The game of soccer is usually played by professionals in different positions of play on the field, and for a team to win any match, it must have players that officially recognize the spot they perfectly fit in to encourage good ball alignment.
Soccer is one sport where every player on the pitch has a designated position and task to perform on match day. The better you perform, the higher the chances of your team emerging tops against the opponents of the day.
Several categories of players make up what we consider a team in soccer. Some of the major positions of soccer players in a field are listed below:
- The Goalkeeper
- The Midfielder
- The Defender
- The Forward
Defensive players are arguably the most important and valuable in a soccer team. I bet a good number of soccer fans would want to argue this and point out the significance of all positions on the field. Regardless, if the defense isn’t good enough with skillful and talented players, then the team is bound to lose matches.
The positions listed above are the four major ones found in any team, and most of them appear to be the major defensive settings in a soccer team.
Now, considering what we have as the topic, we shall be looking intentionally at what the job of a winger is in soccer. The first point you should take note of is that a player is usually deployed on the wings in a soccer game.
What is a Winger in Soccer?
A winger can be described as a player that forms a part of the midfield. He plays as an offensive member of the team and also contributes to defense occasionally.
The position of winger also appears to be a special position in other sports games like basketball, hockey, rugby, and all others. The winger in any team is expected to play on either side of the field, which is said to be the corners of the field on both hand sides (the left and right wing).
He is known as the wide receiver due to the analogs with which he carries out his play. The winger covers both the right and left-hand wing, encouraging dominance over the opposing soccer team and creating opportunities for easy penetration if the players who play as the winger are good enough.
The winger is expected to be more than just a running player; as an attacking midfielder, he is expected to possess some traits to give the team a strong back end. Below are some of the features of a winger.
Requirements For A Winger
1. He must be a player of good technical thinking
A winger should know the best time to release a ball to a teammate and when to keep hold of it. In initiating an attack, he should know when to shoot the ball, deliver a cross into the box. or give a piercing pass. His ability to improvise in such situations is a big plus.
2. He must be a skillful player
Being skilled is just another way to break into a soccer team, and it is one of the most important qualities a winger should have. With this, he can easily cut through the defense of the opposing team by dribbling tactically and successfully making goals.
Being adventurous with the ball in this position is one thing that soccer fans also look out for. Soccer fans love wingers who are exciting, flamboyant, and most importantly very effective.
Useless dribbles and showboating that yield no results would be frowned on. Speaking of exciting wingers, the likes of Luis Nani of Manchester United back in the day, Paris Saint-Germain’s Angel Di Maria, Leicester City’s Demarai Gray, Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic, Manchester United’s Jadon Sancho, Liverpool’s Luis Diaz, AC Milan’s Rafael Leao, amongst others make the list.
3. He must be a fast runner
Every winger is expected to be a fast pacer with incredible agility and strength. Outrunning the opponent should be his major aim as far as he is concerned.
Fast wingers are always a threat for fullbacks and this is worse when the fullback is old and the winger is still very young and in their prime. Well, we’ve seen some wingers in the past who were full of speed and had no significant end product. Such wingers wouldn’t cut it in recent times. In as much as a winger has to be fast, his runs have to be smart and intelligent.
The Roles Of A Winger In Soccer
For a clearer understanding of what these players, called wingers, do in a soccer team, below is a list of their roles and responsibilities.
1. Support defense
We all agree that there are only two wingers in a team. The first one takes on the right-wing of the pitch, and the other winger takes on the opposing wing, which is on the left.
The two wingers also play the defensive roles. By defensive roles, I mean they both defend the rest of the soccer team, alongside the midfielder, to prevent chances of goals from the opposing team.
The wingers are responsible for covering the sides (right and left) for the team to build up a blockchain against goal entry. If the players that play as the wingers are good enough and skillful enough in defense, it will be tough or nearly impossible for the opposing team to put up a goal.
