Analysis: Gelson Martins showing promise in his wingback role

Offering AS Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim plenty of tactical flexibility as to how best to use him, it’s been interesting to watch Gelson Martins shine operating at wingback in recent weeks.


While he’s typically used to playing as a winger, the way he’s transferred his dynamic skill set into his new role has been very impressive indeed. In fact, it’s given him a firm foundation to give Monaco plenty of offensive impetus, for his athleticism and technical qualities have put opposition backlines under huge pressure due to the immense freedom he’s afforded.

ÔÇťGelson is able to play up front or on the wing. With the three midfielders, he has the opportunity to take defenders on, he likes to be in one on ones. I’m happy for him, his goal is a reward for his work. He always works hard,” Jardim explained after his starring display vs. Brest.

Although he’s performed admirably on the defensive end aside from a couple of minor errors in positioning, being slow to react when he needs to cover for a teammate on occasion or when he inherently can leave his team exposed in transition due to his high positioning, the positives have far outweighed any shortcomings.

And those upsides have certainly arrived in abundance on the attacking front, for he’s been a massive weapon for the Monegasques. Providing vital width and depth to his team’s attacks, he’s done a brilliant job of stretching opposition backlines both horizontally and vertically.

Making the most of every available opportunity to burst upfield and join in attacks, the smart timing and directing of his runs has been a real highlight. Constantly putting his adversaries under pressure and giving his team a fantastic outlet to switch the play, Martins’ movement has proven the catalyst for many a promising move.

Fantastic run in behind

Martins marauding forward dangerously

Wonderful run in behind

On top of embarking on some searing overlapping surges, the way he’s rotated with one of his forwards, mostly Wissam Ben Yedder, to pose a threat on the underlap has added some important variety. Interrupting the rhythm and placing doubt in the minds of defenders is always a good way to destabilise opponents, and the former Sporting CP whizz has done precisely this with his multifaceted movement.

Crafty rotation and underlapping run

Picking his moments when to maraud into the box, he’s done a fine job of exploiting the blindside of opponents to give himself a dynamic advantage over his more stationary foes in order to gain an edge when attacking crosses.

His solid relationships with his colleagues has benefited him too, as this has seen his teammates make space for his runs, and he generate space for them by pinning markers or using decoy runs.

Martins’ teammates drawing markers to make room for him

Also excelling with the ball at his feet, his wizardry on the dribble has only punctuated his threat. Loving the extra time and space to motor into, this has ensured Martins frequently has plentiful room to use his 1v1 skills to breeze by his man, draw trackers or gain separation to execute his actions. Able to beat his man with his array of feints, shimmies, stepovers, nutmegs and electric changes of pace and direction, the jet-heeled Portuguese has been a handful to contain.

Dynamic dribble draws four players before he finds a colleague with a through ball

Another bonus associated with his trickery arises from how he wins fouls in advantageous advanced locations. It’s also been crucial to note how Monaco have used the overload to isolate principle to quickly switch the ball out to him so he can be isolated vs. his direct opponent.

Martins receiving a quick switch in an ideal 1v1

Passing the ball with incision and forever looking to pinpoint teammates inside the box with his distribution, he’s weighted his deliveries smartly and with accuracy. Fast to spot his teammates’ runs, he’s obliged them with some crafty crosses, cutbacks and through balls. Meanwhile, his tidy combination play, that’s included some excellent one-twos, has been eye-catching and vital in breaking down backlines.

Excellent cross to Slimani inside the box

Slick one-two to break through

By the numbers, his 3.61 dribbles per game, 3.51 progressive runs pg, 1.66 shot assists pg, 1.27 shots pg, 30 completed passes pg at 80%, 3.41 interceptions pg, 1.7 tackles pg and 4.1 free ball pick ups pg demonstrates his value.

Keeping talented new signing Ruben Aguilar on the bench, Martins’ form from his wingback post has been a key takeaway from Monaco’s upturn in form that unfortunately came to a halt at the weekend when they lost to Montpellier.

Whether or not he continues in this position or moves back to his usual station, Martins has demonstrated what an effective contributor he can be in this hugely demanding role.

Full of quality and capable of manufacturing moments of magic with his quality on the ball, just like his magnificent goal against Brest, Martins certainly deserves credit for rapidly adjusting to Jardim’s decision to deploy him at wingback.