A Guide to the Poacher

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Filippo Inzaghi

The Poacher is a peculiar role. Everyone has probably used it at some point in their FM career but apart from the good old “Little N Large” combo, there isn’t much most FM players can tell you about that role. I have used it to some success in a couple of saves and I want to analyse what a Poacher is doing and how you can use the role to full effect. To do that, I use footage from my Dulwich Hamlet save.

What does the Poacher do?

When I was new to the game, I always looked at the role descriptions to figure out what role would suit my system and my style of play the best.

This is what the game says about the Poacher:

“The Poacher sits on the shoulder of the last defender looking to break the defensive line and run onto through balls from midfield.

Although the Poacher is always ready to run at his marker and is happy to cross the ball when required, his main aim is trying to put the ball in the back of the net.

His focus on scoring goals is so extreme he rarely offers much help in constructing moves, preferring instead to remain central and sniff out opportunities in and around the box.”

Now, there are several ways you can use a Poacher. You can either team him up with one or two strikers or you can play him as the lone forward. I played him in a) a two-striker system and b) as the only guy up front. Both systems were fluid but they asked the Poacher to do vastly different jobs:

Poacher with another striker

If you play the Poacher alongside another Striker, you almost want the two to be like Henry and Bergkamp – especially if you play with a Fluid on and with a Poacher you should. Not in terms of quality, but in terms of both players being able to a) be at the end of chances and b) create chances. So, you want the typical attributes you look for in a striker like Finishing, Composure, and all that good stuff. However, the Poacher is still a bit different. He always looks to hang on the shoulder of the last defender and break through when a pass from midfield comes in.

At Dulwich Hamlet, I play with a 4-4-2 and my Poacher is Montell Moore. With Isaac Christie-Davies I got one of the best playmakers you are going to find in the early years on the same side as him. This is how one of our bread and butter attacking moves works:

As you can see here, our left winger sends our Poacher into space. Thanks to his decent pace he wins the footrace. Number 5, one of their CBs must follow him so he can’t just cut inside and score.

Daniel Carr, our Number 10 is now 1v1 against the remaining CB and he scores the cross that gets delivered to the near post. This kind of move happens a lot when you got someone hanging on the shoulder. It probably happens slightly more often in tight spaces in the box (my Poacher actually ended up with far and away the most assists on my team) but I chose this move because it was easier to demonstrate.

So, what does the Poacher do if you team him up with another striker:

–    He sits on the shoulder of the last defender

–    He runs into space and draws out defenders

Looking at this, his most important attributes aside from the normal striker ones are a) Off-The-Ball, b) Acceleration and c) Decisions. I tend to value Off-The-Ball over everything else because I also play with “Pass Into Space”, an Instruction that synergizes very well with this particular role.

Roles to play him with:

–    Advanced Forward to be at the end of moves

–    Defensive Forward to have someone win the ball high up the pitch

–    Deep-Lying-Forward to link the Poacher with the rest of the team

I tried Poacher + Target Man too, but it wasn’t as good as the legend suggests. I think a Shadow Striker is a better fit to play with a Target Man because he makes more runs from deep and tries to win the ball back. Now, to the really interesting stuff:

Poacher as the lone forward

One of the hardest roles to get right is the role of the forward in any system with only one striker. There are a bunch of options and they all have their merits and I believe the Poacher deserves to be in the discussion. However – due to the limitations of the role in terms of participating in the general build-up – I have only managed to make it work in a specific system but it worked very well there.

Being a club that starts in the Ryman Premier, you often face teams from the National Leagues in the FA-Cup or the FA-Trophy. To beat them, you can go for a more conservative approach and that is what I did. I withdrew one of the strikers into the DM spot to just crowd out teams in the midfield. I also played with two BWMs, so my goal was to win the ball back in midfield and just play it vertical to the Poacher.

Our 4-1-4-1

It is important that you can afford a Striker that just hangs around. That’s why I decided to put all my players into midfield. Again, fluid is key to make sure you can do some batshit crazy stuff on the break and doing batshit crazy stuff has won me the FA-Trophy twice, so I can’t complain.

#Verticality

So, which attributes and Team Instructions are the most important when you went to play with a Poacher as the lone forward? For attributes, it’s Off-The-Ball, Acceleration (very important) and First Touch. For Instructions, I tend to use “Pass into Space”, “More Direct Passing” and “Roam from Positions”. The last one might seem a bit weird but if you want to create a working Counter-System, you need players to roam around the pitch when you attack.

To conclude things, Poacher is still a very good role. It might not be the most flashy role but It’s certainly an underappreciated one and depending on the system you want to employ you should definitively consider using a Poacher because he can still do great stuff.

If you want to hit me up with any ideas, talk me to or follow me on the Interwebz you can check out the links at the end of the post. Until then, see you next time.

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