Football Manager is a game with two distinct schools of tactical setups. You either create a tactic but tweak it to fit your players, or you create a tactic and shoehorn your players in (or indeed purchase new ones to fit the system).
So, to help out, here is a handy guide to what sort of player fits with particular player roles. What key attributes and stats does someone need in their locker in order to be effective in a role, and how can you identify the right player for your system?
Today we look at the Target Man, using the support duty.
What is the Role?
A supporting target man is probably one of the most self explanatory player roles in the game. As the primary target up front, their strength, height and off the ball movement instinctively draws defenders towards them.
If the ball finds its way to the feet (or indeed head) of the target man, they have the physical capabilities to hold the ball and bring others into play, either playing backwards to a Number 10, or letting inside forwards run beyond them before playing a through ball.
The beauty of the target man though is how much influence they can have when the ball doesn’t even go near them. The best supporting target men have outstanding off the ball ability, drawing defenders towards them and creating space elsewhere, bringing others into play without ever touching the ball.
What are the Attributes?
So, naturally, a supporting target man has high Off The Ball attributes. This is also beneficial when you actually need a goal from them too – whipping in early crosses will help the most intelligent attackers to get in behind the backline and nod in a header or volley.
In addition, you need Strength, Jumping, Heading, Teamwork and, ideally, a good First Touch.
Basically you need Olivier Giroud. Now unfortunately he is well into his 30’s and an unlikely option for most clubs, but looking through what is green on his attributes is precisely what’s needed from a supporting target man.
The other thing that then sets Giroud (and players like him) apart, are his traits:
- Plays With Back To Goal
- Plays One-Two’s
- Tries First Time Shots
These are the perfect traits for any supporting attacking player – acting as a wall for other players to bounce off, being an integral part of the building up play before rattling off a shot if the opportunity arises.
By comparison, take a look at the profile of an attacking target man (Mariano, below) – easily confused but performing almost entirely different roles.
Strong, tall, good in the air, far superior finishing ability. Makes complete sense for a target man. But passing, teamwork and first touch attributes are so low – whilst a perfectly reasonable goalscorer (in the right system), a player like Mariano absolutely could not carry out the function of a supporting target man.
How They Play
The attacking target man above would be aiming for 15-20 league goals in a season, they are the primary focal point for goals in a team. Their presence in the 6-yard-box may also lead to them picking up assists along the way, but their main function is to be supplied by others, to score the goals themselves.
The supporting target man is completely different, not bound by a numbers game at all. Operating more outside the box as much as possible, in line with the wingers and midfield, until the ball finds its way out wide for a cross.
Below, Giroud is in line with the midfielders at the edge of the box, he is fed the ball in to feet.
He drops to the 18 yard line to receive it, immediately laying to the inside forward who has gone beyond him towards the penalty spot.
This player then slides it across goal for an easier finish. Giroud gets no goal, no assist, but was integral to the build up, acting as a focal point for the attack to move around. His movement got him into position and occupied both centre backs, allowing the incoming midfielder to run free.
His first touch played the ball perfectly for the winger, and his teamwork meant he was in the mix at all. Whilst he won’t get a number attributed to him, the goal came about because of him.
That is the essence of the supporting target man, perfect for short, quick passing moves, but also a handy focal point for more direct play styles and crosses – the complete attacking all-rounder.