To conquer the wing and control the flanks you first need to control the middle. Everything starts from the middle. It's the most congested part of the field. If you can't win there you can't win--period.
Ron Newman, famous San Diego Sockers coach in the 80s, when the Sockers were king of the mountain, believes the middle is the place to be. As Brian Brown, of The San Diego Union, wrote in 1986: "The Revelation occurred on an airplane a few years ago. Thousands of feet above the Earth, San Diego Sockers coach Ron Newman decided the best place to begin an attack, or end one, was the middle of the field." Brian Brown's piece appeared in Soccer Digest (Nov. 1986), arguably the biggest American soccer magazine in the 80s.
The Sockers--featuring Steve Zungul, Branko Segota, Brian Quinn, to name a few--ruled over the MISL with an iron fist, winning multiple championships. It was hard to keep up with them. Coach Newman would know a thing or two.
So how does one dominate the middle?
Some time ago, many years back, at a time lost in the universe, I played racquetball once a week with a family friend, who was a lawyer, at around 6AM at the Berkeley Rec Center, Berkeley, California. John, the lawyer, was many years my senior, heavy build but athletic. I soon realized why I was losing so often. He'd take his place in the middle of the court, stand there, and barely move. He dominated the middle. He'd adjust laterally from side to side, but would return to the middle with only a few steps. I guess you could say that was his strategy and it worked. Meanwhile, I was darting around like an idiot trying to keep up. I guess you could say my strategy was a losing one. Soon I began to stay in the middle as well.
Sports share common traits. Whether it's cues from racquetball or something else, you can translate it over to another sport...in this case, soccer.
You could persuasively argue that multiple touches with center mids, short passing, creative license to dribble, and groupthink will do the trick. With respect to soccer and playing in the middle: What's groupthink supposed to mean? All players need guidance from a coach that, one, understands possession soccer and the idea of dominating the middle, and, two, can convey that message to a group of players that otherwise would fall back on bad habits. If left alone, without guidance, isn't that what players do? Usually.
Often you'll hear people say "get it out of the middle" as if it's cursed territory. "Go to the wings!" is the idea. Is it a flight of fancy to think these types can be converted to thinking the right way about the middle? Can the middle be your friend and not some distant third cousin showing up around Thanksgiving asking to borrow the car? Can the middle be a place of comfort? Can it be a place of creative ingenuity? Yes and yes. With short passing by way of the two-man game, the middle can and should be an avenue for success. All good things come from the middle of the field. With that said, the outside players are just as important to keep "harmony" flowing in and out of the middle. When it's all coming together, your team in question should be unstoppable. Or so they say.