Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Are your attacking fullbacks fit for purpose?

DCWatching my fullback in a match this week he was having to work really hard to get up and down the pitch.

We’ve been working on setting the ball back into midfield and getting our fullbacks to support on the wings with balls played wide to them from deep in our defence. It was a tactic working very well and we created numerous chances at the far post.

But I noticed as the match wore on my fullback was less inclined to run wide onto through balls. He had worn himself out running up and down the pitch. It is true of modern fullbacks that their role involves a lot of support play in attack as well as defence.

If you take a fullback like Patrice Evra at Manchester United you will know what I mean. His training sessions are based around fitness and agility as well as tactics and skills. Watch the clip below of Evra training and try some of the exercises with your teams I have and find they work really well for fullbacks.


Running without the ball to create space

dave clarkeI will often play with just one attacker up front and three midfielders controlling the middle of the pitch supported by two wide players.

The player up front is there to create space by running off the ball and dragging defenders away or getting beyond the opposition defenders to run onto through balls from midfield.

This works best when my team is counter-attacking – if we play short passes and build up to the penalty area the attacker is focused on movement to draw the defenders away rather than run onto the through ball. This means the attacker in this role has to be clued up when the team moves forward.

Compare this to Fernando Torres at Chelsea. He thrives on though balls and although Chelsea
can be devastating on the break and play some raking balls down the wings, the coach Carlo Ancelotti prefers short-passing build-ups. You often see a few quick interchanges outside the box before a quick release.

Torres is not at his best in close-range build-up. When he plays for Spain the coach Luis Aragones uses Torres’s acceleration and direct running as decoys, getting him to stretch defences and give the Spanish ball players more space to play.

Ancelotti recognises this: “He likes to receive the ball at a certain point, so we have to improve this. Sometimes he moves well on the wrong side of the centre-back and the ball does not arrive.”

When Torres played for Liverpool the majority of his goals came come from running into space, getting to loose balls first, catching defenders out and running on to through-passes.

So remember if you are coaching your team to play a formation with one player up front you have to play to their strengths and get them to exploit the space they create behind the defence.