Understanding Roles In Football Manager (And Real Life) (Part 2)

Hey there guys, hope you all liked the part one posted last week. As said earlier, in this part I’ll be explaining the roles of the center midfield strata. At first, I thought of including the MR/ML as well, but rethinking it’d be better to put in part three, where we’ll get to see the wide players and the defense roles, as it would make the post way too big and tiresome for the readers. So I’ll pretty much continue to explain the central positions, from the attack to the middle, starting by the AMC strata, then the MC so to end with the DMC roles. Hope you guys enjoy it.

Central Attacking Midfielders

 → The attacking Midfielder Role

It’s a bit bizarre to talk about the attacking midfielder role, once it nominates its position. But it’s an interesting role, especially because of the tactical flexibility it gives to the player. Basically, the attacking midfielder role (as other roles in midfield like the defensive midfielder and the central midfielder) acts something like a wild card: it can be molded into what the trainer wants, be it by the Players preferred moves, be it by the individual instructions.

One of the three wildcard roles. The Attacking Midfielder.

Even though the attacking midfielder is a wildcard, he occupies some kind of positional space in the pitch, like it is shown in the image. The one in the support duty will tend to start in a deeper position in the attacking midfield zone, and moving higher up with the ball (or as the ball moves forward). The attacking duty, instead, is pretty much positioned a bit higher on the pitch, almost like a deep-lying forward, and attempts to run with the ball towards the defenders.

As a wildcard, it is complicated to nominate examples of an attacking midfielder in real life, but I think a midfielder like Kaká might be an example. At some point during his spell at Milan, he would play on top of the diamond midfield, but less as an organizing player and more a sprinter, who’d conduct the ball forward to pick passes to its teammates, or find a good position to get a shot.

→ Shadow Strikers and Enganches

These two roles are pretty recent and have its peculiarities. Both are pretty much — as the Trequartista and Raumdeuter roles — country bound roles, that means that they come from a specific football culture that defines what is expected of a player in this position.

The Shadow Striker, a role more common in the traditional British football, is a striker that operates in the hole between the number 9 and the center midfielders, searching to operate like a withdrawn striker that attempts to get the second ball or arriving late at the area. It is not a role that demands much creativity from the player, but lots of positional intelligence off the ball and the know-how of scoring goals and being an attacking threat. Like Rooney during the good part of his career, he will press the opponents like a forward, but won’t come back to defend that often like a midfielder.

Country-bound roles.

The Enganche role, a typical kind of number 10 in Argentinean and Uruguayan football, is an interesting role due to its creative flair and participation within the game. He acts mainly as a midfielder, so he won’t press opponents that much, but tends to be the offensive pivot in the midfield. He will try to orchestrate and create chances for its teammates with passes and opening spaces. He might look, at first, like a Trequartista — as we’ve seen in part 1 — but its main difference is the area of the pitch he plays. The Trequartista will roam from his position all over the pitch in order to receive the ball, moving into the flank or the halfspace, the Enganche will maintain its position in the central areas to work as a point of reference within the building phase of the game. So an Enganche like Riquelme — the major exponent in performing this role — will be the main creator in the midfield, in spite of having little to no mobility, and request its teammates to move throughout the field for him to be effective.

 → The Advanced Playmakers in the hole

I won’t spend that much time speaking of the advanced playmaker role, as it was said enough in part 1, about its positioning in wide positions. But, at the space between lines, the advanced playmaker can be a pretty useful creative output, receiving the ball with the back to the goal and combining with its teammate to carve space between the defenders. He won’t be much of a runner, instead, he’ll search for any space to receive a pass and maintain the possession, whilst creating chances.

Creating and recreating.

He’ll operate mainly in the midfield, not pressing that much without the ball, especially in the support duty. He may come deep to help the central midfielders in the build phase of the attack, as well as coming back to defend near them. In the attacking duty, he won’t be coming back that much, and will timidly press higher up, whilst trying to carve chances for him and its teammates.

MC roles

 → The Central Midfielder

Another of the wildcard roles, the central midfielder is a role that is perfect for a trainer that wants to control the movements of its player, via the Player Preferred Move or individual instructions. He is pretty much a tabula rasa role, which can be adapted to better suit the player in it without restricting its movement or mentality.

Central Midfielders: tabula rasa

If in terms of movement with and without the ball its pretty much impossible to define the central midfielder, in positional terms, is interesting to know that it comes in three different roles; defend, support and attacking. These three duties, uncommonly, is related more to its starting position in the pitch and less about its functionality in the game. Of course a defending centre midfielder will be more suitable if it has the skills of defensive work, at the same time he may be designed to be a more creative output in the midfield, or even asked to go further forward (with the PPM).

 → The other playmakers: Deep Lying and Roaming

Deep Lying Playmakers are an important role in Football Manager. They come in both the MC and DMC positions, and they are the players skilled enough to make the team move forward, with a short forward pass, or long range passes. They are the organizers of the team, looking to coordinate in the buildup of the attack.

