I will try to keep my introduction short and sweet, because boy, have I got a treat for you. I am really into interacting with the people who read my inane ramblings and sometimes, these interactions result in a thing of beauty. People giving their own unique perspective on my ideas. They add their own specific flavour to the exisiting ideas and damn, it’s lovely. This time, I am proud to showcase work by Edward (@edwardbomb) and his strikerless and semi-strikerless 4-4-2. Give it a read, give it a go and don’t be afraid to comment.
When I was first invited to write on here, after I left a comment on the Leicester inspired 4-4-2-0 post, it was supposed to be about my take on the 4-4-2-0. It’s taken me quite a while to write this up, I’ve never really analysed my own formations before, just written about my saves. During the time it’s taken me to put this together the formation has evolved a fair bit and now features *whispers* a striker.
A bit of background, I’m Andy, I’m 43 and I have been playing this game for longer than I care to remember. Since I stumbled across this blog a few years ago my tactics have almost exclusively been strikerless. I love the concept and the style of play you can achieve with strikerless formations.
I created the this formation for my C.D. Torrevieja side as we were about to embark on our second season in La Liga. We had used a few different tactics up to this point, all strikerless. The team contained a few good players, but were still not one of the better sides in the league. Up to this point we had been difficult to beat, rather than being an attacking force and this was something I was keen to change.
We finished 3rd in the league the season that we used the 4-4-2-0 and everything was looking good, only for an early season injury crisis threatening to de-rail the new season before it had begun. We were struggling for goals and in desperation late in a league game against Real Sociedad, I pushed the shadow striker up into a false nine, we scored a late winner and I decided to experiment with using strikers again.
I wanted to retain all of the elements of the strikerless system that I loved, but with a striker. The false nine seemed a perfect fit for this, the role plays a bit like a reversed version of the shadow striker, dropping off rather than making late runs. If you add a shadow striker to the mix you can generate a lot of movement.
I envisioned a compact side, who looked to control the middle of the park but could also be a threat from wide positions, as crosses are so deadly in this version of the ME. I was looking to generate movement and therefore space for other players by using roles in different ways and I want the way that we attack on one side of the pitch to be different from the other side. Hopefully that will keep the opposition guessing as to what we are going to do next.
Defensively we’ll try and win the ball back as soon as we’ve lost it, particularly in the attacking third. If we can’t do this we’ll regroup and look to force the opposition out wide, when the ball goes out wide we’ll aggressively try to win it back and launch an attack of our own.
Team Shape – Very Fluid
I wan’t all of the players to be involved in all phases of the game, I want everyone to both defend and attack, also I want my players closer together so we are nice and compact. The very fluid team shape gives me all of this. It also gives the players a certain level of creative freedom, which I like.
Mentality – Control
While we are not one of the better sides in the division I still want to try and take the game to most of my opponents, so I have gone for the control mentality as a starting point. I experimented with attack, it seemed that the team was rushing things too much most of the time. This will change during matches on a regular basis and sometimes before games. I have saved some pre-set team instructions for these other scenarios.
This will bring the team closer together, making us more compact.
Play out of defence
While this formation is not about possession for the sake of it I don’t want to give the ball away needlessly, we’ll build from the back and not just launch hopeful balls forward.
I don’t want to allow opposition to play through the middle, I want to force them wide where we will make an effort to win it back and launch an attack of our own. This instruction has now been removed in my save and the width is balanced, both work very well however.
Push higher up
I want to condense the pitch vertically as well as horizontally, this instruction and the next allow me to do this.
I want my players to be in the faces of their opposite number, not giving them a minute’s peace. This instruction, in conjunction with the Close Down Much More instruction, should mean that we force the opposing team into rushing their passes, hopefully leading to us going possession.
Roam from positions
I trust the players to move from there positions in order to find space to receive a pass, or to help with the press. This also adds an amount creative freedom and as I mentioned earlier, I’m all for that.
Close down much more
When we haven’t got the ball the players need to work as hard as possible to win it back. With this instruction and the narrow formation I hope to squeeze the life out of any attacks before that can fully form.
Prevent GK distribution
We want to press and harass the oppositions defence at any opportunity, forcing them into an error or clearing it long where our centre backs should be able to tidy things up.
