The Winger in Soccer: Position, Role, and Responsibilities
Soccer is best known as a beautiful game. I’m a fan and love every bit of it. Soccer remains the most popular and loved sport in the world with over 4 billion fans. Even with so many people watching it across the world, there can only be 11 players on the field.
Coaches and managers worldwide utilize different styles and formulations to try and win a game. There are different player positions in soccer. From the goalkeeper to the striker, different players occupy different positions on the field. The winger soccer position by far remains the toughest position to play.
So, what is a winger in soccer? A winger in soccer is a player that primarily starts the game on the right or left wing of the field.
It is a player on the widest part of the pitch and close to the touchline. A winger will stay wide and receive balls. They usually have the freedom to move inside the opposition box and score goals.
Depending on the team formation and strategy, a winner can have more or less defensive responsibilities. Join me as I explore and discuss more on the winger position in soccer.
What Is the Role of a Winger in Soccer?
You now know where a winger plays in soccer.
So, what does a winger do in soccer? A winger in soccer majorly runs with the ball on the side and crosses it over to strikers in the box. Wingers stay wide on the pitch and provide width. They receive the ball and cross, but also have the freedom to cut inside the box and score goals.
Apart from crossing the ball and scoring goals, wingers are sometimes expected to provide defensive cover. How much they defend depends on the team formation.
For example, in the 4-2-2 formation, wingers are expected to make defensive efforts. However, in a 4-3-3 formation, wingers solely attack.
A winger in soccer is a pretty tough position where you need to take on defenders. Wingers are usually among the fastest players on the pitch. It is a youth soccer position that most players try when young.
They can also take on crosses from the opposite wing when teams change the ball position in the field fast.
Skills You Need To Play as a Winger
#1 – Endurance
A winger needs endurance because of the consistent defensive and attack runs they make. Wingers need to run and track back when needed to help the team. They lead attacks and need the stamina to sustain high speeds throughout the game.
You’ve probably seen wingers run at full speeds towards the end of the game and wondered where they got the energy. They need stamina if they are going to last the entire 90 minutes on the pitch. Endurance is important as you’ll be battling with defenders the whole day.
#2 – Speed
Wingers need speed since they spend much of their time running with the ball from defense to attack. In addition, wingers receive long passes and through balls that they need to catch. They need to be pretty fast.
You’ll often see a winger make a run behind a defender and give their strikers crosses they can score. Speed allows them to pass the ball through the channel before a defender can block it.
#3 – Dribbling Ability
The widest part of the field is usually left with a lot of space for wingers to run with the ball. This means they need excellent dribbling abilities. Before delivering a cross, a winger needs to lose its marker. This requires them to have excellent dribbling skills.
A good example of a winger with excellent dribbling ability is Cristiano Ronaldo. They can run with the ball at great speeds and pass deadly crosses into the box. In some instances, wingers need to dribble past defenders and score when in the box.
#4 – Crossing Ability
This is the main role of a winger. Every position in soccer is occupied by players performing specific roles. Wingers need to be specialists at crosses.
Wingers require excellent crossing abilities to get the ball on the right channel for your strikers. Crossing in soccer is an art that must be mastered with time. You’ll see wingers making crosses during practice matches.
It is an ability that players develop through practice regularly. They are not just going to make any crosses into the box. The cross must be timed and precisely positioned to meet your strikers for a goal-scoring opportunity.
#5 – Defending Ability
Lastly, wingers need to know how to defend. This is a position that gets them in face-to-face situations with opposing defenders that are attacking. They also need to defend against opposing wingers.
A winger needs to know how to deal with other attachers, block crosses, and tackle players with slides. Delaying with the ball in the opposition half as you wait for your strikers in the box is another skill every winger needs to learn.
How Do You Play a Winger in Soccer?
To play as a winger in soccer, you must be ready for counter-attacks. In the soccer season in the English Premier League, you’ll see several counter-attacking moves. The moves are usually led by wingers. They are usually the first players that will press the opposition before crossing to a striker in the box.
They need to stay wide to receive the ball and run with it. However, apart from crossing, you can cut inside as a winger and score. Depending on the team formation, you can have one or both wingers coming into the box.
Playing as a winger needs you to be decisive. You need to create space between yourself and the opposing defenders. This will allow your teammates to pass the ball to you with ease.
Wingers receive the ball in two ways. First, they can receive it beyond the midfielder’s line from their defenders. A defender will kick the ball directly to their feet so that they can initiate an attack.
Secondly, they can receive the ball beyond the fullback’s back. If a winger is strictly marked by a fullback, he/she can move towards the end of the field and create space to receive the ball.
