The Pivot Midfield: How to make it work in Football Manager 2011

Joss

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T H E P I V O T M I D F I E L D

and how to make it work in Football Manager 2011

The ‘double pivot’ is a term used to describe a fluid partnership in midfield, where two players make attacking or defensive decisions in relation to each other’s movements.

The simplest form of this partnership is one player making an attacking run, and the other staying back. But there is greater complexity at play, which has to do with anticipating moves and creating space for others.

The pivot isn’t restricted to the midfield either; several other partnerships on the pitch have a natural pivot functionality. A common one is the classic target man/poacher partnership between strikers, but you will also find pivot partnerships in central defence, like the Stopper/Cover setup from FM.

The ‘classic pivot’

There are several variations to a midfield pivot, and the ‘classic pivot’ is the most traditional one. This pairing consists of a defensive midfielder and an attacking midfielder, with fairly standard instructions for each position. For obvious reasons, the attacking midfielder is the most advanced of the two, and the defensive midfielder has a holding role, allowing the attacking midfielder greater freedom to venture forward.

This was a very common partnership in traditional 4-4-2 formations, like Man Utd’s classic midfield partnership of Paul Scholes and Roy Keane, and that of Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso.

The ‘classic pivot’ doesn’t allow as much creative freedom as the modern variations, but it is probably the best option in a 4-4-2, where the central midfield is fairly exposed, especially when up against more exotic shapes.

The ‘double pivot’

This is a more fluid form of the ‘classic pivot’ that allows both players a higher level of creative freedom. The difference between defensive and attacking midfielder is blurred, and both players are allowed to go on attacking runs, provided their partner is in a good position to cover the space they open up defensively when doing so.

In the modern game, where 4-2-3-1, 4-5-1 and 4-2-1-3 are fairly common shapes, the ‘double pivot’ is probably the most common central midfield setup. Although more fluid than the ‘classic pivot’, this partnership still often contains one player who is more defensive-minded than the other, but both players are allowed to go on attacking runs.

The player’s personality and instinctive behaviour controls the overall movement for the most part, regardless of positional instructions from the manager. The ‘double pivot’ also comes in a couple of different forms - defensive and normal.

The defensive variant often consists of two traditional holding midfielders, with the starting positions fairly deep. Examples include the recent Brazilian duo of Felipe Melo and Gilberto Silva at the 2010 World Cup, or when José Mourinho pairs Xabi Alonso with Lassane Diarra at Real Madrid. Needless to say, this option increases defensive stability, but lacks forward movement.

The normal variant often consists of two traditional central midfielders, and starts out at roughly the same height on the pitch as a ‘classic pivot’. As opposed to the defensive variant, this system will naturally provide more attacking options. A typical example would be the 2003/2004 midfield partnership of Cesc Fabregas and Patrick Vieira.

The ‘complete pivot’

Although highly unusual in midfield (more common in central defence), some teams have employed two very similar players in a midfield partnership, often strengthened by a holding midfielder operating behind them - making this arrangement usually more attacking by nature.

The best example here is the current Barcelona midfield pair Xavi and Andres Iniesta - two very similar players in terms of directional preference, backed up by Sergio Busquets sweeping up behind them in a holding role. Same rules still apply though; if one goes forward, the other covers, and vice versa. But in the ‘complete pivot’, no player is more defensive than the other.

It could also be described as an ‘attacking pivot’.

The ‘triple pivot’

In many 4-2-3-1 formations, the ‘double pivot’ gains an extra man; the central attacking midfielder, forming a ‘triple pivot’. This is essentially just an extremely fluid ‘double pivot’, plus one. Mostly evident in systems where the central attacking midfielder has a tendency to drop deep, e.g. Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal, the midfield triangle pivots and gets skewed depending on opposition movement, rotating on its axel to switch between a 2-1 and a 1-2 shape fluidly throughout the match.

It’s also very common for players to fluidly swap positions around in a ‘triple pivot’, echoing a simple form of total football.

FM2011 - Player types

So now that we know what a pivot is, it’s time to apply it to Football Manager 2011. The first thing to do is to make sure we have the right players for the job. In this article I will focus on creating a normal ‘double pivot’ - two central midfielders; one more defensiveminded than the other. But many of these instructions can be applied to a ‘classic pivot’ as well, if you’d rather try that.

Preferred positions

Obviously we want to have both players completely comfortable in the MC position, but the more defensive-minded of the two should be at least competent in the DMC slot. The more attack-minded should equally be at least competent in the AMC slot.

