Bully-Ball & The Human Trebuchet

Over the past decades, we have seen ample evidence of the long throw-in and its effectiveness. Most notably, Rory Delap’s bullet throws long proved a useful piece of weaponry for Stoke City. Launching howitzers into the box towards tall and powerful players turned out to be a winning strategy.

The success of Delap and Stoke proves that football need not be complicated. Find someone to lob the ball into the box and have your strongest players shove around defenders and the goalkeeper. Since you can’t be offside from a throw-in, you can bring up your strongest players to cause mayhem in the opposing box.

The Corner Setup That Became A Throw-in Routine

Now that we have all been sucked into the enslaving obsession we all know FM can become if the game is good enough, it is time to look at another yearly seasonal tradition; the hunt for superb set-pieces.

I am no stranger to the subject, I have tried (and succeeded on occasion) to create successful set-piece routines. FM21 was no exception to the rule and I tried my hand at creating a corner setup. You have probably heard of the famous saying “necessity is the mother of all invention”? Well, if necessity is the mother of all invention, blind luck is the drunk uncle of invention. Not exactly something to be proud of but there’s a surprising number of such cases. This is the case of the mysterious throw-in routine that started as a corner setup.

Breaking The Deadlock With Set Pieces

Set piece plays are an essential aspect of the game. If you are unable to break down a particularly sturdy defence, a well-executed set piece may be all you need to pry open the defence. Hell, you can win games by making sure your offensive set pieces are good. In this blog post, I am running through the plays I am using in FM20.

The Accidental Set Piece Routine

Some scientific discoveries come about after painstaking, goal-oriented lab work finally yields the result that a researcher is trying to find. But many of the most incredible discoveries in the world came about when someone found something they were not looking for. In some cases, these are the result of a true accident. Lucky accidents have allowed people to discover unexpected but useful side effects. That is certainly the case for my new corner routine.

Short Corners; My Plan B

Short corners have to combat a negative reputation in world football. Just as a back-pass is seen as an inherently negative manoeuvre, corners which are not crossed directly into the penalty area are often met with disdain by supporters worldwide. Sadly, this opinion is shared by too many managers in the virtual universe as well; by opting against putting the ball into the danger zone you instantly forego a greater opportunity to score seems too much of a common place.

In my eyes, when a team takes a short corner it may be a wise decision in terms of goalscoring opportunities. Taking a short corner by no means gives up an opportunity, but instead creates a new and different one. Especially when your team lacks an aerial presence, a short corner offers up new avenues to scoring a goal.

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Defending Corners (And Other Set Pieces)

We are all afraid of it, and I am fairly certain we have experienced it as well. The dying seconds of the game have started, your team is up by one goal, and the opposition is about to take a corner kick. Deep inside you are dreading this final play of the game; your gut feeling is a very negative one. ‘This is going in’. So how do you defend against these situations, especially since the AI seems awfully good at scoring from set pieces in this latest instalment of the Football Manager series.

Unfortunately, corners (and indirect free kicks) are an abundant source of conceded goals, with the default defensive routines coming up grossly inadequate to counter the AI’s routines. To balance the scales somewhat, I have decided to take a more in-depth look into corners. Last week, I posted my offensive corner setup. In this article, I will be focusing on the different defensive systems and concepts – man-marking/zonal-marking etc.

Defending corner kicks is a more fluid and irregular process, as it mostly depends on the manager’s personal style and preferences, and the level of football. For example, it is pretty tough to implement a zonal-marking system at a lower level, because this system needs to be practised every single week and demands quite a bit of spatial awareness from the players.

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Do You Even Delap?!

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.

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Set Pieces; How They Can Help You Break Open A Game

Managers, coaches, players and pundits alike; none of them are blind to the importance of set plays, which can be a crucial means to force in a goal when things don’t look good during open play. The premeditated nature of set pieces offers managers a level of relative consistency in preparation and planning. You can work out multiple routines and prepare your players for these routines during training sessions. In this blog post, I want to focus on the process of setting up a good corner routine, the variables that determine whether or not a routine is successful and my own routine. (more…)

Effectively Using Corners In FM17

Whether you like it or not, set pieces are becoming more and more important in modern football. They allow teams the opportunity to train for specific, premeditated conditions and these focussed training-sessions can result in a weaponized set piece that can help to break a deadlock. Even at the very highest level, a well-placed and well-delivered corner can break open a match. In this article, I will explain how I set up my corners, which process is used to create them and what I want the players in specific roles to do during the corners.

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Towing Away A Parked Bus; Breaking Down A Defence

When you play FM long enough, you are bound to encounter opponents who park the bus against you. With the knowledge that they are hopelessly outclassed against your star-studded squad, they opt not to be lead to the slaughter like the proverbial lambs. Where football romantics would love to see the smaller sides go for the jugular as well, some teams choose to erect a human wall in front of their own penalty area. In some cases, even such defensive antics prove unsuccessful as the attacking side manages to penetrate anyway or get a lucky goal in early on.

In other cases, the structure and integrity of the defensive format remain intact. How do you batter down the gates in such scenarios? Is there a sure-fire way to break down these dogged defenders and their tenacious efforts? That’s what I want to focus on in this article. How do you tow away that parked bus?

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