A guide to being a pro defensive midfielder soccer player

Defence is one of the most important aspects of soccer, and this is why every soccer midfielder is oriented towards keeping the ball away from the box instead of set plays. They serve as the last line of defence in the field before the attacking team puts the goalkeeper to work by defending the post.

DM is an abbreviation for defensive midfielder soccer. They are tasked with holding the line until support can come to force opposing teams to fall back or even turn the ball over. Defensive midfielders play a huge role in giving a team a chance to win in soccer games by helping defend their position and preventing attacking players from poking a hole.

Find out what makes them important in any soccer game you watch.

What is defensive midfielder in soccer?

Defensive midfielders are assigned to defend certain zones or to any specific attacker depending on the opposing team’s approach. These players can move to various positions, such as full-back or centre-back, to join in on the attack.

Most of the time, defender duties depend on their ability in a game’s certain facet. The most common task that a defensive midfielder can get is to be a tackler, which means working on getting the ball out of an opposing offensive player’s hands. Another role is intercepting passes or pressuring attackers in the middle of the pitch.

How to play defensive midfielder in football?

A defensive midfielder is mostly focused on helping out on the defence. However, defensive midfielders can also transition into an offensive role with other position players, such as forwards and strikers, to go for a counterattack. They play by putting their body in front of the attacking players like a brick wall to prevent them from pushing further.

While DMs are mostly tasked to hold the line in the field, they can shape the defensive formation by sticking to their assigned zones to make a push on the attacking lines as well. 

What does a defensive midfielder do in soccer?

A defensive midfielder in soccer is essential when putting pressure on aggressive attackers. Since defence is an integral part of the sport, these players change how they play or ‘hold the line’ in key moments that could cost them the game. Here are some of the top qualities of a defensive midfielder:

Defensive prowess

A soccer defensive midfielder’s biggest quality is strong defensive prowess. Any player assigned to a defensive role must know the basics of defending and have dedication and a knack for keeping the ball away from the goal.

Excellent conditioning

Defensive midfielders should withstand any contact from any player. This is a sacrifice that defenders have to make as they need to use their bodies to stop attackers or even tackle them and come up with a steal.


Defensive awareness is necessary since defenders must double back once the ball changes possession. They need to have eyes on the ball all the time and make sure that they have a fix on what to do when they have the ball or need to defend against it.

Discipline and positioning

Football is tiring, and fatigue is not a valid excuse for frustrating fouls. Players need to play it smart all the time and must be efficient in their games. Players must know when to intercept and when to time their tackles well.

Superior vision and passing skills

Aside from defending, players also need to develop a keen eye for passing the ball. This means finding the right angle and spot as soon as they make a steal. The pass can be a lob or a short one to create a huge offensive opportunity.

Communicate effectively

Defensive midfielders need to make quick decisions most of the time. This is why it is necessary to understand the role and learn to communicate with other players without saying a word. 

Maintain a high level of focus

Focus is a must for defenders since they need to predict the ball’s path so they can move to intercept or make a tackle. Most of the time, defensive plays result from a well-planned move, which needs a high level of focus from players.

Strategic awareness

This means that defenders must find a way to plan their defensive stops all the time. It must be well-calculated and executed according to how the opposing team attacks.

Confidence in abilities

Defenders have to trust that they can pull off that defensive stop, especially when it comes to tackling players or intercepting passes. There is no room for self-doubt in defending against the ball.


Leadership is not limited to captains alone. Another job for a defensive centre midfielder in soccer is to lead the way in defending against attacks without their other players. 


Role of Defensive Midfielder in Soccer 

Midfield players do not have to be defenders all the time in a match since they can also break off and help out on the attack. This is why it is a must to learn every single role of the defensive midfielder in soccer.

Defensive midfielder

The defensive midfielder is assigned to defend all the time. They do not have the task of helping out on the attack unless said so since they have to hang back and keep the support lines open in defending their goal.

Deep lying playmaker 

Some defensive midfielders are also tasked to create plays on the attack. However, they are not usually the ones who carry the ball to the other side, but more of silent playmakers who can make the key passes when needed deep in opposing territory.

