City Blogger: The magic of wingers
- 01 October 2013 13:39
- Posted by @viewfromablue
Steven Allweis, author of City blog View From A Blue, explains why wingers have him on the edge of his seat...
They can be enthralling and absorbing. They can excite fans and enliven a game. They can frustrate on occasions yet entertain on so many more. They are the type of player who supporters adore and delight in seeing, but they are somewhat of a rarity these days. They are wingers. And we should cherish their presence.
That, of course, is not to discount the importance of other positions. A dominant centre-back who oozes authority and leadership is a vital ingredient. A box-to-box midfielder who induces fear into the opposition can be a destructive presence. A poacher in front of goal who isn’t fancy but notches again and again is a huge asset to have. A winger, however, is alluringly different.
No other type of footballer excites me as much as a genuine wide man: someone who sticks to the touchline, drives at the fullback, twists and turns with blistering pace and sends a stream of penetrative crosses into the box.
At City, there is a history of stirring wingers. The speed and trickery of the likes of Peter Barnes, Mike Summerbee, Dennis Tueart, David White, Peter Beagrie, Mark Kennedy and Shaun Wright-Phillips bring back fond memories. And now we’re fortunate to have Jesus Navas and his scintillating approach.
It’s nothing new to highlight the Spaniard’s eye-catching pace, but combined with his dribbling ability, directness and propensity to deliver quality into the area, it’s gripping to watch. That’s not an attempt to do a disservice to our other players - indeed, the creativity and vision of the likes of David Silva, Stevan Jovetic and Samir Nasri around the edge of the area is a joy to observe – but there is something extra appealing in seeing a winger take on, and beat, his opposition fullback.
As a youngster, I was a winger myself, just without the pace of Navas. Or the skill. Or the captivating eyes. It can be an isolated role; in order to stretch the game, you are required to stay wide and thus can have spells in a match when you’re not heavily involved. And it can be exasperating for fans to watch a winger attempt to beat his man but lose the ball and see an attack break down. That’s the nature of the role. When it doesn’t pay off it can be discouraging, but those moments when your team’s winger is on top are majestic.
Don’t just take it from me, however. I asked former City star Franny Lee, not someone averse to spells on the wing, what he thought made wingers such an attractive proposition. “One of the most exciting sights at a football match for a fan is a player beating somebody and going past them whether that is with pace, skill or both. Good wingers should always be able to go past someone, make space and create chances. And anyone who does that is bound to get the crowd excited.
“Unfortunately, they seem to be a dying breed but MCFC have certainly got one this season in Navas. The fans are excited when he gets the ball and the atmosphere lifts. If there is one thing defenders hate it is players running at them at pace. I believe wingers should always run at a man; there are three things that can happen - win a foul, go past the defender or lose the ball. Two out of three are a positive for your team.”
And a tactical suggestion from the man who scored well over 100 goals for the Blues: “One thing I would add from a City perspective this season is that Navas should be left on his own wide. He doesn't need overlapping runs from right-back as this crowds out his space to use his speed and go past someone.”
Sadly, there is a shortage of wingers in the modern game. Casting a glance across the other sides in the Premier League, there are not too many out and out wide men featuring regularly, especially for the top sides. Yet they can be so effective. Bayern Munich use a pair of pacey and crafty talents, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry, who constantly wreak havoc with their wide play - but hopefully not against the Blues in the Champions League matches coming soon! They open up the game, offer variety and spark, and thrill supporters.
We’re lucky now to have that option in Navas and I’m sure he’ll be a magnificent addition. He’s an old-fashioned winger who may frustrate at times but will inspire more often than not. If nothing else, he, like all wingers, will have me on the edge of my seat.