• Central defence = sweeper (SW) + centre backs (CB)

An appropriate responsibility distribution* in central defence can be achieved by considering key tactical roles, symmetry and counterbalancing combinations.

The information provided for each of these considerations is explained in the Playing System Balance guide and the associated tactical theory* guides that it links to.

Example combinations of player roles and duties in central defence are provided in the Example Tactics article.

1. Key Tactical Roles

It is recommended to use orthodox central defenders*, covering central defenders*, safe-playing central defenders* and stopper central defenders*, as detailed below.

1.1. Orthodox Central Defenders

General Usage

Recommended minimum number of players: 2 or 3 (including all centre backs).

However, if you use a vacating player* as an orthodox central defender then you may want to also use an alternative orthodox central defender.

Vacating players:

  • Wide-dribbling central defender => Run Wide With Ball + SW/CB

Tactical Roles

  • Suitable tactical instructions:
    • Sweeper playing position
    • Deep-dropping player
  • Required unactive tactical instructions:
    • Offensive player => Get Further Forward
    • Roaming player => Roam From Position
    • Channel-running player
    • Drifting player
  • Other useful tactical instructions:
    • Restricted-dribbling player => Dribble Less
    • Disciplined-dribbling player
  • Atypical tactical instructions:
    • Dribbling player => Dribble More
    • Wide-dribbling central player (if not also a restricted-dribbling player) => Run Wide With Ball (if Dribble Less is not active)

Player Roles & Duties

  • 5.0 - Designated - Defensive Centre Back (CB Stopper/Cover)
  • 4.0 - Designated - Ball Playing Defender (CB Stopper/Cover)
  • 4.0 - Designated - Defensive Centre Back (CB Defend)
  • 4.0 - Specialist - Sweeper (SW Defend)
  • 3.5 - Designated - Half Back (DM Defend - auxiliary CB)
  • 3.0 - Designated - Central Defender (CB Stopper/Cover)
  • 3.0 - Designated - Ball Playing Defender (CB Defend)
  • 2.0 - Designated - Central Defender (CB Defend)

1.2. Covering Central Defenders

General Usage

Recommended minimum number of players: 1 (or 2 if needed for symmetry - discussed below).

However, if you use a vacating player* as a covering central defender then you may want to also use an alternative covering central defender.

Vacating players:

  • Wide-dribbling central defender => Run Wide With Ball + SW/CB

Tactical Roles

  • Suitable tactical instructions:
    • Sweeper playing position
    • Deep-dropping player
    • Cautious player (or fairly cautious player) => decreased player CLOSING DOWN slider
    • Zonal-marking player
    • Loose-marking player
    • Easy-tackling player => Ease Off Tackles
  • Required unactive tactical instructions:
    • Offensive player => Get Further Forward
    • Roaming player => Roam From Position
    • Channel-running player
    • Drifting player
    • Aggressor (or fairly aggressive player) => increased player CLOSING DOWN slider
    • Man-marking player => Mark Specific Player/Position
    • Tight-marking player => Mark Tighter
    • Hard-tackling player => Tackle Harder
  • Other useful tactical instructions:
    • Restricted-dribbling player => Dribble Less
    • Disciplined-dribbling player
  • Atypical tactical instructions:
    • Dribbling player => Dribble More
    • Wide-dribbling central player (if not also a restricted-dribbling player) => Run Wide With Ball (if Dribble Less is not active)
  • Typically also:
    • Orthodox central defender (analysed above).
    • Protecting central defender (analysed below).
    • (If a covering sweeper) safe-playing sweeper (analysed below).

Player Roles & Duties

  • 5.0 - Specialist - Defensive Centre Back (CB Cover)
  • 4.0 - Specialist - Sweeper (SW Defend)
  • 4.0 - Designated - Defensive Centre Back (CB Defend)
  • 4.0 - Specialist - Ball Playing Defender (CB Cover)
  • 3.0 - Specialist - Central Defender (CB Cover)
  • 3.0 - Designated - Ball Playing Defender (CB Defend)
  • 2.0 - Designated - Central Defender (CB Defend)

1.3. Safe-Playing Central Defenders

General Usage

Recommended minimum number of players: 1.

However, if you use a vacating player* as a safe-playing central defender then you may want to also use an alternative safe-playing central defender.

