A center-back or a central defender is a significant figure in every successful soccer team. To play center back, you have to fully understand the role of this position, be aggressive without fouling, and be strong. So, what makes an excellent center-back player, and what should be considered to excel in this position?
In soccer, the center back is the player that has the primary defensive function. The center back takes the center position on the field close to their own goal, and their task is to prevent the opposition from creating a scoring opportunity. They tackle opposing players, intercept passes, and stop crosses played in attacking positions.
The center-back position demands leadership skills and technique, so you need to learn them if you intend to play this position and be good at it. This article will tell you everything you need to know about what makes an excellent center-back player and the tasks that come with this position. Keep reading to find out how you can become an exceptional center back!
How To Become A Good Center Back In Soccer?
If you want to play in the position of a center back in soccer, you have to understand the main concepts related to it. Namely, you have to comprehend several notions that make an excellent center-back because this is one of the most significant positions of a soccer team. These notions include:
- The role of the center back in the soccer team.
- The techniques incorporated by the center back.
- The attributes of the center back.
The Role Of The Center Back On The Soccer Team
The role of the center back in the soccer team is to anchor the defensive backline of the team. The center back is positioned in the middle of the defensive backline closest to the goalkeeper. Center-backs act as the protectors of the box, clearing away the opposing team’s attacking attempts and delivering outlet passes to start the counter-attack.
The center-back is the player that anchors the defense, aligning the backline to adapt to the movement of the opposing attack. This means that the center back comes with leadership traits that can help the whole team, especially in pressing situations.
The center back establishes good defense by preventing the opposing team from creating situations where they can score goals. Center-backs typically match up against the opposing team’s striker, monitoring them and stepping up to defend as they approach the box.
Since the center back’s task is to provide defense for their team, they need to be able to perform particular techniques. These techniques include:
- Defending opposition players when they have the ball
- Intercepting passes so they cannot reach dangerous areas.
- Co-ordinating the marking of players by fellow teammates
- Starting the counter-attack with crisp, accurate passes
In addition, the center back needs to stop crosses in dangerous areas of the soccer field.
Furthermore, the player in the center back position needs to organize the other defenders and establish a consistent defensive strategy during the game. As mentioned before, this position requires leadership skills.
The Techniques Incorporated By The Center Back in a Soccer Match
There are several key attributes and techniques that good center-backs have and use during a soccer match. Enclosed below is a list of attributes that center-backs must have or use to play effectively:
Adaptability and Anticipation
The center back is required to adapt based on the opposing team’s attacking approach and strategy. Namely, the center back must be able to adapt their game strategy to the type of striker they are marking during the game. Adaptability means that the striker also needs good observing skills to study their opposition and acknowledge which techniques should be incorporated on the field.
The center-back must also anticipate the play in order to know where to position both themselves and the other defenders as well as when to step up vs drop back and defend.
Partnership With The Other Central Defender
As referenced earlier, the center-backs must coordinate both with each other, the goalkeeper, and the outside backs to ensure that the defense is aligned and understands their roles as the play develops.
Communicating things like who to mark, when to switch assignments, and where and how to position themselves are essential to a successful defensive structure. Center-backs are the lynchpin to the defense.
Playing Aggressively and Assertively
The center back needs to be quick and assertive during every match to provide the exact defense their team needs. The center back needs to be able to sprint and tackle other players while making sure that they will avoid fouls. Since the center-back is an important figure in the soccer team, they need to ensure that they are playing aggressively yet without fouling.
To learn how to play aggressively without fouling, check out our Guide to Aggressive Soccer Play without Fouling.
The Attributes Of A Center Back
An effective and efficient center-back needs to possess particular qualities and attributes that will serve as valuable assets on the soccer field. The following attributes are regarded as essential traits of a center back:
- An excellent reader of the game, so they will be able to determine which strategy and technique to implement during a match.
- Effective decision-making traits enable them to make decisions quickly while ensuring they can produce successful results.
- Organization traits help them organize other defenders on the soccer field and secure a win for the team.
- Leadership skills enable the center back to organize other players on the field and establish a good strategy for defense.
- Strength to battle strikers and center forwards for the ball both on the ground and in the air
- Effective passing skills for both short and long balls to attacking players
- Strong ball control skills to win the ball and keep it away for attacking players
- Ability to stay calm and execute their role effectively under pressure
Soccer Position Guide
|Position||Link to Guide|
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Center Back A Hard Position In Soccer?
Because center backs have to battle the strikers from the opposing team, center-back is a challenging position. Center backs need to be physically strong and tough to endure this demanding position throughout a whole match.
Center backs are the last line of defense in front of the goalkeeper. They need to be aggressive without fouling. They need to be strong in the air to head balls away from danger. Center backs should also be good at making good outlet passes to start the offensive counter-attack.
How Many Center Backs Are There In Soccer?
Usually, most soccer formations have two center backs positioned in front of the goalie. However, for certain formations, like the 5-3-2 formation for example, there are actually three (3) center backs.
What Jersey Numbers Do Center Backs Usually Wear?
