RB vs RWB – What’s The Difference?

Last updated on March 7th, 2022

One of the most challenging comparisons to understand regarding positions on a football pitch is the RWB and RB positions.

You may be confused because both are stationed on the right side of the defence. However, their roles are different, depending on the team’s type of formation.

Here is a guide that will help you understand better.

The Differences Between a RWB and a RB

Both the RWB and RB play on the right side of the pitch. However, the Right Wing Back will have more attacking responsibilities, while the Right Back will be more defensive and stay more in his own half.

You will usually encounter a Right-Wing Back when a team uses the 3-4-3, 5-3-2, or 3-5-2 formations. This mainly happens when a manager uses three centre-backs in a game. 

A RWB is usually considered a midfielder rather than a defender because the main focus will be on the attack from the right side of the pitch than the defence.

In fact, a Right Wing Back is responsible for the right side of the field as he moves up and down to contribute both in attack and defence.

A perfect example is Chelsea’s Reece James, who had one goal and five assists in 47 appearances in the 2020/21 season.

In comparison, a Right Back is more focused on defence, rather than the attack. His primary duty is to ensure he keeps his side of the defence safe. 

However, this does not stop him from contributing to the attack. In fact, he must be up to the task needed of him in attack, but the priority will be about defence rather than attack. 

In a situation where his team has more of the possession in a game, he will have more responsibilities in the attack. However, he will need to contribute defensively too.

Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo is a perfect example with 2 goals and 3 assists in the 2020/21 season.

Here is a further comparison between these 2 positions:

Position on the field

The RWB and RB roles are usually positioned in the right area of the pitch, mainly towards the back of the midfield.

The RWB may be seen more stationed in the right side of the midfield, depending on the formation in place:

  • 3-4-3
  • 3-5-2

However, the RB is more defensive, and he is positioned on the right side of a back four in formations such as:

  • 4-4-2
  • 4-3-3
  • 4-5-1

Both the RWB and RB combine well with the wingers and forwards to set them up for goals. However, the RWB will be expected to contribute more to assists and scoring goals compared to the RB. 

This does not take away the goal or assist instinct from the RB. However, should he focus too much on attack, it may lead to the defence being unbalanced.

It is possible for defenders to score goals, and here are some examples of how they can do so.

This was one of England National team head coach Gareth Southgate’s complaints about Trent Alexander-Arnold before Euro 2020 in 2021. Arnold tends to focus too much on the attack than the defence for a right back.

Common numbers associated with these positions

In the past, there was no position as the RWB. The evolution of Right-Wing Back was born out of creativity from managers who prefer to be tighter in defence

Just as you may already know, a player can wear any squad number. While playing right back in his days, Bacary Sagna used to wear the No. 3 jersey for Arsenal. Meanwhile, Brazilian legend Maicon wore the No. 13 jersey for most of his career.

This would mean that there is no standard shirt number for a right-back or right wing-back. However, conventionally, the typical jersey for a right-back is No. 2.

Furthermore, a player who has not played right back before can slot in at right wing-back. This was seen when Victor Moses did it for Chelsea and Adama Traore for Wolverhampton.

Roles on the pitch

The roles performed by a right wing-back and a right-back are similar. The main difference is that a RWB places more priority on the attack, while a RB focuses more on the defence.

Generally, a right wing-back and right back must have the following qualities;

  • Defensive roles
  • Supports flanks and attackers
  • Perform counterattacks

Their differences in roles on the pitch are as follows;

A right-wing back’s primary role is to widen the gameplay and play creative passes to the forwards to score goals or effectively use the ball. This means that he will have to move up and down the right side of the pitch without losing focus and contributing at both ends of the pitch. 

A RWB with good dribbling skills performs this role better because he can have a go at the opponent’s defenders. Hence, the defenders will leave the forwards unmarked, and they can easily score goals. 

When called upon, he may need to get back in shape. 

However, the team is usually set up with three central defenders, giving him more confidence to perform his role. 

