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August4,2010at12:52pm|PostedinArsenal|72Comments Theeciencythattwoholdingmideldersprovidemakesthemveryimportanttohaveinthemodern game. _______________________________________________________________________________

Internationalcompetitionsarealwaysfascinatingtacticallyifanythingfortheinexibilitytheyconfront managerswith.ArrigoSacchi,inchargeoftheItalysidewhoreachedthenalofWorldCup94, stateditwasimpossibleforanationalmanagertodrillthesameunderstandingthatclublevel coachesareaordedduetothelackofdaytodayavailabilityofpersonnel.Thesporadicamount oftimetheyhavewithplayersmeansitcanbedicultforcoachestodevelopplanssotheyusuallyare forcedtostickwithphilosophiestheythinkarecorrectandthatinturnhighlightsthecommontrends inthethinkingofmoderncoaches.Andcertainly,whathasbecomeobliviousfromtherecentWorld CupinSouthAfricaandindeedclubfootballforthepastfewyearsisthattheuseoftwoholding mideldersinfrontofthebackfourisbecomecrucialinthemoderngame. Importanceofbeingcompact Allfourseminalistsinthe2010WorldCupusedsomesortofdoublescreeninfrontofthebackfour withHolland,SpainandGermanydeployingavariantofthe4231(18ofthe32teamsplayedsome formof4231).Uruguayshowedtherigid442isntexactlydeadbutthedierencebetweentheirs
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Why are two holding midfielders so crucial in the modern game? | The ...

