How To Be A Good Fullback In Football?
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How To Be A Good Fullback In Football? 8 Tips For Beginners
- Scanning Skills – To see their options and know what is coming or where the ball is going when they receive it
- Technical Skills – To be able to deal with the ball under pressure and progress the attack
- Movement and Rotation – To recognize the spaces to exploit and get themselves or a teammate time on the ball
- Attacking Skills – To make the opponent’s job harder, make themselves less predictable and gain an edge during attacking situations
- Physical Attributes – To be mobile enough to join attacks, recover to defend, change direction and speed quickly
- 1 v 1 Defending Ability – To dominate the opponent and protect the spaces on the inside, show controlled aggression to win back the ball
- Psychological Skills – Fullbacks need to be resilient, confident in their ability, and controlled to ensure they win their duels
- Transitional Experts – The fullback needs to be able to react quickly to go from defense to attack or from attack to defense.
What is clear from these tips is that the fullback role is a vital part of building up play, supporting attacks, stopping the progress of the opposition, and being an outlet through games. The tips below will support players and coaches to improve their understanding and performance.
1. Scanning Skills
This tip is about the fullback preparing before they receive the ball. They can do this by using perception skills to predict what the opponent will do and know how much time they have the space available, and the positions of teammates and opposition. Scanning early will help to identify potential options and opportunities to progress the ball.
Once a player has scanned they need to prepare their body shape to receive the ball. Ideally, they need to be able to see the passer and the potential receiver of their pass to connect things. Body shape is therefore important because the sideways body shape with the shoulder facing inwards will allow the player to see more pictures and bigger areas of the playing field.
The fullback must be able to adapt their body shape if the picture changes so they may need to go from a sideways body position to a closed body position to protect the ball and hide it from the opponent in preparation to playback to the original passer.
The skill of scanning, movement, and position of their feet can ensure that they can switch between body shapes. Being able to deal with the ball on their front or back foot based on the pictures they see is very important. back foot receiving if they can turn or front foot receiving if they can.
The scans that a player makes may prompt them to use double runs to move the opponent one way with the first run and then move into the space they want to receive the ball in during the second run. Scanning helps the fullback prepare and develop composure to retain the ball under pressure.
2. Technical Skills
The basic technical skills to successfully play in the fullback position include: having quality receiving skills, a good range of passing techniques, and an ability to carry the ball up the field via dribbling or running with the ball. These basic elements are the areas where most fullbacks can excel if they can recognize when to make the correct decisions.
An ability to receive the ball on the front or back foot depending on the pressure of the opposition is essential to help the fullback make quick decisions to progress the ball. Back foot receiving should be used when the player knows they can turn and front foot receiving would be used when the player is pressured and needs to protect the ball from the opponent
Good receiving skills are interlinked with effective scanning then it’s about the player reading the situation and making the choice to receive the ball in either an open or closed body position. The open backfoot receiving choice allows them to see large areas of the playing field whereas the closed body position only allows them to see what’s behind them toward their own goal.
Getting the ball out of their feet is a key tip for coaches to provide fullbacks with, ideally, the player receiving the ball should use a touch direction which buys them time on the ball to complete the action they have to decide to make, if the fullbacks first touch seems to put them in trouble then coaches should look at their body position when they received the ball and if they scanned before the ball arrived.
A range of passing techniques along the floor and in the air is important to the success of this position. The first type of pass I would encourage a fullback to look for is a through pass along the floor which takes an opponent out of the game such as the wide player. The second pass to consider is an around pass so the fullback may go around the pressure using a bounce pass off a central or wide player.
If the through or around the pass is unavailable then I would recommend considering a pass over the opponent’s pressure which may mean a pass in the air that lands at the feet or goes into space for a player who has made a movement or runs in front of the opposition’s defense or in behind it.
The final option the player will have, which is often a safe and secure one is backward passing. This can be used to recycle the ball, move the opponent and try to switch the point of attack. Each type of pass mentioned is a tool the fullback can use to impose themselves on the game. Scanning and taking up the right body position will help the fullback make the correct decision to retain and progress the ball.
Clever fullbacks can progress the ball by running with it and dribbling it with a view of taking players out of the game and progressing the ball through the areas of the pitch to attack.
