The Oviedo Conundrum

If Bryan Oviedo never kicked another ball in a royal blue jersey he would still go down in Goodison folklore as the man who finally got the goal to end our Old Trafford hoodoo.

Indeed, Oviedo genuinely comes across as a really decent bloke and a very popular member of the squad at the moment and he can’t half play a bit too. In fact, despite only starting a handful of games I’d even go as far as saying that aside from Baines and Luke Shaw, he has been the most impressive full back in the league. As all respected football folk are aware though, the Costa Rican faces one major hurdle to nailing down a regular place in the side – the obstacle that happens to be the best left back in Europe.

Such was the form of Oviedo in the spell that Baines was out injured before Christmas, it is hard not to feel an element of sympathy for him now he appears to have been relegated back to the bench. Of course Baines deserves his spot back in the team due in no small part to him being consistently our best player over the duration of the past few seasons. The question then boils down to can Oviedo be accommodated elsewhere in the side?

The Southampton game was the only real chance we’ve had to see a Baines/Oviedo combo down the left to date. Unfortunately for Oviedo there were a couple of key factors which led to him having probably his poorest game in the side: one being he was up against what for me is one of the best right backs in the league at the moment in Callum Chambers and the second, perhaps more interesting factor, is that it is a whole different ball game when moved slightly up the pitch compared to left back.

It would be unfair to completely rule out Oviedo from playing higher up based on one performance but as a left sided player myself, I do understand the difference in the role. Coming from deeper as a full back, you can dictate the play and pick and choose when to surge past the man in front. As a left midfielder you are far more reliant on others giving you the ball. You are then tasked with producing a bit of trickery or a bit of pace with little momentum behind.

For me, this is why it takes an exceptional talent to play the wide position in midfield. I can’t think of too many players currently in the Premiership who are what you would class as top draw wide men. Navas at City is perhaps an exception, but generally we are seeing more and more the evolution of 3 players in behind the lone striker who interchange with each other in tandem with how the game is going.

I think given time (although this is something in short supply in the modern game), Oviedo can play the higher role to great effect and if not in the league, I’d certainly like to see him given another go there at Stevenage next week. The loss of Barkley makes Oviedo an even more interesting option because I think there is certainly a case for either Pienaar or Mirallas to play more central behind Lukaku, leaving a vacancy out wider in the process.

As much as I’d like there to be a place in the starting 11 for Oviedo, it is definitely a hugely positive sign that we now have genuine strong competition for places in the squad and long may it continue.

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