A winger in soccer is the spark in the team, they can create something out of nothing. Wingers will have a wide range of skills that they’ll use to torment the opposition fullbacks. As was as creating matching winning moments, they will also chip in with their fair share of goals. In this post, I will go over everything you need to be a world-class winger in soccer.
Where does a winger play in soccer
In each team, there will always be two wingers and they play in the wide areas of the pitch.
The wingers will have the numbers 11 and 7, with the number 11 playing on the left-wing and the number 7 playing on the right-wing.
They are the players who will try to create the most chances in the game.
6 Roles of the winger
Playing as a winger is an incredibly popular position. You need to be on top of your game if you want to nail down a starting position as a number 11 or 7.
When your team is attacking the wingers should be looking to get as wide and as quickly as possible. The wingers should always be demanding the ball because their talents can unlock the opposition defenses.
However, the role of the winger isn’t just to go forward. They must also play their part in helping their team defend.
When the team is defending typically the winger will drop back and help the fullback, this will prevent a 2v1 scenario.
The roles of the winger will vary depending on whether or not your team owns the ball.
Below are 6 different roles for when your team is in, and out, of possession of the ball I use to coach my players on how to be a better winger in soccer.
In Possession of the ball
Provide width for the team
This is a fairly basic role of the winger, but you’ll be surprised by how many players don’t do this.
Many wingers get tunnel vision, especially when the ball is on the otherwise of the pitch. This is mostly down to frustration for not getting the ball.
However, getting drawn to the ball is one way to reduce your chances of actually receiving the ball.
When your team has possession of the ball you’ll want to make sure you are right up against the by-line.
This is where the old-school saying of ‘get chalk on your boots’ comes from.
Wingers would spend so much time on the wing that the chalk from the pitch would rub off on their boots!
As a winger make sure you are as wide as possible when your team has the ball. Not only does this increase your chance of receiving the ball but you will also give yourself a lot more time on the ball.
Another indirect reason to get as wide as possible is that even if you do not receive the ball is to give more space to players in central positions.
This stretches the opposition team across the whole width of the pitch.
Create Goal scoring opportunities
As mentioned previously the winger is considered a team’s most dangerous player and with good reason too!
The wide players need to consistently produce game-winning moments throughout the season, not just sprinkled intermittently.
Here are the different ways that wingers can create chances for their teams:
- Dribbling past players
Wingers should have electric feet and pace, when a winger combines these they can terrify defenders.
You immediately put a team on the back foot by looking to beat players in a 1v1 to break their line of defense.
This will give you more space to dribble into to exploit and provide your teammates an opportunity to get into more threatening positions to score goals.
- Crossing the ball from wide areas
The best wingers in the world are not always the most skillful or the fasted, some of the best wingers have the best delivery, whether it be a 40 yard back post cross or a 7 yard pull back.
They are the best at using a quick skill with a change of direction and speed to get the yard of space to whip the ball into a dangerous area
To keep the defenders guessing these wingers will happily cross the ball with either foot.
Have a look at these crossing and finishing drills to help step your game up.
- Runs off the ball
As well as being a threat on the ball wingers can also be a threat off the ball.
This can be done by making a run to drag opposition players out of position with the intent of creating space for your teammates to exploit.
This is a great way to influence the game if you are being man-marked and struggling to have an impact on the game with the ball at your feet.
Wingers should also be wanting to score their fair of goals too.
This is healthy for the team to have a wide variety of players contributing to the goal tally.
A lot of goals from wingers come from playing defenders’ blind spots and making late runs towards the back post, waiting for any crosses or rebounds to capitalize on.
Wingers should be confident finishing from close range as well as from distance.
Some coaches play with inverted wingers (left-footed players on the right-wing or right-footed players on the left-wing). This enables the wingers to cut inside on their stronger foot and have a shot from distance.
Out of possession of the ball
Pressing the opposition team
Wingers are deployed as attacking players, however, it does not mean they get away from defensive responsibilities.
A team’s first line of defense is their attack and this could be more true with attackers and wingers.
In soccer, playing out from the back has become an increasingly popular style of football play.
When it works it looks great! But equally, it can gift the opposition teams easy goals if done poorly.
When of the best ways to counter playing out from the back is by working together as a team to press the ball.
Pressing a team involves forcing the opposition to play into a certain area of the pitch.
This is achieved by closing down certain angles and pressuring the player on the ball to limit the number of options they have.
The goal is to try to force the possessing team into a mistake that helps your team regain possession.
Support the full-back when defending
As the tactics of soccer have evolved fullbacks have become more and more of an attacking threat.
This has meant that the wingers are required to track back and support the fullback when defending.
If a winger decided not to track back then this will put your fullback in an unfavorable 2v1 scenario, increasing the chances of the opposition scoring.
Not only with the fullback grow frustrated with you but also the coach as well.
Yes, you are on the team to score goals but helping prevent goals is just as important.
No players’ egos should be too big to defend, even a winger!
Find positions where you could start a counter-attack if a transition occurs
When you are defending, it can be easy to ball watch and check around you to see what is happening.
