If I ever had the freedom of building my dream squad in Football Manager certainly I'd start by buying world-class full backs. In all AI game systems I’m familiar with, full backs can clinch our advantage in attack and have a decisive role in stopping aggressive opposition wing players dead in their tracks.
THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE FULL BACKSMakers allowed giving five roles to full backs out of which one is not suitable for virtually anything else than protecting the score at the end of the match, and among the four remaining three roles are similar as triplets. Hence arises a clear conclusion that we can assign three different roles to our full backs.
Defensive Full Back (DFB) is similar in his behaviour to the central defender with the defence duty. He does not participate in offensive actions, does not support distribution, does not create passing options on the flank. He sticks consistently to the area assigned to him, and even with high tactical freedom for the whole team and offensive mentality, he always stays in his own half watching the events from a distance and waiting for an enemy attack.
Inverted Wing Back (IWB) is, in turn, the choice for those of you who need to crowd the midfield while on the ball, but maintain a very conservative defensive line when without the ball. IWB sets up shop closer to central defenders during the defensive phase and much closer to central midfielders during the attack. One has to remember that he does not support any (literally: ANY) tasks on the flank, so on the offensive end we must look for other solutions there. However, he can be of great assistance in the middle of the field, especially in systems based on playing from the deep, roaming from positions and dynamic offensive formations.
Having two IWBs on the flanks and a defensive midfielder, one can ignore central midfielders (!), which means that we can leave this sector virtually free and move the other five players into attacking positions, just remembering to leave someone with support duty in the attacking central midfielder slot as a link with the defensive midfielder in the attack (acceptable roles: DM, RGA, A).
Football Manager players use most often the other three available roles for the sides of the defence, probably not realizing that these roles vary so slightly that essentially they can be put into one bag.
Full Back (FB), Complete Wing Back (CWB) and a Wing Back (WB) move identically in defence, and differ only with a few nuances of the offensive game.
So why we see FB more often near the opponent’s penalty box than WB, and the CWB position on the tactical diagram is shown higher than those both? I cannot speak for the diagram, but the situation near the penalty box is the result of the fact, that the behaviour of our full back in attack is dependent on the behaviour of our wingers (!). If we do not change the positions, roles, duties and instructions for our wingers, this single change of our full back’s role will do nothing.
Regardless of your choice (FB, CWB or WB) his behaviour won’t change. Full backs with these three roles behave almost identically while playing without the ball, and their play on the ball primarily differs with relation to the moment in which they join the offensive play.
- FB does this as the latest, waiting for the development of the action almost to the point where the line of passing is already in the opponents' half.
- WB joins the action a little earlier by creating a passing option on the flank, and by setting up in direct contact with his winger and following the action.
- CWB does not wait for development of the action and immediately after gaining possession goes boldly forward not only joining the winger, but often doubling his position, and in some cases (when the winger is busy helping in the early stages of distribution) even exchanging position with him, going alone on the offensive. However, if the action is built up steadily (position attack), then after the initial phase of play, as the game moves to around the opposition penalty area, our full backs will take the same position regardless of their assigned role.
We will see much greater differences in the behaviour of our defenders by changing their duties, not roles. So if we change our FB/s to CWB/s, the effect will be barely noticeable (he will join the action earlier), however change from FB/s to FB/a changes the player on that position radically.
LATERAL SECTORSWhile analysing the movement of our full backs on the pitch, one must clearly distinguish the with/without the ball phases. With this in mind it's easiest to assess the role of DFB, because both in the defence and offense he positions himself on the pitch relating to the position of the central defender: for cover a bit deeper, for stopper a bit higher. In the other cases things are starting to get complicated.
The behaviour of the full back in defence is always connected with the positions of the central defenders, but in three cases the position of our winger (!) has a fundamental role. For a better picture I present a table below showing all the dependencies:
|Role/duty||Without the ball (defence)
connected with position:
|With the ball (attack)
connected with position:
|FB, WB / d||CD, M RL||M RL, AM RL|
|FB, CWB, WB / s||CD, M RL, AM RL||M RL, AM RL|
|FB, CWB, WB / a||CD, M RL, AM RL||M RL, AM RL|
|IWB / s||CD||CD, DM|
|DFB / d||CD||CD|
As I mentioned before, IWB and DFB give us defensively very conservative defenders, holding to their own zone and constantly peeking at central defenders, but we will get very similar effect by giving defence duty to FB or WB. The only difference will be that in the case of losing the ball already in the phase of distribution (middle of the pitch) DFB will be still on his position, IWB will be already closer to the centre, FB a little higher on the wing, and WB few steps in front of him.
