When we think about scoring goals, the first thought that comes to mind is hitting the ball top corner or maybe a simple tap-in from a cross, but we very rarely give thought to the throw-in. Unless you’re a Stoke fan, then you might have seen your fair share of goalscoring opportunities from the long throws over the years.

The throw-in has been part of the game since the nineteenth century when English public school boys would run amok with grassy knees. A wide variety of methods were tried and tested to return the ball to the playing field, including kick-ins and one-handed throws but eventually, the two-handed throw was accepted (having been stolen from rugby). All in all, the throw-in was not deemed to be that important or influential.

Over recent years, however, the long throw has become an art that more and more teams are dedicating time to improve on. From spending more time on the training ground to hiring throw-in specialists to really gain that extra 1% over their opponent on match day. The margins are so small that every team is looking to take advantage of that additional improvement that can be made.

Back in the summer, Liverpool appointed Thomas Gronnemark as their throw-in specialist to minimise the risks of fail throws but maximising the awards from them. This shows the importance of improving every single factor of the team. I’m a believer that if you improve every area of the club by 1% you will see huge results and this can be done by thinking outside of the box.

Klopp estimates that his team take or defend around 50 throw-ins per game, this is a huge figure to ignore. On average on Football Manager we get eight corners per game, imagine if you could have the same effect you have from corners but from throw-ins? It could be used as a weapon that not many teams are used to seeing or defending against.

This is the same on Football Manager; we often neglect this side of the set-pieces for various reasons, it may be because you don’t have the right personnel at your disposal to carry this out or it may not be your thing. If it’s not, we hope we can change your mind and make it more of a possibility for you to use in future.

In previous iterations of the Football Manager games, we saw the tremendously overpowered long throw tactic help teams soar to new heights. Putting the exploitative nature of this routine aside though, you could argue that the long throw has gained acceptance as part of a robust approach to the game, pioneered by someone like Rory Delap up to the point where many Premier League clubs now use it as a legitimate weapon.

The basic premise of these almost weaponised setups is as simple as it is effective. When a team gets the opportunity to use throw-in anywhere in line with the penalty area, a player will be designated to hurl the ball into the box in the mode of a surrogate corner kick. That generally happens with a long, flat throw, making it nigh impossible to intercept the ball or anticipate on the flight of the ball. In Football Manager, it would look a bit like this.

As you can see, we have found a way to make long throws work in Football Manager. The footage above is from @FMCatenaccio and @MerryGuido. It is clear that the two of us have found ways to make long throws work in FM as well. You do need a few things to make throw-ins work like this, but when you get it all right, you end up with moments like these in FM.

So how do we achieve goals like the one above? In order to end up with moments like these, you need a mere three things:

  1. The right settings;
  2. Matching your players with these settings;
  3. The right delivery system.

The right settings & matching your players

Just like creating any tactic on FM, the process is all about keeping things simple and not needlessly overcomplicating things. Making sure you read the small print to understand the bigger picture is the one thing many people forget to do when either creating a tactic or even setting up a set piece.

Generally speaking, we will look at the way the AI organises its defensive setup. We try to notice a pattern in it and then try to come up with ways to break the pattern or exploit certain weaknesses in the AI organisation.

In this case, the perceived weakness in the AI organisation is its tendency to pair its defenders with our forwards. The way we look to exploit this weakness is by selecting a mobile setup, where our players do not wait for the ball to come into the area but by selecting players who move across the box and challenge for the ball aggressively. The movement of our players will drag defenders out of place, creating space for others.

The area between the edge of the six-yard box and the first post, highlighted in red, is pretty much the ideal delivery zone, our sweet spot where we want our throw-in to end up. Since most of our players are situated there, most of the opposing defenders are drawn into this zone as well. By asking one or two of our players to charge in at the far end, they move into the yellow zone for rebounds or flick-ons. When executed correctly, it should look like this.

In the above video, you can see how we usually manage to score from this specific set-piece routine. The game offers a varied mix between scoring direct headers, recycling possession quickly and hitting the opposition before they get a chance to regroup and reorganise the defensive line or a header towards the second post for someone to run onto.

So what do our respective routines look like?

Both routines rely on long throws, with one or more strong headers coming short to either head the ball towards the goal or flick it on towards the far post and players rushing in to score a goal. You will notice similarities but differences as well, which is all because of the respective players at our disposal.

Do I have players who can pose an aerial threat?

