I love Strikers. So when Seattle Red told me to give Strikerless a go, I wasn’t really enthused. Given the fact he’d recently been running with strikers though, it felt disingenuous if I didn’t give it a crack myself. I quickly came to realise however, that there are a ton of little intricacies to making Strikerless work and I was aware of exactly NONE of them.
So what do you do when you’re doing new things? I prefer to start from the top, and work my way down to the bottom.
What does that mean in Football Manager? Pick a team that can survive your general incompetence, and hope you can keep the job until you know what you’re doing. The FM Version of ‘Fake it til ya make it.’
Aside from a desperate desire to manage anywhere that wasn’t Germany, England, France, Bulgaria or Spain. Rosenborg was a completely whimsical choice, built around a dominant team that could help me make gradual changes to the formation until it finally started to click.
So early, early Strikerless idea – go as simple as possible.
Definitely not… It’s not even assymetric!
No what we need is something… Grander.
Introducing… Sea Change
I decided to work with something I’m intimately familiar with if I was going to get Strikerless off the ground. My first tactic in the series Raumpress is one I’ve used across FM since 2016. It’s my baby, it’ll probably always be my baby even if Changing Lanes seems to get better results statistically speaking. It also provided a solid base to work with in theory. Given the lack of an up front striker I expected that it would probably result in lack of hold up play. Given this, I assumed that we would be relying on lethal counters in order to get results.
I then combined it with some elements I enjoyed from The Trident (Yes, I actually did test it and then scrapped it because ultimately, it was very bland).
What I found was that the Mezzala and the Inside Forward had some crazy synergy in the Rosenborg test, and that with the absence of a striker the Mezzala becomes infinitely more potent. Using this knowledge I shifted the Shadow Striker to the left, opening up the gap for the Mezzala and the Inside Forward so that hopefully, they wouldn’t cram the space.
Meanwhile the LWB operates a step higher from the RB to further aid the Raumdeuter in support. By being alongside the BWM we can allow him more creative freedom and attacking movement since we’ve got a rock on the left side of the field for both roles to rely on.
Is Lopez Bundesliga 2 Level? Obviously not, but that doesn’t take away from his performance over the course of the season. It was just amazing luck Real Madrid decided to piss him off and make him want to leave rather than insert him into their first team. A cheeky loan bid followed and one of the most incredible players I’ve used this year came up huge.
What makes the Mezzala so potent in this system is their ability to exploit the half-space and to drift into open gaps. By widening that gap by shifting the Shadow Striker further left, we enable Lopez. With exceptional Off the Ball movement and a high Work Rate Lopez will see the space, and he will almost always opt to make use of it.
When Mondragon has the ball, we immediately see Lopez shake his man, drift into the gap between the midfield and defence and a superb ball over the top finds an easy finish. The style of the tactic relies on more direct attacking play, and the role of the Mezzala allows him to be our main outlet in going forward. Effectively, in this system the Mezzala is more like a poacher playing in the midfield. A Poacher that also tackles, is insanely good on the ball and does everything else alongside finishing like an absolute pro. So not at all a poacher, yet also a poacher. Fun.
Defensively, I decided to roll with very high lines of engagement at both ends. This was due to the fact that we were strikerless. I assumed that if I wanted to press high up the pitch then I needed to ram the midfield up as much as possible. If I was going to do that, I figured I may as well collapse the gaps between my midfield/forward line and my defence by also throwing them as high up as possible.
Effectively, we play a very condensed 4-2-4 with the Mezzala filling in the gap between the IF and SS. The BWM is almost entirely in line with the defenders and in doing so helps protect the marginally higher WBL from getting caught out by through balls.
As you can see from this still shot, the team is entirely back within their own half, and all within 15-20 metres of each other from CB to SS. In defence we become incredibly difficult to break down for even the most attacking of sides.
Over the course of the season we conceded essentially one goal every two games.
From a more holistic standpoint, we gave away the 3rd least amount of fouls. We also had the 3rd highest tackling percentage and received the least amount of yellow cards across the year. This also factors into a system which is very 50/50 possession wise as we only get 53% of the ball across all games.
Lethal, Quick, Precise. Using Gaetano as the outlet the counter is the bread and butter of the system. Turn the ball over in midfield or defence, immediately push it forward and allow our Raumdeuter or Mezzala to find the open space and slot the ball away. What I meant earlier about Lopez being a quasi-poacher, these easy finishes in the box were how we set him up almost all year. All that was needed was a player that could execute and handle the workload required.
Meanwhile Maldini had a very simple and effective weapon, and it wasn’t even the weapon I signed him up to use.
The man is not the most gifted Raumdeuter. Yet somehow, he made it work. I perused those 15 goals he scored and 11 of them came off his head. Jumping Reach, slightly above average, heading incredibly mediocre. Somehow he took these two ‘weapons’ and became an aerial assassin. My running theory, and one I actually employed a while before in a joint save Seattle and I no longer speak of is that height is amazing.
When we weren’t countering a lot of our build-up play resulted in a Maldini header. A Left Winger with height drifting in to the backpost and terrorising his marking man. It’s simple, yet it was remarkably effective.
These two elements collectively scored a goal a game between them. Which as you can see from our defence, was already more than we conceded and we haven’t even got to the rest of the cast yet.
17 Goals better than the next best, 30 better than 4th place. No one could beat us in front of goal.
And creatively, they didn’t stand a chance either.
Goal wise, Dovedan usually swapped with Maldini out at Raum due to being a more ‘natural’ fit. Handwerker oscillated between LWB and Raum as well while Badnjevic is a prospect I used in place of Gaetano from time to time in the SS slot. Van Den Berg and Cruz nabbed some golasos off Free Kicks and Corners.
Assist wise you can see that the LWB role was vital. Wittek and Handwerker combined for 18 assists between them. Getting the Wing Back forward was pivotal to turn our attack from decent, to devastating.
If you’re wondering why Nurnburg, they were part of a failed series I never ended up publishing. As a control test though, they were very good. Relegated two years before and fresh off the back of a 13th place finish. Nurnburn were not meant to get promoted. We made use of some nifty loans to strengthen the first team, some bargains in the field but ultimately it was the tactic that turned them from also-rans into dominant champions.
Strikerless isn’t for me. I’m a man that loves his strikers. That being said, this was a fun test doing something I am utterly unfamiliar with. The lack of a striker allowed for the more offensive minded midfielders to flourish and defensively, the compact nature of the formations is quite pleasing. Watching teams trying to break us down and failing, time and time again was quite satisfying. Offensively, it’s a little too counter-reliant for my tastes, but by god is it ruthless.
If you want to give it a whirl Sea Change is available here.
And to purge the Strikerless taint clean the next tactic will have two strikers… Look out for that.
Til next time folks.