If you’re a football fanatic like me and were born in the late 80's like I was,I am sure when you were growing up you would have been accustomed to the formation 4-4-2. With that formation there would always be 2 wingers 2 full backs and 2 strikers, with the other postions as normal.
In recent years though it must be said that I have noticed a change of mindset by managers in regards to the formations they use, and in particular the failure in my opinon to have a natural winger or wingers in their sides.
I would like to give you a example of a team of my childhood that had 'out and out' wingers- Manchester United. United in the 90's were well known for having a 4 man midfield, there were 2 wingers in David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, and there were 2 central midfielders in Paul Scholes and Roy Keane. Many argued that, that Manchester United's midfield was the best of it's genration- but times have really changed.
Modern football has changed it has to be said, and it seems like the once 'sworn by' 4-4-2 is a thing of the past. I want to put forward the example of Barcelona, the Catalans have never used 4-4-2 from my understanding, the Spanish giants have 2 excellent full backs in Jordi Alba and Dani Alves. These 2 players love to 'bomb forward' and for Barca it works to great effect, the holding midfield player usually Busquets would fill in the vaccant holes left by his colleagues ventures forward.
Continental football has been like this for a 'while' and Barcelona I am sure are not the only side to use this model. Barcelona's fierce rivals Real Madrid do have 'natural wingers' in their system in Christiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale it could be argued- but even with these 2 players they can 'cut inside' as well.
If you look a bit closer to 'home' Chelsea don't operate with 'out and out' wingers, and if this season is anything to go by the Blues haven't needed to- they have been breath taking at times with their build up play. I can't think of many sides who have natural wingers, with Ronaldo and Bale being obvious exceptions. Bale himself as we all know was actually a full back converetd into winger, but the ex Spurs man spent his last season 'behind the striker' and it was to good effect as the Welshman was top scorer for Tottenham. Bales' team Ronaldo as we have seen with his days at United was a exceptional winger, he does tend to drift more 'centrally'.
Football is a very competitive indusry-which goes with out saying, and managers I am sure are always looking to 'new methods' to have the edge on their rivals. The days of '4-4-2 as we once knew it' have changed, now the 4-4-2 has been 'evolved into a '4-4-2 diamond' ,managers such as Brendan Rodgers, Sam Allardyce and Roy Hodgson are managers who have used this system. Just to clarify for you folks a 'diamond' is a 4-4-2 formation where the midfielders postions make a diamond if you were to look at it on paper-if that makes sense. The 'diamond' will have a player off the strikers with a play protecting the defence and 2 wide players
In all scenarios the player who is seen as the 'out and out winger' ( I know England and Liverpool involves the same player- Raheem Sterling) the results have been startling. Last seasons win at Old Trafford for Liverpool is an example of the '4-4-2 diamond' being used to great effect, in that game Raheem Sterling was nothing sort of sensational.
West Ham have put Stewart Downing at the top of their 'diamond' formation, to brilliant effect. Downing has got more assists already this year than he did than the whole of last year. As much as it pains me to say it- the '4-4-2 formation of the past' is a 'dying breed'.
The role of wingers in the modern scene isn't as we know it either, players such as Mesut Ozil and David Silva get put out wide but neither of these players aren't natural wingers. They're in short supply I am afraid, wingers such as James Milner and Matt Jarvis spend their times these days on the bench mainly.
The days of John Barnes going on one of those maisy runs beating 'the full back' at ease have gone I am afraid,these days we have Everton full back Seamus Coleman who is having a excellent season with the Toffees it must be said. The Republic Of Ireland international has been nothing sort of sensational at right back and at left back England international Leighton Baines has been brilliant.
For football pursists like me, the delcine of natural wingers is upsetting- but hey if your side has full backs like the 2 I just mentioned is it really that bad?