A midfielder is an . Midfielders are generally positioned on the field between their team's and . Some midfielders play a strictly-defined defensive role, breaking up attacks, and are otherwise known as defensive midfielders. Others blur the boundaries, being more mobile and efficient in passing: they are commonly referred to as deep-lying midfielders, play-makers, box-to-box, or holding midfielders. The number of midfielders on a team and their assigned roles depends on the team's ; the collective group of these players on the field is sometimes referred to as the midfield. Most assign at least one midfielder to disrupt the opposing team's attacks, while others may be tasked with creating goals, or have equal responsibilities between attack and defence. Midfielders are the players who typically travel the greatest distance during a match. Midfielders arguably have the most possession during a game, and thus they are among the fittest players on the pitch.

Central midfielder

Central or centre midfielders are players whose role is divided roughly equally between attack and defence and to dominate the play around the centre of the pitch. These players will try to the ball to the team's and forwards and may also help their team's attacks by making runs into the opposition's and attempting on goal themselves. When the opposing team has the ball, a central midfielder may drop back to protect the goal or move forward and the opposition ball-carrier to recover the ball. A centre midfielder defending their goal will move in front of their in order to block long by the opposition and possibly track opposition midfielders making runs towards the goal. The and formations each use three central midfielders. The formation may use two central midfielders, and in the formation one of the two deeper midfielders may be a central midfielder.

Box-to-box midfielder

The term box-to-box midfielder refers to central midfielders who are hard-working and who have good all-round abilities, which makes them skilled at both defending and attacking. These players can therefore track back to their own box to make tackles and block shots and also carry the ball forward or run to the opponents' box to try to score. Beginning in the mid-2000s, the change of trends and the decline of the standard 4–4–2 formation (in many cases making way for the 4–2–3–1 and 4–3–3 formations) imposed restrictions on the typical box-to-box midfielders of the 1980s and 1990s, as teams' two midfield roles were now often divided into "holders" or "creators", with a third variation upon the role being described as that of a "carrier" or "surger". Some notable examples of box-to-box midfielders are , , , , , , , , and .


In Italian football, the term ''mezzala'' (literally "half-winger" in Italian) is used to describe the position of the one or two central midfielders who play on either side of a holding midfielder and/or playmaker. The term was initially applied to the role of an in the and ' formations in Italian, but later described a specific type of central midfielder. The mezzala is often a quick and hard-working attack-minded midfielder, with good skills and noted offensive capabilities, as well as a tendency to make overlapping attacking runs, but also a player who participates in the defensive aspect of the game, and who can give width to a team by drifting out wide; as such, the term can be applied to several different roles. In English, the term has come to be seen as a variant of the box-to-box midfielder role.

Wide midfielder

Left and right midfielders have a role balanced between attack and defence whilst they play a lot of crosses in the box for forwards.They are positioned closer to the of the . They may be asked to the ball into the opponents' penalty area to make scoring chances for their teammates, and when defending they may put pressure on opponents who are trying to cross. Common modern formations that include left and right midfielders are the , the , the and the formations. describes the development of the 4−4−2 formation: "…the winger became a wide midfielder, a shuttler, somebody who might be expected to cross a ball but was also meant to put in a defensive shift." Two notable examples of wide midfielders are and . In Italian football, the role of the wide midfielder is known as ''tornante di centrocampo'' or simply ''tornante'' ("returning"); it originated from the role of an , and came to be known as such as it often required players in this position to track back and assist the back-line with defensive duties, in addition to aiding the midfield and attacking.


The historic position of wing-half (not to be confused with ''mezzala'') was given to midfielders (half-backs) who played near the side of the pitch. It became obsolete as wide players with defensive duties have tended to become more a part of the defence as .

Defensive midfielder

Defensive midfielders are midfield players who focus on protecting their team's . These players may defend a in front of their team's , or specific opposition attackers. Defensive midfielders may also move to the or positions if those players move forward to join in an attack. described his attitude: "The knows that I am an obedient player who likes to help out and if I have to run to the wing to cover someone's position, great." A good defensive midfielder needs good positional awareness, anticipation of opponent's play, marking, tackling, interceptions, passing and great stamina and strength (for their tackling). In South American football, this role is known as a ''volante de marca'' ("steering wheel," in Spanish), while in Mexico it is known as ''volante de contención''. In Portugal, it is instead known as ''trinco''.

