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Player Roles Guide for Football Manager

Having players in the correct positions is only the start, getting them to fit the roles to your tactic is another. A Football Manager guide to player roles. Updated for FM 2021.

By on Jan 25, 2021   3569 views   0 comments
Football Manager Guides - Player Roles Guide for Football Manager

Goalkeeper Roles


Goalkeeper
Definition: The Goalkeeper role is having your keeper’s main focus on making saves from shots and collecting crosses. Essentially your keeper is the last line of defense and is the “traditional” keeper. Despite being traditional depending on their attributes they can still play key passes and have excellent distribution.
Roles: Defend – There is only one role and that is to stop goals going in. Simple and straightforward, defend the net.

Sweeper Keeper
Definition: This Goalkeeping role is a mixture between being a standard keeper and a Libero in essence. They will clean up balls from out wide or come out far near or outside their box to play as an extra player or to initiate passes and start counter-attacks with direct through balls. A sweeper keeper does not necessarily mean a brilliant distributor – it means that they can come out quickly and clean up balls by several means including long clearances.
Roles:
  • Defend – The keeper will play a lot more cautious but still try to start attacking or counter-attacking plays. They do not venture too far out of their box when in possession.
  • Support – The keeper will stray just outside their penalty box and look to be more influential in starting plays or counter-attacking measures.
  • Attack – A very “brave” keeper who will travel far outside their area and be heavily involved with the ball at their feet.


Defending Roles


Central Defender
Definition: Main job is to clear the ball from danger when needed to. In certain tactics this includes being good on the feet and maintaining possession.
Roles:
  • Defend – The defender will be more of a “traditional” defender with this role. They will be with their defensive partner(s) in working to break up attacks, preventing the ball from going into the box and marking opposition as a part of your tactic.
  • Stopper – The stopper is the defender who will step up a bit more and close down players, marking earlier in the defensive plays.
  • Cover – This role will make your defender play more as a sweeper, they will drop back a bit further then your defensive partner and sweep up balls and mark overlapping players (has to be made specific with tactics).

Libero
Definition: The libero literally means “to sweep”. They will stay behind the defensive line, looking to sweep up through balls, pick up extra forward players and make goal saving plays. This role has seen more goalkeepers take this role as they play out more from the box. One brilliant positive of this role is the fact that this player allows an extra individual to be further back for taking care of defensive errors and taking possession of bad or loose balls.
Roles:
  • Support – With the Support duty, the libero will step into a midfield role when your team is in possession and look start attacking play. Essentially a deep lying playmaker.
  • Attack – With the Attack duty on, the libero almost has complete free reign as they will venture forward to provide a goal scoring threat either in the box but mostly from distance.

Ball Playing Defender
Definition: This is the more common role seen in today’s football with defenders having to play out of the back and be excellent in passing. They will still have the main duty of being a defender and stop opposition attacks, but they are encouraged to play long balls or start moving forward with splitting balls and passes. This is really key for counter attacks.
Roles:
  • Defend – The defender will not venture forward with this role, they will look to still perform defensive duties and play passes out from the back but their position will be in line with the defensive line or their partner.
  • Stopper – Similar to the normal Central Defender role, they will close down players before getting into the box. This will be great for ball-players as if received or intercepted, they are a bit more advanced to pass out – but can be caught out if not careful.
  • Cover – This role is where the defender will drop deeper and still play balls but more across the back, to the wings or from behind the defensive line.

No-Nonsense Centre Back
Definition: The “old-school” role of a defender with only one thing in mind – clear it and stop attacks. The goal of the defender with this duty is to win the ball and get it cleared up the field and take no risks in doing so.
Roles:
  • Defend – The same role as the Central Defender, staying in line with their defensive partner and break up attacks.
  • Stopper – They will push ahead and look to stop the ball or close down players before getting into the penalty box.
  • Cover – Will drop a touch deeper to sweep up any long balls.


