What Is The Hardest Soccer Position? (Fully Explained)

Every position in soccer requires skill, fitness, and intelligence. So you could say that every position in soccer is hard to play. However, some are harder than others, so what is the hardest soccer position?

The goalkeeper is the hardest soccer position to play. This is because of the amount of skill and natural ability that a player must have to be a goalkeeper. There is also more pressure and responsibility on a goalkeeper than in any other position.

The hardest position in soccer is the goalkeeper, but why? Why do goalkeepers have more pressure than any other position? Find out answers to these questions and more in this article.

What is The Hardest Position in Soccer?

If you're thinking about taking up soccer as a new sport, then there's a good chance you've considered playing as a goalkeeper.

This could be because goalkeepers run the least, so you might think that would make it the easiest soccer position to play.

Somewhat surprisingly, the goalkeeper is actually the most difficult position in soccer. You may not be running too much, but you will need great reflexes, strength, bravery, and the ability to read a game.

You also need to be the absolute best player in that position, as there's only one goalkeeper spot in the team up for grabs.

Goalkeepers are always the very last line of defense; this means that goalkeepers have more pressure on them than any other position.

Why is Goalkeeper The Hardest Position in Soccer?

The goalkeeper is the hardest position in soccer because they are required to be at their best at all times. They are expected to save nearly every shot on goal. Goalkeepers also have more pressure on them as one mistake could cost their team the game.

There are many more reasons why goalkeeper is the most difficult position in soccer. There's much more to being a goalie than one might think.

Here I will list what is needed to be a good goalkeeper:

High skill level:

Aside from the high expectations of being a goalkeeper, there are many skills and natural abilities that a player must have in order to be a goalkeeper.

Reflexes

The main job of a goalkeeper is to stop the ball from hitting the back of the net. This means that goalkeepers need cat-like reflexes in order to react to forwards who can shoot the ball at any area of the goal.

Being able to predict where an attacking player will aim the ball and then move their body in time to stop the shot is a sign of a top goalkeeper.

Speed and agility

It's no good having great reflexes if you don't also have the speed and agility to match.

Goalkeepers need great agility to be able to dive across the goal. Keepers need to be agile enough to cover all the space, whether it's the top corner, bottom corner, or straight down the middle.

Speed is also vital for a goalkeeper, especially in one-on-one situations when they might need to sprint off their goal line to stop an oncoming attacker.

Ball handling

This one might sound obvious, but every goalkeeper needs to be able to handle the ball with confidence.

Putting yourself in front of the ball to stop a goal is important, but it's just as important to try and hold onto the ball to prevent it from going back into play.

The last thing any teammate wants to see is their goalkeeper fumbling a catch or dropping the ball in front of an attacker.

Jumping

One of the main tasks for a goalkeeper is to try to catch any ball that is crossed into their penalty area.

This often requires the goalkeeper to jump over a crowd of players to take the ball out of the air before a shot on goal can occur.

As you can see from what I have listed, many abilities are needed to play in goal. I will now continue to cover what other attributes are required to be a good goalkeeper.

Patience and concentration:

Despite the immense pressures that goalkeepers have to handle, it's surprisingly easy for them to lose concentration during a soccer game.

If the goalie's team is controlling the game, there's a good chance that the goalkeeper can go for minutes at a time without touching the ball or being involved in the game.

This means that the goalkeeper needs to have a lot of patience and concentration to be ready to act when the ball finally comes their way.

Courage:

Playing in goal takes a certain amount of courage. That's because the goalkeeper is the most dangerous position in soccer.

It's dangerous because goalkeepers sustain more severe injuries than any other position, with the worst injuries being concussions and other head injuries.

(Click here to find out which soccer positions have the most injuries)

According to a recent study, the number of injuries per player who played as a goalkeeper was 10.8%. So 10.8% of all goalkeepers in this study received some injury. Goalkeepers accounted for 16% of all injuries during the study.

Goalkeepers put their bodies at risk in every game.

Whether it's jumping through a crowd of players or throwing themselves at the feet of an oncoming attacker, keepers need to be incredibly brave.

Strength:

It also requires a lot of strength to be a goalkeeper. Not only because of how often keepers collide with other players but because of the speed of shots at the top level.

These shots can sometimes hit terrifying speeds, with the fastest shot of all time clocking in at 131.8 mph (210.9 km/h).

This can easily result in a broken finger or dislocated wrist for the goalie. So, of course, the more strength a keeper has built up, the less likely one of these injuries is.

Height:

If you were to watch a soccer game, you would probably notice that the goalkeeper is usually one of the tallest players on the team.

This is due to the enormous size of a goal in soccer. Goals at the professional level are 8 ft tall and 24 ft wide.

Needless to say, it's beneficial for a goalkeeper to have a good height in order to cover this huge amount of space.

Vision:

When we talk about vision in soccer, we don't mean eyesight. Though, that is actually also important for goalkeepers!

What we mean by vision is the ability to read the game. To predict how an attack might play out and where players will end up on the field.

This is usually an ability we talk about for attacking players, but it is extremely important for a goalkeeper to have this as well.

A good goalkeeper should always have a good idea of what is about to happen in front of them. That way, they can position themselves in the best possible way to stop a goal.

Calm under pressure:

One of the main reasons it is so hard to be a goalkeeper is the pressure that goalies are under.

