Defending corners in Football Manager isn’t the most thought about aspect when it comes to creating tactics in FM20. I don’t imagine this post will be the most popular on my site, but I want to complete the set and it seemed logical to follow the attacking corners in Football Manager with this post. I would go as far as to say that most people probably just leave them to the default settings and carry on with their day. There is value to be had from creating good defensive corner routines, particularly when it comes to creating counter-attacking opportunities from them.
The Value of FM20 Set Pieces
I covered a similar angle on my attacking corners post, so I thought I would do the same here for defending corners.
Read more » FM20 Set Pieces – Attacking Corners
Back in February, Sky put out a stat that Liverpool, on average, concedes one goal in every 120 corners they face. This was in contrast to Chelsea who conceded one in ever 11 they faced. An incredible stat. Some fans were even commenting that they are more confident of a goal resulting from a quick counter than they were worried about actually conceding from the set-piece.
Such is the change in fortunes for Liverpool that teams actually start to withdraw from Liverpool’s box when taking corners because of the threat of the counter. In a Champions League, Diego Simeone set up a perimeter around the edge of the box to prevent the counter from Liverpool. Their attacking corners involve an element of defensive strategy.
Building FM20 Set Pieces – Defending Corners
Before I start to build my defending corners or any FM20 set pieces I like to first make sure that I have my strongest 11 selected for my tactic. This means that when it comes to assigning positions during the building of my set pieces I know the strengths and weaknesses of the players in each area.
I do this because most of the time I’ll be playing my strongest 11 so it helps to know that I’ll have the strongest players in their best positions for the attacking corners when it comes to the match.
You can see the tactics I’m currently using with Stade Rennais in the post below.
With my strongest 11 selected it’s time to start building some set pieces.
Player Positioning – Defending Corners
There are a lot of positions available on the pitch to put your players into when defending corners. These are the options
Go back instructs the players to place themselves in the area with no specific defensive instruction. Requires good Jumping Reach, Strength, Heading, Positioning, Bravery, and Concentration.
Stay forward instructs the player to remain in an attacking area when the team is set up to defend a corner. This is particularly useful for creating counter-attacking opportunities. It also has a secondary use of keeping more of the opposition defenders away from your area as any players with the instruction to stay back if needed will do so when you have players staying forward. Requires good Acceleration, Agility, Pace, Strength, Balance, and Anticipation.
Mark near post instructs the player to stand on the near post when a corner is being taken. Typically, this role is usually given to short full-backs who are not much use when trying to man-mark the opposition. Requires good Jumping Reach, Strength, Heading, Anticipation, Bravery, and Concentration.
Mark far post instructs the player to stand on the near post when a corner is being taken. Requires good Jumping Reach, Strength, Heading, Anticipation, Bravery, and Concentration.
Close down corner taker instructs the player to stand as close to the corner taker as they can (within 10 yards). This is useful if the opposition takes short corners. Requires good Anticipation, Marking, Concentration, Strength, Aggression, and Tackling.
Edge of area instructs the player to stand on the edge of the area when the corner is being taken. Typically I will give this instruction to the players who are quick and have good passing and vision. These are the players who need to latch onto the loose balls and drive forwards with it. Requires good Anticipation, Acceleration, Concentration, Strength, Aggression, and Passing.
Man Marking Corners Positions
When using a man marking strategy, the following instructions can be given.
Man-mark instructs the player to tightly mark an opposition player when the corner is taken. Requires good Jumping Reach, Strength, Heading, Marking, Bravery, and Concentration.
Mark tall player instructs the player to seek out the taller opposition players. Typically this would be given to your centre-backs would then pick up the opposition centre-backs. Requires good Jumping Reach, Strength, Heading, Marking, Bravery, and Concentration.
Zonal Marking Corners Positions
When using a zonal marking strategy, the following instructions can be given.
Zonally mark six-yard box near post instructs the player to position himself zonally in the six-yard box at the near post. Requires good Jumping Reach, Strength, Heading, Positioning, Bravery, and Concentration.
Zonally mark six-yard box near centre instructs the player to position himself zonally in the six-yard box just off centre, closer to the corner taker. Requires good Jumping Reach, Strength, Heading, Positioning, Bravery, and Concentration.
Zonally mark six-yard box centre instructs the player to position himself zonally in the six-yard box in the centre. Requires good Jumping Reach, Strength, Heading, Positioning, Bravery, and Concentration.
Zonally mark six-yard box far centre instructs the player to position himself zonally in the six-yard box just off centre, slightly further away from the corner taker. Requires good Jumping Reach, Strength, Heading, Positioning, Bravery, and Concentration.
Zonally mark six-yard box far post instructs the player to position himself zonally in the six-yard box at the far post. Requires good Jumping Reach, Strength, Heading, Positioning, Bravery, and Concentration.
