Playing as a ‘wide forward’ isn’t some sort of junior role for Tyrese Campbell, in fact I think Michael O’Neill is using him in one of the most influential positions in the modern game.
It’s great to see Campbell thriving, with five assists and four goals this season, and being nominated for Championship player of the month.
He’s come through Stoke’s youth system as a central striker but the manager has explained at this stage of development he feels he can do better playing wide than as the central striker
But that doesn’t mean the wide forward spot is one for an understudy just waiting for the time they are ready to progress to the main job down the middle.
Football and systems and tactics have evolved to the point where I would almost argue that wingers are new strikers. You look at Liverpool’s team and Mo Salah and Sadio Mane are almost strikers playing in wide positions. It’s similar at Man City or at Spurs with Son Heung-min.
The advantage of playing wide is they are not up against big, physical defenders who can maybe outmuscle them in situations.
But also you get the advantage that they can run from the wide areas to central, sometimes unmarked by the full back who has not seen the danger. They can find the space between the centre back and full back and are running towards the goal with the goal in front of them. That’s different from playing as a central striker where a lot of your game is with your back to goal.
Managers used to put a striker out on the wing if they were maybe out of form, hoping they could just do a job and maybe nick a goal.
It’s different now. Those wide positions are really important. Players there are getting double figures in goals from those areas.
Stoke have Steven Fletcher and Sam Vokes who can play that central role so it seems like good management to me that Tyrese Campbell is being used in a wide position where defenders can’t put the handcuffs on him and he can still come in from a wide area and be a danger.