How To Be Effective in Football Manager Final Third

The final third is where matches are won or lost in Football Manager. It’s the third of the pitch where the opposition’s goal is located. This is where teams have to be decisive with their movement and decisions to score goals.

In Football Manager, there are certain instructions that are executed by the players when they reach the opposition box a.k.a the Final third.

Today, we’ll take a deep dive into the final third instruction in Football Manager. I’ll explain what each instruction stands for and how you can use them to get one over your opponents.

Football Manager Final Third Instructions

Implementing specific instructions can fine-tune your offensive approach, helping you to maximize your effectiveness in the final third. 

The final third interface for team instruction in Football Manager 23.

Football Manager lets you choose from 3 team instructions when your players reach the final third :

  1. Work Ball into Box
  2. Hit Early Crosses
  3. Shoot on Sight

Let’s put the core final third instructions side-by-side to get a basic understanding of them.

FactorsWork Ball into BoxHit Early CrossesShoot on Sight
Passing DirectnessLess DirectMore DirectModerate
Shooting FrequencyLess ModerateHigh
Crossing FrequencyLessHighModerate
Favorable Tactical StylePossession-based tacticsCounter-attacking tacticsBalanced tactics
RiskLow riskHigh riskHigh risk
How the different final third instructions differ in Football Manager.
Here’s how the 3 final third instructions differ in Football Manager.

Other than that, there are two more tactical instructions that are considered to have an impact on the final third play:

  1. Play for Set Pieces
  2. Crosses

Below, I’ll break down each tactical instructions to help you get a clear picture of how they work.

Work Ball Into Box

The “Work Ball into Box” is a Football Manager team instruction that encourages the players to take a patient approach to their game and look for the best opportunities to score. 

Players will work hard to find an opening and retain the ball patiently to look for breakthrough opportunities. 

The Work Ball into Box instruction in FM23.

Working the ball into the box emphasizes passing and combination play in the penalty area, focusing on creating clear-cut chances. This results in low possession turnover, giving the opposition less chance to dominate.

That sounds exactly like how Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal played— Always try to walk it in! 

The main focus is to look for high-quality scoring opportunities. 

Here’s how the “Work Ball into Box” instruction plays out:

  • Careful retention of the ball until a breakthrough occurs—that’s the mantra of working the ball into the box. 
  • Very Low shooting frequency.
  • Low crossing frequency.
  • Well-suited for possession-based tactical systems.

Player Requirements

As it seems, this approach is a very low-risk, low-reward tactic. Plus, it takes highly technical players who’re good with the ball and have massive composure. 

To play in a “Work Ball into Box” system, your players must possess a good level of:

  • Ball control
  • Passing
  • Technique
  • Composure
  • Decision
  • Off the ball
  • Anticipation
  • Agility

You’ll notice that teams that excel in these attributes tend to be the dominant teams like Mancity or Barcelona. They are heavily reliant on their technical players to maintain such a patient-playing approach. 

Exactly for the same reason, it’s rare to see teams adopting Work Ball into Box system in lower league tactical setups

Complementary Tactical Instructions

There are some other tactical instructions that can be incorporated with the Work into Box instruction. Doing so can increase the effectiveness of the tactical style in some instances, giving you an edge over the opposition. 

  • Pass Into Space: Try it if the opposition is looking to play a higher defensive line. It’ll create breakthrough opportunities for your forwards to create shooting chances.
  • Dribble Less: Instruct the players to adopt a “pass-first” mentality.
  • Lower Tempo: Lowering the tempo slows down the game, testing the patience of the opponent.
  • Wide Attacking width: Stretches the defense to create space to run into the channels. 

Effective Against

It’s important to know when and against whom should you adopt a Work into Box approach. 

In Football Manager, the Work Ball into Box instruction works great against teams with:

  • Poor Concentration, Marking, Positioning, Agility, Teamwork, and Anticipation.
  • High pressing tempo system that leaves openings in the defense.
  • Defensive formations that can be easily stretched wide.

Ineffective Against

Similarly, the Work into Box tactic is ineffective against:

  • Teams with good marking and positioning attributes.
  • Low block setup with low pressing tempo.
  • Compact defenses.

Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan proved to be the first successful team to fend off Pep Guardiola’s unstoppable Barcelona team. Sitting deep and parking the bus can be a really good counter for the“work ball into box” system.

Tactical Tweaks

In some cases, despite high possession and shot counts, you may struggle to convert chances effectively. To overcome this, consider:

  • Adjusting the attacking width in order to stretch the opposition’s defense.
  • Playing around with the passing directness to unlock defenses.
  • Changing the team mentality by judging the momentum of the match.

Keep in mind that playing a Positive or Attacking mentality will increase the frequency of long shots even when the team is playing with the work into box instruction.

Hit Early Crosses 

The “Hit Early Crosses” instructs your players to deliver crosses into the box at the earliest opportunity. This strategy can catch defenders off-guard and exploit gaps in the opposition’s defensive setup. 

Hit Early Cross explanation in FM23.

It works well when you have pacey wingers or tall target men who can benefit from early service into the penalty area.

Sounds pretty handy. But wait, there’s more!

Hitting Early Crosses works to:

  • Catch defenders off-guard by giving them no time to regroup.
  • Employ fast pressing forward or advanced forwards to spearhead the attack.
  • Launch quick counterattacks.
  • Take advantage of the high-defensive line by playing early crosses behind the defense.

Player Requirements

Forwards playing in the Hit Early Crosses system need to have a good level of:

  • Acceleration
  • Pace
  • Anticipation
  • Agility
  • Off the Ball
  • Strength

Likewise, players who’re in charge of dishing out those early crosses require high:

  • Crossing
  • Passing
  • Technique
  • Vision
  • Anticipation

Complementary Tactical Instructions

Hit Early Crosses is one of the most highly flexible tactical instructions in Football Manager as it can be incorporated into various tactical styles.

That said, here are some instructions that can increase the effectiveness of early crosses:

  • Pass Into Space: This instruction finds the wide players with passes in space. It finds the wide players in the ideal position to make early crosses.
  • Be More Expressive: Asks players to be more creative with their attacking approach.
  • Direct Passing: Increases the frequency of risky passes toward the forward to create scoring chances.
  • High Tempo: Increases the urgency of initiating counter and hitting early crosses.

Effective Against

Mostly preferred in a counterattacking style, the Hit Early Crosses is a great tactical instruction for underdog teams. 

It produces the best tactic against strong teams who prefer to dominate most of the game. Here’s when you should look to adopt early crosses in Football Manager:

  • When the opponents are using a high defensive line. 
  • Opposition defenders are slower compared to your forward.
  • Opposition defenders are aerially inferior to your Target Man.
  • Opposition engages too many men forward, leaving them vulnerable in defense.
  • Defenders with poor anticipation, agility, and positioning.

Ineffective Against

You’ll have a hard time threatening your opponent with early crosses if you lack the right firepower.

Here’s when Hitting Early Crosses become ineffective in FM:

  • Physically dominant and fast Center-backs.
  • Center-backs with good marking, teamwork, anticipation, positioning, and concentration.
  • Playing against Intense pressing systems that can easily close your players down from playing crosses.
  • Teams that prefer to use the 5-defender formations. 

To overcome high press, it’s crucial to have press-resistant midfielders in your team. They can beat the press and find crosses for your forwards.

Tactical Tweaks

Finding it difficult to create chances from Hitting Early Crosses? You’re probably doing it all wrong!

Let me tell you how you can fix the tactical issue.

The Target Man role tends to be slow due to their bulky physique. This makes it hard for them to reach out to through balls.

And if you’re playing one, then disable the Pass into Space instruction. This will stop the players from playing through balls in front of your target man. 

Have forwards who are lightning-fast, but can’t cope physically? Then look to hit more Whipped crosses instead of Floated crosses. Fast forwards with high anticipation will look to take a bite at every whipped cross before the defenders can even react!

Still no good? Why not prefer a Striker combo? 

Using a Target man alongside an Advanced Forward doubles the attacking threat. This increases the chance of successful crosses inside the box. 

Playing too many midfielders is useless when your main focus is to provide quick crosses into the final third. So try increasing the number of attacking runners and forwards to reach to those crosses.

Shoot On Sight

The “Shoot On Sight” instruction in FM grants your players the freedom to take shots from any position within the final third. 

