Player positions in football help us to know the proper position of players on the field. Unlike individual sports such as tennis and its likes, most team sports such as rugby, cricket, basketball, and football involve well over three players per team. The essence of a team is to work together to achieve a singular goal: win games. This sole objective of winning games cannot be achieved without teamwork. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines teamwork as “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.” Looking at this definition, a sports team can be likened to a well oiled- machine, with each part performing different and specific functions.
PLAYER POSITIONS IN FOOTBALL
One feature we see in an efficient machine is the organization of the parts. Machine parts are positioned in such a way that efficiency is maximized. Can you imagine the exhaust pipe of a car being positioned inside the car? As it is for a machine, so it is for a football team. A standard football team consists of 11 professional players minus the coach, technical staff, and substitutes. For effective teamwork, these 11 players are positioned in such a way that facilitates and enables efficiency. With each position having specific duties attached to them, only football players with specific qualities can fit into these positions. A good example is the wide midfield position. Either on the left or on the right, a player positioned in the wide midfield should possess good acceleration, searing pace, dribbling skills, good crossing or centre to mention but a few.
When each position with the qualities required to fill them are considered, it is obvious that a football team is a typical heterogeneous mix. In this article, we will be exploring these positions so you as a lover of football can get acquainted with them.
This is the only player with the privilege of using their hands except for back passes and outside the 18-yard box. The goalkeeper is also allowed to use his hands if he is taking a throw-in. The goalkeeper is the last assurance and the line of defence in a football team and is the most defensive position in football as it typically has no outfield duties other than to stop the ball from crossing the goal line. When a penalty is given against a team, all thing being equal, only the goalkeeper is saddled with the responsibility of keeping the opposition from scoring. Many goalkeepers have brought joy to their team, fulfilling this role. The heroics of Dele Ajiboye at the 2007 U-17 FIFA World Cup final penalty shootout is still fresh in the memories of many Nigerians that watched that game.
While goalkeepers generally stop goals, there are some goalkeepers with astonishing goalscoring records that will even make some strikers envious. The most recent in contemporary times in this elite class of goalkeepers are Rogerio Ceni (Brazil) and José Luis Chilavert (Paraguay). Rogerio Ceni is the record holder for most goals scored by a goalkeeper with a mouthwatering 131 goals. He is followed by Luis Chilavert, who had a haul of 67 goals in his playing days. He is the record holder for most international goals scored by a goalkeeper (8) and the only goalkeeper with most goals in a single game; a hat-trick (three penalties) scored for Velez Sarsfield against Ferro Carril Oeste. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the goalkeeper wears a different colored jersey from his teammates and wears gloves.
The full-back is positioned on the left or right side of the defence. For good balance in a team, a right full-back is usually right-footed, and the left full-back is usually left-footed. As a defender, the full-back is to mark out the wingers from the opposition side primarily. On the offensive side, a full-back provides support and for the winger in front of him. Full-backs also make overlapping runs most of the times to the byline of the opposing side so as to send crosses into their box and create goalscoring opportunities. Most full-backs in modern football are also saddled with the responsibility of taking throw-ins. Important qualities for a full-back includes good positioning in defence, accurate timing of overlapping runs, good crossing ability, and quick defensive recovery. Phillip Lahm, Gary Neville, Cafu, and Dani Alves are well known for playing in this position.
The wing-back is an advanced version of the full-back. Unlike the full-back, the wing-back is positioned on either side of the midfield and play higher up the pitch. The wing-back position comes to play when team coaches or managers switch to three central defenders in their formation. The 3-4-3 and the 3-5-2 set up are the most common three central defenders pairing in modern football. In this formation, the wing-back like the full-back makes overlapping runs to deliver crosses and marks out opposition wingers when necessary. They also take throw-ins. Since the forward players play more centrally, the modern wing-back is expected to hog the touchline so as to provide sufficient width for the team. The renaissance man in the use of wing-backs in recent times is Antonio Conte with other managers following in his footstep especially in the 2016/2017 premier league season.
The centre-back position exists in a pairing. A modern football formation set up has at least two centre-backs. The centre-backs are positioned centrally around the 18-yard box. They are usually tall and physically imposing. An ideal centre-back pairing consists of a stopper and a sweeper. The stopper is expected to mark out opposition strikers and usually stick close to them for a subtle form of man-marking. The sweeper is more of a thinker and performs in a proactive manner. The sweeper is expected to read the game from a deeper position and fill any breach made in the defence. In modern football, centre-backs go high up the pitch as aerial threats during set-pieces.
The Defensive Midfielder
Popularly referred to as destroyers or midfield enforcers, the defensive midfielder is a defensive shield. He sits right in front of the defence as a guardian. A modern defensive midfielder is expected to be physically strong and cover for teammates when they go forward. The defensive midfielder is expected to break up opposition attack by making interceptions and tackles. Modern defensive midfielders are rated by their statistics in interceptions and successful tackles made. Players such as Idrissa Gueye, Wilfried Ndidi, Kante and Casemiro are few of the many players making waves in this position.
The Central Midfielder
Often referred to as box-to-box players. Central midfielders are a perfect blend of a defensive midfielder and an attacking midfielder. With their operation mainly looked out for in their box and the opposition’s box, central midfielders are positioned in the middle of the park and are expected to track back to support the defensive midfielders in making tackles, and blocking shots. They maintain possession, dictate the tempo of games, and attack the opposition’s box to score goals. A typical example of players in this position is former Arsenal midfield dynamo Aaron Ramsey, Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos and former Tottenham Hotspur’s stalwart Moussa Dembele.
The Attacking Midfielder
Historically referred to like the number 10 position, attacking midfielders are the creative hub of a football team. In modern football, they are positioned behind the strikers, and they dictate the play from there. They are to create goalscoring chances for the attackers by making laser-guided passes. Modern-day attacking midfielders are also required to have great awareness to read the movements of teammates into dangerous attacking positions, especially the striker. While they are also expected to have an eye for goal, attacking midfielders’ potency is graded by their assists. Players like Mesut Ozil and Luka Modric are worthy mentions in this role.
The Wide Midfielder
The most common formation in modern-day football is the 4-2-3-1. This set up largely utilizes most wingers as wide midfielders. Wide midfielders line up on either side of the midfield and are to provide width for their teams. They provide a defensive shield for the full-backs behind them when their team is not in possession of the ball. They are also effective when a team is playing a high pressing game. Speed, stamina, and dribbling skills are crucial qualities of wide midfielders. Players like Poldoski, Ronaldo, Gervinho have all occupied this position at different times in their careers.
This position is historically associated with the number 9 jersey. Strikers are saddled primarily with one responsibility: to score goals. Of all positions, the striking position is the closest to opposition goals and are always closely watched by opposition centre-backs. Strikers are usually physically strong, pacey, and maximize any opportunity to shoot at goal. They also hold the ball high up the pitch so as to bring their teammates especially runners from midfield into the game. Different strikers are known with different styles of play. Some are good with their feet, some with the head and some even like to play from deep positions.
Read More: Player Positions In Basketball
Conclusion On Player Positions In Football
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