Building around the Inverted Full-Back in Football Manager 2024
As football evolves and clubs continually seek out new ways to outsmart their rivals, it has become essential for football managers to constantly innovate when it comes to on-field roles and tactical decisions.
Football Manager is no different and with each year we see the game adding new tactical options and player roles. This is both a case of keeping up with real-life developments but also giving you more room as boss to refine your own unique approach.
Football Manager 2024’s most notable positional innovation is the Inverted Full-Back and here MaddFM dives deep into what the role is all about and some practical applications for your latest career.
What is the Inverted Full-Back?
Defensively, the Inverted Full-Back is not that dissimilar from a traditional Full-Back. Where they differ is during the periods when your team is in possession. Then, the Inverted Full-Back will look to tuck inside and act more like an additional central defender rather than pushing up the field and offering width to your team’s attacks.
While they’ll still offer a passing option to their midfield teammates, particularly when the ball is on their side of the pitch, their focus is on providing more defensive cover and stability should the ball get turned over and the opposition look to counter-attack.
Ultimately, the Inverted Full-Back is a more defensive alternative to the Inverted Wing-Back role, which looks to shuffle into central midfield during possession phases.
Understanding its use in real-life matches
To better understand how the Inverted Full-Back works, let’s look at a real life example from the highest level of the professional game.
At Manchester City, Pep Guardiola has continually evolved his tactical approach and that includes recruiting or retraining players to master specific roles at specific times.
In recent seasons, we have seen the English champions evolve from using attacking wing-backs to inverted wing-backs. Now they’re prime exponents of inverted full-backs and the best example of this has been the interchanging of responsibilities between the likes of Kyle Walker on the right and Joško Gvardiol on the left of his back four.
The below examples show how we might expect to see Manchester City set up in a 4-3-3. In both scenarios, one of Gvardiol or Walker operates as an Inverted Full-Back which in turn allows for the other to be given the freedom to drive forward and add additional creativity to City’s attacks.
In the example with Gvardiol as an Inverted Full-Back, what we expect to see is Walker making attacking runs up the right flank and overlapping Phil Foden who likes to drift inside and find space in and around the opposition box. With Walker in an advanced position, Manuel Akanji and Ruben Dias will shift to the right and Gvardiol will then tuck in to become a third central defender.
Identifying the right player for the job
Of course, it’s easy to talk about how Manchester City deploy an Inverted Full-Back when they have the likes of Walker, Gvardiol and Nathan Aké to choose from on either side as needed.
But if you’re managing another team or want to recruit someone to fill that role, what should you be looking for? What is it that makes for a quality Inverted Full-Back?
The key Attributes highlighted in FM24 are Tackling, Marking, Heading, Positioning and Strength – this makes sense as these are the key skills they’ll need to fulfil their central defensive responsibilities while your team are in possession.
That said, there are a number of additional Attributes that are essential in order for a player to be an effective Inverted Full-Back in your tactical approach. For me, the key ones are Decisions (reading the game and knowing when to tuck in), Concentration (alertness and reactiveness to tactical moves), Anticipation (awareness of opposition threats), Work Rate (consistent movement in and out of possession) and Composure (calmness on the ball and when under pressure).
It’s not just attributes that are essential, however; Personality and Player Traits are also quite important. Players who are Professional, Determined, Ambitious and Hard-Working will naturally be a better fit than those who are less determined, unambitious, slack or low in self-belief. In terms of Player Traits, it can be useful to coach your Inverted Full-Back to develop traits such as Stays Back at All Times, Cuts Inside from Left/Right Flank or Brings Ball Out of Defence. If you have a defender with a decent passing range, players that like to Attempt Long Range Passes or Switch Possession to the Other Side of the Pitch can be highly effective in contributing to attacking phases in addition to their impact on your defensive shape.
A practical application for FM24
Assuming you have the right players available, the Inverted Full-Back can be a powerful element of your tactical approach.
Here, I’ll use another club as an example – new Football Manager club partners Yokohama F. Marinos.
Looking at the available personnel, left-sided defender Ryotaro Tsunoda stands out. Although he arguably favours playing at centre-back, he’s more than capable of playing at full-back if needed. At six-foot-one he’s got good size and in terms of Attributes he’s got good scores for Tackling, Marking, Heading, Decisions, Anticipation and Work Rate.
On the other side, we have the right-footed Ryuta Koike. As you can see from the profile below, he’s much quicker and more explosive with the ability to play as a Wing-Back or a Winger if needed. Additionally, as he’s only five-foot-seven it wouldn’t make as much sense to have him tucking inside to work as a third central defender.
Based on this, we can set up our tactic to have Tsunoda dropping in as an Inverted Full-Back in the left, with Koike given free rein on the right-hand side to push forward in attack and cause all kinds of problems for the opposition.
What we would expect to see is our shape evolve within matches, from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2 of sorts with Koike taking on an advanced role and Anderson Lopes on the right cutting inside to almost become a second striker. That would leave the newly formed back three of Tsunoda, Eduardo and Shinnosuke Hatanaka to cover and protect against counter-attacks.
How we expect to see the IFB shift our formation from 4-3-3 to 3-5-2
Finally, we need to turn this theory into practice. If we look closely at a recent 3-0 home league win, we can clearly see the contrast between our left-back and right-back, particularly in terms of average position throughout the 90 minutes.
Inverted Full-Back (Left) vs Wing Back (Right) Heatmaps
Here, we can clearly see that Tsunoda as an Inverted Full-Back spent most of the game in central positions. On the other side, Koike (playing as a Right-WB on Attack duty) spent far more time in the opposition half, getting into advanced positions and clearly enjoying the freedom created by our new back three shifting across to cover in behind.
Taking your tactics to a new level
The Inverted Full-Back is a great addition for FM24 as it really allows us as managers to get far more creative and interactive when it comes to tactical fluidity and positional play.
By clearly defining the role and responsibilities of the Inverted-Full Back, this not only gets the most out of the player deployed in that role but benefits players in other roles in that they can be more creative and operate in space further up the field.
It is essential to make sure you are balancing the team effectively when setting up with an Inverted Full-Back, as there will always be a risk involved when directing players to leave their positions at different stages of a game, but if you can master this and partner the right role with the right player, you open up a realm of possibilities within your FM24 save universe.
*The Inverted Full-Back is only available in FM24 (PC/Mac), FM24 Console (Xbox/PS5) and FM24 Touch (Apple Arcade/Nintendo Switch).
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