Get your head up
“The most important quality you need to play off a striker is vision. Being able to see everything is vital. As soon as you receive the ball, you must immediately look around for your forward or wide midfielder. One of the best ways to develop this vision is by practising rondos. This piggy-in-the-middle game gets you working in tight spaces and improves your touch. With one or two people in front of you, you must know your surroundings before you even get the ball.”
Understanding is vital
“Get to know your attacking team-mates, too. If you know the runs they’ll make and what passes they like to receive, that improves your team’s chances of scoring. Work on it in training. It’s fundamental – a function of your hard work throughout the week. Why shout an instruction at someone, when only a look will do? That way, the opposition can’t predict what you’re going to do. This creativity is brilliant to have, regardless of where you’re playing on the pitch.”
Pass and move
“If there’s no other way to deal with that situation, you have to try to play with one or two touches. If the defender is right behind you, your only option is to keep things simple. If it happens a lot, you need to go looking for space in which to play. By doing this, you either get the breathing space you need, or create some for your full-back or another midfielder to move into. Don’t get drawn into their game: if they hit you hard, just laugh it off and they’ll get frustrated.”
Know your foe
“The secret to playing between the lines is to know your opponent. Playing out wide, it’s more obvious who your direct rival is, but that doesn’t mean you should stop thinking if you’re playing inside. Study them before the game if you have access to videos; if not, look at them in the warm-up and beyond. How do they move? Which foot is stronger? In which situations do they appear the most comfortable? All this information helps you to get the most from your game.”
Work on through balls
“A through ball is your best route to an assist, so it should form a big part of the creative midfielder’s armoury. There’s no single thing you can work on to improve them. Every move is different, especially if you’re a midfielder who alternates between central and wide areas. The way defenders operate changes, too, so vary your passes. Play along the floor, go aerial and scoop the ball over a packed backline. Variation is important, so have plenty of tricks open to you.”
Make life easy
“Variation may be a big factor, but it’s not all about doing the unexpected and making things difficult for the opposition. To be able to play either wide or through the middle, you must make life easy for your team-mates, too. Don’t be predictable, but if you only think about the most difficult ball, you lose focus. You should already know what your team-mates want (see point two), so give them the quality they need to make the most of their chance. They’ll thank you for it later.”
For more football tips see:
Xavi: Master the pass
Eden Hazard: Rise to the top
Raheem Sterling: Run your marker ragged
Mario Gotze: Be a creative spark
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: Make something happen
Gareth Bale: Terrorise the defence
Andres Iniesta: How to boss the midfield
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