In youth soccer, midfielders are usually just that, a player who plays in the middle of the field. But as their ball skills improve (and especially as they move into eleven-a-side soccer) they can fall into one of three different types:
When his team is defending, the left or right midfielder marks the opposition winger on his side of the field. If he has no-one to mark when his team is defending, he should concentrate on keeping the team shape compact by moving in towards the middle of the field.
In attack, the outside midfielder stays wide and makes supporting runs up the line. Even if he doesn’t have the ball, his presence on the flank will stretch the opposition defence and thus provide space in the centre for his team’s attackers to exploit.
So the outside midfielder has to be fit, have excellent ball skills and be confident in taking on the opposition 1v1.
The defensive midfielder holds the team together. He operates between the attackers and the central defender or sweeper. His job is to put pressure on the opposition ball carrier and provide cover for any of his team mates who lose the ball in his ‘patch’ – the midfield.
When your team is attacking, the defensive midfielder stays behind the attackers, ready to pressurise the opposition and grab any loose balls. He should be in position to provide the attackers with the option to pass back.
Offensive midfielders are the playmakers of the team and are often the fittest as they are involved in every attack.
Their job is to move the ball quickly from defence and join the attackers to create a numbers up position.
All midfielders need to have sufficient ball skills so they don’t have to think about the mechanics of controlling the ball but can concentrate on how best to distribute it instead. They also need to be able to anticipate what is about to happen next. All these skills require experience, so don’t try to introduce specialist midfield positions until your players are ready.