The Spanish Libero and the Invisible Wall

I’ve wrote about the Libero a couple of times in the past and it always generates a lot of discussion. However, I’ve never written about it as  in-depth as this article. Not only will I focus on how the Libero works, I will also be discussing what doesn’t and how the role could be changed to be better. There are a lot of issues with the Libero role on Football Manager but the role does work, it’s more that the role could work so much better. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t currently work, it just means we need to learn what the role actually does in Football Manager and what to expect from the exotic role.

The Libero

The libero is a role that is really specialised in terms of the type of player you need for it to be successful. It’s also a really demanding role and is probably the most demanding on the game. You can have success of some kind with a libero in the lower leagues but there is a reason why we don’t see it used often and that’s a player quality issue. It’s really hard to find a suitable player for the role and even then, it requires a specific type of training to focus on the required attributes needed. Attributes alone aren’t enough though and the player needs PPM’s to fulfill the role to its full potential.

Without the required attributes and PPM’s you won’t be getting the most out of the role, which is a complete waste. If you aren’t going to fully commit the time needed to find the right player and to develop him, then you’re much better off using a different role entirely. It’s not something that can be half arsed unlike most other roles on Football Manager.

You can use a libero at any footballing level if you want, I have frequently. However it’s only when you find that one quality player, that you then can fully appreciate the libero role. It can be very time-consuming finding the correct player for the role as well as training them to be the best they can. It’s very much a long-term strategy in my opinion. That doesn’t mean you can’t play them in the role straight away. It just means to fully unlock the potential of the role, it will require time.

One thing we need to clear up first though is that a sweeper and a Libero are two different things. I often see people talking about wanting to use a Libero and then they use a sweeper. Both roles do two completely different things. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two roles so we have some basic knowledge of what to expect.

Sweeper – This role doesn’t really allow the player to venture forward due to it only coming with a defend duty. It’s more focused on the defensive aspects of the game. It will see the player drop behind the defensive line to help cover and ‘sweep’ up any through balls, balls over the top, mistakes the other defenders make and generally pick up any attackers. He will still do all the nitty-gritty stuff you’d expect like tackling, interceptions and regaining possession.

Libero – You can expect the libero to do all of the above but the role changes dramatically when you have possession of the ball. The roles come with two duties, those being a support and attacking duty. If you use a libero on a support duty he will act like a defensive midfielder when in possession for most parts and look to play the ball to the attacking players. A bit like a deep-lying playmaker but without the playmaking attachment that roles comes with.

On an attacking duty you will see the player act more like a central midfielder or attacking midfielder depending on the system you use and how good the player is. It’s not out of the question to see him scoring goals or even providing assists and dictating the game from areas deep in the oppositions half.

Development

I mentioned above how the players attributes will determine what he does, this isn’t the sole factor but it is one of the major deciding factors. Other things like the actual system he plays in, the duties/roles around him and even Team Instructions will further impact and either enhance his role in the system or detract from it. This will be covered in more detail a bit further down.

When I originally signed him, he was a midfielder but I saw the huge potential for him being a libero. In fact, it’s very rare that I sign a centre back who I think would make a good libero long-term, they’re extremely rare to come across. In the majority of cases I always tend to look at strikers, attacking midfielders, wing-backs or central midfielders instead. I find that these players have more of the ideal attributes that I’d be looking for.

It’s generally a good idea to focus on attributes rather than an actual position someone has set when looking at players. After all, you want a libero for his attacking elements during play rather than his defensive qualities. That’s not to say they can’t have both but generally it’s harder to find someone more rounded for what you need, without a bit of luck.

Attributes

The game suggests required attributes for a libero but I think they list far too many. I like to simplify it from those suggested. But first let’s take a look at what the game says a libero needs;

That’s an awful lot of attributes for one position and it’s almost impossible to find anyone who fulfills the entire criteria required. So I’ve decided to break it down for the type of libero I want my player to be. I can add and even remove some of those attributes as they aren’t a priority for me or I rank other attributes as being more useful.

Technical Attributes

DribblingThis for me is the bread and butter of a libero (technical attribute wise) as I want to encourage him to come forward and be confident in doing so. The player above doesn’t actually have an ideal dribbling rating for me, so even though the player might look amazing, he lacks an important attribute. What this means is that at times, he doesn’t dribble as far as I’d like or he isn’t as assured dribbling as I’d like. It’s not a massive stumbling block but it’s an important one that changes the way the player plays. I’ll cover this in the analysis lower down.

Heading – For me this is not a requirement. I view it as more of a bonus. The key here is to make sure the other defenders make up for whatever the libero lacks. It’s important they all compliment each other. That doesn’t mean all the players need to be the same. I just require them all to cover all the defensive bases between them.

Long Shots – Whether you want a high attribute for this entirely depends what you want from the player. I expect him to score when an opportunity arises and due to the areas he takes up in attacks, then I value this very highly. He tends to hang around just outside the oppositions box so it’s a very handy attribute for him to possess.

Marking – I actually don’t mind the defensive qualities of the player being lower than the attacking attributes I favour. If I wanted someone more defensive minded I’d just use a normal defender or a sweeper role instead.

Passing – Essential! It’s no use having someone come forward and play in midfield if they can’t pass accurately and find their teammates.

Tackling – Again this falls under the same category as marking for me. As long as it’s not very low it’s fine. By very low, for the level I’m at, 12+ is okay I find.

