Continuing with my series highlighting specialist roles in Football Manager, I now turn to a role that I often find misunderstood and misused. As enigmatic as the man who inspired it, the role of Raumdeuter will always be linked with the name of Thomas Muller. Every position has its ideal player, whether it is Pirlo the Regista, Roberto Baggio the Trequartista, or Beckenbauer the Libero, to the point where no modern player can truly call any role his own. None except Thomas Muller. Word “Raumdeuter” translates from German as “space investigator” and it is what Muller called himself when asked to describe his idiosyncratic style of play. Just as left foot is key to Messi’s game, Muller thrives on the half space. I will be deconstructing what makes this role so unique and how it can be used to break down even the greatest defences. Also I will show how you can mould your player into a Raumdeuter to rival even Muller. I will tie all this into a tactic that takes advantage of my own variation of Deep Raumdeuter – MitteRaumdeuter.
Above: The original Space Investigator in action, rounding Joe Hart before scoring in a Champions League game against City. In the meantime, a defender is left standing helpless.
As the video above mentions, successful use of half spaces and channels is very central to Muller’s game. When talking about the Raumdeuter, as well as the Mezzala and Shadow Striker, one must understand about the concept of half-spaces and channels. It is a rather enigmatic concept which the game does not do a very good job of explaining, leading to some assumptions that do not reflect the reality of how these players work in the game.
A half-space can be viewed as any vertical space between the opposing players such as between two central defenders or between two defensive midfielders. The channel, on the other hand, is a specific type of half-space between the fullback and the closest centre-back. So when you tell your attacking players to move into channels, you are actually telling them to try to run forward into this area. So if the player starts centrally then he must angle to the side in order to get into the channel. This can be used aggressively to aid Raumdeuter in getting to a goal, especially if the opponent is dragged away marking another onrushing attacker such as an inside forward or the central striker dropping deep. On the other hand, Raumdeuter could be turned into a prime supporter/goal enabler when he floods the channel space along with another player. They could both create an overload on that side of the field, allowing the inside forward from the opposite flank to become your main scoring threat.
Like no other wing player, Raumdeuter is hard coded to move into channels, meaning that he will try hard to get into this half-space between fullback and centre-back. From his traditional advanced winger position he will drift off the ball inward into the half-space. He will not cut inside and dribble diagonally with the ball like an inside forward. This is an important distinction. But first lets look at what makes a Raumdeuter.
The game states that Raumdeuter’s main role is “to find pockets of space in which to operate”. Essentially a wide poacher, he “takes up seemingly harmless positions out wide, waiting for the opportune moment to burst through the defensive line”. Similarly to a fox in the box, poacher, he is difficult for defenders to pick up and will often drift from his assigned position looking for any opportunities to exploit. Furthermore according to in-game description, “this can result in quiet periods during which the Raumdeuter may neglect his defensive duties, therefore adequate cover and a strong team shape are key in order to fully utilise his attacking prowess in the final third.”
The three key things that any tactic focused on Raumdeuter needs are:
- Very strong and physically imposing central forward who drops deep and is able to take on defenders, allowing our Raumdeuter to exploit the space in front of him.
- Solid defensive player in the midfield and at least one on the wings to compensate for the more adventurous Raumdeuter who will almost exclusively look to score without any care for the defensive side of the game.
- A tactical shape that inherently allows for a lot of space in the final third. To do what he does best, Raumdeuter needs acres of space. For this reason. Tactics that use two forwards, or any combination of a forward and one or two central advanced midfielders, might not work as well. For this reason I believe that the best formation for Raumdeuter is a 4-5-1 or 4-1-4-1 (or wingback variations). I actually ended up settling on an asymmetric 4-4-2 with the two forwards shifted to the right side (and with the additional instruction of staying wider on the advanced forward)
You might ask, don’t you need 4-1-2-3 or even 4-1-3-1-1 to fit in an advanced attacking role like Raumdeuter? Does he not need to operate from an advance wing position? Well actually that is where my variation of Deep Raumdeuter comes in. Lets call him Mitte-Raumdeuter (mitte=middle in German) for consistency sake. The name was very fitting because my Raumdeuter not only starts his runs from midfield but also at time from the more central position (in left central midfield). To reiterate on the theme that I started in my last article (on winning as an underdog), sometimes to be successful, a manager must think outside the box and approach tactics from a different perspective. Placing a striker in an unusual area like midfield can have the vital surprise factor in allowing your attackers to approach from a direction that the opponent is not used to dealing with; a shadow area so to speak. As you see in my Wide Targetman article, how often does a fullback come up against big burly Targetman as opposed to a diminutive pacey winger?
I tested two variations of Mitte-Raumdeuter, one based on Wide Midfielder role and another on the Mezzala. Using a Mezzala was originally a temporary measure, as I used it for a player without “Move into channels” PPM and I needed him to use the role with that instruction while he was learning the PPM. Surprisingly my Mezzala performed very well. It just showed that they both were attacking the same area, albeit by moving into it from two different locations on the field.
You see the Raumdeuter role is probably one of the most unique roles in how it is hard-coded. We can recreate almost any other speciality role by taking a generic role such as wide midfielder or central midfielder and adding custom player instructions. For this reason I never see real reason for why a roles such as box-to-box midfielder or inverted winger were included in the game. To me they are redundant since they can be recreated by customising a central or wide midfielder with specific player instructions. Same with the shadow striker (just an attacking midfielder with a whole lot of added-on player instructions). Where the Raumdeuter always differed and the reason it fascinated me, is that it is the only wide role to have a hard-coded move into channels instruction. In fact, you cannot add that instruction to another wide player (except for Wide Targetman), the option is simply not there.
