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Let’s take a look at some of the soccer formations that can potentially utilize 2 CAM (central attacking midfielders) and how that impacts their team and the opposition. We will look at the advantages and disadvantages of soccer formations with 2 CAM, and look at some of the more popular formations where 2 CAM can be used.
What is a CAM?
A CAM is a central attacking midfielder, which is someone that plays in a more advanced role of a standard central midfield. Midfielders used to be all action, all round players, but recently we have seen it become more popular to specialize. We have always had these types of players, but when the world realized their importance they became more prevalent.
Diego Maradona is one of the most famous CAM in the history of football, and he made the number 10 shirt famous for this role on a team. Back then teams only ever really had 1 number 10, which would mean the number would take on a reputation of its own. Still today, in many parts of the world, the number 10 is revered as it normally denotes the most talented player on the team.
Basically, a number 10, or CAM, can often be the position where you play the most technically gifted and creative player on the team. This is because of the triple threat potential of shot, decisive pass or dribble that needs to be performed in tight areas of the pitch by this player. If you do not have a player talented enough for this role then maybe try a different formation.
Advantages of Soccer Formations With 2 CAM
The advantage of 2 CAM in possession gives the team more outlets ahead of the ball to exit and move into the opponents half. The CAM will take a position in between the opposition’s midfield and defense making it hard to pick up. This means decisive actions can be taken upon reception of the ball in this area, like direct passes forward or switching the ball to the other wing.
Direct play can be improved by having more players in these pockets where deeper lying players can play a pass that cuts through the opposition. If the forward players anticipate the 2 CAM receiving the ball then a quick pass from the CAM can play a striker through on goal. This is a measured approach to attacking as the ball will be played on the floor and under control.
Pressing can also be greatly improved by having 2 CAM. When improving possession with having more players high up the pitch, if you lose the ball, there are more players closer to the opposition to press immediately. This is called counter pressing, or gegen pressing, which is German based and where the 4-2-2-2 formation comes from. We will look at this later.
The counter attack can also be improved by having more players higher up the pitch closer to the striker. If a ball is played out to the striker, or forward players, then a 3rd man run can be performed by the CAM as a lay off pass. This greatly improves the chance of maintaining a counter attack and progressing up the pitch.
Disadvantages of Soccer Formations With 2 CAM
Possession can be impacted by not having enough deep options to keep the ball against good pressing teams. Alternatively, if not performed correctly, you could have too much congestion in the middle of the pitch which could help the opposition to defend a smaller area. Forcing players forwards can leave you short at the back and congested up front.
Defensively, a CAM is not normally the best defensive player on the team. They can sometimes sleep, or take plays off, instead of being active defensively the whole time. This can hurt your pressing and allow teams to break out on mini counter attacks. If you are defending in a low block 2 CAM may not come back and stand in front of the ball leaving them kind of pointless defensively.
The CAM has to be very disciplined in staying narrow and pushing the play out wide where they have the advantage. Forward players and defensive midfielders have to be allowed to come to the aid of the CAM defensively before a problem reaches the back line of defenders. Ultimately, the 2 CAM still have to defend but are usually very bad at that side of the game.
4-2-2-2 Formation With 2 CAM.
4-2-2-2 is the classic 2 CAM formation as they clearly inhabit the middle 2 in the 2-2-2 formation. This means the team has 2 DM (defensive midfielders) and 2 FWs (forward players or strikers). This was made famous by German coaches in recent times.
Ralf Rangnick, who influenced Klopp, Tuchel and Nagelsman, used this with Manchester United but found it difficult to execute. The 2 CAM have to be accessible in the build up play and need help from good full backs when receiving the ball in CAM spots. Losing the ball here with FB (full backs) in advanced positions proved to cause a lot of problems for the Manchester United defense when dealing with counter attacks.
Defensively, a team could push all play to one side of the narrow middle and press against the touchline of either side. If the CAM presses to left then the LB, left DM and left FW all trap and cause turnovers frequently. This requires the whole team to be high up the pitch, but this is difficult if you do not prioritize possession to advance the ball and the team.
3-5-2 Formation With 2 CAM.
The 3-5-2 formation with 2 CAM would implement a triangle in the midfield 3 with 1 defensive midfielder at the base. In theory, it is similar to 4-2-2-2 but with more protection at the back and more emphasis on the outside players in 5 getting forward to support the CAM.
