Complete Guide to Master Football Manager Set Pieces

In Football Manager, set pieces provide a strategic opportunity to outwit your opponents and unlock vital goals. 

From free kicks to corners, each set piece presents a unique chance to capitalize on the strengths of your team and exploit the weaknesses of your adversaries. 

Understanding the intricacies of set piece routines, training your players to perfection, and devising clever tactics are all crucial elements in achieving set piece mastery. 

In this article, we delve into the depths of Football Manager set pieces, uncovering the secrets behind effective delivery, defensive organization, and exploiting opponent vulnerabilities. 

Key Takeaways

Here’s the TLDR version of the entire guide for you:

  • Assess your team’s physical and aerial qualities and compare them to the rest of the league.
  • Pick set piece takers with the right sets of attributes.
  • Analyze your opponent’s stats and assess their weakness.
  • Train your players to improve their set piece routines before a match.
  • Choose the type of your delivery. Short, far post, near post, inswing, or outswing.
  • Organize your defense for defending set pieces.
  • Keep a backup tactic for an alternative approach. 

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve covered some of the key tactical aspects of Football Manager. I’ve written detailed guides on Final third instructions, Attacking Width, and Passing Into Space. 

Heck, I even wrote a Corner kick guide for Football Manager! 

As I’ve already done that, I won’t dip my feet too much into corner kicks here today. You can check my detailed corner kick guides in FM for that.

That said, let’s begin.

Set Pieces in Football Manager

There are 5 types of set pieces you’ll find in real life and in Football Manager 23:

  1. Direct Free-kicks
  2. Indirect Free-kicks
  3. Corners
  4. Throw Ins
  5. Penalty Kick

Each type of dead-ball scenario requires specific types of arrangements and players. And a ton of considerations. 

The “Play for Set Pieces” team instruction in Football Manager encourages the players to draw fouls and actively look for set-piece opportunities. 

Play for Set Pieces instruction in FM23.

One can easily capitalize on that and boost his team’s goalscoring, given the right tactical setup. 

How To Master The Set Piece Routines in Football Manager

Set pieces in Football Manager can be a great source for extra goals. It can provide the goal that can edge you past your opponent and snatch the match. 

That is if you get it right in the first place.

You’ll see a lot of newbies triggering the Play for Set Pieces instruction without thinking twice. They think this will get them more set pieces which will grab some extra goals.

What they don’t realize, is that set pieces without the right setup will only end up wasting precious opportunities. 

It’ll also lead to a high turnover in possession if your opposition is good at winning balls. 

So how do we work around it?

Simply by understanding the elements that play a part in the building of a good set piece tactic. 

Sure, there are a lot of things you need to get right to make it work. But It’s not rocket science!

Here’s how you can improve your goalscoring chances from set pieces in Football Manager.

1. Assess Your Team’s Strengths

Before implementing any set piece routine, it’s essential to assess your team’s strengths and weaknesses. 

After taking control of a team, have a quick look at the team’s overall report provided by your assistant manager. See how your team fares with the rest of the league when it comes to physicality and aerial ability.

Go to Squad Planner > Reports > Comparison.

Team attribute comparison against league average

Compare your team’s collective attributes to the rest of the league to decide if you should look to exploit dead-ball situations

Identify the players with excellent:

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

These attributes dictate how dominant the player will be inside the final third for set pieces.

Understanding your team’s attributes will help you tailor your strategies to maximize goalscoring outcomes.

2. Pick Your Set Piece Taker

The next step is to pick a quality set piece taker who will be dishing out dangerous balls to your players in the final third. 

Depending on the type of dead-ball situation, you might have to rely on different takers. 

For Corners

Select a player with a good level of:

  • Corner
  • Crossing
  • Decisions
  • Technique
  • Flair

Good corner takers don’t necessarily have to be great passers. But they should be able to put the ball into the box with just the right amount of weight.

Highlighted attributes for Corner Takers.

For Direct Free-Kicks

Direct free-kicks require players who’re adept at scoring goals just from outside the box. It requires players who excel at:

  • Free Kick taking
  • Finishing
  • Long Shots
  • Technique
  • Flair

Highly technical players will be able to add curves to their shots, making it harder for the goalkeeper to deal with. 

Highlighted attributes for Direct Free kick taking.

For Indirect Free-Kicks

Indirect free-kick takers have to have exceptional playmaking ability. They will actively look to play the ball into dangerous areas in the box, toward the best headers. 

Assign players who are adept in the following attributes for indirect free kicks:

  • Free Kick Taking
  • Passing
  • Technique
  • Anticipation
  • Decisions
  • Flair
  • Vision

They have to spot player runs inside the box and provide pinpoint passes to create goalscoring opportunities. 

Attributes highlighted for Indirect freekicks.

Penalty Kick

You need a highly composed, exceptionally skilled finisher for taking penalties. They have to be the best in their job to calmly slot it inside the net. 

For that, the players must possess good:

  • Penalty Taking
  • Finishing
  • Composure
  • Decisions
  • Flair
  • Technique

3. Figure Out Opposition Weaknesses

I get it, performing all those nitty-gritty analysis before every game can be tedious in the long run. Even I get tired of going over it every time and just leave it to my assistant.

But heading to the game without properly assessing your opponent’s strategy can be suicidal. For both attacking and defensive set pieces. 

Firstly, figuring out how your opponent lines up for a defensive set piece can give you great insight on how to organize your attacking plans. 

Similarly, you can set up the perfect defensive setup to defend any corners of free kicks if you know how your opponents prefer to play. 

Assessing opposition weakness by the types of goals conceded in FM23

So, to exploit set piece opportunities, you need to do a thorough analysis about the weaknesses of your opponents. 

Identify areas of vulnerability in their defense, such as poor marking, weak aerial presence, or susceptibility to specific set piece routines. 

Place your tallest and strongest player next to the opposition’s relatively weaker marker. And then play the ball towards your tall player to reap the advantage! 

It’s far better than randomly assigning the players and expecting them to do something!

The same strategy can also help you in defensive situations. 

Understanding their weaknesses will allow you to adjust your strategies accordingly and target their vulnerable areas.

4. Train Your Players

Your players need to get familiar with your set piece routines. And effective training schedules is the best way to improve their understanding of the routine. 

Set Piece training schedule in Football Manager

Training will significantly improve their movements, team cohesion, and anticipation.

Football Manager offers 6 training drills specifically designed to improve set pieces:

  1. Attacking Free-Kicks
  2. Attacking Corners
  3. Defending Free-Kicks
  4. Defending Corners
  5. Set Piece Delivery
  6. Penalties

I personally train my players to practice penalties before Cup ties as it better prepares them. 

Also, if I bring any changes to my other set piece routines, I make sure to hold a few training sessions to increase their familiarity with the tactic.

5. Player Positioning

Over the years, the FM community came up with many clever set piece tactics to exploit the opponents in Football Manager. 

Against weaker opponents, specific strategies can employ to maximize your chances of scoring.

Attacking set piece setup in Football Manager 23

Near Post Set Pieces

Perhaps the most popular of them all, the near post delivery aims to deliver the ball towards the near post with pace and precision. 

It’s directed toward the players positioned near-post for a flick-on or a direct shot on goal. The attacker of the near post will be the primary target for such a routine. 

Players hugging the near post will look to catch stray balls in the crowd.

To attack the near post, your players must possess high:

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

Mark The Keeper

Marking the keeper instructs the tallest player in the team to block the view of the goalkeeper by standing in front of him during set piece situations. 

Specifically used in Corner routines, it can be a great strategy if you’re looking to target the far post.

Goalkeepers with weak aerial presence and poor command of their area are the primary target for this tactic. 

Direct the corner kick to target the goalkeeper, putting them under pressure and increasing the likelihood of scoring.

Edge of the Area:

Position a player on the edge of the penalty area to receive short passes from corner kicks or free-kicks. 

Encourage long-range shots or incisive through balls to create scoring opportunities.

Players sitting at the edge of the area must remain watchful all the time for opportunities. I look for the following attributes for such players:

  • Long Shots
  • Finishing
  • Anticipation
  • Agility
  • Passing
  • Technique
  • Flair
  • Vision

Lurk Outside Box:

Have a player positioned outside the penalty area during corners or free-kicks. 

This player can take advantage of loose balls or deflections and attempt powerful shots from a distance.

I mostly look to place my playmakers with good long-shot ability in this position. They can catch stray balls and keep the play going with passes into space

6. Inswing vs Outswing Deliveries

This is a highly overlooked aspect of set pieces in Football Manager. 

These approaches refer to the movement direction of the ball as it is delivered into the box. Understanding the differences between inswing and outswing deliveries is crucial for coaches and players looking to maximize their set piece effectiveness.

AspectsIn Swing Out Swing
DirectionTowards the goalAway from the goal
Dominant FootOpposite sideSame side
Effective forNear Post, Edge of AreaFar Post

An inswing delivery refers to a ball that curves towards the goal, typically delivered by a player with their dominant foot on the opposite side of the pitch. 

This technique aims to create confusion among defenders and make it challenging for the goalkeeper to come off their line to claim the ball.

Inswing free kick.