Vacating players:

  • Offensive central defender => Get Further Forward + SW/CB

Tactical Roles

  • Required active tactical instructions: at least one of the suitable tactical instructions detailed below.
  • Suitable tactical instructions:
    • Safe-passing player => Fewer Risky Passes
    • Restricted-dribbling player => Dribble Less
    • Disciplined-dribbling player
    • Restricted-passing player
    • Safe-passing central defence passer => Fewer Risky Passes and increased player PASSING DIRECTNESS slider
    • Disciplined player
  • Required unactive tactical instructions:
    • Ball-playing player => More Risky Passes
    • Dribbling player => Dribble More
    • Wide-dribbling central player (if not also a restricted-dribbling player) => Run Wide With Ball (if Dribble Less is not active)
    • Passer (if not also a safe-passing central defender) => increased player PASSING DIRECTNESS slider (if Fewer Risky Passes is not active)
    • Restricted-passing central defender => decreased player PASSING DIRECTNESS slider
    • Creative player
  • Other useful tactical instructions:
    • Disciplined-running player => Hold Position
  • Atypical tactical instructions:
    • Roaming player => Roam From Position
    • Channel-running player
    • Drifting player
  • Typically also:
    • (If a safe-playing sweeper) orthodox sweeper (analysed above).

Player Roles & Duties

  • 5.0 - Specialist - Defensive Centre Back (CB Stopper/Cover)
  • 4.0 - Supplementary - Sweeper (SW Defend)
  • 4.0 - Specialist - Defensive Centre Back (CB Defend)
  • 3.5 - Supplementary - Half Back (DM Defend - auxiliary CB)
  • 3.0 - Supplementary - Central Defender (CB Stopper/Cover)
  • 2.0 - Supplementary - Central Defender (CB Defend)

1.4. Stopper Central Defenders

General Usage

Recommended minimum number of players: 1 (or 2 if needed for symmetry - discussed below).

However, if you use a vacating player* as a stopper central defender then you may want to also use an alternative stopper central defender.

Vacating players:

  • Offensive central defender => Get Further Forward + SW/CB

Tactical Roles

  • Suitable tactical instructions:
    • Aggressor (or fairly aggressive player) => increased player CLOSING DOWN slider
    • Man-marking player => Mark Specific Player/Position
    • Tight-marking player => Mark Tighter
    • Hard-tackling player => Tackle Harder
  • Required unactive tactical instructions:
    • Sweeper playing position
    • Cautious player (or fairly cautious player) => decreased player CLOSING DOWN slider
    • Zonal-marking player
    • Loose-marking player
    • Easy-tackling player => Ease Off Tackles
  • Typically also:
    • Orthodox central defender (analysed above).

Player Roles & Duties

  • 5.0 - Designated - Defensive Centre Back (CB Stopper)
  • 4.0 - Designated - Ball Playing Defender (CB Stopper)
  • 4.0 - Supported - Defensive Centre Back (CB Defend)
  • 3.0 - Designated - Central Defender (CB Stopper)
  • 3.0 - Supported - Ball Playing Defender (CB Defend)
  • 2.0 - Supported - Central Defender (CB Defend)

2. Other Tactical Roles

2.1. Running Central Defenders

Tactical Roles

  • Suitable tactical instructions:
    • Offensive player => Get Further Forward
    • Roaming player => Roam From Position
    • Channel-running central player
    • Drifting central player
  • Required unactive tactical instructions:
    • Sitting player => Hold Position
    • Deep-dropping player
    • Disciplined-running player => Hold Position
  • Other useful tactical instructions:
    • Dribbling player
    • Wide-dribbling central player
    • Shot-taking player => Shoot More Often
  • Atypical tactical instructions:
    • Restricted-dribbling player => Dribble Less
    • Disciplined-dribbling player
    • Safe-passing player => Fewer Risky Passes
  • Typically also:
    • Protecting central defender (analysed below).
    • Skilled central defender (analysed below).

Player Roles & Duties

  • 4.0 - Designated - Libero (SW Attack)
  • 3.0 - Supported - Libero (SW Support)

Atypical:

  • 5.5 - Specialist - Inverted Wing Back (FB Attack - auxiliary wide and off-centre centre back) - centre back
  • 3.0 - Supplementary - Inverted Wing Back (FB Support - auxiliary wide and off-centre centre back) - centre back

2.2. Skilled Central Defenders

Tactical Roles

  • Suitable tactical instructions:
    • Ball-playing central player => More Risky Passes
    • Dribbling player
    • Wide-dribbling central player => Run Wide With Ball
    • Hold-up player
    • Passer => increased player PASSING DIRECTNESS slider
    • Creative player
  • Required unactive tactical instructions:
    • Safe-passing central player => Fewer Risky Passes
    • Restricted-dribbling player => Dribble Less
    • Disciplined-dribbling player
    • Restricted-passing player => increased player PASSING DIRECTNESS slider
    • Disciplined player

Player Roles & Duties

  • 5.5 - Specialist - Inverted Wing Back (FB Attack - auxiliary wide and off-centre centre back)
  • 4.0 - Specialist - Ball Playing Defender (CB Stopper)
  • 4.0 - Specialist - Ball Playing Defender (CB Cover)
  • 3.0 - Specialist - Libero (SW Support)
  • 3.0 - Specialist - Ball Playing Defender (CB Defend)
  • 3.0 - Supplementary - Inverted Wing Back (FB Support - auxiliary wide and off-centre centre back)