You play as a winger by challenging the fullback mentally and physically. As a winger, you need to keep the fullbacks on their toes and have them worry about your next move.
Additionally, wingers need to help the rest of the team defend. In modern soccer, the attack is the best form of defense. When opposing wingers have the ball, you can have a go at them and try tackling them to steal the ball.
Depending on how a coach sets up a team, you’ll see wingers alternating positions with their fullbacks.
Lastly, to play as a winger, you need to know how to score. Wingers get numerous scoring opportunities. When you lead an attack and find yourself in the box, you can also score. This requires wingers to practice their finishing.
How Important Is a Winger?
With different soccer positions, how important is a winger? The functions of a winger have very massive impacts on the game. A winger’s position hugely determines how a team attacks and defends.
The winger position was not hugely utilized from the 80s to the early 2000S. By then, most teams used to attack with two strikers and midfielders that would supply the ball from the sides.
However, the winger position gained a lot of popularity in the 1996 world cup with teams employing the 4-2-3-1 formation. The formation had two wingers on the sides and one midfielder at the center playing behind a striker.
Teams then started using the 4-3-3 system with two defined wingers. Overall, a winger is a very important position in soccer.
This can be seen by the number of assists that wingers provide to strikers. However, their roles keep changing with coaches looking for systems that work for their teams.
How Do Wingers Score More Goals?
Wingers score goals by cutting into the box and shooting whenever they have a shooting opportunity. Although a winger’s primary role is to cross and assist goals, they can score whenever an opportunity presents itself.
Wingers can score goals by shooting from a distance or dribbling past defenders. Earlier, I mentioned dribbling, a key skill that wingers must possess. You’ll find wingers practicing shooting during training.
When wingers are looking to score, they cut from the edges and enter the box. They then look for openings from which they can shoot. So, in a way, wingers can score in so many ways as long there is an opportunity.
If a winger in a team is the penalty taker, then he/she can also score from a penalty sport whenever a penalty is awarded.
For instance, Cristiano Ronaldo plays as a winger for Portugal but is their penalty taker. He is the leading goal scorer for Portugal, a record that will remain for years.
In a way, a winger can score whenever there is a clear chance in the opponent’s box. However, in most cases, expect them to cut through and pass the ball to a striker or other teammates.
Is a Winger a Forward or Midfielder?
Wingers are forwards and not midfielders. However, in some game formations, wingers can play midfielder roles, therefore, creating confusion. Most people are not sure whether wingers are midfielders or forwards.
This is the case, especially in modern football which has a physical approach. You’ll find wingers still fighting for the ball and tackling as midfielders. However, wingers remain primarily forwards.
In a game of soccer, wingers need to retain much of their energy for attacks. This is important, especially in counter-attacking teams. When such wingers spend much of their time tackling, they end up lacking enough gas for attacks.
Overall, wingers are forwards. However, they can perform some midfielder roles whenever necessary. Using them solely as midfielders is a mistake and can cost your team.
What Is the Difference Between Winger and Striker?
By now, I hope you understand what it means to be a winger in soccer. So, what’s the difference between a winger and a striker? The two positions share some similarities and differences.
They both play close to the goal. However, a winger plays further on the wings while a striker takes a central role and is closer to the goal. A forward is any of the attacking players on the team.
A winger will play on the outside of the box and cut inside to score. However, in most cases, they will cross to the pass directing the ball on the striker’s path.
Overall, a striker plays the furthest forward position in a team. The main responsibility of a striker is to score goals while the main responsibility of a winger is to assist.
In a soccer game, a winger will be judged by the number of crosses or assists made. A striker on the other hand will be judged by the number of goals scored.
However, in some instances on the field, you can see the forward and winger interchange roles, although occasionally.
Famous Players in the Winger Position
The list of famous players in the winger position is endless. It is a loved position where some of the greatest soccer players in history are. I’ll list a few of the famous players in the winger position below.
- Luis Figo
Luis Figo of Portugal was one of the greatest wingers during his time at Real Madrid.
He played on the right-wing at Real Madrid and for the Portugal National team. While he lacked pace which is critical for a winger, he more than made up for it with his pin-point passes and excellent dribbling ability.
He was part of Portugal’s Golden Generation. He won the La Liga title four times playing for Barcelona and Real Madrid. He also won the Serie A four times playing for Inter Milan.
He had a knack for scoring powerful goals from his freekicks.
- George Best
George Best was known as the greatest dribbler that ever lived. Even the legend Pele named him the best dribbler and goalscorer during their time. He was one of the best players in England playing for Manchester United.
