Are you looking for a comprehensive guide on how to play as a center midfielder in soccer?
You're in the right place! Today I will cover everything including:
Small note: This guide is a part of the series called "Soccer positions 101". It's basically covering all the soccer positions and I'm trying to build the best online resource possible. If you're interested in checking other positions, I made guides for fullbacks, strikers, wingers goalkeepers, and center backs as well!
Let's dive right into it!
Many of you probably can imagine a player playing center midfield. But since this is a comprehensive guide, I feel like it's my duty to give you an encyclopedia definition.
So what is a center midfielder in soccer?
Soccer midfielder (also known as box-to-box player) is a soccer position in soccer, that is being played mostly in the middle of the soccer field. They support attack plays and defense, depending on the situation on the pitch. The soccer midfielder is a creative brain behind most of the team plays.
There you go. In a few sentences, we described what it is.
Now let's have a look at the heatmap and actual position on the soccer field:
As you can see, they cover mostly mid zone and also go over to defense/offense - depending on the situation.
Now, this doesn't mean they run most from other positions. It just shows that they have to be smart about it.
When you think about it, some of the best center midfielders in the world like Luka Modrić, Iniesta, or Pirlo are usually the most smartest and creative brains. They see the plays seconds before a regular viewer could spot them. They spot opportunities nobody else can.
That's why this position is really hard - but very rewarding. With that saying, let's have a look at some of the main roles and jobs of a central midfielder.
There are many hats a center midfielder has to wear throughout the game. Sometimes they have to support offense more than defense - and vice versa.
That's why I am splitting these roles into offensive and defensive. Let's start with the most fun ones.
There is nothing better than having a creative player on this position.
In my opinion, the most important and crucial role of a central midfielder is making the plays.
The Center midfielder needs to be able to come up with passes that will eventually lead to goal-scoring opportunities. Midfielders are usually players that are exceptional on the ball, and that's also a reason why FC Barcelona players that have the most passes per game are midfielders.
If you are playing this position, my tip would be to start off the game slowly with simple passes between your teammates. That way you get more comfortable on the ball so you can make more dangerous passes and plays - and that way do your job really well.
Since center midfielders tend to have the ball on their feet most of the time, they are responsible for dictating the tempo.
They have to know when they should push their team into the offense more, and when to allow their team to get their energy back.
There are many situations when the team is playing without the ball (so they run more) and they get too fatigued in order to make a good counterattack. If that's the case, slowing down the tempo and just making passes between midfielders and defenders is sometimes the best decision.
However, when the team is losing they need to constantly look for opportunities to attack and they also need to play more straightforward to the offense.
So to put it simply.. center midfielders are responsible for dictating the tempo.
Having a high possession of the ball is very important. Why?
Well, there are two things:
A very good center midfielder is able to save the ball and get out of a difficult situation without any problems. These kinds of players are very valuable to the team.
While there is not a big pressure on soccer midfielders to score goals, there is definitely an expectation for the assists.
This position is a creative one - and you will have many chances to create goal scoring opportunities if you are doing everything correctly.
Now I don't mean getting assist every single game since it depends a lot on your team - but you need to be part of goal scoring opportunities at least.
Another role that is very common for center midfielders is supporting the defense. It doesn't matter if it's pressing, or covering the space - helping to defend is very crucial.
Especially in modern soccer, when everything is faster. The times when you could just run forward are gone. Now you have to make sure you guys win the ball from the enemy and keep it.
Another way to help your defense is to maintain the position. Of course, it depends a lot on the type of defending style - but most of the time you want to be in the right place at the right time.
What could happen if you wouldn't be there?
Well, the enemy team could easily get through the midfield zone closer to the box, and that's where most of the goals are scored. Keep them away and you'll be good.
Let's move on to another topic. If you want to improve, you need to know what qualities make a good center midfielder first, so you can try to work on them by yourself.
Qualities that make a good center midfielder are:
So these are most of the qualities and traits I can think of right now.
Remember, everybody has certain and specific genetic predispositions. However, it depends on you how you utilize them to the fullest potential.
It's fine if you don't have all of these traits as a center midfielder. Most of them can be acquired with experience and hard work.
Now it's a great time to learn a few tips, that can help you to become a better center midfielder in soccer.
By studying the game you learn two very important skills: decision making and you get better at reading the game.
But how to study the game?
Well, you can study either specific players or whole team tactics.
There are many videos on Youtube that literally break you down every play style. Just search something like "center midfielder in soccer analysis".
Everybody starts somewhere. Do not be ashamed or afraid to make mistakes. You have to make them.
That's how you learn and evolve as a player.
As you already know, ball control and passing are extremely important for midfielders. By practicing ball control and passing you will improve dramatically.
I don't want to dive deep into habits, so if you are not familiar with them, just check out this guide by James Clear.
Creating good habits in soccer could be a difference between having one more split second for making a better decisions and not having it.
There are many habits that you unconsciously do so you need to reflect and see what are your weaknesses and strengths.
Once you find out, then move on to developing these habits in your daily training routine. Again, if you are not familiar with the habits, go to the link I attached above and dive deep into the topic. It's great stuff.
One of the best ways to receive constructive feedback is to simply talk to your coach. Ask him what is missing in your game, what do you need to improve and etc. etc.
Sometimes this kind of talk helps you immensely to build a relationship - and also gain insights that you didn't see before.
If you have any questions about anything, please feel free to reach out to me and we can talk!