Ball winning midfielder

Clutch performances are not new, even for those in the soccer defensive midfielder position. These players turn defence into offence and convert it when needed by either providing the key assist to a goal or scoring it themselves.


AnchorMan players are tasked to fill in an area, usually between the main midfielders and the defenders. They are assigned to look for potential plays and intercept attack patterns in any defensive play.


Half-back is considered to be the most underrated role for defensive midfielders. Their main job is to hold the ball when needed, take it from defenders, and feed it to the strikers. However, they can also come up with defensive plays by stealing the ball.


Regista players are the ones who play in front of the defence and have a central role in getting on the ball most of the time. Their main job is to be the link between both ends of the pitch, which means they control the pace of the game with their passing.

Roaming playmaker 

Roaming playmakers are tasked to hold the ball on the defensive end and determine which offensive play is the best for a given possession. These are known to be talented stars in finding the open man and are usually given a chance to set the plays.

Segundo Volante 

Segundo Volante players are those who are considered to be complete all-around playmakers. They are rare and a gem for their respective teams as they can take on the role of every midfielder.

How to be a good defensive midfielder?

Learning to be a good defensive midfielder takes a lot of skill and training. You need to take time to learn every technique regarding positioning, awareness and even being the fittest player on the pitch.

On top of that, playing defence means a lot of promise for winning teams. It takes practice to become a disciplined player who can take in contact, force steals, and even turnovers when it matters most without getting a yellow or red card. 

Defensive midfielder soccer players

Many players are very well-known in international football as defensive midfielders. Here are some of the best defensive midfielder soccer players in the world:

  1. Claude Makelele – The former Chelsea and Real Madrid defensive midfielder, is known to be the pioneer regarding the said position. 
  2. Sergio Busquets – The Barcelona star is known for being an expert in blocking out shots and even intercepting passes. 
  3. N’Golo Kante – Chelsea’s veteran is also known for being one of the world’s best midfielders. He is praised well for his two-way capabilities as a playmaker and a defender in the sport.
  4. Joshua Kimmich – Bayern Munich’s wonder midfielder is one of the Bundesliga’s most talented two-way stars. 
  5. Granit Xhaka – The captain of the Swiss national team, is also one of football’s most prominent defensive midfielders. 

Defensive midfielder soccer tips

Being a defensive midfielder is a daunting task. Here are a few defensive midfielder soccer tips to keep in mind.

  1. Stay aware on both ends of the pitch – This means being aware of the current play and when to defend well for your team. Each defence stop relies on how the players read the play.
  2. Be ready to support all the time – Defensive midfielders must help even in the attack. This means putting pressure on the opposing team by running on the other side of the pitch.
  3. Always take one for the team – Being a defender means sacrificing your body for the squad. You must be ready to help defend by blocking players with your body and even sliding down the grass as a tackler.
  4. Time passes well – If you manage to steal the ball, the course of action is not to pass immediately. You need to find your teammates and consider which has the best spot to make an offensive play, which means picking the right timing to pass.
  5. Always communicate – Communication is key when it comes to winning games. Connecting with your teammates and helping each other make the right play can lead to a goal to help you win in your games.

Defensive midfielders are a key piece for soccer teams

While some say defending is easy, defensive midfielders take pride in ensuring nothing gets past them. These players can turn the game’s tide and initiate comebacks and huge finishes down the stretch. They serve as the defensive unit’s beating heart, making it hard for opposing teams to break through their lines.

Frequently Asked Questions

CAT368 has compiled some of the most common queries asked by people about defensive midfielders’ crucial role. Here are some of them:

How many midfielders are there in soccer?

There are a total of four midfielders in soccer. This depends on the formation used by the squad to deploy a defensive line.

Which country has the best soccer midfielders?

Spain houses the blueprint for creating and shaping the best midfielders in soccer. Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, and Mikel Arteta are known for their impressive playmaking skills in the sport.

What is the most important skill for a midfielder?

Dribbling and ball control are both essential aspects of playmaking. Even defensive playmakers know how to control the ball and set plays for their teams.