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Roles don't exist

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Hello everyone. First of all, I’m far, far, very far away from being an expert and the aim of this post is to have an enlightening discussion.

After reading a lot of guides (with their comments) in the forums I stumbled upon this wise comment a few times: "Roles don't exist". And I thought that it would be very helpful for all of us struggling with damn tactics to have a thread about this, especially because last night I had a little epiphany reading this quote from The Fantasista Experiment:


The tactical set-up, the player's personal style of play and his general characteristics can result in a variety of interpretations of what is a 'trequartista'. In fact, [in Serie A] so different were the styles of football that different trequartistas employed, that a new term was coined out in order to refer to a particular type of player that derives from the more traditional interpretation of a trequartista: “The Fantasista”.

In real life, coaches and managers don't tell their players to play this or that role. They may tell them to be a Box to Box Midfielder but they are actually giving them instructions on how they want them to play but the player's abilities and traits will define how he plays as a Box to Box Midfielder. For example, if he has good passing, vision, decisions and technique he will be a creative Box to Box Midfielder. Or if he has good bravery, aggression, workrate and tackling he will be a destroyer Box to Box Midfielder.

What I’m trying to say with this is when creating tactics a lot of us think about roles for players like if players were robots that will play exactly like the image we have in our minds about that role. Or sometimes we think the role will do a specific thing but actually doesn’t do it. For example I always thought the Poacher was the most selfish role but he actually links up play a lot even using him as a lone forward.

I feel it is more helpful to think about instructions rather than roles. “I want my right back to go up and down the pitch. I want my right midfielder to cover him and I want my striker to stay in the box”. After you know this, look at which roles have those instructions. And after this, choose the more appropriate player for that role but know that he will play it in X or Y way because of his attributes and traits. Or we can do it the other way around. See what the player has to offer and then give him the instructions but don't forgetting players are not islands and they need to compliment with others.

I think approaching tactics this way is a bit easier to:

  • Read the game: because you will know what you want to happen and if it’s not happening then you can troubleshoot if it’s because the player is weak or the opposition is just playing better, or maybe it is just a bad day.
  • Have a balanced system: because if you were thinking in instructions and player attributes then you will know if your players are adept for those instructions, or if you have two players in the same space doing the same things, or if you don’t have anyone covering for an attacking minded player, etc.
  • Knowing if you need to bring a different or better player whose attributes will make him play those instructions different or better.

But I may be awfully wrong. I would like to read what you guys think.

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Yeah, they're just players instructions with a name tag

Like you pointed out, in it's simplest form, two different players playing the CM(S) will play the role differently depending on their attributes (and PTs). I think I did a thread on it last year where Flair really stood out on a player, you really noticed a difference vs a player with low Flair even though they were playing the same role with zero instructions 


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I heard an interview with @Miles Jacobson- (pinging him because I fear misquoting) - where he said that prior to FM introducing roles, he'd heard many real-life football managers/coaches talking about roles. 

The defined "role" not only tells a player what generally is expected from him, but also alerts his teammates what to expect.  Whether irl, or on FM, it is a shorthand and of course, players will have to react to what they see in real time and will adjust based upon their individual abilities/form/fitness/teammates, etc.  A defined "role" is a very useful shorthand, particularly in-game.

Today, at what age are kids taught roles?

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