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How To Be A Better Defender in Soccer?

How To Be A Better Defender in Soccer?

In soccer, defenders carry huge responsibilities. They are the last line of defense that prevents the opposing team from scoring goals. Therefore, defenders are placed just before the goalkeeper, depending on the formation used by the coach.

Defenders usually have different qualities and excel in some areas than some. These unique qualities are usually brought into the game.

To become a better soccer defender, you have to possess certain qualities. Such qualities could include the determination to succeed, mental toughness, and providing good information to your teammates on the pitch.

Becoming a better defender does not just mean that you have to defend against incoming attacks. You also have to put pressure on the opponents so they can make mistakes. These mistakes might lead to an attack that would culminate in a goal.

Defenders also cover and support their teammates. So, in addition to the mental toughness that is needed for a soccer defender, he also has to have the physical fitness to back it up and excellent technical skills.

The soccer player is tackling

What makes a good central defender in soccer?

Central defenders in soccer possess a variety of qualities that are essential in becoming good at their position. These qualities usually range from their skills, agility, calmness, ability to command, having good teammates, and even having a good coach.

Defenders such as Sergio Ramos, Virgil van Dijk, Thiago Silva, Gerard Piqué, Rúben Dias, and Kalidou Koulibaly, all have their own unique qualities.

For example, Ruben Dias is known for his dogged and aggressive defending that gives strikers nightmares when they face him. On the other hand, Virgil Van Dijk appears as an intimidating but calm figure that can dispose of the opponent on the field and in the air.

No defender in soccer can have all the necessary qualities. This is why they usually have teammates to compliment for the area they lack.

As we’ve seen in the example of Virgil Van Dijk and Ruben Dias, who are two distinctive defenders, they have partners who complement their qualities in their respective teams.

However, as a defender, getting good at most of the necessary qualities of a defender would make you become one of the best central defenders out there.

This can be seen in the case of Sergio Ramos, Gerard Piqué, and Thiago Silva, who have displayed several qualities of a good central defender that makes them stand out in the course of their career.

Listed below are some of the unique qualities that make a good central defender.

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Good at Defending

To be a good central defender, you have to be good at defending because this is the major role of a central defender in soccer. 

You have to be an expert at tackling and not just tackling, but tackling without incurring fouls. This is because, during games, you can be challenged.

Central defenders have to have an excellent sense of timing as it is a very important skill for tackling. When tackles are attempted too late or too soon in soccer, it can lead to different results; fouling the player or winning the ball.

Apart from tackling, you have to know a variety of defending tactics, how to stick with your man, winning headers, double-teaming, etc.

Being good at defending is a necessary factor in being a central defender.

Good at Teamwork

The individual prowess of defenders is often praised, rewarded, and even celebrated. But central defenders can’t defend alone without the help of their team. Center defenders have to be good at teamwork for them to be better at what they do. 

A central defender that can work with his teammates would bring out the full capacity of the team; hence the team would play at its best. Soccer teams that work together and are very cohesive are usually difficult to beat.

To be a good central defender, you have to be aware of your teammates’ weaknesses and strengths. This will ensure that the central defender can cover for his teammates when needed and provide scoring opportunities.

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Capable of dominating opponents

Another quality of a good central defender is the ability to dominate his opponents. As a central defender, you have to be able to dominate most if not every one vs. one duel. You have to be able to challenge your opponents both technically and physically.

A good central defender must be an intelligent and quick thinker. He has to be able to make use of his brain accompanied by his body to dominate his opponents.

A central defender can use his strength to intimidate his opponent, control the opponent, outrun them, block the opponent’s progress or even move the opponent out of the way.

Central defenders with these physical quantities have certain advantages over their opponents. These physical qualities are tools that a central defender must use against his opponent to win the duels.

Another way of dominating the opponents is to make use of deceptions. This is where feints, fake-outs, and other tactics come into play.

2 players fighting for the ball

Take, for example; a central defender can fake a tackle to get the opposing attacker to make a move. However, he can also not look interested but pounce on the attacker.

Another way is to make nudges that would keep the attacker on his toes, or the defender could hide away from the attacker’s line of sight then jump on the attacker at the last minute to steal the ball.

Another way of being a good dominating central defender is to be able to play positionally. A good central defender must be able to read the game and then proceed based on his instinct to get the ball before it arrives.

For a defender to have this skill, he has to have a good understanding of the game, then be able to keep up with the attacker and anticipate the attacker’s actions. This will allow the defender to get to where the ball is played, deal with the attack.

Central defenders are often positioned at the center of the pitch. Therefore they can get their position correctly so that they can accurately deal with the attacks.

Capable of receiving the ball properly

Another good quality of a central defender is that he has to be able to receive the ball even when under pressure. Oftentimes when midfielders are faced with pressure, they tend to pass the ball back to the central defender.

