Left-footed centre-backs for back three

Category: Team Analysis

We are looking for left-footed centre-backs with great ball handling, a profile that is increasingly in demand due to the proliferation of back three systems.


As in any other economic sector, evolution and demand mean that some profiles are suddenly more needed than others. In football, the same thing has been happening for years because everything has evolved in different directions. The game, the teams and the coaches demand other things. This is the case of left-footed centre-backs, who are more in demand now than a couple of years ago.

The consolidation of the three centre-back line has turned the left-footed centre-back into a profile that is not only specific but indispensable. In a line of two centre-backs it was not so common to see so many left-footed centre-backs because the right-footed player who played on the left was not so close to the wing. In addition, the opponent’s pressure was much lower in intensity and frequency, which made it easier for a right-footed player to receive the ball on the left side of a line of two centre-backs. In systems with three centre-backs who want to build the play down the flanks, with low passes and a lot of ball movement to progress, placing a right-footed player as a centre-back is unthinkable.

In these systems, the left-sided centre-back plays much closer to the flank, being more enclosed to progress, with the line as the limit of the field and the opponent, as a general rule, pressing more often and more intensely. Thus, a right-hander would have less space on one side and less time on the other, which makes the left-sided centre-back with great ball handling much more necessary than in the past.

Lastly, with two more centre-backs and not just one in the defensive line, there is room for other types of centre-backs who are more restless, more expeditious and less tidy, which can allow players who have more problems in a line of two centre-backs to come in. For this reason, those who have the complete ‘pack’ (left-footed, good on the ball and good off the ball in a line of two centre-backs), such as Gvardiol, Kim-Min Jae, Alaba, Colwill, Lisandro or Lucas Hernández, belong to the best teams in Europe. Once the need is understood, the role and the profile are determined.

That’s why we are going to look for players who, due to their level, could have some defensive difficulties but who could have a place in good teams as a left-sided centre-back in a line of three, as happened with Nathan Aké a few seasons ago, moving from Bournemouth to Manchester City, or recently with Micky van de Ven or Castello Lukeba. We will use age filter (under 25) and try to find players with low market value to make the profile search even more valuable.

Among the most expensive, we find David Hancko, from Feyenoord, or Facundo Medina, established after his fantastic performance at Lens, one of the most important centre-backs in possessions and outlets in the five big European leagues. Market value of 22 million euros and contract expires in 2026. Player with defensive hesitations in melee, box-to-box defence and aerial dueling but favoured by three centre-backs and elaborate ball delivery.

**The radar used in the following visualisations is a specific on-ball metrics radar for centre-backs.

Lucas Beraldo – Sao Paulo – 19 years old – 6 million market value

Among the most promising left-sided centre-backs with great ball handling in the world is Brazilian Lucas Beraldo, a sensation in the Brasileirao 2023 playing in a line of two centre-backs and also showing good defensive ability in all types of game situations. Player with significant potential to play in one of the big five European leagues and international competitions.

Armando Obispo – PSV Eindhoven – 22 years old – 4.5 million market value

Among the most outstanding defenders and protagonists with the ball in the Eredivisie is Armando Obispo of PSV Eindhoven. Also very aggressive in defence, with very good actions as last man but impulsive in some actions, he could shine in a line of three centre backs in a top team in Bundesliga or Ligue 1. Good physicality to deal with fast forwards and very creative with the ball.

Alexsandro Ribeiro – Lille – 24 years old – 5 million euros market value

Alexsandro Ribeiro is a very good case for this search as he can perform very well with the ball but not so well without it in a line of two centre-backs, which could lead us to think that if he is well guided, with a style and a coach who can improve him, he could be important as a left-sided centre-back in a three centre-back system or, at least, in asymmetrical systems with three defenders. Very good on the ball, especially finding men behind the opposing midfielders.

Founded in 2017 as a consultancy, Driblab has driven innovation through data in all aspects of professional football. Thanks to a transversal model, its database collects and models statistics in all directions. From converting matches and videos into bespoke data for training academies to developing cutting-edge technology, helping clubs, federations and representative agencies in talent scouting and transfer markets. Driblab’s smart data is used by clubs all over the world, with success stories such as Dinamo Zagreb, Real Betis and Girondins Bordeaux among others. Here you can find out more about how we work and what we offer.

Autor: Alejandro Arroyo
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