Attributes - General

Both players should have as high values as possible in the following attributes:

Passing - This attribute is crucial when it comes to central midfield players - with high enough values they will be able to serve through balls to central forwards, and accurately distribute passes to the flanks.

Determination - This is a primary attribute that will ensure the player keeps fighting until the end, which is invaluable in midfield.

Attributes - Defensive

For the defensive-minded player, make sure he has high values in:

Positioning - This is a defensive attribute that decides how well the player positions himself when the opposite team is in possession.

Long Shots - The more defensive of the pair will often end up in positions just outside the box, where he will attempt long shots.

Tackling - The level of tackling accuracy, self-explanatory.

Anticipation - This attribute decides how well the player ‘reads’ the game. High enough value means that the player can predict play, and put himself in an advantageous position.

Aggression - The more defensive of the two should be more ferocious.

Attributes - Attacking

For the attack-minded player, make sure he has high values in:

Off The Ball - This is the attacking equivalent of Positioning - how well the player moves around on the pitch and puts himself in beneficial positions.

Creativity - The more attack-minded of the pair will end up in more advanced positions, where creativity basically means a bigger bag of tricks.

First Touch - How well the player controls the ball when receiving a pass, essential skill to have in a tight midfield with a high pressing opposition.

Preferred moves

If possible, try to instruct your players to learn these preferred moves:

Move into channels - This is an offensive move, making the player look for lateral space to receive through balls.

Comes deep to get the ball - Essential for a normal ‘double pivot’ - the players will pivot and collect the ball from a deep position.

Plays one-twos - Having this ticked will increase the midfield interaction with the attack - both players will quickly set up forwards or wingers in better positions than themselves.

FM2011 - Individual player instructions

The starting role and duty for both players should be ‘Box To Box Midfielder - Support’. This default setting allows both players creative freedom to make attacking runs, and also describes the essence of the players in a ‘double pivot’ (this is the role description from FM);

“The non-stop dynamism of the Box-To-Box Midfielder enables him to contribute greatly to both defending and attacking. In attack, he pushes up to support the forwards, often surging late into the box to get on the end of crosses and pullbacks, as well as providing a threat from a distance. In defence, he harries attacking midfielders and helps protect the defensive line.”

As you can see, this description hits many of the pre-requisites we need to make a ‘double pivot’ work, but there are a couple of issues that we have to address in custom player instructions:

Mentality - For the defensive-minded player, lower the slider 5 steps below default. This will make him slightly more defensive in terms of positioning than his partner.

Closing Down - For the more attack-minded player, this can be lowered 4-5 steps below default.

Roam From Position - Depending on the quality level of your players, and their attribute values in Positioning and Off The Ball, you can experiment with this as you go. For a modern ‘triple pivot’ in a top level team, I’d suggest you have all three players able to roam. In a ‘classic pivot’ or a defensive ‘double pivot’ in a lower level team, I’d instruct the players to be more strict in their positions.

When it comes to instructions like Tackling or Long Shots, adjust them according to your players attribute values in those categories.

On a side note; you might argue that putting both players on a ‘Box To Box Midfielder - Support’ role and duty will make both players lunge forward at times, but the 11.3 match engine does a pretty good job when it comes to players covering vulnerable space for each other. Making sure ‘Team Blend’ is ticked in the Match Preparation module, together with ‘Defensive Positioning’ for match days, will increase player symbiosis.

Player examples and recommendations

In terms of the defensive-minded player, the best player for that position on a new 11.3 save is Roma’s Daniele De Rossi. He has at least 15 in all the required attributes, including very high values in Aggression, Determination and Positioning. Inter Milan’s Dejan Stankovic is a close second, also with high values in key attributes. Other players like Sampdoria’s Angelo Palombo and Palermo’s Antonio Nocerino also have excellent attributes.

When it comes to the more attack-minded of the pair, our options are far greater. Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Joao Moutinho, Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder, Andres Iniesta and Frank Lampard are the big names in this department, but there are lesser knowns here as well, like Santos’ Paulo Henrique or Cagliari’s Andrea Lazzari.

