In the last article I wrote, I spoke about one of the changes I had made in the W-M formation and how I changed the inverted wing-back to a complete wing-back. This article also follows suite discussing another change I made, which was a knock on effect of changing the wing-back role. This time I’m focusing on the roaming playmaker role and why I switched the role to a central midfielder on attack duty.
One of the main reasons for originally using the roaming playmaker was down to his drive and him involving himself in the build-up play. A roaming playmaker can be the driving force of any midfield and can be used from the defensive midfield position or the central midfield position. If you took the high energy game of the box to box midfielder and mixed it with a more creative role like a deep-lying midfielder or advanced playmaker, then what you get is a roaming playmaker. Let’s take a look of what the game says about the roaming playmaker;
The Roaming Playmaker is the heartbeat of his team, driving forward with the ball to spearhead attacks as well as tracking back to cover defensively. Always offering a passing option to teammates, the Roaming Playmaker must have the physical attributes to maintain a high intensity as well as the technical attributes to stamp his authority on the game.
He will look to pick the ball up in a deep position and work the ball forwards with urgency, all the while keeping up with play. The Roaming Playmaker will often camp on the edge of the penalty area looking for room to shoot to try that killer ball which creates a goalscoring opportunity.
You can see from the game's description of the role that it’s a very demanding role that needs a specific type of player to work how you’d expect. Due to this role being a playmaking role, it also has under the hood behaviours attached to it. This involves players knowing you use a playmaking role and will look to play through this player more than usual due to the mechanics of the game.
The role can be customised a fair bit to give you a different take on the role if needed.
We can see here how the instructions make the roaming playmaker play and which instructions we can change. Regardless of how you set him up though, his main job will always be that of a playmaker above all else. This doesn’t mean he won’t do other things and it’s not unusual to see him score the odd goal. But it’s worth remembering what his primary role is.
Here we can see his stats from various games were this player played the roaming playmaker role;
We can see he is very involved with play and sees a lot of the ball in terms of passes he makes. Over the course of the season, he’s also scored a few goals and grabbed a few assists too.
The above screenshot gives us a quick snapshot of what the player does and gives a little indication of how he’s playing in matches. On face value, it looks like he’s doing very well and that would be true. However, his play is limiting some of the others in the team which might seem strange when you consider how effective the roaming playmaker seems to be.
This is why context is the key to everything and you need to understand how the stats translate to game performances. You need to analyse that the play is helping the team and not holding them back as a whole. I want everyone in the team to be the best they can for the team and not themselves. To understand more about this we need to look at what the roaming playmaker actually offers the team in the W-M formation that I use.
The roaming playmaker is the player circled. He’s been on the ball a few seconds already but because he didn’t release the ball early enough, all the movement in front of him has come to a standstill. This means that the two most advanced players now have to drop deep in search to find the ball. The other two players behind the roaming playmaker are making forward runs to now join the attack. However, the roaming playmaker doesn’t use any of them and yet again the move breaks down.
A little later in the move, we can see how the roaming playmaker has driven across the midfield without releasing the ball. This means that both the inside forward and the striker have not been used and any movement they made in the build-up to the move, was all wasted and this is not a good thing at all. One of the reasons why this is bad is because it’s now made us very static up top. It’s hard to see where the support will now come from. The opposition has many players back to deal with any threat of my attacking players. None of the roles I use elsewhere in this system is going to break the lines or get forward and provide help either, meaning we’ve become very flat.
Although the roaming playmaker doesn’t come with the ‘dribble more’ player instruction activated, the fact he is a playmaker has made him make the decision to dwell on the ball far longer than he should have. This made the only real option he had was to dribble with the ball because he’d failed to use any of the support provided. Throughout the entirety of the first season, I saw this happen a lot but I never did anything about it. But after getting promoted it’s these little things that tend to hold you back and cause you issues against a better calibre of player and teams.
If I’d have just looked at the player's individual contribution to the team and based how he’d played on his stats for the entire season, I’d have thought he was doing his job but he isn’t. Well, I guess he is to some extent but it’s a hindrance to the rest of the side on occasions. If you’ve read any of my stuff before you’ll know that I’m always banging the drum about knowing how the roles and duties you use throughout the side, all link together. And it’s for reasons like the above, that it’s so vital to know how everything links together.