Not only should you be doing this to check the runs of the opposition attackers but you should also be doing this to find pockets of spaces you can move into if a transition occurs.
A transition in soccer is where a change in possession happens and therefore the roles of the players immediately change.
By having an idea of where these spaces are in your head you can transition quicker than the opposition team and create a successful counter-attack.
This can be a hard skill to do because you are trying to anticipate what will happen.
If you over-commit to the counter-attack when your team has not yet won the ball this can leave a huge space for the opposition team to attack.
Qualities that all wingers must have to be successful
Worldclass wingers are the type of players to have you on the edge of your seat because just don’t know what they’re going to do next.
You need to be the same!
Defenders find it incredibly difficult to mark a player with a wide variety of skills, movements, and ability to use both feet.
Here are some tips on how you can be an unpredictable winger in soccer:
- Change up how you want to receive the ball
A winger you can either receive the ball to your feet or play in front of you to run onto.
You may want to receive the ball into your feet a couple of times to draw the in defender and then ask for a ball to be played in behind the defender where you know they have left space.
Equally, you can do the opposite. After getting the ball played into your long you can check-in and receive the ball to your feet.
If you always receive the ball in a certain position the defenders will take note of this and easily defend you out of the game.
- Use both feet
Whatever wingers can do with one foot they should be able to do with the other (they are some exceptions to this).
One of the first things a defender will try to figure out is what your stronger foot is.
Once they have this information they will plan their strategy on how to handle you for the game.
Being comfortable on both feet makes you a lot harder to predict.
This also keeps many more options open to you when you have the ball.
- Vary how you dribble past players
Having a repertoire of skills you can use is a great start to beating a defender.
However, there are a variety of other methods you can use to get past your defender.
Think about your first touch and whether or not you could beat the defender with it.
Try and use quick changes of direction and pace to confuse a defender.
Being unpredictable will make the defender think twice before getting too close to you, this will inevitably give you more time and space on the ball.
An eye for goal
Having an eye for goal and contributing towards the team’s goal count can separate you from the crowd.
As a winger, you need to be pro-actively looking to get yourself in situations where you can score goals.
This can be having the ball at your feet or looking to find spaces where you can receive the ball.
Having an eye for goal isn’t something that comes naturally to all players. However, it is a skill you can work on and improve.
Here are a couple of tips on how to score more goals as a winger:
- Work on your finishing
Working on your finishing ability will improve your goal-scoring record tenfold.
As a winger, you must be able to finish from a variety of different positions and score in different scenarios.
On top of this, you need to practice shooting with both feet.
Anticipation is where you take in the information around you and paint a picture in your head of what could happen next.
This is achieved by scanning the area around you and looking at the movements, body shape, and communication of your teammates and the defenders in relation to where the ball is on the pitch.
From this information, you can try to anticipate where and where to move to meet cross coming in.
Confidence in possession of the ball
Being confident on the ball is a mindset.
You’re going out and with your body language saying ‘When I get the ball I am going to change the game’.
The best wingers never shy away from the ball and constantly demand it, even if the game isn’t going their way.
They are never afraid to try new skills, beat players, or take calculated risks.
However, if they do make a mistake they accept it, learn from it, and make sure they are better for next time.
The best way to learn and get better to build your confidence is by taking risks and making mistakes in a competitive stress-free environment.
Take these opportunities in your practices sessions to push your boundaries.
Another way to improve your confidence is to mentally and physically prepare yourself through a proper warm-up before the game.
Good positional sense
Playing as a winger can be hard, especially if you are new to the position.
You’ll notice that if you watch professionals, they always seem to be in the right place at the right time.
This is no fluke!
Professional wingers are great at scanning the area around them and anticipating what will help next.
By doing this they can adjust their runs and find pockets of space that can be beneficial to the team when going forward.
This also applies to their defensive duties as well, the wingers’ can track back and make crucial interceptions.
They will also communicate with their teammates and trust what they are saying, as this helps them see a scenario from a different perspective.
The wingers can speak to their coaches after the game to discuss how their positioning could be better in certain situations.
Soccer skills you must work on to be a brilliant winger
Having a wide range of soccer skills and methods you can use to beat defenders at your disposal will make you a tricky winger to come up against.
By beating your defender you will also be able to create dangerous opportunities for your team to score goals.
However, you must remember to see the bigger picture.
Make sure you are dribbling with your head up.
Often wingers will make the mistake of holding onto the ball for too long, get crowded out, and lose possession of the ball.
Know when is the right to dribble and when is the right time to cross or pass the ball to a teammate who is in a better position to score than you.
Here are my coaching points to help players be successful at dribbling in soccer:
- Dribble with your head up
- As you approach the defender take little touches
- Perform your skill at speed about 2 yards away from the defender
- The first movement of your skill should convince the defender you are going one way with your second movement taking you the way you want to go with the ball
- Take a big touch out of your feet and accelerate away from the defender
There is no point in learning all these skills and dribbling techniques to beat defenders if you don’t have an end product whether it be a shot on target or a successful cross to a teammate.
