Creating My Classic Strikerless In FM19

For a good four years now, I have been running the weblog Strikerless.com, which is based around the ideas of strikerless football. When I started writing about strikerless football, it was deemed somewhat of a novelty, an oddity that tricked the mechanics of the match engine but had no actual foundations in real life football, barring one AS Roma team and the odd effort born out of desperation when teams found all their forwards banned or injured.

Since I started preaching the strikerless gospel, real life caught up. Several European teams play without a traditional forward and with a certain degree of formlessness. They either have no obvious focal point of attack or they can attack from so many directions that anticipating how they will attack at any given time is nigh on impossible. This is the underlying concept of a strikerless formation in a nutshell.

Instead of a traditional forward, you play a trequartista or other sort of attacking midfielder as your most attacking man on the pitch, position-wise. These attacking midfielders, be it a trequartista, an enganche, shadow striker or an advanced playmaker, tend to move into the space between defence and midfield to receive the ball, thus overloading the central midfield, establishing domination in terms of possession and creating space for surging runs by wide players or other midfielders.

That brings us to a new version of the game; Football Manager 19 is on the verge of going live. FM Grasshopper and I attended a private event and were allowed to play the Alpha version of the new game. This event and my results in playing the Beta inspired me to write this article. Please note, and I want to be very clear about this in advance, this article DOES NOT and WILL NEVER contain a download link because it was created on an ALPHA version of the game, not the finished game. What worked well in Alpha, might not work at all during Beta or the full release.

Having said that, the underlying train of thought might prove useful and insightful, so there is an added value to this article. Plus, if you are so inclined, it is not like you cannot manually write down the player roles and instructions to try this bad boy for yourself. I just don’t want to assume any responsibility if your gambit backfires. There are no proper plug and play tactics after all.

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The Wolf Pack Tactic

In an effort to make the most aggressive counter-pressing tactic I possibly could within the FM17 match engine, I ended up taking my inspiration from a BBC documentary on wolves and more specifically the way they work together within a wolf pack. It is during a hunt where co-operation between wolves within a pack is most apparent. A wolf pack may trail a herd of elk, caribou or other large prey for days before making its move. During this time, they are already hunting, assessing the herd, looking for an animal that displays any sign of weakness.

Such an approach is not dissimilar to how a well-executed counter-pressing tactic should function. As counter-pressing is intended to win the ball back as quickly as possible when possession is lost, you can easily see how this setup would benefit from players working together to bring down an opponent.

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The Withdrawn Targetman Saga; The FM17 Version

In previous instalments of the game, I have continually tried to implement a role I have dubbed the Withdrawn Targetman. In older versions of Football Manager, it turned out that the Enganche role was a perfect fit for what I had in mind. In the current edition of Football Manager, however, the Enganche role is simply too static to be effective. The quest to develop a new Withdrawn Targetman role begins.

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Strikerless 2.0 For FM17; Balancing The Midfield

In the past few weeks since the release of my first FM17 tactic, I have received a fair bit of feedback regarding the initial tactic. Most of it was regarding the defensive frailties of the tactic, the susceptibility of the tactic to quick counter-attacks down the flanks. Whilst I did not experience these problems in a manner similar to the experiences of others, I was nevertheless not entirely happy with the setup I was using.

The balance between the various lines was not quite the way I want it to be. The reason why the setup with two ball-winning midfielders worked for me was probably because I had two world-class midfielders in Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan. As I progressed in the Roma save, I noticed the same defensive frailties others mentioned when one or both were absent from the line-up through injury or suspension. Some of these changes may or may not be the direct result of another SI patch, we’ll not discuss that any further in this article.

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The Four Horsemen

It’s a rather biblical name for a football tactic, I know, but it just sounds cool, doesn’t it? The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are mentioned in the Bible in chapter six of the Book of Revelation, which predicts that they will ride during the Apocalypse. The four horsemen are traditionally named War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death. However, the Bible actually only names one: Death. An alternate interpretation, likely based on differing translations, holds the first Horseman to represent War and/or the Antichrist, the second to represent Pestilence (sometimes called Plague), while the third and fourth riders remain Famine and Death, respectively. My Four Horsemen tactic is inspired on these biblical harbingers of doom and destruction, since the tactic features four of those proverbial doomsday bringers. So let’s have a looksy.

