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5 Attributes To Be A Great Center-Back

Center-Backs are the spine of the defense. It is one of the hardest positions to play.
It takes a very certain type of player with various skills to play this position. Let's see why ...

The main role of a center-back is to prevent the opposing team from creating goal-scoring opportunities and scoring goals.

Responsibilities include marking the opposition team's strikers, intercepting passes before they reach dangerous areas, and making good tackles.

I played center-back for years for my youth clubs up to high school. I'm gonna share some of my experience to detail what is needed to be a great center-back!


Knowing when and how to tackle is something of the utmost importance. Timing of the tackles includes knowing when to stand your ground and jockey. There are also certain times to be aggressive to try to win the ball when the attacker isn't expecting it.

If a player times the tackle wrong it can lead to either a foul or getting beat. Both of these things can be negative for the team so it's very important to tackle them at the right time.

In my experiences, whenever an attacker was dribbling at me with the ball I would jockey and keep my feet moving. If I was over-aggressive one little move to the side would mean the attacker would beat me. I would just move with the attacker and wait until he/she lost control of the ball, or put their head down and then I would try to nick the ball away.

Becoming a good tackler comes from experience and seeing different scenarios. Some of the drills that helped me the most were just small-sided drills. Things like 1v1, 2v2, 3v3. Players would try to beat me and of course, I wasn't perfect I got beat. Nobody is perfect even the best professional defenders get beat from time to time.

Every time I got beat I would try my best to learn from it. Once I experienced things it then allowed me to react faster because I had seen them before.

Whether it's private training or more team-oriented there will be a lot of opportunities to work on these skills. Coaches/trainers will put their players in positions where they have to defend. Take these chances to improve seriously and over time the skill will develop.

Another tip is to take time to watch other defenders and see what they do in certain situations and try to implement that in your game. I wrote a blog previously on How To Improve From Watching Games check it out for some more information on that.

Leadership & Communication

Communication is what makes a good defense. Speaking to the players around you and organizing the defense is what helps to not concede goals.

One of the biggest relationships on the pitch is the center-back pairing. Both players have to be in constant communication. Knowing who will be the aggressor and trying to win the ball, who will be there behind to clean-up and sort of play that sweeper role. Is a key example of one of the dynamics in a partnership.

Look at Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. This partnership won numerous big titles together, and will probably go down as one of the best partnerships in the history of soccer/football. They understood and complemented each other so well.

Ramos was the enforcer and aggressor coming high to try and win the ball. Varane had the pace to cover him, so it was one of the most dynamic center-back pairings we will ever see.

A good center-back will almost always be some form of leader on the pitch. It is very important to be vocal and give teammates encouragement and support. To be a leader that player has to be confident in his/her abilities, as well as confident in the abilities of his/her teammates.

It's not in every player to be a leader or be vocal on the pitch. To those players out there who are defenders who are maybe a little shy have to get out of your comfort zone. To play center back you need to be comfortable speaking to your teammates.

When I was younger I wasn't the loudest person I was very shy. However, when I got on the field all of that went away. I knew for my team to play the best, I had to get out of my comfort zone. On all of my club teams, I tried to be the player to motivate people and bring the best out of them.

Positioning & Reading Of The Game

Another one of the most important characteristics that a center-back should possess is awareness and positioning. By knowing where to be at all times, the center back makes sure no opposition player can have time and space. If an attacker is given those it can lead to the opposition creating dangerous chances.

The key is to stay central. Of course, attackers will make runs, but if a player is running across you into where the Right Back is communicate with your teammate and let him/her know. You don't want to follow the player and abandon the center of the field because that creates a huge gap. Also, it's important to be in a place where it is easy to cover a team if they were to get beat.

To work on these skills I would suggest some small group drills because they really test defender positioning. A 4 attacker vs. 2 defender drill is a great one. The defenders are outnumbered and can't necessarily mark every player 1 on 1. So what is the plan?

Marking space has to be the plan. Cutting off the pass and shot angles while staying in from of them is very challenging but it puts positioning to the test.

Aerial Ability

Being able to win headers and defend crosses is one of the most important things for center-backs to be able to. Crossing the ball is one of the most common things teams do to try to create chances. Center-Backs need to be aggressive and make sure the ball doesn't go over them.

Aerial ability is not only important from a defensive point of view. Being able to win headers can help your team in corner kicks and set pieces. The king of this is Sergio Ramos. Over the years he scored many goals from set-pieces at Real Madrid. His most famous was probably the one in the 2014 Champions League Final which ultimately helped Real Madrid win that title.

It takes time to build this ability trust me. When I was younger I was scared to head the ball. It would hurt so bad. Like any other skill, it takes effort and training to be able to do it at a high level.

To first get over my fear I would do a basic drill. I would just have a teammate throw the ball up and I would head it back into his hands. Once I realized that a ball won't kill me it became a lot more comfortable. Yeah, hurt for a little but it went away in just a minute. The more I did it over time the less it hurt.

Once I got comfortable with that I would just practice with a friend. I'd have him hit crosses into the box. I would attack some of them and head them away. With others, I would change it up and try to score goals with crosses.

Once I got the hang of that I took it in-game and tried to get to every ball in the air first. The person who wants it more will get to it! So challenging yourself and focusing is very important when it comes to this skill.

Technical Ability

This is often the attribute that is most overlooked for a center-back. A lot of players think that all you have to do is work on your defending and it will be enough. That isn't true at all. Being good on the ball takes you from being an average CB to a great one.

Think for a second...where does possession usually start from? It starts from the back, especially in today's game teams usually don't just woof the ball forward with long balls. Building possession from the back is becoming the norm.

Center-Backs are expected to keep possession of the ball when their team is in control of it. This means playing passes sideways to the other defenders, or forward into the central midfielders, or even angled balls to wingers.

Defenders Implement This To Train Technical Skills

As a defender, you want to work very hard on your defending skills correctly, but it's not good to think that is all you have to work on. Try to implement some basic things. Things like having a good first touch and accurate passing.

If you go to the field with friends, or teammates don't go straight to 1 on 1's. First, pass the ball around and work on your touch it will come in handy down the line.

With club teams, they usually have a period where they first work on foot skills and strap up with passing drills and things like that. I would suggest every player take those drills seriously because it is needed for every single position. Working on those every day will make a player very comfortable with the ball at his/her feet. Once that player is in a game it will help them make accurate passes to move their team forward!


Thank you for taking the time to read our blog, and we hope you came away with useful information. Of course, if you have any questions or comments leave them down below!

How We Can Help:

At FuturElitez Soccer Training we train our defenders to improve in all attributes. We also make sure all of our soccer players, no matter what position they play, learn how to position themselves in different defensive situations, such as 1v1s, intercepting a pass, and transitioning to defense.

We challenge our soccer players in not only individual training but group training as well to help them become a Future Elite!

So, if you're a Northern Virginia local and are looking for elite and effective private soccer training, look no further, and contact us here to get you started with our programs!


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