Each position has it's own criteria. You do get some unconventional players in each position.
Normally for a winger you'll want a player who's smaller, faster and more technical but there's still exceptions like Choupo-Moting of Stoke.
It's important that you can be honest with yourself when choosing a position. Take out a piece of paper and list your strengths & weaknesses.
Are you small for your age? Weaker than most? Slow at running? This is an easy way to start crossing out positions that you "can't" play.
If you're struggling to list your strengths & weaknesses from an objective point of view, ask your teammates, parents & coaches what they think.
Most coaches will already have an idea of how they want to use you in their team to maximise success.
Not every coach will share the same opinion, switch team and you may end up playing a completely different position and role.
Breaking down each area of the field
Look at any soccer formation and you'll be able to tell where the keeper is, as well as where the defensive line, the midfield and the attack sit.
The first goal in choosing your position, is to simply choose which area of the pitch you suit.
It's a common opinion in soccer that goalkeepers are the crazy ones.
They are often the crazy, energetic children growing up. You need to be full of energy to play as a goalkeeper because you'll have to pounce on balls, make consecutive saves and out jump the opposition.
Not only that but a goalkeeper needs to have an incredible amount of bravery.
It may be surprising to some but they are very prone to getting kicked, headbutted (accidentally) and sometimes even worse.
Despite their reputation for being crazy, they do need to read the game and anticipate play ahead of time.
Outscoring your opponent is the only way to win a game, however that doesn't mean defenders cant “win” you games themselves.
Unfortunately if you're someone that likes to be recognised for what they do, playing in the defence is not for you.
It's very much an unsung position, yet more and more soccer fans are praising defensive work even though it may not be the flashiest.
A successful defender will have some if not all of these traits:
Tall – You don't need to be an NBA player. Just tall enough to win headers
Strong – It's likely you'll face powerful strikers and need to barge them off the ball.
Confidence – If you're not confident of winning the ball back, you'll be a bad defender.
Intelligent – This is probably the most Important trait for a defender to have.
Communication – It's important to let your teammates know that you're winning the ball from set pieces and crosses. If you don't you could wind up clashing with your teammates and perhaps injure them in the process.
As someone who played a lot of games at centre-back and full-back, there's no better feeling than pocketing and frustrating the opposition striker. If they're mentally weak it's very obvious and they'll show it.
There's many different types of midfielders, but most midfielders do need to be capable in many different areas of the game.
It's important that a midfielder can win the ball back, play a pass and a lot more.
A successful midfielder will have many of the traits listed below:
Work Rate – Midfielders cover the most area on the pitch. You'll need a high work rate.
Passing – The ability to pick short and long distance passes.
Composure – If you lose the ball in midfield it's very easy to concede. Composure is key.
Anticipation – It's important to learn & anticipate your teammates playstyle so you can place passes in the right areas.
Defensive Duties – While you may be playing a more attacking role, midfielders will always need to put a defensive shift in. It's important that you are willing to get stuck in on the back foot.
Playing in the midfield is great. It is however a lot of work and requires a lot of skill.
In the modern game many different type of strikers can be successful.
There's Target Men, Poachers, Centre-Forwards and more. As long as you can strike a ball, you can probably do a shift up top.
Good strikers don't necessarily have to put up incredible goal numbers. Though that's what they are mostly judged on.
When a striker is scoring, everything is great. When he's not, it can get incredibly frustrating and may lead to confidence issues.
The best strikers will posses these traits:
Anticipation – It's crazy just how much you'll improve by being able to read a game of soccer. Anticipating play and getting in the right position is 90% of a strikers job.
Reactive – Reacting faster than the opposition centre-backs will add a couple to your tally without much effort needed.
Composure – A striker has a lot of pressure on him not to squander chances. It's important that you can be composed in front of goals and in 1v1's.
Faith/Confidence – Not to be confused with arrogance. As a striker you'll face goal droughts and may even miss the occasional sitter. It's important that you can keep calm and focused so that you give yourself the best odds to score that next chance.
If you can't decide which position is for you, playing more soccer will help you find your role. Even if it's just pick up games.
A lot of professional players started off in a completely different position than what they play now.
There's even a lot of players that are played in a certain position, look average and then once a new manager comes in excels in another.
It doesn't matter if you don't know your position just yet. Keep your head down, continue to work hard and develop as a player. That's more important.
DIFFERENT MANAGERS HAVE DIFFERENT TACTICS
There's not a right way to play soccer. Every manager will have different tactics.
You may be a striker and your club changes coach, the new coach plays a strikerless formation. All of a sudden you are out of the team.
