The number 8 position is one of the first positions that I’ve personally played in my early days! To be honest, I’ve done pretty well in this position and have really enjoyed it …
… In this article, I share my modest experience by explaining the N°8 role in the pitch, the formations it can easily fit in, what attributes you need to perform well in this position, as well as many other interesting things!
Sounds Good?! Let dive in!
What is the number 8 role in soccer?
The basic role of number 8 in soccer is to contribute in the attack of his team from an organization stand point!
He represents the core of the midfield as he usually occupies the position of central midfielder on the field.
For many coaches that believe in possession as a soccer philosophy (like Guardiola), number 8 is the most important position on the field. Indeed, he is involved in every action and helps maintaining the ball control as well as the efficiency of that possession
Despite offensive tasks, these players have defensive duties also …
… Defensive activities involve returning the possession and control of the ball at the center part of the court, and slowing down the pace of the opponent’s attack.
This is an extremely demanding position that assumes great movement radius and advanced technical abilities.
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In which formations do the number eight fits into?
Number 8 can adapt to almost every formation and represents an indispensable part of the team, no matter what formation the coach chooses.
Number 8 is the core of this system of play. He is a part of both defensive and offensive lines of a team, and is the creator of his team’s game.
Due to enormous responsibility and movement, these players must possess a great level of endurance, stamina and agility.
Despite these skills, creativity is essential, because number 8 players often have the role of playmaker and are designated to create attacking movement for their team.
In the finishing phase of attack, their job is to provide support and wait for the ball behind offensive players. In addition to these offensive tasks, they must be equally good at defensive activities.
Here, the role is mainly to secure the control of the midfield area of the field and secure the possession over the ball.
The key task in this formation is to provide cooperation with wingers, as 4-3-3 formation is based on attacking moves through flanks, in order to exploit empty space up front.
Timely pass to teammates and sending the ball into open space for the wingers are main activities of number 8 players. At this formation, wingers and fullbacks are quite offensive, so number 8 must play more defensively, in order to cover empty space at the back.
If the team focuses on defense to keep the clean sheet, an appropriate choice is the 5-3-2 formation!
With this one, the number eight has mostly defensive tasks …
… The role is to intercept the opponent’s attacks and take the ball. Still, there is a significant responsibility during offensive movement, in the form of counterattack.
During this counterattack, timely and accurate passes are essential, in order to distribute the ball in the right way and at the right moment to wingers and forwards.
Attributes that the number 8 need to have …
1. Technical Attributes
Ball control is the crucial skill for such a role!
You must have the ability to hold the possession of the ball and move it around with both feet, as well as different parts of the foot. This makes them flexible on the field and in position easily to create useful passes.
Ball receiving and first touch is essential to minimize the amount of time needed to put the ball under control. Successful receiving of the ball allows them to continue the attack fast and ensure the movement of the ball as soon as possible.
Passing is a must-have skill for midfielders in general, especially for this role. The passing skill must be impeccable in order to create precise and timely passes that will help keep possession and create opportunities when possible. They must master both short and long passing games.
Space awareness is necessary to observe and analyze conditions on the field, so he can make decisions about what to do with the ball even before receiving it. This skill also helps players in their defensive task, as they are in position to timely estimate the movement of the ball and opponent.
Creativity is a plus (You can get away without it) but it will give you an unfair advantage over the opposite team! Indeed, creative players find unusual and surprising ways to send the ball to their teammates or to endanger the goal directly.
Shooting is important, as these players often join the attack from the background and receive the pass from their wingers. Players with good shooting attributes can threaten the goal from distance.
2. Physical Attributes
Body balance is important as this role requires the ability to win individual duels with opponents, both in the offensive and defensive phase of the game. They must stay on their feet and keep the control over the ball.
Endurance is vital considering the fact that these players have large radius of movement and covered distance during a game. Average midfielder runs over 5 miles per game, so endurance is necessary in order to keep playing the entire match at required level.
Strength allows them to handle contact in duel games better, but also to protect the ball more efficiently in the middle of the field, where the pressure of the opponents is the strongest.
Teamwork is a skill and a value that playmakers must possess (Learn more about playmakers in soccer!). Players with high teamwork rates always tend to put the team in first place and to pick the action that will help the team most, and not themselves.
