Inverted Fullback Training Session

Mark Caron
10 min readApr 10, 2024

This training session is part of the last installment of my series on how to design a training session using rondos.

The concept of creating a “box midfield” with an “inverted fullback” has been particularly popular over the last few years, especially at the pro level with teams like Manchester City, Arsenal, and the NC Courage (during their 2023 season, with Emily Fox).

When a fullback inverts into midfield to act as a pivot alongside your holding midfielder, it creates a central overload (i.e., numerical superiority with a box midfield) and allows your team to build through the central channel more easily while also retaining positional superiority during transitions.

This topic is incredibly interesting to me for several reasons:

  1. A more traditional overlapping fullback (or “wingback”) role—bombing down the wing to whip in a cross—requires a lot of stamina and not every team has the personnel for this type of fullback.
  2. I find the movement of an inverted fullback (in and out of possession) to be simpler and shorter. Though, it does require a fullback to have skills similar to that of a holding midfielder, rather than a “wingback.”
  3. I’m actively working on this with my U14 team because we have the perfect players for this type of role.
  4. It might be something you’re curious about, and it might spark a longer, worthwhile discussion.

So with that, here’s one of a few training sessions I’ve been using to develop inverted fullbacks and to create central overloads.


  • Topic: creating central overloads with an inverted fullback — making a box midfield
  • Moment: attacking / in possession in stages 1 and 2 of possession
  • Principles and sub-principles: progressing the ball through the thirds, creating overloads, creating space, creating width, providing support, third-man runs, etc.
  • Player actions: pass or dribble forward, scan, receive on a half-turn with the back foot, pass with intent, create passing options (e.g., “behind and between”), etc.
  • Keywords and phrases: create an overload, look for the third-man run (or create a free player), behind and between, receive on a half-turn, pass with intent, play the way you’re facing (unless you have time and space to turn), look to combine, etc.
  • Players: 15
  • Duration: ~90 minutes
Figure 1.1: Rondo Tag with 15 players

Phase 1: Rondo

Several rondos, like a horizontally oriented rectangular 4v2 or 5v2 rondo, could work well for this training session. But my absolute favorite way to activate my players is through a “Rondo Tag” game, as shown in Figure 1.1 below. My team loves this drill. Why? Because it’s a competition.


  1. Create a grid of six 8 by 8 yard squares—3 squares across by 2 squares deep. I prefer to use flat, rubber disc markers rather than cones when creating rondo squares.
  2. Divide your players into 3 teams of 5.
  3. Each team will have a ball and choose a square to occupy—keeping one empty square between themselves and the other 2 teams (i.e., skipping every other square).
  4. One player from each team will start as a defender, and move over to the next team’s square (counter-clockwise).

More or fewer players?
If you have 16 players, you could do teams of 4 (i.e., 3v1 rondos) and set up 8 squares in the grid.
If you have 14 players, do teams of 7 (i.e. 5v2 rondos) and set up 4 squares in the grid.


  1. Play begins when the coach says “go” and starts a timer for 2–3 minutes.
  2. Each team attempts to connect 10 clean passes in their square, while their team’s defender in the next square works hard to steal the ball from their opponent. Adjust the number of passes as needed.
  3. Whenever a team completes 10 passes, they move counter-clockwise into the next square.
  4. If a defender steals/intercepts the ball or the ball goes out of bounds, the team in possession resets their count. Note: defenders should not cheat and kick the ball away to delay the restart.
  5. Play continues until the clock runs out or one team catches another (i.e., advances 2 squares before the team in front of them).
  6. When the timer stops, reset squares and rotate defenders.

Dynamic warm-ups

After 2 rounds, have your team run through your typical dynamic warm-up routine (e.g., FIFA 11+)

Guided question

Here’s an example guided question for the first phase, to get your players in the right mindset for the session:

Think about the following as you play: how can we create as many progressive passing lines as possible for ourselves and for our teammates?

Coaching points

Try to minimize the amount of times you intervene—it’s better to let them play. But if you feel it’s necessary to stop play, here are a couple of examples of coaching points in the form of a question:

  • Why didn’t that pass work? How should we do it this time?
  • Can your teammate make a pass to you based on where you’re standing? Right, where could you move to create a better passing line?
  • How can you position your body to have more passing options available? Or what does it mean to have your hips open when receiving the ball?


20 minutes = (5 total rotations x 3 minute intervals) + 5 minute dynamic warm-up

On the left, Figure 2.1: inverted fullback positional game on a quarter pitch;
on the right, Figure 2.2: inverted fullback position game using half of a pitch.

Phase 2: Positional game

This positional game is a fantastic tool for teaching inverted fullback movements and getting your players comfortable with this concept.

Here, we’re hoping to encourage the following concepts:

  • Possession and build-up play through the central channel.
  • Overloading the midfield and center of the pitch with inverted runs by fullbacks.
  • Moving into space “behind and between” the defenders in order to act as pivots and create progressive passing lines.
  • Creativity in combining between the lines, and using the 3rd man or bounce passes (or up-back-throughs) from the player facing forward.


  1. About 12 yards from an age-appropriate goal, create two zones 25–30 yards wide by 15 yards deep each, separated by an 8 yard neutral zone. The zones are numbers 1–3, starting from the zone in front of the main goal.
  2. Place two mini-goals (or “Pugg goals”) about 1–2 yards apart and 5 yards from the end line of the 3rd zone.
  3. Divide your players into 2 teams. The attacking team (focus group) has 6 players and a goalkeeper, and the defending team has 8 players. Give the defending team pinnies.
  4. Line the attacking team up as a 1–4–2, with the goalkeeper and 4 players inside the first zone (nearest the main goal). The 2 “midfielders” will take up their positions in the 3rd zone. Note: the goalkeeper is the only player who may stand below/outside the zone.
  5. The defending team will line up as a 2–3, with two players acting as midfielders in the 3rd zone and three forwards in the first zone. The three extra defenders will wait for their turn beside the main goal.
  6. The neutral zone in the middle is unoccupied for now.
  7. Place all soccer balls next to the coach, standing beside the main goal.


