Responsibility Distribution

A team’s responsibility distribution refers to its assignment of positional responsibilities through its assignment of tactical roles.

In order to achieve an appropriate responsibility distribution a team should consider the importance level of each positional responsibility, its system fluidity and the role specialisation of the tactical roles that it assigns.

In addition, a team may consider the symmetry of its responsibility distribution and the use of auxiliary players.

The importance levels of the main positional responsibilities were detailed in the Positional Responsibilities guide, while system fluidity was discussed in the System Fluidity guide.

Role Specialisation

The role specialisation of a tactical role refers to the extent to which the tactical role enables a player to perform each positional responsibility.

A tactical role’s role specialisation can be analysed by classifying positional responsibilities as follows:

  • Specialist responsibilities – designated responsibilities for which the tactical role includes at least one supplementary role types or, alternatively, an additional key role type.
  • Supported responsibilities – positional responsibilities for which the tactical role does not include any conflicting or adverse role types but also does not include any key role types.
  • Supplementary responsibilities – supported responsibilities for which the tactical role includes at least one supplementary role type.
  • Weak-designated responsibilities – positional responsibilities for which the tactical role includes at least one key role type and does not include any conflicting role types, but does include at least one adverse role type.
  • Weak-supported responsibilities – positional responsibilities for which the tactical role does not include any conflicting role types but also does not include any key role types and does include at least one adverse role type.
  • Non-contributive responsibilities – positional responsibilities for which the tactical role includes at least one conflicting role type.

By assessing the role specialisation of a tactical role, its focus level can be determined.

The focus level of a tactical role refers to the extent to which the tactical role enables a player to concentrate on performing particular positional responsibilities.

A tactical role’s focus level can be assessed by considering the number of conflicting role types that are included in the tactical role and, to a lesser extent, the number of adverse role types.

A tactical role can be categorised as any of the following according to its focus level:

  • More focused – the tactical role has a relatively high focus level.
  • More generalist – the tactical role has a relatively low focus level.
  • More balanced – the tactical role has a relatively average focus level. A more balanced tactical role is neither particularly focused nor particularly generalist.

To achieve an appropriate responsibility distribution a team typically assigns tactical roles such that:

  • Each essential importance positional responsibility is a designated responsibility for all players in the relevant positional area.
  • Each very high importance positional responsibility is a supported or designated responsibility for at least two players in the relevant positional area and a designated responsibility for at least one player in the relevant positional area.
  • Each high importance positional responsibility is a designated responsibility for at least one player in the relevant positional area.
  • Each fairly high importance positional responsibility is a supplementary or designated responsibility for at least one player in the relevant positional area.
  • Each medium importance positional responsibility is a supported or designated responsibility for at least one player in the relevant positional area.
  • In a more structured playing system more focused tactical roles are used.
  • In a more fluid playing system more generalist tactical roles are used.

Symmetry

In some cases a team may want to achieve an element of symmetry in its responsibility distribution within a central positional area in order to ensure that a good playing system balance is achieved.

In particular, in central defence and central midfield, if one or more wide and off-centre players are used, a team typically distributes the following positional responsibilities symmetrically; that is, either to two wide and off-centre players on opposite sides or to a more central player:

Auxiliary Players

A team may use auxiliary players to perform particular positional responsibilities in auxiliary playing positions. The use of such players is analysed below per positional area, while the effects on responsibility distribution of the use of vacating players is also discussed.

Per Positional Area

Detailed below for each of the main positional areas are the most common auxiliary playing position role types that a team can assign to a player in order to enable him to perform positional responsibilities in an auxiliary playing position in the positional area, along with the positional responsibilities that can be performed as such in each case.

Where an auxiliary player acts as a wide and off-centre player in his auxiliary playing position, the symmetry of responsibility distribution can be considered as discussed above.

In Central Defence

Vertical Movement
Horizontal Movement
  • Roaming full back – attacking phase auxiliary wide and off-centre centre back (if not also a line-hugging player) – can be used to:
    • Stretch play
    • Play safe
    • Create chances

In Central Midfield

Vertical Movement
  • Offensive central defender – attacking phase auxiliary supporting defensive midfielder – can be used to:
  • Supporting central defender – attacking phase auxiliary sitting defensive midfielder – can be used to:
    • Provide attacking cover
    • Play safe
    • Create chances
    • Take chances
  • Deep-dropping attacking midfielder – attacking phase auxiliary centre midfielder – can be used to:
    • Provide attacking cover
    • Play safe
    • Create chances
    • Take chances
Horizontal Movement
  • Narrow wide midfielder – positional auxiliary wide and off-centre defensive midfielder or centre midfielder – can be used to:
    • Provide cover; provide attacking cover; provide defensive cover
    • Apply defensive pressure
    • Stretch play
    • Play safe
    • Create chances
    • Take chances
  • Roaming wide midfielder – attacking phase auxiliary wide and off-centre defensive midfielder or centre midfielder (if not also a line-hugging player) – can be used to:
    • Stretch play
    • Play safe
    • Create chances
    • Take chances
  • Inverted wide midfielder – on the ball auxiliary wide and off-centre defensive midfielder or centre midfielder (if not also a line-hugging or restricted-dribbling player) – can be used to:
    • Stretch play
    • Create chances
    • Take chances
  • Wide midfield aggressor – defensive phase auxiliary wide and off-centre defensive midfielder or centre midfielder (when the ball is in central midfield) – can be used to:
    • Apply defensive pressure