If the defender does not slow themselves down when they come to pressure the ball, a clever fullback will use the defender’s momentum against them and just push the ball out of their feet into space and run at speed up the channel until they are pressured again. The skill of recognizing when to stay on the ball and run it and when to release it are useful ways of drawing opponents out of position.
The idea would be that the fullback beats the first player with a dribble and then continues to run upfield with the ball until pressured by another player, during this moment space will appear somewhere else on the field and the fullback would have the job of recognizing this and playing a pass into that space to exploit it.
The disguise will be an important tool the fullback can use if they plan to run with the ball or dribble it, they need to show the intention to the immediate opponent that they are going to move the ball one way and then use disguise to move away from the pressuring player. Mixing up running with the ball and passing will help the fullback influence the game and make positive contributions to their team.
3. Movement and Rotation
If fullbacks are going to get on the ball they have to have a good awareness of their position about the ball and the player they want to pass the ball to. Making angles to the ball carrier and not being on the same line as a player in front of them are helpful ways to create passing lanes for teammates.
For example, if the fullback takes up a position really wide towards the sideline then the wide player in front of the ball should consider moving in off the sideline to provide a passing option inside of the wide fullback, especially if there is an opponent closing down the ball carrying fullback. Alternatively, if the fullback is positioned slightly off the sideline then the wide player can support the ball wide to give a passing option.
This is why players need to think about working together to get on the ball and helping each other through their movements and positions. Moving into opposite positions can help provide quality passing options for the team and make it difficult for the opponent to pick players up.
In the attacking half, fullback movements can be spotting opportunities to use overlaps and underlaps. So if the ball-carrying wide player in front has traveled inside off the line and left a gap behind, the fullback can join the attack by overlapping to create a forward passing option for the wide player. Alternatively, if the wide player is near the sideline then the fullback can underlap the space inside of the wide player to give a passing option.
From a coaching point of view, it is important to look at the other players in the team, as the fullback looks to join in. Attacking is important but it should not leave the team exposed in defense, the fullback should be observant of this before considering joining the attack and make sure there is support for the central defenders from midfield or the opposite fullback.
Rotation is about the fullback working with their immediate support players to create opportunities to get on the ball. Rotations can occur between two players and sometimes three players so the fullback must be observing the movements and actions of their teammates if rotation to create space and options is to be used.
A two-player rotation between the fullback and wide player can help create space for a central defender to pass forward. So a fullback can consider running inside as a pass arrives in a central defender and offer a pass infield, this movement could trigger a wide player to drop into the fullback position to get on the ball.
A three-player rotation could be a similar situation, but this time a central midfield player drops into a fullback position to give the central defender an option wide, this can trigger the fullback to take up an advanced position in a wide area, and then the fullbacks movement triggers the wide player to move inside of the line.
The timing of these movements correctly can offer the ball carrier multiple options and makes it difficult for the opponent to react and defend against.
Coaching rotation is an advanced concept so I would not recommend this for beginners however it is a skill that can be developed over time and is something that a coach can add to a player’s game as they develop some of the basic skills already mentioned.
4. Attacking Skills
The modern fullback is required to perform several roles, one of them being to join attacks and overload certain areas of the field.
If the fullback joins an attack their main purpose should be to help create opportunities to score. The techniques required for this are an ability to run forward with and without the ball from deep, and an ability to combine off limited touches to get into positions to deliver accurate balls into the box from wide areas.
Running forward from deep is not necessarily skill but more a willingness on behalf of the fullback to join in. They need to spot the right moments to make these attacking forward runs.
Triggers for this would include the wide player having good possession of the ball with space outside or inside of them. The ball is switched from one side of the field to the other and there is a huge space in front of the fullback to carry the ball. The wide player has moved inside off the line and left a huge space for the fullback to offer width.
The coach needs to work with the fullback and help them to see opportunities to join attacks. Scanning before receiving the ball, availability of space, and cover behind the ball are three tips coaches can use with players to help them choose to run from deep. the coach can work with the fullback to get them to consider these options.
Fullbacks need to be comfortable playing off limited touches and combining with players around the ball. Wall passes, forward passes, give-and-go passes, and clipped passes are some ways the fullback could combine with players around them to get into advanced attacking positions. The movement and reaction after a pass are when the fullback will show the intent to join the attack and continue the combination.
