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Anchorman FM20: the unsung hero of player roles

Anchorman Football Manager 20 Guide

The Anchorman in FM20 is a role that doesn’t get enough attention. Whether you’re in the Premier League or the lower leagues, this role can be a game changer and help your team reach the heights of success. In this guide I will show you how important the anchor man can be in Football Manager 20.

From my experience, using the anchorman as a pivot in a three man midfield is the best way to utilise the role. It gives the two more advanced midfielders a bit more of a license to push on, and take a few more risks. I use a 4-1-2-3 formation and I will base all my findings using this formation.

In my first season managing Wrexham, I managed to win the league with a two point advantage over second. In my current season I am predicted to go straight back down. I am fifth currently and I believe a lot of my success has come from the protection of my anchorman in FM20

Wrexham FM20 Anchorman

Footballers who play as a Defensive Midfielder

Football evolves all the time, and different roles and responsibilities are taken into consideration. However, there are a few players who absolutely perfect the role as a Defensive Midfielder. The following three players play in this role, but have slightly different play styles.

Claude Makelele

Claude is one of few players who literally have a role named after themselves. “The Makelele Role” is a role in which he sits in the hole between the midfield and in front of the defence. He is one of the most influential players in this role and in doing so has probably shown how important a role like this can be. He is only 5″7 but his lower centre of gravity enabled him to be influential on the ball and in tackling. It really is an art form that he developed.

Nemanja Matic

Matic, especially at Chelsea is another prime example of a player who sits in front of the defence offering extra security. He is different in terms of his size, but his passing range and defensive ability make him a really good defensive midfielder. I would say he is most like an anchorman, due to the nature of his game. He isn’t the quickest of players but his positional awareness is what makes him one of the best defensive midfielders.

Sergio Busquets

One of the most technically gifted defensive midfielders I have seen play. A really composed player who invites pressure and creates space which sucks the opposition out of position. Playing at Barcelona you have to have a certain play style and despite playing just in front of the defence, his creativity and simple passing game makes him stand out.

Why the Anchorman in FM20?

This is a simple answer for me, it allows the more creative players to advance whilst the anchorman protects. It may not be the role that gets the highest match rating, but if you study this position you can see how influential the player can be on and off the ball. It is obviously not a role that will get assists or goals due to it’s defensive responsibilities. However, if you look at how many goals you’ve scored where the anchorman has had a role in the build up, you will be surprised.

What I love about the role is the covering duty when a more advanced player pushes on. For example, if your right back pushes on and loses the ball, the anchorman will do it’s best to cover the area where you are exposed. This limits opposition chances and allows players to track back and recover.

What the player in the anchorman role is doing is anticipating certain situations to arise so they can adjust themselves accordingly.

Assist / Passing Options

Anchorman Assist FM20

In the above image, this is the only assist my anchorman has got in FM20. You can see the options available going forward, these are highlighted in the yellow dotted line. The green line is the pass he chose, it’s slightly riskier but it worked. This resulted in Jones-Thomas scoring from this opportunity.

Passing options anchorman fm20

One of the best things about using this role is the endless passing options that become available to you. This is partly down to it’s natural deep defensive positioning, but also to the way your team plays. Just look at the sheer amount of options available to him in this position. He opted for the pass to the striker, who played it through to the midfielder who’s shot was blocked. But that’s not the point. Opportunities are created from having different options available and avoiding being one dimensional with the approach. Not every pass will result to a goal or a chance, but using a pivot who can influence the game from deep is such a fundamental aspect to this role.

What the anchorman is doing is creating space due to his positioning on the pitch. It allows your more creative players to influence the game, whilst your anchorman creates space on and off the ball. Not only does it allow for more passing options when they receive the ball, it means that even if the anchorman is being pressured, there are options available which will be risk free.

Passes per game

passes per game

The passes per game often change, depending on the level of opposition. For more difficult teams, you might not see the ball as much, so passes are less likely. I don’t play a typical possession game but my defensive midfielder sees the ball the most, he is the link between all phases of play.

Like mentioned at the start of the article, it’s not all about ratings, as I believe the ratings are often unfair. It’s more about the end result, and how influential the anchorman in FM20 is. To complete over 100 passes as a club that are predicted to finish in the relegation zone is quite remarkable. It shows a clear indication of how influential they can become.

