Meet The Inside Forward

When playing football manager and selecting player roles, a few individuals choose a role and think that is it and expect it to perform instantly. But in some cases it’s much more than the role you’ve selected and is about the team as a whole, especially for roles that are creative or for the ones you want to be the goal scoring roles. If you use a creative role, then who is the player creating for? Who provides him the ball and what the player do with the ball. Or if it’s a goal scoring role, then who is the one providing the supply and what kind of supply? Who offers the support? And so on.

It’s not a simple case of selecting a role and leaving it at that. There is a much bigger picture. So hopefully in this article I can show you the Inside Forward and how I utilise him. I’ll also be focusing on why he scores, what his play involves and explain why the roles around him, allow this kind of play. But first let’s look at the player and his development first, to understand everything about the player.


For those who follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that Rodyrgo is my golden boy and is going to become the main man at the club. I’m hoping he will break all kinds of records, especially the goalscoring ones.

At the end of the first season he had seen quite the change, not only in terms of attributes but also with his personality.

Personality  – Start of the season balanced. End of the season it’s now ambitious. This means his tutoring session went to plan and not only have we seen a rise of his determination attribute from 10 to 14, we also know that his hidden attribute, ambition has also seen a raise.

Role training – For the entire season I kept him on the role training of the inside forward schedule.

Individual attribute focus – I only had him on stamina training for 3 month and then I removed it. I didn’t add another because he was still complaining about a heavy workload due to a poor personality and he was playing a lot of games. I didn’t want to increase the injury risks.

End of Season Two

During the second season he improved an awful lot, not only in terms of attributes but his overall game play too. He grabbed a lot of goals and assists compared to the year before. This no doubt had impacted his develop in a good way.I haven’t had him tutored again since the first time as I have no suitable tutors for him.

Role training – Short term he is my inside forward and thriving at the role currently. However due to how he is developing (attribute wise) and my long-term plans for him (I see him as the main striker eventually), I start to training him differently now. I feel the inside forward role no longer really suits him as the attributes that category trains are already getting high now. I could make them even higher but I want to focus on other aspects of his game now to make him even better.

That’s why I now put him on the complete forward schedule as I look to bring his other attributes up to scratch. This won’t be a long-term training though, it’ll be done for 18 months at the maximum, as I don’t want him to become a well-rounded player, I still want him to specialise and favour his high attributes. But I don’t want the other attributes to fall too far behind.

There’s nothing wrong with having rounded players, it’s just I prefer to have players who can do a specific job. The job I want Rodrygo to do is actually quite complex and I need him to develop more before I start discussing that side of things. But this will happen in a later article.

End of Season Three

By far his best season to date and all from the inside forward spot too. His attribute development is going as I wish and he’s become a world-class player in three seasons time. I still believe he has room to develop even further though. During this third season I gave him a heavy individual attribute for first touch, as I felt it was lower than it should have been in comparison to his other attributes.

So in three seasons we’ve seen these attributes rise;

Technical Attributes       

  • Corners +4  
  • Crossing +4
  • Dribbling +2
  • Finishing +4
  • First Touch +5
  • Free Kicks +4
  • Heading +2
  • Long Shots +3
  • Long Throws +1
  • Marking +2
  • Passing +4
  • Penalty Taking +4
  • Tackling +1
  • Technique +3

So we’ve seen a 43 point increase across all his technical attributes with first touch, being the one that saw the biggest improvement. Which makes sense as this is the only one I focused on apart from stamina in season one.

Mental Attributes

  • Anticipation +3
  • Bravery -1
  • Composure +4
  • Concentration +3
  • Decisions +3
  • Determination +7
  • Flair +1
  • Leadership +2
  • Off the Ball +3
  • Positioning +2
  • Teamwork +2
  • Vision +3
  • Work Rate +2

Here we can clearly see the direct result of tutoring which originally made the attribute be 14 in value. However the increase to 15 in value is down to the squad personality which is now determined, it grew one more point due to this. We can also see that bravery took a one point drop, this was due to a recent injury. On Football Manager 2018 we see this more often, we can sometimes see the bravery take an immediate loss for the attribute when someone is injured. Once he’s fit and playing regular again, it should begin to rise to what it was before.

Physical Attributes

  • Acceleration +4
  • Agility +5
  • Balance +5
  • Natural Fitness +1
  • Pace +4
  • Stamina +5
  • Strength +6

We’ve seen much bigger attribute chances here compared to the mental and technical attributes. The reason being there are less in the physical attributes than the others. When I first posted about this player, some people acted like he was the finished product and didn’t take him being 15 years-old at the time into consideration. They were quick to point out his flaws and focus on what he cannot do. The truth is, players at a young age can be shaped how you want and just because an attribute might be low at the time, doesn’t mean it will be when he’s fully developed.

We can see above how much he has changes in a 3 year time period. When you view a youth player try to think of the bigger picture and see that his attributes could be much higher in the next five or so years.

Rodrygo has had a great three years both in terms of attribute development and performances. I will be going into some depth about the performances in a later article when I get some free time, to show how you can bring youths through without compromising your results.

The Inside Forward Role

To ensure you have a good goal scorer the first thing you need is someone or multiple people to provide the striker, or in this case the inside forward, with chances he can put away and provide him with support to pass to, create space or even to occupy an opposition player for him. Without any of these then you’ll struggle to have someone who can regularly score 25+ goals a season.

I’ve already mentioned a few aspects of what is needed to create a goal scorer but here are more;

  • Supply
  • Support
  • Space
  • Movement
  • Roles
  • Duties

The supply and support are vital parts of helping someone become a goalscorer. This is what can create the movement both for the player to use and around him so it makes the opposition make a decision. This is how gaps appear for you to exploit and use to your advantage. However another big part of this is the role and duty of the player and those around him, as this will determine not only what the player does, but how the people around him behave too.

To further explain all of these points and how they link together, I should probably show you some examples of how it all works in a game environment. If you want to know about the system I am using then you can find it discussed here;

The 4-2-3-1 Introduction

Even though I’m using the 4-2-3-1 deep, all the principles I speak about in this topic should be applicable regardless of what shape you use. All the principles are the same regardless of formation.

Passes Received

It’s important to see what kind of areas the player receives the ball, as this will show how involved he is in the build up play and what kind of areas he has taken up as he is about to receive the ball.

Here we can see the goalkeeper is playing the ball out to my defender Guilherme. But if we look further forward we can see Rodrygo who is moving towards the flank to give himself some space. Due to him being unmarked, Guilherme is going to hit him early with the ball. Once he gets the ball, he knocks it down to the Segundo Volante who is offering support. However nothing happens during this move but the point isn’t to show what Rodrygo does yet, it’s just to highlight and get an idea of who is passing to him and in what kind of areas.

This is almost from an identical area as the first example but this time he receives the ball from the Segundo Volante. We can also see how unmarked he is and all the acres of space he has to play in, due to the positions he is taking up. Due to me playing on a standard mentality, he isn’t too advanced and cut off from the rest of the side. He is very much a big part of all build up phases and this makes him harder to pick up and mark because he drops deep.

Rodrygo also offers us an outlet for when we are very deep in our own half, as can be seen above. We won the ball back and due to Rodrygo offering width, we can play the ball straight out to the wing to relieve some of the pressure. It also means we are immediately on the front foot because Rodrygo can drive forward with the ball and stay wide until the rest of the play catches up with him.

Now we’ve seen a little glimpse into where he receives the ball but not let’s have a look how the inside forward works for the system I’m using.

In the above image we can see both the teams shapes and the positioning of the defenders and midfielders. It’s almost identical to each other. You can see Rodrygo unmarked and in the space between the fullback and the winger. My keeper notices this and can use him as an outlet and do long balls to him. I don’t have the keeper set to short distribution as I’d miss out on this kind of stuff, it also means my keepers passing accuracy suffers a lot because of this but I don’t mind, if on the occasions it works, results in a chance or even a goal being scored.

Now I know what you are thinking here, and it’s that if I can do this then so can the opposition seeing how we are matched up and you’d be correct. However, in a proper defensive phase my inside forward would drop much deeper and be helping the fullback out. So in that sense, it’s less risky due to the mentality I am using. Nonetheless though, the keeper hit the ball straight to Rodrygo.

After Rodrygo held up the ball he played it back to the midfielders who then played it to the winger over on the right. Once this happened the game got stretched because we switched play. Looking at the above though, it seems we lack options upfront but actually I don’t. What happens next is a vital component of why the inside forward role works excellent for me.

Due to the striker attacking the box because the winger is running towards the byline, this means the oppositions defenders are in panic mode and they’re more focused on the early running, my striker. Which in turns mean Rodrygo has been left unmarked. Not only this, but due to the strikers early run he has created lots of space for the inside forward to use. No-one is near him and no-one is marking him.

The two main reasons why this space was created is because of;

  • The striker who is a deep-lying forward on an attack duty.
  • Using a winger who looks to get to the byline with the ball.

