Shaun Wright-Phillips has struggled in finding himself consistently in the Starting XI with Queens Park Rangers the past two seasons, so is his time with RBNY his chance to shine?
At 33-years old, Wright-Phillips steps into the shoes once filled by Peguy Luyindula, as a veteran who can work with young players on and off the field. Luyindula was mostly used as a super sub in his time with New York, but does the same script hold true for Shaun?
Jesse Marsch and company has three options where Shaun Wright-Phillips could play in the starting lineup for the Red Bulls. He could play on his natural side, the right wing, or the team could mix things up with SWP on the left side.
Shaun Wright-Phillips is a right-winger, so his first opportunity starting should be Lloyd Sam's position, where he is most comfortable. WHAT?
Lloyd Sam is one of the top three players on RBNY at the moment, so maybe starting over Lloyd Sam is a bit of a reach. If this route is the one New York chooses, SWP could be used as a substitute for Lloyd Sam around the 60th-70th minute, or possibly even at half if New York is ahead. This option may not be the most favorable in the eyes of RBNY supporters, but it is one that is definitely going to be considered.
This option also gives more depth to the roster at right mid/wing. With Manolo Sanchez currently subbing in for Lloyd Sam, Marsch has shown that Sam may not be fully fit to handle an overloaded schedule. Shaun Wright-Phillips then could start over Sanchez, and be used over Sam when the Red Bulls have a short week, giving Sam well needed rest.
The second option for SWP in the Starting XI is to start on the left wing. Currently Mike Grella starts on the left, when Bradley Wright-Phillips acts as the long striker. Starting SWP over Grella would relegate the striker/winger to the bench during one of the best stretches of his career.
Another downside of this option is that Anatole Abang, the 18-year-old from Cameroon who has been spectacular to watch, moves even further back in the depth chart. Abang has shown that with more playing time he can produce. Moving him back in the depth chart could hurt his development.
Also, SWP would have to adjust to play on the left side of the pitch. Mike Grella did the same thing this season and it has worked out quite nicely.
On December 6th, 2004, Bradley Wright-Phillips subbed on in the 76th minute for Manchester City against Middlesbrough, a game in which his older brother Shaun had started. For the remainder of the match, the brothers played alongside each other, where Bradley Wright-Phillips scored in the 80th minute in a match they ultimately lost 3-2. The point here is that SWP was playing a midfield/forward position and Bradley was playing as a true forward, at the same time. Perhaps history can repeat itself?
Could there be an option the accommodates everyone? Unfortunately, Mike Grella ends up on the bench again, but it is a scenario that Jesse Marsch hinted at earlier in the season to get both BWP and Abang on the pitch together.
On June 2nd, Jesse Marsch had this to say about Anatole Abang,
"We've talked a little bit about playing him a little bit higher and dropping Bradley a little bit deeper or you know, playing almost like the two of them with Bradley coming underneath."
Since then, we have seen Bradley Wright-Phillips shift to left-winger for portions, with Sacha playing underneath Abang, and it has been working out well. Yet if we take Sacha out of the picture in this situation, a potential drawback, BWP shifts to play directly under Anatole Abang, leaving a spot open for Shaun Wright-Phillips to play left wing.
That looks like a pretty strong front four leading the attack for RBNY. Unless the Bulls decide to switch up the 4-2-3-1 formation they have been using basically the whole season, only one of Anatole Abang, Sacha Kljestan, and Mike Grella can start along Bradley Wright-Phillips, Lloyd Sam, and Shaun Wright-Phillips if he starts. Either way, a usual starter is going to have to take a spot on the bench for New York for this to work.
Shaun Wright-Phillips will bolster the lineup for the Red Bulls. It could be in the starting lineup, or as a super sub off the bench. Regardless, the team has options to accommodate the new player, which would only disrupt the starting lineup lightly.