The Decapitated Buffalo – A Strikerless Production


Been quite busy at Poods HQ for a while, what with trying to resurrect saves that had gone the way of the dodo and I haven’t got around to writing anything for a bit. But I am back and here we go with another tactic for you all.

As a bit of background, I initially took my Buffalo Wing tactic and simply “decapitated” it changing the striker to an AMC. Hence the rather colourful name. Having done so, I had a chat with the inestimable Lord of Strikerless who had a look at it and dabbled with some of his usual tactical alchemy to come up with what we have here.

Guido also used it as a test bed for some experiments with the overload philosophy and my word did it deliver. Extreme pressing and heaps of bodies pouring forward made for a really delightful tactic that has been quite successful, if I may modestly say so. Enough of that though, on to the tactic!


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As we can see it bears similarities in roles to the Buffalo Wing of my previous tactical effort. No hipster roles here as general roles form the framework for the PIs that are added to influence the behaviour of the players. What you will find (and I hope to show later) is that the CBs and anchorman stay back to protect against any fast breaks that can come from the inherent attacking nature of the tactic. The fullbacks really get forward and often are the final ball before a goal as they overlap the inside forwards on the outside. The CM-A attacks the ball late and, as I found with Chivas and Quanjian, gets more than his fair share of goals by coming from deep and finding space to lash the ball home. The AP-A is essentially the withdrawn targetman that Guido waxes lyrical about. It was a happy coincidence as it was simply a matter of adding the PIs from the Buffalo Wing’s striker to the AP-A. He holds the ball up and looks for options, essentially forming that role. Please note that you should try to get fullbacks with stamina. They will get tired from bombing up and down the flanks all day. But to make them “support” would detract from the attacking so they stay as they are.

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Yes. You saw correctly.

Overload – Very Fluid. It looks insane but it really does work. Players are allowed to roam and the more direct passing allows for the ball to be moved forward at speed where out multitude of attacking options can go to work. The pressing with an offside trap will allow for opposition chances from direct passing when on overload. If you are struggling or simply want some more stability, I have found that “counter” works extremely well. In fact, I used counter exclusively on several occasions with Quanjian and got some impressive Super League scalps.

Work ball into box allows us to get closer in before unleashing. There are a lot of long shots in the tactic. Nothing over the top, but they are present. Interestingly, when on counter there aren’t as many long shots. Make of that what you will.

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The Decapitated Buffalo can work effectively without OIs. In fact I didn’t use OIs for a proportion of my save with Chivas and Mexico which led to a 26-0-1 record in the Apertura and a Mexican Cup win along with Mexican fixtures. With Quanjian I have been using them and in my opinion it is your choice as to whether or not you wish to use them.

Guido swears by them and reported quite a bit of success with them installed. So if you are that way inclined you could always start without them and then add them in if you wish to. They certainly do work.


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Set to distribute to playmaker (the AP-A is the only playmaker role) and to ditribute quickly. Sometimes he will bang it long with no-one there. But don’t change it. The amount of times we win it back from the opposition CB is incredible and does lead to goals.

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The fullbacks bomb forward and marshal the flanks. Often they are key in the goals as the inside forwards, AP and CM-A overload the middle leaving acres of space for them to exploit. I suggest one with good passing and crossing. They will provide plenty.

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Ummm… Errrr… Get good ones? They are about as bog standard as standard can be.

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I love an anchorman. They don’t do the “sexy football” but they break up moves, make tackles and distribute the ball to the more creatively oriented players. Which is, you know, almost everyone on the pitch! For me, they are a key part of the tactics success.

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The CM-S isn’t as attacking as his partner but as I found with the same PIs in the Buffalo Wing he will do quite a bit. Essentially balances the excesses of the anchorman and CM-A.

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An attacking midfielder in all but position, the CM-A will probably be the one of your top 3 scorers, probably the leading assist maker and will be very important to your success. Arriving late to score goals, providing the ball to marauding fullbacks and inside forwards and then attacking the box. What a player. Great to watch too and he does his role in harrying any DMs or CMs of the opposition.

