To this point I’ve avoided writing anything about the ‘false 9’ not wanting to seem to be pandering to the latest tactical craze. I think though that we have now come to the point when the terms has become almost synonymous with modern football. For those that are unsure, the false 9 is a player situated nominally in the traditional number 9 position – or striker. Unlike the traditional variant though the false 9 will look to drop off the front line both to draw opposition defenders out of position and allow his fellow players to stream past and overload the defence. The position has of course come to be defined by possibly the greatest player of his generation Lionel Messi and as success breeds imitation we have seen a plethora of other sides throughout the World looking to capitalise on the space and invention that can be found in such a system.

As a general rule Football Manager closely imitates real life in terms of tactical innovation. As such forums around the FM Scene have seen threads and tactics appear as people looked to recreate the false 9 in the game. I thought it best to share one or two of my own thoughts on the system with you. First of all I think it’s important to realise that you can use a false 9 without necessarily having the new Messi at your club. For that reason alone I decided to run the test and take the examples from a save using Schalke with the less than mobile Klass Jan Huntelaar in the lone striker position.

The System

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

As always we will start with the basic shape and system that I used with the shape. The premise is obviously that the striker will drift both across the line and drop off to create space in the AI defence for the supporting midfielders to move into.  Does it work though?

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Here you can see the AI in possession in a central position. We are about to effect a quick transition from the defensive to attacking phase and you can see that we have maintained a high attacking line. The key is with the striker who can act in two very different ways to either drop deep and present an effective passing option or stretch the play in behind the AI defence.  You can see that there are two wide midfield players that are drawing the attention of the AI, this presence is integral in setting up the false 9 role as you give the player space and time to play in. The striker himself is set up to be able to capitalise on this space – in pure match engine terms I do this by setting the players creative freedom to the maximum allowed whilst the closing down is as low as possible. We want the player to move freely around the attacking end of the pitch without becoming bogged down in defensive productivity.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Here you can see our team in another quick transition. As Obasi is fed the ball on the right you can see that our striker has come deep completely emptying the front line. I’ve highlighted all the options that we have in terms of runners as Obasi has space to move along the line and in doing so would attract the near side centreback to cut the space. At the same time we have two runners on the far side looking to take advantage of all the spaces in the defence created by the initial movement of the striker. The striker himself can hold the position he is in taking possession and acting as a pivot around which the other players can move or could dart in behind the defensive line.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Let’s see what actually happened. The ball was fed into the striker in the withdrawn position and immediately the near side defender moved to close his space. The central runner angled his run to pierce the centrebacks causing them both to drop and move centrally. All of this completely opened the far side of the pitch and the striker was able to pass the ball into the space being occupied by the advancing midfielder. The overload was achieved because of the initial movement by the lone striker.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Here you can see an example of the striker in his lateral movement. The AI have the ball but they are in a pressure zone for my midfield in which I have three players ready to jump the ball carrier and effect a turnover of possession. The striker is already moving to anticipate this turnover and has moved to the far side to create a strong connection with the wide midfield player. In doing so he is dragging his marker wide thus creating a huge gap that we can exploit. This movement is possible again because we are not asking the striker to perform any defensive duties at all.

As you can see the false 9 is more than simply taking a Messi clone and expecting him to run the game for you. By setting the striker up in an intelligent manner will allow the player to play in a way that benefits your entire team in the attacking phase of the play.

Advertisements