How do soccer players communicate? Savvy Ways

Soccer players and coach communicating - How do soccer players communicate?

Soccer games require communication from the players to operate. The top players direct the play without the opposition knowing. This can be done with a glance, hand signal, shout, or even a wink.

In soccer, this is part of the current day-to-day and for many years it has been part of the routine of the clubs that, in their quest to find the best players to reinforce themselves and be more competitive, have used all the resources they have at your disposal to carry out scouting to help you in the selection of players.

This movement of bringing players from different parts of the world had its greatest turning point with the “Bosman Law”, which allows players with the nationality of a European country to play in any other country of the European Community as a national, it is That is, without occupying a place among the quotas of foreigners that are limited in most soccer leagues.

Foreign Players

A Portuguese player can play in Spain without being considered a foreigner, this has allowed the clubs to hire a larger number of non-national players than in some cases, they have a secondary role in the team, unlike what happened in the past, where foreigners were only players who made a difference with respect to the rest since they were selected very carefully because of the limited space that the clubs had.

In addition to a series of consequences at the level of soccer club academies and the impact it has had on the national teams of some of the main soccer leagues in the world, this globalization of soccer leads to a team or during a party a large number of nationalities coincide and therefore a variety of first languages elevated.

This is an issue that must be very well handled since poor communication can greatly affect personal and professional relationships between teammates, interaction with the manager or with referees as well as the daily life of the athlete and therefore, his or her adaptation to that new soccer league and the new country.

Soccer players in a circle talking - How do soccer players communicate?

How do soccer players communicate with referees?

The international referees of FIFA, those who direct in the international competitions of this organization such as the FIFA World Cup, must speak English which facilitates communication regardless of where they have to referee, works in the same way as in other jobs where English is used as the language for business issues.

This also applies to UEFA international referees, since a large number of languages are used on European territory, unlike other confederations such as CONMEBOL or CONCACAF where one or two languages predominate.

In local championships, communication with the referee is usually in the language of that country where players who do not speak the language completely usually use keywords such as foul or goal to convey their idea in addition to using gestures that are already considered universal.

Although it is common to have dialogues between any players on the pitch with the referee, what the regulations indicate is that in case of any complaint, the captain of the team that usually speaks the language must go.

Another important point that is worth mentioning is that the conversations that the referees start are based on the same points of any game, so the players already have a notion of what the message is.

How do soccer managers communicate with foreign players?

In the case of soccer managers, their message can be a little more varied and complex than that of a referee during a match, so the communication needs to be as fluid as possible as the language barrier can become a serious problem in a soccer team as exemplified by Unai Emery during his time at Arsenal.

To overcome these difficulties, clubs mainly use professional translators who are in charge of transmitting their message to the player as well as to a third party, who can be another player or a member of the staff, who helps in communication.

How do soccer players communicate to each other?

Within the pitch, there are previously trained movements and a tactic that the manager explained before the match so that during the match, communication is limited to short and concise messages that can be transmitted even with gestures and signals.

Outside the pitch, it is much easier since communication can be in different ways in the language with which they feel most comfortable or mixing words between several languages.

Soccer coach talking to players - How do soccer players communicate?

How do soccer players learn languages?

At the highest level, the clubs have language teachers or hire a city language academy to provide first language classes in that country to new players. This is a contractual obligation in some cases and in others it is only a suggestion from the club, although the practice has become increasingly common.

This also depends on the level of commitment and the attitude of the player since to a large extent his or her adaptation to the city and even his or her performance on the field can be affected by this factor.

There are cases that learn from day to day and although it is not the most reliable or efficient method, it is used and sometimes it works. Some players learn several languages during childhood because of family reasons that led them to live in different countries or because of the education they received in childhood in schools in their countries of origin, which sometimes teach a second or even a third language.

The language, despite not being part of the main skills that one usually looks for in a soccer player, can be a factor that ends up determining the future of the player in a certain club or country since it is directly related to the communication that, in turn, has an impact on the adaptation and on your daily life which ends up affecting your comfort and mental tranquility that can later be reflected in your performance on the pitch. For more useful guides, see the articles below or visit our home page.

