Everything you should know about football positions

With 11 players on the pitch, each has their own dedicated position and role to play in the beautiful game – but what are these positions and what is their purpose? Here at MFC Official Direct, we have created a guide which explains defenders from strikers and outline actions which certain players can and cannot perform. We’ll work our way down the pitch and start with…


  • Main responsibility: stop the opposition from scoring.
  • The most defensive player on the pitch.
  • Oversees defence and advises play from the back.
  • Can handle the ball within their 18-yard box.

The main responsibility of a goalkeeper is to ensure that the opposing team don’t get the ball into the goal. They have to be agile, have quick reactions and be brave enough to throw themselves in the firing line of balls which can reach speeds of up to 80mph. Goalkeepers must also have their eye on the ball at all times, as gameplay can move from one side of the pitch to the other within seconds. They must also be able to have a powerful kick, as goal kicks are an effective gameplay strategy and it allows the nature of the game to switch from defensive to attack within a single powerful kick. As they don’t have to have high levels of stamina, you will find that goalkeepers can continue to play well into their forties. 

What restrictions do goalkeepers have?

Goalkeepers may be the only player on the pitch who can pick the ball up with their hands (excluding throw-ins), but they also have restrictions. They can only handle the ball within their penalty area, which is why it is so important for them to have effective goal kicks. The ball can only be handled for 6 seconds, and they cannot touch the ball after it has been released until it has been kicked by another player. They cannot handle the ball if it is purposefully passed to them by a player. 

Left-back or right-back (Full-backs)

  • Protect attacks from the wings.
  • Provides midfield with support 
  • Often the players to take throw-ins.

The primary responsibility of a full-back is the ensure that the opposing players stay away from the goal by protecting it against any attacks from the wings (side of the pitch). A key skill that a full-back has to have is the determination to tackle an opponent head-on without committing any fouls to ensure that they get the ball effectively. 

Passing with accuracy and crossing is a required skill for a full-back, as this will allow them to assist in getting the ball back up the field once it has been intercepted. Communication between full-backs and the goalkeeper is important as they need to be able to anticipate what the other is about to do. 

Central defender (Centre-backs)

  • Defend attacks from centre field.
  • Support players for left or right-backs. 

Similar to a full-back, a central defender must take charge of defending any attacks that are coming from the centre of the field. They can often be seen as a support for the left or right back to provide added support if it is needed. 

Central Midfield

  • One of the most active players on the pitch.
  • Aid to defenders and strikers when needed. 
  • Good communicators.
  • Must be accurate and be able to cross effectively.

To be a central midfield player, you have to be physically fit, as these players often are the busiest on the pitch. They act as an aid to both the defenders and the strikers when needed. Central midfielders are often good communicators and must be creative with any opportunities that they get to ensure that their play has maximum impact. They also need to be able to cross with accuracy to strikers allowing them to play into a space which has the potential to score. 

As they are the central player, they often are aware of everything around them and their good communication skills means that they are often given the Captain’s armband. 

Wide Midfield (Left Midfield and Right Midfield)

  • Provides full-backs defensive protection.
  • Ability to cross from deeper positions than wingers.
  • Has to be accurate in passing.

To be a wide midfielder, you need to possess a lot of the skills of a central midfielder. These include ball control, the ability to seek out strikers when they cross the ball and high levels of stamina. They also need to be a match for Usain Bolt and be able to dribble with speed and stamina. They help to give width and shape to the team and wingers are renowned for their spectacular ability to curl the ball into the back of the net. 

Striker (Centre forward)

  • Responsible for goal scoring.
  • Powerful gameplay (especially when striking). 
  • Agile and speedy player.

Strikers need to be agile, they need to be powerful, and they need to have stamina. These skills, when combined with accuracy and consistent shots that hit their target, make for a stellar centre forward who will score goals time after time. Strikers need to be calculated to try and break away from their markers, and their fast-paced nature means that they can move into a space to take that ever so crucial shot. They should also be prepared to take on challenges from defenders who will try and stop them. 

Some managers prefer to play a striker up front and another behind, as this allows them the freedom to move between a striker and midfielder role. This all depends on the team and their strengths as well as their opposition. Now that you know the positions and responsibilities of each player on the pitch, you should put your knowledge to practice and start training. Here at MFC Official Direct, we have a range of training kits which are perfect for football practice with your squad or for your five a side team. If you are part of a five a side team and you are looking for ways to improve your game you should check out our guide ‘6 ways to step up your 5 a side game’.

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