Delighting in the thrilling moments when your team snatches an unexpected victory by relying on defensive solidity and a stroke of luck is undeniably satisfying. Yet, there is an equally enchanting experience in witnessing a well-coordinated team execute intricate passing sequences, orchestrated by the enigmatic False 9, culminating in a splendid finish by an inside forward. Achieving success with this unconventional role in Football Manager, however, proves to be a daunting challenge.

The Elusive Balance: Possession vs. Creativity

In the pursuit of developing a system that maximises the potential of the False 9, managers often find themselves caught in a dilemma. They may end up with a possession-oriented style that dominates the game with 65+% of the ball but struggles to create more than a handful of chances throughout the match. Alternatively, they may witness their midfielders, be they mezzalas, advanced playmakers, or box-to-box maestros, resorting to long-range shots due to a lack of space in front of them.

Unraveling Pep Guardiola's Secrets

Throughout his illustrious managerial career, Pep Guardiola has consistently faced the challenge of dismantling well-organized defenses that sit deep in two compact lines of four players. Importantly, he achieves this without resorting to aimless crosses or hopeful long balls. Central to Pep's tactical wizardry lies the deployment of the False 9, a role that we will now explore in greater detail, unveiling the secrets behind its utilization in Football Manager.

Decoding the False 9: A Playmaker's Role

In Football Manager, the False 9 assumes the role of an unorthodox lone forward, akin to the playmakers who operate in the attacking midfield position. This enigmatic player demonstrates a remarkable ability to drop deep into midfield, creating a quandary for opposing central defenders. These defenders are forced to make a decision: follow the False 9 and inadvertently open up space for onrushing midfielders, forwards, or wingers, or allow him to roam freely, affording him the opportunity to dribble or unleash a decisive pass to his teammates.

Essential Attributes for the False 9

To excel as a False 9, a striker must possess a blend of attributes that complement the playmaking demands of the role. Primarily, proficiency on the ball is paramount. Passing, vision, and technique are the cornerstone qualities to seek in a potential False 9, ideally rated at 15 or higher, particularly when managing top sides in Europe's elite leagues.

Supplementary attributes such as dribbling, acceleration, agility, and flair further enhance the False 9's ability to elude opposition defenders and midfielders, granting them the space necessary to weave their magic.

While goal-scoring prowess is not the primary focus for the False 9, respectable ratings in finishing, anticipation, off the ball movement, and composure remain desirable. However, deficiencies in these attributes can be mitigated by delegating the goal-scoring burden to other members of the team.

Unveiling Player Traits for the False 9

In order to optimise the playmaking potential of the False 9, several player traits prove invaluable:

Tries killer balls often:

Encourage the False 9 to seek defense-splitting passes whenever opportunities arise, capitalizing on their role as the designated playmaker.

Comes deep to get the ball:

Foster a tendency for the False 9 to drop back, enabling them to receive the ball in deeper areas where their passing and creativity can create scoring chances.

Likes to switch the ball to the other flank:

Facilitate play switches, allowing unmarked overlapping fullbacks or wingers to contribute positively, either through penetrating dribbles or accurate crosses.

Plays one-twos:

Encourage the initiation of quick exchanges with nearby teammates, elevating the tempo of play and unsettling the opposition's defense, thereby fostering greater opportunities.

Likes the ball played into feet:

Cultivate a preference for receiving the ball at their feet, allowing the False 9 to exert influence on the game from a deeper position. This trait discourages attempts to beat the offside trap, instead promoting shorter passing combinations.

The False 9 Tactic Unveiled

In the following tactical framework, the False 9 assumes a pivotal role, willingly dropping back into midfield. This movement creates space for an attacking-minded central midfielder to surge into the box, while a more cautious box-to-box midfielder judiciously joins the attack.

On the flanks, an attacking winger stretches the play wide, while an inside forward drifts inward, generating room for overlapping wing-backs to contribute to the team's attacking endeavors. An anchorman and an inverted wing-back provide the necessary defensive cover, guarding against counter-attacks when other players commit forward.

Multiple Playmakers: A Balancing Act

While this specific tactic avoids the inclusion of multiple playmakers to ensure the False 9's undisputed command of the team's playmaking duties, it is worth noting that incorporating multiple playmakers can be successful with careful strategic placement. Ensuring spatial separation between them, such as positioning an advanced playmaker on the wing in conjunction with a libero in defense or a regista in the defensive midfield position, can establish harmony. Nevertheless, deploying two playmakers in the same stratum may prove more challenging, as they are prone to hindering each other's effectiveness.

Exploring Alternatives

Should the False 9 fail to meet the specific needs of your team, other playmaking roles can be considered. Consult our guides on the shadow striker, enganche, or trequartista, which approach playmaking from distinct perspectives, providing alternative avenues for tactical creativity.

By embracing the enigma of the False 9, managers in Football Manager can unlock the full potential of their team's attacking prowess. Through careful player selection, strategic player traits, and well-crafted tactics, the False 9's magical influence on the game will reverberate throughout the virtual footballing realm.

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