Offside’s Premier League A-Z: T is for tricksters

T is for tricksters…

Yes, T is for the tricksters. Or, to translate it into the common parlance of the Tim Lovejoy and Soccer AM generation,  those special players deemed to be possession of the highest quality of “tekkers” around.

Paul Roberts: David Silva definitely has "tekkers".
Paul Roberts: David Silva definitely has “tekkers”.

They are footballers able to humiliate and destroy their opponents with the flick of a foot, the twist of their hips or a physics-bending trick capable of manipulating the flight or behaviour of the ball in an uncanny and often unstoppable manner.

Offside: Cristiano Ronaldo keeps his marker guessing at the 2009 Carling Cup final.
Offside: Cristiano Ronaldo keeps his marker guessing at the 2009 Carling Cup final.

With this capacity to create magic out of nothing, or subvert tight spaces and situations into delightfully sudden opportunities they are usually heralded as the entertainers or the artists. For the purists, they embody the game’s individual greatness and potential for the stunningly unexpected.

Offside: Eden Hazard weaves his way through Manchester United's defence.
Offside: Eden Hazard weaves his way through Manchester United’s defence.

Due to the attributes associated with the best players to have mastered the position, the wings have historically been the natural habitat of such stars. Wingers were the players of speed, skill, exciting angles, unpredictable flair and exciting developments around the goal mouth.

Mark Leech: Joe Cole keeps the ball in play.
Mark Leech: Joe Cole keeps the ball in play.

Their crosses, cut backs, dribbles, shots, passes, through balls and more, threaded into the danger zones from the flank, usually after having beaten a marker or too, continues to delight the crowds of today. Yet the artistry and joy of creative, technical excellence is not the preserve of the wide man.

Simon Stacpoole: Dimitar Berbatov backheels the ball past Aaron Hughes.
Simon Stacpoole: Dimitar Berbatov backheels the ball past Aaron Hughes.

Cultured players come in all shapes, sizes and positions, from the almost aristocratic strikers and playmakers who lounge about the field, letting their superior touch of the ball and subtle little feints do the hard work. Then you have the ball-playing centre-backs, who stride about the field, bringing the ball out from the back and threading passes forward with the majesty and confidence of a minor royal.

Mark Leech: Paolo Di Canio teases an opponent with his ball skills, much to the delight of the West Ham faithful.
Mark Leech: Paolo Di Canio teases an opponent with his ball skills, much to the delight of the West Ham faithful.
Gerry Cranham: George Best attacks George Cohen's flank as the BBC watch on from above at Craven Cottage.
Gerry Cranham: George Best attacks George Cohen’s flank as the BBC watch on from above at Craven Cottage.

It’s taken long enough, but better late than never, the tactical innovation of attacking full-backs and sweeper keepers has offered formally discreet positions greater opportunities to show their class on the ball. Who doesn’t love seeing a goalkeeper dummy an onrushing striker a few inches from their goal line? Such chancy antics are dangerous also spectacular in an extremely cool and usually understated manner, undertaken with a sort of beautiful, almost lazy nonchalance that’s impossible not to enjoy.

We may not think of keepers and wide defenders as tricksters, but the proliferation of high-end technique and skill that has seen nigh-on complete players crop up in every position on the park means that trickery is no longer the preserve of the winger.

Marc Atkins: Alexis Sanchez vs. Manchester City.
Marc Atkins: Alexis Sanchez vs. Manchester City.

Judging by the price Arsenal have paid for Alexis Sanchez this summer however, the unique attraction of such players is still far from dimmed.

Gerry Cranham: George Best backheels Martin Peters.
Gerry Cranham: George Best backheels Martin Peters.

Offside is the UK’s leading independent sports photography agency, home to an extensive collection of classic First Division and Premier League pictures as well as other images from across the world of sport. Explore Offside’s unique library at www.welloffside.com. Follow Offside on Twitter at @welloffside.

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Author: gregianjohnson

Football writer for The Blizzard, FourFourTwo, The Mirror, Squawka and VICE amongst others. Follow me on Twitter at @gregianjohnson.

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