A holding midfielder has become pivotal in nearly every teams system in recent years. A holding midfielder usually sits just in front of the defence to bring stability to their defence and is key for connecting defence into attack. Within the last year there has been many successful holding midfielders including Casemiro, Partey, Fabinho and Kante but today we will focus on Rodri. The Manchester City man has excelled since he signed back in 2019. He has been instrumental in many major trophies won including, league cups and numerous league titles.
Despite plenty competition within the City squad Rodri position is solidified most weeks. He has cemented himself into one of the top teams in Europe by mastering 3 different skills including:
• Defensive Awareness
• Defensive Attributes
• Vision and Passing Range
This is one of the hardest jobs as a holding midfielder, in many cases a traditional ‘number 6’ will have to stay back when their teams goes on the attack. This position may not get all the glory as scoring or assisting however, it takes incredible discipline and is one most desired skills a manger and fellow teammates will want within their team.
Rodri is a perfect example of this as he will always stay in the centre just in front of the defenders to give them further cover. By doing this you will either prevent or slow down the opposing attacking moves through the middle of the pitch. Without this discipline the opposing team could run at your defence which could lead to a potential threat on the goal. If you have good defensive awareness and positioning it will create the opposing team to feel like they are trapped as they can’t move the ball past you.
The video above shows the importance of his positioning. By no means are you held into one position however, the more you can stick to your position the more stability you bring to your team.
An elite holding midfielder such as Rodri can read the game very well and spot danger before an attack has materialised to its full potential. This enables them to take up certain positions, intercept lose balls, make tackles and man mark players if necessary.
There are two key defensive components to a holding midfielder which include, interceptions and Standing Tackles. In theory these are two very similar skills you can possess. Intercepting the ball is when you gain possession back for your team by either blocking a pass or picking up a loose ball. This is important because you are transitioning defence into attack; you are gaining possession back to create another attack for your team.
Standing tackles are as they sound, making a tackle while standing up is key because if you go to ground you have a high risk of losing possession of the ball, while also losing your defensive shape. In some scenarios a slide tackle could be your best option, this is all down to your decision making and how you like to play the game.
Vision and Passing Range
Defensive midfielders in the modern day are not so one dimensional. They aren’t just expected to intercept the ball and pass it backwards or play a long ball back to the opposing team; they now are influential in starting attacks. This is what Rodri is renowned for all over Europe and why he flourishes under Pep Guardiola. As seen in the clip above his passing range is out of this world at times. Once he gains possession back he immediately looks forward to try and transition the ball into attack.
This primarily will be something that the manager has asked him to do, being able to pass forward accurately is a excellent skill to posses. If there is an opportunity to play a long ball over the top of the opposing defensive line or through channels for strikers or wingers to run onto, you should attempt this pass as it can directly set up a scoring opportunity.
A simple but affective way of keeping the ball are sideways passes as they are a safer option if you would like to keep hold of possession for longer, this depends on the circumstances of tactics and gameplay. A very affective way of starting attacks is to switch play or forward short passes to a fellow teammate. This is where vision comes into play. This comes with experience of being able to see large areas of the pitch, you can then spot the best player to give the ball too which is key in any standard of football. For example, being able to see winger in space on the touchline is an excellent way to spread the play and trouble the opposing backline.