Football Positions

Football Positions Guide: Offensive, Defensive and All

Football Positions Guide: Offensive, Defensive and All

Football Positions: A football team is made up of three core units: offense, defense, and special teams. Within each of these units, players’ roles and responsibilities are defined by their position on the team. This article explores the structure of a football team and describes the player positions and how they interact to achieve the overall team goal of winning football games.

An adult football team will normally have up to 11 players on the pitch at any time. In rare circumstances, a team may start the match with fewer than 11 players; however, a match will be forfeit if the team is unable to field at least 7 players.

Football Positions
Football Positions

One player will usually be designated as the goalkeeper and they are allowed to perform certain actions that other players are not allowed to perform. The outfield players have normally designated as a position based on the manager’s chosen formation. These positions do not have special actions and it is easier for players to move from one position to another during the course of the match. However, players may need to be able to display certain skills if they want to be able to succeed in their role.

American Football Positions | Football Positions Explained


The most important role of the goalkeeper is to prevent the opposing team from getting the ball into the goal. This requires agility, vigilance, bravery, and lightning-quick reactions. They must be ready at all times, as the action can move from one end of the pitch to the other in a few seconds. A keeper should be able to kick the ball accurately over long distances because this will be required as part of a goal-kick.

They may handle the ball within their own penalty area; however, there are some restrictions on when they can handle it. They may only handle the ball for six seconds and must not touch it with their hands again after it has been released until the ball has been touched by another player. They cannot handle the ball if it is deliberately passed to them by a teammate.

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

A full-back helps to keep opposing players away from the goal by protecting against attacks from the wings. They must be able to tackle effectively and accurately every time so that they win the ball without committing any fouls.

A full-back should also be able to cross and pass accurately so that they can help to get the ball up the field once it has been won from the opposing team. Full-backs must have a good working relationship with the goalkeeper so that they are able to anticipate each other’s movements.

Centre-Backs (Central Defender)

A central defender has a similar role and skillset to a full-back, but they must take charge of defending against attacks that are coming from the center of the field. They may run between the right-back and the left-back to provide support where needed.


Some managers like to play a sweeper behind the main line of defense. Sweepers are more common in continental European sides than in English or Scottish teams. During the 1990 world cup in Italy, there was a lot of discussion around Bobby Robsons use of the sweeper system which you can read more on here.

A sweeper must act as a penultimate barrier if an opposing player is able to break through the main defense. They should be vigilant to any threats and they should be quick on their feet. The presence of a sweeper can allow the defense to play further forward. They must be able to communicate effectively with both the goalkeeper and the defense.

Central Midfield

Central midfielders tend to be the busiest players on the pitch, as they are expected to cover the majority of the pitch. Good central midfielders will be able to provide reliable support to both the defenders and the strikers. Because they must be good communicators, central midfielders are often given the captain’s armband.

A central midfielder must have high levels of stamina and their passes and crosses should be highly accurate. Central midfielders must be creative as they will help to create opportunities that strikers are able to convert. This can involve coming up with interesting plays that fool the opposing defense.

Wide Midfield (Left Midfield and Right Midfield)

Wide midfielders take on similar roles to their central counterparts; however, they help to give more width and shape to the team.

These players need speed and stamina to allow them to create plays from the wings. Wingers need to have great ball control skills and they should be able to pick out strikers accurately when they cross the ball. Wingers are often remembered for their brilliant goals that seem to curl into the net out of nowhere.

Striker (Centre Forward)

A striker’s main job is to get the ball into the back of the opposing team’s net. Fans will religiously scrutinize their conversion rate to make sure that they are changing chances into goals.

Great strikers have the right mixture of pace, strength, and power. All strikers need to be accurate if they want to get as many shots on target as possible. Cunning and creativity allow strikers to break away from their markers when they need to, without wasting any energy when they don’t have to. Knowing when to keep the ball and when to pass the ball can also make or break a striker. A striker should be prepared to face a few hard challenges, as they will be regularly targeted by defenders.

Behind the Striker

Rather than playing two strikers, some managers prefer to have one striker upfront and have a second person playing a behind the striker role. This player has more freedom and creativity to move between a striker and a midfielder role. These players should be able to produce bursts of speed which will allow them to move forward to join the striker when they are needed.

Defense of Offense Positions
Defense of Offense Positions

Football Defensive Positions

The defensive unit on a football team consists of three core areas: the defensive line, the linebackers and the secondary—or defensive backfield.

In college and professional football, the defensive team is led by the Defensive Coordinator. The Defensive Coordinator, along with the Head Coach, is responsible for the strategy and execution of the defensive team, as well as in-game play-calling and decisions.

The job of the Defensive Coordinator and his players is to stop the opposing team’s offense by turning the ball over to their offense. This can be accomplished by either tackling them short of the line to gain or by taking the ball away. This is done by interception or fumble recovery.

Ultimately, the defense attempts to keep the opposing team from advancing the football down the field and scoring a touchdown or kicking a field goal.

Football Offensive Positions

An attacking midfielder is a midfield player who is positioned in an advanced midfield position, usually between central midfield and the team’s forwards, and who has a primarily offensive role.

