A Center Midfielder is pure and simple the brain of the team. Arguably the most difficult position other than keeper is the player that everything must go through. Keeping the rhythm of the game, being dangerous going forward and being able to link to every player on the pitch are a few of the important roles of a world class center mid.
Xavi, Iniesta, Lampard, Gerrard and the list goes on and on are players that bring so much to a team through their understanding of the game and ability to perform in the center of the park at the highest possible levels.
Is there Just one Type of Center Midfielder?
There is no perfect mold for any position, including the center of the park.
Small, quick, tall, lanky the list goes on and on. Great center mids come in all shapes and sizes but they all poses similar qualities.
Whether you are a defensive center mid, attacking center mid or playing flat playing simple, one and two touch is a staple for success in the position.
Players with enough discipline to play simple for ninety minutes are difficult to find and at the pro level with the speed of play and players increasing this is that much more important.
Top 5 Attributes of Pro Level Center Midfielder:
1. Composure (ability to keep the ball)
2. Simplicity (playing one and two touch)
3. Making those around them better
4. High Work Rate
5. Creativity (Distribution to all parts of the pitch)
Is it Important to be able to Play With Both Feet?
That’s an easy yes. All great center midfielders need to have the ability to play the ball with both feet both short and long.
Well in any typical game players will be pushed and pulled into different parts of the pitch where playing it with their non dominant foot is the possible outlet. Having confidence to distribute, serve, dribble and take a first touch with both feet expands the options of success in your game.
At the professional level players become equally good with both feet in all areas of the game because that's what the game demands at the highest level.
Is it Best to Play with two or three Center Mids?
That answer depends on several things such as the opponent, your teams talent level, coaches strategy, pitch conditions and importance of game.
In general terms a team will play with three in the middle if they want to defensively secure the middle of the park and the opponents attack through the heart of the team.
When coaches talk about “holding the middle” protecting the opponent from penetrating the middle is what they are referring to. It all depends on the players a team has and the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.
Can two of the same types of Center Mids Effectively Play Together?
Yes and No. As long as their isn't too much of a liability in one area in the middle of the park it can work. Take Xavi and Iniesta for example, they are similar players but it works because they have Busquets holding down the fort for them. Without him they would have trouble on the defensive side of the ball. Good thing they never give the ball up though.
Technical Attributes of A Great Center Mid:
-Technically gifted footwork and ball skills (play in tight spaces)
-Excellent technique in service of ball both long and short
-Able to absorb multi-stimuli and react accordingly
-Very Agile able to move laterally left and right
Physical Attributes of A Great Center Mid:
-Strong low center of gravity (allowing them to maneuver in all directions and fend off defenders)
-Power in both legs for long distribution and firm passing
-Strong lower body strength for tackling opponent
-Strong upper body build for holding off defenders and shielding ball
Essential Foundational Attributes of A Great Center Mid:
Some of these attributes cannot be taught, some are things that many great players have just been blessed with. These attributes are associated with non technical or physical needs of the player.
-Vision of the field (able to spot out teammates and get the ball to them over the entire pitch)
-Able to play with back to the goal
-Eyes in the back of their head
-Rhythm of the team
-Rarely loses possession of the ball
-Smart decision maker
-Great soccer mind
A great professional level center midfielder is discipline and simple. As a player moves up the ranks from club to university to pro this holds more and more true. A player may be able to get away with it in their pick up games but as you develop as a player your speed of play and speed of thought must increase too if you plan on playing on the biggest of stages as a quality center midfielder.
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