The greatest change comes with the change of duty (defence, support or attack) on the positions of FB, WB and CWB, but still those changes relate mainly to the “on the ball” phase of the game, and so to the participation of our full backs in constructing, developing and finishing the action.
Defence duty makes our full backs more tied to the position of the central defenders in the distribution phase. They will stick to the line and definitely delay active involvement in the game on the flank. Securing wings here is virtually impossible.
Support duty will force our full backs (regardless of the role assigned to them) to play an active role in the distribution immediately after gaining possession. They not only create passing options on the flank by expanding the field of play, but in case possession was gained on the flank and our winger decides to lead a counterattack, he can count on our full back to follow behind him.
Attack duty is the solution ensuring, that immediately after gaining possession our full backs will become part of the offensive formation (I repeat: regardless of the role assigned to them). Depending on where this took place our full back can either follow the action on the flank, or even initiate it. Also, there are cases when our full back with attack duty is ahead of the winger on the pitch.
It is worth mentioning here, though the lesson about wingers is yet before us, that the role and duty of our wingers has the great importance during “on the ball” phase regarding behaviour of our full backs. This mostly concerns cases of the final phase of distribution, but a lot of these behaviours, we will be also able to observe in the phase of action development.
If we entrust our winger with the role of an inside forward with attack duty, expect to see our full back in free space left by him near the penalty area. When our man on the flank is a classical winger, and with support duty at that, we do not have to order overlapping in the team commands, because our full back, even with support duty, will look for overlap at least several times during the match.
Positions, and thus the behaviours of the full back and the winger are closely related and how one reacts depends the reaction of the other. Also it is important to remember that the interplay of given duties either weakens (d + a) or boosts (a + s, s + s, a + a) this relation, but is not able to break it up completely. A winger positioning deeply will also cause our full back in defence to withdraw a few steps, while one aggressively going forward will “drag" his full back with him. It is also not difficult to notice that the average position of our full back on the pitch (no matter in what role) changes depending on whether our winger takes the M or AM position.
WING BACK POSITIONThis one deserves at least a paragraph, because this position is a component of many systems with three central defenders. The wing back position (not to be confused with the role of WB!) does not differ fundamentally from the behaviour of the roles mentioned above, because in this position we can set players in three roles that were already discussed (WB, CWB, IWB). Adjustment of their position and behaviour on the pitch concerns very clearly the defensive positioning of our central defenders and offensive position of wingers. This can be seen most clearly, when in addition to two WBs and three CDs we will also place on the field two players in MR and ML positions. Our WBs in defence will take the positions of typical WBs and we will get a system of five defenders in line. Unfortunately our offensive play may suffer, because our WBs will patiently keep doubling the positions of midfielders. One should in this situation get our midfielders to cut inside (WP) or hold back (DW or WM), and defenders to actively attack down the flank (WB/a or CWB/a).
The only major adjustment of those players’ behaviour should concern the situation in which the WB position is our only position on the wings (no M RL or AM RL), so in addition to the tasks in defence we expect them also to act as offensive players (defensive wide midfielders?). This will, however, be discussed in the lesson dedicated to our wings.
SUNDERLANDThe lesson is over. Next time we will finish discussing defence by looking at dependencies between the positions and roles we have analysed so far, and also at defenders’ functions, presenting a number of ready-made defensive game systems along with examples of different formations and their usage. Now let's look at the flanks of the defence at the Stadium of Light.
PETROFFWanting to show the differences and similarities of the full back roles mentioned above, but also to indicate dependencies resulting from them, we need to diversify our approach in the coming games and modify our tactics in such a way, that without changing the selected formation we’d make oyr rivals’ life miserable and take advantage of our strengths by applying and comparing presented options for the flanks of our defence.
