The Art of the Defensive Midfielder in a Strikerless Formation

For a long time in the world of football, defensive midfielders didn’t receive the credit they deserved. It wasn’t until N’Golo Kante burst onto the scene two seasons ago that the hype returned for these defence-minded midfield maestros.

Everyone now knows Leicester City’s story: rising from relegation candidates to suddenly winning the richest and toughest domestic competition in the world, the Premier League – a story that could’ve been taken right out of a Football Manager save. Among the stars highlighting the greatest of underdog stories, N’Golo Kante’s elite-level play in defensive midfield allowed the Leicester back line to sit deep, where the lack of speed from Wes Morgan and Robert Huth was less exposed.


Watford 1 Chelsea 2 20.8. 16‘ by Chelsea Debs (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The diminutive Frenchman’s play earned him a mega, multi-million move to Chelsea last summer, and in Sportsbet’s most popular football category of news and betting tips, it was predicted that Chelsea would clinch the title against West Bromwich Albion, which they did. He played a pivotal role in Antonio Conte’s three-at-the-back formation, acting once again as the stone wall first line of defence.

In your Football Manager game, if you decide to go strikerless, you’ll most likely be incorporating a defensive midfielder, or two, to help pack the midfield. But when your team is without a designated striker, goals need to come from many options in the midfield, so having a defensive midfielder who can contribute is very helpful.

So, here are three options for defensive midfielders who are not only strong across the key attributes of the position (first touch, marking, passing, tackling, anticipation, bravery, concentration, decisions, vision, work rate, teamwork, off the ball, positioning, acceleration, pace, stamina, strength) but also provide an attacking spark as well.

3. Willian Arão

The little-known Brazilian boasts decent stats across all of the major attributes for a defensive midfielder and hits particularly high ratings for both pace and strength.

Willian Arão can add to your attacking set up with his tendency to shoot from range, with power, and with his long-range passes. His defensive midfield skills will help to protect your defence, while his player traits will bring him into your offensive strategies.

2. Allan

Another Brazilian comes in as a strong option as your defensive midfielder. Allan is very strong across the attributes and particularly excels when it comes to tackling – which may be the most crucial trait of all here.

Allan looks like the perfect man to have to protect your defence, especially as one of his traits is that he doesn’t dive into tackles. He’ll also usher the attack, by playing one-twos and running with the ball down the right.

1. Claudio Marchisio


Claudio Marchisio difende il primo palo su un calcio d’angolo‘ by Roger Gorączniak (CC BY 3.0)

When it comes to a defensive midfielder who can enhance your attack on Football Manager, Claudio Marchisio is one of the best. His stats in his natural position are superb; boasting amazing teamwork and work rate stats as well as being particularly strong in passing, composure and decisions.

What makes the Italian, who featured for Juventus in this year’s Champions League final, especially good for a strikerless formation are his traits. Marchisio will not only dictate the tempo of the game and try long range passes; the 30-year-old will also get into the opposition’s area and shoot from distance.

To add that little bit of extra offensive bite to your midfield, Marchisio would be great to not only protect your defence but also to unlock your attack.

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