Old-fashioned position can turn modern defences inside-out
Published 17/03/2016 | 02:30
Talking to Pat Nevin on the football show takes us to interesting places.
Pat, just about the smartest pundit around, is a Monday night regular on Off The Ball and this week we found ourselves talking about the "old" inside left and right positions; the point being of course, that the "old" inside positions have never been more relevant.
Pep Guardiola, it turns out, prizes those inside channels above any other in the opposition's half. All defensive structures, it seems, struggle to cover them perfectly.
According to a recent 442 magazine article, Pep marks out those two rectangles on the training pitch. At Barcelona it was a key tenet to work the ball to Xavi or Iniesta in those areas. At Bayern currently, it's about getting Robben or Ribery or Douglas Costa isolated in those same positions.
Pep, in his autobiography, recalled playing for the Barcelona youth team aged 13. Trailing 1-0 at half-time his coach Oriol Tort told him to take up the inside left position. Pep recalls: "We won 3-1 and I touched the ball more in 15 minutes than an entire half. Just by moving two paces I could radically change the game's rhythm." It was a moment of awakening for the young Pep.
Interestingly, Nevin argues the inside left and inside right positions are 'completely different'.
He said: "Everyone thinks it just the same and it absolutely is not. I played on the right wing. The ball is being crossed in from the other side. There's the left-full back and I'm running behind him. And I always, always kept on running, on the right.
"The reason being, lefties are hopeless with their right foot! Righties can play a bit with the left. It's an odd thing. So if the ball is played to the back post and its going to their weaker right foot, they'll try and screw it away with their left foot and they'll miss it some of the time.
"I always told everyone, be sure to follow up on the lefties and you'll get your fair share."
Let it be a lesson to young right wingers everywhere: the full-back has no right foot.