Meanwhile, a right back’s role is just as vital as that of a right wing-back. While the right-back should contribute in an attack, his primary emphasis has to be on defence. 

Usually, a right-back is one of the four defenders in a back four, and his defensive duties are even more important than that of a right wing-back.

Traits required for the roles

The two positions have their individual traits.


Ball Control Skills

For a RWB to participate offensively on the pitch, he must have excellent ball movement and control skills. In addition, the RWB must be able to overlap quickly with a fantastic attacking instinct to send in crosses for the attackers to score. 

A RWB must also be incredible at interceptions and dribbling, which will quickly help him get past the opponents. 


For a RWB to thrive in his role, he must have great speed. Wing backs usually run up and down the pitch as they have to: 

  • Join the attack
  • Recover quickly to help the team keep its defensive shape

Therefore, a RWB has to defend against speedy wingers, and they must be able to run tirelessly to keep track.


The RWB is a demanding position that needs strength and stamina. Moving up and down the pitch needs endurance, and the physical ability of a RWB is an essential part of the role.



The role of a right-back is to stop wingers from dribbling to the penalty box. For this, a RB needs to be fast.

A right-back trying to stop a player like Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo should be fast enough to match the qualities of speed from the Portuguese International. 


What is the good of a right-back who can’t defend? Unfortunately, defending is one of the qualities a player like Trent Alexander-Arnold lacks, and he has had to improve that side of his game in recent years. 

Positioning and Awareness

Another thing a right-back must pay attention to is positioning and awareness. No right back will thrive without knowing which position to be at the right time. 

As such, the role of a right-back is to understand when to switch from defence to attack and how not to be caught unaware. 

Famous Examples

 Here are some examples of each position below:

Right-Wing Back

Here are some players who can play at RWB. However, due to their lack of defensive capabilities, they may not be able to play as a RB!

#1 Callum Hudson-Odoi

Callum Hudson-Odoi has been filling in the gaps for Chelsea during the 2021/22 season, and he has played both in right wing-back and left wing-back for them this season.

Thomas Tuchel finds him valuable in those positions because he has pace, can dribble, and has excellent athleticism.

#2 Victor Moses

Victor Moses previously played as a left or right winger. However, Antonio Conte changed him to a right wing-back, and he adapted excellently.

Moses’s role was vital in helping Chelsea claim the Premier League in 2017. 

Moses still plays a similar position today but is more of a right midfielder.

#3 Adama Traore

Adama Traore once played in right wing-back for Wolves, and he excelled in the position thanks to his pace, strength, and excellent dribbling skills.

These are some of the skills that a wing back must have to succeed in the position. 

Right Back

Here are some of the best right-backs across the globe. With their defensive capabilities, they will be able to play as a RWB too.

#1 Trent Alexander-Arnold

There is no better right-back than Trent Alexander-Arnold at the moment.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8S1bCIImz0Although he has been heavily criticised for focusing too much on attack, he has been improving on his defensive abilities.

#2 Joao Cancelo

If there is a right-back that balances both attack and defence well, it will have to be Joao Cancelo. The Portuguese is excellent at passing and has excellent positional awareness. 

As a result, Cancelo gets rarely caught off-guard, and it allows Pep Guardiola to rely on him both at right-back and left-back.

#3 Dani Alves

At almost 39, Dani Alves is still playing at the highest possible level as he got a goal and an assist against Atletico Madrid in his first La Liga start back in Camp Nou.

Alves is the most decorated player in football history with 43 trophies, and he recently led Brazil to gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Alves is fast, versatile, and technical, helping him thrive in the position.


Here is a summary of the differences between a RWB and a RB:

PositionRight side of midfieldRight defender
RoleEmphasis on attackEmphasis on defence
Common number
associated with position
Any number2
TraitsBall control
and movement
Positional Awareness
Callum Hudson-Odoi
Victor Moses
Adama Traore
Trent Alexander-Arnold
Joao Cancelo
Dani Alves

While both of them are mainly defensive roles, there are still some differences in terms of their emphasis in attack!

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