The Art of Attacking Football – Part Three

Now that we’ve got the introduction out-of-the-way and in the last article, I showed you the shape I’d be using and briefly explained why, it’s time to try to answer a few remaining questions like Does the tactic work as intended? Does it have issues? If so how can we fix those? Those are the questions we will be looking to answer in these next few articles. Before all of that though I will be looking at two particular issues as well. Those being breaking sides down who have little desire to come forward. And the other is looking at how we handle sides who attack us. Both of these brings about two big issues, that we will look at quickly below.

Defensive sides

One of the biggest issues with Football Manager for players is breaking stubborn sides down. One of the main reasons, we find it more difficult against these types of team is because they don’t give space away too easily in the final third. Space is the key to everything, if a player has space then he also has time and allows him to take his time and pick out runners. Against a side who defends deep and is quite compact, it’ll be really hard to play through balls, balls over the top, crosses and so on into the box as there will be no real space for the player to gain that half of yard they need. So you need to think of different ways to break them down when the above isn’t working.

What’s Important

The important aspects of breaking a side down for me are;

  • Space
  • Movement
  • Width
  • Don’t overcrowd areas of the pitch than can work in your favour by being less aggressive.

More Adventurous Sides

From a defensive standpoint playing against sides who attack you often during the match can be a daunting prospect especially if they are superior to your own team. But the upside is, they’ll leave lots of unprotected space for you to play in and use to your advantage. This can do done by mentality changes or just a simple role change.

What’s Important

The key aspects to take into consideration against these type of teams and to take advantage of space are;

  • Look for open space and vulnerable areas when the opposition commit men forward
  • Try and spot patterns in their play, i.e is one side of theirs more attacking than the other
  • Try and overload the vulnerable areas by being more aggressive.

Now the main difference between these two styles of play is that attacking sides naturally give up space so they do half the job for you. Even if you have a tactic that isn’t that great you should still be able to create chances against these type of sides. It’s probably the easiest sort of sides to play against and one of the reason why so many people can beat the bigger sides yet fail against the smaller sides.

If you come up against the more stubborn sides though who sit back and hit you on the break, then creating and using that space falls solely on you and your tactic and this is when tactical set ups can be exposed and show faults. You need to create lots of movement both on and off the ball. This is when you can tell if a tactic is good or not, in the way it handles these sides.

So these are two small points I will be looking at during the games to see how we handle both of these situations.

Another thing I’d like to touch upon is the actual shape you use. If you use a top-heavy formation then in order to create space and movement how do you achieve it? Well think about how the players are positioned and because you are top-heavy, it’ll be deep in the opposition’s half. This means movement will be hard to come by especially against a side who is deep. So you need to be aware of this with the duty and role section you use. You’d likely need some of the players to drop deeper in order to run from deep or create from deep. If not they can be too high up the pitch to be really effective. The less space someone has to play or move in then the more it relies on a moment of individual brilliance for them to influence the game.

The opposite is true with formations that isn’t top heavy. In these type of formations you need more aggressive roles in order for the support players to get into the final third quick enough to be able to support the more attack minded players. If not then you could see your squad split into two different bands and not be a cohesive unit.  I often see attacking tactics posted that suffer these issues and there seems little thought process behind how the roles all interact with each other.

I just wanted to touch upon those points as I often feel they get missed at times.

Now onto the analysis.

Here you can see the opposition is deep and I’m attacking them and have committed men forward. However not all the people I have committed forward are busting their gut to get into the box. This allows me to have deep options in the regista and box to box midfielder. Having support play from different areas is a good thing and something any well-balanced tactic should strive to have. The reason why can be explained below.

The first cross is cut out but luckily he gets to the loose ball and is able to pick out the box to box midfielder who is deep and unmarked lurking outside of the area.

Once he receives the ball, he has lots of options around him. Both the regista and the left sides wingback are both deeper options he could utilise if he wanted. Ahead of him he also has a deep-lying forward who is dropping deeper and running across goal. This is creating movement. He pick to take the route of the red dotted line though and passes it back to the wingback on the right side of the pitch.

When the wingback get’s the ball back he whips the ball across the face of the box. As you can see in this screenshot I have four possible players who can get on the end of it and put the ball into the back of the net. The oppositions defence is a bit disjointed as you can’t mark deep or late runners. A quick stretch of play and the whole backline is in panic mode.

The move in its entirety can be watched here;

In this move you can see all the elements that I spoke about at the start of the post. Movement, space, width, creativity and penetration.

Here is another example of all the above.

Rojas is my outer left-sided central defender. When he gets the ball here he has tons of passing options who are providing the support. If I used more attacking duties here for the five players who are circled in white, then they’d be much further up the pitch and this would place them much closer to the opposition players. Something which would reduce the space and time they have on the ball. This can in some cases be a bad thing, at least for me. I like players to both create and use space so getting them away from the opposition players initially is something I like to focus on. It makes movement better and like I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to mark players who are constantly moving around. Who picks him them up? And if someone does pick them up then what kind of gaps appear elsewhere on the pitch for other players to take advantage of?

In fact in the image above I do have an attacking player so maybe I should have said four rather than five. The Raumdeuter who is the player circled on the far right is the one out of all the front three who has the highest mentality. The striker is obviously higher because he just closed down moments ago so is more advanced than normal.

In this image we can see that Rojas plays the ball to my wingback, who then plays it to the regista who then plays it to the box to box midfielder. It might not look like much but this move is simple and very effective because it links players together and is moving the ball from outside to inside very quickly and causing the opposition players to change the direction they’re running in. Which in turn is creating even more space and ahead of them, my more attack minded players are also making movement.

The next part of the move shows what the box to box midfielder does next with the ball. Due to the way he is facing he realistically has two forward passing options. He has a third option but that’s playing the ball backwards to the regista, which isn’t likely to happen due to the attacking mentality being aggressive. It makes players more forward thinking which can be a good and a bad thing. His options are playing the ball to the raumdeuter or to the wingback. Remember I asked the wingback to stay wide via his individual player instructions? Well this is why, so he can provide the width. The box to box midfielder pick him out with a long ball. So in the space of two or three seconds we’ve gone from one side of the pitch to the other in one fluid move. Using the full pitch is something I mentioned earlier in the series and said we’d focus on. It looks like it’s working so far.

Once the wingback gets the ball then you can see the importance of my deep three-pronged attacking trio. The inside forward is the one looking to make the biggest run and coincidentally he’s also the one who starts the deepest. But his marker is behind him and never picked him up and the covering defensive player in front of him as no clue that he is there. He is just focused on getting back to cover in his own box.

The raumdeuter is trying to get between the fullback and the centreback and play in that little pocket of space. While the deep-lying forward is less aggressive and makes his way to the edge of the box then checks his run. A simple ball from the wingback and he splits the opposition wide open.

The ball is in the red circle. Look at the positions my three attacking players have taken up and because of starting from deeper positions, find themselves unmarked in the box. This means the ball falls to the inside forward who then hits it to the arrow that the raumdeuter is running to. Then he taps the ball home.

That’s the move in full so you can look at it.

I think I’ll leave this article like this for now as I just wanted to highlight the importance of width, movement, creating space, having deep runners and so on. As at the end of the day all tactics needs to create these things in order to be successful.

Regardless of what shape you play, ask yourself how you create;

  • Penetration
  • Support
  • Mobility
  • Creativity
  • Width

In your current systems. If you don’t know or aren’t quite sure how, then maybe you don’t understand the system you are using and what it’s about?!


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