Serie A done with "10"s?

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Serie A done with "10"s? Empty Serie A done with "10"s?

Post by The Franchise Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:07 am

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/tacticsandanalysis/id/743?cc=5739



Sunday night's meeting between Roma and Inter was an underwhelming match. Despite being the most enticing fixture on paper of the Serie A weekend, the match drifted away after an exciting first 20 minutes, and ended as a scrappy 1-1 draw.

However, the pattern of the game was interesting -- it was played at a relatively slow tempo, interrupted by the occasional burst of sudden, end-to-end attacking. As both sides attempted to bypass the opposition defence quickly after half-time, the linesmen played as crucial a role as some of the players -- there were 11 second-half offsides.

The verticality from central midfield was reflected in, and caused by, the nature of each side's most attacking midfielder. Michael Bradley sped forward from the right of Roma's midfield, while Fredy Guarin was at the top of Inter's triangle, usually drifting towards the left.

Neither is remotely like a ‘trequartista,' the archetypal Italian number ten who roamed between the lines, orchestrating attacking moves and creating goal-scoring opportunities. Bradley is more about energy and hard running -- he's proved his technical quality since moving to Italy, but as ESPN FC's Roma blogger Julian De Martinis notes, Bradley has thrived because “his running provides a stable platform for [others] to do what they do best.” Guarin, too, is predominantly a runner -- charging back and forth between the central midfield zone and the attackers, driving his side forward rather than carving defences apart.

Yet both proved effective. Roma's opener came from a Francesco Totti penalty, after one of Bradley's typical charges into the penalty area was halted illegally by Andrea Ranocchia. Inter's equaliser was scored by Rodrigo Palacio after Guarin's initial shot was blocked, before the Colombian midfielder simply outmuscled two Roma defenders to reach the rebound, and provided a low cross. Both goals were scrappy, ugly and unremarkable, but they perfectly summarised the current breed of Serie A attacking midfielders.



Besides, while Bradley started the game, the more technical, arty Miralem Pjanic sat on the bench. As Guarin was blasting past opponents, Wesley Sneijder was packing his bags, preparing for his move to Galatasaray. The Dutchman's form has been dreadfully inconsistent since his incredible 2009-10 season, which is the primary reason for his lack of playing time in recent months -- but it's also true that Serie A has, at least temporarily, fallen out of love with the number ten.

Last year, an Italian magazine show ran a feature with Sneijder and Kevin-Prince Boateng -- good friends -- talking about their playing styles. Sneijder, who believes “the number ten is a special shirt,” mocked Boateng for his unsuitability for that role. He is another fine example of a non-playmaking number ten -- Milan used him in that position primarily to fix their problem with a ‘broken team' -- he provided the link between midfield and attack with his powerful running. As previously discussed, Boateng's pure playmaking statistics were similar to those of Bradley at Chievo -- in other words, not particularly impressive. Italian World Cup winner Marco Materazzi said of Boateng, “He's a player with a great shot, but he's not a number ten.”

Look at the sides occupying the top positions in Serie A, and finding a classic trequartista is difficult -- even Francesco Totti has been shifted to a deep, left-sided forward role in a 4-3-3. Aside from Roma, Inter and Milan, Andrea Pirlo is the true playmaker at league leaders Juventus, but he plays in front of his own defence. Arturo Vidal is a gifted attacking player, but he's another who concentrates primarily on energy, stamina and direct running -- he's the third-most prolific tackler in the league, hardly the sign of a playmaker.

Vidal's teammate Claudio Marchisio, meanwhile, turned down the opportunity to wear Alessandro Del Piero's old number ten shirt. “Whilst it was an ambition of mine when I was younger, I was an attacker back then and now I am a midfielder,” he says. “I am not Platini, Baggio or Del Piero. I'm not one who can decide a game, so I do not deserve to ever wear that shirt.”

