Home » Paul Scholes rejects the inverted fullback trend in modern football

Paul Scholes rejects the inverted fullback trend in modern football

by Darragh Fox

Paul Scholes has rejected the recently-emerged inverted fullback trend in modern football in an expletive-laden post about Oleksandr Zinchenko on Instagram.

The former-played-turned-pundit took to social media last night to express his displeasure at the concept of a fullback joining the midfield in a central area. While watching Arsenal beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 at the City Ground, Scholes posted a story on his Instagram page describing the inverted tactic as an “insult” to midfielders.

“A full-back coming into central midfield is an insult to a central midfield player…I think he/she should be told to get the f— back out there…night,” Scholes exclaimed.

Zinchenko has spent the majority of his Premier League career operating in this exact manner.

The tactic was implemented by Pep Guardiola when the Ukrainian was still at Manchester City, to great effect. It was then replicated at the Emirates under Mikel Arteta – a former acolyte of Guardiola – following Zinchenko’s £32 million move to Arsenal.

And, while deployed in this role at both clubs, the 27-year-old fullback has produced one of the highest match-winning percentages in Premier League history. Evidently, this is not solely down to Zinchenko, but he has undoubtedly played a significant part in the dominant styles Arsenal and City have produced in recent years.

By selecting a technically sound fullback with the intelligence to step into midfield, a manager helps their side achieve greater control in midfield, in terms of both defensive structure and possession. It also promotes the probability of overloads in attacking areas as the existing midfielders have greater license to make runs forward, owing to the cover provide by their inverted team-mate.

It’s an undeniably effective tactic; one which has quickly disseminated throughout the league as a result.

Ange Postecoglou has found great success with it in his debut season in English football. The philosophy Tottenham Hotspur demonstrate on the pitch is as attacking as it is unwavering in its execution. A key component of this style is both Pedro Porro and Destiny Udogie joining the midfield from their respective fullback positions, to increase this overload capacity.

Similarly, Jurgen Klopp has deployed Trent Alexander-Arnold in a more inverted role this season. The England international regularly joins the Liverpool midfield, where his creativity and passing range can be utilised to devastating effect.

Manchester United have even shown glimpses of it this year.

Erik ten Hag appears to like Diogo Dalot inverting into midfield from right-back, though other fullbacks are not given the same license. Whether this is because the Dutchman particularly rates the Portuguese defender’s skillset or, conversely, does not rate his teammates is unclear.

The inconsistency with which this tactic is displayed is more likely to stem from the inconsistency of the team in general this season, than by design; because the evidence for the effectiveness of an inverted fullback is overwhelming at this stage.

Even if it appears beyond the grasps of one of the best midfielders to ever grace the Premier League, though this just underscores how rapidly the tactical evolution in the modern game develops.

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