Technique – This isn’t on the games recommended list but for me it’s a must. There is no point having someone who can dribble/pass etc if he isn’t comfortable with the ball at his feet and isn’t capable of pulling off difficult passes.

Mental Attributes

I won’t list all of these attributes as ideally you’d want someone with them all that are high. However I do prioritise;

Off the ball – A player must have 12+ for this as a minimum, ideally I’d want a lot higher. As it will determine what he does out of possession when we attack.

Work Rate – This isn’t on the list in-game but you don’t want a lazy libero do you? Especially as you expect him to go up and down the pitch.

Teamwork – Out of all the mental attributes, this is probably the most interesting one as this can change drastically what a player does. If you want a selfish libero then you’d value this attribute low. If you want more of a team player then you’d want a high attribute for it. Having a selfish libero can encourage him to drive forward more with the ball, take more shots and so on. Teamwork is the player’s ability to follow/stray away from his tactical settings. A low attribute here might not be a bad thing.

It’s one of the reasons you need to determine what type of libero you want, as you can have a few different kinds who have small subtle changes to their play style based on the attribute skill set they have.

Physical Attributes

All of these attributes are important as they’ll determine how quickly a player will get tired, how fast he is at moving up and down the pitch and so on. It’s hard to dismiss any of these attributes but if I had to prioritise any of them they would be the following;

Stamina – Players have to have the energy to run up and down the pitch all day long. Anything less than 16 for this attribute and I’d not consider them at all regardless of the other skills they offer. It’s a highly demanding role.

Natural Fitness – This is something by player doesn’t have a great deal of and I’d say 14 for this attribute would be the bare minimum. If it’s a low attribute rating here, we’d see him take longer to recover between games and in the later stages of his career, will help determine how quickly he deteriorates as a player.

Acceleration and Pace – The libero has to be capable of covering lots of space and reverting back to his defensive position in the quickest possible time if we lose possession. Not only that, but when we attack he also has to be capable of joining and supporting attacks and getting up alongside the more advanced players. If he lacks speed then he will always struggle to do that. This is why I believe speed to be very important.

The others are equally important but I’d favour these first and foremost.

Player Traits

Player traits are a great way of getting a player to react a specific way more often than usual. That’s why my libero has a whole host of them to help enhance the style of play I am trying to achieve. The ones my current libero’s have are;

Runs with ball through the centre – I want to encourage him to dribble more, this is why I value the dribbling attribute as vital. It plays hand in hand with this PPM.

Gets forward whenever possible – Again this is to encourage him to get forward and join attacks more regular. It helps push him further forward once he hits the midfield area.

Arrives late in opponent’s area – On the occasions he does get forward, he is already a late option compared to the more advanced players I use. But again this just aids him do it more regular when possible. It’s also one of the main ways he scores the goals he does for me. They’re either from just outside the box due to arriving late or from just inside the area.

Runs with ball often – For the same reasons as the first trait I mentioned. You probably don’t need to learn them both but I did just to cover my bases, should the libero pop up wide which happens rarely.

Brings ball out of defence – This is a must! It allows the libero to step up into the midfield areas with the ball and link the defence to the midfield. It makes the libero be a proper ball playing defender who brings the ball out from the back properly, unlike the BPD role, were that encourages players to link the defence to the midfield via passing with direct/through balls. This PPM is that good, it should be a standalone tactical instruction rather than a PPM.

I originally planned on this being just one article but there is so much I want to say, that it’s now become a mini series. It’ll be split into three separate articles consisting of;

An introduction into the libero – That was this article.

The second part will be a bit different to the normal FM articles you see because it’ll focus on the aspects of the libero that don’t work. As well as discussing unsuitable shapes/roles/duties and unsuitable TI’s. It’ll also focus on the two most frustrating aspects of the role, one of them is a major issue and the other can be limited somewhat. Those two things are;

The Invisible Wall – This section will focus on the faults that the libero has and how the game seemingly has some limits with the initial build up of play. And then I’ll focus on how I personally want to see the role improved to be better moving forward.

The wide split – The other two centre backs split far too wide.

And the last part will be focusing on actual match play and all the things the libero does brilliantly. I’ll explore everything he offers to the side, which systems are better suited to the role so it really excels and a whole bunch of other stuff.

To give you a little taster of what to expect from the game play, check out this little thread I did on Twitter. Last season my libero got player of the year and goal of the season. If you click the link, you can see the goal.

12 thoughts on “The Spanish Libero and the Invisible Wall”

  1. Hi man! It’s been a while! “Hungry” for the next installment! Perfect read…

    Cheers!

  2. Awsome article! I’m guessing it will be covered later, but do you use a high line?

  3. I believe the best way to create a Libero is to retrain an older 29+ creative midfielder into the libero role.
    Many liberos produced by that way (Lothar Matthaus), in FM i used to retrain Lucas Leiva (ex-Liverpool) in that role.

    1. In real life most liberos came from retraining wingbacks. In FM it really comes down to who has the best attributes, it could be any position really.

    1. That will be in the second article, well, the second will be about which roles don’t help and take away from his game.

  4. Thank you for this, cannot wait for part II and III. I have been trying to make a Libero work for a long time and this may finally get me over the hump.

  5. Good to see you back writing again. Looking forward to the next article to see what positions take away from his game. I’ve finally settled on a 3-4-3 with Libero so will be interesting to see your findings.

    1. The goal is at the bottom of the post, click the twitter link and view the little twitter thread, it includes the goal in that.

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