The striker is the one who creates the space and this is the reason I gave him an attack duty and not a support one. As I want him to still be a spearhead when attacking and not dropping as deep in moments like this. Other roles would work too in this scenario. The forward doesn’t need to do anything other than run in this set up, as this is what creates space. Just a simple run into the box without a ball.

The second reason it works so well is the winger and his attacking ability and his aim of going as deep into the oppositions half as possible and picking out a cross. You should be able to see in this example how both the striker and winger role allows the inside forward space, time and creates the movement for him by taking the whole defensive unit away from him. It’s also one of the reasons I like variety in my attacks and don’t like using the same role on both sides. If I used two inside forwards then the responsibility for this kind of play would fall solely on the striker, which is much harder to do. The payoff is also poorer in my opinion as it makes you more one dimension and your play is easier to predict. You basically make things easier for the AI if you only attack in one way.

In the above example, on this occasion Lincoln didn’t provide an accurate ball to Rodrygo or the striker. It was a poor ball but then again I am using a pure striker as a winger for this game due to injuries and suspensions. Things aren’t going to work all the time, that’s not realistic and if it did work all the time, that would be a bug. However it happens frequent and that is how you should measure success on Football Manager and if something is working tactically, by the frequency of how often it happens.

The move wasn’t lost though and the ball was cleared from the initial cross but then found it’s way to my Segundo Volante seconds later. I use a creative Segundo Volante who has the players preferred move of ‘tries killer balls often’. I love this PPM as it means he does stuff like the above all the time, he is constantly hitting the space the inside forward is in and either plays the ball in between the space of the fullback and wide player. Or he attempts to put the ball into the area between the fullback and the defender. On this occasion, he chooses the wider options, so now Rodrygo can become the winger and provider. He receives the ball and drives forward for a second then just hits the ball across the goal for the striker to turn home.

While the inside forward is normally the highest scorer in the side, he’s also one of the most creative and gets a ton of assists. His play isn’t all about scoring goals and he can often be found becoming provider like in the above example. It’s not forced creativity though and is all natural, meaning it’s an added extra rather than funneling play through him, like a playmaker role would. I speak about it all the time but having a variety way of creating and scoring goals makes the game much easier. Too many people play one-dimensional these days and that’s why they come up with the ‘The AI has worked me out’ stuff that people come out with. The AI doesn’t ever do that, but if you only create and score in a specific way then when this doesn’t go to plan you have no plan b.

Which means you struggle and why you have to change stuff so much. I’m not saying you can’t be successful that way but it brings an awful lots of negativity with it, playing that way and makes the game harder than it needs be. It’s also one of the reasons you should think of a tactic as a whole, rather than focusing on specific individuals or roles. Because in isolation it’s meaningless if it doesn’t actually fit how you play.

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This time we see the inside forward scoring a goal. The rightback combines with the right winger who then passes the ball to the Segundo Volante, who then in turn passes to the attacking midfielder, who then plays in the inside forward. So again we are seeing the team combine and use the pitch in different ways to offer support and create. There is actually another component at play here too though and that is PPM’s. I have two players who play this role;

Now depending on which of these players I play in the attacking midfielder spot, determines how different we attack. If I use Alexandre Tam, then quite often I see him doing stuff like the above, where he plays the inside forward in. This is because of his PPM’s, he is tailored to be a pure passing outlet and these make him attempt different types of balls. Yet when I play Lucas, we don’t see those type of ball at all. I don’t mind that as we attack slightly different then and the onus is back on Rodrygo to make the intelligent moves. To give you a better indication of just how badly this impacts Rodrygo’s stats here are some stats;

Now if we ignore the goals scored in the first season, as he was only 16 years old and was still really underdeveloped. However if we look at the last two seasons, we can see he scores a similar amount of goals but the number of assists he gets is very different.

Can you guess which season the above AM’s were paired with Rodrygo the most based on assists? The 2019 season is with Alexandre Tam and the 2020 season with Lucas. One of the reasons why the number of assist differ drastically is down to the fact that Lucas isn’t as selfless as Tam and doesn’t try killer balls frequently. So without the killer balls often, it takes away from Rodrygo’s all round game. One of the reasons why is because of the gif example I posted above. When he receives those type of balls he can normally square it for the striker, winger or an on running midfielder to put the ball in the net.

