Du Malone writes: From discussion online I don’t get the impression that the wide-target man (WTM) role is widely used in FM.
Members of the FM community often publish their formations. These reveal that WTM isn’t at all a popular choice for players playing wide in the attacking-mid line. Wingers, inside forwards, and inverted wingers are far more popular.
Which suggests to me that the possibilities of the role are being somewhat neglected.
My experience of WTMs
I starting using the role early in my FM career, on FM14. I used a WTM at Norwich City in the EPL and at Aris Salonica in The Greek Super League.
At Norwich I made WTMs out of strikers. I made some use of Johan Elmander, though he was rather creaky. More successful were two imports: Darius Vassell and Kenny Miller.
At Aris I imported two ageing Francophone wingbacks — Yves Desmarets and a right-sided player whose name escapes me (Desforges? De La Forge? — if anyone reading this can identify the player, I’d love to know!)
I should add that I don’t use more than one WTM in the same line-up: I’ve never found that having one on either flank works.
I started employing a WTM for two reasons. First, I read an article called ‘The evolution of the “Target man”‘ by crashbang. It analyses Liverpool’s use of Kuyt — in particular the way he connected with Gerrard and Torres.
Second, at both clubs I found the teams I took over to be rather weak. They were apt to get pinned into their own half. The defenders often resorted in desperation to whacking long balls up to the strikers. That usually resulted in the opposition regaining possession and piling on the pressure again.
Introducing a WTM offered an easier-to-reach option — and somebody who could hold the ball up whilst the rest of the team got forward. That helped us both to retain possession and to stop playing too deep.
My plan at Aris was for Desmarets to play the Kuyt role, though on the left, with Tatos coming through alongside, Gerrard-style, and Stavropoulos ghosting in on the far wing, like Aurelio for Liverpool. Stavropoulos wasn’t really good enough to play his part, but the tactic worked nonetheless.
Since then I’ve made frequent use of the WTM. It’s been the second most distinctive role in my preferred tactics. (The first has been a libero/sweeper, though I’ve never used that role and a WTM in the same team.)
Why use a WTM?
The benefits accruing from use of a WTM have been as follows:
- the one mentioned above: the ability to receive and hold up the ball
- physique: specifically, being able to bully weedy full-backs/wing-backs
- finding space in between full-back and centre-back, which can result in the WTM stealing in rather like a raumdeuter
- forcing wingbacks/overlapping full-backs to stay back more
- providing an out-ball option when you’ve been reduced to 10 men.
Where to find them
In none of the leagues I’ve played in has it been at all easy to find players with role-familiarity. It’s nearly always been necessary to convert players from other roles.
The main sources have been (a) conventional target men (i.e., strikers) and (b) midfielders (usually centre-mids or box-to-box).
To some extent, there is a correlation with the duty I want to use: strikers tend to be better for attack, midfielders on support. Support has usually been my preferred duty.
Occasionally I’ve tried to convert a centre-back, but rarely with success. At Stoke City, Mr Ryan Shotton made it clear he was very unimpressed with the idea.
An attraction of recruiting conventional target men is that you can often get them on the cheap. This is because they may not be that good at scoring (Vassell a case in point): perhaps they lack the finishing (or the speed, composure, or bravery).
Though I do get goals from WTMs, that’s never been my main aim for using them.
I find there’s some divergence between my preferred attributes and those specified by the game. That must be a consequence of the tactics I use. I certainly look for touch, so they can receive the ball well, strength and balance, so they can hold the ball without being knocked off it, plus some way of distributing it — passing , mostly, though crossing and heading can be useful.
A further essential is off-the-ball. Often I’ve found that the WTM in my team is able to receive the ball less by towering over other people and more by finding little pockets of pace.
I therefore worry less than the database suggests I should about jumping reach.
It might be useful finally to contrast my experience with another evident fan, namely crusadertsar. From his article on the subject on Dictate the Game, it looks as though — judging both from his writing and the videos — he has arrived at a somewhat different conception of the role.
His conception is I think closer to the conventional image of a WTM, predominantly as an attacker, used as part of a long-ball game, whereas in my teams I’ve usually conceived the role primarily as a midfield one.** I suggest that both conceptions can be useful.
Overall, I hope it is evident that the role can involve more subtlety and nuance than is sometimes assumed.
** Perhaps surprisingly, the role I find it most similar to is, given the emphasis on finding space and distributing by passing, is I think the advanced playmaker when used on the flanks.