For my first foray into tactical analysis I decided to make the challenge that extra bit harder for myself by exploring the dark arts of strikerless football on FM pioneered by @GuidoMerry & @SeattleRed. What can I say I like a challenge!

Whilst many call the whole concept of strikerless a hack or an exploit, I think they must have PTSD from a recent ‘Sharkfisting‘. I found it to be a revolutionary concept and one which I will look to use exclusively as I look to understand in a lot more depth the different variations in play that can be achieved. The benefits of using such a system are clear to see and provide a much more challenging aspect to FM.

At times whilst developing this system I felt I was wandering aimlessly trying to find some illusive perfect system but after a lot of self reflection and tactical assistance from @Guido & @SeattleRed I felt the fog pass over me as the descent into strikerless madness began!

Let me talk you through the madness.

Principles of Play.

We have several key principles of play that are at the very core of our tactical identity.

Mid-Block – We look to utilise a mid-block so that we allow the opposition to wander forward unsuspectingly before winning the ball back and countering them to death whilst simultaneously not allowing the opposition close to our goal. We also use a ‘Higher Defensive Line‘ to push up our wingbacks which in turn makes sure that the ‘Inverted Wing Back‘ is far enough in front of the defence to tuck in and form a defensive wall with the ‘Anchorman‘ and also allows our ‘Complete Wing Back‘ to maraud down the left flank at will and make it his own.

Shorter Passing – We will look to use shorter passing to help us work the ball in to the box rather than aimlessly lumping it up the pitch and hoping something happens. Nearly all of our players are set to an attack duty which is more suited perhaps to a counter-attacking system, but what I find happens on the pitch is that, because of the 2 Support duties (IWB & Mezzala), we have enough players offering for the short pass to help us retain possession whilst maintaining at least 4 attacking direct passes that look to break through the lines of the opposition and these incisive, clinical passes are what we are after.

Building Up From The Back – We look to use the ball smartly in defence, retaining possession until the right forward pass is on, rather than just lump it forward which would lead to us losing possession. This is key to our side as it allows our more attacking players time to roam and occupy the space that has been left by the opposition pressing our defence which then allows us the chance to progress up the pitch.

Verticality – This is one of the most important aspects to our play, we are looking to be deliberate and purposeful in the build up whilst also being aggressive in moving the ball forward when the option is on. This is why we opted for the ‘Very Attacking‘ mentality paired with the ‘Work Ball Into Box‘ instruction so that we progressed up the pitch quickly but we also looked to unlock the opposition defence with skill and finesse. The thought process behind this is that the middle zone of the pitch is where we can do most damage so why waste our time out wide?

Unpredictability – Now for the key ingredient of any successful tactic, we need our attack to be unpredictable. It needs to have variety as to make sure we do not become one dimensional, to achieve this we have selected ‘Roam From Position‘ on our attacking 5 and the Team Instruction of ‘Be More Expressive‘ paired with a ‘Very Attacking Mentality‘ as to allow them to attack space wherever they may find it. On the pitch this translates to an attacking vortex of intentional madness.

The System

Let me introduce you to the beauty that is ‘Delusional Illusions‘, this is the system we are currently using with RB Paris as we climb divisions, kick ass and overthrow PSG!

A Tactical Overview of Delusional Illusions!

Team Instructions – In Possession / In Transition / Out of Possession

The general idea behind this system is to score more than the opponent (obvious I know) rather than play defensively. I am someone who needs attacking football, I enjoy a 4-3 win more than 1-0. I want to entertain my fans not put them to sleep (I’m looking at you Jose). My thinking behind this is that if someone sets up defensively they have already conceded psychological defeat.

But there is more to this system than just blind, moronic rage. It is an almost poetic intricate rage that fears no man and pulls no punches.

In possession this system becomes a complex 226/235 shape that utilises a double pivot to form a defensive box with the CB’s. The defensive box serves to protect against a counter attack as well as offering the player on the ball several passing options to build up from the back.

The use of dual ‘Mezzala’s’ was to ensure that we attacked the half space aggressively and consistenly. The ‘Mezzala‘ on support would often drop to pick up the ball from defence and help facilitate ball movement or run with the ball attracting opposition players towards him so that the attacking ‘Mezzala‘ could make late, penetrating runs into the half space between the central and right side of the pitch. The utilisation of an ‘Advanced Playmaker’ in the AM strata who drops deep creates a diamond in the midfield which in turn allows us to progress vertically more often. The role of the ‘Shadow Striker‘ and ‘Inverted Winger‘ was to simply attack the space in behind a defence as well as creating space for others by dragging defenders out of position constantly.

