The midfield position in soccer might just be the most technically demanding position in the game. You have the responsibility of transitioning the play from defense to attack, to create chances, to build up attacks, and to shield your defense line as well.
All of these responsibilities require as many skill sets, if not more. Considering that the basics or the fundamentals are important in any position in soccer, here are some tips that will surely help you improve your game in midfield and help you become the commander of your team.
1. Learn Different Ways to Pass
While passing can be considered one of the most basic of things to do in soccer, the extensions of passing or the different types of passing are on another level. Since you receive the ball more than any of your teammates, you must have different types of passes in your repertoire so that you can find passes that none of your teammates can. Take Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes or Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne for example. The two are the talisman for their teams and their quality of passing and creating chances is admired by the soccer world simply because they seem to find inch-perfect passes every time they have the ball.
In midfield, you have little to no time to find a pass, so having different techniques in your locker can help tremendously. You might have to curl the ball into your teammate’s path, or you may have to curl the ball with the outside of your foot, or you may just have to switch the play from one side to another depending on the situation.
So, practicing the various techniques you can apply to your passes will boost your credentials and abilities by quite a margin.
2. Get Comfortable With Both Feet
Don’t get us wrong- having one dominant foot and depending on it isn’t really that bad, but being comfortable to make passes and to dribble with both feet will set you apart from the others. It’s a trait that not many have because not many people work on it that much. Since the ball comes from every possible direction in midfield, you have to be on your toes for the next move.
In a situation like this, you might not always have the time to set the ball to your stronger foot, and if you try to, it might result in you losing the ball, and trust us- the midfield is NOT a place you’d want to lose the ball in. Having the ability to pass or shoot with either foot makes you versatile and quick.
Work on your weak foot in training every time. Try passing, controlling, dribbling, and shooting with your weaker foot. Many players have the “I can’t pass/shoot with my weaker foot” mentality and don’t do anything about it. Don’t be one of those players. Be a maestro of your trade.
3. Learn Positional Discipline
Positional discipline may be the most advanced tip on this list. Positional discipline is key to any position in football and this includes the midfield as well. A lot of midfielders forget about the need to position themselves properly while they focus too much on what is going on.
Be it a defending midfielder, an attacking midfielder, or a box-to-box midfielder, positional awareness is key. If you drift off to spaces without any sense, your teammate will have to shift to cover your position, causing the whole team to lose its shape.
4. Keep It Simple
We get it, the urge to find that killer pass through the outside of your foot through the defensive line straight into your teammate’s feet can be overwhelming. However, that situation seldom comes forth. All you have to do is keep it simple throughout the game, and you’re good. This is especially relevant to defensive midfielders, whose key responsibility with the ball is to move the ball up the pitch into attacking positions. Since you receive the ball now and then from your defense, trying to find the final pass or trying to dribble past opponents while they are in shape will only make you look stupid.
An attacking midfielder can be more adventurous by making runs and dribbling and looking for the killer pass. However, they too for the most part have to keep everything simple until the opportunity arises. So, in order to successfully keep things simple, you need to work on your basics. Basics here include playing under pressure, playing first touch passes, scanning the pitch and making the right turns, etc.
5. Scan The Pitch All The Time
Knowing what is around you is something that could help you even in everyday life, but let us just stick to football here. As a midfielder, you have to learn to constantly check your shoulders to see if there is any oncoming pressure, that is if there is an opponent coming in to close you down. Checking your shoulder increases your awareness and you can make a move to counter the pressure, like taking a touch away from pressure or passing to a teammate the first time.
This does not just limit to shielding the ball. Scanning the pitch also gives you an idea of where your teammates are, and you can think of a move before you even receive the ball. Say the ball is being played on the right side of the pitch and you scan the pitch and see your left-back free with open space ahead of him.
Now, you can demand the ball, check your shoulder to see if there is oncoming pressure, and can hit the ball the first time without even looking at the left back and feed the ball to him. That would be lot more effective than taking the ball, looking around to see your teammate, and then setting yourself for a pass.
All of these are simple, yet effective ways to improve your game in midfield and become a better player. Practice makes perfect, and only practice can make you a near perfect midfielder. These tips are only the most important of many, however, and you can always learn more if you want to.