Swansea (4-1-2-3 DM Wide) against all appearances hid the strengths in the middle of the field. Expecting the guests to play from the deep with an anchorman in the hole I decided on a new variant on the wings (CWB/a + IF/s on the wings) with greater freedom in the middle of the field and careful ball possession (2xBPD + RGA). Swansea plays through the middle, we play through the flanks, so I create space for our full backs by bringing wingers inside. This variant (4-3-3 kbo) confirmed its effectiveness on the pitch and although the score could disappoint us, statistics clearly show that there was only one team on the pitch.
In the fourth round of the FA Cup our rival was Southampton (4-2-1-3 DM Wide), so our only change should relate to the width of the game (we play narrowly, because we won’t get through their strong defensive midfield, on the wings we will play a more open game and they will be limited to individual actions) and creative freedom (the rival is stronger than us and it's a cup game, so the stakes are higher).
In our tactics (4-3-3 boa) we place two FB/a on the flanks of the defence + two IF/s (we will see on the pitch what the difference between the CWB and FB is) and the striker in the role of F9 (the rival is stronger than Swansea, and we are going to field rotation players, so this time we count on inside forwards -> F9 will create a place for them in the middle). With this combination the guests could only watch us play and hope for a counterattack.
In the second half of the match, in an attempt to turn the tide of the game (around the 60th minute) they turned to the offensive variant of 3-3-4 Wide (sic!), which unfortunately thwarted my plans of playing with 4-3-3 boa until the end of the match, trying not to turn everything upside down (we should switch to 4-3-3 tim -> see Lesson 1).
Middlesbrough (4-4-1-1 2DM) is an opponent blocking his final third similar to Southampton, but at the same time holding his wingers in check, so it's the perfect time to test our full back defenders in the role of inverted wing backs (4-3-3 ows). This way we return to the classic attacking wingers (without roaming) and a poacher, in the middle we’ll play higher and more direct.
If we strengthen the middle of the pitch (IWB), then let’s play wide with less pressing to keep the shape of our formation, but also stretch it by giving our opponent more space in the middle while blocking access to the goal. The entire storm will hit the middle, and in the meantime our wingers will have a lot of space on the flanks. Here is how giving initiative to the rival does not necessarily translate into the number of chances.
On the last day of the winter transfer window, a 21-year-old versatile attacker Zach Clough arrived at the club (recommended by IWABIK), purchased from Nottingham for 7.5 million euro with numerous clauses and a promise to pay 3 million extra in exchange for 20 league goals.
Young Clough is a potential successor to Defoe, but he can also play on the wings, making him an interesting purchase because after this season Januzaj and Anichebe will be gone, and with Jeremain Lens back from the loan to Fenerbahce, I'm going to get rid of Pienaar as well, and in his place move Larsson who probably better creates than runs on the wing.
Clough will not be the likely first choice, but in the face of shortening bench, his versatility can be a decisive advantage in the fight for a place on the pitch.
On this occasion it is worth mentioning that Mr Petroff isn't going to keep John O'Shea in the team as well, and Lescott will probably save his contract only because of lack of other options, so so it makes sense to ask the advisors to find for the pair Kone – Djilobodji someone able to push the Lescott from the bench.
Sean Dyche’s Burnley plays boring, carefull football (4-4-1-1 2DM) and also uses pressing and tighter marking, so we will approach them boldly and wider (4-3-3 bwo) with two wingers (W/s) supported actively by wing backs (WB/a) and the highly attacking middle (BWM/s) and higher than usual pressing with tighter marking.
We play at home, so we need to get the ball fast. This should result in remarkable confusion in the middle of the enemy’s defence and quick raids down the flanks. Seeing formations of both teams before the match I expected slaughter. I even allowed myself the luxury of selecting for this match some of our second-best players and giving Clough a debut in front of home crowd.
Four games, four different settings of full backs against two different formations, though differing significantly in the game picture. There are nuances, but the most important conclusion from the analysis below is that the roles and duties of our full backs have a decisive influence on their offensive behaviour. During defense all behave similarly, inless we give them additional instructions (e.g. tighter marking of highly positioned Burnley wingers withdrew our flanks about two steps backwards).
When Manchester City (4-1-2-3 DM Wide) arrived at the Stadium of Light we warned them that Ndong was back in action, but Guardiola responded to this with moderate optimism. We played the same way as against Southampton, but this time we a had much better squad. The result, of course, is impressive, but we should be first and foremost happy about the statistics, and sceptics should be well advised to look into the analysis of the average position of our FB/a’s in this match: in defence they were deep behind the central defenders line, but on the offensive both advanced far forward.
