Left Back Soccer Position Explained

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

How do you succeed at the left back soccer position? In the beautiful game, the left back is a wide defensive position that makes up part of the defensive line, along with the center backs and right back. However, in modern soccer left backs need to do more than just defend and must be able to attack as well.

The left back plays a crucial role in mainly marking the opposing wingers, providing width for the team during the attack, and they must have effective communication skills since their position allows them to see the rest of the team, and the entire field, from a great angle.

In this blog, I will be going over the importance of the left back soccer position including its main role, attributes needed, the different types of left backs, as well as give you a list of world class left backs to analyze and study.

left back soccer Image by Fancy Crave

The Crucial Role of the Left Back Position

The left back is a very important position that has a ton of primary responsibilities including the following:

Mark the opposition wingers

One key role of a left back includes marking opposition wingers closely, stopping the opposing team’s attacking play, and preventing them from exploiting the width of the field. By doing so, they help maintain the defensive shape and limit the opponent’s attacking options.

While their main job is usually to cover the opposition winger, the left back is also responsible for providing vertical support all throughout the left flank of the field and horizontal support for the rest of the back line, especially the central defenders, or centre backs.

Defend and attack the width of the field

A versatile left back is excellent at defending the width of the field during defensive phases while being able to quickly transition to attack once the team regains possession of the ball. This ability to contribute both defensively and offensively adds an extra dimension to the team’s gameplay and makes the left back a significant attacking threat, not just a defensive one.

Communicate with the rest of the team

Due to the left back’s position they have a great view of both teams and the entire field so it is very important for this position to be vocal and communicative with the rest of the team. This means telling teammates where to go, who to mark, and where the open space is.

Make different types of runs to create space

One important part of initiating attacks on the other team includes having left backs that constantly utilize overlapping runs and diagonal runs to create space and provide passing options for their teammates. These dynamic runs not only stretch the opposition’s defense but also open up channels for attacking plays in the final third.

As a left back it is important to make these different types of runs instead of running just in a straight line down the left side of the field, which makes it very easy for the opposing team to defend against.

Send dangerous crosses to the final third of the field

One of the main attacking roles of the left back includes being able to use both feet to cross the ball towards dangerous areas. Being ambidextrous will open up a completely different level to your game as you will no longer be relying on your more dominant foot.

By being able to use both feet, left backs can either cut in and cross the ball with their right foot, or the can cut out and cross the ball with their left foot.

Left back soccerImage by Omar Ram

Key Attributes of Elite Left Backs

An elite left back is a very well rounded player and has a high level of defensive and offensive attributes. Now that you are familiar with the primary responsibilities of the left back, let’s discuss the main attributes needed to succeed at this position.

On the Ball Skills/ Technical Skills

A good left back showcases exceptional ball control, dribbling skills, and passing ability. They are comfortable receiving and distributing the ball under pressure, contributing to their team’s possession-based style of play.

The left back’s role in maintaining possession of the ball is very important as they provide width for the team and can see the entire field. A left back should spend most of their time on the width of the field and will rarely have to go into a central position, unless they absolutely have to.

Defensive Skills

Elite left backs must also demonstrate tactical intelligence in their defensive duties, since that is their primary role. Left backs must excel in one-on-one situations against opposition wingers, have strong tackling abilities, be able to intercept passes, read plays, and mark the opposing team’s attacking players.

Dribbling Skills

The ability to dribble past opponents and initiate attacking moves from deep positions is a crucial role of the left back that often makes them look like a left winger. Although left backs are defensive players they must possess great on the ball skills, such as dribbling, to be able to create attacking opportunities.

Speed

Speed is one of the most important parts of the game, whether that is physical speed or mental speed. As a left back, both types of speeds are very important but especially physical speed since the left backs are usually always in charge of guarding the fastest players on the other team, the wingers.

Speed is what will allow full backs to drop back quickly to their own half after having run up the field to show off their attacking abilities.

Stamina

Along with speed, left backs must also possess high stamina. Imagine running up and down the side of the soccer field for 90 minutes and not just jogging, but having to do a bunch of sprints over and over again.

That is exactly what a left back has to experience every time they play which is why having high stamina is key. It’s no use being fast if you are only able to show your speed for a small amount of time and not the entire game.

Positional Sense and Awareness

Positional sense and awareness are crucial for left backs in the modern game, where they must adeptly balance defensive duties with their offensive ones. Situated on the left flank, left backs are often the last line of defense before the opposition’s final third, demanding a keen understanding of their role within the defensive line and the team’s tactics.

Left back soccer

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World Class Left backs

Now that you understand the key responsibilities and key attributes of a left back, it is important to know who some of the best left backs in the world are to analyze, study, and learn from.

  • Alphonso Davies: Bayern Munchen
  • Theo Hernandez: Italian club AC Milan
  • Alex Grimaldo: Bayer Leverkusen
  • Andrew Robertson: Liverpool
  • Ferland Mendy: Real Madrid
  • Alejandro Balde: Barcelona
  • Oleksandr Zinchenko: Arsenal

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best soccer training program?

The best online soccer training program and soccer app is Football Entangled. There is no other program like Football Entangled on the market and this community, much more than just an app, will help you get closer to making your dreams a reality.

How should a left back play in the modern game?

In the modern game a left back has many more jobs than just their defensive responsibilities because they also need to be able to contribute to the attack. A modern left back must be able to defend the width of the field, be a wide passing option for the team, and provide danger in the attacking third of the field, mainly by dribbling through players and sending in dangerous crosses.

What is the difference between a left back and a left wing back?

The primary difference between left backs and left wing backs lies in their tactical roles and positional responsibilities on the field. A left back typically operates as a traditional defender within a four-man defensive line, focusing on marking opposition wingers, providing defensive cover, and occasionally joining attacks from deep positions.

On the other hand, a left wing back operates in a more advanced role, often as part of a back-three formation or in a wing-back system, where they are expected to contribute significantly to both defensive and attacking phases of play. Wing backs can be considered more of an attacking full back.

Is a left back the same as a full back?

Yes, the full back positions refer to the wide defenders on the back line. The full back positions are made up of the right back and the left back.

Who is the best left back in the Premier League?

Andy Robertson from Liverpool is widely regarded as one of the best left backs of the Premier League.

Who is the best left back in the Champions league?

Some of the best left backs in the Champions League includes Theo Hernandez, Alphonso Davies, Ferland Mendy, Samuel Lino, and Alejandro Balde

Conclusion

In conclusion, understanding the role of the left back soccer position is crucial in the modern game. From defensive prowess to attacking contributions, left backs must excel in various skills such as ball control, ball distribution, defense, speed, stamina, and positional awareness.

As an aspiring soccer player, analyzing world-class left backs like Alphonso Davies and Andrew Robertson provides valuable insights as to how to succeed in this position. As the game evolves, left backs continue to play an integral role in shaping the outcome of matches, making them valuable players for any successful team.

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