World Cup winners become team with best wide player: Wenger

The World Cup group stage saw a stunning 83% increase since the last tournament in open play goals coming from the flanks, a trend that Arsene Wenger says will determine who wins the competition.

Discussing a technical analysis of the first round by world governing body FIFA, Wenger, who heads global football development, said there was a trend for defenses to protect the center of the last third, meaning teams were forced to to go through the left and right channels. create opportunities.

“The teams block the center of the field, so they open more on the flanks… it means the best teams with the best wide players have the best chance of winning the World Cup,” Wenger said in a presentation in Qatar on Sunday .

Juergen Klinsmann, who is a member of the FIFA Technical Study Group, said the pattern of defense packing also influenced the number of attempts to shoot on goal from outside the area.

“It’s very difficult for teams to break through the middle,” he said. “Defensive and midfield lines are so close together there’s no chance of pulling the trigger.”

That defensive pattern also led to a 33% reduction since Russia’s 2018 World Cup in the number of “take-ons”, or players in possession running up to and beating defenders, while many were forced wide.

Klinsmann said the data showed this favors South American teams much more than Europeans.

“It’s their way of doing things. It’s still the love of street football… the kids go head-to-head. So it is not surprising that they are at the forefront of this,” he said.

Another big change was how often goalkeepers made themselves available to receive passes, from 443 times during Russia’s group stage to 726 times in Qatar.

“This means that the technical level of a goalkeeper who plays with feet has become an essential part of a team’s quality,” said Wenger.

“He becomes a real part of the team; now they are part of the team, it is the modern part of the team.”

Wenger said the increased injury time at the end of the Qatar games had little impact on games but could increase the physical strain on the players.

He also said he was in favor of increasing the number of World Cup teams from 32 to 48 by 2026, saying this would encourage countries to raise their domestic standards.

“It means we still have to find 16 good teams,” he said. “I am convinced that if countries have more opportunities to go for the global stage, they will do more in that country.”

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