Jonathan Wilson, author of Inverting the Pyramid, wrote in 2009 that fullback is the most important position in soccer. This importance is the result of a couple trends in tactics. He writes: “as the gradual move to a single striker has led to a return to a back four, the full-back has again taken on attacking importance.” Furthermore, with true wingers becoming rare, “the full-backs are the only players on the field who regularly have space in front of them.” Michael Cox included the rise of attacking fullbacks as one of the 10 biggest tactical shifts of the 2000s. The tiki-taka tyranny of Barcelona and Spain highlighted the significance of central midfielders, but even that system relied on fullbacks like Jordi Alba providing width.
DeAndre Yedlin reflects the recent ambiguity of the fullback role. He starts at right back for the Seattle Sounders, but there are few who would describe defending as the best aspect of his game. A few months ago, he made a name for himself at the World Cup appearing largely as a midfielder, not a fullback. In that midfield role, he was a key part of the build up in the USMNT’s second goal against Portugal. In the aftermath of Brazil, he was the subject of speculation and bidding from several European clubs, and eventually a deal was agreed to sell him to Tottenham Hotspur. But at the moment he is still in Seattle, still playing right back, and it’s worth taking a look at how he fills that role.