How-To: Understand and use Player Roles and Duties

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So you’ve now picked the Formation and set the Team Instructions, but what roles do I pick for the players? I hear you ask. So here is a follow-up guide which continues what I started in my Making Your First Tactic guide.

I always start from the back and work my way forward, and it’ll be no different here. Most of the choices regarding role will be based on three variables – formation, team instructions and player ability.

Also, this will be heavily biased towards a flat four defensive system, as it is the safest and easiest beginner setup to learn.

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You have two options here, Goalkeeper and Sweeper Keeper

A regular Goalkeeper role is preferable most of the time, but if playing a high defensive line and possess an intelligent, fast ‘keeper, the Sweeper Keeper will mop up loose balls and aim to recycle possession from the edge of his box and beyond.

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Your choice of setup here will more-than-likely be more biased towards player ability than tactical choice initially.

The Central Defender role is your all round, general Centreback, and will more often than not be the default choice for many managers. In regards to duty, there are a few possible combinations that work well depending on the type of player available. A Covering CB will sit deeper and mop up through balls and other loose balls, whereas a Stopper will look to step forward and intercept the ball before it becomes a danger. The Stopper/Cover can be used together with two intelligent defenders to form a very solid partnership. When not using a Stopper, I like to use a covering defender alongside a regular ‘Defend’ CB, though two regular defenders is also a sound tactical choice too.

The Limited Defender role is for less-able defenders who have limited concentration, composure and decision-making. Generally, this role is best limited to the Defend duty and lower-league defenders.

Ball-Playing Defenders will look to play the ball out of defence and are more technically and creatively gifted than regular defenders. They will recycle possession effectively and look to start counter-attacks. This role is most effective with a Stopper duty, winning the ball early and moving it on.

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The choice here is mainly determined by your team philosophy.

The Full-Back role is suited to a more balanced tactical setup, where they aren’t expected to drift too wide nor push up too far. Duties best for this role are determined by team philosophy, where a more defensive side may choose Defend, and a more balanced or semi-attacking side would choose Support. A manager that changes philosophy often would Choose Automatic, as it adjusts the duty to suit the current philosophy.

Wing-Back will actively look to hug the touchline, get forward and overlap the Wide-Mid or Inside Forward, providing another passing option out wide as well as providing crosses. Duty will generally be Support, but Attacking is a risk/reward option especially if that side of the field has no wide midfielder/winger.

That’s the Defence sorted. On to Midfield!

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Three to choose from here, the Anchor, the creator and the bit-of-both!

An Anchor Man sits in front of the defence and does nothing but protect the it by winning the ball before it reaches the defence. Not known for technical ability, it is their strength, ability to read the play and the ability to intercept that is key here. Duty is limited to Defend only.

The Deep-Lying Playmaker looks to control the play from deep and requires great vision and a great range of passing, as well as defensive attributes. Duty can be Support, where the player has more creative freedom, whereas with a Defend duty the player will have less freedom and is expected to be more aware of opposition attackers and mark them – which is especially utilised best when the opponent deploys an AMC.

The Defensive Midfielder role combines traits of both Anchor Man and Deep Lying Playmaker. They are neither as defensive as an Anchor, nor as creative as a DLP, but strikes a happy medium of both.

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A few roles to cover here, though I’ll not cover DLP again, as it is essentially the same as the DM role.
The Central Midfielder role is defined entirely by the duty it is combined with. In Support, he will generally sit in the middle and literally be a middle-man – receive the ball, either by winning it or from a pass, then move it on. With a Defend duty the CM will be expected to sit deeper, win the ball and pass it on to someone more creative. An Attack duty CM will look to receive the ball in a more advanced central position and play through balls and create goal-scoring chances. I prefer to use the CM role when creating tactics in lower leagues, as they are generally less specific (especially mentally) than the other midfield roles.

The Ball Winning Midfielder is actually a quite confusing role for some, as they believe it to be defensive. On the contrary, it is actually a slightly more advanced role, where the player looks to close down opposition defenders/deep midfielders to win the ball in and around the opposition half. The Support duty embodies this role best, and will tend to be more creative with their next pass, whereas with a Defend duty, the player will sit a bit deeper and have less emphasis on their ability to create.

Box-To-Box Midfielder is a tireless workhorse, expected to both defend by hassling the opposition attackers as well as push forward to provide support to the strikers as a passing option as well as with late runs into the box. Duty is limited to Support. A true all-rounder with great stamina is required for this role.

The Advanced Playmaker will look to run into the space between the opponents defence and midfield in order to fashion goal-scoring opportunities. With an Attack duty he will look to run at the defence and even take players on while looking for the killer ball, whereas the Support duty player will look to pass more than run with the ball.

That’s it for the Central Midfield roles! There is no set rule as to what roles to partner, but it is generally good practice to combine a defensive role with a more attacking role, especially in a flat midfield. Where there is a DM present, a defensive role isn’t as important, and when deploying an AMC an attacking role isn’t such a pressing concern.

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Wide boys and wide men! But definitely nothing to do with gangsters or fat blokes… Honestly!

Wide Midfielder (ML/R only) is the wide equivalent of a Box-To-Box CM. They aim to support the striker, while maintaining some defensive responsibility. With a Defend duty, he will look to play crosses from deep, a Support WM will look to play diagonal balls, though will still play a cross where applicable, and with an attack duty, the WM will venture into the final third to play in crosses.

Winger is an explosive player who primarily uses acceleration, pace and technique to beat his man out on the touchline and put in crosses to the forwards. With a Support duty he will attempt to beat his man quickly in order to play in an early cross. With an Attack duty he will run at the defence and aim to get to the byline in order to put in a cross.

The Defensive Winger is a role not widely utilised in Football Manager, possibly because of a lack of understanding of its use. The DW will look to press the opposing Full-Back to win the ball, and depending on duty, will look to either hold the ball up (Support), or take it to the byline for a cross (Attack). The role is similar to the central Ball Winning Midfielder. The attributes required are a combination of Full-Back and Winger, with an added emphasis on Stamina Work-rate and Teamwork.

The Inside Forward (AML/R only) is a combination of Winger and Striker, and the required attributes reflect this. The player in a Support role will look to start out wide and either cut inside and pass or take a long shot if it is on, making those technical attributes a priority (along with technique), and a player on an Attack Duty would cut inside and run at the defence before playing a through ball or taking a shot, requiring good dribbling, composure and shooting attributes too. In either duty, using inverted wingers work well, i.e. a right footed player on the left and vice-versa, so that they cut in on their stronger foot.

I’ve not covered the Advanced Playmaker role here as it has been covered previously.

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This is where the guy in the hole lives. Now to decide what to do with him…

Again, I’ll not cover the Advanced Playmaker role here as it has been covered previously. Leaving…

The Attacking Midfielder operates much like a central midfielder, only in a more advanced position. It is a highly technical role where quick decision-making as well as high levels of creativity are essential to play the ball before being intercepted by the opposition defenders. A Support duty AM will readily sit in the hole rather than push up into the box and is more likely to help out defensively, whereas an Attack duty AM will push forward into the box to create chances and further support the strikers.

The central Inside Forward is much the same as the wide one, where he'll tend to drift wide without the ball, and cut in towards the centre when in possession. This central IF role is best used to pull an opposition DM out of position when the IF drifts wide, creating space for him to cut into, or for someone else to utilise.

A very technical and mentally strong role, the Trequartista is the ultimate free spirit. He drifts around in attacking positions with no defensive responsibility whatsoever in order to find space, with maximum creative freedom when in possession. He is the main outlet when attacking and as such, this role is Attack only.

The best role here is of course highly subjective and also determined by the players around them as much as the ability of the player himself. Not worried about his defensive play? Then a Trequartista could be for you. Need someone to play in the hole while playing in killer balls? An Attacking Midfielder may just well be what you're looking for. Got an Advanced Playmaker in central midfield? The Inside Forward can help create some space for him!

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The attacking focal point. But do you want him to be a spearhead or the link man? Read on…

An Advanced Forward is the definition of attacking focal point. He is primarily there to score, but will also chase lost causes, win possession and play in others in better positions. An exceptional workrate along with the usual attacking attributes will serve him well. Attack duty only.

The Poacher has one goal – score goals! He doesn’t tend to help create chances, he will sit on the shoulder of the last defender ready to lose his man using his anticipation, lightning acceleration and pace in order to bury a through ball into the net with composure and precision. Attack duty only.

Target Man is the ultimate ‘big man’ who generally lacks technique but uses his imposing physique to outmuscle the opposition defenders. In the Support duty, he will look to win aerial battles and flick-ons for supporting teammates, hold the ball up and play in others with simple passes. In an Attack duty he will lead the line and create space for teammates as well as becoming a focal point for crosses.

Deep-Lying Forward is to strikers what the AMC is to midfield – a link man. His job is to drop deep to pick up the ball then either play a team-mate in or finish it himself. With a Support duty his primary focus is to play in a team-mate then follow up behind, and with an Attack duty he will look to score first, but will play in a team-mate if it is the more viable option.

The Complete Forward is a combination of all the previous roles. He is strong, fast and technically gifted too. He’ll create chances for himself and others and is the embodiment of creative freedom and selflessness. He leads the line when supported, he drops back and finds the ball when no-one else does. True complete forwards are a rarity due to the combination of attributes required.

The Defensive Forward is a rarely used role in Football Manager. The idea is that he pressures the opposition defence into mistakes and wins the ball before playing it off to a proper striker. And to be honest, it’s rarely used for good reason.

The Trequartista is exactly the same as covered in the AMC section so there is no need to repeat it here.

Choosing a strikers’ role is heavily influenced by the tactic and the players around him. A lone striker is best suited to an Advanced Forward or Complete Forward, though with adequate support, a Poacher, Target Man or Trequartista are viable options too. With a two-man setup, most combinations are viable, especially when a deep/support type is partnered with a Poacher or an Advanced Forward. It is generally advised not to pair two similar types together, though that is not to say it won’t work, just that it is more unlikely.

As I’ve said throughout, there is no right and wrong when picking roles and duties, but it is a good idea to balance defensive, support and attacking players, especially until you have a real understanding of each role, their role in your formation and the players they require. I hope you find this guide informative!

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