As any team coached by Tony Pulis and the current champions of England have shown, set pieces can be critical and trainable means to pry open a match that is deadlocked. When you can’t break through a defensive line from open play, a corner offers you an extra chance to score that important goal. FM mimics real life in this regard, to an extreme even.
Previous versions have shown us a myriad of exploitable corner routines. Near post exploits, far post exploits, edge of the box exploits, short corner exploits, over the course of the past decade we’ve seen them all. This is the approach I am using in FM17.
Does this even work?
Let’s just start off with the whole “prove to me this shit actually works”, so I can focus on explaining how this setup actually works.
Those are just a few examples of how the routine actually works.
The actual setup
The actual setup looks like this. The left sided version looks exactly the same.
TL;D(WT)R; Where are the downloads?
Fine, you FM-Base monkey… Have the downloads so I can focus on explaining how this thing works.
How does this work?
Both common sense and my old coaches have instilled a fair few pretty much hard-coded ideas about what would be the key area for set pieces, both defensively and offensively. In my eyes, the critical area, where the battle is either won or lost, is the area between the 6-yard box and the penalty spot.
This area is far enough from the goal to make it difficult for the goalkeeper to come out to catch or punch, particularly when players are positioned around him, block his path and obstructing his line of view. Similarly, this is the area you want to defend properly as well, as this is where the goals are being scored.
One of the most important features of this setup is that it offers variety. There is an element of unpredictability towards this offensive structure, which makes it difficult to defend the routine. The most important positions are always covered, though. Part of this variety is caused by letting the AI decide who takes the corners, which might cause the short option to disappear and pop up inside the box.
It’s a bit of a messy picture, but it shows you the basic setup and why I think those positions need covering. The AI almost always keeps two men on the posts, which means we can afford to spare a few men to stay back and snuff out counter-attacks and recycle possession. The other players are pretty evenly distributed throughout the penalty area, waiting for a chance to pounce. Depending on the distribution, there are players at both posts and in the central area, as well as potential rebounders. I’ve also noticed a tendency of the AI to place most defensive players near their own six-yard area, so I want a few players waiting just beyond to pounce on rebounds.
When the defence is able to successfully defend the initial corner, I want to ensure the defenders are unable to clear the ball past the players waiting near the edge of the area and they make their presence felt in the follow-up, either hammering the ball home or find a team-mate in space to try and score a goal. I want the players beyond the six-yard box to step in and reclaim the ball, starting a new attack. Defences which are shifting from defending a corner to possibly counter-attacking or even shifting towards their regular defensive shape are generally unorganised, which means there’s a possibility to exploit space and get a cheeky goal in.
The corner taker
The positioning of the players at corners is just one element of the total sum that makes up a successful corner-routine. Besides placing your players in the central positions within the opposition’s penalty area, you are also going to need some sort of delivery system, basically, a player who can actually kick the ball quite accurately towards one your own men in the penalty area. For me, a good corner taker should possess the following attributes:
- Anticipation; (how accurately can said player predict the movement of other players);
- Corners; (how accurately can said player deliver the ball to its intended destination);
- Composure; (how well can said player perform under pressure);
- Decisions; (will said player make the right call under the circumstances he is in);
- Vision; (how many options can said player distinguish on the pitch).
When I am looking for someone to take the corners, these are the attributes I look for.