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Strikerless’ Classic Revival

Yeah, let’s just get this one out of the way. I’m honest enough to admit that no matter how much I try to look at things objectively, I am a human being and I bring my biases to the table. As a child of the late 80’s and early 90’s, I grew up in a golden age of gaming. While these classics are awesome and have stood the test of time far better than I suspect most modern games will, I fully admit that part of the appeal is that I grew up with them. After all, you never forget your first love. Strikerless Sexy Football…

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Strikerless Meets Pulis; The 4-4-2-0

Over the last seasons, quite a few people have fallen in love with Barcelona, Spain and FC Bayern’s tiki-taka brand of football. After Guardiola’s departure to FC Bayern, we’ve seen the Bavarians employ a mix between the more direct style Heynckes implemented and Guardiola’s own possession-based style. Either way, possession seems to be crucial, as its importance is preached ad nauseum.

Now I am not blind to the importance of possession, but sometimes keeping the ball just isn’t enough to break down a well-organised defence. The problem with possession is that, while having the ball is certainly more desirable than not having it, you force the other team into sitting deep in a low block defence. This is the bane of possession-orientated teams such as Barcelona and Spain and to a lesser extent, Pep’s FC Bayern.

Breaking down such a team requires a different approach and in this case, I’ll be honest with you. @JLAspey‘s recent work on the Tactical Annals has been nothing short of inspirational for me. I quite enjoyed reading about his exploits with a 4-4-2 formation and I  started thinking of putting my own spin on 4-4-2 formations, naturally adding a strikerless twist. In this particular case, I decided to merge my own strikerless antics with a few pages from the Tony Pulis playbook.

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Strikerless 3.0 – Introducing The Withdrawn Targetman Mk. II

The premise of strikerless football is seared into the way I play this game and think about football in general. Yet on occasion, sometimes coming upon me suddenly, but coming without fail every month or so, as rituallistically as the prayers children say on their knees before tumbling into bed; the very act of turning on the laptop and booting up the game presents me with visions of improving my earlier work.

Whilst the whole process of testing my ideas and refining the concept was time-consuming and at times frustrating, I feel I have found ways to further improve upon the Strikerless 2.0 tactic I released a while back. I hereby proudly present Strikerless 3.0.

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A More In-Depth Analysis Of The Withdrawn Targetman

As I said earlier, I wanted to re-new the whole Withdrawn Targetman role. I basically want a player who will hold up the ball and bring his team-mates into play, choosing how and when to pass the ball to maximise the potential of the attacking movement. Because this Withdrawn Targetman is also supposed to be my Plan B, he would have to offer some physical brutality as well as footballing skills.

I basically want a player who can beat opposing players for headers and contribute with flick ons, and hold up the ball by controlling aerial balls played into his chest. Such a player will play with his back to goal to help relieve opposing team’s pressing and allow our runners to link up. I want this player to play a typical targetman role about 15 metres deeper than where a targetman usually plays. He would pair up with a shadow striker making runs forward to get on the end of a flick-on or get the rebounds from the headers. In a nutshell, I want the role Fellaini plays for Utd at times or how Cahill plays for Australia and Everton.

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The Withdrawn Targetman Mk. II – Re-Inventing The Role

Last season, I mentioned my desire for a new kind of role in FM, the Withdrawn Targetman. I basically want a player who can beat opposing players for headers and contribute with flick ons, and hold up the ball by controlling aerial balls played into his chest. Such a player will play with his back to goal to help relieve opposing team’s pressing and allow our runners to link up. I want this player to play a typical targetman role about 15 metres deeper than where a targetman usually plays. He would pair up with a shadow striker making runs forward to get on the end of a flick-on or get the rebounds from the headers. In a nutshell, I want the role Fellaini plays for Utd at times or how Cahill plays for Australia and Everton.

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