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39 Questions for Soccer Players, Coaches, and Parents

soccer coach and player scaled

At face value, soccer is quite a simple game where two teams try to outscore each other by kicking a round ball into a rectangular goal. At the end of a 90-minute game, whoever has more goals is declared the winner. 

Questions for soccer players, coaches, parents; There are some straight forward questions that players should be asking, revolving around improving, learning, and tactics. Other questions can be a little trickier, such as those about playing time on the field or technical advice.

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Although simplistic in nature, the reality is that soccer is much more complicated. Soccer systems, tactics, formations, and coaching styles are now at the forefront of the sport. Each position and player has a crucial role in the attack, defense, and any transition in between. 

With this in mind, we must acknowledge that it is not that easy to play soccer in today’s game. Communication is essential. Coaches, players, as well as their families and friends, must be capable of understanding each other in this regard. This means being able to ask the right questions in order to fulfill their role effectively. 

Soccer coach asking players questions
Players and their coaches should have strong communication links | Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

A coach needs to have seamless communication with his team and its individual players. A coach should ask questions to evoke a response when his/her team is in need. Or to ask questions that enable better understanding during training sessions.

On an individual basis, a coach plays a leadership role and should be asking questions that best solve any problems or benefit the team and its players. A coach must ensure that his/her players know what’s expected of them.

Friends and families are the supporting pillars for people in all professions. Soccer is no different. It’s useful to know what type of questions you should or shouldn’t ask. 

Throughout this article, we will be exploring different areas of the soccer world and discussing questions involving the key areas of the sport. Whether you’re a player, a coach, a friend of a player/coach, or you’re simply a fan, you should find something useful below in the questions for soccer players, coaches and parents.

Questions to Ask a Soccer Team

If a coach wants to gain true insight from their players, it’s important that they phrase their questions in an open-ended fashion. This gives the players the opportunity to freely express themselves in their responses.

The word “why” can be essential in some scenarios but it is quite confrontational so it should be avoided where possible. Some of the keys for a coach are to observe, question, evaluate, and learn. 

When speaking to his/her team, a coach should ask questions to ensure that the gameplan is understood and that instructions have been effectively communicated. For the best-attacking tips, check-out Pep Guardiola’s attacking masterclass on Amazon, proven tactics.

Soccer coach and player asking each other questions
No matter the discussion, players, and coaches must establish trust | Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Tactic Questions

To evaluate the team’s understanding of the coach’s tactics:

  • What are we setting out to do in our next game?
  • What formation are we playing?

Certain patterns of play, both defensively and offensively, are specific to a team or coach. A coach may quiz his/her players on their positions for set-pieces, for fast breaks after gaining possession of the ball, or defensive transition tactics. The coach may also target specific position groups with such questions. For example:

  • Where do our strikers line up defensively for corner kicks?
  • What do our full-backs do after gaining possession inside our own half to join a break?
  • What runs do x player / y player / z player make when we take a short corner?

If you are a coach and looking to take your team to the next level. Check out this ap that comes with session planner, training drills, tactics, and more at Planet.Training – A free trial is here.

Team Mindset Questions

This type of question is asked during training or in the lead up to a game, not during a game.

  • What do we do well as a team?
  • What are the most positive aspects of our team?
  • Can you name three specific things we can improve as a team?
  • What are we hoping to achieve this season/this game/this training session?
Soccer tactics board
The understanding of tactics is essential | Image courtesy of Marco Verch.

Questions for Soccer Players

People can be sensitive beings, and we each have different personalities. Some players need their coach to put an arm around them and give them words of encouragement. Others react much better to direct instruction, whether it’s encouraging or not. 

Speaking about legendary soccer manager Sir Alex Ferguson, Wayne Rooney shared an insight into his famous player management.

“So many times at half-time I had played well and others in the dressing room hadn’t but he’d come for me. He knew there’d be a shouting match but it’d get a reaction from me. If he did it to another player, for example, Nani – he knew he’d lose the player but he just knew the right thing to do. He’d tell me to stop dribbling, aiming it at Nani!”.

