The role of a box-to-box midfielder in that game of soccer is one that requires the player to have superb energy, and stamina t last the whole 90 minutes on the field and more if the case arises. These players are very knowledgeable of the game and are usually assigned leadership roles in teams.
Some fans of the game are not yet conversant with this term in the game and really don’t know which players in the middle of the park they can classify as box-to-box midfielders. This article will explain more regarding this soccer midfield role as you read on.
What Is A Box-to-Box Midfielder?
A box-to-box midfielder is a player that plays both offense and defense and alternates between roles when required in the course of a soccer game.
They can be referred to as extra defenders because they possess the ability and awareness to see plays coming and stop them to prevent their team from conceding a goal. Meanwhile, some teams do not make use of this position but are hardly beatable when they deploy it.
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The Role of a Box-to-Box Midfielder
Box-to-box midfielders are very important when deployed in a team as they can switch positions during the action. They can play as defensive and offensive players during a game and this role requires significant awareness as you would see as you progress in your reading of this article.
When they play a defensive role, they are assigned with reading their opponents, block shots, launch great tackles, and protecting their penalty box. They might not be the fastest players in the team but are very vital regardless.
These midfielders are excellent in positioning themselves to thwart opposition runs and are very athletic as revealed earlier. it should come as no surprise as the role demands such.
When they play offensive roles, they have to act as all-around playmakers and this is one big responsibility.
Their awareness levels must be top-notch to enable them to play a defensive role and then launch attacks when needed.
They are well versed in the chemistry of the team and with their teammates, thereby enhancing their ability to make smart passes, plays, and decisions.
You should know that box-to-box midfielders are mostly aware of every happening on the field of play and this makes them the go-to men in the team thus making them valuable to the team and excellent leaders occasionally.
How Common Are Box-to-Box Midfielders?
This role is given off by the formation a team coach deploys before a game. Meanwhile, the role is not very common as many teams choose to go with a formation that doesn’t have the specified role in question.
For instance, a team deployed in a 4-4-2 formation is likely to have a box-to-box midfielder in action because the two midfielders in the middle of the park or central midfielders can play this role.
The role is a mentally and physically challenging one and only players who are good enough and have the required skillset can thrive when deployed in the position.
The role requires an exceptional player and when teams have one, they would have no choice but to alter their formations and tactics to accommodate the player.
We’ve seen the likes of Chelsea FC in England take up this position and deploy it with the acquisition of N’Golo Kante from Leicester City.
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The French midfielder is one of the few exceptional midfielders that can thrive in a box-to-box role and his offensive traits were seen after the acquisition of Jorginho by Maurizio Sarri.
After the appointment of the Italian boss at Stamford Bridge, Kante was pushed higher up the pitch to help in attacks while Jorginho was the one to run the show from deep.
Regardless, Kante also helped out a lot in defensive activities in front of the back four.
How to Thrive as a Box-to-Box Midfielder
For players to excel as box-to-box midfielders, they must have extensive knowledge of the game, be able to improvise, adapt, possess top-notch awareness and be conversant with the game strategies being deployed by their team coach.
The ability to cope with the physical demands of the position can not be overlooked either, The player must be physically and mentally ready.
A successful box-to-box midfielder would have a deep understanding of the game as pointed out earlier, understand other players on the pitch and their positions, and must be ready to act as a leader occasionally and motivate his teammates on the pitch with his actions during a game.
You should be able to predict the moves of your opponents and thwart them, and also be physically ready and have the required stamina to stand out tall on the field.
Funny enough, although these midfielders are expected to be very physically fit, you’ll find out that most of them are not physically imposing, therefore it is not in the physical look but in the inherent ability and N’Golo Kante who plays the role occasionally as a typical example.
The role requires that the player in the position must be a tireless runner and a hard worker.
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The Best Box-to-Box Midfielders
In recent times, here are the best box-to-box midfielders you would find in the game. These players have carved niches for themselves as the best in the game and continue to do so.
Find some of them below, and also do well to watch them in action to see how they go about the job on the pitch. This will surely enhance your understanding of the box-to-box midfielder role in soccer.
