Training Drills for Fullbacks

By Vince •  Updated: 05/20/22 •  11 min read

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There are various positionings a fullback can take up to help in attack and/or prepare for the defensive transition. You could have both or one fullback sitting deep, playing high and wide, or inverting. Each positioning has its own strategic advantages. The modern fullback position has evolved over recent years (or maybe it’s come full circle) to becoming more prominent in joining the attacking phases of the game. One just has to watch a side like Liverpool to see the dynamism of the fullback in regards to their positioning and contribution not only to their teams build up but their attacks in the final third as well and see how essential it is to have that extra attacking threat from the wide area.

1v1 Situational for a Fullback

This first drill is aimed at training a fullback in a 1v1 situation putting him in a game-like scenario that they will face. We want to train the behaviors we want in a game when faced with similar situations.

This 1v1 game starts with the coach passing a ball to the attacker (red). The attacker has two goals, first, one facing diagonally which is worth two points, and the second one near the end line facing out worth one point. The objective for the fullback is to look to close the space as the pass is played to the attacker and first block the diagonal facing goal using their cover shadow. This diagonal goal simulates a pass inside which we want to prevent first to not allow any central passes.

From there we want the fullback to guide the opponent to the outside and use the sideline as help to pressure the attacker and close down the space. Once we have them guided out to the sideline, if we haven’t already, we want to find the right moment to step in and win the ball or make sure to stay in front to block any crosses. The second goal at the end line represents a low cross or cut back. Once the fullback wins the ball they can look to attack and score in the goal on the opposite end. The fullback should look to attack quickly, moving at pace and using dynamism and momentum to dribble past the opponent’s pressure.

Training a Fullback 1v1 in Context

It’s important to implement context or more context into our position-specific training as each position works in relation to players in other positions. The purple dots playing with blue are used to highlight the fullbacks against the red team. The game is free-flowing, playing to three goals on each end. To create as many 1v1 situations as possible while still allowing players to make the best decision depending on the situation, we will implement a rule that if a red player takes on the fullback (purple) 1v1 in the wide channel and scores it is worth three points or a goal any other way is worth one point. To promote attacking through the fullbacks when blue is in possession, we can add a rule that if the fullbacks score it is worth three points and a goal from any other blue player is worth one point.

8v8 Diagonal Passing and Dribbling

Playing diagonally: the fullbacks receiving out on the sideline are only allowed to play with 180 degrees of the space (compared to a player receiving in the center where they have 360 degrees to play). This is why playing diagonal passes and dribbling inside for the fullback is so important. Dribbling inside from wide areas creates more space and more options for the fullback overall. The fullback dribbling inside creates space on the wing, it can create space in the center by drawing out the opposition, opening up gaps in the opponent’s shape and as well creates better connections with the players on the far side of the field.

In this training drill, we want to train just that, creating as many organic reps as possible. Fullbacks playing with blue are in purple to highlight their positioning. For the fullback to dribble inside its key that the player off the ball movement is intended to create this space while also providing support.

The ball near the midfielder or forward movement from inside to out can either draw an opponent with him or pin the already wide opposition player in his spot creating the space inside for the fullback to dribble. The players in the center should look to move away from the fullback to not constrict the space and attempt to draw their opponent away. Players in support should look to play off the should of their opponent to manipulate them in deciding to press or man mark.

Playing off the shoulder of our opponent also keeps us on the blindside where our opponent can’t see us and can allow us to pop up on either side for support freely. To further promote dribbling inside from the fullback we can add a rule where a goal counts for three points if the fullback dribbles from the wide channel to inside and a goal is scored as a result.

Situation 3v3+2

In this 3v3+2 possession game, the focus is on the fullback and their positioning in relation to their teammates. The fullback is highlighted in purple with the other two blue players being a central midfielder and a winger.

The yellow target at the bottom is a center back and the yellow target at the top is a forward. You could also change the yellow target at the bottom to be a goalkeeper and push the center back into the playing area if desired. This should be a free-flowing game without too many constrictions to allow the players to operate how they would in a game and coordinate their movement in relation to one another to open and fill spaces. To be as realistic as possible we want the players to act how they would in a game.