Midfield Roles


Defensive Midfielder
Definition: The main duties of this midfielder is to protect the defensive line when not in possession and support the midfield and advance players when in possession. They also have the key role of holding onto the ball and dictating the tempo or play to allow the defense and attack to reorganize themselves or get in position.
Roles:
  • Defend – They will stay more defensive, similar to being an extra central defender but stay ahead of the defensive line and look to recycle possession efficiently.
  • Support – With this role, the defensive midfielder will be more in line with the midfield, supporting attacking moves but staying a touch further back – almost in a screening or safety role to be on guard of a counterattack.

Deep Lying Playmaker
Definition: Operates in the spaces between the defense and midfield. They aim to start attacking plays by passing out to players or spaces further up the pitch. They are more creative but must also fulfill their defensive duties. Essentially a creative passer from deep.
Roles:
  • Defend – This duty will make the player focus more on the defensive side of game and support attacks but mostly just from passes. Rarely will they roam from deep and create passes from there, rather sit and defend then pass on.
  • Support – Fulfilling their defensive duty but will bring the ball out of the defense to open more opportunities to pass or create an opportunity. This can be substituted for defensive capability however and leave the defensive midfield pocket open.

Ball Winning Midfielder
Definition: The ball winning midfielder has the main role of closing-down the opposition and winning the ball back.
Roles:
  • Defend – With this role, the player will look to win the ball back in front of the defensive line and quickly pass it on to another player.
  • Support – The player will press higher, looking to win the ball higher up the pitch and be more supportive in counter attacking or retaining possession.

Anchor Man
Definition: The main duty of this player is to sit between the defense and midfield. Their main job is to win the ball, intercept moves and runs and if recouping the ball – pass it on to a more creative player. This player is more stagnant in positioning, they do not venture too far forward nor do they drop back as a Libero or extra Centre Back – therefore they do not close down opposition to frequently who are too far forward.
Roles:
  • Defend – There is just one roll for this position, and it makes sense considering their role. They are best suited in a structured system who have the straight-forward task of anchoring the defense, not being too creative nor dribble – essentially as risk free as possible.

Half Back
Definition: A mixture of a roll which can be a bit confusing. The half-back at times will play as an extra center back to help recycle possession or be an extra passing option to continue moving the ball. They also play the roll of being a defensive midfielder by supporting just above the defensive line and offer protection when out of possession.
Roles:
  • Defend – Again another duty with just a defensive role as they don’t adventure forward and are on the pitch to aid the defensive first and foremost.

Regista
Definition: Like a Deep Lying Playmaker but have way more freedom. Overall an aggressive, fast-paced midfielder who will look to press high, dictate the play from deep positions and offer creative outlets or transitional plays. What’s key is the unpredictability as they are given free rein on the pitch positionally – however that can also backfire if not set up properly in your tactic.
Roles:
  • Support – A perfect description of the Regista, an aggressive supporter from the deep midfield position. Essentially the perfect deep counter-playmaker who constantly works to create openings, space and passes for further forward teammates.

Roaming Playmaker
Definition: This player will look to pick up the ball from a deep and work it forward with runs and creativity. They venture forward to outside the opposition penalty area as they look to create or shoot.
Roles:
  • Support – Only one real roll and that is the duty of a Roaming Playmaker. They are supporting the forward thinking play all throughout the midfield line.

Segundo Volante
Definition: A direct translation for Segundo Volante is “Second Steering Wheel”. This player’s role is mainly a defensive role and late support when going forward. They often run with the ball, arrive in an area with a late run and are the “second steering wheel” in supporting the attacking play. Rather than being the “main” player, they are best partnered with an alternate more key or pivotal player such as an Anchor Man or Ball Winning Midfielder.
Roles:
  • Support – The supportive role will make this player support the attack but picking and choosing the opportunities to arrive late in threatening areas. That success is based off their attributes.
  • Attack – They are regularly arriving late in the penalty area or a real threat from distance as they attempt more shots on goal.