Therefore, it is essential that central defenders can calmly receive the ball and then accurately pass the ball to other players siding both feet. As a central defender, you have to practice the technical aspects of receiving passes with your back foot and passing the ball with your other foot.

In order to receive passes better, central defenders need to be able to scan the pitch. It will ensure that the defender can accurately observe to know when to receive the ball and to protect the ball with their body or to receive the ball and pass to another player.

Scanning the pitch allows central defenders to position themselves before they receive the ball accurately. In addition, it ensures that the defender has time to think up other countermeasures before the ball arrives.

When the central defender receives the ball, he also has to think of how he can position the ball to move in the direction of another player. It gives the defender time on the ball. The defender always has to keep his head up to better view the options to make.

It ensures that the defender’s checks before receiving the ball are accurate and have not changed.

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What are some common mistakes a defender makes?

A good defender has to ensure that the ball is prevented from entering the goal or preventing goal-scoring opportunities. But sometimes defenders can make mistakes — everyone can make mistakes.

In this section of this article, you will find some of the common mistakes that soccer defenders can make on the pitch. 

Improper Defensive Positioning

In soccer, most mistakes made by defenders occur as a result of bad positioning. Defenders can intercept passes or goal-scoring opportunities if they are placed in a proper position.

As a defender, if you position yourself in a passing lane, the attacking player has to look for other options since he would be unable to pass through that space. Likewise, the attacking player would be unable to receive the ball or run behind the defender if the defender covers the space properly.

It then becomes necessary that defenders properly position themselves so that they can intercept passes or goal-scoring opportunities.

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Inability to make timely decisions

In soccer, a common mistake made by defenders occurs as a result of poor decision-making. The problem of making decisions has to do with the experience of the defender. A major way of solving decision-making is to practice more to be perfect.

Most times, defenders make poor decisions as a result of panic on the ball. Mistakes such as making rash decisions or giving the ball away can be a result of panicking.

Defenders have to be dominant, be careful of making rash decisions, and be relaxed. When a defender has these qualities, he will hardly make poor decisions. But, unfortunately, nervousness also causes poor decision-making.

It might occur because an attacker is tight on the defender, therefore as a defender, you have to ensure that your mental strength is high so that you can make better decisions and also perform better.

Take, for example, as a defender if you are unable to make out the position of the opposition attacker, you might pass the ball quickly because you are not settled.

It then becomes imperative that as a defender, you relax and properly look around the pitch to make fewer mistakes and make the right decision.


Pushing too High on the pitch

As a defender, full back, center back, or wing-back, you mustn’t push too high in the field when your team is attacking or counter-attacking. But, more often than not, we see in a team that the defenders push high in the pitch to support the attackers when they attack.

This is one of the common mistakes that defenders make in soccer. The mistake would create a gap in the defense that is often covered by center defensive midfielders and center backs. Counter attacking with a lot of players makes it hard for the team to sustain the counter-attack.

When every defender joins the attackers for attacking, a counter-attack can happen, which might lead to a goal-scoring opportunity. To avoid situations from happening, coaches usually ask the full-backs to play as an inverted full-back.

Full-backs would then be expected to play as midfielders to stop any counter-attack that might result from pushing up high in a pitch.

defenders are pushing too High on the pitch

Constantly looking down at the ball

Some defenders usually look down on the ball when they play. Therefore, it is necessary that, as a defender, you raise your head so that you can see your available options.

It ensures that the defender can recognize teammates that are open for passes or if there is an opportunity for dribbling. Putting your head down as a defender creates chances of making mistakes, and this reduces your efficiency as a defender.

Constantly looking down while playing on the pitch prevents you from seeing opportunities tour teammates created.

It occurs especially when your teammates are in a good position for receiving a good pass or when you can’t see your teammates and know how far they are from you, therefore making an error in passing.

Raising your head all the time on a pitch is quite unrealistic because there are times that you are running with the ball and are about to pass; you have to quickly look down to know the ball’s exact position.

In such situations, as a defender, you have to quickly take a look at your surroundings.

Therefore, it is important that when you receive the ball as a defender, you look around to see your passing options and possible danger.

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Playing too Physical

Another common mistake that soccer defenders make is to play too physically. Though it is important that as a defender, you be physical, you have to ensure that you can control your physicality in the game.

Some soccer defenders get too physical and it most times leads to getting fouled by the referees. As a defender, you need to have good control of your body and know when to be physical and when not to be physical.

Also, you have to ensure that tackles are properly timed. Timing tackles helps in minimizing the risks associated with tackles.

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Not showing Patience

A defender has to be very patient because it will allow the defender to make timely actions to win the ball. So, as a defender, you have to be patient so that you would know the proper time to win the ball.

