Pace, an unwavering lack of fear and the ability to create goals are traits you will find in a good wide man.
So it has been for years past, so it forever will be and as such some of the Premier League’s biggest names right now tick all the boxes.
But the role of a wide man has also changed in recent years; no longer is it about merely hitting the byline and standing it up to the far post. Now you need to be able to cut inside, to play clever passes, to vary things and carry a goal threat yourself.
That variation is now crucial, especially with the ability to beat a man so crucial when matches are so meticulously prepared for from a tactical standpoint.
Here’s Mirror Football’s look at the 10 best wingers/wide forwards in the Premier League so far this season…
*NB: No place for Mohamed Salah, who has played more often as a centre-forward for Liverpool than from the right this term and thus has been counted as a striker. Wilf Zaha is included despite often being Palace’s main attacker, due to his main focus in that side still being on creating, rather than scoring.
10. Anthony Martial (Manchester United)
The Frenchman missed out on lifting the World Cup, went AWOL from United’s US tour and fell out with Jose Mourinho who wanted to sell him.
As such he was in and out under the Portuguese (who didn’t get his way back in August) and has been limited to just 12 Premier League starts (plus four substitute appearances) – yet has still managed eight goals.
That’s pretty exceptional however you slice it and the hope is that, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer showing more trust in him, Martial can finally unleash his undoubted potential on a more regular basis.
9. Wilf Zaha (Crystal Palace)
Palace’s main man is playing well under Roy Hodgson for the Eagles, still piercing in attack with raw pace, not afraid to run at defences.
Few actively stand up defenders – often more than one – and attack them so readily with the ball at their feet; Zaha does it time and time and time again in matches, and boasts an impressive 73% dribble success rate.
He has won a number of penalties already – with Luka Milivojevic profiting – but only has one assist to his name. For a player of his talent, he should also be getting more goals than his current number of three.
His crossing accuracy of 45% ranks highly when compared to similar players, and the caveat with much of it is that, playing for Palace and being so much blatantly better than his teammates, he often finds himself double teams. Still however, his ability has them on course for a comfortable mid-table finish.
8. Richarlison (Everton)
Since his £40million move to Everton in the summer, the Brazilian has hit the net nine times in 18 appearances, averages around three shots a game.
The Toffees are delighted with what their summer signing has achieved so far and it’s easy to forget that the ex-Watford star is only 21.
Barcelona have already been mooted as being a club monitoring a player who is also strong, holds possession well for the benefit of his side and breaks defensive structures with his speed in transition.
7. Felipe Anderson (West Ham United)
The Brazilian midfielder took his time to settled at the London Stadium following his £37million move to West Ham , but has really found his feet in recent months.
Having made a spot on the left side his own – whether hanging wide in a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 – and has really stepped up for Manuel Pellegrini’s men; it’s no coincidence that, as he has improved, so have the Hammers.
He’s bagged eight goals and registered two assists thus far, averages 1.86 key passes per 90 and also, surprisingly, is an absolute workhorse for the Irons; there are few attacking players, anywhere, who win back possession as often as he (131 recoveries thus far).
Eyebrows were raised when he moved to West Ham in the summer; but so far, it’s looking money very well spent.
6. Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth)
Fraser has been one of Bournemouth ’s shining lights this term and has taken his game to the next level; his manager, Eddie Howe, insists he has no limits and says “he can go wherever he wants to go”.
In 1685 minutes this term, the Scotsman has tallied up an impressive five goals and nine assists. Bournemouth have scored 31 times, so he’s had a direct hand in 45 per cent of their goals.
His driving runs and ability to both find the final pass (he’s averaging 2.4 key passes per 90) and add the killer touch are integral to a Cherries side that have added more counter-attacking threat to their play.
If he puts in another five months like the previous four, then Bournemouth may have to beat off some big money offers from bigger clubs this summer.
5. Heung-min Son (Tottenham Hotspur)
The South Korean is having his best season at Spurs to date, already on eight league goals and five assists from only 16 league appearances.
The 26-year-old has often been something of a 12th man for Mauricio Pochettino during his time in North London, but he’s made himself an undisputed first pick this term offering variation to the Spurs attack with his pace, dribbling and movement.
He’s a fine dribbler – boasting a 75% success rate – but is also smart with how he varies things, playing little one-twos, or altering his positioning, going inside and outside of full-backs.
4. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Sometimes, with the brilliance of Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino, the brilliance of Sadio Mane can be a little overlooked.
But the Senegalese attacker is having another important campaign for the Premier League leaders, offering unpredictability and thrust from the left side.
Mane has bagged eight times already and Jurgen Klopp insists “sometimes Mane is not aware of how good he is”. But opponents certainly do.
Has only one assist to his name (despite a 2.8 xA, meaning he’s created very good chances but teammates have been guilty of poor finishing) and his ability to pick the ball up deep and drive past a man is crucial to Liverpool’s counter-attacking. As the season continues, he’s going to have a huge say in the title race.
3. Leroy Sane (Manchester City)
The German forward’s omission from Germany’s World Cup squad was a shock after his Young Player of the Season award last term, but then a slow opening month of the season saw Pep Guardiola and Toni Kroos both publicly criticise Sane.
But after scoring on his return to the starting lineup against Fulham on September 15, Sane has really shown his class and his ability to decide big games – proven by his goal in the vital win at home to Liverpool in early January.
That was the 23-year-old’s seventh of the campaign, while he also boasts a further seven assists too; his xG90 + xA90 (expected goals + expected assists per 90 minutes) is 0.78 so far, putting him comfortably in the top 10 of all players with over 1000 minutes under their belt.
Sane boasts a 70% successful dribbling rate and at various points has won matches through sheer desire; frightening for opposing fullbacks when he’s on song.
2. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
Raheem Sterling is shining brighter than ever before and continues to improve under the guidance of Pep Guardiola.
The England star scored a number of crucial late winners in City’s run to the title last year, and is on course to rival his 18 goals from last season. So far he’s helped himself to nine goals and seven assists and there have been clear improvements in his finishing – for the first time in his career, he’s been outperforming xG.
That’s something he has been working on, but everything else is on the rise to: his xA90 is better than ever before, his key passes per 90 have soared to 2.48 from 1.91 last year and he’s still averaging 2.3 dribbles per game too.
Combined, it all shows a player, full of confidence, whose awareness is growing and maturing all the time.
1. Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Unplayable at times this season, the Belgian finds space where others can’t, and has at times been a one-man wrecking crew for Maurizio Sarri’s Blues.
Has 10 goals and nine assists (as many assists as in the last two seasons combined) and is averaging 3.23 key passes per game in a more expansive style and another 2.9 dribbles per 90.
Seemingly Hazard is going from strength-to-strength under Sarri, at a time when Chelsea are without a bona-fide top draw No.9; if he had Diego Costa up there distracting defenders, how much more could he get done?
It’s little wonder Real Madrid are keeping tabs on his situation at Stamford Bridge. Cherish him, because there’s no guarantee he’ll still be here next season.