Originally, the role of a full-back in a football team was to defend wingers and cover wide areas. Managers are now more demanding of full-backs and their attacking qualities as the game and its tactics have evolved.
Modern football full-backs must have exceptional passing skills as well as a high level of confidence on the ball in order to complement their defensive abilities.
Defensively, most full-backs are strong. However, when it comes to offensive capabilities, there are a few standouts. These are the world’s most attacking full-backs right now.
Number 5: Theo Hernández
Theo Hernández joined AC Milan in the summer of 2019 as an attacking full-back with a lot of potentials, and he’s been doing well at the San Siro since then. So far this season, Hernández has contributed a goal and three assists in nine games.
He also generates 1.3 chances per game, which is among the highest in his position. Hernández also averages 2.2 dribbles per game, which is more than electric dribblers like Phil Foden.
What distinguishes Hernández from other full-backs is his involvement in attacking. Full-backs are frequently used to help the offense, but Hernández is frequently the focal point of Milan’s attack.
Hernández averages 7.92 progressive carries per game, demonstrating that he is frequently crucial in starting the offense and moving AC Milan up the field. Milan’s reliance on Hernández to move the ball forward is a testament to his attacking abilities.
Because Hernández is such a force going forward, teams frequently have to mark him in the final third. This gives wingers like Rafael Leao and Ante Rebic more space to shoot or receive across.
Hernández, who is only 24, has already made a name for himself at one of the world’s most powerful clubs. With Hernández still in his prime, it will be interesting to see how much he can add to his arsenal and demonstrate on the biggest stages.
The full-contract back at Milan is also likely to be extended, demonstrating his value at the San Siro.
Number 4: James Reece
Reece James is a Chelsea academy graduate now playing at his club’s highest level. While on loan at Wigan Athletic, he played as a central midfielder. His primary position, however, is as a full-back and, more recently, as a wing-back.
James has thrived in Thomas Tuchel’s 3-4-3 system and has been a prolific offensive player. He has directly contributed the most goals for Chelsea this season, scoring four and assisting three.
Furthermore, the right-underlying back’s stats are outstanding. James creates three chances per game and attempts 5.4 crosses per game while maintaining an 87.23 percent pass completion rate. These statistics are among the best in the Premier League for his position.
On the right side, James combines well with Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi. This frequently improves the fluidity of Chelsea’s attack, making it easier to cross the ball and get into spaces. When allowed to shoot, James does not require a second invitation.
His lightning-quick pace distinguishes James, pinpoint crossing, and clean ball striking. Only Brazilian full-back Roberto Carlos has demonstrated this set of skills at such a high level, despite not being at the same level yet.
Such offensive prowess, combined with solid defensive play, is a luxury for any team. Furthermore, because of James’ versatility, he will most likely continue to be a threat on the offensive end.
Number 3: Achraf Hakimi
After successful spells as an attacking wing-back at Inter Milan and Borussia Dortmund, Achraf Hakimi is now at Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) as a more conventional full-back. Hakimi is playing in a deeper position on the field, but his offensive threat is constant.
So far in Ligue 1, Hakimi has three goals and two assists in 12 games. He also creates 1.3 chances and provides 2.1 crosses per game, with an 89.95 percent pass accuracy.
In addition to his creative output, Hakimi provides a goal threat with 0.98 shots per match. This is one of the highest compared to all full-backs in Europe, and it is a package that any team would be afraid of.
Hakimi frequently makes forward runs and dribbles past other defenders due to his lightning speed. In addition, he receives 4.9 progressive passes and carries 6.9 progressive yards per game. This demonstrates how he is always high up on the pitch, supporting Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria, and Lionel Messi.
Playing as a traditional full-back is a new experience for Hakimi, but the way he has adapted to a new role while retaining all of his qualities is nothing short of remarkable. Hakimi, who is only 23 years old, has already proven his talent in multiple leagues. Given that this is his first season in Ligue 1, his output will most likely be proportional to his playing time.
Number 2: Joao Cancelo
When Manchester City paid a record-breaking 65 million euros for then-Juventus full-back Joo Cancelo, many questioned whether he was worth the money. All of those questions have been answered two years later.
Cancelo has thrived under Pep Guardiola over the last two seasons, but it is this year that he has stood out.
Full-backs are frequently praised for making one side their own, but Cancelo has played both right and left-back for Manchester City. While Cancelo’s versatility is admirable, the fact that he performs at such a high level on both sides is unusual.
Manchester City dominates possession in the opposition half, as Pep Guardiola’s teams do, and Cancelo has excelled offensively in his role. The full-back has two assists in the Premier League this season and a hat-trick in the Champions League against Club Brugge.
Cancelo also leads the league in final-third passing, as evidenced by his 7.13 progressive passes per game. He also helps Manchester City’s offense by averaging 8.45 progressive carries per game, which is among the highest in his position.
Cancelo’s maturation has been fascinating to watch, and his form has been critical for Guardiola. It remains to be seen whether he can continue to provide such an attacking threat, but for the time being, Cancelo is one of the most valuable players in world football.
Number 1: Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold has long been regarded as the ideal modern full-back. Alexander-Arnold has grown into a dangerous attacking full-back under manager Jurgen Klopp. Following a slump in form last season, the 23-year-old appears to be back to his best this season.
Alexander-Arnold has one goal and four assists in the Premier League so far. He also creates 3.5 chances per game, attempts nine crosses, and makes 3.2 key passes. These statistics for the full-back are not surprising given that he has arguably the best crossing ability in the world right now.
What is surprising is that Alexander-Arnold is averaging 1.92 shots per match in the Premier League this season, his highest total to date. Though he has yet to score an open-play goal this season, his free-kick against West Ham demonstrated his ball-striking ability.