As a defender, you need to control your momentum as it will allow you to properly judge when the opposing attacker makes a mistake then take the chance to steal the ball.

How to be a better defender in soccer?

Defenders are the last men before the goalkeeper; their job is to prevent the ball from getting to the goal or to stop any goal-scoring opportunity.

To be a better defender in soccer, you first have to identify the defensive position you can play in. This is important because there are various defensive positions in soccer.

One of these defensive positions is the left or right full-back. The left or right full-back function is to guard both sides of the pitch at the back. The focus of a full-back in a team is to block the wingers on the opposing team or the left or right midfielders.

Full-backs are expected to be light on their feet. It allows them to be able to quickly move up and down the pitch to help their teammates.

Another defensive position is the central defender, also called the center back. The central defender is placed right in front of the goal to cover the center of the field. The central defender has the duty of preventing the ball or the opposing team from getting to the goalkeeper.

Prominent soccer defenders include John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Thiago Silva, Virgil Van Dijk, Sergio Ramos, and others.

In order to become a better defender in soccer, there are various methods and processes that you have to pass through. Below are some of the methods to becoming a better defender in soccer.



You have to properly train yourself to become a better defender, whether central backs, full backs, or wing-backs. The basis of every good soccer player out there, defenders and strikers alike, is the amount of time put into practice and training.

The likes of Pique, Ramos, and other great defenders became great because of their training.

Below are some training and exercises that can help you to become a better soccer defender. 

Training your Core 

As a defender, you have to be fit, and a way to do that is to strengthen your core. It doesn’t mean that you need to have six-packs abs like Christiano Ronaldo or other professional soccer players.

Strengthening your core ensures that your balance is improved, and also it makes it harder for the opposing attacker to get past you and make a dash for the goal.

When exercising, make use of planks. Ensure that you exercise regularly. Plank exercises help to train up your balance and your core. Also, search for other core exercises that can help in building your abdominal muscles.

Ensure that you exercise evenly; it is very important. Exercises such as Pilates and yoga also help to improve balance and strengthen your core and flexibility.

Soccer players are training with a ball

Training based on your defensive position

As a defender, you have to train based on the defensive position that you play in because the various defensive positions have different body requirements during a game. 

Take, for example, as a full-back; you have to have mobility and speed to be able to compete with wingers, while a central defender has to focus on stability and strength. It is, therefore, necessary to train based on your defensive position.

As a defender, take time off during off-seasons to train based on straight, also take time for cardio days. Also, take some days to train your power and speed. You can do this by adding High-intensity interval training.

It is important that when in season, you reduce the intensity of tour training so that you can bring out your full capability in matches.

For example, if you usually work out for four hours in the off-season, ensure that the training time is reduced to one or two hours. Also, ensure that the time you train your strength is reduced during the season.

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Be Technical

The defensive position is one of the most technical positions in soccer; therefore, if you want to get better at your defensive position, you have to improve your technical skills.

Below are some of the ways to improve the technical skills that can be used to make you a better soccer defender. 


As a defender, you cannot work alone. Defenders need to work with other defenders and even midfielders to keep the defensive position. For this reason, defenders were initially given the position of team captain because they pulled the team together.

Defenders need other defenders to cover their mistakes. They also tell other midfielders and defenders who to mark. The defender had to be able to communicate with other teammates so they could pass instructions to their teammates.

As a defender, communicating with other teammates will ensure that the teammates know what is happening on the pitch, what to do, and where other players are. 

A good defender does not necessarily have to communicate verbally; he has to be able to effectively communicate with signals and body language in tight situations.

When a defender can perfectly signal his teammates on where the ball can be passed to or where the teammate should be, it can ensure that a goal is scored.

Improved passing ability

In soccer, one of the qualities that make a good defender is able to effectively pass the ball to teammates irrespective of pressure or not. Therefore you have to train your ability to pass properly. Then, defenders can pick the right situation and properly pass the ball perfectly.

Defenders are often pressured; therefore, it becomes important that they can make right passes even under pressure. There is no room for mistakes as my slight mistakes can lead to a conceded goal.

In some cases where defenders are unable to properly pass the ball around can create risks for the entire team as the opposition can seize the ball and counter for a goal.

Therefore to become a better defender, you have to perfect the ability to pass in any situation that you are faced with and deliver even under pressure.

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Another technical ability idea defender is composure. A defender has to be composed when he possesses the ball. Defenders are often pressured as they are the last line before the goal. A single mistake could lead to the opposition scoring a goal.

This is why the top defenders are very composed. They learn not to panic or be pressured in tough situations. To become better at defending, you have to learn how to cope with opposition tackles and make the necessary touches or passes that are needed.

Defenders must be in complete control of the game and are composed.

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Mental Toughness 

Soccer is a mental game as any other sport out there. Take an example when a defender is faced with top strikers, the first defeat would occur when the defender becomes afraid of the fame of the striker.