Work ball into box
I’d like the team to create quality chances rather than taking speculative long range efforts, or rushing things. I’ve found this instruction helps create the lovely interplay in and around the box that I think of as the hallmark of strikerless football.
For a long time I didn’t set any opposition instructions believing they would get in the way of what I had already set up, recently I’ve had another look at them and for this tactic I created some opposition instructions that I hope will compliment what I’m trying to achieve.
The Player Roles
At first I was just going to write about the player roles, but after reading shylaxfm’s recent post I thought it would be a good idea to show you the players as well, that way you can get a feel for what you need for the role to be successful. The player screenshots are from my most recent season, I’m still using the same tactic but the players are much better now.
There are certain attributes that I look for in all my players, no matter what position they play. I feel they forms the basis for most of the tactics that I use or create. These attributes are: Teamwork, Work Rate, Decisions, Determination, Anticipation, Off The Ball and Aggression.
GK – Goalkeeper (defend)
Nothing fancy here. He should keep things simple and give the ball to the defenders to bring out.
Player instructions: Distribute To Centre Backs, Roll It Out.
My current keeper, he’s not spectacular, just a solid goalie. The main attributes I’m looking for in a goalkeeper are Aerial Reach, Command Of Area, Communication, Reflexes and Positioning.
DR – wingback (support)
The main job of the right back, besides his defensive duties, is to support the right midfielder and recycle possession, he will occasionally get beyond him, but not too often. I’d like him to look for the cross wherever possible.
Player instructions: Cross More Often
Juan Ramon Carrasco is my current first choice right back, as you can see he’s a very fine player. The most important attributes here are Pace, Acceleration, Stamina, Positioning and crossing.
DC – Central defender (defend)
Just good old fashioned centre backs. I want them to be strong, brave, good in the tackle, but mainly good in the air. We are going to try and force the opposition wide and try and steal the ball there, we will therefore conceded a number of crosses into our area and these guys are there to deal with that.
These two are my first choice centre back pairing. I like them to dominate in the air, so jumping reach is crucial, as is Positioning, Tackling, Strength and Marking.
DL – Fullback (attack)
The left back gives the width on the left hand side, he’ll rush into the space left by the left midfielder cutting inside and look to feed crosses into the box. He also needs to do a job defensively, stamina and pace are a must for this role, he’ll spend a lot of time getting up and down the left wing.
The left back is the more attacking of the two full backs but the attributes required are basically the same for both roles, a good rating for dribbling is handy.
MR – Wide Midfielder (support)
I want this player to occupy the opposition’s left back by running at him and getting crosses into the box for the false front two and the left midfielder. I’m looking for him to be unpredictable, constantly leaving the full back guessing as to what he’s going to do.
Player instructions: Dribble More, Get Further Forward, Roam From Position, Cross From Byline, Cut Inside With Ball.
Eldin Suljagic isn’t the best player ever but he does a fine job for me on the right wing. Good ratings for Dribbling, Acceleration, Vision and Passing are what I’m looking for for this position.
MCR – Central midfielder (defend)
The destroyer, his job is to screen the defence and win the ball back. I could have gone with a ball winning midfielder here, I did try that, I preferred the central midfielder, he seems to hold his position better. I like a player who can pick out a pass in this role, as they tend to see a fair bit of the ball.
Player instructions: Tackle Harder.
The holding midfielder needs to be good at breaking up the play and distributing the ball to his team mates. The attributes that they require are Tackling, Positioning, Passing, Vision, Strength and Balance.
MCL – Box to box midfielder (support)
The midfield runner, he’ll get up and down the pitch. On occasion he will get beyond the attacking midfielders an I expect him to be a goal threat, but he can’t shirk his defensive responsibilities.
Player instructions: Tackle Harder.
The box to box midfielder needs to be able to to a bit of everything. I like high ratings for Off The Ball, First Touch, Long Shots, Passing and Stamina.
ML – Wide midfielder (attack)
A bit of a hybrid player this one. I was looking for a cross between a wide playmaker and a deep lying inside forward. He sits narrow, looking to pull the oppositions right back out of position, creating space for the left back to run into. This player should get on the end of a lot of crosses to the far post from the right midfielder and could score a lot of goals.
