Role Description – Side Backs (2 and 3)

In our playing strategy we play with a right and left side back, the number 2 and the number 3.

Our number 2 and number 3 are both part of our defensive structure and, when appropriate, they are free to become part of our attacking unit. They get some freedom to join our attackers when we have possession of the ball by virtue of our “stability box” which is in place to help add discipline and organisation to our structure. When the side backs are taking part in the attacking unit they have a specific responsibility for providing width to allow the attacking unit to change the focus and direction of an attack.

To help the players in these positions, and their team-mates, understand their role we have defined it as requiring the following:

Player Challenges

Key challenges for the players in this role are:

  • strong sense of position
  • be aggressive in defence
  • stop (delay) opponent in 1 v 1 situations
  • be good at anticipating opponents movements
  • have good first touch, dribbling, running and technical skills
  • sprinting ability
  • balance and coordination (crucial for 1 v 1’s)
  • decision making, when to go – when to stay
  • desire and physical capability to make overload and/or recovery runs (mobility)
  • good communication skills with clear, concise, and appropriate information sharing

Out of Possession

The primary task of the 2 and 3 is to be the wide part of our defensive structure.

This task is:

  • take an appropriate position to mark the opponent in your zone (tight or nearby)
  • cover space between yourself and the near side centre back
  • optimise the distance and depth between the defenders by taking an appropriate, diagonal, position
  • stop progress of direct opponent with the ball (1 v 1)
  • communicate clearly with team-mates when passing on or taking responsibility for opponents
  • work with defensive unit to stay compact when appropriate (dropping off)
  • work with near side midfield and attacking units when defending high (pressing)

In Possession

When we are in possession of the ball the 2 and 3’s task is to become the width to support the attack whilst retaining a responsibility for giving defensive stability.

Specifically the task is:

  • be available for a safe pass, usually from goalkeeper or central backs, in both the keep-it and use-it phases
  • assist in the build up play by successfully completing safe passes in both the keep-it and use-it phases
  • run forwards when appropriate to help establish numerical superiority in midfield/attack (overload)
  • provide width when the ball is far side to allow the focus/direction of an attack to be changed
  • work with team-mates to penetrate opponents defence when the ball is near side (1-2’s, slide passes, crosses)
  • be prepared to threaten the opponents goal when appropriate (shooting, dribbling, running with the ball)

Across the Corners

Physically, while strength could be useful, acceleration, deceleration, and sprinting/running speed are key requirements along with the agility, balance and coordination necessary to change direction quickly (1 v 1’s), stay upright even when under physical pressure such as when challenging for the ball, and to jump (to compete for headers). These players will be very mobile and prepared to run the flanks throughout the game.

Technically it will be important to be competent at passing (particularly when playing out from the back), defending, heading, ball control and manipulation, receiving to play forwards (open body shape), receiving to keep possession, securing possession, link play, and to have an awareness of both space and the location of other players (ours and the opposition). Being able to run with the ball quickly and safely will be an advantage in the attacking phase of the game.

Psychologically these players will tend to be disciplined, unselfish, determined, and have high game intelligence (crucial for making good decisions). They may need to have high levels of concentration and focus as they may be “out of the game” for prolonged periods.

Socially the player will be a real team player doing the “dirty work” for their team-mates, probably quite aggressive both when defending and attacking 1 v 1, they will need to be able to build a tight partnership with the other players on their side (5, 4, 7 or 6, 8, 11), and will be valued by others for being hard working, reliable and trusted to make an effort to be in the right place at all times.