Where have the wingers gone?

Arsene Wenger was recently quoted saying that no one wants to play wide, ask any attacking midfielder where they want to play they all want to be Number 10’s.

For us this problem has come to a head with quite a few of our players over recent seasons. Nasri, Arshavin, Walcott, and even young Oxlade-Chamberlain all possess the attributes that can make good wingers but all would prefer to play centrally.

Rasp recently asked in the comments that Arsene find us a new winger as the team could do with one or two true widemen rather than another attacking central midfielder.

Like any good comment this got me thinking and also looking around the PL for other teams wingers to see where they were.

I am very Arsenalcentric I rarely watch 90 minutes of matches featuring other teams but I do watch all the highlights on MotD, and this lack of widemen is actually a pandemic across the league.

United have the most with Valencia, Nani and Young, Liverpool have Moses, City don’t really have true wingers but they have a couple who will play there in Silva and Nasri. Spurs have Townsend and Lennon, Chelsea have Hazard. Looking to the top European sides again the lack of true wingers is there to see.

So can Arsene surprise us with a new signing in this area or are we seeing a change to our style, even his greatest side didn’t really have true widemen, Pires was a No 10 prepared to play out left, and Ljungberg was a goal scoring midfielder prepared to start on the right.

Without Theo we have lacked natural width, but we have been devoid of it on the left for a number of seasons.

So I think there are two solutions to this problem, do as Rasp asks and sign a natural winger, although this would seem a tricky proposition given the scarcity of talent.

Or convince our players that starting on the wing is not as restrictive as it seems they think it is. Two names that spring to mind are Messi and Silva, both start wide right, Messi scores goals for fun from this position, Silva assists everyone from there without being a “get to the byeline and cross it” winger we are used to seeing in English football. True English wingers remain, Downing and Johnson spring to mind but both have failed to reach the heights when put in a top side.

The acquisition of Flamini could be a very useful tool in allowing a new shape to our play, one that allows the likes of Jack, Santi, Özil, Ramsey and Ox to start anywhere across the midfield, and go anywhere across the front when we are attacking, and not be as responsible when defending.

With Flamini and Arteta playing deep in midfield we have a more solid base than in recent seasons, the full backs should be allowed to go forward more freely safe in the knowledge that these two will track and cover any danger on the counter. Afterall only one should need to leave the centre of pitch because the ball can only go to one flank on the counter. That should give us our width, and if the midfielders are doing their jobs properly should not create the blockage that occurs when an overlapping fullback gets too close to the wideman in front of him.

So over to you…..are there wingers out there who can improve our team, do we need to find a new style, shouldn’t we be able to ask professional footballers to play anywhere and make the most of their talents?

26May posted an article this morning discussing the lack of true strikers and the lowering need for them, perhaps it’s actually the lack of wingers supplying the strikers that is causing the change in scoring stats?

Gooner in Exile

54 Responses to Where have the wingers gone?

  1. RickyO says:

    Spot on.

    There’d be rich dividends for us if we did have a true winger or someone to play the position well and get good crosses in : Giroud is excellent in the air (scored a cracking header pre-season from an excellent Sagna cross) and, dare I say it, Bendtner’s a good headerer,too.

    Chamackh would’n’t have been half the flop he was if served well with crosses (his good times at Bordeaux were largely built upon great crosses (often from Gourcuff- who it would’ve made a lot of sense to sign after signing Chamakh) and cracking headers.

    Amalfitano showed the other day you don’t even necessarily need a winger for it, just someone who can pick out excellent crosses. Gourcuff again springs to mind as someone who is, or at least was, a master of it.

  2. mikesteeden says:

    Gnarby could fulfill the role. A fine young player yet when out wide on the right he keeps turning left and ends up clogging the midfield I think! On his last outing you could see Sanga getting the right hump at missed overlaps!

  3. John says:

    Actually Spurs have 4 wingers; Lennon, Townsend, Chadli and Lamela, although Lamela also plays centrally which goes back to the article I suppose. Never really thought of Walcott as a winger, though he’s obviously got the pace.

  4. 26may1989 says:

    Typically good stuff from the exiled one.

    Given that the game is constantly changing, as a distinctly amateur observer, I find it difficult to make meaningful observations on issues like this. But it is clear that the English game is going through a phase of higher levels of technique. The success of Swansea is testament to that.

    And it seems that the old style speedster crosses to big bloke or bloke with demon shot model doesn’t cut it right now. Clever technique and almost everyone on the pitch being able and willing to play at a high technical and collective level is the order of the day, with more goals coming through the central areas and fewer directly from the flanks.

