A midfielder is a very generic term. That describes a football player who is positioned between the teams attack and defence. However, this is a very simple way to describe a player and in all fairness doesn’t really do justice to the role in which a midfielder plays.
In midfield, there are dozens of different roles and positions that you can play. And they all vary from one another depending on the style in which a team plays or a player’s technical or physical ability. These dozens of types of midfielders usually fall into 3 standard midfield roles. Here they are:
- Central Midfielder
- Attacking Midfielder
- Defensive Midfielder
Now, here comes the fascinating part, all three of these types of midfielders have their own sub-types. With the extension of tactical knowledge of modern football. There can be unlimited types and roles in the midfield.
But we will be moving forward with these 3 classifications and some of their extensions or sub-types. I will run through each position and the roles within a midfielder below
A central midfielder is a player who has the role to equally give support to the attack and defence in central areas of the pitch. There are multiple different roles inside this position:
A fairly static type of a central midfielder. Who specializes in ball play such as long pinpoint passes, composure, first touch and then positioning. They rarely break into the final third as they operate almost as a pivot on the pitch.
They will always attempt to play longer passes than a standard central midfielder. And they are responsible for the rhythm/ tempo in which the team plays as they, in most cases, have the most touches on the pitch.
Some of the most famous midfielders of all time have played in this role such as Andrea Pirlo, Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric and Paul Scholes, with the list being endless. These kinds of players also tend to specialise in set-piece taking.
Box-to-box midfielders (B2B) are hardworking, are very well rounded and so are both good at attacking and defending.
The non-stop dynamism of a b2b midfielder enables him/her to push up to support the forwards, often surging late runs into the box to get on the end of crosses; defensively, they love to get stuck into a challenge and win the ball back.
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This is an Italian term used for a type of midfielder in football, with a literal translation of “half-winger”, which in general sums up the role fairly well. They are usually quick and hardworking with a majority of an attacking mind, meaning that they are usually the most attacking player in the midfield.
This role is a great way to cause overloads as they are free and unmarked most of the time. On the other hand, they do still participate in some defensive duties and their stamina and fitness allow them to do so. These are all the roles of a central midfielder.
There are two more midfield roles that are slightly different to the above:
This role is ahead of all other midfielders and operates in “the hole” between the striker(s) and the midfield.
They are sometimes referred as a playmaker and are associated with the number 10 shirt and are known for their dribbling, vision, creativity, ability to shoot from range and also ability to link the play. Some of the best ever players have played in this position such as Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Johan Cruyff and Roberto Baggio.
These are midfield players whose main focus is to protect their defenders and their goalkeeper.
One key job that a defensive midfielder provides is the ability to keep hold of the ball, whilst the team reorganise into shape and they also can slow the attacking play of the opposition with a good press and marking.
Some of the current best defensive midfielders are Ngolo Kante and Sergio Busquets.
What makes a good midfielder and how to train like one?
We have discussed the types of midfielders.
Short and Long Passing
This reflects the ability of a player to find a teammate with the ball. Passing is most obviously the stand-out trait of a midfielder and being good at it allows you to move the ball quicker and so the tempo is going to be dictated better, create chances, keep the ball and make less errors.
Passing is massively affected by other mental attributes such as your vision, your ability to see a potential opening and spot another player someone else might not have seen. This means the overall quality of your passing will be increased, especially your long passing as you can make defence-splitting through balls.
Other mental attributes needed are the first touch as this is what sets you up for the pass. If you have a bad 1st touch then you are going to struggle to execute a successful pass; if you have a good 1st touch, then you are going to be able to turn into areas of the pitch with space and so give yourself more time.
The final attribute I feel helps to pass is composure, the player’s steadiness of mind and the ability to make intelligent decisions with and without the ball.
Good composure comes with high levels of confidence and so is something you cannot easily train. It brings calmness to your game so you can do want you want to. Some players might perform well in training but may not in tense game situations because there is nervousness which will affect their ability to make a 5-yard pass.
Here is a team passing drill that will focus on your short and diagonal passes:
Combination Passing Drill
- Set up a grid approximately twenty by twenty metres
- Have one player stationed inside the grid
- The rest of the players involved will split into even lines on the four corners of the grid
- Player 1 starts in the top left of the grid and plays a ball to the player stationed in the middle of the grid and starts his run down the side-line to the back of the line in the top right.
- The central player plays a first-time ball into the player to the bottom left of the grid, the left-hand side-line to where he has received.
- He who has just received it passes the ball directly to player ahead of him, stood in the bottom right of the grid and sprints down the side-line to join the back of the line where he has just played it.
- The player now on the ball passes to the central player and makes a run down the side-line to the back of the line at the top right of the grid.
- The central player plays a first-time ball into the player in the top right who plays a ball into the player at the top left-hand side and sprints to the end of the line.
- The play continues and after a while you can alternate the player in the middle.
Stamina is the players ability to endure a high level of physical activity for a sustained period of time. 90 minutes is a long time and so to keep up a high-level for the whole game, stamina is incredibly important; otherwise, you will start to misplace passes and have sloppy/poor touches.
way to increase stamina
The drill below will help to improve your stamina and is also helpful as it still involves a football.
You need training partners and two balls for this. You then start halfway between the centre spot and the goal-line, with one of your training partners stationed 10 metres behind the centre spot, a ball on the centre spot and the other in the middle of the goal holding a ball – they should be in a straight line.
From your starting position, sprint to the centre spot and pass the ball to your partner, sprint back past your starting position all the way to the goal-line where your other partner should throw the ball up to you for a header, before sprinting back to your starting point.
Take time to recover by swapping with one of your partners, taking up the job of passing or throwing up the ball for a header. Repeat the cycle until you have each completed six separate runs.
Tackling as a midfielder is so important. The ball spends the most time on the pitch in the central areas of it and if your team has good ball-winning midfielders, then the possession of that team will be much higher. This also links quite well with communication and pressing as a midfield.
If you have good chemistry with your midfield counterparts, then it will be much easier to establish a calculated press. This happens often in games of football and is done by teams narrowing the wide areas of the pitch which gives a more compact midfield. Therefore, the opposition players on the ball will be crowded and so easier for you to tackle the ball off.
The easiest way to train as a midfielder is to experiment with your passing either in a game or with your mates. This will give you the confidence to excel as one. All the best!
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