How to Improve Soccer Positioning (Drills for Each Position)

how to improve soccer positioning

Do you want to be a Better Soccer Player? Then, improve your positioning!

In fact, more than 80% of soccer players (even at a professional level) lack this skill … This makes them less efficient than the top class players!

In this Post, you will learn how to improve this CRUCIAL Skill as fast as possible.

Let’s dive in!

Importance of positioning in soccer

Soccer is a sport that is constantly changing and evolving! Traditional positions are now outdated!

Modern soccer characterizes much faster and dynamic play, with players roaming from their default positions.

Conventional, simple division of positions on goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards no longer works.

Modern soccer requires a more flexible approach, with players always prepared to adapt to game conditions and ball position, ready to transform formation in a moment.

This means that you as a soccer player should have massive technical and tactical knowledge of positioning itself, in order to be aware of your role on the field and how you should act depending on conditions in the game.

Quality positioning will raise your awareness and reaction speed, allowing you to respond promptly, both in defense and attack.

Drills to improve you soccer positioning

Like every other soccer skill, you can also develop and improve your positioning abilities. How you will do it, depends on your default position in the field.

Each playing area has its own characteristic training drill that can help enhance this crucial attribute in modern soccer.

Important Tip: To properly practice those drills, I strongly recommend to use soccer shoes with decent Quality  and reliable Grip to perform at the best of your abilities. You can have a quick look at these quality soccer cleats to get an idea!

1. Goalkeeper

If you are a goalkeeper, proper positioning may change the entire game in a moment. Your job is to follow the ball position and anticipate the movement, so you can position yourself in the right place to react according to the situation.

To improve this ability, there are tips to keep in mind some tips that can help you.

  • You need to be in constant balance. In order to position yourself appropriately and react on time, you must prepare your body, with properly aligning and positioning your upper and lower body parts. Keep your knees and hips slightly bent to achieve stability easier. Lean forward a little, with your chest pushed out.
  • Know where your goal is. This seems like a simple task, but when always facing forward it is actually quite harder remembering the actual position of the goal behind you. This is essential so you can position yourself in the right spot to cover all goal angles. One simple trick is to use a penalty spot to orient yourself.
  • Know your angles. Maybe the most important tip for exercising goalkeeping positioning. With placing yourself straight toward the location of the ball and at the right distance from the goal line, you can narrow the angles and cover all the weak spots.
    If done properly, the opposition player will not have multiple choices for a shot, or will not have any way to the goal. This can and should be practiced regularly at training sessions. Place the ball in a different position in the field, pull the ropes from the ball to both posts. Then position yourself on different spots and find the one that covers all angles.
    After consistent repetition, you will develop mental memory. When this becomes your routine, you will find the optimal position easier during the game.

2. Defense

Defensive player’s aim is to position himself in regards to where the ball is located and the position of other defenders in their team. Positional defending itself is a proactive defensive style.

Instead of positioning yourself depending on the position of your opponent, you make the opposing team’s attacking players adapt to your style and formation.

The goal of positional defending is to force your opponents to play in wider areas, so it is easier for your team to put some pressure on them, while blocking the middle area at the same time.

Also, a part of positional defending philosophy is to cover your teammates, and if the ball is recovered, you should look how to use this advantage and develop counter attack by sending the ball to offense.

Like said, this is proactive defending philosophy!

Some training drills you can do to develop positional defending tactical thinking and improve your skill:

  • Practice 4 attackers vs 2 defenders situation: At a specified area, four attacking players form a rectangle. Their goal is to keep the possession of the ball.
    At the same time, two defending players are trying to take the ball.
    First defending players presses the attacker with the ball, from an angle that prevents him from passing the ball to his teammate to the right. Second defender’s aim is to block the middle area, so the ball cannot be passed between them.
    This means that the only suitable option for offense is to pass the ball to the player on the left, who is in a good position to be pressed immediately by the second defender.
  • 4 vs 4 situation: Three attacking players are passing the ball with the fourth waiting to get the ball through the middle. Three defensive players have the goal to press the player with the ball, while blocking the attackers’ option to pass through the center. That way they are forcing the ball to go wide, which makes it easier for them to put the pressure on. After winning the ball, the aim is to send the ball to the fourth defending player waiting for the pass to open the counter attack.

You can learn about these important skills for defensive soccer players

3. Midfield

For midfielders it is crucial to understand their roles and responsibilities. Their role should be to support defense, and cooperate with attackers to create a chance for a goal.

This flexible role of midfield, demands a lot of work on practicing right positioning technique. When midfielders develop the ability of flexible positioning and fast changing roles depending on if the team has defensive or attacking possession of the ball, they will be the line that connects the offensive and defensive side.

As midfielders are often surrounded by numerous opponents trying to pressure them and take the ball, at training you should practice being outnumbered.

By putting yourself in that situation, you train yourself to think fast, you work on your agility and quick reacting.

These kind of exercises will increase your level of playing awareness and learn to be flexible by adapting to situation on court:

  • Box in the Midfield. Mark the square in the midfield of the court. Seven midfielders with movement limited to the surface of the marked square, while opponents can move freely, with seven players surrounding the square and three inside the box with the goal to put the pressure on midfielders. Your goal is to pass the ball around and keep the possession.
  • Four squares exercise. Marked box is divided into four squares, with one player in each of them. Players can only move inside of their square. Your team must keep the possession of the ball and pass it around, while the opposing team of 2-3 players can move freely and try to take the ball.

