Are you interested in how to take your game to the next level as a winger in soccer?
Then read further, because I'm about to drop some gems throughout this guide!
Who am I even to talk about this?
I am a retired professional soccer player and I experienced what it is like to play as a left winger firsthand. Left winger was my position for a small part of my career and I learned many things the hard way.
Today I am here to share them all with you, so you can become a better winger - and ultimately better soccer player. I would like to remind you, that this is just one piece of the ultimate guide on soccer positions.
Without further ado, let's dive right into it!
If you are playing left wing or right wing, you probably know what it is. But in case someone is only just starting out, I'll start with the main definition.
What is a wing in soccer?
Left wing or right wing (also called outside-left and outside-right) in soccer is a position that is being played nearest to the sideline of the soccer field. It is basically an attacking player who is stationed almost near the touchlines and is supporting offense and defense.
So basically, when you are playing as a wing, you are playing like a midfielder, except you are stationed near the sideline. Exactly as every midfielder, you make the offensive plays, but also you can't forget to support the defense.
It's very complicated sometimes though, as your actions as a winger will vary depending on the situation. That's also one of a few reasons why I decided to write this definite guide for wingers.
Let's have a look at the key roles of a winger in soccer:
What does a winger do in soccer?
The main job of a winger (left and right) is to help his team with creating goal-scoring opportunities. Besides that, they also score goals, stretch the opposition defense, move the ball up the field, and also support their defense.
I think it's time to have a look at the key roles of every winger in soccer. Be mindful, that some of these will vary from player to player. It also depends on the tactic and strategy of the team.
So here are the main roles of a winger:
Let's pay attention to each one of these.
The primary role of every winger is to create goal-scoring opportunities. This doesn't mean necessary to have many assists
Imagine for example, that you receive the ball from the center back, then you dribble with the ball over two enemy players. Then you pass the ball to the free midfielder, which has free space to turn and make the final pass to the striker in front of a goal. He scores the goal.
You see, sometimes being part of a goal like this is enough.
But to be completely honest with you, it's also expected to have assists.
While it's not the main expectation, some of the most skilled wingers also score a lot of goals.
One might think that you don't have to score goals. But the reality is that in professional soccer you are expected to either have assists, or score goals.
You don't need to actually score that many goals as a striker in your team, but it's good to have some goals on your belt.
The good thing about winger position in soccer is that there is also not much pressure to score goals - but it's kinda expected that you will score from time to time.
When I played left wing a few years ago, I was scoring around 0.2 - 0.3 goals per match - so every 5th match I would score a goal. It's not much, but mostly it's decent considering that some strikers score 0.5 - 1 goal per match.
While you have mostly offensive responsibilities, there are also a few in defense.
A good team has a winger with a lot of endurance that can make a lot of runs to the forward, while they are able to still get into defense just in time.
Depending on the style and tactic of your team, you will want to stretch/compress the size of the pitch when defending.
You will also want to make sure that there is not another enemy player making a run behind your full back. In that case, you'll have to probably cover him - or at least give a verbal warning to your fullback.
When your team holds the ball, wingers usually stretch the field - and that way creates more space between the opposing team players. Thanks to that, gaps will be created and that means an opportunity to either create a goal-scoring opportunity or just to hold the ball.
As my coach always said: "Every single pass has a meaning". What he meant by that is that passing is not just for the sake of passing - but to create some kind of an opportunity, and that's much easier when the field is stretched.
It is good to know that team that is currently not on the ball usually has to run more - which means that they get tired and fatigued faster. A very common tactic that is being used by FB Barcelona (of course it's not the only reason for the tactic).
As a winger, there will be many moments when you will be on your own half under enemy pressing and pressure - which means that you will have either dribble or pass the ball up.
It is very crucial that you don't lose the ball too much while doing this though. Every single ball that is lost will cost your team a lot of energy.
You should always try your best to curve the ball into the box and try to find your striker. Of course, it depends on the overall strategy of your team. But most of the time you will want to create goal-scoring opportunities by sending the ball to the box as often as you can.
Take it this way - the more times you send the ball to the box, the more chances your striker will have. On top of that, you have a bigger chance of getting more assists.
Trust me, it's very uncomfortable to defend such balls into the box. It's uncomfortable for defenders and goalkeepers as well. Once when I played a friendly match, I even scored a goal like this. The ball hit like 2 people and the goalkeeper couldn't do anything.
So these are the most important roles of a winger in soccer.
Now that you know them, you can start working on them every day. Don't be discouraged that you don't start scoring goals immediately. Or that you don't create many goal-scoring opportunities yet. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. If you persist long enough in your practice, you will start having "luck".
This reminds me when someone calls Messi an "overnight success" - yeah, some regular people might think that but they don't realize behind his success is a big sacrifice early in life along with thousands of played training practices and matches. If you study every player - it's always a marathon, not a sprint 🙂
Now let's talk a bit about the main qualities that a winger in soccer should have.
But what is the difference between a bad and a good winger? What kind of qualities does he have? I'm sure you have many questions like these so let's answer them one by one.
What makes a good wing in soccer?
Good wingers are usually either fast, or they have an incredible amount of stamina. Really good wingers usually run a lot, and they're great on the ball. Dribbling, crossing, and passing makes no trouble for them and it's their nature to help defense. Hard work and discipline also goes along the way.
And that's not all, there are usually many character traits and qualities that help players to thrive on wing position.
Here's a shortlist of some most common qualities, that makes a good wing in soccer:
Suggestion: I created this guide for the best soccer cleats for speed and fast players. Check it out!
