Soccer is a sport that requires a lot of running in a big field with just a single break in the entire 90 minutes. To be able to cope with the demands of soccer, players are required to develop their sprinting abilities.
In recent years, the skill set of players has steadily improved in comparison to previous years. Advancement in training equipment, coaching techniques, and diet have all contributed to making soccer players better in all aspects.
Soccer players are now more powerful, faster, and capable of high-intensity runs than ever before. On the pitch, the quickest way for players to create effective goal scoring opportunities is to put in incredible speed, enough to outrun their opponents—especially during counterattack situations.
In soccer, speed is extremely important because it is hard to score a goal or create goalscoring chances if you cannot outrun the defenders. Speed has the highest marginal impact per unit of growth when compared to other skills like agility and strength.
In this issue, we’ll explain what speed is in the context of soccer, how vital it is, and some of its impact on the overall performance of soccer players. We’ll also tell you which position in soccer requires the most speed. Keep reading.
- How important is speed in soccer?
- What soccer position requires the most speed?
How important is speed in soccer?
While soccer demands a variety of physical, mental, and technical abilities, a soccer player’s speed is one of the most significant. The game is getting faster and soccer players need to improve their speed to stay relevant.
Whether a player is in possession of the ball or trying to retrieve the ball from an opponent, the difference in speed between two players will go a long way to determine who keeps the ball.
When talking about speed, it is important to mention that it goes beyond sprinting. As you already know, soccer is not track and field where the athletes have to run in a straight line.
Speed in soccer also involves how fast the soccer player can change their direction or move the ball between either of their feet. Players with quick feet have better ball control and flexibility making it harder for them to lose possession of the ball—even under pressure.
While speed is crucial in soccer, it doesn’t mean that being the fastest player automatically certifies you as a good player. If soccer was all about speed, Usain Bolt would have easily become the best soccer player.
However, we all know that his soccer ambition was short-lived. If you don’t already know about Usain Bolt’s soccer ambition, you can read all about it here.
When you look at the top teams in the world, you’ll find a lot of really fast players who hardly win trophies or awards.
For your speed to be effective as a soccer player, you must be able to combine it with other attributes such as agility, strength, shot accuracy, and so on.
Aside from the professional players seeking to improve their speed, there is a general desire in soccer for this ability. According to data from the review of 2007 to 2014 EPL seasons by experts at the University of Bath, there was a 2 percent increase in distance traveled in 2013 compared to 2007 and an 85 percent increase in sprints.
Speed can be used to determine the suitable positions for players on the pitch. It can also be used in measuring the endurance level and effectiveness of players in a team.
It is important to mention that the faster you are, the higher your chance of losing the ball. This explains why it is important for fast players to know how to dribble so that they can retain the ball and beat the opponent’s defense line. Here are all the things you stand to gain as a fast player.
Having greater possession of the ball
An increase in soccer players’ speed doubles their chances of having greater possession of the ball. Running fast and always being available for passes allows teams to be in better control of the ball.
In soccer, the side with the most ball possessions often has better chances of winning the match—although higher ball possessions don’t always translate to winning the game.
However, the team with the most ball possessions wins the game in most cases. Clearly, you cannot score goals if you don’t have the ball.
Intercepting or defending a ball
Defenders must be fast enough to prevent attacking players from running past them. For teams that use the through-pass tactics, defenders need to catch up with the ball before the attacker.
When you sprint towards your opponent at incredible speed, you compel them to think faster, which is very likely to result in a blunder. Aggressive and fast defenders and midfielders are feared more on the pitch even if they are not the most skillful.
Also, we have seen instances where an attacker gets the ball beyond an oncoming goalkeeper but a defender catches up with the ball and clears it off the goal line.
In one of Spain’s encounters with Brazil, Pedro curled the ball beyond the keeper’s reach but David Luiz quickly ran back and cleared the ball from the goal line. Such an instance is a constant reminder for defenders to improve their speed.
The key point here is that fast soccer players can either create more goal-scoring opportunities or stop balls from crossing the goal line.
Getting behind the defense
One of the techniques attackers employ to outsmart their opponents is the use of speed. Sprinting after a successful dribble makes it harder for the defender to catch you.
If they try too hard, they will end up pulling you down or engaging in a sliding tackle. Either way, they will likely draw a foul.
When strikers outpace defenders, they create a one-on-one situation with the goalie which increases their chance of scoring.
Influence the team’s playing style
The technical crew of every team usually adapts to a different style of play according to the abilities of their players and their opponents. This is partly because soccer requires more wits than muscles.
For example, when a team is playing against another team with very good defenders, they will likely use fast wingers to outrun the defenders and create scoring opportunities.
In such instances, you will see the midfielders and defenders shooting long passes behind the opponent’s defense line because they trust that their fast strikers and wingers will get there before the defenders.
What soccer position requires the most speed?
