types of fullbacks

Types of Fullbacks

When today’s generation started watching football, being solid defensively as well as being handy in the attack were the attributes that came to behind we used to think of a fullback. There were so many different interpretations of the position throughout the years

However, as the 90s approached. It was not just about being an asset defensively and going forward anymore, it had even more responsibilities placed upon the full-backs. Ever since the emergence of Cafu, the position of a full-back has revolutionized with players in those positions starting to make more advanced positions.

types of fullbacks
Fullback Types

Those full-backs were then starting to get accustomed to the term of “deep wingers” as players in these positions used their deeper starting points to gain acceleration, and thus would be less suited to a classic wide midfield role, often seemed to be misunderstood. We see the ways in which the role of a full-back has revolutionized in the last 10 years.

The following are the four different types of fullbacks we’ll be discussing

  • Overlapping Fullback
  • Inverted Fullback
  • Auxiliary Fullback
  • Defensive Fullback

Overlapping Fullback

The overlapping fullback usually has the entire width on his side. He plays in a 4-4-2 and he has to be aware of the defensive and the attacking responsibilities. The overlapping fullbacks tend to find spaces to overlap once their creative midfielders find them.

overlapping fullbacks diagram
Way of overlapping

It may sound simple. However, it is very difficult to implement. You have to be an athlete to be an overlapping full-back. Cafu in his prime was a Picasso of that. Once you are switched off, you can get caught defensively and you may concede goals. Leadership is very crucial in this situation. This causes your captain to ensure that you are alert regarding any challenge that comes your way.

crossing stats of fullbacks
Crossing attribute

Inverted Fullback

Inverted fullbacks are the ones that were initiated by Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich. He is the kind of manager that always tries to get the best out of his attacking players. Many thought that when he bought Joshua Kimmich, it was more of a replacement for Phillip Lahm. However, things were a lot different as both used to start matches together.

fabian delph radar at fullback from statsbomb
Fabian Delph in 2017/18

At Bayern Munich, he had the attacking options of Muller, Lewandowski, Ribery and Robben. However, with so much flair uptop, he had to ensure that he creates a base that will stop them from getting exposed on the counter-attack. That’s exactly what he did with his full-backs.

inverted fullback positioning
Fullback positioning

When the midfielders became advanced, he told his full-backs to take certain kinds of midfield positions to evade the oppositional counter-attack. That tactic worked wonders as he at times used Phillip Lahm even as a defensive midfielder.

The same tactic was applied at Manchester City. When his new signing Benjamin Mendy was said to be out of the season. He utilized a natural midfielder in Fabian Delph as an inverted full-back to evade the oppositional counter-attacks. This allowed his attacking options in Sane, Aguero, Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling to score the goals and create chances.

fullbacks stats forward passes per 90
Passing attributes

Auxiliary Fullback

kyle walker heat map for manchester city in 2018/19 season
Kyle Walker’s positioning in the 2018/19 season for Man City

Auxiliary full-back is the kind of full-back that plays as a third CB in a 3 at the back. At the 2018 World Cup, many criticized Southgate’s module when he deployed Walker as a third center back and Trippier as a wing-back.

He’s playing one of the best right-backs in the world out of position at center back

Gary Neville
kyle walker radar from 2018/19
Kyle Walker

However, it was a successful tactic as England progressed to their first World Cup semi-final in around 40 years. He utilized this tactic based on what he saw at Manchester City. Fabian Delph as a full-back used to occupy the midfield position with Fernandinho, this allowed Kyle Walker to be the third center-back to ensure that there are no counter-attacks taking place.

This is the same tactic that Antonio Conte used in his title-winning campaign at Chelsea. Azpilicueta used to be an LB under Jose Mourinho. However, he turned him from a full-back to a third CB which allowed him to be the player who can go advanced with the ball so that David Luiz and Gary Cahill can cover his spaces.

The rise of 3 at the back module has eventually brought new roles within the full-backs and many managers are now studying those positions to get the best out of their full-backs and the team.

progressive actions per 90 in fullbacks
Progression per 90

Defensive Fullback

Wan Bissaka stats WhoScored
Aaron Wan Bissaka Statistics (WhoScored)

An old-school full-back is the one whose basic ideology is to defend the spaces at any given opportunity. Aaron Wan-Bisakka at Manchester United was an ideal example when he didn’t allow Raheem Sterling an inch in the Derby in December, 2019 which United won 2-1.

An old-school fullback may not be as great with the ball, but he makes up for it without the ball and gives his wingers the freedom to create chances for his attacking players.

defensive statistics per 90 fullbacks
Defensive attributes


The fullback position in football is fantastic to play as you’ll see a lot of the ball and will be heavily involved in the play throughout the match. However, it’s not an easy position to play. The modern-day fullback has a lot of work at their disposal and they need to attack and defend effectively to help their team succeed.


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