Playmaking at its best

While the deep lying playmaker tend to hold its position in the midfield, not covering or moving into pockets of space, the roaming playmaker has a different attitude towards creating chances: he’ll move all around the pitch, throughout center, halfspace or even wing area, searching pocket of spaces which he can continue to influence and create opportunities. Sometimes he will also attempt long range passes or long range shots. As an example of roaming playmaker, you can think of Yaya Touré at Mancini’s Manchester City, which would move higher up and influence the game in higher areas, while starting in a center midfield position.

The deep lying playmaker comes in two duties: defending — which will make the player spray short simple passes in front of the defence — and the support duty — which will see the playmaker moving higher up the pitch and participating in more offensive phases of the game. Besides that, the roaming playmaker only comes in a support duty, but tends to be a bit more offensive than its deeper counterpart, acting a bit higher on the pitch.

 → Box to Box and Carrileros

Box to Box midfielders are highly dynamic midfielders that will attempt to defend and also be an attacking thread upfront, stepping inside the opposing box to finish attacks. He must be full of stamina to endure long times running up and down (not the square as in Monty Python’ Meaning of Life) the pitch. He may not be the most creative kind of footballer, but seeks to be a threat at all times, not participating that much in the buildup phases.

Comparing the BTB and the Carrilero

The Carrilero — spanish for rail-trailer — , a new role started at FM18, is a role which the footballer has to bring balance between attack and defence, while participating in the buildup not as a creative outlet, but as a possible receiver of passes. It differentiates itself from the box to box as he doesn’t step that much in the box, not moving that higher up, whilst has more defensive duties, looking to mark and tackle opponents and cover overlapping full backs.

As an example of box-to-box nowadays, there is Paulinho at the Brazilian National Team, appearing as a goalscoring threat in the box while defending aswell. In comparison, a would be N’golo Kanté at Leicester — full of stamina, marking and passing but with limited to none attacking threat — or Allan at Napoli.

 → The Mezzalas (that’s not a Mafia themed sitcom)

The Mezzala is a football role typical at the Italian football, which could be roughly translated as half-winger. He is a footballer, usually with good skills and speed which will start the game in a central position and then, with the ball, try to move outwards and even trying crosses to the box. Usually a good option for a team that lacks width, the mezzala will try to move towards the wing and stretch the defence.

That was unexpected: the mezzala

The mezzala will appear in the box sometimes as well, but he tends to be more effective in wide areas and pull opposition players out of shape. One of the teams that uses the Mezzala more often is Juventus. La Vecchia Signora would use Matuidi or Marchisio as mezzalas to move the ball outwards and the wingers like Bernadeschi to come inside and create havoc in the opponent defence. Other successfull example was di Maria at his spell on Real Madrid with Carlo Ancelotti. The argentinean, an original winger, would start in the center of the pitch and then move outwards (with Cristiano Ronaldo moving inwards from the wing) and opening pockets of space.

 → Ball Winning Midfielders

The most defensive outlet of the MC strata is the ball winning midfielders. As the name says, he will shuttle into the midfield trying to recover the ball, attempting tackles and marking tightly the opponents. With the ball, he will try only short simple passes to more capable footballers.

Physical and defensive at most.

The ball winning midfielder should be an expert in the art of defending and have a good, strong physique to win duels against the opponents, while also possessing some passing skills. It comes in two different duties: defend and support. In defending duty, the ball winning midfielder will pretty much hold his position, waiting for the opponent to come near him so he can know the right time to make a tackle and dispossess him. In the support duty, instead, he will actively abandon his position and press and tackle the opponent with the ball. He won’t attempt to create chances nor attempt long shots, rather than just recycling possession for his team.

As an example of this kind of player, there is Victor Wanyama at Tottenham, Idrissa Gueye at Everton and Oriol Romeu at Southampton. These players usually rank high in interceptions and tackles — but also in yellow and red cards, so beware using a ball winning midfielder — .

The DMC roles

 → The Defensive Midfielder

This role, pretty much as the attacking midfielder and the center midfielder is a wildcard in terms of use. One can pretty much adjust what he expects in terms of movement of the defensive midfielder, being a pretty useful role if you want to have control about what your player should and shouldn’t do.

The defensive wildcard: Defensive midfielders

As said with the central midfielder, if it is not possible to define the movements of the defensive midfielder, it must be said that, as his name says, he is mainly a defensive outlet, whose starting positions can be defined in the pitch. The defensive midfielder in a defensive duty will tend to be near the centerback, acting like a guard, while its support duty mode will see the defensive midfielder move a bit higher up the pitch and attempt to participate more in the build up phase of the game.

