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Soccer Positions Explained

 Football is the most beautiful game to watch. It has a lot of fans and I bet you are one of them. Did you know that each of the eleven footballers  has a position with different responsibilities? 

You are probably familiar with the goalkeeper, defenders, midfielder, and the forwards positions. Each player has a role which is dependent on the position he/she is occupying. 

Well, are you curious? Read on and this article will explain in detail what they are and what characteristic are  required for each position. 

Soccer Position: Goalkeeper

 Goalkeepers are often referred to as the last line of defense. They are the only players who are allowed to use their hands in a game. They protect the goal by use of any part of the body. The use of hands is limited to the goalkeeper’s box. If the goalkeeper uses his/her hands outside from the box then it’s deemed as a handball. 

Goalkeepers are often ignored by most people and thus very little attention is given to them. Like any other player, they are of importance to the team. The role of a goalkeeper in today’s football has changed a lot. Some of the changes are as follows: 

  •  In the past, there was no offense if the goalkeeper catches a back pass with their hands. As from 1992, this changed if a goalkeeper catches a back pass it would be a foul. The reason being that it was often used as a time waster and there was a need to change this. 
  •  While the role of the goalkeeper has always been to stay and guard the goal for a long time. This has changed and the roles have increased significantly. For instance, most teams prefer to attack from the back. That is every form of attack starts with the goalkeeper. Most teams adopted this because goalkeepers have a wider view of what is going on in the field.

 Why Do Goalkeepers Wear Different Jerseys From The Outfield Players? 

 Yeah, probably you have never asked yourself about this. The reason is simple and you can easily guess. It’s to differentiate them from outfield players. This is so important especially when there are fouls during a set piece. The referee can easily identify a goalkeeper in such a case. 

What Are The Main Roles Of A Goalkeeper? 

 We have previously stated that a goalkeeper is the last line of defense with some more advantages but this is not the end. There are other roles. What are they? 

  •  The goalkeeper is the commander of the midfield and the defense. Due to where the goalkeeper is located he/she can read the game and know when there is an impending danger. There are times where the goalkeeper can advise the defenders and the midfielders to change their formation to counter the opposing side. Most of the times during set pieces such as free kicks the goalkeeper has to organize the defense and create a good wall.
  • A goalkeeper is good distributors of the ball. Most teams when under pressure will pass back the ball to the goalkeeper to distribute the ball. This is because the goalkeeper has a good view of the field of play. 

 We note a goalkeeper is a very important member of the team that should also be given praise. A good goalkeeper can also earn team points. They are still as vital as any other outfield players. 

Soccer Position:The Defense

 The work of a defender is very akin to that of a goalie in that they both protect the opposing side from scoring. The defender needs not to dribble but to know when to tackle and have a strong kick to clear the ball away. 

Most teams require their defenders to be strong an aggressive. They have specialized in dark art such as pooling the strikers, this explains why most defenders have so many red cards and yellow cards. 

 Defenders can still score goals. They have recently been used to instigate attacks and score goals. For instance, when teams have set pieces they send their defenders forward. In doing so they are able to take advantages of their aerial prowess. 

 Various teams have different formations which tend to alter the defense a little bit, for instance, a 3-4-3 formation will have three defenders at the back. While a 4-3-3 or 4-2- 3-1 will have for defenders at the back whose main role is to defend. Without being biased of the defenders for each formation we will discuss all the types of defenders positions. 


 Their role has not changed but they are involved deeper in defending. Most of the times they are usually around their box. A good center-back must also have a good reading of the game. 

They too must be strong and able to win both tackles and aerial duels. That means that defenders must be good at headers. It explains so much why most defenders score headed goals. 

 Characteristics of a center back 

  •  Good positioning. He/she must have a good position to read off the strikers move and position himself very well. If a defender is well positioned, he/she is able to defend the ball easily. Positioning is a very important characteristic for successful center-backs.
  •  A center-back should have a good understanding with the other defenders and the ability to communicate with them. A defense that is united will defend like a unit and will be impenetrable. 
  • The defenders should have a good and strong mentality. They should have an aggressive mentality to ensure the strikers do not pass them or have the chance to shoot. Confidence is key if a defender wants to stop the opposing side’s striker.
  •   They should also have a good pace. There are teams which look to get the defender on the counter. Such teams have speedy wingers. If your defenders are slow they can easily be caught during a counter attack. They also need to run back to their positions especially when they are from helping the team attack during set pieces.
  • Good control of the ball and passing. This is a skill that is needed in modern football. Most teams urge their strikers to put a lot of pressure on the center backs so that they can easily score. 

 There is no denying that the role of the center-back is the hardest of any team. But if done to perfection it could be very simple. Just read your opponents movements and tackle the ball. 

Soccer Position: Sweepers

 Sweepers are very common for a formation with three center-backs or two. One of them will normally function as a sweeper. A sweeper is normally positioned between the goalkeeper and the defense. 

Their role in football is a joy to watch for a football fan they make the work of defending easier. Though in modern football they have become so rare. 

What Are The Roles Of A Sweeper?

 The roles of a sweeper are normally easier. They don’t need to tackle anybody unless the defenders have been beaten. Also, they are not involved with any form of marking anybody. 

Like most defenders, modern sweepers are also involved in an attack and are required to have a good distribution and control of the ball. They also need a strong shot to clear away the ball. 

 Characteristic of a good sweeper 

  •  They must read the game to be able to anticipate the opposing sides movements.
  •  They should be able to start a team’s attack from the back..

Is it obsolete?  The use of a sweeper in modern football has been so minimal and it’s not that famous as it was in the past. There are some factors which have caused this. They include: 

  •  Having a sweeper makes it hard to play an offside trap. Strikers will normally take advantage of this. A sweeper is always left behind the defenders, therefore, playing the offside trap is very difficult. 
  •  The form of pressing in modern football does not allow for a sweeper as most teams would prefer a key pass to come from the middle of the park than from the back. 
  •  Most teams have adopted the use of a lone striker upfront. With this luxury, the use of a sweeper is deemed unnecessary. 

 The role of a sweeper is near obsolete and most teams have given the roles to other players such as goalkeepers and deep-lying midfielders to start attacks from the back. 

Soccer Position: Fullbacks

 There are two types of full backs the right and left full backs. They are mostly functional for a team that uses four defenders at the back. They have taken the football world by a storm. Their work rate is always higher than most of the players. 

This is because they have a higher role. They are required to attack and defend. In fact per match day analysis, fullbacks are always with the highest distance run. It’s a high-intensity position. 

Roles Of The Fullbacks

  •  They still protect the strikers from scoring. But they also stop the wingers from distributing that pass that will give the striker a chance to score.
  •  They help in the attack. In the past, their main role was to defend but this has changed in modern football. Due to the mode of pressing teams prefer to commit more bodies up front. That is they attack as a unit and defend as a unit. Fullbacks will normally go further than the center-backs. Of the defender's fullbacks normally have higher goals than any other. This is because they contribute a lot to the attack. 

 Characteristics of fullback 

  •  They must be very athletic. The work rate for a fullback I normally higher. They need to run from attack and defense now and then. This is very tiring and requires a lot of energy than most positions.
  •  They should have a good ball distribution. Yes, this enables the team to maintain possession. Though a fullback is always involved in the attack, they are normally not judged by the number of goals they provide but by the number of key passes they provide.
  •  Dribbling. A fullback needs to dribble when facing the opposition’s defenders. This is a necessary skill for all attack minded players.
  • Ability to read the game and positional awareness to avert any danger from the opposing side.
  • Tackling. There are defense-minded so they should be able to tackle the ball from the strikers.

Soccer Position: Wingbacks

 They are fullbacks who are more attacking minded. They are relieved of defensive duties. They are common for a team with a formation with three centre-backs. 

Roles Of A Wingback

 A wingbacks role is rather like to contribute a little to the defense and a little to the attack. They are like wingers but are not accomplished, wingers. They have good control of the ball. They are also used in throw-ins.

Characteristics Of A Good Wingback

  •  They need to be athletic. This is needed because of their work efforts for the team. They run up and down the wing, the effort and concentration needed here are very high than any other part for a formation using wingbacks. 
  •  Dribbling. There are like wingers therefore if they can dribble past the opposition fullbacks they are able to hurt them. They also need to have other technical skills such as good crosses that can hurt the opposing side. 
  •  Good positional awareness. The position is always demanding. You have to know when to push or defend. Otherwise, you might end up making the wrong decisions that might cost the team.
  • Good distribution of the ball. This is a requirement for nearly every team player in modern football. Good distribution of the ball relieves the team off unnecessary pressure.

What Differentiates A Wingback From A Fullback? 

 As you are reading this you might discover that the roles of a wingback are nearly similar to that of a fullback. In fact, in modern football, their functions are nearly equal. The modern football demands a lot from players. So what differentiates the two? 

  •  The role of a fullback is to defend than to offer support to the attack. A wingbacks role is to attack though they can help the defense out sometimes. That is their role is to run through the wing. 
  •  The formation in which they can play. A wingback plays under a formation with three center-backs while a fullback plays under a formation with four defenders at the back. 