Some positions in soccer demand less speed than others. Also, the speed that a soccer player will need will depend on the formation and style of play.
In the classical 4-3-3 formations, midfielders and forwards are expected to run faster than other players on the team. However, in the 4-5-1 formation, the lone striker will likely be the player with the top speed in the team.
For a team that is playing more defensively and relying on attacks and counterattacks to score, the wingers and strikers need to have insane speed.
While each team’s approach usually determines the speed that would be demanded from each player, there are a few positions that require greater speed than others. According to FIFA estimates, 70% of open-play goals are scored as a result of faster attacks or counterattacks.
Also, a sprinting examination of some of the best soccer players from the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup revealed that wide midfielders dominated all sprinting statistics.
These statistics included the leading sprints made by wide defenders and attackers, the overall sprint distance traveled, explosive sprints, and the number of sprints carried out successfully.
Whether it’s the style of play of particular soccer teams or the findings from our numerous researches, the following positions appear to be at the top of the list of soccer positions that demand the greatest speed.
Fullbacks are also referred to as left-side and right-side defenders
Left and right defenders have one thing in common, they are both extremely quick and cover a lot of ground in each game.
They are mostly defenders, but can also provide assistance and attack at intervals. A good example of a left-back that makes overlapping runs into an attack is Chelsea’s left-back, Ben Chilwell.
Fullbacks usually play against wingers who are generally the quickest players on the opposing team. Therefore, having great speed is crucial in this position.
Whenever the team is attacking, they must assist in oppressing opponents by providing through-wall passes or crosses. They also have a lot of defensive responsibilities when their team loses the ball.
This position demands speed as the most physical attribute. As a fullback, you must constantly run up and down the field, contributing to the attacks while keeping in mind that your main purpose is to defend.
Most midfielders need to possess good speed so that when they are with the ball, they can overwhelm their opponents with their speed. Also, midfielders tend to cover more area in soccer—and they have to do that fast to make it harder for the opponents to find passing spaces.
Midfielders are not expected to accelerate as fast as strikers. However, they need to maintain a good and steady pace from the beginning to the end of the game. In modern soccer, any team that controls the midfield controls the pace of the game.
In addition to having a good speed, midfielders also have to master how to dribble while running with the ball and how to receive the ball while running.
N’golo Kante is a good example of a midfielder who always tries to utilize their maximum speed while playing soccer. While speed is important, midfielders should balance it with strength, good tackling abilities, stamina, and exceptional dribbling skills.
Wingers are generally the team’s quickest players because their game usually revolves around speed and dribbling down the side-line. Their major mission is to make opponents vulnerable with emphasis on getting closer to the 18-yard box.
They must also assist in defense by chasing down the side defenders when an attack is launched. They frequently engage in high-intensity sprints from which they usually need to recover fast to gain the ball.
A winger must have great speed to be able to outplay opponents on the side-line. They must be able to dribble, pass, and receive balls while moving at a good pace.
They must also have accurate crossing skills, just like the full-back to be able to provide brilliant assist for attackers while running.
Forwards are generally considered as some of the fastest set of players in soccer teams. However, there is a short list of forwards who aren’t considerably fast but managed to become successful in their soccer careers.
Like wingers, forwards are often required to make runs through the center of the pitch and create scoring chances or try to score. The speed of center forwards come to play when the team launches a counterattack.
You will often see them run from their own half to the opponent’s half to assist the player with the ball by positioning themselves in a position where the player with the ball can easily pick them out for a pass.
It is really difficult to be successful as a center forward without having a good pace that is backed by other qualities like good vision, impeccable dribbles, and ability to hold onto the ball.
Strikers are players that can hit top-gear speeds when trying to beat opponents to the soccer ball. This is why they can often be found at their club’s gym facilities sweating it out daily.
Modern soccer has witnessed faster strikers who can easily initiate attacks hitting top gear in the shortest possible time. These strikers can mesmerize soccer fans with their spectacular pace both when they are with soccer balls or without them.
One of the reasons why strikers are becoming strikers is because most teams are switching their strategy to counterattack, especially when playing against a superior opponent or an opponent with a strong defensive line. Counterattacks make it easier to catch defenders off guard.
Famous strikers like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Erling Haaland, and Kylian Mbappe are good examples of strikers with good speed. Their presence alone is enough to change the trajectory of a soccer match.
The importance of speed in soccer is enormous. It is one skill that differentiates exceptionally gifted players from the average players.
Players often use speed to their advantage by running past defenders with ease, intercepting the ball, or scoring brilliant goals.
We believe that defensive midfield, fullback, and wings are the positions in soccer that demand the greatest speed. By keenly observing a soccer game, you will notice that these positions are often occupied by the quickest players on the field.
However, not having a good speed should not stop you from playing the game. You can make up for your slow pace by sharpening your other skills and making yourself exceptional in one of them.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!