I’ll start us off by referencing the old adage that classics never really die. After all, they became classics for a reason, they have traits and characteristics beloved by all. In reference to Strikerless, it’s a particular brand of football you can create with a strikerless tactic. That daft prick Ruud Gullit coined the phrase “sexy football” during his stint with Chelsea and despite the fact that his managerial performances and qualities are roughly on par with those of a frozen fish stick, his definition of sexy football is quite apt for my own particular brand of football.

That is the kind of football Chelsea played under Gullit and it’s quite similar to my own brand of football. I want to create a style of play that sends waves of enjoyment throughout the virtual stadium, a team of artists that dazzle and mesmerize opponents, fans and pundits alike. Whenever my team gets the ball, I want to feel the buzz of expectancy because as a manager, I know something beautiful might happen, even if it doesn’t always come off as planned. I want to generate poetry in motion, smooth and silky passes, fluid movement through the lines.

Looking at the video above, I have highlighted some moments that are typical strikerless goals. I’ll let you be the judge regarding my own brand of football and it’s degree of sexiness.

Before I start explaining what’s what and how everything functions, allow me to get in the obligatory disclaimer that this tactic is, in fact, a tactic developed and tested during the Beta stages of FM17. I have absolutely no idea if and when SI might update the game and change the match engine, rendering the entire tactic useless again. Having said that, the entire concept works brilliantly so far. The Dark Side is strong in this version of FM and I am looking to bring sexy back, Justin Timberlake style.

The three pillars of strikerless football

I genuinely believe in the premise that when you find the right style of play, you can get almost any formation to work. To find the right style of play for a strikerless formation, you have to understand how a strikerless formation actually functions out on the pitch. The premise of a strikerless formation is that instead of traditional forwards, you play one or more attacking midfielders as your most attacking men on the pitch, position-wise. These attacking midfielders tend to move into the space between defense and midfield to receive the ball, thus overloading the central midfield, establishing domination in terms of possession and creating space for surging runs by wingers or other midfielders.

With these ideas in mind, I have based the tactic around three pillars, three concepts that I want to see on the pitch. I need to see plenty of movement, I want to see a lot of pressing, resembling Klopp’s Gegenpressing and I want to see a cohesive team unit. Just to visualize…

17beta02

Pillar 1; movement

The very nature of strikerless football I described implies that you need mobile players and a style of play that generates actual movement both on and off-the-ball. With no forward up front to hold up the ball, you need some sort of an advanced focal point, which for me implies that you need players to drift into the space between defense and midfield to receive the ball or create space for others. By playing in the gap between midfield and defense, they are either always open to receive a pass, or they drag the defensive line higher up the pitch, thus creating space for movement into the space behind the opposing defensive line.

In order to benefit from these intricate runs made by the attacking midfielders, you will need other players to make penetrating runs as well. This, in turn, means you need a specific type of player, but you also need to set up the correct player roles to ensure the appropriate interaction between the players and you want to ensure a compact formation, where the players are closely packed together. We will look into this aspect of cohesion in a later paragraph. Just keep in mind that when the various lines are close together, the players don’t have to cover great distances, which allows them to benefit and feed off each others movement. When one player drops back, this opens space for others to run into.

Pillar 2; pressing

A few years ago, the concept of counter pressing was rather alien to the general public. The rise of managers like Pochetino, Tuchel and Klopp and their trademark energetic pressing style has made counter pressing more and more mainstream. This does not mean the concept is new, not at all. Managers like Bielsa and Lobanovskiy used similar strategies in earlier times and like every idea ever conceived, it will be rehashed and improved sooner or later. Incidentally, this isn’t me being a pretentious douche by referencing famous real-life managers, it’s merely me illustrating the point that counter pressing has been around for a while.

Since actual counter pressing is difficult to achieve in FM without the ability to set pressing triggers, I generally settle for the next best thing, which is all out pressing all over the pitch. The philosophy behind this kind of pressing game is to press and defend high up the pitch, aggressively chasing down opposing players, forcing them to play either a long ball or play risky back-passes. By playing a high defensive line, you can keep the distances between the lines small, to stop your players from having to cover great distances to effectively close down an opponent, which again ties in nicely with the cohesion part we mentioned earlier.

Pillar 3; cohesion

My last pillar is the trickiest one to describe. Cohesion is a vague concept, but allow me to elaborate and explain what I mean. In the past, solo efforts and individual stars decided the fate of matches.  Legendary players such as Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruijff, and Diego Maradona, who, thanks to their skill and speed, found empty spaces in midfield, created the time to take the ball to the box and then decided to pass or shoot at the goal. Nowadays the game has become a lot quicker. If a forward loses the ball he will immediately challenge the opposing defenders for the ball.  As a result, the amount of space and time available to players has become significantly lesser, forcing them to pass faster and interact more closely.

Some of the top teams seem to use a form of swarm intelligence, making decisions collectively and coming up with innovative moves on the fly.  That leaves less room for individual efforts and makes playing collectively important; otherwise, it would be impossible for teams to sustain their attacks against fast and complex defenses. This suits my strikerless ideals. I want all players to take equal creative and defensive responsibility 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.

When you look at the match-clip above, you can see how compact the formation is. The space between the last defenders and the forward three is never more than thirty meters. The team makes this whole process look effortlessly and smooth, resulting in the sexy style that characterizes the strikerless brand of football.

The team instructions

A concept may look flash and pretty on the drawing board but it needs to be applicable in reality (or in this case, in FM) for it to be effective. The pillars that make up my preferred style have been defined, now it’s time for me to apply these ideas and mold them into a set of team instructions that is effective yet does not stray (too) far from the ideal style I had in mind when I started the design process.

17beta03

With the three underlying concepts in mind, I feel these settings should enable me to play the style I desire. I have opted for a “very fluid” team shape to ensure the cohesion and compact formation I strive for. The control” mentality is generally my starting mentality, though I tend to mix it up during the matches. A higher tempo” helps to ensure they are able to pass and move their way through a defense. The defensive line is sent to slightly higher” to help out with the pressing aspect as well as keeping the formation compact, which in turn helps out with the movement and cohesion. The use of the offside trap” makes sense if you’re using a higher defensive line, you don’t want to give away loads of space without ensuring some form of protection. More closing down” and the prevention of short goalie distribution” are put in place to help with the relentless pressing and keep the lines compact, which again helps with the cohesion and in the case of a turn-over of possession ensures the possibility of a quick break. Play out of defense” seems necessary because of the very nature of strikerless football. Without a forward to hold up the ball it seems rather pointless to hoof the ball forward. Pass into space” makes perfect sense. Strikerless is all about movement, so you need to utilize the space that opens up on the pitch. The more direct passing” approach is a bit of trial and error from my part. Mixed and normal passing left me struggling to achieve enough penetration of the opposing defensive line, this passing style seems to get the job done. The free-flowing and adventurous nature of strikerless football almost necessitates the use of the be more expressive”  and “roam from positions” instructions.

The basic formation

With so many players moving all over the place, it’s rather hard to explain the basic formation because there really is no basic formation. There’s no such thing as playing 4-4-2, no 4-4-2 is the same in the way they actually take to the field and move around on the pitch. Every team has at least an attacking shape and a defensive shape. You don’t play with a back four the entire time, you play with three at the back when going forward, as one of your wingbacks joins the midfield, four at the back when transitioning between attack and defence and perhaps five at the back when defending, as a midfielder may drop back to help out the defenders.

17beta01

Having said that, I think the picture above helps to explain what I hope to see on the pitch in terms of movement. Starting off with the central defender pair the more observant readers have probably noticed the different roles for the pair. Since you generally play against a single central forward, there is no need for the both of them to square off next to each other. Instead, I want one defender to aggressively seek out the forward, whilst the other waits behind to provide cover in case of a fuck-up (and let’s face it, this is FM, so that tends to be necessary). When the opposition uses two central forwards, both defenders are set to plain old central defenders, no frills.

The two ball-winning midfielders in the heart of midfield are there to guard the defensive line and provide some muscle to the lineup. The ball-winning midfielder in the defensive midfield is given liberty to roam forward to from a three-man midfield when in possession, whereas the other ball winning midfielder assumes a more holding, static role, effectively acting as a sort of pivot when the team transitions from defense to offense and vice versa. When the team moves into it’s most offensive shape, this pivotal midfielder is often the most withdrawn midfielder, being overtaken by his comrade-in-arms and the playmaker.

