CM vs CAM – What’s The Difference?

Last updated on June 26th, 2022

You may have encountered the terms Central Midfielder (CM) and Central Attacking Midfielder (CAM) while watching football. Or maybe, you may have seen these while playing FIFA.

What are these 2 positions and how are they different?

Here’s what you need to know:

The difference between a CM and CAM

A Central Midfielder is a player who contributes to both the attack and defence of his team, especially in the domination of play around the centre of the field. Meanwhile, the Central Attacking Midfielder plays in a more advanced position and his main function is to provide goalscoring opportunities for the team’s attack.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of these 2 positions:

Position on the field

Both of these positions (Players 6, 7 and 10) are usually found in the middle of the pitch between the attack and defence.

CM vs CAM Positions

A CAM is usually the furthest forward

The CAM is the midfielder who is positioned furthest forward on the field. They typically operate just behind the strikers, from where they help create chances for attack from within and around the penalty box.

A CM is positioned behind the CAM

The CM is usually behind the CAM, in the middle of the pitch, as they sit in between attack and defence. In a 4-2-3-1 formation, they play just behind the CAMs in a double pivot.

You can find out more about the role of a double pivot in this article.

Common numbers associated with these positions

In the past, squad numbers were used to indicate the player’s positions. The rules are more flexible now, which allow on-field players to wear any number that they can choose.

Central midfielders are usually associated with the numbers 6 and 8. Meanwhile, central attacking midfielders are usually associated with the number 10 shirt.


Both of these positions have very well-defined roles:

A CM is meant to dictate the gameplay

A central midfielder usually controls the flow of a game, as these players are present in both attack and defence. This set of players support the attack by passing the ball forward to the attackers and CAM.

At times, they may make forward runs to supplement the attacking output.

Central Midfielders also help the defence by pressing for the ball once possession is lost. Moreover, they help by tracking opposition runs and forming low defensive blocks.

There are several types of central midfielders that play in today’s game, with each mould adding its uniqueness to the game. Some of them include:

  • Box-to-box midfielder
  • Deep-lying playmaker  

A CAM’s main role is to create attacking chances

A CAM helps to control the attacking end of the team. They are tasked with creating goalscoring opportunities for the strikers and other attackers. The attacking midfielder also supplements the attacker’s goalscoring by attempting their own goals.

Unlike the CM, the CAM is usually the least burdened by defensive duties. This player’s main responsibility is to stay high up the pitch and create chances for the attack.

Traits required for these 2 roles

Here are some traits that these 2 positions should possess:

A central midfielder is a great link in both attack and defence. These players must perform in both areas to support their teams.

They are expected to make an impact at both ends of the pitch and help to control the game in their team’s favour.

Hard-work and Efficiency

A good CM is hardworking in defending, pressing and attacking. They showcase this by making runs and creating chances, as well as pressing the opponent and making ball recoveries.

Great ball progression

A CM is a link between attack and defence. As such, they are crucial in moving the ball into the attacking third.

This is done either by passing or carrying the ball forward.

Good possession play

The CM of any team is vital to the game’s control, depending on the team’s approach. As such, the CMs are expected to help keep possession by making smart decisions in terms of passes and take-ons.

They are also expected to help in defending against the opponent to win the ball back.

Other specialized types of CM require different qualities to perform well for their teams:

Box-to-box midfielderGreat stamina, energy, and work rate
Deep-lying playmakerPossess ball retention, chance creation,
and accurate passing skills

A CAM is the attacking brain of the team

Compared to the CM, the CAM usually does not help out in defence. Instead, they are mainly tasked with creating the team’s attacking output.

As such, they will need to be technically gifted and proficient in the final third.

A CAM should be a good dribbler

The CAM will find himself in possession a great many times as the main attacking brain of the team. Thus, he should possess great dribbling skills to evade the opposition’s press and get himself into good positions to create chances.

A CAM must have good passing skills

To fulfil the role of a CAM well, you need to have great passes and vision. The best attacking midfielders are always thinking several steps ahead and make passes that meet the runs of the attackers to create goals.

By using through balls, crosses and one-twos, the CAM will be able to fulfil his role.

A CAM must be sharp

Apart from great dribbling and passing, the CAM must also be smart and aware enough to recognise good spaces as well as make the necessary runs.

These runs help create opportunities for the team to score and relieve opposition press on the main attackers.

A CAM should possess good goalscoring abilities

While the CAM is not usually the best finisher on the team, he will find himself in many good positions to score. The attacking midfielder must utilize good composure and finishing to capitalize on such chances in times like this.

Famous examples

There are many famous examples for each of these 2 positions:

Central Midfielder

These are some of the top CMs in the world currently:

#1 Luka Modric

The Croatian midfielder is, without a doubt, one of the best midfielders of this century. His magical techniques and overall game finesse bring so much value to his teams.

He won the Ballon D’Or in 2018 after he helped Madrid complete their favourite three-peat of the Champions League and saw his country to the World Cup final.

You can view a comparison between the Ballon d’Or and FIFA’s The Best awards here.

You may be wondering, is Modric a CM or a CAM?

Modric is able to play as both a CM and a CAM. However, he usually plays as a CM in Real Madrid’s midfield trio of Modric-Casemiro-Kroos, with Casemiro playing as the furthest behind (CDM).

#2 N’Golo Kante

The Chelsea legend plays as an all-round efficient box-to-box midfielder who notably provides much needed energy in defence with relentless pressing and attack as well with his wonder goals.

His relentless style of play has brought him much-acclaimed success at both club and international levels with Leicester City, Chelsea and France.  

You can find out more about the differences between club football and international football here.

#3 Pedri

The Spanish youngster has been one of the bright spots of football since his emergence in the 2020/21 season.

He has appeared and achieved for both Barcelona and the Spain national team.

Pedri was voted the young best player in the world in 2021, and his dynamic style of play shows great promise!

Centre Attacking Midfielder

Although the position is not as popular as it once was, there are still some shining CAMs presently:

#1 Mesut Ozil

The German wizard became a household name after his emergence with Germany in the World Cup. He has played and achieved with Real Madrid, Arsenal, and Germany.

Ozil has won many accolades with teams he has played for and is fondly regarded for his great vision and magical passes that made him such a spectacle to watch.

#2 Isco Alarcon

Yet another player in the mould of a magician, Isco, has shined on both the club and international stage for his delightful playstyle.

He was a fan favourite as another crucial player during the Real Madrid three-peat era.

The magic of Isco is displayed in his sumptuous dribbling, deft ball control, touch, press resistance, and killer final passes.

#3 Paulo Dybala

The Juventus legend is very famous for his custom mask celebration, but the love he has been accorded is due to his incredible wizardry on the ball.

Dybala has been one of the best CAMs in football since his emergence in 2014.

The Argentine is a very flexible player in attack and continues to be even more crucial for the success of his club as well as his country.


Here is a quick comparison between these 2 positions:

PositionIn the middle of the pitchJust behind the attackers
Common Numbers8 and 610
RoleControl the game
Assist both the
attack and defence
Create chances for the attack
Directly contribute to goals
Skills RequiredHard-work
Good ball possession
and progression
Chance creation
Great passing
Competent goalscoring
Famous ExamplesLuka Modric
N’golo Kante
Mesut Ozil
Isco Alarcon
Paulo Dybala

Both of these positions play an important role for the team’s midfield!

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