Attacking MidfieldersWatching Kevin De Bruyne pick out a pass in between the two centre backs, or Jack Grealish protecting the ball as he glides past an opponent is a real excitement in the game. Football loves difference makers, players who can create chances out of nothing at the same time as exciting the fans. Player’s who see things that we don’t, executing their technique with great confidence and skill. These player’s are incredibly exciting to watch, and at the moment, we have a number of player’s here in the UK who are incredibly gifted at doing just that.
These players are technically outstanding, even at the highest level, and in a lot of cases they are playing as the attacking midfielder.
If we take a look at the Premier League at the moment the leading attacking midfielder’s are all absolutely pivotal in their teams success. Kevin De Bruyne is arguably the best midfielder in the world. Bruno Fernandes has the most goals and assists for any Premier League player over the last year. Jack Grealish is making the world notice his fantastic dribbling and passing abilities.
That’s not just it either. England has some exceptional attacking midfield talents coming through. Phil Foden looks like a generational talent. Emile Smith-Rowe at Arsenal is widely credited for the clubs upturn in form and James Maddison at Leicester, in my opinion, is under-rated even though he is a vital component of Leicester’s title charge, and I haven’t even mentioned Mason Mount yet.
The level of attacking midfielder’s is incredibly high, all of these possessing unbelievable technical ability. Their sheer talent and love of the game allows them to be incredibly creative, getting fans excited about what they are going to do next.
Because of that there are more and more player’s wanting to play in the attacking midfielder, or number ten, role. Lots of player’s watching their idols, dropping to the ball, looking to be the creator and star player.
This has created huge competition, at all levels, not just the top end of the game.
Being one of the main creators on the team is a big role, and also pressured. You’ve got to make a difference when it counts.
That may be a match winning goal like Bruno Fernandes free kick against Liverpool last weekend, or an inch perfect pass in the last few minutes. Quite often team-mates can look to you.
Get it wrong and it can feel like a lonely place. But get it right and you can get all the plaudits. It’s a tough position, but in my opinion, one of the most exciting.
So far we’ve discussed mainly about the player and what they can do on the ball, but one of, if not the most important aspects for an attacking midfielder is movement. Movement off the ball.
You may have heard of the term ‘playing between the lines’. Good attacking midfielder’s do this all the time, and what we must remember is that an attacking midfielder’s movement can not only create opportunities to get them on the ball more, but also opens up spaces for the rest of the team. Therefore, playing between the lines is absolutely crucial for the number ten in the team.
Finding the gaps in between the lines of the oppositions defence and midfield is so important. If you find these gaps then there is a concern for the opposing player’s.
Do the other teams midfielder’s drop and cover you, giving your team-mate on the ball more space and time?
Or does the centre back step forward, getting tight to you?
If they do this it may stop you getting the ball, but it has left a big space in behind that they have come out of, giving your striker the chance to run into the open area.
It becomes very difficult for opponents and you will find that sometimes you are covered. But that doesn’t matter, you have created space for team-mates. But, when you’re not covered, you are going to have plenty of more time on the ball.
Then when we do get it we’ve got to make sure we can take advantage of that space. To do that we’ve got to know what is around us and where our team-mates are.
Scan, checking your shoulders to get an idea of how much time you have on the ball. The top player’s scan all the time, painting a picture in their head of where opponents are and the runs of their team-mates. The more times you check, the more time you’ll realise you have on the ball. When you realise this you will see that you are in a much better position to go an affect the game.
Something that I love seeing from attacking midfielder’s is attacking intent. That could be with positive passes forward into the strikers, or wingers. Alternatively, the attacking midfielder may prefer dribbling at the defence and shooting from difference. Each player has different skill sets but as an attacking midfielder, you have to be positive. Be direct, be confident and take your chances.
By doing this the top number tens create a huge number of chances, while also getting themselves in positions around the area to go and score more goals.
Have great movement off the ball, in between the lines of defence and midfield. Keep checking your surroundings and be effective, making positive passes forward, or driving runs toward the penalty area.
It’s an exciting position and player’s are judged more and more on their goals and assists. Don’t be afraid to take shots, but also get in the box. When the ball is out wide those late runs into the area to attack the cross are so dangerous, making you hard to mark and a real danger to the oppositions goal.
It’s a great position but you can feel pressured on the ball a lot. Give yourself a better chance by finding space and scanning the pitch. Doing this more and more so that it becomes second nature.
You’ll then find yourself picking the ball up in dangerous areas in the oppositions half of the pitch, giving yourself the chance to create and score, loving the opportunities that playing as a number 10 provides.