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Rise of the left-back!

  How does the old quote go, " there are lies, damn lies and statistics". Only four matches have been played so any statistic could be skewed as the sample is so low, but when you see that top of the assist league with four assists in four games are two left backs and then upon further investigation you find that of the one hundred and twenty six goals scored in the Premier League so far, eighteen percent have had direct contributions from the left back, with sixteen assists and seven goals all from the left back position you realise that something is changing. Interestingly, the seven goals have come from seven different left backs so it's not, for example, a  statistic that has been skewed by one left back who converts penalties etc.
  Why then has the modern left back been so dominant this season. There are a number of contributing factors. The main one is that modern managers ask more of their full-backs. Gone are the days of defenders who just defend, managers like Guardiola, Pochettino and Klopp demand that their full backs are comfortable in possession and massively contribute to team play and build up play in the final third. As a result of this many of today's full-backs are converted wingers, so they naturally have attacking instincts and ball skills. Full backs are, as a general rule super athletes galloping at pace up and down the wing, an overlapping full back is the norm.
Another facet of this is modern build up play. It has become more sophisticated, more players touch the ball as teams probe for defensive weaknesses. Gone are the days of a winger whipping in an early cross for the forwards to attack. This more patient, possession based play means that the full back can catch the play up and on many occasions be the extra man bursting into the box. Being in advanced  positions on a more regular basis obviously increases the chances of them being in the right place at the right time. Generally, the full back is the one player that isn't marked really well. Normally, the flair players are the ones given the job of tracking full back runs something many flair players view with distaste and full backs can find themselves in space, unmarked and in dangerous areas.
The same of course applies to right backs as well as left backs but the left backs have both caught the eye and been more dominant. It feels like left backs have been stealing headlines everywhere you look. Benjamin Mandy has fully recovered from a bad injury and is looking an absolute beast for Manchester City, as four assists so far will testify, he is currently one of the best crosses of the ball in world football. The Liverpool left back, Andrew Robertson has just been made Scotland captain. In fact if you go on Twitter you will see many football fans arguing the merits of these two footballers. Although it seems to me that Mendy is a perfect left back for Pep and Robertson perfect for a Klopp team. The much maligned, much mocked Luke Shaw has emerged from a couple of years of mediocrity to establish himself as United's first choice with some rejuvenated swashbuckling displays. Marcus Alonso has regularly scored and assisted goals over the last couple of seasons and this season, despite a new manager and a new pattern of play, has carried on right where he left off. Ben Chilwell has got his first and very much deserved England call-up. Finally, I come to the player that to my mind should have got Player of the Month for August. Playing in an unfancied but still unbeaten team Jose Holebas has got four assists and a goal, that is some going.
I don't know if  they will continue to make headlines, but so far, this season has definitely been all about the left back!


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