    It’s interesting to see one of the best wingers in the last ten years, Arjen Robben, has been able to adapt to a different way of playing, and has thrived in what is now arguably the best side around.

    For what it’s worth, I would say pace will continue to be a valuable commodity, but on its own not enough. Traditional wingers (like traditional FBs and traditional strikers) aren’t sufficient now. As Exile says, it would seem players need to continue to adapt, accepting that they need to be mobile in order to be effective now. Starting in the centre is all very well, but there’s nothing wrong with starting in a wider position, there are just as many chances to play a key role.

  5. JM says:

    The current European player of the Year is a winger: Franck Ribery of Bayern Munchen & France.

    Arjen Robben and Xherdan Shaqiri are Bayern’s other tricky customers along the attacking flanks. Bayern remains the team to beat in Europe.

    Jesus Navas is a winger for Man.City.

    Angel di Maria plays on Real Madrid’s right wing.

    Lucas does his part with PSG.

    Jakub Blaszczykowski is the captain of the Polish team and a vital member of Borussia Dortmund, playing at right wing.

    Andriy Yarmolenko does his job with Dynamo Kiev and Ukraine on both flanks. (He recently scored the winning goal against Poland in the WC qualifiers.). Yevhen Konoplyanka does his job at Ukraine’s other flank and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk.

    Jefferson Farfan does his trade with Schalke 04 and Peru on the right flank.

    Hatem Ben Arfa turns up better playing on Newcastle’s flanks.

    “Bernard” is lighting up Shakhtar Donetsk on the flanks.

    Iker Muniain is still be talked about playing at Athletic Bilbao.

    Dries Mertens is another to look out for at Napoli (especially on our return champions league fixture at Naples)

    Jeremain Lens participated in the Netherlands’ 8-1 recent destruction of Hungary (world cup qualifiers) and plays at Dynamo Kyiv.

  6. cupidzen says:

    Then it would be wise to give Ryo more 1st team playing time so as to hone his skills on the left wing…

  7. 26may1989 says:

    Ribery and di Maria are examples that I think prove the point, neither is a real out and out winger, they are just as comfortable coming infield and working with the tiny bits of space they find there. At a lower level, the same is true of Ben Arfa and Martens.

    From what little I saw of him in the Ukraine v England match a few weeks ago, Konoplyanka did look like a winger in the pure sense, and he also looked very good. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him bought by a bigger club soon. Perhaps one for us.

  8. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Good afternoon to you all.

    The old fashioned winger is a dead duck. The days of a flyer beating defenders on the outside and putting in crosses for the centre forward to bundle into the net are long gone.

    The problem for winger’s is there are no longer any centre forwards to get on the end of those crosses. What’s more there is less and less call for central strikers, Barca have been playing without one for several seasons, Fat Sam played without one at the Spuds last week and managed a 0 – 3 win. Some might say that Arsenal played without one for while, until the signing of Giroud, that is.

    The role of the striker is changing too, Opta stats show that the number of goals scored by strikers has fallen dramatically over recent years. 489 goals by strikers last season against 669 in 1994/5, this despite the overall number of goals remaining pretty steady.

    Nowadays wingers are often played on the “wrong” side as they are encouraged to come inside rather than taking the ball behind the full back and crossing.

    Football’s evolving, dinosaurs like Andy Carroll will soon be extinct.

  9. Norfolk Gooner says:

    Excuse my bad manners. Thank you GiE for an excellent post, it should provoke some interesting comments.

  10. Gööner In Exile says:

    I wrote this post before listening to this weeks Tuesday Club , for the West Brom game they complained that Jack and Aaron looked out of sorts out wide and that we could do with a good winger. Tayo made the point that no one was asking where the wingers were when we played Napoli yet both goals came from good flank play.

    Which proves two things, the players we have can do it but it’s maybe harder in the PL where fullbacks have played against more traditional wingers for years so they really need to be tricky to find space and have a good cross to find their man.

  11. Gööner In Exile says:

    JM good list of players there, can you send to Arsene please 😀

  12. Gööner In Exile says:

    Interlull bloglull

  13. jnyc says:

    GIE excellent post! !! As u and 26may are saying, maybe its just not one traditional way of playing to maximize scoring.

    remember last season we had the most double digit scorers in the league ,– add to those same players Ozil and Ramsey,– and u can see the potential of goals coming from anywhere. Including per, kos, vermaelen who are also encouraged.

