Football is a passion of mine so I love to hear new people getting involved with the sport, and I want to help as many people as I can when it comes to this. So I thought to myself, if I was a beginner and I wanted to get into the sport, what would be my biggest questions. One of these questions was ‘What football position am I?’.
I can imagine it is hard when starting out to choose a position because the media is so focused on scoring goals, strikers and all attacking based things. Me personally, I am a defensive midfielder when playing 11 a-side and for my 6 a-side team I am a Centre Back, and I love playing both these positions much more than I do playing up front (tried it a few times, didn’t enjoy it.)
In this guide I’m going to be going through some more common defensive positions, giving you a description on what sort of tasks you will be doing, what sort of player you need to be, and even what the best body type for this position is. These are all important things when it comes to choosing the right position. So let’s get into it…
I thought the most logical way to do this would be to start from the back, so I’m going to be talking about the goalie in this first section.
Do I have to be tall?
So, one thing which you can’t train yourself to do, is get taller- being tall as a goalkeeper is pretty handy and is a great trait to have, however don’t worry if this is where you want to play and you are on the shorter side. You will just have to make up for it with other things which I will explain further on. Just to give you a bit of perspective, when I say tall, the average goalkeeper height, this is 6.2 feet (1.89 meters).
When watching football on TV, it is difficult to actually appreciate the size of goalkeepers as most people look around the same size on TV unless there is something to reference them against. There are some shorter goalkeepers, Francesco Quintini is a retired Italian footballer who was the shortest goalkeeper to play in the Serie A, at just 5.5 feet! So. if you are short, it can be done. However, if you have not made up your mind about which position to play in yet, maybe steer away from goalkeeper if you are below 5.10 feet.
Some important traits
There are a few physical traits which are great for goalkeeping, but also some mental ones which we are going to talk about too. Firstly though, a physical one.
Being agile and nimble will help you out loads when it comes to goalkeeping, which can be kind of difficult as most goalkeepers are quite tall as we mentioned before. For this reason and a few others, being a goalkeeper is probably one of the most difficult positions to play on the pitch. It’s pretty easy to guess why you need to be agile and nimble, its so that you can move around the goal and cover each corner as quickly as possible, because shots come at you quick! Luckily though, these things can be worked on and improved. I actually wrote an article on how to improve your agility in football which you can read here: How to Improve Agility in Football.
Another good thing to have in your locker (metaphorically) would be fast reaction times. This is so important for those close range encounters or deflected shots where you need to react and act quickly. Some most amazing saves are made because of reaction times, and all top goalkeepers have this in abundance. Just look up some of the greatest saves ever. You will see a mixture of agility, being nimble and fast reaction times. Once again, your reaction times can be improved and there are tonnes of ways to do this. I haven’t yet made an article on this but I am planning to do so, so keep checking back for that one!
There are tonnes of traits which make you a good goalkeeper, however since this post is meant to be about all the positions, I’m just going to go through the top 3 (in my opinion). So, the final one is… you must be good under pressure. A goalkeepers mistake is a devastating one. If you make a mistake, 9/10 it will lead to a goal. Compare that with another position on the pitch, the likelihood of there being a goal from their mistake is much lower. In your goalkeeping career, you will make mistakes, there is no doubting that, it’s how we learn. It’s not about the amount of mistakes, as much as it is about how you react from those mistakes. If that one fumble makes you lose all faith and confidence in yourself, makes you sulk or want to get subbed off, then being a goalkeeper really isn’t for you. If you can get back up from that mistake, brush it off and carry on with your game then you will be great between the sticks. “ain’t about how hard you hit… It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward”. (Once again, metaphorically, hitting people is a red card…)
Defenders (Centre back or full back) –
This is one of the positions that I like to play, so I can give you some opinions from experience. I play 2 types of football, 6 a-side and 11 a-side. When it comes to 6 a-side I prefer to play in the central defender position and in an 11 a-side team I prefer to play as a full back, if I had to play somewhere in defence.
