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How to Play Winger

Updated on August 17, 2014

Playing winger is a challenge because the advanced nature of the position requires you to be a lethal threat latching on to through balls as well as crossing. A successful winger needs to be able to score goals on a consistent basis while creating just as many assists. If you have ever seen a player top both the goals and assists chart in a league they were probably a winger. The difference between a winger and an outside midfielder is that a winger takes a much more advanced position marking up on the outside back instead of the outside midfielder or winger on the opposing team. Wingers tend to be utilized most in systems like a 4-3-3 or the less common 3-4-3 that play with three attacking players. A successful winger combines the goal scoring prowess of a forward with the dribbling, crossing, and speed of an outside midfielder. Knowing your role as a winger is half the battle, since systems with wingers are usually high press and attacking not following your assignment can be a massive tactical blow to your entire squad.


On attack wingers need to make the field as wide as possible, to stretch the opponents back line. Stretching the opponents defense horizontally creates channels for through balls, prevents defenders from providing cover for one another. No matter what system your playing in, stretching the opposition should always be the goal of an attacker. Wingers often benefit from having speed, they need to be able to exploit the space behind the defence. Always make yourself a difficult person to mark when on offense, being static makes organization much easier for the opposition. Try standing in between defenders, this makes it easy for the other team to mix up defensive responsibilities. If they both close on you when you receive the ball you have created valuable space for your teammates and thrown their entire defense into structural disorder. If neither defender steps, they assume you are the other teammates responsibility, you can take the ball yourself and cause all sorts of problems. Diagonal balls, in the air or on the ground, towards the corner flags are always dangerous if you have fast wingers. The longest line on any triangle is always the hypotenuse so if you begin your run from the sideline you will usually be able to beat the more central defender on a run to the corner flag. Balls over the top are high reward, low risk since they don't pose much of a counter-attack risk. If you keep utilizing the through balls over the course of a game the opponent might react by dropping off opening up the short game underneath. Playing winger requires you to be creative and unexpected with your play. Look at the opposition, what sort of attack are they in the worst position to defend?


Defending as a winger is difficult because you need to constantly be balancing objectives. If you are playing winger in a 4-3-3 one of the two wings always needs to be high marked up against the outside back ready to counterattack with the help of the central striker. Usually the strong side wing, the winger that is on the flank of the field that the opponent is attacking, needs to drop off and move centrally. In this position you are looking to intercept passes from the attacking outside back while utlizing a very conservative defensive approach. You should look to force the attack to the sideline, preventing any incursions into the center of the field. This defensive assignment is all about containment, you are isolating the other teams attack on your side of the field until the rest of your team can help congest play amd recover the ball. In this situation you need to be in constant communication with the outside back on your team, your teamate will have a better field of view and is your only cover down the line. If you are the weak side winger you want to be pushed up all the way to half. You are the outlet for the counter and it is up to you and the striker to create a few dangerous chances and hopefully goals during the course of the game. Keep in mind that when the opponent switches the ball from sideline to sideline you will be changing assignments from an advanced position to a defensive one. This will involve a lot of running, and there is a reason why winger are often some of the fittest and fastest players on the pitch. The Achilles heal of a team that utilizes wingers is a contstantly changing point of attack. Wingers are an offensive gamble in football, but if you are disciplined you can help mitigate the defensive risk that 4-3-3 systems tend to propagate.


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