Building around an anchor man

First off, let me just clarify that I won’t always be posting about the anchor man role. Yes this blog is named after it, but only because I am most experienced with it. I will however write on what I feel are the basics of the anchor man in my first few posts.

Now to the Nitty Gritty. In my earlier post I explained that the anchor man is an expert at interceptions and tackling, closing opponents down is not really his forte. He wants to sit in front of the back four and make sure nothing goes through. For him to be able to do this to the max, certain things need to be right around him and in the tactic.

1) Alone in the DM position: Although this is not a prerequisite for success, I personally prefer to play him alone so he can be central and protect both sides of the defensive midfield equally.

2) Defensive Line: The higher the defensive line, the more difficult it is for him to perform his duty, you don’t want him caught upfield by pacey players on the break, because he will not close them down when they get on the break but look to run back. However, really good anchor men can manage such situations and can decide if to go in for the tackle, or read the passer for an interception.

3) Team press: After everything I’ve been saying, this is fairly obvious. A high pressing team is an anchor man’s downfall. Forcing him to press will end up negating the role as it doesn’t allow him to read passers or runners for that interception or tackle. However, here again good anchor men will still excel due to being good defensive players all round. I personally like to combine a pressing central midfield with a sort of spy anchor man. A pressing team doesn’t allow the opposition time to look for the best passing option, hence when they pass direct it is a more risky pass, which is a lot easier for my anchor man to deal with. Also, because pressing destroys defensive shape, a spy anchor can sit and watch out for any runners that the press allows to escape. This basically gives you the best of both worlds.

4)Structured/Very Structured: Without going into too much detail about the structured philosophy, it basically allows players to concentrate on their role in the team without playing cruyff-esque football. As the anchor man is a specialist role, you would want him to concentrate solely on doing this, without thinking of other phases of play like transition and attacking.


The Anchor Man (Mental Attributes)

There was no way I wasn’t dedicating my first post to my favourite position and role, both in real life and in football manager. The Anchor man, a.k.a The Makelele role. I have been a Chelsea supporter since the early 2000s and a Jose mourinho fan since his first season at the club, maybe that is what shaped my mind to prefer to beauty of defence to the flair of attack. The best thing about the role is how it transforms a struggling defence to a nightmare to play against. A good anchor man’s job is simple, tackles and interception.

In Football Manager, It’s all in the mentals, the only mental attribute I don’t look at for this role is flair. Vision and leadership are also not as Important. Before we break down the mental attributes and why they are all important, here are some players I love for the role.

1. Matic (A bit underrated in FM)

Football_Manager_2015_Nemanja Matic_ Overview Attributes

2. Besic (Potential to be a brilliant Anchor Man)


3. Ruben Neves (Already so mentally sound)


4. James McCarthy (Everton Bias!!!)

james mccarthy

1. Aggression– combined with strength and tackling will leave the opposition limping. This determines how much he exerts his physical dominance in every thing that he does. Aggression is most important when he comes up against opponents of equal or greater size and strength. It gives him the edge he needs to still out muscle them. Makelele at 170m still very scary.

2. Anticipation– One of the most important attributes for the role. The key to 20+ interceptions per game, he reads the oppositions moves and predicts when and where to make the pounce to intercept the pass. It combines beautifully with positioning.

3. Positioning– Continuing from earlier, anticipation is all well and good but if he is 20 yards from the passer, it doesn’t matter if he knows where the ball is going, he won’t make it in time. Anchor men are usually positioned centrally and because they don’t close down as much they are never too far from a possible defence splitting pass or a troublesome number 10 trying to be the next Juan Mata (Chelsea Bias :p).

4. Bravery– Important for most defensive minded players, necessary for getting stuck in challenges, or attempting dangerous aerial challenges.

5. Composure– In possession, the anchor man will always be the safety blanket of the midfield, as they will look to him when under pressure, he needs the composure to remain calm under pressure of two, three players closing down on him to still make the right decision. If not he will loss possession or make the wrong decision that can cost the team. When not in possession, composure comes to play in making tackles, rash challenges mean bookings or missed tackles.

6. Decisions– Continuing from earlier it works well with composure in recycling possession. When not in possession, this becomes one of his most important attributes. Important decisions like when to close down, when to tackle, how far to follow a player, who to pass to, all determine an anchor man’s performance.

7. Concentration– Important for most defensive players, keeps them alert at all times. Keeping track of player movements around them, both team mates and opposition. Especially players off the ball, as their movements are usually the key to breaking down defences.

The last three attributes I mentioned are key to making less mistakes. If you check player stats at the end of a season, the most mistakes are usually by defensive midfielders, due to giving away possession, poor decisions or losing track of players. Composure, decisions and concentration are key to your anchor man making less mistakes.

8. Determination– This is his drive, this is his “we go again”. Whether 3-0 up or 3-0 down, he does his job to the best of his ability.

9. Vision and Leadership– Not so important to the anchor man, but it wouldn’t hurt to be able to ping that pass from deep that sets your pacey striker off. Or for him to be your captain, which is what I always like. (I’ve always wondered if leadership of a non-captain can influence the team)

10. Off the ball– Basically his positioning when your team is in possession. Where he’s positioned when you’re in possession is especially necessary for breaking up counter attacks.

11. Work rate– Although not necessary for the anchor man as he doesn’t close down as much, he still requires it for when he decides to close down. Also necessary for working hard on the pitch and in training, although he is a more tactical player, he still can’t be lazying about on the pitch.

12. Teamwork– I only look at this if he has average or below average decisions. It’s important for him to be selfless at all times yes, but good decisions prevent him from trying to be Messi and making runs from deep or taking the unnecessary long shot, making teamwork not as important for success in the role.

Some other good anchor men

1. Schneiderlin

2.  Lucas Leiva

3. Khedira

4. Sergio Busquets

5. Javi Martinez

As I was writing this article, my anchor man pulled this off.

progni rating progni tackles

Lost 2-0, but he got an 8.0 rating with 20/23 tackles.

*Still trying to figure out how to put up videos to show some of the interceptions and tackles*