When on their day, 'Direct Goal-Scorers' can be some of the most entertaining footballers to watch, with a sense of raw intensity beating inside their heart every step of the way. Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has shown everyone exactly that this season at Serie A leaders Napoli, but the likes of Sadio Mané and Serge Gnabry have demonstrated their goal-scoring exploits for years.
Throughout this series, we've endeavoured to avoid player types signified by a single set of actions and statistics. The 'Dynamic Dribbler' is one of the rare exceptions, as the art of 'dribbling' is an essential way for wingers to enact magic on the pitch, and become the magic wand sorcerers that we all know they can be. Here is our analysis of the 'Dynamic Dribbler', and their importance on the pitch.
Unlike their name might imply, 'Inverted Wingers' are far more than just wingers that cut or drift inside. That is only one small part of an overarching role that prioritizes playmaking in the final third, and dynamically linking play between the other members of the front-line. The best of the art will often post high numbers in goals and assists, but 'Inverted Wingers' need to be so much more than just creative goal-scorers - generally tasked with creating space, rotating with teammates, and moving off the ball to exploit the half-spaces at the right moments.
When we say 'Creative Ten', I'm sure you immediately conjure up an image of a classical painter of a player, who wonderfully creates art with their passing and incisiveness in the final third. But as has been well documented over the past few years, that type of player does not tend to exist in the modern game. The Mesut Ozil's, David Silva's and Cesc Fabregas's of this world no longer tend to exist as they once did, or play in the same positions that they once held. Nowadays, 'number ten's' must not only be capable contributors in the final third, but highly active in pressing from the front, and contributing to rotations that spread the width of the pitch.
As the ball-dominant magic-wand sorcerers in central midfield, 'Midfield Maestros' accomplish feats that few other players would be capable of showcasing to the world. They ooze class every time they touch the ball, always looking dangerous as they dribble, carry or skillfully dance their way around the opposition. But beyond technical precision and pizzazz, 'Midfield Maestros' might be some of the most tactically adept out there, possessing the awareness of space that very few have mastered. Here is our analysis of the Midfield Maestro.
The 'Tempo Setter' is a unique player type to our system, taking into account the possession-based players that operate in a 'number 8' position, and thrive when given the ball in the half-spaces. Youri Tielemans, Christian Eriksen and Jordan Henderson feature as some of the best within the role from an emblematic perspective, perfectly exuding the cucumber coolness required. But the likes of Thiago and Tchouaméni also stake a claim despite their extreme exceptionalities on the ball, due to the high influence they present in keeping the game moving along from a withdrawn position. Beyond the streamlined skill of Thiago, they tend not to be the flashiest of players in their teams. But 'Tempo Setters' are key to setting the tone of a football match, and conducting the orchestra from start to finish. Quite simply, without their class and composure in possession, the whole entire musical production could crumble.
As goal-contributors, defensive warriors and midfield engines all wrapped up in one modem, 'Box to Box Midfielders' end up being some of the most imperative members of their squads. Unlike other midfield player types, they consistently catch the eye for their attacking performances, even when deployed in a deeper, defensive, 'number 8' role. The likes of Conor Gallagher, Sergej Milinković-Savić and Georgia Stanway perfectly encapsulate the role, helping us to qualify and quantify more of these 'Box-to-Box' engines in the future.
The 'Deep-Lying Playmaker' is one of the already attributed player types that we have adopted within our system. Also known by its Italian name 'Regista', the 'DLP' is tasked with setting the tempo of the match from build up to progression, all the way to creation. They sit in front of the defensive line as an 'Anchor', but hold a more offensive, progressive and possession-oriented role than the other two 'number 6' types within our 'Anchor' persona. Their role is in both helping create space between the lines, and then breaking lines, recycling play, or even changing the point of attack upon receiving the ball, so that their team can advance up the pitch, beat an opposition's press and seek spaces closer to goal.
Anchors tend to play at the base of a midfield three, holding the midfield together, and allowing others to work their magic up ahead. Their role is in both screening in front of the defense to disallow progressive passes forward, particularly into the opposition's striker, and to 'anchor' the midfield by holding everything together as other members step out of position or drift into the half-spaces. Unlike the 'Midfield Destroyer' they do not need to be overly active in defensive phases on sheer statistical contributions, but should be equally active on the hard work done off the ball to shift, shuffle and slide with the play.
The 'Midfield Destroyer' continues to be alive and well in the modern game, and encapsulates some of the most highly regarded and sought after defensive midfielders on the planet. The 'Destroyer' is essential to defending in transition and stunting attacks before the opposition reach the final third, within the wider umbrella of 'Anchoring' the midfield and screening in front of the back-line. Casemiro and Yves Bissouma would qualify as some of the best around, with Óscar Valentín and Benjamin André performing as two other fantastic emblems of the fearless persona behind the 'Midfield Destroyer' player type.
Not all 'Shuttlers' get the credit they deserve, even despite being absolute engines and motorcyclists for their teams. They respond brilliantly at all ends of the pitch through that tireless energy and appetite for the game, whilst prioritizing a defensive approach to life in football. N'Golo Kante serves as a perfect reminder of what 'Shuttlers' should strive to be - a player who wonderfully goes box-to-box with ease and admiration, without mitigating their resolute defensive responsibilities.
The term 'Sweeper' has existed within the game for decades. The traditional usage encourages the contrasting relationship between one centre-back who steps out (the 'Stopper'), and one that sweeps in behind. The modern game has evolved in such a way where centre-backs typically perform both roles simultaneously, and it's rare to find clear-cut examples of 'Sweeper-Stopper' partnerships. In fact, I'd go as far to suggest that they typically exist more in back-threes in the modern game, with one clear-cut 'Stopper' angling higher than an obvious 'Sweeper' cleaning up the messes in behind. This Player Role Analysis is all about the modern day 'Sweepers', as we break down the tasks, functions and over-arching role of a 'Sweeper' in 2022.
Over the past few decades, centre-backs have only grown in importance to attacking phases and playing out from the back, becoming some of the preeminent quarterbacks for their clubs. But the 'Stopper' is still alive and well, providing an 'old-school', throwback approach to defending that relishes the physical side of the game. Every team must find the balance in their defensive unit, and sometimes that may mean deploying a rock-solid, proactive defender that can win possession higher up the pitch. It's not the prettiest of roles, but when played correctly, 'Stoppers' can be absolutely imperative to a team's success.