Football has, arguably, never been as tactically minded as it is today. The position of centre back, for example, is not one restricted simply to clearing the ball anymore. Teams like Atalanta and Sheffield United have utilized the wide center back, or overlapping centre backs. Recently, even Football Manager 2022 has opted to include the role sparking fresh interest.
But, just who are the best wide centre-backs in football at the moment? And, what exactly do they do?
What’s the role of a wide centre-back or overlapping center back?
In a nutshell, the wide centre-back is a defender that can contribute offensively in a variety of ways. They may make overlapping runs down the wide areas, they may overcrowd central areas. More importantly, they can climb up the pitch and deliver unexpected pressure in the opposition’s box.
Formations using wide centre-backs
Most often, the wide centre-back will play in a back three defensive line. The most frequently used formation in this scenario is the 3-5-2, in which the wide players can drop down and create a 5-3-2. When and if the wide centre-back drifts into attack when their team has possession, the formation turns into a 2-3-5. At its best, this tactic can surprise the opposing team, with an extra player coming from deep to help their team launch attacks.
Who are the best centre-backs in the world?
Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham
Modern football’s fascination with the overlapping center back begins with Sheffield United’s 2019/20 campaign. Chris Wilder’s tactics prioritized the use of defenders that could overload the wide areas, or drift towards the opposition’s penalty box and create superiority. Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham excelled at doing this. And, for a while, Sheffield was the toast of the town and tactic fans’ most spoken of club.
Berat Djimsiti, Jose Luis Palomino and Rafael Toloi
Gian Piero Gasperini is the other manager famous for using alternating overlapping center backs. This happened particularly during the 2019/20 campaign. His back three usually consisted of Berat Djimsiti, Jose Luis Palomino, and Rafael Toloi. The players would take turns advancing into attacking areas when the team was in possession, fully utilizing the pressing strength of the team’s pivots.
Azpilicueta is another player occasionally used in this role. Manager Thomas Tuchel likes to utilize the Spaniard in this way because of the player’s work rate, stamina, and ability to take control down the right wing of the pitch. Furthermore, Azpilicueta possesses good technique and is very successful with his passes.
Lukas Klostermann was often utilized as a wide centre-back as part of Julian Nagelsmann‘s tactics at RB Leipzig. The defender is used to moving the ball into wider and more advanced areas. Klostermann is also great at offering support to Leipzig’s right-back.
Luan Peres is one the latest players to gain attention for being used in an overlapping centre-back role. Jorge Sampaoli’s Marseille typically lines up in 3-5-1-1 formation. Peres, who can also play as a left-back, can use his passing abilities and dribbling to take on a more attacking role that sets the team on the front foot.
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