The winger as an inside forward is becoming more and more popular in modern football. Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and even Rooney to an extent have excelled at starting off in a wide position and then cutting in towards goal – with spectacular consequences. In the past, Football Manager (and very early Football Manager Live beta) users would have plonked these guys at AML or AMR and had a diagonal arrow to the FC position. Well now, with the introduction of roles and duties in the new tactics creator, you can achieve this effect once more.
“It’s funny when I see centre-forwards starting off in the middle against their markers and then going away from goal. Strikers going inside are far more dangerous, I think. When Henry played as a striker, and sometimes when Wayne does, they try to escape and create space by drifting from the centre to wide positions, when that actually makes them less dangerous.”
Sir Alex Ferguson
Inside Forwards in Football Manager Live
The introduction of the new “wide play” instruction has meant that there is greater control over how much players move laterally in our tactics. By telling a player to cut inside, you can recreate the effect that Ferguson is talking about in the Guardian interview. Coupled with a good dose of forward runs and run with ball instructions, the AML or AMR can drive in aggressively from the wing and cause havoc in the centre of the opposition’s defence. He could even perform a similar role from the wing forward position (FL or FR).
The tactics creator can do a lot of this for you. An attack duty and inside forward role will have a very similar effect to the wide player with diagonal arrow of old.
The “inside forward” role can also be given to AMCs, but this is a slightly different beast. The central inside forward does not need to drive in at the centre because he already starts there. Thus, the AMC inside forward is more of a retired forward who surges from runs from the midfield. This causes problems because the responsibility for marking him shifts from the central midfielder to the centre backs. If this is not managed properly, the AMC will find himself in acres of space in the “hole” between the midfield and the defence – and thus more opportunity to assist the strikers or score himself.
What the AMR or AML inside forward can do in addition to this is drive in from a wide position. This creates confusion as the responsibility for marking him shifts from the full back or the side midfielder to the centre back. Not only does this create space in the “hole”, it also creates space in the “channel” between full back and centre back. With much more communication needed in the opposition defence, a good inside forward on the wing can create so much space for his team mates as he drags players out of position from all over the field.
In this article, we’re going to focus on the wide inside forwards and how best to employ them in your tactics.
Using the tool to full effect
As with any player’s role, its effectiveness relies on the rest of the team being balanced. Any player cutting in from the outside will, necessarily, sacrifice some width in the final third of the pitch. Of course, a player in this position can and will get some opportunities to get crosses in or exploit the flanks, but primarily he will be wanting to cut in and create goal scoring opportunities.
Therefore, it might be advisable to use a full back who can drive on into the final third on whichever side you employ an inside forward.
Often, the inside forward will be part of a 4-3-3-style formation. If this is the case, utilising the other wide AM as a winger may allow the team width on the one side, while giving penetration on the other. Swapping these roles around during the match will allow the team to vary its attacks.
Of course, you may want to use an inside forward as an unusual and asymmetric 4-4-2, with a FC and a AMR or FR in support, cutting in from out wide. You could argue that Ashley Young has performed this role in the past for Aston Villa when O’Neil has nominally lined up with a 4-5-1.
It might also be preferable (though not entirely necessary) to use a player on the “unnatura” side of the pitch. By that, I mean using a left-footed right winger, or a right-footed left winger. This will naturally bring the player inside as he looks for space in which he can use his favoured foot.
So, who to look for?
In Football Manager Live, the best players to play in this position are ones that are naturally AML and AMR. Some competency at the FC position is also an indication of the sort of player who can play this role best. Pace and stamina are useful, as are great technique and dribbling. Passing, decision making and a little bit of crossing ability help with the assist count. And also, given the role you are asking them to play, some decent finishing and excellent composure are essential.
Think of the inside forward as a mix between a creative forward and a traditional winger – because that’s exactly what they are. However, they can be so much more than that. Cristiano Ronaldo scored over 40 goals in one season at Manchester United, such is the power of the role. But in order to make it work at maximum efficiency, it is important to get the balance of the rest of the side right.
A few weeks ago we talked about my catenaccio experiments with it in FML. It didn’t go too badly, and this season I qualified for the Gold Cup. I am, however, going to ditch the system in favour of a sweeper-based four-man defence. With the new ME and new tactical instructions, I want to get the best out of my star player, who plays naturally at FC but can play anywhere along the AM stratum. Sounds like a perfect candidate for the inside forward role, eh? So, I’m going with a shape roughly similar to Wenger’s 4-2-3-1 at Arsenal, except with a sweeper and central defender instead of a “flat” back four. I’ll discuss the 4-2-3-1 next week, and keep you informed of my progress.
|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.