There is nothing more frustrating to the FM player than spending the last 20-25 minutes of a game chasing a goal and trying to break down the AI defence. We have all been in that situation at one point or another and time seems to speed past without a chance at goal as the AI choose to sit deep and frustrate our attacking intent.

I thought I would take the opportunity to share a trick that I use to overcome even the most stubborn AI defence by creating large gaps in their defensive schemes that we can exploit with players coming from deeper positions.

The basic theory to this article will be familiar to most FM players that also play chess as we look to mechanise our system to the extent that we open up space along two specific files or lines that can be exploited by our midfielders by way of a typical discovered attack in chess terms. I must stress at this point though that this is not a strategy I employ for the duration of a match since it’s hugely overbalanced in attacking terms and can leave gaps in your defence. That is why I tend to switch to this system when the AI are already intent on sitting as deep as possible and thus offer less of an attacking threat.

The Base System

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Everything is fairly self evident in terms of shape. We have two wide players that have been pushed forward to the wide striker position but instead of being given the freedom to cut inside or move into the channels they are both instructed to hug the touchline. This is combined with moving our width slider to the maximum to ensure we stretch the pitch as far as possible along the horizontal axis. Our lone striker is given slightly higher mentality and ‘0’ closing down to ensure that he pushes the opposition centrebacks deeper as well as not closing down so he is constantly free to receive the ball into feet when we transition into the attack.

These settings should result in the gap between the opposition fullback and centrebacks on both sides being stretched wide and thus allowing a large gap for our two central midfielders to exploit as we build our attack. Solid theory but does it work?

The Gap Opens

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Here we see Arshavin carrying the ball up the right wing and on the other side Nasri is maintaining his width on the left side. As the play develops we see RVP in the centre looking to break into the box and essentially taking the attention of two opposition defenders – understandable given that the cross to the centre forward is the obvious threat. As the play moves on Arshavin is closed down by two AI players leaving our midfielder to burst through the gap between the centreback and fullback to create an easy goal scoring chance.

You can see that with Nasri maintaining his position on the left our left central midfielder is also able to exploit the gap on that side of the pitch thus given us an effective overload in the box.

As the Play Develops

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This time we have taken the play back to the point that we begin to transition into the attacking phase. You can see that Nasri is attracting the attention of a couple of AI players and RVP is moving to make a scissor run across his path dragging another central defender even further out of position. Just out of shot we have Arshavin holding the right wing and meaning that the left back can’t come across on the cover without leaving acres of space on the wing. At this stage Wilshere can burst from the midfield to receive the easy through ball and again create a goalscoring chance.

At this point you can see that we have the AI defence stretching to breaking point. There are very few reactive changes that the AI can use that will negate the threat we are posing.
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Here again we can see Rosicky carrying the ball in the midfield. Once more the movement of RVP in the lone striker role as he cuts across on the diagonal makes the chance. As RVP moves he further stretches the connection between the right back and centreback of the AI. Once more the chance falls to Wilshere as he is able to thrust into acres of space between the defensive connection and scoring with ease.

Overloading the Play in the Second Phase

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 There will be times when the initial phase of possession and pressure breaks down and we are forced to cycle the ball back and out wide to create another chance. As you can see from the above screenshot the initial phase has given us a massive presence in the oppositions box as we look for that elusive goal. The ball is taken back to a slightly deeper position and as we have the AI pinned back we are able to shift the emphasis out to the left back out in space for the cross into the box where we have the strength in numbers to cause the AI problems.

Once again this isn’t a strategy that I use all the time or even in every game but it is one that I have saved for those moments when we have to force the issue. By making slight changes to your team and individual instructions to achieve a specific goal you can add huge amounts to your tactical game.