LM vs LW – What’s The Difference?

You may have encountered the terms Left Midfielder (LM) and Left Winger (LW) before when watching a game of football. Or perhaps, you saw these when playing FIFA with your friends.

So what are these 2 positions, and how are they different?

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The difference between LM and LW

A Left Midfielder is a wide midfielder who has both offensive and defensive duties. They have to play a role similar to that of a holding midfielder or a box-to-box midfielder. Meanwhile, a Left Winger plays in a more advanced position. They are tasked with creating and finishing goal-scoring opportunities for their team. 

Position on the field

Both players are positioned on the left flank of the pitch.

LM is positioned on the left side of the midfield  

Left Midfielders are typically used in a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 formation. They are stationed to the left of central midfielders, close to the left touchline. 

LW is positioned further ahead in an attacking line-up

Left wingers are ideally employed in a 4-3-3 formation. However, they are also suitable for 4-2-4 and 3-4-3 formations. A left winger is the most advanced player on the left side of the pitch and is a part of the attacking line-up.

Common numbers associated with these positions

In the past, football players were assigned squad numbers which were used to indicate the player’s positions. However, the players can now choose the number they wear as per their liking. 

Left wingers are traditionally associated with numbers 7 and 11. However, left midfielders do not have a common shirt number. 

The likes of Ryan Giggs and Pavel Nedved, both of whom were legendary left midfielders, wore the No.11 shirts. With the evolution of football and change in formations, left wingers became a more common role, and they assumed the number 11.

Role

The two positions have distinct roles:

LM provides support to both ends of the left flank

Left midfielder has to take part in both offense and defense of the team and enjoys a role balanced between the two ends. 

When the team is in possession of the ball, their focal duty is to provide width. This helps stretch out the opposition’s defense and creates space for their teammates to break through the defensive barrier. 

Left midfielders are also expected to provide crosses into the opposition’s penalty box as they are situated close to the touchline. 

When the ball is lost, they have to assist the rearguard, particularly the left full-back, in defensive duties. They will be seen pressing for the ball, marking and tackling the opposition’s players and intercepting passes to regain possession for their team.

LW’s primary role is to be an attacking threat from the left flank

Left wingers can help the left full-back when the team is under attack, but their primary role is to provide support to the forwards. 

The strikers are vastly dependent on the wingers to create goal-scoring opportunities for them. These are often seen in the form of crosses whipped into the box for the strikers to score goals. 

Left wingers also stretch out the opposition’s defense by dragging the full-backs to the sideline, so the forwards can enjoy more space and have a greater chance to score goals.

It is important to note that left wingers can also come in handy as goalscorers. Since they stay high up the pitch, they should have a keen eye for any goal-scoring opportunity that presents itself to capitalize on. 

Traits required for these 2 roles

Here are some skills needed for these two positions:

Left Midfielder

LM should have excellent stamina

Given the left midfielders have to contribute in both offense and defense, they have to be a workhorse throughout the match. This requires immense strength to be on song and survive all 90 minutes of the game. 

LM should be a superb passer of the ball

A left midfielder often has to maintain possession under vast pressure. They have to keep the ball moving to ensure they do not lose possession. 

This requires exceptional passing ability to control the game and move the ball forward for the strikers.

LM should be selfless

Being a left midfielder can be a thankless job. They rarely find themselves on the scoresheet and get little credit for their defensive contributions. Yet, they perform a crucial role for the team. 

The role of a left midfielder calls for them to prioritize the team’s interests at all times.

Left Winger

LW should be speedy

A left winger should have explosive pace in his arsenal. It helps him get the better of his marker and outpace the defenders to make his way through the defensive line. 

Fleet-footed wingers can also kick-start counterattacks and build pressure on the opposition after regaining possession. 

LW should have exceptional crossing ability

Creating goal-scoring opportunities is an integral part of a left winger’s role. They have to supply neat crosses into the box.

A left winger should be able to spot the forwards and provide inch-perfect crosses to them. 

LW should be a skilled dribbler

Left wingers often find themselves in a one-on-one situation with the defenders. They should have the ability to outmanoeuvre them with their dribbling skills.

Famous examples

There are many famous examples of both positions: 

Left Midfielder

These are some of the top LMs in football:

#1 Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs is one of the greatest English footballers. He was a linchpin of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United which dominated European football. 

Over the course of his Manchester United tenure, Giggs won thirteen Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups and two Champions Leagues. He holds the record for having won more Premier League medals than any other player. 

Giggs became the first player in history to win the PFA Young Player of the Year award twice in a row (1992 and 1993).

#2 Pavel Nedved

Pavel Nedved is one of the most decorated players from the Czech Republic. He notably played for Lazio and Juventus and left his mark in European football.

The Czech Republic international won 91 caps for his country. Nedved helped the Czech Republic reach the final of the UEFA European Championship in 1996

He also won many accolades at the club level. Nedved won a solitary UEFA Super Cup, three Serie A titles, two Italian Cups, and a Cup Winners’ Cup.

#3 Ivan Perisic

Ivan Perisic is a Croatian footballer who has played for several notable clubs. He has previously featured for Borussia Dortmund, VfL Wolfsburg, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich. Perisic currently plays for the Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur. 

He was a part of the Croatian team that reached the final of FIFA World Cup in 2018. Perisic even managed a goal in the final, but could not guide his national side to a win. 

The 33-year-old has won one UEFA Champions League, two Bundesliga titles, one Serie A title and an Italian Cup.

Left Winger

These are some of the top LWs in football:

#1 Neymar

Neymar is one of the most talented footballers of this generation. He burst onto the scene thanks to his heroics in Santos. 

The Brazil international joined Barcelona in 2013 and enjoyed an illustrious stay at the Spanish club. With Barcelona, he won one UEFA Champions League, one Club World Cup, two La Liga titles and three Copa Del Rey titles.

In 2017, Neymar moved to PSG for an eye-watering sum of €222 million. He is one of the three players in history to have scored at least 100 goals for three different clubs. 

#2 Vinicius Junior

Vinicius Junior is one of the most exciting prospects in European football. He has quickly established himself as a fixture in Real Madrid’s starting XI since making his debut for the club in 2018.

In his 4-year stint at the Spanish club, he has won one UEFA Champions League, one UEFA Super Cup, two La Liga titles and one Club World Cup. Vinicius scored the winning goal for Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final in 2022.

#3 Leroy Sane

Leroy Sane is a German footballer who currently plays for the Bundesliga club Bayern Munich. He is a superbly skilled winger and one of the best in the business.

Sane won the PFA Young Player of the Year Award in 2018. He has previously played for Schalke and Manchester City. 

Sane has won two Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two Bundesliga titles, one UEFA Super Cup and one Club World Cup. He is only 26 years of age and has a lot more to achieve in his career. 

Conclusion

Here is a quick summary of the comparison between these two positions.

Left MidfielderLeft Winger
PositionLeft of central midfielderMost advanced player
on the left flank
Common NumbersNIL7 and 11
RoleAssist both the attack
and defence
Provide support
to the forwards
Skills requiredStamina
Good passing
Selflessness
Speed
Good crossing
Good dribbling
Famous ExamplesRyan Giggs
Pavel Nedved
Ivan Perisic
Neymar 
Vinicius Junior
Leroy Sane

You can find out how a winger compares to a wide midfielder here.

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