• Central midfield = defensive midfielders (DM) + centre midfielders (CM)

An appropriate responsibility distribution* in central midfield 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 midfield are provided in the Role Combinations guide.

1. Key Tactical Roles

It is recommended to use covering central midfielders*, pressing central midfielders*, number-eight central midfielders*, central midfield water-carriers* and central midfield creators*, as detailed below.

1.1. Covering Central Midfielders

Number of players: 1

Tactical roles:

Player Roles & Duties

  • 5.0 - Specialist - Anchor Man (DM Defend)
  • 3.5 - Specialist - Deep Lying Playmaker (DM Defend/Support)
  • 3.5 - Specialist - Half Back (DM Defend)
  • 3.0 - Designated - Deep Lying Playmaker (CM Defend/Support)
  • 2.0 - Designated - Defensive Midfielder (DM Defend)
  • 1.5 - Designated - Central Midfielder (CM Defend)

1.2. Pressing Central Midfielders

Number of players: 1 (separate to the covering central midfielder)

Tactical roles:

Player Roles & Duties

  • 5.5 - Specialist - Ball Winning Midfielder (DM/CM Defend)
  • 5.5 - Supplementary - Wide Playmaker (WM Attack - auxiliary* wide and off-centre CM)
  • 4.0 - Supplementary - Wide Playmaker (WM Support - auxiliary wide and off-centre CM)
  • 3.5 - Supplementary - Advanced Playmaker (CM Attack)
  • 3.5 - Supplementary - Defensive Winger (WM Defend - auxiliary wide and off-centre CM)
  • 3.0 - Supported - Deep Lying Playmaker (CM Defend/Support)
  • 3.0 - Supplementary - Advanced Playmaker (CM Support)
  • 2.5 - Specialist - Ball Winning Midfielder (DM/CM Support)
  • 2.5 - Supplementary - Roaming Playmaker (CM Support)
  • 2.0 - Supported - Defensive Midfielder (DM Defend)
  • 2.0 - Supported - Roaming Playmaker (DM Support)
  • 2.0 - Supplementary - Defensive Winger (WM Support - auxiliary wide and off-centre CM)
  • 1.5 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Defend)
  • 1.5 - Supplementary - Box To Box Midfielder (CM Support)
  • 0.5 - Supplementary - Defensive Midfielder (DM Support)
  • 0.5 - Supported - Carrilero (Off-Centre CM Support)
  • 0.0 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Support)

Vacating:

  • 4.0 - Supplementary - Mezzala (Off-Centre CM Attack) - offensive centre midfielder
  • 3.0 - Supplementary - Mezzala (Off-Centre CM Support) - offensive centre midfielder
  • 1.0 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Attack) - offensive centre midfielder

1.3. Number-Eight Central Midfielders

Number of players: 1

Tactical roles:

Player Roles & Duties

  • 5.5 - Supplementary - Inverted Wing Back (FB Attack - auxiliary* wide and off-centre DM)
  • 5.5 - Specialist - Inverted Wing Back (WB Attack - auxiliary wide and off-centre DM)
  • 5.5 - Supplementary - Wide Playmaker (WM Attack - auxiliary wide and off-centre CM)
  • 4.0 - Supported - Libero (SW Attack - auxiliary DM)
  • 4.0 - Specialist - Mezzala (Off-Centre CM Attack)
  • 4.0 - Supplementary - Wide Playmaker (WM Support - auxiliary wide and off-centre CM)
  • 3.5 - Supported - Advanced Playmaker (CM Attack)
  • 3.0 - Supported - Advanced Playmaker (CM Support)
  • 3.0 - Specialist - Mezzala (Off-Centre CM Support)
  • 3.0 - Supplementary - Inverted Wing Back (WB Support - auxiliary wide and off-centre DM)
  • 2.5 - Supported - Ball Winning Midfielder (DM/CM Support)
  • 2.5 - Supplementary - Regista (DM Support)
  • 2.5 - Supplementary - Roaming Playmaker (CM Support)
  • 2.5 - Designated - Inverted Winger (WM Attack - auxiliary wide and off-centre CM)
  • 2.0 - Supplementary - Roaming Playmaker (DM Support)
  • 2.0 - Designated - Segundo Volante (Off-Centre DM Attack)
  • 1.5 - Supplementary - Box To Box Midfielder (CM Support)
  • 1.5 - Supported - Inverted Winger (WM Support - auxiliary wide and off-centre CM)
  • 1.0 - Designated - Central Midfielder (CM Attack)
  • 0.5 - Supported - Defensive Midfielder (DM Support)
  • 0.5 - Supported - Segundo Volante (Off-Centre DM Support)
  • 0.5 - Supplementary - Carrilero (Off-Centre CM Support)
  • 0.0 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Support)

