It takes a certain personality to make it in the world of football. It takes a certain personality to make it in a specific position on the football pitch. But what are the most important characteristics for each position?
Should he be a mad dog or a reliable work horse? Is a goalkeeper job is to make great saves or organize the defense from behind? In other words, who’s better suited to keep the net empty: Edwin Van Der Sar or Rene Higuita? Iker Casillas or Fabian Barthez?
“Any idiot can face a crisis, it’s the day to day living that wears you out,” said Anton Chekhov. It’s a true description for goalkeepers as well. Any goalkeeper can make fantastic saves, but a goalkeeper’s real job is to organize, shout, make the defense aware but comfortable, and build confidence amongst his men for an entire 90 minutes.
A great goalkeeper must have firm leadership qualities, stable behavior and good work rate. Because he will face a lot of physical challenges, an imposing figure is also a must for a goalkeeper.
The most important attribute for a full back is balance. He needs to find a good compromise between his attacking instincts and his defensive responsibilities, and he must apply this balance also between him and the other full back. Speed is not a necessity for a full back (though it doesn’t hurt), but they must be technical enough to help in the attack and tough enough to be a part of a defensive wall.
If the goalkeeper is the solid father figure, the full back needs to be the cool uncle whom one can send his kids with for a fun day, and trust him that they’ll come back in one piece.
At least one of the centre backs needs to be a lion – the king of the box. Somebody no one want to meet in a dark ally, a fearsome beast, someone who would rather sell his mom to Somalian pirates than lose a tackle. The other centre back should complete him by being more collective and composed yet firm and tough (quieter kind of tough), an effective, energy consuming hunter. The pairing is essential to the defense and the structure of the whole team.
If the team trusts its defense they’ll attack freely. In short, the centre backs should be the perfect odd couple: Martin Riggs and Detective Roger Murtaugh; Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson; Rio Ferdinand and Vidic.
Often referred to as ‘Anchor’ the defensive midfielder should be more than just that. He should be the dynamo, the engine of the boat. He needs to be energetic on the field – a proud working class hero. He needs to love the work associated with tackling, rescuing balls, protecting the smaller, more talented guys.
He also needs to be able to score goals, preferably from long distance. A goal scoring anchor adds another dimension to an attack and usually, like a good plumber, opens up a clogged pipe.
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Usually the heart of a team, he bares the responsibility to create, and to be the spark that starts the flame. He could be the vocalist who leads the band or the eternal kid with a Peter Pan syndrome.
Since creativity is not something that one can sell on demand the kid or lead singer needs the space to create and think. He needs to feel relaxed and loved. He needs to feel that he has enoughÂ autonomyÂ to steer his own boat. He is the high-tech genius that need the cool open space to get ideas that will help him and his team to become successful.
If the playmaker is the lead singer, the wingers are the Bass and lead guitarist. They need to be cool and creative, but just like an instrument they need to be activated by someone. A creative winger could add a lot and might possess some of the personal traits of the midfield playmaker but a lighting fast winger needs the right pass in the right time to be really effective.
Explosiveness and tenaciousness are important for any winger, but just like the full back, a winger needs balance as well in order to cover his defensive responsibilities and be aware of the other winger’s location. High technique skills are a must, but being able to think fast is actually more important virtue for a winger.
The personality of a striker should depend on the team’s formation. If it is a two-striker formation he needs to think like a couple, if it is a one-striker formation he needs to think like a lone wolf (or a lone fox in the box).
Some coaches would rather have a striker as the alpha male of the tribe, the leader of the pack. Firm and assertive, he should fit many formations. The striker has to have that certain egoistic behavior, as former Hungary international. István Salloi, defined it best: “A real striker doesn’t pass the ball to his Mom if he’s in the box.”