Jump to content
FMM Vibe

The Strikerless Series: Playing With 3 Attacking Midfielders


The Strikerless Series 


In the last couple of weeks strikerless formations have become a bit of an FMM obsession of mine and so it became obvious to me that I should write down some of my thoughts and findings on the subject. As it turns out I have a lot of thoughts on the subject and so I have decided to start this series of articles to explain some of them.

 All the articles will be in this one thread and I will add them as they are ready. So what can you look forward to. Clicking on the bold text will take you to each article once they are posted.

Introduction: Why you may want to play strikerless and some of the ideas behind it.

Tactics: Playing with three attacking midfielders.

Tactics: Shadow Striker Vs Trequartisata

Defensive Strikerless.

The concept of playing FM without using a striker first came to my attention a few years ago through the work of a Dutch man called Guido Merry who has a website called Strikerless.com and is worth a look (after you have read this of course) although its sole focus is on the PC game. Much of my work is based around ideas that I have picked up from his work so I fell credit was due before I even begin. Despite strikerless being familiar to me for a few years I never really tried it on the PC game because of one reason, I love strikers! My two favourite England players over the years are Alan Shearer and Michael Owen and of course we have plenty of top strikers around at the moment such as Harry Kane and Robert Lewandowski.

So what has changed? Nothing really I still love using strikers but its always fun to play around with different ideas and I perhaps have a little striker fatigue at the moment due to playing a lot of striker based goal scoring challenges recently. I did briefly and unsuccessfully try a strikerless tactic last year on FMM17 and also wrote my trail article for Vibe about it but the tactic and the article were both awful so they have never reached the light of day.

What is strikerless?

This may sound a stupid question but I want to clarify something before we continue. In FMM we can play an inside forward in the right and left forward positions as we see here.


For the purposes of this article I am not calling this a strikerless formation as the IF’s are in the forward/striker strata of the pitch. It could be argued and has been that the IF is a midfield role but once you put him this far forward he will play more as a striker.

Strikerless in real life

Football can be played in many ways and that is one of the reasons we all love it. We have seen a number of teams play without a recognised striker over the years including Scotland who tried to shut up shop against the Czech Republic in a 2010 World Cup qualifier. The aim of the then Scotland manager Craig Levein was to pack the midfield with numbers and try to stifle the more technically gifted Czech team. The fatal flaw in the plan was that despite creating the number Levein wanted in midfield Scotland lacked the players with the required skill and movement to harm the Czechs going forward and as a result putting in a turgid performance as they lost 1-0, that all but destroyed any hope they had of making the play-offs and Craig Levein received huge amounts of criticism for his negative thinking.

 A much  more successful occasion that a team has played strikerless football is the Spain team which won the 2012 Euros. That Spanish side played with Fabregas listed as a striker on the team sheet but in reality he played as a false 9 and dropped deeper making a sixth man in midfield. This enabled Spain to play there possession Tiki Taka game as they dominated the midfield numbers and always had an extra man in that area. This style of football suited the squad that Vicente Del Bosque had at his disposal as it was similar to the Barcelona style of playing that was dominating domestic football at the time and seven players in the squad played for Barcelona including the highly influential Xavi and Ineista. His squad did contain strikers in the shape of Fernando Torres, Alvaro Negrado and Fernando Llorente and all except Llorente played some part in the tournament. Going into the tournament their where concerns over the form of Torres who was not enjoying a good time at Chelsea and also the ability of both Llorente and Negrado to get involved in the build-up play which is a must for the Spanish tiki taka style. The solution was to play Fabregas as a nominal striker when is actual fact he played a role somewhere between an attacking midfielder and a striker. This enabled the Spain team to play to their strengths and dominate in midfield with their constant passing and clever movement of players like Ineista and David Silva.