Creating space on and off the ball is how I would describe the anchorman and using them to their advantage will always be looking at how secure and tight your defence is because of this.

Key Passes

An anchorman’s natural role isn’t to create key passes, it’s to shuttle between the defence and midfield. That being said when analysing key passes they produce, it’s really interesting.

anchorman key passes fm20

This particular key pass is an indication as to why composure and decisions is so important. There aren’t many options available to the player, especially with the way he is facing. If he adjusts his body and turns he could be leading himself in to trouble. There are two short options on, but they are being man marked. The best option is a through ball to the on looking winger who can cause problems.

In this game the anchorman was man of the match. The opposition were hard to break down and we managed to get a draw. His rating was 8.1. Again, there isn’t many options for him to play apart from an over the top ball through to my striker who managed to hit the post after receiving the ball. The other centre midfielder decided to advance more which meant that they had more options to try and mark up.

Average Positioning for Anchorman in FM20

With the Ball – Win

I have highlighted the anchorman with the bright green lined circle. He is directly in line with the full backs and always available for an option. This is particular useful if your team are struggling to break teams down. Using an anchorman as a pivot provides a different option which isn’t necessarily going forward.

With the Ball – Loss

Reading are in the Championship and this was a narrow defeat. You will notice the difference in positioning from the win to the loss, but the principals are followed. The full backs are naturally not advancing because we are playing a stronger team. A very similar position is held by the anchorman, as they will sit in the gap between midfield and defence, offering an option both offensively and defensively.

Without the Ball – Win

The team naturally drops back and sits deeper. The anchorman is almost a fifth defender at times, and the position he sits in prevents teams from getting in behind as much. The system almost changes to a 4-1-4-1 with a solid midfield line and then the anchorman sits in the hole between the defence and attack. Typically the oppositions more advanced players will have reduced space, due to the nature of the anchorman. This can also be transferred to the anchorman breaking down passing lines and reducing space for the opposition.

Without the Ball – Loss

The positioning of the whole team is so vastly different compared to the win. The midfield is more open, but the anchorman stays the same. They will almost always be behind the midfield, and using a three man midfield ensures that the defence has that extra security through the middle. My system will work differently to yours, so your midfield will always look different, but the anchorman will be similarly positioned.

Overall – Win

This image in particular shows how underrated the anchorman is. If you was on the football field and playing this role, look how many passes are close. You have four players around the semi circle, two full backs offering width and an array of options going forward. Obviously, this doesn’t have the opposition players in, but the options are there.

Some users may not want to use the anchorman as they want a more creative midfield, I believe this is a myth. The build up starts from the back and works its way up and using a defensive midfielder bridges the gap between the lines.

Overall – Loss

Naturally with a loss and playing against a tougher opposition your team will drop deeper. The same applies here. The gap between the two defenders is slightly bigger and the anchorman is closer to the left centre back. Whilst watching this game I noticed that the anchorman would occasionally drop in the gap, especially with them using an attacking midfielder. This helped prevent easy openings as he was relatively close to him.

Comparison of Anchorman positioning in FM20

Due to the fact the anchorman isn’t an attacking role the position is kept relatively similar when the team has the ball. However, because of how deep they are positioned the team will naturally advance more because even if the full backs attack the anchorman will make a back three.

Without the ball is slightly different. Against a stronger team the midfield are more open, this is due to the nature of the opposition. The holding midfielder stays the same, it’s the other players in front of him that are different. The breaking up of the phases of play is what the anchorman does, no matter the level of opposition.

Overall the player remains in a very similar position, no matter who they are playing against. They are always directly in front of the defence and slightly deeper than the two central midfielders. When the team are on the upper hand it allows the full backs to advance, this can be seen when comparing both overalls. The full backs will advance allowing the anchorman to sit in the hole and if needs be, they can drop back in to the area exposed.

Defensive Positioning

Anchorman positioning fm20

We have our right back crossing the ball in, which is inevitably cleared. Look at the position of the Anchorman and how much of the pitch is open. This positioning is essential, and without this extra protection it would leave us exposed to counter attacks.

anchorman pressure fm20

This is the follow up. Their attacker tries to run the ball out and create a counter attack, however the anchorman charges in forcing him to make a mistake and pass the ball backwards. The pass is intercepted and we go back on the attack.

