Are Traditional Strikers Dying Out?

There was once a time not too long ago that having a dynamic, lumbering striker was almost necessary for success. The likes of Fernando Torres, Carlos Tevez and Robin Van Persie were some of the most prolific goal scorers on the planet in most of the decade spanning from 2000 until 2010.

Since then, however, things have changed. While many of the world’s best clubs still deploy traditional strikers, others have opted for a strikerless attack. In the 2018 FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester United, Blues boss Antonio Conte opted to deploy a starting XI sans a traditional striker. With Alvaro Morata on the bench, Conte chose to play winger Eden Hazard as a de-facto “striker” instead. The Belgian would go on to score the game’s lone goal in the 1-0 victory.

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Creating An Effective Battering Ram

Most avid FM players have encountered situations like these before. Whatever the exact circumstances, you desperately need to score a goal but the opposition is stifling your forwards by erecting a living wall of human bodies in and just outside of their own penalty area. Despite hopelessly outclassing the other side in terms of possession and shots on goal, your team is just not scoring any goals. These defensive exploits are frustrating you and your team, as the opposing team refuses to be led to the slaughter. In an effort to break down the opposing defence, you could employ an old-fashioned battering ram. It makes sense; when finesse is not sufficient to break down an especially tenacious and dogged defence, brute force might offer an effective alternative.

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The K O B E

Meet Oscar Ruíz. He’s a 21-year-old Colombian player that we got for less than 2 M from Atlético Nacional. Truth be told, he was one of those bargains that I just couldn’t let slip past me. As it is, we have too many Colombian players in the reserve squad of River Plate or loaned away, due to the foreigner player restrictions of the game.


Oscar was a prospect, a hot one. But I had other great and experienced players in his same positions in the first team, waiting for a chance in the bench, fellow promises in the reserve squad and the magnificent Tovar, out on his 3rd loan at Flamengo. Yet Oscar found a crack, took it and left something bigger than his own name.

Yes, he’s got a first touch rating of 17, a 19 in determination, 16 in vision, work rate and technique and his passing skills are just below 15, but if you look closely, this Midfielder can also dabble as a central defender. So I thought about playing him for his midfielder stats in a Ball Playing Defender role and gaining an extra ballplayer in my 5-2-3. That didn’t cut it.

Before I get into the tactic itself, and how Oscar became pivotal to it, let me give you some context. The year is 2023, it’s my 5th season at River Plate, having arrived from Stoke City in the 2018/19 season. We’ve won it all. Five Argentinean leagues and 5 Copa Libertadores in a row, a couple of Supercups each year and reigning in the Club World Cup (against City, United, Chelsea and Bayern). But I don’t like the way we play. I’m Argentinean and a River Plate fan. That means that the 4-3-1-2 is part of my DNA. Thanks to Oscar, and my eagerness to give him a go, I found the missing link.

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Creating A Quarterback From Your Defence

Those of you who follow the blog or my Twitter feed are well aware that I enjoy creating “new” roles by tweaking existing ones or using regular roles in extraordinary situations. I have dabbled with the Targetganche in the past, which was basically a Targetman-type player in the attacking midfield stratum but I was looking for something new and interesting for FM18.

In terms of football tactics, I try to think outside the box, which also means making use of underutilised resources. This train of thought automatically leads me to look at the central defenders. When your team is on the attack, the central defenders are almost always tasked with remaining behind to protect the defensive line and ensure the team is not caught by a counter-attack. The wing-backs are often tasked with adding to the offensive phases of the game but what if we could get the central defenders involved somehow to gain an extra edge?

When the team is pressing an opposing side, the offensive line is generally the first line of defence, as they pressure the opposition defence and try to either win back possession or force a long ball. When we mirror this idea, there has to be a way in which the defensive line or at least elements of the defensive line can act as the first layer of the offensive phase. The idea I had was hardly an original one, as people like Guardiola and Klopp use the same principle. I was going to use one of the central defenders as a sort of quarterback.

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Three Carat Diamond; A Lopsided Midfield

The tagline for this site is “dare to think outside the box”, which is both a play-of-words on the idea of not fielding an actual striker as well as a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally or from a new perspective. For my new tactic, I have decided to create a spin on the traditional diamond tactics. Naturally, the formation has a strikerless twist. Playing in this formation offers you a midfield diamond, which in turn enables you to pass the ball and play between the lines of both back four and midfield, as well as midfield and forward line. If you have followed the site somewhat regularly, you can see that such a concept of play appeals to me and suits the strikerless style.

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An Inspiration; Dazza’s Strikerless

When I started Strikerless.com a number of years ago, it was merely a way for me to unwind, to put my thoughts to paper and to create some order in the perpetual chaos swirling around in my mind (hello ADHD!). Eventually, this blogging got a bit more serious, as apparently, people thought and still think that I have sensible things to say. I try to interact with people as often and as polite as I can and one of those interactions has resulted in this blog post.

One of the biggest compliments you can make me is saying that I have inspired you to do something you enjoyed doing. It’s a quality I strive for in my professional life as a teacher and it’s even more flattering when I hear I have inspired people I have never met to change their views on how to play a football manager simulation game.

Anyway, back to this post. @DazzaFM contacted me and said I had inspired him to create a strikerless tactic. He felt it worked well enough to create a tactical video over, so that brings us to this blog post. I am going to share this video with you and I hope to have many more conversations like this one over Football Manager.

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Porting A Strikerless Tactic To Include Strikers

Strikerless football is not a style that appeals to everyone. Some are set in their ways and feel forwards are an integral part of their team. Others feel it’s an exploit to play in this way. There are also people who don’t like the aesthetics of this particular brand of football. Whatever their reasoning may be, there are plenty of people who would prefer not to play without strikers. Fortunately for them, all strikerless tactics can be converted to more conventional with-strikers tactics. This article focusses on changing tactics from strikerless to a more traditional style.

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Rashidi Meets Strikerless

Over the course of the weekend, I have linked up with Rashidi from BustTheNet to talk tactics and more specifically, strikerless tactics. In one of his video series, Rashidi uses community tactics in his Gloucester save. Naturally, strikerless tactics were included. We recorded two videos and in this first video, Rashidi picks my mind regarding the setup and settings of my Wolf Pack tactic.

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The Art of the Defensive Midfielder in a Strikerless Formation

For a long time in the world of football, defensive midfielders didn’t receive the credit they deserved. It wasn’t until N’Golo Kante burst onto the scene two seasons ago that the hype returned for these defence-minded midfield maestros.

Everyone now knows Leicester City’s story: rising from relegation candidates to suddenly winning the richest and toughest domestic competition in the world, the Premier League – a story that could’ve been taken right out of a Football Manager save. Among the stars highlighting the greatest of underdog stories, N’Golo Kante’s elite-level play in defensive midfield allowed the Leicester back line to sit deep, where the lack of speed from Wes Morgan and Robert Huth was less exposed.


Watford 1 Chelsea 2 20.8. 16‘ by Chelsea Debs (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The diminutive Frenchman’s play earned him a mega, multi-million move to Chelsea last summer, and in Sportsbet’s most popular football category of news and betting tips, it was predicted that Chelsea would clinch the title against West Bromwich Albion, which they did. He played a pivotal role in Antonio Conte’s three-at-the-back formation, acting once again as the stone wall first line of defence.

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