This approach can be effective when your team possesses players with excellent long-range shooting abilities. It increases the chances of catching the goalkeeper off-guard or causing deflections that could lead to goals.

The Shoot on Sight final third instrcution.

With “Shoot on Sight”, the players are encouraged to take shots whenever an opportunity is presented to them.

Player Requirements

 It’s a highly ideal instruction for players with good long-shot attributes. But having something  “extra” can definitely help!

Here’s what you should look for in a player playing in a Shooting on Sight system:

  • Long Shots
  • Finishing
  • Technique
  • Flair
  • Strong Foot(Both)

Complementary Tactical Instructions

  • Hit Early Crosses: The Shoot on Sight instruction can be paired up with early crosses to create a dynamic playing style that can be unpredictable for the opposition. 
  • Be More Expressive: Instructs the players to be more creative with their approach and work with more flair.

Effective Against

Teams that sit deep to defend are often the hardest to break. Tactics like working the Ball into Box and hitting early crosses are rendered ineffective in those particular scenarios. 

And that’s where shooting from a distance comes in handy. 

  • It’s a great strategy against teams who like to maintain a low-defensive line. This leaves room for the midfielders to take shots from a distance. 
  • In addition, the strategy takes advantage of opposition goalkeepers who might not possess the best handling and aerial reach.
  • Effective against weaker opponents where chances come in plenty.

Ineffective Against

But there’s a massive drawback to this particular tactical approach. 

Setting your team to “Shoot on Sight” will create a high number of low-percentage and low XG shots. 

  • Against a superior side, this might not be the best approach when chances are scarce and you need to make the most of it. 
  • There won’t be much room to try long shots against a high defensive line.
  • Shots will be mostly blocked against high-pressing teams.
  • Goalkeepers with good Aerial reach, handling, and reflex can easily stop the shots.

Tactical Tweaks

Against a team that defends in a compact formation, try to play a wide attacking width to stretch the defense. This will open up more space to take long shots. 

Narrow attacking width can also be adapted to overload one side of the pitch, leaving an open player in space to take shots.

Playing against a high defensive line? Trigger early crosses to get past the defenders and create better shooting opportunities.

Play for Set Pieces

The “Play for Set Piece” instruction in Football Manager focuses on capitalizing on dead-ball situations by winning more corners and free kicks. 

Your team will aim to win more set-piece opportunities and develop specialized routines that exploit the opposition’s weaknesses.

It’s also a great time-wasting strategy that can come in handy at the late stages of the match. 

A team with an effective set-piece tactic can easily rack up 10-15 goals from set-piece situations throughout the course of a season. 

Player Requirements

Throughout the game, your players will actively seek to draw fouls from the opposition. However, their efforts might vary depending on their personality.

Players who have high sportsmanship attributes (hidden) will look to play fair and square. While those with a competitive personality will look to draw more fouls to win cheap set pieces.

Considered the rarest, and the most valuable player of the team, your set piece specialist must have a good level of

  • Corners
  • Free Kick Taking
  • Long Shots
  • Passing
  • Technique
  • Vision
  • Flair
  • Decisions

These attributes will benefit him in both direct and indirect set-piece situations.

Required attributes for set-piece takers in FM.

As for the players waiting in the box, you should look to have superior:

  • Heading
  • Jumping Reach
  • Strength
  • Bravery
  • Off the Ball
  • Anticipation

Play your tallest players up in the box to have a better chance to deal with aerial balls. Teams built mostly with tall players always look to take advantage of the height difference. 

Skill set required for players in set pieces.

Effective Against

Effective set-piece routines can provide a significant advantage against physically inferior opponents in the final third and lead to valuable goals. 

Teams like David Moyes’s West Ham can be a prime example of a team that plays to win set pieces. With so many aerially dominant players in the squad, West Ham looks to make the most of attacking corner setups and indirect set pieces. 

Players who have poor Concentration, Stamina, and Work Rate are more likely to concede late goals from set-piece situations. So try to exploit that!

Ineffective Against

Looking to play for set pieces is a waste against aerially superior sides. Not only will they defend every set piece opportunity with ease, but they will also look to counter, putting your side at risk.

Set-piece tactics can prove unproductive against:

  • Teams with superior aerial ability and height.
  • Goalkeepers with a good level of Communication who can organize their defense better against set pieces.
  • Defenders with a high level of Anticipation, Concentration, Positioning, and Marking.