    Even if we dont always set up perfectly, there is no way in hell an opponent can lock down one or two of our guys and expect to hold us down. they would have to outplay us in midfield to beat us, and thats not easy, because our midfield is the
    best in the league talent wise.

    maybe Arsene is beginning a new era of talented players who can play many positions,
    shift all over the pitch mid match and threaten
    from anywhere. Santi and ozil can do this clearly. I
    love when theo comes down the left. Did u see
    Giroud running down the right wing and turning the corner vs Napoli ? I was shocked and impressed. And i think Ramsey is showing this versatility now also. Confidence is
    a great thing.

  14. chas says:

    Super post, GIE.

    I love the idea that virtually any of our players can become a winger at any time during a game. False sevens and elevens?

    Perhaps park the bus defending has a fair bit to do with the fact that there’s little room for wingers to operate these days. Theo is dangerous on the break but when we have the ball and the oppo have set up base camp 10 yards outside their area, he’s usually forced to pass backwards.

    Maybe Brian Marwood was the last true winger we will ever see. Even Anders Limpar was more of an inside forward.

  15. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Excellent post Mr “It’s always sunny in Norfolk” Exile.

    Bloody shame it’s rather wasted while none of the hard working folk are at their desks during a working week 🙂

    Tell you what, this football tactics nonsense is suddenly getting a bit tricky. Wingers no wingers, strikers no strikers, falsies here falsies there, I despair.

    If this confusion continues, I will quit promoting the 3-5-2, and go back to my dirty old ways with a more comfortable 2-3-5 🙂

  16. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Oh, you’re here are you

    “False sevens and elevens” !! What the bloody hell are you on about?

  17. MickyDidIt89 says:

    You’re trying to unearth a seriously smutty video, aren’t you?

  18. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Okedoke, a serious comment.

    I get what people are saying about the death of the classic winger, however, great speed is still a deadly weapon to have in the armoury, and especially for anyone fiddling about amongst the front three.

  19. chas says:

    Bit of bicycling porn?

  20. chas says:

    Seriously smutty enough?

  21. chas says:

    2-3-5 – mmmmm
    Don’t you just hanker after 7 as the right winger and 11 as the left?

  22. chas says:

    The centre half dropping back in line with the right and left full backs was H.Chapman, wasn’t it?

  23. chas says:

    Did you see Rambo’s pre-assist from Friday night?

  24. MickyDidIt89 says:

    The first vid, I sped through looking for the amusing crash. Most disappointing. The second vid promises much, however, her butt ain’t all that. Still, it’s a dull evening, and it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

  25. chas says:

    The first vid was more for LB as it was on a Wiggins road bike.
    Agree about the bootocks but beggars can’t be choosers.

  26. chas says:

    What’s happened to da blog? Where’s Captain Haddock?

  27. chas says:

    Right, off to watch some more Dexter.

  28. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Captain Haddock?

    They’re dropping like flies dem bloggers. Last few months we’ve pretty much lost Rocky, Peaches, Rasp and The American. Not good, I agree.

    Maybe dedicated bottom days would help boost morale 🙂

    Wish I liked Telly 😦

    Oh well, over and out.

  29. Gööner In Exile says:

    Just had to check my watch to make sure I hadnt missed a sleep.

  30. chas says:

    Haha, GIE.
    It was a complete fluke we both appeared within 2 minutes of each other.

    Your post deserves a lot better. Rasp was right.
    I was a bit disturbed yesterday when half the comments were mine. Well, when I say comments, I mean videos and other such trivial nonsense.

    Micky, I don’t like telly either. I do like watching series on t’internet though.
    Breaking Bad – highly recommended.
    Dexter is now keeping me interested and I’m only on season 1. 🙂

  31. Dexter was dragged out just a little bit!! 1st and second seasons were good, final season descended into a whole new level of madness

  32. As for you two appearing together…..maybe thats just the start of a rumour Evonne can push 😀

  33. chas says:

    Ah, I’ll await the comedown, then. So seasons 3-7 are average and 8 mad…..hmmmmm.

  34. It was a gradual drop off, i wasn’t really that interested as Mrs Exile was a bit too much of a fan of Dexter for my liking, first few i saw were ok and i could bear it, later in the seasons i was just sat scratching my head at the incredulousness of it all, altho Mrs Exile thought it was good still so maybe if you buy into the plot you can still enjoy it.

    Its not as much of a leap of faith as needed to continue to watch True Blood……that started with vampires and werewolves so a leap was already quite necessary…but the fairies and other stuff is definitely high on the “how can we keep this series going” script writing and plotting.