Traditionally, the most common number center backs wear on their jerseys is the number 5. However, that is far from a hard and fast rule. Enclosed below is a list of English Premier League center backs and the number they wear:
|Jan Bednarek||35||Southhampton||English Premier League|
|Lyanco||4||Southhampton||English Premier League|
|Jack Stephens||5||Southhampton||English Premier League|
|Benjamin White||4||Arsenal||English Premier League|
|Gabriel||6||Arsenal||English Premier League|
|Rob Holding||16||Arsenal||English Premier League|
|Takehiro Tomiyasu||18||Arsenal||English Premier League|
|Tyrone Mings||5||Aston Villa||English Premier League|
|Ezri Konsa||4||Aston Villa||English Premier League|
|Kourtney Hause||30||Aston Villa||English Premier League|
|Pontas Jansson||18||Brentford||English Premier League|
|Kristoffer Ajer||20||Brentford||English Premier League|
|Ethan Pinnock||5||Brentford||English Premier League|
|Julian Jeanvier||23||Brentford||English Premier League|
|Mads Bech Sorensen||29||Brentford||English Premier League|
|Lewis Dunk||5||Brighton||English Premier League|
|Joel Veltman||34||Brighton||English Premier League|
|Adam Webster||4||Brighton||English Premier League|
|Shane Duffy||24||Brighton||English Premier League|
|Haydon Roberts||28||Brighton||English Premier League|
|Ed Turns||55||Brighton||English Premier League|
|James Tarkowski||5||Burnley||English Premier League|
|Ben Mee||6||Burnley||English Premier League|
|Nathan Collins||22||Burnley||English Premier League|
|Kevin Long||28||Burnley||English Premier League|
|Bobby Thomas||37||Burnley||English Premier League|
|Antonio Rudiger||2||Chelsea||English Premier League|
|Trevor Chalobah||14||Chelsea||English Premier League|
|Andreas Christensen||4||Chelsea||English Premier League|
|Thiago Silva||6||Chelsea||English Premier League|
|Malang Sarr||31||Chelsea||English Premier League|
|Cesar Azpilicueta||28||Chelsea||English Premier League|
|Joachim Andersen||16||Crystal Palace||English Premier League|
|Marc Guehi||6||Crystal Palace||English Premier League|
|James Tomkins||5||Crystal Palace||English Premier League|
|Martin Kelly||34||Crystal Palace||English Premier League|
|Michael Keane||5||Everton||English Premier League|
|Yerry Mina||13||Everton||English Premier League|
|Mason Holgate||4||Everton||English Premier League|
|Ben Godfrey||22||Everton||English Premier League|
|Jarrad Branthwaite||32||Everton||English Premier League|
|Ryan Astley||38||Everton||English Premier League|
|Liam Cooper||6||Leeds United||English Premier League|
|Robin Koch||5||Leeds United||English Premier League|
|Diego Llorente||14||Leeds United||English Premier League|
|Pascal Struijk||21||Leeds United||English Premier League|
|Caglar Soyuncu||4||Leicester City||English Premier League|
|Jonny Evans||6||Leicester City||English Premier League|
|Wesley Fofana||3||Leicester City||English Premier League|
|Jannik Vestergaard||23||Leicester City||English Premier League|
|Virgil van Dijk||4||Liverpool||English Premier League|
|Ibrahima Konate||5||Liverpool||English Premier League|
|Joe Gomez||12||Liverpool||English Premier League|
|Joel Matip||32||Liverpool||English Premier League|
|Billy Koumetio||89||Liverpool||English Premier League|
|Ruben Dias||3||Manchester City||English Premier League|
|John Stones||5||Manchester City||English Premier League|
|Aymeric Laporte||14||Manchester City||English Premier League|
|Nathan Ake||6||Manchester City||English Premier League|
|Raphael Varane||19||Manchester United||English Premier League|
|Harry Maguire||5||Manchester United||English Premier League|
|Phil Jones||4||Manchester United||English Premier League|
|Eric Bailly||3||Manchester United||English Premier League|
|Victor Lindelof||2||Manchester United||English Premier League|
|Jamaal Lascelles||6||Newcastle United||English Premier League|
|Fabian Schar||5||Newcastle United||English Premier League|
|Ciaran Clark||2||Newcastle United||English Premier League|
|Frederico Fernandez||18||Newcastle United||English Premier League|
|Paul Dummett||3||Newcastle United||English Premier League|
|Grant Hanley||5||Norwich City||English Premier League|
|Ozan Kabak||15||Norwich City||English Premier League|
|Ben Gibson||4||Norwich City||English Premier League|
|Christoph Zimmermann||6||Norwich City||English Premier League|
|Andrew Omobamidele||44||Norwich City||English Premier League|
|Davinson Sanchez||6||Tottenham Hotspur||English Premier League|
|Cristian Romero||4||Tottenham Hotspur||English Premier League|
|Eric Dier||15||Tottenham Hotspur||English Premier League|
|Joe Rodon||14||Tottenham Hotspur||English Premier League|
|Malachi Fagan-Walcott||46||Tottenham Hotspur||English Premier League|
|Brooklyn Lyons-Foster||53||Tottenham Hotspur||English Premier League|
|Christian Kabasele||27||Watford||English Premier League|
|William Troost-Ekong||5||Watford||English Premier League|
|Francisco Sierralta||31||Watford||English Premier League|
|Craig Cathcart||15||Watford||English Premier League|
|Kurt Zouma||4||West Ham United||English Premier League|
|Angelo Ogbonna||21||West Ham United||English Premier League|
|Issa Diop||23||West Ham United||English Premier League|
|Craig Dawson||15||West Ham United||English Premier League|
|Ajibola Alese||42||West Ham United||English Premier League|
|Conor Coady||16||Wolverhampton Wanderers||English Premier League|
|Willy Boly||15||Wolverhampton Wanderers||English Premier League|
|Maximilian Kilman||23||Wolverhampton Wanderers||English Premier League|
|Yerson Mosquera||14||Wolverhampton Wanderers||English Premier League|
Based on the data in the table above, the three most popular player numbers for center backs in the Premier League are:
|Number||Number of Teams with Center Backs Wearing this Number||Percentage of Teams that have a Center Back Wearing this Number|
As you can see, the center back is the central defender in a soccer team, meaning that they play a significant role in each game. If you intend to become a good center-back, you should consider starting practice right now. It is a difficult position, and it requires a lot of work, so start getting that practice in now!