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Do Not Play Cristian Techera Centrally: A Treatise

Cease!

MLS: Western Conference Knockout Round-San Jose Earthquakes at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Look, I don’t know how prevalent this point of view is. Maybe i’m going to spend the rest of this piece tearing down a straw man. Nevertheless, in preseason line up predictions/ suggestions, I keep seeing people putting Cristian Techera in some kind of central role. It really irks me to see this because it’s my view that this would be a terrible idea and I would actively question Carl Robinson’s sanity were he to attempt it. I will now attempt to explain this position by considering what it is that makes Techera an effective player and by examining the various central roles I’ve seen people propose playing him in.

What Kind of Player is Techera?

Techera does most of his damage by going down the wing, cutting inside and then either crossing or shooting. This means his best position is as an inverted winger, or inside forward on the right side. This allows him to cut inside, onto his stronger left foot, and cause trouble for opposition defenses. When he was played more on the left in 2016, he was a lot less effective because he was cutting inside to his weaker right foot. You can probably already see what direction this argument is headed in, but let’s continue anyway.

The Suggestions:

I have seen three suggestions get bandied about the most. Let’s examine them from least bad to most bad.

Techera as One of Two Strikers

Honestly it’s not impossible for this to work. If you played Techera off the shoulder of Kei Kamara and gave him a free role to roam to either flank that might be so weird that other teams wouldn’t know how to deal with it. That being said, I don’t think it’s a good idea. This is a role much more suited to Yordy Reyna. Techera also doesn’t really have the physicality to succeed in the Whitecaps’ system. Most importantly though you take away Techera’s ability to cut inside if you play him upfront, because he’s already inside so to speak.

Techera in a Midfield Three:

This idea is extremely foolhardy in my view. Typically in a midfield three, one player sits back and works to win the ball and two are tasked with moving the ball forward. The players who move the ball forward are either players who do so through skill and passing ability (think David Silva) or through pace and power (think Jordan Henderson); or a combination of the two (think Paul Pogba). Now, I think we can all agree that Techera isn’t the picture of masculine strength, so that leaves the tricky David Silva type. On that front I refer you back to Techera’s strengths: going down the wing, cutting inside, and then crossing or shooting. Techera is effective at creating chances but I wouldn’t exactly describe his methods as cerebral. Techera also isn’t really that great at defending, so basically you’d be taking away what makes him most effective going forward and putting him in a position to fail defensively.

Techera on The Left Side of a Midfield Diamond

Guys, no! This is by far the worst idea I’ve seen suggested. I can only assume this suggestion stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of how the diamond midfield actually works. I blame the FIFA games for this because in those a 4-1-2-1-2 with two wide men is very effective. This is because playing in wide areas is much more important than playing centrally in FIFA and the skill of the person playing the game can cover up for tactical inefficiencies. In real life the diamond operates with two shuttlers on the side. While they do sometimes have to operate in wider areas, due to the narrowness of the formation, they are primarily central midfielders. To help illustrate my point I will use another video game, Football Manager. Yes it’s just a game but it’s useful for showing you what I mean because in the 2018 edition of the game it shows you areas of weakness in your formation (indicated by red squares in the image below). Here is what it would look like if the ‘Caps lined up with a FIFA style diamond midfield (Football Manager hasn’t released their winter roster update yet so just ignore that there’s some weird players in there, it’s the formation that’s important).

You will no doubt notice that there’s a massive hole in the midfield that’s just begging for Diego Valeri to run through it. You might say that Ghazal would stop Valeri but then all you need is for Chara or Guzman to step forward and you’ve got yourself an overload my friend. So, unless you want to give Aly Ghazal PTSD from desperately trying to cover all that space by himself, playing this formation would be a fool’s errand. If the Vancouver Whitecaps were to actually play the diamond formation it would look more like this:

Techera is clearly not suited to play a left sided role in this formation for the same reasons we discussed in the midfield three section. Except, in this formation it would be even worse because he wouldn’t have the support of a left sided attacking midfielder.

Conclusions:

Techera is very good at what he does: being a tricky wide player who cuts inside to either shoot or cross. But if you try to play him centrally then you take away what he’s good at and expose what he’s bad at. So for the love of God don’t do it.