Hey, welcome to the everyday language podcast. This episode is about football positions jargon. In this episode, Richie and I talk about alternative names for positions that are commonly used and we also mention some clichés and phrases that are used with these slang/jargon positional words along the way.
Midfield general – a central midfielder whose authority in the middle of the park was like a general in an army. Not someone to be messed with. E.g. Roy Keane, Gennaro Gattuso, Patrick Viera, Yaya Toure, Nigel de Jong etc.
Sweeper – an older term for the deepest lying centreback, making a comeback with three-man defences in recent years. E.g. Franco Baresi, Alan Hansen,
The Makélélé role – the defensive mid[fielder] role made famous by Claude Makélélé
Up and down midfield player – A midfielder renowned for running a lot during the game and having the stamina to do so without tiring.
Box to box midfielder– a midfield player who frequently runs from his own penalty box into the opponent’s penalty box, in other words, a midfielder who is good at both defending and attacking. E.g. Paul Pogba, Steven Gerrard (in the old days), Yaya Toure, Aaron Ramsey
False 9 – A position where a striker drops into the midfield areas frequently during the game.
Silky – an adjective to describe skilful, tricky players who are able to keep the ball under pressure.
Rampaging full-backs – full-backs who run the entire game and never seem to run out of stamina.
Out and out winger – a winger who just plays out wide and rarely comes towards the middle of the pitch.,
Out and out striker – a striker who just attacks and does not drop in to get the ball or act as a playmaker but prefers to attack the goal only.
Mark: Talk, talking about the proper names and then all the alternative names they’ve got, so like, er, like midfield, centre midfield, and then like midfield general.
Richie: Okay, sweeper, a bit old school.
Mark: Yeah, it’s not happening now, is it sweepers really?
Richie: No, not really, although they’ve gone to three centre-backs so you technically, you have somebody that’s almost a, playing a sweeper role in that three centrebacks position, formation.
Mark: Mmm, mmm
Richie: Defensive mid,
Mark: Or the Makélélé role?
Richie: Yeah, is that just one defensive midfielder? Or?
Mark: Is there a fashion for two now? Aren’t some clubs doing that?
Richie: Yeah, you usually have two, but one will be slightly more free,
Mark: I heard there are some teams…is there some teams who just do two defensive mids? Properly two? [defensive mids].
Richie: I mean, if you look at say, Man[chester] United this kind of [team] Matic and Pogba, but Pogba gets forward, you know Chelsea you’ve got Kante and maybe Fabregas who tends to get forward a bit more, or Bakeyoko and…
Mark: Yeah, what is he like? Is he defensive? Or?
Richie: He’s very defensive Bakeyoko, I think.
Mark: Is he an up and down, box to box [midfielder]? Is he a box to box guy?
Richie: I don’t think he is much of a box to box guy, I’m not sure, but he hasn’t gone a very prolific scoring record which would tell me that really that he likes to sit back, and Kante even tends to score occasionally, so he kind of be a bit more free I suppose, but they, haven’t really played those two. I don’t know if they would if they weren’t injured, he’s had injury problems though, so.
Mark: So defensive mids, and then you got false 9’s.
Richie: False number 9, yeah,
Mark: but can an English player be a false 9? [Does] it have to be someone with a bit more skill perhaps?
Richie: Yeah, I mean who’s a classic false number 9 would you say?
Mark: Well, wasn’t it Messi at one point? Like he made it didn’t he? Cos he used to just… like he could make the play, he could finish it, like he could start it, and like, it’s just cos you wanted to put him in the middle, wouldn’t you? Well like
Richie: Yeah, you just want to have him free don’t you? Just let him do what he does because if he picks up the ball he can dribble with it, so that’s the kind of player you want really, that can be a false number 9
Mark: And then he can dribble in the middle.
Richie: and he can score from anywhere, so you know he’s not really the kind of person you want leading the attacking line because he’s not really a… gonna be a heading strong player, but at the same time you don’t want to limit him so [he can] break through and score, but yeah.
Mark: So false 9’s a bit behind the…?
Richie: Yeah, it kind of sits between the lines, so you know, midfield and the typical attacking line, [so you want] him to pick the ball up there, and either pass it, be a good passer of the ball, and also have that attacking, attacking ability to dribble the ball and, and finish, and you know, it’s just that you know when you have got his quality it becomes comes very difficult to manage then doesn’t it?
Because you can’t really, if you close him down, he’ll just run past you, you give him space, he will just either take on a long shot or play, play just a beautiful pass to his strikers running on or the wingers running on, yeah, but I don’t think…
I think Harry Kane could potentially do it, but he doesn’t really dribble much, does he? He likes to get forward a bit more,
Mark: Yeah, I don’t know how good he is, I haven’t really seen, any,
Richie: No he [is]…
Mark: I haven’t watched proper matches with him.
Richie: Yeah, I proper rate him.
Mark: Yeah, is he a game changer?
Richie: Yeah, he’s a match winner, and I think he’s almost as good as Luis Saurez, personally,
Mark: He’s that good?
