How to Play Holding Midfielder – Best 5 Tips!

As a holding midfielder, you get to recover the ball and pass it to the attackers! This is a tough position to understand because there are a lot of responsibilities and you are in the middle of the field. Which means, a lot of traffic! I played in this position at the college level and I LOVED IT!!

Some top holding midfielders include Sergio Busquets, Tony Kroos, and Casemiro. These players demonstrate game after game why we should watch and learn from them. Their skills and strategic movements should be observed carefully to improve our game performance.

The following tips on “how to play holding midfielder” are my recommendations to young players that would like more information about this interesting position. It is great to be a holding midfielder because you are in the middle of the action. However, you may be overthinking about your duties if you are perhaps not enjoying this position.

#1 Job: Defend.

Don’t really worry about attacking, your #1 job is to defend. You will most likely have at least 5 teammates in front of you ready to get the ball and attack. You must be able to move up a few times but you are mainly “holding” and recovering the ball.

  1. Get to the ball first!
  2. Know when to step up and when to hold
  3. Go hard (without malicious intentions!)

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Cover Everyone… Yup, Everyone!

Playing in the middle of the field may be fun because the ball may always be around you, however as a center midfielder, you have to cover most of your defensive players.

  1. You must shift to the sides to cover your fullbacks or wingers.
  2. You must drop back to help the sweeper and stopper.
  3. You must step up when necessary to help your attacking midfielders.

Not an easy job, but definitely fun! You definitely need to be FIT for this position!

**Don’t lose the ball**

NOT YOU! As a holding midfielder, you only have the line of defense and your goalkeeper behind you, that means “half of the team” is ready to attack. You are in a part of the field where dribbling is risky and even though most professional are confident to do so, you must be very careful when trying to “dribble out of trouble”.

  1. Once you recover the ball, pass it! that’s the safest thing to do.
  2. Open up to your wingers
  3. Find your attacking midfielders
  4. Long pass to your forwards or striker
  5. Push up and make your fullback “run the line”

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>>Save your Energy when you Can<<

Just like in any other position, you must know how to use your fuel properly. When players start playing in this position, they are tempted to run all balls and try to be everywhere. That is good but you may run out of energy and then it is not fun anymore.

  1. Know when to make the runs
  2. Scan the field and see if your team has more players defending than opponents attacking
  3. Organize! Communicate with teammates
  4. Remember your role! You are a defender. Don’t move up / attack much
  5. IN through your nose, OUT through your mouth.

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Best Advice: Learn from the Pros

In all of my articles I always finish with the same line because I think is the BEST ADVICE I can give any young player. When watching soccer, pay attention and take mental notes on the DOs and DON’Ts of playing as a holding midfielder.

Successful soccer players use their skills and knowledge to improve their performances, why not try to implement in our game what they show us every week? I find it very helpful and I hope it also helps you guys reach your highest potential in soccer!

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Share your thoughts about this crucial soccer position. Your comments are greatly appreciated!

11 thoughts on “How to Play Holding Midfielder – Best 5 Tips!

  1. One of the things my first football coach drilled into me as a midfielder was to maintain ball control. Short dribbles and control were far more important than trying to advance the ball up the field. Your job was basically to get the ball to the attackers and ensure your team didn’t lose control of the ball.

    This seems directly in line with your thoughts so I’m glad to see my coach was accurate back so long ago!  Do you have any recommendations for ball control exercises to practice, beyond that of juggling without letting the ball hit the ground?

    • Hi, I think that passing is always another way to work on ball control. You may need a partner for certain drills.

      Another you can do is, kick the ball up in the air and take it down in no more than 2 touches. That should help.

  2. Great article! It’s a strong checklist for those are are experienced and of course for any beginner. Particularly looking to those role models and those with more experience is going to be very beneficial. Having all of that as a basis and motivation to improve upon seems to be the best way to utilize the tips mentioned.

  3. These are awesome tips for anyone interested in playing holding midfielder. I was always defense when I used to play soccer, just because I couldn’t deal with that much running! Not to mention, midfielders have quite a bit of responsibility. I totally agree with passing the ball as soon as you get it. It has to be moved away from your own goal!

  4. Hi Victor

    Your site is giving me such an education on soccer.  First the winger, now midfielder.  You explained what the position is what the person who plays that position is responsible for.  

    The advice you gave about not being all over the field was very sound.  Sometimes, even in other sports a person may want and try to play positions that are not theirs.

    Key is to perfect what you do while doing it, then move on the another position if that is what is desired.  Good images and ads for this site.  Great tips and pointers.

  5. Hi Victor,

    I rarely post comments on the internet, but I couldn’t go without thanking you for this amazing article which contains a lot of helpful information. I consider myself a beginner at football and I struggle from time to time (that’s one of the reasons why I started searching for some tips online). However, after reading your post, I must say that I learned quite a lot and will definitely make some changes in my play.

    Thank you for the great tips,Nick.

    • Thank you for stopping by Nick. As a beginner, you can always improve your game performance one step at the time. Feel free to read more articles here in my website to get some of “the theory” of soccer. However, when you play soccer you must remember two things: HAVE FUN and DO YOUR BEST!

  6. I played some soccer in a pickup league in college but never made the true connection with positions until I watched World Cup this year…what a blast!

    Thanks for the breakdown of the role of the midfielder and the responsibilities. I think i remember from my playing days that you also needed to look for ways to create passing opportunities.  Conditioning was a big part of my game back then.  It’s a lot of running so i see you point to try and get rest when you can.

    Great job!

  7. My son is new to the midfield position, and just as you stated, his problem is going after every ball every time.  He is usually tuckered out before the end of the first period.  After reading through your website, he and I both see the value of learning from the pro’s.  My David is an excellent player, but he has a lot to learn yet. 

    Thank you for your tips on the greatest game ever!  Clay

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