Importance Of Wingbacks 

 Wingbacks are wingers who have more defensive responsibilities. And are very important to a team in a team. Modern football has attached a lot of importance to defending. In fact, defending starts with the striker. Wingbacks are an additional cover for the defense. Having wingbacks helps to stretch the field and adds value to the attack. 

Soccer Position: Midfield

 Defense does not end with the center-backs, fullbacks and wingbacks it extends up to the midfielders. The midfield is always referred to as the engine of the team. The midfield players are holding midfielders center midfielders, attacking midfielders and wide midfielders. 

Holding midfielders and center midfielders are the ones who are involved with most of the defensive works. Attacking midfielders and wide midfielders contribute mostly to the attack though most are allowed to track back on the time the team is under pressure. 

Holding midfielders: Also referred to as defensive midfielders.

Roles Of A Defensive Midfielder 

 A defensive midfielder will always stay close to the defenders. Their main role is to protect the goal. They also take the positions of fullbacks and wingbacks when they move to the attack. 

It’s wise to say that they rarely move to the attack. Otherwise, this is a risky movement it might leave the defense open. They will normally have a low goal tally compared to wingbacks and fullbacks. 

 Due to defensive midfielders having low awareness about the attack chemistry, it’s easier for a center back to take up the defensive role or a defensive midfielder to take up a center back role if need be. There is no big difference between the two. 

Qualities Of A Good Defensive Midfielder 

  •  Have a good discipline. A defensive midfielder always needs to avoid to move to the attack no matter how good it might look. This midfielder needs to be disciplined and know their role. 
  •  Have a good tackling ability. A defensive with a good tackling ability is able to win back the possession from the opposing side very quickly which can be used by attacking minded players to launch a counter-attack. 
  •  Reading the game. This is very vital especially if the team is to prevent counterattacks. Most of the times it’s the fullbacks and holding midfielders who stay behind when taking set pieces. Center forwards go forward to attack the ball. The opposition might take advantage of this and start a counter-attack. In such a case a good holding midfielder with an excellent ability to read the game will be able to stop the counter.
  • Should anticipate what the opposition might do next. This is also very helpful during a counter attack. 

Importance Of Holding Midfielders

Unlike the other midfielder less attention is given to the holding midfielders this is because most people like the attacking minded players. Holding midfielders are therefore very important if a team is to win and keep clean sheets. 

 A holding midfielder breaks the opposition’s attacks as soon as it starts. This is vital and makes defending easy. Sometimes they have to press high up which requires a lot of effort. For this, they still have to be appreciated for this wonderful work rate. 

Central Midfielders

 They are sometimes referred to as box-to-box midfielders. Because they are always at the heart of everything they help out the defense and the attack. In layman’s terms, they are always in each box wherever the ball is. 

Roles Of A Central Midfielder 

 Through their energy in moving high up the field, they are able to offset the opponents passing. This will also disrupt the opposition’s game plan. 

They are also the distributors of passes to their team through their vision they are able to identify the unmarked players. Due to this all central midfielder are always good with ball control, can shield the ball and even dribble. 

They generally have a lot of stamina and work tirelessly. This position too requires discipline and the ability to read the game effectively. 

Qualities Of A Good Midfielder 

  • Should have a good shooting ability. Sometimes the ball is near a central midfielder and the defenders are focused on the strikers. In such a case this midfielder has to shoot the ball. A good central midfielder should be able to shoot the ball on target and able to score. 
  • A good passer. The central midfielder’s sole purpose is the distribution of the ball. Should be able to distribute it wisely that it relieves pressure wisely or starts an attack.
  •  A good dribbler. Most of the time the central midfielder is between two or more opposition players. Having a good dribbling skill will enable the midfielder to retain the ball and distribute it to other players.
  • Sometimes the midfielder is under pressure in such circumstances he/she needs to play the ball very quickly. Playing the ball quickly in your own half will also lead to a counter-attack.

Attacking Midfielders

 They play close to the striker and up ahead of the central midfielder. Some of the best attacking midfielders are Mesut Ozil and Kevin Be Bruyne. The great Lionel Messi also plays this position. 

Role Of The Attacking Midfielders

 Attacking midfielders are the players that command the attacking of your team. They are the ones that offer the killer pass. Though it’s still not an offense for them to score. They rarely feature when the team is defending. This could explain why they are often referred to as lazy players. 

They are a great asset for a team that wants to attack. Often the creative responsibilities are left for them. They are the thinkers of the team when the team is attacking. An attacking midfielder has to be very good at their job. Most, if a team is found to not score the criticism, will fall under these players. 

 They take the set pieces for the team due to their attacking-minded nature, good vision and good control of the ball most teams use them to take set pieces such as corners and free kicks. In some teams, they can take the penalty that is awarded during play. 

