Center Back Men and Women

Center Back Attributes

Here are the skills needed to be a center back:

A good center back is as comfortable with the ball at their feet as they are making challenges and tackles to win the ball back.

Good heading ability. Central defenders need to be able and confident to win the ball in the air and challenge the opposition’s forwards for the ball.

High speed, athleticism, and physical strength.

Strong game understanding. Good central defenders can read the game well and anticipate where the ball will be. They’ll also be able to predict the passes and moves that opponents are likely to make.

Good communication and organization skills.

Strong in 1v1 situations. A good central defender must be effective in making well-timed tackles and winning the ball.

Comfortable receiving the ball under pressure and making passes over short and long distances.

A good mentality and calm under pressure. Players with a high level of focus and a strong desire not to be beaten make great central defenders.

Center Back Role When Attacking

A good center-back is just as involved when their team is attacking as when they are defending. This is especially true when teams have a desire to build out from the back and play through the thirds. When attacking or in possession of the ball, a center back should do the following:

Provide a forward pass option when the goalkeeper has the ball. The central defender should look to receive ‘side on’ and with their hips open so they have the option to continue to move the ball forward and help their team progress.

Provide a drop option for the full backs and number 6 when those players are under pressure and cannot find a forward pass themselves.

Upon receiving the ball, center backs should look to play forward passes into the midfield and forward line.

Upon receiving the ball, center backs should look for opportunities to play through balls behind and over the opponents defence.

Upon receiving the ball and given time and space, center backs should look to carry the ball forward into the midfield and forward areas.

Go forward for their teams corners to be a goal-threat in the oppositions penalty box.

Ensure the team is prepared and ready for a loss of possession. Center backs should be able to transition quickly, so as not to be beaten on the counter attack.

Center Back When Defending

When defending, center backs need to stop opposing players from getting behind them and creating scoring opportunities.

To do this, center backs need to not only defend themselves but also organize other players on their team. When defending, or not in possession of the ball, a good center back should do the following:

Win aerial challenges, particularly off long goal kicks or punts from the opposition goalkeeper.

Control the last line of defence, so they are organised, compact and difficult to get behind.

Anticipate through balls, by dropping deep and getting to the ball before the opponents forwards or look to play opponents and attackers off-side by ‘holding the line’ and letting the attackers make pre-emptive runs behind them.

Intercept attempted passes behind the defence.

Make challenges and well timed tackles, winning the ball whenever an attacker tries to dribble past them.

Provide cover and support for other defenders when they are pressuring the ball.

Attack crosses in the penalty box and ensure opponents do not get first to the ball.

Block shots and put extreme pressure on opponents when they are trying to shoot.