Central Midfielder
Definition: The central midfielder is the link player and a hard worker. Rather than being more technically adept like a box-to-box midfielder, the central midfielder will perform varies roles based off instruction, their abilities, and the needs of the team.
Roles:
  • Defend – This role will make the player focus more on the defensive midfield actions; sitting deep, tracking midfield runners and passing lanes and controlling the temp and pace of your team.
  • Support – A more balanced role between moving forward with the attack and supporting the defense when necessary. Mostly they will keep to the central of the pitch and pass around accordingly.
  • Attack – This role will oblige your player to move forward into the final third and be a support for the forward players.
  • Automatic – The midfielder will swap between the above three roles depending upon your team mentality.

Box-to-Box Midfielder
Definition: The “workhorse” of the midfield. Their attributes allow these players to contribute on all avenues of the pitch; attacking means their surging late into the box, have killer passes and provide a threat from distance. In defense it means protecting the back line and disturbing opposition midfield-to-forward play.
Roles:
  • Support – There is only one role and that is the supportive role, which perfectly describes this player. The box-to-box midfielder is the support player in a squad. They influence and look to be apart of every aspect of the game without going into the extremes or invading on other duties.

Advanced Playmaker
Definition: A quick transitional player is the Advanced Playmaker. They aim to turn defense into attack quickly and when not on the ball, will drop and find spaces just above the opposition midfield line and their defense.
Roles:
  • Support – The supportive role is more of the traditional midfielder who will look to play passes and support forward players with runs, open play and passing.
  • Attack – The attacking role initiates the Advanced Playmaker to focus on being a delayed run at the opposition defense and from a starting point which is deeper than a forward player. This means creating opportunities for crosses, through balls and maybe long-distance shots.

Mezzala
Definition: The direct translation is “wing half or half wing(er)”. So, this player is a central player that likes to drift wide but not too far wide as they are only a “half wing” – meaning they operate in the half-spaces. Simplistically in spaces from the center to the wing but not permanently on either extremity. They defend higher up in the midfield line and generally do not have as much defensive responsibility.
Roles:
  • Support – The supportive role sees them work between being a midfield and the “traditional work” along with their role and their contribution further up the pitch.
  • Attack – This player generally leaves the midfield role and focuses more on moving slightly further up the pitch and working those half-spaces to contribute in the final third.

Carrilero
Definition: A direct translation is “railway man” or “con man” which is quite fitting to the football description of this duty being defined as a midfielder who is a “shuttler”. The job of this individual is to cover the lateral areas of the pitch and link the defense with the midfield. It is a deceptive role as they are a support piece of the midfield and link the lines of the midfield – hence the term “shuttler”.
Roles:
Support – The only role makes sense, a Carrilero strictly is a supportive player who covers the lines or “railways” in the midfield position. They are deceptive in their play as they are not very noticeable and aren’t a vertical midfield player. They “shuttle” the ball between the two phases of play and support the team in that aspect.


Flank Roles


Full Back
Definition: The difference between the Full Back and the Wing Back is that the Full Back remains primarily a defensive player but will move forward when the team needs extra width. They are also more of a supportive role when going forward and not necessarily always in attack.
Roles:
  • Defend – They will stay back with the defensive line; in possession they will play simple passes and not take much risk.
  • Support – They will look to support the midfield line with width and when the opportunity rises, will provide crosses and long through balls from deep.
  • Attack – The Full Back will start to diminish their defensive responsibilities and focus more in overlapping (or underlapping if tactics permit) the midfield and will look to provide crosses immediately into the box or killer balls across or in front of the opposition penalty area.
  • Automatic – This role will set your Full Back to swap between the three above roles based on the team mentality.

Wing Back
Definition: The Wing Back fulfills both the attacking duties of a winger and the defensive duties of a full back. They are seen up and down the wide positions on the pitch, looking to put in attacking play up the pitch, support the midfield and fall back into defense.
Roles:
  • Defend – Majority they will stay further back, a bit deeper but will still find space and look to support with passes and crossing in attack.
  • Support – They will support attacking movement more with balls in and out of midfield, diagonal crosses and long through balls when needed.
  • Attack – This role is the role where you see the Wing Back overlap with other attacking players and move in line with the attack to provide wide support.
  • Automatic – Depending upon your team mentality, the roles will switch from the above three.

No-Nonsense Full Back
Definition: Similar to the Non-Nonsense Center Back – focusing predominantly on the defensive duties and rarely bombs forward in supportive or attacking play. Think of a “flat back four” for case in point. These players will be more disciplined and tactically adept to whatever your responsibilities are for them.
Roles:
  • Defend – Self-explanatory, a defensive mindset and role for this position only.

Complete Wing Back
Definition: The complete wing back is competent in defensive but is essentially the attacking full-back. They will move forward to attack whenever possible and push into the opposition’s defensive third naturally.
Roles:
  • Support - Mostly be a supportive role and be smarter in play with their desire to move forward while keeping an eye on their defensive responsibilities.
  • Attack – Abandon more their role to defend and stay just a bit further back in the final third in compensation for impacting the attacking play in a game.

Inverted Wing Back
Definition: An Inverted Wing Back will be a standard wide defender, but they will move in field when in possession rather then stick wide to either create space or be an extra passing option. If teammates are not ahead of this player, they will push forward more and be supportive in the middle of the pitch.
Roles:
  • Defend – They will sit deeper, focusing more on defensive duties depending on the formation and structure of your tactic.
  • Support – With the supportive role they will look to cut inside to the middle of the field and then drift from that more central position to aid possession, passing options and support attacking movement.
  • Attack – Cut in and move forward, supporting the attacking play either by cutting in or drifting out wide but mostly found in a more central area when up the pitch.
  • Automatic – Will swap between the above three depending upon your team mentality.

Wide Midfielder
Definition: The stereotypical player in a standard 4-4-2 – performing both the defensive and attacking duties out wide. They are supportive players who perform work for all three avenues of the pitch: defense, midfield and attack.
Roles:
  • Defend – This role instructs the player to sit back more as a cover for the defense and launch crosses from deep.
  • Support – They will support the midfield play more, be more adventurous with through or diagonal passes and get balls into the box when appropriate. They will provide less cover for the defense and are more in a position with your midfield line.
  • Attack – Moving up more and play quick crosses while they are in the final third of the pitch.
  • Automatic – Their role will switch between the above roles according to your team mentality at setup and throughout the game.

Winger
Definition: Little to say about this role – simplistically its to stick wide towards the sideline, bomb forward either with the ball or beat the opposition and attack the byline.
Roles:
  • Support – The supportive wall sets up the winger to cross early or launch long and through balls forward first and run to the byline to cross into the box.
  • Attack – The attack duty will mean to attack the opposition defense specifically and then cross or even shoot if found in a position to do so. This role is more disruption then being a creative outlet via crossing.

Defensive Winger
Definition: The duty of a Defensive Winger is to press opposition wide players, winning the ball up high the pitch and hold up play if necessary. In attacking play they can either drive to the byline or look to cut in slightly and play passes inwards or long diagonal/through balls.
Roles:
  • Defend – The primary play with the defend role is to be a screen and insurance for the defensive players behind this player. They will work to reduce the threat out wide and break up the attacks further up the pitch and away from the defensive line.
  • Support – Less defensive responsibility and more the traditional wide player who will look to cross the ball early, run past the opposition or pass inwards to the midfield to recycle possession or progress forward.

Wide Playmaker
Definition: The wide playmaker is a dual role. In possession, the player will be a source of creativity by drifting inside or out wide to find space and therefore a chance. Defensively their role is to provide cover for the defensive wide players such as the full back’s – but they will not be astute in defensive capabilities, rather being an “extra body” or covering space in the defensive line.
Roles:
  • Support – When the team is in possession, they will drift into a central midfield position or be just in line with the midfield and act as a creator on the ball.
  • Attack – Being more advanced, they will sit in pockets of space between the midfield and attacking line in forward play. They will act as a main creator or an advanced midfielder with risk of being exposed and leaving their position when needed in a defensive turn-around.

Inverted Winger
Definition: Often confused with an Inside Forward, the Inverted Winger has the goal of creating and opening space for onrushing wide players such as the full backs. Like the Inside Forward they will look to create and focus on their stronger foot which is opposite to the side of the pitch they are positioned on. Inverted Wingers tend to be more in between opposition lines of defense and midfield, focusing more on build up play rather than being a finishing force such as an Inside Forward.
Roles:
  • Support – Supportive role means the wingers will cut into the middle which will open up space outside. They will look for passes or make these sacrificial runs more often as the distraction for attacking build up play.
  • Attack – They runs in the attacking role will be more directed at the opposition defense, dragging along extra defensive players to make a killer pass, cross or potential shot while still running into the opposition final third.

Inside Forward
Definition: More of a common site in the modern game, the inside forward’s goal is to run from out wide towards the center of the opposition’s defense and penalty box. The reason for this is to make use of the player’s strongest foot which is the opposite of the side of the pitch he plays on. This movement allows for your teammates to run into space and commit to overlaps if instructed appropriately.
Roles:
  • Support – Majority of the time they will cut in diagonally across behind the opposition defense or at them. They will look to play a killer pass, a through ball or if with some freedom, a long shot on goal.
  • Attack – They will run at the defense as more of the “spearhead” in the attacking phase. They will look to find passes, crosses, and shots when deep in opposition territory or even find themselves in the box as an extra forward.

Wide Target Man
Definition: Similar to being an “upfront” target man, they will be the target for transitional play, clearances and long balls from the back, but their location is that out wide rather then in middle pockets. The main reason for doing this is to exploit a weaker opposition wide player or find pockets of space in an opposition tactic. All other portions of the role are the same to that of a Target Man.
Roles:
  • Support – The support duty instructs this player to be more upbuilding in attacking play – such as one touch play from headers or long balls to on rushing players, looking for passing lanes and opportunities towards the central players as they cause a nuisance out wide.
  • Attack – Similar to the above but they will make their presence more known by forcing the opposition wide player(s) back with their attacking forward movement or overlapping/underlapping runs into the box once laying off the ball to a central player (your tactics permitting of course).

Raumdeuter
Definition: The Raumdeuter literally means “Space Investigator”. This means that the role of this player is to find pockets of space to operate in – whether out wide or in the middle of the field of play. They use this role to be an extra option in forward play and hold onto possession in the final third – then look for opportunities and little creative “moments” to execute a lethal pass or shot.
Roles:
  • Attack – Self explanatory as these players do not contribute to supportive or defensive play either on or off the ball. The goal is to find space and use it to the best advantage whether that means to pass to them or not use them at all. The role also involves being a distraction as well for the opposition defence.


CENTRAL ATTACK ROLES


Attacking Midfielder
Definition: Plays just in front of the central midfield role, therefore they are not found in deeper positions. They can either play just in front of the opposition’s midfield or just behind, they use their technical and mental abilities to create chances and screw with opposition defenders.
Roles:
  • Support – Rather then trying to press forward in attacking play and get into the opposition box, they will sit back in pockets of space to link play or offer a long-distance attacking threat.
  • Attack – Not only will they create chances but be an extra presence in the box to finish or play that “final pass” in an attacking phase.

Advanced Playmaker
Definition: This player will look to find space in-between the opposition’s midfield and defense. Their main role is be available for their teammates, whether that is to pass to, run into an open space or when out of possession find the pass or run to get onto the attack immediately.
Roles:
  • Support – In the supporting role, the advanced playmaker will look to stay in between the two lines of the opposition and be the main support.
  • Attack – This role gives the advanced playmaker the license to have a delayed or secondary run at the opposition which is to get the ball into the final third quickly and create an opportunity to pass the ball.

Trequartista
Definition: Trequartista literally translates to “Three Quarters”. That is where they will be found as these players are found between the furthest forward attacker and the midfield. They would have the combination role of not only finishing ability but creativity and the vision of a playmaker. They do almost no defensive play and spend their time off the ball finding and drifting into open space so that way when the ball is retained, a pass can pinpoint them and start the attacking play.
Roles:
  • AMC Attack – The attacking role best suits the Trequartista as it defines their role. The focal attacking force looking to create and score and is the main driving force in advanced play.

