The evolution of the fullback in modern football

The role of the modern full-back, or outside defender, revolutionized football and how teams play.

When both fans and pundits discuss their points of view on a football team, some get more comments than others. Forwards, wingers and occasionally midfielders get credit for goals. Keepers are heroes with good performance or the enemies if they make mistakes.

The football position that is often neglected is that of fullback.

The modern game

What is important to realize is that football has been entering a modern era for several years now. Back in the day, teams played slow, physically imposing, and hard-tackling back fours. Height and strength were a desirable attribute at the top alongside defense. Then teams would, as it were, ‘kick and chase’. It’s an entertaining, if ugly, spectacle. A duel of physical strength with some quick finesse here and there.

Technical players were commonplace, but not the dominant force. Each team had one or two technical operators to increase the brutal physicality of their rosters.

What we see now is a far cry from this outdated style of play. Teams tend to play much more on possession. This favors technically mastered talents over the physically imposing players who are often not so technically adept. Sure, some teams still use a more physical approach and have a healthy reputation for it. West Ham United, for example, is a ‘gritty’ side. Fans associate the Hammers with using set pieces to hone results.

But in the top flight of European football, possession-based play dominates.

Speed ​​of play is what makes this style so devastating. Quick one, two touches can open a team. Suddenly there are spaces for the attacking team to play through. Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid apply this formula so successfully. That’s why they are the top teams of the last decade. They turn passing, technicality and speed into a devastating attack.

The role of a fullback in modern football

Fullbacks are a huge aspect of this style of play. They provide the width and nowadays also an outlet in midfield. Depending on the type of team they line up against, fullbacks can be deployed in different ways. In fact, in some cases they are the most versatile position on the field.

Take Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City as an example. City usually play a 4-3-3 formation, with a flat four. And when they’re in defensive shape, it looks exactly like what you’d think a 4-3-3 should look like. However, when you are in possession, the real change happens.

João Cancelo, the left-back, and Kyle Walker, the right-back, both drop to central midfield positions. They are now a passing outlet for any player in possession. The two midfielders for the center of the guard, usually İlkay Gündoğan or Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, then have the license to roam. They can stay wide. Or they can run after the opposition. This creates overloads on the wings. Manchester City create numerical advantages in relatively obscure areas of the pitch that overwhelm opponents beyond defenders.

All the while they don’t leave the midfield exposed on the counter. The two outside backs tucked away in midfield are technical enough to keep possession and drive forward. At the same time, they are defensive and fast enough to avoid a quick break the other way. It works delightfully. City dominate possession and does not allow the other team to break the press and counterattack.

Take care of the attack

Another good example of the use of modern full-backs in football is Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Andrew Roberston, the left-back, and Trent Alexander-Arnold, the right-back, are two of the most prolific attacking players in the world. In their Premier League career, Robertson has made 53 assists and Trent Alexander-Arnold has 45. The numbers continue to rise when looking at European and Cup competitions, where Liverpool have enjoyed great success under Klopp. They each get an outside assist almost once in every three games. It’s really remarkable.

Why is their offensive output so high? The way Liverpool play is the exact opposite of Manchester City’s use of their full-backs. Liverpool also play a variant of a 4-3-3 formation. Also in line with City, the formation is clear when the Reds defend. However, when Liverpool attack, the wingers squeeze to become essentially right and left forwards. They raid the sideline on the outside from Luis Díaz and Mohamed Salah with overlapping runs. The 4-3-3 briefly becomes a 2-3-5.

This gives the outside the time and space to attack consistently. Together, Robertson and Alexander-Arnold rain in pointed crosses to a narrower front three. Díaz, Salah and Darwin Núñez are all eagerly awaiting their luscious deliveries rather than just beating long-range defenders. Naturally, both Salah and Díaz have the skill to do that, which explains Liverpool’s exceptional attacking talent.

Basically, more space wide to run into and cross, and more bodies in the box to be on the receiving end of the crosses. It’s simple and incredibly effective.

The fullback era

Alphonso Davies at Bayern Munich, Nuno Mendes and Hakimi at PSG, Carvajal and Ferland Mendy at Real Madrid, Luke Shaw and Diogo Dalot at Manchester United, all of these full-backs are used in various modern ways, very different from the outdated and stagnant style of play. fullbacks in the past.

Keep a close eye on fullbacks as the game continues to develop. Often neglected in conversation, you will come to realize that in reality the use of fullbacks in a team’s style of play is more often than not the determining factor in how that team plays, and the success or lack of success they manage to achieve.

Fullbacks rejoice, you are no longer overlooked.

PHOTO: IMAGO / Sportimage

#evolution #fullback #modern #football
Andy Robertson,fullback,Joao Cancelo,Kyle Walker,Liverpool,Manchester City,position,Trent Alexander Arnold,World Cup opinions

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