The Number 6 Position in Soccer

The Number 6 Position In Soccer | A Complete Guide

When playing 11 v 11, the number 6 position in soccer is a vitally important cog in any successful team. Although not as headline-grabbing as a goal-scoring striker or an exciting and dynamic winger, finding a good number 6 is often top of a soccer coach’s wish list when looking to create a cohesive and coherent unit in both defense and attack. In this guide, we will explain what position a number 6 plays in soccer, how to play as a number 6, and the qualities needed to play in the number 6 position in soccer. We’ll also look at some of the best number 6 players currently playing the role in the English Premier League.

What Position Is Number 6 In Soccer?

The number 6 position in soccer is a defensive midfielder and is the most defensive or deep-lying midfielder in the team. Number 6 players play in front of the defense and behind the other central midfielders. For this reason, they are also referred to as central defensive midfielders or even just defensive midfielders.

In most cases, teams play with one number 6 and one or two more attacking midfielders playing in front of them. However, when coaches want more defensive stability in the middle of the park they may choose to play with two players in the number 6 position with a third attacking midfielder just in front of them. This is most typically done when coaches play a 4-2-3-1 formation.

How To Play As A Number 6 In Soccer

Qualities Needed To Be A Good Number 6

Some coaches refer to their number 6 as the ‘quarterback of the team as they direct and set the tone for all the attacking play in front of them. In order to be successful in the number 6 position, a player needs the following qualities:

  • Be very physically fit and have a high work rate due to the large amount of defensive responsibilities involved in the position.
  • Be comfortable receiving and passing the ball as they act as a link between the goalkeeper, defence, and the rest of the team.
  • Have a very high tactical understanding of their role and the game, and have excellent spatial awareness. This is because a good number 6 will often touch the ball more than anyone else on the field.

How To Play As A Number 6 When Attacking

Number 6 position in soccer

The number 6 player has an incredibly important role to play when their team is attacking and in possession of the ball. Their main responsibilities are to help connect the defense and the attack. To do this successfully, a number 6 player should do the following:

  • Provide an option when one of the defenders or the goalkeeper has the ball, working hard to make themselves available to receive a pass.
  • As a central midfielder, they should be making themselves available to receive a pass in the middle of the field, working roughly within the same width of the penalty area (i.e. not out wide with the 2, 3, 7, and 11.)
  • Upon receiving the ball, the number 6 should look to help the team retain possession by playing the ball forward, switching the play out wide. Or, if neither of those options is available, dropping it back to the defensive line to recycle the ball and start again.
  • Constantly check their shoulder, look around, and be aware of what is around them in order to evaluate all their options. Coaches often encourage number 6 players to try and receive ‘side on’ and with their hips open to both ends of the field to assist with this. 
  • Finally, a good number 6 should be aware of the positioning of the number 2 and number 3 when their team is attacking and in possession of the ball. If both those players have decided to attack and have progressed far into their opponents half, the number 6 might decide to drop into defense to help provide cover and support in case possession changes hands and the other team launches a quick counter attack.

How To Play As A Number 6 When Defending

No 6 position when defending

The reason why the number 6 in soccer is referred to as a defensive midfielder is that they are expected to do a lot of defending! When defending or not in possession of the ball, the number 6 player’s main responsibilities are to protect and provide a screen in front of the back four defenders. To do this successfully, a number 6 player should do the following:

  • Look to defend the middle of the field directly in front of the goal. Whilst they can go out wide whilst defending they should generally only do this in their own defensive third as their opponents get close to the goal and become more dangerous.
  • Try to occupy and mark the area in which the opponents number 10 usually operates to stop them getting the ball, creating passes and shooting.
  • Avoid being pulled out wide and exposing the midfield to the oppossing team’s attack.
  • Press the space to deny the player in possession angles to pass the ball.

Because of the large responsibility involved in trying to protect the whole back 4, it’s essential that a number 6 has good stamina and can run and pressure the ball in multiple areas of the field. They need to be good in defensive 1v1 situations and be able to intercept passes from their opponents, particularly more dangerous forward passes. As is the case when the team is in possession of the ball, it’s important that the number 6 has a high level of tactical understanding and game awareness to snuff out danger and stop their opponents from scoring a goal. 

Famous Number 6 Soccer Players

Unsurprisingly, for such an important position there are a lot of famous players currently playing in the number 6 position for their teams and having a big impact on their games. Here are some of the best number 6 players in soccer right now:

N’golo Kante

N’golo Kante is a French professional soccer player currently playing as a number 6 for Chelsea in the English Premier League. He is widely regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders around due to his incredibly high work rate, huge stamina, and ability to win the ball.


Rodri is a Spanish Midfielder currently playing as a number 6 for Manchester City. Rodri has quickly become a fan favorite due to his consistent defensive qualities and ability to receive the ball under pressure and link play all over the field.

Paul Scholes

One of the best number 6 players of all time has to be Paul Scholes. Upon being asked what it felt like to be the world’s best player, French legend Zinadane Zidane famously responded, “I don’t know, ask Paul Scholes”.

Widely regarded as the most gifted English soccer players of his generation, Paul Scholes was a one-club man, spending his whole career with his local team, Manchester United. After bursting onto the scene as a goalscoring number 10, Paul Scholes spent the latter years of his career pulling the strings as a deep-lying number 6. In addition to his sublime technique and wide range of passing abilities, Scholes excelled in shooting, heading, and movement off the ball.

More Positions In Soccer

As you can see, the number 6 position in soccer is an incredibly important role and one which requires a lot of discipline, stamina, and skill to play well. I hope this guide has given you a better understanding of the position and roles of a number 6 in soccer. To learn more about player numbers, the soccer positions they play, and the meaning of numbers in soccer, check out these related articles:

The Number 10 In Soccer
The Number 9 In Soccer
Soccer Player Numbers And Positions Explained
Center Back In Soccer