What is a Winger in Soccer?

What is a Winger in Soccer?

What is a winger in soccer? A winger is a soccer position who plays primarily along the left or right sideline. A winger helps provide attacking opportunities and crosses the ball when necessary.

soccer wingerWingers are usually known for their speed, dribbling ability, vision and crossing skills.

In some strategic formations, wingers may also be asked to track back and help defend when their team is out of possession.

Soccer Winger Overview

As mentioned above, wingers are wide attackers who mostly operate on the wings of the field.

Their excellent dribbling and crossing skills allow them to extend out and open up the opposition’s defense.

In many cases, a winger can dribble all the way to the opposite end of the field in an attempt to make a cross or take a shot on goal.

Wingers, along with full-backs, help spread the field, making it more difficult for the opposition to defend in a compact formation.

As a result of their skill in one-on-one battles, wingers have long been considered among the game’s most electrifying players.

A winger may play on or against the side of the field where their stronger foot is more comfortable. For example, a player with a dominant left foot would be most suited to the left wing of the field, from which they could receive passes and cross them to teammates easier. Similarly, a right-footed player who is physically capable of playing on the right side of the field should do so.

However, if two wingers on the field share the same dominant foot, the side may be playing with an inverted winger. If that’s the case, one of them is likely playing the wing as an inverted winger, with his or her dominant foot facing in toward the goal.

If this is the case, the inverted winger should use their stronger foot to charge toward the middle of the field and build up offensive drives for their team.

Winger’s Number

Traditionally, soccer players have always been easily identifiable by the number on the back of their jersey. The wing position is the same as any other.

The wingers of a team often wear either the number 7 or the number 11.

The right winger is 7, while the left winger is 11.

There is less emphasis on positional jersey numbers in modern soccer; therefore, wingers can wear any number they choose.

These days, though, athletes have more leeway in picking which jersey number for the sport.

The Winger’s Role and Responsibilities


There has to be a clear definition of “winger” when talking about this position in soccer. Wingers are offensive players who play on the sides and focus on creating chances and helping the defense.

Some great qualities of an elite winger are:

  • Possessing the skills necessary to win one-on-one battles.
  • The ability to judge when it’s safe to cross the ball and when it’s not.
  • The desire to go the extra mile to track down and help defend wide territories.
  • A player who is strong on the ball but can also make runs into the penalty area without the ball.

To be effective, a winger must be versatile enough to play on either side of the field and have an eye for finding open teammates.

Knowing whether to pass, shoot, or dribble around opponents requires good judgment.

In an inverted wing formation, for example, the winger moves closer to the center of the field in search of scoring chances rather than staying wide and crossing the ball in.

Any good winger needs to be able to adapt to different roles. They should constantly be ready to spread the field and lend their assistance to defensive efforts while also showing off their offensive flair when the time is right. The ability to flip between these two characteristics becomes crucial for any prospective winger looking to make it to higher levels of play.

Because of their key position in the majority of modern soccer formations and tactics, wingers are always a force to be reckoned with on the field. As one of the most coveted positions in any sport, you can’t say enough about how important they are.

The Evolution of Wingers in Soccer

Soccer’s wingers have been around since the sport’s beginnings when players were strictly confined to designated positions on the field.

Historically, wingers have been considered secondary players whose primary function is to set up goals for their team’s strikers by sending in crosses from the sidelines.

Over time, the winger’s role shifted to become more offensively oriented, with the flexibility to penetrate the opposing penalty area in search of goals.

As teams increasingly relied on the winger’s speed, dribbling skill, and ability to make the other team’s defense stretch, the winger’s job became increasingly crucial.

Today, wingers are important to many soccer teams, and their role changes as new strategies emerge.

A Soccer Winger’s Ideal Formations

Almost always, two-wingers are used in a four-at-the-back formation that prioritizes width.

The original 4-4-2 system allowed for rapid wing play, and many clubs used two flying wingers to shape their attack, although it is now a bit out of favor in the professional game.

It’s worth noting, though, that a 4-4-2 may be played with “wide midfielders,” who are far narrower than traditional “wings,” who hug the sidelines. Defensive-minded teams typically use this tight formation.

Teams that use the 4-5-1 formation have a big-target striker and want to counter-attack. When their side does not have the ball, the wingers are expected to play a disciplined defensive position, but once they do, they can use their speed to launch counter attacks or play off the central striker.

When playing in a 4-3-3 system, you’ll see two wide forwards or an inverted winger instead of the usual wingers. However, the two positions are pretty similar regarding offensive strategy.

Skills for a Great Soccer Winger?

A great winger can swiftly change direction and is adept at dribbling and moving with the ball at their feet.

They love charging at their opponents and making things happen.

When their side is not in possession, wingers must be able to press the ball and take on defensive responsibilities aggressively. Therefore, a winger in soccer needs to be versatile and skilled in many areas. Some of the most crucial characteristics of a great winger in soccer are as follows:


A winger’s primary skill is speed. When a winger has the ability to get behind the defense and make spectacular off-the-ball runs, they may defeat their immediate opponents with dribbles and quick passes.


A skilled winger is confident in one-on-one battles and knows how to use a variety of techniques to outmaneuver and outflank opponents. They need to be technically proficient, balanced, and at ease with the ball.


Wingers that are good at their position know when to dribble and when to pass or cross. This requires them to keep their heads up and read and predict the movements of their opponents and teammates.


The best wingers are physically capable and aggressive. When their side doesn’t have the ball, they need to press from the front by working with the other players to form a tight unit and gain control.

Good First Touch

Winger needs to have confidence in themselves and be able to control the ball even when they are in a tight spot. They must be able to maintain possession of the ball and advance the play by coordinating with other teammates.

Precise Passer

A competent winger should be an excellent passer and be able to deliver crosses into the box from various angles, frequently when under pressure from an opponent.

Successful Striker

For a team to be successful, a winger needs to be able to score goals and set up others consistently throughout the season.


An effective winger is one who is willing to take chances and make mistakes in an effort to create something of value for his team. They are not deterred by setbacks and always come back strong the next time they have the ball.

The Greatest Wingers of All-Time

Although the following players didn’t play winger their entire career, they did execute effectively when put in the role. With that said, here are our greatest wingers of all-time.

George Best

George Finest, whom Pele once called “the best player ever lived,” was a brilliant winger with unique talents who could out-dribble anyone. The legendary Manchester United player possessed poise, pace, and flair, making him one of the select few whose name is still chanted by the crowd at Old Trafford.


Ronaldo was one of the world’s best wingers from 2003 to 2009 when he helped Manchester United win the Champions League, the Premier League, the FA Cup, and the World Club Cup. After moving to Madrid, he took up the number nine position and quickly rose to prominence as one of the world’s premier nines.

Lionel Messi

Inverted winger, false nine, and a clear ten. Messi has broken every record in the book, including winning a record-setting seven Ballon d’Or honors. The Argentine whiz keeps the ball attached to his feet as he easily dribbles and gets the ball through opponents at breakneck speeds. Messi has done it all at Barcelona, and now he’s stunning fans, colleagues, and opponents in the French League for Paris Saint-Germain.

Beau Bridges - Soccer Novo Hey 👋 I’m Beau. A proud Dad, former coach and soccer enthusiast. I continue to love the game of soccer today the same way I did when I was 7. I created soccernovo.com to share what I know about the game as well as provide a platform so other parents can learn more about youth soccer in the U.S.

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