Scoring goals is easy to achieve in Football Manager, getting regular scorers can be more problematic though. I’ve seen threads and blog posts about not being able to get players to score high amounts of goals before and a lot of them focus on the striker roles. They seem to think if a striker doesn’t score then their role, duty or settings are the issues, when in reality that’s probably the last cause. It’s more than likely due to the type or amount of support they are receiving. So hopefully this article will focus on how to give the strikers the best possible chance of scoring that you can. It doesn’t matter what side, what division or what nation you are managing in, this applies to all sides.
What Makes A Good Striker?
To ensure you have a good goal scorer the first thing you need is someone or multiple people to provide the striker 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;
All the above are what I try to incorporate into every single tactic I create. It’s not easy to do and achieve but then again, it’s not supposed to be easy. What is important though is that through hard work and taking the time to learn how your system works and why, as well as picking up on the flaws it has, then you can get all of the above to work.
In addition to all of that you have to first understand that a two-man strike partnership will vastly differ from a single or three-man attack. In each one the supply and support will be different, as will the space they all use and attack. Then on top of all of that the role and duty used will also determine what kind of support a player needs to be successful. A role that is more creating like a Treq, F9 or even a deep-lying forward will require players getting beyond them as while these roles can still score goals they’re more focused on providing for others rather than being pure goal scorers
Players who also play a support role will play differently from those with attacking roles and again will need a different type of supply and support. Hopefully over the course of this article I can explain some of these in a bit of depth to help people in their own saves and give them a better understanding of what’s needed
Understanding The Striker Roles
To start with first though I thought it would be a good idea to have a look at the striker roles and break them down into basic terms, to make them simpler to understand and take some of the ambiguity of the role away, so we can all have a better understanding of what the roles offer.
For me the striker roles are split into three different kinds of strikers;
- Creative strikers
- Support strikers
- Attacking strikers
Some of the roles can overlap into others especially with the change of a duty but I still think it’s a good way of understanding a role, by thinking of them in either a creative, supportive or attacking way.
The Creative Striker Roles
These type of strikers are creators, so they are the support. This means they need players around them who can finish the chances they create. All of these types of strikers will like play and provide other people with the ball whether it be on rushing midfielders, wide players or other strikers. If you use one of these roles then you should ideally be looking at surrounding them with people capable of finishing off chances or at the very least, roles that allow players to get into good dangerous areas so these strikers can pass them the ball.
Deep Lying Forward
This role is all about the link play and its primary goal is to provide a link between the midfield and attack. It’s a very creative role and is often used when you lack bodies in and around the attacking midfield areas of the pitch. The deep-lying forward will look to drop into this space and provide a link as well as looking to create chances for their teammates. You’d look to use this role if you had him partnered with someone more attack minded like an advanced forward or poacher. It could also be used if you had a rampaging attacking midfielder like a shadow striker or even a goal threat from wide like an inside forward.
Support – With this duty the player will be responsible for dropping deep and linking play. They can and will score goals but creating and playing others in is more the focus and aim of the support duty.
Attack – On this duty the player won’t drop as deep as the support one and he will also be slightly more greedy in terms of taking shots or having chances himself.
You can only use this role with an attacking duty but don’t let that fool you. This role will allow the player to come very deep at times, much deeper than all the other striker roles. It’s also the most creative striker role of the lot and while any striker role can and will score goals, this role is purely about creating chances for others and finding space to use. If we were to compare it to the deep-lying forward role, then the main differences would be;
- Deeper play
- More roaming
- More creative
Those would be the three stand out points for me and ones that make the two roles completely different from each other. The trequartista will roam around the pitch constantly and doesn’t really have a fixed position, it will roam looking to both use and create space as well as fashioning chances for their team mates. This role works well when you have people running from midfield into advanced positions or for strike partners who stay high up the field. Due to the role allowing lots of creative freedom and roaming its vital that you commit men forward or have players positioned to take advantage of the trequartista’s style of play. If not he’ll take it upon himself to try to do everything on his own and this can be disastrous at times.
This is another role that is only available with one duty – support. However, again, don’t be fooled by this as this role is a very aggressive one. It’s still a playmaking striker role but it also has a lot of emphasis on attack. A better way of thinking about this role is something along the lines of ‘space creator/user’ and someone who is creative yet selfish compared to the other two roles due to their ability of liking to take long shots frequent.
While the false nine can play as part of a strike partnership, they are better suited to lone striker systems or systems that want to utilise the wide players yet still have a striker who can be dangerous in front of goal. An idea use of a false nine would revolve around a system that wanted to make inside forwards an integral part of the system. The false nine drops deeps creating space for them to run into and hopefully dragging his marker with him, which in turn would create the space.
These differ from creative strikers because they don’t have as much creative freedom or roaming. Don’t mistake this for not being able to create chances though as that’s not true and they can be creative and create lots of chances for their team mates. However their jobs are slightly different as they tend to have a specific job to do.
You could argue that a lot of modern-day strikers have a lot of elements of the defensive forward in their style of play. This role focuses on hassling or hounding the opposition’s defenders and giving them little time on the ball to think, or to pass out a pass. It’s quite an aggressive role and comes with lots of closing down.
Support – With this duty they’ll look to pressure the back line and goalkeeper to try to reduce their time on the ball. They’ll also chase down lost balls and always be look to pressuring the opposition.
Defensive – If you gave them this duty then you can expect to see them slightly deeper and see them hassling defensive midfielders or central midfielders who like to drop off the midfield positions and come back into their own halves i.e deep lying playmaker.
This role works well with pure goal scoring strikers or attacking midfielders as the defensive forward is a workhorse and does a lot of the hard work for their partners. While it’s not totally unusual to use them as a lone striker they tend to function better either paired with another striker, attacking midfielder like a shadow striker or inside forwards. You tend to want someone purely attacking getting alongside them or beyond to make the most of this role and what it’s about as they tend to win a lot of balls back quite early and high up the pitch.
The good old-fashioned physical striker who focuses on hold up play, knocking the ball down into the path of others and generally being a big pain in the arse for the opposition. The downside to this role on Football Manager is its rather static and not only that, but players looks to utilise them so you can expect to see lots of direct or long balls played into him constantly. If you want to use a system that wants to make the most of the playmakers in the side or that concentrates on any kind of possession game, then you’d stay clear of this role and use a deep-lying forward instead. The long and direct balls into the target man are a real issue at times and the play becomes far too channeled and there is nothing we can do about it, due to it being part of how the role is coded into the match engine.
Support – If the player had this duty then he’d look to hold up play more and utilise his strength and aerial presence a lot more. This means he will look to knock the ball down into the path of the players who are running beyond him in support.
Attack – On this duty he’d lead the line more and look to occupy the oppositions defenders and make himself a general nuisance. This could create space for him teammates to use.
This role is better suited for systems that are set up to play more direct and look to start quick attacks or need to get the ball forward to relieve pressure on the defence or midfield. It does require you having players play off the target man and offering support though due to his lack of mobility.
These are the striker roles that are the more regular goalscoring ones. They rely heavily on supply and if you use any of these roles then you need to figure out how you will get the ball to them and which players will be able to offer support to them. If not, you could find that for periods of the game they can become isolated and spend the game spectating rather than doing anything worthwhile.
This role tries and combines play from all the different kinds of roles available and probably could have quite easily gone in any of the above two categories but I still feel they are more ‘goalscorers’ than creators or support. Don’t get me wrong, they do all of those things too but for me I still see them more of a goalscorer than anything else.
Support – With this duty they’ll drop off the front line and look to roam about and link play, as well as looking to create chances themselves or others.
Attack – They’ll look to lead the line and will do everything they can, whether it be creative play, hold up play, creating space and so on.