  1. The coach sets a timer for 3 minutes, and play begins at the feet of the goalkeeper in zone 1.
  2. The attacking team must attempt to maintain possession and progress the ball through the 3 zones to score in one of the mini-goals at the top.
  3. To progress from Zone 1 to Zone 3, the attacking team must connect a pass to any teammate in Zone 2 (the neutral zone or “between the lines”). While we’re encouraging inverted fullbacks, any attacking player from Zone 1 can make this run into Zone 2, whether a fullback or center-back. And only one pivot/midfielder can drop into Zone 2 as well. The hope is to create a 6v3 between the two zones.
  4. Once the pass is made, the attacking team can overload Zone 3 in a 3v2.
  5. The defending team must stick to their respective zones while pressing as hard as possible.
  6. If the defending team steals the ball, they may immediately try and score on the main goal.
  7. If a goal is scored or the ball goes out of bounds, play restarts at the goalkeeper’s feet.
  8. After the first 3 minutes is up, swap out the 3 defending forwards for the players waiting their turn. Rotating these players will allow them to keep their work rate high.

Rotation options

  • After 4 rotations, swap the attacking and defending teams so that all your players have a chance to develop these skills.
  • Optionally, you can harden your typical starting defenders’ skills on this build-up sequence by keeping them as the focus group (i.e., attacking team), and swap only a few players as needed.

Guided questions

The primary guided questions for this phase are the following:

1. If we have the same number of central midfielders as our opponent, how might we get more players—creating an overload—in the center of the pitch?

2. From earlier: how can we create as many progressive passing lines as possible for ourselves and for our teammates?

Some more potential questions:

  • Why would we want more players in the center of the pitch?
  • What are the advantages of overloading the center?
  • If our fullback moves inside into midfield to create that overload, how can we create width on that side? If we had 11 players, which player might that be?
  • If our fullback moves into midfield, how can we keep numerical superiority when our 3 defenders have the ball against our opponent’s 3 forwards? How can we get a 4th player on our defensive line? Who should be part of the build-up play?
  • What are some other ways to add a 4th player to midfield (if not the fullback)?

Coaching points

You may think of more, but here are some example coaching points to get you started:

  • How can you create more space?
  • If the forward pass isn’t available, what should you do?


24 minutes = 8 total rotations x 3 minute intervals

On the left, Figure 3.1: an inverted fullback training game on a quarter pitch;
on the right, Figure 3.2: a more ideal training game for inverted fullbacks using half of a pitch.

Phase 3: Training game

As you may know, the goal of the final phase of training is to allow our players ample opportunity to practice their solution, like finding moments to invert a fullback, in a “training game” that is as realistic as possible.

The following setup is for a training game on a quarter of a pitch and a single age-appropriate goal for training (see Figure 3.1 above).

Setup (1/4 pitch)

  1. Use cones (or agility poles) to create a playing area using as much of the available space as possible.
  2. Mark the “penalty area” with 2 cones (or agility poles) 18 yards up along the side to serve as a visual aid to keep the defending team from entering the “box” before the goal kick has been taken.
  3. At the opposite end of the main goal, center 2 mini-goals with 1–2 yards between them and about 5 yards above the end line (see the note below on goal placement).
  4. Divide your players into 2 teams of 7, plus a goalkeeper for the big goal. The focus group is in blue in the diagram (defending the big goal), and the control group is in red (defending the mini-goals).
  5. Line your focus group up as a 1–4–3 and your control group as a 1–3–3.

The purpose of placing the min-goals centrally is to encourage building through the central channel. This will also create a more realistic block with the defending team closing space in the middle of the field.

Play/rules (1/4 pitch)

  1. The focus group starts with the ball from a goal kick.
  2. After that, it’s open play following all the typical rules, like throw-ins, goal kicks, corner kicks, etc.
  3. The control group’s “goalkeeper”/defender (shown in orange in the diagram) is limited to using their feet, and they must stay inside the playing area (i.e., they cannot stand directly in front of the goals to block them). Add cones for a goal crease if you need to make this more obvious.
  4. If the focus group isn’t getting enough repetitions on build-up play, occasionally reset play from a dead ball as a goal kick.

Half a pitch setup

If you are lucky enough to train on a half pitch, you would still want to limit the width to force your fullbacks to invert centrally. The playing area should be as wide as the penalty area, and as long as half field.

If you have a second age-appropriate, then the control group’s goalkeeper may use their hands.


If you have 16 players (or other even numbers), you could line up the red team just like the blue team—making two focus groups, as in Figure 3.2 above.

Guided questions & coaching points

Like in the first phase, do your best not to intervene too much. Allow your players to solve problems on their own. But, occasionally, you may need to encourage your fullbacks to get creative, to move inside, or to create the necessary overloads and passing options by using any of the keywords, guided questions, and coaching points mentioned earlier.


20 minutes total, with breaks as needed for water or to swap players.


Hopefully, you find this training session helpful, whether implementing the session as-is or using it as inspiration for a different session.

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback about this session on developing inverted fullbacks, using rondos, or designing training sessions in general, I’d love to hear from you.