The Premier League has its fair share of influential players, but who makes their mark from wide positions?
Over the course of time, positions have changed in soccer. Traditional center forwards transitioned to false nines; old-fashioned no. 10s have floated into roaming positions. No position necessarily represents what it used to, but there are still plenty of true wingers.
This doesn’t include players like Eden Hazard, Philippe Coutinho, or Kevin De Bruyne, who do play out wide, but tend to fit the description of the aforementioned roaming no. 10. This concerns pacy, direct wingers—the kind who in some ways have gone by the wayside, but still exist and are prominent for several of the top teams.
Several exist in the Premier League, as well as across the soccer world, but here are just a few who make the largest impact for their clubs in England’s top flight.
1. Sadio Mané
Sadio Mané was an influential player for Southampton for two seasons before a big-money move saw him switch the south coast for the northwest on Merseyside. Since his summer switch, he’s upped his game to an entirely new level.
Though Coutinho is Liverpool’s chief creator, Mané takes up the right flank, using raw pace and great skill to terrorize defenses. With 47 successful take-ons, completing them at a nearly 57 percent rate, the Senegal international beats defenders time after time.
Sadio Mane completed 5 take-ons vs. Sunderland, more than any other player in the Premier League so far today.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 2, 2017
Rapid with the ball. pic.twitter.com/015Jzv2CHr
With the success he has taking defenders one-on-one, Mané often finds himself in dangerous areas, usually in the wide areas of the pitch, and he can play balls across, which is why he has four assists this season. However, it isn’t just about setting goals up for Mané.
Liverpool’s no. 19 still manages to find himself opportunities to score as well as assist goals, and he has nine Premier League strikes to his name so far. He also is efficient, putting 59 percent of his shots on target, a number far higher than most of his wide-playing counterparts.
Mané’s assist total is among the best of the league’s wingers, and his goal total leads the bunch. The ability he has to beat defenders, set up teammates, and put the ball in the net himself makes him a complete winger, and probably the most influential so far this season.
2. Raheem Sterling
Sterling’s disastrous first season at Manchester City is long forgotten, as he is just one goal behind his total from last season, and has already doubled his assist tally.
Raheem’s renaissance is due in part to new manager Pep Guardiola, as the 22-year-old struggled under Manuel Pellegrini after moving from Liverpool in the summer of 2015. The England international found his footing at the start of the 2016/17 campaign, and is having a very good season. His best goal output is nine with Liverpool in 2013/14, and his highest assist mark came the next season on Merseyside with seven. Considering the rate at which he is creating this season, both of those personal bests look like they’ll be smashed by the end of the current campaign.
Sterling currently has five goals and four assists to his name in the Premier League this season, and is one of City’s most creative players, especially with Sergio Aguero having what many consider a down year.
The former Queens Park Rangers youngster is also similar to Mané in the way he terrorizes defenses. With De Bruyne and David Silva the kind of players to switch the direction of play and break down defenses through pinpoint passing, Sterling is a direct change of pace. His ability to beat defenders and penetrate the opposition (58 take-ons at a clip of 60 percent success) gives Manchester City a different dimension when they need to shift gears in attack.
Most Premier League take-ons completed since 2013/14:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 26, 2016
Eden Hazard (454)
Wilfried Zaha (305)
Raheem Sterling (272)
Mind the gap. pic.twitter.com/a524xmk0ny
Sterling was one of the Premier League’s most exciting youngsters with Liverpool, and after last year’s bump in the road, he is one of the most impactful wingers in England.
3. Wilfried Zaha
Zaha may be in the midst of a relegation battle. He also may have switched national teams to the Ivory Coast because he could not break into the England first team. But, Crystal Palace’s right winger, as proven by the take-on stats above, is one of the Premier League’s most influential wide men.
Zaha faces his fair share of criticism, and the 24-year-old has deserved some, especially given his inability to play a good final ball. His lack of a presence on the scoresheet is part of the reason why Crystal Palace has struggled in recent seasons, but this season he has come alive.
In 2016/17, Zaha has seen a Sterling-like revitalization. Equalling his best goal tally and tripling his best assist total, Zaha is seeing a meteoric rise in several other statistical categories. He’s putting shots on target at a higher rate, taking opponents on more successfully, and completing 80 percent of his passes, his best average in the past three years.
And, if Sterling’s 58 and Mané’s 47 didn’t sound like enough, Zaha has already completed 79 take-ons this season. His blend of pace and power has always been there, and this season he added goal scoring touch and a better final ball, and his stock continues to rise as he heads off to the African Cup of Nations.
Theo Walcott, Arsenal-8 goals, 2 assists, 28 take-ons
Willian, Chelsea-5 goals, 1 assist, 32 take-ons
Nathan Redmond, Southampton-3 goals, 1 assist, 36 take-ons
Michail Antonio, West Ham-8 goals, 0 assists, 49 take-ons
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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