1.4. Central Midfield Water-Carriers

Number of players: 1

Tactical roles:

Player Roles & Duties

  • 5.5 - Specialist - Ball Winning Midfielder (DM/CM Defend)
  • 5.0 - Specialist - Anchor Man (DM Defend)
  • 2.5 - Supplementary - Ball Winning Midfielder (DM/CM Support)
  • 2.0 - Supplementary - Defensive Midfielder (DM Defend)
  • 1.5 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Defend)
  • 0.5 - Supported - Defensive Midfielder (DM Support)
  • 0.5 - Supported - Segundo Volante (Off-Centre DM Support)
  • 0.0 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Support)

Atypical:

  • 1.5 - Supported - Box To Box Midfielder (CM Support) - roaming player
  • 0.5 - Supported - Carrilero (Off-Centre CM Support) - drifting player

Vacating:

  • 3.5 - Supplementary - Half Back (DM Defend) - deep-dropping defensive midfielder
  • 1.0 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Attack) - offensive centre midfielder

Atypical and vacating:

  • 3.0 - Supported - Mezzala (Off-Centre CM Support) - offensive, roaming and channel-running centre midfielder

1.5. Central Midfield Creators

Number of players: 1

Tactical roles:

Player Roles & Duties

  • 5.5 - Specialist - Inverted Wing Back (FB/WB Attack - auxiliary* wide and off-centre DM)
  • 5.5 - Specialist - Wide Playmaker (WM Attack - auxiliary wide and off-centre CM)
  • 4.0 - Supplementary - Wide Playmaker (WM Support - auxiliary wide and off-centre CM)
  • 3.5 - Supplementary - Deep Lying Playmaker (DM Defend/Support)
  • 3.5 - Specialist - Advanced Playmaker (CM Attack)
  • 3.0 - Specialist - Libero (SW Support - auxiliary DM)
  • 3.0 - Supplementary - Deep Lying Playmaker (CM Defend/Support)
  • 3.0 - Specialist - Advanced Playmaker (CM Support)
  • 3.0 - Supplementary - Inverted Wing Back (FB/WB Support - auxiliary wide and off-centre DM)
  • 2.5 - Supplementary - Regista (DM Support)
  • 2.5 - Supplementary - Roaming Playmaker (CM Support)
  • 2.5 - Supplementary - Inverted Winger (WM Attack - auxiliary wide and off-centre CM)
  • 2.0 - Supplementary - Roaming Playmaker (DM Support)
  • 1.5 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Defend)
  • 1.5 - Supported - Box To Box Midfielder (CM Support)
  • 1.5 - Supplementary - Inverted Winger (WM Support - auxiliary wide and off-centre CM)
  • 0.5 - Supported - Defensive Midfielder (DM Support)
  • 0.5 - Supported - Segundo Volante (Off-Centre DM Support)
  • 0.5 - Supported - Carrilero (Off-Centre CM Support)
  • 0.0 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Support)

Atypical:

  • 4.0 - Specialist - Libero (SW Attack - auxiliary DM) - shot-taking player
  • 2.0 - Supported - Segundo Volante (Off-Centre DM Attack) - shot-taking player