Richie: You know, he can pick up the ball.
Mark: Is he fast? He looks quite slow to me.
Richie: He’s…I don’t think he’s got like acceleration pace, but he’s got a decent touch and he reads the game well, so that kind of gives him a certain [advantage], yeah, I think that’s kind of his criticism, isn’t it? That he’s not necessarily that fast, but he’s good on the ball [with] both feet, good first touch, knows where he needs to be, he reads the danger, so he can head the ball.
Mark: Is he silky?
Richie: Silky, yeah I reckon so yeah,
Mark: Mmm, he’s silky? Cos like, I think silky is, like, yeah like Suarez got some kind of skills, to get out of tough situations.
Richie: He’s got that definitely.
Mark: Has he?
Richie: Yeah he is good, he is really good, probably one of the best English players for… a generation almost.
Mark: Okay, going back to positions, rampaging full-backs, like in the 90’s, sorry, they weren’t rampaging before but now they’ve become rampaging, I feel.
Richie: Yeah, I mean, that people have gone to playing three central defenders, it seemed to be the full-backs have been freed up, and I think, it’s just because players have become more and more athletic, you can almost have, have players that can [run all day],
yeah and there’s also his tendency to, to give people that are a little bit, erm not as big [in] stature a chance, as well, in a defensive role,
I think back in the day it used to be kind of, you know, your defenders were quite physically big, domineering players who then naturally not necessarily be that pacy, or that erm, explosive but nowadays, you know, you’ve got people that can just run up, like the whole game, or it’s expected of them that they can literally cover a lot of distance, they can defend, but they’ve gotta be able to break forward as well and offer that kind of width to the game
Richie: But I think that is to do with athleticism that makes it possible, and might not have been possible in the past.
Mark: Ok, Who’s your archetypical, rampaging full-back? Wingback?
Richie: What Of the modern era? Or?
Mark: Yeah, like present era?
Richie: I think that Alonso guy is pretty good at Chelsea.
Mark: Oh yeah, Xabi, Xabi Alonso’s s brother.
Richie: Is it?
Mark: Marcos Alonso?
Richie: Is he? I didn’t know that.
Mark: Yeah, yeah, yeah, he’s Xabi Alonso’s brother.
Richie: Those guys are good man, quality players.
Mark: Mmm, yeah, you know, I used to like Xabi Alonso quality, slow, very slow but very good.
Richie: Yeah, he said that awareness and that first touch basically,
Mark: Yeah, if anyone you know, if anyone wants to see good central midfield play, go and watch his ]Xabi Alonso’s ]videos, he’s really good at turning around in circles, excellent.
Richie: Yeah, it’s all about first touch in the middle of the park, you know, you give yourself so much time, just by you know, knowing where your players are, and knowing where you’ve got to touch the ball towards,
then you always touch it into free space, and then you’ve got the time just by doing that you just they just got that time, to kind of, take in what’s going on around them, then the second touch is already they’re making that decision, decision.
Mark: Do, do other players have to talk to you at that position? Because you can’t have 360 [vision] I’d always want people to tell me if someone’s coming from behind or from the sides, but do those players at the top level do they need people to tell them? Or [do] they just know?
Richie: They, I think they would expect a certain amount of communication, but they’ll, you know, yeah they will have a general awareness of where they’re at, at that point in time, and where their key defenders are, so…
Yeah, they would, like a “man on” shout, I mean they would, were most of the time they would know where their… the opponent player is, so it’s probably not as importantly, really, but…
Mark: Yeah, right, okay so we’ve we covered? Centrebacks, defensive mids, attacking, oh yeah out and out wingers, like they’re a dying breed aren’t they? Out and out wingers?
Richie: Yeah, so they’re kind of, tends to be more of a forward role now, doesn’t it? Who plays that, you gotta play out wide, but you gotta be more of an attacker, and rather…
Mark: Like Ryan Giggs, I mean he got a lot of goals…
Richie: Yeah, he would have been good in that kind of role I think, he would be even more forward nowadays than he was back then, back then he was more of a wide guy, but he was good at dribbling so he would get himself in that kind of position, but nowadays they’re kind of…you know, even Neymar is almost more of a winger in a way, isn’t he?
Mark: Yeah, he could be…
Richie: He’s in that wide, comes from a wide position, but he’s not, not hugging the touchlines, he’s not right…that’s expected by the wing backs nowadays, but kind of you’ve got to drop in and get the ball from the midfield, but you are pushing out to more of a wide position, you know, the edge of the 16-yard box you want to cut in from there, run those…
Richie: Run those channels, typically from a bit deeper.
Mark: They talk about that a lot, isn’t it? Like cutting in, that’s instead of going right to the end of the wide positions, to the end, to the what’s it called?
Richie: To the touchline?
Mark: Yeah, to the touchline, cutting in’s, like, cutting in, like, before the penalty before the, yeah, before the penalty box, isn’t it?
Richie: Yeah, you kind of want to get into that area because the defender will always want to push you out wide, cos you’re less of a threat out in that position, you know, danger areas, when, you know, you want, you want to have a good angle at the goal basically, the tighter the angle the more difficult it is to score so you’re taking that element out of the game if you push people out wide.
