7 Tips for Defensive Midfielders

7 Tips for Defensive Midfielders

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Make sure to take our Soccer Quiz to see if you, your player or child has what it takes!

Defensive midfielders have more responsibilities than most other positions, which might be why they are some of the most respected players in soccer. It’s a tough job, but those who take the time to learn can help their teams become better balanced and more successful.

Below are some key tips on how to play the defensive midfielder position.


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1. Defense First

Even though defensive midfielders can have different roles based on the formations they’re playing in and the offensive strategies their managers use, it’s always vital that they are defensive-minded players. If there is any doubt at all about whether or not you should move forward or stay back, always choose the latter.

Offensive-minded teams rely on defensive midfielders to protect areas that are left open, and defensive-minded teams rely on the DM to break up play in the middle lanes of the field. There are plenty of defensive jobs to do, so it simply makes sense for a defensive midfielder to focus more on those jobs rather than on the offensive side of things.

2. Protect Your Center Backs

While the center backs’ primary job is to form a wall in front of their goaltender, a defensive midfielder’s primary job is to form a small wall in front of them. When everyone does their jobs correctly, it is extremely difficult for opposing offenses to break through and get clean shots on goal.

Protect Your Center Backs

Sometimes you will have to move forward to support the rest of your teammates on offense, but you will be the player who has to sprint back to make sure the center backs aren’t left alone. Think of yourself has the third center back and that should help you to know where you need to be throughout each game.

3. Take Pride in Being a Good Tackler

There are plenty of reasons why defensive midfielders have to be good tacklers. Not only do they want to get the ball so they can start an attack for their team; they also need to make sure that they don’t miss their tackles and give the opponents an opening.

Everyone should work on their tackling in practice, but this is especially true for defensive players because they need to have a variety of tackling styles in their arsenal. For example, if you are running at a diagonal sprint towards an opponent, you have to know how to get your body between the ball and the player to take it cleanly.

4. Controlled Aggression

A good defensive midfielder has to be aggressive and get “stuck in,” but that aggression has to be controlled or you could end up getting carded often. Knowing when to be aggressive and when to back off is one of the skills that you will learn over time, but it’s important that you aren’t passive even when you first start playing the position.

Controlled Aggression

Most players dislike being pressured every time they get the ball on offense, and it’s a defensive midfielder’s job to make them as uncomfortable as possible. Every time the ball comes into your area, make sure that the opponents know that you are there by getting close to them in a good defensive stance.


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5. Limit Turnovers with Simple Passes

You can be a playmaker while playing in the defensive midfielder position, but in most cases you will want to move the ball around quickly with short passes. This is one position that has to focus on limiting turnovers because if you do give the ball away, there is a good chance that your center backs will be stuck on their own trying to stop the counter attack.

Limit Turnovers with Simple Passes

In most cases, you will be looking to move the ball either to your fellow midfielders or to the full backs. Of course, don’t hesitate to pass the ball back to the center backs or to the goalkeeper if you don’t have any other clear options.

Even though you do want to put more focus on your defense, you should always spend some time in practice working on improving your passing skills.

6. Get the Attack Started

Even though you do want to make safer passes to limit turnovers, you also should think of yourself as one of the players who starts the attack. If the opposing team gives you enough space to think, look for players up the field to see if there is a good opportunity to break on offense.

Most of your opponents won’t expect you to attempt creative passes, so those rare times where you do try to push your team forward could lead to great goal scoring opportunities. Even if you aren’t great at long passes through the air, you can still do a lot of damage by picking out a player with a ground pass.

7. Be a Leader

Even if you aren’t the captain of your team, as a defensive midfielder you have the responsibility to be vocal and lead from the midfield. You can see the whole field in front of you, so you have to be willing to let the other players on your team know where they need to be if they are out of position.


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