Vacating:

  • 4.0 - Designated - Mezzala (Off-Centre CM Attack) - offensive centre midfielder
  • 3.0 - Supported - Mezzala (Off-Centre CM Support) - offensive centre midfielder
  • 1.0 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Attack) - offensive centre midfielder

2. Other Tactical Roles

2.1. Restrained Central Midfielders

Player Roles & Duties

  • All of the covering central midfielders listed separately above
  • 0.5 - Supplementary - Segundo Volante (Off-Centre DM Support)
  • 0.0 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Support)

2.2. Withdrawn Central Midfielders

Player Roles & Duties

  • All of the covering central midfielders listed separately above
  • 5.5 - Designated - Ball Winning Midfielder (DM/CM Defend)
  • 3.0 - Supplementary - Libero (SW Support - auxiliary* DM)
  • 3.0 - Supported - Advanced Playmaker (CM Support)
  • 2.5 - Supported - Ball Winning Midfielder (DM/CM Support)
  • 0.5 - Supported - Defensive Midfielder (DM Support)
  • 0.5 - Supported - Segundo Volante (Off-Centre DM Support)
  • 0.0 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Support)

Atypical:

  • 3.5 - Supported - Advanced Playmaker (CM Attack) - dribbling player

2.3. Number-Six Central Midfielders

Player Roles & Duties

  • All of the covering central midfielders listed separately above
  • 5.5 - Designated - Ball Winning Midfielder (DM/CM Defend)

2.4. Protecting Central Midfielders

Player Roles & Duties

  • All of the covering central midfielders listed separately above
  • 5.5 - Supplementary - Inverted Wing Back (WB Attack - auxiliary* wide and off-centre DM)
  • 4.5 - Supplementary - Inverted Wing Back (WB Defend - auxiliary wide and off-centre DM)
  • 3.0 - Supplementary - Inverted Wing Back (WB Support - auxiliary wide and off-centre DM)
  • 2.5 - Supplementary - Regista (DM Support)
  • 2.0 - Supported - Roaming Playmaker (DM Support)
  • 2.0 - Supplementary - Segundo Volante (Off-Centre DM Attack)
  • 0.5 - Supplementary - Segundo Volante (Off-Centre DM Support)
  • 0.5 - Supported - Carrilero (Off-Centre CM Support)
  • 0.0 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Support)

Vacating:

  • 1.0 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Attack) - offensive centre midfielder

2.5. Central Midfield Goal-Scorers

Player Roles & Duties

  • 5.5 - Supported - Inverted Wing Back (FB/WB Attack - auxiliary* wide and off-centre DM)
  • 4.0 - Designated - Libero (SW Attack - auxiliary DM)
  • 3.0 - Supported - Inverted Wing Back (WB Support - auxiliary wide and off-centre DM)
  • 2.5 - Supported - Ball Winning Midfielder (DM/CM Support)
  • 2.5 - Supported - Regista (DM Support)
  • 2.5 - Supported - Roaming Playmaker (CM Support)
  • 2.5 - Supported - Inverted Winger (WM Attack - auxiliary wide and off-centre CM)
  • 2.0 - Supported - Roaming Playmaker (DM Support)
  • 2.0 - Designated - Segundo Volante (Off-Centre DM Attack)
  • 1.5 - Supported - Box To Box Midfielder (CM Support)
  • 1.5 - Supported - Inverted Winger (WM Support - auxiliary wide and off-centre CM)
  • 0.5 - Supported - Defensive Midfielder (DM Support)
  • 0.5 - Supported - Segundo Volante (Off-Centre DM Support)
  • 0.5 - Supported - Carrilero (Off-Centre CM Support)
  • 0.0 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Support)

Atypical:

  • 5.5 - Supported - Ball Winning Midfielder (DM/CM Defend) - holding and restricted-dribbling player
  • 4.5 - Supported - Inverted Wing Back (WB Defend - auxiliary* wide and off-centre DM) - sitting player
  • 3.0 - Supported - Libero (SW Support - auxiliary DM) - sitting player
  • 3.0 - Supported - Inverted Wing Back (FB Support - auxiliary wide and off-centre DM) - sitting player
  • 2.0 - Supported - Defensive Midfielder (DM Defend) - holding and restricted-dribbling player
  • 1.5 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Defend) - holding player

Vacating:

  • 4.0 - Supported - Mezzala (Off-Centre CM Attack) - offensive centre midfielder
  • 3.0 - Supported - Mezzala (Off-Centre CM Support) - offensive centre midfielder
  • 1.0 - Supported - Central Midfielder (CM Attack) - offensive centre midfielder

Atypical and vacating:

  • 3.5 - Supported - Half Back (DM Defend) - holding, deep-dropping and restricted-dribbling defensive midfielder

3. Symmetry

If using wide and off-centre central midfielders; for example, when using positional structures* such as ...

  • ... A lone central midfielder,
  • A staggered central midfield partnership,
  • A three-man centre midfield,
  • An asymmetric box central midfield,
  • A diamond central midfield, or
  • Lone wide players, ...

... then it is recommended to use covering, pressing and number-eight central midfielders symmetrically.

For example, this can be achieved by using either:

  • One covering central midfielder between two pressing number-eight central midfielders, or
  • Two covering central midfielders either side of a pressing number-eight central midfielder.

4. Counterbalancing Combinations

It is recommended to assign appropriate counterbalancing* tactical roles* when using particular types of restrained central midfielder, pressing central midfielder and number-eight central midfielder.

4.1. Restrained Central Midfielders

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

  • ... Anchor Man (DM Defend), or
  • Half Back (DM Defend), ...

... Or, to a lesser extent, ...

  • ... Deep Lying Playmaker (DM Defend/Support), or
  • Segundo Volante (Off-Centre DM Support), ...

... Can be balanced with either:

  • Two pressing central midfielders (listed above), or
  • ... Ball Winning Midfielder (DM/CM Defend/Support) ...

... Or, to a lesser extent, ...

  • ... Defensive Midfielder (DM Support),
  • Box To Box Midfielder (CM Support),
  • Advanced Playmaker (CM Support/Attack),
  • Roaming Playmaker (CM Support), or
  • Mezzala (Off-Centre CM Support/Attack).

4.2. Pressing Central Midfielders

A pressing central midfielder who focuses more on applying defensive pressure*, such as ...

  • ... Ball Winning Midfielder (DM/CM Defend/Support), ...

... Or, to a lesser extent, ...

  • ... Defensive Midfielder (DM Support),
  • Box To Box Midfielder (CM Support),
  • Advanced Playmaker (CM Support/Attack),
  • Roaming Playmaker (CM Support), or
  • Mezzala (Off-Centre CM Support/Attack), ...

... Can be balanced with either:

  • Two restrained central midfielders (listed above), or
  • ... Anchor Man (DM Defend), or
  • Half Back (DM Defend), ...

... Or, to a lesser extent, ...

  • ... Deep Lying Playmaker (DM Defend/Support), or
  • Segundo Volante (Off-Centre DM Support).

4.3. Number-Eight Central Midfielders

A (non-auxiliary) number-eight central midfielder who focuses more on stretching play*, such as ...

  • ... Regista (DM Support),
  • Roaming Playmaker (DM/CM Support),
  • Segundo Volante (Off-Centre DM Attack),
  • Central Midfielder (CM Attack),
  • Box To Box Midfielder (CM Support),
  • Mezzala (Off-Centre CM Support/Attack), or
  • Carrilero (Off-Centre CM Support) ...

... Can be balanced with either:

  • One restrained central midfielder (listed above) and (separately) one withdrawn central midfielder (listed above), or
  • ... Deep Lying Playmaker (DM Defend),
  • Anchor Man (DM Defend), or
  • Half Back (DM Defend).

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