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The Return of the Right Winger to Sunderland

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In the 'holes in the Sunderland squad' rankings, a right winger is fourth, behind that of a right back, a striker and an attacking centre midfielder. The right winger has a traditional mystique in football and David Moyes appears to be shaping up to a formation which would include such a beast. Here we assess his options.

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The right winger has always had a certain aura. When I was at school, I was utterly convinced that it was my destiny to be such a glorious creation; I would have flowing hair and wear my shirt untucked; I would lope up and down the wing, beating defenders with ease, but only when I set my mind to it. My early memories of football are filled with the tricky, pacy, yet flawed winger - Chris Waddle, John Barnes, Brian Laudrup, David Beckham even. Some of you, who are even older than me, will recall the glory days of the outside-right - Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews.

Sunderland’s last ‘good’ right winger is currently languishing behind bars, largely forced from the minds of Wearside folk save the odd reminder courtesy of The Sun, a lone voice who remain the only ones interested in Adam Johnson's prison exploits. We’ve had a few notable wingers – Nicky Summerbee, Billy Bingham, Steed Malbranque and Allan Johnston to name but a handful.

If David Moyes is likely to build his Sunderland side into a 4-2-3-1 formation, or a variation thereof, a winger is going to be of use. In many ways, the traditional 'winger' has gone out of fashion. Wing-backs and overlapping, sprinting athletes masquerading as full-backs, have taken some of the burden off the position on the park which always housed the most frustrating yet skilled individuals - the winger. But, this five-man midfield taking shape at Sunderland means scope for such a body is opening up.

The winger is making something of a come back, but it's not the traditional type - which was the man hugging the touchline who popped in a devastating cross or two each game following a mazy run. Today, the wide right midfielder is often a forward, who can cut inside and play off the lone striker; in fact wingers are often found on their 'wrong' side (i.e. right footed players on the left and vice versa) these days because of that cutting inside factor.

In many ways, the right winger at Sunderland has never gone away, it's just our options there have been a little poor since that unpleasant episode last year. What is stark though, is Sunderland’s current lack of right wing prowess. Only five sides were narrower than Sunderland last season; by that I mean we were the sixth most likely team to spend more time with the ball in the middle of the park. No surprise perhaps, Kirchhoff and M’Vila were two of our most effective players – naturally central midfielders.

But also, Fabio Borini as a wide-right man doesn’t really work and that is despite some of his attributes fitting the very description of the 'new' winger described above. But, his touch and vision, ability to beat a man and to put in a cross, are not sufficient to be effective. He is far more suited to playing narrowly off a fellow front man. Otherwise, his game resorts to hurling himself at the opponents left back, looking for a foul or back tracking as a defensive midfielder. I’m not saying he isn’t good at those things, he is; it’s just that his game is better suited more centrally.

Which leaves us with Jeremain Lens as the only other option on the right; and most of us are unable to form an opinion on the Dutchman; mainly because when he does play, he does nothing. Oh, but hang on though, what about that winger Gus Poyet signed? Will Buckley! That’s his name – Nah, he's gone; sorry, but he'll probably pop up as the new Mag-slayer in the Championship, just you watch.

So, there is reason to be excited at the news that Sunderland have been linked with Adnan Januzaj, amongst others, to fill the problem berth down that right flank. There was also a recent spurious, yet well crafted rumour that Sunderland were looking to Eduardo Salvio of Benfica; but his price tag looks rather hefty and was probably made up by an agent or a Portugese website. Another apparent forged rumour was that of Aaron Lennon being of interest to David Moyes. Or, how about Teemu Pukki, he can play wide - anyone?

I'm hopeful then, that Moyes will bring the right winger back to Sunderland and identify a man to fill the vacant berth. Januzaj still seems to be a possibility, at least no one has denied it as an option yet. But, I just have a fancy for a wildcard we have yet to hear of. Somehow that would seem fitting - a twist and an exciting, hitherto little known flying trickster.  It’s time we had another great right winger.