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The Underrated Weapon: Unlocking the Power of the Target Forward Role on FM23

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Maximize your FM23 game with our guide to the Target Forward role. Learn essential tips and tactics to dominate the pitch .
Target Forward Role on FM23

How to Dominate the Pitch with the Target Forward: A Guide to Maximizing Your Striker's Strengths and Leading Your Team to Victory on Football Manager 23.


The Target Forward is a very underrated role on FM23. While it's been difficult to have success with a TF in previous FMs, I've had success with a Target Forward in multiple saves on FM23, especially at the lower levels. This guide will explain what makes a Target Forward so successful if used correctly, and how to make the most of your striker in this role.

The Role


Firstly, let's look at how SI describe the role of Target Forward:

A Target Forward can transform an average team into a good one by using sheer physicality to disrupt the opposition's defence and open space for a striker partner and supporting midfielders.

The Target Forward uses strength and aerial presence to bring teammates into play rather than relying on technical ability. 

While this is the essence of the role, it can also be a little misleading. Yes, your target forward relies on his physical gifts more than other roles; in my experience, it's been a high level of strength that sets a good target forward apart from the rest. This is because he needs to be able to stand up to the physical battle with opposing centre backs, so even if his heading and jumping reach aren't at the level you would like, he can use his strength to battle for positioning. In an aerial battle, this means that even if your target forward loses the header, he's made it more difficult for the defender and increased your team's chances of winning the second ball.

While we generally think of a target man as an aerially dominant player who thrives in a long-ball direct passing system (like Andy Carroll), this isn't necessarily the case in modern football. Your target forward can also thrive in a short passing possession-based tactic, largely as the focal point for forward passing (like Olivier Giroud). No matter which style of play, you'll need your target forward to be able to find teammates making runs into advanced positions, so teamwork and passing are essential to his success. Naturally, if you're looking to play a direct style, you'll need good heading and jumping reach, whereas a possession-based target forward needs good technique and good strength to hold off the challenge of a defender.

The Tactic


Because of the nature of the Target Forward role in that he looks for others to help advance the ball, he works best as part of a striking partnership, or at least with an AMC behind or an inside forward on the wing. This is to ensure the Target Forward has a teammate nearby to pass to after winning the ball, or to win the second ball after an aerial battle. While this is best achieved by a striking partner or an attacking midfielder, it can also be achieved by an inside forward with the right player instructions. For example, I found both my striker and winger were isolated and struggling to link up, but rectified this by asking my inside forward to sit narrower. This meant he would occupy space closer to the lone striker and provide support, or be more accessible for passing.

You'll also find the most success with a target forward with a high-pressing system. This makes sense, because you're encouraging your striker to battle for possession high up the pitch, and often targeting him in transitions because of his ability in these situations. To make the most of that, it's best to ask the rest of your team to engage with the opposition high up the pitch and mop up the scraps from your target forward's battles with the opposition defence. Failure to do this can allow the opposition to swarm your target forward and mark him out of the game, or regain possession after his hard work to win the initial battle.

You'll also need to be mindful of how effective your crossing is. I've found the most effective style of crossing for a target forward is floated crosses. This is because the target forward generally has the tools to be successful in an aerial battle, but may lack the movement or the pace to attack crosses into spaces. Floated crosses asks your team to be more considerate with their crossing placement and to target your striker directly. With good aerial ability, he should be able to hold his own in these situations. This might also sound counterintuitive for a tactic based on exploiting crosses, but you'll also find better success playing through the middle of the pitch with a target forward than by the wings. This is because your target forward is naturally inclined to be involved in build-up play, especially if you're using him as an outlet in transition. Playing through the middle encourages this, and means your target forward isn't dragged too far out of position to involve himself in the build-up. You'll also find this causes the opposition defence to collapse inwardly to deal with the threat, opening up space for your wide players to cross.


Final Thoughts


While the role of the target forward has become unfashionable in recent years, a good target forward can be a dangerous weapon in your arsenal. With a variety of tools at his disposal to beat the defence at their own game, you'll find using the target forward opens up opportunities elsewhere for your best players to shine.

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FM Blog | FM24: The Underrated Weapon: Unlocking the Power of the Target Forward Role on FM23
The Underrated Weapon: Unlocking the Power of the Target Forward Role on FM23
Maximize your FM23 game with our guide to the Target Forward role. Learn essential tips and tactics to dominate the pitch .
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