How to Dominate as a Fullback in Soccer (Tips and Secrets)
The fullback position in soccer is one of the toughest on the pitch…
They’re expected to cover the entire flank while supporting the team in attack and remaining solid at the back. During a game, that’s a long list of responsibilities.
Understanding when to push up and support the team out wide and when to sit back and provide support to the centrebacks is a key component of playing the fullback position.
They can easily let the team down if they’re caught in the wrong position.
For these reasons, the modern-day fullback needs to be one of the fittest players on the pitch as they’ll be required to sprint back and forth all match.
It’s no longer enough for them to simply defend…
They need to contribute in the attacking third of the pitch for the team to have success.
Below, I’ll share with you the important traits a fullback needs to possess, I’ll dive deeper into their roles and responsibilities, and also share a few important fullback tips.
Here we go...
7 Traits of a Great Soccer Fullback
With so much to think about and the game moving at 100 miles an hour, it’s easy to get overwhelmed in this specialised position.
Let’s talk about the key qualities every great fullback must possess to maximise their contribution to the team.
1. Incredibly High Level of Fitness
Fullbacks need to have incredible stamina to be tear up and down their flank for the full duration of the match.
Though their primary objective is to help the team keep a clean sheet, the modern game increasingly asks fullbacks to contribute in the attacking third as well.
This means they must support their winger out wide while making sure they can drop back into position at any moment’s notice.
90 minutes of hard work.
Also, having a great turn of pace helps in these situations as it allows the fullback to get back into position quicker or to be an option out wide when the team is attacking.
2. Great Awareness and Decision-Making
Since they’re required to both attack and defend (as we’ve talked about), fullbacks can easily get caught out of position if they’re not careful.
Playing far up the field leaves a large chunk of space behind them which they need to be aware of at all times.
They need to understand exactly when to play the ball to the winger or midfielder inside and also if they should attempt an overlap or not.
Making the wrong decision in this situation will leave the team wide open at the back.
3. Disciplined and Have Fantastic Positioning
Being in the right position at exactly the right time is more important for fullbacks than most other positions on the pitch.
The positions they take up defensively are crucial for keeping the team’s defense solid.
While it can be tempting to sprint forward and join the attack, they must remain disciplined and do what’s best for the team at all times.
4. Outstanding Technical Skills
Continuing out from the last point about positioning…
Unfortunately, being in the correct position is largely irrelevant if a player doesn’t have the technical skills to put in a great cross or keep the ball moving within the team.
A modern fullbacks needs great ball control skills and they must be able to play one touch passes with their teammates.
Also, they should be able to run with the ball at speed and have the dribbling skills to get out of a sticky situation when they find themselves in one.
5. Calm and Composed Under Pressure
A fullback needs to be calm and confident when they have the ball.
This is the best way to ensure they’ll help the team keep possession and advance up field when the time is right to do so.
With the opposition’s winger constantly looking to test them with their speed and bag of tricks, the fullback needs to be alert and refrain from diving and committing a silly foul.
Instead, they must remain calm and look to dispossess the winger or force them out wide away from goal.
6. Clear Communication With Teammates
Being such an important position, the fullback must remain in constant communication with the teammates around them.
This alerts the others as to when the fullback is going to push forward and helps the midfielders know if they should stay back and drop into the space vacated.
Communication is especially important with the winger.
They need to understand each other’s game inside and out as well as communicate clearly with each other whether they’re defending together or attacking down the wing.
The Roles and Responsibilities of a Soccer Fullback
If you’ve made it this far into the article, you’ll have a good understanding of how tough the fullback position can be.
No wonder the best fullbacks are commanding such mammoth transfer fees!
Now, let’s talk about what the team and coach expects of them...
1. Contribute to the Defensive Unit
A fullback needs to work well with the rest of the defensive unit…
Communicating with the centreback closest to them and covering each other when necessary,
If a centreback goes up to challenge for a header, for example, the fullback needs to be there to cover for them if they lose out and the ball drops in behind the defence.
