How to be a Good Wingback in Soccer


A wingback holds a unique position in soccer since they’re not used in every team or every game. What makes a good wingback?

In soccer, a good wingback needs to stay in excellent shape so they can play hard for the full game. They should be able to attack as well as defend, carry the ball in possession, and, most importantly, create opportunities for their team to go on the offense.

When a wingback does all these things well, they become a major asset to their team. Keep reading below to learn more about being a good wingback!

What is a Wingback?

As the name implies, a wingback is a mix between a winger and a fullback. How much of each job they’ll do varies from team to team, but the basic tasks are essentially the same.

Wingbacks on a soccer pitch
Wingbacks on a soccer pitch

The wingback plays on either side of the defense to give more width to their team. They’ll go forward to assist attacks and create opportunities for their teammates, but they will also need to fall back to help defend their own goal. It is an intense position, both mentally and physically.

What is the Difference Between a Fullback, a Winger, and a Wingback?

Fullbacks and Wingbacks have a lot in common, from similar names to the part of the field they focus on, but there are some important differences.

Fullback

A fullback’s emphasis is on defense. They might be able to come forward and attack sometimes, but they are supposed to put most of their energy towards defense and everything that entails. They need to have their focus and energy on people coming toward them.

Some fullbacks can be trained to play as wingbacks when needed, and some skilled players can switch between the positions when they switch teams.

Winger

A winger’s position is on the sides, or wings, of the field, and their focus is entirely on the attack. They typically do not play as much defense, and they focus on creating more opportunities for attacks and goals, passing the ball back to the other players.

Wingback

A wingback is a unique position since they have both defense and offense duties. They defend in the back like a fullback, but they also dictate the width of their team’s attacks like a winger.

Is a Wingback a Defender?

Yes, although wingbacks move seamlessly between defense and offense. Wingbacks are a combination of outside backs, which is a defensive position, and a winger, which is more of an offensive position.

Wingbacks have defensive marking responsibilities in the defensive third of the field as well as offensive attacking responsibilities on the wings of the field.

What Skills Should a Wingback Develop?

Being a wingback is an intense and demanding position to play, and a good wingback will want to put in the time and effort to develop some extra skills to cope.

Stamina

Above all, a good wingback will want to develop their stamina. They will be running all around the field, attacking, defending, stealing the ball, helping others get the ball, and making problems for the other team. The entire game might be nonstop running for a wingback, even more than the other players.

If you are wondering how to get into match shape, check out our Guide to Getting into Peak Soccer Shape.

Speed

A wingback is constantly running back and forth across the field, and they need to match other players like their opponent’s wingers, who are typically the fastest players on the team. If a wingback can’t keep up, they can’t defend or attack like they’ll need to.

Situational Awareness

A good wingback needs to spot things all around the field while staying focused on their immediate task. If they’re faked out by the other team, they could miss an opportunity or a problem at the other end of the field.

A large part of a wingback’s job is to create opportunities that their team needs. If the opportunity is on the opposite end of where the wingback is, they still need to spot it and go respond.

Ball Control

Wingbacks need to have excellent ball control. Since they’re doing multiple jobs, they need to have the passing, offense, and defense skills for all those jobs. To learn how to improve your ball control, check out our Ball Control Tutorial.

A wingback should be able to overlap and use both their feet to send accurate crosses into their opponent’s goal. They should also be able to run with the ball, since they’ll be coming from anywhere on the field, and they need to have the control to bring the ball out from deep in their opponent’s territory.

Other Skills

Some other skills a wingback might hold include:

  • Tackling
  • Positional Awareness
  • Attack instinct
  • Confidence

Is Wingback a Hard Position?

The simple answer is yes. Being a productive wingback requires:

  • Speed
  • Stamina
  • Strength
  • Excellent Ball Control
  • Crossing
  • One-on-One Defending
  • Speed Dribbling

As you can see from the list above, wingbacks have to have excellent physical and technical skills. Wingbacks cover a ton of ground and have equal offensive and defensive responsibilities.

What Makes a Perfect Wingback?

A perfect wingback is a player who is very pacey and has tremendous stamina as wingbacks cover a ton of ground on offense and defense up and down the wings of the field.

Wingbacks also need to be exceptional one-on-one defenders who can win the ball away from attacking wing players and prevent the opposing team crosses into the box. Wingbacks need to have excellent ball control skills as well as the ability to speed dribble up the pitch to ignite the offense.

Wingbacks also need to be able to effectively cross the ball into the opposing team’s box and pick out attackers with their crosses. This is one of the most required skills of a good wingback.

What Soccer Formations Use a Wingback?

The two most common formations that use wingbacks are the:

  • 5-3-2
  • 3-5-2

5-3-2 Formation

5-3-2 Formation
5-3-2 Formation

The 5-3-2 formation features:

  • 3 Center-backs
  • 2 Wingbacks
  • 3 Midfielders
  • 2 Strikers

The wingbacks in a 5-3-2 formation sit forward and to the outside of the center-backs as shown in the diagram above.

3-5-2 Formation

3-5-2 formation
3-5-2 formation

The 3-5-2 formation is similar to the 5-3-2 but the wingbacks are positioned further up the pitch in outside midfield positions.

Who Are Some Famous Wingbacks?

Wingbacks aren’t the most common position. In fact, they’re almost rare. Very few teams regularly use wingbacks, and they are typically only used in specific formations.

With this in mind, becoming a celebrating wingback puts players into a very exclusive club. They’ve accomplished something that few others have the specialized skill set for, even in the exclusive ranks of professional soccer players.

Some famous or influential wingbacks include:

  • Roberto Carlos, who played wingback for Real Madrid
  • Javier Zanetti, who played for the Nerazurri
  • Giacinto Facchetti, who is known as Italy’s Pioneering Wingback
  • Cafu, who played as an ultra-attacking wingback in Italy
  • Philipp Lahm, considered one of the greatest fullbacks of all time and playing as captain of Bayern Munich
  • Achraf Hakimi, who has played for Real Madrid and Italy

These fullbacks are celebrated for all the skills listed above, and more. Some of them play the left field while right-footed. Some of them are treasured players passed from team to team with high bids. Some of them can enchant a crowd while distracting their opponents, stealing the ball, and making legendary games possible.

What Can You Do to be a Better Wingback?

If you’re reading this article because you want to be a better wingback for your team, there are a few things you can do.

Wingbacks need to be in top-tier physical condition. They need to be able to run, tackle, weave, carry the ball with them, and everything else a soccer player can imagine. A future legendary wingback will want to hit the gym and do lots of cross-training if they want to keep up. You might want to consider practicing running with the ball, running back and forth across the pitch, tackling, stealing the ball, and defending.

If your team doesn’t have a wingback, practice playing the fullback and winger positions. You’ll probably want to focus more on the fullback position since it has more in common with the wingback position, and practice attacking on the side.

Soccer Position Guides

Soccer Position Guides
PositionLink to Guide
Strikerlink
False 9link
Wingerlink
Defensive Midfielderlink
Wingbacklink
Left backlink
Right backlink
Stopperlink
Sweeperlink
Center Backlink
Goalkeeperlink

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