Each position in football has different tasks which, in combination, form the tactical concept of a team. Each coach has his own idea of defensive and offensive tasks and must match these with the abilities of his players.

The positional groups are: Goalkeeper, defender, midfield, forward. Within the position groups there are different positions with different tactical tasks with offensive and defensive responsibilities. Here is an overview:


Goalkeepers in football are primarily supposed to prevent goals. In a modern interpretation, they are also "liberos" behind the defensive chain and keep their backs to the defence. When they have possession of the ball, they are an important starting station in the build-up to the game.

Goalkeepers need goalkeeping techniques (catching, punching, saving with feet, diving and throwing). Of course, they also need field player techniques, mainly passing and receiving the ball. Very good goalkeepers are just as good as field players.


The centre-backs are the backbone of the defensive chain. In a four-man defence there are two centre-backs, in a three-man defence there are three. They prevent goals from the opposing strikers. Together with the wing-backs and the goalkeeper, they take over the build-up of the game. They have to be strong in two fights and fast. They must also have good heading and passing skills. Centre-backs are often tall (because of the header) and physically robust, for example Virgil van Dijk or Antonio Rüdiger. In the past, there was still the position of the libero, who acted behind the other defenders and could intervene as the last man if the others were overplayed.


Full-backs can be very different types of players. From the stable defender who simply does his job in the back four, to the offensive defender who gets involved in every attack and plays a decisive role in the build-up to the game. The distinguishing criteria are often the player's running ability and technical skills.

Offensive defenders occupy the wing position in the attack, with overlapping and inverted runs. This is especially true in game systems that do not provide for fixed wing players. Example: 4-2-2. 

It is important for full-backs to communicate a lot with both the wide players in front of them (if available) and the centre-back playing next to them and to constantly adjust their positional play (distances, depth, line of sight). They have to take into account their position on the field, the position of the ball and the opponents nearby.

Number 6 / central defensive midfield:

In football, the six is the position in front of the defence. It can be occupied by one or two players (double six), or in exceptional cases by three players. Three sixes are only used, however, if the team is very defensive.

The playing style of the sixes can be very different: There are classic defensive blockers, build-up players and box-to-box players who work the entire length of the field in defence and offence. Six-pointers rarely occur in this pure form, but usually as a mixture of different playing styles.

In defence, depending on the system of play, there is often a duel between the own six and the opposing ten. The six is usually the one who organises the midfield by giving commands. In this respect, leaders with strong communication skills can often be found here.

Number 8 / central midfield:

The number 8 in football is mainly found in a central three-man midfield (playing systems: 3-5-2, 4-1-4-1, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3). He often plays deep in defence, similar to a six, and moves to the back in front of the defence. In this way, he closes possible gaps in the defensive formation and secures interfaces.

In the offensive, the number 8 plays either from the more deep six position (in the build-up to the game and in transitional play) or he acts in or near the opponent's penalty area. Thus, he plays a hybrid role and can certainly be described as a mixture of a six and a ten - as far as positional play is concerned.

It is also relatively typical for the number 8 to move out to the half-positions. This means that he no longer acts rigidly in the centre, but is shifted further towards the wings. In this way, the back eight can create space for the build-up of play and transition play against opponents who play compactly.

Number 10 /central offensive midfield:

Traditionally, the number 10 in football is the number of the playmaker, the most creative player in a team. However, due to modern space defense, there are fewer spaces for the build-up play. The ten-man must therefore play in the gaps between the rows and use the small spaces available. Often - especially in systems with a striker - he also goes up front.

A ten-man must have an overview of the game, be able to anticipate situations and have excellent technical skills. This includes speed of action, ball control, dribbling, precise and powerful passing over short and medium distances, and also a good finish on goal. Outstanding 10s are the Brazilian Neymar (who also often plays on the flank) or the Belgian Kevin DeBruyne from Manchester City.

Wing midfielders & strikers / wingers:

The outside midfielders play on the wing, rarely in the half-field (e.g. in a 4-4-2 with diamond). Here they are mainly responsible for the offensive play via the wings. Defensively, they have to support when the opposing full-back is attacking on the wing. In addition, in many cases they direct the opponent's attacking play in order to create pressing situations. In addition, they create outnumbering situations when they support their wing-backs in doubling.

They run straight or diagonally towards the byline (to cross) or inwards to finish the goal themselves or to enter the penalty area. In the offensive, many teams play with right-footed players on the left offensive side and vice versa. These players can move inside more easily and use their strong foot to shoot at goal or play the ball deep.

Outside forwards have a similar range of tasks, but play even further forward than outside midfielders. In modern football, these transitions are fluid and players play higher (further forward) or lower (further back) depending on the situation in the game.

A particularly large number of good outside forwards are trained in the Netherlands, where the 4-3-3 system is very popular. In the Dutch version, this is based on really wide-playing wingers with good dribbling skills, outstanding speed and a strong drive towards goal. 

Central strikers:

The main task of a striker in football is to score goals. Teams usually play with 1-3 strikers. Sometimes may also play without nominal strikers (e.g. with the "false nine"). The most common game is with one or two strikers. There are many different types of strikers, so-called penalty area strikers (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang & Harry Kane), counter-attacking strikers (Romelo Lukaku), dribbling strikers (Lionel Messi), playing strikers (Karim Benzema).

Depending on the philosophy, coaches opt for big strikers with strong headers or small dribblers in the centre of the attack. If a striker plays alone up front, he has to hold many balls and pass them to his team-mates (wall players). Modern strikers have to be fast, have a very good goal-scoring ability and basically also be able to participate in the team's combination play. In addition, they can also contribute defensively in pressure phases of the opponent.

Are You Ready?

Stay up-to-date!

Sign up for the best resources in football.
You can expect exercises, news, feature updates and announcements.
The newsletter is sent out once a week.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.