The sweeper is a very important asset to any team in soccer. These players are positioned behind the center backs on the team, and they are the last players before you get to the goalkeeper. As such, it’s an important defensive role.
Having a good sweeper is essential for any soccer team. These players have to be able to read the game well and they need to have exceptional technique.
This position doesn’t get used as often in current soccer games. It’s rare to find a designated sweeper in any soccer game right now.
With that being said though, it is still important for a soccer player to have the skills associated with being a good sweeper. As such, if you want to know how to provide a spectacular performance to your team as a sweeper, read on.
The Main Traits of a Sweeper in Soccer
Technically, a sweeper is basically a defender. This role is a very niche and it requires a player to have a rather particular skill set.
Here are just a few of the key traits that a sweeper in soccer needs to have.
1. Phenomenal Technical Skills
While a sweeper is technically a kind of defender, the sweeper needs to go above and beyond the expected technical skills of a defender. A sweeper needs to have great technical skills, and they also need to be experienced in possession of the ball.
So what does a sweeper do? They basically sweep the ball off the opponents that aren’t marked, or players that have moved away from the markers that are behind your line of defense.
As such, you will need to have good technical skills to be a good sweeper. You need to have the ability to read the game well, and you should also have great tackling and ball interception skills.
When the sweeper has taken the ball, they then need to have the confidence to pass it safely to their teammate. They need to do this without making any mistakes, so it can be quite a daunting role to have.
2. They Can Read the Game Exceptionally Well
A sweeper needs to be able to predict the moves of the opposition so that they can take advantage of it. As such, a sweeper should read the game very well.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, sweepers need to be a defender of sorts, so they need to know how to block the ball. Not only that, but the sweeper needs to be capable of setting up the play from the back.
If they know this then they will know what actions to take once the ball is in their position. The sweeper needs to know where other players are so they can assess whether it’s safe to pass it or if it needs to be cleared to safety.
They should know when to slow the game a little, or when they need to increase the tempo to put additional pressure on the opposition.
In summary, any sweeper that knows what they are doing can read the game to a high standard, both when they are attacking and defending.
3. They Know Where to be at All Times
In soccer, your positioning is incredibly important. As a sweeper, you can go pretty much anywhere that you need to be.
For instance, you can move upfield to help the midfielders, you can run onwards with the ball to counter other players, and you can move around the backline.
If you want to be successful as a sweeper, you need to be capable of predicting where you need to go for your next move.
Where do your fellow players need you to be in order to get the best odds of success? You must have the foresight to choose the correct positioning.
4. Capable Under Pressure
If you’re a sweeper, you need to be capable of making last minute decisions with ease when you’re on the pitch. These moves can sometimes make or break the entire game, after all.
You need to figure out whether you need to stay in place or you need to move. Should you take a touch, keep the ball, or pass it to another player?
Soccer is an incredibly fast paced game, so you often only have a number of seconds to react. Not only that, but as a sweeper you need to make sure that you are consistently making the right decision too - it’s a lot of pressure.
If you can’t cope with that pressure then you aren’t going to be a very good sweeper.
5. Great Communication Skills
As a sweeper, it’s essential to take up lots of different positions on the pitch as you move up the field. You need to be able to communicate with your teammates as a result.
They need to know where you are, and vice versa. The last thing that you want to do is get in the way of other players during crucial moments.
Your opponent should not be in a position where they can take advantage of gaps that you’ve left behind.
A sweeper needs to have great leadership skills too, since they are often going to be running around and yelling at their teammates to get them to change positions.
If you are capable of helping to keep the rest of the team organized then the game is going to go a lot more smoothly.
6. Agility and Endurance
If you’re going to be a sweeper, you should probably be incredibly fast. You need to be able to cover the defence, so agility is important.
You will need to spend a lot of time shooting around the defensive third. You’re going to need to effectively tackle and remove the ball from the opponent.
Not only that, but you need to have a great level of pace in order to outrun the strikers on the opposite team when you are trying to run upfirled. You’ll also need to outrun them to prevent them from getting a goal.
In summary, any sweeper needs to cover an incredibly large portion of the pitch. You need to be able to run without running out of energy, and you need to still maintain your performance.
7. Strong Tackles and Excellent Timing
A sweeper should be capable of getting the team out of any sticky situations. For instance, if a player on the opposite team has managed to escape a defender, the sweeper needs to swoop in and save the game.
You need to be capable of making the right judgements in different situations. This means that you should also have a good knowledge of the game to know where to be at what time. You need to know how to intervene in sticky situations.
It can be pretty catastrophic if a tackle is mistimed or a sweeper ends up misreading their opponent. You could even end up with a red card, or the opponent may score.
What Responsibilities Does a Sweeper Have In Soccer?
There are two main roles of a sweeper in soccer -they are attackers, and they are also defenders.
It can be difficult to summarize the role of a sweeper, so let’s break it into sections.
First, defense. There are a couple of things that a sweeper will do when they are playing in a defensive position.
First, a sweeper has to manage the outfield players and direct them on where they need to be. You will also have to manage the space on the pitch to ensure that your opposition doesn’t take advantage of certain opportunities.
A sweeper is also here to tell their teammates when there are any potential attacks on the horizon. They need to tell their opponents where they need to be in these situations.
Sweepers don’t tend to mark any strikers in particular, but they can be there to mark a striker in the event that another teammate has failed to do so.
A sweeper needs to be a much better defender than an attacker in many situations. This does often depend on the situation, however. As a sweeper, you are often directed to defend first, attack second. You are a supporting role to the team, which is incredibly important.
