How to become an unbeatable full-back
In the first chapter, we established that the full-back position is the most versatile position. In our methodology, the most fundamentals are at full-back. This is because there are a lot of variations in types of full-backs because of team tactics, therefor full-backs come in a lot of different game situations.
We also talked about how most full-backs get scouted on their offensive skills, but if a full-back is not good enough defensively, this will catch up sooner or later. That’s why, in this chapter, we will talk about the most relevant defensive fundamentals for a full-back. In the end, we will talk briefly about how different fundamentals fit, into different team tactics.
Something that full-backs have to be aware of is to defend the depth runs of attackers. A lot of teams try to drag out a center-back, and then run in behind that open space with a winger or attacking midfielder. As a full-back, you need to be aware of this and defend the depth run. Important in this fundamental is awareness and body positioning, always be ready to defend the space in behind the defense. A small mistake here could have big consequences.
Here you see an example of a winger running in behind and the full-back defending the depth run.
An important fundamental for a full-back is jockeying, jockeying is the game situation where an attacker dribbles towards the winger. Teams that play with wingers often have their most fast and technical players there, think about players like Neymar, Vinicius, and Salah. All of them have the speed to go in behind, and the technical skills to beat the full-back dribbling.
A lot of teams also try to purposely set up these players in an isolated dribbling situation against the full-back. Think about one of the team tactical reasons we talked about for having an inverted full-back. You position the full-back inside, so the attacker marking him follows him, this leaves the space on the side open for the winger to get the ball to feet and immediately take on the full-back in a 1v1 dribbling situation.
It is therefore a crucial fundamental for a full-back to master. In general, at Tactalyse we teach our players to not let the winger go inside, as this will open up his possibilities across the whole pitch, but a full-back can’t let too much space on the outside, because the winger will just dribble past the full-back on the outside and then go inside. So this is a fine balancing line a full-back has to become good at.
At Tactalyse we believe that it’s not always possible to stop a winger from crossing, but we do believe that it’s the full-back’s job to make this cross as hard as possible. But if you say to the full-back to keep the inside closed, it’s almost impossible that a winger will not make a cross. So the best a full-back can do is make it very hard for the winger to cross.
Here you see an example of a full-back that’s almost isolated in a 1v1 dribbling situation against a winger.
Another defensive fundamental that’s important for full-backs is crosses. This is something that a lot of full-backs struggle with, which is easy to explain, full-backs are often a little smaller compared to center-backs, so they have to execute the marking of a player better because they can’t make up wrong positioning with their size. Full-backs also often have to deal with several players coming into their zone, for example, a midfielder that runs into the box, a second striker, or sometimes even a full-back. Often these players get forgotten by the full-back’s teammates. Ball-watching is still one of the biggest mistakes when defending crosses, no matter what position. As a full-back, you’re then last in line. This can cause trouble, but it also gives the full-back the chance to oversee the situation. It’s therefore important for a full-back to recognize the different threats coming into the box and if he notices that players are not getting marked, he communicates that a player has to mark him. All this of course while having control over his opponent.
Here you see an example of a crossing situation for a full-back. The possibility of a cross is there and the full-back has to mark a player in his zone.
As a full-back, you can’t always rely on your teammates to win a duel or to follow a run. So in the full-back position, it’s extremely important to cover your teammates. This can mean covering aerial duels, like in the photo shown underneath, but it can also happen when a center-back is being pulled out of position and the full-back has to cover the space that has been left behind.
Again here it’s important to be aware as a full-back, and don’t gamble on a good outcome. Because the full-back can be the last player in front of the goalkeeper.
This is the defensive side of the full-back position. A difficult position, because you’re often isolated against highly skilled players and at the same time have to have the awareness to help your teammates. In the upcoming chapter, we will talk about the offensive side of a full-back.