What is a Defensive Midfielder (CDM) in Soccer? Best Defensive Midfielders Guide

Soccer Coach Theory Team

The defensive midfielder is the unsung hero of the soccer pitch. Or, you could say it’s like a spider at the center of a web.

Their vision and positional awareness can shut down opposing attacks before they even get going. It takes an incredible amount of skill and dedication to be good at this position, but when done well it can be a joy to watch.

In this article, we’ll look at what it takes to be successful as a defensive midfielder. From their tactical responsibilities on the field to how their mindset affects their play, we’ll explore the depth of what it means to be a defensive midfielder. We will also examine some of the best defensive midfielders in history and see what lessons we can learn from them.

For anyone looking to master this position or understand more about why it is so important, this article will provide all the information you need. So let’s begin by diving in and learning more about what makes great defensive midfielders so special.

What Is A Defensive Midfielder or DM?

A defensive midfielder (or dm, or cdm) is a key cog in any team’s system, as they are the players responsible for carrying out the defensive duties. Like a linchpin, they can be the difference between success and failure on the pitch.

A defensive midfielder is a player who plays in front of the back four or five defenders and is tasked with protecting the defence from opposition attacks. Here’s an example of the defensive midfield player in a 4-3-3 system.

They are expected to provide defensive cover by intercepting passes, tackling opponents and tracking back when needed. As well as having strong positional awareness and good reading of the game, it is also important that they possess good technical ability such as passing, dribbling and ball control. The role of a defensive midfielder requires strong concentration and an understanding of their team’s defensive tactics in order to carry out their defensive duties effectively.

The Role Of A Defensive Midfielder

When it comes to defensive midfielders, the numbers don’t lie. Did you know that in the English Premier League, a staggering 57% of tackles were made by defensive midfield players? That goes to show how vital this role is on the pitch. So what exactly does a defensive midfielder do?

A defensive midfielder, also known as a holding midfielder, guards the back line and provides an extra layer of protection for their team. Defensive midfielders are usually positioned in front of the defenders and are tasked with making sure opposition attackers cannot get past them. They do this by using their positioning and tackling prowess to intercept passes or break up play. Not only that, but they also help build attacks for their team too.

The role of a defensive midfielder requires excellent tactical awareness (there’s a reason why central midfield players with a defensive role end up being a great soccer coach), strength and stamina. These players must be able to scan the game and anticipate where opponents will pass or move next. They must be able to make split-second decisions when it comes to tackling and intercepting passes while being reliable enough to carry out these tasks efficiently throughout the match. It’s no surprise then those successful defensive midfielders have an immense skill set needed to excel in this position.

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The Skill Set Of A Defensive Midfielder

As the saying goes, ‘Defense wins championships.’ Defensive midfielder is an integral part of any successful team, and their skill set is key to their effectiveness.

The key skills for a defensive midfielder are passing accuracy, reading the game, and the ability to anticipate opposition attacks. Defensive responsibilities include breaking up opposition plays and providing cover for the defense. A defensive midfielder needs to be able to recognize when to press forward or when it’s necessary to drop back and provide cover as an extra line of defence protecting your penalty area. Therefore, it’s vital that they have good vision and can read the game quickly.

A defensive midfielder must also possess sharp decision making skills in order to be successful in this role. They must have an understanding of when they should pass or dribble in order to keep possession of the ball. They also need excellent technique in order to launch quick counterattacks after winning the ball back from an opposition player. In addition, a good sense of positioning is essential for them to not get caught out of position by their opponents’ attacking moves. All these skills combined make a successful defensive midfielder who can help their team control the midfield area with great efficiency.

The Importance Of A Defensive Midfielder

Like an orchestra conductor, the defensive midfielder is the backbone of any successful football team. Positioned in the centre of the pitch, they are responsible for shaping the team’s strategy, dictating play and providing stability to the entire side. Central midfielders are essential players on any team, but defensive midfielders are especially important due to their roles in holding midfield and reading of the game.

The role of a defensive midfielder is two-fold: protecting their own defence from opposition attacks whilst also providing support to their attacking teammates. Their responsibilities include breaking up opposition attacks, marking opponents, setting up chances for their forwards, covering for fullbacks when needed and providing a link between defence and attack. A good defensive midfielder must have good positioning skills, excellent passing ability and accurate tackling technique as well as an understanding of how to read a game so they can anticipate where attackers may go next.

The importance of having a quality defensive midfielder should not be underestimated; not only do they provide a solid platform for attacking players to build on but they can also help win back possession quickly which can make all the difference in a tight match. A great defensive or deep-lying midfielder will have quick reflexes, strong vision and excellent judgement – attributes that are invaluable when it comes to controlling a game from deep within its core.

The Best Defensive Midfielders In The World

The defensive midfielder is an integral part of any team. With their tireless work rate, they are essential in helping a team succeed. These midfielders can break up play, protect the defense and launch attacks from deep positions. So who are the best defensive midfielders (DMs) in the world?

Numerous midfield players have made a name for themselves as exceptional DMs. From Sergio Busquets to Luka Modric, here’s a list of 4 of the world’s best central defensive midfielders of the past decade or so:
1) Sergio Busquets – Barcelona
2) Rodri – Manchester City (okay, that’s a big call – but I rate him)
3) N’Golo Kante – Chelsea
4) Casemiro – Real Madrid
These players possess not only incredible skill and vision but also tremendous tactical awareness and defensive skills, which allows them to dominate the game from their position. Their ability to read the game and control possession makes them some of the best DMs in the world today. They also have an uncanny knack for finding space and making timely tackles that can disrupt opponents’ strategies.

Their defensive responsibilities go beyond simply breaking up play though; these players must also be able to transition quickly into attack when needed. Whether launching a counter-attack or providing support for forwards, these DMs possess all the qualities needed to succeed at both ends of the pitch. These players truly embody what it means to be a complete midfielder: able to defend with finesse and then drive forward with accuracy and confidence when needed.

Defensive Responsibilities Of A Defensive Midfielder

Defensively, a defensive midfielder’s role is to win back possession when their team doesn’t have the ball. This requires them to anticipate where the ball will go next and be first to make tackles or interceptions. They also need to be able to mark opponents and disrupt attacks before they can get into shooting positions. In addition, they must use their physicality and positioning skills to break up counter-attacks while blocking passing lanes so that long balls don’t reach attackers in dangerous positions.

By protecting his defence and disrupting opposition attacks, a defensive midfielder gives his team an opportunity to launch its own attacks as soon as possible after regaining possession.

Attacking Responsibilities Of A Defensive Midfielder

The main attacking responsibility of a defensive midfielder is to provide support in transition from defence to attack. This box-to-box role requires them to quickly move up the field while maintaining their defensive shape, allowing them to be present in both defensive and attacking situations. They often link up with attackers or provide key passes for them, as well as supporting wider play by providing width and depth to the midfield. A defensive midfielder’s technical ability and tactical awareness will determine their success in this role; they need to have good passing accuracy and ball control, as well as the ability to read the game and make decisions quickly.

A defensive midfield player will also be vital in a team’s build-up and can act as a key playmaker.

In this example, we see where a CDM might position themselves (or move to) in a kickoff to create an overload.

In short, a defensive midfielder needs to be able to balance their attacking responsibilities with their primary role of defending the midfield. By mastering this skill, they can become an invaluable asset for any team looking for an effective transition from defence to attack.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Difference Between A Defensive Midfielder And A Central Midfielder?

Central midfielders are much more attack-minded players; their job is to support the forwards with creative passing and aggressive runs, while also helping the defense. They have to be comfortable receiving the ball in tight spaces and making quick decisions under pressure. Defensive midfielders, on the other hand, focus more on protecting the back line and breaking up opposition attacks. They usually operate in deeper positions and are adept at reading the game and anticipating where to position themselves for maximum impact.

Defensive midfielders are often seen as the unsung heroes of any team – their role may lack glamour, but it’s just as important as any other position. Their ability to deny an attacker space can make all the difference in a tight game, allowing their team to stay organized and limit goal scoring opportunities. On top of this, their distribution skills allow them to launch counterattacks quickly once possession has changed hands.

How Do You Become A Successful Defensive Midfielder?

The role of a defensive midfielder is a difficult one. It requires great concentration, agility and strength to be successful in this position. Juxtaposed against the flashy nature of attacking players, defensive midfielders remain largely unnoticed and yet have an immense influence on the game. Becoming a successful defensive midfielder takes dedication, skill and most importantly practice. Here are four tips to becoming a successful defensive midfielder:

Firstly, focus on your positioning; the key to success as a defensive midfielder is knowing when and where to move across the pitch. Being able to anticipate what’s going to happen next and position yourself accordingly will help you gain control of the midfield. Secondly, develop your technical skills; being able to pass effectively in tight spaces will make you more effective with or without possession of the ball. Thirdly, concentrate on your physical attributes; being able to cover ground quickly and accurately is essential for any defensive midfielder looking to win back possession from their opponent. Finally, keep studying the game; watch videos of professional matches with an eye for tactical awareness so that you can get an idea of how top teams play in different match situations.

Staying dedicated will help you become better at anticipating play and reacting faster during games. Developing these skills over time will ensure that when it comes down to crunch time, you’ll be ready for anything your opponents throw at you!

Are Defensive Midfielders Important To A Team’s Overall Strategy?

Defensive midfielders are a crucial part of any soccer team’s success. They are the link between offense and defense, the ones that keep the game’s balance in check. Parallel to this, they act as a shield for their defense and play an essential role in defending and attacking moves. In short, they are an integral piece of any team’s strategy.