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andEnglandsinterpretationwasthattheUruguayancentralpairplayeddeepertocounterthethreat ofplayersinbetweenthelines.Englandscentralmideldersinthesystemarebothrequiredto attackanddefend(asclassicalboxtoboxmidelders)andasaresultGermany,intheir41win,were abletoprotinthelargegapsaordedtothem.WeknewthatGerrardandLampardalwayssupport theforwardsandthatthemideldwouldbeopen,therewouldbespaces,explainedJoachimLw afterthenationsruthlessvictory. EnglandsfailuretogetcompactquicklyalsoseeminglywentagainsttheFabioCapellodoctrinethatin modernfootball,allteamsmustemploysomevariationofa9:1defensivesplitinrelativetotheball whentheylosepossession.Theuseoftwodefensivemideldersallowforsuchaneasytransitioninto adefensiveblockwhileeventhedeploymenttwowingersontheoppositesideareameanstopush opponentsinside.Thetrend,saysGerardHoullier,istobringtheopponentsintoadefensiveblock andthenaggressivelypresstheball.WithEnglandplayingwithtwoorthodoxforwardsandone attackingmidelderinFrankLampard,theywereessentiallyabrokenteamandthatplacedtoomuch pressureonGarethBarrytoholdthedefensivefort.ArseneWengersuccinctlysumsupthe conservativetrendinSouthAfricainwhichmostteamswerealltowillingtogetninemenbehindthe ball.Tactically,theWorldCupwasvery,veryonesided,saidtheArsenalmanagerintheclubs magazine.Allteamsplayedvemeninthemideldandthatwastheirpriority. Tacticsatclublevelareexpectedlymorevariedalthoughthedesiretostaynarrowandcompactinthe defensivephasestillringstrue.Mostintriguingly,theUEFACupwasoneof442withthequartetin thelastfouralldeployingtwodeepboxtoboxmideldersandplacingmuchrelianceontherepower ofthetwoforwardsperhapsasameanstocompensateforthelackofcreativity.Infact,inplaying theformationnowadays,itisessentialtoremaincompactandthatmeansthecentralmideldersare forcedtoplaydeeper. IrecentlywatchedafriendlybetweenCelticandLyonanddespitetheFrenchsidebeingtheone expectedtotaketheascendancy;itwasCelticwhoinitiatedtherstsignsofadventure.Thedistance betweenthebacklineandforwardsfortherstthirtyminuteswasattimes,nomorethan40metres apartbutasthegameworeon,bothsidesexpectedlybecamemorestretched.Thetwocentral midelders,JoeLedleyandScottBrown,hadtostartdeeptocompressthespaceinfrontofthe defencewhiletherunningandnaturalcreationoftrianglesinLyons433wasmoresuperiortotheir atfourinthemiddle,nottomentiontheirhighertechnicalability.Thegamealsoshowedjusthow redundantasecondstrikercanbeiftheteamisoutnumberedinthemiddleandthedefensive midelderinthiscaseJeanIIMakounabletodropbacktomarkoneoftheforwards.GaryHooper didpullagoalbacktohelpCelticequalisebutonlyafterLyonrangmassivechangestomakewhat essentiallywasareserveside. Betweenthelines AsAlanHansensoregularlydissectsinthehighlightsprogrammeMatchoftheDay,teamsmustbeset upinbandswhendefending(thetermtwobanksoffourisusuallyheardontheshowbecauseof theprevalenceofthe442and451formationsinthePremiership).Inattack,however,thingsare likelytogetslightlymorecomplicatedand,especiallyforamoreforwardthinkingside,twoholders mayberepressive.Brazilwereperfectlyabletoswitchfromtheirasymmetricdiamondformationintoa 4231/4321indefensivetransitionstostayorganisedbut,intheend,wereundoneduetoDungas ownstubbornnesstoabandoningtheirtwodefensivemidelders. VolkerFinke,aformercoachofGermansideSCFreiburg,saysthattheuseoftwoholdingmidelders orthedouble sixasitismorecommonlyknowninhisnativecountrymustnotbeonthesameline,a pointPepGuardiolawasadamanttostressinthetweakingofhisformationlastseason.Thisnewlook wasimplementedsothatMessicouldconnectintothegamemoreoftenbecauseitsgoodforuswhen does,explainedGuardiolawhenusingthesamesystemearlierlastseasonina21winoverMalaga.
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Journalistsspeculateditwasa4231,manysawitasanasymmetricversionofthe424butbecause oftheindividualdefensiveassignments,itmorecloselyresembledanattackingversionoftheir433. Wefoundhimmoreoftenthaninothergames.ItalsoputshimclosertoIbra.ItsasifMessiwerean interior.AnduponbeingquestionedontherolesofXaviHernandezandSergioBusquetsinfrontof thedefence,headded:They(XaviandBusquets)wereneveronthesameline.Wehaveneverplayed withadouble pivot.However,wedidmakeasmalladjustmentwiththewingersandtheirdefensive roles. Rather,Finkesaysthetwointhemiddlemustbestaggeredi.e.oneslightlyhigherthantheother.* Germany,thesidewhohadmostresembledaclubsideintheWorldCupduetotheireciency, displayedthatwithBastianSchweinsteigerdictatingfromdeepandSamiKhediraessentially supportingandknittingthingstogetherinaboxtoboxrole(seeFigure1).ForSpain,Busquetsand XabiAlonsoonlydroppedalongsideeachotherinthedefensivephase,otherwiseBusquetsplayed almostasathirddefenderwhileMarkvanBommel,fortheDutch,lookedtopushupinattacks. Defensivezoneswillbebrokenbyplayerswhoseemtorunoutofnowhere,saidCzechUnder19 coach,JaroslavHrebikontheanticipatedprominenceofplayerssuchasKhedira.ThefactthatLyon playedwithtwosimilarlydeepmidelders,writesHristoforAsesDelBalon,contrivedtotheFrench clubsfailureinEuropeashesaysmostmajorleagueteams(inEurope)areconcernedwithcovering andcontrollingthemideldandLyonfailedinregardstothelatter.Ofcourse,thereisnorightor wrongpartnershipalthoughcoachesareconsciousthattheareainfrontofdefenceisthespacethat needstobecontrolled.AndreaPirlo,agreatmoderndayorchestrator,ishimselfperforminga defensivedutyjustbyoperatinginthezoneinbetweendefenseandmideld.Yes,hepossessesa panacheandnesseabouthimthanmostholdingmideldersbuttheideaofCarloMazzone,the coachwhoconvertedtheItalian,wasthatPirlowastoplayasalibero(sweeper)infrontofthe defence.

<Figure1>Imaginethetwoholdingmidelderspositionedina442asinthegraphicnumberone.The leftsidedcentralplayersistheboxtoboxmidelder(Khedira)andtherightsidedmidelder,the passer(Schweinsteiger).Inattackonecanenvisagethepairattachedbyabungeecord,givinganeasy pointofreferencetoeachother.ThepaircancoverzonesalmostsimultaneouslywithSchweinsteiger holdingthemideldasapivot.Nowimaginebelowtheballreachesadefensivepositionthedeeper mideldercangotowardstheballtohelpoutinchannelsandtheotherabletoholdthefort.Iftheball movestotheleft,thepaircanmovelikewiseandensuringthesensiblecoveringofzones.(Graphics fromSpursCommunityno,werenotmovingtothedarkside).

