The Art of Attacking Football – The Final Chapter

In this part of the series I’ll be focusing on the analysis side of things and fixing the big issues my formation has as well as making slight tweaks to be competitive and to give me consistency.

The shape I use looks really impressive at times, especially in terms of overall movement and attacking intent. However, when things are bad they’re really bad and it’s important you understand how and why you’re poor. One of the biggest factors with the shape I use is the lack of midfield players. This means at times we give up the midfield which can make it hard to get a foothold of the game. When this happens then the front three players can become isolated and supply to them is limited at best, which in turn means less likely you’ll score.

At times possession can also be hard to come by due to the shape. Remember the overview you see if that of your defensive shape. This means my front three are really isolated compared to the defence and midfield, making it hard to have them as realistic passing options at times. Your role and duty allocation are vital in shapes that have a few big glaring weaknesses like this, as you need to remedy it somehow. Hopefully how I set out to achieve this will show in this article.

The initial roles I used were never set in stone, it was always just a basic framework that I’d work from and change as time went on. I could probably get away without changing things in all honesty but if I want to be consistent and have an excellent formation rather than a good one, then I need to work on how all the players and roles link together and improve this area. The more I put into this at the beginning the less I have to do overall, which can save you a lot of time over the seasons. It’s one of the reasons I fly through seasons in a few short hours once I’m happy with how my side plays.

One of the main issues people have when playing the game is the stats and the actual context behind them. Stats alone mean very little and it can be deceiving at times in terms of how you are actually playing if you’re following the stats. So to give you an idea of what I’m waffling about, I’ve took one of my games to take a closer look at. This should also give me a great idea of how the team is playing as a unit and give me a deeper insightful look into what might need changing further down the line.

That’s the score from the match we are looking at, I won the game 2-1.

At first glance it looks like I had a rather easy game in regards to the amount of shots I had. But this isn’t exactly true at all.

Only four of my shots were on target. That’s simply not good enough. Against a much stronger side I’d have noticed the impact of the shots a lot more than I did in this game against a very weak side. So to understand this better, we need to use the analysis tab to see exactly what was wrong and why. Once I’ve identified the issue then I can work on potential solutions. I tend to work on a three-point system that is as follows;

Identify > Understand why > Possible solutions

The reason for this is simple, if you don’t identify the issues then you can’t fix them right? If you don’t understand why you’ve got the issues, then again you can’t fix it can you? So you can’t find a solution if you don’t identify and understand why something happens. Then you can try to solve the issues by dealing with the route cause of them. I appreciate this isn’t always an easy task though but hopefully this article will show how I approach things.

As i’ve already posted the shot stats above then it makes sense to start there as that was the main issue not only in this game but in others too. I should point out that you need to not panic if it’s just a one-off this happens. Only think it’s an issue if it happens time and time again. There could be many factors as to why, it might be a lack of balance in the roles and duties used. It could be a case of bad supply coupled with a lack of passing options so people just shoot randomly. This one is actually a big factor that people struggle with I’ve found over the years.

So let’s take a look at the game I’ll be analysing.

The first thing I do is head straight over to the individual player stats so I can see who was taking the shots.

We can see straight away the players who were taking the shots. But to understand why we need to look at the analysis tab and click on the shots themselves to view them. Before that though it’s worth me showing you the formation overview so you can see where all the players played as it will make it easier to follow.

The two biggest culprits seemed to be my deep-lying forward who took five shots with only one on target. Then the Raumdeuter took three shots with only one on target.  Those are the two player’s I’ll be look at in more depth to begin with. In order to do this I need to head over to this screen and select the shots for all players;

This gives us an indication of the areas the shots were taken from and also breaks down the type of shots. The next step here is to click on the dots and watch the shots to see what we can learn. The actual shot itself doesn’t really matter, what we’ll be focusing on is the build up to the shot. By doing this we can quickly establish if it’s a mentality issue and whether the player is rushing his shots when he doesn’t really need to. We can also establish if it was a case of lack of movement from the player himself or maybe it was a lack of supporting options so he was left with no choice to shoot. Or it could be a simple case of there was nothing wrong. Either way we need to establish this. The build up to the shot is something that often gets overlooked I’ve found when people focus on the stats. They see the end product (the shot) as the issue when normally nine times out of ten it’s what happens in the build up that is the most vital component.