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Basically your average inside forward role. They will drag defenders away from the flanks and score a lot from crosses coming from the opposite side of the pitch. Often they will provide the pass to the fullback that leads to the assist.

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The AP-A will score goals, but in my mind he is the arch-creator. He holds the ball up and provides it to attacking players who are moving around him. A guy with strength and creativity will be useful so he can hold the ball up better, but if push comes to shove then get the creative option.


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I mixed and matched overload and counter as I mentioned which will lead to some lower scores than could be expected but as you can see it scores plenty and is quite solid defensively as well.

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Even if Quanjian were the class of the division, you still have to do the job and the defenders weren’t exactly the cream of the crop. It will be interesting to see how it goes with an improved backline and some better midfielders.

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Getting off to a hot start is a particular highlight of the tactic. This usually meant that if I go 2-0 up quickly then I basically continue on counter for the rest of the match. It tends to work very well. As you can see, there are slightly more goals conceded around half time. Once counter was used for the last 15 minutes these numbers dropped off.

Sadly, I no longer have my Chivas screenshots nor the Mexican games so I am afraid I cannot add them here. Suffice to say it worked a treat and made stars of Calderon and Fierro. Dos Santos and Velas annihilated teams with Mexico. Guido even won the World Cup with Mexico when he was testing it.

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Super League? Super Problems.

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Against Super League teams it was superb. This game was run on counter only.

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You may find yourself losing the possession battle occasionally but I don’t think it is much to be concerned about in the main.


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Now there is a clear indication of how quality wide men can make a difference. We had a u21 Chinese national team player at LB and Geuvânio as the LW. The Brazilian is more inclined to be a provider even though he chips in with goals. On the right wing we have Sun Ke. A star with the Chinese national team, he prefers to get inside and take a shot when he can. That being said, Sun Ke is not quite as good as his counterpart on the other side.

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This happens a lot. The ball is played into the AP-A (in this case Wan Cheng) who then delivers to the inside forward or the fullback and then turns. In this situation he played it to Pato…

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Pato then streams forward and as you can see by the time he delivers the cross we have 4 on 4 in the box. The result was much as you would expect. Having 4 in the box at the end of moves is actually at the lower end of the scale and I have seen 6 or 7 in there before. It is extremely difficult for the opposition to deal with.

So, there we have it. The Decapitated Buffalo works very well in both overload and counter guises. It has given me great success with Chivas, Mexico and Quanjian. As of this post, I hadn’t tried it with lower league teams but I suspect that it would still produce fascinating football.

If you wish to give it a try, then you can have a go with it at the bottom of this post. I hope you enjoyed this article on the Decapitated Buffalo and if you have any further questions you can always find myself or Guido on FMSlack or twitter.

Thanks for reading. Feedback, as always, is appreciated.



Buffalo Wing – A 4-3-3 Tactic


Hi all. This is the first tactical effort I am putting up for you all and I hope there are more to come. This one is one of my favourite formations for its balance and flexibility. In case you were wondering, the name came from one of the earlier versions. In that version we had an F9 and two inside forwards. The name came to me watching that old classic Zulu with Michael Caine where discussion is had of the Zulu military tactics of the centre holding and falling back as the wings went around in behind the attackers.

In this case the theory was that the F9 would fall back into midfield creating space for the Inside Forwards and a particularly aggressive central midfielder to exploit. In practice, I perhaps should have paid more attention to the defence. It played some lovely football and the results were good but I felt that it was awfully fragile. A 5-0 loss to Leverkusen with my 1860 team led me to seek advice from the oracles on Slack (have you joined Slack yet? Have you? No? Shame.) who were of great assistance working on tweaks of the original while maintaining its attacking style.

I think that it has been a success.

Anyway, I have been using this in the Bundesliga with my newly promoted 1860 and you can see how we have gone in my career save Always White and Blue! so I shall not overburden this post with the results which are extremely positive.

Onto the tactic!


