In a new series of articles, we are going to look at the roles and responsibilities for players in certain positions, across a number of formations. The intention here is to help coaches get the team organised, and provide some ideas about the specific instructions given to individual players.
We are starting with the 4-3-3. It is, generally, a formation that is used to display attacking intent – three forwards providing an increased number of opportunities. This attacking bias means it is all the more important for defenders to understand their jobs.
To start, we will cover the full backs, an easily overlooked position, but one that is integral to a solid back line.
1 – Negate the opposing winger. As a full back, the most immediate threat that needs managing is the opposing winger. The winger will generally be looking for time and space, as their goal will be to create chances – be it an early cross into the box, or an attempt to get away from the full back.
The full back, therefore, needs to be alert to the threat at all times – whenever possible getting close enough to the winger to pressure the first touch, and deny the winger time on the ball.
2 – When the ball is on the opposite side of the pitch, the full back forms a significant part of the back line, almost acting as a third centre back. The full back needs to watch their winger – but should be first to any over-hit crosses that are beyond the reach of the centre backs.
3 – Keep the winger on their weak foot if possible. This requires the full back to identify how well the winger can use each foot to pass and cross. If there is an obvious weakness, the full back needs to force the winger to use the weaker foot whenever possible.
1 – Throw-ins. To support the attacking players, the full back should take responsibility for throw-ins on their side of the pitch, up to a pre-agreed point. The full back should be prepared to act quickly to assist momentum, and should be practicing throws in training to both increase accuracy, and agree plans and routines with the players receiving the throws.
2 – When possible, the full back can join the attack by supporting, or overlapping the attacking players in front of them. This needs to be done with caution, as it can leave the winger unmarked and create danger should a counter attack occur.