I am doing a long term save, outside of the "big five" leagues, where I try to reshape a solid club into a great one. The general plan is to build my team around 4-2-3-1 formation, focusing heavily on our own talent. It is not really convenient for me to post screenshots right now, but roles go like this:
GK: Goalkeeper (Defend)
DR: Full Back (Support)
DC: Central Defender (Defend)
DC: Central Defender (Defend)
DR: Full Back (Support)
MC: Ball Winning Midfielder (Defend)
MC: Deep Lying Playmaker (Support)
AMR: Inside Forward (Support)
AMC: Advanced Playmaker (Support)
AML: Inside Forward (Attack)
ST: Target Man (Support)
Those roles are to some extent determined by the players that I currently have at my disposal, and some of the roles will be changed as I acquire/develop different and better players.
So far everything works well, a lot better than I originally anticipated. However, three seasons in, I have to make some important decisions about squad building. Initially, I decided to invest a lot into MC positions, because we were lacking good players in any of the DM/MC roles, and our youth prospects didn't really look promising. So at the moment I have:
an experienced DLP, that is a little slow and doesn't have the best stamina, but is a really capable playmaker. He is also a relatively good defender. Maybe not to the level where I would play him as a lone holding midfielder in European games, but I wouldn't consider him to be a defensive liability, aside from his speed. The lad has done well so far, he has solved some games with fantastic Pirloesque assists. Also, the fans love him, which is important for me because I am trying to keep this save relatively realistic, thinking more in real life terms when doing transfer business.
a really good Argentinian DM, who is quick and agile, tireless with high work rate and stamina, and a really capable defender. He is not a great creator, and certainly not a good dribbler or a finisher, so playmaking roles, B2B or SV are out of the question for him. However, he could be a solid BWM, though not as good as the next guy.
a fantastic BWM, who is currently on loan with us with an optional fee. The problem with him is that he doesn't really excel in other roles. Yes, he is quick and tireless, but can't shoot or dribble, he can't create, even his positioning is a tad lower than I would like. But as a BWM he is really dominant.
young regen who is very talented (more talented than the first three guys - and bear in mind that those three guys are by far the best players in the club; as I said, I've invested pretty much all our transfer money on them). The game says he is good as CMd and Anchor Man, but his stat distribution is very, very strange. He is really quick and technical, but has poor Vision, Aggression 4, Flair 1... He is more than ready to play in the first team, and by the rate of his improvement, I can see that he will soon eclipse perhaps all of the aforementioned three when it comes to CA, however poor stat distribution makes it hard for me to find him a role. Also he is inconsistent, does not like big matches, and is a little whinny about wanting to play.
a solid B2B midfielder who is happy to be a backup option for the team. I play him as BWM, because he is relatively suitable for that role, and his abysmal dribbling and finishing doesn't inspire me to play him as B2B.
a solid DLP/BWM who is also happy to be a backup option. He mostly plays for the reserves, but he proved himself capable to step in when other players were injured. He is also highly influential in the locker room, homegrown at the club and a fan favorite, so for the realism purposes, I like to keep him around.
The first problem, or better said a dilemma, is whether to sing the third guy (top BWM). I would have three best players competing for two starting spots, which seems like a waste. But on the other hand, the three of them compliment each other well, and each combination worked well on the field. Another thing is that the fourth guy (a young regen) wouldn't really play a lot, and he already demands to start games. From a realism perspective, top BWM would be a no-brainer for a club of our stature, given how low his future fee is. But then again, it wouldn't make sense to get rid of the most talented young guy in the team (young regen).
An obvious solution would be to switch to 4-3-3, where the the first three guys could play all the time, and I would easily accommodate a young regen just by regular rotation. Then I would have to sacrifice my AM APs, which is a shame because that guy is homegrown, also very talented and so far is a pretty good performer. However, the bigger problem, is the performance of the team when we play without APs in AM position. During the times APs guy was injured or too tired, I was already experimenting with 4-3-3, and I found that we play much worse without him. He seems to contribute a lot more than I expected with his pressing, and we seem to keep possession better when he is on the team. I might be wrong here, because I have not really checked the statistics; I mostly speak from the experience of watching our matches.
One reason why we don't look well with our top three players on the field at the same time might be that none of them can really attack well. DLP guy is just too slow to carry the ball, while DM and BWM guys can't dribble or finish, not even long shots. I feel the front three are left on their own. With the APs guy, there is a central presence, a threat to the goal, and he has scored some important goals to be fair.
In my last save, I was managing an EPL team, and a few years in we were by far the strongest and most talented team in the world. The thing that made me unhappy in that save was that most of my purchases were impulse buys of the most talented youngsters, not really planned. So I found myself with midfielders who are good as Mezzalas, AP, CMa... No one who can defend. At one point some of the players got injured, so I brought a guy in on loan, by far our worst player, but a pretty good DM/BWM in general. He became our best performing player. Don't get me wrong, we were winning before all the time (when you got Mbappe and two or three players of similar quality...), but it felt satisfactory - to have a more balanced instead of a stronger squad.
So for this save I planned my two midfielders to be really good at defending - be it holding players, playmakers, ball winners. However, now that i am planning to change to DM-DM-MC or DM-MC-MC, I don't see it working without having a "number eight" type guy, in other words, someone who is fast and can dribble and shoot.
What are your thoughts on this? How would you set up roles in a two-man midfield and three-man midfield, thinking in real-life terms more than what can exploit the engine? Also, sorry for a really long post...