During the last 6 [in game] years at Grasshopper Club Zürich (GCZ) I have tweaked a variety of tactical aspects of my formation and player/team attributes. None more so than the use of width in my teams and it's something I have been meaning to blog about for a while. Today I will try to discuss my transition from using an Inverted Inside Forward in 2015 to a more traditional Winger in 2021.
Now I am probably going against the latest cycle in football. Managers are now playing Wingers on the 'wrong' side judging by the foot preference: referenced in today's blog as Inverted Inside Forwards (IIFs). This implication of this is an expectancy on the modern day Fullback to get forward and provide the width that a more traditional Winger once gave. The clear benefit of this is that Fullbacks generally play on their stronger side, so the space created by an IIF roaming inside onto their stronger foot means that you can effectively add your Fullback to your attacking arsenal. Think of the way Messi and Alves linked up in Barcelona. However, football is cyclical in nature and I like to think I am ahead of the curve in FM16 by bringing back the line hugging Wingers of old*.
*To clarify, 'Wingers of old' is in reference to the Wingers of 20 years ago e.g. the 1990s Ryan Giggs. Wingers who generally played in a 4-4-2, who offered width and invention out wide. Real 100% attacking Wingers died in the 1930s during the death of the 3-2-5 formations. Another story to be told by more learned men. Unfortunately not by me, I simply wouldn't do it justice.
Meet 'the inverted'
I started my GCZ save on November 13th 2015, the day Football Manager 2016 came out, thus using the Day 1 Database. Due to a slight oversight in the data, Yoric Ravet had been given a 20/20 left foot and weak right foot...when in fact it should be the reverse. (This has since been corrected by the Swiss Researcher: @aulit_z, who does a great job keeping on top of things). Nevertheless, I was faced with a challenge...help Yoric Ravet with his inverted affliction and simply make it work. In addition to this, the finances at the time were tight at GCZ and I had other areas to 'fix'.
So here are Yoric's attributes, positional data and his performance in the 2015/16 year as an IIF:
Straight away we can see that Yoric actually fits the IIF mould quite well, he has good ratings in the primary IF attributes:
- Dribbling - 13, Finishing - 12, Passing - 14, Technique - 14
- Decisions - 13, Off The Ball - 13
- Acceleration - 15
He also complements the secondary aspects of an IIF well: First Touch, Long Shots, Composure, Flair, Vision and Pace. It's for this reason back in November that I believed I could make it work, so I tailored the team around Ravet in an asymmetrical formation...
...and asked him to do this (with tweaking throughout the season here and there):
We can see an example of how it pans out in two scenarios below:
Example 1: GCZ vs Thun '6 mins
Red/Pass, Pink/The IIF movement, Yellow/ expected Winger movement
The chance shown above against Thun wasn't a goal, but it highlighted the build up play Ravet provided. His directness was a key feature throughout the season, but this game (a 2-0 win) in particular highlighted his threat: no crosses and no real width in the team, but good movement and a goal to brag about:
Example 2: Thun Vs GCZ '93 mins
Another example of what the IIFs can bring to your team was briefly mentioned in my intro: adding Fullbacks to your attacking arsenal. Below is movement in the Thun reverse fixture, where GCZ won 2-1. You can see that Benjamin Lüthi (at the time playing as a Wing Back) took advantage of Yoric Ravet causing a nuisance of himself by dropping inside and getting a feel for the ball. Lüthi has the chance for a crossing opportunity, but pulls this back to Ravet...
You can also see above that Ravet is comfortable on the ball, his first touch and vision allows him to pick out 18 year old Harun Alpsoy before making his run into the penalty area. Sadly for him Alpsoy had a poor first touch, which led to the move breaking down. This all occurring in the 93rd minute, which is a trademark of my GCZ teams...controlling games for as much of the 90 mins as possible.
Again, Yoric Ravet gets a goal. However, this time he does get a solitary cross in, but you can see his activity is generally narrow meaning his crosses are in fact passes (4 of which are Key). So if you've read this far, you're probably wondering why on earth I changed the IIF formula and adopted a wider approach with Wingers. There's many reasons to tell the truth, but to name a few:
- Yoric Ravet was my only IIF. So when he wasn't playing I needed to change the whole team dynamic.