This moves one of the DM in 2-2-2 back into the defense which could help the back line against turnovers. If the 2 CAM fail to press a creative player on the ball they may be able to lift a ball over the back 2, so having a 3rd CB (center back) adds cover.
There could be problems with pushing the FB into the 5 but in any formation with 2 CAM the full backs need to add support when in possession. There is a risk, as said before, that high FBs can leave gaps and leave the team open to long crossfield passes.
3-4-3 Formation With 2 CAM and False 9.
This formation brings a 2 CAM from above by asking a false 9 to drop back from their ST position into the midfield. The difference here to the other formation is that the 2 forward players left up front would be clear wingers, or inside forwards and not strikers.
The dropping deep motion of a false 9 can pull defenders out of position in the backline. Working in conjunction with 1 CAM, the false 9 can become a 2nd CAM and make a 3-5-2. It may seem more attacking than a 3-5-2, but the false 9 could become a 9 in certain phases like leading the line in the press.
With dedicated wingers, the wide players in the 4 of midfield could also become standard midfielders instead of FBs getting forward. This can help reduce the amount of passes played through your team while adding more technical players in the middle.
5-3-2 Formation With 2 CAM.
Playing with 5 at the back can be seen as the most defensive of these options. However, playing with 2 CAM is very risky with any formation. Having 5 at the back suggests that the FBs will stay back more than other options, but this may isolate forward players without adequate support.
Defensively the team will be supported in the low block but they may have poor pressing with only 4 attacking players. There could be a lot of issues in other phases of the game but the contain defense phase should be solid.
2-5-3 Formation With 2 CAM and False 9.
This formation utilizes the false 9 as a 2nd CAM like the 3-4-3 formation. This formation removes a CB and places them in the CM. This could lead to a 2 DM and 2 CAM similar to a 4-2-2-2 formation with a box in the middle.
Having 3 players up top in this formation would suggest that you have wingers, or inside forwards, similar to a 4-3-3. With a false 9 those players on the wing can cut in and make runs to the back post.
Some wingers may find it difficult to add a lot of strikers moves and skills to their game when attacking the goal from wide positions. Raheem Sterling is really talented at attacking the goal as if he was a striker, which is why he ends up with so many goals even though he can be positioned on the wing.
Best Formation With 2 CAM
The best formation to play with 2 CAM is probably one that uses a false 9. The CAM will drop in from above and be used in more than just a CAM in certain phases. 3-4-3 with a false 9 and with a central defender who can move up to a DM on the ball has the best of both worlds.
One of the major advantages here is having clear wingers in the 3 up top and not 2 narrow strikers. These wingers have to be mobile and cover a lot of ground laterally across the pitch. Also, players on the outside of the 4 in midfield need to be comfortable playing on the wing. Guardiola has used talented FB’s to move inside the pitch and become called inverted full backs.
Adding a CB who can easily become a DM is what you could also call a false 5, which is similar to a false 9 but where a defender moves forward in possession. This can push wide players wider and give the width necessary for 2 CAM to have support in possession higher up the pitch.
One of the most important factors of playing balls through the lines to an AM, they have to have outlets vertically and horizontally to allow any 2 CAM to flourish.
Playing With 2 CAM Formations Overall.
Adding a second attacking midfielder can take some things away from a midfield. Sometimes having a classic 6 or 8 in the midfield could mean more versatility and balance of different skill sets. Other types of midfielders could be more defensive in nature. Some can be more constructive and play at a slower pace for building up the attack.
Having 2 CAM can make the team force the ball up the field faster and more direct than recommended. Playing direct too soon can sound good, but if the situation is not set up correctly, the team could be playing up a dead end. There is a lot of pressure on players to press the opposition when losing the ball and direct play often lacks numbers high enough to press effectively.
Playing with a false 9 can also lack height to your attack which is one of the principles of the game. The 9, or ST, should be high up the pitch to push the CB of the opposition back with the threat of a high ball over the top. If the wingers are left to do this then they could negate the width which is also a principle of the game.
The important thing in football is to find out the grounding principles of the game that can not be refuted and build on those. Playing with 2 CAM may compromise too many of the principles of the game and cause too many issues. It is vital to look at what having 2 CAM takes away from your team as well as what is gained.