The number 8 position is one of the most important roles in modern football. They tend to be referred to as box-to-box midfielders because of their ability to run operations from deep in their area of the pitch all the way to the opposition’s 18-yard box. This midfield role requires a special kind of energetic and very skillful player. Many great players have shone in the role. Guys like Chelsea FC legend Frank Lampard, Barcelona talisman Iniesta, and former Liverpool heartbeat Steven Gerrard defined the position showing how advantageous and devastating they could be in that area of the pitch. What exactly are the duties of a number 8?
Linking up play
This particular role can’t be emphasized enough. Every team needs a player with the ability to link defense with the attack. This requires the player to sometimes receive the ball deep in midfield and advance into the opposition box with the aim of scoring or assisting his teammates. This also needs a lot of skill and stamina to be able to beat the press and pressure from the opposition. Iniesta, as stated earlier, was a good example of this. At his peak, Iniesta had the ability to always put his team on the front foot retaining possession and ensuring his team were always on the offensive.
Another important role of a number 8 is creating chances and giving assists. Due to the player operating in an advanced position, it is imperative that he should be able to consistently locate his teammate in a goal-scoring position. This requires great skill and vision to pick out passes that split defenses.
A good number 8 should also contribute his fair share of goals. Playing in an advanced position gives the player ample opportunity to occupy areas near the goal post that gives him the best chance to score. Lampard was an expert at this during the time with the Blues. The former England international always seemed to know how to time his runs into the 18-yard box to score. At other times he was positioned in front of the opponent’s box, which gave him space and time to fire in one of his powerful trademark shots.
This role always requires some defensive understanding on the part of the player. The ability to mark and win your opponent’s ball, especially high up the pitch, is a valuable skill every aspiring number 8 should have. Gennaro Gattuso, who also wore the number 8 jersey, personified this aspect of the number 8 role. The ex Italian footballer was a tough-tackling, hardworking, and combative defensive midfielder. He often advanced attacking areas in order to intercept the ball and play it to one of his more creative or offensive teammates after winning back possession.