2. Create Goal Scoring Opportunities Through Loopholes
It is the responsibility of a good, talented winger to create goal chances. Because defense is borne by the wingers, pressuring the opposing team and making good runs would be more effective in creating goal chances.
The wingers ought to be on high alert so as not to miss notable chances of putting up a goal because any goal missed might be difficult to recover from at the latter end.
3. Score Goals For The Team
As much as the winger is expected to create goal chances, he is also expected to score goals if circumstances favor him. A winger that has good goal returns would be highly sought after by some of the elite soccer teams.
It comes as no surprise that a winger like Liverpool’s Sadio Mane is highly sought after because of his consistent double figures every season whilst playing from the flanks. With good dribbling skills, agility, speed, and strength, a winger should be able to master the craft of making goals for his team.
Jersey Number For Wingers
The popular number 7 is the official jersey number for wingers on any team, and it has been worn by some legendary soccer players throughout history.
We have the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo who started as a winger and came to the limelight during his time at Manchester United in the Alex Ferguson era before the move to Real Madrid and Juventus and back to Manchester United. He is commonly referred to as CR7.
Major Differences Between A Striker And A Winger
Their defined roles give a clear difference in what each part can do best. When considering the two players, you can point out that they are both similar for some reason. Among them are the following:
- Both players create goal-scoring opportunities for their respective teams.
- Both players try to score goals.
- Both players support the team’s defense when the need arises. etc.
Just to mention a few of their shared features, but that doesn’t guarantee the fact that the striker can replace the winger or that the winger can replace the striker.
Both players are placed intentionally in a team for a specific reason, and one can’t do without the other. Below are some of the different features that exist between the striker and the winger in soccer.
- A soccer striker is officially known by the jersey number 9, whereas a winger is known by the jersey number 7. In some cases, the winger wears the number 11 jersey as well.
- Strikers or center-forwards are not so fast, but they are good players in the air, whereas wingers are experts with the ball on their feet and good at making great passes. It’s always weird to see wingers hit the back of the net with other headers.
- Strikers are good soccer finishers, whereas wingers are great dribblers and very technical in their thinking in making profitable moves on the pitch.
- Strikers are not fixed players but, wingers are fixed to either side of the soccer pitch. The latter was a pure fact in the past but evolution in tactics has made it impossible to identify pure wingers. The likes of Mohammed Salah, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, and Eden Hazard amongst others have displayed an ability to play well through the middle and also from the flanks.
Some Of The Best Wingers In Recent Times
Many wingers in present-day soccer are always a thorn in the flesh of the opposition when they have the ball on the flanks. These wingers have demonstrated an ability to dribble, make decent crosses, outrun their marker, and even curl one into the net in recent times. Some of them include:
- Angel Di Maria – (Paris Saint-Germain)
- Hakim Ziyech – (Chelsea)
- Marco Asensio – (Real Madrid)
- Jarrod Bowen – (West Ham)
- Raphinha – (Leeds United) – Currently attracting interest from Chelsea, Barcelona, and Arsenal.
- Bukayo Saka – (Arsenal)
- Leroy Sane – (Bayern Munich)
- Sadio Mane – (Bayern Munich)
- Federico Chiesa – (Juventus)
- Raheem Sterling – (Manchester City)
- Junior Vinicius – (Real Madrid)
There are many other wingers and these are just a few of them.
The winger is one of the most important and active positions in a soccer team. If the wingers, strikers, or in fact, the defense positions of a team are faulty, it will be easy for the opposing team to break through and score goals, which, of course, will cause the team to lose matches.
So it is therefore advised that the defense players which occasionally involve the winger should be up to the task of defending the whole team from the attacking opponent.
As noted, the winger plays on the sides of the pitch with the primary responsibility of attacking from the flanks and creating chances for others to score.
Kenneth is a an avid soccer follower, fan and writer. He is a consistent follower of the sport and is a fan of Chelsea FC.