Napoli are an interesting case -- Marek Hamsik is another energetic attacking midfielder rather than a pure creator, although he's bucked the trend this season, becoming increasingly dangerous with his final ball. He's the only Serie A player to reach double figures in terms of assists, but his combative, aggressive nature still makes him more similar to Bradley, Boateng or Guarin rather than Totti or Baggio. Lazio's Hernanes is a wonderfully gifted Brazilian midfielder, and arguably the closest thing to a top-notch central playmaker, but he's more permanently involved in play -- he doesn't receive the ball between the lines,

Even Fiorentina -- a side playing arguably the most attractive football in Serie A, with coach Vincenzo Montella cramming as many passing midfielders into the same side as possible -- don't use a number ten. Borja Valero and Alberto Aquilani shuttle forward from midfield, David Pizarro hits long balls from deep, but Chilean Mati Fernandez, the archetypal South American ‘enganche,' can't find a place in the side, having started just six of Fiorentina's 21 games.

All this is particularly odd given that European football has, in the last five years or so, become increasingly hospitable to creative, waifish playmakers. The popularity of 4-2-3-1 in Spain and England means three attacking midfield positions -- and creators like David Silva, Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, Oscar, Shinji Kagawa, Arda Turan and Mesut Ozil are reasonably content to be moved wide, and asked to drift inside. Even if they don't begin centrally, they can still take up those positions.

Italy, as always, seems to be operating in a different world tactically -- their obsession with 4-3-1-2 at the turn of the decade was also out of sync with the rest of Europe, but it meant the likes of Sneijder, Javier Pastore, Kaka, Diego and Totti were intended to be the fulcrum of the side. Now, since the shift towards a three-man defence in conjunction with an energetic five-man midfield, only Totti remains of that quintet, and even he's used in a modified role.

Tactical trends change increasingly quickly, and with both Kaka and Pastore linked with a return to Italy, we might be remarking upon the sudden re-emergence of the trequartista next season. For now, however, it's plain to see the lack of artistry from between the lines, which used to be one of Serie A's great attractions.







Something I began really paying attention to last season with Prince Boateng in this same role, the energetic runner with limited creative skills. When paired with Ibra, who liked to drop off the front, it formed a perfect relationship. Without Ibra, Prince has struggled. Now it seems many more are adopting a similar approach in Serie A, even if just for the time being.

Thoughts?
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Post by Forza Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:46 am

Firstly, the title of the article is "Why Serie A has fallen out of love with the number ten". The author then proceeds to not answer that question, but have a thinly veiled dig at Serie A instead.

There are definitely less TQs in Serie A at the moment. What has happened is that the emphasis is now gone from having "linking players" between midfield and attack. Sides are using the width of the pitch more and employing hard-working runners who cross the lines rather than TQs sitting between the lines.

However, this article makes lots of generalisations, the worst of all being that the lack of a TQ in many teams has made the league less exciting. Quite frankly, that's total garbage. As is the generalisation that because this author saw 2 scrappy goals, all Serie A AMs are also tough, rugged, unrefined players. Interestingly, the author notes the presence of Hamsik and Hernanes, and then seeks to dismiss them as outliers whilst neglecting to mention that these two typical AMs are playing for the 2nd and 3rd placed sides in Serie A.

Marchisio is exactly right too. He is not an attacker, he is a midfielder. Why should he play a position that is not his natural position merely for the sake of filling a traditional no. 10 role which has really been replaced by the sublime skills of Juve's deep-lying playmaker Andrea Pirlo? It doesn't make sense at all. Also, it's only normal for some clubs (Roma, Fio) to follow the title-winning tactics of Conte's Juve in packing the midfield with runners and passers.

KPB has been moved back into a 3-man midfield because of his incompetence in the AM position. The important thing to note is that Ibra was really a TQ, SS and CF rolled into one man last season. He was the one and only source of creativity and everything revolved around him. Boateng has clearly suffered without Ibra to feed off of. Nevertheless, Boateng is still clearly a very capable player deeper in midfield where he can run box-to-box. In fact, he assisted a goal last game v Bologna. Btw, Milan still operate with a false 9, Bojan.

Lastly, I think this author has an issue with tactical diversity. On the other hand, I am of the opinion that it is brilliant that the tactics in Serie A are becoming more varied and are continually evolving to produce more efficient and interesting teams.
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Post by BarrileteCosmico Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:04 am

Couple of comments.

