Inside out wingers could change tactical shape of Premier League

In the Premier League 4-2-3-1 systems or their variants still dominate, though 4-4-2 looked like it could make a comeback thanks at Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

There is a case to be made for a new trend; the winger cutting inside onto his stronger foot, a la Messi. It’s something Arsenal mastered to an extent with their unbeaten team. Ashley Cole and Lauren would overlap Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg, who would cut inside and look to operate more centrally. It utilised the full backs, thus creating new space on the pitch.

At Arsenal to some extent it still happens on the left flank, with Samir Nasri or Andrei Arshavin cutting onto their right foot whilst Gael Clichy overlaps. At Manchester United Nani also to an extent does the same thing when playing on the left, but Antonio Valencia tends to stay wide right when playing. Chelsea meanwhile, have rarely played with much width in any case.

There is a case to be made though for the ‘inside out winger.’ At Arsenal for instance, the tactic could be revolutionary if Arsene Wenger were to deploy it. Currently Theo Walcott tends to go down the right flank and when Arsenal are holding the ball deep in opposition territory Bacary Sagna joins him. Having two players operate in the same area destroys the possibilites of creating space somewhere else on the pitch.

Using Walcott on the left and someone like Gervinho if he signs could have a huge impact. Walcott coming in onto his right would be cutting across the pitch as Gervinho was going in the opposite direction. With Sagna and Clichy overlapping, that would mean three Arsenal players in and around the penalty area, as opposed to the usual one. And having just one player in wide positions can create space elsewhere on the pitch. And also, full backs have become crucial in modern football. With space increasingly conjested in midfield, the only players with space are usually full backs. Giving them free reign of the deep wide areas enables ‘wingers’ to move inside and gives a team more options tactically.

It is something Manchester City could try, with Adam Johnson a great example of a winger who operates best on the right side, cutting in onto his better left foot. David Silva meanwhile is intelligent enough to use either foot and come inside. With strong full backs, City are definitely a side who would benefit from such an approach, varying their play more and making them less reliant on Carlos Tevez in the centre to create chances.

For United, Chelsea and Liverpool, they could steal a huge tactical march on their rivals by adopting this inside out winger change. For United in particular, a team who use width naturally, they are a fairly devastating side without using wingers whose instinct is to cut inside. If they did, they would create much more space, and with players whose movement is as good as Hernandez and Rooney, this could be the way they move to the next level.

For Chelsea and Liverpool, they have long lacked real width. Since Robben left Chelsea they have not had a ‘proper’ winger and have relied on their full backs to provide width. They are the club who arguably need to bring in new full backs as well as wingers, as last season they got very little from right back, where Branislav Ivanovic usually played, and at left back Ashley Cole is getting older and less mobile.

For Liverpool though, like Manchester United they could benefit hugely, given the attacking nature of their full backs. For them, a move to a system which used two defensive midfielders could provide the cover to mean that they are not over exposed by Glen Johnson’s forays forward. And using inside out wingers would get the best out of him and if they sign Gael Clichy, he too would be well utilised in that role.

Of course, none of these sides may take this approach. It’s unlikely that Tottenham will; ‘Arry Redknapp doesn’t do tactics. But if one of them decides to make use of the inside out winger, it is the shift which could just give them the advantage in the increasingly competitive battle for honours in the Premier League.