It doesn’t mean Lucas isn’t as good as Tam, it just means they play the role different and this impacts the overall play. The goal tally is roughly the same though, the 2020 goal scored seems a bit better but he had two games were he scored 5 goals so it’s padded the stats out slightly. I think this kind of stuff might be better explained in another article though as this one is already getting quite long and I’ve not covered everything that I want just yet. Just after Christmas, I’ll look at finishing off part two with a lot more examples and explanations.

18 thoughts on “Meet The Inside Forward”

  1. Great article, would you mind posting your exact setup? I’m assuming you inverted the formation you wrote about in your article. I’m curious to see the roles of your midfield and defense and how they pair with the attack

    1. I did post the exact set up, I linked to the article that was all about the shape. It wasn’t inverted at all. What made you think it was?

  2. After reading this article If you don’t mind me saying I personally think it’s your best work yet amongst the top quality articles that you produce on a regular basis. 🖒⚽🖒😚⚽😍

  3. THAT was very insiteful. You really showed how to think when working out a tactic. 3 Questions for you.

    1) If you used an AP instead of an AM, how do you anticipate the tactic might play differently? I’m trying to get a handle on when or why I might use an AP role in a tactic.

    2) Do you fell anything might need to be adjusted if the inside forward was playing an an inverted winger. I have my 3 attacking midfielders in the central midfield as you first described in the 4-2-3-1 intro (“the way nobody wants to play”).

    3) Would you consider doing a “Meet the Segundo Valente”? It is a new role and to get your thoughts about how it interacts with other roles would be very helpful.

    Thx for all your help.

    1. Thanks.
      1 – If I use an AP then the play is forced through the AP rather than it being natural. I talk about this in the tactical article linked in the post that talks about the 4231.

      2- If I use an inverted winger then things change ever so slightly. But ultimately it would depend, as any changes I made would be based on what I saw happening when I viewed a game.

      3 – It’s on the list of things to do so maybe.

  4. Great article again Cleon.
    So I’m gathering from this piece that you select your potential wonderkids & play them in the first team from a very early age? With Santos I gather you get lots of potential 5 star players. Who do you select to move to first team squad & do you give them all 40 odd games like you did Rodrygo?

    1. Why do you gather I get lots of 5 star players at Santos? The star ratings are based on what your current players in the side, the Santos squad is really good. I do get high potential players but not that many 5 stars because I already have a good squad, so those 5 star players might only be 3 stars in my side. But would be 5 stars in a more poorer squad.

      I play my better prospects in the first team and give them as much time as possible. The amount of games they get varies though.

  5. I love your analysis and art series or tactic series better than this one. Dont get me wrong this is not bad in fact great post again. Just made my comparison.

    When I looked the opposition’s shape, I thought that you have space. I mean you don’t need to create it sometimes. When I play the game I saw very defensive sides. 4 or 5 defenders 2 DMs etc and almost with defend roles. (I also know your tactic creating part and support space width etc philosophy) Maybe what you are showing us happens frequently but do you loose sometimes against smallar teams? Do you struggle against them? If yes, what was the issue against these sides. Maybe you can show us some analysis related to this.

    I created a tactic. A good one. Not one dimensinal. But sometimes I struggle against defensive sides which is normal I think, isnt it?

  6. Kemal

    His art and tactics series are great too. You are clearly a more experienced (and better) FM player then I as you are creating successful tactics on your own. This series is showing how one should approach creating a tactic (or everything about managing a successful club), something alot of us could be doing better at.

  7. You Mention above that you use a Deep Lying Forward with an attack duty to create space for the Inside Forward but also seem to imply that other roles might work as well. Did I read you correctly?
    Would a complete forward or advanced forward work in this setup or is the deep lying forward the better role for this tactic?

      1. My players available are best suited as complete or advanced forwards. I play the 4-2-3-1 with the CAM, Inside Forward, and Winger in the central Midfield rather then the attacking midfield so I think I must use a Deep Lying Forward or there will be no link from midfield to him and he will become isolated.

        1. I’m talking about what’s best for me, not what is best for the player. There’s a difference. Do you play a player to his strength regardless of how he plays. Or do you play with what’s the best for the team. I know which I’d choose.

          But the answer is still the same as above, you’ll have to watch to see. A CF can work fine but then again he might not. Just like a DLF might work but then again he might not.

          That’s why I linked the thread above. That should explain how you should be thinking

  8. Thanks for your advice. I will reread that post again. I play with what I believe is best for the team, but sometimes what is best isn’t always obvious. I have been looking for young forwards that I can develop into Deep lying forwards but I have noticed the game churns out alot more complete/advanced/target men type players at that position.

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