A perfectly timed header is right at the top of the list of beautiful things in football. Fans always assume that every footballer should be great at heading the ball and scoring goals, but sometimes it is not that simple. For a headed goal, a lot of things have to happen perfectly – a great delivery, a timely jump and perfect contact with the head. We covered the delivery in the previous paragraph; this paragraph is about the men who are supposed to get on the business end of the delivery. We’re looking for the guys who are usually in the right place at the right time. They have great jumping abilities as well as power and timing to get things right in the air. For me, an aerial threat should possess the following attributes:

  • Aggression; (how combative a player is, as I want him to fight for his spot in the penalty area);
  • Agility; (how easily can said player move, is he light-footed enough to get away from his marker);
  • Anticipation; (how accurately can said player predict the movement of other players);
    Balance; (how long can said player keep on his feet under pressure; can he shrug off challenges while getting into position);
  • Composure; (how well can said player perform under pressure);
  • Decisions; (will said player make the right call under the circumstances he is in);
  • Heading; (how accurately can said player head the ball);
  • Jumping; (what is the maximum height said player can reach);
    Off The Ball; (how well the player utilises space when not in possession of the ball, will he find space in the penalty area);
  • Strength; (how sturdy is said player, will he be able to keep opponents off his back);
  • Vision; (how many options can said player distinguish on the pitch).

When we are looking for someone to be an aerial threat during these long throws, these are the attributes we look for. We realise that we listed a lot of attributes and that it is nigh impossible to find someone who is good at all of these aspects of the game. Ideally, you will be able to find someone who excels at four or five of these aspects. This will often be enough to count as a force to be reckoned with during set pieces.

Do I have players who can volley the ball towards goal when it’s cleared?

One of the most glamorous parts of football is the long shot. Alongside skills, it is the thing that children around the world practice more than anything else. Everybody wants to be able to curl the ball into the top corner or hit a dead-straight rocket that doesn’t give the goalkeeper a chance. In almost every corner routine available throughout the last few versions of the Football Manager series, people have used players with excellent shooting skills to lurk on the edge of the area, volleying home deflected or poorly cleared corner deliveries. For us, a dangerous lurker/shooter should possess the following attributes:

  • Anticipation; (how accurately can said player predict the movement of other players);
  • Composure; (how well can said player perform under pressure);
  • Decisions; (will said player make the right call under the circumstances he is in);
  • Finishing; (will said player be able to hit an accurate shot at goal);
  • First Touch; (how well can said player control the ball upon receiving it, creating time and space for himself to hit the ball);
  • Flair; (will said player have a tendency to do the unexpected, like blast the ball in instead of passing it);
  • Off The Ball; (how well the player utilises space when not in possession of the ball, will he find space to unleash his shooting);
  • Technique; (will said player be able to perform a certain move);
  • Vision; (how many options can said player distinguish on the pitch).

When we are looking for someone to be an effective lurker during corners, these are the attributes we look for. We realise that we listed a lot of attributes and that it is nigh impossible to find someone who is good at all of these aspects of the game. Ideally, you will be able to find someone who excels at four or five of these aspects. This will often be enough to count as a force to be reckoned with during set pieces.

The right delivery system

The delivery system is the somewhat ignominious name for the player fulfilling the Delap role, our long-range throw-in cannon. When a player doesn’t possess a high attribute for long throws, you can, of course, improve this by having a player specifically train for this attribute. You can raise the value of the attribute by 3 to 4 points in a seasons time, so it could be an attribute well worth developing.

An aspect we don’t want to underrate is the PPM “Possesses Long Flat Throw”. You can ask your coaches to develop this PPM as well, as we do feel it’s of added value and absolutely increases the chance of you scoring from a long throw. If the ball isn’t delivered quickly, defenders will have a chance to anticipate on the flight of the ball and reposition themselves accordingly.

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 us, a good long thrower should possess the following attributes:

  • Anticipation; (how accurately can said player predict the movement of other players);
  • Long throws; (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).

Downloads

We hope you have enjoyed reading this article as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you and we hope you have as much success with the long throws as we do. We truly believe it is a fantastic way to score let alone win a match by using these effective methods.

@FMCatenaccio & @MerryGuido


FMCatenaccio’s download

MerryGuido’s download


Guido

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

2 Comments

comeontheoviedo · November 10, 2018 at 11:39 am

Brilliant analysis

Peljam · November 13, 2018 at 2:46 pm

Love the article. I’ve been playing a hoofball system that uses set peices like the long throw to squeeze out extra goals. I have a very similar set up to yours but I’m finding for every goal or chance I’m creating, I’m also creating a similar number of offside chances/goals.

Typically the ball goes in to the targetman at the near post to flick on. As the ball comes to him (and he’s onside at this point) the defensive line often steps forward and catches 2-3 of my players offside for the eventually flick on.

Have you found something similar? I’m wondering if this is an off the ball/anticipation issue as my players are pretty rubbish.

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