Mastering Wing-Backs in Football Manager 2024

In recent years, Brighton & Hove Albion have been widely heralded for their style on the pitch and strategy off it. Many other clubs in Europe have taken note of their innovations and sought to replicate them.

What makes the Seagulls’ approach so special is their knack for matching the right players with the right roles to accelerate their development and help the club achieve an exciting playing style.

Here, MaddFM dives deep on the Wing-Back role in Football Manager 2024, using Brighton’s stars to showcase how best to deploy the role in your tactics.  

Mastering Wing-Backs in Football Manager 2024

Brighton’s evolving use of the Wing-Back

Since being promoted from the Sky Bet Championship in 2017, Brighton have gone from strength to strength; 17th in their second top-flight season (2018) to a sixth-place finish in 2023 that secured them UEFA Europa League football for the first time.

One of the most impressive aspects of Brighton’s rise has been how they have, through successive managers, evolved their tactical philosophy. A key theme of their approach has been their developing use of full-backs and later wing-backs as the building blocks for their possession and attacking play.

Let's look back over the last five seasons. We can see clear progressive development in terms of the type of roles and players used in wide defensive positions - moving from a more traditional full-back pairing in 2018 through to a slightly more advanced full-back system in 2020 and then shifting towards a much more attacking pair of Wing-Backs in 2022 via the likes of Tariq Lamptey.

Lamptey

What to look for in a Wing-Back

Since pivoting their approach from traditional Full-Backs to more mobile, technical and attack-minded Wing-Backs, Brighton have had to identify other key characteristics in the players they sign. The three most immediately important criteria are Pace, Crossing and Passing.   

Pervis Estupiñán ticked all of those boxes and more when he signed in 2022. Not only is the Ecuador international lightning quick, but his combination of great Work Rate and Stamina Attributes, as well as the “Gets Forward Whenever Possible” Trait, make him incredibly well-rounded. The 25-year-old also ranks well for many other important metrics, including his Anticipation, Dribbling, Decisions, Off the Ball and First Touch.

As well as being impressive on paper, Estupiñán has delivered in practice. In his first season on England’s south coast, he notched eight assists and ranked among the league’s best for crossing, passing and progressive ball carries.

Estupinan Profile

Still only 25, Estupiñán has continued to impress this season, recording three goals and three assists by February. However, that hasn’t stopped Brighton from futureproofing themselves in this vital position. In January 2024, the club followed in the steps of so many FM fans by signing FM24 Wonderkid Valentín Barco – described by manager Roberto De Zerbi as “an important player” for the club’s future.

Barco Profile

Looking at Barco’s profile, Brighton’s preference for an attack-minded Wing-Back is again clear. Barco has the “Gets Forward Whenever Possible” trait, as well as strong Attribute scores for Stamina, Work Rate, Passing, Vision and Dribbling. At just 19, there’s even more time for him to develop and potentially represent the club’s next evolution in the role.

Deployment & Practical Application of Wing-Backs in FM24

Now we’ve addressed the key elements of what Brighton look for in their Wing-Backs, it’s now time to turn to the other big question – how best to use them in FM24? If we look at the in-game definition, the Wing-Back is described as follows:

Usually playing out wide with no wing support, the Wing-Back must fulfil all the attacking and defensive duties of wingers and full-backs. In attack, he must be prepared to run at his man and put in aggressive crosses, in midfield to help win the possession battle and in defence to close down opponents, block crosses and win back the ball when possible.”

That’s quite a lot for one player to do. So, that means that if you’re going to use Wing-Backs, they’ve got to be vital members of your team but they’ll also need some protection from their teammates against the risk of opposition counter-attacks.

Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi has interchanged frequently between a 4-2-3-1 shape and a 5-4-1 this season. The corresponding duties you’d use your Wing-Backs on in FM24 very much depends on which formation you go for.

4231

In the 4-2-3-1, Estupiñán is employed as a Wing-Back on Support. In this role, he will get forward a lot but will hold a slightly deeper position, closer to your central midfielders. Within this tactical approach, you’d be expecting Estupiñán to fashion goal-scoring opportunities from the half-spaces, whether that’s via through balls or deeper crosses.

Wing Back Instructions - Support

With the benefit and cover of an additional Central Defender in the 5-4-1 shape, there’s more scope to use your Wing-Back on an Attack duty.

541

In this example, Barco comes into the side. His role will be to push further up the pitch and stay wide, overlapping the wide player on his side to help overload the opposition defence and create more direct crossing opportunities closer to the byline.

Wing Back Instructions - Attack

Using the individual player analysis tool, we can take a look at player heatmaps to analyse player movement, space occupied and interceptions made to give ourselves a true insight as to how each wing-back role works.

In the first graphic, we can see that Estupiñán playing as a Wing-Back on Support duty occupied slightly deeper and more central areas, cutting inside to join the midfield (blue heatmap) and making most of his interceptions (numbered circles) in his half or the centre of midfield.

Heat Map 1

Conversely, Barco as a Wing-Back on Attack spent far more time in the opposition half, still making interceptions in similar areas but hugging the touchline more often and getting further forward to offer a greater crossing threat. This shows us where we can expect each role to be more effective and also where we might expect to see gaps and spaces as a result of the defensive positioning and attacking movement of the Wing-Backs.

Heat Map 2

These are just a couple of examples of how you can use Wing-Backs in FM24 but they should be effective in helping you to decide how you use them and how to sign them.

The important thing to ask yourself when trying to decide which role to play is “What do you want from a wing-back”? This will allow you to make the best decisions and tactical tweaks to get the most from the role.

Happy Managing,

 

MaddFM

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