Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lefties on the Right

If you're interested in footie tactics, then I can't recommend Jonathan Wilson's pieces in The Guardian strongly enough. His latest offering explains why teams are getting so much benefits from playing wingers on their off-feet, i.e. putting a left-footed player on the right side of the pitch. The short explanation is that this allows a player to cut in to shoot or to send in an in-swinging cross to the far post, as opposed to putting a right-footed player on the right wing where all he can do is send in an out-swinging cross.

The additional benefit for a team deploying its wingers in this manner is that the defensive counter-measure is to do the same with its fullbacks, i.e. put a left-footed player at right back. Chelsea did this to great effect against Barcelona last year when they put left-footed Jose Bosingwa at right back to deal with Leo Messi. However, when a team does this, it cuts down on the offensive punch that it can expect from its fullbacks, which might explain why Chelsea, a team that depends on its fullbacks for width, created so little offensively against Barca (especially in the first leg).

When I read the article, my thoughts naturally went to ... Preki? Yes, Preki. Steve Sampson might not have had the most successful term as the coach of the National Team, but he did have the good sense to put the left-footed Preki on the right wing, where his sole job was to cut in and unleash shots off of his sweet left boot. Unfortunately, I have a very distinct memory of the US fumbling around against Iran in the '98 World Cup and the announcer noting that the Iranians had scouted Preki and figured out how to take away his one trick. That trick was about the only thing that the '98 team had going in its favor.

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