The number 10 in soccer fulfills the role of an attacking midfielder in soccer. The number 10s are players who the rest of the team looks to for inspiration when desperately trying to break down an opponent’s defense, they are the players that bring flair and creativity to team attacks. In this post, I am going to go over everything you need to know on how you can be a better number 10 in soccer and become the magician on your team.
Where does the number 10 play?
The number 10 in soccer is also known as an attacking midfielder, they are the players who are going to help create chances for the attackers and get into great scoring opportunities themselves.
The number 10 will play just in front of the midfield but just behind the forwards and they will try to find pockets of space between the opponents’ defensive and midfield lines.
6 roles that all successful number 10s and attacking midfielders do
The number 10 attacking midfielder is often referred to as the ‘free roam’ position as they are given a license to drift into spaces anywhere along the front line to exploit.
The main roles and responsibilities of the attacking midfielder are to exploit space to receive the ball and create goal-scoring opportunities whether it be by assisting teammates for goals or by scoring goals themselves.
Labeling the number 10 as a ‘free roam’ position gives the impression that players have no real defensive responsibilities to carry out as they are only there to help when a team is attacking.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, the number 10 along with the forwards, are the team’s first line of defenders and play an essential role in pressing the opposing defenders to try and win the ball back.
The roles will be different depending on whether or not your team has the ball.
Below you will find the roles and responsibilities that I coach to my players who play the number 10 role and how they can become a better number 10 in soccer
Roles of the number 10 in possession of the ball
Link the midfield to the attackers
Find and create space to exploit
As a number you are not given a specific area to operate in, it is down to you to exploit space across the whole width of the pitch in the opponent’s half.
The best number 10s can see tactical floors in defending teams or of individual players.
As a 10 you will have to capitalize on those weaknesses either by moving into that space or dragging players out of space for a teammate to move into.
This can be incredibly hard to defend against, if the opposing team lets the number 10 have too much space to receive the ball they know the 10 can cause problems by creating chances.
Similarly, it is also a problem if they mark the number 10 too close. A smart number 10 will recognize this and drag players out of position to create space for another teammate to exploit.
When you play as a number 10 is important you are constantly scanning and aware of what is going on around you to take full advantage of the space around you.
One of the best ways to do this is to make your movements and find space in your opponents’ blind spots. These are areas of the pitch that the defender cannot see unless they turn their head.
Create chances for teammates to score goals
Another big role of the number 10 while the team has the ball is to create chances either by assisting teammates or by taking on the shots themselves.
The number 10 is considered the player who has the most flair in the team and has that ‘spark’ that can win games.
The attacking midfielder has great awareness and can read the movements of their teammates incredibly well.
If you want to become a better number 10 you are going to have to learn how your teammates play and get on their wavelength. Give them passes that play to their strengths.
Once you start doing this you will be creating a lot more dangerous chances.
Roles of the number 10 out of possession of the ball
Organize the first line of the press
As a number 10, you are responsible for the first line of the press.
You need to be in charge of knowing when to initiate a press.
A successful press can result in a turnover of possession in an advantageous position for your team, on the other hand, if a press is executed poorly then this can result in your team being cut open and exposed to a dangerous attack.
When organizing a press as a number 10 you want to ensure that you are communicating with your teammates, making sure that the language being used is concise.
Here are some potential triggers for starting a press:
- A defender or goalkeeper takes a bad touch
- The defender receives the ball in a bad body position
- If a defender is looking hesitant on the ball
- The ball gets passed into a certain area or played to certain players
When you spot a trigger, make sure you are quick to pressure to close the space to contain the player with the ball but careful not to over-commit and dive in.
The triggers for your team may vary on the team tactics your coach is implementing, make sure you are implementing the pressing tactics your coach wants from you.
Close off passing lines
Closing off passing lanes and pressing go hand in hand, a big component of pressing especially as a number 10 is to cut off passing lanes
A passing lane is where the player on the ball has a clear line of sight to pass to a teammate. As a number 10 if you can close off their passing lane you will reduce their options on the ball.
This means as a team you can contain and dictate where the opposition passes the ball and what areas you want them to play into.
This is where a team can set up traps for when the ball gets played into those areas.
When you want to close off a passing lane when pressuring you need to think about how you approach the player, taking into consideration the angle at which you are pressuring and the shape of your body.
To successfully close off opposition passing lanes you need to pressure the player on the ball from the side, which blocks their passing lane.
This now only allows them to go in one direction, making it easier for your team to control where they go next.
You must also make sure that you are in a side-on-body position, with your body facing the direction you want to show the player on the ball.
Get behind the ball
As soon as there is a turnover in possession the 10 will need to make sure that they get behind the ball as quickly as possible, in a goal side position.