The 10s that left didn't leave because their game was unsuited for the league. Sneijder left because he was playing like garbage and didn't earn his keep. Pastore left because Palermo got an offer too good to refuse. So did Kaka, although I don't consider him a trequartista. Totti was moved to the wing to make space for Zeman's 4-3-3 but still plays a significant amount of time centrally. This seems to suggest that it's a cyclical nature of players going in and out rather than the position being forced to extinction for tactical reasons. Also the article conveniently ignores Maxi Moralez who is a trequartista for Atalanta. Given that the double pivot is not as dominant in Serie A as in other leagues I think trequartistas can still succeed there.

The other point I wanted to make was that how many teams actually use a trequartista nowadays? It's not a phenomenon exclusive to Serie A. I struggle to think of many teams that use exclusively a 4-3-1-2 or 4-4-1-1 as their main formation. In national football some top countries do (Messi does for Argentina, Ronaldinho is expected to do so for Brazil) but no european countries come to mind.

Also given that one of the main features of the trequartista is that he does little to help defensively it's no surprise that as pressing becomes more important in the game then the position suffers.
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Post by Onyx Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:07 am

How about Merkel, Bouy, Llicic, Moralez, Alvarez, Coutinho, Ederson, Cossu etc?

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Post by McLewis Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:28 am

Only one out of those names that is a true 10 and that's Moralez, MT.

The rest are combos of 7s, 11s and 8s....but no real 10s.

As for the article, I can't tell if he's lamenting the decline of the 10 or he's musing about the fact that Serie A continually is bird of a different feather and that it prefers it that way. Tactics have always been the name of the game in this league and the top sides have done a massive job in shifting those tactics to make themselves more competitive both domestically and on the continent on a whole. There was a reason why Italy were a tough side to beat before that lop-sided final in the Euro and this shift in tactics away from a traditional 10 was it.

Also, I found it odd that Antonio Cassano, one of the last true Italian 10s of the Totti/ADP/Baggio mold, was not mentioned at all in that piece.
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Post by chinomaster182 Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:25 am

I read this article today before i saw this topic, i largely enjoyed it. For those of you that don't know the author is Michael Cox of the 'Zonal Marking' website fame, he specialized in tactics but i think he makes fantastic all around observations and works. He's one of the most objective and knowledgeable analysts around the internet imo, i highly recommend his website (zonalmarking.net).

Firstly, the title of the article is "Why Serie A has fallen out of love with the number ten". The author then proceeds to not answer that question, but have a thinly veiled dig at Serie A instead.

I disagree and think you're looking at it the wrong way. I know a lot of people (here especially) just want to create controversy and wind others up, but i don't believe this is the case. The author follows and highly appreciates Serie A.

Overall i do wish we wouldn't enter "defense force" mode so quickly. its ok to disagree civically!

However, this article makes lots of generalisations, the worst of all being that the lack of a TQ in many teams has made the league less exciting. Quite frankly, that's total garbage. As is the generalisation that because this author saw 2 scrappy goals, all Serie A AMs are also tough, rugged, unrefined players. Interestingly, the author notes the presence of Hamsik and Hernanes, and then seeks to dismiss them as outliers whilst neglecting to mention that these two typical AMs are playing for the 2nd and 3rd placed sides in Serie A.

I know the author likes and romanticizes more classic creators like Rui Costa and such, i view at him saying he likes the more flashier and more technical players then this new wave of strong players, mainly because in his opinion the more technical players made the league very different then the much more physical Premier League, i don't see that as wrong or a dig.

I agree with you that it doesn't make it less exciting though, i think several all these new players are great and very exciting to watch, that doesn't mean others can't enjoy say... Mata or Ozil more.

I don't think his thesis is wrong either, we could go team by team but its easy to see that players like Marchisio, Vidal, Boateng, Montolivo, Guarin and Bradley reflect the fact that this new influence of the 3-5-2 formation leaves little room for the classic trequartista. As the author notes, Matias Fernandez can't really get too many games, Pirlo is a deep lying playmaker and Hernanes and Hamsik aren't the same exact kind of player Totti is for example, Coutinho and Alvarez are really struggling for time at Inter also.