Holding midfielder

A holding or deep-lying midfielder stays close to their team's , while other midfielders may move forward to attack. The holding midfielder may also have responsibilities when their team has the ball. This player will make mostly short and simple passes to more attacking members of their team but may try some more difficult passes depending on the team's strategy. is considered as a pioneer for the use of a holding midfielder in defence. This position may be seen in the and formations. Initially, a defensive midfielder, or "destroyer", and a playmaker, or "creator", were often fielded alongside each other as a team's two holding central midfielders. The destroyer was usually responsible for making tackles, regaining possession, and distributing the ball to the creator, while the creator was responsible for retaining possession and keeping the ball moving, often with long passes out to the flanks, in the manner of a more old-fashioned deep-lying playmaker or ''regista'' (see below). Early examples of a destroyer are , , , while later examples include and , although several of these players also possessed qualities of other types of midfielders, and were therefore not confined to a single role. Early examples of a creator would be , , and , while more recent examples are and . The latest and third type of holding midfielder developed as a box-to-box midfielder, or "carrier" or "surger", neither entirely destructive nor creative, who is capable of winning back possession and subsequently advancing from deeper positions either by distributing the ball to a teammate and making late runs into the box, or by carrying the ball him or herself; recent examples of this type of player are and , while and are destroyers with carrying tendencies, is a carrier with several qualities of the ''regista,'' and was a carrier who became a playmaker, in later part of his career, after losing his stamina.

Deep-lying playmaker

A deep-lying playmaker is a holding midfielder who specializes in ball skills such as passing, rather than defensive skills like tackling. When this player has the ball, they may attempt longer or more complex passes than other holding players. They may try to set the tempo of their team's play, retain possession, or build plays through short exchanges, or they may try to pass the ball long to a or winger, or even pass short to a teammate in , the area between the opponents' defenders and midfielders. In Italy, the deep-lying playmaker is known as a ''regista'', whereas in Brazil, it is known as a "meia-armador". In Italy, the role of the ''regista'' developed from the centre half-back or ''centromediano metodista'' position in 's ' system (a precursor of the central or holding midfield position in the 2–3–2–3 formation), as the ''metodista'' 's responsibilities were not entirely defensive but also creative; as such, the ''metodista'' was not solely tasked with breaking down possession, but also with starting attacking plays after winning back the ball. Writer instead described 's holding midfield role as that of a "creator", a player who was responsible for retaining possession in the manner of a more old-fashioned deep-lying playmaker or ''regista'', noting that: "although capable of making tackles, lonsofocused on keeping the ball moving, occasionally raking long passes out to the flanks to change the angle of attack."


The historic central half-back position gradually retreated from the midfield line to provide increased protection to the back–line against centre-forwards – that is still commonly referred to as a "centre-half" as a legacy of its origins. In Italian football jargon, this position was known as the ''centromediano metodista'' or ''metodista'', although this term was later also applied to describe players who operated in a central holding-midfielder role, but who also had creative responsibilities in addition to defensive duties.

Attacking midfielder

An 'attacking midfielder' is a midfield player who is positioned in an advanced midfield position, usually between central midfield and the team's forwards, and who has a primarily offensive role. Some attacking midfielders are called ''trequartista'' or ''fantasista'' ( it, three-quarter specialist, i.e. a creative between the forwards and the midfield), who are usually mobile, creative and highly skilful players, known for their deft touch, technical ability, dribbling skills, vision, ability to shoot from long range, and passing prowess. However, not all attacking midfielders are trequartistas – some attacking midfielders are very vertical and are essentially auxiliary attackers who serve to link-up play, hold up the ball, or provide the final pass, i.e. . According to positioning along the field, attacking midfield may be divided into ''left'', ''right'' and ''central attacking midfield'' roles but most importantly they are a striker behind the forwards. A central attacking midfielder may be referred to as a ', or ''number ten'' (due to the association of the with this position).

Advanced playmaker

These players typically serve as the offensive pivot of the team, and are sometimes said to be "playing in the hole", although this term can also be used as deep-lying forward. The attacking midfielder is an important position that requires the player to possess superior technical abilities in terms of passing and , as well as, perhaps more importantly, the ability to read the opposing defence in order to deliver defence-splitting passes to the striker. This specialist midfielder's main role is to using superior vision, control, and technical skill, by making , , and headed to teammates. They may try to set up shooting opportunities for themselves by or performing a with a teammate. Attacking midfielders may also make runs into the opponents' penalty area in order to shoot from another teammate's pass. Where a creative attacking midfielder, i.e. an , is regularly utilized, he or she is commonly the team's star player, and often wears the . As such, a team is often constructed so as to allow their attacking midfielder to roam free and create as the situation demands. One such popular formation is the 4–4–2 "diamond" (or 4–1–2–1–2), in which defined attacking and defensive midfielders replace the more traditional pair of central midfielders. Known as the "''fantasista''" or "''trequartista''" in Italy, in Spain, the offensive playmaker is known as the "''Mediapunta'', in Brazil, the offensive playmaker is known as the "''meia atacante''," whereas in Argentina and , it is known as the "''enganche''." There are also some examples of more flexible advanced playmakers, such as , , , , and . These players could control the tempo of the game in deeper areas of the pitch while also being able to push forward and play line-breaking through balls. can be considered as a classic 10 who adopted a slightly more direct approach and specialised in playing the final ball.

