Football Manager 2018 saw the Mezzala role introduced to the game. It had gained some traction in the non-FM world due to the performances of Ángel di María for Real Madrid in what was dubbed as the central winger role but when researching I found that it’s been part of the Italian football vernacular for years.
When the role appeared alongside the Carrilero and Segundo Volante I vowed never to use them. Never heard of them. Far too hipster for me. FM doesn’t really need them. Fast forward to FM19 and I’ve now crossed two of them off the list. The Carrilero appeared in my first tactical attempt and now the Mezzala is key to how we play. So important that it’s merited it’s own blog post analysing the role in my system.
Why the Mezzala?
When I initially changed to the 4-1-2-3 setup I went with my trusted roles of a CM(A) and a CM(S). I’ve had some great success with the standard CM role over the past few editions of the game, to the point where it’s probably been my favourite role. It’s so customisable that it can play a variety of different ways in similar tactical setups.
However in the set up above I was finding that they were slightly too static and perhaps I was being slightly too cautious, especially so with that CM(S). I was looking for something a little more dynamic. A role that would play on the front foot and drag the side further up the pitch. Enter the Mez.
The description for the Mezzala role makes reference to the central winger like I mentioned in the introduction and also says they operate in the half-spaces. Control the half-space and you’ll have quite a good handle on controlling the match. I didn’t just change the CM(S) to a Mez(S) though. I went the whole hog and double Mezzed it. We’re controlling the whole of the half-space now.
The Mez(S) does his fair share of defensive work in addition to attempting to influence play going forward whereas the Mez(A) is deemed much more of an offensive threat and leaves the defending to teammates. However, defending from the front is just as vital and one of the tweaks I’ve made to both roles is asking them to close down more. I want them harassing opposition midfielders into making mistakes and winning the ball back for us higher up the pitch.
I tend not to like handing out instructions to the entire team. I’m much more likely to make a tweak or two to certain individuals and another of those on both Mezzalas is asking them be more direct in their passing. I see this as giving them a bit more licence to attempt to unlock opposition defences. If they don’t manage to do that and they make a mistake or lose the ball, there’s plenty behind them to win it back.
Along that same line of thinking I’ve also added take more risks onto the Mez(S). Here’s how those tweaks look to both roles. Proof that I’m all but playing two Mez(A)s aside from the hardcoded behaviours under the match engine hood.
Here’s the current entire setup and how the Mezzalas fit into it all.
I find that it’s important to think about the combinations of the roles you’re picking and then how it fits into the overall team setup. Here’s some examples of the combos within my setup:
- The two central defenders and the DLP provide stability for the rest of the side to create and play
- The Mezzalas receive the ball short from the DLP
- They spray it out left to the rampaging oncoming full back, usually in acres of space
- They play a short pass forward for the IF(A), who’s asked to sit narrower
- The W(S) has room to run into on the right and is often found by the Mezzalas
- A direct pass in behind the defence for the striker to run onto, especially with passes into space being encouraged
- When play progresses, the Mezzalas quick to get up and support attacks
- They’re often open in space on the edge of the box for a long shot too, if the opportunity for one is there they should take it
- Coupled with our counter press, with the Mezzalas being asked to close down more they work hard and often chase to win the ball back in midfield
That, in a nutshell, is how we play. Here’s some images and GIFs of that in action.
In the below example, we’ve just won the ball back from a corner. Joveljic has received it and is holding it up. As the Mez(A), Grønli is absolutely busting a gut to get up there and support the attack.
When he eventually receives the ball just inside the penalty area before he fires it home, our winger, inside forward and support Mezzala are all up there too.
Tyler Boyd has picked up the ball in his own half. You can see Reisinho, number 25, quite close by in that first image. Boyd decides to dribble with the ball and heads for the right wing.
In the second image, Boyd still has the ball but he’s in our half now. Reisinho is still tracking him and has been joined by Pedro Ferreira, playing DLP, to chase him down. The centre of midfield has been vacated and left largely open by these two pulling out of position to win the ball back, but if they do win it back, that’s fine. In the third image, Mez(S) Reisinho tackles Boyd and the ball goes out for a throw.
This won’t just be a Mezzala role only thing, but I love the cross field diagonal balls they play to the wings.
We’ve won the ball back from a long goal kick. A few short passes later, my DLP keeps the ball moving on to the Mez(S) then bang, straight away we’re on the front foot again. Mário Ferreira bombs down the wing to put a cross in and create a chance at the back post for Majer our IF(A).
It’s not all beautiful 50-yarders. They keep the ball moving and the pass into space instruction for the entire team helps that too.
Grønli in the Mez(A) role here picks up a loose ball after a throw in and gets the ball moving out over to the oncoming full back on the left. A few quick passes recyling possession and Ferreira’s got a tap in at the back post.
The positioning and movement of both Mezzalas sees them being in the right place at the right time more often than not to carve out openings and create chances for us to score.
Picking up the second ball again here, Grønli, playing in the Mez(S) role in this match, isn’t closed down well enough giving him time and space to thread the ball in behind for Joveljic to slot past the keeper. I’d say this is us controlling the half space pretty well.
Long shot klaxons
Like I said, if the opportunity is open to shoot, why wouldn’t you?
Shoooooooot. Similarly to the assist above, Reisinho has acres of space and plenty of time to take a touch and pick his spot to score. He chose a lovely finish into the bottom left by the way.
Where to improve?
Right now, I’m not actually sure. Some of the football we’re playing is glorious. We’re dangerous going forward, expansive in our passing and defend well from the front. I haven’t seen any weaknesses from either Mezzala, or indeed any aspect of our play, that I really want to change.
Have you got any suggestions? If so, let me know! What’s your experience of the Mezzala role too? I’d love to hear about it.
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