Posts Tagged ‘Wesley Sneijder’
“KHARKIV, Ukraine — The Netherlands’ players hinted that their Euro 2012 campaign had been undermined by changing-room disunity after their participation in the tournament ended with a 2-1 loss to Portugal.”
During the last World Cup, I wrote a piece positing a theory about an emerging tactical role that I called the ‘false 10′.
With the concept of the false nine still liable to provoke mirth among those irked by the supposed ‘over-intellectualisation’ of football analysis, I was concerned about inviting scorn upon myself for introducing another ungainly term to the tactical debate, but I was pleased that the piece provoked a healthy number of comments on this site and that the idea has been tentatively picked up, from time to time, by other writers and bloggers.
However, there appears to be a bit of confusion about what exactly the ‘false 10′ is. In my original piece, I said it was a playmaker who confounds the expectations of the opposition defence by breaking beyond the nominal tip of his side’s attack and posing a direct goal threat in his own right. The key point is that the ‘false 10′ spends more time playing alongside and in advance of the number nine than an attacking midfielder would ordinarily be expected to. “A second striker playing in the clothes of a playmaker” was one suggested definition from the comments beneath my piece.
In an article evaluating the tactical trends of 2011 written for The Guardian in December, Jonathan Wilson cast the ‘false 10′ as a playmaker who actually spends a significant amount of time foraging for the ball in his own half. “This year has also seen the advent of the term ‘false 10′, a coinage that feels a little clumsy,” he wrote. “There is as yet, though, no other term for a player who operates as Wayne Rooney did towards the end of last season, playing off a front man as an orthodox 10 would but coming deep to help win possession.”
While the Rooney example does indeed highlight a role for which a specific name has yet to be assigned, it does not chime with my initial observations about the positions adopted by players like Wesley Sneijder and Mesut Özil during the World Cup. Where Rooney unsettles his opponents by going backwards, Sneijder and Özil surprise defences by going forwards – at least, further forwards than you would expect for players habitually referred to as ‘midfielders’.
In the 2011-12 season, the player whose profile most closely fits the bill of the ‘false 10′ is Cesc Fàbregas. In Barcelona’s new 3-1-4-2 configuration, it is he who can most often be found breaking beyond the forward line from midfield and bursting into the penalty area. Indeed, in the early part of the season, while operating in a hinterland between his colleagues in midfield and attack, Fàbregas managed to score five goals in his first seven appearances. With his well-timed runs, intuitive movement and accomplished finishing, there is no truer example of the false 10.
The list of nominees for the first ever FIFA Ballon d’Or award is unsurprisingly dominated by attacking players, but the latest odds show that it is creative midfielders and multi-faceted forwards, rather than out-and-out strikers, who continue to enjoy top billing in the glamour stakes.
Of the five favourites to win the award, only one - Diego Forlán – is a striker, and his goal-getting counterparts Didier Drogba, Miroslav Klose and Asamoah Gyan can all be found towards the longer end of the betting. It confirms a growing trend. In the last five years in which the Ballon d’Or has been awarded, Thierry Henry (third in 2006) and Fernando Torres (third in 2008) are the only classic strikers to have made it onto the podium.
The contrast with the previous five years is telling. Between 2000 and 2005, strikers Michael Owen (2001), Ronaldo (2002) and Andriy Shevchenko (2004) all won the award, with Shevchenko finishing third in 2000, Raúl coming runner-up to Owen in 2001 and Henry taking second place behind attacking midfielder Pavel Nedvěd in 2003.
The concept of the false nine – a centre-forward who drops deep – is well established in modern tactical thinking, but in the early matches of the World Cup we have seen glimpses of another player, who facilitates the work of the false nine and operates in tandem with him to destabilise opposition defences: the false 10.
With a central striker who constantly looks to play deep or pull wide, teams need players to break forward from deeper areas to exploit the space created by the false nine’s movement. Typically those players are wingers or withdrawn strikers, but in South Africa they have also been playmakers: Mesut Özil, Keisuke Honda, Wesley Sneijder.
The false 10 par excellence is, of course, Lionel Messi. Originally a right-winger, Messi occasionally features for Barcelona as a lone central striker or false nine but in Argentina’s 1-0 victory over Nigeria he played in a free role behind Gonzalo Higuaín. Nigeria’s defenders struggled to pick him up and he might well have scored a hat-trick had it not been for the brilliance of goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
Hot on the heels of the Goals of the Season, we move on to the Football Further European Team of the Season. As in any decent dream team this side is strongly, perhaps even foolishly, oriented towards attack.
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris (Lyon)
Lyon have not had a great season by their recent standards – despite reaching the last four of the Champions League for the first time in their history – but Lloris’s performances in both Ligue 1 and Europe have elevated him to the position of Europe’s best up-and-coming goalkeeper. He was the difference between the sides in Lyon’s Champions League quarter-final win over Bordeaux thanks to some stunning reaction saves and a move to a top-rank European club cannot be far away.
Right-back: Maicon (Inter)
The world’s best full-back has added spectacular goals to his trade and continues to be one of Inter’s most potent attacking weapons. His juggle-and-volley goal against Juventus will live long in the memory but his strike in the 3-2 win at Udinese, when he started a move inside his own half and finished it with a crashing volley off the crossbar, was every bit as delicious.
Centre-back: Gerard Piqué (Barcelona)
Has developed into probably the finest ball-playing centre-back on the continent. The awareness and sangfroid he showed to spin Inter goalkeeper Julio César and finish into an empty net in the dying minutes of Barca’s Champions League semi-final defeat to Inter was worthy of the world’s top strikers.