False attacking midfielder

The false attacking midfielder description has been used in to describe a player who is seemingly playing as an attacking midfielder in a 4–3–1–2 formation, but who eventually drops deeper into midfield, drawing opposing players out of position and creating space to be exploited by teammates making attacking runs; the false-attacking midfielder will eventually sit in a central midfield role and function as a . The false-attacking midfielder is therefore usually a creative and tactically intelligent player with good vision, technique, movement, passing ability, and striking ability from distance. He or she should also be a hard-working player, who is able to read the game and help the team defensively.

"False 10" or "central winger"

The "false 10" or "central winger" is a type of midfielder, which differs from the false-attacking midfielder. Much like the "," their specificity lies in the fact that, although they seemingly play as an attacking midfielder on paper, unlike a traditional playmaker who stays behind the striker in the centre of the pitch, the false 10's goal is to move out of position and drift wide when in possession of the ball to help both the wingers and fullbacks to overload the flanks. This means two problems for the opposing midfielders: either they let the false 10 drift wide, and their presence, along with both the winger and the fullback, creates a three-on-two player advantage out wide; or they follow the false 10, but leave space in the centre of the pitch for wingers or onrushing midfielders to exploit. False 10s are usually traditional wingers who are told to play in the centre of the pitch, and their natural way of playing makes them drift wide and look to provide deliveries into the box for teammates. On occasion, the false-10 can also function in a different manner alongside a false-9, usually in a 4–6–0 formation, disguised as either a 4–3–3 or 4–2–3–1 formation. When other forwards or false-9s drop deep and draw defenders away from the false-10s, creating space in the middle of the pitch, the false-10 will then also surprise defenders by exploiting this space and moving out of position once again, often undertaking offensive dribbling runs forward towards goal, or running on to passes from false-9s, which in turn enables them to create goalscoring opportunities or go for goal themselves.


In modern football, the terms winger or wide player refer to a non-defender who plays on the left or right sides of the pitch. These terms can apply to left or right midfielders, left or right attacking midfielders, or left or right . Left or right-sided defenders such as or are generally not called wingers. In the formation popular in the late 19th century wingers remained mostly near the touchlines of the pitch, and were expected to cross the ball for the team's and . Traditionally, wingers were purely attacking players and were not expected to track back and defend. This began to change in the 1960s. In the , did not select wingers from the quarter-final onwards. This team was known as the "Wingless Wonders" and led to the modern 4–4–2 formation. This has led to most modern wide players having a more demanding role in the sense that they are expected to provide defensive cover for their full-backs and track back to repossess the ball, as well as provide skillful crosses for centre forwards and strikers. Some forwards are able to operate as wingers behind a lone striker. In a three-man midfield, specialist wingers are sometimes deployed down the flanks alongside the central midfielder or playmaker. Even more demanding is the role of , where the wide player is expected to provide both defence and attack. As the role of winger can be classed as a forward or a midfielder, this role instead blurs the divide between defender and midfielder. Italian manager has been known to use wide midfielders or wingers who act as wing-backs in his trademark and , for example; these players are expected both to push up and provide width in attack as well as track back and assist their team defensively. On occasion, the role of a winger can also be occupied by a different type of player. For example, certain managers have been known to use a "wide target man" on the wing, namely a large and physical player who usually plays as a centre-forward, and who will attempt to win aerial challenges and hold up the ball on the flank, or drag full-backs out of position; , for example, has been used in this role on occasion. Another example is under manager at Juventus during the 2016–17 season; normally a striker, he was instead used on the left flank, and was required to win aerial duels, hold up the ball, and create space, as well as being tasked with pressing opposing players. Today, a winger is usually an attacking midfielder who is stationed in a wide position near the touchlines. Wingers such as or used to be classified as outside forwards in traditional W-shaped formations, and were formally known as "" or "," but as tactics evolved through the last 40 years, wingers have dropped to deeper field positions and are now usually classified as part of the midfield, usually in 4–4–2 or 4–5–1 formations (but while the team is on the attack, they tend to resemble 4–2–4/2–4–4 and 4–3–3 formations respectively). The responsibilities of the winger include: * Providing a "wide presence" as a passing option on the flank. * To beat the opposing full-back either with skill or with speed. * To read passes from the midfield that give them a clear crossing opportunity, when going wide, or that give them a clear scoring opportunity, when cutting inside towards goal. * To double up on the opposition winger, particularly when he or she is being "double-marked" by both the team's full back and winger. The prototypical winger is fast, tricky and enjoys 'hugging' the touchline, that is, running downfield close to the touchline and delivering crosses. However, players with different attributes can thrive on the wing as well. Some wingers prefer to cut ''infield'' (as opposed to staying wide) and pose a threat as playmakers by playing diagonal passes to forwards or taking a shot at goal. Even players who are not considered quick, have been successfully fielded as wingers at club and international level for their ability to create play from the flank. Occasionally wingers are given a free role to roam across the front line and are relieved of defensive responsibilities. The typical abilities of wingers include: * Technical skill to beat a full-back in a one-to-one situation. * Pace, to beat the full-back one-on-one. * Crossing ability when out wide. * Good off-the-ball ability when reading a pass from the midfield or from fellow attackers. * Good passing ability and composure, to retain possession while in opposition territory. * The modern winger should also be comfortable on either wing so as to adapt to quick tactical changes required by the coach. Although wingers are a familiar part of football, the use of wingers is by no means universal. There are many successful football teams who operate without wingers. A famous example is 's late 2000s , who typically play in a narrow midfield diamond formation or in a Christmas tree formation (4–3–2–1), relying on full-backs to provide the necessary width down the wings.

