Arsene Wenger believes that this trend will determine who wins the World Cup after the group stages of the tournament saw a startling 83 percent increase in open play goals scored from the flanks since the previous tournament.
Wenger, who oversees Fifa’s global football development, was speaking about a technical analysis of the first round when he said there was a tendency for defenses to defend the center of the final third, forcing teams to use the left and right channels to create chances.
“The teams block the centre of the pitch, so they open more on the flanks… it means the best teams who have the best wide players have the best chance to win the World Cup,” Wenger said in a presentation in Qatar on Sunday.
A member of the Fifa Technical Study Group named Juergen Klinsmann claimed that the practice of packing the defense had an effect on the quantity of attempts to score from outside the penalty area.
“It’s really difficult for teams to break through the middle,” he said. “Defensive and midfield lines are so close together there’s no chance to pull the trigger.”
The number of “take-ons,” or players with the ball running at defenders and beating them, has decreased by 33% since the 2018 World Cup in Russia as a result of this defensive strategy, while many players were being forced out wide.
Data, according to Klinsmann, showed that this significantly favored South American teams over European ones.
“It’s their way of doing things. It’s the love for the street football games still… the kids take on each other, one against one. So it’s not surprising that they’re leading on this,” he said.
Goalkeepers made themselves available to receive passes to their feet more frequently in Qatar, 726 times compared to 443 times in Russia’s group stages.
“This means the technical level of a goalkeeper distributing with has feet has become a vital element of quality of a team,” Wenger said.
“He is becoming a real part of the team; now they’re part of the team, it’s the modern part of the team.”
Wenger claimed that while the longer periods of stoppage time at the conclusion of Qatari games had little bearing on the outcome of the contests, they might put more physical strain on the players.
Additionally, he stated that he was in favor of increasing the number of World Cup teams from 32 to 48 in 2026, arguing that doing so would inspire nations to raise their domestic standards.
“It means that we will have to find 16 more good teams,” he said. “I’m convinced that if countries have more opportunity to go for the world stage they do more in that country.”
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