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Full Backs and Wing Backs - the most important men on the pitch

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Introduction

For many years the full back and wing back's of the world were generally underrated, underappreciated and unloved - now the world knows the value of these positions. They have become integral players from both an offensive and defensive point of view. Daniel Alves has become integral to Barcelona's recent success, Maicon to Inter Milan's, Jordi Alba recently to Spain's Euro 2012 campaign. So this guide is going to examine your full backs and wing backs and why they are so important. Furthermore this guide will also look at the differences between them - as choosing the right option can make such a huge difference for your team.

The Full Back is defined in the tactics creator as:

"The Full Back is a key player in modern football, having to supplement his defensive duties with overlapping runs down the wing to support forward play and help attacks overload the final third.

Although primarily a defensive player, he must be prepared to get forward when the team needs extra width.

With a defend duty, the full back will stay back with the defensive line and make simple possesion passes down the flanks or into central midfield.

With a support duty, the full back will support the midfield by providing extra width and look to for crosses and through balls when the opportunity for each arises.

With an attack duty, the full back supplements his defensive duties by overlapping the midfield and providing first time crosses into the area."

The Wing Back is defined in the tactics creator as:

"Usually playing wide with no wing support, the wing back must fulfil all the attacking and defensive duties of wingers and full backs.

In attack he must be prepared to run at his man and put in aggressive crosses, in midfield to help win the possession battle, and in defence to close down opponents, block crosses and win the back the ball when possible.

With a defend duty, the wing back mainly stays deep, but will still cross the ball when in space to do so.

With a support duty, the wing back aims to provide angled through balls from out wide, although still crosses when the opportunity arises.

With an attack duty, the wing back aims to overlap down the flank to provide wide support for attacks, run at his man and get crosses in from the byline."

So we can now see that the 2 roles have some varying levels of responsibility, although this is mainly from an attacking point of view. There is no difference in a full back and wing back in terms of defensive and general instructions (i.e. mentality, marking, pressing). The difference comes in the modern day expectation of a full back - simply support and width, or the designated outlet on the flank? The offensive differences between them are offensive in nature - the wing back is required to make more forward runs and through-balls than the full back of equivalent duty. There is also more expectation that the wing back will get towards the byline to deliver his crosses, whereas a full back, even on an attack duty is expected to deliver from deep or mixed location.

The Examples - Bacary Sagna & Andre Santos

As is usual for me, I will use examples from my Arsenal side to show the examples of what I am explaining. A good comparison between a Full Back and a Wing Back are 2 teammates - Bacary Sagna & Andre Santos - so first, time to show you the screenshots with the key attributes for the role higlighted (support duty).

sagnan.jpg

Bacary Sagna is a player with excellent physical stats. He is pacy, strong and energetic. He supplements all this with excellent team working and work rate, he is good in the tackle, and he is fairly intelligent - he does not possess strong attacking attributes - his crossing & dribbling are not superb, but he is clearly capable in possession as evidenced by his good first touch, passing and composure. He is not a player who should be your only outlet on the flank, but he is capable of combining with other players on the flank with him. His PPM's state that gets forward down the right flank, and plays one-two's so he puts his good engine to use and contributes well to support play. He would be capable as a Wing Back in a support role, but he is clearly best suited as Full Back.

andresantos.jpg

As you can see, Andre Santos is not blessed with too many high defensive attributes - he does have good Anticipation, Decisions and Adequate Stamina, Tackling and Strength. Andre Santos however does have an excellent final ball and movement, meaning he is actually a very accomplished attack-minded player, and as a Wing Back this means he could be a very potent attacking threat, offering me an extra creative body in the final third.

The Full Back

Bacary Sagna was selected for my League Cup tie against Reading, Arsenal won 4-0 thanks to 4 goals from Lukas Podolski. Sagna's performance was fairly uneventful. Sagna provided a pass to Theo Walcott who set up Podolski for a goal. Sagna's passing stats show he is less inclined to attack the space near the corner and the byline, and tends to hold position and play more forward passes instead.

sagnapassing.jpg

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In Action

Sagna in this example chases down a loose ball after an Arsenal attack breaks down, he has his back to play and is being closed down by a Reading opponent.

sagnapass1.jpg

Sagna plays a simple pass to Song and moves down the flank to recieve a return ball.

