Located in a midfield three either on the right or left side of it, the Mezzala is supposed to occupy the half space between the winger and the fullback. He has also been referred to as the “half winger” because of occupying these spaces in attack.
Due to the nature of the role being very attacking while still occupying the central midfield roles, the mezzala is best paired with a willing runner alongside him to cover the hole he leaves behind when he vacates the central area of the pitch.
The Mezzala role can be played in slightly different ways, as we saw Carlo Ancelotti employ it very effectively on his way to the Champions League win while at Real Madrid. Angel Di Maria would leave his central position and move wide to the left occupying the space left by Cristiano Ronaldo who as an inside forward, who would move into the box to get close to Karim Benzema. Out of possession, Di Maria would then drop back into his central midfield slot alongside Khedira and Luca Modric.
Another famous implementation of the Mezzala role is Allegri’s Juventus side of 2015 which secured the Serie A title but couldn’t get the better of the MSN trio of Barcelona, Messi, Neymar and Suarez in the Champions League final who scored an ungodly number of goals on their way to a Barcelona treble.
Allegri tasked Paul Pogba with linking up with Patrice Evra at the left back position either in a 442 Diamond formation or in a back three (352) with two strikers up front, which he equally used depending on the opposition.
Paul Pogba was provided with two hardworking midfielders at his side, Marchisio and Arturo Vidal who would free him from extra defensive midfielders as his skill set was better suited near the opposition box. As a result, Pogba finished the season with 12 assists, the highest in Serie A in 2015.
The Mezzala role in FM has been referred to as a playmaker role, but it is better to think of it as an attacking box to box midfielder role, or a Central Midfielder in attack duty, but instead of bombing up the pitch vertically, the mezzala tends to drift towards the wide areas.
Attributes Required to be a Mezzala in FM
The Mezzala in football manager is first and foremost expected to be excellent in attack, with good physicals necessary to join the attack consistently throughout the entire 90 minutes. Defensive solidity is a nice addition, but not a necessity. The role can also be played by Attacking Midfielders who have decent physicality and are versatile.
Therefore, passing, dribbling, technique and vision should be above 15 if you are managing a top side in the top five leagues, while 14 or 13 should be enough for sides in the lower half of the table or those managing in the lower leagues.
On the physical side, acceleration, pace and agility are important in charging through the midfield in order to join the attack, though this can be offset by superior passing and a combination of different PPMs which we will look at below.
Mentally, his composure, decisions and off the ball movement will be tested throughout the whole match. Knowing when to join the attack or hold his position to act as an extra body in midfield will determine whether he will be an asset to your team or just a liability.
Since the mezzala is both physically and technically demanding, his PPMs will slightly vary depending on your tactical choice, whether it is possession based or counter attacking in nature.
The following player instructions are already included with the mezzala role;
- Gets further forward
- Stay wider
- Move into channels
- Roam from position
- Take more risks (Attack duty)
The above player instructions can also be supplemented by the following Player Preferred Moves (PPMs)
Player Traits Suitable for a Mezzala in Football Manager
- Gets forward whenever possible – The integral factor in any mezzala, his ability to consistently leave his central midfield role and move towards the half spaces as he 7proceeds up the pitch will be integral to your team scoring goals.
- Moves into channels – Moves into channels increases the chances of a player trying to find space vertically between the opposition, in this case the mezzala will be more likely to occupy the space between the central defenders and the fullbacks.
- Tries killer balls often – Especially useful if there are no other playmakers in the team, the mezzala will often try to put his teammates through on goal, obviously with varying success depending on his passing, technique and vision.
- Plays one-twos– More useful in a possession based system rather than a counter attacking one, playing one-twos successfully has the ability to unsettle any defence and pull the opposition out of position as they struggle to pick up on the quick passes.
Unsuitable Player Traits for a Mezzala in FM
- Comes deep to get ball – this trait is useful for other midfield roles like the deep lying playmaker, but it is wasted on a mezzala who is supposed to stay up field, and depend on the other midfielders who are willing runners to do the dirty work for him by dropping back and getting the ball from the defence into midfield.
- Dwells on ball – a mostly negative trait in FM, and it’s one of the traits I train a player out of. The mezzala needs to be making quick decisions and releasing the ball quickly, taking his sweet time with the ball will only lead to the attack breaking down.
- Runs with ball rarely – since we want our mezzala to be breaking forward with the ball at his feet, this PPM will basically render his dribbling skills useless.
- Stays back at all times – a PPM suitable to only centre backs and defensive midfielders, who aren’t expected to join the attack on any occasion. It works really well with a half back or an anchor man.
How to fit a Mezzala in your FM Tactic
4141 DM Wide
One of the most commonly used tactics with a mezzala is the 4141 formation with one holding midfielder and two no. 8s. The holding midfielder will offer defensive cover, while the two no. 8s are given freedom to express themselves. However, one of the two no. 8s will shoulder slightly more defensive work.
A good balance is having two mezzalas on the no. 8 positions, but one having attack duty with the other one on support duty. The wide players should then be instructed to stay wide on winger duty to prevent them from operating in the same spaces as the mezzalas.
The fullbacks, as a rule when there is a winger in front of them, shouldn’t be too attacking to also avoid operating in the same spaces as the wingers. Fullback on support duty is sufficient, while also inverted fullbacks can also work to occupy the vacant spaces left by the mezzalas as they move into the half spaces.
If two mezzalas leave your defense overly exposed, change one of them into a box to box midfielder or a ball winning midfielder on support duty for more defensive solidity. Take a look at the screenshot above for inspiration. The tactic should also work for fm19,fm18 and fm21. Just remember to slightly tweak the roles to suit the players you have.
Back Three Tactic
While having the security of three centre backs, the defensive midfielder can also manage to be more creative, and a good passer here can play the role of a regista really well.
The mezzala in front of the defensive midfielder can then be paired with a box to box midfielder or a central midfielder on attack duty, depending on the strength of your squad.
It is better to be more cautious when managing a smaller team, to limit the amount of chances you concede to your opponent.
One of your strikers should either be on a deep lying forward role, false9 or complete forward on support to better link with the midfield, while the other one on an advanced forward role or poacher, to make runs in behind the defense.
The wingbacks on support duty should be attacking enough, but in case you need more attacking presence, changing them to complete wingbacks will make them very attacking at the cost of leaving you exposed at the back. I only resort to this when chasing an equaliser at the dying moments of the game.