Combination play is usually a quick series of passes, along the floor off limited touches that eventually lead to an attacking opportunity such as a cross or shot. The speed that the ball moves make it difficult to defend against and the demands for the players on the ball to move it quickly can mean that it is difficult to be accurate with this type of play. Coaches therefore must be patient and willing to accept errors.
Once a fullback is in a wide advanced position their end product must be accurate. The priority is to miss the first defender with their cross. So often players get into great positions to attack and then hit the first defender with their cross which means that they have to run a long way to get back into a defensive position.
The accuracy of the cross is one thing but so is the type of cross required from the player. The main types of crosses for fullbacks to consider are deep crosses towards the back post, a whipped cross between the goalkeeper and the penalty spot, and a pullback between the penalty spot and the 18-yard box. The player must make this choice based on what they see and decide on the height and weight of the cross.
Coaches can help the fullback with their decision-making by asking them to lift their heads before they cross to see the positions of their attackers and the opponent’s defenders. Then they must decide on the type of delivery required. Accurate crossing is a must for this position and therefore the coach must set up game-based activities that allow the players in these positions to practice repetitively using a range of crossing techniques.
5. Physical Attributes
The physical attributes of these players can contribute greatly to the type of fullback they become. Coaches must be able to look at their players and make accurate judgments about their capabilities and not just expect them to execute every physical attribute. Some players will be powerful, whereas other players will be quick and agile. Some players will have great endurance levels.
The key from the coach is identifying what attributes the fullback has and then coaching them to use them to win the duels they are faced with. This way players can embrace their differences and develop what they have to be the best they can be rather than being assigned attributes that they are just not capable of developing.
Some desirable attributes to look out for are changes of pace, mobility to make full-pitch runs, speed to outrun players, ability to change direction quickly, good reactions, and strength. As a coach looking out for these will help you to help the player use their physical skills or develop things they do not have at this moment. Some of it will be able to improve whereas other things may not.
For example, the strong players can be dominant 1 v 1 defenders, the quick players can join the attacks, and the mobile players can join attacks and then also get back to defend. The players with good reaction times and changes of pace can be dominant 1 v 1 attacker. Some players will have one of these attributes some will have more. Look at how the best players in the world use their attributes and try to pass this knowledge to the players.
Physical attributes are individualized and therefore coaches need to be observant of these aspects and then coach the player to use them to their advantage. Keep this at the forefront of your mind next time you are expecting a player to demonstrate something they are maybe not ready for or capable of achieving.
6. 1 v 1 Defending Skills
Fullbacks by nature need to be able to defend 1 v 1 situations relatively well. They must be able to find ways to win back the ball, slow down the attack, or put the ball out of play to allow their team to recover. Much of this is dependent on the opponent they are up against. The Fullback must try to observe this and defend in a way that they think this player does not like.
Win back the ball, if a fullback thinks they can get to the ball early and arrive either before the receiver or on the receiver’s touch to make a tackle then this would be desirable because upon winning the ball they can immediately launch an attack. The type of skills needed to do this require anticipation before they make an actual decision to defend.
Anticipation, This involves the fullback reading the type of pass into the receiver, the body position, and readiness of the receiver then choosing a technique to win back the ball. If the receiver is not ready the defender may step in front of the receiver and steal the ball. If the receiver can get turned the fullback may try to arrive as the receiver turns to make a tackle.
The choice here is between getting tight and intercepting or holding their ground until the player is turned and making a tackle.
If an attacker does get turned and can run at the fullback then the opportunity to win the ball may be limited so the fullback may have to slow down the attack. This involves specific movement patterns such as running backward while watching the ball and also trying to dictate the direction of play by positioning their bodies to show the ball carrier inside or outside.
Running backward can be a tough skill to master as the player needs to turn their bodies to face the attacker while their hips are almost facing forwards. During this process, the fullback has to try and get down the line of the ball to prevent crossing opportunities or clear passes through them. So the fullback is funneling the attacker where they want them to go and protecting the space inside of them
If the 1 v 1 duel is upon them then the fullback needs to set their feet into a staggered position where their front foot blocks the inside space and their back foot is ready to make up ground and make a tackle. The key when defending these types of situations is not diving into the tackle too early, and make the attacker beat them, so staying in control and patient is helpful.