sagnapass2.jpg

Sagna continues his run and draws a defender, as Song elects to pass to Walcott instead - Sagna's simple run has opened up plenty of space for Walcott. An example of the full back playing a simple supporting game and contributing to an effective team move.

sagnapass3.jpg

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The Wing Back

Andre Santos was in the starting line up for my 2013/14 season clash away to Sunderland, rotating into the starting XI in place of Kieran Gibbs. Andre was at his creative best that day, assisting 2 goals which we will observe shortly, being named Man of the Match.

santospassing.jpg

Andre Santos completed 55/67 passes, and as you can see many of them in the final third, a lot of them close to the byline which were in combination with Arsenal's Inside Forward Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He retained the ball excellently and still found room for more adventurous passes into the area which came off.

santoscrossing.jpg

Andre Santos found room for 3 crosses, of which 1 of these (the deeper successful cross) assisted Walcott's goal for Arsenal's 3rd. He completed 2 of his 3 crosses that day, a good ratio.

santosruns.jpg

Andre Santos also found room to make 2 forwards runs past opponents inside his own half, both times beginning an attacking move.

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In Action

Andre Santos here has just intercepted the goal kick of Craig Gordon, he has space to his left, and passing options ahead of him. Meanwhile Lukas Podolski has peeled off into a little space near Michael Turner.

santosassist1.jpg

Andre Santos delivers a lofted through-ball to Podolski just as the German forward makes a run. Andre Santos is being closed down by Wickham, but has the composure to deliver his intended ball anyway.

santosassist2.jpg

Podolski requires 1 touch to bring it into his path before firing past Craig Gordon. All thanks to the creativity and vision of Andre Santos who was blessed with the licence to make such a decision.

santosassist3.jpg

Useful Combinations

Wing Back & Inside Forwards – encourages the wing back to overlap when the inside forward comes inside, ensuring you still have the width to stretch your opponents.

Full Back & Winger – a more traditional method of setting up on the flanks, ensuring your winger has support to combine with, and options for a safer pass if necessary. This suits traditional wing-play.

If you are playing a wingerless formation, then ensure your full backs are on wing back roles to offer the necessary width.

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Nice thread. :thup:

IRL I love watching players like Alves and Alba bombing forward, however to perform the role of wingback a particular player has to be very good in a lot of different attributes otherwise he could be a big liability....well, unless you manage a world class team where it does not matter too much but it still opens a lot of space for counters. In FM I personally prefer to have "true full backs". Think of the likes of Abidal, G.Neville, Reiziger, Heinze...or young Carles Puyol :). They offer far more defensive stability and as they generally don't venture forward they are always available for an easy backward pass.

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In Action

Andre Santos here has just intercepted the goal kick of Craig Gordon, he has space to his left, and passing options ahead of him. Meanwhile Lukas Podolski has peeled off into a little space near Michael Turner.

santosassist1.jpg

Andre Santos delivers a lofted through-ball to Podolski just as the German forward makes a run. Andre Santos is being closed down by Wickham, but has the composure to deliver his intended ball anyway.

santosassist2.jpg

Podolski requires 1 touch to bring it into his path before firing past Craig Gordon. All thanks to the creativity and vision of Andre Santos who was blessed with the licence to make such a decision.

santosassist3.jpg

Useful Combinations

Wing Back & Inside Forwards – encourages the wing back to overlap when the inside forward comes inside, ensuring you still have the width to stretch your opponents.

Full Back & Winger – a more traditional method of setting up on the flanks, ensuring your winger has support to combine with, and options for a safer pass if necessary. This suits traditional wing-play.

If you are playing a wingerless formation, then ensure your full backs are on wing back roles to offer the necessary width.

Llama

What role and duty do you give Santos and Sagna. Do you make any changes to individual instructions for the players.

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Automatic mainly, but Support if I make a choice. No individual changes.

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I will do whatever I can to attract a top-class (for the level) full back with wing back attributes.

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Automatic mainly, but Support if I make a choice. No individual changes.

Do you think automatic is better than support. I play 451/433 with a DMC on defend and advance playmaker attack and central midfield support in the central midfield position. I also play inside forward, winger support and either a poacher or deep lying forward as my striker. But I tend to go with the poacher so that he can push the defence line back and create space for my inside forward and advance playmaker. I would like to know your advice on role and duty for my p,ayers. I am also playing with Arsenal

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I will do whatever I can to attract a top-class (for the level) full back with wing back attributes.

