Friday, 23 April 2010

Are attacking right backs enjoying a resurgence?

A while ago I was reading an article about the role of fullbacks in the modern game, and one of the points that was made was that the best attacking fullbacks have tended to be left-sided.

There are several plausible (if my opinion counts as plausible!) reasons behind that trend. Left footers make up roughly 10% of the population. A left footer is a valuable commodity and at youth level they tend to be converted into left-sided players early on to fill in those niche positions (you don't want to be playing right-footers on your left flank after all). Lefties train so much on their left foot that many end up mastering technique and ball control (Robin van Persie and Alvaro Recoba would be just 2 examples). But it usually comes at the expense of their right foot, and taking a quick glance at any football match nowadays will reveal that many lefties are embarassingly one-footed.

Another reason may be that - and don't quote me on this - left-sided people are generally more artistic and creative, in footballing terms that translates to more flair, more unpredictability. As an attacking back, the ability to get past your man makes a big difference to how well you can perform your role.

Interestingly, a trademark of Arsene Wenger's sides have been that the left flank is usually the more attacking/creative one, while the right flank is more defensive/industrious. Looking at the likes of Italy, Manchester United, Chelsea etc., the same theme seems to apply.

However, thanks mainly to one country in particular, attacking right backs are still playing a major part in world football. Cafu was probably the finest attacking right back of the 90s, and this decade Dani Alves and Maicon have perhaps managed to reverse the trend by outshining their left-sided counterparts. Certainly, no one comes close to sharing their level of attacking influence.

So are they enjoying a resurgence? And what does that mean for opposition tactics? Will the traditional attacking left back have to be curtailed to counter their opposing man?

The 3 Brazilians doing what they do best: