How to train a full back?
Now we’ve established the most crucial fundamentals for a full-back, we can work out how you can train this to get better. As mentioned before, the full-back position has the most fundamentals in our methodology. This makes the position complex and a lot of different things have to be trained. We will give two examples of exercises that you can do for training full-back fundamentals.
At Tactalyse we work with a three-level approach, the first level consists out of isolating the fundamental without opposition. This helps the player create automatisms and thus be able to focus more on making other decisions. In the second level, we add opposition, but we still isolate the fundamentals. This is to be sure, that the full-back knows that he is in this game situation, but he has to make a decision within the execution of the fundamental. Lastly, the third level is with full opposition, think about playing positional games in training and all other types of gameplay. Here the full-back constantly has to switch between game situations and thus recognize when he’s in the game situation and what fundamental he has to execute.
The first fundamental we will discuss is duels, more specifically, a winger gets the ball and the full-back has to step out and defend him by dribbling at him. There are a couple of options here that are both possible, for example, do you let the winger go inside or outside, both are possible and it depends on the team tactics and what the full-back should do, but there’s also a thing that no one wants to happen. I think we can all agree that nobody wants to see the full-back getting beat, that he is dribbled passed and has to chase the winger. For this example, we will assume that the team tactic is to lead the winger outside (most of the team tactics are set up this way). So what we will train is that the full-back has to lead the winger outside by approaching with the right angle and having the right distance to the winger.
So in level one, the isolation we will train the execution of the fundamental. In training the fundamental in isolation, we mostly train the angle and the distance. The angle is important, because as we established before, you want to keep the inside closed (or outside), the distance is important because you shouldn’t give the opponent the opportunity the possibility of just dribble past you outside, but also not too much space to he can just pick a pass.
The way you can set this up is by having a player at the side-line, that acts as a winger. You then have the full-back in his position and another player who will pass the ball to this player on the side-line, the full-back then has to step out and close the distance. We don’t want the player who receives the ball to dribble, since we’re just practicing the execution. This is the first level, without opposition.
In the second level, isolation of the fundamental but with opposition, we take the same setup, but now the player who receives the ball can dribble passed the full-back. So you get a 1v1 situation of full-back against winger at the sideline. The full-back has to think more about distance and angle because the winger can dribble and how the winger makes the first touch, or has his body, influences all these choices of the full-back.
In the third level, we want to create a game-like situation where the full-back has to recognize what game situation he’s in. This means that there are other possibilities than only defending the 1v1 at the side-line, this could include depth runs from the winger or midfielder or overlapping from the opponents full-back. A situation that you can set up is a 3v2 on the side, the full-back, and a midfielder against a winger, midfielder, and full-back. As a coach, you can now let the opponents make different rotations, and every time the full-back has to make a decision if he’s in the game situation of defending the 1v1 or if he’s in a different situation. This will train the full-back to recognize situations fast and execute fast. This is important because you will see that in this fundamental a meter more or less is crucial in defending the 1v1.
Now that we’ve written out one defensive fundamental, we will write out an offensive fundamental for full-backs. We will train an overlap, again we will start with level 1, with no resistance. With some fundamentals, you have to train longer in level 1, the isolation, to get the execution of the fundamental. In some fundamentals, this can be walked through faster. This also depends on the level of the player and how fast he learns.
At Tactalyse we have an overlap and underlap, the overlap meaning the player goes outside and underlap meaning the player goes inside. The goal for the full-back here is to become free to either shoot on goal or give a cross. Important things in this fundamental are the decision to overlap yes or no, at which moment, and with which angle. After this, it’s of course also important to deliver a good cross or score.
So again we will set up a winger on the side-line or inside, but this time as a teammate. Another player or a coach then has to play a ball to this winger and the full-back has to make an overlap or underlap. At this level, it’s important to train the timing and the angle of the run, so the full-back can deliver a good cross or shoot. If the timing is early, the full-back might be offside, if the timing is late, the ball might not be able to get played. The angle is important because you want to be able to make a good cross.
In this level, you can make variations in the height of the pitch, but also from which zone you want the full-back to deliver a cross.
In level two, you can add resistance, you can either do this in the overlap situation in the crossing situation, or both. In the overlap situation, you can decide to have another full-back against the winger who receives the ball or you will have a winger against the offensive full-back who makes an overlap. Both result in different types of decisions the full-back has to make. The resistance in the crossing situation can come in the form of a defender against a striker so the full-back has to look at the striker and deliver a good cross.
In level three you can set up the same exercise as we described in the defensive fundamental above, but now you focus on the fundamental overlap. By setting up a 3v2 or 4v3 on the side, the full-back has to make decisions to overlap or not, and with the right timing, but also to go inside or outside. Also, notice how with one exercise you can train many fundamentals for players. We’ve now described in one exercise where you can train different fundamentals for full-backs, wingers, strikers, and central defenders. So players need to recognize which game situation an exercise Is training, so the player can focus on this.