You Want To Play Outside Fullback Like A Pro? Let's See What You've Got!

outside fullback

A quality Outside Fullback has to be comfortable with the ball at his feet and be able to play both ways in the modern game.

You better have pace because the other teams wingers are generally the fastest players on the pitch and are coming at you at 100 mph all match long, don't get burned now!

Alba, Alves and Daivies can shut down the most creative players on the pitch step for step while being as much a part of the offence as any player. The modern game asks this question of the outside fullback, do you have the right answer?

Service, composure and an outlet are the pillars that set the foundation for a professional top quality outside fullback. Now you may possess one or more of these attributes, but much like any good dairy farmer knows, there's always more to give.

Pro Training Drills For An Outside Fullback

What Are Some Attributes Of Great Pro Fullbacks?

  • Fantastic 1v1 defender.
  • Composure on the ball.
  • Able to direct and lead outside midfielder.
  • Able to adjust to different situations.
  • Two-way player (defend and attack).

Truly great outside backs are hard to come by. They need to be selfless, discipline and have the ability to be “on” when their outside mid may not be.

There are no two ways about it, an outside fullback who can both defend with discipline and attack with conviction makes a complete player in the position.

Whether you have one or several of these qualities you need to develop a ninety-minute dynamic game to make it to the next level. 

What's More Important How I Attack or How I Defend?

  • The base of a great full back must be that they are a solid 1v1 defender, this is the essential foundation.
  • This means, standing players up when they are dribbling at you, front foot tackles, strong in duels, good ball winner and can track runners in behind them.
  • So to be considered a good outside back you need to be solid in the above qualities, now if you want to be great or outstanding you need to have something more on top of the foundation going forward.
  • This could be speed, ability to serve, dribble, shoot etc. Get the foundation down first then add the offensive part of your game.

How Important Is Fitness As A Full-back?

  • Playing on the flank is like being a 100 meter sprinter at times. Up and down with various linear sprints of anywhere from 5 yards to 100 on any given play. So to answer the question simply, of course it is important.
  • You could have all the skills and attributes of a great back but if you can't keep your conditioning at the level necessary for 90minutes what good is it really?
  • Your fitness is the gas that moves the car so yes always be looking to increase your speed and conditioning is a full back.

Should I Look To Go Forward Even As A Defender?

Well the position itself calls for a player who is strong at defending 1v1 and able to fly up and down the sideline. Sure your main role is to stay home as well it but the position at the professional level asks much more than that.

Combining with your outside midfielder, overlaps, early crosses and strikes on goal are what outside backs playing at the highest level provides for a team on attack.

Sure you’re rated in the position on how well you can defend but being part of the build up and attack is something a complete outside fullback provides.

Does A Fullback Get Much Attention From Scouts?

More now than ever! You can see at the pro level today teams are constantly moving players to the full back position either because they don't have any (good for you demand is low) or they value the position so much they look to put great players there.

There are a thousand wingers and dribblers in this Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar era that defenders are becoming priceless (don't get me started if you're left footed too!) 

Standing out as a full back that can do more than just defend is a fantastic way to make a University or Pro team because of low competition for the position and the difficulty in finding players who really want to be two way fullbacks in this generation.

Know your strengths and stick to or move to an outside fullback to make your next team.

Does A Fullback Touch The Ball Much?

Do they ever! The perception that outside backs are just for defending purposes is as big of a myth as strikers don't need to defend. If you've ever played the position I don't have to tell you how many times you receive the ball from your center back, center mid or outside mid.

You are constantly keeping the rhythm of the game and are involved in much of the build up and regrouping of the teams attack and possession.

Not only that, when you consider how the modern game is played players in this position also look to go forward getting even more touches and looking to be creative in the final third as well.

You may not think that playing outside back is the most glamorous of positions but let me tell you from professional experience that outside backs are some of the most versatile, well rounded players on the pitch.

Top 5 Fullbacks in the World
(Marcelo, Robertson, Davies, Kimmich & Alba)

Alphonso Davies

Joao Cancelo

Andy Robertson

Joshua Kimmich

Jordi Alba

Why Are So Many Wingers Converted To Fullbacks?

If you take a look at some of the best teams in the world right now (Barcelona, Madrid and Tottenham to name a few) they all play with outside fullbacks that have been converted from the outside midfield position.

A coach may do this for a few reasons, either they have too many players in the outside mid position but wants you on the pitch. Or maybe they just want a player who is more composed with the ball at their feet in that position.

Many players make the jump from wing positions because of their ability to keep possession of the ball and also now that position has a player who knows how to go forward.