Little things like stopping counters throughout the game are so important and go unnoticed in the end of the game. It is not until you analyse matches that you can see how much they break the game up.

defensive clearance anchorman fm20

This image is from a counter the opposition had. They looked certain to score as the opponent crossed it in. The anchorman tracked the runner who was destined to get a shot away and cleared it away. It’s important to remember that even though they are a shuttle between defence and midfield, the influence they have in all phases of play makes the role perfectly balanced.


The anchorman in FM20 is the bridge between your defence and midfield, so it’s likely they will get tackles. Not as many as a ball winning midfielder or other roles, but enough. Due to their natural positioning it’s more about timing, rather than rushing in to win the ball back.

tackle fm20

This particular tackle was from when my anchorman raced in to the box to slide tackle the ball away from the attacker. A bit risky, but it worked and prevented the opposition getting a cross or shot away.

Anchorman, Attributes to look for in FM20

You may look at the attributes differently, but these are the highlighted ones which seem to be the most important. When searching for a suitable player, I always look for someone who can offer a little bit more to the game rather than the key attributes listed. I also have different perceptions and apply this to the role. Composure might be applied more for a striker, but in this scenario it’s about being patient and making the right pass under pressure. My description of what I’d be looking for, may differ from yours, but this is how I would visualise it.

Key Attributes

Marking – this might be marking from a corner, an opposition player, or simply marking passing lines.

Tackling – ability to tackle in situations, and effectively. Avoiding cards is the most important aspect of this.

Anticipation – expecting when and when not to move yourself accordingly. This can be from an attacking or defensive stand point.

Composure – being composed for this role is essential. If you have an anchorman who isn’t composed you will lose the ball A LOT. It’s all about making the right pass too, and putting your team under pressure.

Concentration – the player will be reading the game all the time. You want someone with high concentration to reduce mistakes and prevent your team being exposed.

Decisions – this is a combination of everything for me. When is the right time to tackle, hold back, play a pass, hold on to the ball. You need someone with good decisions so that you can progress and aren’t limited to what you can do, because your anchorman makes the incorrect decisions.

Positioning – this is focused more on the positioning in defensive situations, as appose to offensive scenarios. It is about adjusting the positioning according to the situation.

Teamwork – the anchorman is the role which makes the team tick. Without him you are exposed and might not have someone to shuttle between the defence and midfield. You need someone who puts the team at the top of his priority list.

Stamina – I often find myself making substitutes in this role, just to keep the team fresh and sometimes in latter stages of the game you need a fresh pair of legs. Having someone with good stamina will enable to player to last longer at the peak.

Additional attributes

Work Rate and Strength. When on the ball, you won’t want someone who is weak. They are playing in an area where if they make mistakes you can be punished. Finding someone with good strength is important so they can retain the ball, and if tackling are strong enough to win the ball.I often find myself making substitutes in this role, just to keep the team fresh and sometimes in latter stages of the game you need a fresh pair of legs. I would even go as far to say heading as well, especially for an anchorman in FM20.


Creating this article was super fun, especially to go in to depth about the role and how they play. Hopefully I have convinced you to try out the Anchorman in FM20, or even taught you a few things that you might not have known.

It is my favourite role on Football Manager and when implemented correctly, with the right player, it can be the position that influences the game the most. If he is bad, you may be exposed due to the lack of cover, and if he is brilliant you can reap the rewards.

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Written by Dictate The Game


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  1. Interesting article, will try out this role instead of my DLP(D). I would suggest something else: Off the ball is helpful to make him available as an outlet to others to recycle the ball and restart the attack, and go for either-footed or at least reasonable with the off-foot. That helps in my eyes to better distribute the ball to both sides and when facing pressure.

  2. Wow marvelous description , and ofthen not recognized role ,, i have not realized how important could be.. as you mentioned it . not always they end with an 8 or more– so the role is often viewed as “meh” .. but you are right .. often ratings are not a good indicator (hello missing penalties or making one or two mistakes ) but i am inclined to try it out again and take a loot closer and see how it develops.. ! thanks for your exhaustive post and info 😉

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