These exercises and similar training drills will help you to:

  • Stay calm and maintain focus while playing under pressure.
  • Improve your passing skill.
  • Improve ball control.
  • Increase awareness and learn how to make use of empty space.
  • Develop proper positioning and body rotation.
  • Increase agility.
  • Improve communication with your teammates.

4. Attack

Attack positioning tends to make use of empty space in front of opponents’ goal. It affects the quality of your runs and puts you in a good position to receive passes or crosses from your teammates.

Attackers with a high level of this skill will much easier notice empty areas behind the defensive line and take a chance to make runs toward the goal.

Their increased awareness will also allow them a better overview of conditions in the field, which will allow them to make a play for others. This sense for positioning opportunities is especially important when it comes to players at the roll of “target man”.

You can improve attacking positioning with training drills:

  • Forward movement. Form a back line of four defenders using mannequins. Then, position two players who should pass the ball and a third player as a striker position in the gap between.
    Forward should look for space between mannequins and make a run. One of the other two players makes a pass into empty space for the attacker to meet. If needed, you can make it harder with one defender marking the attacker.
  • Offside to onside. This drill is classic for the role of “target-man” and “pressing-forward” attackers. With a similar set up of play as in the previous drill, you as an attacker should position yourself behind the defensive line.
    While the other two players pass the ball back and forth, you move through the offside zone, looking for the right moment to make use of space. At the right moment, you quickly step onside, to make a pass possible and after the ball is sent forward you make a run for it.

These kind of drills will help you to:

  • Learn how to utilize space behind the defensive line.
  • Improve dealing with offside traps.
  • Make use of crowded defenses to deceive defenders marking you.

Other attributes that will help your positioning

In addition to positioning training sessions, you should work on improving a set of skills and attributes that can actually help you to be better at it.

  • Stamina. To make use of empty space in the field to your advantage sometimes requires a lot of running. You should always look for the right opportunity and if you get tired, you will not be able to make use of it. Increasing your stamina will make you physically prepared for active play.
  • Speed and acceleration. By increasing your speed, you increase your chance to react quickly and make a quality run.
  • Agility. With a higher level of body agility, you become more flexible and you can change direction of movement much easier. That makes it much harder for defenders to follow your motion.
  • Ball control. This is particularly important for midfielders. With appropriate ball control, you can create a space for you and then create a good position for yourself.
  • Spatial awareness. This refers to a player’s ability to see space clearly across the entire field and use it to his own advantage. This skill is considered essential for achieving success in modern soccer. One way to improve this attribute is to watch videos of soccer games and pay attention to more than just the ball. Pause the video and look for the details in other players’ movement and positioning that made some play possible.

How long does it take to be have a good positioning

To be good at positioning requires a lot of practice and continuity in your work. And there is no right answer to the question of how long it takes.

It really depends a lot on your current physical state and technical knowledge. In addition, this is a skill that you just never stop learning.

With every training drill you do you will become better at it, maybe even master it, but you will continue to work on it and learn even then. It also depends on the amount of work you dedicate to it.

In general, to notice the improvement in your positioning play it requires around 3 months of training.

After this time, you will feel more comfortable and will develop an open-space-looking mindset. After 6 months of practicing, you will become an active player, constantly looking for a way to exploit empty areas in the field.

To become good at it and to reach a level where this becomes natural to you, it could require around a year of consistent training.

Famous Players with good positioning

We cannot talk about being best at positioning movement without mentioning Lionel Messi. Often described as “the master of the space”, he is an example of the player who knows how to use the right moment to exploit empty space.

Messi looks for the movements of defenders and does not waste his energy on getting unmarked by the opponents. He waits for his chance and makes the run after establishing positional superiority.

His high level of tactical knowledge allows him to make himself open for his teammates with less effort and without a lot of running.

Virgil Van Dijk is considered to be the best defender in the world at the moment. His positioning is amazing and a reason why he is the back line leader.

He is exceptionally good at covering empty space when opposition has a counter attack. Virgil uses his high level of awareness to anticipate ball movement and his high level of fitness allows him to intercept the play.

Filippo “Pippo” Inzaghi is an example of “practice makes it perfect principle”. He was the player that Sir Alex Ferguson described as “born offside.”

Johan Cryuff one time stated for Inzaghi: “He’s just always in the right position.” And yes, he was. He was a player that always knew how to find a way to the goal.

He used to spend days before every match watching videos of his opponents, repeatedly, looking for their flaws he can exploit when the time comes.

That is how he accomplished to always be at the right place at the right time. It was not luck. It was hard work and dedication.

Final Thoughts …

Hope you’ve found this article useful! I’ve made it a little bit long simply because I believe that positioning is extremely important in soccer and that there are many things to cover here …

… Believe me, once you master this skill, everything else will sound really easy for you!

Finally, I highly invite you to learn these simple tips to help improve in soccer as fast as possible! This will help you in case you are you hope to become a pro in the near future …

Claressa Cormier

Claressa Cormier has over 15 years of soccer experience between playing the sport at a semi-professional level, following the biggest soccer teams & leagues out there as well as helping beginners to get started on the right foot.

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