The longer the duel is delayed the more bodies your team can get behind the ball to stop the opponent’s attack. If the attacker is tricky or tough to defend against there is nothing wrong with the fullback just getting a foot on the ball and edging it out of play. This is of course if they feel their options are limited to this. The coach can help the player with these types of decisions and support their understanding.
Observing the attackers and knowing what they are good at or don’t like can help the fullback win the duel, some attackers don’t like contact so getting tight early can help, some attackers are quick so holding the position and slowing down the attack can limit their options. Some attackers are strong and want contact so trying to intercept or step in front of them can be a way of overcoming this.
7. Psychological Skills
Fullbacks must have good psychological skills to deal with the demands of their positions, they must show good levels of concentration to deal with the ball and watch the game, to spot moments when they can join in attacks, get on the ball or get into a position to defend. It is a position where you cannot switch off because you are constantly required to attack or defend.
Communication is also an important psychological aspect to play this position, the fullback must communicate verbally to help teammates, for example telling players they can turn or to set the ball back. they can also communicate through their intent so overlapping to join an attack, and moving quickly to get into positions to get on the ball.
Confidence is a final trait required of players in this position. confident players are often players who are communicating well through their verbal detail or their actions. Confidence comes from performing actions well and consistently. Confidence is often hanging by a thread, it can be lost as quickly as it is gained. Coaches need to recognize this and be willing to demonstrate patience with players who have mixed levels of confidence.
Psychological skills are often out of the control of the coach however there are some basic concepts coaches can use to help develop these psychological skills. They can encourage players to stay focused and question their intent following good and bad moments of play to help them make sense of it, reassure them, or help them.
The coach can train psychological skills through their practices for example concentration could be developed by constantly serving balls into practice so there are no outs, this way players must contrate on the next ball rather than worrying about the ball which has just left the field of play.
Confidence can be improved by coaches being aware of individual effort and catching players doing the right thing. When players do something great praise their intent, and their effort to execute, and remind them what they did, this way players remember with more emotion which leads to a greater chance that the players will repeat their actions again or not be worried about messing up.
8. Transitional Experts
This is something that fullback must be willing to do as part of their position, The fullback is in a constant transition because if their team has the ball they must try to be in a position to attack and join in or defend to win back the ball if their team is out of possession. The two main skills needed to transition well are reactive skills in terms of reacting before the opponent attack or defend. The second skill is awareness.
Both of these skills relate to concentration and being able to anticipate the next action of the game. The fullback needs to be watching and thinking about the moment as well as keeping an eye on the potential actions which may occur. The best players react quickly to the transition and almost earn a little more time on the ball or increase their chances of winning the ball because they reacted first.
The coach could talk to the players in percentages in terms of where they place their focus such as a 70% focus on attacking and a 30% focus on defending. This scale could be flipped depending on where the ball is or the danger. But this sliding scale should hopefully help the players understand that they are never full-out attacking or defending. If they are going to transition well they must be able to do both.
Coaches can also use practice design to help the players and plan practices that do not allow the players to switch off. So games or practices where a player attacks then immediately defend or defend then immediately attacks, topics such as counter-attacking are good for training transitions. Transitional training can be intense so coaches must include sufficient recovery between activities.
Where do I start? Pick the tips which are most relevant to the age and understanding of the players you coach, try not to overcomplicate things, give the player the tip, plant the seed and encourage them to have a go at what you ask them to work on
Are there any other articles on this site about soccer positions? Yes, there are some links below to different positions that may be of some use to develop your players or your understanding.
- Central Defenders
- Defensive Midfielders
- Attacking Midfielders
Conclusion – How To Be A Good Fullback In Football?
The fullback position in soccer is fantastic to play as you’ll see a lot of the ball and will be heavily involved in the play throughout the match. But it’s not an easy position to play. The modern-day fullback has a lot on their plate and they need to attack and defend effectively to help their team succeed. In addition to the great decision-making and elite skills, they must possess. The fullback needs to stay focused on the match for the entire 90 minutes. Which is a lot easier said than done.
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