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The Attacking Midfielder

By Football256 Team
Allan Okello weaves past defenders against Burundi in the 2019 CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup in Kampala | Photo by Nicholas Bamulanzeki

This player is a dying breed in the world of football. The teams that have such a player consider themselves lucky and those that want them pay an arm and a leg.

The Uganda national team has struggled to find this kind of player to create chances that are hard to come by. The last true attacking midfielder on the Cranes could easily have been Willy Kyambadde in the early 2000s.

Have you ever wondered how the likes of Eden Hazard, David Silva, and Mesut Özil pulled off amazing performances on the field? Well, the secret to their incredible performances is days, months, and years of practice. 

These players wouldn’t play as they do if they were put in a different position.  Because they are attacking midfielders (CAM).

Typically, the attacking midfielder is a creative player that controls the offensive play of the team (also called a playmaker). They normally act as a link between the midfield and the forwards.

Since they play a major role in controlling the offensive play, the attacking midfielder must be mobile, creative, and extremely skillful. The attributes of the attacking midfielder we shall see below.

The first touch must be perfect

Well, before the ball gets to an attacking midfielder, the opposing team’s defence will rush towards him with an intention of dispossessing the player.

For that, the first touch must be taken properly so that the ball stays on foot. A poor first touch slows down attacks and allows the opposition to re-organize.

Have a quick and wise reaction

So you have made a classy first touch, what next? A good attacking midfielder will be quick to dribble, pass, and even shoot the ball. If they don’t make the next move quickly, the opposing team will take the ball from you.

Be accurate with your passes

One needs to put the right weight on those passes. First off, they need to be sure where they want the ball to meet the target player.

Attacking midfielders should also calculate where the defenders are, and whether they will get to the ball. The player might have to practice more to master this skill. Watching how Kevin Debruyne or Allan Okello are accurate with their passes would help learn a thing or two.

Creative with movements

We did mention earlier that an attacking midfielder has to be mobile. The mobility has to be creative as well.

The attacking Midfielder will need to move around the pitch in areas that teammates can feed them with the ball with ease. Yes, the defenders will be on the player trying to block the ball from landing on his feet, but here is where they will need to prove that they are the creative fulcrum of the team.

Have a good team chemistry

Nothing pushes a team forward with precision than good chemistry. A team’s attacking midfielder should be on the same page with every teammate at all times. Always trying to study and know what teammates will do next.

In this case, there will be a better chance to hold possession and also have a scoring opportunity. Before getting to the match, ensure that team chemistry is practiced on the training ground.

Shoot when you can

The role of the CAM  is to create scoring chances. But don’t forget that attacking midfielders are also second strikers.

For that, when the CAM is looking for the striker to feed the ball, but they are crowded with defenders, think otherwise. As long as he is in the position to score or even attempt, they shouldn’t hesitate to take a shot.

Master the art of dribbling

Sometimes in the game it can be difficult to pass the ball to a target man. Also, one cannot just pass the ball back to defensive midfielders or the defenders.

That isn’t a quality of a good CAM.  Here is where you will need to pull a Messi on those defenders. The best (even Messi) use simple moves like the body feint, but they use them to perfection.

Dribble through the defenders and get as close to the goal post as possible. The aim is to get past the defenders and score, or at least create a scoring chance for a teammate.

Don’t forget to defend

Well, this doesn’t mean that the CAM should run back to the defenders’ line and try to do their job. Neither does it mean that they should chase the ball all around the pitch as they try to dispossess the opponents.

Instead, they need to put pressure on the opposing side’s center backs, center midfielders, and wingbacks. Try as much to disrupt the opponents from developing an attack on their team.

Be a clinical finisher

Other than shooting when they can, a good attacking midfielder should be a good finisher as well. It is their job to ensure that the play leads to a goal.

In the case they are left alone with the goalkeeper keeper, of course, they should make the best move and score a goal. Players to watch are the likes of Dele Alli, Sadio Mane, De Bruyne and Messi.

While in the Uganda Premier League we keenly keep a keen eye on Bright Anukani at KCCA FC, Muzamir Mutyaba at Express and Solomon Okwalinga at Mbarara City FC.

Study the entire field of play

A good attacking midfielder should study where each player is on the field while they keep their eyes on the ball to receive it.

This way, one will be able to deliver a better pass, pick the right person, and even get in the perfect position to shoot. Some might call it seeing things in slow motion.

Keep in mind that practice makes perfect. So never give up on the training ground. What happens on the training ground is most likely to continue on match day.

The author is a CAF B licensed coach he also holds a Bachelor’s of Commerce in Accounting and Finance degree and a Master of Arts in Public Administration.

YouTube: Asaph Mwebaze Jr, Facebook: Asaph Mwebaze Jr

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