Having two breakers present in midfield frees up possibilities to relieve other, more creative players from their defensive burdens somewhat. In this particular setup, it frees up offensive maneuverability for the wing-backs and the third midfielder, the roaming playmaker. The two wide men are our sole wide outlet and should be allowed to roam forward without restrictions, which means others have to pick up the slack somehow. The current (BETA!!!) match engine allows for such antics since the crosses coming into my own penalty area are no longer hideously overpowered.

A defender responding to an incoming cross in the FM16 match engine (actual in-game footage may look slightly different)

A defender responding to an incoming cross in the FM16 match engine (actual in-game footage may look slightly different)

The final aspect to describe is the offensive triangle, which consists of two shadow strikers and a regular attacking midfielder on an attacking duty. The idea is that the more static attacking midfielder acts as a sort of focal point for our offensive efforts, holding the ball up for the playmaker to link up and spray passes towards the shadow strikers. When it all comes together it’s a lovely sight to behold.

Quit boring me with this shit, where is the download?!?!

Please keep in mind that this is a tactic created and saved during the Beta stages of the game. Importing the tactic could prove difficult or even not possible at all. The tactic ought to be saved as a .FMF format, instead it has become a .TAC format. Apparently, the .FMF format I can use from my beta version is not compatible with the .TAC format most other beta users seem to have. Oh well, I wrote a long and boring disclaimer about how it might not work at all, my work is done.

DOWNLOAD

Regarding the actual application of this file, you probably know the drill by now. Find the My Documents folder where your FM17 material is stored and place this download in the tactics folder. That ought to work. Once again, this is Beta, so it might not.

beta

OMFG!!! RESULTS!!! OI’s!!! TRAINING!!!

No. Go away. This is not FM-Base.


Guido

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

61 Comments

Lee Sean · October 23, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Do you play a left-footer on the right side and a right-footer on the left????? #FMBase

    StrikerlessGuido · October 23, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    For the wing-backs? Nah mate, lefty on the left, righty on the right most of the time.

Donald Johnston · October 23, 2016 at 5:04 pm

is there the corner routines set up in this tactic already? abd with the oi’s do u just not use any? 😉

    StrikerlessGuido · October 23, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Yeah, the corner routine has been integrated into this tactic. I never use OI’s myself, at best I leave them to my assistant to set.

thecluelessguy · October 23, 2016 at 11:10 pm

Its actually Tuchel not Tüchel. 🙂

Daniell · October 24, 2016 at 8:33 am

Really great post and a great tactic. In some ways, it looks like what i’m trying to do at the moment. Why playing that wide?

    StrikerlessGuido · October 24, 2016 at 10:17 am

    If I play more narrow, the play becomes congested and easy to defend.

fmotter · October 24, 2016 at 11:47 am

Great post, take a few tips from this for my current strikerless tactic. Would be working really well is my defense wasn’t porous as hell

    StrikerlessGuido · October 24, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    Be sure to protect the defence with a player in the defensive midfield area.

      fmotter · October 24, 2016 at 8:11 pm

      What kind of role do you normally use for that? I’m a sucker for a good DLP-D

      StrikerlessGuido · October 24, 2016 at 8:21 pm

      I used to love the Half-Back, but a DLP(D) or a BWM can do a job as well. It really depends on the rest of the setup as well.

      fmotter · October 24, 2016 at 8:24 pm

      I’ve. It experimented much with BWM tbh, I did used to use HB all the time in 15 tbh but 16 switched to a DLP, I prefer the movement. I’m using a 4-1-2-3-0 currently. It wasn’t going to be my go to tactic straight away but injuries forced my hand

      StrikerlessGuido · October 24, 2016 at 8:37 pm

      HB’s seem to leave the team lacking in the DM-department, I quite like my BWM(S) – BWM(D) setup in midfield to supplement the Roaming Playmaker.

      fmotter · October 24, 2016 at 8:41 pm

      I think when my Moss FK team get a bit better and I get some more rounded players in I’m going to have to experiment with different styles, I’ve stayed away from BWM as j have this idea of them roaming out of position trying to win the ball back

      StrikerlessGuido · October 24, 2016 at 9:27 pm

      Works out nicely when you want a bit of counterpressing. 😉

      fmotter · October 25, 2016 at 8:13 am

      I shall keep that in mind…

Arnaud El Che · October 24, 2016 at 3:01 pm

No individual instructions at all?