And there are only a few most common qualities and skills. There are some other character traits that are common for good wingers such as:
As I always say, there's nothing wrong if you don't have all of these traits and qualities. Every soccer player is different. Everybody has a different skill set, different weaknesses, and strengths. That's what makes you unique.
But on the other side, if you think you lack the mentioned qualities, it's time to start working on them.
There is no excuse for not working hard & smart.
If you would like to improve some of the mentioned qualities, and you want to become a better winger in soccer, check the tips below:
Everybody wants to improve. But how to get that edge over the opposition defense?
Here are a few soccer winger tips:
First of all, let me be honest with you. You will make a lot of mistakes in your soccer career. And you will probably make them even more as a winger.
You have one of the most creative jobs in soccer - being a winger that creates goal-scoring opportunities. In order to do that, you'll have to dribble a lot, make a lot of risky plays and deliver many balls to the box.
It's just impossible to not make mistakes in this soccer position. So own it. Know, that you will do mistakes so get comfortable with it. Know that when you can't beat a defender on your side once, twice or even three times in a row - you will dribble past him on 4th time and will make an incredible pass that will result in a goal.
Your brain has this failure mechanism - with each failure or fail it will get a new bit of information and it will get better and better. Over time it will learn so much, that you will succeed 9/10 times. So make mistakes while you can - because on a professional level you want to make as few mistakes as you can.
It's like learning juggling. The first time you try it it's hard. When you try it 100th time, you will still struggle. But over a few months and thousands of tries, you will be able to juggle the ball a hundred times without any effort.
As a left or right winger, you will spend most of your time playing on the sidelines. But here's a catch. When your team is making an attacking play, you don't have to always stay on the sideline.
There are a lot of opportunities for you to cut inside instead, and make a run behind the defensive line so your midfielder can pass you a ball.
If you do it a few times throughout the whole match, I bet that the defender on your side won't expect it.
The same goes when you are inside of the box. When you are playing left wing and your stronger foot is right, you can cut inside with the ball and that way prepare the ball for shooting. The same technique applies when you are playing as a right wing.
It's really about being creative and doing something that your opponent won't expect.
You will run a lot as a winger. Your job is to make attack plays - but at the same time support defense. This is an incredibly difficult soccer position and that's why good stamina is your biggest friend.
You don't want to be exhausted in 20 minutes of the match and ask for a substitution.
In case you would like to improve your soccer stamina, here's a great video on this topic:
They are usually the ones that can send you a ball behind the defensive line. It's important that you communicate it with them.
If you also don't have a ball that much in a soccer match, ask them to make a few passes to you so you get comfortable on the ball.
Communication is crucial.
You will dribble a lot. No matter if you want to or not, there will be many times in a soccer match that you will be standing alone against two-three players. That's what usually happens on the sidelines in tight spaces.
But with enough practice in training sessions, you will be able to convert the skill of not losing the ball and getting away with it.
Good technique and ball control are important here.
This is an advice I give to everybody. If you want to improve on your position, study professional players that are playing it.
You can do it in two ways:
I prefer watching analysis videos on Youtube. You could type "soccer wing analysis" in search and there will be many videos to choose from.
Now that you know these tips, let's get a little bit more specific.
Let's focus on the left and right wing positions individually.
Let's clear up the definition for a left wing once for all.
What is a left wing in soccer?
Left wing (also known as outside-left) is a soccer position being played by a player that is stationed near the left sideline. His main job is to create goal-scoring opportunities and support the defense. Most of the left wingers are usually fast players with great dribbling skills and ball control.
This definition sounds almost like from an encyclopedia right? Now let's move on to the most common roles of a left winger. Even though it's very similar to the general roles of every winger, repetition is a mother of learning!
What does a left winger do in soccer?
Exactly as every winger, the primary job of a left wing is to create as many goal-scoring opportunities as possible. A good left winger has incredible dribbling skills, great physique, and exceptional passing skills. It's also very common that left wingers cut inside and shoot with their right foot.
This actually brings me to the next point which is:
Do right footers play left wing?
Yes, many left wingers are actually right footers. The main reason behind that instead of crossing the ball into the box with the left foot, they can just cut inside and shoot with their stronger foot. Many players such as Kylian Mbappe, Ronaldo, or even Neymar have a stronger right foot.
You see, there's nothing wrong with playing on a left wing as a right footer. I did too and I can say that there are many benefits to it - but also some cons.
Some of the cons of being a right footer on left wing could be:
Other than that, I think the pros are in your favor. Ultimately, you should play a right or left wing depending on what feels more comfortable to you. Also, you should suit it to your playstyle. If you like shooting a lot and scoring goals, playing a left wing as a right footer will benefit you.
Now let's get back to a ring wingers.
What is a right wing in soccer?
Right wing (also known as oustide-right) is a soccer position stationed near the right sideline. It is usually being played by fast players that are great when it comes to crossing and creating goal-scoring chances. Right wing in soccer is supposed to help with attack and defense as well.
Personally, I used to play on the left wing, but sometimes I would switch with my teammate if one of us didn't have much luck. In professional soccer, I wouldn't do it though - unless it's communicated with the coach.
Do left footers play right wing?
Left footer playing a right wing is a common thing in professional soccer. It's beneficial because you are able to cut inside and shoot on the goal with your stronger foot. While having a stronger right foot on a right wing will help you with crossing, having stronger a left foot on right wing could result in scoring more goals.