This will help make your team a lot harder to break down, with the attackers becoming the first line of defenders to prevent the opposing team from advancing into a more dangerous position.
Similar to the number 10, the opposing team is going to try and find gaps behind defensive lines to exploit.
Use your knowledge of finding space as 10 as a counter to the opposition finding space behind you.
If you play the number 10 role you’ll know what tactics the opposition team can use to make it harder for you to play your game.
Use these exact tactics against the opposition team when they will try and play the ball in behind you.
Qualities you need to become a good attacking midfielder
The number 10s are notoriously known to be hard to defend against and this is largely down to how unpredictable they are.
They can keep defenders on their toes by drifting into different spaces, using different skills, and varying the types of passes they play.
As number 10 if you are constantly trying to use the skills and tricks to get past defenders then they will eventually catch and you will become a lot easier to defend against.
To try and confuse defenders you want to try these things:
- Vary your movements.
Sometimes you may want to come into space in front of the defenders, between the defenders, or try to get in behind the defenders. If you keep looking to receive the ball in the same spaces the defenders eventually pick up on your movements and will be able to mark you out of the game.
- Use both feet.
One thing that defenders will try to do immediately is to figure out your strengths and your weaknesses, one of these would be to identify your preferred foot. By being very one foot dominated you make the defenders’ life easier by becoming a lot more predictable.
- Vary how you try to get past defenders.
This doesn’t come down to how many soccer skills you can use (although they will help) varying your first touch, your changes of direction and speed play a huge role in beating a defender. The defender will be a lot more cautious when approaching you as they will not know which direction you will go, what skill you will use, or how you will change your pace.
Good game sense
Watching events unfold in front of you and anticipating what will happen next is an important skill every number 10 has. If you look at any number 10 in soccer they are the best at being in the right space at the right time, this isn’t a coincidence either!
Here 3 things you can do to improve your game sense as a number 10 in soccer:
- Constantly scanning around you in games
As a number 10 to find the best positions you must take in and digest a lot of information. The more frequently you scan the more up-to-date your knowledge is of what’s going on around you, this means you can make better decisions either when you are on or off the ball.
Don’t look for the sake of looking, make sure you are looking for the movements of your teammates the opposition, and spaces that are opening up.
- Listen to teammates
For when you can’t see or may have missed something listen to what your teammates have to say. They will see things from a different perspective and help you make better decisions by making you aware of other decisions you could have made that could have had a better outcome for the team.
Examples of this could be spaces you could have moved into, a pass to a teammate you didn’t see, or a shooting opportunity that went begging.
- Watch professional players
It is always great to be able to watch games from a different perspective, especially as there a so many brilliant professional numbers 10s out there. This will help you see the bigger picture as well as look at the micro details of what the number 10 does to have a positive influence on the team.
The number 10s in soccer teams are usually the most unselfish players on the team, they are great at getting assists and creating opportunities for players who are in better opportunities to score goals than themselves.
Yes, there are moments when you want a number 10 to take scoring opportunities but overall having a selfish number 10 can do more harm than good for a team.
As well as providing assists, number 10s help create spaces for their teammates.
This is done by making decoy runs to drag defenders out of positions to create space for another teammate to exploit space.
Although these runs go largely unnoticed they are just as important as assists!
Having spatial awareness is an essential quality you need as a number 10, this is what your game revolves around.
Not only do you have to be aware of the space around you but also of your teammates as well.
By having better spatial awareness your decisions can be made quicker, you’ll know when you can afford to take a touch or play a first time through ball to a teammate running through on goal.
You must also be aware of how you can use subtle movements to lose defenders that can create space for yourself.
An easy way to remember this is by ‘making one run for the defender, another for the ball’. This is not always the case, you may have to make 2 or even 3 movements for the defender to create the desired space to receive the ball.
6 Soccer skills you must improve to become a better number 10 in soccer
To be able to receive the ball on the half-turn
Being able to receive the ball on the half-turn is huge when playing as a number 10. When receiving the ball on the half-turn you want to make sure that you are side on body position, this enables you to see the direction in which you are receiving the ball and the direction of where you want to take your first touch.
The number 10 will be one of the most advanced players when their team has possession of the ball, which means most of your time will be spent trying to find spaces to receive the ball on the half-turn to start the attack.
This is the checklist I give to my number 10s when teaching them to receive the ball on the half-turn:
- Scan the area so you where the defenders are and the space you want to move into
- If you are being marked drag the defender with your first movement and check the space to receive the ball with your second
- When you check into the space to receive the ball in an open body position, create an angle. This will enable you to keep are many options as open to you as possible when you turn
- Receive the ball on the back foot (your foot furthest away from the ball)
- Your first touch should be out of your feet and toward space
A player’s first touch in soccer will always be their most important touch regardless of whether you need to protect the ball, turn into space, or play a first time to a teammate.
