The Withdrawn Targetman Saga; The FM17 Version

In previous instalments of the game, I have continually tried to implement a role I have dubbed the Withdrawn Targetman. In older versions of Football Manager, it turned out that the Enganche role was a perfect fit for what I had in mind. In the current edition of Football Manager, however, the Enganche role is simply too static to be effective. The quest to develop a new Withdrawn Targetman role begins.

Ideally, I want the player who fills this role to hold up the ball to allow runners to link up and contribute to our build-up with flick-ons. He’d start off with his back to goal but after a flick-on or header, he can still surge forward to get on the end of an attack. He can pair up with either Shadow Strikers or Inside Forwards, but he needs mobile players around him to be truly effective. Ideally, he has two tasks to fulfill.

The primary task; the pivot

His primary tactical use is similar to that of the traditional target man. He acts as a pivot, often taking a touch, assessing the positioning of his team-mates before quickly passing the ball along. He’s not supposed to delay play, but keep the ball moving, keep the tempo high, contributing to fast and fluid ball retention. Just look at the match-clip below.

This is quite a high-paced attack, but it still shows the role I want my Withdrawn Targetman to play. When the pass moves into the box, our man takes a touch to control the pass and quickly moves the ball along into the path of one of the midfielders linking up, who then finishes the attack with a lovely shot. He provides the assist for this goal with a quick touch and a keen eye for the movement of the players around him. In the picture below, we can see a similar example.

As our Withdrawn Targetman receives the ball, he can either choose to hold it up to allow the midfielders to link up or he can swivel and pick a pass on either flank. His sublime positioning allows him a bit of time on the ball to help set up another attack. There are plenty of players nearby to feed on the passes or possible flick-ons by our man. You can see how the attack eventually played out here.

A second tactical use for the Withdrawn Targetman as a pivot is to beat an aggressive frontline press. Popularised by Jürgen Klopp via his iconic Gegenpressing, more and more teams have adopted this approach where players will hunt in packs in order to win possession in the final third. This can be devastatingly effective, with a turnover high up the pitch often leading to lethal counter-attacks when the opposition is out of balance. Playing a long-ball negates the ability to press as opposed to passing out from the back, and who better to latch onto such balls than a Withdrawn Targetman who can flick it on or hold the ball up and bring his team-mates into play.

In this example, the opposing team plays a long ball to evade our press and follows it up by pressuring our own defence with their forward line and midfielders. Turning over the ball in such a situation would inevitably lead to trouble. The Withdrawn Targetman wins the header and glances it on towards a team-mate, before linking up and setting up the (poorly executed) shot of a team-mate.

The secondary task; the goalscoring threat

The Withdrawn Targetman’s game is the goal-scoring threat he offers. With one or more Shadow Strikers or Inside Forwards acting as diversions, defenders tend to be rather susceptible to a late run into the box to meet a well-placed cross, as well as more traditional Strikerless goals where the defensive line pushes forward and someone makes a run in behind them. Your Withdrawn Targetman will get in situations like these.

He gets on the end of crosses, he is sent deep by exquisite through-balls, he gets in all sort of goal-scoring opportunities and thus offers a valuable addition to any tactical setup.

The role in FM; a tweaked AM

In previous versions of Football Manager, I tended to use a so-called “Targetganche”, a tweaked Enganche role. In the current Match Engine environment, the Enganche proved too static to be effective. Opposing midfielders seemed to muscle him off the ball once they noticed he didn’t move around a lot. That meant I needed to come up with a new plan. I ended up tweaking one of the more basic roles, the regular Attacking Midfielder.

 

Please keep in mind that not all these instructions are needed to turn your regular old Attacking Midfielder into a Withdrawn Targetman. Some of these instructions are just my personal flavouring, needed to incorporate him into my tactic successfully. The following instructions I feel are required to make this role work.

  • Hold Up Ball; it makes sense that when you want him to link up play, you tick the box that makes him hold up the ball in advanced positions, allowing team-mates to rush forward.
  • Tackle Harder; I want my player to compete for the ball and not shy away from duels with his opponents when needed. Maybe I am wrong in saying this, but I have the impression that this instruction helps him to get more physical.
  • Roam From Position; because the Enganche was too static, it makes sense to add this instruction. The Withdrawn Targetman will move around far less predictably, which makes him a more effective presence.
  • Moves Into Channels; similarly to the previous instruction, I have added this one to ensure that he stays mobile, and moves laterally around the pitch, moving into areas where he can play quick wall passes before then turning and joining the attack.

What the Withdrawn Targetman offers to any tactic (not just strikerless ones)

To summarise, the Withdrawn Targetman offers a lot to your tactic. He helps to layer your attack, dropping deep initially before turning and moving forward again. By holding up play and flicking the ball on, he acts as an advanced pivot, allowing your team to relieve pressure at times. Because of his erratic and unpredictable movement, he is also an agent of chaos, causing mayhem for many defenders. Finally, depending on the type of players you have at your disposal, using a specific kind of player adds new dimensions to the role. Using a strong player turns him into a more traditional targetman, whereas a faster, more nimble player turns into a mobile targetman.

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