Same here.

I can't get them scoring many goals but I can get them making 20-30+ assists a season.

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Do you think automatic is better than support. I play 451/433 with a DMC on defend and advance playmaker attack and central midfield support in the central midfield position. I also play inside forward, winger support and either a poacher or deep lying forward as my striker. But I tend to go with the poacher so that he can push the defence line back and create space for my inside forward and advance playmaker. I would like to know your advice on role and duty for my p,ayers. I am also playing with Arsenal

that question depends a lot on your team, players etc - support has more of a structured shape to it - it depends on if shape is your main concern or not really - generally stick with automatic unless you have a good reason to use anything specific. If you have inside forwards or wingers on support ahead of your wing back's then automatic will allow good overlapping for sure.

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that question depends a lot on your team, players etc - support has more of a structured shape to it - it depends on if shape is your main concern or not really - generally stick with automatic unless you have a good reason to use anything specific. If you have inside forwards or wingers on support ahead of your wing back's then automatic will allow good overlapping for sure.

Would they overlapp if the inside forward is on attack also

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Nice thread. I recently changed to a narrow 4-1-2-1-2 with my DL/DR on wing back roles and they are definitely the unsung heroes of my team. They haven't scored any goals yet or get many assists but watching the games they are involved in so much of the build up play and are always playing crucial passes or making that extra man in attack.

I play a short passing game with my GK distributing to the wingbacks all the time, so they usually rack up 60 passes per game.

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Would they overlapp if the inside forward is on attack also

yes that is correct

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Interesting thread - I do love a pair of attacking full backs.

Hopefully I can add another aspect to the thread here, in how I have my full backs set up. A clever piece of analyses I heard last season can be paraphrased down to the following "Dani Alves is Lionel Messi's right-foot". They then went on to explain that when Dani Alves gets so far forward it gives defensive players an added offensive player to worry about - and this can be highly relative to previous mentions of IFs cutting inside whilst WBs overlap - essentially Alves occupies the left flank of a defender, whilst Messi will be able to either dribble round the defender to their right on his left foot, or move inside onto his favoured left foot - thus making even more space for Alves to move into and occupy.

This is what I've essentially got my full backs to do in my current system, albeit they are positioned as Right Sweeper and Left Sweeper. Here's a few images of my last game played, a 2-1 win over Blackburn - analyzing the offensive effectiveness my left back Luke Shaw played.

abC5OMlah3.jpg7676725142_8161619817_b.jpg

Black Line = Passes played

Red Box = Area AMCl occupies

Yellow Box = Area LB occupies

Green Lines = Areas of which RB can move into to offer support

Here you will see how the formation is set out, with below showing a situation in the game where I'm dominating Blackburn territoraly and statistacally in terms of possession. Because of this Blackburn have parked their bus on their own box and making it rather difficult for me to penetrate, resulting in careful probing in and around their box from one side to another. You will see that I have annotated two different colored boxes, the first of which is a red box. This is the area that my right sided AMC looks to occupy in this situations. I've set his wide play to normal, but invariably he will still move wide from a central position, but I've found it better in overloading the defensive and giving full backs space rather than move into channels. The yellow box is the area that is often free of defenders, and a space that the full back can roam free in.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is right-footed, so will naturally look to move inside the field, same with Wilshere on the right-side, this therefore will draw defenders infield to thwart the danger. The shot you see, I've moved the ball across thier box from the left, and due to me having numbers centrally it has occupied defenders so much so that they haven't been able to move across a player to close Luke Shaw before he gets the ball, resulting in him to exercise his duty of Oxlade-Chamberlain's left foot and receive the ball - an import role in stretching the opposition.

This goes on many times through the course of 90 mins, as you can see here;

7676750378_06467c2999.jpg

Passes Attempted; 85

Passes Completed; 75

Crosses Attempted; 4

Crosses Completed; 0

Throw-ins wasted; 5!

