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Playmaker & Target Man

While most roles simply give a player a set of instructions that tell him how he should behave on the pitch, if a player is given a playmaker role or a target man role then this will also affect how his teammates behave when they have the ball. Specifically, they will be more likely to pass the ball to him than they otherwise would, meaning he is likely to be more involved in the game.

Playmaker and target man roles should therefore be used carefully and a player should only be assigned such a role if he is considered to be an important part of your tactic.

Various factors affect what a player chooses to do when he is on the ball, such as his player instructions, the passing options available to him (based on the positions and amount of space his teammates are in), the other options available to him, his mental attributes and his traits. Playmaker and target man roles are simply an additional factor.

Designating a Playmaker

The available playmaker roles are:

  • Regista
  • Deep-Lying Playmaker
  • Roaming Playmaker
  • Advanced Playmaker
  • Enganche
  • Trequartista
  • Wide Playmaker

If you designate a playmaker by assigning one of these roles to a player then your other players will be more likely to use him during build-up play. This means that you should only assign a player a playmaker role if you want your team to play through him more often.

Typically, your central midfield creator will be your designated playmaker. Alternatively, you may choose a player in a different position who is either taking on or sharing the creator task; for example, a number ten in one of the wide forward positions or the striker position, or a wide attacker in the wide midfield position. The use of a creator was discussed earlier in the Central Midfielders guide.

Your creator is the main creative presence in your team whose job is to set up goal-scoring chances by making penetrative passes to your attackers, so it generally makes sense to give him a playmaker role in order to increase the time he spends on the ball.

Using No Designated Playmaker

However, you may want to give a player, such as your midfield creator, a more creative role without designating him as a playmaker so as not to influence the passing decisions of your other players.

This can make your team’s attacking play more varied and unpredictable. In particular, if you have high quality players with very good intelligence (Anticipation, Decisions, Flair, Teamwork and Vision) and attacking abilities then it can be beneficial to give them more freedom to decide upon the best choices to make on the pitch.

In addition, sometimes a creative player may be tightly marked by the opposition, or he may be playing in a more advanced position where he is less likely to be able to find space. Notably, tactical styles that play with a higher tempo and push high up the pitch, such as the Running At The Defence and Attacking The Flanks styles, can suffer from congestion in advanced areas, especially centrally. A tactic where such a player is frequently used as a passing option for his teammates could be ineffective, yet he should nonetheless attempt to find space to receive the ball in and make creative passes when he does receive it.

To achieve this you can use an alternative role (such as the Central Midfielder or Attacking Midfielder roles) for any player who you want to make more penetrative passes and then select any of the More Direct Passes, More Risky Passes and Roam From Position specific player instructions (if they are not already active) according to how you want the player to play. The instructions you choose will depend on the player’s abilities and your tactical setup.

Using Two Designated Playmakers

It is also possible to use more than one designated playmaker. The same effects still apply, with your other players being more likely to use those players in playmaker roles during build-up play. This does not mean that each playmaker will be equally likely to receive a pass from a particular teammate, however. For example, one playmaker may be in less space than the other, or he may be further away from a teammate who has been instructed to make shorter passes.

In particular, you may want to use two playmakers working in tandem, but you should ensure that such a setup is appropriate for your tactic.

For example, suppose that you are using a playmaker in defensive midfield and another in attacking midfield. If your deeper players are instructed to make more direct passes then this will increase the chances of them choosing to pass to your more advanced playmaker, therefore limiting the use of your deeper playmaker. If instead they are instructed to pass shorter, then the two playmakers could prove to be an effective combination. Your deeper playmaker will attempt to launch attacks from deeper positions, perhaps on the break after possession is won, while your more advanced playmaker will help your team control the game high up the pitch and contribute to attempts to break through the opposition defence.

When using two playmakers though, you should be careful that your tactic remains well balanced. In particular, it can potentially be detrimental to have two playmakers operating in a similar territory. This can lead to a lack of tactical discipline and control in that area of the pitch, while the creative influence of each individual playmaker will be diminished. As such, it is recommended to keep playmakers further apart. For example, one could be positioned at the base of a midfield triangle and the other at the top of the triangle or in a wide forward position.

Using three playmakers can make it especially difficult to balance your tactic and so is not recommended.

Designating a Target Man

The available target man roles are:

  • Target Man
  • Wide Target Man

If you designate a target man by assigning one of these roles to a player then your other players will be more likely to use him as the focal point of attacking play.

Using a Target Man in Different Tactical Styles

The type of supply your designated target man receives, and therefore the type of ability he will need in order to be effective, will depend on your team’s passing instructions. Although, regardless of your team’s passing he would benefit greatly from having good physical presence (Balance and Strength) and endeavour (Aggression, Bravery, Determination and Work Rate). This is because he will be receiving the ball frequently and holding it up, and so will need to hold off opposition defenders who mark him and close him down. He will also be instructed to run with the ball less often, and so will be less likely to use dribbling ability to beat defenders.

Typically, a player in the Target Man or Wide Target Man roles is suited to a tactical style that uses more direct passing. In such a style aerial balls from your deeper players will more regularly be aimed towards him, which will tend to be more difficult for him to receive and will also often require him to win aerial challenges with opposition defenders. He will therefore need good aerial presence (Jumping Reach), control (First Touch and Technique) and heading ability (Heading and Technique).

This particular use of a target man is discussed in the Strikers guide as part of the big-man – little man partnership analysis.

Alternatively, a target man can be used in a tactical style that employs shorter passing. In such a style he is more likely to receive passes along the ground from your more advanced players, which will be much easier for him to receive. However, he should ideally have good creativity (Anticipation, Decisions, Flair, Teamwork and Vision) and passing ability (Passing and Technique) in order to be able to use the ball effectively.

The More Risky Passes and Roam From Position specific player instructions can be used to make your target man more suited to a shorter passing style (as long as he has the appropriate abilities), while he can also be given a support duty so that he will drop deeper where he will be better positioned to link play and make creative passes.

However, in either a more direct or shorter passing style, if those players making the majority of passes to him, which depends largely on your passing range instructions, are instructed to attempt more creative, risky passes then he would benefit from being able to run onto through balls played ahead of him. For this he will need good attacking movement (Anticipation, Decisions, Teamwork and Off The Ball) or mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace).

The Move Into Channels specific player instruction can be selected to make your target man more suited to running onto through balls. You may also want to give him an attack duty if you want his main focus to be on making forward runs into more dangerous positions rather than creative and linking play.