FM23 Pass Into Space: How Does It Work?

While setting up the team instructions for your team, you might have noticed the button articulating “Pass into Space” right on top of the In-possession instruction. 

What’s that? And what exactly does it do?

The Pass Into Space is a team instruction in Football Manager that instructs your players to pass the ball in open spaces for their teammates to run onto. 

It’s an instruction that can significantly change the way your team plays when in possession.

In today’s guide, I’ll try to explain the instruction in detail. I’ll also explain how to properly implement the instructions and what you need to get the most out of it in FM23. 

Here’s what I have to say.

What Does Pass Into Space Mean

The “Pass Into Space” is a team instruction in Football Manager that simply instructs your players to play the ball in open spaces rather than passing the ball to the feet.

The "Pass into Space" instruction in the "In Possession" tab in FM23.

In contrast to making simple passes and playing more conservatively, it’s a more aggressive approach to the play.

Triggering the option demands the playmakers to play the ball into open spaces on the pitch. While at the same time, the runners are encouraged to make runs past their markers to reach the ball.

So it’s a good thing, right?

No…not always.

You see, the Pass into Space instruction works like a double-edged sword that can work for you, or against you. It really boils down to the proper execution of the instruction in Football Manager.

Passing into space will increase the frequency of risky passes made by the team. This can create chances for more advanced players to make forward runs toward the open spaces and initiate counter. 

However, this also carries the risk of faster opponents getting the ball before your players and launching a devastating counterattack.

If implemented correctly, the ‘Pass into Space’ has the potential to break down the most stubborn defenses. As a bonus, it also contributes to playing Entertaining football that fans love to watch. 

Demonstration of passing into space in Football Manager.

Types of Passes Into Space

We can split the instruction into two different scenarios.

  1. Passing to wingers
  2. Passing to forwards

While the type of pass is going to be the same, it’s a matter of ‘Who’, and ‘Where’.

Who will be running after the pass? And where on the pitch will they find the pass? 

Understanding these two simple concepts will mostly clear up how the entire Pass Into Space gimmick works in FM23.

Passing to Wingers

This is the type of risky passes your players will make towards the wide areas of the pitch. Intended for wingers and wingbacks, wide diagonal passes can be highly effective to create attacking opportunities through the flanks. 

It also helps to switch the play to the other side of the pitch. Focusing play through the middle increases the frequency of passes into the flanks.

To find passes into space toward wingers, your must:

  • Play with narrow attacking width
  • Play wingbacks or at least one winger in the formation

A narrow formation enables your team to play a compact game and collectively overload a certain side of the pitch. Having a wingback in the system helps to stretch the game with their forward runs. 

Your playmakers will spot the run of the wingers and play long balls in the space, catching the opposition off-guard. 

Finding wide players with the Pass into Space instruction.

Passing to Strikers

This utilizes the pace of the forwards to find runs behind the opposition’s defensive line to reach the final third. Such an adoption takes advantage of high defensive lines with slow center-backs.

To pass to Forward in space, you must:

  • Have pacy forward
  • Wide attacking width
  • Forward runners

The goal is to stretch the pitch wide with players, forcing the opposition to spread out. This creates holes in the defensive lines that can be exploited with fast forwards and attacking midfielders.

Finding strikers and forwards with passes into space.

Once your playmaker spots the opportunity, he’ll play long balls to the furthest player on the pitch. This can be your striker. Or, it can be an attacking-minded midfielder. 

Pairing it up with “Hit Early Crosses” will see your wide players dishing out long balls to your advanced players to run into. 

With it, you’ll find a lot of passes that reach your attackers in the channels. Such an approach is a nightmare for most defenses as it makes marking very hard. 

When to Pass Into Space

Knowing when to pass into space is important for any team preferring a counter-attacking approach. 

As mentioned before, passing into space has a high chance of possession turnover. Thus, you need to carefully assess how your opponent is playing the game. And also the ability of your opposition. 

Keep an eye on these five opposition setups before trying Passes into Space:

High Defensive Line

Teams adopting high defensive lines tend to do to maintain high pressure. But it also leaves them vulnerable against quick counters. 

And that’s exactly what we’re going to aim for. 

Pacy and agile forwards with high anticipation can easily break through that high defensive line and make a run toward the goal. 