In the fifth round of the FA Cup against in-form Watford (5-3-2 WB) we played 4-3-3 ows, with one major change: instead of Cabral as AP/a I selected for the game (in accordance with the recommendations from the previous lesson) Khazri in the AMC position with AM/a function. The match was more fierce than the score would indicate, but the number of chances speaks for itself: the game with three defenders does not bring in FM as many gains as in real life. When impatient hosts switched to 3-4-3 the only thing I changed was to take Khazri off and sub him with Clough as SS, switching Defoe to trequartista.
In the sixth round of the FA Cup (FA Cup) we were given a game against Leicester City, meanwhile in the final of EFL Cup (League Cup) Tottenham defeated Watford 3:2.
With Southampton sinking in the league (4-2-3-1 DM Wide) victory was given to us by Clough at the end of the match, but even if it hadn't happened I would not have the right to complain. Our 4-3-3 kbo smashed the rival.
Against Chelsea (5-2-3 WB) 4-3-3 boa was the only choice, because the rival was not only strong chasing the leaders after a poor beginning of the season, but also it played very offensively with strong pressing. We will play narrow and we will challenge in the middle of the field, counting on our flanks and vigilant defenders.
Leicester of Juande Ramos (4-2-3-1 Wide) require a different approach, and I think the most interesting variant of the game against widely set opponent is 4-3-3 bwo, but with two BWMs in the middle of the field supporting defenders and a narrow field of play keeping opponent’s attention in the middle of the field. While choosing our setting I also noted that substitutes were to play in this match, because FA Cup was not at all my primary concern. As usual in such situations, it turned out, that in football anything is possible and thus we will have to limp through a little longer.
We will lose in the semi-finals with Manchester United, but at least it will happen at Wembley Stadium which in itself will be a high point of our fantastic season. The season, which slowly comes to the end, proving that FM is only a computer game in which the skilful use of the keyboard has an advantage over dreams and fanatical watching of Sky Sports.
Meanwhile, I found no reason to change anything in the match against Arsenal (4-2-3-1 Wide), since 4-3-3 bwo (meaning narrow and tighter marking) with a very weak line-up turned out to be enough against Leicester. Facing mounting injuries, however, I decided to give a chance to Cabral as AP/s, hoping for some good and unexpected passes, as well as for a more open game by the guests, which (as usually in Wenger's case) would cause as much confusion near our goal, as near theirs.
One has to admit honestly that for the first time this season the rival’s pressure on our goal was so strong that we owe the victory only to tight defence and luck. However, it does not change the fact that we have done a lot to help our team, and a detailed analysis of individual Gunners attacks shows we did not leave them too much space for distribution and combinative actions. Most of the threats came from individual actions of the rivals. We enter April with our heads raised high, being sure that regardless of the developments in the close season we will finish it in top five.
KLUCHMANIn this part I will try to show you the differences in the behaviour of full backs depending on roles and duties which we will assign them to within the variants that exist in our tactics. But before I get to that, I'd like just to add to what has already been written above about some of the roles and duties.
IWB due to his tendency to cut inside, and even to try runs with the ball in that direction can play a extremely useful role in some circumstances. Though presumably he does not play too offensively, this may change in fluid and offensively set systems, where IWB sometimes finds himself even in the position of the attacking midfielder, which may cause some confusion in the opposition defence.
You may want to consider using this role especially when you play against a formation, which is hard to be dominated in the middle of the pitch (e.g. 4-4-2), and at the same time you want to play short passes. IWB cuts inside, often behaving as an extra midfielder, creating passing options and hence, being on the ball a lot more often (sometimes twice as often) than even a very offensively set up full back in a more typical role. However, by allocating the IWB role to the full back, you need to keep in mind that in every action phase someone else will have to create passing options on the flank.
The behaviour of the other full backs, as has already been mentioned, does not differ too much depending on the role. Sometimes, however, you can see a few nuances that may be worth considering.
For example, the role of an "ordinary" full back with the attack duty can be tweaked to our needs to a greater degree than the role of WB or CWB with the same duty, since they have a lot of default individual instructions. Even more flexibility in this regard can be accomplished via full backs and – especially – wing backs with support duty. If we don’t change anything in the individual instructions of WB with support duty (he has only one – get further forward), it will be easy to note that this player relatively often tends to play the ball on the ground into the hole, instead of crossing the ball, even if he is in a preferable position to do the latter.
