Why have wingers disappeared? Why has it become fashionable to use fullback-wingers? To understand this we have to know a bit about systems of play. When a coach places his players on the blackboard he is defining his system of play. These are the most common:
Starting with this theory, we then come to what actually happens on the pitch, the players movements, that is to say whether we play with a defensive line or with a sweeper, whether we use a second striker or whether we penetrate more on the left or the right, this is what we call tactics.
If we look at older systems we can see that tactics have evolved in to moving the forwards deeper with the clear objective of dominating the defensive areas and the midfield whilst at the same time looking to surprise the opposition from deep. If we can create space by dropping a striker deep, we can use a player running at the defence and if we cannot create space, because the defenders stay in their zones, it is easier to break the line with our player’s pace. The classic quick and tricky winger used to come up against defenders who were less prepared than the modern defenders. Nowadays, the physical, technical and tactical preparation is much more comprehensive and players can give more. Also they will resort to fouls to stop opponents
In search of solutions to the dearth of wingers, there is a continual combining of the wide players and full backs to supply strikers with the ball. The attacking full back was covered by the inside player while he recovered position and from this the 1-5-3-2 system became the next step. On realising that the full backs were causing problems it was thought that an inside player, with more quality than a full back, could do even more damage. If we add that the opposition may play with no more than one or two strikers, the attacking freedom of our full back would give us a perfect system. The advantages of 1-5-3-2 or 1-5-4-1 are that we have a lot of players at the back which gives more defensive and midfield security.The surprise incorporation of the inside players or full backs means that we should profit from all our attacks (see Figure 3). This requires inside players and full backs with good quality and in good physical condition to make long runs and finish them with good crosses. In practice, what usually happens is that the fullback-winger can’t keep going forward and getting back in the wide areas for the whole match, covering large distances every time, so they tend to have a starting position in the middle third and the system is really converted to 1-3-3-2-2, since the fullback-winger pushes the inside player higher (see Figure 4).
Every football fan knows that it is easier to convert a forward to a defender than vice versa, since it easier to clear a ball than to use it in a reduced and defended area like in the goal mouth, so the gradual dropping of natural wingers to the full back position was a logical progression.
These full backs with some defensive qualities and excellent attacking ability (they dribble and cross better than a classic defensive full back) ought to enhance the game and keep it true to its origins, as they are really wingers who attack as much as they can to accomplish their old job which was to penetrate behind the opposition full back and create goals thanks to their crossing.
I think that you are right. These teams have good wingers, but there are not too many more around. It is difficult to find them in the market, at least for a top side.
As teams push forward there's only so much space left in the attacking part of the pitch. A left footed winger playing on the left side of the pitch won't cut in as often as a reverse footed winger - and as such won't give the fullback as much space to move forward.
As fullbacks develop and become more able to put in crosses or run past defenders, it makes sense to use opposite footed wingers who can cut into the middle of the pitch - thus giving room for the fullback to move forward and assist in the attack.
I actually wish we could see more of this at Liverpool - I like the idea of putting Downing on the right and perhaps Maxi on the left - especially if Johnson and Enrique can play - it would give a strong attacking threat from our fullbacks and a lot of movement in the attacking third.
Can you please consider doing an article on the strength's and weakneses of the Zonal Marking system to the Man marking system, only explanation I have heard in favour of the man marking system, was “The running man can beat the standing man in a Zonal marking system” which is very limited to say the least, I would appreciate some more qualified to address this issue please.
Keep up the good work, you’re a credit to this world.
I will talk about the zonal marking in the Audience next Sunday 16.
So is it that full backs have become better defensively thus nullifying opposition wingers? Or offensively more technical and therefore replacing the winger?
I agree with previous comments re: wingers still evident in the premier league, but also agree that they are a diminishing part of modern football as you say.
Have players like Messi, Silva, Aguero et al become more prominent tactically?
Thanks, and keep pumping out these brilliant articles!
Luv, Your Cousin Deezak.