What Are The Qualities Of A Good Attacking Midfielder? 

  • Good dribbling skills. We mentioned earlier that anyone involved with the attack should be good at dribbling. 
  • Have a good first touch of the ball. A good first touch is essential in this position because most of the time defenders will be around the midfielder. Therefore with a good first touch and good dribbling skills, they are able to control the ball. 
  • Shooting. A good attacking midfielder should also be capable of shooting from time to time when the opportunity is right. They should never be afraid of shooting the ball.
  • Off the ball movement. These players are mostly targeted by most teams if they want to stop the opponent’s game plan. Therefore the time when the team doesn’t have the ball their movements is important in thwarting away their opponents. Also by getting into good positions, they are able to provide that killer pass or score goals. A good position is key for an attacking midfielder.
  • They should also have a good judgment on the weight that they are going to put on a pass so that the other players can get the ball 

 It always takes a special player to play this role. They have to ensure that every touch they make always leads to creating pressure for the opponents. Also being an attacking player needs to have good control and a pass of the ball. It’s never easy at this position that is why it needs a very special person. 

Soccer Position: Wingers

 A winger is always an attacking midfielder in the wide positions. There two wingers in every team the left and right wingers. These are the playing positions that you would have wanted to play when you were young. 

Wingers are very well known in football history. In fact, most of the great footballers were wingers. A good example of a famous football who is a winger is Gareth Bale. 

Roles Of Wingers 

 While the traditional was strict on each player’s position, modern soccer requires that each player should also help out in defense or in the attack. That is the team attacks and defends as a unit. The same goes for a winger they should be able to link up well with a fullback. 

That is when the fullback is in advance positions the winger should fall slightly behind. A good understanding is key for a team. Even if they are involved with defensive duties their main role still remains to support the attack. 

Qualities Of A Good Winger 

  • They should be able to dribble the ball in one-on-one situations. 
  • Most teams would like wingers who are very pacey so that they can take advantage of a counter attack. 
  • Crossing. Wingers cut from their sides and supply a good cross to the strikers. The quality of this cross will determine if they are going to score.
  • Athleticism. A winger’s job is not easy they have to track down to defense most of the time this requires a lot of energy for the person. 

Soccer Position: Strikers

 The main role of the team for scoring falls on the striker. They are among the most recognized players in a football team. So many forms of strikers are used by different teams, for instance, others will opt for a center forward while some would prefer the use of a false 9. But the scoring responsibility does not change with either of the two chosen but it’s a little bit easier for the false 9. 

Center Forward

 This player’s main role is to score a goal. They, therefore, are involved with aerial duels with most of the defenders. They are normally upfield and if they drop to defend they are the first line of defense. The role of a striker is never an easy one. Defenders always target the strikers and will do everything to deny the striker the ball. 

They do this by tackling the ball or stopping the supply of the ball to the striker. It’s for this reason that some teams require a center forward who has a very strong physical body and tall to be able to win aerial balls and protect the ball. This type of striker can hold up the ball and link up well with the wingers. 

This big center forwards is common for teams which don’t expect to catch their team’s off-guard. A speedy striker will signal a change in the attacking plan such teams with speedy wingers use counter-attacks more often. 

 A good striker should be able to shoot more often and should never shy away. Their finishing needs to be great if they are to be appreciated. In fact, the measure of how good a striker is is always in term of how many goals they have scored. Good dribbling and positioning is also an advantage for them. 

False 9

 These strikers are common in a system using three attackers. They normally do not function as a striker. They are like an attacking midfielder or playmaker. They are therefore creators of most of the team’s goals. The goal scoring burden is normally shared among the three attackers. 

 This position confuses defenders as they struggle to know who to pick up or who to mark. Thus they can easily create space in the opposition’s defense. A good false 9 should also have a good dribbling skill to get out of tricky situations, a shot, and a good vision to be able to create chances for the other players. 

Final Thoughts

 We have taken a look at various soccer positions in this article. You should note that these positions are not static. Players can shift to any position depending on the circumstances. Pep Guardiola has always been known to preferring to play players who are so versatile. 

That is a defender can be a striker and a striker can be a defender. This show how the football world is being revolutionized. But we agree that all the positions require a player who is very athletic and with the ability to read the game wisely. The modern football is so demanding. 

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Last updated on 05/27/2020 7:41 pm

About the author

Lazy Legs

"I learned all about life with a ball at my feet." Soccer allows me to push the limits of creativity and express myself without saying a word. Soccer is my addiction. I train, I play, and I repeat every single day. I hope you like my site. Feel free to say hey. I don't bite. :)

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