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The formation is a 4-3-3 that has two wide men and two quite aggressive fullbacks. The strength of the tactic (for me) is the anchorman. When combined further up the pitch with the two central midfielders he can be involved as the base point of the triangle they naturally make. He doesn’t get forward so can provide excellent defensive cover and neutralise attacking midfielders, but pleasantly he also provides an outlet pass for the midfield and often you will see him switching the ball from side to side when we are forward. He doesn’t try any crazy, aggressive passes but (in my mind) is a Deschamps style facilitator.

In attack the LB bombs forwards and creates natural overlaps with the W(S) that is on his side. The W(S) role also allows the MCL to get forward, which he does. On the other side we have a FB(S) who covers that flank for the IF(A). Stefan Aigner has been amazing for me in this role and seems to always be involved in the play.

Essentially, it is all about manipulating space. Apparently quite aggressive it is actually quite patient in how it plays which we shall see later. If I may make one suggestion early on? If you have a goalscoring central midfielder, he will ADORE that CM(A) role.

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As for the instructions, they are pretty standard. We play Standard/Fluid unless chasing a goal in which case we move to Attacking. I have tried to minimise the TIs because we don’t want to be one dimensional in how we attack. Be More Disciplined works very well as it ensure that players don’t needlessly give the ball away. We may be a Bundesliga team, but we essentially have the same squad that was predicted to be 4th in last season’s 2.Bundesliga! The beauty of the 4-3-3 lies in the ability to make changes. I consider this setup to be excellent but it is up to you whether you would change or retain anything in this tactic.


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Pretty bog standard really. The only thing being that we want the ball back in action as soon as possible so he is set to get rid of it quickly and distribute it to the fullbacks.

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The LB is actually a fine creator. Overshadowed by the players further up the park, he gets some assists and generally helps in stretching the field.

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The RB plays a similar role to the LB. He just doesn’t get as fair forward as I believe that the IF(A) needs a slightly more “stay at home” player behind him. The RB still comes forward to fill space and create an option but is more cautious.

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Zzzzzzzzzzz… *snort*…. Huh? Oh. This guy and his mate are CBs. Nothing to see here. Although closing down less does keep the defence more in line and has greater solidity.

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The (arguably) most important man on the pitch. He screens the defensive line and harasses attacking midfielders, allows us to maintain possession being an outlet while being more than ready to react in the event of a counter attack. Interestingly for what appears to be a very defensive role, he is probably the lynchpin of our attacking moves too giving the attacking players more confidence to go forward.

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I like my CMs to get forward. And the CM(S) does get forward quite a bit. But he never gets quite as far forward as his partner in crime and combines well with the anchorman.

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Aggressive as all get out! He usually causes the defence fits as he makes late runs into the box, pushes into the channels to force decisions and unlocks the defence with very aggressive passing. Lovely to watch.

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There to create more width, if you have a player with a cuts inside PPM he can be devastating. I hear you thinking why not make him an IF then? My answer is that it isn’t essential that he cuts in and he doesn’t do it all the time. The W(S) role is great as he drags defenders to his side of the pitch leaving space for the IF and AF to do their work.

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Is it a bird?

Is it a plane?

NO! It’s a goalscoring winger.

With the space that is provided by the movement of the other players, the IF(A) usually ends up with acres of space to exploit. Finishing is actually quite important for this guy as he will get into great positions for one on ones and shooting chances.

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Just a pretty general AF role. Leads the line and certainly gets his fair share of goals. Naturally creates a different dynamic than the original F9 but I am coming to enjoy the play much better as it means there pretty much always an option forward that someone can pass to.

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This graphic includes matches played under the old system. But it goes to show that the 4-3-3 is very effective.

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It creates a chance apparently every 51 minutes or so. Conceding less than a goal a game and coming up on 2 goals per game scored.

Here are some tables for your edification.

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57.88% possession as a newly promoted side. Lovely.

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We also take good care of the ball. Which I think is very important. Not tiki-taka possession for possession’s sake. But still…

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The only concern one might have is the amount of cards we receive. it is quite a lot. But at the moment it is a byproduct of how we play. We try and get the ball back so as to counter with speed. Sometime we give away fouls. *shrug*

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That’s the real crux of it. It gets results. I’m quite happy with it but am also quite satisfied to make any changes that will improve it.