Inverted Winger in Soccer: Wingers in the Modern Era
Soccer is a game that has evolved over the years, and with it, so have the techniques and tactics used by coaches and players. One such example is converting a traditional winger to an inverted winger.
This position in soccer allows a player to play on the opposite side of their dominant foot. This allows him or her to cut inside and create scoring opportunities. For example, a player that is predominantly lefty will line up on the right side of the field so they can cut in and shoot with their strong foot.
The movement of an inverted winger is slightly more lateral compared to that of an inside forward. They move into the center, cutting inside diagonally, and creating space for their teammates to exploit.
This dynamic type of player has become increasingly important in modern soccer, where teams are looking to create scoring opportunities in any way possible.
What is an Inverted Winger?
Like I mentioned above, inverted wingers are a modern tactical development of the traditional winger position.
They are primarily responsible for attacking from wide areas, but they do so in a unique way that sets them apart from their traditional counterparts.
Instead of hugging the touchline and crossing the ball into the penalty area, inverted wingers cut inside towards the center of the pitch, creating space for themselves and their teammates.
Not anyone is suited to become an effective inverted winger. These players are often skilled dribblers and demonstrate elite-level technique when it comes to cutting inside with the ball and finding gaps.
Inverted Wingers vs Traditional Wingers
When it comes to playing as a winger in soccer, there are two main types of players: traditional wingers and inverted wingers. While both have their strengths and weaknesses, there are some key differences between the two that are worth noting.
Traditional wingers are typically right-footed players who play on the right side of the pitch, or left-footed players who play on the left. Their primary role is to stay wide and deliver crosses into the box for the strikers to finish. They are often known for their speed and dribbling ability, as they need to beat their defender and get to the final third to deliver a good cross.
On the other hand, inverted wingers are players who play on the opposite side of their stronger foot. For example, a left-footed player might play on the right wing. Their role is to create scoring opportunities for themselves or other teammates. They are often more creative and skillful than traditional wingers, as they need to be able to beat defenders in tight spaces and create chances from almost nothing.
While traditional wingers are still a valuable asset to any team, inverted wingers have become increasingly popular in recent years. This is because they offer a different dimension to the attack, and can often catch defenders off guard with their movement and unpredictability.
However, it’s worth noting that playing as an inverted winger requires a certain level of skill and tactical awareness. They need to be able to read the game well and make offensive decisions quickly. They also need to be comfortable playing on their weaker foot, as they will often need to use it to shoot or pass the ball.
Overall, both traditional wingers and inverted wingers have their place in modern soccer. It ultimately comes down to the style of play that a coach wants to adopt, and the strengths and weaknesses of the individual players on the team.
Role of an Inverted Winger
Creating Space for Strikers
An inverted winger is responsible for drifting inside from the flanks and creating space for the attackers to exploit.
By moving inside, the winger pulls the opposition full-backs out of position, creating gaps in the defense that the attackers can exploit.
This movement also allows the team to overload the midfield, giving them greater control over the game.
Essentially, the inverted winger plays a hybrid of a winger and central attacking midfielder (CAM).
Scoring Opportunities from the Wing
Another key role of the inverted winger is to cut inside and shoot on goal with their dominant foot.
Quickness and an attacking mindset makes this position very valuable on a team. These players will need to take their opponents one-on-one and make the best decision for their team – either pass or shoot.
Linking Up with Central Midfielders
The inverted winger also has an important role to play in linking up with the central midfielders.
By drifting inside, the winger can create passing angles for the midfielders and help to maintain possession of the ball. This movement also allows the team to switch play quickly from one side of the field to the other, catching the opposition off guard and creating more chances to score.
Famous Inverted Wingers
Bukayo Saka currently plays for Arsenal in the English Premier League. This lefty is a dynamic player who is the perfect fit as an inverted winger.
Still only in his early 20’s, Saka has represented his country England and continues to be a significant part of their senior team.
Saka is known for his pace, dribbling skills, and versatility, and he has been praised for his mature performances at crucial times.
Check out Saka’s heatmap and notice that in the final third, that much of his movement is in the left/central part of the field.
Arjen Robben is considered to be one of the greatest inverted wingers of all time. He played for top clubs such as Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich.
Robben was known for his explosive pace, dribbling ability, and his trademark move of cutting inside from the right wing onto his left foot to take a shot on goal.
He was a key player for the Dutch national team and helped them reach the World Cup final in 2010.
The Goat. Although Lionel Messi is primarily known for playing as a false nine or as a central attacking midfielder, he has also played as an inverted winger on occasion.
Messi’s ability to cut inside from the right wing onto his left foot and take a shot on goal is similar to Robben’s style of play.
Messi has won numerous individual awards and has helped Barcelona win multiple La Liga and Champions League titles.
Gareth Bale has played for top clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid.
The Welsh soccer player is known for his explosive pace, dribbling ability, and his ability to score spectacular goals from long range.
He has played as an inverted winger on both the left and right wings and has been a key player for the Welsh national team.
Bale’s most famous moment as an inverted winger came in the 2014 Copa del Rey final when he scored a stunning solo goal against Barcelona. He received the ball on the halfway line, ran past several Barcelona players, and scored with a left-footed finish into the bottom corner of the net.
Other notable inverted wingers include Neymar Jr., Phil Foden and Christopher Nkunku.
Having a player who can beat the defense in the final third and play the ball with their dominant foot only makes sense. It’s great to see so many coaches and teams adopting this style of play.
Teams that use inverted wingers often pair them with overlapping fullbacks on the outside to add extra width to their attacks. This combination can cause problems for opposing defenders who are forced to deal with a variety of attacking threats.
As an inverted winger it is easy to focus on your dominant foot. But, as a youth soccer player, you should continue to work on making your less dominant leg stronger. Players who can play on both sides of the field as a forward will create more opportunities for themselves in future years.
Continue reading about the different soccer positions and learn about which one would be effective for your style of play.