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TacticalStructure JoseMourinho,whentalkingabouttheimpactWesleySneijderhashadforhisIntersidelastseason, claimsitwastheteamsstrongtacticalstructurewhichgavetheDutchmanthefreedomtoplayasan ambiguousmidelder/forwardrole.Equally,ThomasMullerhadanundenedroleforBayernin claimingthedomesticdoublewhileGermanystwoholdersallowedforMesutOziltoalmostplayasa striker(seegure2).Maybethen,shouldateamhaveastrongdefensivestructureasindicatedbythe aboveexamples,thereisnttheneedtohaveninebackasCapelloindicates.IndeeditsapointWenger istryingtomakeatArsenalalthough,bypushingamidelderalongsideSong,seemstosignifythe importanceofadoubledefensivebase.OzilhardlydroppedbackfortheGermansalthoughtheydid displaysomeacknowledgementthatthedeepmideldermustnothavetimeontheball. OverenthusiasmhoweverfromMiroslavKlosesawhimreceivearedcardagainstSerbiaforpersistent fouling.

<Figure2>Germanysaveragetouchpositioninthe40winoverArgentina.Theclosenessofthe Schweinsteiger(7)andKhedira(6)showstheunderstandingthetwohaveandtheconcept ofuniversalityonebeingabletocoverforeachother.ThesolidbaseallowsMesutOzil(8)toplayin anambiguousplaymaker/strikerrole. Generallythough,twoholdershavemanybenetssuchastheprotectiontheyoertothebackfour andthefullbackstobombforward,andguardtheteaminmomentsoftransition.Aswellashaving thecapabilitytostopattacks,thebestsidesmakeittheirbaseforstartingattacks.JohanCruymay haveloathedtheuseofadoublepivotbySpainandHolland,buttheformationstillallowsforthe naturalcreationoftrianglesheinsistsisamust.ZdenekZeman,feelssimilarlya433isthemost


