The full-back positions have always been one of the most important, and yet, one of the most over-looked positions on any given team. The role of the full-back is two-fold; at once responsible for supporting attacks, while, at the same time, needing to be there to prevent the opposition from getting crosses into the box. It is a tough, demanding position that requires a player to be switched on and alert both mentally and physically for the entirety of the game.
While each team has their own set-up, full-backs in the modern game, owing to its fast-paced, counter-attacking approach, truly have their work cut out for them. No longer is it enough to just take care of your defensive duties and make an overlapping run every now and again. What separates the good full-backs from the great ones is their ability to go forward effectively. Below are some of the qualities that all of the best full-backs in the world possess:
Due to the fact that the modern full-back is as much a part of the attack as the defence, they need to be quick up and down the line in order to be in position to fulfil both duties. They need to be able to race up the pitch to join in with attack, and, if the attack breaks down, they need to be able to quickly get back into their defensive set-up so as not to leave the centre-halfs exposed. Kyle Walker’s off-the-line clearance recently against Liverpool in the Community Shield is an example of how important pace is for a full-back.
Full-backs, owing to their position on the pitch, are perhaps the players with the best visibility on the pitch. Receiving the ball out wide with an open body position means that they have clear sight of everything that is happening around them (unlike a central midfielder, for example, who might pick up the ball in the middle and may have his back to play). Being so close to the sideline means that there is no real threat coming from behind the full-back, and having the ball out-wide in a deep, defensive position means that they have visibility of the whole pitch, as well as having time as the opposition will be slower to close them down. As a result of this, the most effective modern full-backs need to have good vision in order to capitalise on this and create attacking opportunities for their team. Trent Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool is a good example of this: a player who frequently picks out long-range, across-the-field passes from deep within his own half that creates an attacking opportunity for his team.
3. Good Delivery:
A full-back needs to be able to put a good cross into the box in order to give his team an opportunity to score. The most effective full-backs in the world are the ones with the most assists. Picking the ball up in a wide attacking position is useless if not followed up with a good delivery. For the modern full-back, it is essential to be able to consistently put good balls into their attackers. Benjamin Mendy, when fit, is a great example of an effective full-back with a good delivery. As well as that, Liverpool’s full-backs accumulated 23 assists between them last season (to put that into perspective, Huddersfield only scored 22 goals last season). Given that only two points separated 17th and 18th place, it’s easy to see how important attacking full-backs with good deliveries are.
4. Positional Awareness:
The full-back needs to know where he or she is expected to be at all times. If they’re not in their defensive positions quickly enough, their team is exposed. If they’re not quick enough to join the attack, the team is less threatening. The full-back needs to be able to assess the game, predict where the play is going, and get themselves into the right position in order to deal with whatever situation presents itself. An out-of-position full-back immediately weakens the team, and gives space to the opposition to counter.
Of course, the full-back’s defensive qualities are equally important. Being able to read the player in front of them, being able to judge the right moment to make a tackle, getting one’s body in the right position to block a cross, and being mentally aware enough to stay in line with your own defence in order to make use of the offside rule are the basic skills that any full-back should possess. After that, however, it is their attacking prowess that will distinguish the great full-backs from the good ones in the modern game. You can only win by scoring more than the opponent, and the modern full-back is responsible for making goals as much as they are for preventing them.
About the Author
Lee Molloy is a twenty-year-old literature student and writer from Dublin, Ireland. Having spent years posting his pieces on his Instagram, he finally decided to start a blog where he can share his writing with the world. His biggest inspirations in writing are F. Scott Fitzgerald, Albert Camus, and Charles Baudelaire.