The defender might lose all hope as his thought would not be on how to stop the defender, but on the fact that he can’t stop the striker because the striker is very famous for being a top goal scorer.

For this very reason, a defender needs to be mentally prepared to face any player on the pitch. 

Be Focused Mentally

Defenders are often stressed and highly pressured, and this can lead to mistakes and bad choices in a game. However, defenders can avoid such mistakes by being focused mentally. 

As a defender, you have to focus on your goals for the game and how you would want to play the game. Ensure that the goals set for the match are realistic. Doing this will reduce the effect of any negative issues on the defender.

When a defender is mentally focused, he will be able to give his all to the game and perform his best because he knows that he is an important factor in winning the game.

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Defenders have to be calm and let the opposition striker make mistakes. However, a defender doesn’t have to challenge every striker on the pitch; you could easily be penalized. 

As a defender, your role is to face the attacking player patiently and think of countermeasures to take the ball from the attacker. Ensure that you are alert but calm, then go for the ball. Avoid lunging for the ball and other defensive tackles that can lead to fouls.

When you are ready to take the ball from the opposing attacker, apply little body pressure just enough not to be fouled, then when you sense a flaw in the attacking player, utilize the moment to take the ball.

Anticipate your opponent’s move 

Much of being a defender is about anticipation. Therefore, as a defender, you need to see, think and react fast enough to make certain challenges. Also, you have to correctly anticipate what will happen before other teammates on the pitch.

You must have seen this a couple of times in a soccer match where a defender steps up to intercept the ball before any player can react to it.

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Good attack support

In modern soccer, being able to provide perfect support for your team’s attack is a great quality that marks out a good defender. 

Over time, the game of soccer has evolved from a game where every player sticks to their respective team role to one where we now see defenders provide attacking support and score or assist goals.

A good defender should be able to provide their team with support when an attack is launched. Most times, we’ve seen defenders come from their defensive position to help finish off an attack.

Scoring or assisting goals is the most vital part of a soccer match. A defender who provides either one of these for their team is certainly regarded as a good defender.

Providing good attack support is not limited to scoring or assisting alone. Being able to make short bursts forward during a game or actively receiving and distributing the ball in an opponent’s half also counts as providing good attack support.

Trent Alexander Arnold, Antonio Rudiger, Sergio Ramos, and Marquinos are examples of defenders who, in the course of their career have consistently shown good attack support.

What are the 4 principles of being a good defender in soccer?

Some soccer teams rely on their defensive prowess to be successful. Both at the individual and the unit level, defenders have to work together to bring out the best in them.

There are certain principles in soccer that a defender has to follow to be among the top defenders; they are delay, concentration, cover, and balance.


A basic principle that every defender in soccer has to adhere to is the principle of delay. The defender gas to slow down the offense of the opposition or even disrupt the pace of the opponent.

The air is to ensure that the attacker does not get very close to the goal fast but is delayed by the defender by keeping the attacker at arm’s length.


For the principle of concentration, the defenders in the team have to concentrate. This will ensure that they do not make simple errors like wrong passes, miskicks, and other mistakes that would result in an opportunity for the opposition to score.

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Cover has to do with how the defenders are positioned on the field by the coach. The defenders have to ensure that they cover every area that needs to be covered by a defender and leave no open space for any offense.

In most cases, the principle of cover is usually offered by the second defender who plays right behind the first. The positioning of the second defender means that their duty is to provide depth and coverage for the team.

In case of an opponent’s attack, the second defender puts pressure on the ball and becomes the first defender or a sweeper, providing enough support for the actual first defender and fullbacks to regroup to cover other points of the opponent’s attack.

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Balance has to do with the defender’s ability to be aware all over the pitch at all times. In addition, the defenders have to be sure that the defenders and the entire team are properly positioned in the field.

For instance, during a corner kick where a full-back defender takes the set-piece, a central back defender should maintain balance by not going into the opposition’s box for a header.

If one center back does so, the other should be positioned outside the box with a defensive midfielder to maintain balance and defend against a possible counter-attack.

This logic is also applicable where a maestro midfield takes the set-piece, and both central defenders go for a header; the full-backs maintain balance by pushing backward.

The principle of balance ensures that every player is properly positioned to mark the opposing players and cover any open space that could lead to a goal-scoring chance for their opponents.

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The role of the defender is to stop the opposition attack momentum. This is not only done by overpowering the attacker; a defender has to confuse, pressure, and rush the attacker to create mistakes.

In the game of soccer, defenders need to readily take advantage of the flaws shown by the opponent to win the ball. Therefore, every successful soccer team usually boasts a good defense.

To be a better defender, the opinions given above would go a long way to better the chances of you making it to the list of elite world defenders.