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rationalwaytocoverthespacesandthatperhapshighlightswhymanyteamshaveapreferenceof thedoubleshield.Zemanisanattackingromanticistsohisviewsmaybeconsideredquiteananomaly, butinanincreasinglyholisticgame,turningthemideldtrianglearoundpresentsamoreecient defensivestructure.Ofcourseinfootballallisrelativeandastrongdefenceaidsagoodoence.That wasRafaBenitezsargumentinbuildinghisLiverpoolsidearounda4231andforessentiallyhalfa seasonculminatingintheRedsnishingsecondintheleague,wesawthatpowerastheydemolished RealMadrid40inEuropeearningaatteringcomparisonbyArrigoSacchitohisownallconquering ACMilanside. Theselfconscioussymmetrythe4231givesallowscoachesaneasydivisionoflabour.Hollands 4231,althougheectiveinthegrandscheme,wastoofunctionalinregardstoballcirculationbut thatsolidbasegavefreedomfortheirglutofindividualstoprosper.ArgentinaandEnglandwerethe ultimatedescriptionofthebrokenteamastheformer,withMacheranoholdingbyhimself,wastootop heavyandsoinessenceattackedwithvemenanddefendedwithve. ArsenalCaseStudy Itwasinthesummerof2005whenArseneWengerhadtomakethedicultdecisionofwhethertolet hiscaptainPatrickVieiragohavinginpreviousseasonsrebuedanoerfromRealMadridtomake himaGalactico.VieirawasstillgoodenoughtocompeteinthePremierLeaguebuttheemergenceofa youngCatalan,CescFabregas,made,forthersttime,theFrenchmandroppable.Theproblemwas thatasatandem,thepairdidnotwork;the442leftspaceforonlyoneprogressivemidelderand Fabregassdisplaysinthemiddlemadehimindispensable.WhenCescFabregaswas18,19,Iwould playhimina442withPatrickVieiraandIsawitdidnotwork,saidWenger.ThenIhadthe decisiontomakeaboutlettingPatrickgo,becauseGilbertoSilvaandVieiraworked,FabregasandSilva worked,butIcouldnotplayFabregasandVieira. TheformationwasunlikelytochangealsoasWengerfeltthe442wasthemostrationalformationin mostcases.AndheaddedinGianlucaVialliandGabrieleMarcottisbookTheItalianJob,thatitwas theessenceofreason.Witha442,60%ofyourplayersareoccupying60%ofthepitch.Noother formationisasecientincoveringspace. ThedoublesixinfrontofthedefencemademuchofthateciencyunderWengersreign;Petitand VieirahelpedArsenaltotheirrstdoubleinthePremierLeagueerabeforeEdujoinedthelatterto guidethemtotheirsecondin2002.NigglinginjuriestoVieirameantitwasarotatedcentralmideld betweenhim,EduandGilbertoin2004asArsenalwentthewholeleagueseasonunbeaten.Startingin frontofthedefenceandplayingverycompact,themideldwasthebaseofwhichallowedthefront fourtoourishandhadthesamecapabilityofhaltingattacksasitdidtheabilitytospringboardthe sidesown. Insubsequentseasonshoweverthe442hasbecomemoreinecientforWengersside.Matthieu Flaminibuckedthattrendsomewhatwithanallactionstyleandtacticallyastutedisplayin2007/08but thatwasnottomasktheintensityandastronomicdistancehewasrequiredtocover.Itwasevident GilbertoSilvahadhisworkcutoutinthe40defeattoManchesterUnitedintheFACupthesame season.SomemayfeelpartoftheblameshouldbeattachedtoCescFabregasfromadefensive viewpointalthoughstatisticsdoshowhecoveredmoredistancethannearlyallplayersonthepitch. Indeed,WengerfeltthatitwascrucialtohaveFabregaspenetrationupthepitchandcertainlythat hasbecomemoreevidentinrecentseasons,theswitchtothe433lookingtoliberatetheSpaniard. Cesclikestobeatthestartofthingsandthengetontheendofthings,andhecanpushforwardmore becausehehastwoplayersaroundhimwhocandefend,saidWengerlastseason. ThisseasonWengerhasstuckwiththe433formationasattheendoflastseason,withrightcentral midelderplayinghigher.Theleftsidedcentralplayerisdetailedtodropalongsidetheholder
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eectivelymakingita4231inthedefensivephase.InthecaseofpreseasonitwasJackWilshere whoplayedthisroleandalongsideEmmanuelFrimpongthepairperformedasolidbaseforwhich Arsenalcouldbuildattacksaroundandpressbetter.Thepreviousseason,AlexSongwasoftenleft isolatedinwhatessentiallywasa4141formationandWengerfoundthat,ifateambypassedtherst waveifpressure,theGunnerscouldbeexposedinthecentre.Therevitalisationofthetwoinfrontof thedefenceshouldgiveArsenalgreaterstructureindefenceandorganisationintofoureasily identiablebands.Ofcourse,partofthatsoliditywasdisplayedlastseasonina10winoverLiverpool and50againstPortowhereDiabyslaterunningwasdiculttopickupaswellashisabilitytoturn themomentumofanattackbywinningtheballbackquickly. Conclusion Literatureontheuseoftwomideldersinfrontofthedefencestillseemstotreatthematterbeyond thesimplicity;theyobviouslybringgreatersoliditytotheteambutfurtherresearchandstatisticssuch asareacoveredcouldprovideamoreaccuratedescriptionoftheirroles.Theydogivemoreprotection downchannels,especiallyiffullbacksarethemostpotentweaponsinthemoderngamethentwo midelders,similartotheinteriorsinthe433,caneasilyshuerightandleft.Butperhaps simplicityisalsoaptbecauseasVolkerFinkesays,the4231,theformationthatissosynonymous withholdingmidelders,islessdemandingintermsofteamtactics,becauseitseasierforthe players.Indeedinthesecondhalfofthe2008/09season,ArseneWengermadeaswitchtothe formationasArsenalsleagueformfalteredandgoalsleaked.Themoveproceededtobringan 18gameunbeatenruntotheyoungside. Twocentralmidelders,asameansforasolidbasehavebeenaroundinsomewayoranotherfora longtime.InHerbertChapmansWMformationthetwohalfbacks,BakerandJohn,couldhavebeen primitiveversionsoftheholdingmidelder.Theydidnotexactlyscreenasperthefunctionsnowadays butweredetailedmarktheinsideforwards.WhileBrazils424in1970WorldCupowedmuchcredit toitssuccesstothetemposettingandzonepatrollingofmideldpairClodoadoandGerson.Andfast forwardto2010anddespitebeinglambastedinthe10defeattoSwitzerlandintherstgame,the securitiesSergioBusquetsandXabiAlonsogaveensuredthatwasntanywayclosetohappeningagain. Itseemsnallythattwoholdingmideldersareheretostay. *[CarloMazzonesquoteonbetweenthelinesplayersmayhelp:Therearetrendsinfootball.Thisisa timeofbetweenthelinesplayers.Fromaclassic442,wenowhavea4111130aswehaveat Roma.Thattransformstoa433inthedefensivephasebuttheasymmetryisimportantasithelps thesidepressbetterasGuardiolawillalsoinsistinhissidesinterpretationofthe433.]

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RSS(ReallySimpleSyndication)feedforcommentsonthispost.TrackBackURI(UniformResource Identier) veryveryinterestingreadandwellresearched!!!wowthanks!!

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