Clues from the Blues: the role of a defensive midfielder

Sport University Sport

1. Passing

Although you should always be looking to play forward, your job is to keep the ball so there is nothing wrong with playing a 10 yard pass to your left back; let the players with the flair take the risks. Look to always play simple and in the direction you’re facing. If you have time to get your foot on the ball and look up, then play to the striker’s feet. If you’re feeling confident then feel free to play a cross field ball to the winger’s feet but if you get it wrong then be prepared to track back and make amends.

2. Defensive positioning

The key to this role is positioning; your main job is to cut out any through balls to the strikers feet and to pick up the scraps from the midfield battles. Listen to your centre backs as they are the eyes in the back of your head. This communication is extremely important as you are effectively their shield. You should always stay in the hole and don’t get dragged out of position because the cardinal sin is giving the opposition centre midfielders 30 yards of space to run at your defence.

3. Attacking positioning

In this role you’re acting as the pivot going forward. If your team can’t work it effectively down one side then the ball should come back through you and out to the other side.

The key is to find the space in the middle of the pitch and to give yourself enough time to turn and spread it out wide to the fullback or winger. The faster you can do this the more stretched the other teams defence will be giving your strikers and wingers more opportunity to get in behind the defence.

4. Heading

Aerial dominance can often be the key to winning a football match and it’s your role to win those battles. The majority of the headers you will need to win result from goal kicks. A well timed header will not only reduce immanent pressure on your defence but it can also catch the oppositions defence unawares and give your strikers a goal scoring opportunity.

It is important to position yourself early, watch the flight of the ball and get off the floor as early as possible. By doing this you will massively increase your chance of getting to the ball first or at least winning a free kick for a late challenge.  But be careful, referees are clamping down on aggressive ariel challenges and stray elbows will be punished.