This role can be used in just about any system and with any kind of style that can be created. It can be a quite demanding role though and might need a specific player to be able to pull the role off efficiently.
You can only have an attacking duty with this role. The role makes the advanced forward the focal point of attacks and he will also chase down balls and look to put pressure on the oppositions keeper and defence from high positions on the pitch. He stays very high and doesn’t really drop back to link the midfield.
This kind of role works best in a system that has people capable of creating chances from behind the striker or in a strike partnership with a more creative striker like listed above. If you use this role then you’d expect him to be one of the primary goalscorers in the side. If not, then you have a serious supply and support issue.
Another role that only allows for an attacking duty. This role is a pure goalscoring role but can also be one that relies heavily on the kind of supply he gets. A poacher sits on the shoulder of the oppositions defence and doesn’t move about much unless you customise the role with player instructions, so he needs a constant stream of support or supply of passes to function and risk not becoming a spectator. If the supply is cut out or he’s marked out of the game then he’ll offer nothing and it’ll be like you are playing with nine outfield players and not ten.
The poacher doesn’t make a great lone striker due to the reasons mentioned above. However, in a system that is counter attacking or defensive then this isn’t always a bad thing. You can find out more about this in the defensive 3-4-3 stuff I’ve already posted on the blog.
Incoherent set ups
Over the last few months I’ve seen a lot of posts talking about their formations and how they struggle to score goals or create chances. Well you can’t have one without the other, so what you need to do is use a system that allows the players to get the support they need. What I’ve done is looked on the forums and looked at some people who always seek help and use their tactic as the examples used in this part. Here is the first shape, ignore the team and players that’s not really important but the shape and settings are important.
The person who used this shape thought it was a logical well-balanced setup but for me just looking at the screenshot I can see multiple issues here with goals. The 4-1-2-2-1 is quite a defensive formation already due to it using a defensive midfield. Then if we look at his midfield he’s gone for a defensive central midfielder who will be very cautious and drop back into the defensive midfield strata. Along side him we have a ball winning midfielder who act very aggressive and close down heavily. This role is very much that of a ‘hassler’ so already we can see that there is a real lack of support going forward centrally. In fact I’d say the midfield is far too negative, why do you need a defensive minded midfielder if you already use a defensive midfielder, regardless of what role you use in that position?
Already we can see that the attacking focus will then be on the striker and two wide players. These three players are going to be responsible for creating and scoring, which with the roles they currently have, will prove a struggle in terms of it being consistent. Let’s have a look at some examples of what I mean;
Already you can see the issue highlighted when we are attacking in the above screenshot. I have no movement or penetration through the centre, all the options I have are out wide and this itself presents two major issues.
- How do we get the ball to the wings to utilise the support?
- What happens when we do go out wide, who will then support?
We are already outside so unless my player switches the ball to the opposite flank then the only realistic option he has is to pass to the winger. If he was to then receive the ball, what does he do with it? Remember he has the winger role so that means his game is based on driving forward and providing crosses for the players in the box. Oh but wait! That presents another problem, we don’t use a striker role that allows the striker to play in the box, the tactic use one a striker who drops off the front due to the support role he has. So who can the winger cross the ball to? He has no support at all from the centre due to the system being overly cautious.
Now due to this lack of central play, the winger is found drifting inwards so the fullback then has to drive forward with the ball and come along side the winger, rather than causing an overlap down the flanks.
You see the issue? The two central midfielders should be busting a gut to get forward in support especially in a system that uses a lone striker on a support duty with no attacking midfielder to offer support. The winger dropped deep and came inside too rather than going wide as highlighted. So even if the fullback who is in possession of the ball is able to put a cross in, who is he exactly aiming for? Chelsea are solid defensively and they should be able to deal with any kind of threat from a cross nine times out of ten here.
This leaves this particular tactic with a dilemma as it doesn’t offer enough going forward in the correct areas. Do you sit back and hope you get enough opposition errors and mistakes mixed with the odd brilliance of a bit of individual skill and hope its enough to get by? Or do you actually try to make the system more versatile with a little chance? I know which I would do and speaking of which, shall we see what happens when I change one little thing?
