5 attributes every attacking midfielder must have
by Pablo M26th Nov 2019
Attacking midfielders (AM, CAM or AMF) are often the play-makers of the team. This role shares many attributes with the defensive midfielder, but these players are not usually known for their defensive capabilities, so they typically play alongside a defensive midfielder. This post discusses the skills you must have to become a great attacking midfielder.
The main characteristic of the best attacking midfielders is that they are dangerous and unpredictable. Achieving this requires technique. To mention some, Maradona, Zidane and Johan Cruyff had unrivalled techniques that allowed them to change games instantly.
Technique does not mean juggling the ball a thousand times or mastering fancy tricks. Having these skills helps, but it won’t make you a good footballer. How many freestylers do you know that play at the highest professional level?
A player with good technique can master the skills required on a game day. A good attacking midfielder can dribble opponents at speed while keeping close control of the ball. They can also set teammates for a goal with a simple ball touch.
Zinedine Zidane was in a league of its own regarding technique. The following video is an excellent sample of what this legend of the game was able to do at the highest level of professional football.
Defensive midfielders are required to have a high passing accuracy rate. They can achieve this by keeping their passes simple and short. On the other hand, attacking midfielders need to be accurate and have a more extensive repertoire of passing techniques.
A wide range of passing allows these players to always give a pass when the situation requires it. They can produce killer passes that set their teammates for a goal. This is why the best-attacking midfielders often top the charts of league assists. For example, Ryan Giggs and Cesc Fàbregas top the all-time assists in the English Premier League.
Assists can sometimes be more beautiful than the goal. The following clip proves it.
Reading of the game is one of the most essential characteristics of attacking midfielders. They are the brain of the team, and they orchestrate most of the attack. Attacking midfielders need to understand and recognise all the different situations before they even happen and be responsible for pacing the game.
Players with high Football IQ are also aware of their surroundings. Awareness is spotting opponents closing in or recognising a teammate making a great run while dribbling with the ball. To achieve this, the best footballers always play with their heads up to spot both teammates and opponents. It enables attacking midfielders to make faster and better decisions when they get the ball.
Kevin De Bruyne is a modern example of a high Football IQ. The video below analyses his game, particularly his awareness and decision-making skills.
Positioning is another attribute shared with defensive midfielders. An excellent attacking midfielder is always at the right place and time. They achieve this thanks to their Football IQ.
Attacking midfielders find pockets of space to be dangerous and effective. They make themselves constantly available by moving around often and surveying the field every few seconds to find the space they need to run into. This way, they can get into space quickly, receive the ball and turn at the opposition.
The next video analyses the positioning and movement of professional players. It is not focused on attacking midfielders, but many examples in the video are.
Good attacking midfielders can finish and are often the top scorers of their team. These players have an exquisite technique to finish from a short distance. However, given their position in the field, they score many of their goals from medium and long distances, often from impossible angles.
Because of their excellent shooting technique, many attacking midfielders are in charge of executing free kicks and penalties. This is part of the reason why they regularly top the goalscorer charts.
Diego Maradona is an example of a top-scorer midfielder. He was the top scorer in Serie A in 1987–88, with 15 goals, and was the all-time leading goalscorer for Napoli, with 115 goals, until his record was broken by Marek Hamšík in 2017. He is still one of the top scorers for Argentina (5th behind Hernan Crespo). The video below showcases a variety of shoots on goal over his career.
If you are thinking of becoming an attacking midfielder or you are a coach looking for one, the above characteristics are a good place to start, but there are more things you need to look for. Attacking midfielders that combine these skills make champions of otherwise average teams.