Inverted winger

An inverted winger is a modern tactical development of the traditional winger position. Most wingers are assigned to either side of the field based on their , with right-footed players on the right and left-footed players on the left. This assumes that assigning a player to their natural side ensures a more powerful cross as well as greater ball-protection along the s. However, when the position is inverted and a winger instead plays inside-out on the opposite flank (i.e., a right-footed player as a left inverted winger), they effectively become supporting strikers and primarily assume a role in the attack. As opposed to traditionally pulling the opponent's out and down the flanks before crossing the ball in near the , positioning a winger on the opposite side of the field allows the player to cut-in around the , either threading passes between defenders or shooting on goal using the dominant foot. This offensive tactic has found popularity in the modern game due to the fact that it gives traditional wingers increased mobility as playmakers and goalscorers, such as the left-footed right winger of who achieved 30 career goals faster than any player in the past half-century of . Not only are inverted wingers able to push full-backs onto their weak sides, but they are also able to spread and force the other team to defend deeper as forwards and route towards the goal, ultimately creating more scoring opportunities. Other midfielders within this tactical archetype include and , as well as of the . Clubs such as often choose to play their wingers on the "wrong" flank for this reason; former Real Madrid coach often played on the right and on the left. Former manager often played the left-footed on the right and the right-footed on the left. One of the foremost practitioners of playing from either flank was German winger , whose flexibility helped Germany to third place in the , and the world title in . A description that has been used in the media to label a variation upon the inverted winger position is that of an "attacking," "false," or "goalscoring winger," as exemplified by Cristiano Ronaldo's role on the left flank during his time at Real Madrid in particular. This label has been used to describe an offensive–minded inverted winger, who will seemingly operate out wide on paper, but who instead will be given the freedom to make unmarked runs into more advanced central areas inside the penalty area, in order to get on the end of passes and crosses and score goals, effectively functioning as a . This role is somewhat comparable to what is known as the ''raumdeuter'' role in German football jargon (literally "space interpreter"), as exemplified by , namely an attacking–minded wide player, who will move into central areas in order to find spaces from which he can receive passes and score or assist goals, even though he isn't very sharp at dribbling and lacks pace to run past defenders at speed.

False winger

The "false winger" or "seven–and–a–half" is a label which has been used to describe a type of player who normally plays centrally, but who instead is deployed out wide on paper; during the course of a match, however, they will move inside and operate in the centre of the pitch, in order to drag defenders out of position, congest the midfield and give their team a numerical advantage in this area, so that they can dominate possession in the middle of the pitch and create chances for the forwards; this position also leaves space for full-backs to make overlapping attacking runs up the flank. , who has been deployed in this role, once described it as that of a "non-axial playmaker."

See also



External links

* {{commons category-inline, Association football midfielders Association football player non-biographical articles