Strikerless in FMM

The reason I choose to experiment with playing without a striker was because I struggle to get decent possession with my teams on FMM. It doesn’t matter how good my squad is and what trophies I win, more often than not I have less possession in match. Of course that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things but I like to dominate teams and I become frustrated by seeing us have less of the ball than the team I am playing.

Perhaps the strength of the squad you inherited at your new team is in the midfield area and you feel that a strikerless approach will enable you to bring out the best in the players you have especially at International level where the pool of players at your disposal are limited. This was part of Del Bosque’s thinking with his Spanish team. He had a pool of players which contained an abundance to top class midfielders whilst lacking in strikers who were in any kind of form or who suited the style of play he felt was best for the team.

When we manage top teams with powerful squads in FMM we often find that smaller teams will sit back and try to simply defend against us and it can become very frustrating to try and break them down. Can we get teams to push further up and create space by removing the striker and causing the opposition centre backs to instead have to worry about our attacking midfield as the goal threat. Or on the flip side of that can we use a strikerless tactic to try and frustrate opposition that are better than us just as Craig Levein tried to do with Scotland. These are all things I want to look at in this series.

So what do we need from our players if we want to play in this way? We need the basics for a start, so our attacking players that will provide the goal threat such as shadow strikers or trequartista’s need to be able to shoot otherwise how will they score but I believe there are some qualities that I need from all my midfield players in a strikerless tactic. This is young Benfica and Croatia midfielder Filip Krovinovic. I have been using him in my strikerless test save in a couple of different roles and he has developed well. I have highlighted some of the attributes that I would consider important if not vital for a midfielder to have if you are going to play strikerless football. These are universal attributes that I want to try and have in all my midfield players but of course you still require role specific attributes like shooting, tackling or crossing.


Technical attributes: I ideally want players who are comfortable on the ball and so I want them to have decent dribbling ability. They can use this to move in tight areas of the field and create space by going past a defender. They need to be able to find a teammate with their passes so passing is a must and technique ties in with that as it means they make less mistakes when attempting a pass or dribble. It also means they will have a good first touch so they don’t have to be thinking about controlling the ball but what they will do with it when they get it.

Mental attributes: Creativity and decisions are linked to passing in my mind. The player need to be able to see the killer pass and be able to make a quick decision which pass to make. Decisions also links with dribbling as a player needs to know when to run with the ball and when to pass it. To be able to find pockets of space on the pitch your player needs good movement as this will help in find good positions and get away from his marker. The better your players teamwork the better he will work with the other players in the team and also the harder he will work.

In this introduction to the series we have looked at some of the reasons why you may choose to play in this style and also some of the principles of playing this way. In the next article we will start to look at some actual tactics and in game situations.

I hope that you have enjoyed this introduction and that you will join me for the next instalment. I will update the thread title when I post the next article or you can follow the article by leaving a comment or hitting the follow button at the top right of this article.


Thank you for reading


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Recommended Posts




Welcome to the second part of my strikerless series. In todays article we are going to start looking at some tactics and in game situations. More specifically we will be looking at playing with three players in the attacking midfield positions and I have two tactics to show you. They are both tested tactics that I have had some success with but I would never say they are game breaking or plug ‘n’ play tactics. These are both attacking and hopefully possession based tactics and I will be specifically be looking at the attacking third of the pitch in this article. We look more at the defensive aspects of strikerless in a later article.

The Tactics

The two tactics I am using are identical until you get to the attacking midfield three where I am using a narrow three in one and a wide three in the other.  


I will talk about the AM trios in more details later on but I will just explain the rest of the roles before showing you the team instructions.

Sweeper Keeper: I am playing a high line so he just gives me that extra insurance because he will come of his line and sweep up balls played behind our two centre backs. A sweeper keeper is also more likely to play short passes out from the back which is what I want.

Defence: I have two standard centre backs. I could go with a BPD but I want my centre backs to keep things simple at the back and a standard centre back will play short passes out form the back but he will take less risks than a BPD. In front of them I have an anchorman who protects the defence when the two wingbacks bomb forward and join the attacks.

