Like Lionel Ritchie once sang, we've come to the end of our rainbow. Once, twice, three times thanks to you all for riding along these last two weeks, stirring up some debate/discussion of the new system and indulging my keen ability to speak mind without caring the slightest that some will find me whacko.
As promised, we're gonna delve a little deeper into the fun of attacking as a winger. Forget all that defense mess. I've had enough of it. We are going to go after teams now, so let's embrace it. Pirate flags high!
Since you have all surely surmised the choice for starter at this position, let's talk about the mind games he can play on a swarthy maraud. No more cutesy displays about b-boys or triangles. This position is for striking fear. It's for making the defense do things it doesn't want to do and then suffer for it. A winger is meant to be rude and unruly and downright uncooperative. He just spoils everything.
We've already covered how he makes the backline span the whole field instead of just the box. By that same token, he can also bring that marker inside to clear room or run him into another player. Continuing in that vein, let's skip the obvious and break down the nerve-touching capabilities of a cold-blooded raider to basic, little elements we like.
He can: get a running start at wide backs, turn them sideways, easily play off them for corners, force fouls next to the area and perhaps create card troubles, take them wide three times then cut in the fourth or vice versa, pull the keeper out, make the defensive midfielder shift out of place, make the near center back check off the striker for a second or two, shoot from bad angles solely for the purpose of creating a rebound, creep the back post... it's like a nightmare greatest hits album for opponents, all from just being wide and repeatedly looking like you might do something damaging.
Nearly every movement the wingers make has the defense reacting. Wingers ask questions defenders don't want to answer, let alone on the spur of the moment, let alone on spur of the moment after spur of the moment. Therapists should send wingers Christmas cards. They're cruel bastards and they cause problems that can't always be solved. I've seen a lot of jittery-looking and/or thin-haired Dutch wingbacks, that's for sure.
And that's why a winger can be effective for the team when he beats no defenders and directly creates no prime scoring chances. Those defenders are still having to account for what he's trying to do. They must keep checking over there, shifting, sliding out of the shape they want. He's not beating them and he's spoiling the plan anyway. They can't just do what they want to do. And sooner or later, there's just too many questions being asked that don't fit the plan and they must bother with something one too many times and one of the winger's teammates gets loose somewhere.
What is the winger thinking about all this time, that rat bastard? Actually, nothing scandalous. He thinks a bit like a wide receiver in football, really. He is often after nothing more valuable than getting past a shoulder. He watches the defender's feet, for shifts in weight balance, for where the next defender will come from when he gets his shoulder past. He thinks to keep his head up to see who is breaching the area where. He thinks getting a crap ball into the goalmouth is better than none, because a defense can't make mistakes if you don't let them. At a break in the action, he may think of puppies or his grandparents.
See, he's not a bad egg. Wingers are nothing to be afraid of, not when they're on your side. After all, it's not his fault those silly defenders get frazzled because they want to do things they can't... anymore.
#5 - Chris Pontius
The injury dropped him a little, since he probably won't be 100% until MLS preseason in February. Still, I like how Pontius works from the corner of the area with his favored right foot to the inside and his box game is all-purpose. He's not one to work to or from the corner, so you'd either need a raiding left back or classic style right winger to balance the field properly.
#4 - Robbie Rogers
Moan all you want, I don't care. Heck, go make your own clipboard chart. I said it with Wynne and I'll say it again: we coach him. We are not in the position to give up on speedy wide players that have the ability to take on defenders, win fouls, crack a shot and achieve dangerous positions. We need to be able to find usefulness in these players enough to hope for impact off the bench. It's not so much to ask considering the guy has plenty of actual experience with this system. That skull-rapping obviousness out of the way, it seems to me the two-footed Rogers operates more successfully on the left.
#3 - José Francisco Torres
Hey, remember when Pachuca were winning championships and making it to the third place match at the World Club Cup? Guess who started on left wing for them back then. Go on. Now he's supposedly, magically a #8 - albeit one not physical enough for the middle to achieve a regular starting place with a middling Pachuca. Or convince Slovenia. Torres can run, beat defenders, run two-man game and cross. So, what exactly am I missing here? Let's all just hope he can be fit when the Clausura starts in January.
#2 - DaMarcus Beasley
As we are targeting the first CONCACAF World Cup qualifier, and the eminently experienced Beasley is now regularly excelling in Mexico, what's left to discuss? I told you all he'd be back.
#1 - Brek Shea
Every proper 4-3-3 needs at least one winger ready to run at defenders... and run at defenders... and run at defenders. The best part is this type of player does not even need to beat any of them to have a positive effect for the team. That Shea often does beat them to reach dangerous positions makes this a much easier pick than I anticipated when the exercise started. It hasn't come up in a game yet, but I also feel the dribble artist can have great value as a far post target for quality crosses from right wing.
Be forewarned. This is not the end of this exercise by any means. Coming soon, I'll have such things as a list of guys who just missed these lists and could still make a move up, as well as a colleague's guest post detailing the Top 5 things I got horribly wrong in my depth charts.
- Right backs
- Right center backs
- Left center backs
- Left backs
- Defensive midfielders
- Right wingers
- Two-way midfielders
- Attacking midfielders
- Greg Seltzer