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The Raumdeuter and the Inside Forward – a confusing association

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When I returned to Football Manager, one of the first teams I picked up was Sporting Lisbon, looking at the side I noticed they had a wealth of talent in the fullback and winger slots. The 41221 immediately popped to mind. Setting up required me to think about how I wanted my front three to play. We had to be defensive and we needed to win games. We weren’t the best side, but we needed to find a way to get past the best teams. Its a system that can be set up in a variety of ways defensive or attacking.

To be honest when setting up a 41221, the defense is fairly easy. You should  decide whether you want your fullbacks to surge up the flanks or make it a 5 man defense. The DM role can be tricky, since the formation is already defensive by shape, having a player sit so deep in attack makes ball recovery in midfield a bit tricky. When the ball is cleared from the opponents defense, you will find that the DLP is just a few steps too deep as he needs to make up ground to get to the ball, deciding on your DLP will be critical, he needs high anticipation and a willingness to step out of the defensive strata. If he stays locked in or if you don’t have the right players, then playing an attacking 41221 may not even be possible. You would probably end up with a control or a counter 41221.

The first system that Sporting used in fact was a control 41221, which morphed into a counter 41221. The deeper I went the more comfortable the system became, and space opened up in front. This posed another challenge – what to do with the space in front of the 2 central midfielders. Now that the defensive side was locked up, we needed to look at the vertical area that existed between the lone man upfront and the 2 midfielders, this was a perfect time to start with the new roles. The Raumdeuter – the first time I saw this role I was confused. Isn’t this just a glorified Inside Forward? Why create a new name for an existing role? The Raumdeuter or RD for short became fashionable after the 2010 World Cup. Thomas Mueller’s performance, being the benchmark for this position. His intelligence was unrivalled and his languid almost invisible presence on the pitch understated his threat. He used space instinctively, in fact, the term Raumdeuter literally means “space investigator”.

You can’t predict the threat of the RD, but choosing a player to be the RD isn’t easy. He needs good finishing, strength, pace, passing, decisions, vision, composure…and a host of other attributes. He’s like the perfect combination of the lazy brilliant explosive striker. You won’t know what hits you when a RD scores. For him space is his playground. Ryan Gauld fit this role perfectly with the Sporting Lisbon side that won the Champions League in my debut FM15 season. Then you have the Inside Forward, not entirely a new position, its been around since the 19th century, we just didn’t take notice of it, till Ronaldo showed up at United and started scoring bucketloads of goals. He’s just a pacey, tricky striker who has wonderful ball control and loves cutting in to score on his favoured foot He becomes even more of a threat when he has 2 good feet. They could be the frustrated full back who never got a chance to attack or a number 10 who needs more space. A host players have been used in this role.

The common misconception is that they need to play in a wide system. Contrary to popular belief, they play both in a narrow or a wide system. Gareth Bale, Ronaldo, Hazard, Gotze, Robben, and the list doesn’t stop there. When pushed up wider, they do less defensive work, so they get more of a chance to run at defenses, pace acceleration, dribbling, passing, first touch, off the ball, composure, finishing all vital attributes for the player. The thing is, in terms of roles, the RD and the IF are almost the SAME. They both need space, they both need to be intelligent and they both score. In the real world, there is hardly any difference between the two, that’s my opinion of course. I do think these roles are redundant.. Lets compare them along with wingers and the advanced playmaker

Movement (support duties except for RD default Attack)

ROLE Get Further Foward Hold Position Stay Wider Sit Narrower Move Into Channels Roam From Position Dribble More Run Wide Cuts Inside
Winger Yes Maybe Yes No No Maybe Yes Yes No
IF Maybe Maybe Maybe Maybe No Maybe Yes No Yes
RD Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Maybe No No
APM No Maybe Maybe Maybe No Maybe Maybe Maybe Yes

 I will compare them all on support except for the RD who is available on attack only. When compared to the Inside Forward, the RD has plenty of locked down instructions which can’t be changed, and this suggests SI have a very specific way of wanting him to play. The IF on the other hand offers options. ,but using him well requires you to understand the impact of your decisions. The RD does not cut inside, whilst the IF does not make vertical channel runs.