Central Midfield: I decided to go with just standard CM’s here. This was in part because I wanted to see how the front 3 interact with each other without midfielders getting in the way but also I feel that they create a good balance to the team. They will sit in the centre of the park and play possession passes or get the ball to the attacking players who can then do there magic. The CM role can change as well depending on the skills of the players I put in that role. So for example I can play a more defensive minded player like Samaris and he will keep things simple with the ball and use his good tackling to win the ball whereas Hojbjerg next to him is more of a playmaker type and will look to get on the ball and make things happen either by spreading play out to the wings or with balls into our front three.

Why no playmakers? Well technically the trequartista role in tactic two is a playmaking role although he gets a lot of goals as well. I have avoided using a playmakers in these tactics as I want us to not be too predictable. When you have a playmaker in the team all the other players want to pass to him as he is the focal point of your team. I want to see if by not having a playmaker but having players with playmaking abilities you can still get good results. I wont be making any conclusions on that in this article.

Team instructions

The formations only have a couple of differences between them and they both have the same team instructions as despite the different formation and player roles what I want to do remains the same.. I want to score goals and I want to see good passing football from my team whilst being as solid as we can at the back.






  Team Mentality: I have chosen a control mentality. This is because I want my team to attack and control is on the attacking side of the scale but I want them to be responsible at the same time. We don’t have an outlet up front so we need to build our play through the thirds of the pitch and that may mean we sometimes just need to keep the ball I think control gives me this. It should also mean I am less susceptible to counter attacks as my players are less gung-ho than on attacking or overload.

Width: I want to try and stretch teams with our passing but I won’t be using wingers and crosses will be pretty ineffectual as we don’t have a big striker to get on the end of those crosses. Balanced seems a good compromise to me as narrow could possibly lead to a little more possession as it brings the players closer together but may make us more predictable and wide will make it harder to play a short passing game.

Tempo: Just like playing narrow could lead to more possession so could playing with a slow tempo but it may make us predictable and easy to defend against. Fast tempo will lead to the ball being played forward too quickly before our attacking players are in a position to hurt the opposition and possession will be lost. Balanced it is then.

Creative Freedom: I haven’t noticed a huge difference between expressive and balanced but let’s take the reins off a bit and let the players go out there and enjoy themselves.






Defensive line: I want my players to be close together and make the pitch as compact as possible to make short passing easier. I also want my attacking midfielders as close to the goal as I can get them. Playing a high line should help me achieve those aims as it pushes the whole team further up the pitch. This is risky and is best used with fast defenders who can get back if needed.

Closing Down: I want my players to harass the opposition players and try to win the ball back as quickly as possible so we can take advantage of them being out of shape. This also ties in with having my attacking midfield pushed as high as I can up the pitch. If we only closed down or sat back in our own half they would sit back and allow the opposition to play out but with all over they will pressure the defenders of the opposition and keep them pushed back in there own half nearer there goal and away from ours.

Tackling: Middle of the road here. I don’t want them diving in for every challenge and giving away freekicks but I also don’t want them to shy away from winning the ball back.

Offside Trap: Playing a high line means we can be susceptible to balls over the top or in behind our defence. I want my defenders to play as a team and try to catch the opposition’s strikers offside as an insurance policy. 

Time wasting: Don’t need any gamesmanship until at least the last 5 minutes of the game.






Final Third

·        Look for overlap: I am using wingbacks as my wide outlet and I want them to get up well up the pitch before they think about crossing the ball. Early crosses would simply lead to them giving the ball away as they put the ball into the box where we have no striker. This screenshot shows just how much space the wingbacks can get when they overlap the midfield and despite the lack of a striker I do score the occasional goal from crosses as this GIF shows.




·        Work ball into the box: This will let our attacking midfielders get closer to the goal and into more dangerous positions before looking to shoot.

