Guide To The Box To Box Midfielder In Football Manager

The box to box midfielder is one of my favourite roles in the game. For a player to make this role his own, he must have the physical attributes to contribute in defence and also possess the technical ability to be a goal threat in attack.

There are very few football players in world football currently plying their trade or those who have recently retired that truly mastered this role.

Those that did including the likes of Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Yaya Toure, Patrick Viera, Roy Keane, and Bastian Shweistegeir are highly regarded and often make the lists for best midfielders of the past generation.

In the current football scene, we have had the likes of Arturo Vidal, Tomas Soucek, Franck Kessie, Sergej Milinkovic Savic, Paul Pogba, and Saul Niguez among others play the role to different levels of success.

Box to box midfielder attributes in football manager

From the list of active players above, Paul Pogba arguably has the highest ability going forward, but his defensive capability is suspect as he is always prone to defensive mishaps, often being caught ball watching while his team is under pressure from the opposition.

Arturo Vidal strikes the perfect balance of being solid in defence while still offering some firepower upfront from his famous longe range goals.

In football manager, you can set up a system that best supports your box to box midfielder by either masking his weak presence in attack or defence depending on the type of player that he is.

Scott McTominay for instance is a box to box midfielder just like Paul Pogba, but their strengths are complete opposites.

McTominay is more solid in defence, being a dream partner for Bruno Fernandes who is notorious for focusing on his attacking play, while Pogba as pointed out is poor in defence which has been illustrated by the former Man United manager Olé Gunnar Solskjaer being hesitant in pairing Pogba and Fernandes with only a single defensive midfielder behind them, especially in matches against the other top-six sides in the EPL.

In a two-man central midfield, the box to box midfielder should be partnered with a central midfielder who will sit back and protect the team against the counterattack. The deep-lying playmaker, ball-winning midfielder(defend duty) and the central midfielder(defender) should work well here.

Other runner type midfield roles like an advanced playmaker, roaming playmaker or the mezzala should be avoided at all costs since you will be massively exposed when both your box to box midfielder and his partner are caught upfield and the opposition has the whole central midfield to run through unchallenged on the counter-attack.

The only time you should consider partnering the box to box midfielder with a runner type player alongside him in a two-man midfield is when you have three centre backs at the back to offer defensive protection. 

However, this rule of thumb changes in midfield setups consisting of three or more players, like in a narrow diamond midfield.

In such midfields, you can even have two box to box midfielders, with a deep lying playmaker(defend duty), anchorman or halfback in behind them to offer protection against the counter attack.  

Since their movement is not exactly adventurous in moving into the final third, you should then add the personal instruction to get “further forward” to at least one of the box to box midfielders. 

This should encourage the box to box midfielder to be more willing in making more runs into the final third than he would normally without the added player instruction.

I however never use two box to box midfielders, preferring to have the other central midfielder play a different role like the mezzala, advanced playmaker or the carrilero which adds a different dynamism to my midfield.  

The defensive midfielder in this case is always instructed to hold his position and never go on adventurous runs like a Segundo Volante or Regista

With the right attributes and player traits, the box to box midfielder is a regular goal threat, often popping up with a few goals and assists throughout the season from the runs he makes from midfield.

These runs mean he often finds himself unmarked just outside the 18-yard box, from where he can take long shots or play in his forwards.

Attributes Required For A Box To Box Midfielder In FM

The first thing you should consider before playing anyone as a box to box midfielder is his physicality. The box to box midfielder runs a lot throughout the entire match over the entire season, meaning any player with low physical attributes, stamina and natural fitness to quickly recover between matches will struggle.

You should make sure that the stamina, acceleration, pace, and natural fitness the player has is at least a 15 rating. I would forgive a 14 rating in one or two of the physical attributes.

For the mental attributes, positioning, teamwork and aggression should come first. These should then be complemented by composure, decisions and anticipation for the moments he is in the opposition third and needs to make the right choice, whether passing or taking a shot on goal.

On the technical attributes, unlike most other midfield roles that require exquisite passing, the box to box midfielder can get away with a lower rating here.

Ball progression, however, should be a strong skill that the box to box midfielder possesses. Players like Kovacic, Sissoko and Ndombele are not exactly world-class pass masters, but their incredible close control of the ball and dribbling makes ball progression easy for them and a nightmare for the defenders to deal with.

Therefore, ensure that your box to box midfielder has a good first touch, dribbling and technique. Finishing and long shots are also crucial here, as your box to box midfielder will be making regular appearances in the opposition’s final third.

You can get away with a lower rating in tackling, but ensure that you have another midfielder to pick up the proper defensive work that the box to box midfielder might do a poor job of if he is lacking in that department.

Player Attributes For A Box To Box Midfielder In FM

The following attributes will aid the box to box midfielder in being a presence in both the attacking and defensive phases of the match.

  1. Arrives late in opponent’s area – Arriving late into the opposition’s area means he will often find himself unmarked and with the freedom to slot the ball home from cutbacks and crosses
  2. Runs with ball through Centre – Especially effective for good dribblers with high flair, running with the ball through the midfield is an effective way of quickly progressing the ball upfield
  3. Gets Forward Whenever Possible – The box to box midfielder should always be willing to join the attack when the opportunity arises.
  4. Comes Deep to Get Ball – Out of possession, the box to box midfielder should be encouraged to drop back and add another body to the defensive line.
  5. Gets Into Opposition Area – If you have solid defensive cover for your box to box midfielder, you can instruct him to get higher up in the final third, rubbing shoulders with the team’s strikers.

The above player traits will not work well with all box to box midfielders. For instance, those player traits that encourage the box to box midfielders to take a bigger role in attack will not work well on the defensive-minded box to box midfielders like Scot McTominay.

In the same vein, those that ask the box to box midfielders to take a bigger role in defence will not be effective in the attack-minded box to box midfielders like Pogba. Therefore, take note of the kind of player that you have before you assign him a coach to teach him a player trait that will only hold his game back.

Football Manager Tactic With A Box To Box Midfielder

In the tactic below, I have the box to box midfielder paired with a central midfielder on attack duty, with an anchorman behind them.

False 9 tactic in football manager

Since my central midfielder(attack duty) will be making more forward runs than my box to box midfielder, I have not instructed the box to box midfielder to get “further forward”.

The false 9 should contribute to the midfield presence by often dropping deep and then using his creative instinct to play through on goal both the winger and inside forward.

The two central midfielders will also occasionally join in the final third to get at the end of crosses delivered by the wing back or through balls played from deep by the inverted wing back, who also keeps the anchorman company in guarding against the counter attack.

The ball playing defenders in their cover and defend duty should occasionally try a long-range pass to either wing to put the wide players in a 1V1 against the opposition fullbacks. 

The sweeper keeper on defend duty will not be Ederson 2.0 by any means, but he should still be able to move out of his 18-yard box and deal with the long balls before the opposition strikers get at the end of them.

For insight into other central midfield roles in FM that you can consider in place of the box to box midfielder, check out the guide for the mezzala here, the advanced playmaker here or the less famous carrilero here.