Do creative attackers overshadow holding midfielders?
Football is a quagmire that confounds logic. Logically it is those artists which have the finest of skills that are harder to find while people who do your daily chores can be found at every nook and square but on a football field logic goes for a flip. Here we find the fine artists who weave magic out of nothing create goals rather than gold with Midas like touches and are known as number “10s”, are the more common populace in good quality and good quantity.
It is easier to find (in footballing parlance) a number “10” or a trequartista than a number “8” or a number “6” i.e. someone who can weave together attack and defense and have the engine to run up and down the large battleground we call a field.
As any football fan will tell you the latter category in the aforementioned paragraph are much more a rarity in the world of football (ask Louis Van Gaal, who bought and sold off many creators including Di Maria before he got to the anchor called Schweinsteiger).
It is this common and easy looking job which requires far more tenacity, ability, stamina and vision than creating goals, simply because the job asks for a wider skill set than that of a creator. It basically asks for a complete midfielder and in today’s day and age that means a player with quality dripping of him like sweat. Using examples finding a player in the mould of Ozil, Rodriguez, Mata, Hazard, Iniesta, Messi or Kaka is much much easier than to find a Vieira, Toure, Gerrard or Lampard or Xavi or Xabi or Keane or Scholes.
As any footballing aficionado or player would admit , it is much more difficult to weave together a move, perform a crunching tackle, pass the ball around, create a goal or score one than to stand and pick correct moments for a sublime pass.
I don’t seek to undermine the latter but just to underline the difference we have in our eyes, to sing a psalm for these all-round midfielders. Let us take a jog down memory lane and compare an animal of both species. On one side of the scale is Paul Scholes, with his indomitable spirit, endless engine, unbelievable screamers, crunching tackles, ability to tick the ball over and his ‘hollywood’ balls to set up goals.
With someone like say Ryan Giggs, a very different player I concede, both bring different things to the table I agree, but as United showed over the years, Giggs gave the flair while Scholes could do both. Give the base and the flair too. Not to say that you can win a game with 11 Scholes, but they’re more difficult to come by.
Coming to times more recent, say last season, look at EPL Champions Chelsea, the blues romped home to the title, on the shoulders of Costa and Hazard, but on the back of Fabregas and Matic. Average miles covered per game: Matic (7.16) and Fabregas (7.14) are fourth and sixth respectively.
While Matic covered the back four, he topped the tackles charts with 129 even chipping in with the odd assist and string play together, not to mention his interceptions. Two matches highlight his efficacy and beauty one against Aston Villa the other against United.
His partner Fabregas chipped in with 19 assists from all over the field while their replacement at times Oscar too chipped in with 8 assists and 6 goals. Yaya too is as complete a midfielder you can find today.
History stands testament to the greatness and industry of these workers rather than magicians. Be it the classic Brazil or the great Real Madrid of the 2000’s or Ferguson’s United or any great team you find them built on workers who give their all day in day out and none of whom are as celebrated as the number “10’s”.
Hence the point for celebration of the every day over the eclipse. It may be the bests, Giggs, Ronaldos, Hazards, who set the pulse running but you need Pirlo, Gerrard, Lampard and the like to keep the blood flowing.