The title of the thread indicates the full backs and wing backs to be the most important players in the team, and nothing is clearer here. No player in the team will occupy such a large area of the field with such varied importance. I've numbered different areas of the field 1,2 and 3 as you can see, and this will inicate three different roles Luke Shaw played in the game;

1. The first role he plays is to be the distribution feed from goal kicks, and such, as well as when the goalkeeper has the ball at his feet - he will demand the ball when he can. This is vital in playing out from the back, and it does help to have an assured player that is willing to posses the ball and play out from the back in these areas, instead of lumping it forward at every opportunity in a panicked stress.

2. The second aspect of his game I see to be offering support to the midfield in transition from deeper areas to attack. Unfortunately my side isn't able to neatly carve open teams by passing right through the center of them, so they will need to look for an 'out' ball whilst they try and play their way up the field. I call it an out ball, as I've set the system up to play through the middle, but in playing wide it helps form passing options that create space centrally from which you can either move up the field territoriality of occupy danger areas from which you can penetrate the defensive in some way - pass, shot, through ball. Sometimes the player here may not be able to play a ball forward, so will have to play it square inside back to the midfielder or sweeper, or even back to the keeper to retain possession. I've trained Luke Shaw the ppm of 'plays short simple passes' and plays one-twos which aids in his ability to provide this service outlined.

3. The third role will be to provide offensive width, much outlined further up, he will be looking to again provide passing options in wide areas, but this time it can be a lot more beneficial in terms of creating space from which players can move into. Whilst essentially my attacking players will take up central positions, and heat maps will show the whole side in a very confined space - it is in these situations in the side where there is great width.

The final piece regarding the above image will be the opposite full back, in this case my right-back Sebastian Corchia. When the ball is deep down on the left flank, he won't be deep along the right touchline, he will help form a pivot across the field from which he can offer offensive capabilities. Think of Rugby where you're unable to pass forward, the players will align themselves in a way that moved horizontally to progress vertically. Therefore if the ball does come back centrally, he'll drop of slightly, or if the ball is crossed and headed clear he can quickly zip along, pick up the ball and occupy an attacking area, whilst still offering a defensive body should Blackburn dare to build a quick counter attack on me.

Player Instructions

7676726460_c9d7b44520_z.jpg

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I will do whatever I can to attract a top-class (for the level) full back with wing back attributes.
Same here.

I can't get them scoring many goals but I can get them making 20-30+ assists a season.

What role do you's usually use them in?

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tommonufc,

I'm very interested about you managing to get wingback type behaviour from SWR and SWL! The images show quite a nice amount of attacking thrust while the play is on that side, without them drifting too far forward when it's not.

Do you retrain a WB type player to those positions?

How come you set their RWB, TBs and CB settings to rarely?

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a WB with rwb, rb and cb rarely is not a wing-back - he is a possession monkey

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tommonufc,

I'm very interested about you managing to get wingback type behaviour from SWR and SWL! The images show quite a nice amount of attacking thrust while the play is on that side, without them drifting too far forward when it's not.

Do you retrain a WB type player to those positions?

How come you set their RWB, TBs and CB settings to rarely?

I think judging from his other thread, you can't train players to SWL or SWR, so they'll always be red in position.

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ham_aka_stam

You can't retrain players to become a sweeper right/left, so they are deemed unable to play in that position; although I've seen no negative affect of this what so ever, just nothing more than a technicality. I find the sweepers offer much more mobility over regular left and right backs, with them contracting narrow and wide when with the ball, and generally being much more aware of the danger behind them when playing a high line - much of this has been said in the thread on it.

I've only introduced such attacking intentions to them recently, and have found it great. Previously, with no forward runs, they would hold position just inside their own half and very rarely venture to the by line. I do play attack minded full backs here, but that's more to do with the squad personel, but have had the tenancy in recent matches against tough strong opposition that can really cause problems counter attacking to field Vermaelen at left back with limited attacking instruction whilst continuing with an attacking right side.

I set up with no through balls, simply as I have much better players in my team in a position to play a through ball, both territoriality and technically, and a similar thing can be said in terms of running with the ball and crossing the ball. I have various players allowed to run with the ball, when they can drive into the box, take it round a defender and be in on goal by doing so, I'd much rather these players pass the ball to players better suited to carrying out certain aspects of the game.