On the other hand, an outswing delivery involves the ball curving away from the goal, delivered by a player with their dominant foot on the same side of the pitch. 

Outswing deliveries aim to exploit defensive gaps and create opportunities for attacking players to attack the ball with greater ease.

Outswing free kick

7. Set Up Your Defensive Set Pieces

Defensive set pieces are equally important as they can prevent the opposition from scoring. 

Organize your defense by assigning roles and marking instructions to players based on their strengths.

Defensive Set Piece positions.

Cover Your Far and Near Post

The default defensive set piece set up mostly covers the 6 yard zone and the far and near posts. 

It can get you through most defensive situations. However, it’s not enough in some scenarios.

Opponents who look to overload a certain side(far or near) can exploit the lack of an extra defensive man in those positions. 

So, as a precautionary measure, it’s wise to position an extra physical player in both the near and far posts. 

Look for the following attributes for such players:

  • Jumping Reach
  • Strength
  • Marking
  • Bravery
  • Heading
  • Concentration
  • Positioning
  • Anticipation
  • Balance

Instruct Tall Players to Mark Tall Players

Your Center Backs will provide most of the defensive shield in the 6-yard box. They will win most of the aerial duels and clear up any goal-scoring threats. 

But be aware of the tall players in the opposition base!

Tall players who’re equally adept aerially can hurt your team by popping up in dangerous zones. So to keep them in bay, you must instruct one of two tall players in your team to mark them. 

This will reduce any unexpected threat from the opposition. 

Player Mark

This one is for the trickier opponents who might not be an aerial threat, but given enough space can be tremendously dangerous. 

Assign players with good aerial ability to mark the most dangerous opponents.

Man-to-man marking works great against perfect poachers and clever runners. They can be easily marked from the ball if your defender excels at the following attributes:

  • Marking
  • Anticipation
  • Concentration
  • Positioning
  • Strength
Defensive free kick routine.

Set a Strong Attacking Player on the Edge of the Box

Edge of the Box players are mostly positioned to carry the ball up the pitch once cleared by the defenders. 

Although they are equally important in defending the set-pieces, once the ball is won, they will be the ones in charge of getting it out of their defensive third and launching a counter. 

Players stationed in this position should be capable dribblers, fast runners, and good passers. 

8. Keep a Plan B

While having a well-drilled set piece routine is important, it’s crucial to have alternative options in case the initial plan fails. 

Having a tough time breaking down opposition defenses from set-piece?

Football Manager lets you set multiple set-piece routines that you can adopt mid-game. 

Fashioned for different opponents, you can easily instruct your players to change their positioning and try a different approach that works!

It also saves you a lot of time as you won’t have to build an entire routine from scratch. 

Anticipate the opposition’s adjustments and be prepared to adapt your set piece routines accordingly. 

This flexibility will keep your opponents guessing and increase your chances of success.

How to Use Set Pieces to Waste Time in Football Manager

Besides scoring match-winning goals, set piece situations can also be a great tool to waste time in the dying moments of the match. 

I love it as a time-wasting tool as I savor the looks of frustrated opponents near the end of the match. It’s just one of my twisted pleasures. Excuse me!

And I believe you deserve to feel that too!

So here’s how you can effectively use set-pieces to waste precious time in Football Manager

Play for Set Pieces

As I said before, always instructing your players to play for set pieces might not be the wisest idea. 

Your players might not always be well-suited for scoring goals from dead-ball situations. However, you can always use this instruction to kill the game and shave some precious seconds of the match. 

Enabling the instruction will command your players to draw more and more fouls and fall easily to the ground, collecting more free-kicks, corners, and throw-in opportunities.

Set the time-wasting instruction to waste time whenever possible. This will make sure your players take their sweet time to restart the game!

Play Short Set Pieces

Wasting a set piece means you’re handing your opponents a counter-attacking opportunity. And that can be deadly, especially in the dying stage of the game. 

So to make sure you don’t hand over possession, make use of the short set pieces!

Short set pieces in FM23.

Go for short passes from corners and free-kicks. This will help your team retain the position instead of unnecessarily handing the ball to the other team. 

Set the team to pass short and play with a very narrow attacking width to retain more possession.

It also opens up chances to draw more fouls and set pieces, keeping this vicious cycle of fun going!

Thats All…But…

Thanks for taking the time to read the entire thing.

 I just one to mention one thing before taking my leave. 

Football Manager 23 match AI has evolved over the years. So much so that it can now adapt itself to your tactical setup and effectively build counters against it. 

That means your opponents will grow familiar with your tactics if you keep using the same routine throughout the season!

Shuffle things up a little every 5-6 matches to keep your opponents guessing!

That’s all.

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