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Written by Ix Techau

@mantralux

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donkarlito

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How about for the way germany did in the WC 2010 with Schweinsteiger and Khedira both DMs I usually have a DLP-Defend and defensive mid support with both runs from deep on sometimes hoping that it might have the effect of one going up and the other covers then vice-versa put sometimes they both go up together so anything else that needs to be considered to make it work
 

Joss

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How about for the way germany did in the WC 2010 with Schweinsteiger and Khedira both DMs I usually have a DLP-Defend and defensive mid support with both runs from deep on sometimes hoping that it might have the effect of one going up and the other covers then vice-versa put sometimes they both go up together so anything else that needs to be considered to make it work
"The defensive variant often consists of two traditional holding midfielders, with the starting positions fairly deep. Examples include the recent Brazilian duo of Felipe Melo and Gilberto Silva at the 2010 World Cup, or when José Mourinho pairs Xabi Alonso with Lassane Diarra at Real Madrid. Needless to say, this option increases defensive stability, but lacks forward movement."
 

donkarlito

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"The defensive variant often consists of two traditional holding midfielders, with the starting positions fairly deep. Examples include the recent Brazilian duo of Felipe Melo and Gilberto Silva at the 2010 World Cup, or when José Mourinho pairs Xabi Alonso with Lassane Diarra at Real Madrid. Needless to say, this option increases defensive stability, but lacks forward movement."
How about roles, duties and tweaks things like would help
 

Joss

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How about roles, duties and tweaks things like would help
I think just follow the general rules for the more defensive pair for one player (Khedira for e.g.) and then go halfway with the other player so he's not attacking per-say, but he's more offensive than his CM partner.

See "attributes" and "individual player instructions" in the article =)
 

gunnerjames

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Hi Joss

I have Alex Song and Jack Wilshere as my two box to box midfielders in my Arsenal save at the moment. I think Jack Wilshere lacks a bit defensively. Would you recommend adding a better player to the midfield like Gokan Inler or Daniel Di Rossi. I was thinking of getting both players and moving Wilshere to right wing as an advance playmaker so that he can use his creative ability.
 

*Jones*

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Dec 28, 2009
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Interesting that she recommends Paulo Henrique as one of the people who could play in the normal pivot. Didn't think he'd be that good as a Box to Box tbh.
 

Joss

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Hi Joss

I have Alex Song and Jack Wilshere as my two box to box midfielders in my Arsenal save at the moment. I think Jack Wilshere lacks a bit defensively. Would you recommend adding a better player to the midfield like Gokan Inler or Daniel Di Rossi. I was thinking of getting both players and moving Wilshere to right wing as an advance playmaker so that he can use his creative ability.
I'd recommend going to mantralux.com first and foremost - the same person who wrote this made a realistic Arsenal 2010/11 tactic and explained it on there...

I'd actually not really recommend playing a defensive pivot with Arsenal, but if you are going to, I think Wilshere is good enough defensively. He's always rated highly as a DM on my saves for some reason. That may just be me, though. I'd suggest that Song is the problem because he's not really a 'pure' DM. Sign someone like Sissoko from Toulouse I reckon.

Interesting that she recommends Paulo Henrique as one of the people who could play in the normal pivot. Didn't think he'd be that good as a Box to Box tbh.
Does he have to? Isn't a normal pivot just one attacking player and one defensive one? So he could just as easily be an adv. playmaker or something =)
 

GodCubed

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Apr 11, 2010
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Can we make Joss-baiting a national sport? :D

Interesting that she recommends Paulo Henrique as one of the people who could play in the normal pivot. Didn't think he'd be that good as a Box to Box tbh.
Actually, now it's been mentioned... off the top of my head, he's got a good (+15) stamina attribute, and is of course excellent technically and creatively. Think his mentals are pretty good too, so he could be a decent fit. I've always found him more suited to CM than AM as well, myself.
 

Mike.

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Feb 15, 2009
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Can we make Joss-baiting a national sport? :D



Actually, now it's been mentioned... off the top of my head, he's got a good (+15) stamina attribute, and is of course excellent technically and creatively. Think his mentals are pretty good too, so he could be a decent fit. I've always found him more suited to CM than AM as well, myself.
Got good work rate and teamwork, personally think he is a little overrated in the game. mentally excellent in game
 

GodCubed

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Apr 11, 2010
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Funny, really, I'd never been a fan of two box-to-boxers in a midfield. Not a fan of multifunctional midfielders: I much prefer a specialised duo/trio of midfielders. Might give it a try, but I reserve judgement until I do.

---------- Post added at 01:28 AM ---------- Previous post was at 01:27 AM ----------

Got good work rate and teamwork, personally think he is a little overrated in the game. mentally excellent in game
Almost certainly a little overrated. Work almost certainly work in this sense though.
 
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