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Wing-backs in FM19: Making use of the misunderstood enigmas.

wing-back graphic

What wing-backs in FM19 are meant to do

Wing-backs in FM19 are meant to be simple: they run up and down their flanks non-stop. Where do they get all this energy? ‘They’re fitter’ isn’t a satisfactory explanation! Why can’t every player just be a superhuman who turns up everywhere?

Let’s take a closer look at wing-backs in FM19.


The only fixed PI’s for wing-backs in FM19 are ‘run wide with ball’ and ‘get further forward’. Assumptions about wing-backs in FM19 being exceptionally fluid hold true.

On and off the ball, most of their decisions are decided by further manual instructions or improvisation. However, there’s one standout feature: they’re aggressively positioned. These tigers will provide a forward option whenever possible, despite being defenders.

wing-back defend

Even with a defend duty, wing-backs in FM19 still provide that wide option and drive forward with the ball. It’s impossible to imagine a role more synonymous with attacking overlaps!

wing-back attack

With an attack duty, there aren’t many differences. At this stage, wing-backs in FM19 are essentially complete wing-backs. Arguably, these are the most aggressive and direct roles in the game. That said, the title may belong to the libero, trequartista, shadow striker, or raumdeuter.

Besides their position, do you notice any important differences between them and wingers?

What wing-backs in FM19 actually do

You might’ve already come to your conclusions about wing-backs in FM19. They’re fluid, overlapping threats who are like deep wingers; especially when they have more attacking duties. However, is that correct in practice, and how does the team accommodate them?

Here, Marcos Llorente had the ball. Matt Phillips, the right wing-back, stood alongside him. As Llorente dwelled, Phillips gradually stepped forward. After Jake Livermore received the ball, he then took a gigantic sprint, before coming to a sudden halt. Why did any of this happen?

You see, wing-backs in FM19 always aim to keep up with play and provide that overlapping option. Phillips was stopped in his tracks at the end of that GIF; he suddenly realised that right winger Oliver Burke was in his way! The wing-back is only supposed to dart ahead of the winger when the latter’s holding the ball up.

The contrast between Phillips and the left-wing back, Ben Osborn, is fascinating. The left-centre back, Llorente, was in the middle of the pitch taking the free kick. Nonetheless, Osborn maintained his wide position on the left side. He was never tempted to shift inside. Instead of providing Llorente with an easier option, he saw the acres of space ahead of him and wanted to exploit that.

Osborn roamed forward earlier than Phillips. When the ball’s on the opposite side, the wing-back just provides width. They only engage with play when the ball is close to them. Remember this before expecting them to provide easy out-balls, or overlaps!

Once wing-backs in FM19 begin their overlaps, they can rarely be stopped. Here, Phillips continued his rampage, despite Leko passing inside to Burke. The ball ended up going out for a throw in when Burke tried to pass back to Phillips. The unpredictability’s already killing me.

My earlier point about wing-backs on the opposite side exemplified! Left wing-back Osborn was hugging the line, and most of my team were camped around the penalty box. However, Phillips wasn’t. He stayed withdrawn, only attempting to provide width on the right-hand side. Keep these specific movements in mind when using such a fluid role.

Sorry for neglecting the defensive side of wing-backs in FM19 so far! When Preston left-winger Callum Robinson received the ball, two things happened. Phillips scampered after him. Seeing the ball on the opposite side of the pitch, Osborn hurriedly tried to prevent a cross-field ball by flying back.

He didn’t manage to prevent that cross-field ball, but at least Osborn wasn’t caught up-field. Wing-backs in FM19 provide security by behaving like defenders when they’re not directly involved in an attacking or defensive move.

How this fits in my tactical setup

4-1-2-3 DM Wide

This 4-1-4-1 DM Wide formation provides a myriad of opportunities for wing-backs in FM19 to overlap. The advanced playmakers drift inside. The mezzala’s embark on runs out wide, engaging the wing-backs. The false nine and roaming playmaker both ideally drift everywhere.

When the space is congested, the wing-backs in FM19 can act like a sword in opening the opposition up. Most pertinently, they take opposition players out of position and open avenues out wide.

So far, I might’ve explained the attributes of wing-backs in FM19 and put them on a pedestal. Indeed… they’re useful. Regardless, don’t be mistaken into thinking they’re invaluable.

