Monthly Archives: August 2014

Converting full-backs into wing-backs

Neville and Carragher started an interesting debate this week that will continue for some time.  Source: Sky Sports

Neville and Carragher started an interesting debate this week that will continue for some time. Source: Sky Sports

On the first Monday Night Football of the season, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher had a very interesting discussion on using full-backs as wing-backs. Neville argued the fitness aspect is completely different playing at wing-back rather than full-back, whereas Carragher argued the modern full-back has enough attacking intent to fit into the role nicely.

Oddly enough, in different ways, they are both right.

In the 3-5-2 system that they are discussing, wing-backs have different expectations depending on the score and the opposition. In a game they think they will win comfortably, the wing-backs will join in at pretty much any attacking opportunity and neglect part of their defending duty. Against a stronger team or a game they are winning, they might sit slightly further back in a more traditional full-back role and whilst they will still get forward, they may cross from deep so not to compromise their defensive positioning.

Taking Neville’s point, you do need that extra fitness to fill the role. It would be incredibly taxing for a player to track all the way up the field and back, regardless of where they used to play it’s an extra effort than they would be used to. A former full-back wouldn’t have ran up to join his winger at each attack and vice-versa, an ex-winger wouldn’t always track all the way back.

Dani Alves is a perfect example of a player that has the fitness to play wing-back.  Source: FC Barcelona

Dani Alves is a perfect example of a player that has the fitness to play wing-back. Source: FC Barcelona

The best of full-backs, players like Philipp Lahm would never commit to every attack and often would simply jog up the field to add an extra option. That’s different to what would be expected of a wing-back, who would need to be in an advanced position quickly to help add more width to the side.

However, taking Carragher’s point, a lot more modern full-backs get forward with alarming consistency. Look at players like Marcelo, Dani Alves and David Alaba, players regularly found in those attacking areas to cross the ball, go past their winger or even score the odd goal.

It’s becoming much more common to see them like that, despite their obvious defensive issues due to the space they leave, but that would be covered by a defender in the 3-5-2 formation. The best example of a player with all the right characteristics is Serge Aurier, ability to get back and forth without being a liability at either end.

Glenn Hoddle has been brought to QPR to help implement the 3-5-2 system.  Source: Daily Mirror

Glenn Hoddle has been brought to QPR to help implement the 3-5-2 system. Source: Daily Mirror

The new in-vogue formation for the Premier League will expand the tactical talk over the next few months which will be entertaining but it’s always good to see something different. Whilst it can always switch to 4-3-3 in a pinch, it’s interesting to see managers playing to their players strengths instead of what they feel works best.

In the case of the full-backs and wing-backs, you will need that extra fitness but many will be at least a little adjusted due to the new role of full-backs in the modern game. What will be more interesting is whether the formation will be a success, with clubs from each end of the table employing it and whether some will keep it for the future.

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We might not get better than Howard Webb

Howard Webb was an excellent referee (and it's not because I'm a Manchester United fan)  Source: The Guardian

Howard Webb was an excellent referee (and it’s not because I’m a Manchester United fan) Source: The Guardian

Howard Webb will be remembered by some as a Manchester United-biased, power-hungry referee that was just as bad as every other referee that’s ever donned the black uniform. However, Webb should be remembered as one of the finest referees this country, or even possibly the world, has ever produced and a benchmark for any other young referees coming through the system to strive for.

Every referee makes mistakes, there isn’t a perfect referee but what you look for is consistency, good performances on a regular basis and on occasion, for you to barely realise there is someone refereeing the game.

Webb opitimised that mantra, many before the game might have muttered “Oh, Howard Webb’s in charge? Here we bloody go” but then by the end of the game wouldn’t have mentioned his name once. For some odd reason, his name was labelled with poor displays and it seemed different to what others within the game felt about how he handled the big occasion. He also, contrary to popular belief, was in charge of games that gave Manchester City the most amount of wins as well as Arsenal averaging more points in the last five years in games refereed by Howard Webb than the Red Devils.

Webb performed better in the World Cup Final than some will give credit for.  Source: The Guardian

Webb performed better in the World Cup Final than some will give credit for. Source: The Guardian

He was regularly called up to the biggest games and delivered. In the Premier League and Champions League, he rarely had a bad game and that was optimised by his performance in the 2010 Champions League Final where he almost went by unnoticed. Even in the World Cup Final, where in some quarters he was criticised for not controlling the Dutch earlier, it was felt that he gave the players a fair chance and although he missed a certain red on Nigel de Jong, overall he still managed the game well.

He goes on to a newly created role that will help explain refereeing decisions to the wider public so that there is more of a connection with the referees and the viewing fans. It’s a great idea, which Webb is very passionate about and should it go well it could bring a little more respect towards the referees and the difficult jobs they face.

In his 25 years in the role, Howard Webb reached the very top of the game. He took charge in both a Champions League final and World Cup final in the same year back in 2010 whilst being part of UEFA and FIFA tournaments for the past nine years. Not only that, he won an MBE from the Queen in 2011 for his services to football and regularly spent time with Sheffield Hallam University, helping their journalism students with interviews and refereeing the annual varsity game.

Not many players even have those accolades (ignoring the Hallam one, it’s good but it’s not quite up there), so it’s certainly something he can irritate his grandchildren with for the rest of his days. May Webb retire in relative peace, his new role with PGMOL will keep him busy but nevertheless, we should thank him for the excellence he brought to the pitch almost every game.