There are a variety of different crosses you can use in soccer to get the ball to your teammate. Here are 6 different crosses you can use:
- Low driven cross
- High driven cross
- Pull back
- Inswinging cross
- Outswinging cross
- Floated cross
The types of crosses you use will be very situational, it’ll depend on a variety of factors:
- The type of runs your teammates make
- Where you are on the pitch
- How much time do you have on the ball
- The style of player in the box
Another way to improve your crossing ability is to play with your head up so you are aware of what happening around you.
You shouldn’t be delivering a ball into the box by guessing that a player is going to be there.
However, it is important to remember that the more you play with the same players, the greater your understanding becomes with each other.
Click here for more information on these types of crosses and different drills you can use to improve your crossing ability.
Finishing from close range and long-distance
Getting goals as a winger is something that you are going to have to bring into your game.
As a winger, you are going to find yourself in a variety of different positions where you could score.
Finishing from close range either as a 1v1 or inbox is a must.
One of the main skills you need for finishing from close range is confidence.
You need the confidence to take your shots early.
This comes from playing with your head up and having a picture in your head of what you want to happen.
As well as being able to finish from the close range you need to have the technique and confidence to take shots from outside the box.
These situations will require a technique where you will use the inside of your foot to place the ball in the corners beyond the keeper or your laces where you will try to power the shot past the keeper.
For any one of these finishing styles, you will need to be comfortable taking your shots with either foot.
You can’t picky when it comes to your chances.
Off the ball movements
To be a winger in soccer you must constantly be moving to find little pockets of space for yourself.
Especially if you are seen as a big threat from the opposition.
When you are moving to receive the ball it will be incredibly easy to mark if your first movement is always to the ball.
Your first movement as a winger should always be away from the space you want to receive the ball, this will drag the defender with you.
Your second movement should then be back towards the space where you want to receive the ball.
Sometimes you will have to be a little bit more clever with your movements and make 2 or even 3 movements for the defender.
As well as creating space for yourself with your movements, you can also create space for your teammates to run into.
An example of this would be if your number 10 had the ball, you are in a wide position but notice your fullback is making an overlapping run around you to support the attack.
You can drag the opposition fullback inside by making a run towards the middle.
This has now given the overlapping fullback more space to exploit on the attack.
Receiving the ball in an open body position
It is critical that to be a winger in soccer you are receiving the ball in an open body position on the back foot.
the back foot is the foot that is furthest away from the ball when the pass has been made.
By receiving the ball in an open body position you are giving yourself so many more options when you receive the ball.
Before you receive the ball make sure you check your shoulder.
This is so you know whether you have space for you to turn or take your touch away from a defender.
If you receive the ball in a closed body position you become a lot easier to read as your body position is only facing in one direction which means that is the only direction can go in.
Here are my coaching tips on how to receive the ball on the back foot in soccer:
- Check your shoulder so you know whether you have the space to receive the ball on the back foot
- Check-in and create an angle to receive the ball on the back foot.
- Open your body up to keep as many options open to you as possible
- Take a positive first touch out of your feet to dribble into the space or pass to a teammate.
3 Unbelievable Players who can show you to be a winger in soccer
Ronald needs no introduction, he is one of the best soccer players that has graced the game.
He burst onto the scene with Manchester United as a teenager
Even at a young age, he had incredible balance, skills, and speed which made him an instant star in the Premier League.
He would consistently produce match-winning moments either by assisting teammates or scoring goals himself.
What was also incredible about Ronaldo was his goal-scoring record as a winger, he put up some serious numbers!
To help preserve his career he has since moved into more of a strikers role.
Mahrez was one of the main driving forces behind Leicester City’s Premier League-winning season charge in the 2015/16 season.
He is a left-footed player who predominantly plays on the right wing.
It is quite common for Mahrez to cut inside on his left foot to devastating effect. This will lead to him taking a shot to score or pass to a teammate in a dangerous situation.
He has great balance, skills, and change of direction and is a nightmare for defenders to mark.
His performances caught the attention of Manchester City, where he now plays his trade.
Beckham was a world-class, more traditional winger. He played for Manchester United, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and PSG to name a few.
He also captained England on numerous occasions.
David Beckham wasn’t renowned for his lighting pass or quick feet but he was the best at getting a yard of space and playing pinpoint crosses to his teammates.
Not only would he help set up goals in games, but he was also a dead-ball specialist. Contributing more than his fair share of goals to the team
How to be a winger in soccer conclusion
In this post, you should have all the information you need on how to be a world-class winger in soccer.
As a winger, you need to contribute towards the goals the team scores. Remember, you must put in the work to help support your team when they are defending.
As a winger, you need to be a risk-taker.
You need to be confident in your ability to swing the game in your teams’ favor.
Be prepared that not everything you try will come off and you will receive criticism from teammates and coaches.
Take it in your stride and become better from the mistakes you have made.
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Also if you have any other tips on how to be a better winger in soccer then please leave a comment below.
Have a look at my other player guides and tips:
- How to be a number 9 (striker) in soccer
- Be a better fullback in soccer
- Become a world-class center back in soccer
- How to be a better goalkeeper in soccer
- The complete guide on how to be a number 10 in soccer
- How to be a better number 6 in soccer
- Beat the offside trap every time