What Is a Sweeper in Soccer? 5 Explainations

Soccer has changed and grown over the years, just like every other sport. The role of “sweeper” has grown and changed over time. 

What used to be a simple job has had to change to meet the needs of today. You may now be wondering…

What is the role of the “sweeper” in soccer?

In some languages, a sweeper is called a “libero.” This is a defender who stands below the defensive line and whose job is to pick up loose balls.

In the deep midfield, sweepers can also be used as playmakers. The role has changed over time and is used in football in many different ways today.

The positions are the same no matter what language is used. Teams’ ideas about their roles have changed over time and between systems to make them better fit the situation.

Now, we might think of a sweeper as a defender and a libero as a playmaker in the deep position.

The job comes with a lot of responsibilities, so we hope you’ll keep reading to find out more.

What Is a Sweeper in Soccer?

The sweeper’s job has changed from team to team, but in general, he is a free player who stands behind the defensive line and “sweeps up” on incoming offensive players.

The sweeper is a defender who moves back to mark the attackers for the other team. If the ball gets past the defense, they must also get it back or get rid of it.

Several teams have used the sweeper to improve their defense, especially when going up against stronger teams.

What Is a Sweeper in Soccer

History of the Sweeper Position in Soccer

In the 1930s, the Austrian Karl Rappan’s Swiss club Servette was the first to use the sweeper position. Giuseppe Viani’s Italian club Salernitana was the next to do so.

Even though Rappan made the system and used it well as the Swiss national team coach in the 1930s and 1940s, it was the Italians who made it famous.

This method is also known as “Catenaccio” and “The Chain.” It looks like an old-fashioned chain bolt on a door, and it means that the defensive line (the chain) and the sweeper (the bolt) switch places as needed (like those in a hotel room).

In a normal formation, the defense is made up of two “full backs,” which are like today’s center-backs, and two “wingbacks,” which are like today’s full-backs. In this formation, however, the wingbacks dropped back to make a back four.

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The next step was for one of the fullbacks to “sweep” (move) deeper to finish the chain. Many people think that the German World Cup winner Franz Beckenbauer was the best sweeper or libero player of all time.

What Is a Sweeper in Soccer

Beckenbauer did a great job for Bayern Munich and for Germany in his role. Beckenbauer used the libero formation to lead West Germany to the 1990 World Cup title.

Before Beckenbauer, the player in this position had to “clean up” and “hoof” the ball down the field, but he turned it into an elegant position with great passing and dribbling.

Beckenbaur changed the sweeper’s role from being only defensive to being a deep-lying playmaker. He also changed the name of the position to “libero.”

The legendary English player Sir Bobby Moore and the Italians Franco Baresi and Armando Picchi are two more great players who played the sweeper position.

What Is a Stopper in Soccer?

Stopper is usually a defensive midfielder whose job is to keep the other team from scoring and protect the defense.

Since they are the biggest and strongest players in the middle of the field, they have the most responsibility for winning the ball.

They can drop into the defensive line to provide cover when needed, challenge 50-50 balls, fight for balls in the air, make hard tackles, and put in touches.

Stopper is still a position in sports, even though it is rarely called by that name. In modern games, players with this skill are more often called “destroyers” or a “6.”

Their main job is to make things hard for the forwards and offensive midfielders on the other team.

In the Dutch system, the player with the number 6 usually helps defend the back four and does not take part in offensive plays.

Sweeper vs Stopper

So, you might be asking, “What’s the difference here?” There is a lot going on, as there is with everything. There is a lot of overlap between these roles and terms, but there may be some differences depending on the country or the coach.

The Frenchman N’golo Kante is known as one of the best “stoppers” in the game today. Even though Kante is only 5’6″, he stops attacks before they have a chance to start. This makes him a good stopper.

What Is a Sweeper in Soccer

Because he is smart and has a lot of stamina, he can cover more ground than two people. He is very good at reading plays, which lets him block off passing lanes, make strong challenges, and quickly pass the ball to players with more creativity.

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He is a #6 or a “stopper,” but not in the way most people think of it.

As a player, Kante lives up to both of these ideals. Even though the theoretical roles of these positions may be different, in the modern game they do pretty much the same thing.

Kante is a strong player who can scare opponents with his skill with the ball and his ability to create chances from deep.

He does the work of a stopper by making hard tackles and the work of a modern sweeper by playing a position a little further up the field.

Sweepers in the Modern Game

As you can see, the role has changed from just being a defensive cover to an important part of an offense. Over time, the game changed, and players’ strategies changed to account for changes to the rules, like the controversial “Offside” rule.

After the offside rule was changed in 1925, attackers were considered onside if only two defenders stood in their way (including the keeper).

What Is a Sweeper in Soccer

So, if both defenders were in front of the attacking player, he was onside even if the deep defender was back (as was the case with a sweeper) and his goalkeeper was in goal.

The “Catenaccio” strategy was great because you could effectively man-mark two offensive players and still have a player ready to play the ball when they lost it.

In 1990, the offside rule was changed again to say that attacking players were “onside” if they were even with the last defender (not including the goalkeeper) when the ball was played.

So, a deep defender was no longer needed. Instead, the team relied on wingers to keep the ball onside and drag the sweeper back and forth, making space for the rest of the offense to score.

This made the deep defender position no longer useful. Even so, clubs still knew it was important to have a defender who could also act as a deep-lying playmaker who could move the ball forward instead of just getting rid of it.

They moved in front of their own backline and stopped playing behind it. They defended the back line and went after the ball so that the defenders behind them could “sweep up.”

When the defense got the ball, they would give it back to the backfield playmaker so he could start an offensive play.

In recent years, well-known liberos like Sergio Busquets of Barcelona, Xabi Alonso of Spain, and Phillip Lahm of Germany have moved into the midfield.

Even though defense was still their main job, these players spent more time in the offensive third than their predecessors.

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It’s possible that “Registas” like Andrea Pirlo or Michael Carrick, who don’t care as much about defense, will take on this role.

Over the years, soccer has developed a pressing style of play. The main goal is to get the ball as high as possible and trap the other team in their own half, which creates turnovers and counter-attacking opportunities.

Because teams are playing higher up the field, defensive lines are often pushed toward the halfway line to try to catch offensive players who are out of position.

Because of this change, there was a lot of space behind the defense lines and in front of the goal. What if teams made their offensive runs at the right time and lofted balls over these high defensive lines into open space?

Results…well, that’s what we’d hope for!

So, the sweeper is back to doing what it was meant to do in the beginning. The deep defender role is back, but this time the goalkeepers are in charge. In the last 20 years, the job of “sweeper-keeper” has become one of the most important ones.

German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer came up with the sweeper-keeper position, which allowed Bayern Munich and other teams to play their defenders near the half-way line.

Hugo Lloris of France and Manuel Neuer of Germany are the best examples of center backs. They have the traits of a sweeper-keeper: speed, confidence, and not being afraid of anything.

What Is a Sweeper in Soccer

These modern sweepers often stand on the outside edge of their box, or even higher, so they can catch thrown balls and give them back to their teammates more easily. This is not a job for people who are weak of heart.

If you watch some of these sweepers at their best, you’ll see them make amazing saves from far away and soar with the ball in a header. In fact, it’s very strange.

Summary of Sweepers in Soccer

Because soccer is played all over the world, the rules, positions, and other parts of the game have different names depending on where you are. This has been true for a long time, and the role of sweeper has been a great example of this.

Every system has its own set of roles, which change over time as new responsibilities are given to some and taken away from others as new strategies are made.

I hope that this guide to positions has helped you learn more about the game and become a better player.

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