’s the plan anyways 🙂

Olivier8 · November 23, 2015 at 11:04 am

superb article ! Do u think this could work with one inside forward, AMC (ss), AMC (T or false nine) ?
So an asymmetric formation ?

Daniel Hübner (@dahubba93) · November 23, 2015 at 9:37 pm

tips for tweaks:

– defending a lead
– getting a red card
– tough away games or tough home games as an underdog

Tribal · November 24, 2015 at 10:29 am

Hi Guido
I use this tactic for my shrewsburry team. I’ve promote Championship and i’m 8th at half season.

But I’ve problem. Ot had too much goal with crossing or through balls. Deffenders loose opp player. At the end off the match my team heavily defeated. (like 4-0, 6-2 etc)

How can i solve this defensive disability? (Sorry for my english)

Daniel Hübner (@dahubba93) · November 24, 2015 at 1:05 pm

i’m not sure if my comment waits for approval or there was some error but it doesn’t show up. i’ll try again. What do you recommend for:

– holding on to a lead
– tough away games
– tough home games against absolute top opposition or as a big underdog
– when you get a red card

Ted · November 24, 2015 at 10:17 pm

Do you have any player instructions? I’m a little confused as both SS have “close down less” as an instruction

Liking the tactic, always been a fan of strikerless and your interpretation of it

Febras · November 27, 2015 at 10:35 am

Great Article! Thanks

Jacksonss · November 27, 2015 at 5:19 pm

Not to push you, but are there any news of the “tweaking” article that’s been talked about here? 🙂


    strikerlessGuido · November 27, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    I started work on that and then real life got in the way. Still going to finish it, no worries.

Forza Azzuri · November 28, 2015 at 10:01 am

Do you have an FM16 compatible version?

Morten Hargaard · November 28, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Thanks for a great guide, quality work as usual.

I’m trying to replicate the playstyle that the club in my heart, AaB from Denmark, perform in real life. It’s not 100% counter-pressing as described here, but it has many of the same tendencies. High pressure game, great movement and a fast transition or controlled play depending on the situation and opposition.

They play a 4-4-2 where the wide midfielders sits narrow (almost as a MC) and they take many many aggresive runs across the field and forward. They are very good at exploiting a potential gap between the oppositions defense and midfield. To provide width, they play with very attacking wingbacks. The MC’s are key to giving balance to the team, one has sort of an regista playstile, dropping down from the MC spot to distribute play, often to the wide midfielders who have found a channel inside the pitch. The other MC is more of a box to box midfielder, supporting the attacks but still needs assist the regista in stopping counter attacks. The strikers are usually a poacher type and a hardworking type that moves around a lot and drops down to participate in buildup.

I have some major problems trying to create this paricular playstyle. First of all, there is the issue of the strikers not participating enough in the pressure and also seem to seek the goal to quickly. But mostly I have trouble getting the players to move as described, especially the wide midfielders. The problem is that they do not cut inside until they get the ball. They do very rarely move into the holes in the center of the pitch in the gaps as they occur. Also, when a striker holds up the ball, I want them to be far more aggressive and seek the channels that occur. Often they stop as if they are not allowed to move further than the strikers.

Do you have any experience with this and any possible solutions?

The closest I have come is with the following settings (many are the same as you mention):
Attacking, fluid/very fluid
Run at defence
Shorter passing + above normal tempo
High closing down
Narrow width

    strikerlessGuido · November 29, 2015 at 9:59 am

    I reckon you need to ask the wide midfielders to sit narrower in their player instructions, but it could just be that this is rather hard to replicate.

Shalitz · December 1, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Hmm, I’ve tried it in the depths of English lower leagues, and the results have been disheartening. I’m just way too open and susceptible to counter-attacks which are super deadly on FM16. It’s the same thing time and time again.

What’s more worrying is that I have a team which is leading the league in both Teamwork and Work Rate, while we’re in top 10 in Decisions and Determination.

    strikerlessGuido · December 1, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    That sounds rather disastrous… Tactical familiarity could’ve been an issue, but it’s quite rare to get destroyed so thoroughly.

Poma · December 2, 2015 at 9:14 pm

What formation, player roles and duties do you recommend for this?

Alex · December 3, 2015 at 6:19 am

So I’ve been trying this with Everton, and things are starting to gel – inconsistent start but a couple of good wins recently now that is more familiar.

One question I have is what sort of players do you recommend for the front 3? Is there a place for strikers like Lukaku in this tactic? Im playing him on the left and he gets the odd goal (Re-training him as an AMC/SS).

And would Ross Barkley be better as the Enganche or CM (Attack)? I’m playing him as CM currently with Deulofeu as Enganche.

Great tactic, I love the way it plays. Thanks

    strikerlessGuido · December 3, 2015 at 11:11 am

    You could play Lukaku as an Enganche, to act as a sort of Withdrawn Targetman.

rafal · December 3, 2015 at 9:52 pm

This tactics is good for Barcelona? 3 strikers Neymar SS Suarez SS and Messi Enganche?

