Monday, 22 Jul 2024

The Most Influential Positions in Football

Football is a team game, but there are four key positions, and one of them must be more important than the others, right? Let’s make a case for each position and explore their impact on the game.

The Importance of a Goalkeeper

Manuel Neuer is almost like a sweeper as well as a goalkeeper

When it comes to the importance of a single player, goalkeepers often take the spotlight. According to John Terry, Petr Cech’s arrival at Arsenal was estimated to save them 12 to 15 points a season, emphasizing just how vital a top-class goalkeeper can be. Their ability to make crucial saves and position themselves strategically can turn the tide of a game, making them comparable in impact to a prolific center-forward.

In recent years, the goalkeeper’s role has evolved. Beyond shot-stopping, they are now expected to command the box and initiate attacking moves from the back. The rise of “sweeper-keepers” like Manuel Neuer and Claudio Bravo highlights the changing dynamics of the position. A goalkeeper’s field vision and ability to distribute the ball have become crucial in setting a team’s rhythm and launching effective attacks.

The Significance of a Center-Back

Diego Godin is one of the world's best defenders

While the traditional role of the center-back may be evolving, their importance remains steadfast. A top-class center-back acts as the defensive enforcer, repelling opposition attacks and organizing the team’s structure. They serve as the pivot for communication between the goalkeeper and the midfield, ensuring a cohesive defensive unit.

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The modern center-back is not only responsible for defensive solidity but also for initiating attacking plays. Players like John Stones and Javier Mascherano showcase their ability to contribute with their passing range and the ability to bring the ball out from the back. An inspirational center-back often embodies the identity of a team and plays a significant role in shaping its footballing philosophy.

The Essence of Central Midfielders

Paul Pogba moved to Manchester United this summer and broke the world transfer record

Central midfielders form the “engine room” of a team. Their ability to control the flow of the game is widely acknowledged as a crucial factor in determining success. From astute positioning and distribution, as seen in players like Sergio Busquets, Andrea Pirlo, and Xavi, to physical and destructive play exemplified by Gennaro Gattuso and Roy Keane, central midfielders come in various shapes and sizes.

The modern central midfielder excels at multiple facets of the game. Mousa Dembele’s performance for Tottenham against Arsenal showcased the effectiveness and versatility of a central midfielder. From winning physical battles to driving the team forward and creating goal-scoring opportunities, they play a multifaceted role on the pitch.

The Impact of a Center-Forward

Strikers remain the ultimate goal-scorers in football. Their ability to find the back of the net is highly valued, with many teams willing to pay a premium for their services. While the role of forward has evolved to include deep-lying or wide forwards, the traditional center-forward still plays a vital role in maintaining a team’s attacking integrity.

Guardiola’s transformation of Sergio Aguero at Manchester City is a testament to the modern demands placed on a center-forward. They are now expected to work harder, engage in defensive duties, and foster relationships with supporting teammates. The success of prolific strikers like Diego Costa, Aguero, and Romelu Lukaku demonstrates the significance of their position. When a team struggles to score, it is the center-forward who bears the burden of responsibility for finding the back of the net.

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The Most Influential Position

While each position brings unique qualities to the game, the goalkeeper bears the greatest responsibility in modern football. Their role has evolved to become the backbone of a team’s style of play. Goalkeepers can single-handedly save games, and their field vision is crucial in setting a team off on the front foot. The rise of “sweeper-keepers” and the emphasis on building from the back demonstrate the increasing significance of the goalkeeper’s role in the game.


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Q: Can a team succeed without a commanding center-back?

A: While it is possible to succeed without a commanding center-back, a strong defensive foundation is crucial for long-term success. A team with a prolific attack may compensate for a weaker defense, but a commanding center-back plays a vital role in maintaining defensive stability and overall team structure.

Q: How important is midfield control in winning games?

A: Midfield control is often considered a key factor in determining game outcomes. The ability to dominate the midfield provides a team with a significant advantage, enabling them to dictate the tempo, create scoring opportunities, and limit the opposition’s attacking chances.


Football is a complex team sport, with each position contributing to the overall success of a team. While arguments can be made for the importance of goalkeepers, center-backs, central midfielders, and center-forwards, the evolving nature of the game highlights the increasing significance of goalkeepers in modern football. Their ability to influence games, both defensively and offensively, showcases their status as the most influential position on the pitch.

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So, the next time you watch a game, pay attention to the goalkeepers, as their impact goes far beyond saving shots. They are the conductors of a team’s orchestra, responsible for setting the rhythm and initiating attacking movements from the back.