Soccer positions and the players role in soccer formations

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Soccer formations

Soccer formations are the the way the eleven players are stationed on the pitch. There are so many formation that you can’t really put a hold on all of them in a single article.

Soccer formation evolved with the evolution of the game. We witness soccer coaches genius when it come to assembling and putting their players on the field to fight for the badge.

The diversity of the Soccer formation guarantee the beauty of the game. As a simple spectator or a football analyst you can easily identify and distinguish formations that are attack oriented and others that are more focused on defending.

One should not confuse soccer formations and tactics. The last is the way the formation is animated and how every single component of the soccer formation move and place itself so it can draw the most of the soccer formation.

Tactics are what distinguish and make the difference between two coaches playing the same formation. It is what make soccer one of the most versatile sports in the world as two teams playing the same formation doesn’t necessary mean that we’ll witness the same build-up in the attacking phases and the same structure while defending.

The variety of formations is only limited by the number of players allowed on the pitch, so don’t be surprised to see a range of setups and strategies employed. The overarching responsibilities for each position on the field stay the same, but it is the ability to flow as a unit and show creativity that truly makes soccer a beautiful game.

There are defensive and offensive formations, and any given formation may be more or less successful, depending on the other team’s setup. You’ll notice that the number of players in a formation only adds up to 10. That’s because the formations only relate to field players and exclude the goalie.

Typically, these field players are broken out into three key zones, with the formation being set up from back to front (defence to midfield to forward). That means a 4-4-2 formation has four defensive players, four midfielders and two forwards.

Sometimes coaches will divide the three main sections further, causing formations such as a 1-4-3-2, with one sweeper, four defensive players, three midfielders and two forwards; or a 4-4-1-1, which has four defenders, four midfielders, one second striker and one striker.

The founding structure and the first element the coaches consider when making their tactics and choosing their formations are the players and their positioning on the field. Eleven players, each with specifics to his position and special role in the structure of every formation.


A number is assigned to each position. When you apply numbers to specific formations, you can better identify where players line up on the field. Here’s how the positions are typically numbered:

1– Goalkeeper
2– Right Fullback
3– Left Fullback
4– Center Back
5– Center Back (or Sweeper, if used)
6– Defending/Holding Midfielder
7– Right Midfielder/Winger
8– Central/Box-to-Box Midfielder
9– Striker
10– Attacking Midfielder/Playmaker
11– Left Midfielder/Wingers

The goalkeeper or the soccer goalie

Usually the last line of defence to stop the opponent from scoring, this player protects the net. Also known as the keeper or goalie, this is the only player allowed to use their hands and arms to block shots and pick up the ball while the game’s in play.

These special rules only apply in the designated penalty area. When a goalie steps outside their penalty box, they must function like a regular field player. Also, they cannot use their hands to play the ball if a teammate passes it directly to them during gameplay or off a throw-in.

Soccer goalies wear specialized soccer goalie gear, including gloves, and often opt for long sleeves for additional protection. They wear a different colour jersey than the rest of the team, so everyone on the field can tell them apart from other positions.

As the goalie you will be the last one who can stop your opponent’s from scoring. You must therefore make as few mistakes as possible.

You need also to keep yourself calm even when you fail. To maintain your calm in difficult situations you will need a great personality and also ability to infect your teammates with your own confidence.

Your job will not be easy. A single mistake may cost your team the victory. It is therefore critical to always be on your guard because the opponent’s will do everything they can to get the ball past you.

Your teammates know that saving a penalty kick is a pretty difficult task but they are still hoping that you will make it. If you manage to save the ball against all odds you will be a hero, if not you will be no good.

You should also be in constant contact with the ball during your training in order to develop your agility, reflexes and reactions.

Right and left Fullback (LB ,RB)

These are the rear defenders on the left and right sides of the field, also referred to as outside fullbacks. They usually play wide to protect the sides of the field, but they can also assist with protecting the Center as needed. These players will often move up and down the field to help with offensive plays.

Full-backs, who play on either side of the defence, have quite a varied role. Their main job is to stop the opposition attacking in wide areas and to support the central defenders.

A decent fullback that can defend, read the game well and understand his positional role, as well as have a decent engine to get up to assist in the transition from defence to attack and provide accurate passing and crossing when required can be a huge asset to any team


Center Back

Also known as the central defender, Center fullback or stopper, this position plays in the middle of the rear defensive line. A 4–4–2 formation will have two Center backs, which will hang back to protect the goal.

Your position on the soccer field will be in the centre of your defensive line. Depending on the formation some teams choose to play with two stoppers in conjunction.

Possessing good technique is necessary when playing this position, especially when serving your teammates with cross passes where precision and accuracy is a must.

The most important skill as fullback is to have good heading ability and courageousness in one-on-one battles. Keep in mind that your opponents will do everything to score, which requires you to do everything you can to stop them from doing that.

Many great players have played on the Center Back position. One of the greatest is Franco Baresi, who played for the mighty AC MILAN for twenty seasons. Fabio Cannavaro who was voted as the best FIFA player in 2006 and was awarded the European Golden Ball award.

Defending/Holding Midfielder

Also known as a holding midfielder, they play directly in front of the defenders. They are responsible for keeping the ball outside of their zone, intercepting the other team’s passes, getting the ball away from the opponent and helping their offensive line by keeping the ball in the other team’s zone, managing rebounds and passing forward. In a 3-4-3 formation, the 4 will flank the 6 as the two holding midfielders.