1. Steven Gerrard
The Englishman who is now the manager of Aston Villa in the Premier League was among the best of the best box-to-box midfielders in a career that spanned at least 14 years.
He established himself as a legend at Anfield whilst playing the role, had a fantastic knowledge of the game, was a leader, could switch between roles as an attacker and a defender when it was necessary and had some great goalscoring numbers for a player in his position.
He was Liverpool’s captain in his time and made things happen for the club when the need arose. One of such moments was the UCL final in Istanbul in 2005 against AC Milan where the Reds eventually came out tops after penalties after coming from 3 goals down at halftime to draw 3:3.
2. Tomas Soucek
A good number of football legends already recognize the Czech Republic international who plays for West Ham in the Premier League as one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the Premier League.
The defensive midfielder is very combative and is never afraid to go for the ball when the need arises. He also has an excellent on-the-pitch relationship with his teammates and this is another box he ticks for the role of a box-to-box midfielder.
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3. Arturo Vidal
The Chilean has aged but his contributions to the position right from his days with Juventus cannot be overlooked. He played the role excellently for both his country and the clubs he represented and had good numbers in assists and goals every season.
Despite his struggles in recent times, he has already carved a niche for himself as one of the top box-to-box midfielders of his time.
4. Franck Kessié
The AC Milan midfielder and Ivory Coast international is a decent playmaker and is one of the best now when taking up offensive and defensive roles on the pitch during the action. He is physically imposing, very energetic, and is referred to as ‘Franck the Tank’.
Away from the aforementioned players, there are also some reputable players whose categorization as box-to-box midfielders on paper would raise arguments although we’ve seen them play the role many times on the pitch.
Two notable names in this regard are Luka Modric of Real Madrid and the loveable N’Golo Kante of Chelsea. Therefore, the questions below abound:
Is Modric a Box-to-Box Midfielder?
Technically, the Croatia international is listed as a central midfielder but is currently regarded as one of the best box-to-box midfielders in La Liga, Europe, and the world.
His leadership role on the field for Real Madrid is glaring for all to see despite his struggles when he first moved to Santiago Bernabeu from Tottenham Hotspur.
He is also the captain of the Croatia national football team. His instinct on the ball and ability to locate teammates with a pass at any position on the pitch speaks volumes of the awareness he possesses. He can read the game, dictate play and also stop plays to thwart dangerous moves by opponents.
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Is Kante a Box-to-Box Midfielder?
Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante is commonly described as a midfield destroyer but has played the box-to-box midfield position for the Blues, especially under Maurizio Sarri as pointed out earlier. His role at Chelsea has been altered over time.
Under Thomas Tuchel, the Frenchman is currently not being utilized in the role but remains an invaluable asset whose absence from the team is always felt as they have no one to replicate his running and the energy he offers on the pitch.
Regardless, he is one of the best midfielders in the game and meets all the requirements of a midfield destroyer.
What Jersey Number Do Box-to-Box Midfielders Wear?
The Number 8 is almost always synonymous with players who are deployed in the box-to-box midfielder role. We already know that soccer is one of the sports where player roles are revealed by the numbers printed on their jerseys most of the time.
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Talking about the Number 8, some famous soccer players that have worn jerseys with these numbers are Chelsea legend Frank Lampard, current Everton manager in the Premier League, Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard and Arturo Vidal.
You see, these players made names for themselves in the middle of the park, were very hardworking, and also had good numbers in attack.
Frank Lampard’s numbers in the attack are arguably the craziest for a central midfielder.
Meanwhile, a significant number of box-to-box midfielders can also play several positions at some point and this is totally dependent on the manager, and the needs of the team, among others. They could also play as side midfielders or defensive midfielders.
These players with the Number 8 can alter between playing defensive and attacking roles effectively. The aforementioned midfielders and the numbers they have can attest to this.
They are all leaders, very energetic, are good with the ball on their feet, can spot and defend against opposition attacks, and can switch from defense to attack effectively and these are some of the major boxes that a box-to-box midfielder should tick.