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Nullify the threat of an attacking full-back

I’m a full-back and I always have problems when my opposite number bombs on. Do you have any tactical tips for defending against an attacking full-back?
Matt Rhodes, via email

Stuart Pearce says:

"Before you formulate a plan for the full-back you have to make sure you have a strategy for stopping the winger you’re up against.

You have to have the confidence to go all the way and defend against him because if you don’t, he will end up coming off you, turning and then running at you.

It’s a false economy in some ways. If you sit off and let the winger turn he’ll run at you or pick a pass.

If you’re getting tight to the winger then it’s the responsibility of your midfielder to track the run of the attacking full-back.

If the full-back makes a positive run down the line you’ve got to be aware that their winger will be cute and try to drag you out of position to expose the space in behind.

If you’re chasing the game and you’ve got an attacking full-back in the opposition’s team you might say to your midfielder, “If we’re chasing the game and their full-back makes an overlapping run don’t go with him. Stay there and when we turn the ball over we’re going to expose the space that they’ve left.”

If the ball comes in to the feet of the wide player you’re marking don’t let him turn. But be acutely aware that their full-back is going to come and it’s a game of cat and mouse.

You’ve got to be aware that if the winger drags you too far, you’re going to need support from your midfield players to make a nice tight line, shuttling across the pitch – condensing the play.

You need to mark tightly when you can, but be aware that if the opposition’s full-back bombs on, the space in behind you is critical space – you don’t leave that space.

You might have to mark the full-back and have one of your central midfield players come across and mark their wide player – that’s the trade-off you’ve got in the hope that you’re turning the ball over and then it’s bang – a counterattack pass in to the space left behind by their full-back.

In the main you’re aiming to defend zonally in numbers. What you always need is an overload of players in defensive areas. If you ever go man-for-man and it’s four on four, you’re always going to want a holding midfield player dropping in front of the back four so it’s 5 v 4.

If the opposition have three forwards in this situation then you’re happy with the overload – it’s 3 v 4 in your favour, defensively. You’re continuously trying to get the opposition in areas of the pitch where you have the bigger numbers."

Pearce was talking at an event for Vauxhall, the England sponsor. Keep up to date with news and comps at, @VauxhallEngland

For more football tips see:
Ashley Cole: How to handle every opponent
Glen Johnson: The attacking full-back
Micah Richards: How to raid from deep
Micah Richards: Dealing with different types of attacker
Carl Jenkinson: Handling different types of opponent
Bombing forward for full-backs
Peter Taylor: Wingers and full-backs working together
Full-back: How to attack