The Missing Wing

Posted by HIRA on August 5, 2005, 07:24:37 PM

Some football teams are like birds. They need wings to fly.

This pre-season, Rafael Benitez has relied on Darren Potter to provide one portion of the width on the right, and new addition Bolo Zenden on the left. Bolo has been rather impressive, surprising a few with the accuracy of his crosses, and a willingness to get to the by-line. The competency of his crossing is most unexpected because at his time with Barcelona, Louis Van Gaal regularly put him through intense lessons in the art of crossing  as he wasn’t pleased with Zenden’s final product on the pitch.

Potter, on the other hand, has been doing a job. But that’s about it. He’s a workaholic on the pitch, and plays earnestly. However, he is lacking that something extra that you need when attacking on the flank – flamboyance, pizzazz, call it what you will. It is as clear as day that Benitez is looking to sign a new right midfielder before the start of the new season.

That person could have been Luis Figo. Unfortunately, he turned down the chance to sign for Liverpool and decided to reunite with some of his former Madrid team-mates in Milan. That is if you can say his wife didn’t interfere in his decision, having in mind that the city of Milan is always appealing. Otherwise, perhaps his dazzling skills and forceful crosses would have graced Anfield. Doubts weren’t always far away though. Figo sweats it out on the pitch, but off it, he has been known to cause problems before, particularly in voicing his discontent sometime ago about Deco’s involvement in the Portuguese National Team. Many also wondered whether Figo was just looking for a last pay day.

Nonetheless, you can’t help but feel a slight disappointment now that the deal has passed Liverpool by. With our left side looking strong with the options of playing Zenden, Kewell when he returns, Riise, Garcia and Mark Gonzalez (who is now embroiled in work-permit problems), the right side just dosen’t bring the same threat.

Many of course see width is an important component of a football team. Width is a principle of attack and is often ideal to apply constant pyschological pressure on a concentrated defence until an error occurs allowing for penetration. There is a reason why wingers are called as such – they are supposed to command the flanks. Potter dosen’t do that. Garcia does but only in flashes, and he is not your orthodox winger is he?

Title winning teams of years gone by have all possessed wingers of stunning explosiveness. Players of the ilk of Arjen Robben, Damien Duff, Ryan Giggs and Robert Pires have all added that crucial extra in the final third. They have the moxie to take on defenders like it is second nature.

The question is – who will fill this important void? Daniel Alves of Sevilla has been mentioned as one of the names, but will Sevilla continue to sell their best players after losing Julio Baptista? Juanfran, the Madrid youngster, has impressed many with his quick feet. The name of young Dutch international, Romeo Castelan, has also appeared in many wishlists. He is a pure right winger, and some say he plays in the mould of Shaun Wright-Phillips. Of course, Lyon have always been involved in one major speculation or another this summer. Their converted right-winger, Sidney Govou, has been strongly linked with us. He grabbed a bagful of assists last year in the French League.

Another option that exists, has not gone unnoticed by Benitez.  ‘It is a possibility that we could use him on the right wing. I did the same thing with John Carew at Valencia. It means you can play with another striker in the team and he can get into the box more.’

Does this mean Cisse will move out to the right to facilitate a welcome for the ‘prodigal son’? Don’t hold your breath just yet.

© HIRA 2005

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