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Football positions

Football positions

In the sport of association football, each of the eleven players on a team is assigned to a particular position on the field of play. A team is made up of one goalkeeper and ten outfield players who fill various defensive, midfield and attacking positions depending on the formation deployed. These positions describe both the player's main role and their area of operation on the pitch.

Defender

Defenders play behind the midfielders and their primary responsibility is to provide support to the team and to prevent the opposition from scoring a goal. They usually remain in the half of the field that contains the goal they are defending. Taller defenders will move forward to the opposing team's penalty box when their team takes corner kicks or free kicks, where scoring with one's head is a possibility.

Center-Back

The job of the center-back is to stop opposing players, particularly the strikers, from scoring and to bring the ball out from their penalty area. As their name suggests, they play in the central position. Most teams employ two center-backs, stationed in front of the goalkeeper. There are two main defensive strategies used by center-backs: the zonal defense, where each center-back covers a specific area of the pitch, and man-to-man marking, where each center-back has the job of covering a particular opposition player.

Cener-backs are often tall and have good jumping, heading and tackling ability. Successful center-backs also need to be able to concentrate, read the game well and be brave and decisive in making last-ditch tackles on attackers who might otherwise be through on goal. Sometimes, particularly in lower leagues, center-backs concentrate less on ball control and passing, preferring simply to clear the ball in a "safety-first" fashion. However, there is a long tradition of center-backs having more than just rudimentary footballing skill, enabling a more possession-oriented playing style.

Center-backs will usually go forward for set piece corners and free-kicks, where their height and jumping ability give them an aerial goal threat, while defensive duties are covered by full-backs. Once the set piece is complete, they will retreat to their own half.

Sweeper

The sweeper is a more versatile type of center-back that "sweeps up" the ball if the opponent manages to breach the defensive line. Their position is rather more fluid than other defenders who mark their designated opponents. The sweeper's ability to read the game is even more vital than a center-back.

Full-Back

The left-back and the right-back, generally referred to as full-backs, are the defenders stationed either side of the center-backs to provide protection from attacking wide players. Full-backs traditionally do not go up to support the attack but may move up as far as the half way line depending on the defensive line being held. In the modern game, they have a tendency to prefer the use of attacking full-back role though they are more often than still not referred to as right or left backs.

Wing-Back

The wing-back are defenders with heavier emphasis on attack and are usually employed as part of a 3-5-2 formation, and can therefore be considered part of the midfield when a team is attacking. They may also be used in a 5-3-2 formation and therefore have a more defensive role. The wing-back role is one of the most physically demanding positions in modern football and are often more adventurous than traditional full-backs and are expected to provide width, especially in teams without wingers. A wing-back needs to be of exceptional stamina, be able to provide crosses upfield and then defend effectively against an opponent's attack down the flanks. A defensive midfielder is usually fielded to cover the advances of an opponent's wing-back.

Midfielder

Midfielders (originally called half-backs) are players whose position of play is midway between the attacking forwards and the defenders. Their main duties are to maintain possession of the ball, taking the ball from defenders and feeding it to the strikers as well as dispossessing opponents. Midfielders can be expected to cover many areas of the pitch, as at times they can be called back into defense or required to attack with the strikers. They are more often the players that initiate attacking play for a team.

Center Midfield

Central midfielders provide a link between defense and attack, fulfilling a number of duties and operating primarily in the middle third of the pitch. They will support their team's attacking play and endeavour to win the ball back on defense. A central midfielder is often an important initiator of attacks and can be sometimes described as a "playmaker". They will also offer an additional line of defense when the team is under sustained attack and when defending set pieces. Central midfielders are always busy in a game and are often therefore sometimes described as the engine room of the team.

Their central position enables them to have an all-round view of the match and since most of the action takes place in and around their area of the pitch, midfielders often exert the greatest degree of control over a match is played. A central midfielder is expected to have good vision, be adept at long and short passing and have great stamina because of the ground they cover in a game. They also need to be good at tackling to win the ball back.

Defensive Midfield

A defensive midfielder is a central midfielder who is stationed in front of the defenders to provide more defensive protection, thus "holding back" when the rest of the midfield supports the attack. The defensive midfielder screens the defense by harrying and tackling the opposition teams' attackers and defenders. They also help tactically, for instance, by directing opposing attacking players out to the wing where they have more limited influence, and by covering the positions of full-backs, other midfielders and even the center-backs if they charge up to support the attack.