Your main tasks include roaming laterally from sideline to sideline, pressuring your opponents to make mistakes, allowing you to win the ball back for your team.Also to win every possible duel on the midfield. In the offence you need to stay behind your attacking line, collect rebounds and upcoming miss-kicks.

You must also try to make supporting runs and provide back pass options for your teammates. This is especially important when the ball is out of play and near the sideline of the soccer field.

Some greatest players have played as defensive midfielder. One of the greatest in today’s soccer is the Italian Pitbull Gennaro Gattuso who led his Italy to victory in World Cup 2006.


Left/Right Midfielder (LM, RM)

Also known as wingers or outside midfielders, these players will stay wide, helping pull the opponent’s defence to the outside to create space for their offensive line.

They should have strong 1-vs.-1 skills as they’ll have to get around the other team’s left and right fullbacks and/or wing-backs. These players most likely won’t have the ball much during a game but will instead look for ways to transition the ball forward via cross passes to offensive teammates or by taking shots on goal themselves.

They must hustle and have plenty of stamina to keep up with gameplay. Due to their role on the field, wingers are sometimes grouped into offensive or forward positions.

As a winger you’ll be forced to perform well both in defence and offence which requires a lot of energy.The main duties will consist of serving forwards and strikers with quality crosses, scoring goals and of course participating in the team’s defence when the opponents are in the possession of the ball.

Strength is not crucial for this position as it is for the other positions (e.g. fullback or defensive midfielder). However, they need to be fast, both with and without the ball. As I mentioned above, you will often need to perform long runs up and down without even having the ball at your feet.

Attacking Midfielder (AM)

The attacking midfielder sits between the midfield and the offensive line. They must know how to score goals and dribble well to avoid the opponent’s defenders. They should attack the ball when the other team is in possession and not hang back like other positions on the field.

This position is often seen as the conductor in offensive plays, directing the ball and creating scoring opportunities. They are the playmakers.

To perform well on this position you will need to have exceptional skills with the ball (e.g. dribbling, passing, shooting). You also need to be creative and find unexpected solutions to confuse your opponents. Also, having strong mentality and be able to encourage your teammates is also very important.

The great thing with this position is that you will always be in the centre of the action. However, there are drawbacks as well For example, you will get the whole blame when your team fails to play well in the offence. You also need to be prepared that your opponents will use all kind of measurements to stop you.


Central Midfielder (CM)

Often considered the most hard-working role, this player has to be ready for action and can play both defensively and offensively, depending on where the ball is. They are responsible for distributing the ball to other players, so it’s vital that they have exceptional ball handling and passing skills.

When on the attack, they often take long shots on goal to help the offence. To fit a team’s strategy, they will sometimes line up with the 6 in a more defensive position or with the 10 in a more offensive formation.

Center Forward

Center forwards and strikers can often be synonymous. They must focus on scoring, whether this means dribbling past opponents when they have the ball or ensuring they stay open for a pass when they don’t. Being able to head the ball accurately can really come in handy here.

Playing as centre forward requires a brave tough and aggressive mentality combined with 100% focus. You also need to be prepared to work hard without even receiving the ball.

The thing is that the game without ball is equally important as the game with the ball. Just because you don’t have the ball at your feet doesn’t mean that you should jog around while watching your teammates chasing the opponents. Instead, you must always put your opponents under pressure and cut passing alternatives in order to force them to mistakes.


This player positions themselves nearest to the other team’s goal, in front of the Center forward. A striker’s primary role is to score. Their teammates will try to pass to them often and there is constant pressure from the other team’s defence, so they should be fast enough to outrun defenders and possess quick footwork and precise ball handling to be most effective.

When the other team’s defence is in possession of the ball, strikers should apply pressure to increase the defender’s chances of making a mistake.

Your mission as soccer striker is simply to score on every offensive attack. This is of course impossible, but you should try to score as often you can.

To increase you goal scoring you must always think and be faster than your opponents. Running fast as soccer striker is a big advantage but of course there are successful strikers in today’s soccer that do not run with the ball under 12 seconds but they are few.


Second Striker

When used, they sit right behind the Center forward and are mainly responsible for setting up scoring opportunities for other attackers. They should be able to shield the ball from the other team and hold them off while waiting for their teammates to position themselves for a good shot.

As with any offensive position, second strikers should shoot on goal when they have the chance and possess good ball skills. Heading can also be very important in this position.

To succeed as second striker you will need to have exceptional ball skills ( shooting, passing and dribbling). You will also need to be good at heading and even know how to score goals. Beside that you need to be strong in order to hold off your opponents and shield the ball while waiting for your teammates to catch up.


Think about each position as one part in a well-oiled machine — each part has a specific job to do in order for that machine to function properly. When everyone on the field does their job, the team can work together seamlessly and experience more fluid gameplay.

Every position has a different job to do in order to keep the team machine in tip-top shape. For younger players, knowing what’s expected of them is an especially essential component of building their soccer skills. That does not mean, however, that players may only stay in a specific zone or take on a completely limited set of responsibilities. As the individual player and team grows and becomes more skilled, they can get more creative and bring more fluidity to their style of play. Check out these general guidelines for defensive, midfield and offensive positions.


One comment

  1. I like the way that you go over some of the formations that a team can play in soccer. I also like how you go over what every position on the field is and what their role on the field is. I think this is good for the people that are learning to play a position and for people who are wondering what someone is doing while playing the position.


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