How to become the best ball playing center-back
Now you know what to do defensively as a center-back, it’s time to discuss what to do with the ball. As said earlier, the days when a center-back could just kick the ball into the stands are over. It’s expected that a center-back can make progressive actions with his passing or dribbling. The second thing that’s important for a center-back offensively is to be ready for when his team loses the ball. The last thing we will discuss is not necessarily a center-back specific fundamental, but it is a possibility for center-backs to stand out, and that is scoring goals through set pieces.
Let’s start with the making of progressive actions, this consists of passing to a teammate that’s in a better position or by dribbling passed a line of pressure. Making these kinds of actions already starts before getting the ball. At Tactalyse we actually find that the positioning before getting the ball is the most important step in making progressive actions.
Example of positioning before receiving the ball.
Before the center-back receives the he should be aware of his opponents and teammates. Where is the pressure going to come from or where does the opponent leave space? Based on this he positions himself. It’s also good to have an idea of where your teammates are, so you can make a faster and better decision on where to take the ball after you receive it.
After a center-back positioned himself right he has to recognize whether he has to receive the ball or not. If the center-back is free and should receive the ball, he should ask for the ball by communication, so he can make the progressive action. If he’s not free to receive the ball but did position himself right, then he has made space for other players. Also, this has to be communicated to the player with the ball.
Here you see an example of asking for the ball by body language.
This is the preparation for making a progressive action and as everyone knows preparation makes half the world. So what makes up the other half of making a progressive action? Well when receiving the ball the body positioning of a center-back is important, this is important to make a good first touch and from there to dribble or pass.
Example of bad and good body positioning.
Example of a good first touch and a bad first touch.
After the first touch, the center-back can either dribble or pass. The center-back dribbles to either beat the press of an opponent or to give his teammates more time to get into the right space. If the teammate is already in a better position than the center-back himself, he passes the ball to this teammate. At this moment the progressive action is made and the center-back has done his job with the ball.
The thing that a center-back has to do after these actions is to organize the team for when it loses the ball. This is a crucial part of the offensive part of center-backs as well. Because a center-back has the complete overview of the pitch, it’s often them who will take the lead in this. How it should be organized is dependent on the opponent and on what the team’s tactics are.
A bonus fundamental for a center-back is set pieces. To stand out as a center-back, it’s possible to score goals from set pieces. If a center-back makes 5-6 goals a year, he can be an enormous asset to the team. To score from a set piece the center-back either has to beat his marking or when playing against a zonal defense, he has to find the right space. One of the skills a center-back can use is doing a zig-zag. More about bit can be found in the masterclasses on our platform.