If you’re anything like us, you don’t use Football Manager to merely replicate reality.
No, you use the acclaimed management sim to experiment, to shake things up, to alter the very fabrics of the sport and usher in a tactical revolution. Or, to be less dramatic, you use FM to try a different formation with your favourite team. That kind of thing.
Indeed, FM 2020 offers a plethora of ways for virtual managers to make teams their own. And two of the most deeply modifiable things you can play around with are player positions and roles.
Managers are afforded the freedom to play a full-back in midfield or turn a playmaker into the team’s prime goal threat. That said, sometimes the overwhelming number of options make it difficult to determine which players are best suited to a position or role change.
The fact that versatility is a hidden attribute in FM doesn’t help. Generally, footballers who are capable of playing in a number of positions will have a better behind-the-scenes versatility rating than those who have just one or two fixed positions, but that shouldn’t prevent experimentation.
Instead of going solely off a player’s presumed versatility, it might be better to look at the attributes we can see to decide whether your striker has a future on the wing, or if your defensive midfielder should be permitted to get forward more often.
With all of that in mind, we’ve picked out four Liverpool players who are prime candidates to switch positions and roles. So if you’re keen to take over from Jurgen Klopp in the dugout, you’re in luck.
Note: Remember, ‘positions’ and ‘roles’ are separate things. In this article, we have italicised ‘roles’ to differentiate them from ‘positions’. For example, Defensive Midfielder is a ‘position’, and Ball Winning Midfielder is a ‘role’.
New position: Defensive Midfielder
Possible roles: Anchor Man, Ball Winning Midfielder or Defensive Midfielder
In real life, Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have combined to create a formidable centre-back partnership at the heart of Liverpool‘s defence. Any FM player would be excused for attempting to virtually replicate that partnership from the very beginning.
However, those relationships are sometimes difficult to nurture. And with Gomez still some way from reaching his full potential when you boot up a new Career, you might be tempted to dip into the market for a new centre-back to play regularly with Van Dijk.
To ensure Gomez continues his development at a steady pace in that scenario, trying the 22-year-old in a new position from time to time might be the best course of action. As such, Gomez has all the attributes to sit in front of the back four, which could come in useful if Fabinho is ever unavailable.
His strong Tackling, Positioning, and Strength and Decisions – traits that will only get better over time – are ideal for the roles of Defensive Midfielder or Anchor Man, while his Marking and Anticipation also make him suitable for the Ball Winning Midfielder role.
Top tip: Give Gomez an additional training focus on Passing, which will help him as a Ball Playing Defender and as a Defensive Midfielder.
New position: Midfielder (Centre)
Possible roles: Deep Lying Playmaker or Mezzala
Suggesting Trent Alexander-Arnold could make a seamless transition from defence to midfield isn’t a new concept. The move has been hinted at before in reality (it’s even listed among his possible positions in FM 2020, though it’s far from his strongest option), but it may be some time before it happens, if ever.
Alternatively, you can try it out right now in Football Manager. So long as you have a suitable auxiliary right-back, Alexander-Arnold can be given a shot in central midfield.
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The England international’s attacking traits will tempt you to deploy him as a Midfielder (Centre) rather than a Defensive Midfielder – and we think you’d be right to do so. As a Deep Lying Playmaker and the right-most midfielder of a central trio, Alexander-Arnold’s excellent Passing, Technique and Crossing will ensure he creates plenty of chances for the attackers.
Perhaps an even better role (in the same position) would be Mezzala, defined by the game as “a central player that likes to drift wide and operate in the half-spaces”. His strong Vision will bear fruit in those half-spaces, that’s for sure.
Top tip: Alexander-Arnold will get into better shooting positions as a midfielder, so it might be worth giving him an additional training focus on Long Shots, an attribute that certainly has room to get better.
New position: Wing Back (Right)
Possible roles: Complete Wing-Back
If you’ve taken our advice and tried Alexander-Arnold in midfield, you might have decided to buy another right-back to compensate. Or perhaps you’ve given Gomez or Fabinho a go on the right of a back four. But what if we told you there is another option? Albeit a very left-field one.
The temptation will be to replicate Klopp’s current formation, but if you’re a three-at-the-back manager at heart and you want to play Alexander-Arnold centrally (or you simply want a player to rotate with Alexander Arnold on the right), why not try Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as a Wing Back?
The former Arsenal midfielder has the required physical attributes to fulfil the duties of a Complete Wing-Back. He also has excellent Flair and Technique, as well as admirable Work Rate, and has gotten quite used to playing numerous positions throughout his career.
One issue with Oxlade-Chamberlain is that he isn’t expected to get any better as the game years progress, but that shouldn’t stop you from experimenting.
Top tip: Oxlade-Chamberlain could do with improving his Tackling if he is to be used as a Wing Back, so give him an additional training focus.
New position: Attacking Midfield (Centre)
Possible roles: Shadow Striker
A tactical tweak we’ve seen Klopp enact semi-regularly over the last couple of years sees Roberto Firmino drop slightly deeper and Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane play through the middle, more like a traditional centre-forward.
And while there is certainly potential to copy Klopp in FM 2020, moving Mane into the Attacking Midfield position (behind Firmino) might be an inspired alternative, especially with a Shadow Striker role. That way, Mane will work off Firmino, often pushing beyond the Brazilian and being the most advanced player on the pitch.
In particular, Mane’s Dribbling, Finishing and First Touch coupled with superlative Pace and Acceleration mean he will be near-unstoppable when put through on goal. Those attributes could be particularly useful if your team plays on the counter.
Just make sure you make up for his absence on the left by giving left-back Andy Robertson licence to roam forward.
Top tip: If anything, Mane’s Passing and Work Rate could be slightly improved for this role, so give him and additional training focus to ensure he is able to bring the best out of his teammates.
How to train players in new positions and roles
There are two ways to make sure a player is deployed in a new position or role in training.
1. When viewing a player’s profile, navigate to Development –> Training. On the left of this page, you can change a player’s Position/Role/Duty in training. You can also give the player an Additional Focus, and even change his training Intensity Level.
2. Alternatively, you can do all of the above from the Squad screen by simply right-clicking on the appropriate player.
You might be put off from changing a player’s position or role because he is not competent in that position or role. Don’t be afraid to experiment – you can easily change things back to normal at any time.