Although the duties of defensive midfielders are primarily defensive, some midfielders are deployed as deep-lying playmakers, due to their ability to dictate temp from a deep position with their passing. Sometimes a defensive midfielder will be paired with a central midfielder who will act as a deep-lying playmaker. When ever the central midfielder ventures forward the defensive midfielder will hold back. Defensive midfielders require good positional sense, work rate, tackling ability and anticipation to excel. Most importantly, defensive midfielders require great stamina and need to possess good passing skills and close control to hold the ball in midfield under sustained pressure.

Attacking Midfield

An attacking midfielder is a midfield player who is positioned in an advanced midfield position, usually between central midfield and the team's forwards, and who has a primarily offensive role. According to positioning along the field, attacking midfield may be divided into left, right and central attacking midfield roles. These players typically serve as the offensive pivot of the team and are sometimes said to be "playing in the hole", although this term can also be used to describe the positioning of a deep-lying forward. Their main role is to create goal-scoring opportunities using super vision, control and technical skill.

The attacking midfielder is an important position that requires the player to possess superior technical abilities in terms of passing and perhaps, more importantly, the ability to read the opposing defense in order to deliver defense-splitting passers to strikers; in addition to their technical and creative ability, they are also usually quick, agile and mobile players, who aids them in beating opponents during dribbling runs.

Wide Midfield

A wide midfielder (left or right midfield, or generally side midfielder, historically called left-half, right-half or wing-half) is a midfielder who is stationed to be the left or right of central midfield. Though they are referred to as wingers, not all players in these positions are stereotypically speedy, touchline hugging players. Some tactical formations such as 4-3-3 have used central midfielders deployed in a wider position to provide width, more defensive protection and to help compress play in the opponents' half. They still support attacking play and sometimes be expected to act as a semi-winger.

Forward

Forwards (or strikers) are the players who are positioned nearest to the opposing team's goal and the primary responsibility of forwards are to score goals and to create scoring chances for other players. Forwards may also contribute defensively by harrying opposition defenders and goalkeepers whilst not in possession.

Center Forward

A center forward (main striker) has the key task of scoring goals and for this reason acts as the focal point of the majority of attacking play by a team. As such, how well a striker is performing tends to be measured purely on goals scored despite the fact that they may be contributing in other ways to the team's success. A traditional center forward was required to be tall in height and strong physically in order to able to win the ball in the area from crosses and attempt to score with either their feet or head, or to knock the ball down for a match score. Whilst these assets are still an advantage, in the modern games speed and movement are also required as there is more interplay when attacking.

Second Striker

The second striker (withdrawn striker or support striker) are often referred to as playing "in the hole". Second strikers tend not to be tall or as physically imposing as a center forward. They are required to be more "nippy", quick, mobile and skillful, helping to create goals and scoring opportunities for center forwards, utilizing spaces in the opposition's defense to provide passes to the strikers, picking up loose balls around the area or attempting to dribble with the ball and score themselves.

Winger

A winger (left winger and right winger) is an attacking player who is stationed in a wide position near the touchlines. A winger's main attribute is usually speed which is used to attack and dribble past opponent's full-backs in order to get behind the defense and then deliver crosses and passes into the center for their attackers. Occasionally left and right footed wingers may swap sides of the field as a tactical move to enable the winger to cut inside against the opposing full-backs weaker foot, looking for a shooting opportunity or just as a means of opening up the defense.

Goalkeeper

Goalkeeper is the most defensive position in football and their main job is to stop the other team from scoring by catching, palming or punching the ball from shots, headers and crosses. Unlike their teammates, goalkeepers typically remain in and around their own penalty area for most of the game. As a result, goalkeepers have a better view of the pitch and often give advice to their defense when the other team is on attack or during set pieces. Goalkeepers are the only players on the pitch who are allowed to handle the ball but this is restricted to their own penalty area. Positioning is another important job and is one of the hardest to master as keeper.

Goalkeepers must also wear a different colored kit from the outfielders and officials. Common colors include yellow, green, grey, black and shades of blue. Since the 1970's, goalkeepers would also typically wear specialized gloves. Caps were common between the 1910s and 1960's as well as woolly jumpers but these are not worn in any professional or semi-professional context today.

Player Styles

Goalkeeper

  • Shot Stopper:
  • Sweeper-Keeper:

Defensive

  • Attacking Full-Back:
  • Libero:
  • Stopper:

Midfield

  • Ball Winner:
  • Defensive Midfielder:
  • Creative Midfielder:
  • Box to Box:
  • Wide Midfielders:
  • Playmaker:
  • Midfield General:

Attacking

  • Dribbler:
  • Counter Attacker:
  • Clinical Finisher:
  • Target Man:
  • Goal Poacher:
  • False Nine:

Tactical Evolution