Category Archives: Player analysis

The Advantage of Inverted Wingers.

Bush has been bet, fruit has fallen, leaves have died. This is an article about Aaron Lennon  and Andros Townsend.

Traditional Wingers vs. Inverted Wingers

I believe both are of equal ability at what they do but what they do is different. One is more advantageous than the other. This is why.

Traditional wingers are a dying breed.

In the old game, a wingers job was to get in behind the defense and cross for the striker to score. One of the best wingers to ever wear the Spurs jersey was Cliff Jones. Though he was before my time I have heard about him. He was natural left footed. He was ambidextrous, truly two footed. In his time as a Spurs player, he scored 135 goals. The vast majority of his goals came when he cut in from the left and rifled a shot into the net. Even when traditional wingers were the motif in football, inverted wingers were always head and shoulders above them.

The same is true today.

The best wingers are always inverted wingers. It isn’t necessarily because they’re more talented.

A traditional, to-the-byline winger is only ever passively searching for the ball, only ever passively impacting on play. A traditional winger is, by design, a touch-line hugger.

An inverted winger is constantly searching for the ball, constantly trying to get involved in play because they can. they aren’t shackled to the touchline. 

Involvement, the greatest asset of an inverted winger.

A player’s output is based off of two variables, how much they are involved and how much they do when they are involved

A traditional winger is only sporadically involved in play, by design. That is fine with me. I’m never going to play a player for the type of player  he is. It’s like blaming Jan Vertonghen for not being a striker.

But that’s as an aside.

We have one of the best traditional winger in the league in Aaron Lennon. However you can be the best winger in the world and you won’t have the same impact on play as an inverted winger. This is because you simply aren’t involved in play as much as an inverted.

Felling with a blunt axe

Even when a traditional winger is involved, it is so easy to defend against simply because it’s so monotone. You know from the moment Aaron Lennon receives a ball what he’s going to do. He’s a head-down, hell-for-leather speed machine. To stop a traditional winger, all you need to do is sheperd him to the byline and either block the cross or let it sail onto the head of your centre back (Soldado or Defoe aren’t winning any headers any time soon). Either way, we’re not going to score many goals this season with a traditional winger

To substantiate; here is Aaron Lennon’s passing chalkboard in the game against Crystal Palace:

We can see in this that Townsend is much more willing to come inside and vary his play. There is little end product in Lennon’s chalkboard. He rarely gets into a dangerous position,  again, because his play is so monotone.

Andros Townsend, on the other hand, has many more tricks up his sleeve. He could very well come inside for a shot, he could play a reverse ball or pass it off to Eriksen (or whoever happens to be the trequartista on the day) or pass it to either of his full backs. Or he could burn the fullback and go to the byline and cross. Just because he can. His options are vast in comparison to those of a traditional winger an Aaron Lennon.

Inverted Wingers in action

The example that prompted this article came against Norwich

Embedded image permalink

The picture is ordered left-to-right & top-to-bottom.

In the first slide, we can see Norwich have a rigid backline. There seems like there is no immediate way through and certainly if Townsend went to the byline one of Michael Turner or Sebastien Bassong would cut the ball out.

In the next slide, we can see Townsend coming inside and opening up space that will be exploiting later.

In the third slide, we can see Leroy Fer, Bradley Johnson and Javier Garrido have all been dragged inside by Townsend’s incisive run. Paulinho is left in acres of space that would have otherwise been occupied by Garrido.

Eriksen passes to Paulinho and the rest is history.

It isn’t even that Townsend is greatly better than Townsend. He’s not but the manner in which Townsend plays in greatly advantageous for any team. His driving runs for the heart of an opposition’s defense open up gaps that others can exploit.

For this reason, Townsend is a starter over Lennon

Don’t get me wrong, I think Lennon has an important role to play. I’m salivating over him coming off the bench but i think he is a bench player this season.


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Is the Moose wading in deep water?

I have been waiting to write this post since the start of the season, Dembele’s great performance versus Norwich on Saturday prompted me.

Dembélé before the international break

Much has been made of Mousa Dembélé’s sub-par performances. Or what appear, superficially, to be sub-par performances.

Anyone that follows me on Twitter knows that I have been somewhat bemused by Dembélé’s superficial sub-par performances.

It appears Dembélé has regressed.

I don’t subscribe to that in the normal sense of the word; “Regress”

When somebody says that a player has regressed, I immediately associate a drop in performance level. Dembele’s performance output has dropped but his performance level hasn’t dropped.

Let me explain.

A player’s output in a game is based off of two (main) variables, the level of performance and the level of involvement.

This way players who are highly involved in a team’s attack and/or defense looks better than a player who isn’t. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the player is at a higher level of performance. At a very fundamental level, Townsend was involved in Tottenham’s attack very sparingly last season. This season he is involved and his output has increased greatly but his performance level hasn’t increased proportionately.

The theory holds true for lots of players. The example most familiar to Tottenham fans is Clint Dempsey. Every attack Fulham had in 11/12 went through Dempsey. He was the core of the attack. When he joined Tottenham has was at the periphery of the attack. This theory can be applied to Gareth Bale, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aaron Lennon (United at the Lane, he was the core of the attack and went HAM), Adebayor and, finally, Mousa Dembélé.

So has Mousa Dembéle regressed or is he just less involved?

At a very simple level, player involvement is how long you spend with the ball at your feet. Lloris spends very little time with the ball at his feet, he is little involved. Walker spends a lot of time with the ball at his feet, he is involved.

Everyone will agree he was ‘sub-par’ versus both Swansea and Crystal Palace (Arsenal are omitted because everyone was horrendously, awfully, laughably bad, which will taint his stats). Tottenham completed 381 passes versus Swansea. Mousa received 34. 9% of our passes.

Against Crystal Palace, Tottenham completed 434 passes, Mousa was received 27 passes in 57 minutes. Hypothetically, that would be 43 passes  Dembele received 10% of our completed passes.

On the surface an average of 9.5% involvement seems OK for a team of eleven but consider that the CM’s are the players most involved in both a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 and that we dominated totally but had little penetration meaning the ball was often in the middle third of the field.

To contrast Étienne Capoue was involved in 57 passes against Swansea and 19 in 33 minutes against Crystal Palace or a hypothetical 51 passes.

In a random game I chose (Tottenham versus Everton at the Lane) Dembele received 12% of Tottenham’s passes in a game where he was subbed off after 75 minutes, Hypothetically, if Dembélé stayed on, he’d have received 14.4% of our total passes.

In another random game, Swansea at the Lane, a game very similar to yesterday’s game in that we totally dominated, he received 18% of Tottenham’s total passe.

In the finally game chosen at random, Reading at the Lane, Mousa received 76 passes out of 544, a total of 14%.

The mean of these percentages in 15% compared to 9.5%.

It might seem like a nominal difference but it’s not. Over the course of a game, it equates to being involved in 3 minutes more of the time your team has the ball.

Dembélé after the international break

Dembéle was much more involved in the game against Norwich. Tottenham completed 563 passes and Mousa received 72 of these. A percentage of 14. He’s not far off the mean for last season and it showed yesterday. Norwich threaten with a few swift counter attacks and Dembele was there to stop them all. Dembele is near his best once  again.

Mousa Dembéle hadn’t regressed, he was just less involved than last season.

To answer my own question, The Moose isn’t wading in deep water, he’s parting the red sea.

Follow me @ImmenDimensions

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Filed under Mousa Dembele, Player analysis, Tactics