Linking up the defense and attack.
The role of the midfielder is to link up all the players who sit between the defense and attacking, they are essentially the main playmaker. Despite there being 22 soccer players and referring officials on the pitch, there is still loads of space uncovered by people and little pocks to run into to retrieve and pass the ball on.
When a defender is the possession of the ball, they will try to seek out a midfielder to pass the ball onto, this could be a short pass to a defensive midfielder who will carry the ball on or even a long ball up to an attacking midfield who will run onto the ball and hopefully get into a good position.
Once the midfielder has received the ball they will try to get it into an attacking position via either a striker or powering forward themselves and taking a shot from long distance (this will depend on the ability of the player).
As the midfielder is the one primarily moving the ball about the pitch, it allows the defenders and forwards to stay in their necessary positions. If a defender was to dribble forward too far down the field with the ball and lose possession, they could get caught out at the back and leave it open to concede a goal as the defense has lost a person.
The same thing goes for a striker/forward, if they were to sit deeper or come back to look or gain possession of the ball they would not be in the correct positions to secure a goal if the opportunity arises.
Midfielders sometimes go unnoticed in a game as they aren’t the main talisman like a star striker or making game-saving blocks like a goalie or a defender. However, the game would not run as smoothly without them and they make a huge contribution to the success of a team.
Assisting the defenders
The defensive midfielder is mainly responsible for helping the defense if they may ever need it, they are positioned just in front of the defensive line.
However, it is not only the defensive midfielder who can assist with any defending if necessary. The rest of the midfielders, even including the attacking midfielder must help out in defense when their team is under increasing pressure from the opposition.
Defensive midfielders must try and avoid or prevent an attack from the opposition before it gets too close to their own goal. If the opposite team can be dispossessed or outplayed in the middle of the pitch then they’ll have less chance of scoring than if they were right in front of the goal.
A good midfielder will be able to spot trouble or possible forward passes by the opposition to disrupt play and regain possession. They technically act as an extra barrier against the other team’s forward and more attacking players.
You can often see defenders shouting at their defensive midfielders when they’ve failed to close down a team in the middle of the pitch as it means the defense has to try and deal with the attack entirely on their own.
Assist in attack
Attacking midfielders’ main role is to assist most in attack with the strikers. However, anyone of the midfielders can assist in attack if needed or when in the right positions.
The attacking midfielders tend to be the most creative and technical on the pitch, finding pockets to run into away from opposing players and also using their skills to dribble and deceive the other team.
They get into good positions and their aim should be to play the ball through on goal for another player, mainly the strikers. They should always look for positions or passes to increase the likelihood of scoring a goal or opening up a goal-scoring opportunity for someone else.
Midfielders have good communication with the forwards as they play just behind them, you’ll often find strikers and midfielders linking up with little 1-2’s to play the ball through. Midfielders also possess a range of passing skills that should allow them to pass the ball over 50 yards up the pitch to a striker and execute it perfectly.
A midfielder who can also contribute goals themselves is well needed in a team, as the goalscoring role should not rely solely on a striker.
Every player in the team can score a goal if they want to, even the goalkeeper. However, due to the positioning of midfielders, they have a better advantage to score goals than the defense as they are further up the pitch.
As midfielders help out in attack, they may find themselves in on goal or in a good position to take a shot at goal, sometimes it may be better to pass to a more convincing player like a striker who is in a better position but sometimes it can be better to take the shot right there and then. A good midfielder will know when to pass to someone else or to take the shot themselves.
Midfielders across the world hold the record for being the highest goal scorer for either club or country. Frank Lampard scored 211 goals during his time at Chelsea even though he was a central midfielder and not a forward player.
Keeping possession of the ball
Retaining possession of the ball is one of the main responsibilities of a midfield player in soccer.
Being able to keep possession during important periods of the game can help teammates get into better positions to defend or attack and it also means the other team has a less chance of scoring a goal.
Midfields will have the highest possession rate of any player on the pitch during a game. They are also the first person teammates look for to retrieve or pass the ball to. Midfielders should always be working on drills and skills in training to keep possession between them and use their body as a shield without fouling the opposition.
Passing the ball accurately
As the ball lies mainly in the possession of midfielders throughout the game, it is primarily their focus to pass the ball on, and they should accurately do so.
Midfielders need to pass accurately or their pass could be intercepted by an opposing player. Losing possession in the midfield has negative effects on the defense as they have to pick up the pieces of midfielders’ mistakes. They also need to be able to pass precisely to their forwards who can run into free spaces to get a better shot on goal.
The weight of a pass from a midfielder can sometimes dictate and change a game, a pass that has not been struck hard enough by the boot of the midfielder can result in the ball not getting to their teammate in time and being intercepted by the opposition.
A pass-through on goal to an attacking player that is too heavily weighted can cause the ball to go too far before the player can reach it and often it goes out of play.
Midfielders will often be the ones to carry out the set pieces. This can either be a corner, freekick, throw-in, or a penalty. As they are normally the players with the most accurate passing they assume these duties.
Freekicks are a great goal scoring opportunity if you’ve got the correct players to take them. Different players take on the responsibility of a freekick depending on its positioning on the pitch and whether they are left or right-footed.
Any player can take a throw-in, however, the midfielder normally takes this role as they are positioned in between the defense and forwards so they can throw the ball in a good area where possession will be kept and then back into position easier.
More often or not, the striker or forward will be the go-to player to step up to the penalty spot, however, if a midfielder has goal-scoring prowess then they may also be given the opportunity.
The likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard who dominated the English Premier League were some of the most iconic midfielders of their time who held the privilege of penalty kicks for their team.