There's no denying that every player has to work hard in a soccer game. However, some positions are much easier to play in than others due to each position's different amount of responsibilities. So what is the easiest position in soccer?
The easiest position in soccer is the fullback position. This is because fullbacks have less responsibility and less pressure to defend compared to other defenders. Fullbacks also see less of the ball compared to other positions on the field.
The easiest position in soccer is the fullback, but why? How much work does a fullback have to do, and are they the worst players on the field? You will find out the answers to these questions and more in this article!
If you're considering taking up soccer as a new sport, you might be worried about jumping in at the deep end. You may want to get started in the easiest position on the field.
The easiest position to play in is the fullback position. If you play as a fullback, you will have less running to do than midfielders and forwards. You will also have less pressure from your coach and spectators.
In a soccer game, there are usually two fullbacks in a formation. One on the right side of the field (the right back) and one on the left side (the left back).
Fullbacks are defenders who play on either side of the center backs.
They are tasked with supporting the center backs, usually by keeping a straight line for offside traps, tackling when needed, and blocking crosses and shots.
Fullbacks should not be confused with wingbacks.
Although both fullbacks and wingbacks play in very similar positions, their responsibilities and work rates differ quite a lot.
Fullbacks are always a lot more defensive than wingbacks and are utilized when a team only uses two center backs.
However, if a team is playing with three center backs, they usually play with wingbacks instead of fullbacks.
Wingbacks are expected to be more attacking and run further up the field. This means wingbacks will often cover more ground than fullbacks and have more pressure to attack.
This is why it is easier to be a fullback than a wingback.
A team will never play with both fullbacks and wingbacks at the same time; it is always one or the other. So, check with your coach how they like to play before fully committing to the position.
Hopefully, you now have a good idea of what a fullback is, but why exactly is it the easiest position to play in?
The fullback position is the easiest position to play in because they have fewer responsibilities than any other position on the field. They also run the third-least amount of any position and have less possession of the ball compared to midfielders and center backs.
Below I discuss the different reasons why fullback is the easiest position to play.
Generally speaking, fullbacks have fewer responsibilities than other players on the field. In turn, this means they are able to play with less pressure on them.
Although fullbacks are defenders, they are rarely the last line of defense. The responsibility of keeping the ball out of the net falls to the center backs and the goalkeeper before it does the fullback.
The same can be said for attacking play.
Fullbacks will sometimes have an opportunity to get forward and supply the forwards with crosses.
However, creating chances for the forward players isn't a fullback's primary responsibility either. That task mainly falls to attacking midfielders and wingers.
So as we can see, there are very few responsibilities for a fullback.
This results in fullbacks being able to play the game with much less pressure on them compared to other positions.
According to a recent study, fullbacks see less of the ball than most other positions. The only outfield position that touches the ball less than fullbacks are forwards.
This is expected as forwards are being closed down and tackled by the opposition defense whenever they're on the ball.
Central midfielders, defensive midfielders, and center backs are all seeing more of the ball than fullbacks are.
That's because fullbacks are on the part of the field where there is much less play with the ball than in most other areas.
Research shows that over 55% of an average team's possession is played through the center of the field.
The remaining percentage is split between either side of the field, with less than 20% being played down either wing.
With fullbacks basically being wide defenders, this means they are not touching the ball as much as players who are positioned more centrally.
Essentially, fullbacks are positioned in an area that is the least likely to have an effect on the game.
According to a study that evaluated how much each position runs on average during a game, fullbacks only cover an average distance of 9,888 meters (10,813 yards) a game.
Compared to many sports, this is still a lot of running. But given the size of soccer fields, you should always expect a lot of running.
However, this distance is actually relatively low compared to other positions in soccer.
The intensity levels of a fullback's running aren't very high, with only 8.2% of a fullback's running being done at high intensity, and only 1.9% of a fullback's running is sprinting.
So although you will be expected to cover a lot of ground no matter what position you play in, it's safe to say you will not have to worry about too much sprinting if you were to play as a fullback.
The only time a fullback has to sprint is when an opposing attacker has sprinted past the fullback and then sprints to the goal.
You may be wondering why a fullback spends only 1.9% of their running time sprinting.
This is because fullbacks are in an advantageous position to stop wingers and forwards before they can sprint towards the goal.
With their back to goal, an experienced fullback can often block off the space that the forward player can run into.
A good fullback will force the forward to cross the ball, pass it back, or dribble past the fullback.
Even the best dribblers in the world don't average much more than five successful dribbles past a defender in a single game.
This means the chances of a forward deciding to go past the fullback is relatively low, with most players choosing to cross the ball or pass it back.
Even then, a fullback has a good opportunity to block the cross. Even if the fullback fails to block a cross, they still have their center backs and goalkeeper to rely on.
This is why you won't find fullbacks sprinting and chasing opposition players as often as you might expect.
To determine why playing as a fullback is the easiest position in soccer, we need to look at the responsibilities of the other positions and compare them to those of a fullback.
You may be tricked into thinking it's easier to play as a center back given that they run the least amount in soccer of any outfield player on the field.
However, center backs are the last line of defense before the goalkeeper. This means they often must put their bodies on the line to stop opposing goals.
Because of this, center backs are much more likely to get injured than fullbacks.
(Click here to find out what soccer position has the most injuries)
It also means that center backs have much more pressure to stop a goal than a fullback. If a fullback fails to stop an attacking player, then the center backs are usually there to try to rescue the situation.
A mistake by a center back is almost always more dangerous for a team than a mistake by a fullback is.
This results in coaches and supporters being much more forgiving of fullbacks than they would be for center backs.
The midfielder is the soccer position that runs the most.
A 2021 study covering 31 top leagues across Europe and America determined that midfielders cover an average distance of 10,611 meters (11,604 yards) during a game of soccer.