·        Through Balls: I have some pace in my team that can get onto the end of balls played through the oppositions defence.

Passing style: As I have said a couple of times we are looking to play short passes that will pull the opposition players out of position and create openings for us to exploit. The beauty of strikerless football can be that the defenders of the other team don’t have anyone to mark and can get pulled out of position or at least that’s the aim anyway. We don’t have an outlet up front that the ball can be hit up too so we need to be careful with the ball and not look for the direct option.

Passing Focus: Playing mixed keeps us from being too predictable. We have passing options all over the pitch… well most of the pitch anyway so let’s use them.

Goalkeeper distribution: The same as passing, there is no point hitting the ball long to a player who simply wont be there. It will give away possession and we will be on the back foot straight away.

Tactic 1: Narrow AM Three





I have gone with two shadow strikers (SS) in this formation as I want to pressure the back line of the opposition and cause mistakes which can lead to goals and also to provide a goal threat as well. I am going to go into more detail on the SS role along with the trequartista role in the next article in the series.

The middle of the three is an attacking midfielder (AM) which is an all rounder type of role. He will create as well as trying to get into goal scoring positions himself. I have used this formation with an advanced playmaker as well but I found that it works more effectively with the AM role in the centre of the three.


If we look at the in game description we can see the line “fashions chances for himself and others in the final third” and that appealed to me for a tactic where I want to see players working for the good of the team as well as getting themselves into goal scoring positions.

Lets take a look at some in game situations. These screenshots come from a 2-0 win over rivals Porto. We didn’t play that well in this game and Porto had more clear cut chances than us but we where clinical in front of goal and played some good football as well.


In this first screenshot we are on the attack and our AM Krovinovic has the ball. Look how deep he is compared to our two SS who are both in advanced positions that you would expect to see strikers in. They are giving Krovinovic two great passing options and he goes with the slightly easier pass to Mahrez who is the more centally placed of the two SS’s. I have highlighted the area behind the Porto back line as something I have noticed about playing strikerless is that it can cause the oppositions defenders to push up higher giving us areas for our quick midfielders to attack. Obviously Porto are a good team and so will tend to be more forward thinking anyway but I noticed this with poorer teams in the division as well.


One problem with using two players in the same role is that they can tend to take up the same positions on the field at times. That’s the case in this next screenshot as you could throw a blanket over our two SS’s and they are proving easy for the Porto CB’s to mark. Ideally I would want to see them in the half space between the CB and the FB which would be much harder positions for Porto to defend. You can see the overlap in effect though as Grimaldo is pushing forwards to provide a passing option out wide if Samaris has the vision to see him.


In the team instructions I said I wanted to play a high pressure game with a high line and pressing all over the pitch. Here you can see that in effect as we are pinning back Porto in there own half. We are trying to make it as hard as possible for them to play out from the back by closing as many passing lanes as we can. The player with the balls best option is to either hit it long for the striker or down the line for the winger but both options are being covered by our defenders. If he passes inside he runs the risk of losing the ball and one of my players getting a chance on goal. Good teams will get out of situations like this and all this high pressure is risky for us as well if Porto can use the ball correctly and quickly there is space in behind to exploit on the counter.


The trouble with playing without a striker is that you don’t have anyone to play the ball up to when the opposition have you pinned back. We have everyone back defending either in  or just outside our 18 yard box and no one up front to play the ball up to. Porto are missing a trick here as they have left back six players from the attack compared to the image above where we are pushing everyone forward to pressure there defence. We need to play out from these situations as to just hoof it will lead to Porto coming straight back at us. 


 So can we get out of this situation? Of course we can due to having a team of good passers. The move breaks down in the end but we have pushed Porto from the edge of our box back into there own box.


I have one final GIF for you from this tactic before we take a look at the match stats. I said I wanted to play attacking possession football. Well I think you can see from this that I have achieved that aim.


