When the New York Giants take on the the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday, it will be a battle of the defensive ends that is a key to determining the outcome, positively or negatively, for both teams.
For the Giants, a return of a healthy Osi Umenyori to support Jason Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul on the outside means that the Giants can consistently collapse the pocket from the flank, contain lateral runs, and basically wreak havoc….or at the very least the 49ers will have to try very hard to stop this.
Rushing, with speed, of the edge is critical to the Giants defense and as it opens up holes for further (and more dangerous) penetration internally.
The same can be said of the impact that a speedy winger has on the game. In the Premiership, the first names that come to mind with “speed” and “flank” are Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott. Notice, neither is a great crosser of the ball and both offer little on some days that merely challenging the fullback.
Their role, however, is vital in both cases to opening up the inside play and scoring opportunities for a trailing Rafael Van Der Vaart in Lennon’s case or the stealthy Robin Van Persie in Walcott’s case.
Fox Soccer and Ives Galarcep reporting this morning that the Philadelphia Union’s Sebastien Le Toux is headed to Bolton in the January transfer window. For LeToux it’s obviously a step up and a bigger payday.
Bolton has suffered tremendously this year from two things.
First, the lack of protector and attack diverter in Stu Holden playing ahead of the central defense–Bolton has leaked goals this year like Pat Onstad defending the near post. Ouch.
Second, when a team comes under such heavy fire and doesn’t have the ability to ping the ball through possession up the field, they desperately need to keep the backline of the opponent honest. If there is no speed option up top or off the corner the opponent can play a defensive highline and like a boa constrictor slowly and methodically work the ball into an advantageous situation until it’s curtains for the opposing goalkeeper.
For Bolton last year, it was the midseason loan of Daniel Sturridge–playing off the corner and up top–challenging the backline that both catapulted Bolton higher in the standings and showcased Sturridge’s ability. If you notice, Sturridge is playing that same speedy, off-center role at Chelsea that he did last year at Bolton.
Wanderers’ manager Owen Coyle didn’t have that option this year. Ivan Klasnic–all 31 spry years of him–is the leading scorer up top and Chris Eagles is probably the closest thing to any speed.
Bolton lost their only speed and flash guy in Lee Chung-yong to a broken leg in pre-season and thus lost that ability to draw a defense out of its compact cocoon and create scoring changes.
The Union’s LeToux in this case is an excellent pick-up at the Reebok. Le Toux is versatile enough to play out wide or up top or move seemlessly along the frontline of the attack. The to-be former Union forward has great straight ahead speed and is adept at moving off the ball. Le Toux is also a solid finisher.
For the Union–where Le Toux sometimes appeared to jostle with coach Piotr Nowak about his best position–the loss will most certainly be felt. While young striker Jack McInerny seems to be coming of age–at least on international duty with the US U-23’s–the loss of LeToux, Justin Mapp and at least the idea or potential of class with Freddy Adu will completely change the complexion of how the attack ended 2011. The departure also thrusts the somewhat egnimatic Danny Mwanga into the spotlight at the focal point of that attack, a role he may not be quite ready for. Will Mwanga pick up the slack? And if not, who will?
Can the Prem’s George Clooney Keep Bolton from Being The Descendents? January 9th, 2012
If Tim Ream Goes Bolton… December 28th, 2011