When you aim to create a tactics, in which you have a very high ball possession just for the very fun of it, the IWB and WB with support duty and tweaked individual instructions should be your most preferred settings for full backs.
WB and CWB with attack duty do not differ particularly in behaviour. However, when you want to make a full back your only player on the flank, consider what exactly you want to achieve. Because, as has already been mentioned by Peter, CWB moves forward slightly earlier, making him a more offensive player and that’s why CWB has a greater tendency to attack the free space on the wing in the final third, he will get into scoring positions a bit more often than a WB.
There are another two important, although not always obvious differences between the CWB and WB or FB, when they have the attack duty. The first two are prone to running with the ball much more frequently, unless we use the team instruction “dribble less” to nullify this tendency. In addition, CWB and especially WB frequently tend to delay passing the ball into the penalty area, until they run to the by-line, which is not always the optimal solution. FB does not have a similar feature and will more diversify areas, from which he crosses, unless we decide to impose upon him additional instructions.
In the further part of the season I will use the following tactics only:
West Ham (4-1-4-1, tighter marking) was not in good form, but could put to the test our tendency for too many passes in the final third. If they succeed in marking Defoe tightly, surely problems await us. Wanting to play one of our new tactics, I chose the variant with two CWBs, which in theory should provide us a lot of traffic down the flanks and quite a wide game.
We quickly gained the upper hand and we managed to score a goal after a cross from Manquillo. As for the full backs, they position practically on the level with central midfielders or just behind them and much higher than the defensive midfielder already in the build-up phase in the middle of the pitch:
Thanks to that from the very beginning they are involved in the game and force opponents to monitor their positioning.
When the action is near the penalty box, CWBs remain lined up very widely, while the defence remains congested in the middle due to our midfielders, striker and inside forwards. Thus our full backs become the main attackers and the only players who can count on a little freedom and free space. Unfortunately, with our formation and the way the rival is playing we are greatly dependent on the quality of crosses, because it will be difficult for us to break through the middle.
With faster attacks (here counterattack after a West Ham set piece) the CWB may even overtake the second line and once again become a key link in the attack. However, you always have to consider the risks such play carries. In this case Oviedo held the ball for too long, misplaced the pass, and West Ham started the counterattack with us left almost without any cover at the back.
When the rival opened up slightly (4-4-2 2 DM and offensive mentality) after the break, we changed the formation to a new variant with the IWB, to completely dominate the middle of the pitch, while we did not need more risky play of the full backs, because I expected balls to the strikers to be sent from the flanks and after long passes. I had no doubt that the hosts will play a rather direct style.
Here's how full backs behave totally differently in such a situation:
They are practically additional midfielders oriented towards the positional attack. The wingers are playing now more widely, absorbing the attention of the opposing full backs and creating more space for our striker, who is open to receive a pass (unfortunately, this time he was offside).
If we do not regain the ball immediately after a turnover, both full backs with the roles of IWB in defence behave quite normally:
This play shows how narrowly IWB can position themselves:
Oviedo is on the ball just before the penalty box, higher than our midfielders. Unfortunately at this stage of the action there is no longer any possibility to play the ball to the flank, because both wingers are in the penalty box and Oviedo decides to shoot, which is nothing unusual for his role. The depicted formation is a weakness of the tactical system with two inverted wing backs.
From time to time the team may practically be forced to play through the middle, or shoot from a distance lacking other possibilities. On the other hand, formations with one IWB and one offensively playing full back in another role on the opposite side of the pitch function in a quite an interesting fashion.
However, our strength in the midfield also has some advantages, because – first of all – we controlled completely this match and, secondly, the overwhelmed defence was more likely to make mistakes. Here is an extreme case:
Defoe, standing with his back to the goal, drew the attention of several rivals, and normally with our style of play it would often constitute little threat to opponent’s defence, as an inside forward or a winger with support duty too rarely choose to enter into the free space thus created. Morevoer none of midfielders will do so, either. However, the IWB might, if only he is close enough. Oviedo did not score here, but it was our best chance of the match.
If it were not for the accurate long shot we would have probably protected this modest lead till the final whistle.