2. Win Their Duels
If faced with a one-on-one situation, the fullback should attempt to force their opponent out wide and away from goal.
This requires them to have great timing also to understand when to make a challenge and when it’s best to be patient and wait for backup.
They need to be strong in the tackle and never get outcompeted in any battle that they face.
3. Prevent Crosses Getting Into the Box
Defending the flank is a demanding task.
At times, the opposition may have a winger, fullback, and a supporting midfielder buzzing around the edge of the box.
To prevent this, the fullback needs to track their opponent and stop them from getting past and into the box. This requires standing up, not diving into tackles, and blocking any crosses.
4. Show For the Ball and Give the Team Width
Once possession has been regained, the fullback must push out wide and offer their teammates a passing option out wide.
By hugging the touchline, they create space inside for their teammates to take advantage of.
When the ball does come out to them, the fullback should position their body so they can either:
- Pass along the line to the winger in front.
- Pass inside to a midfielder.
- Pass back towards the centreback or keeper.
With their composure and great technical skills, they should hardly ever lose the ball unless they attempt risky passes forward.
5. Advance Up the Pitch and Overlap When Possible
Moving forward, the fullback needs to work in tandem with the winger while remaining alert to an opposition player looking to drop behind.
This requires smart positioning and making the right decision time and time again as to whether to advance and overlap or not.
Once in the final third of the pitch, the fullback can either cross from deep or give the winger space to play by making an overlapping run.
6. Cover Their Whole Side of the Pitch
This means both offensively and defensively.
If the ball is lost in an attacking position, the fullback needs to immediately sprint back into place and take up their defensive position.
Getting ready to start the process of building up an attack all over again.
5 Tips for a Soccer Fullback
In the heat of a match when you’re under intense pressure, you want soccer to come naturally so you can act almost instinctively on the pitch.
With enough time spent on the training ground, your game will gradually improve as you master the nuances of the position.
Here are some tips on how you can make the step up to the next level...
1. Develop Your Focus and Concentration
Your play can influence the outcome of a match in a split second when you’re playing a position as important as fullback.
Which is why you need to remain switched on throughout every second of the game.
One of the best ways to stay focused for the entire 90 minutes is to stay in constant communication with your teammates.
2. Understand Everything About Your Position
A key component of being a great fullback is understanding what’s expected of you at any given time throughout the match.
While training and playing matches will help you gain experience understanding your role as fullback, another great way to learn is to watch videos of your favorite fullbacks and how they like to play.
Watch the positions they take up on the pitch and the ways they marshal the opposing winger.
Then attempt to add these elements into your own play.
3. Practice Defending One-on-One Situations
Every player has a different skill set.
Some wingers are tricky dribblers while others are speedsters who like to power into space.
With tricky wingers who like the ball at their feet, get as close to them as possible but make sure that they don’t manage to turn you in one quick movement.
With speedy wingers, drop off and give yourself a couple of extra yards in case they try to knock the ball past you.
4. Improve Your Conditioning
To make sure that you can compete for the entire match, work on your conditioning.
Truth is, the fullbacks need to be among the fittest players on the pitch.
You need to be able to attack and defend for the whole ninety minutes, bombing up and down the flank without blowing out too early.
Being fit will also keep your mind fresh and help you to avoid making silly mistakes when your body and mind are getting tired.
5. Constantly Develop Your Technical Skills
As mentioned earlier, having the energy and tactical knowledge to get in the right positions means nothing if you lack the skills to have a positive impact.
Since you’ll be operating in a tight space on the flank, you must be able to quickly bring the ball under control and move it on to a teammate.
Work on your one-touch passing and ball control before looking to improve your dribbling skills.
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.
Further Reading: 15 Traits of a World-Class Soccer Defender (Position Guide)
Further Reading: 11 Soccer Positions Explained (Roles and Responsibilities)