Most people have heard of and regularly talk about the “corner exploit”. It is seen as one of those bugs in the FML match engine which people can regularly exploit. By focussing corners to the goal area and leaving your tallest players at the near post and challenging the goal keeper, many teams can use this cunning little ruse to grab a number of key goals.
But you didn’t need me to tell you that. And if you did, then you would have found out soon enough anyway. What I want to talk to you briefly about is how you can reduce the effectiveness of teams using the corner exploit and how you can try and keep goals from these set pieces down.
The reason the exploit works, in my opinion, is two-fold. First, tall, strong players nearly always win headers. The headers also have an unusually high success rate in terms of getting their shot on target. Very little movement is needed. In real life there will be a lot of jostling in the area and the eventual winning header from an attacker usually comes from a late run in to position, or cunning to make a lot of space. In FML, the players are far more static in the box. Therefore, anticipation, movement, positioning, off the ball skills – these are almost redundant. What counts is strength, jumping and to a lesser extent heading. That’s pretty easy to find in many centre backs or strikers bought solely for this purpose.
The second reason is the unwillingness of goal keepers to step off their line and command the goal area. In many cases, especially with repetitive corners, the goal keeper would probably run forward those three or four yards and make a punch or catch. You see very little of this in FML, which usually means that the attacker gets a header at a poorly guarded net from point-blank range. This creates a very high success rate for the attacking team.
Couple this with the other problem in the match engine – the higher than normal amount of corners, especially as the result of failed crosses – and teams who have the right personnel can use this strategy to blistering effect. In your game world, do the 20 jumping, 20 strength defenders have upwards of 0.5 goals a game? In some, these guys get upwards of 1.0 goal a game.
So how can you stop yourself being on the receiving end? I think there are three key areas to focus on, each of which carries its own potential problems.
Sign tall players
Fight fire with fire, essentially. I always like to have at least two players I can feel confident in with at least 17 for jumping. This at least gives them a fighting chance against the brutes sent up front for set pieces. Coupled with strength and perhaps a bit of marking and anticipation for defensive players, these can try and even out the balance more towards the defending side. For general game play, it’s always a good idea to have a tall player to watch for crosses in defence anyway. Usually for me, my other tall player is a DMC or another DC, but if you play a target man it might be your FC. Whichever way, I try to have at least two at my disposal at any one time, even if I have to leave one on the bench to tighten things up late on in the game. However, if this means you have to leave key players out of the squad you can leave yourself with a conundrum.
Get the defensive corner instructions
The default tactics will not help you defend the corner exploit. That’s another reason why it is so effective. You need to create your own, logical defensive system to help combat it. Your tallest players should be set to “mark tall”. That’s not a revelation, but something like this makes a huge difference. At least put a man on the near post, if not both. And, if the exploit is solely coming in to the six yard box, you don’t need to waste men covering the short or the edge of the area. Pack the centre and try to outnumber and outmuscle the opposition, leaving one or two guys up for the counter. Trial and error is needed, unfortunately, to work out what works best with your staff.
Reduce the amount of corners conceded
Another option is to keep the ball in the midfield by playing a formation or strategy which kills the opposition’s game and stops them getting corners. 4-5-1s can keep the ball in the midfield for upwards of 70% of the match. Getting your full backs to reduce the space of wingers and perhaps risking hard tackling might stop the opposition getting so many set piece chances from out wide. Focussing passing down the middle may well keep the ball more centrally for the whole game, which can help further. This, however, is the most difficult option, since it requires tactical skills (at the moment) and tactical trial and error to work out which strategy works best at reducing corner opportunities.
The ultimate answer, of course, is to be so much better than the opposition that they cannot score more than your free flowing side. But for most of us, that isn’t an option. What is an option, however, is to demystify the corner exploit. It’s not “unbeatable”, nor is there nothing you can do to stop it. With the right players and some time spent on the tactical side of defending, you can reduce the amount of corner goals conceded and, who knows, maybe use this knowledge to get some set piece goals yourself from methods other than “the bug”.
|Written By Gareth Millward
"Millie" is a long-standing member of the FM community and a co-founder of Gameworld One.Com. As part of FM-Britain, he was a contributor to TT&F and involved with the new tactical interface in FM2010.