It’s best to play along instead of drawing fouls against such sides. 

Tactical Tweaks

Imagine a scenario where your team is defending a one-goal lead. You’re doing everything in your power to run down the clock and waste as much time as possible. 

Well, in this case, you can ask your team to play for set pieces! This will encourage the players to draw fouls and take their sweet time with the set pieces. 

One thing I like to do is take short corner kicks during the dying minutes of the game. This keeps the ball in my team’s possession for a little more time while also opening up chances for more fouls. 

I do the same with indirect free kicks too! And this actually gives me a cruel pleasure watching the opposition get frustrated as the time keeps ticking. 

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Cross Types in FM

One important aspect of the final third play is choosing the types of crosses your team should play. 

In Football Manager, you’re given the option to choose from any of the four types of crosses:

  1. Mixed Cross
  2. Low Cross
  3. Floated Cross
  4. Whipped Cross

Mixed Cross

The Mixed Cross in Football Manager is a versatile option that combines elements of various crossing techniques. 

Its balanced approach offers a blend of height and pace, making it suitable for different attacking scenarios. This type of cross is advantageous when you have a mix of tall and agile attacking players in the box.

However, the type of crosses played completely rests on your player’s decision-making. A player with poor decision-making will usually play the wrong type of crosses to the player inside the box. 

Likewise, players with good Decision-making ability and Composure will make the right decisions in those situations. 

Low Cross

The Low Cross in FM is a tactical choice that involves driving the ball along the ground into the box. 

This type of cross is ideal for situations where you have attackers making intelligent runs into the box, looking to meet the ball with pace. 

Instructions for low crosses in Football Manager 23.

Low Crosses are effective in catching defenders off guard and creating opportunities for quick finishes.

When employing the Low Cross, the primary aim is to deliver the ball with pace and accuracy, hugging the ground. It is often executed from the byline or near the edge of the penalty area. 

This type of cross is particularly effective when you have nimble strikers or attacking midfielders who excel at making late runs into the box.

Floated Cross

The Floated Cross is a crossing technique that involves lofting the ball into the box with a measured trajectory. 

This type of cross is valuable when you have players with exceptional heading ability or when you want to exploit the space behind the defensive line. The Floated Cross allows your attacking players to time their runs and attack the ball in the air.

Description about the Floated Cross instruction.

Slow, but huge forwards who are not fast enough to reach low crosses can find floated crosses highly beneficial.

To execute the Floated Cross effectively, the key is to deliver the ball with an arc that enables your players to attack it at its highest point. 

This type of cross is often deployed from wide areas, offering the opportunity for attackers with high jumping reach to outjump defenders and direct the ball toward the goal.

Whipped Cross

The Whipped Cross is with pace and curve, aiming to bypass defenders and find attackers in dangerous positions. 

It’s particularly effective when you have agile players with good movement off the ball. The Whipped Cross is a weapon to catch defenders off balance and create scoring opportunities.

Description for Whipped Crosses in Football Manager.

Players with good crossing and technique can dish out whipped crosses from deep. It can also be employed with the “Hit Early Crosses” instruction. 

Advanced forwards with good anticipation, heading, and finishing can take advantage of this kind of cross against slow center-backs with poor anticipation. 

To execute the Whipped Cross, the key is to generate power and curl on the delivery. The ball should travel at speed, making it challenging for defenders to intercept or clear. This type of cross is often delivered from wide positions, exploiting the gaps between defenders and the goalkeeper.

And That’s All

Thanks for taking the time to finish this massively detailed coverage of Football Manager final third guide. 

It really took me quite a while to finish it up. So I would really appreciate it if you let me know how it was. 🙂

I’m actually looking to cover every tactical instruction available in Football Manager to make it easier for you guys to understand how they work. So be sure to check them out!

Thanks a lot. And I’ll see you next time!


What is the meaning of run at Defence?

The run at defense instructs the players to run with the ball and dribble more than the default tactic allows them.

Does Hit Early Cross makes Crosses from Deep?

Hit Early Crosses asks the players to make crosses from deep as soon as they get the ball. Other than low crosses, you can play all other types of crosses from deep.

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