This veritable half-space channel merchant, requires a player with a special combination of attributes. Think your ideal fox in the box, Inzaghi-type combined with the cerebral genius of Pirlo. Above all, he needs to be highly intelligent player in order to be able to anticipate exactly where the ball will go and predict how the play will develop. Thus the mental attributes need to be near world class, almost all in 15+ range. He will need excellent Off the Ball, Anticipation, Decisions, Vision, Composure, Determination and Work-rate. With the exception of Flair and Teamwork, the more mentals you can get in the 15-20 range the better. Off the Ball is absolutely vital. I will not even consider a player with this value below 15 or 16 unless he is young and has potential to improve it.
Secondary, but still very important to the overall quality of your Raumdeuter are some key technical and physical attributes such as his Finishing, First Touch, Acceleration, Balance and Agility. These can be in the 13-15 range, although higher is always a bonus.
The Manchester Experiment:
Initially, I really tried to make the above into reality but unfortunately, the original Raumdeuter just did not want follow in the steps of his friend Bastian Schweinsteiger to leave his boyhood club for Old Trafford. So then I had to turn to the two players already present at United and who I believe can fit this demanding role; Sanchez and Lingaard.
Surprisingly, ageing Alexis Sanchez turned out into my ideal Raumdeuter. You can see that his attributes hit 15+ values in all the right places. While Lingaard is a great younger backup, as he is one of the few attacking players in the game with Off the ball of 18.
On a little side-note, before I get into the details of my tactical setup, I just wanted to show that you can totally have a Raumdeuter on a budget. As you are looking for players with high mental attributes and only decent technical and physical attributes, basically a classic poacher, it is easier to find such players in mid-tier or even 2nd division clubs. For example my scouts were able to unearth this gem in Spain. Seeing him actually kind of made me wishful to manage Espanyol. So maybe will keep that idea for a future save.
Pablo is not only younger than Sanchez and available for a quarter of Sanchez’ salary, he is also a perfect deep Raumdeuter candidate! Had I not already possessed Sanchez and Lingaard I would have snapped him up without a thought. He could make an excellent tutor for young players as well.
Recipe for success
Having seen my vision of an ideal MitteRaumdeuter, I will now explain how to craft this role for yourself and how to build the tactic around him. Firstly, forget about filling the green circles on your tactics screen. Look for the player with the right attributes first and do not worry if they can play in the midfield position. You can even stick a natural striker in there. The only thing that it might result in is a slight penalty on his decision making but he should still perform, provided he has the right attributes. Once you found your player then you need to tell him exactly how you want him to behave on the field. This is the player instructions that I use. Note how it mirrors the generic Raumdeuter role.
In fact the deep-lying version is a little more offensively aggressive role than the original Raumdeuter, but you definitely need that seeing how he starts from deeper. Also it has the added benefit of being able to arrive late into the penalty area to finish team moves.
Another very important consideration is Player Traits. Make sure that they reflect as closely as possible how Raumdeuter needs to operate. Thus traits like “comes deep to get the ball” or “hugs the line” are naturally to be avoided while something like “dwells on ball” or “runs with the ball often” could be counter-productive in some situations. Yet, for a MitteRaumdeuter, one trait is essential. The “move into channels” trait is the only way to tell your player to behave this way since it is not possible to add it as a role instruction.
So make sure to start training it (either by asking a coach to train it in development screen or tutoring him with the older players possessing the trait) as soon as you can.
At the start of the season, Sanchez already possess “move into channels” trait while Lingaard does not. Whenever I would play Lingaard as my MitteRaumdeuter I would actually play him in a Mezzala (Attack) role on the left side.
After much testing, this was the final formation I settled on. It looks like a rather unusual shape but that is because it is totally geared towards unleashing my Deep Raumdeuter.
In terms of custom player instructions, besides left wide midfielder, there are a few important ones on our other midfiled players. The left wingback, roaming playmaker, carrilero and inverted wingback are all told to mark opponents tighter. The two wingback roles are the ones with most instructions, as I wanted to vary their movement and crossing direction. This is how I set up my left wingback (the more defensive one)
And the offensive right wingback (was lucky to prise the wonderkid Federico Chiesa from Fiorentina right at the start of the January transfer window):
The carrilero, attacking wingback, advanced forward (told to stay wider to the right) and the inverterd wingback are all meant to create an overload on the right side. By attracting the opponents to that side, they are leaving acres of space for Sanchez to move into. Watch this move play out and note how we are forcing the opponent towards the right side. Simultaneously, Sanchez is moving ever closer to goal, until finally he completes this beautiful team play with a tap in placed goal.
In the following sequence, Burnley defense is drawn out of position to allow the rapid-fire goal from our MitteRaumdeuter. Once again their defense is overwhelmed by at least five of our players charging into the half-spaces on the right side of the field. While they are scrambling to deal with this immediate threat, the deep Raumdeuter calmly stays near the penalty area, very much unmarked. This is what happens next.
It is amazing to see that in the beginning, it is Sanchez who starts this move with that cross and then finishes it with a goal in less than 10 seconds. Just shows what kind of player a Raumdeuter can be, drifting about looking for gaps in defense and an opportunity to exploit them in the most dangerous way.
Hopefully, I dropped enough hints for you to custom fit your own player into the deep-lying MitteRaumdeuter role and be able to get a drop on your opponents. Or let me know what unique roles you have created in this iteration of football manager.
Thanks for reading.
And here are other articles that you may be interested in:
- FM19 Tactics Tested – Jose Mourinho’s Inter
- How to Build Your Midfield in FM19 | Football Manager Guide
- Dynamo Project: Improve The Odds – Guide to a Winning Tactic for the Underdog
- Does Age Make a Difference in a Striker? | Football Manager Experiment
- Highlighting the Wide Target Man and the Flo Pass Tactic in FM19
- Serie A: Survival or Slaughter?