Left is right for unstoppable Robben

Last Updated 24 May 2013, 18:08 IST

An internet search for "Arjen Robben cuts inside" produces more than two million items, one of them a recent tweet declaring: "That was the 10,000th time Robben has cut inside and shot with his left foot - so predictable".

Yet, when the Bayern Munich winger bears down the right in Saturday's Champions League final, Borussia Dortmund's defenders, if they follow in the misdirected footsteps of so many before them, will still, inexplicably, allow the Dutchman to switch the ball on to his favoured left foot and turn a usually benign situation into a potentially critical one.
Robben's right foot was once described as being "made of chocolate" by compatriot Johan Cruyff and is still so ineffective that any Sunday league full back, let alone the cream of the world's defenders, would know to focus their entire strategy on forcing him to use it.

The number of times he hits the byline and successfully crosses with his right foot is roughly comparable to the 29-year-old's total active hair follicles - not many - while statistics produced by Prozone show that almost 80 percent of his shots are with his left.
Yet, time and time again, having feinted to go outside, Robben is somehow given the space to cut in. Too often the end result is that the ball sails into the top tier behind the goal but, as he has matured, the manoeuvre now more often leads to a dangerous pass or a fierce, left-footed, attempt on goal.

If the world's television watchers have managed to identify this familiar routine, then clearly leading coaches and players are aware of it too. So why is he still so often allowed to venture into the one place he wants to go instead of being ushered down a generally blind alley?

He has quick feet, wonderful control and critically explosive speed over the first two or three metres so that even when defenders are expecting the move they are sometimes unable to counter it, but there is very little deception about what he does.
The process leaves many experienced observers shaking their heads in frustration every time his all-too-familiar "trick" comes off.

"If the defender is doing his job properly of course you can stop him cutting inside but they have to really concentrate because he is so quick and clever," former England manager Terry Venables told Reuters.

"Once he goes inside, the opposition are in danger - the secret is staying close. It's as simple as that, the defender must stay tight, then you can stop him - just as Inter Milan did in the Champions League final three years ago,’’ he added.
Paolo Maldini said the problem was part of a general falling away in the quality of defending.

(Published 24 May 2013, 18:08 IST)

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