- The asymmetrical 4-3-2-1 system was unbalanced. I was exposed by other wide teams who could attack my fullbacks.
- Munas Dabbur (my Central Striker who Ravet often relied on for support) was sold in the Summer of 2016. So I needed to rejig the attacking output in the team, with Shani Tarashaj going in as striker. Shani was more of a drifter and not static enough for Ravet to be effective in the IIF role.
- I do like Wing Play. I used to be a Winger, albeit in Sunday League. I love understanding the play and stretching the opposition by staying wide and choosing when to gamble. I probably had the ball at my feet for about 1% of the actual game...but it never stopped me thinking about the positional aspect during those 90 mins and the duel I had with the opposing Full Back.
So what happened to Yoric Ravet? Well after excelling as my IIF in Season 1, he was brutally used as a Winger for seasons to come (and rarely an IIF again). You can see his output decline massively, and by 2020 he was in Serie C. His 'database affliction' came back to haunt him as a left footed right Winger simply doesn't work.
Meet 'the huggers'
There's been a number of Wingers since Yoric Ravet at GCZ, both left sided and right. But to keep this blog post concise, let's focus on two of the most recent: 25 year old right Winger Adama Traoré & 21 year old Regen left Winger Víctor Silva (both below):
Both Traoré & Silva have amazing Winger stats. Their essential attributes in Crossing, & Technique attributes are complemented with raw power in Acceleration & Pace. They also both 'Hug the Line', which is important to how they suit my Player/Team Instructions. In addition to this, they also are not inverted...I can essentially stretch the play and ask them to stick wide either in a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1.
Let's now take a look at the destruction they get up to, Traoré & Silva get one example each...
Example 1: Traoré Vs St. Gallen '79 mins
We can see below Traoré holding his position and thus stretching the play, before using his Dribbling and Acceleration to beat his opponent. The chance created is a successful cross and forced a good save from the keeper (saving Zivkovic's shot). There's no need for a Full Back overlap here...Traoré can beat his man alone time and time again.
Traoré's positional & movement against St Gallen is in stark contrast to Ravet's discussed previously. Not only is Traoré out wide, he is ridiculously advanced (mainly because he has a defensively minded Full Back behind him). He is crossing (20 attempts) and dribbling (6 made). We also have 8 Key Passes and a goal...
Example 2: Silva Vs St. Gallen '5 seconds!
Now we turn to Silva on the other wing. This is Víctor Silva's 1st start in a GCZ shirt, and after 5 seconds I knew I had acquired a special talent. Firstly he picks up the ball from Central Defender Noah Loosli. His PPM of 'Hugs Line' means he isn't adverse to staying out wide and beating his man 1:1. You can see from screenshots 2, 3 & 4 he has twisted the blood of fullback Martin Angha, a defender 6 years wiser. Once again, given the decision to cut inside like an IIF or go wide, Silva has gone wide and delivers a well weighted cross to Zivkovic. The chance leads to a good save from the St Gallen keeper but it offers hope that the GCZ Wingplay of 2020/21 will be something to remember...
Despite Silva's performance dropping as the game went on, he showed his class with 6 Key Passes and a goal. Like Traoré, he has stretched the game by being out wide:
It would be hard to decide on a winner between the IIF and Winger. They both have served me well at different points in my GCZ career. Only you guys know what's best for YOUR team, but before you leave, here are five things I evaluate when deciding on what wing play to use (again feel free to share your opinions):
- Firstly evaluate your squad, do you have an abundance of a certain type, a nice balance OR an unbalanced shape?
- Evaluate the minuscule details of your Wingers. As much as you can: their attributes, the strength of their feet, their PPMs etc.
- Evaluate the players around your wingers: the Fullbacks/Wingbacks, the Strikers etc. I'm a great believer in combinations, so by having an attacking Wing Back might sway you into wanting to try an IIF
- Does your Team Instructions suit a particular type of Winger? Think about how you want to play and how width might help with that.
- Make it fun. Try something different and experiment in the match engine, you might like it!
I hope you have enjoyed today's blog, as always, thanks for taking the time to read.