CDM vs CAM – What’s The Difference?

Last updated on March 7th, 2022

There is a high chance that you’ve come across the terms Central Defensive Midfielder (CDM) and Central Attacking Midfielder (CAM) before, possibly while playing FIFA or PES.

These are two similar positions on the pitch, but they have rather significant differences too. Here’s a guide to explain this further.

The Differences Between a CDM and a CAM

A Central Defensive Midfielder (CDM) acts as the main shield between the opponents and the defenders, while a Central Attacking Midfielder (CAM) is more focused on assisting goals and creating chances.

As the name suggests, a Central Defensive Midfielder is the most defensive midfielder in the midfield whose job is to protect the opponent from having a breakthrough from the middle of the pitch. 

Usually, a CDM is positioned in front of the defenders to help them defend against the opponent’s attacking players. However, at other times, a CDM can be given the task to man-mark an opposition player, especially when that player is a decisive force for the opponent.

A recent example was during a match between Manchester United and Chelsea in April 2017 when Ander Herrera man-marked Eden Hazard to neutralise him as United won the game 2-0.

In contrast, a Central Attacking Midfielder is the most advanced midfielder of the midfield who is usually higher up the pitch to provide chances for strikers to score goals. This quality, however, does not take away the fact that a CAM can also score goals. 

It is also possible for defenders and goalkeepers to score goals too.

In fact, in recent times, managers like Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta has always told his attacking midfielders to be more decisive in front of goal.

Below are more details about each of the roles:

Position on the field

Both the CDM and CAM occupy the central area of the pitch.

While the CAM is further up the pitch (Player 8), the CDM is more defensive (Player 6). A Central Attacking Midfielder is positioned just behind the striker.

CAM vs CDM Positions

Moreover, he combines well with the wingers to either set them up for goals or assist the strikers.

A CDM is positioned just in front of his side’s defenders, helping them with high defensive works. As such, a CDM helps his team make vital interceptions, tackles, marking, and he must have brilliant heading accuracy.

Common numbers associated with these positions

Football has evolved from what it used to be in the past. In recent times, a player can have any squad number and still play any position on the pitch. The only squad shirt that remains for a particular position is the No. 1 jersey, which is always for a goalkeeper.

However, the common jersey for a CAM is the No. 10 shirt, while a CDM is either the No. 4 or No. 6 shirt. The jersey number of the CDM depends on the kind of roles the Central Defensive Midfielder will perform.

Roles on the pitch

Here are some of the roles these positions play for their team:

There are two types of Central Defensive Midfielders, depending on performance and skills.

Holding midfielder

A holding midfielder’s job is to stay close to the defenders most of the time. He must be physically strong and good at marking, defending, and tackling. They could sometimes be called upon to slot into the defence if there are no other options.

An example of a modern holding midfielder is Leicester City star Wilfred Ndidi.

Deep-lying playmaker

A deep-lying playmaker has great visions to set up short and long passers and usually helps the team retain possession.

A brilliant example of a deep-lying playmaker is Chelsea midfielder Jorginho, who is more excellent at passing than tackling.

A CAM mainly creates goals

Meanwhile, a CAM has a primary role in creating goals. A CAM such as Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard has to create chances for the strikers by dictating the play of the game.

A CAM has the responsibility to score goals as well, especially in decisive moments when a striker is not free. 

The Central Attacking Midfielder is not usually saddled with defensive responsibilities, as he is higher up the field. Although, in recent times, attacking-minded midfield players like Real Madrid’s Luka Modric do more defensive work, especially when the team has less possession. 

Apart from that, the CDM and CM do most of the defensive job to allow the CAM to focus entirely on creating chances.

Traits required for the roles

These two positions have their respective traits.


A CDM must be naturally good at tackling.

The first job of a CDM is to stop attacks from the opponents, and he has to do this by making successful interceptions through tackling and marking.

Physical strength

One thing that stands out for a CDM is his physical strength. Since he runs around to make tackles, he must not be weak physically to withstand everything thrown at him.

Aerial Ability

A CDM must also have great aerial strength to repel every long-range pass that the opponent targets over the defenders. This quality is a must-have for a defender, but a CDM must also possess it.


Here are some skills that a CAM should have:

Passing Skills and Good Vision

The first role of a CAM is to be excellent in his passing. This is one of the best qualities of Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne. A CAM must be able to pass the ball to set up his strikers excellently.

Furthermore, he must also have excellent vision, which is one of the main traits of another CAM: Mesut Ozil.


An ideal CAM must also know how to dribble, especially in tight spaces. A CAM usually has little time to think on the pitch, and he also has little space to make decisions.

As such, he must know how to get out of tight situations to set the rhythm of the game successfully.

Famous Examples

There are several prominent player examples for the two positions:

Central Defensive Midfielder

The top-three best defensive midfielders in the world right now are as follows;

#1 N’Golo Kante

Despite playing more of a central midfield role for Chelsea due to the presence of Jorginho, N’Golo Kante still thrives as the best defensive midfielder in the world at the moment. 

No one seems to come close, and that’s because Kante has excellent interception skills without making a foul. 

The French International is also strong and doesn’t get tired quickly on the pitch. These qualities have made him a force to reckon with in recent years, and he recently earned a place in the FIFPro 11.

#2 Casemiro

Casemiro is the other defensive midfielder that comes close to Kante in terms of performance and endurance. 

The Brazilian has been decisive for Real Madrid for years, and he was one of those that helped the Los Blancos secure three consecutive Champions League wins between 2016 and 2018. Casemiro understands his role, and he does a tidy job to keep things safe for his team.

He is also known to have escaped a lot of red cards despite making dangerous tackles. As a result, this may lead to the opponent team’s players arguing with the referee.

#3 Jorginho

Jorginho is a different type of defensive midfielder who thrives in the deep-lying playmaking position

Thanks to his great passing ability, the Italian international usually helps his team retain possession and sets up short, and long-range passes. 

Jorginho had his best ever year in 2021, and it earned him the European player of the year.

Central Attacking Midfielder

Several players are currently thriving in the attacking midfield role;

#1 Kevin De Bruyne

The best-attacking midfielder in the world right now has to be Kevin De Bruyne.

His role for both club and country has earned him respect in the football world. He was also part of the recent FIFPro 11, thanks to his consistency over the years. De Bruyne breathes assists.

He equalled Thierry Henry’s record of the highest assists in a single Premier League season with 20 assists in the 2019/2020 season.

#2 Thomas Muller

Thomas Muller provided 21 assists in 32 Bundesliga games for Bayern Munich in the 20/21 season, showcasing how brilliant he has been as an attacking midfielder over the years.

#3 Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes’ arrival at Manchester United in January 2020 changed the team’s situation around, and his presence was felt. 

Fernandes scored 18 goals and provided 11 assists in 37 Premier League games for United in the 2020/21 season.

If you are looking to buy the latest Manchester United merchandise, you can get it from the official Manchester United store.


Here is a summary of the differences between a CDM and a CAM:

Most Advanced
RoleMake InterceptionsCreate Goals
Common number
associated with
4 or 610
TraitsExcellent tackle
Aerial ability
Good vision
Good passer
Excellent dribbler
N’Golo Kante
Kevin De Bruyne
Thomas Muller
Bruno Fernandes

Both of these positions have very specific roles for their team!

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