A fellow fan of the beautiful game and I had a colorful discussion today regarding who we both considered to currently be the best left back in the world. The two of us argued the merits and flaws of this player and that for longer than what our manager at work would have liked, yet we weren’t actually able to anoint one player as the supreme left back on the planet.
After I got over the shock of not being able to “win” a soccer argument, I came to a realization…. it’s not a bad thing that we weren’t able to name just one.
Instead, I figured out that in order to actually answer a very subjective question such as “who is the best player in this position?”, we must first define a specific formation and system into which this prospective player would be inserted.
For example, it wouldn’t make any sense to place a wingback such as Ashley Cole — known for hiw swashbuckling, long runs into the attack — into a defensively-conservative system like that of Tony Pulis’ Stoke City. Similarly, an extremely skilled player like Robinho plays very well as a striker in the hole in a counter-attacking culture that’s prevalent in Italy, but didn’t fill the role well in England because he didn’t defend as much as is required by a Premier League midfielder. See what I mean?
And then it struck me: the brainchild of that conversation should be the basis for a new series of posts on wrong side of the pond. Here’s the scenario:
- I am given the managerial reigns at a super-rich club, such as a Real Madrid or Manchester City.
- I have an unlimited transfer budget at my disposal for transfers and wages.
- I am free to pursue whatever transfer targets I like, regardless of price or availability.
- All players desire to play for my club, and UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules don’t exist (though this may be the case anyway, seeing how most teams will still find loopholes).
- I can choose whatever formation I want, and place the players in it in whatever way I feel fits the system the best.
So with the rules now defined, you’re probably wondering just who I would pick for my starting eleven. And if you’ve asked yourself that, then you totally understand the format for my newest blog series. If you don’t, I’m picking my very own wrong side of the pond XI. Each week, we’ll cover a single position on the pitch, who I would choose, and why. And this week lay the foundation for the weeks to follow by choosing my side’s formation and tactics. Jump past the break to see how I intend to shape my imaginary squad.