For many years, Barcelona disregarded the importance of pure wingers, and throughout that time, the effects of that ignorance have been felt more and more. This season, the Catalans’ roster only has two wingers, both of them are currently out with an injury.
Classic wingers are instrumental in positional play. Specifically, the help their team dominate the space. By sticking to the touchline, they stretch out the opposition, attracting the attention of defenders. Thus, they free up room for their teammates, handing them the benefit of time whenever the ball reaches them. Wingers are the best generators of havoc in the final third, as the opposing side often faces the dilemma of allowing more space centrally, or narrowing down to leave more room at the opposite flank.
Each manager is unique in the way he uses wingers. Some demand constant involvement from their wide attackers, exploiting their blistering pace and fabulous dribbling. Other coaches value directness and timing, meaning they don’t see much of the ball, but still impact the game through their directness and runs into space. Whatever their use, wingers are of paramount importance, each in their own right.
The importance of the winger forgotten?
In recent years, Barça has manifested a clear lack of faith in wingers. Especially when it comes to youngsters, patience is key, yet players like Carles Pérez were thoroughly overlooked and eventually discarded. At the moment, Ronald Koeman only has two pure wingers in disposal, that being Ansu Fati and the unreliable Ousmane Dembélé, both youngsters sidelined for what feels like an eternity. Aside from the two, only Memphis Depay and Álex Collado can theoretically fill in. However, the former is used as a false 9 while the latter doesn’t even make the squad list.
Quite worryingly, Ronald Koeman never expressed the desire to sign a winger. Furthermore, he didn’t trust any of the wingers from the Barcelona youth ranks. Instead, he prefers the fullbacks to push high, which is a limitation for the entire unit. Especially in Barcelona’s very specific case. A matter worthy of consideration.