Du Malone writes: The previous post introduced the notion of a new ‘role’ in the form of a specialist function for substitutes, which I called the Sherwood. Here’s a second such ‘role’.

You’re in the middle of the game and it’s being bossed by the opposition star. He’s everywhere; he’s running the show; and he’s threatening to take the game away from you. How should you respond?

If you’re tactically astute, you may design a response in terms of player instructions, roles, or formations.

Sometimes, though  — tbh, rather often — the challenge of coping with a player overwhelms my modest tactical resources. In which case I deploy a blunter, more direct, solution.

I bring on my Shadow.

A Shadow is a player you bring on for one purpose only, namely to mark a disruptive opponent out of the game.


wordcloudShadowIn terms of requisite or desired attributes, the obvious one is marking — which in turn calls for concentration. I really don’t want to my Shadow switching off.

But that’s unlikely to be enough. Ideally they should also have sufficient work rate and determination to keep at it. They’ll need some aggression too, though if that attribute is very high it will need to be balanced, particularly by composure and I think decisions, to stop them giving away lots of free kicks.

Good tackling would be valuable, though to some extent — depending on the overall tactics — the value of the shadow can lie as much in closing a player down or making him a less attractive outlet as in necessarily winning the ball. Though perhaps not of the highest importance here, reasonable agility will help them to get the tackles in cleanly.

Finally acceleration, supplemented ideally by anticipation, helps them keep up with the markee — if there’s such a word to denote the player being marked (and if there isn’t, there should be).

Beyond attributes

The marker mustn’t be too one-footed, otherwise their ability to get a tackle in will be constrained.

The ‘able to mark players tightly’ trait would be ideal — but in a player who will spend most of his time on the bench, it’s likely to be difficult to find or train that, at least in the rather modest leagues that I operate in.


This is a substitute role. Which means that stamina is unimportant.

Occasionally I’ve brought on a Shadow to add to a back four, but I tend not to — I worry about disrupting the defensive structure.

I’m more likely to use them in the defensive or central midfield areas, or on the flanks, or even higher up if the opponent has a player there who’s running the show. A regista say.

Wherever they take up their place, they’re likely to need licence to roam.

An advantage

Because I’m looking for player who majors in a few key attributes (those in the largest font on the word cloud), rather than a rounded player, there’s a chance I’ll be able to pick up  a player at modest extent.

As with the Sherwood, that helps to keep the wage budget under control. A club’s financial director shouldn’t disapprove of the club signing a Shadow and a Sherwood.


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