Disclaimer: This is not an actual tactical post. Well, not a very good one anyway. Yes, we’ll be discussing an FM21 tactic and we’ll see how we get on, I guess.

A long, long, long time ago – FM15 if my memory serves me correctly which, I believe is even pre-The Higher Tempo Press days or maybe one of the first things I did on there – I found myself at Boca Juniors in Argentina having completed my ‘Beating Brian’ challenge, quit Wolves and taken Internacional from the bottom of Serie A in Brasil to winning the title in about 25 games.

At the same time, I’d read an article that had lambasted some Argentine coach or another for playing with three defensive midfielders in the real world. DMs were looking pretty cool on FM15, I seem to recall, and I fancied a crack at making my own Strikerless formation having always loved the work of Guido – the original Strikerless godfather. I pondered whether it was possible to make a version of this coach’s approach and not have any strikers at all – and given that Argentina are world-class at producing 10s and 6s it seemed to make perfect sense to give it a crack.

To cut a long story short – it worked, and it worked bloody well. I think we won four straight titles, two of them unbeaten, the last three conceding something like 7, 6 and maybe 9 league goals in a 28 match season. We won the Copa Libertadores a couple of times in that run and it was flipping marvellous. A lot of the fun came from retraining players to play in the particular roles in the system – taking wingers who would be redundant in this shape and turning them into complete wing-backs or in one case, a central midfielder/winger type thing who was scoring 20 a season.

Boca didn’t have any out-and-out strikers at the club when I rocked up, so it made the transition pretty simple.

Come FM16, during the beta, it was possible to use the FM15 tactic files and it transferred over perfectly, quickly taking Honved to back-to-back titles in Hungary.

Honved in Hungary, doing bits

I recall another successful run – might have also been FM16? – with Bilbao B where we absolutely smashed it with the same approach.

Ah, the Boys of Bilbao – Kepa was good then…

And since then? Nothing. Nada. No dice. Each year I go back to it and try and recreate it with no luck whatsoever. Whatever the magic cocktail was, I’ve lost the recipe. After all, I am not that good at building a tactic from scratch and how I stumbled across the original Argentine Strikerless was probably taking something that already worked under-the-bonnet and moving players into new positions and struck gold.

Until now…

In all of my previous attempts to recreate one of the happiest spells of my FM playing I’ve never returned to Argentina to try it again. I have no idea why, it’s just never gone like that.

So, having had an initial quick dick about with FM21 to see what I liked and what I didn’t like I decided to head back to South America with the sole aim of getting the Argentine Strikerless to almost look like it used to by hook or by crook.

I went in at the second division level, looking to find a club that matched the following criteria:

#1 Would give me long enough to crack it, so low expectations from the board

#2 Wasn’t overloaded with strikers and wingers

#3 Was overloaded with attacking midfielders and defensive midfielders

#4 Had a kit I liked

And with all that, I landed at Barracas Central – which, admittedly, sounds more like bar somewhere in London than a football club in the second tier of Argentinian football. But hey, here I am.

The premise of the Argentine Strikerless is to be watertight at the back – which you would hope for with a back four and three defensive midfielders in front of them – but then rapier like in transition so that we do actually get enough people in attacking areas to create chances (whilst accepting this is never going to be an approach that sees us win matches 6-0).

This is the very basic set-up we go with.

An old’un, but a good’un

The idea is that the wing-backs get very high to, ideally, stretch the opposition backline – giving the two AMs and the CM space to overload. The anchor sits, the regista and the roaming playmaker have license to move around and, hopefully, control the game.

Now, the reason I am even writing this is because we are seeing some potential greenshoots of life in this. At the time of writing, we’ve played a few league games and we’ve only lost one (naturally, the one just before I started writing this). The team that beat us are the league favourites and top of the league – but it was a top-of-the-table clash as we went into the match in second place. Barracuda Central are predicted to finish third-bottom.

I’m not getting too excited – we are talking a decent pre-season and six league games to date – but we are defending as I would wish (four wins with clean sheets, three of them 1-0 I think, one 1-1 draw and a 2-0 loss). And the goals we are scoring are lovely to watch – late, third-man runs into the box which I love.

The tactic is way off ‘familiarity’ too, which gives me hope – and I am just about to start dabbling in training for the first time and set some individual training plans to help the players convert further.

This could all die a death very quickly if the 2-0 loss has killed our confidence but we shall see. I am not expecting miracles – what I want to see is that we can achieve a safe mid-table spot and know that this is something that could work well with a stronger team.

But I have to say, it is like welcoming back a dear old friend…