As a number 10, the ball will be played into you in a variety of pressured scenarios where your first touch can be the difference between creating a scoring opportunity or losing possession.
One of the best ways to practice your control is bypassing a ball against a wall controlling it.
Make sure that when you are practicing make sure that:
- You practice using both feet
- You vary the body part you control the ball with
- Challenge yourself by playing firmer passes
- Practice using different parts of your foot
- Experiment with creative touches
This comes back to being unpredictable, having a whole category of first touches you can use to get past a defender is crucial to how effective you’ll be a number 10.
Passing and vision
These 2 soccer skills go hand in hand. When you receive the ball in attacking situations you should already know what you are going to do next on the ball.
The better your vision is before receiving the ball the quicker and better your decisions will become on the ball.
In the final third you want to try and disguise your passes to make it less obvious what you are going to do, this can catch defenders off guard.
When playing your passes think about how you can use your body shape to make it seem like your going in one direction when you intend to go in the opposite direction.
To improve your passing as a number 10 practice playing different types of passes with different parts of your foot as well as practicing using both feet.
While passing thinks about your body position and learn how to put a disguise on your pass.
Close range finishing
As a number 10, you will inevitably find yourself in front of a goal and you must add goals to your game as well as assists.
to become a better number 10 you are going to need to learn how to finish from a variety of different positions in and around the box with both feet and different parts of your body
You should be practicing taking your shots as early as possible because you are not going to have loads of time to set yourself up. Here are 11 soccer shooting drills that may be helpful.
Your anticipation and game sense will help you move into really good goal-scoring opportunities, this is a skill that can be improved by scanning the area, watching how events unfold, and applying those previous experiences to your current game situations.
Having a variety of skills, changes of direction and speed in your locker is a great way to become a better number 10 in soccer as you will create dangerous attackers and opportunities for your team.
As a number 10 there has to be a purpose as to why and where you are dribbling, remember you need to be seeing a bigger picture!
You may be dribbling to put a defender in a certain position which creates space for another player to move into.
You may even dribble to break the first line of defenders to help create an overload in your teams’ favor.
When you are dribbling be decisive, the quicker you can see the bigger picture the quicker the decision you can make which makes defending against you a lot harder.
You want to ensure that you are practicing skills and turns with both feet, this will keep defenders guessing and will create more options for you when you are dribbling on the ball.
3 world-class number 10 attacking midfielders you can learn a lot from in soccer
Jack Grealish has spent the majority of his career at his boyhood club, Aston Villa. He is now a player for Manchester City. Grealish has fantastic balance, combine that with his speed and skills he is an incredibly dangerous player when running at defenders.
As well as scoring goals for his team he can assist his teammates well.
With his recent form, he is tipped to be one of Englands’ brightest creative number 10s.
Watch this video below of how he can create attackers with his dribbling ability, also watch how he disguises his passes when assisting his teammates:
Andres Iniesta is considered one of the best attacking midfielders of all time, playing a long Xavi these 2 helped mastermind Barcelona’s dominance across Europe.
He had everything.
Iniesta was able to walk past defenders, score goals and play superb passes to teammates.
He had an incredible game sense and was always aware of what was going on around him which enabled him to make the best possible decisions while on the ball.
Watch the video below and check how many times he scans the area before playing a pass or making a dribble.
Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne is currently considered the best midfielder in the English Premier League. He is a powerful dribbler of the ball, that is comfortable using both feet for, passing, shooting, and using skills.
He has great vision and can play passes that no one else can see.
This comes down to his awareness and recognizing where there is space exploited between and behind the opposition’s defensive lines.
When he is not crossing the ball or assisting teammates, he is finding great pockets of space that puts him in goal-scoring opportunities.
He is a highlight video of his 2020 seasons with Manchester City.
How to play as an attacking midfielder in soccer conclusion
In this post, you should hopefully have everything you need to know on how to become a better number 10 in soccer.
Remember that as a number 10 you do have defensive responsibilities. Scoring goals and creating opportunities are just as important as preventing goals!
Make sure as an attacking midfielder you are constantly scanning the area to see the bigger pictures, be aware of your teammates, spaces to exploit, and opposition defenders.
Be a risk-taker, as a number 10 people are looking to you to change the game and bring flair to the team. Yes, it may not come off every time but you’ll never realize your potential if you are constantly playing safe.
If you have any other tips that you think could help players how to become a better number 10 in soccer share them with them in the comments below.
Have a look at my other player guides:
- How to be a number 9 (striker) in soccer
- Be a better center back in soccer
- Become a world-class goalkeeper in soccer
- How to be a better winger in soccer
- The complete guide on how to be a fullback in soccer
- How to be a better number 6 in soccer