Against Everton (5-4-1 diamond WB) we played similarly, which means wide, with complete wing backs responsible for good crosses. Narrow play probably would mean us bouncing hitting our heads against the bus. We quickly took the lead, but afterwards not much happened, and guests equalized after a single shot in the first half (of course from a distance). During the break I switched to a tactical variant with the WBs and classic wingers.
As already mentioned, there is no major difference in the behaviour of wing backs with attack duty and complete wing backs.
In this second role Manquillo and Oviedo would be only slightly higher, i.e. a bit closer to the level at which Gibson is playing here. The greater difference in our game is made by more widely positioned wingers.
Finally, despite the two goals it was probably one of the most boring matches in the history of the Premier League, since Defoe could not find space among the three central defenders and defensive midfielder. It is a pity that once again a rival does not need a clear chance to defeat our goalkeeper.
Against Leicester (4-2-3-1) we played similarly (a tactics with two WBs and two wingers). We conceded after a pass behind our defenders, but one click of the mouse (a little deeper) allowed to correct this problem . Defoe’s goal after a counter attack, and then a second after a throw-in allowed us to gain the lead. After the break the hosts did not change their formation, but played with a more offensive attitude. It greatly increased our efficiency in attack.
When playing against the "parked bus" we tire quickly, exchanging many unproductive passes, while having a little more space we are able to create quite a lot of chances. Unfortunately due to my rashness (leaving on the pitch Kone, who had already been booked) we finished the match with ten men, but it didn’t matter anyway.
Against quickly (5-3-2 WB) playing Watford we fought a close fight, and the best chance in the first half was squandered by Defoe after a long pass from Khazri. Seeing what is going on (a deadlock in the middle), after the break we played a bit more direct style discussed in the previous lesson. Unfortunately it was the rival who found a gap in our formation, after which thanks to their hard-working defence and courtesy of Defoe shooting at the pigeons that day, Watford protected the lead till the end.
After previous matches, I chose CWB as having most to offer offensively. This is generally the best setting out of all our tactics so far. Not wanting to watch too much unproductive passing in the middle of the pitch or long inaccurate balls to a lone striker and wingers who are way too passive in running into space, I decided to use these settings in the upcoming matches.
With a nice effect:
For some time at least, as the opponents decided to play on a counter, having quick wingers. This meant new problems for us. All our tactics utilize very offensive full backs and without tinkering with our style of play it is hard to neutralise this kind of attacking game.
During the break of the match against Stoke I set the tactic to BOA, which I could (should) have used from the beginning of the match against Crystal Palace. We were in the lead, but no fireworks were seen on the pitch. This tactics has not been discussed more closely yet, so why not now. The main difference in the way full-backs are playing can be seen for example here:
When one full back with attack duty takes part in the action, the other, being away from the play, does not move forward as aggressively, staying closer to the centre of the pitch and covering for his team-mates. He moves up only when the ball gets closer to his side of the pitch.
We were not very productive and although zero clear chances vs zero rival chances always looks good on paper, you still need to remember that own goals also count. Returning to the initial formation in the closing minutes improved the image of the play, but we failed to equalise.
Because of this defeat only a favourable outcome in the last game against Liverpool could ensure for us a place in the Champions League next year.
Klopp left a lot of space on the flanks with his rather bold 4-2-3-1, so I chose our 4-3-3 WB and, as expected, our crosses to Defoe and long passes over the defensive line proved to be a very effective weapon. In the attack:
The final league standings:
We still had to play an unexpected FA Cup final against Arsenal.
With the same tactics. It should end the same way, but finally there were fewer goals. The more effective team turned out to be...
Still deliberately we did not extend our contract with Sunderland (though there were many offers). Do we stay at the club, or do we look for something new?
ADVISORS RANKINGFor the activity and remarks after the last lesson points go to Nemesh (5 pnt.) and patpul (5 pnt.). Moreover, due to another successful transfer Iwabik increases his pool (10 pnt.). Below you will find the first quiz in our Workshop, with which each of you has a chance to gather 10 points. Good luck.
HERE IS THE QUIZ OF YOUR KNOWLEDGE ABOUT FORMATIONS AND DEFENCE.
CLICK AND HAVE FUN.
ADDITIONAL TACTICS TO DOWNLOAD4-3-3 bwo