It's important as a player that you know what system your coach plays. What he wants you to do and how exactly you should conduct yourself on the pitch. That is the best way to get the most time on the pitch.
CHOOSING A DEFENSIVE POSITION
There's 3 definite positions in defence. You have the Sweeper, Centre-back & the Full-back (outside back/ Left back/Right Back).
Each and every player plays their position slightly different way and many people, myself included believe there is multiple roles for each position.
BECOMING A SWEEPER
In modern football sweepers have been fairly rare. Most tactics that utilise a sweeper will use a sweeper keeper instead of using a dedicated sweeper. However as we're seeing 3 centre-back formations come back into fashion, sweepers are making a come back. The most obvious & successful sweeper being Azpilicueta in Chelsea's title winning 16/17 season.
The job of a sweeper is self explanatory. He is positioned behind the defensive line and is told to "sweep up" through balls, win last ditch tackles and boot the ball clear.
Some managers will look for their sweepers to have good attacking qualities such as pace, ball distribution and more. A prime example of this would be Otamendi, he plays a sort of "Libero" role which is a sweeper who kickstarts counter attacks and will often magically appear in the opponents box to score a header or tap in.
If you're 5 foot 9 inches or taller, with a bit of pace and technical ability it may be worth trying a game or two as a sweeper. Worst case scenario? You learn it's not for you.
BECOMING A CENTRE-BACK
A traditional central defender is tall, strong and very smart. Good center-backs don't necessarily need pace as they are so good at reading play and anticipating the oppositions movements that they are always one step ahead.
My favourite examples of traditional centre-backs who had success at high levels would be Nemanja Vidic, John Terry & Vincent Kompany.
Good centre-backs can quickly rise through the levels in soccer. Harry Maguire, Shane Duffy, Johnny Evans & Lewis Dunk are players that may not seem like world beaters but are very good at the limited role they play.
Centre-backs should have a number of these traits:
Tall – 6ft and over is normal for a traditional centre-back.
Pace – While not the most important factor, it's always beneficial to have pace.
Strong – Centre-backs need to outmuscle opposition target men strikers.
Smart – A defender needs to be able to read play and their oppositions movement.
BECOMING A FULL BACK / OUTSIDE BACK
In my opinion full back is one of the funnest positions on the pitch. It's a position that's actually very similar to playing in midfield. You'll have to do a fair share of defending while still bombing forward and being available on counter attacks.
3 and 5 at the back formations allow for full backs to focus more on attacking. While playing a 4 at the back, full backs will have to defend a lot more and will often only go forward on counter attacks.
When you look at the best full-backs in soccer, they vary massively. Players such as Maldini and Thuram were taller and stronger, whereas players like Carlos Alberto and Roberto Carlos were shorter and more technical.
Full Backs are generally well rounded but should posses some of these traits:
Endurance – Full backs need high stamina to be involved in the game as much as they should be.
Pace – While slower full backs can be successful, it's always beneficial to be somewhat fast as a wide player.
Defensive Ability – You are still a defender, you'll still need to know when to jockey, tackle and go to ground.
There's still a lot more to becoming a full back however if you have the traits listed above, it's a really good start. Play more soccer, become a well rounded player and you'll succeed.
CHOOSING A MIDFIELD POSITION
Professional soccer has many different types of midfielders. There's 4 different positions in the midfield, there's the defensive/holding midfielder, central midfielder, attacking midfielder and the wide midfielders / wingers.
Each of these positions have various different roles and playstyles. I wont go to in-depth though, as I could be here for the next month trying to describe it all.
BECOMING A DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER
There's 3 defensive midfielder roles used in todays game. That's the ball winning midfielder, Anchor man and the deep lying playmaker.
The ball winner role is fairly self explanatory. Win the ball back, some players who play this role will opt for a more aggressive style whereas others will look to pick up loose balls and interceptions before playing it to a more creative player.
An Anchor mans role is purely to hold the midfield. He is similar to the ball winner but plays more restricted. His job is to keep the shape of the midfield and win the ball back.
Whereas the deep lying playmaker or regista is still tasked with winning the ball back however their main aim is to pick a pass and start counter attacks. They'll often sit in a pocket between the midfield and the defense, allowing them time & protection to play a pass.
Playing as a defensive midfielder may be for you if you are:
Strong – You will need strength to battle against bigger midfielders & opposition target men.
Good at winning the ball back – After all, that's the main aim of a defensive midfielder.
