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Home   /   What happened to no.10 position in football?
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From Maradona & Platini to Zidane & Kaká to Özil & David Silva. These players perfectly described position of attacking midfielder(no.10) over the years. Why has it disappeared from world football? What are the main reasons? Let’s take a look what happened to one of the most iconic positions in last decades.

Position of attacking midfielder was always crucial in teams’ style of play. Tens, as many familiarly call them, were supposed to be dictators of a game. Germans have an apt word for it – Spielmacher – key player. Teams usually heavily depended on their performances thanks to their immense creativity, precise decision making and genius vision on the football pitch.

Over the last two decades, this position has completely changed, especially, due to changes in football in terms of tactics, physicality and intensity of the game. Attacking midfielders’ job on the pitch was mainly, as the name implies, offensive part with freedom on the pitch. Best in that position were able to move between the lines and anticipate for the right pass with their timed movement thanks to scanning the area around.

 Systems used in football are good indicator why has no.10 position disappeared from world football. Managers have moved from old 4-4-1-1(4-4-2) or 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3 with different variations. Midfield trios now are made of one defensive midfielder(no.6) and two, so called, hybrid midfielders(no.8/no.10). Especially those two are players capable of constant high intensity running, defensive work rate and occasional attacking contribution in a final third. According to Kaká no.10 position is ‘dying out due to advanced defending in modern football’. Only a few players could adapt to roles required now and change their attacking minded style of play to adjust coaches’ tactical plan.

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To underpin my analysis, I decided to compare chance creation and players’ assists of different eras. Mesut Özil, as a last decade example, holds many records in chance creation as he produced the most from 2006 to 2018. He also leads the ranking in most chances created in single Premier League and Champions League match with 12 on both occasions and most chances created in a Premier League season with 146 in 2015/16. The German is the only player in the history of football to be top assist provider or goal scorer in Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Europa League, Champions League, EURO and World Cup. Kevin De Bruyne, as modern-day example and arguably the best midfielder in the world right now, is one of a few players who perfectly adapted to today’s game demands. The Belgian midfielder’s maximum of chances created in a Premier League season is 136, thus, the second place belongs to him. De Bruyne assisted 20 times in 2019/20 season which is joint most in a single Premier League season. He also composed 104 chances from open play in same season – the most in Premier League. He has provided 15+ assists in four different league campaigns which no one has ever done yet.

Stats mentioned above pointed out when role of attacking midfielders peaked and we can only guess whether these numbers and accomplishments will ever be reproduced.

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May 2024