Guide To The Final Third In Football Manager

Football manager gives you four choices when you get to the final third, hitting early crosses, working the ball into the box, playing for set pieces or shooting on sight.

Depending on the system that you are using, one of them should suffice. However, you can leave the options blank and let the players decide for themselves, depending on their roles and the attacking mentality you are playing with.

In this article, I will cover the four options, explaining how I use them in-game depending on my tactical set-up and also switching them up depending on how a match unfolds.

Work Ball Into Box In FM

Football manager describes Work Ball Into Box as a team instruction that instructs players to work hard for their opening, remaining patient and not forcing the issue but rather retaining the ball until the breakthrough occurs.

You might confuse working the ball into the box as asking your team to be more creative, which is not the case. 

Work Ball Into the Box and Shoot on Sight In Football Manager

This instruction does not add any creativity to your team. Creativity is largely tied to your tactic’s mentality, the passing directness that you have chosen and the tempo that you have chosen to play at.

Work Ball Into Box simply asks your team to take fewer shots from distance and to also cross less often. This then increases the chances of passing your way into the box.

How effectively you do it is then tied to the factors I have mentioned above, in addition to the quality of your players.

You should ideally use Work Into Box when you have high-quality players that have the passing quality, movement and vision to open up tight defences that have sat back and packed the bus.

Possession-based systems that take inspiration from the likes of Pep Guardiola and Ten Hag will benefit from the team instruction. 

In higher mentalities like Positive and Attacking, your team will still resort to long shots if they are unable to play through the defence, and the players feel that taking long shots is the best thing to do at the moment.

This is how you end up with some matches where your team has more than 60% possession, 45 shots on goal and only 4 that are on target.

In such cases, you have to find other ways of breaking down the defence, such as by adjusting your attacking width and stretching the opposition defence or even changing the type of passes that your team is making.

Shoot On Sight In FM

Shoot On Sight in football manager asks your players to shoot when the opportunity arises instead of waiting for a more clear-cut opening.

Shoot on sight is almost the complete opposite of Work Ball Into Box except that you can combine this instruction with hitting early crosses. I have a guide on the type of crosses here.

The best scenario to use shoot on sight is when you have players with a decent long shot rating who are also not creative enough with their passing.

Rather than losing possession in and around the box trying to break down a stubborn defence.

You can instead ask your team to shoot on sight, relying on the long-range efforts of your attacking midfielders or central midfielders to hit the bull’s eye.

I only use shoot on sight against teams that I am confident my team will overpower, win the ball back quickly and start another attack.

This way, you will have comfort knowing that even when one of your mezzalas fires the ball into row Z, another chance will be quickly crafted rather than using the instruction against a team that you are more or less evenly matched with, which means you will be limited on the number of chances that you fashion out throughout the match, therefore, balancing risk and reward becomes more important.

Wasting your chances on low percentage shots from distance is not wise against a team that can equally fashion the same number of chances as your team.

They will take their time fashioning a chance, and will likely end up with a better opportunity to score.

Play For Set Pieces In FM

Football manager describes the Playing for Set Pieces instruction as one that encourages your players to attempt to win corners, free kicks and throw-ins so as to allow the team to bring players forward for dead ball situations, attempting to command control of the match in that way.

Once selected, your players will be more likely to let the ball roll out for a corner or throw in so that they can then use the opportunity to launch an attack inside the box, or take the corner short depending on your tactic.

Your players might also look to win cheap free kicks, however, this will also depend on their personalities, with those having competitive traits being more likely to try and win a cheap free kick.

If you have a player in the mould of James Ward-Prowse who is a master from dead ball situations, regularly winning free kicks and corners might prove essential with the opportunity to rack up 15 – 20 goals from set pieces alone over a season.

As the years go by, you might get centre-back regens that are gods in the air, who will regularly pop up with goals from corners and free kicks that are invaluable in tight matches where you are unable to regularly craft good chances for your forward players.

Hit Early Crosses In FM

Hit Early Crosses in football manager asks your players to get the ball into the penalty area with early crosses as soon as they receive the ball in a position to do so.

Hitting early crosses is effective in catching out the defence before they can rearrange themselves following the opposition’s attack.

You might ask your team to hit early crosses in a counter-attacking system, with the hope that your fast pressing forward or advanced forward gets to the ball first before the defence can react.

If the opposition is lining up with a very high line, pinning your team back. Asking your wingers to deliver early crosses behind the defensive line will give your forward players great opportunities to react quickly and make runs in behind the defence.

Finally, as with almost everything in FM, asking your players to do one thing in the final third will not totally prevent them from trying out the other options, depending on your tactic’s mentality and individual player attributes.

If you have found this article useful, you can also read our guide to wasting time in football manager, or setting up a system that relies on playing out of defence.