There are other advantages to a wide player coming inside. For one thing, given most full-backs still play on the traditional side, a winger taking him on on the inside is attacking his weaker foot. For another, a wide player drifting infield is opening space for an overlapping full-back, of whom there are an increasing number. The link-up of Pires and Ashley Cole at Arsenal was an early example of that; more recent examples include Ivan Rakitic and Danijel Pranjic for Croatia, Gerrard and Cole for England and, most obviously, Messi and Dani Alves for Barcelona.
And then there is the issue of acceleration room. A full-back pushed tight on a wide forward does not allow him to accelerate down the line, but by cutting inside on to his stronger foot, the forward opens up room on the diagonal. It is that, for instance, that allowed Messi to score his first against Stuttgart last week. It was rapidly obvious what he was going to do as he turned inside but the best efforts of four defenders couldn't stop him because of the pace he was going at by the time he got within shooting range.
Friday, 26 March 2010
More on 'outside-in' wingers
Forwards playing wide but on their unnatural side, as it were, is something we've seen a lot at City this year. And following on from Jacob Steinberg's article last week, there's a new offering from the master of writing about football tactics; Jonathan Wilson: