Masterclass: Mastering Movement of Players Into Channels

This is the first part of a new series written by guest author @BusttheNet

TACTICAL MASTERCLASS – MOVEMENT

This is a fairly extensive series that looks at player movement in and around the box, and works specifically with roles that generate movement. I will be looking at roles that draw defenders out of position and player instructions that contribute to this effect.

Naturally this will become a rather lengthy subject and it will require context, so I will chronicle the development of a 4312 tactic with my Stalybridge side that is playing in the Championship. There will be one video that explains Move Into Channels and deals with that extensively and I will also have 4 videos that show how I develop a 4312.

Stalybridge start using this system in their Championship pre-season. And along with a battery of players that join the club you will see how I have to identify players, study their movement and then pick my 11. I then link it up to training so that we can strengthen any weak areas of their game. Finally I attempt different things in order to test our strengths playing against different kinds of systems.

In order for us to do that I have to be absolutely clear what move into channels does with my group of players. So we naturally begin with an explanation of this feature.

MOVE INTO CHANNELS

According to the game, this is an instruction that instructs players to move into the spaces between players. The space in question is usually referred to as a “channel” and is a fluid space that is created by a fullback/wingback and the closest defender. Some may argue that the half space and the channel are similar (https://spielverlagerung.com/glossary/pitch-zones/half-space/).  There is a difference for Football Manager, however, when we refer to move into channels we are specifically looking at that area in the final third.

In football parlance a channel can be vertical or horizontal. The vertical space between the fullback and the central defender differs from the horizontal space between the defensive and midfield tiers.

Before defensive midfielders and attacking midfielders became common we had more orthodox systems that operated specifically within their tiers with limited movement into the horizontal channels, but the advent of the 442, and with some Number 6s dropping into a holding area in front of the defenders, created a channel that was relatively free of opposing players.

This gave the Number 6 more time to be on the ball, and made him more easily available for the pass. Teams countered this with other systems like the 4231 for example.

The vertical spaces channels are the ones that I want to focus on for Football Manager. Over the years, the game has dealt with channels in different ways. Back in 03/04 we had poor handling of the channels. There was a bug that could cause a split in the channel allowing a central midfielder to come in unhindered from central midfield to score goals.

Over time the handling of channels improved, however it isn’t perfect, certain features of movement are still being worked on in particular. These include the diagonal runs of wide players onto through balls. I do believe that SI are moving in the right direction but there is still room for improvement, and this includes work specifically for the horizontal channels.

When players attack a vertical channel, the move into channels is the instruction we are more interested in. This instruction suggests that this movement is both off and on the ball. This means that a player can move into a channel with the ball to receive a pass, dribble with the ball or even become a decoy.

FM19 sees a lot of changes being made to roles in the game. Some have been hardcoded with this instruction, other roles have these PIs either removed or left open as an option.

One role that operates specifically in the channels is the Mezzala. The Inside Forward can start from inside the channel, but is more frequently seen starting from wider positions, so you don’t see the Move Into Channels (MIC) instruction on it.

In wider areas only the Wide Target-man and the Trequartista can be issued with the instruction to move into the channels. The winger on the other hand is not a channel operator but is meant to give width to the tactic.

In central midfield and defensive midfield there are also two roles each for each tier that have this MIC instruction. These are:  Mezzala and the Roaming Playmaker in central midfield. And, the Segundo Volante and the RPM in defensive midfield.

In the Forward tier, Roles like the Advanced Forward have an interesting combination; they can be told to stay wider and are locked into channel. The poacher is a simpler role less complicated with PIs as opposed to the AF and does not like to play the through ball, he instead can be seeing linking play up. Here too, the Poacher can be issued with a channel instruction to occupy the central defender or he can be told to stay wider when the team is in attack, and this could push him out wider than a channel instruction would.

Ever seen an AF with a move into channels instructions get offside frequently? That’s because as a role he is the most attacking of the forwards, his move into channels instructs him to stick between players and if he has low anticipation and decision-making, this chap becomes a prime candidate for failing the offside trap.

There are plenty of roles that have the move into channels instruction, but its important to understand what each role does. Roles like the False 9, the Complete Forward and the Trequartista, have a high asking price. These roles require players to have a degree of current ability to pull them off. The complete forward for example has a load of player instructions, which requires a higher spread of attributes to pull off.

The important thing here is to understand how this movement is meant to happen. My Tactic Masterclass on Movement video will show specific examples and how I use the Move Into Channels to create the space for midfielders to drive into. We even create a variation of the 4312 where the fullback becomes the primary goal threat.

Here we have a 442 playing against a 4231. If  9, 11 and 12 have the MIC instruction then you can expect them to make those kind of movements into the channels where the fullback and the closest defenders are. There are exceptions as well.

In order to avoid the issues from FM18 and the Scramjet/Diablo effect from 03/04, the game has evolved. Previously MIC could split the defence up so badly that the No 10 would be able to score loads of goals. Today it's not nearly as easy, however we can still create overloads in such a way that the No 12 becomes the primary goal threat.

An MIC instruction on the No 9, a playmaker role on the 11 and a Mezzala role on the 8 could allow you to flood the half-spaces and occupy the channel between the opposing 2 and 5. This creates a double jeopardy move where both central defenders need to move. The mezzala naturally operates in the half space, he can combine with AP to control possession of the ball, and the double jeopardy move occurs when the 9 starts drifting there.  Who do the central defenders mark, the Mezzala, or the forward? This opens the entire flank on the right.

In real life, this was a strategy utilised by Bayern Munich under Pep Guardiola, although there they weren’t using a 4231 for this effect, the principle of drawing an entire team to one side an unlocking the other was.

Instructions like Stay Wider and Move Into Channels thus become an important facet of how we can create the space.  One specific style you can choose for some styles is to choose a role that is able to pass the ball back into the attacking midfield area like a Poacher. He can be told to stay wider and other players can be told to Move into Channels. This creates a splitting defence, which allows players to attack that space from deep in midfield. That’s how you get a Mezzala to become a goal scoring threat.

In the next example you can see my Poacher instructed to move into channels and told to stay wider as he pulls the central defender away opening up space for my Mezzala in a 451.

Here is another example of how the Poacher is moving into the channel to occupy the defenders and in midfield a Mezzala is giving space to attack.

The Move Into Channels instruction is meant for attacking minded players who have the necessary attributes to pull it off. Successful movement comes from players who have these attributes: Decisions, Off the ball, Anticipation, Work-rate, and Determination. These guide control; when the player gets the ball, he needs Balance, Agility, First touch, Dribbling and Composure to keep the ball. Finally choose the attributes you need if you want him to be a creator or a scorer.

In the next few updates I will chronicle how I developed a 4312 with Stalybridge how we started out with the tactic and how it had to change as I was making mistakes not only with player movement but managing my own channels. I was playing like a noob who needed coaching.  Eventually we ended up achieving several goals:

- Reduced the number of touches to goals ratio inside our own box
- Reduced the number of long shots the AI was scoring against us
- Reduced the vulnerability of our own channels
- Increased the number of touches to goals ratio inside the opponents box

These will be featured in my Youtube series for Stalybridge Diaries and a special playlist for the Movement feature of the game will be added to the channel. The episodes begin with the very first day of our season in the Championship.

4 thoughts on “Masterclass: Mastering Movement of Players Into Channels”

  1. Rashidi – great work – when you say you instructed the Poacher to MIC and stay wider. Do you add Roam ? How do you tell the Poacher to stay wider ? Thanks Mike

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