The False Nine in FM18 Explained
19
SEPTEMBER, 2018
False Nine
FM18
Football Manager

The false nine in FM18 is intended to work as the below diagram describes it. No surprises there. Instead of battling directly with the centre-halves, the striker drops deeper into midfield. That avoids a lottery situation where they try to win the ball.

In turn, this causes havoc. The opposing centre-halves don’t want to follow the striker into midfield; the midfield is outnumbered if they don’t. It’s a clever way to avoid offside traps, retain possession, and attack when opposing teams have blocked off your playmakers.

The false nine in FM18 is intended to work as the below diagram describes it. No surprises there. Instead of battling directly with the centre-halves, the striker drops deeper into midfield. That avoids a lottery situation where they try to win the ball.

In turn, this causes havoc. The opposing centre-halves don’t want to follow the striker into midfield; the midfield is outnumbered if they don’t. It’s a clever way to avoid offside traps, retain possession, and attack when opposing teams have blocked off your playmakers.

However, when building a tactic with a false nine in FM18, it doesn’t automatically work like that.

Moise Kean Cutting Inside- False Nine in FM18

What the false nine in FM18 does

Here, inside forward Moise Kean is cutting inside. The Marseille central midfielders and left-back were closing him down, while their midfield was occupied by false nine Francois Boisson. The two centre-backs were dropping off. Since every Marseille player besides striker Adama Diakhaby was sat behind the ball, their midfield wasn’t outnumbered.

Technically, Boisson’s position could still cause problems. He had a fair amount of space to collect the ball and hold onto it. He could even unleash a shot! It’s a hell of a smarter position to take than trying to get behind the centre-backs. However, while Kean cut inside, shouldn’t someone be exploiting the space on the outside of left-back Leon Meulenberg? Wasn’t a false nine in FM18 meant to cause havoc between the opposition midfield and defence? The closest player to entering that space was right-back Darwin Rodriguez; he had too much catching up to do.

“The false nine in FM18 isn’t as versatile off the ball as you might imagine”

How this affects the rest of the team

In the first screenshot below, Boisson was sitting off the Marseille centre-backs. That was swiftly abandoned once my team started trying to bring the ball out of defence! Then, he became solely focused on my centre-halves; not the opposition. This isn’t necessarily a problem, or a reason not to use a false nine in FM18. The false nine in FM18 has clear instructions to drop deeper, enter the channels and link up play. However, regardless of what role you give a player, their instincts don’t change. If a false nine in FM18 has a PPM of ‘tries to break offside trap’, that’s exactly what they’ll do.

False Nine in FM18- Bringing Ball Out of Defence
False Nine in FM18- Running Out Wide
False Nine in FM18- Positioning
False Nine in FM18- 4-3-3 Wide
False Nine in FM18- Scouting
Scouting- False Nine in FM18

As the screenshots show, the false nine in FM18 is usually set to position themselves in the line ahead of every midfielder. Often, when the ball goes out of play, their starting position is extremely deep, but they quickly get forward regardless of which team has the ball.

How this blends into a tactical setup

On the ball, the false nine in FM18 is akin to the advanced playmaker. In one screenshot, Boisson received the ball deep from Kean; the left-back was promptly drawn inside to follow him. To get away from the crowd of players swarmed around him, Boisson drifted out wide. As indicated, he hoped to create space for the onrushing midfielders, or win a free kick. In a nutshell, the false nine in FM18 isn’t the player you rely on for overlapping or underlapping runs. You pick them because they’re serviceable at creating space and great at linking up play. They still rely on movement around them; even more than in real life.

These traits are accentuated by my current tactic. With only one striker and no outfielder with an attack duty, the false nine is the focal point. In addition, with a ‘highly structured’ team shape, the false nine’s expected to stick devoutly to that duty. Could this explain their uncontrollable, unsightly urge to abandon their deep positions? With a few subtle alterations, the false nine in FM18 might work differently. For instance, if you changed the team shape to ‘very fluid’, they might stay deep for once. Pairing them with an advanced forward, or another orthodox striker role, may have a similar effect. However, creating a team fluid and dynamic enough to proactively exploit opponents’ vulnerabilities is virtually impossible.

To sum up, here are a few quick pointers before you lose your mind:

1. Have players around the false nine in FM18 creating space in front of the opposition backline

The false nine in FM18 can be easy to defend against if crowded out. The centre-halves stand off his grandly figure, while the dirty midfielders ahead of them do the work and stay tight. Inside forwards and trequartista’s are ideal attackers to have around the false nine in FM18. There could even be a second striker! The false nine in FM18 isn’t fluid enough to consistently move into the most advantageous channels.

2. Expect a lot of tweaking to avoid too many long, hopeful shots

The reasoning behind this is two-fold. Firstly, the false nine in FM18 the space to execute long shots. Secondly, if they’re crowded out and the furthest player forward, shooting will become their only viable option.

Experiment between using the ‘look for overlap’ and ‘look for underlap’ team instructions to mitigate this problem.  Having ‘work ball into box’ should go without saying. ‘Look for overlap’ can be more penetrating; however, it becomes problematic when your tactic has a wing-back on support.

As the wing-back is set to ‘go further forward’ anyway, the combination results in offside runs and ensuring opposition counter-attacks! An over-reliance on hitting the ball to onrushing full-backs also causes ball turnover.

On the other hand, an effective underlap relies on players making inside runs. Making runs at the right times, in those narrow spaces, is like trying to find an exit from a sewer.

3. Avoid having too many advanced playmakers in attacking midfield

The problem? You risk overcrowding the false nine’s territory. With a structured setup, the advanced playmakers should sit deeper, but they often drive forward from their hole. If that occurs, the false nine in FM18 might be forced to run behind the opposition defence.

The result? They don’t do what they’re meant to do. They get caught offside. Moves break down. You can’t understand why any of this is happening and quit the game forever.

In a number 10 role, trequartista’s are a safer bet; they drift wherever the space is.

4. Pick players accustomed to occupying the right areas

In a structured setup, only consider a natural striker or attacking midfielder for the false nine in FM18. In most teams, that leaves plenty of options left to choose from. As detailed above, I searched for every natural false nine in the FM18 database.

For each false nine in FM18, the standout attributes are flair and off the ball. Someone who can run free of the opposition’s shackles and muster an opportunity is a must. Nearly all of these players are accomplished in some of the attacking midfield positions behind them. Looking even further, false nine’s often have impressive agility, balance and quickness.

The false nine in FM18 must be alert and nimble enough to find small amounts of space in tight areas.

As we’re not playing dodgeball, finding space isn’t enough. After finding space, the false nine in FM18 should then quickly redistribute the ball away from the crowd. Hopefully, the ball will eventually make its way into an area conducive for a goal-scoring opportunity.

Ultimately, the first attribute I’d look for in a false nine in FM18 is off the ball. The smallest details in their movement can make the biggest impact for everyone around them. In most cases, you end up picking the player with the most naturally aggressive role.

So, how do you utilise your false nine in FM18? What are your experiences like using them, if you have any?