The 4 Key Characteristics of a Defensive Center Midfielder
Every team needs one, that defensive minded midfield holding player that can protect the center-backs and sniff out opposition attacks, while also serving as your team's deep lying playmaker, spreading possession, and switching the point of attack from flank to flank.
Let's look at a four key characteristics needed for your soccer team's defensive center midfielder.
1. A Good Engine and Strong Work Rate
A key requirement for any player playing the defensive center midfield position (DCM) is related to their physical attributes. It is incredibly important that he or she displays a high work-rate during a training and in a match, and thusly, it is very important to develop a high level of fitness.
N'Golo Kante of recently crowned English Premier League champions Leicester City is a perfect example of a defensive center midfielder who covers a ton of ground during a match.
By doing the 'dirty work' of tracking runners, making tackles, interceptions, and retrieving possession for his side, it allows the flair players (center midfielder and attacking center midfielder) to create and drive forward into the next phase of your team's buildup play.
Take a look at the work rate of Kante in this clip of 5 of his best interceptions this season:
2. Technical Ability
In years gone past, a defensive center midfielder was known as a hard man/woman, someone who's sole purpose was to be strong in the tackle, break up the opponent's play, and put fear in the hearts and minds of the competition.
Today, soccer is, thankfully, much more technical, and the best DCM's are also incredibly graceful players that still get stuck into a challenge, but are as equally competent on the ball as off it.
First touch, ability to play with different parts of the foot, ball striking, and a proficient range of passing are all requirements for the position. Winning possession is one critical element of the DCM, but properly distributing said possession is something that the top players are also tasked with.
Modern era defensive center midfielders must be trained to become 360 degree players. Their heads on a swivel, always checking their shoulder, evaluating, processing, and making decisions in split seconds as to how much time and space they have on the ball.
The best midfield players are always cognizant of what's around them. Getting caught in position as a DCM, particularly in the defensive third is a huge no-no, and your DCM must always be switched-on from the first whistle to the last.
4. Unrelenting Competitor
The defensive center midfielder's within your team aren't a different species, but in some aspects they do need to have a mental toughness that is unparalleled within your squad.
Your DCM must rally the troops, demanding the best from his or her teammates, driving them forward in attack, and perhaps more importantly, ensuring that other midfield players have the will and heart to track their marks and be engaged in the transition from attacking to defending.
Developing the four key characteristics in your defensive center midfielder that are outlined above will help engineer a truly special player, and someone that can make a huge impact on your starting 11.
About the Author:
Isaiah Schwerin has been involved with the game of soccer as a fan, coach, and writer for 28 years. He is currently a head coach at Central Marin Soccer Club, where he coaches the U12-U18 boys and girls. He is also the Associate Head Coach for the men's and women's soccer teams at Marin Academy. He holds a USSF D License, Coerver Youth Diploma II, and is a Positive Coaching Alliance Double-Goal Coach.