Marchisio is exactly right too. He is not an attacker, he is a midfielder. Why should he play a position that is not his natural position merely for the sake of filling a traditional no. 10 role which has really been replaced by the sublime skills of Juve's deep-lying playmaker Andrea Pirlo? It doesn't make sense at all. Also, it's only normal for some clubs (Roma, Fio) to follow the title-winning tactics of Conte's Juve in packing the midfield with runners and passers.

I don't see how you could read the text a Marchisio dig at all, he is just using his quote to support his argument that Marchisio is another example of a player that is deviating from the traditional #10.

KPB has been moved back into a 3-man midfield because of his incompetence in the AM position. The important thing to note is that Ibra was really a TQ, SS and CF rolled into one man last season. He was the one and only source of creativity and everything revolved around him. Boateng has clearly suffered without Ibra to feed off of. Nevertheless, Boateng is still clearly a very capable player deeper in midfield where he can run box-to-box. In fact, he assisted a goal last game v Bologna. Btw, Milan still operate with a false 9, Bojan.

Same thing as above

Lastly, I think this author has an issue with tactical diversity.

Not at all, you can search on his website and you'll see that tactical diversity is one of his greatest passions, this is a guy that is a big Bielsa and Serie A fan for the exact same reasons.

The 10s that left didn't leave because their game was unsuited for the league.

Agreed, i think the tactical shift had a lot to do with it. I also believe, as you say, that this is a cyclical shift.

Also the article conveniently ignores Maxi Moralez who is a trequartista for Atalanta.

I think conveniently ignoring Atlanta players is the norm Smile.

The other point I wanted to make was that how many teams actually use a trequartista nowadays? It's not a phenomenon exclusive to Serie A. I struggle to think of many teams that use exclusively a 4-3-1-2 or 4-4-1-1 as their main formation.

Disagree, Ozil, Mata, Oscar, Kagawa, Cazorla, Pastore, Kroos, Diego, Turan, Gotze, Reus, Valbuena, Silva, Isco, Dominguez all say hi. Yeah i do agree the traditional center based #10 is on the decline, but the position had been declining for a long time and is having a small resurgence in other leagues.

Also, I found it odd that Antonio Cassano, one of the last true Italian 10s of the Totti/ADP/Baggio mold, was not mentioned at all in that piece.

Cassano has been played much more as a forward in Inter, he doesn't create that much such as his time in Milan, he still plays some killer balls though.
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Post by Lupi Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:30 am

Disagree, Ozil, Mata, Oscar, Kagawa, Cazorla, Pastore, Kroos, Diego, Turan, Gotze, Reus, Valbuena, Silva, Isco,

other than Reus the rest are CAM's
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Post by Forza Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:38 am

Amidst all that, I still think that the overall tone of the article is very much suggesting that the absence of TQs in a few clubs is bringing down the quality of the league.

I also appreciate this guy's credentials and his football knowledge. However, I think that if the point he was trying to make is that some teams should have TQs instead of these other non-traditional players, he has gone the wrong way about it. There is no specific club analysis, no reasons presented for these clubs to revert back to TQs at the moment - other than the fact that the author likes TQs!

And this statement...
Look at the sides occupying the top positions in Serie A, and finding a classic trequartista is difficult
...is just plain untrue. Among the top 3, you have Giovinco, Hernanes and Hamsik who can all play TQ.

I think i was right to interpret the article in the way I did. Unless you interpret this piece as critical of Serie A at the moment, there is no other substance there. It just becomes an observational piece where the author pointlessly lists Serie A clubs that don't have TQs. He obviously craves the return of that artistry from between the lines and uses the argument that TQs make the game more exciting to get his point across. There's nothing wrong with making that argument - but I still disagree with him. Razz

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Post by The Franchise Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:52 pm

Forza Rossoneri wrote:Firstly, the title of the article is "Why Serie A has fallen out of love with the number ten".

Yes, I know the real title but I am asking the question. Its not about if you like the article or not, because the authour isnt suggesting Serie A dont use 10's, he is flat out saying it.

I on the other hand are simply posing the question, rather than a statement. Subtle difference.
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