One thing that I haven’t mentioned yet though is the mentality I’m playing on. Due to me using a high mentality (control or attacking are classed as high) then play in general tends to suffer in terms of quality compared to slower mentalities due to them being less aggressive. So sometimes the end product is a by-product of everything else and is part of the mentality structure you use due to higher mentalities structures rushing play more, using faster transitions, moving the ball about faster and so on. This doesn’t mean we can’t still produce quality shots or have good build up, it just means it’s harder to achieve than on the lesser mentalities.

This is the build up to one of the shots I’ve clicked on. The player circled in yellow is my deep-lying forward and is the player who ends up taking the shot. The player marked with 1 is the Raumdeuter. I think I can already see the issue here before I watch the rest of the clip. If you was to make an educated guess based on this screenshot as to what the issue is, what would you guess was wrong?

Here you can see just as the shot is about to be taken. The inside forward isn’t really a passing option as he’s blind side of Rubio. We then have the Raumdeuter who is marked out of the game and hasn’t made him run early enough. Then in midfield we have the box to box midfielder who has no chance of getting into the box. This means that the deep-lying forward has to take it on himself due to a lack of forward options.

I know I haven’t finished the analysis yet but I’ve identified this issue so now it’s time to explain why I think it’s happening. The deep-lying forward in on a support duty, so I’m instructing him to come deep. This is great for playing in the wide players however here we can see a lack of early movement from the Raumdeuter and the inside forward. So for this game my attack was disjointed and the deep-lying forwards main task of being the link player isn’t working. So it boils down to this;

  • Wide players poor movement
  • DLF too deep
  • No support from midfield

I don’t have to fix all of these issues, I should theoretically only need to address one of them and then it should have a knock on effect. The easiest option to start with would be the striker I think. If you look at the screenshot above you can see he has plenty of space to play in but this means that the oppositions central defenders are having an easy time with no work to do. If I made the striker more attack minded though he would then occupy the defenders and give them decisions to make. This would make it much easier for the two wide players to find space because if they beat their marker, the central defenders would already be occupying the striker. So if they did leave and go to cover, this would also mean the striker is either left alone or is left 1v1 which isn’t always a bad thing.

I only need to create movement in order to fix the issue. The other options I could take would be to mess around with the roles of the wide players and instead of a raumdeuter maybe an inside forward on attack in the hope he darts between the fullback and centre back much earlier and more direct rather than drifting around like the current role does. I could also leave the striker role the same and see if he then plays the ball to the inside forwards instead, if the space is being created by runners.

The hardest one to get correct and what would be a ball ache is the midfield runner. While it is an option to use a central midfielder on an attack duty, I don’t feel he’d help create space in front of the defence which is the real concern in this example. He’d make late forward runs but it seems I need the movement from the other way currently. I need people advanced at the start of the phase of play rather than being so deep. However it is an option but one I’d rather deal with when I’ve exhausted all other avenues.

I could possibly panic and change all three but what would the point in that be? You start small so you can understand how the changes you make impact your tactics and style of play. Changing too much in one go makes it harder to keep track of what is actually happening and why. Were as if you only change one thing then you easily spot how it plays differently.

Another example from the same game and it’s the same kind of thing we are seeing. In fact out of all the shots this is the common theme the shots share, so I’m right to be concerned. I’m just making it far too easy for the opposition to defend against and this is what’s restricting me to rubbish quality shots.

In the next match I made the striker change, I changed him from a deep-lying forward to a complete forward on an attack duty. The changes worked brilliantly and the front three’s flow was much better. My shot quality also improved.

