Playing Roles Explained

Advanced Playmaker

The advanced play-maker is a role found very often in today’s game. It is usually a midfielder, normally in an attacking position, who looks to find spaces to create opportunities for himself and other players, and will often be seen coming between the defensive lines to search for that space, towards the centre of the pitch where they will operate rather than out of the wings. They won’t be a runner much and will often receive the ball with their back to goal and combine with teammates to make space between the defence. They are a creator up the field. This is how Coutinho plays with the Brazil national team, as an example.

Inside Forward

They are usually regarded as a more offensive winger, playing as more of a forward than wide midfielder. They will receive the ball and then look to move inside the field. The main difference compared to the advanced play-maker is that they can be instructed to hold width until receiving balls, where they then look to come inside and create problems for the defensive line, whereas the advanced play-maker will come central before getting on the ball. This is a similar role to what Robben played at Bayern Munich.


One of the more traditional roles, the winger looks to get on the ball and then beat their opposing full back, to stretch the defence and then cross the ball or play it in field. They will also often move diagonally behind the defence for runs in behind to provide a goal-scoring threat. This is similar to how players like Daniel James (when on the right wing) and Kingsley Coman will play.


Raumdeuter was invented by Thomas Muller of Bayern Munich when asked to describe his role within the team. It translates as “space interpreter”. They play by finding pockets of space that are useful to receive a pass or shoot from. They will not be very creative on the ball, but usually have a very high football IQ and know where to move to help the whole team.


The trequartista will usually roam from their position on the pitch in search of creating chances for himself and other players. Usually, they don’t do much defensive work, but will come deep to pick up the ball as well as moving to either wing or inside to create goal-scoring opportunities. They usually play as a hybrid between a 9 and a 10 (a 9 and a half). They don’t tend to press a massive amount. A notable trequartista is del Piero at Juventus at times.

Deep Lying Forward

They usually work in a deeper role, looking for space to receive the ball and then attack the defensive line head on. They tend to press the opponent a bit, and will drop to be a link from the midfield to the attack. They will often drop and almost play as an attacking midfielder for periods of the game as they look to involve others. Doesn’t usually have much contact with the defensive line when off the ball. Good example of this role is Martial this season for us.

False 9

The false 9 saw a return to popularity when Messi performed the role in Barcelona’s 6-2 win over Real Madrid. It usually involves the player dropping deeper when receiving passes, which allows the winger or another striker the space in behind, who can then receive a pass from the false 9. They tend to work hard defensively, pressing when not in possession and playing a bit higher than the trequartista. They will often facilitate for other players.

Defensive Forward

They will focus on especially pressing the defenders, and coming deep in defensive phases to help recover the ball and will usually focus less on scoring goals. They will usually be found in a high pressing side, an example being Roberto Firmino.

Shadow Striker

A role commonly found in English football, where the striker operates in the hole between the number 9 and the midfield. They look to get on second balls and arrive late in the area. It requires a lot of positional awareness off the ball, Rooney performed this for a lot of his career, pressing opponents like a forward but not necessarily defending like a midfielder.

Deep Lying/Roaming Playmaker

They are the player who organises the team, conducting the buildup of the attack and helping the team forward with both short forward passes and long range passes. They will generally hold their position in the midfield. Pogba played this role in his first season for us after returning. You also have the roaming playmaker that will do a very similar role, but will instead look to move around the pitch, looking for pockets of space, be it centrally, in the half space or out wide. An example of this is Paul Pogba for United in the 18/19 season.

Box to Box

They are highly dynamic midfielders, they attempt to defend and then also be an attacking threat up front. Requires very high stamina as they run up and down the field. They may not be the most creative, but will look to be a threat at both ends of the field. A good example of this role was Bastian Schweinsteiger.


A role that originated in Italian football, mezzala is translated to half winger. They usually possess a high skill level and pace and start the game centrally. They will then, with the ball, look to move wider on the field and even cross the ball a lot into the box. They are often utilised in teams that lack natural width, if they are playing inside forwards for example. Sometimes, they will appear in the box, but will more often than not, look to hold a wider position and pull the opposition out of shape. A good example of this was di Maria at Real Madrid under Ancelotti.

Ball Winning Midfielder

They will shuttle in midfield trying to recover the ball, making tackles and marking opposition players closely. They don’t hold their position in the midfield and will roam to win the ball. On the ball, they are not usually very creative and just play simple passes to more capable footballers. A good example of this is Idrissa Gueye.

Anchor Man

They usually hold their position in front of the defence, doing defensive tasks. They are usually focused on recovering the ball and protecting the defence. The main difference between this role and a ball winning midfielder, is how they keep their position, not allowing spaces in behind and waiting for players to enter their zone. He will only leave his position to cover other players, or to attack ball carriers in the centre-left or centre-right positions. Makelele made this role his own at Chelsea.


The regista role has become quite iconic due to Andrea Pirlo. It is a role that is a more offensive style of deep lying play-maker. They will move forwards, even up to the opponent box as they continue to organise the teams build up play. They are always skilful and creative players, but usually need cover as they leave space behind them. In the build up the regista will help the defenders by dropping between them to get the ball and release it out of the defensive line. When they drop into the back line though, the defensive line will hold shape and not become a back 3 with higher full backs.


Similar to the regista in that they will drop between the centre backs to pick up the ball and progress play. When they do this however, they will form a back 3 with the half-back central, and the full backs will then push further forward. Defensively, he will try to recover the ball, but will not play as closely to the centre backs as when he is on the ball. Someone who often played this role was Xabi Alonso under Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid.

Double Pivot

A double pivot is just the two players in front of a back 4, usually the 2 in a 4-2-3-1. One of the midfielders will usually be a more defensively orientated player like how we would use Matic, and the other part of the pivot a more offensively minded and often more creative midfielder, like how we use Paul Pogba.