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Chelsea & Liverpool Full Backs Azpilicueta & Flanagan Prove The Importance Of Wrong Footed Players

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 The Evolution of modern football:

World has evolved. Football has emerged. Different techniques entering the stage in different period of time and leaving out at different situations later before dominating for a certain period around the footballing world.

Jose Mourinho’s counter attacking football was a huge success in the early days of its introduction as the Portuguese won the rare UEFA Champions league with Porto in 2004. This terrific success with Porto attracted many top clubs around Europe before the tactician opted to join Chelsea.

Few years later, a revolution had broken out in Spain under the guidance of Pep Guardiola. The Spaniard with his tiki-taka (often described as a boring game), won the treble in his first season in-charge of Barcelona. Barcelona, under the guidance of Pep had won 2 champions league titles in the span of just 3 years (2009-2011).

And at present, the Argentine, Diego Simeone is holding the responsibility for a new era in modern football. The art of ‘Counter Pressing’ seems to be astonishing as well as entertaining unlike Pep’s tiki-taka. Brendan Rodgers, stealing the technique of ‘pressing’ from Simeone, had totally outplayed Arsenal, Everton and Spurs at Anfield.

Wrong footed full backs- the new evolving trend:

Flanagan Vs Azpilicueta

Coping up with the emerging trends, playing positions of the players have also been shifted with respect to manager’s curiosity. Half a decade ago, the trend of using wrong footed wingers had emerged (inverted wingers). With a right footed left winger and a left footed right winger in place, we can expect more goals from the wide men as the players can cut in the ball very easily to shoot towards the target.

In the newest decade, the inclination of using wrong footed full backs has slowly been showing its dominance. This dominance of inverted full backs in the newest decade was already hinted by the glimpse of Italian football in the previous with the examples of Gianluca Zambrotta and Luca Antonini.

Mourinho’s introduction of right footed, Cesar Azpilicueta as a left back is an indication of the dominance of wrong footed full backs in the near future in all the systems mentioned above. Even Brendan Rodgers, the firm tactician who mixes tiki-taka, counter pressing and counter attacks in right proportions, has used right footed, Jon Flanagan as left back ahead of first choice Aly Cissokho. Taking a genuine look around Europe, we can identify many wrong footed full backs have come with impressive performances recently.

If we turn out our focus on left-footed right backs, we have to admire the curiosity of Italian football once again. Left-footed Zambrotta was used as right back in most of his career in Juventus and Milan. In the semi-finals of Euro 2012 against Germany, Prandelli played left-footed, Federico Balzaretti as the right back in the place of suspended Cristian Maggio and injured Ignazio Abate.

What wrong footed full backs can offer?

In defence:

As already discussed, most of the coaches in Europe prefer to play the style of inverted wingers in their most admired 4-2-3-1 formation. As the coaches don’t want to play the old game of crossing the balls, they expect their modern wingers to get involved in the scoring sheets by cutting the ball in before attempting to curl the ball towards the post. To nullify the effect of free flowing left leg of the left footed right wingers, a free flowing right leg is deliberately needed on the opposite side. This scenario can also be adapted to the other flank. So, more than going forward and lining their names in attack, the wrong footed full backs play a crucial role to impediment the dangerous attacks rising from the other side- something which normal full backs can’t deliver.

Joachim Loew subbed Lucas Podolski in the half time to pave the way for Marcos Reus in the semi-finals of Euro 2012, when Germany were trailing 2-0 to Italy. But till the end of the second half normal time Reus didn’t cause any dangerous attack as his cutting in ability by his free flowing right leg was nullified by free-flowing left leg of Balzaretti in the right side of Italian post.

In attack:

Moreover, when wrong footed full backs stand perpendicular to the field in the opponent’s box to collect the long balls coming from the centre, the quality of their first touch could make them to penetrate into the defense very easily. This might prove costly. So, summarising the importance of wrong footed full backs, we can find many coaches adopting this latest trend in the very near future.

 Published in permission with Raghu varman