Do you see yourself as your teams’ midfield engine room? How about an elegant playmaker, gliding across the turf with the ball at your feet? Maybe you’re an enforcer, biting at ankles and diving into tackles to recover the ball.
The modern midfielder has to be all of these things and more, as with every other position on a soccer field, each player must have more than one string to their bow to succeed.
Let’s look at our 24 tips to become a better soccer midfielder, working on as many as possible will give you the confidence in your ability, the toughness and physique, and the mental fortitude to be the best midfielder you can be.
24. Stamina To See Out A Game
90 minutes in midfield is a real test of endurance, both mental and physical. A defender may stay back in defense all game, a striker stay up front sniffing out a goal, but your role is to be everywhere.
Your job is to bridge the gap, and as such you will be expected to cover every blade of grass for the full 90 minutes, tough on any legs, but as well as run you will need the stamina to do something with the ball when you get it.
Neglect your stamina at your peril, there is a reason more mistakes are made in the final 10 minutes of games, more goals scored, and more players injured. If you are the one with the extra yard of pace after 85 minutes have gone, you could win it for your team.
23. Know Your Limitations
Don’t settle for second place, if you have limitations, work on them. But until you do, make knowing them a part of your game.
If you aren’t a confident tackler, don’t go sliding in, if pace is your enemy, stay close to your marker, rely on being there before you need to rely on chasing down.
Be aware of your limitations and work around them, know your teammates’ weaknesses too so that you can work with them rather than against them.
A good team works well together because they know their strengths and weaknesses, and use that knowledge to beat the opposition.
22. A Good Diet
Fast food is not the midfielders friend, salad is. Even at lower levels of the sporting pyramid, players have to have a solid diet to make the most of their ability. Eat healthily, feel more alert, and burn off excess fat quicker.
Drinking plenty of water and eating fresh vegetables will boost your metabolism and keep your engine ticking over while your opponent is still sweating their burger and fries off.
21. Learn Your Role
If you think “midfielder” is just one role, you are in for a huge surprise, as the term is now so varied that new terms are having to be introduced to cover the type of player you could be.
From a defensive midfielder to a box-to-box midfielder, attacking midfielder to deep-lying playmaker, the list goes on. Know what your strengths are, and what each role entails, and base your role on the type of midfield role that best suits you.
If you like roaming forward and have a good long shot, attacking midfield may be your niche, but if you can’t shoot to save your life, but can run for days and tackle like a train, defensive midfield may be your natural habitat.
Learn each role, even if you have no intention or ability to play a particular role, knowing what best suits you will not only raise your game but raise your profile as you dominate games through being the right player for the right job.
20. Retaining The Ball
Rule number one for soccer: you can’t score if you don’t have the ball. And as a conduit for your team to play through, you will be expected to receive the ball and either move it on to the forwards or to carry it on yourself.
When you do take the ball, you must ensure you retain possession, the team with the ball is the team that scores the goals, so keep hold of it. Pass to a teammate, pass back to your own half if need be, but keep the ball rotating until a chance presents itself.
19. Recovering The Ball
Okay, so you ignored number 19 on our list, but all is not lost, another key part of being a midfielder is ball recovery. The quicker you recover the ball, the quicker you can transition defense into attack.
A part of your game should be closing down, practicing on teammates if need be, closing in, and harassing for the ball. Tackle when safe to do so, but try to stay on your feet until the last second to allow as much mobility as possible.
18. Plenty Of Rest
It is not by chance that many top teams have areas where players can go and have a nap after training, rest is vital for your body to recover from games and training.
While you may not have that luxury, the need for you to ensure you allow yourself time for recovery is vital as a midfielder. You are in the thick of the action, are required to maintain energy levels for long periods, and can take a battering in the center of the pitch.
Plenty of rest periods and a minimum of 8 hours of sleep a night are paramount to keeping your body in top condition.
17. Upper And Lower Body Work
Gym work will increase your upper body strength, which will allow you to shield the ball, shoulder players off the ball, and generally give you the build needed to compete for the ball.
