“Football tactics are a world without absolutes. Beyond a few basics there are rarely rights and wrongs. It is about balance, about trading off positives for negatives and trying to shift the way the game is played so that it emphasizes your team’s strengths and your opponents weaknesses.” – Jonathan Wilson, World Soccer, November 2012

The above quote encapsulates everything I feel about football tactics perfectly. The trick of identifying the weak spots in an opponents system and shifting my own to take advantage of those weaknesses is something that I thrive on. In this respect football tactics and indeed FM tactics are closely linked to chess strategy, when I play chess I am completely reactive constantly shifting emphasis of attack and overall strategy to take advantage of any opportunity that my opponent gives me. The close relationship between chess and FM has therefore led me to this topic.

A discovered attack is a term used in chess for an attack that is only revealed when you move one piece out of the way to allow another to attack the free space. This is a strategy that I constantly use in Football Manager and that I have referred to in more than one tactical review. This is also a topic which is so big that I have chosen to split it in to two sections. This post will concentrate on discovered attacks in the wide areas whilst my next article will look at how discovered attacks can be effective in central areas.

The System

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Again fairly self explanatory. I’m using players attacking from the fullback area to attack the space that should be emptied by the wingers cutting in towards the penalty area. I have an AMC to act as a pivot to ensure that the ball is sprayed in to the wide areas to take advantage of the space and overload that we are looking to achieve.

In Game

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Here we can see a perfect example of the theory being put in to action. As the ball is fed centrally in to the feet of the AMC in the pivot role the left winger cuts in on a diagonal run towards the penalty area. As the winger moves the attacking full back is free to move forwards in to the space. He hasn’t got an opposition full back in attendance and the AI right back is left having to choose between tracking the attacking run of the winger or moving out to negate the threat of the attacking left back moving up the line.

Here you can clearly see the advantage that this strategy can give you.

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There is a lot going on here but I wanted to give you an example with the whole system working in tandem together. This is such an attacking strategy that there is little thought to the defensive side of the game. I’m sure we have all been in situations at whatever level of the game we have played ourselves when we are told that if one fullback attacks then the other sits back to maintain defensive integrity. Not here.

The ball is fed directly in to the feet of the striker whom has dropped slightly off the line. As he does so the mechanics of the system start to snap in to motion. On both flanks the wingers move infield emptying the wide areas and dragging the AI full backs with them. As they do both full backs move right up the field to stretch the field across the entire width. The striker then has a choice of four distinct attacking passes that will split the defensive line and allow us to attack in behind the AI.

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Discovered Attacks are so effective in chess because when you set the move in motion your opponent has to worry not only about the new piece moving from deep but also about the piece that has moved in to empty the space. The same principle can of course be applied within football manager.

Here you can see exactly how this can work within the game. The left winger has once again moved in to a central area dragging the fullback out of position. Oriol in the left back position is then able to move forward as we have seen in previous examples and once again the ball is fed out to the advancing player in the wide area. This time though the AI right back chooses to move back to engage the attacking full back. As he does however he is forced to ignore the more advanced threat with the left winger being left unattended on the edge of the penalty area. The ball is slipped in to the box via the overload and we have an easy chance at goal. Here we are clearly taking advantage of the AI weakness.

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Once again I have taken a screenshot of the entire attacking motion of the team to show what it tends to look like when we are building a sustained period of attack as opposed to working in a short sharp attack as possession changes hands. Here we have taken possession of the ball and worked it around the edge of the AI area. Our three man central midfield has pushed right up in to an advanced position dragging the AI deeper and deeper. As our wingers move infield the AI is left with 8 players 25 yards from goal and only across the width of the penalty area. At that point our attacking full backs are free to join the attach making use of the space that has been presented to them in the wide areas. As they do so we are able to feed the ball out wide taking it in to the box and feeding one of the attacking players for an easy finish.

Taking advantage of the wide areas within FM is an excellent way to overbalance the AI defence and by using discovered attacks we can create overloads that allow us to cut through the defensive line to create chances.

Stay tuned for the next article which will go live on the next week showing the use of discovered attacks in central areas.