Responsibility Distribution

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

A team can achieve an appropriate responsibility distribution by setting the role specifications of its players according to positional responsibility importance and its system fluidity level.

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

Setting Role Specifications

A team can achieve an appropriate responsibility distribution by setting role specifications such that:

  • Each very high importance positional responsibility is …
    • … A designated responsibility for at least one player in the relevant positional area who has a higher or versatile responsibility focus for the positional responsibility.
    • … A supported or designated responsibility for at least one additional 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 who has a higher or versatile responsibility focus for the positional responsibility.
  • Each fairly high importance positional responsibility is …
    • … A supplementary or designated responsibility for at least one player in the relevant positional area who has a higher or versatile responsibility focus for the positional responsibility.
  • Each medium importance positional responsibility is …
    • … A supported or designated responsibility for at least one player in the relevant positional area.

More Fluid Playing Systems

A team that uses a more fluid playing system, or wants to implement a more fluid aspect to its playing system, may, as an alternative to giving a single player a positional responsibility as a designated or supplementary responsibility, give two players (who have versatile responsibility focuses) that positional responsibility as a supported responsibility. They can then work together to perform the positional responsibility to the appropriate extent.

Counterbalancing Combinations

A team may use counterbalancing combinations to balance the effects of any higher responsibility specialism levels.

A counterbalancing combination is a group of two or more players where one player performs a positional responsibility with a particularly high responsibility specialism level but is balanced by other players who perform an opposing positional responsibility with a sufficiently high responsibility specialism level.

In particular, a counterbalancing combination can be useful in central defence and central midfield if a player has a particularly high responsibility specialism level for a positional responsibility that has player movement as a key tactical dynamic but that opposes a medium or higher importance positional responsibility (where an opposing positional responsibility is one that is performed in the same phases of play but has opposing tactical dynamics in terms of tactical risk). Without an appropriate counterbalancing combination, such a player may cause a team to fail to retain spatial compactness effectively.

A team can achieve appropriate counterbalancing combinations in such cases as follows:

  • A player who provides defensive cover with a particularly high responsibility specialism level can be counterbalanced by …
    • … A player who applies defensive pressure with a sufficiently high responsibility specialism level, or …
    • … Two players who apply defensive pressure with any responsibility specialism level.
  • A player who applies defensive pressure with a particularly high responsibility specialism level can be counterbalanced by …
    • … A player who provides defensive cover with a sufficiently high responsibility specialism level, or …
    • … Two players who provide defensive cover with any responsibility specialism level.
  • A player who provides attacking cover with a particularly high responsibility specialism level can be counterbalanced by …
    • … A player who stretches play with a sufficiently high responsibility specialism level, or …
    • … Two players who stretch play with any responsibility specialism level.
  • A player who stretches play with a particularly high responsibility specialism level can be counterbalanced by …
    • … A player who provides attacking cover with a sufficiently high responsibility specialism level, or …
    • … Two players who provide attacking cover with any responsibility specialism level.

Symmetry of Responsibility Distribution

A team may want to achieve an element of symmetry in its responsibility distribution in central positional areas, for positional responsibilities that have player movement as a key tactical dynamic, in order to help it to retain spatial compactness effectively.

In particular, such symmetry of responsibility distribution can be useful in central defence and central midfield.

Where one or more wide and off-centre players are used a team can achieve appropriate symmetry of responsibility distribution by assigning the following positional responsibilities either to two wide and off-centre players on opposite sides or to a more central player:

  • Providing attacking cover
  • Providing defensive cover
  • Applying defensive pressure
  • Stretching play

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
  • Narrow full back – positional auxiliary wide and off-centre centre back – can be used to:
    • Provide cover; provide attacking cover; provide defensive cover (but not as part of the defensive line)
    • Apply defensive pressure (but not as part of the defensive line)
    • Stretch play
    • Play safe
    • Create chances
  • 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
  • Full back aggressordefensive phase auxiliary wide and off-centre centre back (when the ball is in central defence) – can be used to:
    • Apply defensive pressure (but not as part of the defensive line)

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 central attack 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 (if not also a line-hugging or restricted-dribbling 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 and performs the positional responsibility there when the other player vacates the positional area. 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 during the team’s defensive transition. 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.