Enganche
Definition: Enganche directly translated means “Hitch”. That is exactly what this player does, similar to that of a Trequartista, they are the main link and prime creator in joining the midfield and attack. However, they do not move into large areas of space – similar to that of a hitch or a link, it is a key focal point which does not move around much in terms of space – it does one job and that is to link play and become a pivot to teammates around them.
Roles:
  • Support – They are a supportive player in terms of attack, not necessarily supportive in defensive measures such as pressing or dropping deep. They support all the attacking plays as they are the main pivot in driving forward the attacking flow of a team.

Shadow Striker
Definition: Best suited with a partner upfront, the Shadow Striker is a goal-scorer. They look to find themselves in goalscoring positions outside that of their partner striker and close down the opposition when out of possession.
Roles:
  • Attack – Attacking is the only real role of the Shadow Striker, well they do press the opposition – that is only from the front and they do not drop back as in other roles to support the play. They create on and from the front line.

Deep Lying Forward
Definition: Often confused with a pressing forward or false nine – the main idea is to be the link from the midfield or creative advanced midfield play to the attacking line. That means either dropping in space to create and pass, rotate and recycle possession or be the dribbling force to create space when going forward. Idealistically this role is best suited with another striker in your tactic as a partner.
Roles:
  • Support – The majority of this role will bring your player to focus on creating opportunities for teammates and aim to bring them into attacking play.
  • Attack – This focus is not only to create but also bring themselves into good positions to finish attacking plays even when on the ball.

Advanced Forward
Definition: This player has the role of being the main man or “focal point” of attacking moves – that means both creating and scoring. This individual will also chase down balls from the midfield, look to gain possession back (nowhere near as much as a pressing forward), and create if found in the correct position to do so.
Roles:
  • Attack – The main idea is to attack and be the focal point, therefore there will be no real “supportive” or “defensive” roles for this duty.

Target Man
Definition: They physical “big-man” up front who challenges the opponent’s defense and is a “nuisance” for defenders. Ideally the play is brought to them to open up more attacking play.
Roles:
  • Support – The supportive target man will look to win the ball when launched up to them and play passes which will bring other attacking players into the transition.
  • Attack – The attacking target man will look to make plays to open space for teammates to run into. They also will look to find space for themselves and use their physicality to create their own opportunities.

Poacher
Definition: The main goal is to break past the defensive line and score goals. Build up play is not seen from this player as the creative build up is to end with them scoring. They will make runs and plays where their “instincts” will create opportunities both inside and around the box.
Roles:
  • Attack – Straight forward attacking player or the “striker”. The goal (excuse the pain) is to get the ball in the back of the net and they have that “knack” or “instinct” for finding goals.

Complete Forward
Definition: “The all-round forward”, they can shoot, hold up the ball, have that ability to be in the right place at the right time AND can pass the ball. This role is only suited to forwards who are technically adept to perform all those duties – not necessarily high rating attributes – but consistent in majority of their technical attributes.
Roles:
  • Support – This role will make the player focus a bit more on creative play or being the forward catalyst in creating or starting the attack.
  • Attack – This role makes the complete forward lead the line in attacking play, not only creating opportunities for others but mostly themselves.

Pressing Forward
Definition: “First defense is your attack” that is the role of the Pressing Forward. The main duty is to pressure the opposition players who have possession, press them down and make sure the opposition defense does not have too much time on the ball.
Roles:
  • Defend – With this role, the player will look to bring other players into the game first and focus more on the defensive press rather than look to create their own chances.
  • Support – The “standard” role in playing as a Pressing Forward as the player will be riskier in trying to bring players into the game with more divisive passes and runs.
  • Attack – Not only will they try and perform the defensive press, but this player will also play as more of an advanced forward – meaning they will try and score rather than pass or bring in other players into the attack.

False Nine
Definition: A striker or center forward who drops deep into midfield. They do this to drag opposition defenders out of position, exploit space and create lanes for other attacking players.
Roles:
  • Support – Self-explanatory, a forward player who drops back to support the attacking play in more than just one way; creating passes, holding up the ball, supporting overlapping runs, etc.


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