Football Manager Guides | Set Pieces
Welcome to the next instalment of the ‘my approach to…’ series. In this post, I talk about how I create my set pieces in Football Manager, utilising space I know the opposition cannot defend to create advantages and overloads.
It goes without saying that this is unlikely the first post on set pieces that you’ve read, and probably everything you need to know is already covered by @KeysiRensie at his excellent blog https://mrkeysirensie.wordpress.com — however, I wanted to give this a go and see if there’s anything I might do that you can take away.
There are some download links at the bottom for those who are interested in trying out some of my routines.
For this overview, I am using a 4-4-2 formation, which is key because I look at the roles and duties of the players with respect to their positioning on the pitch when we’re both attacking and defending set pieces. You will see me reference this often throughout the piece, but it can be applied to any formation. So, this is my approach to set pieces in Football Manager 2018.
Set Piece Takers
Unfortunately, in Football Manager, you cannot set your set piece takers by position, e.g., whoever is my left winger to take left sided corners. You have to set a specific player(s) to take them.
This causes issues when, for example, you want your left winger, whoever that might be, to take the left-sided corners but he happens to be playing as an attacking midfielder. If your attacking midfield position is attacking the ball from deep, he is now not there, because he’s taking the corner.
To get around this, I like to set all players who will play in one position only as the taker, e.g., the left side corners are taken by my left wingers and the right side by my right wingers. So when I set up the system I know that I can ignore the left or right wing position because that player will always be the taker.
I have three left wingers and two right-wingers. As you can see they’re always going to take the corners because I don’t play anyone else other than these players in these positions. So, on the field when setting the taker, I’ll move his position to stand with him.
Hopefully, this makes sense. Now onto the routines.
Football Manager Corner Routines
First up, corners. I get most of my success from corners out of all the set pieces, so this is where I spend the majority of my time fine-tuning. We’ve scored 21 goals from set pieces in the last 50 matches, 14 from corners and 7 from free-kicks. Almost a goal every other game.
When defending corners, I have three objectives.
The primary objective is to clear the ball. The secondary objective is to get into our shape as quickly as possible and finally, the third is to pick up the second ball and use that to our advantage.
Let me show you how that works.
As I alluded to earlier, the positions on the pitch when setting up my set pieces correlate to the player positions in my formation. I do this in order for us to retain our shape at the earliest opportunity so I will make sure that when defending corners on the right, we have our right sided players near post and left-sided at the left post, for example.
I zonally mark the six-yard box, with my two centrebacks man marking tall men to try to nullify any threats.
I also don’t play with men on the posts. I don’t recall ever seeing someone clear the ball off the line, and since setting up this way I’ve scored far more counter-corner goals than I have conceded from them.
When the ball is played in, upon clearing it, the players are positioned ideally to get into their positions within the tactical shape to defend any second balls or to break away on the counter.
When the ball is whipped in, my two central defenders circled have picked up the tall players, the zonal marking is still strong and protecting the goal with my left-sided central midfielder on the edge of the box, who plays as an Advanced Playmaker so he will take risks in order to set up the counter-attacks when the ball invariably lands at his feet.
The ball is whipped into the box and Konté manages to break free of the zonal line and head clear unopposed while the Milan players are still rushing in on goal. Escandar, my Advanced Playmaker is free and unmarked on the edge of the box, ready to pick up the second ball.
Once the ball hits Escandar he is able to bring it under control and launch the counter-attack, with my two strikers up top ready and waiting for a ball. Immediately, we are on the front foot for the counter-attack.
When it comes to attacking corners, I adopt the same principle for player positions as I do on my defensive corners. Left-sided players on the left, right-sided on the right. I always play the ball into the penalty spot, as this seems to be the sweet spot for delivery in this version.
When attacking corners we are at an advantage in that we can put two players on the edge of the box, but the opposition can only put one defender there. So you can create an advantage against them by playing two. What I tend to see is the defender will pick up the player I set to lurk outside the area, while the other striker attacking the ball from deep is free to pick up the incoming corner.
For this setup, you really need something akin to a ‘big guy, little guy’ partnership. While the player lurking outside the area will need good first touch, passing, technique, decisions, long shots and shooting, the player attacking the ball from deep requires the same attributes as those attacking the near or far post, swapping out bravery and marking (they’re going to be alone out there) for anticipation and finishing.
Oftentimes, the right-sided central defender (DCR) will also find himself on the end of crosses when they’re swung in close to the goal. With the players around the edge of the box causing confusion, he has his fair share of goals himself. Requiring great strength, jumping reach and heading, they can often find themselves on the end of crosses from corners.
The taker will always play an out-swinging corner (always set to my right winger), and by packing the far post with players, this tends to clear a space for the striker or central defender moving into the area.
At this point, you can see that we have four players free on the edge of the area. The opposition appears to be playing a zonal marking system, which unravels when the ball heads into the area where we’re at a clear advantage.
A simple ball into Dossena finds his feet before the Galatasaray players have even reacted. This allows us to score a very simple goal using our numerical advantage.
Another example below, this time where the ball goes outside the area to the free men.
In this scenario, the ball is hit outside the area. My striker with ‘attack ball from deep’ (25 with the green arrow) makes his movements inside the area, it leaves space for the player to receive the ball behind him and make a pass into the area.
Salami picks up the ball and is confronted by the only defender on the edge of the box. Since they only have one defender, utilising a simple two vs. one situation, we’re able to work the ball into a clear shooting opportunity. On this occasion, we don’t score, however, these simple routines are a regular occurrence of our play.
Football Manager Free-Kick Routines
Unlike corner routines, you cannot set defensive or offensive positions for free kicks. We’re limited by ‘go forward’ or ‘go back’, so we cannot put our right-sided players on the right of the pitch, for example. However, I make the most of what I have to work with.