Sir Elex Ferguson

This epitomizes the role of a coach and the importance of individual player management. The way a coach speaks to his/her players is crucial. Here are some topics and questions that a coach may ask his/her player. Note that some of the questions targeted toward the team (above) can be asked to an individual also. Jurgen Klopp has his team defending like no other, see how he does it with his defending book on Amazon.

Soccer coach Sir Alex Ferguson - Master of questions
Former Manchester United coach, Sir Alex Ferguson | Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Player’s attitude toward the team:

  • What’s most important to you as a soccer player?
  • How do your personal goals positively influence the team?
  • How do view your role in the team?

Player’s personal performance:

  • What are the most important factors that you are concentrating on in each training session/game?
  • What factors have helped you toward your current goals as a player?
  • How would you rate your performances of late?

Coach’s self-analysis:

Soccer coach guiding a soccer player with hand on shoulder - Questions to ask a soccer coach
Coaches need to be supportive | Image courtesy of Steven Depolo.
  • What aspect of training or coaching has helped you improve as an individual player?
  • What aspect of training or coaching has helped you improve as a team player?
  • Do you find our training sessions challenging?
  • Do you find our training sessions technically beneficial?
  • Do you find our training sessions tactically beneficial?
  • What aspects of training or coaching has impeded your progress as an individual and/or team player?

Perhaps one of the most important questions that a coach can ask is, do you have any questions for me? This opens up the dialogue and makes the coach a lot more approachable. 

Questions to ask a Soccer Coach

A player has to demonstrate to their coach that they are committed. Certain approaches can display this better than others. 

Sometimes a player may be unsure of his/her role or responsibility on the field. Although it can be difficult to speak up, a player’s duty is to ask their coach to help them with their issues. The team performance is more important than the ego of one player. These questions are team and player-specific, but here are some examples:

  • What’s my role for defensive corner kicks?
  • What position should I take up when we are in possession of the ball?
  • When should I time my runs to join the attack?

A player should always be striving to improve their game from a technical or physical standpoint. There’s no better way to achieve this than by seeking the advice and guidance of a coach. This also demonstrates determination and willingness to get better. 

As such a technical sport, there are many techniques and areas that a player may want or need to improve. Here are some questions they might ask their coach to help:

  • What extra drills can I do to improve my speed and agility?
  • What should I practice to improve my weaker foot?
  • Can you show me some individual drills to help improve my first touch and ball control?
  • Can you assess my striking technique and give me some areas to work on? 
  • Are there technique changes necessary for me to improve my shooting and finishing?
  • What’s the best way for me to get better at heading the ball?
  • What should I work on to enhance my dribbling ability?

Questions for Soccer Parents

The main role for family and friends in this instance is to provide support, to be an outlet for the player, and to give advice and encouragement where possible. The support system should avoid “me too” type responses, and should focus on listening.

Soccer parents on the sidelines asking questions
Family and friends play a key supportive role | Image courtesy of MSC U15 Green.

Here are some questions parents can ask to help support a soccer player:

  • What are your goals and plans? How are they coming along?
  • How is training going?
  • How was your last game?
  • Are you enjoying playing soccer at the moment?
  • How’s your relationship with your coach?
  • How are you feeling mentally?
  • Is there anything you want to talk about?
  • What can I do to help out with your soccer schedule/career?

These questions may not appear significant, but they show support and care. This is often all a person needs, particularly soccer players. But, if you are looking even more insight into the game these top coaches tell you how on Amazon.

Finding the right questions

There is no perfect list of questions to ask in soccer. Different situations, players, and coaches require unique approaches. Perhaps the most important thing is to ask the question that best serves the goals of the individual or team.

The questions should have positive intentions and should be aimed at extracting useful information. As mentioned earlier, use these 4 words as a guide: observe, question, evaluate, and learn. Ask questions for soccer players, coaches, and parents to get the most out of the game. For more useful guides, see the articles below or visit our home page.

What are good interview questions to ask a soccer player?

In the lead up to or after a game, questions should revolve around the team, the preparation, the oppositions and match related topics. If the interview takes place at another time, the questions can vary but should remain professional. Some good topics to cover are training, nutrition, diet, strength, and conditioning, or significant matches that a player has been part of.

What type of questions should aspiring players ask professionals?

Professional soccer players should inspire their young fans. Aspiring players should be trying to gain an insight into what it takes to be a top professional when given the chance to speak with them. Some questions could be: 
• What motivates you?
• What advice can you give to an up and coming player?
• What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
• What’s the biggest secret to your success?
• What’s the hardest thing about being a pro soccer player?

Should a player’s parents ask their children questions about soccer?

Yes, absolutely. Whether they are showing support or actually trying to learn about the sport, a parent should be involved. They should ask questions and show interest in training and in games.
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Positions: Soccer Numbering Systems Formula

Soccer players numbers pre match France World Cup e1573218874882

There are reasons behind squad numbers, where they came from, and why particular numbers hold a certain prestige. Here’s a look at where soccer numbering systems originated, the role that they played in the organization of soccer positions and formations, and their relevance in the modern game.

What are the soccer numbering systems and their positions?

  1. Goalkeeper – GK
  2. Right Full-Back – RB
  3. Left Full-Back – LB
  4. Center-Back – CB
  5. Center-Back – CB
  6. Center Midfield – CM
  7. Right Midfield – RM
  8. Center Midfield CM
  9. Striker – ST
  10. Center Forward – CF
  11. Left Midfield – LM

A player’s squad number plays a significant role in modern soccer. There can be great esteem held to a number. There are ‘iconic’ numbers that are widely associated with some of the sport’s greatest heroes. 

Teams have a large squad of players and each player is assigned a ‘squad number’. Player squad numbers range from 1 to 99. In the past, if a player was substituted, after replacing a player, they would wear the same number, so that the team contains 1 to 11. Read through the history of soccer numbering systems to the roles each player for their position.

Ronaldo wearing number 7 - (soccer numbering systems)
Cristiano Ronaldo wearing the famous #7 for Manchester United | Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Some franchises have a deep association with certain numbers. Take Manchester United for example. Throughout their revered history, the number 7 has been brandished by some of the club’s most loved figures: Cristiano Ronaldo, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, George Best. It is a great honor to wear the number 7 shirt for Manchester United.

The same can be said for different numbers in other franchises. Generally, the standard-bearers for significant squad numbers are 1, 10, 7 and 9. Even in kids’ games, we see players rush for these numbers when the uniforms are being divided out. Every young player wants to emulate their hero.

History of Soccer Numbers

Herbert Chapman
Herbert Chapman

The first time that numbers were used in European football was in 1928, where Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman decided to structure the formation of his team using squad numbers. The formations of that era are in stark contrast to what we see today – almost opposite in ways. In the early 1900s, most defenses consisted of 2 players. It wasn’t until the 1950s that it became normal to have 3+ defenders in a backline. 

As you can probably tell, the names of these positions are still used today. However, the literal meaning of the positions makes more sense when referring to the older formation style. Have you ever wondered why right and left backs are referred to as full-backs? Right and left backs were the original center backs. Over time, the ‘half-backs’ dropped deeper into defense, pushing the full-backs into wider positions.

Original soccer numbering system
An example of a formation commonly used in the first part of the 1900s

Players would move around a lot within this type of formation. A center half-back (⁤#5) would often slot in as a defender, taking the number 5 with him/her. The number 5 is widely associated with the modern center-back position, which is still commonly referred to as ‘center-half’. We regularly see defenders and midfielders wearing #4 or #6. 

There is no standard when it comes to formations these days but the core positions in the game come from a 4-4-2 style set up. Although the numbering systems of soccer did not originate from this formation, we’ve grown accustomed to certain positions being linked to each number. Therefore, for the purpose of this article, we will be covering numbering systems in soccer-based out of the 4-4-2 formation.