To illustrate this point further, here’s a list of three reasons why defensive midfielders are so crucial to a team’s overall strategy:

  • Defensive midfielders protect their backline by breaking up opposition attacks before they reach their goal.
  • They help maintain possession by providing good passing options to retain or regain control of the ball.
  • They contribute offensively by creating space for other players to move into and take advantage of scoring opportunities.

In essence, defensive midfielders are like the bridge that connects defense and attack; without them your team would have little chance of being successful. These players play a vital role in helping teams execute effective strategies on both sides of the ball. As such, it is clear that defensive midfielders are an invaluable asset to any side aiming for success on the pitch.

Is There A Certain Height Or Weight Requirement For Defensive Midfielders?

Height and weight requirements for defensive midfielders vary greatly. Take, for example, the case of Phillippe Coutinho and Paul Pogba (okay, neither are true DMs, but here me out). Coutinho stands at 5 foot 7 inches and is renowned as one of the world’s most talented attacking midfielders. On the other hand, Pogba stands at 6 foot 3 inches tall and has established himself as a powerhouse defensive midfielder. These two contrasting examples demonstrate that there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule about height or weight when it comes to defensive midfielders.

Certain physical attributes can help a player excel in this position. For instance, having strength and power helps a defensive midfielder remain composed under pressure from opposing players. Agility allows them to move quickly around the pitch, making them difficult for opponents to get around. And speed is also beneficial for defensive midfielders so they can quickly cover large areas of the pitch. These qualities make it possible for defensive midfielders to be successful – no matter their size or build!

Ultimately, while having certain physical attributes can be useful in playing the role of a defensive midfielder, these are by no means prerequisites. What matters most is an individual’s ability to read the game and understand their team’s overall strategy – something that has nothing to do with height or weight!

How Do Teams Develop Their Defensive Midfielders?

Building an excellent defensive midfielder is no easy task. According to a recent survey, the average successful defensive midfielder plays around 5,000 passes per season while keeping their passing accuracy above 80%. This statistic speaks to ball control and tactical awareness’s importance for aspiring defensive midfielders.

Teams develop their defensive midfielders in a variety of ways. To start with, coaches must get the players to understand the role of the position within the team’s overall system. For example, a coach might ask his player to stay deeper in midfield and focus on breaking up opposition plays or shielding the back four from danger. Additionally, coaches often instruct their players to move forward when it’s appropriate and join attacks as much as possible.

Once players understand their roles, they can then focus on developing their technical skillset. This includes being able to accurately pass and receive between teammates as well as dribbling through opponents’ lines and executing long-range passes with precision. Additionally, defensive midfielders need to be physically robust in order to be able to effectively win tackles and make blocks in front of goal. With consistent practice over time, these skills can become second nature for any budding defensive midfielder looking to make it at the top level.


In conclusion, defensive midfielders are an invaluable asset to any soccer team. Not only do they act as the last line of defense before the goalkeeper, but their ability to read and react to situations quickly can often lead to game-winning plays. With a combination of strength, speed, and tactical awareness, defensive midfielders provide stability in the middle of the field.

On average, defensive midfielders make more tackles than any other outfield player in a match. In fact, according to Opta Sports statistics from 2019/20 season, there were an average of 8.7 tackles made by defensive midfielder per 90 minutes played – almost double the amount of any other position. This goes to show just how important these players are at breaking up opposition attacks and regaining possession for their team.

Defensive midfielders are key members of any successful squad and should not be overlooked when building your roster. With their ability to defend against opposing attackers as well as initiate counterattacks with precise passing or dribbling skills, these players add another dimension to their team’s play that helps them achieve success both on and off the field.

Tips for Coaching a Defensive Midfielder in Soccer

As discussed, there is a lot to the role of a defensive midfielder and lots of messages to get across to your players. However, it’s best to keep things as simple as possible and not over to complicate the game. Here are a few of our tips:

  • Encourage them to constantly look over their shoulders (every 1–2 seconds) and scan the field so they always have that awareness of what is behind them.
  • Allow them to play with a degree of controlled aggression which can add a healthy degree of tenacity to their game.
  • Show them what positions to take up when their team is on the attack to cover other players.
  • Encourage them always to be a passing option for full-backs and central defenders.
  • Promote forward passes wherever possible.
  • For those who aren’t as comfortable on the ball encourage simple short passes as oppose to longer, more risky long ones – especially in their own half of the pitch.

Errors a Defensive Midfielder Could Make

  • Getting into advanced attacking positions. This is fine if there is another midfielder covering you, though!
  • Getting dragged out into wide positions, leaving space in the center of the pitch
  • Giving the ball away in their own half

Soccer Drills for a Defensive Midfielder