The modern day full back is a key player in modern football, having to supplement his more traditional defensive duties whilst supporting the attack with over-lapping runs and helping the attack overload the final third. Although primarily a defensive player the modern day full back must be willing to get forward and add extra width to his teams attack. As well as the core defensive skills required to be a full back such as tackling and marking the modern day full back must also carry technical ability when on the ball showing dribbling and crossing capability whilst aiding the team on the attack. Perfect modern day examples of these players would be Dani Alves and the up and coming David Alaba who can combine both defensive and attacking duties for the team taking their attack to the next level.
Throughout the history of European football there has been many impressive examples of the “complete full back”. Legends of the game such as Roberto Carlos, Cafu and Andreas Brehme and these have all showcased just how vital they can be in helping a team dominate the competitive scene. The impact they can have on the game is more than meets the eye, playing in a conventional 4-4-2 the Full back holds a more traditional role of being part of a solid back four but also being able to add support to the attacking wingers in front of them. Meanwhile a formation that holds three or more central midfielders relies on the full backs for all the width on the attack and any overload in the opposition area would be down to the full backs getting forward. The full backs are mainly suited to a four at the back system whereas any another defensive system would be reliant on wing-backs which are less defensively minded than a full back.
As modern day football has advanced so has the tactics, and evidently so do the roles of the full backs along with every other player. The good old fashioned full back that could get stuck in and get by with just his defensive duties is no longer wanted and clubs are now looking for a player that is just as good at going forward as they are getting back. A player that will highlight this in will be Bayern Munich’s David Alaba, at the solitary age of 23 he has already caught the world’s eye as one of the most impressive full backs in the world. Although Guardiola is constantly tinkering with Bayern’s formation Alaba still finds time to shine at full back even though he could be pushed into midfield or even asked to come inside and be a centre half. When Bayern start with a simpler 4-3-3 Alaba’s role will be vital to the team.
This version of 4-3-3 is a very popular choice for modern football teams, Barcelona also operate a very similar system and the role of the full back is very much underrated. With a narrow midfield 3 for example; Busquets, Rakitic and Iniesta there is a severe lack of width and this causes the wingers to be unprotected unless there was support from the full backs and this is exactly what Alba and Alves offer Barcelona and could be a major part of the team’s recent success. People are quick to give Messi, Neymar and Suarez all the credit for Barcelona’s attack last season however they would not be able to do what they do so successfully if it was not for the tireless working of Alves and Alba’s marauding runs forward helping them create space and offer them options with the overlap and a big part of Barcelona’s attacking prowess is down to the willingness of the full backs.
The “traditional” full back seems to have no place in modern football with managers wanting more offensive teams and that includes the defense along with the ball playing center half’s managers now want full backs that can essentially perform as wingers when needed and that seems to be the modern evolution of the full back. Whether it’s getting one over on the oppositions attacking winger or assisting your strike force the meaning of full back is a very different to the one of twenty years ago and this pattern seems to be appearing to positions all over the field.