This would mean the fullback staying out towards the sideline and the center mid playing/positioning on the inside, in the middle. From there we don’t want to restrict the player’s movements or decisions to allow them to work on the chemistry and understanding of their movement with regard to each other (the fullback, center mid, and winger, along with the center back and the striker) and how to create space while still keeping structural stability.

Next, a key element for the fullback as well as the other players is their body orientation and scanning to be aware of the available space and to allow them to take their first touch into the space they want. As well with our body orientation and pre-scanning, we want to be aware of the opponents pressing angle and the positioning of the ball near support options, making a decision based on these three things. If the opponent presses from the outside look to play inside. If we’re pressed from the inside then the space should be open on the outside. The key takeaway for the fullback should be the understanding of when to push high and when to come inside from their wide positioning.

5v5+4 Endzone Game

In this game, we have a focus on the center backs and the fullbacks to progress play. The four yellow targets should ideally be center backs. The endzone is there as a reference point for the yellow center backs but they aren’t restricted to this zone and are allowed to step out with or without the ball and the opponent is allowed to press the center backs in this zone.

When possible, we want the center back to look to dribble to attract pressure seemingly opening a free player to then play into. The fullback should look to move away from the ball/center back to not close the available space in front to allow the center back to dribble. If the opponent follows the fullback whose movement is away from the ball, that creates more time and space for the center back to dribble and make a decision.

If the opponent closes the center back, that frees the fullback to receive. To entice this dribbling action from the center back and high positioning of the full-back we will add the rule that if a center back dribbles out of the endzone and plays a pass to a fullback either on the other side of the dashed line or a pass to the fullback who is able to take a touch or dibble across the dashed line, a pass into the opposite yellow targets is then worth two points. The same movement away from the ball can be said for the midfielders as well. When the center back is on the ball the midfielder should make sure to not move towards the center back as that attracts an opponent with us and makes the space tighter which makes pressing for the defender much easier.

Instead, move away from the ball to force the opponent into making the decision of pressing or staying with his mark and look to receive between the lines. If a midfielder is able to receive between the lines, the fullback should then look to receive the next pass as the third man facing forward. The fullback receiving facing forward has a much better view of the field and should look to play into depth to the targets if possible. Another thought on the positioning of the fullback in relation to the midfielders and center backs: the fullbacks and midfielders should look to a position at different heights (staggered) to reduce the opponent’s pressure and coverage of space. This places players in front and in behind the opponent to create this indecisiveness in pressing or man-marking from the defenders.

This staggered positioning allows for greater close support and makes progressive passes more attainable. In transition, it also enables us to better press after the ball is lost, closing down the ball, closing down the surrounding space from different heights and angles, and helps us easier orientate to any potential passing options out of pressure to further slow down the opponent’s attack.

9v9/10v10 game working on shape and fullbacks behavior

Finally, it’s important to work as close to the full game as possible. For this, set up a 9v9 or 10v10 game to work on the shape and positioning that is desired from the fullbacks. Whether wanting to play with a back four in possession, a back three with an attacking fullback, or an inverted fullback it’s important to show and work on these behaviors making them as realistic and game-like as possible.

In order to get the desired behaviors out of the player’s constraints, rules, or point systems can be utilized to highlight or reward certain actions. For example, if wanting to play with one attacking fullback and an inverted fullback we could add rules that will incentivize these players, adding a rule such as if the attacking fullback scores or gets an assist it counts as double to highlight and try to get reps for the advanced fullback in the attack.

Another rule to incentivize counter-pressing (pressing in transition to prevent counterattacks) and getting the opposite fullback to invert to cover the center we could say that if able to win the ball back within 6 seconds after it’s lost that then counts as a point.

Final Thoughts

So, in conclusion, the fullback position is dynamic and should be considered in relation to the other players on the field. The use of diagonal passes and diagonally dribbling from wide areas to create space and connections is key along with the use of playing at different heights to create staggering in our positions in relation to one another to optimize our space and sub-optimize the opponent’s pressure and defensive cover which can be of vital use in looking to break down the opponent. Finally, the use of good body orientation and pre-scanning to prepare our actions to execute technically based on our perception of the area around us and the decision we make.



I'm a qualified soccer coach, who has been involved with the sport for most of my life. I started Woodland Soccer to talk about the game I love.