Let’s talk about the attack, the preface of any football team. And the actual players of translate the collective efforts of defence and midfield into the goals. There are many types of attackers, their main goal indeed is the same, but their roles and positions differ a lot from each other. Today, we are going to do a very interesting comparison between the two attacking positions. You might have read the title already, but here it is again: winger vs inside-forward.

It’s something to build a conversation around. How different types of attackers, execute their roles on the pitch in different ways. Complementing their actual main duty which is to score goals or assist other attackers to do so. We will analyse and examine different aspects of their game and what makes them different.

What is a Winger?

The width is given a lot of importance in the modern tactics of football, players like full-backs, wing-backs, and wingers are essential to use the width properly. In attack, having a winger can be a blessing as they usually give that electrifying spark to their team’s gameplay and make it difficult for the opponents to anticipate.

As we said before, wingers are only responsible for the wings, they provide the necessary width to the team as they initiate and contribute to the attack from the wider areas, they also have to cover a lot of distance as they constantly move up and down on the flanks. Wingers take on the full-backs of the opposing team, looking to dribble past them and often cutting inside to shoot for the goal. Also, they move to the extreme offensive areas of the ground and deliver crosses to the teammates in the box, that’s how they play supportive and attacking roles at the same time. Being a winger requires high tactical awareness of the game, the concept of space, the awareness of the central teammates, breaking the defensive lines of the opponent’s attack.

You might be thinking what are the qualities of an ideal winger? Well, there’s a long list, but here are few qualities which are essential in a winger. They should be fast, we mean literally fast, because they often have to take the ball from deeper areas and quickly sprint to the offensive areas for attacking purposes. Also, a winger should be a great dribbler of the ball, while running on and off the flanks, they have to dribble past the wide players of the opponents. We have seen many amazing wingers with excellent dribbling capacities in recent years, wait till we give examples at the end.

Winger Analysis:

  • Their prime objective is to stay on the wings and provide width to the team’s gameplay.
  • Wingers are highly dangerous for opponents from an attacking perspective because of their technical abilities.
  • They either try to assist by delivering crosses and key passes from the width, or they often cut inside and score goals all by themselves. There have been some prolific goal scorers coming from the wings in the history of football.
  • Wingers also provide defensive assistance in some scenarios as they track back and try to recover the ball when the possession is lost.
  • Wingers are very useful when a team is pressing, they stretch out the full-backs and due to their pace and stamina, they man-mark the opponent’s defenders well.
  • As we said before, they are fast and very good dribblers of the ball, traditional wingers are often noticed running up the flanks dribbling past 3 or 4 players in a row.
  • Wingers are extremely offensive, as you know now, they also need to have a very good target and shooting practice.

These are the basic qualities and roles of a winger in a very generic way and understandable way. It’s time to give you examples of some traditional wingers. Some heavyweights are coming up, brace yourselves. Starting with Nani, in his days with Manchester United. The tricky winger was transformed into a dangerous weapon. Having been forced to play on the right flank. Being that Cristiano Ronaldo occupied the left flank. Another formidable winger in modern football is JuventusFederico Chiesa. The promising forward has recently enjoyed a great spell playing on the right side of the Italian’s attacking trio.

What is an Inside-Forward?

Inside-forward is a very orthodox term and position in football. The position was famously used in the very early years of football, more precisely in the early 20th century. But we can find the traces of this position in modern football too! Many tactical geniuses have replicated this position in their line-ups and many footballers have the same playing style as this role in modern football. So, this relatively old position deserves an explanation too. Let’s get to it.

An inside-forward is a player with more freedom of space and operating area than a pure forward, and also have more creative freedom. There can be few different roles of an inside-forward; they also play wider on the pitch, but in more offensive position then a winger. In such circumstances, an inside-forward tends to cut inside towards the central areas of the pitch and try to score a goal or create a scoring opportunity for fellow attackers. Also, inside-forwards can also act as a supporting forward. They provide support, space, and depth for the forward of the team. This is a more creative role for this position as it requires a good understanding of the game and also positional awareness. In such conditions, the inside-forward also drops deep to assist midfield and the defence. He/she gives more importance to creating chances instead of scoring.

An ideal inside-forward should have a great positional and tactical understanding of the game. They are also technically gifted players with amazing dribbling qualities. As this is a creative position, inside-forwards read the game and try to create chances for the more offensive attackers.

Inside-Forward Analysis:

  • Inside-Forward can play both narrower and in wider positions on the pitch.
  • They can also play in the extreme offensive and also in the deeper areas of the pitch.
  • An inside-forward tends to score goals but also has a lot of creative freedom to create chances sitting in the deeper areas of the pitch.
  • Inside-Forwards also trackback to help the team defensively.

Few great examples of inside-forward from the modern age are Lionel Messi’s role in Guardiola’s era at FC Barcelona. He was famously called the false 9 but his duties were very similar to the inside-forward. He used to occupy the central regions of the pitch to create and score goals while also tracking back. At the same time, he used to influence the right-wing. Often cutting inside and scoring marvellous curled shots with his left foot. Cristiano Ronaldo spent almost a decade at Real Madrid’s left flank, and we all know the 450+ goals he scored, but it’s not all about that, it’s about the magical moments we witnessed from possibly the greatest player of all time. One more example is the role of Philippe Coutinho in his Liverpool time. You can watch these examples to closely analyse the functions of the position in question.

Head-to-Head Comparison

We discussed both positions in detail, let’s do a quick comparison:

  • Wingers tend to be fast and great dribbler with an eye for the goal. The inside-forwards are also great in technique but they are more creative on the pitch looking to create big chances.
  • Wingers only play on the flanks and extremely wide areas of the pitch. An inside forward can also operate on flanks as well as in the central areas of the pitch.
  • Like wingers, inside-forwards also track-back to assist the defence.
  • Both of the positions require extreme precision and awareness of the teammates around them.

Conclusion

You’ve made it to the end of the field! You should now be able to differentiate between the winger and inside-forward role. This is especially useful for scenarios in which you can implement this knowledge on the field. Which role would you prefer to play in? And why? Let us know in the comments below.