With so much ability in the modern game, football is a difficult sport to be good at. Even relative to your peers, there are so many different attributes needed to be an all-round great player, and even then there would be no guarantee to make it.
The natural thought to follow is “What’s the easiest position I could play in?” and the universal answer will be one of dismissal, most places suggesting they are all challenging in their own ways.
However, logically, some have to be easier than others, so there must be an answer. It does come down to a matter of opinion at the end of the day, but you can read on to see an analysis of the respective challenges, attributes and differences each main position brings.
Ranked from hardest to easiest, here’s the rundown of the main positions on a football pitch:
6. Central Midfielder (Including Attacking and Defensive Midfielders)
Both in defensive and attacking roles, the Central Midfielder is among the hardest to play, needing a little bit of everything, on top of a sound tactical understanding.
There are three types of Central Midfielder: Defensive, Attacking, and the standard Central Midfielder, which is a mix of both.
As a regular Central Midfielder, you need to be well-rounded, and proficient in all areas of the game, with passing, stamina/ work rate and ball control all important factors. A keen defensive prowess is also required.
When emphasis is placed on attacking, a player needs to orchestrate attacks, while reading and understanding the play.
You’ll need top-notch on-the-ball ability like an inverted Winger but need an impeccable first touch to cope with the more crowded centre of the pitch. A good shot and range of passing are also encouraged.
Defensively, you essentially need all the attributes of a good Centre-back, while also possessing a great range of passing. However, height and physicality are less important than it is for a Centre-back, while more emphasis is placed on stamina and work rate.
Centre-Midfield, as a whole, is comparatively the most difficult, regardless of your duties.
On the surface, the keeper seems the easiest to understand. There is little requirement for tactical nuance, and someone who has never shown an interest in the sport can be a natural Goalkeeper.
It’s unlike the other positions. Essentially the most important factors to consider are hand-eye coordination, leadership and reflexes.
While that might suggest the keeper is the easiest position, it is in fact among the hardest.
It’s the most isolated and often thankless role on the pitch. You can play an absolute blinder, making save after save, but a slip of concentration, and a dodgy mistake and that’s all anyone will remember.
Playing in goal is almost like playing a different sport to the outfielders. The buck stops with you as the last line of defence.
While reflexes, hand-eye coordination and leadership are all skills that a person may have learnt outside of football, understanding the right positioning can take years and is integral to success.
You can have the best reflexes and hand-eye coordination in the world, but if you don’t know how to position yourself, you won’t save a thing.
Finally, understanding the mindset of opposing Strikers is vital to gaining the upper hand in 1 on 1 situations.
Knowing where he will place the ball, how he will shoot, and calculating the trajectory all in the split second before he strikes the ball is a skill every good Goalkeeper possesses, and can take thousands of hours of football to understand if you have no outfield experience.
By far the role with the most pressure, the Goalkeeper is a role that is easy to pick up the basics of, but incredibly difficult to master.
Amp up the attacking attributes of the Full-back position and remove much of the defensive duties, and you have the basics of what a Winger is.
Essentially, Wingers provide width to attacks and follow two distinct archetypes, each requiring different skill sets.
To start the classic Winger will stay wide and aim to cross balls into the Striker, or tuck into a more central role when the ball is on the opposite flank to try and score.
It’s the least mentally nuanced position on the pitch, in that as long as you understand the basics I’ve outlined, and know how to stay onside, you’ll get by tactically.
It’s your skills that do the talking, but at the same time, you can be an effective classic Winger without good ball skills.
As your main job is getting down the wing and crossing the ball in, pace is usually the most important attribute. Naturally, followed up by crossing ability, if you have speed and a good cross, you’ll probably do well enough on the wing.
Things get a little trickier if you are playing as an Inverted Winger. While for much of football history, the side you played on was based on your stronger foot, the inverted Winger will play on his weaker side, in order to cut inside, giving them chances to strike at goal from the edge of the box.
As an inverted Winger, good on-the-ball skills are much more important, as you can’t simply find a yard of space and launch a ball into the danger area. To cross with your stronger foot, you have to move the ball to your stronger foot, giving defenders time to catch up.
The classic Winger is a much easier role to pick up, and is in my opinion is among the easiest roles to play, needing pace and a decent cross. The Inverted Winger represents a much harder alternative, requiring great dribbling, shooting and all-around on-the-ball ability to pull off.
When it comes to the easiest position, the stereo-typical answer is the Right-back. In school football, you’ll usually find one of the lesser players stuck at Right-back.
The Left-back role is naturally considered harder as left-footed players are rarer, and you typically want to your stronger foot to be the side you play on as a Full-back, so for most people, Right-back will be much easier.
But, Right-back is most people’s answer when they think of the easiest position, however, while that may have been true in football’s early days, it’s a much more detailed and demanding role now.
If you stick to the basics, operate on the right side of defence, and stay back, your job is a simple one: Stop the Winger getting past you.
You need good defensive awareness and reading of the game. Understanding how to stop each Winger you face is no easy task. Knowing when to join the attack and when not to is another defining skill. Overlapping or stepping up at the wrong time can leave you out of position, and your team’s flank completely open.
But you don’t have to be a marauding full back, what matters the most is carrying out your defensive duties, making teh Right-back, at its core values, the slightly more technical version of a centre-back.
Lastly, pace is usually important for the role, but only in progressive systems. Being quick means you can afford to push forward, as you’ll have the pace to track back to stop attacks if your team loses the ball.
Centre-backs need to excel both physically and mentally to do well.
While technique and on-the-ball ability are much less important, you need to read the game superbly, understanding when to step off attackers and when to close them down.
Concentration is hugely important, and of course knowing when to tackle, and how to execute tackles so as not to foul the attacker.
Add to this the importance of being an imposing physical presence and you’ve got a position that is very difficult to pick up.
But technically little ability is needed. If we’re talkign about the top level of football, technical ability is for the most part required, but a ghreat defender can be useless on the ball, take Harry Maguire for example.
Goals are universally considered the best part of football, and scoring a goal creates an irreplaceable feeling. But from a tactical and bare-minimum skillset standpoint, it’s arguably the easiest role.
Yes, a good Striker is integral to a winning team, but the skills you need to excel are far fewer than even the classic Winger.
Two things matter more than else when playing up front: Positioning and finishing.
Positioning refers to knowing where to be so that you might find yourself in space to shoot and finishing refers to your ability to score essentially, usually referring to shooting from closer range, ‘finishing’ off attacking moves.
Of course, plenty of additional attributes, such as height, pace, strength, on-the-ball skills and even passing will help you be a better Striker, but even at the highest level Strikers with no exceptional attributes save for positioning and finishing have excelled on the world’s biggest stages.
You needn’t worry about defending, or running unless the ball comes near you. All that matters is that you stick the ball in the back of the net when called upon.
In terms of what you need to succeed, the Striker doesn’t need to run as much and relies on just 2 key attributes. Being more than just a finisher is encouraged, but it’s not necessary for success. Just ask Gary Lineker.