In comparison, fullbacks only cover an average distance of 9,888 meters (10,813 yards) per game. This means fullbacks run 723 meters (791 yards) less on average than a midfield player.
According to the study, only center backs and goalkeepers covered less ground than fullbacks.
There are also fewer responsibilities for a fullback than for a midfielder. This is because the midfielders see much more of the ball than fullbacks do.
Therefore, they are tasked with keeping the game moving and creating chances.
It is harder to be a forward player than a fullback because a forward is responsible for scoring the goals and winning the game.
It is expected for a forward to score a goal. If they fail to do so, then they are usually heavily criticized by supporters.
On the other hand, fullbacks are never expected to score, so do not carry any extra pressure. So if a fullback scores, it is arguably celebrated even more so than if a forward scores.
The same comparisons can be made to wingers.
Wingers are expected to get up the field and help with the attack. Something that a fullback can do from time-to-time, but is not always expected to do.
Forwards (and wingers) also have the highest frequency of injuries compared to other positions. So it is also safer to be a fullback than a forward.
Goalkeepers cover much less ground than any other position. That doesn't mean that it's easier to be a keeper than a fullback.
Goalkeepers arguably have more pressure than any other position on the field. If a goalkeeper makes a mistake, it could easily cost their team the game. Fullbacks have nowhere near the same level of risk in their game.
It has also been proven that playing as the goalkeeper is the most dangerous position in soccer. This is due to the severity of injuries that goalies often suffer.
The severity of injuries that fullbacks suffer is much less.
As you can see when looking at the other positions, fullbacks have much fewer responsibilities and pressure than any other position.
Just because the fullback is the easiest position to play in doesn't mean there isn't work to be done.
Essentially, a fullback is expected to support the center backs and come forward when the opportunity arises. Fullbacks are expected to block crosses, keep their defensive line, and move the ball forward to midfield.
Although every position is important, fullbacks do not have a specific requirement that could lead to winning or losing a game.
This means that if a fullback has a bad game, it can sometimes go unnoticed. This clearly isn't the case for every other position.
On the other hand, fullbacks can sometimes unexpectedly find themselves in a position to help win a game. Either by making a final tackle in place of a center back or by scoring a goal themselves.
So if a fullback does this, he can still get the same praise and acclaim as any other position. It's almost a win-win situation.
Another reason it is easier to play as a fullback is that fullbacks have less possession of the ball than most other outfield players.
According to a recent study, fullbacks touched the ball much less than other positions. Central midfielders, defensive midfielders, and center backs all had more touches per game than the fullbacks.
Even when a fullback does have possession of the ball, their main job is to pass it to the midfield players or down the line to a winger. These are usually simple passes to make.
A fullback will rarely be pressured by an opposition player when making their pass. This is not the case for players further up the field.
Given everything we know about the fullback position, it would be reasonable to assume that the worst players in soccer are the fullbacks.
When talking about amateur soccer teams, the least-skilled player in the team is usually the fullback. However, this isn't always the case with professional teams. It also depends on the skill level of the team and the tactics they choose to play.
Let's take Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool team, for example.
The modern style of play that Klopp utilizes at Liverpool means that his fullbacks overlap his wingers and help the team attack regularly.
For this reason, both fullbacks have to be of a high level.
In fact, many fans see Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson (Liverpool's fullbacks) as two of the best players on that team.
Kyle Walker and João Cancelo for Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are other great examples of world-class fullbacks who play important roles for their team.
The difference here, however, is teams like Liverpool and Manchester City are able to keep possession and control the ball throughout a game.
This gives their fullbacks more freedom to play compared to other teams.
So as you can see, the worst player in a team is not always the fullback. Especially when talking about the elite soccer teams.
But what about other teams? Is this always the case?
For a good example of lesser-quality players playing in the fullback position, it's good to look at some players who have converted to this position. And also the players who outgrew the position.
Let's take Branislav Ivanovic, for example.
Ivanovic first arrived at Chelsea from Lokomotiv Moscow as a successful center back. However, it was soon clear that Ivanovic was not up to the standard of the other Chelsea center backs.
This resulted in Ivanovic being moved to the fullback position. In his new position, there was less pressure, and the player thrived.
In a similar situation, Hector Bellerin was brought in by Arsenal to play as a winger.
Unfortunately for Bellerin, he couldn't live up to expectations and was moved to the fullback position. He ended up successfully playing as a pacey fullback for the rest of his career.
It is also very common for players to be moved to fullback as they get older. This often happens with wingers who can no longer run at high speed.
Players such as Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, and Lucas Vázquez have all made this move as age caught up with them.
Looking at players who were too good to play in the fullback position, we can look at Gareth Bale as a prime example.
Gareth Bale started his career as a fullback for Southampton. When he moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2007, he quickly became one of the best players on that team.
Tottenham's manager at the time, Harry Redknapp, felt like he wasn't getting the most out of his star player in the fullback position.
With Bale being so fast and able to run past players and score at will, Redknapp decided to change Bale's position from fullback to a winger.
The rest is history, as Gareth Bale went on to win multiple Champions League trophies as a winger for Real Madrid.
As you can see from the examples I have used, it is very common for a team to move a player to the fullback position if they are not playing to their highest ability.
It is also not surprising when a top-quality fullback is moved to a different position to get the most out of their abilities.
Due to having fewer responsibilities and pressure compared to other positions, the fullback is the easiest position to play in soccer.
It is also helped by the fact that fullbacks run the third-least amount of any outfield player and touch the ball less than center backs and midfielders.
In some cases, the fullback can be very effective for a team. Players such as Trent Alexander-Arnold can be one of the best players on their team.
However, players are often moved to fullback if they are not performing to their highest standard.