In addition, teamwork is essential for number 8 players, as they must assist their teammates, both at offensive and defensive line.
3. Mental and personal Attributes
Decision making is something these players must constantly work on, as they must pick the best solution from many alternatives available on the field.
Any potential space behind the opponent’s defensive line must be quickly used, so they must make timely decisions on how to continue the play, in which way and exactly where to send the ball.
Influence is among top skills for number 8 players, which is also the reason why they are often the captains in their teams. They are not the ones who are afraid to take the responsibility and organize the play of their team.
Bravery is something they must also possess, because of the level of responsibility that lies upon them. They are involved in almost every action of a team, and must be fearless when in control of the ball.
Determination is the ability of a player to stay focused and never give up, even when the result is not in their favor. They must maintain the fighting spirit of their team, throughout the entire game.
What is special about the number 8?
Teams who can conquer the middle of the field often win soccer games. Because of the enormous responsibility and area distance they cover, number 8 is considered the most important role in a team.
Players in other positions have mostly either offensive or defensive tasks. On the other hand, number 8 must play equally well in both directions.
They must be physically impeccable in order successfully to endure all these tasks. Players must work on the same time at intercepting and taking the ball from opponents, and organize the attack and create a chance to score.
What is the difference between number 6 and 8?
Those 2 positions are often confused!
Unlike number 6, number 8 players have in addition to defensive tasks, a crucial role in offensive efforts.
The main task is to make use of the ball possession most efficiently, and move the ball toward the attackers. He is the one responsible for setting up a chance for a goal for his teammates.
When it comes to number 6 players, their job is to interrupt the play of the opposing team. This is mostly the position of defensive midfielder, and he must prevent opponents to establish good flow of the ball and create useful attack.
He must react accordingly and take the possession of the ball from them.
For each team, it is crucial that the players at these two positions establish appropriate communication and collaboration.
Number 6 must follow the movement of number 8, and cover empty space up back if number 8 player joins the attack of a team. They both are the key of ball distribution from defensive to offensive line of a team.
Is it possible to build a successful team without the number 8?
It is very hard to even imagine a team without such a role!
These players are between the front and back part of a team and provide stability to the play. Their creativity, visual and spatial awareness, and passing game, directly depends on the way a team plays, and how the team’s attack will develop.
They are responsible for the pace of a game, help both the attack and defense, and often endanger the goal directly from the background of an attack.
The best club and national teams in a world have top quality players at these positions, and mostly are the most skilled individuals in a team.
Keeping the ball possession, ball distribution, putting a pressure on the opponent, intercepting opponent’s attacks, are just some examples on their list of responsibilities.
Without their contribution, you cannot have a successful soccer team.
Best number 8 in soccer’s history …
Steven Gerard is an icon and a legend of famous England club Liverpool, a player who spent his entire career at Enfield Road.
One of the best midfielders in the history of English soccer. His abilities were amazing passing skills, great awareness of game situations and empty space, powerful shots from a distance. He was an all-around midfielder.
Steven was a key member of a Liverpool team that won UEFA Champions League trophy in 2004/2005 season, in a memorable final game against AC Milan, in a game where Liverpool won after being 3 goals behind.
Frank Lampard was a midfielder who spent most of his playing time at London club Chelsea. He possessed tremendous ball control and overview of game situations.
His career was rich with assists to his teammates, and goals he scored from the back part of a team’s attack with a powerful shot.
His technique and passing game contributed to considering him as one of the best midfielders in England, alongside Gerard.
Andreas Iniesta, short midfielder from Spain, was the player who marked the era in world soccer history with amazing games played for Barcelona FC and Spain national team.
His ball control was phenomenal. As one soccer commentator once said in a humorous manner, “Iniesta lost the ball last time when he was playing at youth level”.
It was almost impossible to take the ball away from him.
Final Thoughts …
You might be thinking or asking yourself now, whether this position is the right one for you, Right?!
If this is the case, I don’t want you to question your skills as of right now, instead, I want you to ask yourself the question, whether you want to play this role or not?! Because, as you’ve might noticed this position is really demanding in efforts and requires a ton of commitment …
… If yes, don’t worry about the skills, because these are things that you can learn and even perfect over time!
Lastly, I highly invite you to learn about the number 9 position in soccer! You will find that very interesting …