If we take a look at the match stats we can see that I achieved my goal of having more possession and that has been the case in the majority of games I have used this tactic in. We also completed 86% of our passes which is very good whilst still having a good number of chances on goal. The goals came from the cross you saw in the GIF earlier and from a shot on the edge of the box from a corner.


Player stats wise and we can see that Krovinovic had a great game with only three failed passes and seven key passes. He was out done by MOM Samaris who had a goal and an assist but in this tactic Krovinovic is the heartbeat of the team and the man who makes things happen despite not playing as an advanced playmaker.



Tactic 2: Inside Forwards





So a complete change of roles for the front three in this tactic. We have a trequartista that I will look more into in the next article and then two inside forwards (IF). I wanted to try an attacking role in the centre of the three so I went with the treq who will also play make as well as provide a goal threat. I want the IF to find space in the wide areas of the pitch but then cut inside to get shots or play through balls. The IF role is also more natural to Forsberg and Mahrez.


We took on Aves in the game I am going to show you footage from and ran out 4-0 winners with two goals from Krovinovic and one from Mahrez and CM Fernandez.

I mentioned before that I found teams were pushing up higher when I played without a striker and you can see that here. Aves are the type of team that would usually drop deep and be a pain to break down but not in this screenshot. There back four have pushed right up to our attacking mids and making them look more like a front three. This can play into our hands as it gives us lots of space there defenders to attack.


In the narrow three formation we saw that the two SS had a habit of trying to occupy the same space on the pitch. Less of a problem here as even though the two IF have come inside they are all in there own space. You can see that the Treq is far more attack minded compared to the AM which in some ways is good as we have an attacking three but it can mean we lose a link man between the CM and the attacking mids.  I did find that the presence of the Treq kept the two IF away from each other a bit more. 


Remember that I set pressing all over the pitch? Well sometimes that can really pay off as it did in this clip. Krovinovic pressed the ‘keeper and it paid off for him with an easy goal.


This clip shows how the lack of a striker as an out ball can be a problem against better teams. We deal with the freekick and it is just booted up field but with no striker to at least put pressure on the Aves defender the ball is coming straight back at us. If we where playing a better team this could lead us into being pinned back in our own half.



 We didn’t enjoy as much of the ball with this tactic and I think that was because of the IF’s. With tactic one we had three players in the attacking mid roles all very close to one another but the IF’s sit wider before drifting inside so are less availbale for simple possesion passes. We often did have more possesion than the opposition but it was less gaurenteed compared to tactic one. We did create more with this tactic and not just in this game but in general. I think that IF where harder for teams to defend against compared to have the two SS who where more central and perhaps easier to pick up for the defenders.


Forsberg and Krovinovic had great games despite not seeing much of the ball in this game. This was due to an assist for Forsberg and Krovinovic getting two goals. This was just a quirk of this particular game as in other games all three attacking mids had plenty of the ball.




I found both formations to be relativley successful for me and the results can be found in this career post. I enjoyed tactic two more as I prefered seeing that attacking three taking up positions in more space instead of sitting on top of each other as they were in tactic one. I found that we scored more goals with the two IF’s and we seemed a little less predicatable. For example with the narrow three the ball was passed out to the wingbacks far more than tactic two but the problem is that with no striker the wingbacks crosses tended to just be cleared or flash across the box with no one to put the ball n the net.

 There is many ways that you could play strikerless and I havent got time to test everyone but hopefully this article has given you an insight into how I went about looking at the problem of playing without a striker. Have you tried strikerless and how did you go about it? Let me know in the comments below.

Thank you for reading




Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Mate this introduction was class. You're the man for tactical content and you've proved once again why that is. Can't wait for the next instalment!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting stuff about strikerless Scotland, didn’t know that!

It’s funny to see how the game evolved. Back in 2011-12, I have tried going strikerless without any success whatsoever...

Now it’s possible - we’re living in the future ;)


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now