Mark: So I always think about, like er, Robben, Arjen Robben, like he’s good at cutting in, isn’t he?
Richie: Yeah, yeah he’s like a classic winger/forward nowadays, isn’t he? So he’s that kind of…
Richie: Yeah and he’s lethal, you know if you push him out wide, he’ll, he’ll run past you and he’ll put in a good cross, if you let him cut in he will just score.
Mark: Hmm, er, ok, another one, er well midfield general that’s, like in the old days that was like some hard, hardnut football player who ‘d go and boss the middle of the park, do you think that still exists?
Richie: Erm, they’ve changed a little bit, they tend to be slightly less physically [imposing], er…
they need to be technically skilled nowadays, there’s a, there’s a priority, you know people like Iniesta.
Mark: He might be called a maestro or something like that, wouldn’t he?
Mark: Midfield maestro, or like people would say “magician”, and stuff like this wouldn’t they? About him?
Richie: Right, yeah, exactly, but, did they say about Xavi as well? I suppose, I never really, yeah I don’t think I saw enough of him really, to appreciate… I’m a big fan of Iniesta, but those two were good together, weren’t they? In their day.
Mark: Yeah, they were just always doing the patterns, weren’t they? Those two, like always, they could always find a pass, couldn’t they? To each other or to someone else.
Richie: Yeah, just kind of short passes, quickly play the ball, pass and move. You know, a few short passes, then a long pass, very high-tempo, isn’t it? I suppose.
Mark: Mmm, new, new people Pogba, what’s he? Is he a? He’s a box to box guy, isn’t he?
Richie: Yeah, I think he’s stereotypical box to box.
Mark: Then he’s got skills, it’s like I’ve seen him do like magic stuff.
Richie: Yeah, like he’s got a good shot on him as well, he didn’t have a very good season to start off with but just before he got injured he was starting to look like [the] real deal.
Mark: Real deal, he’s the real deal mate, he’s the proper real deal.
Mark: Er, ok, what was the other one I was thinking [about] well, he’s an out and out striker, this is…that’s Harry Kane, right? Out and out striker, he’s a complete striker, and that’s all [he does].
Richie: I think Lukaka is probably a, your out and out striker,
Richie: He’s quite a physical presence, just you know, he just likes to get the ball on his head basically, and…
Mark: Just put it in the net.
Richie: Yeah, just kind of run, run into space, over the top, I suppose Vardy is probably an out and out striker as well, yeah I think Harry Kane has a slight, slight element of almost a number nine thing, because he can drop in a little bit and pick the ball up and,
Mark: Link, link the play,
Mark: Connect it, sew it together.
Richie: Lacazette seems to be like an out and out striker as well.
Mark: Right, sorry I’m trying to fit in all the cliches I can, heh heh, hey so another word for manager?
Richie: Another word for manager? The gaffer
Mark: The gaffer, yeah the gaffer that just means boss, doesn’t it?
Richie: Yeah, that’s typically what the players will call their manager, the gaffer.
Mark: Would you use it in your office? Like in different jobs apart from football?
Richie: No, I wouldn’t have thought so, wouldn’t really be appropriate, no.
Richie: The boss, yeah, I guess it depends on the relationship, but I think gaffer is definitely football, I think, think some, some trades will use gaffer as well.
Mark: More manual stuff?
Richie: Yeah, like sparky, he’s the gaffer, he’s the boss of the team of electricians.
between the lines – a position between the traditional centre-forward and midfield areas
man on – a call used to tell a teammate that there is an opponent behind them or near them.
not as big in stature – a euphemism often used in football for a small player.
dying breed – a phrase meaning rare or becoming rarer.
hugging the touchlines – a wide player or winger who just stays very close to the touchlines for most of the match.
to drop in – a phrasal verb used to express when a centre-forward goes deeper into the midfield areas to pick the ball up from a teammate.
Run the channels – wide players (wingers and full-backs ) who make use of the space at the side of the pitch, are said to run the channels.
Cutting in – when a player moves from the wide areas into the centre of the field to attack the goal.
the touchline – the line that marks the end of the field of play.
Hardnut – a player known for being aggressive, tough and/or strong. This can also be used outside of the football context in everyday life. E.g. He’s a hardnut that guy.
Hard – Same as above. He’s well hard. Meaning he’s tough, he’s strong.
to boss the middle of the park/ to boss the game – to dictate what happens in the game through your play. An expression used to express when a player seems able to control the game on her/his own. They are said to boss the game. Often used when talking about midfielders.
Magician/ Maestro – adjectives to describe players with outrageous or almost magical skill.
Link the play/ connect the play/ sew the play together – expressions used to describe the actions of players regarded as playmakers. E.g. Riquelme, Zidane, David Silva, Messi, Coutinho,
Intro Music: Funky Element by Bennsound no copyright sourced from YouTube
Outro music: by Genx Beats（ゲンクスビーツ） (Creative Commons)
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