Able to play a pass – If you're playing beside a more creative player, short passes are fine. A regista/deep lying playmaker will require better vision and passing.
PLAYING AS A CENTRAL MIDFIELDER
There's so many different types of Central Midfielders, I'm not going to cover them all. Instead I'll give you a general overview of what a well rounded CM looks like.
If you're a lazy player, you can already rule out playing in the centre of the park. While you do get the ocasional elite midfielder that comes across as lazy (Yaya Toure), it's a rarity. Be prepared to work hard.
To become a Central Midfielder you'll need to be able to:
Control the ball well – I cannot state how important it is to have good close control as a midfielder. It will help you in so many defensive and offensive situations.
Pick a short & long pass – The best playmakers are known for their ability to pick a pass, whether it's a short simple pass or a world cup ball. The best can do it.
Be composed under pressure – Composure is good for any position, however as a CM it's very important. Lose the ball in midfield and you could create a goalscoring counter attack for the opposition.
PLAYING AS AN ATTACKING MIDFIELDER
If you're looking to be the main focal point of attack, being an attacking midfielder is the position for you.
As an attacking midfielder it's your job to link the midfield and the strikers together. This requires you to have good passing, vision and a good understanding of your teammates runs.
While you don't need to be Ronaldinho or some other incredible skiller, good close control & good execution of skill moves comes in use as an AM.
Have some of these skills? Try playing as an Attacking Midfielder:
Agile – Being able to twist and turn quickly with the ball at your feet will allow you to open up gaps in the opponents defense.
Passing – It's incredibly important you can pass as you're linking up play between two parts of the pitch and creating scoring opportunities.
Flair – Being able to execute that roullette to turn into space may be the difference between a clear cut chance or an attack fizzling out.
Long Shots – While not important, it's always good if nothing else is on that you can challenge the goalkeeper from distance. A rebound may fall to your teammates or you may win a corner.
WINGIN' IT - BECOMING A WINGER
Wingers can often be played through the middle. Attacking midfielders and wingers do share a similar skill set but that doesn't mean every winger and attacking midfielder will be comfortable in the other position.
While the role of a winger is fairly set in stone, you do get the occasional unorthodox winger though. Players like Chuopo Moting & Arnautovic and even Dirk Kuyt come to mind.
Some managers like their wide midfielders to put in a defensive shift too, though in most tactics wingers should be available for the counter attack.
Wingers should be good at:
Playing the ball with both feet – This isn't a must, however it's a huge plus. If you're good with both feet you'll keep the defenders guessing. Are you hitting the byline or cutting inside?
Crossing – I like a winger to be direct, take on his man, get to the byline and put a cross in. If you can perfect whipped, floated & low crosses you'll allow your strikers much better scoring chances.
Technical Ability & Flair – As a winger you're going to have the ball at your feet a lot. You need to make sure you're a quick dribbler and have enough tricks in your locker to beat your opponent.
PLAYING AS A STRIKER
The playstyles of strikers vary massively in todays game. There's so many different roles. Just looking at the top European clubs will show you this.
Man City has Aguero, a small pacey, technical forward. Whereas Juventus opt for Mandzukic a taller, physical target man. Barcelona & Real Madrid opt for more complete forwards such as Suarez, Benzema and Ronaldo. It's a shame we don't really see poachers any more.
Playing as a striker doesn't always have to be about goals. In 2 striker formations you'll often find that one of the forwards sits slightly deeper, wins balls, plays simple through balls and creates space for the more clinical teammates. While scoring goals is a big part of a strikers job, it doesn't always have to be about goals, rather goal contributions.
Play at striker if you excel at:
Putting the ball in the back of the net – Scoring more goals than your opponent is how you win games. If you can finish your chances, your manager will keep picking you.
Composure – Being composed is an incredibly important trait for a striker. If you aren't you will squander important chances that could win or lose you games.
Running off the shoulder of defenders – If you can get in behind the defense without being caught offside you'll massively increase your scoring chances. As long as you're composed, scoring one-on-ones is easy enough.
Hold up play – Sometimes you'll not be able to beat the defense. Knowing when to keep the ball and hold play so that your teammates can make attacking runs is crucial. There's so many strikers that look lost when nothing is on, mastering this is a huge plus.
CHOOSING POSITION MAY NOT ACTUALLY BE YOUR CHOICE
If you already know what position you are good at playing but your manager thinks otherwise, you're going to have to suck it up. If you don't you could quickly fall down the pecking order and find yourself with less game time.
Playing out of position is better than not playing at all. Who knows, you may begin to enjoy playing in that position and make it your own.