He was a two-footed footballer that would play either wing. This made him quite deadly for opponents as he would switch wings making it difficult for defenders to mark him. Best had a great pace and good goal-scoring instincts.
- Cristiano Ronaldo
The name Cristiano Ronaldo had to appear when talking about wingers. The Portuguese winger is still actively playing and remains one of the best wingers in the modern era.
Cristiano is best known for his incredible desire to win matches. He has had a dazzling career as a soccer player for Lisbon, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus.
He stands out as one of the best wingers with a great goal-scoring record. Ronaldo has transitioned his game over the years and can play any of the front three positions. His name will be remembered as one of the best soccer players in the modern era.
- Roberto Rivellino
You may have not heard of him but Roberto Rivellino is regarded as one of the most creative wingers that ever lived. Playing for Corinthians and Fluminense, Roberto had a pace and skill that would not be matched by anyone.
He would showcase his skills in the 1970 World Cup helping Brazil lift the trophy. He played with the likes of Pele and Roberto Carlos. Roberto was known for his ingenuity and flair that would leave defenders chasing the ball.
- Ryan Giggs
Welsman Ryan Giggs lives in the history of Manchester United. Some would say he is Manchester United. As a left-footed player, Ryan Giggs made the left-wing his own at Manchester from 1991 to 2004 before his retirement.
He had the pace and trickery to outwit opponents and provide pin-point passes for his teammates. Giggs made over 963 appearances for Manchester United winning 13 premier league titles, 4 FA cups, two Champions League titles, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
- Robert Pires
The Frenchman who played for Arsenal was a typical winger announcing his arrival in England in a Premier League match against their arch-rivals Tottenham. Pires had a great technique and would make killer passes. He had a unique running style that was quite deceptive, leaving the defenders for the floor.
He won the World cup titles and two premier league titles. Robert Pires was part of the invincible team that went the entire season unbeaten.
Garrincha is considered the greatest dribbler with the ball. Playing for the Brazil National team from 1955 to 1966, Garrincha stood out with unique sets of skills. While most wingers and forwards are known for the number of goals scored, Garrincha is remembered for his sublime dribbling skills.
He is a diminutive winger that toyed with defenders at will. When he had the ball at his feet, he would leave defenders and provide goal-scoring chances.
Surprising Questions People Want to Know About Wingers
Is a Winger the Hardest Position in Soccer?
The winger is a tough position in soccer but not the hardest. However, a winger is a pretty challenging position that requires players with a specific set of skills.
A winger needs to be fast and has great vision. he/she also needs to know how to dribble and make good crosses.
While it might not appear so, the goalkeeper position is by far the hardest in soccer. Goalkeepers have to be alert and know how to position themselves.
They also need to make very decisive choices very fast. Goalkeepers also face a lot of shots making their position the toughest.
Are Wingers Important in Soccer?
Without a doubt, wingers are very important in soccer. Wingers play a crucial role in opening defenses and creating goal-scoring opportunities. Wingers are very vital to how a team performs.
Apart from providing crosses, wingers can also score goals, defend and tackle opponents when necessary. They play a key role in a team bringing great balance between attack and defense.
What Makes a Good Winger?
What makes a good winger in soccer is the ability to dribble, speed, and make accurate crosses creating goal-scoring opportunities. A good winger must know his/her responsibilities and take them creating scoring chances for the team.
Such winners need dribbling skills, good vision, speed, endurance, and defending ability. A good winger creates havoc in the opposition half. He can dribble and create tricks that lead to fouls.
Is Ronaldo a Winger?
Cristiano Ronaldo is a winger but has recently transitioned and can play as a striker. He started his career as a winger blistering defenses with lightning speed. He would run at defenders and create a lot of trickery that would lead to fouls.
While he is a natural winger, he has perfected his game and can play as a striker depending on the team formation.
Well, that is the end! Now you know the winger position in soccer, its main roles, and responsibilities. A winger in soccer plays wide on the offensive side creating goal-scoring opportunities for his team.
Wingers run and dribble past defenders before passing the ball into the box for the strikers to score. However, they can also cut inside the box and shoot or dribble past defenders and score.
The winger position is a pretty tough position in soccer that requires great vision, speed, stamina, and excellent crossing abilities.
A winger will always be judged by the number of assists made to the team. Some skills like crossing and finishing are perfected with time through practice.
However, soccer is always evolving with coaches looking for strategies and tactics to match their opponents. You’ll now find wingers cutting on the inside more and scoring goals.
A good example is Arjen Robben who played for Bayern Munich. He is known for his curling shots toward the goal after cutting from the sides.