Over the years the role of the winger has changed greatly. It used to be that the winger was a supporting player, providing assists and creating goalscoring opportunities as their primary function. But things have changed, over the last ten years especially. Wingers have become more functional, focusing more on their numbers, aiming to score more goals and almost be as important to the goalscoring output of a team as the number 9.
Just look at someone like Mohamed Salah. He doesn’t get involved so much in the link up play, or creating lots of chances for his teammates. He rarely even tracks back defensively but his importance to the team is huge because he is able to cut inside and score goals, in very high numbers.
The best inverted wingers in the Premier League now score between 20-30 goals per season, very regularly. They are no longer just the creator, they are becoming, if they are already not, the star player.
And because of that, there are lots of players out there who want to emulate their favoured players, playing on the wings cutting inside and dribbling at defenders, hoping to score more goals.
It’s a great position that allows you to combine creativity, skilful techniques and goalscoring opportunities, giving you a freedom to go and express your abilities. But, so many inverted wingers are only comfortable on one foot.
If you can develop both feet, and become a both footed inverted winger, then so many more opportunities will be available to you.
Firstly, and it’s probably the most simple reason, you will be able to play on both the left or right side. Personally, I don’t think any winger should say that they play only on one side of the pitch. If you can do it on the right, then you can do it on the left; the positioning, movement and ability to understand the game is the same on either side of the pitch. Being able to play both sides is going to give you the opportunity to potentially play more. Rather than competing for just one spot, you can now compete for two.
Secondly, it also gives you a good chance to go up against different defenders. Sometimes having the versatility and flexibility to go on the left or right can help your team try out new tactics in the match, or make some much needed changes. Don’t be the player that can only do one thing, who finds it hard to adapt to different situations.
But most of all, the most important aspect is becoming both footed. This is huge and something that all inverted wingers should be able to do.
There are plenty of players out there who play on the wing and are completely one footed. The one that comes to mind first for me is Mohamed Salah - an absolutely fantastic player, but completely left footed.
Another one that I think relies on their strong side too much is Marcus Rashford. He has the ability to use his left foot but will regularly pass that up because it looks like he lacks in confidence on it. There have been plenty of times where I have felt he has the opportunity to shoot on his left side, but cuts back into his right, taking too many touches on the ball in a congested area of the pitch, eventually losing the opportunity to shoot.
If Salah and Rashford had more confidence on their other foot, would they be better players for it?
In my opinion, yes.
Playing on the wing allows you to attack, drive at defenders, and be creative. Always cutting inside on to your favourite foot is going to eventually reduce your options. Defenders will know what movements you are going to take and they will be able to position themselves better in order to put you on to your other foot, therefore giving them the advantage in the one v one situation.
It will also make it harder for you to get your shot away. Covering midfielders may come across and smother you, knowing that they can step out of midfield to help protect their full back. Cutting inside almost every time is going to make your game predictable. As a winger, that is the very last thing that you want.
Let’s say, for instance, you play on the left wing, cutting inside on to your stronger right foot. For the previous nine times you’ve got the ball you’ve cut inside, created some opportunities, or maybe even scored. What do you think the defender is going to think you’ll do next?
Typically, they will begin to feel that that is all you can do, they will read your play and probably have a better chance of dealing with the situation.
However, if on that tenth time, you decide to drop your shoulder and go on the outside, on to your left foot, then that defender may not be able to keep up with you as they are expecting you to be driving on to your right.
You’ve got the advantage.
But, on the next go, there is now an element of unpredictability. The defender is going to stand off you a little bit more, unsure of which option you will take. This slight doubt that the defender has gives you the upper hand, potentially allowing you to get in a better position to shoot with your right foot.
One of the best at this is Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez. He plays on the right and his dominant foot is his left. He is so good with his left and it looks like he’ll cut in and shoot with it nearly every time but now and again he goes on the outside and uses his right. Defenders don’t know what is going to happen next because there is always that chance he might go the other way.
He has become unpredictable, even if he doesn’t do it all the time.
So, if you’re an inverted winger, practice dribbling and finishing with both feet. Become unpredictable and take control of the situation.
You’ll get more chances to score and it will help you create better opportunities, even on your stronger foot.