Pre-1990, it wasn’t unusual for a soccer player to be unnaturally tall if they played in certain positions. It’s not hard to guess why; the tallest kid in class would be pushed into becoming the goalkeeper or sent forwards for corners if they were a tall defender.
In the modern game, size is less of an issue unless you’re a goalkeeper; it’s a player’s skills that matter most.
That isn’t to say there aren’t certain advantages to being a tall player, especially if you play in certain positions. An attacking winger, for instance, has no use for height as they’re the ones crossing the ball into the area.
Wide players in general, including wing-backs, have less need for height, but there are key areas where being lanky has clear benefits.
Today, we’re going to look at four key positions where a tall player could be helpful for your team.
Height doesn’t make up for skill, and a tall player still needs to have the talent, commitment, and teamwork to succeed, but used at the correct times, that 7-foot player of yours could become a great secret weapon.
4. Central Midfielder
While being a central midfielder doesn’t necessarily require the player to be tall, there are obvious advantages to being a head above your opponents.
Unlike the other three positions on our list, having a taller central midfielder will only be a clear advantage if the tactics of the team suit.
If we look at Barcelona circa 2009, with short midfielders like Xavi and Iniesta, the tactics dictated the ball was always to feet; Pep Guardiola has heard of the long ball system but decided long ago it wasn’t for him.
In this kind of tactic, the height of your midfield is irrelevant, as the ball should remain on the ground.
For a team of lesser tactical skill, long balls from the goalkeeper and defenders to the midfield players has a strategic advantage; if there’s a tall midfielder that can head the ball forwards to the strikers more often, the team can bypass opponents and attack quicker.
It’s also great to have taller players who can position themselves in the penalty area for set pieces like corners.
A tall player on the front post can be deadly, both attacking corners and free kicks and pulling back to your own area to defend against them.
If your team has a tall central midfielder, utilize them to offer your team an additional advantage.
3. Center Forward
A tall target forward can be one of the most deadly tools in a manager’s armory. When utilized correctly, a target forward can hold up the ball, score towering headers, and make life generally upsetting for opponents.
A target forward that’s blessed with a tall frame can be deployed up front on their own, allowing the team to overload the midfield, knowing that when the ball goes forwards, there’s a big chance the striker will receive the ball and hold on to it.
As long as the wingers or midfield push forward and transition into attack, the team can quickly overload a defense.
For attacking set pieces, a tall striker is a huge asset, they’ll practice headers more often, be more attuned to where they need to be to score a goal, and the defense can’t combat their height.
You can mark a tall player all you want; if the ball is in the air, you’re limited on what you can do.
Former England and Liverpool striker Peter Crouch was a giant striker, superb in the air, and equally adept with his feet. For attacking set pieces, Crouch was a nightmare to mark; just his presence affected defenders as they tried to combat his two-meter-tall frame.
To keep using Peter Crouch as an example, the former England strike was also excellent with his feet, but purely by being tall, his presence in the area for set pieces caused defenders to panic.
Man marking a striker that’s 7 feet tall sounds easy; it’s not like you’re going to miss them in a crowd, but when they can jump two feet higher than the defenders, there’s trouble ahead.
The advantage of having a giant central defender should be obvious; a center-back that can mop up any crosses into the area makes the team infinitely more secure at the back.
Pace would be an incredible combination here too, and there are many examples of the best defenders in soccer being both tall and quick.
A tall central defender’s primary role is to keep the ball away from their own net, but for attacking corners, it’s always handy to send up the big players to cause a little mayhem in the opponent’s area.
From heading the ball on to other players to arriving late into the area and firing in a bullet header, a vertically endowed defender has the jump on their opponents.
There’s something strangely unsettling about being marked by a tall defender; they loom over you, blocking out the sun, and suddenly you’re less focussed on the ball or scoring a goal and more interested in trying to lose your marker.
It’s a great benefit for the team and can reap incredible rewards at both ends of the pitch.
It was fashionable during the 1970s and 1980s to have huge center-backs in your team, and while it’s still a great benefit today, a tall defender still needs to be mobile.
A quick, strong team will simply pass around a lumbering defender, so you’ll have to ensure that the defender is either very quick on their feet or have the anticipation to make sure they find the right position.
- Average Height: 188cm (6‘2“)
The number one slot on our list of the best positions for tall players has to go to the goalkeeper position; aside from basketball, there’s perhaps no better example of a player’s physical shape having an impact on their ability.
From youth soccer right up to the professional leagues, having a tall goalkeeper can and will add points to your season tally.
Youth goalkeepers’ chances of making it into a top team are negligible if they don’t hit the required height by a certain age.
Speed and athleticism are vital, as is a good reading of the game and a solid knowledge of your position, but if the goalkeeper isn’t around 6 feet tall or more, they’re going to get beaten far too easily.
Tall players have the obvious jumping advantage, but goalkeepers add longer arms, greater reach, and more extended diving reach to the mix.
Being able to narrow the angle down to make things more challenging for the striker to score, spreading their arms to look more imposing, a tall goalkeeper has a clear advantage over a shorter rival.
For a striker to head into the penalty area for a corner or free kick delivery, to find a giant goalkeeper looming over them can be pretty intimidating. The bigger the keeper, the easier it is to out-reach the opponent.
If the goalkeeper has also bulked out with muscle, their frame looks even more difficult to get past, a strong goalkeeper will need to bully opponents out of the way to get to crosses, and height and weight make life much easier for the keeper.
Allied with a pair of tall center-backs, and you’ve got a recipe for a formidable defense.
While usually, you’d be in trouble for picking a player because of their height, why should shorter players be punished for their more diminutive stature? It does benefit a team to have tall players in crucial positions.
The goalkeeper is a must; you’ll very rarely see a top team with a goalkeeper that’s 5 feet tall, as the opposition would run riot.
Wide players needn’t concern themselves with height. While a shorter striker can have a massive impact, it’s no surprise that historically, a two-player strike force of a taller player combined with a shorter one has had enormous success. If you’re on the shorter side, I listed the best positions for short players in this post.
If your team has a tall goalie, a tall defender, and a towering striker, then the spine of your team will look incredibly strong, with the attributes needed to be key players for the team.
If you’re hoping for a team that plays silky soccer, with the ball being passed to feet, then a colossal center forward may not be as vital after all.
You can learn more about the ideal height for soccer players in this post.