Centre Back –
As a centre back you are the last line of defence before they meet the goalkeeper so your role is very important. Some things a centre back has to do are often overlooked because a lot of it is actually off the ball. For example, you can imagine that the attacking team has the ball on one side of the defence, and you are playing on the other. It is not your job to run over there and try to tackle the player with the ball. Your job in this situation is to hold your line and stop any runners from getting through the defence on your side, or to stop any attackers having space on your side to receive a free pass.
It is also worth mentioning, being tall is a great asset to have when playing the central defender position, as you will need to be challenging in the box for a lot of headers, however it is not essential so don’t worry too much.
So, linking to that last point I made, your first trait as a central defender is awareness. As you can imagine, the attacking team are trying to do anything they can to penetrate your defence and receive a chance on goal, so they are going to try to confuse you with runners, skill moves, dummies and things like this in order to take you out of the game. So your job is to focus on what’s important. Although you want to be focusing on where the ball is at all times, you also need to have eyes in the back of your head to ensure that no runners are coming up behind you, looking for that penetrating pass. If they manage to get that pass, you better be on your bike to chase them as they aren’t going to be waiting up for anyone. As you play more of the game you will start to learn the ins and outs of what attackers like to do, and in turn improving your awareness. So this trait will definitely get better with game time and experience.
The next trait is physicality. You are going to be put in a lot of positions where you will need to hold your own and shrug off the attackers, without giving away a foul. These situations could be defending a corner or a cross, trying to out muscle someone when shoulder to shoulder or going in for a 50-50 challenge. As the defender, you need to come out on top. As well as this, it’s important that you don’t build so much muscle or weight that you can’t actually chase after attackers because it’s very likely they will be quicker than you to start with- so you need to figure out a way to cut corners. This comes under physicality too.
Full back –
In case you didn’t know, a full back is a left or right back. So they play on the edges of the defence closest to the side line. Unlike the centre back position, you don’t need to be tall in this position. Of course, if you are tall you can definitely play here, but if you aren’t you can too. There are a few different traits which are better suited to a full back rather than a central defender so we will get into those now.
Firstly, pace or speed. This is a mixture of your acceleration and your max speed. As a full back, you are going to get very cosy with the opposition wingers, as these are the players you will be marking. You want to make sure you can always see their face, and not their number. If you can see their number that means they are in front of you, goal side, and that ain’t good. Wingers are often the quickest players on the pitch and they are going to be using that pace to their advantage, and their main goal is usually to get around you, as the full back, to get a cross into the box. The good news is, the attacker will be running with the ball, which will slow them down, and you are just sprinting so you have a slight advantage. So, hopefully that explains why sprint speed is a hugely important trait for the full back.
Secondly, decision-making. This trait is very broad, and all positions on the pitch can benefit massively from having good decision-making. However, there is a very specific reason I used this trait with full backs, I shall explain. Depending on your manager and the teams style of play/formation, the full back is often given, what footballers call, attacking license. This means they are allowed to give the attackers a hand by providing an overlapping run down the wing, or a spare man when in a tight spot. Of course, the full backs main role is to defend, so if you go to attack and the possession changes to the opponent, you are in trouble. Either you are quick enough that you can get back in time, or your team has a whole in their defence and the opposition has an easy run at a cross into the box. So, you need to make the correct decision as to when to attack, when to stay back and defend, and how far you are going to commit yourself up the field.
There is a part 2…
In this article, I went over some best traits and body types for a goalkeeper, centre back and a full back. I hope this helped you and gave you some more insight into the defensive positions that you can play as on the pitch. Overall I personally enjoy playing in defence, it is very rewarding and diverse, however everybody is different so if you didn’t like the sound of these positions, then read my next article as that is going to be talking about some common midfield positions.
If you enjoyed this, then click this link to read about whether you would be suited to a midfield position: What Football Position Am I? Midfield Edition.
If you have any questions, queries or ideas about anything said in this post, please feel free to leave a comment and I will look forward to reading them, and getting back to you.
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