    StrikerlessGuido · October 24, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    None at all. I sometimes ask the assistant manager to do a few, but that’s it.

Thomas Paine · October 24, 2016 at 8:30 pm

Nice read, I’m not sure about the sexiness, our tastes might differ a bit here, but this tactic looks damn effective.

    StrikerlessGuido · October 24, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    That’s cool. There are also people who are into Latvian midgets when it comes to sexiness, so let’s not argue about such subjective terms haha 😉

      Thomas Paine · October 24, 2016 at 11:06 pm

      By the way, everybody loves Latvian Midgets, as far as I know… 🙂

      StrikerlessGuido · October 24, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      I prefer mine Estonian, but I can see the appeal.

shirt10 · October 24, 2016 at 11:24 pm

I love following these strikerless developments. A couple of questions;

1 – With both of the BWM’s, if they pick up an early booking, do you switch the roles so that you can either uncheck ‘Tackle Harder’ or check ‘ Ease Off Tackles’? Do you substitute them? Or just roll with it and accept any red cards and suspensions?

2 – Playing in the lower leagues, with some self imposed restrictions, I have no-one in my squad who has a decent role suitability for Roaming Playmaker. Would you stick with that role, or would you recommend switching to an Advanced Playmaker (S/A) with adjustments?

    StrikerlessGuido · October 25, 2016 at 6:34 am

    To answer these questions 🙂

    1. I generally pick up a fair amount of cards and suspensions. When possible, I swap one or both out at the hour mark. If not, just ride with it. Swap out one of the three AMC’s for a new central midfielder. Easing into tackles would not solve anything.

    2. You probably could switch to an AP, though I haven’t tried that.

Gary · October 26, 2016 at 2:14 am

Am really curious as to how u pick your players for each role, do u go out an buy players with great overall all round attributes, do u look for players with just high highlighted attributes for specific roles regardless of other attributes or do u use what’s in the squad your giving regardless because your so damn good at this game haha

    StrikerlessGuido · October 26, 2016 at 6:36 am

    I generally go for all-rounders, unless I get the chance to sign a truly world class specialist in a specific role.

Gary · October 26, 2016 at 10:34 pm

How do u think the tactic would work with a team predicted to finish bottom of the table? Is it possible to still dominate a game with Sunderland players v Man City players for example using this tactic. Would be great to see a write up on how u choose specific players for individual roles an if u look for attributes u want that arnt highlighted for the position by the game. Either way, I’m a fan 🙂

    StrikerlessGuido · October 27, 2016 at 7:00 am

    Midtable ought to be possible. Beyond that, who knows what a spell of good results might do for morale and your results?

roggiotis · October 27, 2016 at 7:50 am

Great post and tactic! I think i play a regular save with this tactic as soon an the full game release on 4th November.

– Why 2 SS and not SS + Treq for variaty?
-Whats your opinion for Eng in AMC position?

i guess that you retrain strikers to SS ,AML/AMR to SS ,WL/R to MCs ?

    StrikerlessGuido · October 27, 2016 at 7:53 am

    Trequartista’s are a bit lazy in the pressing department.

    You could use an Enganche I suppose, I just haven’t tried that. When the team does well, why change things eh? 🙂

    Retraining strikers is an option, yes 🙂

      roggiotis · October 27, 2016 at 7:56 am

      Thanx for the immediate reply ,

      r u planning to create a 4-4-2-0 ,4-1-4-1-0 in the future ?

      StrikerlessGuido · October 27, 2016 at 8:29 am

      I probably will, mate 🙂

tderth · October 29, 2016 at 1:29 am

Thanks Guido. Great insights. Looking forward to full release so I can try this out.

    StrikerlessGuido · October 29, 2016 at 7:50 am

    You’re not in the Beta, mate?

      tderth · October 31, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      No, sadly work as been insane for October so I decided to wait…….patiently, sorta.

MANUMAD · October 30, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Lovely and easy to follow article my man Guido!

Do you not find that pressing works better if the am players are told to close down and tackle harder etc?

