Patrick Vieira: Arsenal and France’s former midfield general offers tips on how to be a dominant defensive midfield player 3

As captain of Arsenal he was the backbone of a team that won multiple premiership and FA Cup titles. During his time at Arsenal, the Arsenal – Manchester United match-ups, and Vieira’s personal duels with United captain Roy Keane, both on and off the field, were legendary. Vieira was a dominant and feared player in the English Premier League as he controlled the game with equal parts, grit and steel, countered balanced with style and grace. With his contributions to both Arsenal and the EPL, he is noted as one its all-time greats.

Patrick Vieira explains how it's done

Patrick Vieira explains how it’s done

Here he gives some tips on how to be a dominant center midfield player and provide a foundation for your team.

Sacrifice your performance for your team

“The first step to playing as a defensive midfielder is understanding your role and accepting it. You’re there to work hard and to help everyone else, before yourself. The role of the defensive midfielder has changed. In the past it was just about protecting the back four, but now you are asked to do everything: score goals, make assists and defend. Your team-mates need to be able to count on you. And when you’re having a bad game you need to know they’ve got your back. This kind of trust gives you confidence.”

Use your football brain

“As a defensive midfielder you must be tactically aware. You’re at the heart of the team so you have to hold everything together and allow other players to express themselves. To do this you need to talk a lot and use your brain, because quite often you have to be in the right place at the right time. You have to cover the gap between the midfield and the back four, cover the left and right full-backs when they go forward and the central defenders when they push further up the pitch.”

Impose yourself early

“Physicality was a very important part of my game. I knew that the first contact in the battle was going to be really important. This is the moment when you impose yourself and win games. Being strong in the first tackle says, ‘I’m here and I’m going to try to make it hard for you’. Intimidation is part of the game, but as a defensive midfielder you also have to be really good technically. You have to have the ability to collect the ball from the back four and pass it on to the front players.”