On The Flanks

Horizontal Movement
  • Wide and off-centre centre back, central midfielder or attacking midfielder – positional auxiliary narrow wide player – can be used to:
    • Provide cover; provide attacking cover; provide defensive cover
    • Apply defensive pressure
    • Play safe
    • Create chances
  • Wide-dribbling off-centre centre back, central midfielder or attacking midfielder – on the ball auxiliary narrow wide player – can be used to:
    • Create chances
  • Off-centre centre back, central midfield or attacking midfield aggressor – defensive phase auxiliary narrow wide player (when the ball is on the flank) – can be used to:
    • Apply defensive pressure

In Central Attack

Vertical Movement
  • Offensive centre midfielder – attacking phase auxiliary supporting attacking midfielder – can be used to:
    • Stretch play
    • Play safe
    • Create chances
    • Take chances
  • Supporting centre midfielder – attacking phase auxiliary sitting attacking midfielder – can be used to:
    • Provide attacking cover
    • Play safe
    • Create chances
    • Take chances
  • Offensive defensive midfielder – attacking phase auxiliary sitting attacking midfielder – can be used to:
    • Play safe
    • Create chances
    • Take chances
Horizontal Movement
  • Narrow wing forward – positional auxiliary wide and off-centre attacking midfielder – can be used to:
    • Provide cover; provide attacking cover; provide defensive cover
    • Apply defensive pressure
    • Stretch play
    • Play safe
    • Create chances
    • Take chances
  • Roaming wing forward – attacking phase auxiliary wide and off-centre attacking midfielder (if not also a line-hugging player) – can be used to:
    • Stretch play
    • Play safe
    • Create chances
    • Take chances
  • Inverted wing forward – on the ball auxiliary wide and off-centre attacking midfielder (if not also a line-hugging or restricted-dribbling player) – can be used to:
    • Stretch play
    • Create chances
    • Take chances
  • Wing forward aggressor – defensive phase auxiliary wide and off-centre attacking midfielder (when the ball is in central attack) – can be used to:
    • Apply defensive pressure

Vacating Players

Where a player vacates a positional area to a large extent as a result of an attacking phase or on the ball auxiliary playing position role type (a vacating player), relevant positional responsibilities may be distributed to players who remain in the positional area (alternative players) so that they can be performed in the vacating player’s absence.

Common Vacating Players

Detailed below are the most common examples of vacating players, along with the relevant positional responsibilities that may be performed by alternative players.

  • Offensive central defender – alternative central defenders should ideally be used to:
    • Provide cover; provide attacking cover – not performed by offensive player
    • Provide defensive cover
    • Apply defensive pressure
    • Play safe
    • Create chances – low importance in central defence
    • Take chances – irrelevant in central defence
  • Offensive centre midfielder – alternative central midfielders should ideally be used to:
    • Provide cover; provide attacking cover – not performed by offensive player
    • Provide defensive cover
    • Apply defensive pressure
    • Play safe
    • Create chances
    • Take chances – low importance in central midfield
  • Deep-dropping defensive midfielder – alternative central midfielders should ideally be used to:
    • Apply defensive pressure
    • Stretch play – not performed by deep-dropping player
    • Play safe
    • Create chances
    • Take chances – low importance in central midfield
  • Deep-dropping attacking midfielder – alternative central attackers should ideally be used to:
    • Apply defensive pressure
    • Stretch play – not performed by deep-dropping player
    • Play safe – low importance in central attack
    • Create chances
    • Take chances
  • Inverted wide player – alternative wide players should ideally be used to:
    • Provide cover; provide attacking cover – low importance
    • Stretch play
    • Play safe – low importance on the flanks
    • Create chances
    • Take chances – irrelevant on the flanks
  • Wide-dribbling central defender – alternative central players should ideally be used to:
    • Provide cover; provide attacking cover
    • Stretch play – low importance in central defence
    • Play safe – not performed by wide-dribbling player
    • Create chances – low importance in central defence
    • Take chances – irrelevant in central defence
  • Wide-dribbling central midfielder – alternative central players should ideally be used to:
    • Provide cover; provide attacking cover
    • Stretch play
    • Play safe – not performed by wide-dribbling player
    • Create chances
    • Take chances – low importance in central midfield
  • Wide-dribbling central attacker – alternative central players should ideally be used to:
    • Provide cover; provide attacking cover – low importance in central attack
    • Stretch play
    • Play safe – low importance in central attack; not performed by wide-dribbling player
    • Create chances
    • Take chances

Special Cases

Special cases include the following:

  • The use of two vacating players in the same positional area – each vacating player can be considered to be a sufficient alternative player to the other as long as one player remains in the positional area while the other vacates it. For example, the use a deep-dropping defensive midfielder and an offensive centre midfielder.
  • The use of a wide and off-centre player who is not a vacating player but performs the same defensive phase positional responsibility as a vacating player (who may also be wide and off-centre on the opposite side as discussed for symmetry above) – the wide and off-centre player who remains in or near the positional area may be considered to be a sufficient alternative player to the vacating player, even though symmetry is not achieved while the vacating player is away from the positional area, as he should generally be well positioned to move further into the positional area when required in the defensive transition phase. For example, a wide and off-centre offensive centre midfielder (the vacating player) and a wide and off-centre supporting centre midfielder who both apply defensive pressure in central midfield.