Zonal Marking Vs. Man Marking
The principals of these two strategies are fairly simple. They can apply as part of your overall defensive strategy, but also for set pieces. For the purpose of this post, I will only be looking at these strategies for set pieces.
It’s important to note that both zonal and man-marking strategies can be used either independently or jointly. I will show below examples of a pure zonal marking strategy, a pure man-marking strategy and then one which uses both principals to create a mixed strategy.
Example of a Zonal Marking Strategy
Zonal marking is a strategy where the defenders will cover a specific area of the pitch rather than marking a specific opponent. From the below example of zonal marking at defensive corners, the players will form a line along the six-yard box in preparation to deal with any crosses into this area.
The pros of a zonal marking strategy are that your players can be positioned at the danger points in the area. Forming a wall in front of the goal makes it harder for the opposition to get a shot away. However, the cons are obvious, it can leave the dangerous players free to have a free header at goal if the ball is aimed at the penalty spot.
Below is an example of how this looks in Football Manager. You can clearly see the free players on the edge of the area who have a free run at goal when the corner comes in.
EXAMPLE OF A MAN MARKING STRATEGY
Man marking is a strategy where the defenders will closely mark a specific player in the area rather than marking a specific zone. From the below example of man-marking at defensive corners, the players will look to tightly mark any player in the penalty area, with specific attention given to the taller players by those who are asked to man-mark the tall players.
Below is an example of how this looks in Football Manager.
The pros of man-marking are that you can be sure each player will be picked up, so any player attempting to get a header on goal will likely have a defender making life hard for them. The cons are that if the opposition has a lot of taller players or their movement is good then they can easily lose their marker to get a free header at goal.
Below is an example of how this looks in Football Manager. This strategy shows all players being man-marked around the box and the corner taker is also marked if the ball comes back out to him.
Example of a Mixed Zonal and Man Marking Strategy
The below takes all of the above and creates a strategy that utilises the strong players with good Marking and Jumping Reach.
The mixed strategy gives you the pros of both the zonal marking and man-marking defending corners strategies. Your tall defenders can pick up the tall opposition. Other players can man-mark while you also have the zone of the six-yard box covered.
Below is an example of how this looks in Football Manager. The majority of players are picked up, and the six yard box is also picked up by the three defenders standing zonally. You could bring them in closer here if you wanted.
My FM20 Defending Corners Player Positioning
Based on the above it’s probably unsurprising that I like to use a mixture of zonal marking and man marking at defensive corners. I like to have players picked up and tightly marked, but not necessarily by my tallest defenders. I also like the the six yard zone heavily marked with a line of defenders ready to pick up any of the balls into the box.
Added to this I like to have my front three on the edge of the box ready to break away and counter attack.
My personal preference is to form a defensive wall along the six-yard line. Watching countless corners demonstrated that the AI will cross aim to the far post most of the time, or if they don’t it’s typically along the six-yard line. For this reason, I like to have my two central defenders at the back of this wall.
I like to have my two central midfielders man marking as I like to have some element of ‘picking a man up’ when defending corners.
Finally, what really makes this work is having my two quickest players on the edge of the area ready to pick up the loose balls and drive forwards with it.
What this gives us is defensive solidity when the ball comes in, and also an outlet with my two fastest players on the edge of the area who can come away with the ball at pace.
My number 8 and number 20 are picking up their men, the opposition 16 and 6. When the ball is played in an easy headed clearance is made and we break away at pace.
If the opponent would play the ball into the penalty area they might have a chance at a shot here, but for some reason, they never do in my experience.
My FM20 Set Pieces Downloads – Defending Corners
If you would like to download my defensive corner routines for Football Manager 2020 then select the download button below.
To instal, download the file and place it in your set pieces folder. You should find this in the directory below.
For mac: Users > [your computer name] > Library > Application Support > Sports Interactive > Football Manager 2020 > set pieces
For PC: Documents > Sports Interactive > Football Manager 2020 > set pieces
Defending corners in Football Manager is an often overlooked part of creating tactics, but they are super effective for not only saving yourself costly goals but also creating really good counter-attacking opportunities. For a while, I tested the default setups and they were just fine. I didn’t concede any goals in the 5 games or so that I tried them, but we also didn’t create many scoring chances from them either.
It’s up to you as the manager whether you want to go the extra step and create routines to give yourself a chance at conceding fewer goals when defending corners and perhaps also getting a goal or two from them.
As always, if you made it this far, thank you for reading along. You can get in touch with me in the comments below, via twitter @fmfutbolmanager, or my slack channel #fmFutbolManager — if you’re not a part of the Football Manager Slack community, then you can join here!
Until next time.