Image of a higher defensive line instruction in Football Manager.
Source: onthebreak.net

If you’re aiming for the striker, enable “Hit Early Crosses” to instruct your wide players to play long balls to your striker. This is a terrific combo for lower-league tactics in FM23.

Want to exploit the wide areas of the pitch with the wingers? Set a narrow attacking width

For quick counters, instruct your players to play a high-tempo game. 

You can also incorporate “Work Ball Into Box” to instruct the player to buildup the play in the box. 

There’s a high chance of getting caught in the offside trap against teams that play in a high defensive position. That’s why having forward players with good anticipation and agility is crucial.

Slow Defenders

You won’t get much luck with a Pass Into Space approach against a fast defense.

Faster and physically dominant opponents will easily scoop up long balls. This will only play to your disadvantage as you’ll cheaply give away possession.

So make sure your forwards are at least, marginally faster than your opposition. It’ll significantly lessen possession turnover.

Poor Markers

Another thing to look out for is poor markers. They will have a hard time keeping up with your pacy forwards.

Check your opposition player profiles. Have a closer look at their:

  • Marking
  • Anticipation
  • Concentration
  • Agility

If your opposition defenders lack these attributes, then enable Pass into Space to make their life miserable!

Formation

Certain formations are set up to deal with long balls. Either they are fashioned to stop long balls, or, they prefer to intercept them. 

In my experience with Football Manager, I found the Pass Into Space instruction to work well against 4-man and 3-man defenses. 

It’s easy to stretch such defensive formations and can be easily exploited.

However, long balls against 5-man defensive formations are hard to implement as there’s always an extra player to scoop up any incoming trough passes.

Teams adopting a 5-man defense tend to use a center-back on Cover duty to sit deep and intercept long balls. They are also difficult to stretch to find in-behind attacking runs.

Pressing Intensity

Passive defenses allow your playmaker’s a lot of space to play out long balls. It also creates a great opportunity to use the wide areas of the pitch. 

Your wingers won’t be contested for the ball against a low-pressing system, allowing them a lot of space on the flank. 

Finding such a scenario is going to be rare as only the weakest teams will adopt a low-block defense.

Only look to play Pass into Space if you spot these tactical setups in your opposition. 

And when facing an opposition who prefers such a style of passing, you know how to defend them!

Requirements for Playing Passes into Space

Enough about the opposition. Time to talk about your players!

In theory, it sounds all good and fantastic to adopt such an approach to the game. What are the opposition defenders going to do? Defend and intercept?

Well, here’s where many players get it wrong. 

On paper, Passing into Space is an overpowered instruction that can pierce through any defense.

However, the chance of failing is highly likely if you don’t have the right players in the right position with the right sets of attributes.

To adopt the Pass into Space tactical instruction successfully, your team must possess:

Fast Players

The first requisite to successfully play passes into space is to have fast attackers in your squad. This means that your attackers should at least be faster than your opposition’s defenders. 

Look for the following attributes in your forwards and wingers:

  • Acceleration
  • Pace
  • Anticipation
  • Agility

Players who excel in these attributes are harder to mark, making them the ideal target for long balls.

Good Passers

The quality of the passes will only be as good as the passer. 

To make sure that your players deliver pinpoint passes, make sure they have a good level of:

  • Vision
  • Passing
  • Decisions
  • Anticipation
  • Technique

Playmakers adept in mentioned attributes will perfectly time and weigh their passes to the runners.

Runners

These are the “extra” players who will look to make forward runs into spaces. The following player roles will look to make forward runs:

  • Mezzala
  • Center Midfielder(Attack)
  • Segundo Volante(Attack)
  • Fullbacks(Attack)
  • Wide Center-Back(Attack)
  • Box to Box Midfielder

Depending on the nature of the roles, some of them will frequently move into the channels, while others might just hit it toward the goal. 

Runners will have preset instructions to Get Further Forward in their particular roles. 

Traits, like Get Forward Whenever Possible, will complement the instruction. This increases the frequency of offensive runs a player will make. The Segundo Volante role on Attack duty is the perfect example for this.

Playing Formation

How your attack lines up during the match can hugely affect the success of a Pass Into Space system. 

Formations that utilize runners to quickly jump forward for long passes are the best for this scenario. Especially the ones playing two forwards up ahead. 

