In a team game like soccer, some players inevitably have more skill than others, but thanks to there being eleven players on each team, it’s the sum of the parts that’s most important.
A well-trained, organized team can, and often do, emerge victorious over a team that, on paper, at least, should be winning easily.
In every country, in every league, every week, there’s an example of a team winning a game of soccer when they shouldn’t have stood a chance.
Every team has its strengths and weaknesses, but a team that’s willing to fight for each other always stands a chance.
When it comes to the weakest player on the team, it’s all about teamwork; a weaker player can improve when surrounded by better players and can still contribute to the team’s success.
Having said that, there are certain positions where it’s not ideal to place your weakest player.
When a game of soccer hangs in the balance, it’s better to have your weakest player in a role that’s not vital.
Today, I’ll be looking at the key areas on a team and where you should be playing your weakest player.
Until they’re up to speed or their training improves their performances, your weakest player should be treated with kid gloves.
What Defines Your Weakest Player?
What makes a player the weakest in the team? It could be a lack of skill compared to the rest of the players or a lack of mental strength; the player could even be physically weaker than the others.
Of the three, mental strength is the hardest to learn; players can bulk up in the gym and push themselves in training to become faster and more skillful.
Having the mental fortitude to deal with being a professional athlete is much more challenging to develop; some players are born with the confidence to succeed, while others seem to crumble under pressure. Regardless of the reason, the team has to find a place for the player.
If a lack of experience makes a player the weakest in the team, then there’s nothing like minutes on the pitch to aid their development.
Inexperience isn’t a crime, and it’s why many young players, regardless of their talent, are slowly introduced into the team to build their confidence and experience.
The fans wonder why the manager isn’t throwing the team’s star 18-year-old into the deep end, especially when the team is struggling, but it’s to protect their development.
There’s nothing more fragile than a young player with talent; having their confidence knocked down by putting additional pressure on their young shoulders is a recipe for disaster.
Where Not To Play Your Weakest Player
The weakest player on the pitch can seriously impact how a team plays, especially if they’re in a vital position.
It’s often the spine of the team that’s most affected; the goalkeeper, central defender, and central midfielder positions are essential to the team’s structure and performance.
The striker role, while central, can be offset by other players scoring goals instead or the team at least being able to hold out for a draw.
The three key roles, goalkeeper, center-back, and central midfielder, can’t make mistakes and get away with it. If the weakest player is making more mistakes, the opposition will capitalize on that—even target it.
A young, inexperienced goalkeeper can be put under additional pressure, affecting their performance. A center-back who can’t defend, or hasn’t learned the role well enough, will be caught out of position or needlessly foul opposing players.
All of these mistakes put extra strain on the team and have the knock-on effect of making the team nervous.
A nervous team can’t perform at its best, so it’s a good idea not to play the weakest player in these critical positions.
If that’s the only role the player can perform, then it’s a case of introducing them slowly or bringing them onto the field when games are already won or lost. If the game can still be won, having a weak central midfielder means you’ll be chasing the game.
Where To Play Your Weakest Player
Any area that’s not central is a good starting point for a weaker player; a center-back might have to be pushed out to full-back, or a weak midfielder could be moved to a wide midfield slot.
It’s about giving players time to learn and adjust without crippling the team. It’s much harder for a weak goalkeeper; mistakes often ruin their confidence, and as the last line of defense, there’s no hiding place.
A weak goalkeeper has to be introduced very slowly to the team; cup games and games against much weaker opposition are ideal for boosting confidence and experience. Even at lower levels in the soccer pyramid, the modern game is all about the result.
A manager knows they’ll get the sack long before their weakest player will, so the patience to allow players to learn is reduced.
This lack of patience is why so many top teams have under-21 teams full of potentially world-class players yet never seem to give them a chance.
The manager can’t afford to take the risk, and the club can’t afford to give players time, so they stagnate in the reserves until they’re sold on.
Ideally, the weakest player is a winger; they can run themselves into the ground, make no impact on the game, and usually, it won’t significantly affect the result.
A tactically poor or inexperienced winger can learn by playing, with much less risk to the team. There’s a reason there are more young, talented, yet completely inexperienced wingers in soccer; the manager will give them a chance.
There’s no way the talented center-back will get game time against a top-level opponent; the manager can’t risk the player making mistakes.
Unlike the strongest player on a team, the weakest player has restrictions placed on them that look unfair.
In most cases, the “weakest” often means the youngest or least experienced player. It’s hardly a fault, but because of it, there’s a limit to how much game time that player will see.
If the weakest player is a striker or a winger, they’ll be given time. There’s time to recover if the striker misses a shot or the winger overhits a cross.
If a weak center-back or goalkeeper has a howler, the team could be 4-0 down before halftime. Managers, clubs, and fans simply don’t have that kind of patience, so the weakest often fall by the wayside.
Mental strength is the key to overcoming weaknesses in soccer; a weak player with the strength to make a mistake and recover will, over time, see their experience and skill increase, and alongside that, their playing time will also increase.
A manager who sees the weakest player make a mistake during a game and never recover from it won’t play them again.
If the weakest player in the squad trains harder than everyone else, bides their time, accepts being played out of position just so they’ll get game time, and dismisses mistakes as a part of the learning curve, they’ve got a chance.
There’s a reason many of the best soccer players appear arrogant or at least full of self-confidence; it’s because they had that confidence that they made it to the top. The quietest, meekest, least aggressive players don’t make it for a reason.
If you look around your own dressing room and can’t identify the weakest player, it could be you, and the best way to fix that is to practice, stand out, and learn from every experience.
Forget every lousy pass, shot spilled, or penalty missed, and build your confidence until the manager is unable to leave you out of the starting lineup.
If you’re wondering where to play the strongest player, read my article about it here.