The difference between specific positions on a soccer field can be confusing. For example, understanding the role of a winger versus a striker can be understandably tough. If you have ever asked yourself what the difference is between these two positions, let me explain how they compare.
The difference between a winger and a striker in soccer is their position on the field. A winger plays on the side of the field near the touchline, and their role is to support the forwards. A striker plays in the middle of the field nearer to the opposition goal than any other player on their team.
Despite their different positions on the field, there is some overlap between the roles of a striker and a winger. This similarity between the two is why the positions may be confused.
In this article, I’ll give you:
- A side-by-side comparison of the two positions
- I’ll show you what it means to be a striker and the role they play in the team
- and I’ll show you what it means to be a winger and the role they play
- We’ll also look at some examples of great wingers and strikers.
So, keep reading, and by the end of this, you’ll fully understand the difference between a winger and a striker.
Comparison of Winger and Striker
One of the best ways to compare two positions is to view them side by side in a table.
So I’ve done that for you here.
In the table below, you’ll see the various aspects of both a winger and a striker. You’ll notice that while there are several differences, there are also a lot of similarities between the two positions.
|Role of a Striker
|Role of a Winger
|Rarely more than one player in a team
|Usually, two players in the position of winger
|Positioned closer to the opposition goal than any other player
|Positioned close to the touchlines of the field
|Responsible for scoring goals
|Responsible for scoring and creating goals
|Fast with or without the ball
|Fast with or without the ball
|Expert at scoring goals
|Good at scoring goals and expert at creating goal-scoring opportunities
|Expert at finding space between defenders
|Expert at seeing opportunities for a cross or a pass between defenders
As you can see, a winger and a striker are not that different. There are overlaps in their responsibilities.
From the experience of being involved in soccer for many years, I’ve found that an in-depth knowledge of both positions really helps a player understand how to play in both positions effectively.
It also helps a fan understand what is happening on the soccer field and enjoy the game more.
Let’s look at each position in more detail now.
Definition and Role of a Winger in Soccer
A winger is an attacking midfielder whose primary position is on the edge of the soccer field. A winger stays close to the touchline to offer width to the team and cross the ball into the penalty area from the outside of the field.
The position of the winger gets its name because the player operates on either “wing” of the team.
The outside lines of a soccer field that run from one end to the other are often called the “touchline. You will usually see the winger based next to these lines.
As an example of some of the best wingers to play soccer, think of Arjen Robben, Ryan Giggs, or Johan Cruyff.
You will almost always see a team playing with two wingers rather than one. This is because having just one winger would cause the team to be unbalanced and vulnerable to an attack down one side.
Wingers offer an attacking presence to a team. They work with the other attacking midfielders and forwards to create opportunities for their team to score goals.
If the ball moves up the field, you will usually see the wingers running forwards and calling for the ball out wide. Spreading the play to the edges of the field stretches the opposition defenders and creates space in the middle of the field.
This space provides the wingers with opportunities to cross the ball into the forwards, who will hopefully score a goal.
Wingers are talented at seeing where the space is and passing the ball into that space for the forwards to collect the ball.
Although they are not the primary goal scorers on the team, their coaching team will expect them to contribute to the goal tally over the course of a season.
Although wingers are primarily attacking players, they also need to defend. A winger is responsible for sticking with the opposition’s forwards during an attack and covering any empty space near their goal.
Every player in every position is part of a team and will work to help the defense or forwards when necessary.
Having to cover so much ground means the distance a winger covers in a game quickly adds up. So when the sports company Catapult used their soccer fitness tracking device to track how far professional soccer players run, they were impressed with the distance.
Wingers run up to 7 miles (11km) during a game. This is because they have to cover a large area of a soccer field throughout the duration of the game. This constant running means they run further than another player on the field.
So that gives you an overview of the role of a winger in soccer. Let’s compare that to the role of a striker.
Definition and Role of Striker in Soccer
A striker is a forward in soccer whose primary position is closer to the opposition’s goal than any other player on the team. A striker’s role is to be available to receive the ball in front of the opposition’s goal and to score goals for the team.
The striker is usually one of the best-known players on a team. Think of Ronaldo, Mbappé, Alex Morgan, or Robert Lewandowski as an example of players in this position.
A striker wears the number 9 jersey and is the player that scores the goals and usually gets the glory and accolades.
And there is a good reason for this as they are vitally important to a team. The striker is the player primarily responsible for scoring the team’s goals. Without scoring goals, a team can’t win a game!
Strikers are one of several forwards on a team. (To discover the difference, check out my article – Soccer Striker Vs Forward: What’s the difference?)
But the striker plays further forward than the others, and there is less expectation on them to track back and help the defense when necessary.
A great striker will always be looking to stay in space to allow other players, such as the winger, to pass to them. They will play off the last defender’s shoulder and be ready to run onto the ball should it come their way.
Unlike the wingers, there is rarely more than one striker in a team at one time.
If there were more than one striker, a team may be unbalanced and not have the defensive cover they need. Therefore, you are most likely to see more than one striker on a team only when they are highly confident they will dominate a game.
For more insight into a striker’s role, check out my guide – A Striker in Soccer: Everything you need to know. I wrote it to help you understand how to play this role.
Reflecting on the Differences and Similarities
As you can see, the roles of a winger and a striker are complementary rather than the same.
A winger can play as a striker in a soccer game but would not be as effective as a striker would be in that role.
A striker could play as a winger but would likely not be as effective as a winger in that role for the team.
Every great team is made up of a perfect balance of players in the ideal positions. To dig into this further, I recommend you check out my article – Soccer Positions: A Complete Guide.
Alternatively, you may want to look at my guide to soccer formations to understand where each player is located on a soccer field.