The center midfielder is every team’s main passer of the ball.
The center midfielder must by skilled, but can get away with less speed than other positions.
A good center midfielder has good awareness. He knows where he’s located on the field, where his teammates are located, and where the other team’s center midfielders are located.
A great center midfielder can make a huge difference in games. He can help the team retain possession and set up wingers and forwards with great passes.
This article will cover the top traits of a good center midfielder and provide some tips to help you succeed at the position.
5 Traits of a Good Center Midfielder
These are the top 5 traits that good center midfielders possess possess (in order of importance):
1. Passing Ability
The center midfielder must make short passes on the ground, long passes over the heads of the forwards, and passes to the corner flag for wingers to run onto.
Passing ability is vital to a center midfielder’s success. They should have good technique and good vision. In other words, center midfielders should be able to see a good pass quickly and pass the ball accurately.
Read our article, How to Pass a Soccer Ball for more information.
2. Ball Control
The center of the pitch is a crowded, chaotic place. Make a bad touch and the ball will get stolen before you can blink.
Good center midfielders can receive the ball well. They can keep the ball close to their body, away from defenders.
Read our article, How to Receive a Soccer Ball to learn more.
Good center midfielders can dribble into open space, turn well, and beat players.
A center midfielder with good dribbling and passing abilities is devastating. Defenders will give you space (since they know you will beat them if they apply intense pressure) giving you more time to look up and pass.
4. Shooting Ability
Good center midfielders can finish.
When you can shoot well you can pass the ball to a teammate, run towards goal, receive a return pass from your teammate, then blast the ball past the keeper.
Center midfielders should focus on shooting from outside the box. They should be able to score from medium and long distances.
5. Shielding Ability
Center midfielders are constantly under pressure.
A good center midfielder can shield the ball when dribbling. He can turn, shield, then pass to a defender.
Good center midfielders use there body to protect the ball. Shielding gives them more time to find an open teammate.
Read our article, How to Shield a Soccer Ball to learn this valuable skill.
6 Soccer Center Midfielder Tips
1. Keep Moving
This tip is important for all positions, but it’s especially important for center midfielders. If you don’t move around constantly you will an easy mark. If your team passes the you ball, you will be under pressure immediately.
Run to the ball. You should always be an option. In other words, every position should be able to pass you the ball.
Make a run after you pass the ball. Use the one-two pass.
2. Play quickly under pressure
A good opposing center midfielder will mark you tightly. You may only have the chance to play a quick one touch pass – even after making a good run.
Learn to make quick, good decisions. The better competition you play against, the less time you will have.
You need good awareness to play quickly. When you are off the ball look around constantly to get a general idea of player’s locations.
Get in the habit of looking up quickly after receiving the ball. Ideally, your intention before you receive the pass.
3. Find Space
The middle of a soccer field is crowded.
Find space so you have more time to make decisions and dribble.
Finding space isn’t difficult. Run to open space whenever you can. Put yourself in a good position and you will be more effective.
4. Shoot when near the box
Sometimes you have the ball and the opposing center midfielders are behind you. The defenders are focused on the forwards. You have space to dribble before reaching the defenders.
Many center midfielders waste this scenario. They don’t dribble forward (since they will run into defenders) and don’t have a good passing option.
They hesitate and the opposing center midfielder comes in from behind and steals the ball.
Take a touch and shoot the ball when you are near the box in this scenario.
5. Develop Vision
Vision is how well you see potential passes. For instance, a great center midfielder can quickly determine the best pass to use.
For instance, lets say the other center midfielder and forward are open. A center midfielder with average vision would make the easy pass to feet. A center midfielder with vision would recognize that most of the defense is on the left side and play a through ball to the right winger.
Try to improve your vision every game and practice.
Think about all the options available, lift up your head, and scan the field quickly. You will develop vision overtime.
6. Play the simple pass
Center midfielders often become obsessed with playing “the big pass.”
“The big pass” is a through ball played through the air to a forward running at the goal or a winger who cuts towards goal. This pass leads to a breakaway. It’s brilliant.
But the other team expects this pass, especially if you try to force it over and over. This pass is also difficult to pull off as you need to time it correctly (to avoid an offsides call), put the perfect amount of pace (so the pass doesn’t get kicked away or picked up by the goalie), and your teammates need to make great runs.
Using advanced passes is great, but playing the simple pass is often the better choice.
Passing the ball around the field will make defenders irritated and fatigued. Gaps in the defense will emerge. Then, you can do a brilliant pass.
Have patience. Play the ball to the open man. Do one-twos. Play the ball back to the defense.
7. Switch the field
“Switching the ball” means playing it towards the opposite side of the pitch.
If you can receive a pass from one winger, take a touch, then switch the ball to the other side of the field you will be effective as a center midfielder.
Look for the switch. The defense is often focused on one side of the field (even when you’re playing against good teams).