Midfield series: Holding midfielder in focus


I was discussing one afternoon (arguing actually, as it usually turns out with this particular chap) with a colleague of mine about midfielders. What about midfielders? That statement “discussing about midfielders” seems rather vague as MFs(midfielders, in this context) come in various forms and attitudes.
A midfielder is generally positioned on the pitch between the defenders and attackers.
It is probably the one part of the pitch that accommodates the most diverse and unique football play patterns. From the small, quick, intuitive attack minded Midfielders to the solid rock, anchor-type defensive Midfielders we get to understand that depending on where in the midfield the player is stationed, his “role” differs. Role being the key word. I shall explain eventually.
Our discussion in detail was about the holding midfielder, (or as is known, the “deep lying playmaker”) and the kind of skills needed to have a world class impact in that role. Mention names like Andrea Pirlo, Sergio Busquets, Casemiro et al and you would have named some of the best players in that role. Traits like vision, long range passing, tackling are some of the most important traits a world class Holding Midfielders (holding mid) could have.
Now, the term “holding midfielder” is a myth according to some pundits. To be honest, it is a role that usually has the player occupying a shield like position in front of the back four but that in itself doesn’t differentiate it from the “destroyer” or “ball-winning MF” who would occupy that same position.
That is where the player’s role comes into play (I did say I would come back here).
A midfield player can either be a defensive mid (DM), central mid (CM) or an attacking mid (AM) by position but as to what role he (or she) plays for the team, that is an entirely different matter.
Now a HMF usually (not always) occupies the DM position in the team, and if there is no room for that position in the manager’s formation then the CM would be his base.
But what separates the holding midfielder from the regular defensive midfielder. The box to box mid or the ball winning mid and others. (These are various roles in themselves).
The HMF, just like the anchor man sits back and organises the defensive line, he must have exceptional positioning and discipline to never get dragged out of position or overcrowded. He must also have excellent vision to spot a pass, just like his attacking counterparts only that he is more crucial as he usually starts the attacks from the back. He must also have sufficient marking and tackling skills, just like the ball-winning mid. He becomes the “architect” of attacks and plays a big part of the team’s tactics.
Naturally, seeing as football is a team game, a player can only perform optimally in his role when he has the right people around him on the pitch. It then becomes a fascinating game of tactics between the managers how to arrange their formations.
I’ll continue this in another post in which I’ll pick another role in the midfield and we’ll dissect it together.