This position is one of the most difficult because it requires a high soccer IQ, exceptional fitness, and an unbelievable touch. Because of the demand for the position, we see young players making mistakes that are correctable if addressed. A lot of times I see younger players not understanding when they’re making mistakes, and because they don’t know their game plateaus. Here are the five mistakes center mids make.
1. Giving the ball away cheaply
This is one I try and ingrain in my players early because it is something players take for granted. When you give the ball away cheaply, you’re saying that it doesn’t matter and you’ll get the ball back. In reality, this is not the chase, and when you look at how many times you’ll touch the ball in the game, it is not as many as you would think in a 90-minute game. You have to have the ball to score goals and to have a rhythm to the game. As a center mid, you control the speed and tempo of the game, so if you’re giving the ball away consistently, it will be difficult for your team to find a rhythm and to score goals. This is high on college coaches list, so if you want to play in college, be mindful of not giving the ball away cheaply.
2. Not Connecting on 5 to 10-yard passes
Just like giving the ball away cheaply, missing on 5 to 10-yard passes is another cardinal sin when playing center midfield. The reason why you can’t miss on short passes is that those passes in the middle of the field can be the catalyst for your opponent's attack. When you are in the center of the field, you have more responsibility to keep the ball and help your team get the ball circulated to score goals. The best teams in the world have center mids who always connect on short passes because they know the importance of something that seems small but is extremely important.
3. Poor Positioning
All the positions on the field require excellent positioning, but I believe teams with poorly positioned center midfielders will struggle to win and find success. The reason being is it is the part of the field that takes you directly to the goal. There is no more straightforward path to the goal than right down the center. With that being said, poor positioning for a center mid usually happens because of lack of discipline. Your job is to stay in the middle of the park. That doesn’t mean there aren’t times where you might find yourself in wide positions, but for the most part, you have to stay centrally and give your team balance.
4. Bad First touch
If you want to be a central midfielder and have success in the midfield, you better have an excellent first touch and are doing extra work to improve your technique. If you aren’t sure if you touch is up to par, that is a sign that you need to work on it. If you haven’t watched any of our videos on technique, after this you should go and watch. These videos will help you improve your touch and will give you insight on how much practice you need to get to a high level of technical ability.
5. Not being a vocal leader or Leader by example
This is the toughest one for some because it requires a big personality and a lot of energy. In my opinion, All teams have leaders; whether those are leaders that are vocal or leaders that do there job day in and day out, you need to decide to be one of these, primarily as a center mid. The Center Midfielders make the team go, and if you're not contributing to the leadership component of the team, you will struggle. You have to be demanding of yourself.
This position is demanding and will require you to be brave and be accountable. The center of the field has to be protected, and that comes with not making the mistakes and being fully committed and focused when you step on the field. No excuses. When the excuses begin, you need to be then honest with yourself and decide what you want to accomplish going forward.