  35. Räsp says:

    Hi guys, really sorry for may lack of appearances on the blog and particularly for not acknowledging the contributions by our daily authors. My commitment to Arsenal and the blog has not diminished but the demands on my time recently have made participation difficult at times 😕

  36. LB says:

    Wiggins? Bikes? My name? Not long back from Wales celebrating my Dad’s 81’st birthday (he’s not Welsh)

    Where have all the wingers gone? If we play Wilshere out on the left wing and drop two more points again I am going to show them what a real protest is……hot damn…….just finished watching Django so the blood is running a bit high.

  37. No worries Rasp, there are enough of us round to keep things ticking over, but you know we miss you when not around.

  38. Gööner In Exile says:

    😀 LB.

    I guess you don’t feel the same way about Ramsey and TR7 out wide?

  39. arnie says:

    Fantastic post, GiE, an absolute gem for the interlull, and enough to fire imaginations and useful ideas. Great comments from everyone as well. In too late to contribute towards a discussion, but just some random thoughts.

    In the past few weeks, I have been very confused about this issue. It is true that a traditional old fashioned winger, or someone who can at least play that role, has been lacking. However, Asenal has done well despite this lack, at least in patches, and at least good enough to be Top of the League, So, clear as mud, really!!!

    I think if, on a given day, the usual flowing short passing game works, there is no problem. It looks fantastic as well. On other days, every little bit helps. Crosses from the wing are sometimes useful. Likewise moving into the box from the wings as well. Clearly in the absence of Theo and The Ox, we sometimes struggle on both fronts. However, our passing game and defence splitting passes are still brilliant. Hence I dont really know.

    If nothing else works, perhaps some old-fashioned wing-play may just be the order of the day in some games. Particularly against tough defences. If you can get the ball into gaps within the box, and there are a couple of players moving in, it creates a panic more often than not. If a player moves in with the ball, you stand the chance of winning a freekick in a dangerous position, at least, and this is not bad as well.


  40. dhakka09 says:

    nice, informative post, GIE. Maybe traditional wingers truly are a dying species. Good thing that Arsene always seems to prefer the more versatile type. About Dexter, I was one of the ones who loved it in its infant stages and continued watching it just to follow the plot-line/ending (I can’t leave a tv-series/movie/book incomplete; its a curse) So, it was a torturous final season for me, especially compared with the sleek Breaking Bad, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

  41. MickyDidIt89 says:

    There’s an Arsenal game in five days time 🙂

    That doesn’t sound too bad

  42. MickyDidIt89 says:


    “I can’t leave a tv-series/movie/book incomplete; its a curse”

    That really is a curse, and I was talking to someone just like you yesterday. I’m the polar opposite, especially with books, and say if it’s not working for you by chapter 2, bin it immediately. There are too many good ones out there to waste time.

  43. Gööner In Exile says:

    I think I really need to see Breaking Bad, problem is I have countless series backing up on my Sky Plus as it is along with 10 films that we can’t find time to watch. That’s no bad thing I know but leaves me open to spoilers.

  44. Gööner In Exile says:

    5 days of fretting over players returning safely, think all those countries already qualified or out of WC should rest our players…..or Arsene should send a “aren’t you injured” text.

  45. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Agree Exile. From the limited coverage I studied from our boys’ first of the two international games, I swear all received dead legs.

    No idea how explicit those two vids are, but my web censorship thing inside is set to “don’t bother, I want to see everything” so my little man within must have detected something very nasty indeed.

  46. MickyDidIt89 says:

    Ok, vids showing.

    Really hope Raddy and I are standing next to that huge great skinhead 🙂

  47. arnie says:

    Fantastic, chas. what a great double-header to look forward to!!!!!!

  48. dhakka09 says:

    GIE: If you’re capable of binning those good-turning-increasingly-average-to-downright-unwatchable tv series halfway through, hats off to you and in that case, I’d strongly advise you to drop whichever crap series you are currently into and promptly get into Breaking Bad roller-coaster, it’s a thrilling and fun-filled journey from start to finish.

  49. dhakka09 says:

    And in order to mitigate my curse, I scour and devour every notable book/movie/tv-series review out there and also gather intel via friends who’ve already watched/read it in order to avoid falling for anything I wouldn’t enjoy halfway through. Its easier with books and movies as you can get the review of the entire thing compared to a tv-series which can turn sour on its second season. As long as I don’t find the cure, prevention is my modus operandi 🙂

  50. dhakka09 says:

    Micky: any news on Kozzer’s injury? Has me worried for these past few days, not that I wouldn’t terribly mind seeing Vermalean in Arsenal colors but that we wouldn’t have anyone for back-up since Sagna is crocked too 😦

  51. dhakka09 says:

    not that I would* terribly mind

  52. Räsp says:

    Morning all …..

    …. New post ……

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