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Find space in midfield Struggling to break free? As Portuguese orchestrator Deco tells FFT, quick thinking is the key

“I always struggle to find any room in the middle of the park. Can you help?” Dean Gimble, Surrey

“Stand close to your marker and wait to dart into space,” advises the ex-Chelsea man

Deco Fluminense and former Barcelona playmaker ira live



“It’s all about developing a wide view of the field, and learning how to keep your head up all the time. You have to know the right moments to run and to pause, without hesitation. When the midfield is congested, it’s obviously easier to find space at the back by taking the ball off your defenders. But as you go forward, it becomes harder to find space, especially in the centre. The best way to overcome this is to look to play down the sides.

If you’re marked you have to try to do something different. I stand close to the markers and wait for the right moment to dart into space. If you want to receive the ball, you have to offer options to your team-mates.

If someone is man-marking me in midfield, it’s harder for me to find space, but it can be easier for the team. I try to move through the field, bringing the defender with me and creating room for my team-mates – it’s knowing how to play without the ball.

A good drill is training on smaller pitches, where you have less room. The quicker you think and the better you pass the ball, the easier it will be to find space.”

DID YOU KNOW? As well as helping you look for gaps while under pressure, practising on small pitches will also improve your technical play, due to the increased number of touches illingham ilB



“I’ve just started playing as a centre-back after years playing in the middle. Any tips?” Marlon Matthews, via email

Gareth Southgate Former midfielder turned defender

“When I played in midfield I wasn’t great at receiving the ball on the half-turn or having that vision you need as a midfielder. For that reason the switch to defence was a natural one. You rely on different skills as a centre-back: one big advantage is that you can see the whole pitch so you have to take more responsibility for organising the team in front of you.

Playing in midfield, you get used to being on the ball, so you can take this into your new role. Be the one to bring the ball out and start attacks; this is especially handy when your team is struggling to find space in midfield.

For any midfielder turned defender, you must be aware of positioning. Looking down the line and making sure everyone’s holding their position takes practice. You don’t want to be the one playing everyone onside, so communication is key. Make sure you’re always listening to what your team-mates are saying, so that when they say to push up, you’re ready.”

Southgate won

52 caps after his switch to defence October 2011 125

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