SIA · December 5, 2015 at 3:54 am

new 4132 / 442 strikerless on FMbase :



    strikerlessGuido · December 5, 2015 at 9:42 am

    Ah, I see the strikerless bug is biting more and more people 🙂

    kolindmedia · December 22, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    I’ve just started using this tactic. For now it’s working pretty well for me in Newcastle. I am using the same instructions as in the original post.

carlos · December 7, 2015 at 9:52 pm

Guido in a 4231, what roles you use in medifield? bwm? and a mc? or 2 mc? or puch one medifield to a md position?

    strikerlessGuido · December 8, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    I generally use one attacking and one supportive role or a supportive and defensive role combination.

Kris Hutchins · December 10, 2015 at 5:02 pm

hi what formation are you using in this article? I play a 4-1 (BWM) – 2 (CM) – 3 (2 wingers, 1 AF).

Zackygoal · December 12, 2015 at 1:15 am

Do you think we should also add individual setting to our players like “close down more” or “use ight marking” ? Also do you plan to do the total football tactics ??

    strikerlessGuido · December 20, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Most Team Instructions mess up the team shape. I do believe in a team effort 🙂 I am reluctant to use the Total Football monniker though, makes me sound even more pretentious.

Shalitz · December 18, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Does this tactic still work after the update?
Any changes needed or it works as it is?

Sebastian Kolind Sørensen · December 21, 2015 at 9:44 pm

Hi. Do you play this offensive in away matches too?
I feel like away matches is hard to win with offensive tactics.

What’s your thoughts on this?

    strikerlessGuido · December 22, 2015 at 8:39 am

    In difficult matches, I do drop the mentality down a few pegs.

kolindmedia · December 21, 2015 at 10:31 pm

Hi. Do you play this offensive when playing away? I feel it’s so damn hard to win away, when I am not playing counter as mentality. What is your thoughts on this?

    strikerlessGuido · December 22, 2015 at 8:39 am

    In difficult matches, I do drop the mentality down a few pegs.

      kolindmedia · December 22, 2015 at 9:23 am

      Hi. Thank you for answering, I am sorry for the duplicate question.

      strikerlessGuido · December 22, 2015 at 9:40 am

      No problem. I manually validate all comments to stop spammers, means it takes a while every now and then.

Mouse Football Fanatic · December 28, 2015 at 1:13 am

Great article. Just saw someone asking about how to use Gegenpressing on the FM on a forum. Had to think of this text immediately.
In fact, that made me think, and I wanted to ask if I could translate the article into Portuguese, to post it on a Brazilian FM Forum. Would be of great help for those who don’t understand English (:
(should go without saying, but anyway: in case you authorize it, would obviously post it with the original credits, link and a very clear statement that I’m only translating it).

ShadyMunchie · January 21, 2016 at 8:45 pm

Hey man! just wanted to tank you for your work and time put in to this.
I’ve been using a very simular tactic to your a 4-3-1-2 counter attack with high pressing. the Tight marking and offansive trap instruction really improved my game.

Keep it up and thanks again!

bruce · February 16, 2016 at 10:24 pm

how did you get defensive line so low on attack without instructions?? It does not do that on my footballmanager??

    StrikerlessGuido · February 17, 2016 at 8:42 am

    I’ve detailed what I do above, nothing else besides that 🙂

Yıldırım Sertbaş · May 20, 2016 at 3:18 pm

too risky tactic.opponent can easly devastate our team.

AJ · July 14, 2016 at 1:55 pm

This is brilliant article and to be honest the in depth analysis is excellent. However what I seem to think is playing wider contradicts the argument of playing close to each other to win the ball back as soon as its lost. Shouldn’t playing wider mean that they are spread out wide regardless with/out possesion, hence making it harder to win the ball back as soon as its lost. Most of counter-pressing formations are built on foundation of playing compact and narrow, usually inside forwards or wing playmaker station narrow and full backs providing the only width. Other than that I think it is spot om, regardless I will give this a go and see if my tweak fits in as well. Great job!

    StrikerlessGuido · July 15, 2016 at 8:02 am

    The width isn’t entirely linked to the counter-pressing but more to the offensive phase of play and my specific strikerless desires. Good point though, counter-pressing would be more effective in a narrow formation.

lingeringaussie88 · October 12, 2016 at 5:32 am

Hello, this is my first time reading your guide. I must say that I am very impressed.

1 question.

About the midfield, i am thinking about changing some of the roles.

DLP -> BWM sup
CM X2 -> AP atk
RPM sup

is that possible to work with this system

    StrikerlessGuido · October 13, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    It would probably work, especially if you keep the wingbacks back more. Sorry for the slow response by the way, work’s been killing me lately.

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