Any good attack is a balanced and diverse one so with that in mind if you're a crafty player who can play both ways outside back may be for you, hey Marcelo and Alves do it, why can't you? 

What Should An Outside Fullback Be Working On Before And After Training?

You should always think about what do I do most in a game? Do I dribble, shoot, defend, etc. So for an outside fullback the list should include:

  • Long linear sprints.
  • Crosses (whipped, drive and lofted).
  • 1v1 defending.
  • Ball clearances.

Yes of course there are more from time to time but these are really the ones that happen most often and probably close to 70-80% of your game. So now rank yourself from 1 to 10 in each of these qualities (honestly now Dani Alves).

Anything below an 8 needs to be worked on, anything below a 4 or 5 needs immediate attention. Simple exercises for the above qualities of your position you can do before training or on your own include:

  • Long sprints - Well that's easy, mark out cones at 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 yards and do a series of shuttle runs with and without the ball.
  • Crosses - Have a friend serve you some balls on the ground at you, in front of you, in the air etc and practice taking one touch and two touches serving the ball in at various spots in the box.
  • 1v1 defending - Get the best 1v1 player on your team and ask them to dribble at your to an end line for 15min before every practice, if you can stop them you'll be in good shape.
  • Ball clearances - this one's easy as you can imagine. Have a friend serve you balls on the ground, mid waist and in the air and vary the body part you want to use to clear the ball both medium and long distances.

Can Left & Right Footed Players Play On Either Side?

Does the pope pray?

Absolutely. First off a professional level player should be technically sound enough to be able to hit a ball with both feet. Shoot, cross and serving a ball with both feet will open up their game to be able to cut in and shoot with their dominant foot when in the final third.

An outside back that can produce at a high level with both is what it takes to play at the professional level.

Top 5 Things To Remember When Playing Outside Fullback

It's all about playing with focus and deliberately looking to execute your job on the pitch game in and game out. Say these to yourself before every game to get in the right mindset before stepping out on the pitch.

1. Defender First Mentality

  • You are a defender first! Just because you see Alphonso Davies and Marcelo's highlights in the final third does not mean you ignore your primary responsibilities as a defender.

2. Pick Your Moments

  • Pick your moments when to go forward when it is both on and makes sense.

3. Fitness First

  • Staying fit is half the battle. If you keep your conditioning at a high level and are healthy you will always be prepared for the demands of the position.

4. Specialize

  • Develop one attacking element to your game and be really great at it.
  • Cross, shot or dribble be known for one think on the attacking end as well.

5. Cover!

  • Cover Cover Cover! If your winger, or center back gets out of position remember to fill in and provide cover, your job is help others do theirs!

Top 3 Things To Avoid When Playing Outside Fullback

As much as playing well is about what you do it is also about what you avoid doing between the lines, stay disciplined and tactically sound.

1. Playing Too Attacking

  • Playing too high up the pitch.
  • This doesn't mean you can't end up there or join the attack but always join from deep areas so you can gain a full speed of momentum and you don't leave yourself vulnerable for the opponent.

2. Overdoing It On The Ball

  • Taking too many touches in the back.
  • Let the playmakers do their job, get the ball off your feet and go unnoticed in possession.

3. Overaggressive In Defence

  • Avoid being over aggressive and giving up silly fouls and getting an early yellow to throw you off your game.
  • Stay discipline but tough but don't give away cheap fouls and potential dangerous set pieces for the opponent.

Technical Attributes Of A Great Outside Fullback

  • Ability to serve the ball with both feet into players feet and into the box.
  • Technically sound footwork (collecting and distributing ball).
  • Ability to clear ball with inside and laces of both feet thirty plus yards.
  • Technically sound heading ability both in challenges and ball clearances


Mental/Psychological Attributes Of A Great Outside Fullback

  • Selfless work rate (understanding that the vast majority of runs you make will go unrewarded).
  • Extreme focus for that one or two chances you may receive when going forward.
  • Ability to take criticism is important as during some games you may be on the coaches sideline and they may be barking in your ear.
  • Having a killer instinct to win.

Physical Attributes Of A Great Fullback

There is no perfect cookie cutter mold for any player because there are exceptions to every rule and players that defy the odds, but with that in mind these are the attributes that top level pro's in this position all have in common:

  • Quick forward/lateral and backward first explosive step (keeping up with wingers with pace).
  • Strong lower body strength (most 1v1 duels are done on the wing).
  • Strong upper body strength (challenging for balls in the air).
  • High level of speed.
  • High level of fitness.
  • Fantastic isolated 1v1 defender.
  • Good vertical jumping ability.

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