Together, the right and left midfielders can be collectively referred to as the wide midfielders. Like wingers, they will be normally stationed in a wide role, but charged with an equal distribution of both attacking and defensive duties.
This is where they differ with wingers, who start wide and tend to stay outside, focusing on attacking duties and feeding the ball to the center forwards. Left and right midfielders tend to be more “tucked-in” and versatile.
The wide midfielders are one of the most hardworking players on the pitch.
Left/right midfielders mostly play in the 4-4-2 formation where there are 2 strikers, 4 midfielders and 4 defenders. This player is positioned on either sides of the four strikers and wingers.
As a wide midfielder, your responsibility is to support the defenders as well as supply passes to forwards as per the game situation.
This position requires excellent passing and ball shielding skills, discipline, stamina to play through the ninety minutes, and good ball handling skills.
A great wide midfielder should be able to score goals as well as their skill set advances. Also, they should be able to play well with both their feet.
This will ensure that they can play on either side of the field comfortably whether they are right or left footed.
Playing this position requires strength, agility and ball control as the wide midfielder is one of the most hardworking players on the pitch.
As a left/right midfielder, you should always have an attack attitude when defending in order to be of service to your strikers.
Practice makes perfect and here are a few skills you can hone to play this position like a pro:
The wide midfielder constantly runs up and down the pitch which requires the player the in this position to be a strong runner. A fast and agile player can easily change direction to avoid losing possession and attack players at speed.
When playing this position, you need to track back and cover your defenders which also involves a lot of running.
Great technical ability is a plus if you are playing the wide midfield and can easily make up for players that lack in pace or agility.
A player that can manipulate the ball with control is valuable to this position as he will be able to serve accurate balls in various ways such as early balls, crosses, dissecting through balls and so on.
The outside midfielder should be able to cross the ball early and accurately enough to reach the forward at the perfect moment. This gives your team a chance at scoring goals that do not come through the center of the pitch.
An outside midfielder often receives and passes the ball under tremendous pressure. Sound footwork ensures you play the game effectively by finessing your first touch so as to make up for your team on the wing.
Since space can be limited when you have the opposing team crowding in on you, the wide midfielder must learn how to shield the ball, maintain possession and dribble so as to manipulate the ball better and make relevant passes even under immense pressure.
The outside midfielder is often the unsung hero on the pitch who does the most work as the ball is always far away from the player.
Additionally, there will be days when most of the play seems to be happening on the opposite side of the pitch.
Rather than leave your position open, the wide midfielder should always trust his teammates to get the ball and then make runs that count and help with the overall objective of the team.
Which is normally to score as many goals as possible.
The most important exercises for an outside midfielder are often drills aimed at getting past a defender, keeping the ball and making accurate and calculated passes.
These may include dribble exchanges, overlaps as well as give and goes.
Here are a few ways to ensure you are at the top of your game and coherent with the rest of your team as a wide midfielder.
Dribbling is an important skill when taking on defenders of the opposing team. This is because there is a quick change of pace that gives you the opportunity to get past the defender, get to the goal line and serve the ball into the box through the goal mouth. T
o improve your dribbling skills, go at your defender at a slow place, luring them to get the ball then push past them at speed.
Practice dribbling at every step with both of your feet so you can play on the left and right side of the field with ease.
An outside midfielder should be able to send the ball to either posts through early crosses and use their right/left foot to send both air and ground balls at their intended targets.
To do this, practice sending twenty crosses to the near and far posts, which makes for ten crosses on each side. This will also improve your decision making process to suit the game situation on the pitch.
Another great skill for wide midfielders is always maintaining an element of surprise during the game. You can learn to take surprise shots at your opponent by making it look like you will cross the ball with the right foot but then cut the ball inside and try to bend the ball into the far post using your left foot.
Do this exercise ten times near the goal box dribbling hard down the line though do not go too far down the pitch.
To play the outside midfield requires a hardworking player who can play both defensive and offensive roles as needed. This requires lots of stamina an unlike the central midfielders who always have a play or two around them, the outside midfielders are often the only players on their side of the pitch.
The left/right midfielder is expected to provide width to his team and should always be free to disrupt an attack from the opponent’s team or support the attacking players from his team.
A good outside midfielder should always stay in communication with his team so he is available for passes and adds morale when the team is losing. When is possession of the ball, aim to gain as much traction on the ball as possible and cross the ball into the box whenever the game play allows.
When playing the defensive role, the outside midfielder marks the winger on the left or right side of the field. A great defensive midfielder should be able to intercept a ball and in case he is free, track back support to his team in the middle of the pitch.
The wide midfielder spends most of the game on the sidelines and is sometimes the only forward player on his side of the pitch when he is not playing a defensive role.
Having an outside midfielder gives width to your game by stretching the opponent’s defenders hence allowing his team’s strikers to have more space in the midfield.
Excellent outside midfielders show the confidence to take on defenders and make key passes to strikers. This needs an all-round player with good ball handling skills including dribbling, tackling, crossing, shooting and other key skills in soccer.
Over time, the role of the wide midfielder has changed considerably in teams that use this position in their formations. Today, there are many right sided players that play on the left side of the pitch and vice versa, which makes it easier to cut inside and bend the ball with their opposite foot into the far post.
To further improve your game play as a wide midfielder, find a player that you admire and whose style of play you can relate to.
This is an easy way to learn ball and footwork skills that you can develop over time and make them you own.
Some of the best outside midfielders in history include Gareth Bale at both Tottenham Hotspurs and Real Madrid, Arjen Robben of Bayern Munich and Ryan Giggs of Manchester united, among other players.
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