Benfica – Conveyor Belt to the Stars | Ep8: A tactical analysis – Midfielders | Football Manager 2019 Stories

Hi and welcome back to another plunge into our tactic! In the last post we focused on the defenders and noticed a few things that might help improve the tactic. This time around we’ll take a look at our midfield trio starting with the DLP.

Deep Lying Playmaker

So, what do we want him to do offensively?


Deep-lying playmaker options

The Deep-Lying Playmaker needs versatility. Often he is the engine that drives the build-up play and dictates the tempo. In our tactic it’s pivotal that the DLP (circled) strives to be open for a pass in the centre of the field all the time. Usually he receives the ball from our central defenders or another midfielder. From his deep position he wants to get the ball to our wide players if they are open. A signal to the rest of the team that we are going to attack the final third and hopefully get the ball into the box. If there are no openings he slows things down and recycles the ball through a central defender or another midfielder.

In defense the DLP‘s primary duty is to cover the area in front of our central defenders and possibly try to win the ball if he gets the opportunity.


Deep-lying playmakers

Based on the description of the DLP‘s role in our offence the passing stats are the most interesting. All of our DLPs have a high passing percentage, but they vary quite a lot when it comes to output, and with output I mean what their passing actually leads to. By looking at key passes and assists we get a better feel for how much the different players contribute in offence. Let’s see if a radar chart can clear things up a bit!


They are all more than decent passers of the ball, that’s obvious, with very similar passing percentages around 90. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. A DLP that keeps losing the ball is a dangerous and worthless DLP. A DLP that doesn’t give the ball away to the opposition and occasionally provides a bit of an attacking threat is a great DLP in my opinion. Three players stand out when it comes to offensive output. Tom Krauss with 32 starts for the B squad leads the team in Key passes with B squad player Dolan and A squad star Sandro Tonali in 2nd and 4th. Looking at assists it’s the same trio that leads the team, with Dolan in 1st ahead of Tonali and Krauss. Krauss is also miles ahead of the others when it comes to goals. The player with the least offensive output, Brandon Baiye of the B squad, is on the other hand by far our best player defensively, topping Tackles/90 mins, Key tackles and Interceptions/90 mins by quite a margin.

Let’s leave the DLP and look at the other two roles in our midfield trio. The CM(A) and the BTB are both extremely important as link-up players for pretty much every other player that contributes to our build-up play. Their most important role is to stay open for passes in the opposition’s half of the field, forming triangles with team-mates as you can see below. What we want out of the two roles differs a bit though.


Passing triangles

Box to box midfielder

The name says it all, doesn’t it!? This midfield role requires a certain type of player. The constant running requires a player with both good Off the Ball skills as well as more-than-decent Stamina. Besides the physical aspect he is expected to contribute on both ends of the pitch. In defence we want him to contribute by defending the central areas of the pitch and occasionally win a ball or two. When we win the ball his job is to get across the pitch from our box to the opposition’s and hopefully contribute a bit on the way there. Finally he is supposed to get into the box and score a few goals every season as well. A jack-of-all-trades? Probably. The team’s most important player? Very likely.


Box-to-box midfielders

So, how did our BTBs perform throughout the season? Looking at games played in both the A and B squad it becomes quite obvious that we used a no1 option in Fernandes and Nóbrega and back-up options in Viviani for the A squad and Bjerg for the B squad. Since Bjerg only played 3 games we’ll leave him out of further analysis and comparisons.


Wow, this gives us quite a bit of information to work with. At first glance the feeling is that the green player, A squad back-up option Viviani is the worst or at least the least stand-out player of the three. Let’s dig a bit deeper though to see what we find. Let’s start with Passing. Gedson Fernandes and Andrea Viviani have slightly better Passing% than Nóbrega, and Fernandes is by also by far the best when it comes to Key Passes/90 mins with Viviani in 2nd. Looking at assists Viviani is the best, with the other two a bit behind. On the other hand, Gedson Fernandes looks like he prefers to shoot instead of pass the ball, scoring a really high amount of goals this season. All in all Gedson Fernandes is by far our biggest provider offensively, with Andrea Viviani in second place. When looking at the defensive stats the tables suddenly turn in Nóbregas favour. He provides a defensive stability that neither one of the other two does, which is displayed in his Key Tackles and Interceptions/90 mins numbers. The question is however if we’re interested in this trade-off. Do we want more defensive stability or offensive output. I’d go for the latter, but that’s me. In all honesty I’d like both out of an ideal BTB midfielder. That is probably too much to ask for in such young players (unfinished products) though…

Now let’s leave the BTB and look at the player role that is supposed to produce the biggest offensive output, at least on paper.

Central midfielder

With an attacking role this player is important both in build-up play as a passing target a little bit higher up the pitch than the BTB and when we reach the final third as a threat in the box. He is likely to contribute more points than the BTB but will most likely provide less defensive impact on the other hand.


Central midfielders

Here Tiago Dantas was the preferred choice in the A squad ahead of Batista, while Vega and Gamarra pretty much split game time between them for the B squad, with Tavares getting fewer games. Since Tavares played less than 10 games we’ll leave him out of the comparison.


Hmm, my initial reaction this is: What the actual f*ck is Gamarra doing on the pitch? He scores no goals, doesn’t create chances for anyone else and never wins the ball back basically. His partner in the B squad Vega, actually didn’t do that much either. Disappointing. Well, now that that is established, let’s look at the players that actually achieved anything. Both Dantas and Batista seem to be doing what we want them to. They pass the ball, create chances for others and score a couple of goals themselves. This was much more pleasing! Neither of the four players contributed much defensively, which was expected out of this very offensively focused role.

Now that we’ve gone through the midfield trio one by one, let’s finish the post with a brief comparison of the roles and what the players in the different roles contributed to our game. Perhaps you’ve have a crystal clear view by now, but at least I would like one final radar chart before we wrap this up!



Well, let’s start at the top of the chart with Distance covered/90 minutes. This is an easy one, right? Our constant box-to-box-running midfielder must be running miles more than the other two, at least a lot more than the stationary DLP, right? Wrong! The BTB actually covers the LEAST distance out of the three, which is a bit puzzling. The central midfielder runs the most, followed by the DLP. What does the BTB actually do then? The chart doesn’t really cut it here. Let’s leave it and make a bullet list instead!

  • Box to Box Midfielder
    • Runs the least, as stated above!
    • Intercepts the ball the most and wins the most important tackles, meaning he is the best defensive contributor out of the three.
    • Dribbles the most
    • Produces some chances for others, but not a lot of them are converted
  • Deep Lying Playmaker
    • Runs the 2nd most
    • Tackles a bit and intercepts a few balls, ie plays a bit of defence
    • Plays the highest percentage of correct passes, but they rarely lead to anything straight away
    • Never shoots, why shoot from your own half?
  • Central Midfielder
    • Runs the most!
    • Doesn’t tackle or intercept the ball, ie doesn’t play defence
    • Creates plenty of chances for team mates
    • Shoots the most

With that I’ll leave you for now, a bit puzzled but hopefully happy you made it through yet another post. In the third and final part we’ll look at our most attacking trio and try to sum it all up in a final analysis. Now, go make your own radar charts! They’re fun and educational!

Thanks for reading another excellent post by Mikaelinho. You can follow him on Twitter here:


2 thoughts on “Benfica – Conveyor Belt to the Stars | Ep8: A tactical analysis – Midfielders | Football Manager 2019 Stories

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.