In Transition we are looking to win the ball back and counter attack as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is why I have opted to use the counter-press as it would be against my own tactical principles to retreat and simply try to ‘shut up shop’. It is also very effective to use a counter-press in this system given that we have two ‘Mezzala’saggressively closing down the half-space and passing lanes. This limits the oppositions passing options, we then use the front three to press the vulnerable defence. This often leads to us winning the ball back high up the pitch or the opposition lumping the ball up the pitch for our aerially dominating defenders to win and from that we attack again, and again, until we break the deadlock.

Out of possession we look to win the ball back quickly and efficiently, however, if the press is broken by the opposition then the system reverts back to a 433 shape that is deep and compact whilst covering the most crucial areas of the pitch (the central zones). The use of a 4 man midfield also allows us to maintain a numerical advantage in the midfield. In defence we have opted for the use of the strategy of ‘Forcing The Opposition Wide’. In using this strategy we are looking to spring a counter attack with our ‘Ball Playing Defender‘ being the guy to launch the missile ball forward.

Key Performers

In every system there are those that shine and those that do the crucial leg work to make the system tick.

In this system the guys that go unnoticed and take up most of the backbreaking work are the ‘Mezzala‘ (s) and ‘Anchorman‘.

These guys are the pillars that our success is built upon, the ‘Anchormansits in front of the defence all match and acts as the gatekeeper, he also forms our defensive box with the ‘IWB‘ tucking in. This defensive box allows our attackers the licence to go crazy and work their magic. The ‘Mezzala‘ (s) on the other hand is the conveyor belt to this team, he keeps everything moving along with his pressing and his tendency to drop just in front of the defensive box, this helps us retain possession and progress the ball quickly up the pitch.

Now for our shiners, the ‘Mezzala‘ (a) and the ‘Advanced Playmaker‘ (a). These are our star man time after time often coming up with game changing moments.

If the ‘Mezzala‘ (s) is the conveyor belt of the team then the ‘AP‘ is the lynchpin that it revolves around! He is our creative spark who sprays passes left, right and centre. When the ‘APdrops deep to pick up the ball he often drags the opposition defenders with him leaving plenty of vacant space ready for the marauding ‘Mezzala to go elegantly galloping in to. The attacking ‘Mezzala‘ aggressively attacks the half space, makes late penetrating runs and creates space for others by attracting the opposition to himself before launching a pass into space for his team mates to attack. The importance of these two roles to this system cannot be understated. The interchanging of positions between these two causes havoc among the opposition defence leaving them absolutely helpless, this kind of movement is so saucy to see unfolding!

Is It Effective?

It’s all well and good me telling you how I plan to overthrow Pep Guardiola as the next tactical genius but does it actually work?

I’ll let you see for yourself.

Whilst this system is not perfect, it does score goals and as I said from the beginning what I am looking for is goals, after all no one ever won anything without them right?

As you can see we do not typically concede many shots on target and we also are not conceding many goals (Simeone would be proud!) despite our do-or-die nature but most importantly what we are doing is scoring a lot of goals and boy are they good goals! (I guess Pep is proud too?).

The most impressive thing to me about the nature of the goals is not the volume but the variety! We are not just simply scoring set pieces or counter attacks, we are scoring an abundance of different types of goals which was one of my main principles.

Here are some of the goals to wet your appetite.

RB Paris or prime Barcelona?

Short Corner Masterpiece!

Movement Madness!

Whipped to the back stick

Whilst this tactic is proving to be very effective for me it is not a ‘plug and play’ tactic and therefore there is no guarantee that it performs the same for you. My squad has been specifically recruited to fit this system and it’s requirements but also in game tweaks can sometimes prove pivotal to securing a result.

If you would like to use ‘Delusional Illusions’ you can download it here (via Google Drive) with set pieces etc included. I hope you have a whirl with it and let me know how it goes for you!

Thank you for reading!


Tommy S. · April 15, 2021 at 10:17 am

Great tactics! What are the changes you make when playing a big team away?

Raymond · August 2, 2021 at 12:07 am

I wonder how do you manage to publish images from football if it inactive the only version I have is on my phone but I can’t see the counters for my team also their Twitter page shows some examples of this year’s euro 2020

    Guido · August 9, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    I screenshot them with Gyazo.

Arjan · August 12, 2021 at 8:29 am

Do you use opposition’s instructions?

    Guido · September 15, 2021 at 5:39 am

    Usually not.

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