Here is another example of him not being forward-thinking enough.
In this example, we can see he is just about to receive the ball and has all the time in the world to turn in either direction with little real pressure from the opposition. But he doesn’t, when he receives the ball he just passes backwards and then gets the ball back yet again but then does exactly the same thing again. Keeping possession is fine I have no issue with that. My concern is that the passing is just for the sake of it and we aren’t using the ball or the pitch how I would like. If he took a few seconds to turn and move forward then we’d cause all kind of issues.
Whether it resulted in a goal or a chance it really wouldn’t matter. All that matters is we’d be using the players who are making runs or dropping off the front. If we are passing it backwards in nice triangles, this isn’t going to hurt anyone or create anything at all.
It’s due to all these little types of things that I decided to change the role to something more proactive who will focus on going forward more rather than keeping things nice and tidy and dwelling on the ball. I could probably keep things as they are and do okay and win games but I’ll not be getting the best out of the team.
If we immediately jump to the recent games I have played (I’m now in season Two) we can notice two things straight away compared to the roaming playmaker above.
- The central midfielder sees a lot less of the ball than the roaming playmaker did.
- The central midfielder seems to be more of a goal threat and has scored a fair few.
The central midfielder role is more focused on running and scoring goals and offering support, rather than being a creative outlet. It’s a very aggressive, forward-thinking role. So this explains why he sees less of the ball but seems better from an attacking perspective.
One of the biggest changes that I noticed throughout the second season was what is highlighted above. In this screenshot, we see the halfback on the ball and he hits it to the inside forward. In the first season, nine times out of ten this kind of thing didn’t happen as the ball would be played to the roaming playmaker. But because we don’t have that role now, the play isn’t as forced or centred around one specific player as much. This means we now attack much differently in this second season and are putting sides on the back foot with a simple ball like this.
The inside forwards are now scoring more goals this season, a lot more. This is a knock on effect of allowing players to dictate who they pass to and when rather than having play channelled towards a playmaker. The play wasn’t always channelled towards the playmaker mind but all playmaking roles do have a bias attached to them, meaning it happens frequently.
There is one downside to having a central midfielder on attack duty now though as this has added extra pressure to the two halfbacks. As the roaming playmaker would get back and help defend. While the central midfielder still helps with this, he also has more ground to make up as he’s getting in and around the box almost every attack we make. So the middle of the pitch is more vulnerable and exposed so I’ve had to make a change to one of the halfbacks. One of them (the left sided one) is now an anchorman so he just sits and protects the midfield. I’ll touch upon this in greater detail in the next chapter though.
In this example, we now see how the pitch has opened up and how we are using it much better. The ball is played to the central midfielder who then has acres of space to run into and the inside forward is already making the run forward. This then allows these players to use the space that has opened up. It’s important I use the full pitch as this is what will unlock stubborn defences and create chances in general, as it runs the opposition ragged.
We can see that the role is very customisable but don’t let the lack of instructions fool you as to what he does. The role is basically that of a runner and will see the player make aggressive runs into the final third and support attacks. He still defends too, the role is very rounded and you can expect the player to do a bit of everything. But on attack duty, he is very aggressive.
His movement from deep can cause lots of issues for the opposition because he is so hard to pick up and mark. Especially when he is playing alongside a mezzala who is also running forward at every opportunity. Both players are committing the opposition to either tracking them or allowing them space to run into. If they get tracked then this opens up space for either the other midfielder, the inside forward or the striker. It’s all about creating opportunities in many different ways and making the opposition make decisions. The key here is that any decision the opposition makes, it will always be likely the wrong one because of the variety we have in the way we attack.
It’s one of the reasons why I always stress variety is key. You can build systems that make life difficult for the opposition, whether it be the AI or a human manager. The principles are the same. Force them into decisions that have knock-on effects for the other players in your side and that frees them from their marker, makes them space to use and so on.
I don’t want to show too many examples so I’ll likely wrap the article up here. The reason being is the next part is likely the last one on this subject. So it’ll be explaining what everyone's job is in the side and how this makes us function as a unit. I’ll show examples of creating space, defending space, creating chances and so on.