This has important implications about their movement off the ball, and you can compound matters by player preferred moves. One needs to take a look too at their ppms to make sure that these don’t inflluence their play. The RD will attack space in front of him, whilst the IF is more likely to cut inside from a wide position. One play sits a bit narrower and will benefit from a fb on support or on attack, and the other will require someone to make sure the door is locked behind him. The RD works better with a space creator in front of him, the IF doesn’t care if he has a space creator in front, he’s just pulling players towards him.

When I start playing with an average side, I know that sides like Chelsea, City and United are going to treat us with disrespect. They will frequently employ an attacking strategy of high pressing and hard running. Its times like these when I start looking at systems like 41221s or 451s simply because I can employ either RD’s or IF’s. Since I am sitting back defending most of the time, I know that an IF or an RD will have space to exploit. This is the time when I identify the Centre Forward very carefully, he needs to have the strength and the ability to hold the ball under pressure and get it out. The inside forward can come in from a wide position pulling defenders with him gifting other players space.

The RD who sits a bit narrower will need a forward who drops deep allowing him to exploit the space in front of him. It’s a strategy I have used successfully with Sporting, Atletico and West Bromwich Albion during our underdog days. There isn’t much difference between the RD and the IF, it’s a slight difference which can have implications about how your players move. With Sporting I actually employed a DLF(S) flanked by a RD and an IF(A). The movement we generated was fantastic. We added width on the side with the RD with an attacking fullback, but he needed to have a solid defensive side to his game. Jonathan Silva ended the season with the highest number of interceptions for the whole season, underscoring the importance of securing the flank where the RD was roaming.

When using a RD you need to expect some fraglity on the flank where he operates. The inside forward too needs a solid combination behind him to hold the door closed while he unpicks the lock of the opposing defense. I like how the RD and the IF play, remembering what they add to the game is critical, both players have cross less as an active role, which implies they will also get that job done. Pulling players around against packed defenses or dropping behind a packed defense is their strength. And these players can be a valuable asset in any system that wants to unlock a “park the bus” defense. I will be doing a video soon on BusttheNet showing how these can be deployed in a 433 system, but for now I leave you with this to consider: Are these two very different? Its gonna be a two parter. The first part will be the covered in our first Q&A show.

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About BusttheNet - Rashidi (177 Articles)
Rashidi is an mod from the SI forums who began this site as a way to collate all the information and guides he's written for Football Manager over the years.

8 Comments on The Raumdeuter and the Inside Forward – a confusing association

  1. Thanks Rashidi, golden insight and perfect timing. Just started a save with St.Pauli (2.Bundesliega) and I was about to give RD a try but I cearly underestimated the required skills.

  2. Hi Rashidi, am not a youtube subscriber so i can’t leave a comment there, but just thought i’d send a note to say how enjoyable the 4-1-2-2-1 videos were, they are very well put together and i made a few scribbles in my fm book as my last couple of youth intakes have provided me with left and right wingers and I may be nearing the time that i move away from my 4-3-1-2 with CMd, DLPs & Wa as the three, the time just flew by watching them so much so that i was convinced that it had only been 10mins rather than closer to 30!

    • BusttheNet - Rashidi // June 10, 2015 at 8:38 pm // Reply

      Thanks a lot, that was my first 30 min video and it took yonkers to get up. Just glad you enjoyed it. I got more systems lined up soon

    • BusttheNet - Rashidi // June 10, 2015 at 8:42 pm // Reply

      Glad to see you enjoyed the first 30minuter, I am so worried that these vides get clunky that people stop watching them, and I am glad to hear that you found them helpful. I have a 4141 and its variants lined up, plus Hunter gave me the idea of trying something out which ended up creating a slightly different kinda role in the game. A lot of credit to Hunter though, had he not brought up the topic asking me to compare the IF to the RD, the Mid-Raum wouldn’t have made such a big impact on a 4141 I just created.

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