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Football Basics: Positions across the pitch

Football Basics: Positions

Much like every other team sport, football, too, is heavily dependent on the wide variety of skills, training, and chemistry offered by players on the pitch. Adding to that, with a plethora of tactics and formation integrated by managers and coaches, football, today, has gradually evolved from being a simple ‘pass and move’ sport to cultivate itself into a high-level, versatile, and demanding game both, on and off, the pitch.

Hence, this necessitates everyone involved – players and coaches – to develop a comprehensive understanding of the modern game, thus, allowing their knowledge to serve as sustenance for an exemplary career on the field. Compared to traditional pre-game preparations, the modern game has undergone numerous improvements. Amongst them, the willingness to develop players to seamlessly transition between roles on the pitch takes precedence at the grassroots level.

Thus, in this article, we take a look at the various position employed by players and explain the various roles carried out by them vis-à-vis skill, training, and adaptability on the pitch.

The Team

Football Basics: Positions
(Image Credits: Sky Sports)

Comprising of 11v11 players on the pitch, each team is required to include one goalkeeper and 10 outfield players on the pitch. With the keeper being the exception, every outfield player will be ordered to stick to a particular role or position vis-à-vis the tactics and formation deployed by the coaches.

These positions are usually employed in an attempt to nullify the strengths of the opposition or to simply play to a team’s strengths. The roles vary from defence, forward, and midfielder, with players needing at competing for, and developing themselves suited to a particular or multiple roles depending on the attributes they offer.

Further, their attributes serve as indicators for the level of performance, thus, lending the manager and coaches a marker of a player’s suitability to their system, vision, and footballing philosophy for a squad.


Football Basics: Positions
From left to right: Ronald Koeman, Carles Puyol, Marcel Desailly & Franz Beckenbauer (Image Credits: The Football)

Usually broken down into three major roles on the pitch, defenders are crucial to a team’s chances of not falling back on goals. While it’s the forwards who run away with the plaudits on most occasions, the backline is extremely crucial as it serves to be a foundation for the manager’s tactics and the team’s performance on the pitch.

A strong backline ideally comprises energetic full-backs and a complementing pair of centre-backs, while a vulnerable defence usually includes a makeshift defender or a player lacking positional sense subject to the team’s requirement on the pitch.

Centre-Back (CB)

Serving as the spinal foundation of the team, centre-backs are the primary enforcers in the backline. Strong, towering, and usually imposing in their demeanour, also known as centre-halves, the position is usually filled by two or three players depending on team formation.

In a back three, comprising a RCB, CB, and a LCB, the centre-halves usually comprise players suited to the role. Meanwhile, a traditional back four includes only two centre-backs, with the two players making up for their partner’s weaknesses – one is strong, bulky, and good in the air while the other is quick and good on the ball.

Full-Back (RB & LB)

The full-backs refer to the two wide defenders starring alongside each flank of the centre-halves. They include a right-back and a left-back, who are usually tasked with defending on the flanks and getting up and down the pitch subject to transitions during the game.

The players employing this role are usually versatile owing to their technical abilities, with many capable of serving as midfielders too, owing to their knack of crossing into the box and willingness to defend and contribute in the attacking build-up. The full-back role is usually carried out by a specialist player, though, many wingers have been known to transition into the role in the absence of a noteworthy full-back within the squad.

Wing-Back (RWB & LWB)

Though expected to contribute in defence, wing-backs are usually employed in a system reliant on exploiting space on the flanks and contributing to the attacking numbers in and around the opposition’s 18-yard-box. The role requires players to utilise their attacking instincts and majorly contribute in attack as opposed to defence.

Wing-Backs are usually deployed in a system comprising three centre-backs, with a wing-back offering the width to the two central strikers upfront. These players are excellent midfield options too, who can carry out the role of a wide-midfielder (RM & LM) with great efficiency while equally supplying the attack and contributing in defence.  They are also used to nullify attacking runs by the opposition’s full-back by pushing forward and reverting to a full-back position in a back five in defence.



Football Basics: Positions
(Image Credits:

Commonly regarded as the ‘Engine room’ of a team, the midfield is arguably the most important position on the pitch. The players deployed as midfielders operate in a wide variety of roles ranging from defence to attack and serve as a vital cog responsible for transitioning the ball team’s favour.

A dominating performance in the midfield positions usually results in a favourable outcome for the team, however, if the ‘Engine Room’ undergoes failure, it could probably result in devastating performance on the pitch.

Centre-Midfield (CM, RCM, LCM)

The centre-midfield position usually acts as leverage between attack and defence. It usually comprises of a box-to-box midfielder, capable of contributing in attack and defence, as well as a holding midfielder, who dictates the gameplay from midfield; serving as a link between the defenders and attacking players.

Central midfield is arguably the most disciplined role on the pitch, requiring players to possess special attributes indispensable to carrying out the role efficiently. These many include quick thinking, sumptuous technical ability, positional sense, and a good passing range among others.

Defensive-Midfield (CDM)

Responsible for orchestrating the tempo of the team’s transitions from back to front, a defensive midfielder is a vital link through the spine. Players employing this role are traditionally required to assist in defensive duties while also possessing the capability of transitioning the ball to the attacking players.

The role usually includes players capable of nullifying passing channels and commanding the midfield in transition. Their attributes comprise good passing ability, willingness to receive the ball, and ability to bind the midfield and defence together when faced with an attack. The position is traditionally filled by a ‘number six’, denoting their role in the team, while a CM can also be deployed in the role subject to a team’s quality on the pitch.

Attacking-Midfield (CAM, RAM, LAM)

The attacking midfield role refers to players deployed to heavily contribute in attack with little to no defensive duties on hand. Attacking midfielders are deployed between the CM’s and the forwards and serve as a link between the two.

The players employed in these roles are highly creative and boast supreme technical ability, capable of producing match-winning performances in crunch moments on the pitch. Also knows as a ‘number ten’, attacking midfielders can also serve as a second-striker, thus, making space in the attacking third for their teammates to exploit.

They are usually the team’s primary creative spark, responsible for creating goal-scoring opportunities and cutting through defensive lines in attack.


Football Basics: Positions
From left to right: Pele, George Best, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Johan Cruyff & Ronaldinho (Image Credits: Squidrito@youtube).

Usually comprised of star names on the team sheet, the forward position is the most coveted position on the pitch. The role includes players responsible to create goal-scoring opportunities, score goals and be a constant threat and dependent goal-scorer upfront.

This also includes defensive duties such as high-pressing the opposition and maintaining the shape of the team without possession. The forward line comprises players with unique abilities, who complement others’ attributes and are dependent on service from players across the pitch.

Striker (ST, RS, LS)

The focal point of a team, striker(s) are responsible for scoring the goals and sometimes contribute to the attacking-build up. The players deployed in the role are responsible for converting the chances created by their teammates, and search and exploit the opposition’s defensive weaknesses throughout the game.

The position usually requires players possessing key attributes such as, heading, positioning, movement, and shooting, among others, and also requires them to develop a working chemistry with surrounding attackers in the front-line. Strikers are usually dependent on service into the box, though many are also capable of serving as a ‘False 9’, denoting their willingness to drop into midfield and contribute to the attacking build-up.

Winger (RW, LW)

Probably the most swashbuckling of players on the pitch, wingers are generally responsible for creating width, exploiting spaces, and taking on defenders in the attacking third. The role requires a player to carry to be direct, carry the ball efficiently and create chances from the flank or cut in into the 18-yard-box. It also includes the responsibility to make runs beyond defenders, threaten on counter-attacks and assist the full-backs in defence.

The position requires a player to possess searing pace and/or equal technical ability to create chances from the flanks. Excellent ball delivery, direct runs, and stretching defences are the hallmarks of an exceptional winger, while the ability to score goals is considered a bonus over their existing attributes.

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