Does A 5-At-The-Back Even Exist?

To those of us who play FIFA, the reaction on coming up against a formation that fields 3 defenders, to the one that fields 5 is diametrically opposite. The position of left and right sided midfielders are taken up by fullbacks in a 5ATB being the difference.

However, in the real world, is there effectively any formation involving 5 defenders? To put it in a different way, is there any difference between a 3ATB and a 5ATB?

Whenever 3 centre backs are started, the formation that is depicted on the lineup sheet is a 3-4-3, or a 3-5-2, and this is irrespective of whether the men on the flanks are naturally midfielders or defenders. Moreover, it is seen that managers tend to use attack minded players in a withdrawn position to play the role of ‘wing backs’ so as to facilitate starting 3 centre halves.

In the few games that I’ve seen that involve this formation, the wingers are generally attackers who are tasked with making marauding runs forward and supplementing the attack more than contributing to the defensive aspect of the team. Even when traditional full backs are started as part of a 3/5 man defence, they generally play their game in the opposition half, while occasionally helping out tracking their counterparts playing on the wings.

It may initially appear that starting a 3 CB back line is a defensive move, but in reality, it is quite the opposite. Effectively, regardless of their nature or role, the wing backs are used for taking the game to the opposition, rather than preventing the opposition from doing the same.

So coming back to the question in the title, does a 5 at the back even exist in the modern day game? Based what I’ve seen during my time watching football, 5 man back lines are obsolete, and the phrase “5 at the back” is something that exists only in the virtual world, not in the real one.

-AyushV11

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