Set pieces in football, and thus in Football Manager, have received much attention and study. But what about the innocuous throw-in? Apart from when a team develops a long throw-in programme (see Delap, Rory, or last year’s trebuchet-styled throw-ins), throw-ins are largely ignored. This doesn’t do the humble throw-in justice, as they are essential to your Football Manager game.
Just throwing the ball somewhere willy-nilly not only robs you of a potential goalscoring opportunity (depending on your location, of course), but it also increases your risk of losing the ball and ending up on the wrong side of a devastating counter-attack. So again, throw-ins are far more critical than you might think.
Naturally, you are free to disagree with my assessment. I shall not tell you to tweak your setup or try something new. But look at it this way; what do you have to lose?
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Analyse your squad
Now before we get into the meat of this article and look at two routines I use, you will need a chance to assess your squad and see what kind of setup they can actually pull off. A long throw setup requires at least one player who can actually throw the ball long (duh…) and several players who can pose an aerial threat to the opposing defence. On the other hand, a shorter throw-in setup requires players who are more mobile and agile and who recognise the right moment to move into space or come short. Using your noggin to prevent yourself from becoming the FM equivalent of a Neanderthal is highly recommended.
To do that, you’ll need to figure out which of your players’ attributes are needed for each task they can do. The following tasks are available:
- Throwing in;
- Come short;
- Go forward;
- Lurk near post;
- Lurk far post;
- Attack near post;
- Attack far post;
- Mark keeper;
- Attack ball from the edge of the area;
- Lurk outside of the area;
- Stay back;
- Stay back if needed.
Sports Interactive has been very helpful by highlighting which attributes are useful for which tasks. You can access these requirements by assigning a task to a player in the Set Pieces menu and then clicking on said player. The required attributes are subsequently listed on the right-hand side of your screen. Your only job is to write down the required attributes for each task.
Fortunately, many of the tasks have a lot of overlap regarding the required attributes. Manually trawling through each player’s profile is one way of analysing your squad. Still, I recommend using a custom squad view, as it lets you see the useful attributes for each task and every player on a single screen. You can create your own or use mine.
Should you opt to coast on someone else’s hard work, like a prime Pipo Inzaghi lurking up front, let me explain how my view works. The left column features the player names, heights and weights. While size alone is not enough to determine a player’s aerial presence, it can help.
The second column is reserved for the attributes that help with the distribution of set pieces. I use this view for corners, free kicks and throw-ins, hence the presence of the other attributes. I also realise that attributes like Anticipation, Decisions, Vision and maybe a few others are factors to consider. Still, some of these attributes are pretty much universal for any role, position or task. Two of these attributes are listed in the third column.
The fourth, fifth and sixth columns relate to specific tasks and the required attributes for these tasks, while the seventh column gives you an overall assessment of how good your player is.
I suggest you look at the players at your disposal and their strengths and weaknesses. If you lack a player who can throw the ball long, employing a long-throw setup makes no sense. If your players are not very good at heading the ball, you may want to look at a setup that doesn’t involve flinging the ball into the penalty area.
Creating a setup
Offensively, I try to employ two out of the three options the game offers me:
- Short throws;
- Long throws.
I have both set up and let the players determine which to use during the games. So far, they seem to make the right decisions in that regard, so why change a good thing?
The point in this kind of setup is that, as a team, you keep the ball in play while the opponent applies pressure. As previously stated, you can create opportunities from there, but you also keep your opponent from becoming dangerous while you are off balance. It is about throwing technique, but the positioning of the other players is also important. You want to offer the player throwing the ball options to pass the ball to and provide options for follow-up runs.
This is the short setup I use in my games. Three short options, all of them strong dribblers and good with the ball under pressure; strong headers on the posts to offer the option for a cross; a mobile aerial threat on the edge of the box; and one player waiting outside the box for poor clearances, while the two wingbacks remain at the back to snuff out counter-attacks.
This generally results in situations like the one above. The player instructed to lurk outside the area often provides an additional short option, and well, from that point, it all becomes gloriously chaotic, as virtually anything can happen. Ranging from…
a cross into space for the player attacking from deep to finish…
to a short combination where someone ends up shooting…
to a cross towards the far post, followed by a flick-back for someone to finish…
to a short combination ending in a scrimmage…
to a cross towards the far post, which ends up being slotted home…
to a cross towards the edge of the box;
to a cross toward the near post, which ends up slotted home. I have seen a lot of variation in goals scored using this setup. The proof is linked above.
Getting the right players in the proper positions is the primary imperative here. You can make great use of movement during throw-ins. They may, for example, entice an opponent to move to another zone to make room for another player to throw to. It is nigh impossible for defenders (and you) to predict how it will turn out, so offering options and ensuring that these options are intelligent and technically skilled players helps tremendously towards the effectiveness of this ploy.
Movement off the ball is essential with throw-ins because it helps create space and attacking opportunities for a team. When players receive a throw-in, they often have limited time and space to decide and take action with the ball. By making well-timed runs and movements, teammates can create passing options and stretch the defence, making it easier for the player with the ball to find a teammate in an excellent position to continue the attack.
While you can download any number of variations on this setup, I recommend looking at them and manually dragging players into the proper positions. My attacking midfielder is strong in the air; if yours isn’t, don’t make him attack the ball from deep, as it won’t improve your chances of scoring a goal.
A player who can throw the ball very far can create danger for the opponent’s goal; it’s as straightforward as that. Lob the ball into the box and ensure the players in the box are strong in the air. Ensure that you have a few players lined up to pick up loose balls, and you are good to go.
Not every team focuses on long throws, but it does have added value if backs can throw as far as possible. Because the further you can throw, the larger the space on the field you can reach with your throw-in. In addition to the obvious advantage of a chance to score, it is harder for the other team to put pressure on your players.
Again, this is a very straightforward setup. Three strong headers in the penalty area, two short options to draw defenders away, and two players lurking outside the penalty area to deal with clearances. Both wingbacks will remain at the back to snuff out potential counter-attacks.
This generally results in situations like the one above. The throw-in is delivered to either one of the strong headers, who either has a go on goal or, more likely, flicks the ball back or onwards for someone else to have a crack.
While it’s a very straightforward approach, it’s also a setup that relies heavily on the presence of several specialist players. To begin with, you’ll need someone with a decent long throw. You also need one or two strong headers for this to work. The short throw, on the other hand, gives you more options, so you don’t need as many specialists. Still, it’s still a potent weapon if you have the right players for it.