I personally find it best to play two attacking forwards with instructions to make “More Risky Pass”. This will make sure that one of the Advanced forward will always look to break past the defensive line when the other forward gets the ball. 

My preferred formation for such scenarios will be the narrow diamond 4-4-2 formation. It provides just the right amount of flexibility to the forwards while allowing the midfielders to move into half-spaces.

Forwards stretching the defense and making space for runners to get forward.

Two wide wingers can help in this scenario to stretch the defense, making it near impossible to mark my forwards.

I usually discourage my full-backs to get forward in such a formation and instead, instruct them to play long balls to either the wingers or one of the advanced forwards.

When to Avoid Passing Into Space

There are times when it’s best to avoid passing into space. 

Sometimes, it’s because your team is not built for the style of play. Other times, the opposition is just too good to exploit with such tactics. 

Whichever it is, avoid passing into space against:

  • Oppositions playing a low defensive line.
  • Oppositions who have good markers and fast defenders.
  • Oppositions playing a mid-block pressing system.
  • Against a 5-man defensive formation.

Also, don’t Pass into Space if you’re:

  • Playing a Direct passing style.
  • With Shoot on sight instruction.

How to Defend Passes Into Space

Passing into Space can create some stunning counter-attacking displays and entertaining football…as long as you’re not the one facing it!

Yes, exactly. We’ve so far learned how to execute tactical instruction effectively against different opponents in different scenarios. 

But it’s also important to learn how to defend against it as so many teams in FM23 adopt a similar passing style. 

How can you defend against opposition who prefers to pass into spaces?

Well, there are three things you can do about it:

  1. Set defensive traps.
  2. Set low defensive lines.
  3. Trigger Press More Often.

Setting Defensive Traps

First things first—setting up the defensive traps. 

Does your defense possess enough pace to mark the opposition striker? Can your center-back scoop up opposition long ball attempts?

If so, then you should set the Defensive trap to “Trap Inside”. It will force the opposition to play through the middle and play long balls to the forward. 

Well-organized defenses will be able to easily intercept those forced passes. 

Be careful though! Trapping the opposition inside can invite lots of long shots. Keep that in mind.

Not comfortable dealing with long balls through the middle? Then force your opposition in the wide areas!

Trapping outside makes sure that your players press the opposition away from the midfield, toward the flank. 

While this might create a lot of crossing opportunities, it’ll save your slow center-backs the awkwardness of dealing with long balls. 

Setting Low Defensive Lines

A low defensive line doesn’t allow much space behind for the forwards to run onto. This makes the instruction to Pass into Space ineffective in most cases.

And that’s exactly what you should do if your team is not blessed with fast-paced center-backs.

Set a lower defensive line to make your slow defenders better prepared for the opposition’s long balls. If necessary, instruct your defense to drop off more to leave even less space behind.

Sitting too deep? It’s okay, defending low to park the bus works great against long passes!

Lower defensive line setup in Football Manager 23

Setting such low defensive lines might invite pressure against teams that looks to build up slowly without risky passes. Keep an eye out for that!

Trigger Press More Often

It’s ideal to set up a mid-block line of engagement with instructions to trigger the press more often. 

Players in such a system will try to prevent as many long balls as possible from opposition playmakers. 

The equation is pretty simple. 

More Pressing = Less Long Balls = Less Attacking Threats.

There’s One More Thing…

Before you leave, there’s one more thing I would to share. 

The Pass into Space already is a risky option that can see high turnover in possession. Tagging it along with a Direct passing style will significantly increase those passes which will most likely end up being wasted.

So try to avoid the instruction when you’re playing a direct style of passing. 

That’s all! 

Hope you had a great time learning the nitty-gritty details of the tactical instruction. I’m working bit by bit to cover every tactical instruction in Football Manager to make your life easier!

Stay tuned for more Football Manager tactical guides like this.

Can shorter passing work with Pass into Space in FM?

Yes! You can play short passing with the Pass into space instruction in Football Manager. The result will be more grounded passes into space rather than playing aerial balls.

What is more Direct Passing in FM23?

More direct passing instructs the players to adopt a quicker transition from defense to attack with more risky passes. These passes have a lower success rate but can create more attacking chances.

What is the difference between short passing and direct passing?

Shorter passes are played in order to retain possession and slowly build up the play. Whereas, direct passing encourages more risky passes to create goalscoring chances.

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