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Roles: Do they matter?

Roles: Do they matter

Roles in Football Manager play a large part in the formation of your tactic. Whether you downloaded a tactic on a forum to use with your team, or you’ve spent hours upon hours tweaking around the game mechanics to find that all important tactic. Setting up your formation is already something that can be quite tricky. Some choose a formation based on what they like – have a clear preference. Others base their formation purely on what’s best for the team.

Once your formation is done and settled, what left is there to do…?


Choosing a Role

There are many roles to choose from in Football Manager, from Sweeper Keepers, to Full Backs, to Shadow Strikers. We could choose to talk about what roles to choose in a given tactic, but that wouldn’t be the point of the article, so I’ll go over it only briefly. Choosing the various roles for your tactic can be daunting. There are many to choose from, and from a beginners point of view, you might not know which roles do what and which roles can or cannot be paired together. For example, it’d be stupid pairing two Stoppers in central Defence with no one to cover. Football is all about tactics, and technically any form of pairing can work within your team – even if it is two Stoppers in Defence. You just need to have the necessary manpower to cover the gaps left.

Choosing roles has never been any easier in Football Manager now, as each role has an overview and description of what they do, so even if you don’t have any knowledge in Football Manager, you can take an educated guess as to what will work and what won’t. But there are two factors that determine success or failure: 1. Is the tactic you base these roles around. Having a player thump the ball up field like a caveman would obviously not work in a possession heavy tactic, for example.

2. Is having the right players to play in those roles. This is where we get more in-depth in the original subject of this article, so I’ll explain down below.

So, question time: What’s more important when blindly choosing a role for your player? His attributes? What the staff think? His familiarity?

Familiarity over all

Now, here’s something I never really knew about roles in Football Manager before, but it is something that not only is important to know, but can change the way you play the game, freeing your mind and spirit in your search for the best role for your players.

For the sake of variety, we’re going to be looking at Manchester City’s star striker, Gabriel Jesus.

Gabriel Jesus’ roles

Now, looking at this screen, without delving too deep into it, we can immediately see that Gabriel Jesus fits into a team naturally as an Advanced Forward. Other roles, such as Complete Forward, or DLP are less convincing for him. For past-me, that would’ve been enough for me to use him as an Advanced Forward and nothing else.

But think about this for a second. We have a screen that shows information about the lad. Can we really see and be absolutely certain that he can definitely play as an Advanced Forward and nothing else? If we put him in the team as a DLP would he just struggle and fail to do anything? The answer for both is no. This is a simulation game above all, which means we can’t just magically know where he’s going to play best and where he isn’t. It’s the same story for attributes, we can’t just know. In fact, this stuff needs to be scouted (if in an opposing team) before any knowledge becomes available.

What I mean by this is, whatever player you look at, be it yours or an opposing player, there is no certainty that any of the information on the player’s profile is correct. The suitability for a role (in this case, Advanced Forward) will not always accurately reflect what’s going on on the pitch. This is merely a coach recommendation, based on the player’s attributes and form.


So, in the previous paragraph we basically learnt that everything on the player profile screen is a coach or scout’s opinion on the player, which can sometimes differ for various staff members. Role suitability doesn’t always reflect reality. Let me tell you a story:

I used to manage a Non League team in Football Manager 2017, and we got back to back promotions to League 2 after I figured out that using my young striker as a False Nine (at ineffectual suitability, basically no circle filled) not only suited his style of play, but the teams style of play too. He ended up getting 30+ goals per season then on out. So why is this a thing?

Players can be incredibly versatile, especially at a high level like our Premier League striker, Gabriel Jesus. If you look mainly at his attributes, he could just as well be a false nine as he could be an Advanced Playmaker.

But let’s look at his role suitability for his supposed worst role: Target Man.

Target Man

If you look at the key attributes for a Target Man (Heading, Finishing, Composure, Bravery, Off the ball, Balance, Strength and Jumping Reach) you can see that Gabriel Jesus is probably not the best Target Man in the game, but he definitely isn’t a poor one by any standards. He does have good attributes to challenge for this role, despite not having the best heading or jumping reach. So why is it considered his weakest role?

The coaches in this game will assume that, given he has a specific number of good attributes (16+) in other areas, and not so much in areas that will affect Target Men, he wouldn’t be as good a player in this position than in others. I’m not saying he would be a poor Target Man, just that he would be much better anywhere else as a Striker. The same can be said about playing players in different positions.

If you don’t trust me, just try playing Jesus as a Target Man in League One and reap the results.

Part 2?

So, we’ve established that roles are a finicky business to get into. The suitability of them are merely coach recommendations, which I’m not saying you shouldn’t follow, but don’t always accurately reflect what your player could be good at doing. We’ve also established that Gabriel Jesus would make a good Target Man for a League One side. What’s left to do but… Experiment..?

That wraps up part one of this discussion on player roles. I hope you enjoy and stick around for part 2, where we will experiment a bit with player roles to see what kind of success or failure we can get.

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Written by Toby Lacey

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