The Proper Way to use a Shadow Striker in Football Manager

A shadow striker is an attacking player who occupies the central attacking midfielder’s position (AMC) in Football manager, but rather than primarily acting as the playmaker for the team, he mainly focuses on scoring goals.

He will generally perform better with a striker who he can play off, while making dangerous runs into the box. The striker should preferably be played either as a Deep Lying Forward, Complete Forward or a False 9.

Out of possession, the Shadow Striker presses and hurries the opposition defenders in an effort to win the ball back as quickly as possible while limiting their ability to play off from the back.

Real life examples of players with the ability to play as Shadow Strikers include Kai Havertz of Chelsea, Dele Alli and Giovani Lo Celso of Tottenham Hotspurs, Antoine Griezmann of Barcelona and Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United.

When used properly, the Shadow Striker can easily become the main source of goals for your team while still racking up a respectable number of assists.

Attributes Required for a Good Shadow Striker in FM

The Shadow Striker role is a very demanding role both physically and in the technicals since he is expected to be one of the main goal threats, also act as a playmaker while still also performing defensive activities. 

The Shadow Striker is basically the combination of an Advanced Forward and an Advanced Playmaker with added defensive responsibilities.

A shadow striker in football manager
A shadow striker regen in my Leeds United save

Therefore, the Shadow Striker should first have good finishing, off the ball movement, passing, vision and excellent work rate. I would aim for these to be at least 14 or 15. Having decent pace and acceleration is also useful, but not a must.

Player Preferred Moves (PPMs) Suitable for a Shadow Striker in Football Manager

The Shadow Striker role comes with the following player instructions;

  • Moves into channels
  • Dribbles more
  • Get further forward
  • Take more risks

The above Player instructions can be combined with the following Player Traits to make the shadow striker more effective in his role

  1. Likes to try to beat the offside trap

This trait will make the shadow striker more likely to make runs in behind the defence as he is put through on goal by his teammates. The likelihood that the runs made are successful will depend on his top speed, anticipation and off the ball movement. 

  1. Plays one-twos

Consistently playing one-twos with the striker ahead of him will make the shadow striker difficult to be picked up by the defenders while also progressing the ball towards the goal. For this to work effectively, the shadow striker should have good passing and off the ball movement.

  1. Tries killer balls often

As expected of any no.10, the role of creating chances is part and parcel of what he brings to the team and the shadow striker is no different, he will need to supplement his goal scoring exploits, and the “tries killer balls often” trait will go a long way in ensuring this. His passing, technique and vision will need to be at around 15 for this to work effectively if you are playing in one of the top five leagues.

Unsuitable Player Preferred Moves (PPMs) for a Striker in Football Manager

Just as the player traits looked at above will aid your shadow striker in being more effective, the following PPMs will hinder your shadow striker and therefore limit his performances on the pitch, both with the ball and without it;

  1. Plays Short Simple Passes

This player trait is more suitable to players who have poor passing and will lose the ball more often than not when trying to pass more expansively.

It is best trained on central defenders, defensive fullbacks and defensive midfielders who have a passing rating of less than 10 if you are playing in the top five leagues.

  1. Comes deep to get ball

While this trait is useful for other Attacking Midfielders roles like Advanced Playmaker, the shadow striker is expected to press the defenders high up the pitch and win the ball from them and dropping back will hinder him from doing this effectively. The shadow striker is expected to rely on the central midfielders and attacking fullbacks to get the ball to him. 

  1. Dwells on ball

Once in possession of the ball, the shadow striker should quickly make a decision on what to do with it before the defence organizes itself. The “dwells on ball” trait will increase the likelihood of him taking a moment or two assessing his options before deciding on what to do. This will in turn slow down the attack and increase the chance of losing possession, then being hit on the counter.

Tactical Set Up for a Shadow Striker in Football Manager

The shadow striker can be set up in various ways in FM, but here are two ways you can try it out.

  1. Back Three width wingbacks (5-2-3 Narrow)

The lack of wingers will force you wingbacks to be the main source of width, and thus they should be comfortable progressing the ball up the pitch. The shadow striker here is partnered in the central attacking midfielder position with an Advanced Playmaker who will not venture forward as often as him though will do so occasionally. 

Back five tactic with a shadow striker

In possession, the two will play off the deep lying forward and the wing backs as they move up the pitch. The shadow striker will also run in behind the striker to receive through balls from the advanced playmaker and the occasional cross from the wing backs.

Out of possession, the Advanced Playmaker will drop further back, while the shadow striker presses the opposition defence.

This tactic can also work with FM18, FM19 and FM21, just copy the instructions off the screenshot above, remember to slightly tweak it so that it suits the players you currently have in your team.

  1. 4-2-3-1 Wide

A tactic commonly employed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United, the shadow striker, in this case Bruno Fernandes has solid cover in midfield in the mould of Fred and McTominay thus freeing him to play closer to the striker, Edinson Cavani. 

Out of possession, Cavani and Bruno will be the first players to lead the press, trying to win the ball back as high as possible, while Fred and McTominay will hold back to prevent being hit on the counter in case the opposition bypasses the initial press.

the 4231 wide with a shadow striker

You can have the fullbacks on attacking duty, since the double pivot in midfield will provide cover against counter-attacks. The wingers should then be naturally put either as inverted wingers or inside forwards to free up space for the overlapping fullbacks.

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