4-4-2 number system field infographic
A standard 4-4-2 shape. There are many variations of this, some a lot more different than others

Soccer Numbering Systems: Positions

#1 Goalkeeper – Keeper – Stopper (GK)

This position is often referred to as a goalie or ‘keeper. In Fifa tournaments, it is mandatory for the number 1 to be the goalkeeper. This is a unique position. Within the penalty box, a goalkeeper (GK) can touch or hold the ball with their hands/arms.

No other player on the team can handle the ball on the pitch when the ball is in play. The goalkeeper wears a different color uniform to the outfield players. It’s usually padded, offering extra protection. This is needed, as a GK experiences significant impacts when making saves. He/She also wears gloves for support and grip. 

Goalkeeper’s Role

The main role of a goalkeeper is to stop the opposition from scoring. They use whatever part of their body that they can to block shots from going in. In most circumstances, a goalkeeper is responsible for taking goal-kicks/kick-outs (when the opposition plays the ball out over the end-line). 

As the last line of defense and with a clear view of the entire pitch, the goalkeeper plays a pivotal role in the organization and positioning of the outfield players, barking out instructions from their box. 

Take a look at Yashi and Buffon;

4-4-2 formation and numbers with second striker
A 4-4-2 with the English standard numbering system

#2 Right Full-Back – #3 Left Full-Back / Wing Back (RB-LB-WB)

In the classic formation, there are full-backs on the left and right-hand sides of the pitch. The full-back positions are mainly responsible for defending in wide areas. They mark the opposing winger or a wide forward. Full-backs also provide essential cover for their central defenders or midfielders if the opposition is overloading on one side or if a teammate is out of position. 

Full-backs’ Role

Trent Alexander Arnold playing for Liverpool
Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool | Image courtesy of Wikipedia

A full-back has offensive responsibilities too. The extent of these responsibilities depends on the player’s abilities and the coach’s tactical instructions. Full-backs provide support to the attack. They often make overlapping runs wide of the midfielders and supply crosses into the penalty box.

A full-back with good striking ability can be a huge advantage to a team. Currently, Liverpool has two of the most profitable right and left-backs in the game. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson both provide tens of assists and goals in a season. 

A modern full-back must be robust, tenacious, physical, and quick. Strength is always useful on a soccer pitch but in the full-back positions, it’s more important to be dogged and industrious than strong. 

A variation of this position is a “wing-back” (WB). WBs are used in formations where there are 3 center-backs. The full-back in this instance does not have as many defensive duties and is in a position to attack more than traditional full-backs. 

Take a look at these attacking full-backs Alexander-Arnold and Carlos;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feSnQl5t36M

#4 + #5 Center-Backs (CB)

Carlos Puyol playing for Barcelona
Carles Puyol of Barcelona – a great example of a modern CB | Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Most formations will have a center-back (CB) pairing but it is not uncommon to see a team playing with 3 CBs.Their main role is to snuff out any central attack by the opposition. It’s important for a CB to have an aerial presence. They must be strong and physical in order to win battles against the opposing strikers. Tackles, blocks, headers, marking, and interceptions are CB’s bread and butter.

They must be dominant in these areas. Historically, CBs were the poorest outfield player when it came to possession-based attributes (passing, dribbling, ball control, etc.). However, over the past 20 years, a different trend has emerged. More emphasis is being put on ‘ball-playing’ (comfortable in possession) CBs.

Center Backs’ Role

Nowadays, we often see a CB partnership where one player is gritty and physically dominant, while the other is the more agile and quick of the pair. Examples of such pairings in the modern era are Puyol and Pique (Barcelona), Ferdinand and Vidic (Manchester United), Sergio Ramos and Pepe (Real Madrid). 

Gerard Pique of Barcelona – a great example of a modern CB | Images courtesy of Wikipedia

Modern CB’s are much more skillful than those of old. Many modern teams have a ‘build from the back’ philosophy. It’s important for their CB’s to be able to pass between the lines and set up attacks. CB’s do not usually score from general play but for many teams, a CB may be their biggest threat of scoring from set-pieces (corners and free kicks) due to their heading ability. 

Another style of CB is a ‘sweeper’. This type of role was seen more in the days before offsides. The sweeper sits behind the defensive line, cleaning up through passes, making interceptions, and last-ditch tackles. In modern soccer, goalkeepers are often skilled enough in possession that they act as sweepers. Ederson (Manchester City) is a great example of this. 

See the sweeper-keeper Ederson and the role of a sweeper;

#6 + #8 Center-Midfield (CM)

Center-midfielders (CMs) are positioned in the middle of the field but tend to cover a huge amount of ground, finding themselves in attacking and defensive positions. They gain possession of the ball frequently and make a lot of passes. CMs have defensive and offensive duties but their roles can be vastly different.

Some MFs are the main architects of attack, while others have the sole purpose of breaking up the opposition at every opportunity. In the modern game, midfielders are populated by specialist type players, with either attacking or defensive characteristics. The classic 4-4-2 formation usually held a midfield pairing of two ‘all-round’ players. Although, there are a few variations of this role:

Soccer numbering system for Swedish standards
A 4-4-2 with the Swedish standard numbering system. Note the numbers assigned to the backline

Attacking-Midfield (AM)

A purely attacking midfield player would not be very common in a 4-4-2 formation. The #10 is the player who would fulfill this role. An attacking MF would be more common in a diamond-shaped midfield. See the #10 role below for more detail on this position.

Defensive-Midfield (DM)

Typically, the defense-minded midfielder would wear the #4 or #6 (depending on what number the defender is wearing). This player sits in front of and protects the back 4 (defenders). Many defensive midfielders are deployed as ‘hatchet-men’.

They are rough and tumble tough guys with limited skill, but work tremendously hard for their team. Hard work ethic and aggressiveness are the main ingredients in these players. Their role is to put in hard tackles, break up attacks, and boss the midfield from a defensive standpoint. In other cases, a quality defensive midfielder is a difficult specialized position.

The best in class defensive MFs are some of the most sought after players in today’s game. They are astute tactical players with an exceptional talent for reading the game. Their main roles are marking, tackling, intercepting, and passing. Defensive MFs must be very disciplined and play with a high soccer IQ. 

Two of the best examples of defensive MFs in the world currently play for Barcelona: Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong;

Box-to-Box Midfielder (CM)

The term box-to-box is self-explanatory: these players work from box-to-box, defending as well as attacking. The ‘all-rounders’ are a traditional style MF player. They are not very specialized but are competent in a multitude of areas. The player style can be observed in the modern game but the ‘greats’ of this position date to the 90s and early 2000s.

Stamina is a core characteristic of a box-to-box MF player and they lead by example on the field. They can be invaluable to a team and bring great balance to a starting 11. Some of the best box-to-box midfielders since the 90s are N’golo Kante, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Roy Keane, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Arturo Vidal. 

See why Kante and Gerrard are highly regarded;

#7 Right-Midfield – #11 Left-Midfield / Winger (RM-LM/RW-LW)

Right, and left midfielders are also known as wingers. They occupy space near either touchline. For many teams, wingers play a significant role in their offensive gameplay. Wingers are usually quick and skilled with the ball at their feet. They rely on their ability to beat a player 1 V 1 to give themselves opportunities to cross the ball or create a goalscoring chance.

A lot of wingers are quality strikers of the ball with the vision and ability to pick out their strikers with crosses or passes from wide areas. Great wide midfielders tend to chip in with their fair share of goals and assists. 

Wide Midfielders’ Role

They have defensive duties too. Failure to track runs from opposition FBs can lead to goal chances. If a team has a particularly dangerous wide midfielder, we frequently see the opposition winger being disciplined defensively, doubling up with his/her FB to minimize the threat. 

David Beckham playing for Manchester United
David Beckham is a classic example of a right-midfield player | Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Traditionally, left-sided midfielders were left-footed, while right-sided midfielders were right-footed. This would make it easier to beat their defenders on the outside and play effective crosses using their strong foot. These days it’s more common to see to ‘inverted wingers’ – those who play on their ‘weaker side’, cutting inside rather than playing wide in the channel. Crossing from wide areas is less common today, so inverted wingers tend to link up with their strikers, cut in and shoot from the wing, or make sharp runs into the penalty area.  

