STRONG FOOT, STRONGER SIDE by Joe Allysons
Hey guys, hope you’re ok.
So, there’s been a long-standing debate as to if a player should play on the side of the pitch that corresponds with his stronger foot. This is an opinion piece.
From a defensive point of view, it’s really advisable to have a player on the side of the pitch aligning with his stronger foot. This is more so important for a team that intends to pass its way out of the defensive third. You don’t want defenders, who are usually less skilled than their attacking counterparts twisting their bodies to find passing lanes. You actually want your defenders playing the easiest pass possible, and that is usually to the closest fullback, or the closest central midfielder. The fullback’s next pass will usually be to the next closest midfielder, and that will usually be easier if he’s using his stronger foot, which will play a more accurate pass with the right weight. Kolasinac’s blunder against Spurs is major proof of this. For whatever reason, he felt like playing that pass with his weaker foot, and the result is history.
In the middle of the field, I think because the pitch is usually all around them, It doesn’t really matter what the stronger foot is. They’ll often be able to pick a pass anywhere. But like Wenger used to say, the middle of the pitch also has the least space to deal with.
Then comes the attacking third. In attack, I think it depends so much on the purpose of the player. If the player is a creator, they could be better suited aligning with their stronger foot.
It goes without saying that if you want your winger to cross, then you want him to be on his stronger foot. This is a very rare occurrence of late though as most teams deploy their wide players as scorers.
Following with the above theme, you’d ask me why I think every other player on the pitch should be on the side that matches their foot except attacking wide men whose role is to score.
I did mention in passing, that a centre back’s most likely pass out of defence will be to the nearest full back. The nearest fullback is likely to be on the same side as the stronger foot of the centre back. Receiving the ball, a fullback has his stronger leg facing outside the pitch, but right after he turns, he now has it facing inside. This means all passing options right from the centre back who passed him the ball, to every central midfielder on the pitch, to almost all players between the midfield and the centre forward are a naturally easy passing option.
An attacking player however looking to score will be faced with the trouble of having a defender position in the most obvious shooting path.
Let’s take Auba’s goal against Chelsea. When he first receives the, the most obvious shooting path is across the goal with his right foot. Had he been left footed; he’d have had just one option. A near post shot with both Zouma and Caballero to beat. Being right footed created a problem for the Chelsea defence. Will he take the obvious option? Will he shoot with his left? Zouma obviously knew Auba would not generate too much power and accuracy with his left foot. Auba creates the illusion that he’d be taking the easy option, and Zouma buys it, before he goes to his weaker foot with just Caballero to beat.
Thing is, with a player’s body opening towards the goal, the options are limitless. Just think of this. How many angles can a player shoot at with his body on the same side as his stronger foot? One of the most common finishes from elite strikers is the curling shot placed into the far post. Do you think that finish would be possible without players inverting their positions?
When you name the best 50 attackers in the world, I’m sure more than 80% will be playing with a bias to the opposite of their stronger foot. Leo Messi, CR7, Mbappe, Just keep going. You will notice that they tend to lean opposite of their stronger foot.
It’s not even a new phenomenon. Think about all the best dribblers you’ve watched. Robert Pires, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo Nazario Da Lima, Ronaldinho, Iniesta, Thierry. They were all right footed players, but they tended to drift left when receiving the ball and getting into attack.
Do you thinking that’s a coincidence?
Thanks for reading.