According to positioning along the field, attacking midfield may be divided into leftright and central attacking midfield roles. A central attacking midfielder may be referred to as a playmaker, or number ten (due to the association of the number 10 shirt with this position).

These players typically serve as the offensive pivot of the team and are sometimes said to be “playing in the hole”, although this term can also be used to describe the positioning of a deep-lying forward. Their main role is to create goal-scoring opportunities using superior vision, control, and technical skill.

The attacking midfielder is an important position that requires the player to possess superior technical abilities in terms of passing and, perhaps more importantly, the ability to read the opposing defense in order to deliver defense-splitting passes to the strikers; in addition to their technical and creative ability, they are also usually quick, agile, and mobile players, which aids them in beating opponents during dribbling runs.

Some attacking midfielders are called trequartistas or fantasisti (Italian: three-quarter specialist, i.e. a playmaker between the forwards and the midfield), known for their deft touch, vision, ability to shoot from range, and passing prowess.
However, not all attacking midfielders are trequartistas – some attacking midfielders are very vertical and are essentially auxiliary attackers, i.e. secondary striker.
In Brazil, the offensive playmaker is known as the “meia atacante”, whereas, in Argentina, it is known as the “enganche”.

Football Positions For Dummies

PART 1: Offensive Players

This section will help you score some insight on the players whose primary role is to score touchdowns. There are 11 players on offense at a time. Through a series of plays that involve passing and running the ball, they want to work their way down the field until they get into the end zone. The offense consists of:

  • Quarterback (QB) – The field general. He calls the plays, initiates action and handles the “snap.” He either hands the ball to the running back or passes the ball to a receiver. He may also run with the ball. The quarterbacks must be able to throw the ball with power and accuracy.
  • Running Back (RB) – Also known as the Halfback. This player does it all. Lining up either behind or beside the quarterback, he runs, he catches, he blocks and he’ll even throw a pass from time to time. A running back is normally a player who is a quick runner and thrives on contact.
  • Fullback (FB) – Like a heartier version of the RB, but in the modern game usually more of a lead blocker out of the backfield. Fullbacks are normally good runners with exceptional strength.
  • Offensive Line – There are five offensive linemen. In order from left to right, they are: the Left Tackle (LT), Left Guard (LG), Center (C), Right Guard (RG) and Right Tackle (RT). It is their job to either pass block for the QB so he has time to throw or run block for the RB or FB. Most of the time, with the exception of the Center “snapping” the ball to the QB, offensive linemen do not touch the ball. The offensive line is usually made up of the biggest, strongest players on the team. Due to their high-contact role, these players use football lineman gloves for pass-blocking protection.
  • Wide Receivers (WR) – Wide receivers, for the most part, are known as pass catchers. They start the play split out wide from the rest of the formation, at or near the line of scrimmage (an imaginary line that extends from sideline to sideline at the point where the ball is placed) and run pass routes awaiting a pass from the QB. On running plays, they will throw blocks and occasionally take a handoff. Those in the wide receiver position normally have a combination of blazing speed and strong hand-eye coordination. Wide receiver gloves help these players get a grip on the ball and are crucial when it comes to making big plays.
  • Tight End (TE) – This player is a hybrid between a receiver and an offensive lineman. Generally, the lines up next to the LT or RT or he can “split out” like a wide receiver. His duties include blocking for both the quarterback and the running backs, but he can also run into the field and catch passes. Tight ends can catch like a receiver but have the strength and size to dominate on the line.

PART 2: The Defensive Players 

Part two is here to help you tackle the roles of the defense. Like the offense, there are 11 defensive players on the field. Their job is to prevent the offense from scoring by tackling players or causing turnovers.

  • Defensive Line – This is the first line of defense and consists of three or four players who line up opposite the offensive line. They are two Defensive Ends (DE) on either side and one or two Defensive Tackles (DT). Their job is to shed the blocks of the offensive linemen and tackle ball carriers, usually running backs coming through the line or quarterbacks dropping back to pass. If a player is on the defensive line, they are generally big and strong.
  • Linebacker (LB) – As the name implies, the Linebackers back the defensive line. Depending on the defensive alignment, there are usually three or four on the field. Outside linebackers (OLB) stand to the sides of the DEs and Inside linebackers (ILB) or middle linebackers (MLB) stand behind the DTs. LBs are usually responsible for shadowing RBs, TEs and sometimes WRs; rushing the passer; and tackling ball carriers. Those who are linebackers are likely strong and fast.
  • Cornerback (CB) – Cornerbacks are usually the fastest player on the defense. They support the run, and might be asked to blitz the QB, but spend most of their time covering wide receivers. This means they try to break up passes, tackle players who catch passes and try to intercept passes coming their way. There are usually two to four CBs on the field at a time. Cornerbacks should be really fast and capable tacklers.
  • Safety (S) – There are two S positions: The Strong Safety (SS) and the Free Safety (FS). The strong safety is usually, well, strong, and fast. They are usually responsible for covering TEs, RBs, and WRs and playing down the field but are often expected to come up in run support. The Free Safety has similar duties but is commonly considered the center fielder, and thus the last line of the defense. Safety should be fast and strong and be a capable tackler.

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