A central midfielder is often considered as the most important position on the pitch. Helping their team to defend, attack, and run the game. In the modern game with new formations, we have seen a variety to the role of a central midfielder. A Kante era has sprung upon us, the Scholes era and fellow Englishmen Gerrard and Lampard. Attacking midfielders are analysed on their goal contributions rather than defensive, and vice versa. Formations are often built around these players.
As highlighted in a previous article, N’Golo Kante is one of the most popular footballers around. Taking over from Makelele, Kante owns the holding midfield role. In fact, potentially the best ever? Making tackles all over the pitch, these last two seasons have seen him be the most important Premier League player. He needs next to no introduction as to why his attributes are so important.
Teams will now often having a ‘ball playing’ midfielder. One who controls the game. Most noticeably in the Premier League Michael Carrick has been mentioned, but others include Italian Marco Veratti and Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos. Long passes, short passes, knowing when to slow the game down and when to speed it up. These players become crucial. Andrea Pirlo, Paul Scholes and Xavi Hernandez set the example here, and there’s no surprise they all featured in the world’s top teams.
The flair player has become increasingly important to modern football. A player who is confident on the ball, has the skill to beat a man or two, and simply give the team a lift when they’re struggling. Be it fancy skills, or tight ball control, these nimble players fill the gaps created on the pitch. Andres Iniesta, Phillip Coutinho and David Silva are examples. Threading through balls to strikers, or getting the ball deep and creating chances. Often costing the most, but having a huge impact on the game.
‘Box-to-box’ is a term thrown around describing a type of midfielder. In recent times this would mean one who defends as well as attacks with the same effort. Before there were ‘goal scoring midfielders’, these would be the most important players. Partick Viera, Steven Gerrard and Roy Keane fit this category perfectly. And to no surprise, they were loved by fans. The modern day equivalent comes from Raja Nainggolan of Roma. A workhorse in midfield who contributes at both ends. Gaining a huge amount of interest, he is wanted by nearly every club in the world. The ‘dirty side’ of being a midfielder if you will.
We finally move on to the goal scorer. ‘Number 10’s’ as they’re known now. They have become so important in contributing to a team’s performance, as well as taking the pressure off the striker. Midfielders with over 100 goals, like Lampard and Gerrard, set the perfect example. Young prospects such as Dele Alli are making the role their own and almost act as another striker. Crucial to a starting 11’s set up.