Different side of the pitch in this example but already you can see how more advanced the two midfielders are already, this gives me two new passing outlets high up the pitch. This takes pressure off the inside forward and striker and means we are trying to make players go to him and link up play, rather than everything relying on the striker to do himself. I only made two very basic changes;
- The central midfielder on a defensive duty was changed to a support one.
- The ball winning midfielder was changed to a box to box midfielder
Two positive changes that already have a huge impact in what happens in the final third. In the first screenshot above of the similar move, I had no players in these kind of areas.
This is a second or so into the move, you can see that when the ball has come inside to the central midfielder on support. Now we have more options and the striker is less isolated. In fact the ball can easily follow the path highlighted on the screenshot itself. Even if it does, one simple pass to the box to box midfielder and he can drive forward with it himself or have a shot. Either way there are options available that don’t rely on mistakes or a moment of sheer brilliance. This is just one small sample of a system that lacks support players going forward and how they can make the attacking players isolated if they don’t get forward.
Every man and his dog seems to use a one striker formation at times. This presents other issues especially against teams who use one or more defensive midfielders. Especially when you consider that majority of users tend to prefer a lone striker on a support role, so naturally this can be problematic. So lets take a look at what things can cause strikers to be isolated.
This is another formation I found knocking around on the forums and instantly I can see the issues this will see in terms of isolating the striker and not offering enough support. Everyone is a creator and there is little movement or runners getting in behind the striker. You can see that instantly without even using the formation. Using multiple playmakers is fine but you also need people doing the simple basic stuff like making runs, getting into the oppositions box, scoring goals and so on.
Here the deep-lying forward is showing how isolated and limited he can be at times, especially when the midfield has dropped off and not recovered properly from the last phase of play. As he is the lone striker, he has to deal with being marked by two centre backs and to make things even worse, the opposition use a defensive midfielder. This means that any space he has to play in will be really limited and he’ll struggle to influence play. Not only that but he doesn’t have enough options either alongside him or more advanced than he is. So what would happen if he does receive the ball from deeper areas? He could find himself marked out of the game, so even if he is lucky and one player makes a mistake, all three of them aren’t going to make a mistake at the exact same time are they?
- He lacks support
- Lacks options
- Likely to turn over possession easily
So when you build a tactic you need to think of the roles used and how they all play together. It’s no good having everyone set to be a playmaker if those roles don’t link well enough and provide support. Support isn’t only about providing a player with the ball, it’s also about allowing play to build up around him and giving him options for when he does receive the ball. A good way to plan a tactic is to ask yourself these questions;
- Who is going to score the goals?
- Who will supply those balls?
- How will they provide that support?
- Does the role allow the player to create his own space or does he need it created for him?
- Will this happen from deep positions or will be positioned high up the pitch?
- Does he have options behind him, along side and more advanced than he is?
You should be asking questions along those lines and then you’ll build a coherent system that has roles to complement the style you are trying to create. If you can work out were the goals will come from then you build the team around that idea and focus on providing the kind of supply they need. A bad example of this would be that you want the striker to drop deep and link up play so use one of the creative striker roles. But then you go and use wingers whose primary job is crossing and to supply crosses and balls into the box regularly. This is wasted in these type of set ups because you have no target in the box to aim for due to using a striker who plays deep if you don’t use another striker alongside of them.
I’m going to have to cut this off short here as it did start out as a simple short piece but I could add to this forever. I’ve written much more than I planned already, in fact so much so that I’ve had to split the article and I’ll post the other part another time. The next part will focus on two-man systems more and show many more examples of good and bad systems that work. I’ll also include some actual goal scorers and show you how I achieved it and provide clips of the kind of supply that worked and explain why it works. Plus I’ll discuss how certain striker roles don’t suit certain types of play and expand on why they are a bad idea.