Ill download and tweak as usual …

    StrikerlessGuido · October 30, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    Hey mate, long time no speak 🙂 How’s life, my friend?

    Thanks for the kind words by the way. I have started with tackling harder, but the amount of yellow and red cards was batshit insane, so I scrapped it. Then again, this is Beta, so it might work again later on.

MANUMAD · October 31, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Im not too bad thanks. A lot of work actually.

Well yes I see the profusion of yellow and some red cards also … but if the tactic is more effective Im willing to accept them.

My question was in relation to the players having no PIs. I think lateral movement is enhanced if “cms” and “ams” are told to at least close down more and if given instructions such as move into channels. Tackle hard helps the pressing side but may be sacrificed if too many cards.

Incidentally looking at your tactics I always get more annoyed with SIGAMES’ baffling decision to excise (the instructions necessary for the creation of) the central midfielder

    StrikerlessGuido · November 2, 2016 at 9:16 am

    I haven’t tried adding those, as it didn’t feel necessary at the moment. Might as well give it a go.

jmeteee · November 2, 2016 at 7:04 am

(1) Interested to hear your views on using a F9 instead of the AM – this is what I have been doing.

What are the drawbacks of this in your mind?

(2) Do you mind explaining why your most defensive BWM is on support, but your midfield BWM is on defensive?

I’m intrigued. My natural inclination would be the opposite!

Thanks!

    StrikerlessGuido · November 2, 2016 at 9:55 am

    1. There is no main drawback if you don’t mind forwards. The F9 fills the same role, basically.

    2. Mine was initially the same, but that meant that in possession, the DM would stay back and basically left us a man down in midfield. By switching the two, the DM will surge forward and form a midfield trio in possession.

marc jarsholm · November 2, 2016 at 5:26 pm

did it break after update or some? suddenly i cant win a single match with the tactic even tho i was 1st 80% of last season -.-

    StrikerlessGuido · November 2, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    I noticed some problems myself. What worked for me is tweaking the CWB’s to a Support role, it improves the defensive aspect.

roggiotis · November 5, 2016 at 9:20 am

@Guido

you have to create fmf file for the tactic now

roggiotis · November 5, 2016 at 9:26 am

No , this file could not be imported

roggiotis · November 5, 2016 at 9:33 am

Ok ,now !

    StrikerlessGuido · November 5, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Cheers. I made some modest tweaks compared to the original beta version, so I will probably do a slightly edited new post this weekend or early next week.

Jedi Football Blog · November 5, 2016 at 11:21 pm

I noticed that V1.3 has APA vs V1.4 has APS would like to know what reason for that change. Thanks!

    StrikerlessGuido · November 6, 2016 at 8:02 am

    Tinkering around with it, I’m still not convinced which one is better 🙂

bigotris · November 30, 2016 at 6:44 pm

can you suggest some players for this formation? the three up front in particular.
does it work with average or smaller teams?

    StrikerlessGuido · December 1, 2016 at 6:37 am

    Which team are you using? 🙂

      bigotris · December 1, 2016 at 3:15 pm

      i’m using inter and i don’t want to change the formation but i’m thinking to start a new one with a europa league team able to proceed to last 16. the two shadow strikers have to be shadow strikers irl? Can i use wingers? or quick strikers like doumbia, martins?

      StrikerlessGuido · December 2, 2016 at 8:39 am

      You can retrain either if their attributes match 🙂

bigotris · December 17, 2016 at 11:07 am

i’m having a superb second season

bigotris · December 17, 2016 at 9:27 pm

I’m using Asteras Tripolis, an over mid-table greek team with europa league appearances the previous 2 years.

In my first season I had problems and against strong sides I used a counter attacking 5-1-2-2-0 (the full backs in the same line with the ball winning midfielder, then two box2box and two ss) and I came 5th (3rd after the playoffs).

In my second season, now in january, I am first in the league, and have finished first in the europa league group with athletic bilbao (2 draws), spartak moscow and ludgoretz (4 wins). I think i have one loss all season and <5 draws in all competitions

The thing is that now I use the counter attacking tactic rarely and I managed to win strong teams like PAOK 3-0 and AEK 4-1 with yours.

***I 've made some changes:***
attacking instead of control
the cb roles
the defensive four in the same line

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