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midfielder, midfielder soccer drills
midfielder is an association football position1 Midfielders are generally positioned on the field between their team's defenders and forwards Some midfielders play a disciplined defensive role, breaking up attacks, and are otherwise known as defensive midfielders Others blur the boundaries, being more mobile and efficient in passing: they are commonly referred to as deep-lying midfielders, play-makers, box-to-box, or holding midfielders The number of midfielders on a team and their assigned roles depends on the team's formation; the collective group of these players on the field is sometimes referred to as the midfield2

Most managers assign at least one midfielder to disrupt the opposing team's attacks, while others may be tasked with creating goals, or have equal responsibilities between attack and defence Midfielders are the players who typically travel the greatest distance during a match Because midfielders arguably have the most possession during a game they are among the fittest players on the pitch3


  • 1 Central midfielder
    • 11 Box-to-box midfielder
  • 2 Wide midfielder
    • 21 Wing half
  • 3 Defensive midfielder
    • 31 Holding midfielder
    • 32 Deep-lying playmaker
    • 33 Centre half back
  • 4 Attacking midfielder
    • 41 Advanced playmaker
    • 42 False attacking midfielder
  • 5 "False 10" or "central winger"
  • 6 Winger
  • 7 Inverted winger
  • 8 See also
  • 9 References
  • 10 External links

Central midfielderedit

Former Spain midfielder Xavi was voted to the FIFPro World XI six years in a row

Central or centre midfielders are players whose role is divided roughly equally between attack and defence These players will try to pass the ball to the team's attacking midfielders and forwards and may also help their team's attacks by making runs into the opposition's penalty area and attempting shots on goal themselves

When the opposing team has the ball, a central midfielder may drop back to protect the goal or move forward and press the opposition ball-carrier to recover the ball A centre midfielder defending their goal will move in front of their centre-backs in order to block long shots by the opposition and possibly track opposition midfielders making runs towards the goal

The 4–3–3 and 4–5–1 formations each use three central midfielders The 4−4−2 formation may use two central midfielders,4 and in the 4–2–3–1 formation one of the two deeper midfielders may be a central midfielder

Box-to-box midfielderedit

The term box-to-box midfielder refers to central midfielders who have good abilities and are skilled at both defending and attacking5 These players can therefore track back to their own box to make tackles and block shots and also run to the opponents' box to try to score6 With the change of 4-4-2 default to 4-2-3-1 default formation were imposed restrictions on 80s box-to-box midfielders as midfield was divided into holders and creators7

Wide midfielderedit

Left and right midfielders have a role balanced between attack and defence, similar to that of central midfielders, but they are positioned closer to the touchlines of the pitch They may be asked to cross the ball into the opponents' penalty area to make scoring chances for their teammates, and when defending they may put pressure on opponents who are trying to cross8

Common modern formations that include left and right midfielders are the 4−4−2, the 4−4−1−1, the 4–2–3–1 and the 4−5−1 formations9 Jonathan Wilson describes the development of the 4−4−2 formation: "…the winger became a wide midfielder, a shuttler, somebody who might be expected to cross a ball but was also meant to put in a defensive shift"10 A notable example of a right midfielder is David Beckham11

WM formation: the wing-halves yellow occupy a more defensive position supporting the inside forwards

Wing halfedit

The historic position of wing half ie left half or right half was given to midfielders 'half backs' who played near the side of the pitch It became obsolete as wide players with defensive duties have tended to become more a part of the defence as full-backs12

Defensive midfielderedit

Spain holding midfielder Sergio Busquets 16, red moves to block a shot from Mario Balotelli

Defensive midfielders are midfield players who focus on protecting their team's goal These players may defend a zone in front of their team's defence, or man mark specific opposition attackers131415 Defensive midfielders may also move to the full-back or centre-back positions if those players move forward to join in an attack1617 Sergio Busquets described his attitude: "The coach knows that I am an obedient player who likes to help out and if I have to run to the wing to cover someone's position, great"17 A good defensive midfielder needs good positional awareness, anticipation of opponent's play, marking, tackling, interceptions, passing and great stamina and strength for their tackling

Holding midfielderedit

A holding or deep-lying midfielder stays close to their team's defence, while other midfielders may move forward to attack18 The holding midfielder may also have responsibilities when their team has the ball This player will make mostly short and simple passes to more attacking members of their team but may try some more difficult passes depending on the team's strategy Marcelo Bielsa is considered as a pioneer for the use of a holding midfielder in defense7 This position may be seen in the 4–2–3–1 and 4–4–2 diamond formations19

…we knew that Zidane, Raúl and Figo didn't track back, so we had to put a guy in front of the back four who would defend “ ” Arrigo Sacchi describes Real Madrid's need for Claude Makélélé as a holding midfielder20

Initially, the holding midfielders were divided into a destroyer and creator The destroyer was responsible for making tackles, regaining possession and its distribution, while creator was responsible for keeping and moving the ball, often with long passes out to flanks like old-style regista Early examples of destroyer would be Nobby Stiles, Herbert Wimmer, Marco Tardelli, while later Claude Makelele and Javier Mascherano Early examples of creator would be Gérson, Glenn Hoddle, Sunday Oliseh, while later Xabi Alonso The latest and third type of holding midfielders developed as a carrier, neither entirely destructive nor creative, capable of advancing from a deep position making late runs or carrying the ball at their feet, with examples like Fernandinho, Yaya Touré, Bastian Schweinsteiger, while Sami Khedira is a destroyer with carrying tendencies, Luka Modrić is a carrier with a hint of regista7

Deep-lying playmakeredit

Italian deep-lying playmaker Andrea Pirlo executing a pass Pirlo is often regarded as one of the best deep-lying playmakers of all time

A deep-lying playmaker is a holding midfielder who specializes in ball skills such as passing, rather than defensive skills like tackling21 When this player has the ball, they may attempt longer or more complex passes than other holding players They may try to set the tempo of their team's play, retain possession, or build plays through short exchanges, or they may try to pass the ball long to a centre forward or winger, or even pass short to a teammate in the hole, the area between the opponents' defenders and midfielders212223 In Italy, the deep-lying playmaker is known as a "regista",24 whereas in Brazil, it is known as a "meia-armador"25

Writer Jonathan Wilson described Xabi Alonso's role: "although capable of making tackles, he focused on keeping the ball moving, occasionally raking long passes out to the flanks to change the angle of attack"7

2–3–5 formation: the wing-halves yellow flank the centre half

Centre half backedit

The historic central 'half back' position gradually retreated from the midfield line to provide increased protection against centre forwards - that dedicated defensive role is still commonly referred to as centre half as a legacy of its origins26

Attacking midfielderedit

An attacking midfielder is a midfield player who is positioned in an advanced midfield position, usually between central midfield and the team's forwards, and who has a primarily offensive role27
Some attacking midfielders are called trequartistas or fantasisti Italian: three-quarter specialist, ie a creative playmaker between the forwards and the midfield, known for their deft touch, vision, ability to shoot from range, and passing prowess
However, not all attacking midfielders are trequartistas – some attacking midfielders are very vertical and are essentially auxiliary attackers who serve to link-up play, hold up the ball, or provide the final pass, ie secondary striker28

According to positioning along the field, attacking midfield may be divided into left, right and central attacking midfield roles A central attacking midfielder may be referred to as a playmaker, or number ten due to the association of the number 10 shirt with this position2930 A good attacking midfielder needs good passing abilities, vision, the ability to make long shots, and solid dribbling skills

Advanced playmakeredit

Italian offensive playmaker Francesco Totti in action for Roma in 2013

These players typically serve as the offensive pivot of the team, and are sometimes said to be "playing in the hole," although this term can also be used as deep-lying forward The attacking midfielder is an important position that requires the player to possess superior technical abilities in terms of passing and dribbling, as well as, perhaps more importantly, the ability to read the opposing defence in order to deliver defence-splitting passes to the striker

This specialist midfielder's main role is to create good shooting and goal-scoring opportunities using superior vision, control, and technical skill, by making crosses, through balls, and headed knockdowns to teammates They may try to set up shooting opportunities for themselves by dribbling or performing a give-and-go with a teammate Attacking midfielders may also make runs into the opponents' penalty area in order to shoot from another teammate's pass2

Where a creative attacking midfielder, ie an advanced playmaker, is regularly utilized, he is commonly the team's star player, and often wears the number 10 shirt As such, a team is often constructed so as to allow their attacking midfielder to roam free and create as the situation demands One such popular formation is the 4–4–2 "diamond" or 4–1–2–1–2, in which defined attacking and defensive midfielders replace the more traditional pair of central midfielders Known as the "fantasista" or "trequartista" in Italy,28 in Brazil, the offensive playmaker is known as the "meia atacante,"25 whereas in Argentina and Uruguay, it is known as the "enganche"31

False attacking midfielderedit

The false attacking midfielder description has been used in Italian football to describe a player who is seemingly playing as an attacking midfielder in a 4–3–1–2 formation, but who eventually drops deeper into midfield, drawing opposing players out of position and creating space to be exploited by teammates making attacking runs; the false-attacking midfielder will eventually sit in a central midfield role and function as a deep-lying playmaker The false-attacking midfielder is therefore usually a creative and tactically intelligent player with good vision and passing ability He should also be able to help the team defensivelycitation needed

"False 10" or "central winger"edit

The "false 10" or "central winger"32 is a new type of midfielder recently introduced to football, which differs from the false-attacking midfielder Much like the "false 9," his specificity lies in the fact that, unlike a traditional playmaker who stays behind the striker in the centre of the pitch, his goal is to drift wide when in possession of the ball to help both the wingers and fullbacks to overload the flanks This means two problems for the opposite midfield: either they let him drift wide, and his presence with both the winger and the fullback makes it three-on-two out wide; or they follow him, but leave space in the centre of the pitch for wingers or onrushing midfielders to take False 10s are usually traditional wingers who are told to play in the centre of the pitch, and their natural way of playing makes them drift wide This role is specifically meant to respond to the fact that more and more midfielders are fielded in the centre of the pitch


"Left winger" redirects here For the comics character, see Left-Winger comics For the political position, see Left-wing politics "Right winger" redirects here For the political position, see Right-wing politics GK CB CB RB LB RWB LWB CDM CDM RM LM CM CM RAM LAM CAM CAM RF LF CF CF Players in the highlighted positions can be referred to as wingers

In modern football, the terms winger or wide player refer to a non-defender who plays on the left or right sides of the pitch These terms can apply to left or right midfielders, left or right attacking midfielders, or left or right forwards8 Left or right-sided defenders such as wing-backs or full-backs are generally not called wingers

In the 2−3−5 formation popular in the late 19th century wingers remained mostly near the touchlines of the pitch, and were expected to cross the ball for the team's inside and centre forwards33 Traditionally, wingers were purely attacking players and were not expected to track back and defend This began to change in the 1960s In the 1966 World Cup, England manager Alf Ramsey did not select wingers from the quarter-final onwards This team was known as the "Wingless Wonders" and led to the modern 4–4–2 formation3435

This has led to most modern wide players having a more demanding role in the sense that they are expected to provide defensive cover for their full-backs and track back to repossess the ball, as well as provide skillful crosses for centre forwards and strikers36 Some forwards are able to operate as wingers behind a lone striker In a three-man midfield, specialist wingers are sometimes deployed down the flanks alongside the central midfielder or playmaker

Even more demanding is the role of wing-back, where the wide player is expected to provide both defence and attack37 As the role of winger can be classed as a forward or a midfielder, so this role blurs the divide between defender and midfielder

Wingers are indicated in red, while the "wide men" who play to the flanks of the central midfielders are indicated in blue

A winger is an attacking midfielder who is stationed in a wide position near the touchlines36 Wingers such as Stanley Matthews or Jimmy Johnstone used to be classified as forwards in traditional W-shaped formations, and were formally known as "Outside Right" or "Outside Left," but as tactics evolved through the last 40 years, wingers have dropped to deeper field positions and are now usually classified as part of the midfield, usually in 4–4–2 or 4–5–1 formations but while the team is on the attack, they tend to resemble 4–2–4 and 4–3–3 formations respectively

The responsibilities of the winger include:

  • Providing a "wide presence" as a passing option on the flank
  • To beat the opposing full-back either with skill or with speed
  • To read passes from the midfield that give them a clear crossing opportunity, when going wide, or that give them a clear scoring opportunity, when cutting inside towards goal
  • To double up on the opposition winger, particularly when he is being "double-marked" by both the team's full back and winger

The prototypical winger is fast, tricky and enjoys 'hugging' the touchline, that is, running downfield close to the touchline and delivering crosses However, players with different attributes can thrive on the wing as well Some wingers prefer to cut infield as opposed to staying wide and pose a threat as playmakers by playing diagonal passes to forwards or taking a shot at goal Even players who are not considered quick, have been successfully fielded as wingers at club and international level for their ability to create play from the flank Occasionally wingers are given a free role to roam across the front line and are relieved of defensive responsibilities

The typical abilities of wingers include:

  • Technical skill to beat a full-back in a one-to-one situation
  • Pace, to beat the full-back one-on-one
  • Crossing ability when out wide
  • Good off-the-ball ability when reading a pass from the midfield or from fellow attackers
  • Good passing ability and composure, to retain possession while in opposition territory
  • The modern winger should also be comfortable on either wing so as to adapt to quick tactical changes required by the coach

Although wingers are a familiar part of football, the use of wingers is by no means universal There are many successful football teams who operate without wingers A famous example is Milan, who typically play in a narrow midfield diamond formation or in a Christmas tree formation 4–3–2–1, relying on full-backs to provide the necessary width down the wings

Inverted wingeredit

An inverted winger is a modern tactical development of the traditional winger position Most wingers are assigned to either side of the field based on their footedness, with right-footed players on the right and left-footed players on the left38 This assumes that assigning a player to their natural side ensures a more powerful cross as well as greater ball-protection along the touch-lines However, when the position is inverted and a winger instead plays inside-out on the opposite flank ie, a right-footed player as a left inverted winger, they effectively become supporting strikers and primarily assume a role in the attack39

As opposed to traditionally pulling the opponent's full-back out and down the flanks before crossing the ball in near the by-line, positioning a winger on the opposite side of the field allows him or her to cut-in around the 18-yard box, either threading passes between defenders or taking a shot on goal using his or her dominant foot40 This offensive tactic has found popularity in the modern game due to the fact that it gives traditional wingers increased mobility as playmakers and goalscorers,41 such as the left-footed Domenico Berardi of Sassuolo who achieved 30 career goals faster than any player in last half-century of Serie A football42 Not only are inverted wingers able to push full-backs onto their weak sides, but they are also able to spread and force the other team to defend deeper as forwards and wing-backs route towards the goal, ultimately creating more scoring opportunities43

Other midfielders within this tactical archetype include Lionel Messi and Gareth Bale, as well as Megan Rapinoe of the USWNT44 Clubs such as Real Madrid often choose to play their wingers on the "wrong" flank for this reason; former Real Madrid coach José Mourinho often played Ángel Di María on the right and Cristiano Ronaldo on the left Former Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes often played the left-footed Arjen Robben on the right and the right-footed Franck Ribéry on the left45 One of the foremost practitioners of playing from either flank was German winger Jürgen Grabowski, whose flexibility helped Germany to third place in the 1970 World Cup, and the world title in 1974

See alsoedit

  • Association football positions


  1. ^ "Positions guide: Central midfield" London: BBC Sport 1 September 2005 Retrieved 27 August 2013 
  2. ^ a b "Football / Soccer Positions" Expert Football Retrieved 21 June 2008 
  3. ^ Di Salvo, V 6 October 2006 "Performance characteristics according to playing position in elite soccer" International Journal of Sports Medicine 28 3: 222–7 PMID 17024626 doi:101055/s-2006-924294 
  4. ^ "Formations guide" BBC Retrieved 31 October 2014 
  5. ^ "Box to box Bowyer" London: BBC Sport 29 April 2002 Retrieved 21 June 2008 
  6. ^ Cox, Michael 4 June 2014 "In praise of the box-to-box midfielder" ESPN FC Retrieved 31 October 2014 
  7. ^ a b c d Wilson, Jonathan 18 December 2013 "The Question: what does the changing role of holding midfielders tell us" The Guardian Retrieved 31 October 2014 
  8. ^ a b "Wide midfielder" BBC Retrieved 1 November 2014 
  9. ^ "Formations guide" London: BBC Sport Retrieved 22 July 2013 
  10. ^ Wilson, Jonathan 24 March 2010 "The Question: Why are so many wingers playing on the 'wrong' wings" The Guardian Retrieved 1 November 2014 
  11. ^ Taylor, Daniel 18 February 2010 "Milan wrong to play David Beckham in central midfield says Sir Alex Ferguson" The Guardian England Retrieved 22 July 2013 
  12. ^ "Football Glossary, Letter W" Football Bible Retrieved 5 September 2012 
  13. ^ Cox, Michael 20 January 2013 "Manchester United nullified Gareth Bale but forgot about Aaron Lennon" The Guardian Retrieved 31 October 2014 
  14. ^ Cox, Michael 16 July 2010 "The final analysis, part three: brilliant Busquets" zonalmarkingnet Retrieved 28 July 2013 
  15. ^ Cox, Michael 10 February 2013 "How Manchester United nullified threat of Everton's Marouane Fellaini" The Guardian Retrieved 31 October 2014 
  16. ^ Cox, Michael 3 March 2010 "Analysing Brazil's fluid system at close quarters" zonalmarkingnet Retrieved 28 July 2013 
  17. ^ a b Lowe, Sid "Sergio Busquets: Barcelona's best supporting actor sets the stage" The Guardian Retrieved 30 October 2014 
  18. ^ F, Edward 28 January 2014 "On Going Beyond Holding Midfielders" Cartilage Free Captain Retrieved 31 October 2014 
  19. ^ Cox, Michael 29 January 2010 "Teams of the Decade #11: Valencia 2001-04" zonalmarkingnet Retrieved 28 July 2013 
  20. ^ Wilson, Jonathan 2013 Inverting the Pyramid Nation Books ISBN 9781568589633 
  21. ^ a b Cox, Michael 19 March 2012 "Paul Scholes, Xavi and Andrea Pirlo revive the deep-lying playmaker" The Guardian Retrieved 1 November 2014 
  22. ^ Goldblatt, David 2009 The Football Book Dorling Kindersley p 48 ISBN 978-1405337380 
  23. ^ Dunmore, Thomas 2013 Soccer for Dummies John Wiley & Sons ISBN 978-1-118-51066-7 
  24. ^ "The Regista And the Evolution Of The Playmaker" Retrieved 5 January 2015 
  25. ^ a b "Playmaker" MTV Retrieved 5 January 2015 
  26. ^ "Jonathan Wilson - The Question: Did Herbert Chapman really invent the W-M formation" The Guardian 20 September 2011 Retrieved 9 April 2012 
  27. ^ "Positions in football" talkfootballcouk Retrieved 21 June 2008 
  28. ^ a b "The Number 10" RobertoMancinicom Retrieved 13 July 2016 
  29. ^ Wilson, Jonathan 18 August 2010 "The Question: What is a playmaker's role in the modern game" TheGuardiancom Retrieved 1 December 2014 
  30. ^ Cox, Michael 26 March 2010 "How the 2000s changed tactics #2: Classic Number 10s struggle" ZonalMarkingnet Retrieved 1 December 2014 
  31. ^ "Tactics: the changing role of the playmaker" Retrieved 5 January 2015 
  32. ^ "Introducing…the central winger" zonalmarkingnet 3 December 2010 Retrieved 27 August 2013 
  33. ^ Wilson, Jonathan 2013 "It's a Simple Game" Football League 125 Retrieved 1 December 2014 
  34. ^ Galvin, Robert "Sir Alf Ramsey" National Football Museum Archived from the original on 6 June 2011 Retrieved 11 July 2008 CS1 maint: Unfit url link
  35. ^ "Chelsea prayers fly to the wings" FIFA 5 March 2006 Retrieved 25 June 2008 
  36. ^ a b "Positions guide: Wide midfield" London: BBC Sport 1 September 2005 Retrieved 21 June 2008 
  37. ^ "Positions guide: Wing-back" London: BBC Sport 1 September 2005 Retrieved 21 June 2008 
  38. ^ Barve, Abhijeet 28 February 2013 "Football Jargon for dummies Part 2- Inverted Wingers" Football Paradise Retrieved 29 October 2015 
  39. ^ Wilson, Johnathan 2013 Inverting The Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics New York, NY: Nation Books pp 373, 377 ISBN 1568587384 
  40. ^ Wilson, Jonathan 24 March 2010 "The Question: Why are so many wingers playing on the 'wrong' wings" The Guardian Retrieved 15 October 2015 
  41. ^ Singh, Amit 21 June 2012 "Positional Analysis: What Has Happened To All The Wingers" Just-Footballcom 
  42. ^ Newman, Blair 8 September 2015 "The young players who could rejuvenate Antonio Conte's Italy at Euro 2016" The Guardian Retrieved 29 October 2015 
  43. ^ Goodman, Mike L 6 June 2014 "How to Watch the World Cup Like a True Soccer Nerd" Grantland Retrieved 15 October 2015 
  44. ^ "11 Questions with Megan Rapinoe" Interview wwwussoccercom 22 September 2009 
  45. ^ Koch, Ben 1 February 2011 "Tactics Tuesday: Natural vs Inverted Wingers" Fútbol for Gringos Retrieved 29 October 2015 

External linksedit

  • Media related to Association football midfielders at Wikimedia Commons

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