Player instructions: Shoot Less Often, Roam From Position, Sit Narrower, Cut Inside With Ball.
The left midfielder spends most of his time in more central positions rather than out on the wing. Attributes I’m looking for here are Dribbling, Flair, Vision, Acceleration, a decent rating for finishing would be very useful as this player will have a lot of chances, Heading could also be helpful.
AMRC – Trequartista (attack)
This was the trickiest role to nail down. I started with a trequartista, then thought I may want this player to press the opponents defence a little more and switched to a heavily tweaked attacking midfielder, only to revert to a trequartista. I love this role, the player is the focal point of our attacks, floating around trying to find space to play in a team mate, or finish the move himself.
Player instructions: Mark Tighter.
AMLC – Shadow striker (attack)
This is the teams main goal threat, he’ll make attacking runs from deep, looking to get on the end of crosses or through balls. He should also look to play in his team mates if given the opportunity. When we’re out of possession I expect him to harry the opponents defensive line.
Player instructions: Tackle Harder, Mark Tighter.
Asymmetric 4-4-1-1 version
AMRC – Shadow striker (attack)
In this version of the tactic the false nine has become the main goal threat which was different than I imagined, it may have something to do with the players I use in this role, but it has become far more of a creator-scorer role.
Player instructions: Tackle Harder, Mark Tighter.
Jaime is my first choice shadow striker and when I use the strikerless version my first choice trequartista, the skill sets are very similar in both of the tactics. Key attributes here are Flair, Vision, Pace, Acceleration and Dribbling. Finishing and Composure are also useful.
STCL – False nine (support)
The false nine has become the main goal threat, he is far more than that though. What I particularly like about this role in this formation is his creation of space through intelligent movement. He’ll drop off the defensive line leaving space for his strike partner to run into, or drift into the channels creating space for the left midfielder to use.
Player instructions: Tackle Harder, Mark Tighter.
Martin Leclercq is far from the finished article but this season so far he’s bagged 35 goals from 44 appearances. Pace and Acceleration are very important as are Composure, Finishing, Heading and Flair.
How Does It Play?
The screenshot above shows the teams average positions from our most recent game against Valencia. As you can see the team is compact and holding a fairly high line. The two centre midfielders are pushed up in support of the front two and the left midfielder is the second furthest player forward. This is typical of what you get from this tactic.
The slideshow above, taken from the same game against Valencia, shows our typical defensive shape (we’re playing in yellow). The opposition have a free kick deep in their own half. We’re lined up with two solid banks of four and the team has retained it’s compactness and shuffled over to the side of the pitch were the ball is. The free kick is taken short and played into the middle of the park. My two central midfielders immediately start to press, looking to force the play wide. Valencia have nowhere to go and they try to work it wide to Suarez in a bit of space. As soon as this happens my right back, Carrasco, springs into life, wins the ball and we’re ready to launch an attack of our own. Unfortunately this attack didn’t amount to anything.
This attack however did lead to a goal. It’s late in the game and we are pressing for a winner. Their keeper has the ball and we have closed down most of his short passing options, forcing him to kick it long. The ball arrives to their left winger and my right back immediately goes to challenge him, winning the ball and laying it off tour our box to box midfielder. He plays it first time to our shadow striker, who picks out a lovely pass to the onrushing left mid. The left midfielder rolls it back to the left back, effectively taking two players out of the game. The left back lays it on to the central midfielder, who in turn picks out the shadow striker who has advanced to near the edge of the box. The shadow striker spots the run of his strike partner and plays a wonderful pass that he finishes first time.
I thought I’d leave you with some videos of goals, the first one is the second goal from the Valencia game, scored from the kick off after the goal above.
As you can see, we force them to go long again and once we win the ball back, tear them apart with incisive passing and lighting fast movement.
The above clip shows the five goals from a humbling of Atletico Bilbao, I think it showcases the tactic quite nicely, particularly how much of a threat the left midfielder is (he scores the first two goals).
All that’s left really is to offer you the download links. If you liked this and you are on twitter or the tifo project then you can find me as @edwardbomb, I’m also putting the finishing touches to my new blog.