Vacating:

  • 4.0 - Specialist - Libero (SW Attack) - offensive central defender

2.3. Protecting Central Defenders

Tactical Roles

  • Suitable tactical instructions:
    • Cautious player (or fairly cautious player) => decreased player CLOSING DOWN slider
    • Sweeper playing position
    • Zonal-marking player
    • Loose-marking player
    • Easy-tackling player => Ease Off Tackles
  • Required unactive tactical instructions:
    • Aggressor (or fairly aggressive player) => increased player CLOSING DOWN slider
    • Man-marking player => Mark Specific Player/Position
    • Tight-marking player => Mark Tighter
    • Hard-tackling player => Tackle Harder

Player Roles & Duties

  • All of the covering central defenders listed separately above.
  • 5.5 - Supplementary - Inverted Wing Back (FB Attack)
  • 4.5 - Supplementary - Inverted Wing Back (FB Defend)
  • 3.0 - Specialist - Libero (SW Support)
  • 3.0 - Supplementary - Inverted Wing Back (FB Support)

Vacating:

  • 4.0 - Specialist - Libero (SW Attack) - offensive central defender

2.4. Withdrawn Central Defenders

The withdrawn central defender role category is a 'broader' version of the orthodox central defender role category.

Tactical Roles

  • Suitable tactical instructions: as for orthodox central defenders required active and suitable tactical instructions detailed above.
  • Required unactive tactical instructions: as for orthodox central defenders detailed above.
  • Other useful tactical instructions: as for orthodox central defenders detailed above.
  • Atypical tactical instructions: as for orthodox central defenders detailed above.

Player Roles & Duties

  • All of the orthodox central defenders listed separately above.
  • 3.0 - Supplementary - Libero (SW Support)

2.5. Restrained Central Defenders

The restrained central defender role category is a 'broader' version of the covering central defender role category.

Tactical Roles

  • Suitable tactical instructions: as for covering central defenders required active and suitable tactical instructions detailed above.
  • Required unactive tactical instructions: as for covering central defenders detailed above.
  • Other useful tactical instructions: as for covering central defenders detailed above.
  • Atypical tactical instructions: as for covering central defenders detailed above.
  • Typically also:
    • Withdrawn central defender (analysed above).
    • Protecting central defender (analysed above).

Player Roles & Duties

  • All of the covering central defenders listed separately above.
  • 3.0 - Supplementary - Libero (SW Support)

2.6. Restricted Central Defenders

The restricted central defender role category is a 'broader' version of the safe-playing central defender role category.

Tactical Roles

  • Suitable tactical instructions: as for safe-playing central defenders detailed above.
  • Required unactive tactical instructions: as for safe-playing central defenders detailed above.
  • Other useful tactical instructions: as for safe-playing central defenders detailed above.
  • Atypical tactical instructions: as for safe-playing central defenders detailed above.

Player Roles & Duties

  • All of the safe-playing central defenders listed separately above.

3. Symmetry

If using one or more wide and off-centre centre backs; for example, when using a three-man central defence* or when using one or more narrow full backs as auxiliary wide and off-centre centre backs, then it is recommended to use covering and stopper central defenders symmetrically.

For example, for covering central defenders this can be achieved by using:

  • A wide RCB as well as a wide LCB,
  • A (non-wide) RCB or LCB, or
  • A SW or CCB ...

... As covering central defenders.

4. Counterbalancing Combinations

It is recommended to assign appropriate counterbalancing* tactical roles* when using particular types of restrained central defender and stopper central defender.

4.1. Restrained Central Defenders

A restrained central defender who focuses more on providing defensive cover*, such as ...

  • ... Sweeper (SW Defend),
  • Libero (SW Support)
  • Central Defender (CB Cover),
  • Ball Playing Defender (CB Cover), or
  • Defensive Centre Back (CB Cover), ...

... Can be balanced with either:

  • Two stopper central defenders (listed above), or
  • ... Defensive Centre Back (CB Stopper),
  • Central Defender (CB Stopper), or
  • Ball Playing Defender (CB Stopper).

4.2. Stopper Central Defenders

A stopper central defender who focuses more on applying defensive pressure*, such as ...

  • ... Defensive Centre Back (CB Stopper),
  • Central Defender (CB Stopper), or
  • Ball Playing Defender (CB Stopper), ...

... Can be balanced with either:

  • Two restrained central defenders (listed above), or
  • ... Sweeper (SW Defend),
  • Libero (SW Support),
  • Central Defender (CB Cover),
  • Ball Playing Defender (CB Cover), or
  • Defensive Centre Back (CB Cover).