Crossing is something that has driven me mad on so many occasions, often a winger with decent crossing ability can waste so many crosses through no fault of his own, simply because they can be easy to defend against - yet at the same time I appreciate they can provide goals simply by putting the ball in to dangerous areas, and if a goal is not scored through the first phase of that play, it may well lead to a goal or shot in the second or third phase of the resulting melee. I've used this tactical instruction on certain occasions, and had great success with Fernando Llorente in an Athletic save. This isn't something I wish my full backs to do. First of which certain players who play in these positions don't have the required attributes to deliver precise crosses. Secondly, looking at it statistically they have a very small chance in deliver a cross that isn't going to be won arially by one of numerous defenders within the box, or finding a player to the feet without the cross being intercepted or cleared. However, if the opportunity arises where it is worthy of a cross they have enough creative freedom to choose to do so. More often that not, they will stretch the opposition, creating space within the channels from which they will play the ball inside, where the AM can drive at the byline, shoot or cross the ball.

llama3

Although I playing with systems that will control the game, I certainly don't consider myself a 'possession monkey'.

Not wing-backs, what would you suggest them to be instead? If you'd consider stepping away from the Tactics Creator for one second I think you would find that a players position on the field isn't simply defined by what they are, or in this case aren't allowed to do. The players used are much more than what would be considered Full-backs as they are instructed to provide the teams width in offensive areas, what they choose to do in those areas, or how they intend to get to those areas is neither hear nor there, and is simply down to tactical instruction, and how one would wish them to play within a wider tactical framework. See above to illustrate my point.

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not calling you the possession monkey, the players - anyone with no licence to run, cross or shoot is purely in the team for possession's sake. - observing the role of the player neither praising nor criticising

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Do you not find they get into positions where they should be crossing (i.e. man unmarked at back-post on the break) or playing a throughball (man up the line making perfect run) where they ignore the option because you've told them to do it rarely?

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Do you not find they get into positions where they should be crossing (i.e. man unmarked at back-post on the break) or playing a throughball (man up the line making perfect run) where they ignore the option because you've told them to do it rarely?

Very rarely, certainly not to the extent where they will blindly ignore the obvious all the time. Like I say, they are rarely in a position to get a good cross in, but if they were say on a 3vs.2 counter attack, and a square ball cross made across the goal would see a clear cut chance it would be made. But usually they are in the position where they can play the ball inside to a supporting attacking midfielder, from which they can deliver a pass or cross into a team mate - something I'd say provides a good chunk of my goals 40% I'd hazard a guess at.

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I love marauding fullbacks. I spent a lot of time in my formative years parked in front of the TV watching guys like Roberto Carlos and Michel Salgado bomb up and down the pitch, seemingly without regard for their supposed defensive duties. I didn't fully appreciate the tactical significance of it at the time, but I liked what I saw. So engrained in my mind are these images and so enamoured am I with the the attacking wingback, that I consider it a sort of sacrilege not to play with two ultra-attacking fullbacks. I therefore religiously employ the use of such roles in my tactics.

These are the instructions for my wingbacks in my 4-2-3-1:

wb6.png

Firstly, I chose a support duty as with a balanced philosophy it allows them to both time their runs better and to offer good support to the midfield. I want them to primarily help create chances, so a supportive role appears to make perfect sense. Secondly, I changed their wide-play to 'hug touchline' in order to maintain width - with two attacking inside forwards, our play could become very narrow otherwise. Try through balls is set to rarely based on the theory that I want my inside forwards receiving through balls inside onto their stronger foot, rather than receiving a ball down the line where they can be easily pushed out onto their weaker foot. There is also the consideration that none of my fullbacks are playmakers by any reasonable definition. They're much better off passing to my actual playmakers, who are actually capable of playing the requisite passes to my forwards. Note that 'rarely' does not mean 'never' - if there is a golden opportunity presented to my fullback, requiring the use of a through ball, then its more than likely the pass will still be made.

Here's some examples from a recent game, showing how these instructions play out:

wb1.png

In this situation the narrowing of the Hibs back four has allowed both FB's to push up high and wide. My DLP receives the ball and immediately anticipates the run of my LB, who breezes past the the Hibs AMR and receives a pass as he enters the penalty area.

wb2.png

We now have 4 vs. 4 in the opposition box. My LB drags the Hibs RB towards him then squares for my AML - who drills a low shot, which is superbly tipped round the post by the GK.

wb3.png

In this screen my AML has received the ball from my CF and lays it back to my DLP, who hits a first time pass to my onrushing LB.

