Playing as an attacking midfielder (also known as a central attacking midfielder or the #10) is about setting the pace and being an offensive threat.
As an attacking midfielder, your role is to create scoring chances for the forwards, help move the ball upfield, provide defensive coverage in the midfield, and even score goals yourself when the opportunity arises.
What You’ll Learn in this Article:
- An attacking midfielder is often interchangeable with a central attacking midfielder (CAM).
- The attacking midfielder plays a very important role for their team. This individual should be offensive-minded but able to make hard tackles as well.
- An attacking midfielder needs to be a very good shape to withstand all the running and physical aspects of soccer.
Playing as an attacking midfielder requires a combination of:
- Technical skills
- Tactical awareness
- Natural determination
Honestly, the quality of this position can be the difference between winning and losing soccer games.
In this article, we’ll address how to play attacking midfielder effectively and what skills you’ll need for success.
What is the Role of an Attacking Midfielder?
Depending on the natural abilities and team’s needs, an attacking midfielder may take on a variety of roles in soccer.
A Superior Playmaker
In modern soccer, this is the most common role for an attacking midfielder. As the name implies, the superior playmaker is the team’s creative engine.
You’ll play in an accessible position in the opponent’s middle third and create scoring opportunities by linking the midfield and the attack.
The playmaker makes things happen on the field. You’ll need to make quick decisions with a purpose.
The shadow striker is when there are two strikers lined up vertically (one in front) from each other. It can also be the attacking midfielder lined up behind the lone striker.
The most common formation in soccer is the 4-4-2 (Magic Rectangle), although when teams are in the offensive stages of play, it often changes to a 4-4-1-1.
In such a setup, you’ll be playing off the primary center forward’s shoulder, taking advantage of layoffs, or forcing the opposition’s defenders into a tricky spot to provide room for the striker or other midfielders.
This can be an ideal formation if the team needs a goal, has an aggressive player as a Striker and you can create your own scoring opportunities.
While technically playing in the central attacking midfield position, a ‘False 10’ usually goes out to the wings (or a specific wing) to whip in crosses or just to draw a defensive midfielder out of position and free up space for others to run into.
If the side is playing with wingers, the False 10’s position on the wings also aids in crowding the flanks since the full-back, winger, and central midfielder ought to be more than enough to overwhelm the opposition.
A False 10 can also be considered a “central winger”.
What Skills Are Needed as an Attacking Midfielder?
To become a successful attacking midfielder, you need to focus on honing the following specific skills:
- Provide width down the sidelines – when running forward, you should look to provide space on either side and try to get behind the opposition’s defensive line. This opens up passing lanes for teammates that can create scoring chances.
- Move into opportunistic positions – to unlock defenses; you should look to move into pockets of space between defenders where possible. This may be between two midfielders or behind a full-back. If done correctly, this can confuse opponents, leading to opportunities on goal.
- Support attackers with crosses and passes – players should look to support attackers by providing precise through-balls and crosses. This can create counterattacks and more chances for scoring opportunities.
- Move the ball quickly – swift passing is key to success as an attacking midfielder. Playing quick passes between teammates can help break down defenses and open up scoring opportunities in dangerous pitch areas.
- Show good defensive awareness – not only should you be looking to attack, but also provide defensive cover when defending transition play. Good positioning will limit opponents’ ability to counter-attack effectively, giving your team a better chance of keeping possession and creating opportunities for a goal.
- Move in tight spaces – Quickness is an advantage among attacking midfielders as they need to play in tight spaces. An experienced player will continue to look back over their shoulder and see passing opportunities before they even get the ball.
- Always be communicating – this is often overlooked but a central attacking midfielder should always be communicating. They are in a position to see the field from all angles. Players can communicate when opponents are near the ball, when to pass it back, or when to counter.
Attacking Midfielder Jersey Number
Attacking midfielders are often assigned the number 10 jersey. However, the jersey number assigned to a player in soccer is not necessarily tied to their position on the field, and players can wear any number as long as it is not already assigned to another player on their team.
The Greatest Attacking Midfielders of All-Time
Attacking midfielders often rank among the most lauded and naturally talented players on the field. The names on this list are some big names.
- Lionel Messi: Also playing as a forward, Messi needs no introduction. Messi is at an elite status among soccer players and fans. His creative technique, sideline-to-sideline vision, and finishing abilities make him the perfect attacking midfielder.
- Diego Maradona: What else do we need to say? Arguably one of the best soccer players in sports history, fans adored him for his technical brilliance, artistic flair, wild dribbling, sharp finishing, and all-around charisma.
- Alfredo Di Stefano: A former player for Real Madrid, is revered as one of the game’s all-time greats. The third-highest goalscorer in league history for Real Madrid, an attacking midfielder best known for his technical skill and scoring capabilities.
- Bobby Charlton: Played a crucial role in England’s historic World Cup victory in 1966 and was a key player for both his country and his team, Manchester United, in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.
- Zinedine Zidane: One of the greatest attacking midfielders in history, Zidane is renowned for his grace, vision, technique, ball handling, and passing skills.
- Johan Cruyff: One of the greatest European players of all-time, Cruyff put Barcelona on the map by winning a UCL and (4) La Liga titles. In his celebrated career as a player, he went on to win the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1971, 1973, and 1974.
Finding Success Offensively
In my experience coaching and watching games, the best attacking midfielders are the ones who can get on the ball and play it quickly to a teammate. Then immediately, they’ll find open space to get the ball again.
Once they have the ball, they are very strong with it. They take small, choppy touches in the middle but can extend out to make plays happen.
Lastly, because of the way they play, they very rarely have an “off day”. They are always in the mix and combine their skills to find success on the field.
Are You Ready to Play an Attacking Midfielder Role?
I hope this helps you understand what goes into playing the attacking midfielder position.
You are truly the driver of the team’s engine. If a team can dominate the middle of the field, they can counter and provide more scoring opportunities.
When you can couple game IQ with controlled speed, you will be able to succeed in this position.
This role isn’t for the faint of heart as it will require a lot of running but it does provide you with a great understanding of the game.
Frequently Asked Questions
The primary role of an attacking midfielder is to create and score goals for their team. They are responsible for linking the midfield and the attack, and are often the playmaker or the shadow striker, providing key passes and assists to their teammates.
No, they are considered two different soccer positions. The striker typically positions themselves up top and is relied on as a goal scorer. The attacking midfielder is responsible for being the bridge between the midfield and forwards.
Several soccer formations can include an attacking midfielder. Formations that include an attacking midfielder are 4-2-3-1, 4-4-1-1, and 4-3-3.