I always aim for getting around 50% of all shots I have on target. That’s quite a high target considering I think the real life stat is somewhere more near 37%. But still, I aim high and become unhappy if it’s low as it means I’m being wasteful.

And the team overview is;

I follow the same process as I did in the first example and this time we’ll compare the changes on how the build up play before the shots differs drastically.

Already we can see how more forward thinking we are and now we have the box to box midfielder playing the old role that the deep-lying forward used to play. My complete forward is occupying the defence and pushing them back. Meaning the two wide players are operating in more space and while the inside forward is the late options, the Raumdeuter is the initial higher options who then drops deeper as the phase of play advances.  All three of the front players are offering me different things and more importantly all of them doing it in different areas of the pitch.

That’s the point the shot was taken. We look much better going forward and this was against a side who used two defensive midfielder’s against us. Just one simple role change and the flow is better and the attacks accuracy is much better due to making it harder for the opposition to defend against. When I used a deep-lying forward, at times we would see the two wide players become isolated due to the striker being far too deep and not able to link play to them. Now though all the examples in this game and others I’ve played since show the balance is much better. Now the inside forward and Raumdeuter are much more involved and able to beat their man often.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the series and that someone can find what I’ve written useful 🙂

12 thoughts on “The Art of Attacking Football – The Final Chapter”

  1. I thought I already had read these articles, but after reading I have to come to the conclusion that I probably did not. Especially this last part is interesting. The simple role/duty change of the striker to a more aggressive one, would have never crossed my mind. Mostly because I’m stuck in my way of thinking that a sole striker should always be on a support duty. The examples shown in this articles are so very familiar I’m eager to test this out.

    The thing that bugs me however is that I would think/expect that the change would isolate the forwards more instead of less. Does this change work only when you’re up against a team that is sitting back or does it also work vs teams that are attacking against you?

      1. I like how you are not willing to give guarantees because you can’t but in this instance I was wondering if it worked in your games.

        Also I was wondering why you changed the DLF/S to a CF/A instead of a DLF/A, I know they are quite similar but still would like to know if there was any specific reason for the role change and not simply a duty change.

        AS for my own tactics, the change to an attack duty did not help me. It’s back to the drawing board for me there.

        1. I change to a CF as I think it works better for a lone striker than a DLF A. He doesn’t drop as deep as a DLF would which is a good thing but he also leads the line better and generally has better movement.

          Also remember changes don’t always work. If you still had issues then maybe look at why. Check out the supply and support the striker had and maybe the answer lies somewhere between?

          1. Makes sense to change to the CF then yes.

            I know changes don’t always work or as it would work with me: They usually don’t work.

            There is definitely something wrong with either my supply or support… or movement or penetration. I just don’t seem to be able to figure it out. I’ll just keep on stumbling forward I guess

          2. Did you read the other posts I did recently about Stick and Twist and the other one, How to Spot Issues? Could be worth reading those if struggling.

          3. I have but the spotting tactical issues is one I need to read again and make sure I get it.

            The Stick and Twist is something I think that doesn’t apply to me yet because I have to get a working tactic before I can apply that. Secondly I’ve never felt the need to twist much because I lack the tactical knowledge for making a twist that would positively affect my game.

  2. what were your team instructions? I want to compare them to mine as I play a similar shape but cant seem to get it right

  3. How important do you think it is to have an opposite footed player as the Inside Forward? Is this a ‘nice to have’, a ‘must have’, or perhaps a doesn’t matter, just get the best player?

    1. Doesn’t really matter but nice to have if you can. People make out its a huge difference but it’s not really.

      1. Thanks, that’s kind of what I’ve felt too.

        Funny, I had a left wide midfielder who right footed (but not playing inside forward), who has cuts inside from both wings … and he scored a great right footed goal from just inside the box, powered in right between the keeper and the near post about and hour after I asked you that question. So it was nice to have there 🙂

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