CDM Soccer Position Explained


How do you play the CDM soccer position? The CDM position, or the central defensive midfielder, plays a huge role in maintaining balance on the soccer field by bridging the defense and offense together.

The CDM is right at the center of everything and they have a full 360 degree view of the field, making it one of the most, if not the most, important soccer position.  In this guide, I will cover everything you need to know about the CDM position from their main roles, to key traits required, as well as give you a list of world-class central defensive midfielders to learn from.

CDM Soccer Position Explained

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The Importance of a Central Defensive Midfielder CDM

As the backbone of any soccer team, the CDM stands in the center of the field in front of the center backs and behind the rest of the midfield. A central defensive midfielder (CDM) plays a vital role in maintaining the balance between offense and defense and controlling the tempo of the game.

Their main job is to stop the opposing attacking players while also connecting the defensive line with the more attacking-oriented midfielders, the central midfielder and the central attacking midfielders. Although all CDMs have similar attacking and defensive duties, there are two main types of CDMs, a deep lying playmaker and a holding midfielder.

A deep-lying playmaker focuses more on initiating attacks and controlling the game’s tempo, while a holding midfielder prioritizes defensive duties and protecting the backline, made up of the center backs, who can often play as sweepers, and wide full backs, which are made up of the left and right backs. A soccer coach can decide what role their CDM plays which will be based more on the formation and tactics that the team uses.

Key Responsibilities of the Central Defensive Midfielder CDM

The CDM role has many important jobs including:


A CDM’s main job is to shield the backline from opposing forwards which requires athleticism, anticipation, and tactical IQ. These players are responsible for intercepting passes, performing slide tackles, blocking shots, and disrupting play.

However, being a great CDM requires more than just physical skills. It takes strategic thinking and a high football IQ to outsmart opponents because most of the game happens without the ball, which means you have to know where to be and where to move to.

Win Aerial Duels

CDMs are often required to win aerial duels and headers, especially during set-piece situations such as corner kicks and free kicks. Their ability to head the ball away from danger or direct it to a teammate is crucial for defensive duties.

Being right in the middle of the field, it is also very important to win the duels in the center, especially in the air, because to control the game you have to control the midfield, which starts with the CDM.

Distribute the Ball

While defense is their primary focus, CDMs are also responsible for distributing the ball effectively up the field to initiate attacks and maintain possession of the ball. They also need to be capable of making accurate short and long passes to transition from defense to attack smoothly.

One key thing for all CDMs to understand is that they have to try to play forward as much as possible, which requires knowing how to turn properly as well as properly scanning the field to know what you are going to do with the ball long before you get it.

Leadership and Communication:

Since they are in the middle of the field, many CDMs are leaders on the field, organizing the team’s defensive shape and communicating with their teammates to make sure everyone is on the same page.

CDM Soccer Position Explained

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Key Attributes for a Successful Central Defensive Midfielder CDM

A CDM needs more than just soccer IQ and strategy and needs specific physical and mental attributes to be successful in this position.

Effortless Athleticism

Today’s CDMs need to be more than just muscle. In recent times the role of fascia on sports performance has taken off and the truth is there is a spectrum of athleticism in which some players are more fascia driven, and others are more muscle driven.

To learn more about the importance of fascia check out these blogs: Fascia training and How to regain full foot function.

Physical Attributes

CDM’s are at the center of the team and they have to be strong players so that they can take the ball away from anyone who tries to get past the defensive line. Athletic strength is half strength and half coordination because you are only able to output as much strength as your body is able to properly coordinate, which is why just being the biggest, most muscular player does not always mean you will be the strongest on the football field.

Take N’golo Kante for example, who is only 1.68 cm, or 5 ft 6 in, yet he is able to body players much bigger than him and he was able to establish himself as one of the best CDMs of his generation. This is because true strength comes from being just as coordinated as you are strong which is more dictated by your fascia system as opposed to your muscular system.

Speed and Agility

CDMs must be lightning-fast, either physically, mentally, or tactically to cover large areas of the pitch in a flash. They must be quick to transition from the defensive phase into the offensive phase and vice versa.

Their speed and agility can close down spaces, intercept passes, and challenge opponents while maintaining balance and control. Take for example Kante again, who is a faster CDM and is known for his work rate and stamina and then you have Sergio Busquets who is not physically the fastest, but what he lacks in physical he makes up for it with tactical intelligence, which leads to the next key attribute.

Tactical Intelligence

As a CDM you need to understand the game and have a high Game IQ to be able to properly execute this role. As mentioned before, the CDM sees the entire field, which means they have to understand how to communicate with the rest of the team and command them to where they need to be in relation to the ball.

Mental Toughness

Playing as a CDM also requires mental toughness because they must stay focused under pressure, make quick decisions among all the chaos, and keep their composure even after making mistakes.

A mentally tough player doesn’t let setbacks bring them down. Instead, they use them as motivation to improve and contribute positively to the team. As a CDM you need to learn to quickly move on from your mistakes and always focus on the next play.

Contribute to the Attack

Although a CDM is mostly a defensive player, it is also very important for CDMs to create goal scoring opportunities by taking risks and playing the ball forward as much as possible to the more advanced midfielders, strikers, and wingers.

CDM Soccer Position Explained

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World-Class CDM Players to Study and Analyze

One of the best ways to learn more about the CDM position is by watching elite players in this position. However, when you are watching them, don’t just watch to enjoy the game and be entertained, instead really analyze them, learn from them, and see what you can add from their game onto yours.

Here is a list of the best CDMs from the Premier League and other top leagues around the world:

  • Sergio Busquets
    • Barcelona and Spain legend who is currently playing for Inter Miami FC in the United States
  • Ngolo Kante
    • Chelsea and French legend who is currently playing for Al-Ittihad in Saudi Arabia
  • Rodri
    • Current player for Manchester City and the Spanish National Team.
  • Casemiro
    • Real Madrid and Brazil legend who is currently playing for Manchester United
  • Declan Rice
    • Currently one of the best CDMs in the world, Declan Rice plays for Arsenal and the English National Team

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a CDM,a CM, and a CAM?

All of these players play in the center of the field, however their main roles are a bit different as one is more attacking, one is more defensive, and one is more balanced.

  • CM: Box to box midfielder used to balance the game. They are known as the number 8
  • CDM: Defensive midfielder who plays more defensively. They are known as the number 6 
  • CAM: Attacking midfielder who player more offensively. They are known as the number 10

What are the various positions of the midfield?

The midfield is made up of various positions and what positions a team uses will depend on the formation and tactics the team chooses to play with. The main positions of the midfield include the central defensive midfielder, the central attacking midfielder, central midfielders, and wide midfielders.

What is the best soccer training program?

The best online soccer training program and soccer app is Football Entangled. There is no other program like Football Entangled on the market and this community, much more than just an app, will help you get closer to making your dreams a reality.

How can I learn more about the game?

To learn more about soccer the most important thing is to join a team and play the game as much as possible. If possible, analyze high level games as much as you can and your own games as well by recording them with a soccer camera. Also read soccer books, listen to podcasts and interviews watch soccer documentaries, as well as some movies, tv shows, and anime.


In conclusion, the central defensive midfielder (CDM) serves as the main bridge between offense and defense. Whether embodying the role of a deep-lying playmaker or a holding midfielder, the CDM role demands a blend of athleticism, intelligence, and leadership.

In this blog we covered the main roles, the key attributes and the benefits of studying elite professional soccer players in this position such as Sergio Busquets, N’Golo Kanté, and others to illuminate the path for aspiring CDMs to get better at this position. .

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