Targeting key areas will build a solid core that will keep you battling long after your opponents have given up. Just as vital is leg work, giving you the power and strength to hold the ball and the engine to keep going.
Regardless of the level of soccer you play at, a healthy body promotes a healthy mind, so keep toning those muscles.
16. Plan Ahead
From resting to gym work, passing, and penalties, build a routine that you can adhere to, it will help your body become used to the rigors of soccer.
Keeping a strong diet, and a diary of what you eat will help you maintain discipline and consistency.
When a game is coming up, tone down the gym work to keep yourself fresh, a season is long, so preparation is key, thinking two or three games ahead can only help you mentally and physically.
Another way to stay ahead of the game is to check upcoming fixtures to see where there is a tough run of games, working your schedule around the busy periods will give you an edge.
15. Demand The Ball
The best midfielders all demand more of the ball and stand out in their team all the more for it. Making yourself available at all times to receive the ball, looking to create chances or retain possession will make you invaluable to the team.
Being comfortable both on and off the ball, your ability to make key passes and interceptions will make you the first name on the team sheet. Shy away from the ball and your responsibilities and you will warm the bench all season.
Be vocal in your demands, players will look to you for direction and know you are always ready to take the ball and start the next transition of the ball.
14. Constant Movement
A key component to demanding the ball is your off-the-ball movement. Practice games should hone your awareness of space and your role as midfielder will include covering the entire pitch if necessary.
Ball watching is the midfielders’ worst enemy; before you realize what is happening, the play has passed you by, or you are out of position and out of luck.
Constant movement will allow you to keep pace with the game and identify which areas you need to focus on, where the ball is going to be and where you should be going next.
13. Appreciation Of Angles
Tying itself massively with the previous two tips, an appreciation of angles will take your game to the next level. Movement is great, and demanding the ball is vital, but without an appreciation for the angles you place yourself at, you will be limited on even getting the ball.
Tiki-taka soccer makes massive use of angles, with players transitioning between the lines, making triangles of play between three players to retain and rotate the ball.
By making sure you and your teammates offer multiple angles for the pass, you should find yourself keeping the ball longer, and doing more damage with it when you have it.
12. Super Substitute
Player rotation is a part of the modern game, especially for midfielders. While your goalkeeper may stay where they are all season, and your star striker may be undroppable most of the time, midfield players are rotated due to the rigors of the game.
Be prepared for time on the bench, but make it hard for you to be dropped from the team, stick to your fitness regime, your diet, and of course practice every day. There are always more midfielders in a squad than any other position, so make sure you stand out, work harder, train better, and reap the rewards.
11. Practice Makes Perfect
As with all things in life, practice makes perfect, and this old adage could have been made for soccer players.
Making difficult things look easy, practicing until you don’t even have to think about how to pass and move will improve your game to a huge extent.
As well as improving reaction time and confidence, practicing as a team will make your play more fluid as you transition from defense into attack.
10. Dribbling The Ball
Moving forward with the ball is the best defense as a midfield player, not only are you removing danger from your own goal, but carrying the attack towards the opposition.
Dribbling skills are vital in midfield as space is at a premium, it is often the most congested part of the pitch, as depending on each team’s formation, there could be as many as ten players in that area at any one time.
Being able to move quickly with the ball at your feet will allow you the control and safety of being able to take the ball past players while making it more difficult to be dispossessed.
A skill that can be practiced alone, as well as in practice games, ensure you teach yourself the skill of dribbling skills needed for your position.
9. Scoring From Distance
A great weapon in the midfield arsenal is a long-distance shot on goal, and it is noticeable that many of the best midfield players have this skill.
Andrea Pirlo of AC Milan and Paul Scholes of Manchester United both had the ability to hit a thunderous drive on goal from distance, having many seasons where they hit over 10 goals to help their team to win.
Building a reputation as a goal-scoring midfielder can also have the benefit that you find opposing players having to close you down to stop your trademark shot, which in turn will free up other players to allow them a shot on goal.
8. Time Your Runs
If long shots aren’t your thing, practice timing your runs into the opposing penalty area, it is very hard for defenders to mark someone who is arriving late into the danger area.
For corners, set pieces, and following up on a normal attack, defenders are invariably marking the strikers or their designated zones, so the sight of a marauding midfielder striding into an area unmarked causes havoc.
Practice timing your runs to arrive just behind the play in front of you and watch as you are picked out with the ball time after time, as you are the player who is in the right place at the right time.
7. Tackling Skills
While there have been many world-class midfielders over the years, to go back to Paul Scholes of Manchester United as our example, Scholes was one of the best players United ever had, a complete midfielder.
Complete, that is, apart from his tackling ability. Numerous red cards over his career were due to Scholes being unable to tackle well. Often sliding in late, scything down a player, he would invariably be sent off, making things harder for his teammates.
Tackling is a must for midfielders, you need to regain possession quickly, and need to stop opponents from driving forward with the ball. Practice this skill as often as possible, the crowd loves a player that can tackle, and your team will love you for getting the ball back.
6. Tracking Back
Fans will always forgive a player that isn’t as skillful as other players, providing they work hard for the team. Effort and application count as much as talent and skill.
Tracking back to help out your defense will not only make your defenders trust and appreciate you, but the fans will see your commitment to covering every blade of grass as your look to win the game.
Paul Pogba of Manchester United is a prime example of a player not tracking back to help his team and is often found, hands-on-hips, watching a team attacking his teammates while he stands waiting for the ball to head back upfield.
One of the best players around today, Pogba neglects his defensive duties, something the fans are well aware of, it is little wonder he is not regarded as fondly as Paul Scholes.
5. Creativity And Vision
Some players are seemingly born with the gift of talent, while others have to work hard at it. A creative midfielder is worth their weight in gold, as they pull the strings from a position that allows them to do the most damage.
Practice will make things easier when it comes to vision, the better you read the game, the quicker you will be at spotting opportunities or dangers. Once you can read the game well, your creativity and vision should increase as you find yourself with more time on the ball to hurt the opposition.
4. Passing Ability
From short passes to long balls, back passes, and one-twos, learn every pass and learn it well. Having the ability to hit a ball in front of a teammate as they head up the wing is priceless to your team.
Knowing when to pass back to retain possession and start a new attack, or a direct through ball to your striker will make you the team’s fulcrum.
Being a midfielder is about being the complete package, and as such you will need to practice every type of pass, become comfortable on the ball, and know-how to move it on as safely as possible.
The more passes you misplace, the more pressure you put on your own team, confidence is everything for a soccer player, and the more mistakes you make, the more you will lose confidence. Practice your passing skills daily.
3. Keeping It Simple
Finding reasons to make your life harder as a player should be avoided, why attempt a risky pass when a short and simple pass to a teammate will suffice?
Keep your game simple and minimize the mistakes that follow trying something risky, if you can make a 50-yard pass to feet then great, but if not, your focus in midfield is to keep play moving in your favor.
Don’t over-complicate a simple game, look for the option that offers the least risk, and time and time again your ability to keep the ball will shine through.
2. Finding Space
Paul Scholes, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, possibly the best four midfielders ever to play soccer, all had one thing in common. Well, about 30 things in common actually, epitomizing talent and commitment, but one thing they all excelled at was finding space.
Making something as hard as finding space look easy will turn your game around, having the time to look up and make a killer pass, or determining where you need to head next.
Players who cannot find space rarely find time either, and on a soccer pitch, having the time and space to play your own game will turn you into a winner.
1. Determination To Succeed
Well done, you’ve reached the key ingredient on our list. And number one on it is determination. Without it, even if you have every other attribute, success will be hard to come by.
Finding yourself last to every ball, missing every tackle, misplacing passes, and neglecting your duties will all stem from a lack of determination and application.
Winners find a way, that extra yard or that extra bit of something that makes them stand out above their fellow players.
Many players of lesser skill or physical prowess have, over the years, clawed their way to the top of their profession through sheer willpower. You can to some extent teach it, but without that inner desire to succeed, you will find yourself failing.
Hone your determination, and you too could become one of the best midfielders around.
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