If a goalkeeper makes a mistake during a game, there's a very high chance that it could lead to a goal for the opposition. Even worse, it could cause a loss for the goalkeeper's team.

Because of this, there's always a high chance that goalkeepers will receive more criticism from supporters than other players.

For this reason, a coach will want his goalkeeper to have a cool head and be calm under pressure. A panicky goalkeeper is always a recipe for disaster.

Leadership and communication:

Being a goalkeeper is not just about stopping goals during open play; they also need to stop set pieces from being scored.

To do this, the goalkeeper will be responsible for organizing the defense when the opposition team has a dangerous free-kick. 

This responsibility lies with the goalkeeper because only they can see which areas are most at risk, and so they will adjust their defense accordingly.

To do this effectively, the goalkeeper must have good communication skills and a strong sense of leadership so that other players listen to them.

Drive to be the best:

The unique part of being a goalkeeper may be the fact there is only one of them in the starting eleven.

This means that, unlike other positions, you have to be the very best goalkeeper on the team if you want to play.

This requires the goalkeeper to play at their highest level, not just during the game but also in training sessions.

The Goalkeeper Position Compared to Other Positions

Goalkeeper standing still in the goal

To determine why goalkeeper is the hardest position in soccer, we need to look at the responsibilities of the other positions and compare them to those of a goalkeeper.

Goalkeepers compared to defenders:

Defenders are probably the closest to goalkeepers when it comes to having to deal with pressure. This is because they have the same responsibilities as a goalkeeper; they too are responsible for keeping the ball out of their goal.

However, the difference between defenders and goalkeepers is that there are multiple defenders in a game compared to only one goalkeeper.

This means that the pressure and responsibility are split between four or five players who can all cover each other. The goalkeeper has no such advantage.

Goalkeepers compared to midfielders:

Some people are often mistaken in thinking the midfield position is the hardest in soccer. This is probably due to the amount of time midfielders spend on the ball.

This is not true, though, as midfield players can get away with making multiple mistakes during a game. This is not the case for the goalkeeper.

If a midfielder makes a mistake, it doesn't go unnoticed.

However, they are lucky enough to have both the defenders and the goalkeeper behind them to try and make up for any errors and win the ball back.

Goalkeepers compared to forwards:

A forward's responsibility to score goals is perhaps just as important as the goalkeepers' responsibility to stop them.

It is still harder to be a goalkeeper because the keeper can have no excuses in the eyes of the coaches and spectators.

If a forward player fails to score a goal, they can often blame other forwards or the midfield players for not creating enough chances during a game.

The pressure can also be taken off them if a player in a different position manages to score a goal.

Once again, the goalkeeper can only have themselves to blame if a mistake is made in their position or if they fail to stop a goal from being scored.

What is The Second Hardest Position in Soccer?

So now that you know the goalkeeper is the hardest position in soccer, you may want to know what is the second hardest position.

The second hardest position in soccer is the midfield position. This is because midfielders run more than any other position. They also share the responsibilities of both defenders and attackers.

Although the midfield is the second most difficult position in soccer, the fact that the goalkeeper is the hardest makes the midfield the hardest outfield position.

Why is Midfielder The Second Hardest Position in Soccer?

The main reason the midfield position is the second hardest is due to how much running is required.

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.

Of those 10,611 meters (11,604 yards), 719 meters (786 yards) were covered while running at a high intensity, while 114 meters (124 yards) were covered while sprinting.

This makes the midfield position the soccer position that runs the most.

Another reason why it is so difficult is due to how many responsibilities the midfield players have.

Because most of the game is played in the middle of the field, midfielders see more of the ball than any other position.

This means that midfielders need to create chances for the forward players and help cover the defense when needed.

The Midfielder Position Compared to Other Positions

Once again, comparing the midfield position with others is good to show why it is such a difficult position.

Midfielders compared to goalkeepers:

As we already know, the responsibilities of a goalkeeper and the skills required make this the hardest soccer position.

However, there's no denying that midfielders obviously have to work much harder. Midfielders cover 10,611 meters (11,604 yards) in a game compared to a goalkeeper's average of 5,611 meters (6,136 yards).

Once again, though, the goalkeeper position is still the hardest soccer position.

Midfielders compared to defenders:

Although defenders arguably have more pressure on them than midfielders do, it is still more difficult to play in midfield due to how much midfielders have the ball.

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.

Because of this, midfielders are the ones who are most responsible for controlling the game. More so than defenders and forwards.

Midfielders compared to forwards:

Forwards are responsible for scoring goals. There's no denying the importance of this.

However, midfielders often have to help forwards score. So there is something to be said for midfielders having as much pressure to contribute to goals as forwards.

When you include a midfielder's defensive responsibilities and the amount of running they do, it's clear that the midfield position is harder than the forward position.

Conclusion

There's no doubt that the goalkeeper is the hardest position in soccer. This is due to the skill level required to be a goalkeeper and the amount of pressure on goalkeepers due to their big responsibilities.

Because there is only one goalkeeper spot in the starting eleven, it is a position that means the player has to be at their absolute best at all times to keep their place in the team.

The second hardest position in soccer is the midfield. This is due to the midfielder's work rate and their multiple responsibilities during a game.

James Miller

Soccer has been my passion since I was a kid. After my own career, I became a coach, something I have been doing for 15 years now. Sharing my knowledge about soccer is what I love most. So I hope you can appreciate my articles.
Published: 
August 11, 2022
Published: August 11, 2022