Every team sport has different roles for different members of the team. Depending on the size of the playing area and the number of players allowed in the game, the different types of roles vary. In the case of football, the field has a permissible length of 90-120 metres and a permissible width of 45-90 metres. This allows for distinct roles to exist for the players of a team and therefore distinct positions for the different members of a team.
Over the years, the advancements in technology, sports science and nutrition have helped in the evolution of tactical formations, leading to new positions being formed. As long as the sport is played, some positions will keep getting redundant and new positions will be invented and this process will continue.
Broadly, depending on the location on the pitch, the different categories are that of goalkeeping, defence, midfield and attack. The different positions are sub-categories of the aforementioned ones and certain positions even overlap different categories.
So, here are the different positions split according to the broader category that have been used in the sport till date.
Goalkeepers – Regular and Sweeper
Goalkeepers are the only players in football who are legally allowed to use their hands in order to deal with the ball, albeit within the demarcated 18-yards box. The role of a regular goalkeeper is to make saves using any part of his body, deal with high balls, organise his defence, command the box and always maintain a high level of concentration even when he is not being tested.
Their role is tougher than the other ones for even if the goalkeeper makes one mistake, it normally results in a goal because he is the last line of defence. Therefore, they have the chance to save games regularly and even hold the potential to win games in case a cup match ends in a draw and moves on to a penalty shoot-out. Some of the famous such keepers are Lev Yashin, Gianluigi Buffon and Manuel Neuer.
Sweeper keepers are a new generation of keepers where the primary function is same as that of a regular keeper. However, these players have an added ability of being good at passing the ball, thereby involving in general gameplay as well. Their distribution with both their hands and feet in finding team-mates and launching counter-attacks makes them a valuable asset to the side.
However, it is always a risky proposition for a goalkeeper to come out and involve in the flow of the game and one mistake could lead to conceding a goal. But when properly executed, they act as an extra outfield player for the team and can pick up assists for goals as well. These keepers are typically seen standing out of their box in their own half when their team is on the front-foot to provide an outlet for a pass if need be.
Manuel Neuer is the perfect example of a sweeper keeper and Pep Guardiola further emphasised it in the teams he managed so far. In the present scenario, all top teams tend to have one and some of the famous ones are Manchester United’s David de Gea, former Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes and Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris.