- By Brandon
Current Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi once said, “The best decisions aren’t made with your mind, but with your instinct.” The best way to garner one’s instincts is through practice and confidence in the position you’re placed. However, with the variety of positions on the soccer pitch, it can be difficult to perfect these instincts. In this article, I’ll help give you an idea of the skillsets required for each position.
There are many attributes that go into an effective goalkeeper. One of the most obvious ones is physical ability. While goalkeepers can come in smaller sizes, it is usually best to have one of decent height. With this said, leaping ability and reaction time is important. You have to be able to reach those balls dipping just under the crossbar and not be afraid to come off your line as the opposition attacks. Another key attribute is upper body strength. On crosses or corners, there is going to be battles in the air. As a goalkeeper, you need to win in the air and either control the ball or punch it to safety.
As a goalkeeper, you ought to serve as a coach on the pitch. Being the last player back, you’ll have a view of the entire field and should be able to position defenders in appropriate places. In order to be a successful goalkeeper, you must be able to admit failures. In order to have all your teammates on one page, their trust and respect is needed. If you’re constantly blaming them for goals or shots on goal, then it’ll be difficult to achieve this level of respect. In the end, the goalkeeper position requires players that are both physically talented and possess valuable cerebral skills.
The outside fullback position requires you to play both ways, helping out in the offensive and defensive sides. At the same time, speed and pace is essential in keeping up with the other team’s wingers. If you’ve ever seen Patrice Evra (pictured) or Danny Alves play, you’ll recognize this in no time. As fullbacks take the ball up the side in attack, they’ll need the technical skills to serve a lofted ball into box. As a result, fullbacks should always be comfortable with the ball at their feet. Meanwhile, on the defensive side, fullbacks should be able to clear the ball easily and stay composed in tight situations. Ultimately, with the outside fullback position, you’re looking for a player possessing composure and significant soccer ability.
Center backs are often the face of the defense. They are the big, physical players that have terrific upper body and lower body strength. The upper body is utilized in challenging for aerial passes, whereas the lower body is needed to tackle attacking players and clearances. Center backs can’t be afraid to be vocal on the pitch, as they’ll communicate between the other defenders to keep everyone in line. Finally, they must be able to act as a complementary player to their fellow center back.
While you can technically break down the center midfield position into an attacking and holding midfielder, for the sake of this argument, I’ll just discuss the position as a whole. I’ve often heard the center midfielder described as the quarterback of a soccer team and that is a very accurate statement. Center midfielders desperately need versatility. They must be able to help in a wide variety of areas. First and foremost, ball handling is essential as they are constantly receiving, possessing, and then distributing the ball. In doing so, it isn’t difficult to understand why they’re some of the calmest players on the field. If you watch the United States women’s national team, you’ll see that Lauren Holiday and Morgan Brian always seem to have the necessary composure when the game tenses up. Basically, they need to be at least mediocre in every area. You never know where they’ll end up during a game.
Also known as wide midfielders, wingers need to possess above-average speed, be great on the ball, and deliver accurate and consistent passes. In addition to the speed required, they’ll need to be tremendously conditioned as they should be able to play both sides of the ball. With this being the case, wingers have to be a bit more selfless. You can’t become stubborn after you do a ton a work that nobody sees. It’s just part of the job.
Finally, a good first step and confident playing style is needed. Possessing an explosive first step will allow wingers to beat a defender in a one-on-one scenario and get a cross sent into the box. At the same time, the confidence is needed to take on the opposition in one-on-one situations.
Usually, the striker position is the one that gets all the love. They score the goals and get all of the attention. Despite all this enjoyment, it is also a technically-difficult position. One of the skills required is the ability to play with your back to the goal. This will either set up a turnaround shot for yourself or a lay-off pass to the attacking midfielder.
Next, strikers can’t be hesitant to pull the trigger once an opening presents itself. Failing to be decisive in these moments can be the difference between a goal and a turnover. They need to be technically-gifted. This includes ball control, passing, and hitting the appropriate first touch.
Lastly, a short memory can be quite helpful. Even at the highest levels of soccer, I’ve seen strikers miss a couple of potential goals and let it affect their entire game for weeks. You can’t let this happen if you expect to be a starting striker.
Whether you refer to it as a second forward or a withdrawn striker, this player is utilized as an additional attacker in a 4-4-2 formation. In order to excel here, you must balance terrific skills in two areas: passing and technical ability. Passing is required in order to feed the striker in positions where they can put the ball in the back of the net. At the same time, strikers may back-pass the ball to the second forward in an attacking situation. In these scenarios, the forward must be technically-sound enough to control the ball and either fire a shot or pass it out to the flank to an attacking winger.
Choose What Fits You
As you can see from the above sections, each of these soccer positions require different skillsets. Whether it’s the goalkeeper’s communication skills or the center back’s physical dominance or the striker’s goal scoring ability, each position should be filled by varying talents. My best advice is to pick one that fits you and run with it. By this, I mean you should perfect the attributes required to excel at the position and carefully observe professionals occupying the same position.