Oct 08

Importance of Player Positions: 1.3 Comes Naturally


One of the little changes that may have passed under the radar with the new match engine is the importance of playing people in their natural positions. As we all know, the little green blobs on the position chart show how comfortable a player is in playing in a certain position. From red, meaning he hasn’t got a clue through to bright green, meaning “natural” talent in that area.

Tactically these blobs haven’t been too much of a problem. Players who are “accomplished” in a second position can usually play well with no problems whatsoever. Sure, they may not be at 100% efficiency, but on the whole they do pretty well – and it allows any player who could play a couple of extra positions at “dark green” status to be used very effectively as a utility player.

That is still the case. Squad building should always incorporate the occasional player who can be brought in to cover for a suspension or an injury. But post 1.3, you may want to rethink a policy of constantly using a player “out of position”.

What’s changed then?

Players in the database have always been given a rating for certain positions ranging from 0 (useless) to 20 (perfect). This has dictates how comfortable the player is in playing in a certain position, and how well they know the role.

These are the two key elements of playing well in any part of the team – confidence (i.e. the player’s personal belief of where he performs best, where he enjoys playing etc) and knowledge (i.e. the player’s ability to know where he should position himself, what is expected of him, how to perform specific attacking and defensive tasks, etc.).

More emphasis has been placed on the latter. From the 1.3 match engine onwards, players who are playing outside of their “natural” position will take a greater hit on the “intelligence”.

This means that a player “out of position” is more likely to:

  • Be caught out of position
  • Make a poor passing decision
  • Make poor decisions regarding forward runs
  • Make poor decision regarding dribbling with the ball
  • Make poor decisions regarding holding up the ball
  • Therefore play poorly

Argh! I’m going to have to buy a new squad!

No, don’t panic! First of all, the hit that players will take will be proportional to how accomplished they are in playing the position. So a “dark green” blob player will be far more able to make a good decision than a “yellow” blob player.

Second, players who are pretty intelligent in the first place with decisions, positioning, off the ball, creativity and the hidden adaptability are far more likely to perform well – since a hit on decision making attributes will have less of an overall effect on an intelligent player.

Third, if the player is very technically skilled there are ways of making up for a lack of intelligence in certain areas. For instance, while an unnatural centre back may struggle to perform the correct marking and positional duties needed to play at full efficiency, a make-shift winger who is only required to run as fast as possible down the flank may not need as much positional and decision making intelligence.

So, what impact does this have on my squad?

Well, the good news is that the introduction of computer controlled teams gives you the option to experiment. Try out your players “out of position” – see if they can make the grade. Remember, playing someone away from their natural position should only ever be a stop-gap anyway. They are there to cover injuries or help a transition from one tactical system to another while you search for new players. Providing your “first eleven” are all playing in their natural roles, you should be fine. If they aren’t, it may be worth rethinking your squad composition.

Also, it’s important to realise which positions in your tactic are “key” positions – and then you need to make sure these are manned by natural, talented individuals. For instance, anchor men and centre backs rely a lot on the ability to be able to read the game and make the right decision at important moments. Similarly, centre forwards may need to be able to read the game well to latch on to through balls, avoid offsides and create chances.

Further, some players may be able to make up for their lack of intelligence in a certain position by other technical or physical skills: up to a point. If you are stronger than the opposition, or if you have the right players, poor positioning can be made up for by great pace and work rate. A rather optimistic long ball might be made up for by great passing ability. The inability to make space in the area could be made up for by great finishing, strength and technical ability. So, don’t necessarily assume that a player cannot play a particular position.

Future implications?

What I’d like to see in the future is the ability to “retrain” players like we can in FM09. Whether this is a learnable coaching skill, or whether it can somehow be taught to players by forcing them to play in a new position for a certain amount of games a season, it would be good to be able to at least get players “accomplished” at new positions.

This could also see some problems with the regens in the game. Those playing out of their natural position (such as those who can only play naturally at unpopular positions such as sweeper or wing back) may get left behind with their youth development. It remains to be seen just what this impact could be, but those youth managers who constantly play youth away from their natural position may be inadvertently stunting their growth. Let’s hope not!

For most of you, this won’t be a major issue. I raise it, however, because it may explain why certain players have suddenly gone off the boil in your tactics, or why your team appears to lose cohesion in the new ME. Don’t panic! All new systems take time to adjust to. With a little tweaking of your squad, transfer policy and tactics all should come together, providing you have a solid foundation from which to work.

Written By Gareth Millward
"Millie" is a long-standing member of the FM community and a co-founder of Gameworld One.Com. As part of FM-Britain, he was a contributor to TT&F and involved with the new tactical interface in FM2010.
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  • Another point to consider - one I've always concentrated on - is the strength of a player's individual feet in relation to the position being played. I don't think a lot of people realize that a lesser quality central midfielder with two strong feet may perform drastically better than a higher caliber player that can use only one foot well.

    I don't believe this is something that can ever be trained over time, hence why most of the youth regens I take on are fairly good using both feet.

  • It's simple things like this that can have a big effect on teams IRL and in game it is good to keep in mind

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