Time and time again, it just creates more corners. Going through my season, the opposition won more corners than us a measly eight times. That’s despite my constant tinkering. Wing-backs in FM19 were mostly a mainstay.

The reliance on overlaps, crosses and set pieces can result in a lack of clear chances. Astonishingly, NINETEEN teams created more chances than us across the season! Seven teams had more shots on target, but only two scored more. We have the lowest shots on target ratio in the entire league!

Your team can rely on probing and hoping someone will come up with the goods, rather than having a direct, specifically identifiable route to goal.

Team stats
Player stats overview

Matt Phillips, with my highest average rating and most player of the match awards, was my incumbent on the right side. Kieran Gibbs also got four player of the match awards, despite being sold to China in early January!

Overall, All or Nothing: Manchester City was uninteresting. It offered little insight, besides revealing how valiantly Guardiola could inspire the troops, and how matey the players and staff were.

That said, there was an interesting tactical observation. In a match preview, Guardiola mused that if you take the opposition winger to the half-way line, they still have enough room to counter-attack. If you pin them back to the edge of the six-yard box, however, they’ll become too tired to make up the yards.

To work, especially in a possession tactic, wing-backs in FM19 must always engage the opposition winger. If the wing-back ventures forward at all costs, the winger will just stay upfield and have fields of space to counter-attack. Instead, they must be careful. Sense the opportunities to unlock the opposition defence and prevent counter-attacks.

There’s other added benefits, detailed below. They rely on other factors but derive from having the additional space to cross:

Cross Completion Ratio
Goals from Corners
Dribbles per Game.png

From the player stats overview, you may’ve also noticed that we have impressive defensive stats. Our aggressive style utilises the wing-back’s strengths. In most games, we’ve operated with wingers to prevent them getting too exposed. Although the roles have often changed, 4-1-4-1 DM has been my most used formation by far:

Formation analysis

Having a defensive midfielder, and centre-backs who don’t expose themselves too much, is vital. Tasked with covering, they keep shape and cover spaces as the situation requires.

Finding the right balance, which I’m not convinced I’ve done yet, is a matter of trial-and-error.

Which players make good wing-backs?

My methods of selecting players are highly unconventional. They change all the time and I’m not expecting anyone to replicate them.

I always attempt to pick the strongest 11 players. The tactic is there as a baseline to fit their skills. It should be easy to understand and replicate; only then can you rely on the players to execute it.

Out of that XI, I look for players who are natural on that side. After all, they’re expected to dominate it! This could include anything from natural right-backs, to natural right wingers. As there are few natural full-backs compared to other positions, and I expect every player to have the mindset of a midfielder, the wide midfielders often end up getting picked.

Now, I’ll sheepishly provide a more informative breakdown. I searched for every natural wing-back in the FM19 database.

Wing-backs physical
Wing-backs technical
wing-backs mental

The standout attributes here are pace, acceleration and natural fitness. Wing-backs in FM19 are impeccably quick and fit. No surprises there. Many of them also excel in the work-rate and teamwork departments. To complement that, wing-backs in FM19 tend to have handy crossing and dribbling skills.

In a nutshell, they can be one-dimensional physical players. Great and running down the line on or off the ball, but poor at winning any ball in a 50-50 which they’re not required to run on to. Their weakest attributes are typically strength, jumping reach and heading.

Roles are defined by how players implement them, not what they should do on paper. So, if you want your full backs tucking in and winning far post headers just as much as providing overlaps, wing-backs in FM19 aren’t a safe pick.

There are two ways to avoid that conundrum, assuming you still want wing-backs in your team. You can either pick others around them to do that job, like having three central defenders. Alternatively, you can mitigate the impact of the issues by excelling in other aspects.

Many of the roles in my team could potentially create space for the opposition to counter-attack. Roaming playmakers and mezzala’s roam from their positions a lot. By engaging the opposition, so that more of their team must contribute to the defensive structure to prevent anyone being pulled out of position, it becomes harder for them to counter-attack.

It’s hard to negate the issues entirely, though. Guardian columnist Jonathan Wilson once declared that “formations are neutral; it is their application that gives them positive or negative qualities”. The same applies for any given role.

So, how do you utilise your wing-backs in FM19? What are your experiences like using them, if you have any?

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Written by Ben

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