 → Anchor man and the Halfback

I’ve put these two roles together so I could show their differences, once they may look similar at first glance. The Anchor-Man, as his name says, mainly stays ~anchored~ in front of the defence, doing defensive tasks (covering spaces or tackling opponents), being a typical number 5. Sometimes called the “Makelele role” because of Claude Makelele at Chelsea, he is primarily focused on recovering the ball and protecting the defensive line. In buildup phase, he’ll pretty much play short simple passes to more suitable and creative players.

The Makelele Role: Anchor man

The anchorman will not move forward with the ball and will only abandon its central position in order to cover a player or to attack the ball carrier in center-left/center-right positions. As said earlier, the most known anchor-man is Claude Makelele during his Chelsea spell, but nowadays one of the most common Anchorman is William Carvalho, at Sporting Clube de Portugal. His goal is mainly to protect the defensive line and balancing the team.

The half-back, instead, is not the kind of player ho has only defensive importance. The main task of the half back is to help the ball get ouf of the defence in the best way possible. For that, the half back will usually get in between the defenders — doing what we call a “lavolpiana” — relieving the pressure on them or in the midfield. Usually, it comes with the back four becoming a back three with the full backs moving further forward. This way, the half-back, during periods with the ball being played in the defence, will play close to the center backs.

Do it La Volpe style

In terms of defensive responsabilities, he will try to recover the ball whenever the opponent is attacking, but not so close to the centerbacks. When the ball is moved higher up, he will come out of the middle of the centerbacks and occupy the traditional number 5 position, acting as a first organizer. This role, strangely, has not a player that excels in it or play it every game, being a more situational role, especially when the adversary plays with a front two against a two centerbacks. The half-back will make a lavolpiana to guarantee a clean buildup and numerical superiority. One example of this kind of movement is that of Xabi Alonso with José Mourinho at Real Madrid: he would come in between Ramos and Pepe to launch long balls and relieving the pressing the centerbacks suffered.

 → Foreigner defensive midfielders: Segundo Volante and Regista

As with some other positions, the central defensive midfielder position has two specific and culture-bound roles, the Segundo volante and the Regista.

The first one, the “segundo volante”, is the most recent addition in Football Manager, only being possible to use if there is another defensive midfielder in the team. That means it is not possible to use it in a 4–1–2–3 or 4–1–2–1–2 formations, rather only in formations like 4–2–3–1DM or 4–2–2–2DM. I have my fair share of criticism in what the game offers on the Segundo Volante role. As a brazilian, the segundo volante usually is a second midfielder, a bit higher up than the first midfielder (which is a more defensive duty, a ball winning midfielder or an anchorman) and helping in the buildup of the game. But, in Football Manager, the segundo volante is more an archetypal of a box-to-box that starts in a deeper position. He’ll move higher up the pitch and even step into the box if needed.

The “Segundo Volante”

Having said that, the segundo volante comes in two duties: support and attack. In the support duty, he’ll act more like a carrilero, moving up but not stepping inside the opponent box, while in attacking duty he’ll be a box-to-box per se, moving way higher and being an attacking threat. An example of the segundo volante offered by Football Manager is Tiemoué Bakayoko, from Chelsea, who alongside N’Golo Kanté will move higher up the pitch to press and offer some passing option forward.

Another italian role

The Regista, another exponent of the Italian footballing culture — alongside the mezzala and the trequartista — is mainly a more offensive kind of deep lying playmaker. He likes to move forward up, sometimes even near the opponent box and to organize the buildup play — that’s why he’s called regista, italian for regisseur, the one who conducts an Opera — . He needs to be a skillful player, creative but also needs some cover, as he will move sometimes too high up the pitch and offer some pockets of space to the opponent.

In the build up, the Regista will also try to help the defenders by getting between them and getting the ball out of the defensive line. Unlike the halfback, it won’t make the centerbacks to move wider and make a lavolpiana. If the regista comes back in a defense of 4 to get the ball, he’ll be the fifth player in the line, rather than the back four morphing into a back three and pushing the full backs higher. An example of registas is Andrea Pirlo at Milan and Juventus, Jorginho at Napoli and Riccardo Montolivo at Fiorentina and Milan.

Final considerations

As you must have seen, some player roles which repeat itself in more than one position were ommited. I made it because I thought I’d be repeating myself way too much and the roles itself doesn’t change that much from position to position, just his starting positions in the pitch. The positions omitted were the Deep Lying Playmaker in DMC, the Advanced Playmaker in MC, the Ball Winning Midfielder in DM and the Roaming Playmaker in DM.

Having said that, I’d like to thank you for reading it and the next part of the work will be of the wider players roles that are missing. Nominally the MR/ML and th DR/DL/WBR/WBL roles. The next part will be coming in the next few days. Hope you enjoyed and you can find me on twitter at v_maedhros (if you don’t mind some dumbposting and some comments in portuguese). I’d also like to thank Guido Merry (MerryGuido) for the space at Strikerless.

9 thoughts on “Understanding Roles In Football Manager (And Real Life) (Part 2)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: