I’m aware that ‘The Lion King’ was released 24 years ago, however one line in that film always stayed with me on the football pitch - “I’m surrounded by idiots”. If you’re also a central midfielder, I guess you can understand where I’m coming from? They say that a football match is mostly won in midfield, and in this blog I’m going to try to give you some tips to help you make the game look a little easier, and also win your midfield battle. Sound good? Keep reading to find out!
Step 1 - Technical ability (Control, First Touch and Passing)
My manager used to tell us that losing the ball is the worst thing you can do on a football pitch. “Treat it like you love it, look after it and it will look after you.” Admittedly, this was a weird thing to say to an 8 year old who just wanted to run around and kick a ball, but it makes total sense. The best way to not lose the ball, is to improve your technical ability. Do drills designed to improve your first touch and passing. Your first touch should always put the ball about a yard away from you, and not near the other player. This will give you the time to look up, and pick out a pass to your team mate.
Step 2 - Mentality
This is becoming a theme in my blogs, but that’s because it’s so important. Preparing well mentally for a game will allow you to step onto the pitch with nothing on your mind except what YOU are going to do. Your job is to dominate the middle of the pitch and you are going to be up for a fight if necessary. Coming up against a player that has a higher technical ability than you can be demoralising, but as I’ve said before - “Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard”.
Step 3 - Awareness
In my opinion one of the most important skills you can possess as a midfielder is awareness of what is happening around you, and awareness of where all of your teammates are. The best players are the quickest thinkers, and what better way to demonstrate this by knowing exactly what you’re going to do with the ball, before you even receive the pass? Look all around you at all times, even when you have the ball. Paul Scholes was a master of this art, and made it look simple.
Step 4 - Create Space
All the best players seem to be always standing in space - why outmuscle your opponent when you can out-think them? There is space that can be exploited in-between the defensive and midfield lines, all you need to do is find it, and go there. This means a lot of movement to place yourself between opposition players to create a clear passing line as an outlet for your team when under pressure. When the pass is released, you can move towards the ball and use your body to shield the ball. You can then use the skills I mentioned above to control the ball, shield it from your opponent, be aware of where your teammates are, and pass the ball. This will keep the attack moving into the final third of the pitch. I personally think Kevin De Bruyne is a great example of a midfielder who finds space well and exploits it.
So that was 4 steps on how to become a better midfielder. I hope you can use some of the ideas I mentioned to help you step-up your game!
Below you will see the video I mentioned about how to become a better midfielder with Ilkay Gündogan. Enjoy!
Stay tuned for more ‘How-To’ blogs in the coming weeks for more awesome #Unisportlife content.