Megan Rapinoe
2019 World Cup hero, Megan Rapinoe plays as an inverted winger | Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

A popular formation currently is a 4-3-3, with 2 wide forward players. The wingers in this formation tend to be far more attack-minded than traditional ones, and they often have minimal defensive duties in their own half. Although, these players are usually key to a high press – a staple of the modern game. Examples of inverted wingers are Gareth Bale, Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery, Eden Hazard, and Megan Rapinoe. 

Here are some highlights of Bale and Robben;

#9 Center-Forward – Striker (CF-ST)

The center forward is usually the main goalscorer in a team, particularly in a 4-4-2 set-up where they play behind a second striker or attacking midfielder. The role of a CF has never been one-dimensional. Certain body types, physical attributes, as well as playing styles suit different roles. 

Some CFs like to receive the ball with their back to goal, allowing them to hold up possession with a view to turning their defender or linking up with a team-mate. Others prefer to play on the shoulder of a defender, making runs in behind the defense at every opportunity.

‘Target men’ are usually tall, physical players who thrive on crosses into the box and duels with defenders. The elite center-forward can fulfill several of these roles. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney are great examples of this. They can switch up their playing style, depending on what will be most effective. 

In some formations, we see players operating as a ‘false 9’, where they appear as the main striker but actually operate as a playmaking number 10. Robert Firmino, of Liverpool, is the most notable and effective false 9 in the game currently. 

Two different strikers but effective – Firminio and Ibrahimovic;

#10 Second Striker / Center-Forward / Attacking Midfield (ST-CF-AM)

Playing between the lines of the opposition midfield and defense, this player is expected to create and provide meaningful supply to his/her team’s attack. This may come in the form of a penetrating pass that sets a striker through on goal, it may come as a dribble that beats a player and sets up a scoring chance, or it may come in the form of a goal itself. 

Attacking MFs are seen as playmakers. They have good mobility and balance and provide skill and creativity. They must have a quality first touch and play with awareness and vision. The ability to execute in the final third separates the best from rest. In some teams, the #10 operates as a second striker or center-forward and plays alongside their #9 teammate.  

Soccer numbering system for a 4-1-2-1-2
A more typical shape in the modern game, with specialized midfield players. 

Messi and his array of skills and Bergkamp with his class;

Messi Skills

Modern Soccer Numbering Systems

These days, a player’s squad number does not necessarily signify their position. However, the original numbering system still has relevance as players, coaches, and pundits speak about positions in relation to the numbers that they were traditionally assigned. We often hear pundits argue whether a striker’s best position is as a #9 or a #10. 

The most popular and sought after squad numbers still fall within the original 11. If a player wears a squad number from 1-11, it will usually give somewhat of an indication of their position. There are always exceptions, however. Samuel Eto’o, the striker, famously wore the #5 for Everton in the 14/15 season.  

A modern number system, particularly at the club level, does not represent a player’s position. A squad number now holds commercial value. It can become part of a player’s brand or their identity on and off the field. Players often demand a particular squad number when they are transferred to a new team. A strong association between a player and a squad number can lead to significant uniform and merchandise sales for a franchise.

We are in an era where player power is at an all-time high. Image rights are extremely valuable when negotiating wages. A recognizable squad number can play a huge role in this. Who would have known the significance that squad numbers would have on the game of football when Arsenal and Sheffield first wore them in 1928? For more useful guides, see the articles below or visit our home page.

Is it mandatory to wear a squad number? Yes. All players must be registered for a competition and assigned a squad number by their franchise. 

Is the standard numbering system used worldwide, even in countries where symbols are used instead of numbers? At the national and international level, the standard numbering system is used. Perhaps at the amateur level, there are exceptions to this. 

What is the range of numbers a player can use as their squad number? Generally, squad numbers are from 1 to 99.

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