CENTRAL BACK – tasks and responsibilities in attack! (english version)

CENTRAL BACK – tasks and responsibilities in attack! (english version)

19 marca 2018 0 przez Radosław Bella

In today’s football, the central defender plays an increasingly important role. Earlier, much was said about his defensive tasks, and less time was devoted to his role in the attacking. Today, it is safe to say that what we have in the team of central defenders has a huge impact on the quality of our attack. There are at least two reasons:

1 / Central defender usually starts an attack

2 / Most of the passes in most cases are performed by the center defenders.

While the first reason is a fact, by the position of the defender on the pitch, in the second point, it can be our weapon or also weakness at the same time. There is a difference between passing a ball, playing a ball and successfully conducting and leading positional attack.


Of course, as far as the place on the pitch itself can be discussed for a long time, it is about the relation of the central defenders to the opponent, two strict basic rules can be put forward.

1 / the distance of the central defenders between each other.

During attacking, first of all you have to move the opponent, not … the ball. If the middle defender’s positions are too narrow, we will pass the ball to each other, but we will not get closer to the opponent’s goal.



Of course, it is very crucial to keep in head the strategy of the game and the team’s structure when they have a ball. The huge difference in attacking can be seen when two or three central defenders are played. When CBs are to close to each other, even they are playing the ball to each other, they don’t cause the opponent change the positioning and they will give them time for good positioning as they wish. The film shows how the positioning of the central defenders against each other I not beneficial for a good attack.


Very interesting research was carried out at the Mathematical University of Oxford. To the question how many meters the ball has to pass as a distance, and to change the game scenario clearly (other positions of opponents, difference in position, etc.) it was answered that the average distance is 15 meters (for Jed Davies 2017). Shorter passes between players in the context of a further attack may be unnecessary. Perhaps that’s why Pep Guardiola (2017) said in one of his interviews: “If you are standing badly and constantly pass yourself a ball to you teammate, you will sooner prepare a counterattack to your opponent than to take clear shooting opportunity.


Look at this three photos that show us the next three passes to three different players. Look again and pay attention to how the positioning of opponents does NOT change at all. Action which is lasting just a few seconds, chances of progressing …not any one.


When the distance between CB’s is higher, it can cause – in most cases – opponent’s positioning widening. Although when opposition stay in compact – the progression on the wings can happen.


In the video below, you can see why place has it make available.

1 / Central defenders were at a suitable distance from each other.

2 / The pass between them by-passed the striker, who was no longer able to catch up with the central defender with the ball.



The next film shows how important it is to move the ball forward through the center defender. Very often, then the winger of the opposing team has a problem. Who do you press? Do you stay with your side defender or approach the player with the ball ??

Who should I press on?



Another advantage of introducing the ball is creating an advantage. 4v2, 4v1, 3 v2 or 3 v1 are the most common situations that are a consequence of a good start of attacking.


The advantage mentioned before  can cause various scenarios – like in the picture seen above. Pass to the fullback, pass forward, pass to the fullback through the midfielder etc. Having an advantage, it will be easier to pass the ball to partner who will be at the front of the action.

2 / the distance of the central defenders from the opponent.

At the beginning I mentioned the correct positioning of the central defenders. Not only do we need to refer to each other’s positioning and our partners positioning,  the distance between the central defender with the ball from the opponent becomes more and more important! If we are too far away from your opponent, you deprive yourselves of the possibility of pass forward, or simply the pass will be a higher risk.


To much distance between player with the ball and teammate.

Of course, the speed of the ball will affect whether the opponent will be able to move or not, but the distance of the central defenders from the opponents is important. It is much easier then to play the ball forward.

In the video below you can see how badly the attack began (Irleand). Through bad positions, distances and the quality of passes, they are not able to play with intention. Each subsequent pass is domino effect of errors. Each subsequent mistake is a consequence of incorrect positioning.

When we are closer to the opponent, we encourage him to press. Antonio Conte even ordered the CBs to dribble the ball on the opponent. In the book “Project Bayern Munich” you can find a passage in which Guardiola tells how important it is to wait for the pressure of the opponent when you have a ball, because it changes opponent’s position and create the gap behind his back. In the video below you can see how Bonucci brings the ball forward.



Of course, to play that way, you need central defenders who feel good with the ball. Also you should think that you are the last defender and the first attacker!


Let’s look at the above graphic how many options of pass there are there when there is a good structure of positioning relative to opponent’s posiotioning.

Of course, this is a risk. Any bad receiving of the ball (too far) if we are close to the opponent, will encourage him to press. Football players have always been taught that you need to receive the ball and move forward and in most cases I agree but sometimes there are situations when you need to receive the ball but stay in the same position and not move forward (if we want them to be closer to the opponent), you may also need to pay attention to the receiving but more closer to yourself? Example errors.


We have made it to the end. In this article, I just wanted to briefly describe the position of the central back. Everything, of course, depends on our plan for the match. We haven’t had time to discussed a lot of tissues that also affect how defenders moves the ball:

1 / Assistance in attack

2 / Mobility of the players in the front – they will have a huge impact on whether the defender will be able to move a ball forward. You can be very well placed against the opponent and partners, and still not be able to pass the ball forward.

3 / Change the game side (switching play)

4 / Long ball

these four points only show how much benefits CB’s is able to give us.
I know that you can not treat all tips as a prescription for a good attack. Unfortunately, the courage of central defenders, coach’s philosophy, the setting up of opponents, etc. is also very important. The article is only subjective notes in the current topic.