Thrown a Lifeline: The Deep-Lying Midfielder

4 11 2010

With football formations changing and developing all the time, the deep-lying midfielder role is one of the most important in modern football. Joe Nicholls from FM Fanboys reveals all.

In the last decade or so, the anchorman position was often regarded as the unsung hero of positions, players like Claude Makalele and Gilberto Silva went about their game with little appreciation of their worth from the media.

The exact opposite can be said of Football’s new hero, the deep-lying playmaker.

The modern game, as we know it, is an extremely technical game, where every aspect of the opposition is scrutinised before and after every match. The transitional period between defending and attacking is now so quick that it takes a certain type of player to fill this role. The position demands intelligence, quick thinking and, to some degree the commentators favourite, a photographic memory.

As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, the deep-lying midfielder role was often referred to as the anchorman, the hard man, the enforcer. This type of player would break up an attack with a crunching tackle and look to pass the ball on to a more technically gifted team-mate, but the deep-lying playmaker is a totally different composition of player. Sitting deep in the midfield just in front of the defensive line, the deep-lying playmaker will look to collect the ball from his defenders and will instantly look for that killer pass that will cut the opposition’s defence in half. If the pass isn’t on he will look to start an attack, often looking for opposition players that are out of position.

Personally, I think we owe the emergence of the modern day deep-lying playmaker to current Chelsea boss, Carlo Ancelotti. Back in 2001 Ancelotti saw something in Pirlo, namely his ability to make a difficult pass look simple, and made the decision to convert Andrea Pirlo from a creative attacking midfielder to a deep-lying playmaker, something that has served A.C Milan well, having won two Champions League titles and one Scudetto, with Pirlo playing a monumental part in Milan’s success.

The success of Milan and the emergence of Pirlo as a deep-lying playmaker made managers take note. Identified as the quarterback role, many teams started to employ this position in their tactics. One team in particular, Liverpool, bought Xabi Alonso to the club in 2004 and was played in this very role. It’s no coincidence that Liverpool won the Champions League the following year and even less of a coincidence that Liverpool are struggling without him in the team.

The deep-lying playmaker position is now opening up options for managers and giving attack minded players a lifeline in which to continue their game. The most notable player in the position at present is Manchester United’s Paul Scholes. As a youngster Scholes played as an attacking midfielder, often playing behind the striker, but as he has aged Sir Alex has moulded him into the deep-lying playmaker every club is searching for. Scholes is the epitome of a deep-lying playmaker and as you will have seen, the media are giving him the plaudits he deserves. Other players following in Scholes’ footsteps are players like Marcos Senna, Michael Ballack and David Beckham, this new role will give them a few extra seasons in the game they love.

We are now seeing managers trying to create “younger” models for this position, Ancelotti is at it again with John Obi Mikel, who he has turned from an enforcer to a playmaker and we’ve got a couple of Englishmen deployed in this position with Tom Huddlestone and Gareth Barry playing the holding role for their attack minded clubs.

Be sure to keep an eye out for more excellent articles by Joe over at Football Manager Fanboys.




2 responses

6 11 2010

Poor man’s Jonathan Wilson, is it?

6 11 2010

Jonathan Wilson is a brilliant writer but I can’t see him making an appearance on a small blog like this any time soon! I thought this was a good, interesting article.

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