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John Steele
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  Training: Midfield Player Functions by Position or Role  

Midfield Player Functions by Position or Role
In watching top level international play, it becomes obvious that there are as many different midfield formations and systems as there are teams. Mostly this is based on the playing characteristics of the players on those teams.

More and more, the game is being decided and played in the midfield third of the field. In fact, it is not uncommon to see forwards being withdrawn earlier in to the midfield in order to attempt to provide numerical superiority in this vital area.

The time and space that players have to operate in this area is limited, frequently because of well-organized, compact, zonal defending schemes. This places a demand on the athleticism, speed of play decisions, and technical prowess of the attackers, as well as the defensive determination, organization, and, combativeness of the defending team.

It is helpful to determine some characteristics and functions of the players who find themselves playing in this area of the field. This will help us to identify what is required of these players, assist in our evaluation of the effectiveness of the players, and, design training sessions to assist these players in their development.


Good midfielders should:

  • Be able to meet the fitness demands of the game in this fast paced environment. This will enable them to adapt to the moments of transition and keep up with the direction of the game.

  • Be able to meet the demands of the game technically. They need to be able to play on the wings, being able to play long passes and crosses, dribble in the open field, as well as being able to play in tight spaces.

  • Be able to meet the tactical demands of the game. They need to be tactically astute, being able to structure the defense, reading the opponent's intent, as, well as being able to attack by knowing passing angles and being able to recognize pressure.

Outside Midfielders:

These players need to be:

  • Fast, so that they can run the full length of the flank both with and without the ball, working their way around the opposition's defense.

  • Good technically, especially confident in all types of passing and crossing situations.

  • Assertive and dynamic in 1v1 play. Having an attacking mentality.

  • Willing to attack the goal both in beating opponents on the dribble and by attempting to get on the end of crosses.

  • Strong in defensive 1v1 situations and able to recognize their role in the team's defending scheme.

Central Defensive Midfielders:

These players need to:

  • Have good strength and endurance.

  • Have solid technical abilities, especially passing abilities so that they do not loose the ball unnecessarily in potentially dangerous situations.

  • Be strong in the air.

  • Be assertive in 1v1 situations.

  • Be able to organize the midfield block of defenders.

Central Attacking Midfielders:

These players need to:

  • Have good strength and endurance.

  • Have creative attacking ideas and be a leader in coordinating the attack.

  • Be strong technically in order to be able to control the ball in tight spaces... or

  • Be able to effect possession be being combative.

  • Have excellent technique that enables them to meet the demands of the game (long range shooting skills, dribbling skills, able to receive the ball under pressure, etc.)


The "midfield block" of the team basically remains the heart and soul of the team. It can be argued that whoever dominates the midfield usually ends up winning the game.
A consistent organized approach to training this unit can therefore only lead to improved competence on the field. Knowing what the characteristics of these players, and, the demands placed on these players helps in our planning.

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