Saturday, 20 March 2010

'Outside-in'

There's a good article by Jacob Steinberg on WSC.co.uk about the growth of the 'inside-out' winger, exemplified by Mancini's deployment of Adam Johnson from the right hand side:

Wingers operating on the opposite side of the pitch to their favoured foot may not be a new phenomenon, but it is one that managers in England are increasingly embracing. Last Sunday, Adam Johnson provided a stunning vignette of what the inside-out winger offers. With Manchester City trailing Sunderland by a goal in the last minute, a corner was cleared to the right side of the penalty area where Johnson was waiting. Attacking on the outside would have been futile as he would have led himself on to his right foot. Instead he rolled inside before curling the ball into the top corner with his left.

The thinking behind the tactic is not complicated. By attacking on the inside, a winger is able to target a full-back’s weaker foot, leaving them in a position in which they are less likely to risk a tackle, for fear of committing a clumsy foul. On his first start for City, Johnson won a penalty after a teasing run induced enough panic in Bolton’s Paul Robinson that he eventually tripped the winger.
It's certainly been a notable feature of our play this season. Shaun Wright-Phillips is the only one of our wide players who has consistently featured on his natural side. Craig Bellamy and Robinho have both played from the right, understandably given that they are converted centre and inside forwards respectively, both more comfortable and more damaging with a shot than a cross. This has been the case under both managers this season.

But there has been a development under Mancini: the use of conventional wingers Martin Petrov and Adam Johnson from their weaker sides. Petrov is a very traditional outside left; before the rise of Luis Antonio Valencia he was arguably the division's best old-fashioned winger. And so to play him inside-out (although I think 'outside-in' is a better term) doesn't always work so well. Johnson is different, though, as Steinberg points out. As Robben and Messi show, the key to effective outside-in play is audacity - the willingness to drive inside the full-back, to take the shot on, to worry the defence and push them back. And while I'm not claiming AJ is anywhere near those two, he does noticeably have a touch of magic about him, in a way that, say, Stewart Downing or even Ashley Young does not. Which is why he might just be an effective left footed right-winger himself.

1 comment:

Feed the Goat said...

Mancini has a reputation for attacking style football.
Not seen, in fact the opposite seems true so far in the premier.
I live in hope he reverts to type and sooner rather than later, maybe the internal political pressure for a top 4 place are suffocating his natural tactics. Let go Mancini, better to be hung for a sheep than a lamb.