So, what about attacking?
Well, sometimes a sweeper will need to fill in for the midfield. This will help to ensure that the opposite team are outnumbered when they are trying to attack.
The sweeper will also move the ball quickly to any players that are ready to attack, or who are free to take the ball from you.
Sweepers are also nodes on the base of the midfield. This is important since they can change the game, buy extra time for their teammates or they can help to regroup.
A sweeper is a threat too, since they can shoot from large distances and they can massively impede the efforts of the opposing team. They are also important for transitioning the ball from the defense to the attack.
This is a large list of things that a sweeper is responsible for. As such, it can seem a little confusing that this role has died out on many soccer teams. Has there been a resurgence in this role in more recent games?
Why Is The Sweeper Less Popular Today, and Is the Role Reemerging?
The sweeper role is a combination of midfielders and defenders in many ways. It is because of this that a lot of teams opt instead to use defensive midfielders instead of sweepers.
Not only that, but the tactics have changed through time, and the offside rule has thrown a spanner in the works too. Thanks to these things, the sweeper is far less common in a modern game of soccer. Let’s dive into the reasons why.
Soccer is a game that favors attackers these days, especially thanks to the relaxation of the offside rule. As a result, a sweeper is now more of a hindrance than something good for defense teams.
A sweeper would usually stay back to give the center backs support when it is required, but thanks to the offside trap, a lot of sweepers were basically playing as opposition strikers as the rules changed.
Offside traps mean that other defenders need to step out or in in just a single line. As such, the sweeper ended up becoming another center back. It was a role that just became useless for many soccer teams.
Defenders need to be good when they are on the ball these days. It’s simply not enough for a defender just to win their own battles and keep clean sheets.
A lot of teams will just play one striker now, so in most cases a sweeper isn’t really needed at the back.
Not only that but center backs are often described as ball players, while another center back will be a destroyer. One will attack for the ball, while another stays behind to cover. It’s sort of like the sweeper role, except that it is a role carried out by two separate players.
In essence, a sweeper’s role has been taken on by other players in the back now, so the role isn’t really needed.
With that being said though, a lot of teams are playing with three in the back. As such, sweepers are starting to rise in popularity again. It’s especially prominent in some teams in the United Kingdom, such as David Luiz in Chelsea.
Trends change all the time in soccer, so who knows - perhaps the sweeper will make a more regular appearance on the pitch again soon!
Tips For Being a Great Soccer Sweeper
Okay, so now you know what is expected from a sweeper in soccer, and you know about some of the important traits that you need in order to be a good sweeper.
Things like your passing range, first touch, tackling and various other techniques will gradually get better after a lot of dedicated time and practice.
There are some other things that you can do to improve your game in the short term, however.
1. Keep Your Focus
A sweeper needs to do a lot of things, so it’s important to ensure that you stay focused throughout the game. You need to be constantly reading the game, so working on your focus is helpful.
Make sure that you always know where other players are positioned on the field. Think about the way that they move and what it means for the game.
Will a certain player thread a pass through, or does the opponent full back need an overlap?
Ask yourself about what needs to be done out on the pitch. This will help you to figure out what situations are going to happen before they even occur.
As such, you are more likely to get to the ball straight away, changing the entire course of the game.
2. Work On Your Communication
Communication is essential for a sweeper. It’s also a very easy skill to cultivate. Make sure that you are always talking with your teammates as you play the game.
Make sure that your teammates are aware of the things that are going on. Are there any potential dangers? Tell them where they need to be.
If you talk to your fellow teammates, you can make the team shape much better.
This can help your teammates to have more confidence, and it also ensures that your opponents don’t have the opportunity to take advantage of any gaps. It’s great for staying focused too.
3. Patience is a Virtue
When it comes to soccer, having patience and the right timing is essential.
You also need to ensure that you are confident in your own capabilities. Have the faith to stand off the opposition’s striker, or you can even make a lunge and execute a spectacular tackle.
Also, don’t rush in and make reckless challenges. Make sure that you have plenty of discipline - you don’t want to get a red card or accidentally let a goal in.
The same can be said of when you have the ball in your possession. If you don’t see any chances to pass forward, you just need to pass the ball back to your keeper. There’s no reason to force moves. Have some patience, it will most certainly pay off.
4. Work On Your Fitness, Speed and Endurance
If you’re going to be a sweeper then it’s essential to be able to maintain a fast pace, and you need to have plenty of endurance.
As such, you need to ensure that you work on these key things when you are training. This will help to ensure that you are performing to the best of your abilities in every game.
Some things that you can do to improve your fitness and agility include speed and agility drills. They can be a real gamechanger!
In addition to this, they will help you to feel more energized even once the match is over, as everyone else feels tired.
5. Learning From Observation
We are truly spoiled for resources today. You can look at books, you can go on google or you can watch videos to show you how you can improve your game.
It’s always a good idea to look at videos of teams that use sweepers so you can see how you can play a sweeper in your soccer game. It will show you how the entire team operates with a sweeper on the pitch.
If you watch how the game is played and learn about the ways that a sweeper moves around on a pitch, you can learn about what you need to do, and what things you shouldn’t be doing in specific circumstances.
The sweeper is a unique player since he can play in pretty much any position on the pitch.
It’s the ideal position if you’re a player that wants to be a jack of all trades. It’s especially great since the role is becoming more prominent again.
Sure, the position can be challenging, but with practice you too can be a great sweeper.