In our playing strategy we play with two central midfield players, the number 4 and 8. Our number 4 and 8 are the forward part of our “stability box” which is in place to give discipline and organisation to our structure whilst others operate with more freedom to go forward.
To help the players in this position, and their team-mates, understand their roles we have defined them as requiring the following:
Key challenges for the players in this role are:
- to be patient when defending,
- avoid diving in and allowing players to attack centre backs (delay),
- close down players quickly and stop turning if possible,
- when a decision is made to tackle stay upright and be prepared to compete for the ball repeatedly,
- work together with other mid-fielders (7, 10, 11) to provide a barrier to opposition progress,
- combine with centre backs to keep an organised structure,
- pass or move the ball quickly when appropriate,
- speed up or slow down the pace of the teams play down when necessary,
- provide service to the attacking unit including full backs.
Out of Possession
The primary task of the 4 and 8 is to be the forward part of our “stability box”.
This task is:
- to effectively screen the centre-backs
- to restrict opportunities for an opposition player to “play in the hole”
- to stop the opposition attacking through the centre of the pitch
- to provide cover when either or both side backs (2 and 3) have pushed on to join the attack
- to delay any opposition attacks to enable team-mates to recover into a balanced defensive shape.
When we are in possession of the ball the 4 and 8’s task is to become the “pivot” around which others can play.
Specifically the task is:
- when they are behind the ball they should provide a safe (blue) passing option to whoever is on the ball at all times
- upon receiving the ball they should be looking, whenever possible, to be positive to continue or start an attacking play. This could be in a number of ways, switching play quickly, passing forward into players feet, sliding passes through gaps in the opposition defence, or driving forward with the ball.
- when they are in front of the ball (the ball is probably with the goalkeeper, full backs or centre backs) they should endeavour to create space with clever movement to be available to receive passes and direct the play towards the opposition goal.
Across the Corners
The “proper” defenders and goalkeepers will be complimented for keeping clean sheets, attackers will be admired for their goals and skills, however the work done by the 4 and 8 is a bit like the foundations of a building, unseen by most, invisible to many, but crucial to the survival of the structure.
Physically, while strength could be useful, acceleration and deceleration (particularly over short distances) are key requirements along with the agility, balance and coordination necessary to change direction quickly, stay upright even when under physical pressure such as when challenging for the ball, and to jump (to compete for headers).
Technically it will be important to be competent at passing (particularly switching play), defending, heading, ball control and manipulation, receiving to turn, receiving to keep possession, securing possession, link play, and to have an awareness of both space and the location of other players (ours and the opposition).
Psychologically the players will tend to have patience, be disciplined, unselfish, determined, uncomplicated, and have high game intelligence (crucial for making good decisions). They may be quite insular, although this isn’t always the case, and may suffer from a lack of confidence when things are not going well or feelings of frustration when others are “grabbing the headlines”. The reality is that they provide a key part of the team and this self imposed uncertainty about their contribution can often lead to an accelerated development of their capabilities as they feel the need to constantly improve more than others.
Socially the player will be a real team player doing the “dirty work” for their team-mates and they will need to be able to build a tight partnership with the other “stable” players (5 and 6), and will be valued by others for being reliable and trusted to do the right thing or be in the right place at all times.