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wb4.png

Unfortunately the move came to nothing, but its a good example of how the IF and the WB interact and create space for each other.

wb5.png

In this screenshot , the Hibs midfield has gotten tight to my midfield triangle, leaving my CB with no easy passing option. Thankfully, my FB has taken up a position out on the touchline, offering an immediate and useful out-ball which my CB uses. What I particularly like about this image is how much my FB looks like an orthodox winger. In the end my RB receives the ball and passes to my AMR who dances into the box and fires a curling shot past the keeper.

Now for an example of why I have my WB's set to TTB rarely:

wb7.png

Here my RB receives the ball from my AMR and could quite easily and understandably play a ball down the line for my AMR to chase. He doesn't do that however. Instead he turns and plays a simple pass to my AMC, who takes a touch before playing a perfect ball over the top to my AML, who races in and fires past the keeper. I think my FB made the right decision, no?

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Do you think automatic is better than support. I play 451/433 with a DMC on defend and advance playmaker attack and central midfield support in the central midfield position. I also play inside forward, winger support and either a poacher or deep lying forward as my striker. But I tend to go with the poacher so that he can push the defence line back and create space for my inside forward and advance playmaker. I would like to know your advice on role and duty for my p,ayers. I am also playing with Arsenal

You do realise that automatic simply selects support, attack or defend based on the match strategy lol?

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I've got into the habit of retraining super-fast wingers as full backs.

So long as I get them early enough to boost their tackling/positioning to average levels (say 9-12 for tackling, and 11-14 for positioning), then I find they become massively positive influences on the team. Done this three or four times now, working with players of pace/acceleration 17+. They kinda play the Alves type role; at best average defensively, but quick enough to not get caught out of position too much, but a serious attacking threat.

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I've got into the habit of retraining super-fast wingers as full backs.

So long as I get them early enough to boost their tackling/positioning to average levels (say 9-12 for tackling, and 11-14 for positioning), then I find they become massively positive influences on the team. Done this three or four times now, working with players of pace/acceleration 17+. They kinda play the Alves type role; at best average defensively, but quick enough to not get caught out of position too much, but a serious attacking threat.

I do this as well, but I specifically look for players with really high work rate and stamina. I think the ME 'forgives' the full-back's lack of defensive skills if he is willing to work hard to return to his defensive position.

As for tactics, I often play with 6 playmakers (trequartista FC, 3x advanced pm, 2x deep-lying pm) with slight tweaks here and there. For example the wide playmakers are given RFD rarely and hold up ball. This of course is problematic because the target is to score a goal, not just keep the ball. No one's told to look to threaten the opposition back-line so I made a wild experiment, trying to get the full-backs to provide those runs that you'd expect to see from more attacking players.

The full-backs have:

- Higher mentality

- Maxed CF

- Often RFD

- Roam from position

- Move into channels

Midfielders and striker have:

- Lower mentality

- Rarely RFD (with one exception who's got sometimes RFD)

I have to say I'm really impressed with the ME because -although they won't do it consistently enough- the full-backs do attack the channels and do get into goal-scoring positions. Gareth Bale scored one in a pre-season friendly against Aston Villa and Zabaleta just scored another one against Cluj in UCL.

usi12.png

Here's the initial shape. Bale's #5.

vg1q9g.png

Bale has made his first run and no Villa player is making the slightest effort to mark him. Villa back-four outnumbered by the four advanced playmakers and Bale. Thiago doesn't pick Bale out but opts for a short pass back to the flank.

2my6gjp.png

And here's Paulo Henrique just before playing Bale through.

98rj10.png

GOOOOL!

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I do this as well, but I specifically look for players with really high work rate and stamina. I think the ME 'forgives' the full-back's lack of defensive skills if he is willing to work hard to return to his defensive position.

Yes, stamina is particularly vital if they're going to be bombing up the wing and then recovering position. Even my Stamina 15 right back often needs subbing after 70-75 minutes.

I have to say I'm really impressed with the ME because -although they won't do it consistently enough- the full-backs do attack the channels and do get into goal-scoring positions.

Yeah, I'd agree with this. It does work out legitimately well, but not incredibly consistently.

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Anyone had success in a 3 at the back formation with wing backs ahead, whereas they contribute to goals/assists a la Dani Alves, Alba, Maggio et al?

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