Targetman. Sounds like a low-budget Marvel character but in reality they are the no-nonsense hero your FM20 team might need. Playing a Targetman up front as one of your striker roles might not be popular amoungst fashionable teams. You might not see the likes Manchester City, Barcelona and Liverpool doing it. Or even generally across top divisions like La Liga and the EPL. The striker role of Targetman might have negative links with brutal and direct teams but that is unfair. It can actually be an effective offensive role as well as one that can free your other players up to play the beautiful game.
Big man – little man combinations, and tall lumbering strikers have long been a mainstay in football. Especially in the lower leagues and pre-premiership era where a fetish was made of the physical over the technical.
Often this was split as part of a two striker partnership. One little (and fast), and one large (and strong).
Poor playing surfaces, bad weather, and a general misunderstanding of statistics by the likes of Reep and Hughes encouraged long balls forward to a sledgehammer like striker. They wouldn’t skillfully unlock a defense, they instead would act as a battering ram. If they didn’t score themsevles they would open the space for someone else to take advantage of.
The FM20 Targetman
Just like real life FM20 puts an emphasis on physicality. Strength and Jumping are key here, much more so than pace to reflect the aerial battles than will be won rather than any foot races. What isn’t flagged in the attributes is also the height. Whilst there’s no minimum needed to qualify as a Targetman (after all we are not talking about rollercoasters) the taller the better as this has an in-game impact on jumping for aerial battles.
Key to this is also balance which is something that is often overlooked. Being a strong jumper with great heading can be undermined if your striker has to constantly pick themselves up off the ground because they have lost their balance.
The technical attributes are few and straightforward. They need to be able to head, to shoot, and have a half decent first touch to control the long passes. They could have 1 for all the other attributes and it wouldn’t have a huge impact on what is a fairly one dimensional approach. Kick it, head it, and trap it so you can kick it some more.
For what is considered a simple and often a role more fitting for the lower leagues there are a range of mental attributes that are quite important. Aggression and bravery almost go without saying but don’t underestimate the importance of anticipation and off the ball. Without these they won’t be able to move into the right positions to receive the ball, or react to quick changes and moves to maximise their impact. If you have got an absolute man mountain of a striker up front but you’re not getting any joy check these two attributes in particular.
There are two duties available for the Targetman. Attack or Support. The attributes highlighted by FM20 don’t really change much between them, but the importance of certain selected attributes does shift.
A targetman on attack is going to be your source of goals. He will be getting into those positions of maximum opportunity (POMO’s), getting on the end of long balls, crosses or other aerial passes, and finishing them. He might only spend a few seconds at a time on the ball, but those will be deadly seconds.
On support we have a slightly different story. If he’s a sledgehammer on attack then the Targetman is crowbar on support. Still a dangerous and brutal tool but one that is about applying the right amount of force to the right areas to crack the defense open. With their movement they will take defenders with them and out the game, opening up space. Or they will be flicking the ball on, laying it off, to other players attacking from different areas of the pitch. He’ll still bag goals, but he will be mainly acting as a creative force.
Targetman Tactics: More than just 4-4-2?
As mentioned above the Targetman is traditionally found in a 4-4-2. With a striker playing off them, and plenty of service from the wings and further back.
When going for direct counter attack or route one/direct pre-set tactics in FM20 it will suggest 4-4-2’s and even start you off with a Targetman.
It works. You won’t go far wrong with this. I myself play with a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-2 wide diamond. Both with a Targetman on support or attack respectively.
The Targetman Reboot
It doesn’t have to be so vanilla though. This is where the Targetman is a real hero (or villian if you are the opposition). He’s more flexible and powerful than he is often given credit. We cover a few below but this is a far from exhaustive list. Remember creating space, taking defenders out, mopping up second balls, finishing, long ball wingplay, direct counter attacks are all weapons in his arsenal. Your Targetman is the hero you need.
Side Kicks and Henchmen for your Targetman
What we call the tactic isn’t that important. What is important are the partners your Targetman has, his henchmen, and the space and structure this creates around him.
Pressing Forwards and Poachers
With your Targetman on support a good sidekick or partner for him to have is one that is high up the pitch, working off the last defender or the shoulder of defenders. Pressing Forwards and Poachers do the job here really well. They are constantly sniffing around for through balls, flick ons, second balls and will benefit from the general all round chaos your Targetman will cause. He will apply pressure to one area of the defense, and the other striker can burst into the weak spots created by it.
A bonus mention here for the wingers in a set up like this. With your hero on support a winger on attack duties can pick up on those flick on’s and lay offs. Helping your out number the defense or take them by surprise from wide positions.
The same can be said for box to box midfielders or segundo volante’s that might be able to sweep up balls headed or passed back by a Targetman.
Shadow Strikers and False Nines
Under the right circumstances this combination can split the opposition defenders. It leaves them with the horrible choice of who to follow. A good ball from your team and a poor decision from a defender can leave a striker through or at the very least with fewer defenders to deal with.
Shadow Strikers and the AM
This combination, and similar ones using the attacking midfield strata, are all about using the Targetman as a pressure point. A decoy almost. They take the defenders with them, create space, and then get it to the on rushing attackers that have used that time and space the Targetman has gained.
The Targetman doesn’t even have to win the longball in some of these situations. A poorly cleared ball because of the pressure the Targetman applies can still be collected by these attacking midfielders.
The above can also be managed with inside forwards and inverted wingers. You may need to play around with them to find the combination that works best for your players but the space they need can be created by the Targetman.
Alternatively the movement of the Inside Forward or Inverted Winger can draw players away from the Targetman giving them an even easier battle to win when the through ball is played.
The Prequel: Wide Targetmen
Wide Targetmen aren’t myths. They are rare but can also be just as brutally effective. I’m not going to cover them here though as Dictate The Game’s own crusadertsar has already covered it (consider it the prequel) in his fantastic article here.
The Sequel: Set Pieces
Lets not forget another area of strength for our hero – set pieces. If you have a massive aerial threat in the form of your striker you also have some very easy options when putting together your attacking set pieces. You’ll get a good return with the Targetman attacking the near post, or sitting at the far post to take advantage of a keeper out of position or head back across the box.
They’re not limited to having an impact during corners. You can get similar results with even long distance free kicks. Sticking it in the mixer might seem a far cry from the beautiful game but it’s a good route to getting 3 points.
The Targetman can happily get involved in long Rory Delap like throw ins. With a good throw in taker and a strong targetman you can turn what is a basic dead ball restart into a goal scoring opportunity.
But wait. There’s more. A Targetman can double up as an effective defender. After all they are strong and good in the air.
Or you can use them as a potential outlet for a counter attack. I have mine stay upfront and use a player on the edge of the box, and one stopping the short option. These two players can get a loose ball or clearance and turn it into the perfect long ball for your Targetman to terroise the probably depleted opposition defence.
That’s a wrap for our heroic Targetman. More than just a battering ram in a vanilla 4-4-2. They can be the key, or the crowbar, you need to unlock defenses. Ultimately they can do the dirty work that then lets the rest of your team play. They are well worth considering regardless of the level of football you play.
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