Much like FM Samo, I don’t use a wall, per se. I have a player in a wall because there’s no option to have a player lurk outside the area to pick up the second ball. With direct free-kick goals being as rare as rocking horse shit, I don’t feel a wall is a good use of my players’ positions. So, I keep a couple of players forward, and the rest back.
As I alluded to, the options are rather limited when it comes to defending free-kicks. I keep things simple. I have my two centre-backs man marking the opposition tall players (usually their centre-backs if they bring them forwards), and then the rest of the player ‘go back’, and just help out.
I leave my winger on the edge of the box, via the ‘form wall’ option and that leaves my two strikers to ‘stay forwards’. Nothing revolutionary, but it allows for quick breaks if we clear the ball successfully and retain possession.
As you can see we have more than enough players back to deal with the ball when it is pumped into the box. I don’t recall conceding from a direct free-kick since going ‘wall-less’, and I’m happy to take that risk.
I set up exactly the same way for all permutations of defending free-kicks; direct, indirect, wide or deep.
It’s actually quite hard to score from attacking free-kicks, so what I generally try to do is keep possession of the ball and work another attack.
My free-kick takers all play as Deep Lying Playmakers in my system and will sit in the MCR position, so you’ll notice with my setup the MCR takes the free-kicks in any area.
I will always have a man standing with the taker. Whether it is a direct kick or deep, and where possible, I want the taker to pass to the man next to him. In the above example, this is a direct free-kick, where invariably the taker will shoot wide or over the bar, so I won’t spend too much time on this. Unfortunately, the only option for the kick taker in this routine is ‘mixed’, which normally means take a shot.
I will keep just two defenders back, the full-backs. I don’t find them to be of much use for direct free kicks, so I send up my centrebacks, on the off chance that the taker might cross one in.
The above is a direct free-kick with a small chance of a shot. Here, however, I can tell the taker to pass it short, which leads to some nice opportunities as the opposition usually come rushing out to close us down, opening up spaces for us to attack. I keep the full-backs back again, and if needed I’ll ask the centre-backs to stay with them.
You will notice that on the right side, I have my right winger with the taker, and on the left side, my left winger. This not only keeps us in a good shape, but it allows the player to cross it in on their good foot, should they choose to do so.
In this example, one of the centre-backs has stayed to mark the opposition striker, while the other, the number 5, is in the area looking for any cross that might come his way.
Once the ball is played short to Salami, Stefan will come short to collect the ball from him, who then plays a one-two with the winger and gets himself into a crossing position. As mentioned above, as this is on the left side of the pitch, it is the left winger crossing on his favoured foot.
Unfortunately, on this occasion, Bronic (7) strayed offside when the ball was played to him, but it’s a nice example of how we can work the man with the kick taker to create higher percentage changes.
If Bronic just timed his run a little better, he would have been on the end of a nice goal straight from the training field, as they say!
Here is an example of a wide free-kick, whereas before we pass it short and get the ball into the box. This time a little quicker, given our proximity to the goal.
The other free-kicks are the same setup, just from deep or out wide, and invariably will yield the same result.
Football Manager Throw-In Routines
When you look at your goal assist analysis you will generally see that you have no goals from throw-ins. I have my suspicions that the count for where the play originated from isn’t quite right. Not only for throws but for other set pieces as well.
Anyway, I will show you how I set up, and you can make your own mind up about whether it is effective. A lot of our goals originate from putting the ball back into play from a throw.
Since you cannot set up to defend a throw, I can only show you attacking. It’s nothing groundbreaking here, just sensible positioning.
I ask my defender on the side of the pitch where the throw is being taken to take the throws, so in this case, the right full-back. I also ask that the central midfielder on the right and the right winger come to receive the ball from the throw-in taker. This gives us three players on that side of the pitch to work the ball into the box for a crossing or shooting opportunity.
In a recent match against Roma, Jørgensen throws the ball into the central midfielder, who, despite being marked is able to control the ball and lay it to my winger (closest circled player). My striker is lurking outside the box. My winger makes a run along the penalty area to get himself into a position to shoot.
A very simple and effective goal.
Here’s another example of where the throw-in was the catalyst for the movement that created a goal, but it wasn’t counted in the stats. There’s a lot going on here, but I’ll try talk it through set by step.
The throw is sent to my midfielder who then passes it down the line. My winger cuts across down the line to meet the ball as the striker peels away from his marker and makes his way into the box.
My striker then moves into position to collect the ball from the winger and at this point, the other striker anticipates what is happening and makes a move across the defender to be in a position for the cutback.
The Sampdoria defence is unorganised by the movement and we’ve managed to work another situation into the box from a throw.
In the end, it’s another simple finish and another goal to secure us the win.
And here is that goal in all it’s glory.
That rounds up most of what I wanted to say on set pieces. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but I wanted to get my thoughts down and perhaps share some information that might help others when it comes to setting up their set pieces.
CONCLUSION AND DOWNLOAD LINKS
So this is just a small introduction to how I go about creating my set pieces, and the thought process around the positioning of the players and the specific delivery for each type.
Set pieces are one of the more simple aspects of the game. However, if you over complicate them then they don’t always work as intended.
I’ve not found any hacks, and don’t score too many more than I should, but I think we’ve won some vital points by having a solid set of routines that work for our system and players.
So this about wraps it up. If you have any questions or want to get in touch with anything related to set pieces, send me a message on Twitter @fmFutbolManager, or you can reply to this post below and I’ll get back to you. I’d love to hear your thoughts and see if there’s anything you do differently that I can adapt for my game.
If you want to download my set pieces to try in your own game you can do so on the link below.
Until next time, arrivederci.